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Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda
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  1. The Christlike Life of Lahiri Mahasaya – 328
  2. Babaji's Interest in the West – 341
  3. I Go to America – 352
  4. Luther Burbank—An American Saint – 361
  5. Therese Neumann, the Catholic Stigmatist of Bavaria – 367

35 - The Christlike life of Lahiri Mahasaya

Yogananda's hybrid terms were added later
Lahiri formed more than four initiations [More]. Also, learning kriya from an organisation (as SRF) was not as he would have it, according to a "San Diego" yogi [▾Link]. Uha Start:
Daily Bhagavad Gita reading is a handed-over kriya requirement that Yogananda eventually dropped [More]. Also, yogis of India are known to shift gurus as part of the regulated discipleship going on there. In SRF that cannot be. [Link].
arrow Lahiri teaches that desires for God-contact, God-perception and divine union have to go, and also desires for results of doing kriya yoga [Cf. More]. arrow

"THUS IT becomes us to fulfil all righteousness." [1] In these words to John the Baptist, and in asking John to baptise him, Jesus was acknowledging the divine rights of his guru.

At this point Yogananda introduces and uses concepts that were alien to Jews - guru, reincarnation, and further. Bible scholars at large do not find any substantial backing for them.

A "prediction of reincarnation" (below) is only a prediction if read that way.

John the Baptist said he was not Elias, and Yogananda explains it away - that is soap.

Hence, Yogananda puts his own spin on gospel passages, to drive home the things he grasped. Admittedly, many of his Bible interpretations are ill founded. Even if we personally believe in reincarnation, soap exegesis and tendentious exegesis are faulty ways to prop up that faith. We should go for better evidence than twisted, old Bible fractions, of course.


From a reverent study of the Bible from an Oriental viewpoint, [2] and from intuitional perception, I am convinced that John the Baptist was, in past lives, the guru of Christ. There are numerous passages in the Bible which infer that John and Jesus in their last incarnations were, respectively, Elijah and his disciple Elisha. (These are the spellings in the Old Testament. The Greek translators spelled the names as Elias and Eliseus; they reappear in the New Testament in these changed forms.)

The very end of the Old Testament is a prediction of the reincarnation of Elijah and Elisha: "Behold, I'll send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord." [3] Thus John (Elijah), sent "before the coming . . . of the Lord," was born slightly earlier to serve as a herald for Christ. An angel appeared to Zacharias the father to testify that his coming son John would be no other than Elijah (Elias).

"But the angel said to him, Fear not, Zacharias: for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elisabeth shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. ... And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him [4] in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." [5]

Jesus twice unequivocally identified Elijah (Elias) as John: "Elias is come already, and they knew him not. ... Then the disciples understood that he spoke to them of John the Baptist." [6] Again, Christ says: "For all the prophets and the law prophesied till John. And if you will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come." [7]

When John denied that he was Elias (Elijah), [8] he meant that in the humble garb of John he came no longer in the outward elevation of Elijah the great guru. In his former incarnation he had given the "mantle" of his glory and his spiritual wealth to his disciple Elisha. "And Elisha said, I pray you, let a double portion of your spirit be on me. And he said, You have asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so to you. ... And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him." [9]

The roles became reversed, because Elijah-John was no longer needed to be the ostensible guru of Elisha-Jesus, now perfected in divine realisation.

When Christ was transfigured on the mountain [10] it was his guru Elias, with Moses, that he saw. Again, in his hour of extremity on the cross, Jesus cried out the divine name: "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calls for Elias. ... Let's see whether Elias will come to save him." [11]

Bible scholars hardly find any passage in the bible that speaks unequivocally of reincarnation. The passage that some point to as evidence for reincarnation is Matthew 17:10-12 which links John the Baptist with Elijah (Elias). But the passage is not usually taken to mean that John the Baptist was Elijah reincarnated: is not understood literally but rather referring to a forerunner role [Matthew 17:12]. Also, John the Baptist said when asked if he was Elijah: "No, I am not" [John 1:21].

Mark 6:14-16 and 8:28 show that the people distinguished between John the Baptist and Elijah. Furthermore, John the Baptist himself identifies himself as the messenger of Isaiah 40:3, not as the Elijah of Malachi 3:1. [John 1:19-23].

The alleged "Eli" cry on the cross is a Canaanite word for God that Jews incorporated and Jesus used, and seems to be no "proof of Elijah" whatever. The peshitta (Aramaic bible) has a different cry there which may be worth noting too: "Jesus cried out with a loud voice and said, Eli, Eli, lmana shabachthani! which means, My God, my God, for this I was kept! [Matthew 27:46 (▾Lamsa Bible)]"

It is another subtle point that if Elijah had reincarnated, it would be no proof of reincarnation either, for the bible says he was taken up to heaven alive in a chariot, and if Elijah was reborn as John the baptist, it would have been a "resurrection" at any rate.

Elijah himself appeared with Moses at Jesus' transfiguration after John the Baptist's death. This should not have happened if Elijah had changed his identity [Matthew 17:11-12].

As for Jesus, he said he was from above, called God his father, etc. Yogananda puts grand-looking concepts of reincarnation and the guru-disciple relationship concept onto two bible figures - Elijah and Elisha - in a farfetched manner and without substantial foundations.

"Did Yogananda sow good (idea) seeds in your field (of mind)? And where did his seeds come from?" [Cf. Matthew 13:27]


The eternal bond of guru and disciple that existed between John and Jesus was present also for Babaji and Lahiri Mahasaya. With tender solicitude the deathless guru swam the Lethean waters that swirled between the last two lives of his chela, and guided the successive steps taken by the child and then by the man Lahiri Mahasaya. It was not till the disciple had reached his thirty-third year that Babaji deemed the time to be ripe to openly re-establish the never-severed link. Then, after their brief meeting near Ranikhet, the selfless master banished his dearly-beloved disciple from the little mountain group, releasing him for an outward world mission. "My son, I shall come whenever you need me." What mortal lover can bestow that infinite promise?

Unknown to society in general, a great spiritual renaissance began to flow from a remote corner of Varanasi. Just as the fragrance of flowers cannot be suppressed, so Lahiri Mahasaya, quietly living as an ideal householder, could not hide his innate glory. Slowly, from every part of India, the devotee-bees sought the divine nectar of the liberated master.

The English office superintendent was one of the first to notice a strange transcendental change in his employee, whom he endearingly called "Ecstatic Babu."

"Sir, you seem sad. What is the trouble?" Lahiri Mahasaya made this sympathetic inquiry one morning to his employer.

"My wife in England is critically ill. I am torn by anxiety."

"I shall get you some word about her." Lahiri Mahasaya left the room and sat for a short time in a secluded spot. On his return he smiled consolingly.

"Your wife is improving; she is now writing you a letter." The omniscient yogi quoted some parts of the missive.

"Ecstatic Babu, I already know that you are no ordinary man. Yet I am unable to believe that, at will, you can banish time and space!"

The promised letter finally arrived. The astounded superintendent found that it contained not only the good news of his wife's recovery, but also the same phrases which, weeks earlier, Lahiri Mahasaya had repeated.

The wife came to India some months later. She visited the office, where Lahiri Mahasaya was quietly sitting at his desk. The woman approached him reverently.

"Sir," she said, "it was your form, haloed in glorious light, that I beheld months ago by my sickbed in London. At that moment I was completely healed! Soon after, I was able to undertake the long ocean voyage to India."

Day after day, one or two devotees besought the sublime guru for Kriya initiation. In addition to these spiritual duties, and to those of his business and family life, the great master took an enthusiastic interest in education. He organised many study groups, and played an active part in the growth of a large high school in the Bengalitola section of Varanasi. His regular discourses on the scriptures came to be called his "Gita Assembly," eagerly attended by many truth-seekers.

By these manifold activities, Lahiri Mahasaya sought to answer the common challenge: "After performing one's business and social duties, where's the time for devotional meditation?" The harmoniously balanced life of the great householder-guru became the silent inspiration of thousands of questioning hearts. Earning only a modest salary, thrifty, unostentatious, accessible to all, the master carried on naturally and happily in the path of worldly life.

Though ensconced in the seat of the Supreme One, Lahiri Mahasaya showed reverence to all men, irrespective of their differing merits. When his devotees saluted him, he bowed in turn to them. With a childlike humility, the master often touched the feet of others, but seldom allowed them to pay him similar honour, even though such obeisance toward the guru is an ancient Oriental custom.

A significant feature of Lahiri Mahasaya's life was his gift of kriya initiation to those of every faith. Not Hindus only, but Moslems and Christians were among his foremost disciples. Monists and dualists, those of all faiths or of no established faith, were impartially received and instructed by the universal guru. One of his highly advanced chelas was Abdul Gufoor Khan, a Mohammedan. It shows great courage on the part of Lahiri Mahasaya that, although a high-caste Brahmin, he tried his utmost to dissolve the rigid caste bigotry of his time. Those from every walk of life found shelter under the master's omnipresent wings. Like all God-inspired prophets, Lahiri Mahasaya gave new hope to the outcastes and down-trodden of society.

"Always remember that you belong to no one, and no one belongs to you. Reflect that some day you'll suddenly have to leave everything in this world—so make the acquaintanceship of God now," the great guru told his disciples. "Prepare yourself for the coming astral journey of death by daily riding in the balloon of God-perception. Through delusion you are perceiving yourself as a bundle of flesh and bones, which at best is a nest of troubles. [12] Meditate unceasingly, that you may quickly behold yourself as the infinite Essence, free from every form of misery. Cease being a prisoner of the body; using the secret key of kriya, learn to escape into Spirit."

The great guru encouraged his various students to adhere to the good traditional discipline of their own faith. Stressing the all-inclusive nature of kriya as a practical technique of liberation, Lahiri Mahasaya then gave his chelas liberty to express their lives in conformance with environment and up bringing.

"A Moslem should perform his namaj [13] worship four times daily," the master pointed out. "Four times daily a Hindu should sit in meditation. A Christian should go down on his knees four times daily, praying to God and then reading the Bible."

With wise discernment the guru guided his followers into the paths of Bhakti (devotion), Karma (action), Jnana (wisdom), or Raja (royal or complete) Yogas, according to each man's natural tendencies. The master, who was slow to give his permission to devotees wishing to enter the formal path of monkhood, always cautioned them to first reflect well on the austerities of the monastic life.

The great guru taught his disciples to avoid theoretical discussion of the scriptures. "He only is wise who devotes himself to realising, not reading only, the ancient revelations," he said. "Solve all your problems through meditation. [14] Exchange unprofitable religious speculations for actual God-contact. Clear your mind of dogmatic theological debris; let in the fresh, healing waters of direct perception. Attune yourself to the active inner Guidance; the divine Voice has the answer to every dilemma of life. Though man's ingenuity for getting himself into trouble appears to be endless, the infinite Succour is no less resourceful."

The master's omnipresence was demonstrated one day before a group of disciples who were listening to his exposition of the Bhagavad Gita. As he was explaining the meaning of Kutastha Chaitanya or the Christ Consciousness in all vibratory creation, Lahiri Mahasaya suddenly gasped and cried out:

"I am drowning in the bodies of many souls off the coast of Japan!"

The next morning the chelas read a newspaper account of the death of many people whose ship had foundered the preceding day near Japan.

The distant disciples of Lahiri Mahasaya were often made aware of his enfolding presence. "I am ever with those who practice Kriya," he said consolingly to chelas who could not remain near him. "I'll guide you to the Cosmic Home through your enlarging perceptions."

Swami Satyananda was told by a devotee that, unable to go to Varanasi, the man had nevertheless received precise Kriya initiation in a dream. Lahiri Mahasaya had appeared to instruct the chela in answer to his prayers.

If a disciple neglected any of his worldly obligations, the master would gently correct and discipline him.

"Lahiri Mahasaya's words were mild and healing, even when he was forced to speak openly of a chela's faults," Sri Yukteswar once told me. He added ruefully, "No disciple ever fled from our master's barbs." I could not help laughing, but I truthfully assured Sri Yukteswar that, sharp or not, his every word was music to my ears.

Lahiri Mahasaya carefully graded Kriya into four progressive initiations. [15] He bestowed the three higher techniques only after the devotee had manifested definite spiritual progress. One day a certain chela, convinced that his worth was not being duly evaluated, gave voice to his discontent.

"Master," he said, "surely I am ready now for the second initiation."

At this moment the door opened to admit a humble disciple, Brinda Bhagat. He was a Varanasi postman.

"Brinda, sit by me here." The great guru smiled at him affectionately. "Tell me, are you ready for the second technique of kriya?"

The little postman folded his hands in supplication. "Gurudeva," he said in alarm, "no more initiations, please! How can I assimilate any higher teachings? I have come today to ask your blessings, because the first divine Kriya has filled me with such intoxication that I cannot deliver my letters!"

"Already Brinda swims in the sea of Spirit." At these words from Lahiri Mahasaya, his other disciple hung his head.

"Master," he said, "I see I have been a poor workman, finding fault with my tools."

The postman, who was an uneducated man, later developed his insight through Kriya to such an extent that scholars occasionally sought his interpretation on involved scriptural points. Innocent alike of sin and syntax, little Brinda won renown in the domain of learned pundits.

Besides the numerous Varanasi disciples of Lahiri Mahasaya, hundreds came to him from distant parts of India. He himself travelled to Bengal on several occasions, visiting at the homes of the fathers-in-law of his two sons. Thus blessed by his presence, Bengal became honeycombed with small Kriya groups. Particularly in the districts of Krishnagar and Bishnupur, many silent devotees to this day have kept the invisible current of spiritual meditation flowing.

Among many saints who received Kriya from Lahiri Mahasaya may be mentioned the illustrious Swami Vhaskarananda Saraswati of Varanasi, and the Deogarh ascetic of high stature, Balananda Brahmachari. For a time Lahiri Mahasaya served as private tutor to the son of Maharaja Iswari Narayan Sinha Bahadur of Varanasi. Recognising the master's spiritual attainment, the maharaja, as well as his son, sought Kriya initiation, as did the Maharaja Jotindra Mohan Thakur.

A number of Lahiri Mahasaya's disciples with influential worldly position were desirous of expanding the kriya circle by publicity. The guru refused his permission. One chela, the royal physician to the Lord of Varanasi, started an organised effort to spread the master's name as "Kashi Baba" (Exalted One of Varanasi). [16] Again the guru forbade it.

"Let the fragrance of the kriya flower be wafted naturally, without any display," he said. "Its seeds will take root in the soil of spiritually fertile hearts."

Although the great master did not adopt the system of preaching through the modern medium of an organisation, or through the printing press, he knew that the power of his message would rise like a resistless flood, inundating by its own force the banks of human minds. The changed and purified lives of devotees were the simple guarantees of the deathless vitality of kriya.

In 1886, twenty-five years after his Ranikhet initiation, Lahiri Mahasaya was retired on a pension. [17] With his availability in the daytime, disciples sought him out in ever-increasing numbers. The great guru now sat in silence most of the time, locked in the tranquil lotus posture. He seldom left his little parlour, even for a walk or to visit other parts of the house. A quiet stream of chelas arrived, almost ceaselessly, for a darshan (holy sight) of the guru.

To the awe of all beholders, Lahiri Mahasaya's habitual physiological state exhibited the superhuman features of breathlessness, sleeplessness, cessation of pulse and heartbeat, calm eyes unblinking for hours, and a profound aura of peace. No visitors departed without upliftment of spirit; all knew they had received the silent blessing of a true man of God.

The master now permitted his disciple, Panchanon Bhattacharya, to open an "Arya Mission Institution" in Calcutta. Here the saintly disciple spread the message of kriya yoga, and prepared for public benefit certain yogic herbal [18] medicines.

In accordance with ancient custom, the master gave to people in general a neem [19] oil for the cure of various diseases. When the guru requested a disciple to distil the oil, he could easily accomplish the task. If anyone else tried, he would encounter strange difficulties, finding that the medicinal oil had almost evaporated after going through the required distilling processes. Evidently the master's blessing was a necessary ingredient.

Lahiri Mahasaya's handwriting and signature, in Bengali script, are shown above. The lines occur in a letter to a chela; the great master interprets a Sanskrit verse as follows: "He who has attained a state of calmness wherein his eyelids do not blink, has achieved Sambhabi Mudra."

(signed) "Sri Shyama Charan Deva Sharman"

The Arya Mission Institution undertook the publication of many of the guru's scriptural commentaries. Like Jesus and other great prophets, Lahiri Mahasaya himself wrote no books, but his penetrating interpretations were recorded and arranged by various disciples. Some of these voluntary amanuenses were more discerning than others in correctly conveying the profound insight of the guru; yet, on the whole, their efforts were successful. Through their zeal, the world possesses unparalleled commentaries by Lahiri Mahasaya on twenty-six ancient scriptures.

Sri Ananda Mohan Lahiri, a grandson of the master, has written an interesting booklet on Kriya. "The text of the Bhagavad Gita is a part of the great epic, the Mahabharata, which possesses several knot-points (vyas-kutas)," Sri Ananda wrote. "Keep those knot-points unquestioned, and we find nothing but mythical stories of a peculiar and easily-misunderstood type. Keep those knot-points unexplained, and we have lost a science which the East has preserved with superhuman patience after a quest of thousands of years of experiment.20 It was the commentaries of Lahiri Mahasaya which brought to light, clear of allegories, the very science of religion that had been so cleverly put out of sight in the riddle of scriptural letters and imagery. No longer a mere unintelligible jugglery of words, the otherwise unmeaning formulas of Vedic worship have been proved by the master to be full of scientific significance. . . .

"We know that man is usually helpless against the insurgent sway of evil passions, but these are rendered powerless and man finds no motive in their indulgence when there dawns on him a consciousness of superior and lasting bliss through Kriya. Here the give-up, the negation of the lower passions, synchronises with a take-up, the assertion of a beatitude. Without such a course, hundreds of moral maxims which run in mere negatives are useless to us.

"Our eagerness for worldly activity kills in us the sense of spiritual awe. We cannot comprehend the Great Life behind all names and forms, just because science brings home to us how we can use the powers of nature; this familiarity has bred a contempt for her ultimate secrets. Our relation with nature is one of practical business. We tease her, so to speak, to know how she can be used to serve our purposes; we make use of her energies, whose Source yet remains unknown. In science our relation with nature is one that exists between a man and his servant, or in a philosophical sense she is like a captive in the witness box. We cross-examine her, challenge her, and minutely weigh her evidence in human scales which cannot measure her hidden values. On the other hand, when the self is in communion with a higher power, nature automatically obeys, without stress or strain, the will of man. This effortless command over nature is called amiraculous' by the uncomprehending materialist.

"The life of Lahiri Mahasaya set an example which changed the erroneous notion that yoga is a mysterious practice. Every man may find a way through Kriya to understand his proper relation with nature, and to feel spiritual reverence for all phenomena, whether mystical or of everyday occurrence, in spite of the matter-of-factness of physical science. [21] We must bear in mind that what was mystical a thousand years ago is no longer so, and what is mysterious now may become lawfully intelligible a hundred years hence. It is the infinite, the ocean of power, that is at the back of all manifestations.

"The law of kriya yoga is eternal. It is true like mathematics; like the simple rules of addition and subtraction, the law of kriya can never be destroyed. Burn to ashes all the books on mathematics, the logically-minded will always rediscover such truths; destroy all the sacred books on yoga, its fundamental laws will come out whenever there appears a true yogi who comprises within himself pure devotion and consequently pure knowledge."

Just as Babaji is among the greatest of avatars, a Mahavatar, and Sri Yukteswar a Jnanavatar or Incarnation of Wisdom, so Lahiri Mahasaya may justly be called Yogavatar, or Incarnation of Yoga. By the standards of both qualitative and quantitative good, he elevated the spiritual level of society. In his power to raise his close disciples to Christlike stature and in his wide dissemination of truth among the masses, Lahiri Mahasaya ranks among the saviours of mankind.

His uniqueness as a prophet lies in his practical stress on a definite method, kriya, opening for the first time the doors of yoga freedom to all men. Apart from the miracles of his own life, surely the yogavatar reached the zenith of all wonders in reducing the ancient complexities of yoga to an effective simplicity not beyond the ordinary grasp.

In reference to miracles, Lahiri Mahasaya often said, "The operation of subtle laws which are unknown to people in general should not be publicly discussed or published without due discrimination." If in these pages I have appeared to flout his cautionary words, it is because he has given me an inward reassurance. Also, in recording the lives of Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, and Sri Yukteswar, I have thought it advisable to omit many true miraculous stories, which could hardly have been included without writing, also, an explanatory volume of abstruse philosophy.

New hope for new men! "Divine union," the yogavatar proclaimed, "is possible through self-effort, and is not dependent on theological beliefs or on the arbitrary will of a Cosmic Dictator."

Through use of the kriya key, persons who cannot bring themselves to believe in the divinity of any man will behold at last the full divinity of their own selves.

TO TOP

36 - Babaji's interest in the West

"Without truth there can be no virtue (American)"
"Try before you trust (American)." The gospels are free to read. Before you fall fully at the feet of a guru who teaches against Jesus and claims to be allied with him day and night, do some thinking and reading. Sheep must know the voice of the shepherd, is the gospel teaching. Uha Start:
"Truth, though severe, is a true friend (American)." The truth is that the gospels do not want to be with or form part of Hinduism. That's what Jesus says there.
arrow "Truth brings division between right and wrong (abr. American)." Thus, when Jesus warns agains false Christs (false Messiahs) and wolves, and tells followers to have only one Master and Teacher (himself), it cannot be squared with Hindu teachings, that are far more syncretic. Do not choose to your loss, then. arrow

"MASTER, did you ever meet Babaji?"

It was a calm summer night in Serampore; the large stars of the tropics gleamed over our heads as I sat by Sri Yukteswar's side on the second-story balcony of the hermitage.

"Yes." Master smiled at my direct question; his eyes lit with reverence. "Three times I have been blessed by the sight of the deathless guru. Our first meeting was in Allahabad at a Kumbha Mela."

The religious fairs held in India since time immemorial are known as Kumbha Melas; they have kept spiritual goals in constant sight of the multitude. Devout Hindus gather by the millions every six years to meet thousands of sadhus, yogis, swamis, and ascetics of all kinds. Many are hermits who never leave their secluded haunts except to attend the melas and bestow their blessings on worldly men and women.

"I was not a swami at the time I met Babaji," Sri Yukteswar went on. "But I had already received Kriya initiation from Lahiri Mahasaya. He encouraged me to attend the mela which was convening in January, 1894 at Allahabad. It was my first experience of a kumbha; I felt slightly dazed by the clamour and surge of the crowd. In my searching gazes around I saw no illumined face of a master. Passing a bridge on the bank of the Ganges, I noticed an acquaintance standing near-by, his begging bowl extended.

"'Oh, this fair is nothing but a chaos of noise and beggars,' I thought in disillusionment. 'I wonder if Western scientists, patiently enlarging the realms of knowledge for the practical good of mankind, are not more pleasing to God than these idlers who profess religion but concentrate on alms.'

"My smouldering reflections on social reform were interrupted by the voice of a tall sannyasi who halted before me.

"'Sir,' he said, 'a saint is calling you.'

"'Who is he?'

"'Come and see for yourself.'

"Hesitantly following this laconic advice, I soon found myself near a tree whose branches were sheltering a guru with an attractive group of disciples. The master, a bright unusual figure, with sparkling dark eyes, rose at my approach and embraced me.

"'Welcome, Swamiji,' he said affectionately.

"'Sir,' I replied emphatically, 'I am not a swami.'

"'Those on whom I am divinely directed to bestow the title of "swami" never cast it off.' The saint addressed me simply, but deep conviction of truth rang in his words; I was engulfed in an instant wave of spiritual blessing. Smiling at my sudden elevation into the ancient monastic order, [1] I bowed at the feet of the obviously great and angelic being in human form who had thus honoured me.

The idea that a monk is elevated, should be checked. Some may be, though.

"Babaji—for it was indeed he—motioned me to a seat near him under the tree. He was strong and young, and looked like Lahiri Mahasaya; yet the resemblance did not strike me, even though I had often heard of the extraordinary similarities in the appearance of the two masters. Babaji possesses a power by which he can prevent any specific thought from arising in a person's mind. Evidently the great guru wished me to be perfectly natural in his presence, not overawed by knowledge of his identity.

"'What do you think of the Kumbha Mela?'

"'I was greatly disappointed, sir.' I added hastily, 'Up till the time I met you. Somehow saints and this commotion do not seem to belong together.'

"'Child,' the master said, though apparently I was nearly twice his own age, 'for the faults of the many, judge not the whole. Everything on earth is of mixed character, like a mingling of sand and sugar. Be like the wise ant which seizes only the sugar, and leaves the sand untouched. Though many sadhus here still wander in delusion, yet the mela is blessed by a few men of God-realisation.'

"In view of my own meeting with this exalted master, I quickly agreed with his observation.

"'Sir,' I commented, 'I have been thinking of the scientific men of the West, greater by far in intelligence than most people congregated here, living in distant Europe and America, professing different creeds, and ignorant of the real values of such melas as the present one. They are the men who could benefit greatly by meetings with India's masters. But, although high in intellectual attainments, many Westerners are wedded to rank materialism. Others, famous in science and philosophy, do not recognise the essential unity in religion. Their creeds serve as insurmountable barriers that threaten to separate them from us forever.'

"'I saw that you are interested in the West, as well as the East.' Babaji's face beamed with approval. 'I felt the pangs of your heart, broad enough for all men, whether Oriental or Occidental. That is why I summoned you here.

"'East and West must establish a golden middle path of activity and spirituality combined,' he continued. 'India has much to learn from the West in material development; in return, India can teach the universal methods by which the West will be able to base its religious beliefs on the unshakeable foundations of yogic science.

"'You, Swamiji, have a part to play in the coming harmonious exchange between Orient and Occident. Some years hence I shall send you a disciple whom you can train for yoga dissemination in the West. The vibrations there of many spiritually seeking souls come flood-like to me. I perceive potential saints in America and Europe, waiting to be awakened.'"

At this point in his story, Sri Yukteswar turned his gaze fully on mine.

"My son," he said, smiling in the moonlight, "you are the disciple that, years ago, Babaji promised to send me."

I was happy to learn that Babaji had directed my steps to Sri Yukteswar, yet it was hard for me to visualise myself in the remote West, away from my beloved guru and the simple hermitage peace.

"Babaji then spoke of the Bhagavad Gita," Sri Yukteswar went on. "To my astonishment, he indicated by a few words of praise that he was aware of the fact that I had written interpretations on various Gita chapters.

"'At my request, Swamiji, please undertake another task,' the great master said. 'Will you not write a short book on the underlying basic unity between the Christian and Hindu scriptures? Show by parallel references that the inspired sons of God have spoken the same truths, now obscured by men's sectarian differences.'

"Maharaj,' [2] I answered diffidently, 'what a command! Shall I be able to fulfil it?'

"Babaji laughed softly. amy son, why do you doubt?' he said reassuringly. 'Indeed, Whose work is all this, and Who's the Doer of all actions? Whatever the Lord has made me say is bound to materialise as truth.'

"I deemed myself empowered by the blessings of the saint, and agreed to write the book. Feeling reluctantly that the parting-hour had arrived, I rose from my leafy seat.

"'Do you know Lahiri?' [3] the master inquired. 'He is a great soul, is not he? Tell him of our meeting.' He then gave me a message for Lahiri Mahasaya.

"After I had bowed humbly in farewell, the saint smiled benignly. 'When your book is finished, I shall pay you a visit,' he promised. 'Good-by for the present.'

"I left Allahabad the following day and entrained for Varanasi. Reaching my guru's home, I poured out the story of the wonderful saint at the Kumbha Mela.

"'Oh, did not you recognise him?' Lahiri Mahasaya's eyes were dancing with laughter. 'I see you could not, for he prevented you. He is my incomparable guru, the celestial Babaji!'

"'Babaji!' I repeated, awe-struck. 'The yogi-Christ Babaji! The invisible-visible saviour Babaji! Oh, if I could just recall the past and be once more in his presence, to show my devotion at his lotus feet!'

"'Never mind,' Lahiri Mahasaya said consolingly. 'He has promised to see you again.'

"'Gurudeva, the divine master asked me to give you a message. "Tell Lahiri," he said, "that the stored-up power for this life now runs low; it is nearly finished."'

"At my utterance of these enigmatic words, Lahiri Mahasaya's figure trembled as though touched by a lightning current. In an instant everything about him fell silent; his smiling countenance turned incredibly stern. Like a wooden statue, sombre and immovable in its seat, his body became colourless. I was alarmed and bewildered. Never in my life had I seen this joyous soul manifest such awful gravity. The other disciples present stared apprehensively.

"Three hours passed in utter silence. Then Lahiri Mahasaya resumed his natural, cheerful demeanour, and spoke affectionately to each of the chelas. Everyone sighed in relief.

"I realised by my master's reaction that Babaji's message had been an unmistakable signal by which Lahiri Mahasaya understood that his body would soon be untenanted. His awesome silence proved that my guru had instantly controlled his being, cut his last cord of attachment to the material world, and fled to his ever-living identity in Spirit. Babaji's remark had been his way of saying: 'I shall be ever with you.'

"Though Babaji and Lahiri Mahasaya were omniscient, and had no need of communicating with each other through me or any other intermediary, the great ones often condescend to play a part in the human drama. Occasionally they transmit their prophecies through messengers in an ordinary way, that the final fulfilment of their words may infuse greater divine faith in a wide circle of men who later learn the story.

"I soon left Varanasi, and set to work in Serampore on the scriptural writings requested by Babaji," Sri Yukteswar continued. "No sooner had I begun my task than I was able to compose a poem dedicated to the deathless guru. The melodious lines flowed effortlessly from my pen, though never before had I attempted Sanskrit poetry.

"In the quiet of night I busied myself over a comparison of the Bible and the scriptures of Sanatan Dharma. [4] Quoting the words of the blessed Lord Jesus, I showed that his teachings were in essence one with the revelations of the Vedas. To my relief, my book was finished in a short time; I realised that this speedy blessing was due to the grace of my Param-Guru-Maharaj. [5] The chapters first appeared in the Sadhusambad journal; later they were privately printed as a book by one of my Kidderpore disciples.

The book is analysed and commented on here: [Link]

"The morning after I had concluded my literary efforts," Master continued, "I went to the Rai Ghat here to bathe in the Ganges. The ghat was deserted; I stood still for awhile, enjoying the sunny peace. After a dip in the sparkling waters, I started for home. The only sound in the silence was that of my Ganges-drenched cloth, swish-swashing with every step. As I passed beyond the site of the large banyan tree near the river bank, a strong impulse urged me to look back. There, under the shade of the banyan, and surrounded by a few disciples, sat the great Babaji!

"'Greetings, Swamiji!' The beautiful voice of the master rang out to assure me I was not dreaming. 'I see you have successfully completed your book. As I promised, I am here to thank you.'

"With a fast-beating heart, I prostrated myself fully at his feet. 'Param-guruji,' I said imploringly, 'will you and your chelas not honour my near-by home with your presence?'

"The supreme guru smilingly declined. 'No, child,' he said, 'we are people who like the shelter of trees; this spot is quite comfortable.'

"'Please tarry awhile, master.' I gazed entreatingly at him. 'I shall be back at once with some special sweetmeats.'

"When I returned in a few minutes with a dish of delicacies, lo! the lordly banyan no longer sheltered the celestial troupe. I searched all around the ghat, but in my heart I knew the little band had already fled on etheric wings.

"I was deeply hurt. 'Even if we meet again, I would not care to talk to him,' I assured myself. 'He was unkind to leave me so suddenly.' This was a wrath of love, of course, and nothing more.

"A few months later I visited Lahiri Mahasaya in Varanasi. As I entered his little parlour, my guru smiled in greeting.

"'Welcome, Yukteswar,' he said. 'Did you just meet Babaji at the threshold of my room?'

"'Why, no,' I answered in surprise.

"'Come here.' Lahiri Mahasaya touched me gently on the forehead; at once I beheld, near the door, the form of Babaji, blooming like a perfect lotus.

"I remembered my old hurt, and did not bow. Lahiri Mahasaya looked at me in astonishment.

"The divine guru gazed at me with fathomless eyes. 'You are annoyed with me.'

"'Sir, why should not I be?' I answered. 'Out of the air you came with your magic group, and into the thin air you vanished.'

"'I told you I would see you, but did not say how long I would remain.' Babaji laughed softly. 'You were full of excitement. I assure you that I was fairly extinguished in the ether by the gust of your restlessness.'

"I was instantly satisfied by this unflattering explanation. I knelt at his feet; the supreme guru patted me kindly on the shoulder.

"'Child, you must meditate more,' he said. 'Your gaze is not yet faultless—you could not see me hiding behind the sunlight.' With these words in the voice of a celestial flute, Babaji disappeared into the hidden radiance.

"That was one of my last visits to Varanasi to see my guru," Sri Yukteswar concluded. "Even as Babaji had foretold at the Kumbha Mela, the householder-incarnation of Lahiri Mahasaya was drawing to a close. During the summer of 1895 his stalwart body developed a small boil on the back. He protested against lancing; he was working out in his own flesh the evil karma of some of his disciples. Finally a few chelas became very insistent; the master replied cryptically:

"'The body has to find a cause to go; I'll be agreeable to whatever you want to do.'

"A short time later the incomparable guru gave up his body in Varanasi. No longer need I seek him out in his little parlour; I find every day of my life blessed by his omnipresent guidance."

Years later, from the lips of Swami Keshabananda, [6] an advanced disciple, I heard many wonderful details about the passing of Lahiri Mahasaya.

"A few days before my guru relinquished his body," Keshabananda told me, "he materialised himself before me as I sat in my hermitage at Hardwar.

"'Come at once to Varanasi.' With these words Lahiri Mahasaya vanished.

"I entrained at once for Varanasi. At my guru's home I found many disciples assembled. For hours that day [7] the master expounded the Gita; then he addressed us simply.

"'I am going home.'

"Sobs of anguish broke out like an irresistible torrent.

"'Be comforted; I shall rise again.' After this utterance Lahiri Mahasaya thrice turned his body around in a circle, faced the north in his lotus posture, and gloriously entered the final maha-samadhi. [8]

From another source

Pranavananda [. . .] had just received the news of his Guruji's illness and was preparing to leave for Benares. The astral figure of the Yogiraj appeared before him and said, "There's no haste; I have left my mortal frame". He consoled the devotee by telling him that he is always present, inspite of the absence of his human body. [. . .] Panchanan Bhattacharya and (Keshavananda) were also blessed with similar visions.

That is also the consolation for many who did not have the great good fortune of having his personal contact. For even now, apart from radiating his influence through his spiritual descendants and through a general grace showered upon the world, the Yogiraj shows his [Lila, game, sport] Leela in a thousand and one forms before people whose minds are devoted to the path of truth. [▾Link]


"Lahiri Mahasaya's beautiful body, so dear to the devotees, was cremated with solemn householder rites at Manikarnika Ghat by the holy Ganges," Keshabananda continued. "The following day, at ten o'clock in the morning, while I was still in Varanasi, my room was suffused with a great light. Lo! before me stood the flesh and blood form of Lahiri Mahasaya! It looked exactly like his old body, except that it appeared younger and more radiant. My divine guru spoke to me.

"'Keshabananda,' he said, 'it is I. From the disintegrated atoms of my cremated body, I have resurrected a remodelled form. My householder work in the world is done; but I do not leave the earth entirely. Henceforth I shall spend some time with Babaji in the Himalayas, and with Babaji in the cosmos.'

"With a few words of blessing to me, the transcendent master vanished. Wondrous inspiration filled my heart; I was uplifted in Spirit even as were the disciples of Christ and Kabir [9] when they had gazed on their living gurus after physical death.

"When I returned to my isolated Hardwar hermitage," Keshabananda went on, "I carried with me the sacred ashes of my guru. I know he has escaped the spatio-temporal cage; the bird of omnipresence is freed. Yet it comforted my heart to enshrine his sacred remains."

Another disciple who was blessed by the sight of his resurrected guru was the saintly Panchanon Bhattacharya, founder of the Calcutta Arya Mission Institution. [10]

I visited Panchanon at his Calcutta home, and listened with delight to the story of his many years with the master. In conclusion, he told me of the most marvellous event in his life.

"Here in Calcutta," Panchanon said, "at ten o'clock of the morning which followed his cremation, Lahiri Mahasaya appeared before me in living glory."

Swami Pranabananda, the "saint with two bodies," also confided to me the details of his own supernal experience.

"A few days before Lahiri Mahasaya left his body," Pranabananda told me at the time he visited my Ranchi school, "I received a letter from him, requesting me to come at once to Varanasi. I was delayed, however, and could not leave at once. As I was in the midst of my travel preparations, about ten o'clock in the morning, I was suddenly overwhelmed with joy to see the shining figure of my guru.

"'Why hurry to Varanasi?' Lahiri Mahasaya said, smiling. 'You shall find me there no longer.'

"As the import of his words dawned on me, I sobbed broken-heartedly, believing that I was seeing him only in a vision.

"The master approached me comfortingly. 'Here, touch my flesh,' he said. 'I am living, as always. Do not lament; am I not with you forever?'"

From the lips of these three great disciples, a story of wondrous truth has emerged: At the morning hour of ten, on the day after the body of Lahiri Mahasaya had been consigned to the flames, the resurrected master, in a real but transfigured body, appeared before three disciples, each one in a different city.

"So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. death, where's your sting? grave, where's your victory?" [11]

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37 - I go to America

He did not know that he was disoriented - who?
Yogananda's claimed "karmic bond" between Indians and Native Americans based on the naming of a disoriented Columbus, has no value. Things are not always as they seem: The painter's dentist and sister are posing Start:
Surely these people are Americans -
arrow "It is said about Christopher Columbus that when he set to sea to find the sea route to India, he did not know where he was headed; when he came to the West Indies, he did not know where he was - and when he came home, he did not know where he had been." [Sven Svebak, Fgl 99. My translation]. arrow

"AMERICA! Surely these people are Americans!" This was my thought as a panoramic vision of Western faces passed before my inward view.

Immersed in meditation, I was sitting behind some dusty boxes in the storeroom of the Ranchi school. A private spot was difficult to find during those busy years with the youngsters!

The vision continued; a vast multitude, [1] gazing at me intently, swept actorlike across the stage of consciousness.

The storeroom door opened; as usual, one of the young lads had discovered my hiding place.

"Come here, Bimal," I cried gaily. "I have news for you: the Lord is calling me to America!"

"To America?" The boy echoed my words in a tone that implied I had said "to the moon."

"Yes! I am going forth to discover America, like Columbus. He thought he had found India; surely there's a karmic link between those two lands!"

Yogananda's biographer tells that Yogananda was standing in the doorway of the storage room, asking a Bijoy-da about what was being prepared for the evening meal. Before Bijoy-da could answer, Yogananda became transfixed, looking outside the opposite window, and seconds after that he said excitedly he was going to America. "I saw just now that I am lecturing in front of hundreds and hundreds of white men and women." [Psy 45]

Bimal scampered away; soon the whole school was informed by the two-legged newspaper. [2] I summoned the bewildered faculty and gave the school into its charge.

"I know you'll keep Lahiri Mahasaya's yoga ideals of education ever to the fore," I said. "I shall write you frequently; God willing, someday I shall be back."

Tears stood in my eyes as I cast a last look at the little boys and the sunny acres of Ranchi. A definite epoch in my life had now closed, I knew; henceforth I would dwell in far lands. I entrained for Calcutta a few hours after my vision. The following day I received an invitation to serve as the delegate from India to an International Congress of Religious Liberals in America. It was to convene that year in Boston, under the auspices of the American Unitarian Association.

My head in a whirl, I sought out Sri Yukteswar in Serampore.

"Guruji, I have just been invited to address a religious congress in America. Shall I go?"

"All doors are open for you," Master replied simply. "It is now or never."

"But, sir," I said in dismay, "what do I know about public speaking? Seldom have I given a lecture, and never in English."

"English or no English, your words on yoga shall be heard in the West."

I laughed. "Well, dear guruji, I hardly think the Americans will learn Bengali! Please bless me with a push over the hurdles of the English language." [3]

When I broke the news of my plans to Father, he was utterly taken aback. To him America seemed incredibly remote; he feared he might never see me again.

"How can you go?" he asked sternly. "Who will finance you?" As he had affectionately borne the expenses of my education and whole life, he doubtless hoped that his question would bring my project to an embarrassing halt.

"The Lord will surely finance me." As I made this reply, I thought of the similar one I had given long ago to my brother Ananta in Agra. Without very much guile, I added, "Father, perhaps God will put it into your mind to help me."

"No, never!" He glanced at me piteously.

I was astounded, therefore, when Father handed me, the following day, a check made out for a large amount.

"I give you this money," he said, "not in my capacity as a father, but as a faithful disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya. Go then to that far Western land; spread there the creedless teachings of kriya yoga."

I was immensely touched at the selfless spirit in which Father had been able to quickly put aside his personal desires. The just realisation had come to him during the preceding night that no ordinary desire for foreign travel was motivating my voyage.

"Perhaps we shall not meet again in this life." Father, who was sixty-seven at this time, spoke sadly.

An intuitive conviction prompted me to reply, "Surely the Lord will bring us together once more."

As I went about my preparations to leave Master and my native land for the unknown shores of America, I experienced not a little trepidation. I had heard many stories about the materialistic Western atmosphere, one very different from the spiritual background of India, pervaded with the centuried aura of saints. "An Oriental teacher who will dare the Western airs," I thought, "must be hardy beyond the trials of any Himalayan cold!"

One early morning I began to pray, with an adamant determination to continue, to even die praying, till I heard the voice of God. I wanted His blessing and assurance that I would not lose myself in the fogs of modern utilitarianism. My heart was set to go to America, but even more strongly was it resolved to hear the solace of divine permission.

I prayed and prayed, muffling my sobs. No answer came. My silent petition increased in excruciating crescendo till, at noon, I had reached a zenith; my brain could no longer withstand the pressure of my agonies. If I cried once more with an increased depth of my inner passion, I felt as though my brain would split. At that moment there came a knock outside the vestibule adjoining the Gurpar Road room in which I was sitting. Opening the door, I saw a young man in the scanty garb of a renunciate. He came in, closed the door behind him and, refusing my request to sit down, indicated with a gesture that he wished to talk to me while standing.

"He must be Babaji!" I thought, dazed, because the man before me had the features of a younger Lahiri Mahasaya.

He answered my thought. "Yes, I am Babaji." He spoke melodiously in Hindi. "Our Heavenly Father has heard your prayer. He commands me to tell you: Follow the behests of your guru and go to America. Fear not; you'll be protected."

After a vibrant pause, Babaji addressed me again. "You are the one I have chosen to spread the message of kriya yoga in the West. Long ago I met your guru Yukteswar at a Kumbha Mela; I told him then I would send you to him for training."

I was speechless, choked with devotional awe at his presence, and deeply touched to hear from his own lips that he had guided me to Sri Yukteswar. I lay prostrate before the deathless guru. He graciously lifted me from the floor. Telling me many things about my life, he then gave me some personal instruction, and uttered a few secret prophecies.

"Kriya yoga, the scientific technique of God-realisation," he finally said with solemnity, "will ultimately spread in all lands, and aid in harmonising the nations through man's personal, transcendental perception of the infinite Father."

With a gaze of majestic power, the master electrified me by a glimpse of his cosmic consciousness. In a short while he started toward the door.

"Do not try to follow me," he said. "You wo not be able to do so."

"Please, Babaji, do not go away!" I cried repeatedly. "Take me with you!"

Looking back, he replied, "Not now. Some other time."

Overcome by emotion, I disregarded his warning. As I tried to pursue him, I discovered that my feet were firmly rooted to the floor. From the door, Babaji gave me a last affectionate glance. He raised his hand by way of benediction and walked away, my eyes fixed on him longingly.

After a few minutes my feet were free. I sat down and went into a deep meditation, unceasingly thanking God not only for answering my prayer but for blessing me by a meeting with Babaji. My whole body seemed sanctified through the touch of the ancient, ever-youthful master. Long had it been my burning desire to behold him.

Till now, I have never recounted to anyone this story of my meeting with Babaji. Holding it as the most sacred of my human experiences, I have hidden it in my heart. But the thought occurred to me that readers of this autobiography may be more inclined to believe in the reality of the secluded Babaji and his world interests if I relate that I saw him with my own eyes. I have helped an artist to draw a true picture of the great Yogi-Christ of modern India; it appears in this book.

Yogananda's biographer Dasgupta thinks that a Yogananda article on Babaji in "Inner Culture" magazine of March 1937, and a public speech by Yogananda from the 1st of January 1937, show that at least up till that time he had not seen Babaji directly, adding, "There is no believable evidence that the propagated picture of Babaji Maharaj was drawn from having seen the Divine Master directly." [Psy 99]

The eve of my departure for the United States found me in Sri Yukteswar's holy presence.

Right before the ship headed for America pulled away from the port and all of the passengers were on board, Yogananda saw Yukteswar walking with steady gait to the jetty and from there up the steps to board the ship. As soon as Yukteswar set his foot on board, Yogananda tearfully and remorsefully fell at his feet, for while preparing to go abroad, he had completely forgotten the one who had prepared him for going, his own guru. Yukteswar picked up his repentant disciple and they both entered the cabin together. [Psy 46]

"Forget you were born a Hindu, and do not be an American. Take the best of them both," Master said in his calm way of wisdom. "Be your true self, a child of God. Seek and incorporate into your being the best qualities of all your brothers, scattered over the earth in various races."

Then he blessed me: "All those who come to you with faith, seeking God, will be helped. As you look at them, the spiritual current emanating from your eyes will enter into their brains and change their material habits, making them more God-conscious."

He went on, "Your lot to attract sincere souls is very good. Everywhere you go, even in a wilderness, you'll find friends."

Both of his blessings have been amply demonstrated. I came alone to America, into a wilderness without a single friend, but there I found thousands ready to receive the time-tested soul-teachings.

I left India in August, 1920, on The City of Sparta, the first passenger boat sailing for America after the close of World War I. I had been able to book passage only after the removal, in ways fairly miraculous, of many "red-tape" difficulties concerned with the granting of my passport.

During the two-months' voyage a fellow passenger found out that I was the Indian delegate to the Boston congress.

"Swami Yogananda," he said, with the first of many quaint pronunciations by which I was later to hear my name spoken by the Americans, "please favour the passengers with a lecture next Thursday night. I think we would all benefit by a talk on 'The Battle of Life and How to Fight It.'"

Alas! I had to fight the battle of my own life, I discovered on Wednesday. Desperately trying to organise my ideas into a lecture in English, I finally abandoned all preparations; my thoughts, like a wild colt eyeing a saddle, refused any co-operation with the laws of English grammar. Fully trusting in Master's past assurances, however, I appeared before my Thursday audience in the saloon of the steamer. No eloquence rose to my lips; speechlessly I stood before the assemblage. After an endurance contest lasting ten minutes, the audience realised my predicament and began to laugh.

The situation was not funny to me at the moment; indignantly I sent a silent prayer to Master.

"You can! Speak!" His voice sounded instantly within my consciousness.

My thoughts fell at once into a friendly relation with the English language. Forty-five minutes later the audience was still attentive. The talk won me a number of invitations to lecture later before various groups in America.

I never could remember, afterward, a word that I had spoken. By discreet inquiry I learned from a number of passengers: "You gave an inspiring lecture in stirring and correct English." At this delightful news I humbly thanked my guru for his timely help, realising anew that he was ever with me, setting at naught all barriers of time and space.

Once in awhile, during the remainder of the ocean trip, I experienced a few apprehensive twinges about the coming English-lecture ordeal at the Boston congress.

"Lord," I prayed, "please let my inspiration be yourself, and not again the laughter-bombs of the audience!"

The City of Sparta docked near Boston in late September. On the sixth of October I addressed the congress with my maiden speech in America. It was well received; I sighed in relief. The magnanimous secretary of the American Unitarian Association wrote the following comment in a published account [4] of the congress proceedings:

"Swami Yogananda, delegate from the Brahmacharya Ashram of Ranchi, India, brought the greetings of his Association to the Congress. In fluent English and a forcible delivery he gave an address of a philosophical character on 'The Science of Religion,' which has been printed in pamphlet form for a wider distribution. Religion, he maintained, is universal and it is one. We cannot possibly universalise particular customs and convictions, but the common element in religion can be universalised, and we can ask all alike to follow and obey it."

Due to Father's generous check, I was able to remain in America after the congress was over.

He was not able to earn enough to meet his basic needs. For almost two years his father had to send him 250 rupees a month from India. [Psy 48]

It stands out from the text that follows that Self-Realization Fellowship was not founded in Los Angeles in 1920, as some erroneously think and write. He lived in Boston at the time.


Four happy years were spent in humble circumstances in Boston. I gave public lectures, taught classes, and wrote a book of poems, Songs of the Soul, with a preface by Dr. Frederick B. Robinson, president of the College of the City of New York. [5]

Yogananda was helped by a Captain Rashid from Bombay. They met for the second time on the "City of Sparta", and a third time in the United States, unexpectedly. At that time Yogananda asked Rashid if he would like to help him in his work, and Rashid said that he would take full responsibility for building the organization. Then Yogananda's propagation methods changed completely. Rashid rented the best halls in whatever city they would be in, advertised in the most respected newspapers of those cities, put up posters with colour pictures of Yogananda from street corner to street corner, and charged a proper entrance fee for the lectures.

Right from the start, Carnegie Hall in New York was rented for a lecture. Rashid then informed Yogananda about it. Yukteswar was shocked and said, "There's not enough money in the bank account to rent Carnegie Hall! If we cannot pay the rental fee, we'll have to go to jail!"

Rashid said, "If we have to go to jail, then we'll continue with Yogoda Satsanga right from jail itself!"

But they made a few thousand dollars, and a newspaper wrote an article that lauded Yogananda and his lecture. Afterwards Swami Yogananda was in demand as a lecturer. He received invitations from many cities and institutions. Money also began to come in abundance, and Yogoda [SRF] centres were established in several cities. [Psy 39, 50-51, passim]


Starting a transcontinental tour in the summer of 1924, I spoke before thousands in the principal cities, ending my western trip with a vacation in the beautiful Alaskan north.

With the help of large-hearted students, by the end of 1925 I had established an American headquarters on the Mount Washington Estates in Los Angeles. The building is the one I had seen years before in my vision at Kashmir. I hastened to send Sri Yukteswar pictures of these distant American activities. He replied with a postcard in Bengali, which I here translate:

11th August, 1926

Child of my heart, Yogananda!

Seeing the photos of your school and students, what joy comes in my life I cannot express in words. I am melting in joy to see your yoga students of different cities. Beholding your methods in chant affirmations, healing vibrations, and divine healing prayers, I cannot refrain from thanking you from my heart. Seeing the gate, the winding hilly way upward, and the beautiful scenery spread out beneath the Mount Washington Estates, I yearn to behold it all with my own eyes.

Everything here is going on well. Through the grace of God, may you ever be in bliss.

SRI YUKTESWAR GIRI

Years sped by. I lectured in every part of my new land, and addressed hundreds of clubs, colleges, churches, and groups of every denomination. Tens of thousands of Americans received yoga initiation. To them all I dedicated a new book of prayer thoughts in 1929—Whispers From Eternity, with a preface by Amelita Galli-Curci. [6] I give here, from the book, a poem entitled "God! God! God!", composed one night as I stood on a lecture platform:

From the depths of slumber, As I ascend the spiral stairway of wakefulness, I whisper: God! God! God!

You are the food, and when I break my fast Of nightly separation from you, I taste you, and mentally say: God! God! God!

No matter where I go, the spotlight of my mind Ever keeps turning on you; And in the battle din of activity My silent war cry is ever: God! God! God!

When boisterous storms of trials shriek, And when worries howl at me, I drown their clamour, loudly chanting: God! God! God!

When my mind weaves dreams With threads of memories, Then on that magic cloth I find embossed: God! God! God!

Every night, in time of deepest sleep, My peace dreams and calls, Joy! Joy! Joy! And my joy comes singing evermore: God! God! God!

In waking, eating, working, dreaming, sleeping, Serving, meditating, chanting, divinely loving, My soul constantly hums, unheard by any: God! God! God!

Sometimes—usually on the first of the month when the bills rolled in for upkeep of the Mount Washington and other Self-Realisation Fellowship centres!—I thought longingly of the simple peace of India. But daily I saw a widening understanding between West and East; my soul rejoiced.

I have found the great heart of America expressed in the wondrous lines by Emma Lazarus, carved at the base of the Statue of Liberty, the "Mother of Exiles":

From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbour that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

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38 - Luther Burbank - a saint amidst the roses

Let plants grow to fulfil their cycluses as best they can
Consider how that is at stake. Uha Start:
A delightful flower field is not had if the grass is "cut down before its prime", Lycidas.
arrow An alternative to painful supervision is to plant hardy plants that naturally thrive in the environment, and perhaps go on from there. arrow

"THE SECRET of improved plant breeding, apart from scientific knowledge, is love." Luther Burbank uttered this wisdom as I walked beside him in his Santa Rosa garden. We halted near a bed of edible cacti.

"While I was conducting experiments to make 'spineless' cacti," he continued, "I often talked to the plants to create a vibration of love. 'You have nothing to fear,' I would tell them. 'You do not need your defensive thorns. I will protect you.' Gradually the useful plant of the desert emerged in a thornless variety."

I was charmed at this miracle. "Please, dear Luther, give me a few cacti leaves to plant in my garden at Mount Washington."

A workman standing near-by started to strip off some leaves; Burbank prevented him.

"I myself will pluck them for the swami." He handed me three leaves, which later I planted, rejoicing as they grew to huge estate.

The great horticulturist told me that his first notable triumph was the large potato, now known by his name. With the indefatigability of genius, he went on to present the world with hundreds of crossed improvements on nature—his new Burbank varieties of tomato, corn, squash, cherries, plums, nectarines, berries, poppies, lilies, roses.

I focused my camera as Luther led me before the famous walnut tree by which he had proved that natural evolution can be telescopically hastened.

"In only sixteen years," he said, "this walnut tree reached a state of abundant nut production to which an unaided nature would have brought the tree in twice that time."

Burbank's little adopted daughter came romping with her dog into the garden.

"She is my human plant." Luther waved to her affectionately. "I see humanity now as one vast plant, needing for its highest fulfilments only love, the natural blessings of the great outdoors, and intelligent crossing and selection. In the span of my own lifetime I have observed such wondrous progress in plant evolution that I look forward optimistically to a healthy, happy world as soon as its children are taught the principles of simple and rational living. We must return to nature and nature's God."

"Luther, you would delight in my Ranchi school, with its outdoor classes, and atmosphere of joy and simplicity."

My words touched the chord closest to Burbank's heart—child education. He plied me with questions, interest gleaming from his deep, serene eyes.

"Swamiji," he said finally, "schools like yours are the only hope of a future millennium. I am in revolt against the educational systems of our time, severed from nature and stifling of all individuality. I am with you heart and soul in your practical ideals of education."

As I was taking leave of the gentle sage, he autographed a small volume and presented it to me. [1]

"Here's my book on The Training of the Human Plant," [2] he said. "New types of training are needed—fearless experiments. At times the most daring trials have succeeded in bringing out the best in fruits and flowers. Educational innovations for children should likewise become more numerous, more courageous."

I read his little book that night with intense interest. His eye envisioning a glorious future for the race, he wrote: "The most stubborn living thing in this world, the most difficult to swerve, is a plant once fixed in certain habits. ... Remember that this plant has preserved its individuality all through the ages; perhaps it is one which can be traced backward through aeons of time in the very rocks themselves, never having varied to any great extent in all these vast periods. Do you suppose, after all these ages of repetition, the plant does not become possessed of a will, if you so choose to call it, of unparalleled tenacity? Indeed, there are plants, like certain of the palms, so persistent that no human power has yet been able to change them. The human will is a weak thing beside the will of a plant. But see how this whole plant's lifelong stubbornness is broken simply by blending a new life with it, making, by crossing, a complete and powerful change in its life. Then when the break comes, fix it by these generations of patient supervision and selection, and the new plant sets out on its new way never again to return to the old, its tenacious will broken and changed at last.

"When it comes to so sensitive and pliable a thing as the nature of a child, the problem becomes vastly easier."

Magnetically drawn to this great American, I visited him again and again. One morning I arrived at the same time as the postman, who deposited in Burbank's study about a thousand letters. Horticulturists wrote him from all parts of the world.

"Swamiji, your presence is just the excuse I need to get out into the garden," Luther said gaily. He opened a large desk-drawer containing hundreds of travel folders.

"See," he said, "this is how I do my travelling. Tied down by my plants and correspondence, I satisfy my desire for foreign lands by a glance now and then at these pictures."

My car was standing before his gate; Luther and I drove along the streets of the little town, its gardens bright with his own varieties of Santa Rosa, Peachblow, and Burbank roses.

"My friend Henry Ford and I both believe in the ancient theory of reincarnation," Luther told me. "It sheds light on aspects of life otherwise inexplicable. Memory is not a test of truth; just because man fails to remember his past lives does not prove he never had them. Memory is blank concerning his womb-life and infancy, too; but he probably passed through them!" He chuckled.

The great scientist had received kriya initiation during one of my earlier visits. "I practice the technique devoutly, Swamiji," he said. After many thoughtful questions to me about various aspects of yoga, Luther remarked slowly:

"The East indeed possesses immense hoards of knowledge which the West has scarcely begun to explore."

Intimate communion with nature, who unlocked to him many of her jealously guarded secrets, had given Burbank a boundless spiritual reverence.

"Sometimes I feel very close to the infinite Power," he confided shyly. His sensitive, beautifully modelled face lit with his memories. "Then I have been able to heal sick persons around me, as well as many ailing plants."

He told me of his mother, a sincere Christian. "Many times after her death," Luther said, "I have been blessed by her appearance in visions; she has spoken to me."

We drove back reluctantly toward his home and those waiting thousand letters.

"Luther," I remarked, "next month I am starting a magazine to present the truth-offerings of East and West. Please help me decide on a good name for the journal."

We discussed titles for awhile, and finally agreed on East-West. After we had re-entered his study, Burbank gave me an article he had written on "Science and Civilisation."

"This will go in the first issue of East-West," I said gratefully.

As our friendship grew deeper, I called Burbank my "American saint." "Behold a man," I quoted, "in whom there's no guile!" His heart was fathomlessly deep, long acquainted with humility, patience, sacrifice. His little home amidst the roses was austerely simple; he knew the worthlessness of luxury, the joy of few possessions. The modesty with which he wore his scientific fame repeatedly reminded me of the trees that bend low with the burden of ripening fruits; it is the barren tree that lifts its head high in an empty boast.

I was in New York when, in 1926, my dear friend passed away. In tears I thought, "Oh, I would gladly walk all the way from here to Santa Rosa for one more glimpse of him!" Locking myself away from secretaries and visitors, I spent the next twenty-four hours in seclusion.

The following day I conducted a Vedic memorial rite around a large picture of Luther. A group of my American students, garbed in Hindu ceremonial clothes, chanted the ancient hymns as an offering was made of flowers, water, and fire—symbols of the bodily elements and their release in the infinite Source.

Though the form of Burbank lies in Santa Rosa under a Lebanon cedar that he planted years ago in his garden, his soul is enshrined for me in every wide-eyed flower that blooms by the wayside. Withdrawn for a time into the spacious spirit of nature, is that not Luther whispering in her winds, walking her dawns?

His name has now passed into the heritage of common speech. Listing "burbank" as a transitive verb, Webster's New International Dictionary defines it: "To cross or graft (a plant). Hence, figuratively, to improve (anything, as a process or institution) by selecting good features and rejecting bad, or by adding good features."

"Beloved Burbank," I cried after reading the definition, "your very name is now a synonym for goodness!"

LUTHER BURBANK
SANTA ROSA, CALIFORNIA
USA
December 22, 1924

I have examined the yogoda system of Swami Yogananda and in my opinion it is ideal for training and harmonising man's physical, mental, and spiritual natures. Swami's aim is to establish "how-to-live" schools throughout the world, wherein education wo not confine itself to intellectual development alone, but also training of the body, will, and feelings.

Through the yogoda system of physical, mental, and spiritual unfoldment by simple and scientific methods of concentration and meditation, most of the complex problems of life may be solved, and peace and good-will come on earth. The Swami's idea of right education is plain common-sense, free from all mysticism and non-practicality; otherwise it would not have my approval.

I am glad to have this opportunity of heartily joining with the swami in his appeal for international schools on the art of living which, if established, will come as near to bringing the millennium as anything with which I am acquainted.

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39 - Therese Neumann, the Catholic stigmatist

Leading questions and mishmash onto things should be averted
Admiration of blood trickling - tone it down. Uha Start:
Trances suggest being made passive
arrow What is the essential value of going from three meals a day to eating as good as nothing due to a throat disorder? arrow

"RETURN to India. I have waited for you patiently for fifteen years. Soon I shall swim out of the body and on to the Shining Abode. Yogananda, come!"

Sri Yukteswar's voice sounded startlingly in my inner ear as I sat in meditation at my Mt. Washington headquarters. Traversing ten thousand miles in the twinkling of an eye, his message penetrated my being like a flash of lightning.

Fifteen years! Yes, I realised, now it is 1935; I have spent fifteen years in spreading my guru's teachings in America. Now he recalls me.

That afternoon I recounted my experience to a visiting disciple. His spiritual development under kriya yoga was so remarkable that I often called him "saint," remembering Babaji's prophecy that America too would produce men and women of divine realisation through the ancient yogic path.

This disciple and a number of others generously insisted on making a donation for my travels. The financial problem thus solved, I made arrangements to sail, via Europe, for India. Busy weeks of preparations at Mount Washington! In March, 1935 I had the Self-Realisation Fellowship chartered under the laws of the State of California as a non-profit corporation. To this educational institution go all public donations as well as the revenue from the sale of my books, magazine, written courses, class tuition, and every other source of income.

"I will be back," I told my students. "Never shall I forget America."

At a farewell banquet given to me in Los Angeles by loving friends, I looked long at their faces and thought gratefully, "Lord, he who remembers you as the sole giver will never lack the sweetness of friendship among mortals."

I sailed from New York on June 9, 1935 [1] in the Europa. Two students accompanied me: my secretary, Mr. C. Richard Wright, and an elderly lady from Cincinnati, Miss Ettie Bletch. We enjoyed the days of ocean peace, a welcome contrast to the past hurried weeks. Our period of leisure was short-lived; the speed of modern boats has some regrettable features!

Like any other group of inquisitive tourists, we walked around the huge and ancient city of London. The following day I was invited to address a large meeting in Caxton Hall, at which I was introduced to the London audience by Sir Francis Younghusband. Our party spent a pleasant day as guests of Sir Harry Lauder at his estate in Scotland. We soon crossed the English Channel to the continent, for I wanted to make a special pilgrimage to Bavaria. This would be my only chance, I felt, to visit the great Catholic mystic, Therese Neumann of Konnersreuth.

Years earlier I had read an amazing account of Therese. Information given in the article was as follows:

(1) Therese, born in 1898, had been injured in an accident at the age of twenty; she became blind and paralysed.

(2) She miraculously regained her sight in 1923 through prayers to St. Teresa, "The Little Flower." Later Therese Neumann's limbs were instantaneously healed.

(3) From 1923 onward, Therese has abstained completely from food and drink, except for the daily swallowing of one small consecrated wafer.

(4) The stigmata, or sacred wounds of Christ, appeared in 1926 on Therese's head, breast, hands, and feet. On Friday of every week thereafter, she has passed through the Passion of Christ, suffering in her own body all his historic agonies.

(5) Knowing ordinarily only the simple German of her village, during her Friday trances Therese utters phrases which scholars have identified as ancient Aramaic. At appropriate times in her vision, she speaks Hebrew or Greek.

(6) By ecclesiastical permission, Therese has several times been under close scientific observation. Dr. Fritz Gerlick, editor of a Protestant German newspaper, went to Konnersreuth to "expose the Catholic fraud," but ended up by reverently writing her biography. [2]

As always, whether in East or West, I was eager to meet a saint. I rejoiced as our little party entered, on July 16th, the quaint village of Konnersreuth. The Bavarian peasants exhibited lively interest in our Ford automobile (brought with us from America) and its assorted group—an American young man, an elderly lady, and an olive-hued Oriental with long hair tucked under his coat collar.

Therese's little cottage, clean and neat, with geraniums blooming by a primitive well, was alas! silently closed. The neighbours, and even the village postman who passed by, could give us no information. Rain began to fall; my companions suggested that we leave.

"No," I said stubbornly, "I will stay here till I find some clue leading to Therese."

Two hours later we were still sitting in our car amidst the dismal rain. "Lord," I sighed complainingly, "why did you lead me here if she has disappeared?"

An English-speaking man halted beside us, politely offering his aid.

"I do not know for certain where Therese is," he said, "but she often visits at the home of Professor Wurz, a seminary Master of Eichstatt, eighty miles from here."

The following morning our party motored to the quiet village of Eichstatt, narrowly lined with cobblestoned streets. Dr. Wurz greeted us cordially at his home; "Yes, Therese is here." He sent her word of the visitors. A messenger soon appeared with her reply.

"Though the bishop has asked me to see no one without his permission, I will receive the man of God from India."

Deeply touched at these words, I followed Dr. Wurz upstairs to the sitting room. Therese entered at once, radiating an aura of peace and joy. She wore a black gown and spotless white head dress. Although her age was thirty-seven at this time, she seemed much younger, possessing indeed a childlike freshness and charm. Healthy, well-formed, rosy-cheeked, and cheerful, this is the saint that does not eat!

Therese greeted me with a very gentle handshaking. We both beamed in silent communion, each knowing the other to be a lover of God.

Dr. Wurz kindly offered to serve as interpreter. As we seated ourselves, I noticed that Therese was glancing at me with naive curiosity; evidently Hindus had been rare in Bavaria.

"Do not you eat anything?" I wanted to hear the answer from her own lips.

"No, except a consecrated rice-flour wafer, once every morning at six o'clock."

"How large is the wafer?"

"It is paper-thin, the size of a small coin." She added, "I take it for sacramental reasons; if it is unconsecrated, I am unable to swallow it."

"Certainly you could not have lived on that, for twelve whole years?"

"I live by God's light." How simple her reply, how Einsteinian!

"I see you realise that energy flows to your body from the ether, sun, and air."

A swift smile broke over her face. "I am so happy to know you understand how I live."

"Your sacred life is a daily demonstration of the truth uttered by Christ: aman sha not live by bread alone, but by every word that goes out of the mouth of God.'" [3]

Again she showed joy at my explanation. "It is indeed so. One of the reasons I am here on earth today is to prove that man can live by God's invisible light, and not by food only."

"Can you teach others how to live without food?"

She appeared a trifle shocked. "I cannot do that; God does not wish it."

As my gaze fell on her strong, graceful hands, Therese showed me a little, square, freshly healed wound on each of her palms. On the back of each hand, she pointed out a smaller, crescent-shaped wound, freshly healed. Each wound went straight through the hand. The sight brought to my mind distinct recollection of the large square iron nails with crescent-tipped ends, still used in the Orient, but which I do not recall having seen in the West.

The saint told me something of her weekly trances. "As a helpless onlooker, I observe the whole Passion of Christ." Each week, from Thursday midnight till Friday afternoon at one o'clock, her wounds open and bleed; she loses ten pounds of her ordinary 121-pound weight. Suffering intensely in her sympathetic love, Therese yet looks forward joyously to these weekly visions of her Lord.

I realised at once that her strange life is intended by God to reassure all Christians of the historical authenticity of Jesus' life and crucifixion as recorded in the New Testament, and to dramatically display the ever-living bond between the Galilean master and his devotees.

Professor Wurz related some of his experiences with the saint.

"Several of us, including Therese, often travel for days on sight-seeing trips throughout Germany," he told me. "It is a striking contrast—while we have three meals a day, Therese eats nothing. She remains as fresh as a rose, untouched by the fatigue which the trips cause us. As we grow hungry and hunt for wayside inns, she laughs merrily."

The professor added some interesting physiological details: "Because Therese takes no food, her stomach has shrunk. She has no excretions, but her perspiration glands function; her skin is always soft and firm."

At the time of parting, I expressed to Therese my desire to be present at her trance.

"Yes, please come to Konnersreuth next Friday," she said graciously. "The bishop will give you a permit. I am very happy you sought me out in Eichstatt."

Therese shook hands gently, many times, and walked with our party to the gate. Mr. Wright turned on the automobile radio; the saint examined it with little enthusiastic chuckles. Such a large crowd of youngsters gathered that Therese retreated into the house. We saw her at a window, where she peered at us, childlike, waving her hand.

From a conversation the next day with two of Therese's brothers, very kind and amiable, we learned that the saint sleeps only one or two hours at night. In spite of the many wounds in her body, she is active and full of energy. She loves birds, looks after an aquarium of fish, and works often in her garden. Her correspondence is large; Catholic devotees write her for prayers and healing blessings. Many seekers have been cured through her of serious diseases.

Her brother Ferdinand, about twenty-three, explained that Therese has the power, through prayer, of working out on her own body the ailments of others. The saint's abstinence from food dates from a time when she prayed that the throat disease of a young man of her parish, then preparing to enter holy orders, be transferred to her own throat.

On Thursday afternoon our party drove to the home of the bishop, who looked at my flowing locks with some surprise. He readily wrote out the necessary permit. There was no fee; the rule made by the Church is simply to protect Therese from the onrush of casual tourists, who in previous years had flocked on Fridays by the thousands.

We arrived Friday morning about nine-thirty in Konnersreuth. I noticed that Therese's little cottage possesses a special glass-roofed section to afford her plenty of light. We were glad to see the doors no longer closed, but wide-open in hospitable cheer. There was a line of about twenty visitors, armed with their permits. Many had come from great distances to view the mystic trance.

Therese had passed my first test at the professor's house by her intuitive knowledge that I wanted to see her for spiritual reasons, and not just to satisfy a passing curiosity.

My second test was connected with the fact that, just before I went upstairs to her room, I put myself into a yogic trance state in order to be one with her in telepathic and televisic rapport. I entered her chamber, filled with visitors; she was lying in a white robe on the bed. With Mr. Wright following closely behind me, I halted just inside the threshold, awe-struck at a strange and most frightful spectacle.

Blood flowed thinly and continuously in an inch-wide stream from Therese's lower eyelids. Her gaze was focused upward on the spiritual eye within the central forehead. The cloth wrapped around her head was drenched in blood from the stigmata wounds of the crown of thorns. The white garment was redly splotched over her heart from the wound in her side at the spot where Christ's body, long ages ago, had suffered the final indignity of the soldier's spear-thrust.

Therese's hands were extended in a gesture maternal, pleading; her face wore an expression both tortured and divine. She appeared thinner, changed in many subtle as well as outward ways. Murmuring words in a foreign tongue, she spoke with slightly quivering lips to persons visible before her inner sight.

As I was in attunement with her, I began to see the scenes of her vision. She was watching Jesus as he carried the cross amidst the jeering multitude. [4] Suddenly she lifted her head in consternation: the Lord had fallen under the cruel weight. The vision disappeared. In the exhaustion of fervid pity, Therese sank heavily against her pillow.

At this moment I heard a loud thud behind me. Turning my head for a second, I saw two men carrying out a prostrate body. But because I was coming out of the deep superconscious state, I did not at once recognise the fallen person. Again I fixed my eyes on Therese's face, deathly pale under the rivulets of blood, but now calm, radiating purity and holiness. I glanced behind me later and saw Mr. Wright standing with his hand against his cheek, from which blood was trickling.

"Dick," I inquired anxiously, "were you the one who fell?"

"Yes, I fainted at the terrifying spectacle."

"Well," I said consolingly, "you are brave to return and look on the sight again."

Remembering the patiently waiting line of pilgrims, Mr. Wright and I silently bade farewell to Therese and left her sacred presence. [5]

The following day our little group motored south, thankful that we were not dependent on trains, but could stop the Ford wherever we chose throughout the countryside. We enjoyed every minute of a tour through Germany, Holland, France, and the Swiss Alps. In Italy we made a special trip to Assisi to honour the apostle of humility, St. Francis. The European tour ended in Greece, where we viewed the Athenian temples, and saw the prison in which the gentle Socrates [6] had drunk his death potion. One is filled with admiration for the artistry with which the Greeks have everywhere wrought their very fancies in alabaster.

We took ship over the sunny Mediterranean, disembarking at Palestine. Wandering day after day over the Holy Land, I was more than ever convinced of the value of pilgrimage. The spirit of Christ is all-pervasive in Palestine; I walked reverently by his side at Bethlehem, Gethsemane, Calvary, the holy Mount of Olives, and by the River Jordan and the Sea of Galilee.

Our little party visited the Birth Manger, Joseph's carpenter shop, the tomb of Lazarus, the house of Martha and Mary, the hall of the Last Supper. Antiquity unfolded; scene by scene, I saw the divine drama that Christ once played for the ages.

On to Egypt, with its modern Cairo and ancient pyramids. Then a boat down the narrow Red Sea, over the vasty Arabian Sea; lo, India!

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Notes

Chapter 35

[1] Matthew 3:15.

[2] Many Biblical passages reveal that the law of reincarnation was understood and accepted. Reincarnational cycles are a more reasonable explanation for the different states of evolution in which mankind is found, than the common Western theory which assumes that something (consciousness of egoity) came out of nothing, existed with varying degrees of lustihood for thirty or ninety years, and then returned to the original void. The inconceivable nature of such a void is a problem to delight the heart of a medieval Schoolman.

[3] Malachi 4:5.

[4] "Before him," i.e., "before the Lord."

[5] Luke 1:13 - 17.

[6] Matthew 17:12 - 13.

[7] Matthew 11:13 - 14.

[8] John 1:21.

[9] 2 Kings 2:9 - 14.

[10] Matthew 17:3.

[11] Matthew 27:46 - 49.

[12] "How many sorts of death are in our bodies! Nothing is therein but death." - Martin Luther, in "Table-Talk."

[13] The chief prayer of the Mohammedans, usually repeated four or five times daily.

[14] "Seek truth in meditation, not in moldy books. Look in the sky to find the moon, not in the pond." - Persian proverb.

[15] As kriya yoga is capable of many subdivisions, Lahiri Mahasaya wisely sifted out four steps which he discerned to be those which contained the essential marrow, and which were of the highest value in actual practice.

[16] Other titles bestowed on Lahiri Mahasaya by his disciples were Yogibar (greatest of yogis), Yogiraj (king of yogis), and Munibar (greatest of saints), to which I have added Yogavatar (incarnation of yoga).

[17] He had given, altogether, thirty - five years of service in one department of the government.

[18] Vast herbal knowledge is found in ancient Sanskrit treatises. Himalayan herbs were employed in a rejuvenation treatment which aroused the attention of the world in 1938 when the method was used on Pundit Madan Mohan Malaviya, 77 - year - old Vice - Chancellor of Benares Hindu University. To a remarkable extent, the noted scholar regained in 45 days his health, strength, memory, normal eyesight; indications of a third set of teeth appeared, while all wrinkles vanished. The herbal treatment, known as kaya kalpa, is one of 80 rejuvenation methods outlined in Hindu Ayurveda or medical science. Pundit Malaviya underwent the treatment at the hands of Sri Kalpacharya Swami Beshundasji, who claims 1766 as his birth year. He possesses documents proving him to be more than 100 years old; Associated Press reporters remarked that he looked about 40.

Ancient Hindu treatises divided medical science into 8 branches: salya (surgery); Salakya (diseases above the neck); Kayachikitsa (medicine proper); Bhutavidya (mental diseases); Kaumara (care of infancy); Agada (toxicology); Rasayana (longevity); Vagikarana (tonics). Vedic physicians used delicate surgical instruments, employed plastic surgery, understood medical methods to counteract the effects of poison gas, performed Caesarean sections and brain operations, were skilled in dynamization of drugs. Hippocrates, famous physician of the 5th century BC., borrowed much of his materia medica from Hindu sources.

[19] The East Indian margosa tree. Its medicinal values have now become recognized in the West, where the bitter neem bark is used as a tonic, and the oil from seeds and fruit has been found of utmost worth in the treatment of leprosy and other diseases.

[20] "A number of seals recently excavated from archaeological sites of the Indus valley, datable in the third millennium BC., show figures seated in meditative postures now used in the system of Yoga, and warrant the inference that even at that time some of the rudiments of Yoga were already known. We may not unreasonably draw the conclusion that systematic introspection with the aid of studied methods has been practiced in India for five thousand years. . . . India has developed certain valuable religious attitudes of mind and ethical notions which are unique, at least in the wideness of their application to life. One of these has been a tolerance in questions of intellectual belief - doctrine - that is amazing to the West, where for many centuries heresy - hunting was common, and bloody wars between nations over sectarian rivalries were frequent." - Extracts from an article by Professor W. Norman Brown in the May, 1939 issue of the Bulletin of the American Council of Learned Societies, Washington, D.C.

[21] One thinks here of Carlyle's observation in Sartor Resartus: "The man who cannot wonder, who does not habitually wonder (and worship), were he president of innumerable Royal Societies and carried . . . the epitome of all laboratories and observatories, with their results, in his single head, - is but a pair of spectacles behind which there is no eye."

Chapter 36

[1] Sri Yukteswar was later formally initiated into the Swami Order by the mahant (monastery head) of Buddh Gaya.

[2] "Great King" - a title of respect.

[3] A guru usually refers to his own disciple simply by his name, omitting any title. Thus, Babaji said "Lahiri," not "Lahiri Mahasaya."

[4] Literally, "eternal religion," the name given to the body of Vedic teachings. Sanatan Dharma has come to be called Hinduism since the time of the Greeks who designated the people on the banks of the river Indus as Indoos, or Hindus. The word Hindu, properly speaking, refers only to followers of Sanatan Dharma or Hinduism. The term Indian applies equally to Hindus and Mohammedans and other inhabitants of the soil of India (and also through the confusing geographical error of Columbus, to the American Mongoloid aboriginals).

The ancient name for India is Aryavarta, literally, "abode of the Aryans." The Sanskrit root of arya is "worthy, holy, noble." The later ethnological misuse of Aryan to signify not spiritual, but physical, characteristics, led the great Orientalist, Max Muller, to say quaintly: "To me an ethnologist who speaks of an Aryan race, Aryan blood, Aryan eyes and hair, is as great a sinner as a linguist who speaks of a dolichocephalic dictionary or a brachycephalic grammar."

[5] Param-guru is literally "guru supreme" or "guru beyond," signifying a line or succession of teachers. Babaji, the guru of Lahiri Mahasaya, was the param - guru of Sri Yukteswar.

[6] My visit to Keshabananda's ashram is described on pp. 405 - 408.

[7] September 26, 1895 is the date on which Lahiri Mahasaya left his body. In a few more days he would have reached his sixty - eighth birthday.

[8] Facing the north, and thrice revolving the body, are parts of a Vedic rite used by masters who know beforehand when the final hour is about to strike for the physical body. The last meditation, during which the master merges himself in the Cosmic Aum, is called the maha, or great, samadhi.

[9] Kabir was a great sixteenth-century saint whose large following included both Hindus and Mohammedans. At the time of his death, the disciples quarrelled over the manner of conducting the funeral ceremonies. The exasperated master rose from his final sleep, and gave his instructions. "Half of my remains shall be buried by the Moslem rites;" he said, "let the other half be cremated with a Hindu sacrament." He then vanished. When the disciples opened the coffin which had contained his body, nothing was found but a dazzling array of gold - colored champak flowers. Half of these were obediently buried by the Moslems, who revere his shrine to this day.

In his youth Kabir was approached by two disciples who wanted minute intellectual guidance along the mystic path. The master responded simply:

"Path presupposes distance; / If He be near, no path needest thou at all. / Verily it maketh me smile / To hear of a fish in water athirst!"

[10] Panchanon established, in a seventeen - acre garden at Deogarh in Bihar, a temple containing a stone statue of Lahiri Mahasaya. Another statue of the great master has been set by disciples in the little parlor of his Benares home.

[11] 1 Corinthians 15:54 - 55.

Chapter 37

[1] Many of those faces I have since seen in the West, and instantly recognized..

[2] Swami Premananda, now the leader of the Self - Realization Church of All Religions in Washington, D.C., was one of the students at the Ranchi school at the time I left there for America. (He was then Brahmachari Jotin.)

[3] Sri Yukteswar and I ordinarily conversed in Bengali.

[4] New Pilgrimages of the Spirit (Boston: Beacon Press, 1921).

[5] Dr. and Mrs. Robinson visited India in 1939, and were honored guests at the Ranchi school.

[6] Mme. Galli-Curci and her husband, Homer Samuels, the pianist, have been Kriya Yoga students for twenty years. The inspiring story of the famous prima donna's years of music has been recently published (Galli-Curci's Life of Song, by C. E. LeMassena, Paebar Co., New York, 1945).

Chapter 38

[1] Burbank also gave me an autographed picture of himself. I treasure it even as a Hindu merchant once treasured a picture of Lincoln. The Hindu, who was in America during the Civil War years, conceived such an admiration for Lincoln that he was unwilling to return to India until he had obtained a portrait of the Great Emancipator. Planting himself adamantly on Lincoln's doorstep, the merchant refused to leave until the astonished President permitted him to engage the services of Daniel Huntington, the famous New York artist. When the portrait was finished, the Hindu carried it in triumph to Calcutta.

[2] New York: Century Co., 1922.

Chapter 39

[1] The remarkable inclusion here of a complete date is due to the fact that my secretary, Mr. Wright, kept a travel diary.

[2] Other books on her life are Therese Neumann: A Stigmatist of Our Day, and Further Chronicles of Therese Neumann, both by Friedrich Ritter von Lama (Milwaukee: Bruce Pub. Co.).

[3] Matthew 4:4. Man's body battery is not sustained by gross food (bread) alone, but by the vibratory cosmic energy (word, or Aum). The invisible power flows into the human body through the gate of the medulla oblongata. This sixth bodily centre is located at the back of the neck at the top of the five spinal chakras (Sanskrit for "wheels" or centres of radiating force). The medulla is the principal entrance for the body's supply of universal life force (Aum), and is directly connected with man's power of will, concentrated in the seventh or Christ Consciousness centre (kutastha) in the third eye between the eyebrows. Cosmic energy is then stored up in the brain as a reservoir of infinite potentialities, poetically mentioned in the Vedas as the "thousand - petalled lotus of light." The Bible invariably refers to Aum as the "Holy Ghost" or invisible life force which divinely upholds all creation. "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" - I Corinthians 6:19.

[4] During the hours preceding my arrival, Therese had already passed through many visions of the closing days in Christ's life. Her entrancement usually starts with scenes of the events which followed the Last Supper. Her visions end with Jesus' death on the cross or, occasionally, with his entombment.

[5] Therese has survived the Nazi persecution, and is still present in Konnersreuth, according to 1945 American news dispatches from Germany.

[6] A passage in Eusebius relates an interesting encounter between Socrates and a Hindu sage. The passage runs: "Aristoxenus, the musician, tells the following story about the Indians. One of these men met Socrates at Athens, and asked him what was the scope of his philosophy. 'An inquiry into human phenomena,' replied Socrates. At this the Indian burst out laughing. 'How can a man inquire into human phenomena,' he said, 'when he is ignorant of divine ones?'" The Aristoxenus mentioned was a pupil of Aristotle, and a noted writer on harmonics. His date is 330 BC.

Contents


Autobiography of a Yogi chapters, Paramahansa Yogananda, Literature  

Ak: Yogananda, Pa.: Man's Eternal Quest. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1975.

Ay: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 1st ed. New York: Philosophical Library, 1946.

Ebu: Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica 2006 Ultimate Reference Suite DVD. London: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2006.

Fgl: Svebak, Sven. Forlenger en god latter livet? (Does a Good Laugh Prolong Life?) Bergen: Fagbokforlaget, 2000.

Ma: Pargiter, Frederick Eden, trans. Markandeya Purana. Calcutta: The Asiatic Society, 1904.

Op: Simpson, John, and Jennifer Speake. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Pa: Yogananda, Pa.: Autobiography of a Yogi. 11th ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1971.

Say: Yogananda, Pa. Sayings of Yogananda. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1958.

So: Deussen, Paul, trans. Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Vols 1-2. Varanasi: Banarsidass, 1980.

Tas: Ramakrishna. Tales and Parables of Sri Ramakrishna. 5th ed. Madras: Ramakrishna Math, 1974.

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