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Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda
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  1. The Bengali "Joy-Permeated Mother" (Ananda Moyi Ma) – 455
  2. The Woman Yogi who Never Eats (Giri Bala) – 461
  3. I Return to the West – 473
  4. At Encinitas in California – 478
  5. Added Material: –  Yogananda and his fellowship after 1945 482, 499, 501.
  6. Former Aims and Ideals of Yogananda – Current Aims and Ideals of SRF
  7. The Cat Who Went to Heaven – 

45 - The Bengali "joy-permeated" mother

Guru feeding attachments - beware
  • Enjoy the ride and benefit from "the car bargain" too - if you can.
  • As the boy grows up, he loses many mom attachments and the need for ritual plays and toys and gets interested in shiny cars and women - maybe in that order. Such a drift is considered a part of healthy development and has nothing to do with school experiences.
  • Ambition roused in a youth, and normal passions duly cared for, bring about safe homes, the havens on earth. On the other hand, how many lovely girls and women would get safe homes through lack of ambitions on the part of their dads or mates? Ambition is not wrong in itself, nor are passions in themselves. It matters to which directions our ambitions are turned, though, to keep them tidy, and safely in order.

So: Learn to enjoy advances or interests that in turn bring about a safe home.

"SIR, PLEASE do not leave India without a glimpse of Nirmala Devi. Her sanctity is intense; she is known far and wide as Ananda Moyi Ma (joy-permeated mother)." My niece, Amiyo Bose, gazed at me earnestly.

"Of course! I want very much to see the woman saint." I added, "I have read of her advanced state of God-realisation. A little article about her appeared years ago in East-West."

"I have met her," Amiyo went on. "She recently visited my own little town of Jamshedpur. At the entreaty of a disciple, Ananda Moyi Ma went to the home of a dying man. She stood by his bedside; as her hand touched his forehead, his death-rattle ceased. The disease vanished at once; to the man's glad astonishment, he was well."

A few days later I heard that the Blissful Mother was staying at the home of a disciple in the Bhowanipur section of Calcutta. Mr. Wright and I set out at once from my father's Calcutta home. As the Ford neared the Bhowanipur house, my companion and I observed an unusual street scene.

Ananda Moyi Ma was standing in an open-topped automobile, blessing a throng of about one hundred disciples. She was evidently on the point of departure. Mr. Wright parked the Ford some distance away, and accompanied me on foot toward the quiet assemblage. The woman saint glanced in our direction; she alit from her car and walked toward us.

"Father, you have come!" With these fervent words she put her arm around my neck and her head on my shoulder. Mr. Wright, to whom I had just remarked that I did not know the saint, was hugely enjoying this extraordinary demonstration of welcome. The eyes of the one hundred chelas were also fixed with some surprise on the affectionate tableau.

I had instantly seen that the saint was in a high state of samadhi. Utterly oblivious to her outward garb as a woman, she knew herself as the changeless soul; from that plane she was joyously greeting another devotee of God. She led me by the hand into her automobile.

"Ananda Moyi Ma, I am delaying your journey!" I protested.

"Father, I am meeting you for the first time in this life, after ages!" she said. "Please do not leave yet."

We sat together in the rear seats of the car. The Blissful Mother soon entered the immobile ecstatic state. Her beautiful eyes glanced heavenward and, half-opened, became stilled, gazing into the near-far inner Elysium. The disciples chanted gently: "Victory to Mother Divine!"

I had found many men of God-realisation in India, but never before had I met such an exalted woman saint. Her gentle face was burnished with the ineffable joy that had given her the name of Blissful Mother. Long black tresses lay loosely behind her unveiled head. A red dot of sandalwood paste on her forehead symbolised the spiritual eye, ever open within her. Tiny face, tiny hands, tiny feet — a contrast to her spiritual magnitude!

I put some questions to a near-by woman chela while Ananda Moyi Ma remained entranced.

"The Blissful Mother travels widely in India; in many parts she has hundreds of disciples," the chela told me. "Her courageous efforts have brought about many desirable social reforms. Although a Brahmin, the saint recognises no caste distinctions. [1] A group of us always travel with her, looking after her comforts. We have to mother her; she takes no notice of her body. If no one gave her food, she would not eat, or make any inquiries. Even when meals are placed before her, she does not touch them. To prevent her disappearance from this world, we disciples feed her with our own hands. For days together she often stays in the divine trance, scarcely breathing, her eyes unwinking. One of her chief disciples is her husband. Many years ago, soon after their marriage, he took the vow of silence."

The chela pointed to a broad-shouldered, fine-featured man with long hair and hoary beard. He was standing quietly in the midst of the gathering, his hands folded in a disciple's reverential attitude.

Refreshed by her dip in the infinite, Ananda Moyi Ma was now focusing her consciousness on the material world.

"Father, please tell me where you stay." Her voice was clear and melodious.

"At present, in Calcutta or Ranchi; but soon I shall be returning to America."

"America?"

"Yes. An Indian woman saint would be sincerely appreciated there by spiritual seekers. Would you like to go?"

"If Father can take me, I will go."

This reply caused her near-by disciples to start in alarm.

"Twenty or more of us always travel with the Blissful Mother," one of them told me firmly. "We could not live without her. Wherever she goes, we must go."

Reluctantly I abandoned the plan, as possessing an impractical feature of spontaneous enlargement!

"Please come at least to Ranchi, with your disciples," I said on taking leave of the saint. "As a divine child yourself, you will enjoy the little ones in my school."

"Whenever Father takes me, I will gladly go."

A short time later the Ranchi Vidyalaya was in gala array for the saint's promised visit. The youngsters looked forward to any day of festivity — no lessons, hours of music, and a feast for the climax!

"Victory! Ananda Moyi Ma, ki jai!" This reiterated chant from scores of enthusiastic little throats greeted the saint's party as it entered the school gates. Showers of marigolds, tinkle of cymbals, lusty blowing of conch shells and beat of the mridanga drum! The Blissful Mother wandered smilingly over the sunny Vidyalaya grounds, ever carrying within her the portable paradise.

"It is beautiful here," Ananda Moyi Ma said graciously as I led her into the main building. She seated herself with a childlike smile by my side. The closest of dear friends, she made one feel, yet an aura of remoteness was ever around her — the paradoxical isolation of Omnipresence.

"Please tell me something of your life."

"Father knows all about it; why repeat it?" She evidently felt that the factual history of one short incarnation was beneath notice.

I laughed, gently repeating my question.

"Father, there is little to tell." She spread her graceful hands in a deprecatory gesture. "My consciousness has never associated itself with this temporary body. Before I came on this earth, Father, 'I was the same.' As a little girl, 'I was the same.' I grew into womanhood, but still 'I was the same.' When the family in which I had been born made arrangements to have this body married, 'I was the same.' And when, passion-drunk, my husband came to me and murmured endearing words, lightly touching my body, he received a violent shock, as if struck by lightning, for even then 'I was the same.'

"My husband knelt before me, folded his hands, and implored my pardon.

"'Mother,' he said, 'because I have desecrated your bodily temple by touching it with the thought of lust — not knowing that within it dwelt not my wife but the divine Mother — I take this solemn vow: I shall be your disciple, a celibate follower, ever caring for you in silence as a servant, never speaking to anyone again as long as I live. May I thus atone for the sin I have today committed against you, my guru.'

"Even when I quietly accepted this proposal of my husband's, 'I was the same.' And, Father, in front of you now, 'I am the same.' Ever afterward, though the dance of creation change around me in the hall of eternity, 'I shall be the same.'"

Ananda Moyi Ma sank into a deep meditative state. Her form was statue-still; she had fled to her ever-calling kingdom. The dark pools of her eyes appeared lifeless and glassy. This expression is often present when saints remove their consciousness from the physical body, which is then hardly more than a piece of soulless clay. We sat together for an hour in the ecstatic trance. She returned to this world with a gay little laugh.

"Please, Ananda Moyi Ma," I said, "come with me to the garden. Mr. Wright will take some pictures."

"Of course, Father. Your will is my will." Her glorious eyes retained the unchanging divine lustre as she posed for many photographs.

Time for the feast! Ananda Moyi Ma squatted on her blanket-seat, a disciple at her elbow to feed her. Like an infant, the saint obediently swallowed the food after the chela had brought it to her lips. It was plain that the Blissful Mother did not recognise any difference between curries and sweetmeats!

As dusk approached, the saint left with her party amidst a shower of rose petals, her hands raised in blessing on the little lads. Their faces shone with the affection she had effortlessly awakened.

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength:" Christ has proclaimed, "this is the first commandment." [2]

Casting aside every inferior attachment, Ananda Moyi Ma offers her sole allegiance to the Lord. Not by the hair-splitting distinctions of scholars but by the sure logic of faith, the childlike saint has solved the only problem in human life — establishment of unity with God. Man has forgotten this stark simplicity, now befogged by a million issues. Refusing a monotheistic love to God, the nations disguise their infidelity by punctilious respect before the outward shrines of charity. These humanitarian gestures are virtuous, because for a moment they divert man's attention from himself, but they do not free him from his single responsibility in life, referred to by Jesus as the first commandment. The uplifting obligation to love God is assumed with man's first breath of an air freely bestowed by his only Benefactor.

On one other occasion after her Ranchi visit I had opportunity to see Ananda Moyi Ma. She stood among her disciples some months later on the Serampore station platform, waiting for the train.

"Father, I am going to the Himalayas," she told me. "Generous disciples have built me a hermitage in Dehra Dun."

As she boarded the train, I marvelled to see that whether amidst a crowd, on a train, feasting, or sitting in silence, her eyes never looked away from God. Within me I still hear her voice, an echo of measureless sweetness:

"Behold, now and always one with the Eternal, 'I am ever the same.'"

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46 - The woman yogi who never eats

Many ways to please
  • The woman who never eats and never enjoys fruits, berries, pies, soups, and many savoury other dishes, leaves all the more for others - for example you -
  • You can be pleased with a woman yogi that never snores too.
  • Hopefully there comes a time to see: Don't let luscious fruits lie uselessly on the ground.

Thus: Some who never eat or eat only little, can please others who love luscious fruits, berries and get all the more of them without being greedy.

"SIR, WHERE are we bound this morning?" Mr. Wright was driving the Ford; he took his eyes off the road long enough to gaze at me with a questioning twinkle. From day to day he seldom knew what part of Bengal he would be discovering next.

"God willing," I replied devoutly, "we are on our way to see an eighth wonder of the world — a woman saint whose diet is thin air!"

"Repetition of wonders — after Therese Neumann." But Mr. Wright laughed eagerly just the same; he even accelerated the speed of the car. More extraordinary grist for his travel diary! Not one of an average tourist, that!

The Ranchi school had just been left behind us; we had risen before the sun. Besides my secretary and myself, three Bengali friends were in the party. We drank in the exhilarating air, the natural wine of the morning. Our driver guided the car warily among the early peasants and the two-wheeled carts, slowly drawn by yoked, hump-shouldered bullocks, inclined to dispute the road with a honking interloper.

"Sir, we would like to know more of the fasting saint."

"Her name is Giri Bala," I informed my companions. "I first heard about her years ago from a scholarly gentleman, Sthiti Lal Nundy. He often came to the Gurpar Road home to tutor my brother Bishnu."

"'I know Giri Bala well,' Sthiti Babu told me. 'She employs a certain yoga technique which enables her to live without eating. I was her close neighbour in Nawabganj near Ichapur. [1] I made it a point to watch her closely; never did I find evidence that she was taking either food or drink. My interest finally mounted so high that I approached the Maharaja of Burdwan [2] and asked him to conduct an investigation. Astounded at the story, he invited her to his palace. She agreed to a test and lived for two months locked up in a small section of his home. Later she returned for a palace visit of twenty days; and then for a third test of fifteen days. The Maharaja himself told me that these three rigorous scrutinies had convinced him beyond doubt of her non-eating state.'

"This story of Sthiti Babu's has remained in my mind for over twenty-five years," I concluded. "Sometimes in America I wondered if the river of time would not swallow the yogini [3] before I could meet her. She must be quite aged now. I do not even know where, or if, she lives. But in a few hours we shall reach Purulia; her brother has a home there."

By ten-thirty our little group was conversing with the brother, Lambadar Dey, a lawyer of Purulia.

"Yes, my sister is living. She sometimes stays with me here, but at present she is at our family home in Biur." Lambadar Babu glanced doubtfully at the Ford. "I hardly think, Swamiji, that any automobile has ever penetrated into the interior as far as Biur. It might be best if you all resign yourselves to the ancient jolt of the bullock cart!"

As one voice our party pledged loyalty to the Pride of Detroit.

"The Ford comes from America," I told the lawyer. "It would be a shame to deprive it of an opportunity to get acquainted with the heart of Bengal!"

"May Ganesh [4] go with you!" Lambadar Babu said, laughing. He added courteously, "If you ever get there, I am sure Giri Bala will be glad to see you. She is approaching her seventies, but continues in excellent health."

"Please tell me, sir, if it is absolutely true that she eats nothing?" I looked directly into his eyes, those telltale windows of the mind.

"It is true." His gaze was open and honourable. "In more than five decades I have never seen her eat a morsel. If the world suddenly came to an end, I could not be more astonished than by the sight of my sister's taking food!"

We chuckled together over the improbability of these two cosmic events.

"Giri Bala has never sought an inaccessible solitude for her yoga practices," Lambadar Babu went on. "She has lived her entire life surrounded by her family and friends. They are all well accustomed now to her strange state. Not one of them who would not be stupefied if Giri Bala suddenly decided to eat anything! Sister is naturally retiring, as befits a Hindu widow, but our little circle in Purulia and in Biur all know that she is literally an 'exceptional' woman."

The brother's sincerity was manifest. Our little party thanked him warmly and set out toward Biur. We stopped at a street shop for curry and luchis, attracting a swarm of urchins who gathered round to watch Mr. Wright eating with his fingers in the simple Hindu manner. [5] Hearty appetites caused us to fortify ourselves against an afternoon which, unknown at the moment, was to prove fairly laborious.

Our way now led east through sun-baked rice fields into the Burdwan section of Bengal. On through roads lined with dense vegetation; the songs of the maynas and the stripe-throated bulbuls streamed out from trees with huge, umbrella-like branches. A bullock cart now and then, the rini, rini, manju, manju squeak of its axle and iron-shod wooden wheels contrasting sharply in mind with the swish, swish of auto tires over the aristocratic asphalt of the cities.

"Dick, halt!" My sudden request brought a jolting protest from the Ford. "That overburdened mango tree is fairly shouting an invitation!"

The five of us dashed like children to the mango-strewn earth; the tree had benevolently shed its fruits as they had ripened.

"Full many a mango is born to lie unseen," I paraphrased, "and waste its sweetness on the stony ground."

"Nothing like this in America, Swamiji, eh?" laughed Sailesh Mazumdar, one of my Bengali students.

"No," I admitted, covered with mango juice and contentment. "How I have missed this fruit in the West! A Hindu's heaven without mangoes is inconceivable!"

I picked up a rock and downed a proud beauty hidden on the highest limb.

"Dick," I asked between bites of ambrosia, warm with the tropical sun, "are all the cameras in the car?"

"Yes, sir; in the baggage compartment."

"If Giri Bala proves to be a true saint, I want to write about her in the West. A Hindu yogini with such inspiring powers should not live and die unknown — like most of these mangoes."

Half an hour later I was still strolling in the sylvan peace.

"Sir," Mr. Wright remarked, "we should reach Giri Bala before the sun sets, to have enough light for photographs." He added with a grin, "The Westerners are a sceptical lot; we cannot expect them to believe in the lady without any pictures!"

This bit of wisdom was indisputable; I turned my back on temptation and re-entered the car.

"You are right, Dick," I sighed as we sped along, "I sacrifice the mango paradise on the altar of Western realism. Photographs we must have!"

The road became more and more sickly: wrinkles of ruts, boils of hardened clay, the sad infirmities of old age! Our group dismounted occasionally to allow Mr. Wright to more easily manoeuvre the Ford, which the four of us pushed from behind.

"Lambadar Babu spoke truly," Sailesh acknowledged. "The car is not carrying us; we are carrying the car!"

Our climb-in, climb-out auto tedium was beguiled ever and anon by the appearance of a village, each one a scene of quaint simplicity.

"Our way twisted and turned through groves of palms among ancient, unspoiled villages nestling in the forest shade," Mr. Wright has recorded in his travel diary, under date of May 5, 1936. "Very fascinating are these clusters of thatched mud huts, decorated with one of the names of God on the door; many small, naked children innocently playing about, pausing to stare or run wildly from this big, black, bullockless carriage tearing madly through their village. The women merely peep from the shadows, while the men lazily loll beneath the trees along the roadside, curious beneath their nonchalance. In one place, all the villagers were gaily bathing in the large tank (in their garments, changing by draping dry cloths around their bodies, dropping the wet ones). Women bearing water to their homes, in huge brass jars.

"The road led us a merry chase over mount and ridge; we bounced and tossed, dipped into small streams, detoured around an unfinished causeway, slithered across dry, sandy river beds and finally, about 5:00 P.M., we were close to our destination, Biur. This minute village in the interior of Bankura District, hidden in the protection of dense foliage, is unapproachable by travellers during the rainy season, when the streams are raging torrents and the roads serpentlike spit the mud-venom.

"Asking for a guide among a group of worshipers on their way home from a temple prayer (out in the lonely field), we were besieged by a dozen scantily clad lads who clambered on the sides of the car, eager to conduct us to Giri Bala.

"The road led toward a grove of date palms sheltering a group of mud huts, but before we had reached it, the Ford was momentarily tipped at a dangerous angle, tossed up and dropped down. The narrow trail led around trees and tank, over ridges, into holes and deep ruts. The car became anchored on a clump of bushes, then grounded on a hillock, requiring a lift of earth clods; on we proceeded, slowly and carefully; suddenly the way was stopped by a mass of brush in the middle of the cart track, necessitating a detour down a precipitous ledge into a dry tank, rescue from which demanded some scraping, adzing, and shovelling. Again and again the road seemed impassable, but the pilgrimage must go on; obliging lads fetched spades and demolished the obstacles (shades of Ganesh!) while hundreds of children and parents stared.

"Soon we were threading our way along the two ruts of antiquity, women gazing wide-eyed from their hut doors, men trailing alongside and behind us, children scampering to swell the procession. Ours was perhaps the first auto to traverse these roads; the 'bullock cart union' must be omnipotent here! What a sensation we created — a group piloted by an American and pioneering in a snorting car right into their hamlet fastness, invading the ancient privacy and sanctity!

"Halting by a narrow lane we found ourselves within a hundred feet of Giri Bala's ancestral home. We felt the thrill of fulfilment after the long road struggle crowned by a rough finish. We approached a large, two-storied building of brick and plaster, dominating the surrounding adobe huts; the house was under the process of repair, for around it was the characteristically tropical framework of bamboos.

"With feverish anticipation and suppressed rejoicing we stood before the open doors of the one blessed by the Lord's 'hungerless' touch. Constantly agape were the villagers, young and old, bare and dressed, women aloof somewhat but inquisitive too, men and boys unabashedly at our heels as they gazed on this unprecedented spectacle.

"Soon a short figure came into view in the doorway — Giri Bala! She was swathed in a cloth of dull, goldish silk; in typically Indian fashion, she drew forward modestly and hesitatingly, peering slightly from beneath the upper fold of her swadeshi cloth. Her eyes glistened like smouldering embers in the shadow of her head piece; we were enamoured by a most benevolent and kindly face, a face of realisation and understanding, free from the taint of earthly attachment.

"Meekly she approached and silently assented to our snapping a number of pictures with our 'still' and 'movie' cameras. [6] Patiently and shyly she endured our photo techniques of posture adjustment and light arrangement. Finally we had recorded for posterity many photographs of the only woman in the world who's known to have lived without food or drink for over fifty years. (Therese Neumann, of course, has fasted since 1923.) Most motherly was Giri Bala's expression as she stood before us, completely covered in the loose-flowing cloth, nothing of her body visible but her face with its downcast eyes, her hands, and her tiny feet. A face of rare peace and innocent poise — a wide, childlike, quivering lip, a feminine nose, narrow, sparkling eyes, and a wistful smile."

Mr. Wright's impression of Giri Bala was shared by myself; spirituality enfolded her like her gently shining veil. She pronamed before me in the customary gesture of greeting from a householder to a monk. Her simple charm and quiet smile gave us a welcome beyond that of honeyed oratory; forgotten was our difficult, dusty trip.

The little saint seated herself cross-legged on the verandah. Though bearing the scars of age, she was not emaciated; her olive-coloured skin had remained clear and healthy in tone.

"Mother," I said in Bengali, "for over twenty-five years I have thought eagerly of this very pilgrimage! I heard about your sacred life from Sthiti Lal Nundy Babu."

She nodded in acknowledgement. "Yes, my good neighbour in Nawabganj."

"During those years I have crossed the oceans, but I never forgot my early plan to someday see you. The sublime drama that you are here playing so inconspicuously should be blazoned before a world that has long forgotten the inner food divine."

The saint lifted her eyes for a minute, smiling with serene interest.

"Baba (honoured father) knows best," she answered meekly.

I was happy that she had taken no offence; one never knows how great yogis or yoginis will react to the thought of publicity. They shun it, as a rule, wishing to pursue in silence the profound soul research. An inner sanction comes to them when the proper time arrives to display their lives openly for the benefit of seeking minds.

"Mother," I went on, "please forgive me, then, for burdening you with many questions. Kindly answer only those that please you; I shall understand your silence, also."

She spread her hands in a gracious gesture. "I am glad to reply, insofar as an insignificant person like myself can give satisfactory answers."

"Oh, no, not insignificant!" I protested sincerely. "You are a great soul."

"I am the humble servant of all." She added quaintly, "I love to cook and feed people."

A strange pastime, I thought, for a non-eating saint!

"Tell me, Mother, from your own lips — do you live without food?"

"That is true." She was silent for a few moments; her next remark showed that she had been struggling with mental arithmetic. "From the age of twelve years four months down to my present age of sixty-eight — a period of over fifty-six years — I have not eaten food or taken liquids."

"Are you never tempted to eat?"

"If I felt a craving for food, I would have to eat." Simply yet regally she stated this axiomatic truth, one known too well by a world revolving around three meals a day!

"But you do eat something!" My tone held a note of remonstrance.

"Of course!" She smiled in swift understanding.

"Your nourishment derives from the finer energies of the air and sunlight, [7] and from the cosmic power which recharges your body through the medulla oblongata."

"Baba knows." Again she acquiesced, her manner soothing and unemphatic.

"Mother, please tell me about your early life. It holds a deep interest for all of India, and even for our brothers and sisters beyond the seas."

Giri Bala put aside her habitual reserve, relaxing into a conversational mood.

"So be it." Her voice was low and firm. "I was born in these forest regions. My childhood was unremarkable save that I was possessed by an insatiable appetite. I had been betrothed in early years.

"'Child,' my mother often warned me, 'try to control your greed. When the time comes for you to live among strangers in your husband's family, what will they think of you if your days are spent in nothing but eating?'

"The calamity she had foreseen came to pass. I was only twelve when I joined my husband's people in Nawabganj. My mother-in-law shamed me morning, noon, and night about my gluttonous habits. Her scoldings were a blessing in disguise, however; they roused my dormant spiritual tendencies. One morning her ridicule was merciless.

"'I shall soon prove to you,' I said, stung to the quick, 'that I shall never touch food again as long as I live.'

"My mother-in-law laughed in derision. 'So!' she said, 'how can you live without eating, when you cannot live without overeating?'

"This remark was unanswerable! Yet an iron resolution scaffolded my spirit. In a secluded spot I sought my Heavenly Father.

"'Lord,' I prayed incessantly, 'please send me a guru, one who can teach me to live by your light and not by food.'

"A divine ecstasy fell over me. Led by a beatific spell, I set out for the Nawabganj ghat on the Ganges. On the way I encountered the priest of my husband's family.

"'Venerable sir,' I said trustingly, 'kindly tell me how to live without eating.'

"He stared at me without reply. Finally he spoke in a consoling manner. 'Child,' he said, 'come to the temple this evening; I will conduct a special Vedic ceremony for you.'

"This vague answer was not the one I was seeking; I continued toward the ghat. The morning sun pierced the waters; I purified myself in the Ganges, as though for a sacred initiation. As I left the river bank, my wet cloth around me, in the broad glare of day my master materialised himself before me!

"'Dear little one,' he said in a voice of loving compassion, 'I am the guru sent here by God to fulfil your urgent prayer. He was deeply touched by its very unusual nature! From today you shall live by the astral light, your bodily atoms fed from the infinite current.'"

Giri Bala fell into silence. I took Mr. Wright's pencil and pad and translated into English a few items for his information.

The saint resumed the tale, her gentle voice barely audible. "The ghat was deserted, but my guru cast round us an aura of guarding light, that no stray bathers later disturb us. He initiated me into a kria technique which frees the body from dependence on the gross food of mortals. The technique includes the use of a certain mantra [8] and a breathing exercise more difficult than the average person could perform. No medicine or magic is involved; nothing beyond the kria."

In the manner of the American newspaper reporter, who had unknowingly taught me his procedure, I questioned Giri Bala on many matters which I thought would be of interest to the world. She gave me, bit by bit, the following information:

"I have never had any children; many years ago I became a widow. I sleep very little, as sleep and waking are the same to me. I meditate at night, attending to my domestic duties in the daytime. I slightly feel the change in climate from season to season. I have never been sick or experienced any disease. I feel only slight pain when accidentally injured. I have no bodily excretions. I can control my heart and breathing. I often see my guru as well as other great souls, in vision."

"Mother," I asked, "why do not you teach others the method of living without food?"

My ambitious hopes for the world's starving millions were nipped in the bud.

"No." She shook her head. "I was strictly commanded by my guru not to divulge the secret. It is not his wish to tamper with God's drama of creation. The farmers would not thank me if I taught many people to live without eating! The luscious fruits would lie uselessly on the ground. It appears that misery, starvation, and disease are whips of our karma which ultimately drive us to seek the true meaning of life."

"Mother," I said slowly, "what is the use of your having been singled out to live without eating?"

"To prove that man is Spirit." Her face lit with wisdom. "To demonstrate that by divine advancement he can gradually learn to live by the Eternal Light and not by food."

The saint sank into a deep meditative state. Her gaze was directed inward; the gentle depths of her eyes became expressionless. She gave a certain sigh, the prelude to the ecstatic breathless trance. For a time she had fled to the questionless realm, the heaven of inner joy.

The tropical darkness had fallen. The light of a small kerosene lamp flickered fitfully over the faces of a score of villagers squatting silently in the shadows. The darting glow-worms and distant oil lanterns of the huts wove bright eerie patterns into the velvet night. It was the painful hour of parting; a slow, tedious journey lay before our little party.

"Giri Bala," I said as the saint opened her eyes, "please give me a keepsake — a strip of one of your saris."

She soon returned with a piece of Varanasi silk, extending it in her hand as she suddenly prostrated herself on the ground.

"Mother," I said reverently, "rather let me touch your own blessed feet!"

TO TOP

47 - I return to the West

Accommodations may cost a lot
  • Many penetrating insights need local adjustments to make camp and thrive.
  • To find new territory is one thing; to hold on to it quite another. If one is negative to the flesh and disregards it openly and for long, survival is damned through it.
  • If it is hard to relax to live well, more or deeper insights could help some, as well as techniques and tools that implement such things for maturing survival, count a lot too.

Thus: Insights count, and implementing some of them well counts too, and tools to make it all easier.

"I'VE GIVEN many yoga lessons in India and America; but I must confess that, as a Hindu, I am unusually happy to be conducting a class for English students."

My London class members laughed appreciatively; no political turmoils ever disturbed our yoga peace.

India was now a hallowed memory. It is September, 1936; I am in England to fulfil a promise, given sixteen months earlier, to lecture again in London.

England, too, is receptive to the timeless yoga message. Reporters and newsreel cameramen swarmed over my quarters at Grosvenor House. The British National Council of the World Fellowship of Faiths organised a meeting on September 29th at Whitefield's Congregational Church where I addressed the audience on the weighty subject of "How Faith in Fellowship may Save Civilisation." The eight o'clock lectures at Caxton Hall attracted such crowds that on two nights the overflow waited in Windsor House auditorium for my second talk at nine-thirty. Yoga classes during the following weeks grew so large that Mr. Wright was obliged to arrange a transfer to another hall.

The English tenacity has admirable expression in a spiritual relationship. The London yoga students loyally organised themselves, after my departure, into a Self-Realisation Fellowship centre, holding their meditation meetings weekly throughout the bitter war years.

Unforgettable weeks in England; days of sight-seeing in London, then over the beautiful countryside. Mr. Wright and I summoned the trusty Ford to visit the birthplaces and tombs of the great poets and heroes of British history.

Our little party sailed from Southampton for America in late October on the Bremen. The majestic Statue of Liberty in New York harbour brought a joyous emotional gulp not only to the throats of Miss Bletch and Mr. Wright, but to my own.

The Ford, a bit battered from struggles with ancient soils, was still puissant; it now took in its stride the transcontinental trip to California. In late 1936, lo! Mount Washington.

The year-end holidays are celebrated annually at the Los Angeles centre with an eight-hour group meditation on December 24th (Spiritual Christmas), followed the next day by a banquet (Social Christmas). The festivities this year were augmented by the presence of dear friends and students from distant cities who had arrived to welcome home the three world travellers.

The Christmas Day feast included delicacies brought fifteen thousand miles for this glad occasion: gucchi mushrooms from Kashmir, canned rasagulla and mango pulp, papar biscuits, and an oil of the Indian keora flower which flavoured our ice cream. The evening found us grouped around a huge sparkling Christmas tree, the near-by fireplace crackling with logs of aromatic cypress.

Gift-time! Presents from the earth's far corners — Palestine, Egypt, India, England, France, Italy. How laboriously had Mr. Wright counted the trunks at each foreign junction, that no pilfering hand receive the treasures intended for loved ones in America! Plaques of the sacred olive tree from the Holy Land, delicate laces and embroideries from Belgium and Holland, Persian carpets, finely woven Kashmiri shawls, everlastingly fragrant sandalwood trays from Mysore, Shiva "bull's eye" stones from Central Provinces, old Indian coins of dynasties long fled, bejewelled vases and cups, miniatures, tapestries, temple incense and perfumes, swadeshi cotton prints, lacquer work, Mysore ivory carvings, Persian slippers with their inquisitive long toe, quaint old illuminated manuscripts, velvets, brocades, Gandhi caps, potteries, tiles, brasswork, prayer rugs — booty of three continents!

One by one I distributed the gaily wrapped packages from the immense pile under the tree.

"Sister Gyanamata!" I handed a long box to the saintly American lady of sweet visage and deep realisation who, during my absence, had been in charge at Mt. Washington. From the paper tissues she lifted a sari of golden Varanasi silk.

"Thank you, sir; it brings the pageant of India before my eyes."

"Mr. Dickinson!" The next parcel contained a gift which I had bought in a Calcutta bazaar. "Mr. Dickinson will like this," I had thought at the time. A dearly beloved disciple, Mr. Dickinson had been present at every Christmas festivity since the 1925 founding of Mt. Washington. At this eleventh annual celebration, he was standing before me, untying the ribbons of his square little package.

"The silver cup!" Struggling with emotion, he stared at the present, a tall drinking cup. He seated himself some distance away, apparently in a daze. I smiled at him affectionately before resuming my role as Santa Claus.

The ejaculatory evening closed with a prayer to the Giver of all gifts; then a group singing of Christmas carols.

Mr. Dickinson and I were chatting together sometime later.

"Sir," he said, "please let me thank you now for the silver cup. I could not find any words on Christmas night."

"I brought the gift especially for you."

"For forty-three years I have been waiting for that silver cup! it is a long story, one I have kept hidden within me." Mr. Dickinson looked at me shyly. "The beginning was dramatic: I was drowning. My older brother had playfully pushed me into a fifteen-foot pool in a small town in Nebraska. I was only five years old then. As I was about to sink for the second time under the water, a dazzling multicoloured light appeared, filling all space. In the midst was the figure of a man with tranquil eyes and a reassuring smile. My body was sinking for the third time when one of my brother's companions bent a tall slender willow tree in such a low dip that I could grasp it with my desperate fingers. The boys lifted me to the bank and successfully gave me first-aid treatment.

"Twelve years later, a youth of seventeen, I visited Chicago with my mother. It was 1893; the great World Parliament of Religions was in session. Mother and I were walking down a main street, when again I saw the mighty flash of light. A few paces away, strolling leisurely along, was the same man I had seen years before in vision. He approached a large auditorium and vanished within the door.

"'Mother,' I cried, 'that was the man who appeared at the time I was drowning!'

"She and I hastened into the building; the man was seated on a lecture platform. We soon learned that he was Swami Vivekananda of India. [1] After he had given a soul-stirring talk, I went forward to meet him. He smiled on me graciously, as though we were old friends. I was so young that I did not know how to give expression to my feelings, but in my heart I was hoping that he would offer to be my teacher. He read my thought.

"'No, my son, I am not your guru.' Vivekananda gazed with his beautiful, piercing eyes deep into my own. 'Your teacher will come later. He will give you a silver cup.' After a little pause, he added, smiling, 'He will pour out to you more blessings than you are now able to hold.'

"I left Chicago in a few days," Mr. Dickinson went on, "and never saw the great Vivekananda again. But every word he had uttered was indelibly written on my inmost consciousness. Years passed; no teacher appeared. One night in 1925 I prayed deeply that the Lord would send me my guru. A few hours later, I was awakened from sleep by soft strains of melody. A band of celestial beings, carrying flutes and other instruments, came before my view. After filling the air with glorious music, the angels slowly vanished.

"The next evening I attended, for the first time, one of your lectures here in Los Angeles, and knew then that my prayer had been granted."

We smiled at each other in silence.

"For eleven years now I have been your kriya yoga disciple," Mr. Dickinson continued. "Sometimes I wondered about the silver cup; I had almost persuaded myself that Vivekananda's words were only metaphorical. But on Christmas night, as you handed me the square box by the tree, I saw, for the third time in my life, the same dazzling flash of light. In another minute I was gazing on my guru's gift which Vivekananda had foreseen for me forty-three years earlier — a silver cup!"

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48 - At Encinitas in California

Swami's Beach, Encinitas

Harnessing buildings, scenery and good events -
  • The guru's beloved temple on a bluff in Encinitas slid into the sea right here, at Swami's Beach in Encinitas, San Diego county. In an old Self-Realization Magazine he writes he was told by his Mother to seek her in some valley in California. However, when he got a temple and so on on a bluff in Encinitas, he did not follow up his guidance about finding a place in a valley. Then the temple slid into the sea, half his swimming-pool on the bluff too. [More about it]
  • Suppression may become a problem with unsound "monkishness", and may do havoc in tender hearts. Suppression is a speculation among Freudians and other psychoanalytics about unwelcome content in the conscious awareness. Threatening content may be barred from awareness by "defence mechanisms" of the ego. The price: They slowly make you unsound of mind, and later unsound in body too, by psychosomatic mechanism. Tenseness is a good first sign, I am sorry to say. So psychoanalys is based on making the client relax - a lot, for long. That is a bit theory and basic practice - but there are many variants, and outcomes of treatment are not certain. (Wikipedia, "Psychoanalysis")
  • Self-Realization Fellowship has not worked a lot for "world brotherhood colonies" after Yogananda. That is one of their problems, too. - Besides, one may come to wonder: Did not the guru establish himself in a wrong place since large parts of it slid into the sea? That would not have happened so soon to an ashram in a valley.

Thus: Bluffs and suppressions leave their marks on land and in minds of men.

"A SURPRISE, sir! During your absence abroad we have had this Encinitas hermitage built; it is a 'welcome-home' gift!" Sister Gyanamata smilingly led me through a gate and up a tree-shaded walk.

I saw a building jutting out like a great white ocean liner toward the blue brine. First speechlessly, then with "Oh's!" and "Ah's!", finally with man's insufficient vocabulary of joy and gratitude, I examined the ashram — sixteen unusually large rooms, each one charmingly appointed.

The stately central hall, with immense ceiling-high windows, looks out on a united altar of grass, ocean, sky — a symphony in emerald, opal, sapphire. A mantle over the hall's huge fireplace holds the framed likeness of Lahiri Mahasaya, smiling his blessing over this far Pacific heaven.

Directly below the hall, built into the very bluff, two solitary meditation caves confront the infinities of sky and sea. Verandahs, sun-bathing nooks, acres of orchard, a eucalypti grove, flagstone paths leading through roses and lilies to quiet arbours, a long flight of stairs ending on an isolated beach and the vast waters! Was dream ever more concrete?

"May the good and heroic and bountiful souls of the saints come here," reads "A Prayer for a Dwelling," from the Zend-Avesta, fastened on one of the hermitage doors, "and may they go hand in hand with us, giving the healing virtues of their blessed gifts as widespread as the earth, as far-flung as the rivers, as high-reaching as the sun, for the furtherance of better men, for the increase of abundance and glory.

"May obedience conquer disobedience within this house; may peace triumph here over discord; free-hearted giving over avarice, truthful speech over deceit, reverence over contempt. That our minds be delighted, and our souls uplifted, let our bodies be glorified as well; and Light Divine, may we see you, and may we, approaching, come round about you, and attain to your entire companionship!"

This Self-Realisation Fellowship ashram had been made possible through the generosity of a few American disciples, American businessmen of endless responsibilities who yet find time daily for their kriya yoga. Not a word of the hermitage construction had been allowed to reach me during my stay in India and Europe. Astonishment, delight!

During my earlier years in America I had combed the coast of California in quest of a small site for a seaside ashram; whenever I had found a suitable location, some obstacle had invariably arisen to thwart me. Gazing now over the broad acres of Encinitas, [1] humbly I saw the effortless fulfilment of Sri Yukteswar's long-ago prophecy: "a hermitage by the ocean."

A few months later, Easter of 1937, I conducted on the smooth lawns at Encinitas the first of many Sunrise Services. Like the magi of old, several hundred students gazed in devotional awe at the daily miracle, the early solar fire rite in the eastern sky. To the west lay the inexhaustible Pacific, booming its solemn praise; in the distance, a tiny white sailing boat, and the lonely flight of a seagull. "Christ, you art risen!" Not alone with the vernal sun, but in the eternal dawn of Spirit!

Many happy months sped by; in the peace of perfect beauty I was able to complete at the hermitage a long-projected work, Cosmic Chants. I set to English words and Western musical notation about forty songs, some original, others my adaptations of ancient melodies. Included were the Shankara chant, "No Birth, No Death"; two favourites of Sri Yukteswar's: "Wake, Yet Wake, O my Saint!" and "Desire, my Great Enemy"; the hoary Sanskrit "Hymn to Brahma"; old Bengali songs, "What Lightning Flash!" and "They Have Heard Your Name"; Tagore's "Who's in my Temple?"; and a number of my compositions: "I Will be Yours Always," "In the Land Beyond my Dreams," "Come Out of the Silent Sky," "Listen to my Soul Call," "In the Temple of Silence," and "You are my Life" [NB: Modernised titles here - TK]

For a preface to the songbook I recounted my first outstanding experience with the receptivity of Westerners to the quaintly devotional airs of the East. The occasion had been a public lecture; the time, April 18, 1926; the place, Carnegie Hall in New York.

"Mr. Hunsicker," I had confided to an American student, "I am planning to ask the audience to sing an ancient Hindu chant, 'O God Beautiful!'"

"Sir," Mr. Hunsicker had protested, "these Oriental songs are alien to American understanding. What a shame if the lecture were to be marred by a commentary of overripe tomatoes!"

I had laughingly disagreed. "Music is a universal language. Americans wo not fail to feel the soul-aspiration in this lofty chant." [2]

During the lecture Mr. Hunsicker had sat behind me on the platform, probably fearing for my safety. His doubts were groundless; not only had there been an absence of unwelcome vegetables, but for one hour and twenty-five minutes the strains of "O God Beautiful!" had sounded uninterruptedly from three thousand throats. Blasé no longer, dear New Yorkers; your hearts had soared out in a simple paean of rejoicing! Divine healings had taken place that evening among the devotees chanting with love the Lord's blessed name.

The secluded life of a literary minstrel was not my role for long. Soon I was dividing every fortnight between Los Angeles and Encinitas. Sunday services, classes, lectures before clubs and colleges, interviews with students, ceaseless streams of correspondence, articles for East-West, direction of activities in India and numerous small centres in American cities. Much time was given, also, to the arrangement of kriya and other Self-Realisation Fellowship teachings into a series of studies for the distant yoga seekers whose zeal recognised no limitation of space.

Joyous dedication of a Self-Realisation Church of All Religions took place in 1938 at Washington, DC. Set amidst landscaped grounds, the stately church stands in a section of the city aptly called "Friendship Heights." The Washington leader is Swami Premananda, educated at the Ranchi school and Calcutta University. I had summoned him in 1928 to assume leadership of the Washington Self-Realisation Fellowship centre.

"Premananda," I told him during a visit to his new temple, "this Eastern headquarters is a memorial in stone to your tireless devotion. Here in the nation's capital you have held aloft the light of Lahiri Mahasaya's ideals."

Premananda accompanied me from Washington for a brief visit to the Self-Realisation Fellowship centre in Boston. What joy to see again the kriya yoga band who had remained steadfast since 1920! The Boston leader, Dr. M. W. Lewis, lodged my companion and myself in a modern, artistically decorated suite.

"Sir," Dr. Lewis said to me, smiling, "during your early years in America you stayed in this city in a single room, without bath. I wanted you to know that Boston possesses some luxurious apartments!"

The shadows of approaching carnage were lengthening over the world; already the acute ear might hear the frightful drums of war. During interviews with thousands in California, and through a world-wide correspondence, I found that men and women were deeply searching their hearts; the tragic outer insecurity had emphasised need for the Eternal Anchorage.

"We have indeed learned the value of meditation," the leader of the London Self-Realisation Fellowship centre wrote me in 1941, "and know that nothing can disturb our inner peace. In the last few weeks during the meetings we have heard air-raid warnings and listened to the explosion of delayed-action bombs, but our students still gather and thoroughly enjoy our beautiful service."

Another letter reached me from war-torn England just before America entered the conflict. In nobly pathetic words, Dr. L. Cranmer Byng, noted editor of The Wisdom of the East Series, wrote:

"When I read East-West I realised how far apart we seemed to be, apparently living in two different worlds. Beauty, order, calm, and peace come to me from Los Angeles, sailing into port as a vessel laden with the blessings and comfort of the Holy Grail to a beleaguered city.

"I see as in a dream your palm tree grove, and the temple at Encinitas with its ocean stretches and mountain views, and above all its fellowship of spiritually minded men and women, a community comprehended in unity, absorbed in creative work, and replenished in contemplation. It is the world of my own vision, in the making of which I hoped to bear my little part, and now . . .

"Perhaps in the body I shall never reach your golden shores nor worship in your temple. But it is something and more, to have had the vision and know that in the midst of war there is still a peace that abides in your harbours and among your hills. Greetings to all the Fellowship from a common soldier, written on the watchtower waiting for the dawn."

The war years brought a spiritual awakening among men whose diversions had never before included a study of the New Testament. One sweet distillment from the bitter herbs of war! To satisfy a growing need, an inspiring little Self-Realisation Church of All Religions was built and dedicated in 1942 at Hollywood. The site faces Olive Hill and the distant Los Angeles Planetarium. The church, finished in blue, white, and gold, is reflected amidst the water hyacinths in a large pool. The gardens are gay with flowers, a few startled stone deer, a stained-glass pergola, and a quaint wishing well. Thrown in with the pennies and the kaleidoscopic wishes of man has been many a pure aspiration for the sole treasure of Spirit! A universal benignity flows from small niches with statues of Lahiri Mahasaya and Sri Yukteswar, and of Krishna, Buddha, Confucius, St. Francis, and a beautiful mother-of-pearl reproduction of Christ at the Last Supper.

Another Self-Realisation Church of All Religions was founded in 1943 at San Diego. A quiet hilltop temple, it stands in a sloping valley of eucalypti, overlooking sparkling San Diego Bay.

Sitting one evening in this tranquil haven, I was pouring out my heart in song. Under my fingers was the sweet-toned organ of the church, on my lips the yearning plaint of an ancient Bengali devotee who had searched for eternal solace:

In this world, Mother, none can love me;
In this world they do not know love divine.
Where is there pure loving love?
Where is there truly loving you?
There my heart longs to be.

My companion in the chapel, Dr. Lloyd Kennell, the San Diego centre leader, was smiling a little at the words of the song.

"Tell me truly, Paramahansaji, has it been worth it?" He gazed at me with an earnest sincerity. I understood his laconic question: "Have you been happy in America? What about the disillusionments, the heartaches, the centre leaders who could not lead, the students who could not be taught?"

"Blessed is the man whom the Lord tests, Doctor! He has remembered now and then to put a burden on me!" I thought, then, of all the faithful ones, of the love and devotion and understanding that lay in the heart of America. With slow emphasis I went on, "But my answer is: Yes, a thousand times yes! It is been worth-while; it is been a constant inspiration, more than ever I dreamed, to see West and East brought closer in the only lasting bond, the spiritual!"

Silently I added a prayer: "May Babaji and Sri Yukteswarji feel that I have done my part, not disappointing the high hope in which they sent me forth."

I turned again to the organ; this time my song was tinged with a martial valour:

The grinding wheel of Time does mar
Full many a life of moon and star
And many a brightly smiling morn —
But still my soul is marching on!

Darkness, death, and failures vied;
To block my path they fiercely tried;
My fight with jealous Nature's strong —
But still my soul is marching on!

New Year's week of 1945 found me at work in my Encinitas study, revising the manuscript of this book.

"Paramahansaji, please come outdoors." Dr. Lewis, on a visit from Boston, smiled at me pleadingly from outside my window. Soon we were strolling in the sunshine. My companion pointed to new towers in process of construction along the edge of the Fellowship property adjoining the coast highway.

"Sir, I see many improvements here since my last visit." Dr. Lewis comes twice annually from Boston to Encinitas.

"Yes, Doctor, a project I have long considered is beginning to take definite form. In these beautiful surroundings I have started a miniature world colony. Brotherhood is an ideal better understood by example than precept! A small harmonious group here may inspire other ideal communities over the earth."

"A splendid idea, sir! The colony will surely be a success if everyone sincerely does his part!"

"'World' is a large term, but man must enlarge his allegiance, considering himself in the light of a world citizen," I continued. "A person who truly feels: 'The world is my homeland; it is my America, my India, my Philippines, my England, my Africa,' will never lack scope for a useful and happy life. His natural local pride will know limitless expansion; he will be in touch with creative universal currents."

An essential theme the Fellowship ousted out

"Thousands of youths must go North, South, East and West to cover the earth with little colonies, demonstrating that simplicity of living plus high thinking lead to the greatest happiness!" - Paramahansa Yogananda at a garden party in Beverly Hills on July 31, 1949.

You can see that the first edition of the Autobiography ends with enthusiasm for colonies [read: communities]. Yogananda wanted to start a model world-brotherhood colony [community] in Encinitas in northern San Diego county [see chapter 48's first note below]. However, "Encinitas is gone!" he lamented toward the end of his life.

Now, to eliminate doubts: Encinitas is still there. It is a city of about 58,000 people. This raises an interesting sidelight as well: Yogananda claimed he could manifest anything by his will. Despite that, he lamented a lot over his Golden Lotus temple there when it had slid into the sea. And whatever he meant by "Encinitas is gone," his laments indicate he was not really good at bringing well together his oratory and some life happenings.

For all that, the idea of world-brotherhood communities as in Encinitas remained important to him. He said in his speech in Beverly Hills in 1949, it was "in the ether, in the Spirit of God." And the ether is nothing, says modern science. But acupuncture theory considers ether - known as "wood" or "sap" - one of the five integrated system elements in it.

But for the eighth edition of the Autobiography, edited by the Fellowship, and in all later SRF editions of it, the brotherhood colony "aim and ideal" was changed to read: "To encourage "plain living and high thinking"; and to spread a spirit of brotherhood among all peoples by teaching the eternal basis of their unity: kinship with God." [◦More]

Dropping some of his guidelines while claiming his guidelines are infallible - SRF does - must be called indignity and not integrity of stands.


Dr. Lewis and I halted above the lotus pool near the hermitage. Below us lay the illimitable Pacific.

"These same waters break equally on the coasts of West and East, in California and China." My companion threw a little stone into the first of the oceanic seventy million square miles. "Encinitas is a symbolic spot for a world colony."

"That is true, Doctor. We shall arrange here for many conferences and Congresses of Religion, inviting delegates from all lands. Flags of the nations will hang in our halls. Diminutive temples will be built over the grounds, dedicated to the world's principal religions.

"As soon as possible," I went on, "I plan to open a Yoga Institute here. The blessed role of kriya yoga in the West has hardly more than just begun. May all men come to know that there is a definite, scientific technique of self-realisation for the overcoming of all human misery!"

Far into the night my dear friend — the first kriya yogi in America — discussed with me the need for world colonies founded on a spiritual basis. The ills attributed to an anthropomorphic abstraction called "society" may be laid more realistically at the door of Everyman. Utopia must spring in the private bosom before it can flower in civic virtue. Man is a soul, not an institution; his inner reforms alone can lend permanence to outer ones. By stress on spiritual values, self-realisation, a colony exemplifying world brotherhood is empowered to send inspiring vibrations far beyond its locale.

August 15, 1945, close of Global War II! End of a world; dawn of an enigmatic Atomic Age! The hermitage residents gathered in the main hall for a prayer of thanksgiving. "Heavenly Father, may it never be again! Your children go henceforth as brothers!"

Gone was the tension of war years; our spirits purred in the sun of peace. I gazed happily at each of my American comrades.

"Lord," I thought gratefully, "you have given this monk a large family!"

The family man goes as far as he can, but just what is right should last.

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Added material

Cat

Harnessing buildings, scenery and good events -
  • During the early years of the USA, few settlers had their own bathrooms - that sort of luxury, and asked as they walked or travelled or rode on in the unexplored wilderness: "Where am I?" "Where am I going?" Slowly they made ranches and homes.
  • Is there a link between beautiful surroundings, ideal communities, and purring in the sunlight, many a home-loving cat has found it and is living it too. "Our spirits purred in the sun." - Yogananda.
  • Is only mankind your enlarged Self? Exclude not a cat. To put you on the track: here is a rewarding 1930 novel, The Cat Who Went to Heaven. It won the 1931 Newbery Medal for excellence in American children's literature.

Thus: Baths, orienting oneself, cats and mankind are themes that can each be enlarged on, either one by one and seen together in strands of two or threes and further.

Yogananda and his Fellowship after 1945

Towards the end of the 1940s Yogananda remained mostly in a desert cottage in Twenty-Nine Palms. In his will the leadership of the organization was to be laid on Janakananda (born James Jesse Lynn, 1892–1955) after Yogananda was gone.

Often Yogananda was not fully in touch with the world when he came away from the cottage. A disciple recounts, "He could not walk on his own from the intoxication. We had to hold him up as we walked." Yogananda was saying, "Where am I? . . . Where am I going?" This happened regularly during his last days.

It was at or near Twenty-Nine Palms he took a female disciple, known as Mrinalini Mata (1931–2017), with him to watch an UFO, some have been told: At an SRF convocation at the Biltmore in 1971 the SRF minister Bhaktananda 1914–2005) recounted the happening.

In March 1952 there was a public gathering at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. After his speech, Yogananda breathed his last. As the final speaker, when he went to take his seat, suddenly his body collapsed on the stage. He had been suffering from high blood pressure and he died of heart attack, said the doctor who examined him.

Yogananda's enbalmed dead body remained without much decay for twenty-one days. In 1957 Dasgupta asked Sister Daya [later: Daya Mata (1914-2010)] about this matter, and she said, "On the twenty-first day, a white spot was seen on the tip of the nose -- the first sign of flesh beginning to decompose. Then we buried his body without any further delay." [Psy 104] However, the Mortuary Director, Harry Rowe, writes it was a brown spot on the tip of the nose, and it appeared after 20 days. The spot was about one-fourth inch in diameter, and indicated that drying up might be starting. The whole report is here; SRF most often brings some flattering parts of it only: [Link]

Janakananda died of pneumonia, in 1955, and then Sister Daya took over along with her mother and sister, all of Mormon origin, like Mrinalini Mata (1931–2017), next coming editor-in-chief and new SRF president after Daya.

SRF invests much in publishing books of Yogananda. The SRF editing work deserves question marks. [Post mortem Autobiography editing] - [Editing of other works too]

After nuns got control and their way with the organisation, many kriya initiators left it. The SRF management soon took to forgery in "small" matters, such as what how Paramhansa was to be written. Jon Parsons writes in A Fight for Religious Freedom, chap. 7:

In the summer of 1958, after Sister Daya's trip to India, SRF suddenly changed the spelling of Yogananda's title from "Paramhansa" to "Paramahansa." Without announcement or explanation, an extraneous "a" mysteriously appeared in Yogananda's title beginning with the July-August 1958 issue of Self-Realization [the SRF magazine]. . . The change was unnecessary . . . If Yogananda could not get his own name right, how could he be trusted . . . ? If it was a minor thing, why bother at all? . . . Maybe SRF figured . . . it was their job to clean up after him. . . .

[So SRF changed] his signature as well as his name . . . using scissors and paste. If you look closely at the "Paramahansa" used by SRF since 1958, you can see how someone carefully cut out the first "a" from Yogananda, and inserted it after the letters "Param." Goodness. Why . . . such subterfuge?

Charlatanry has many forms and outlets. [Autobiography] - [[Editing] - [Other works]

Lola Williamson says, "Disagreements about how the organization should be run and how Yogananda's words should be interpreted have existed throughout SRF's history, occasionally erupting into organizational crises." (Williamson 2010:75)

The Yogananda-biographer Sailendra Dasgupta informs that under the Daya leadership [1955–2010] SRF and its Indian twin organisation, YSS (of 1917)

Many of the men and women who where older disciples of the order either removed themselves from the central organization or were forced out - not only in America, but in India as well. (Dasgupta 2006:106)

Williamson highlights further:

SRF is hierarchical in its approach with the Board [of management] essentially controlling the decision-making process. Former disgruntled members of SRF credit this top-down mentality with creating an unhealthy organization. (Williamson 2010:75)
More specifically,
A labyrinth of difficulties beset the organization. Some people could not even sit in the same room with others because there was so much bad feeling. . . . SRF hire[d] outside communication and organizational consultants to offer advice on how to handle the situation. They also suggested that SRF hire counselors and psychologists to deal with the festering psychological problems that some of the monastics seemed to be experiencing. Two new committees . . . were formed to execute the suggestions made by the consultants. This was the beginning of a split among the monks and nuns who resided at the Mother Center. Some viewed the promise of change with exhilaration and hope; and some viewed it with fear. The end result was that a large number of monastics left SRF from about 2000 to 2001. Due to the entrenched resistance to change, the communication consultants were let go, the existing committee members replaced by others content with the status quo, and the psychologists relieved of their duties. It may be that so many people needed to talk to the counselors that the leadership became fearful of losing control. They reverted to the old style of dealing with problems, which, as the SRF catchphrase goes, is to "take it to your altar:' (Williamson 2010:76)

In five years after 2000, one third of the fellowship's monastics left the premises. But many years before that again, Daya Mata had left the building (Mt. Washington headquarters) too. Nearly none in her society knew about it, so it was in big secrecy. For about thirty years she lived in a villa with a view to the mountains, while monks and nuns of the SRF order thought she lived at the headquarters. After a Los Angeles newspaper published the story, about fifty monks, nuns and novices left the premises . (Russel, 2000)

For the faults of the many - run away!

As for the SRF kriya yoga methods, some are different from the traditional ones, as Swami Satyeswarananda has laid bare. [Deviations]

Dasgupta (2006) confirms some changes that Yogananda and SRF made.

Lola Williamson goes a bit deeper into this topic:

According to SRF tradition, these techniques, other than the energization exercises, were known in ancient India but were forgotten. In actuality, the techniques have been used continually in many yoga and tantra traditions throughout India. . . . (Williamson 2010:58)

That may become intensely embarrassing to SRF, because it disproves one of the SRF tenets - an SRF cornerstone, really. Thus, kriya is no great secret after all.

A former SRF vice president, Kriyananda, sums up SRF strivings over decades. You can read more on them yourself, although it is hard for an outsider to penetrate these strivings from years ago. [More]

Not all kriya practitioners and initiators of "Lahiri's kriya yoga" belong to the SRF organization. Some initiators have fled, and from India several forms of kriya yoga are free and explained in books and in other ways Satyananda Yoga. [Satyananda, 1981; 19

Contrary to such "kriya for you" approaches, SRF puts an oath of unconditional loyalty to six gurus in the way of those who are crazy enough to commit themselves to swearing in the name of Jesus, who said no to swearing and yes to slavery, for example. "We are all a little bit crazy," Yogananda and Daya Mata are known to say. SRF calls for oath-binding. [Cf. Psy 109]

Otherwise consider: "How a little love and good company improves a woman!" [George Farquhar] Mere aims and ideals hardly ever do.

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Former Aims and Ideals of Yogananda

The first publication of Yogananda's aims and ideals that we have come across, was not thoughtful enough if you consider widespread food allergies. About half of the school children in Scandinavia contract allergy and asthma, for example.

The second version of the Aims and Ideals follows the first.

First Aims and Tenets of the Yogoda Sat-Sanga Movement (i.e., Self-Realization Fellowship)

  1. Universal all-round education, and establishment of educational institutions for the development of man's physical, mental and spiritual natures.
  2. Contacting Cosmic Consciousness - the ever-new, ever-existing, ever-conscious Bliss-God through the scientific technique of concentration and meditation taught by the Masters of all ages.
  3. Attaining bodily health through the "Yogoda" technique of recharging the body-battery from inner life-energy.
  4. Intelligently maintaining the physical body on unadulterated foods, including a large percentage of raw fruits, vegetables and nuts [Someone: "I am allergetic to nuts! - which should make the need for permanant healing (next issue) all the more needed. Uha."].
  5. Physical, mental and spiritual healing.
  6. Establishing, by a scientific system of realization, the absolute basic harmony and oneness of Christianity, Hindu Yoga teachings, and all true religions.
  7. Serving all mankind as one's larger Self.
  8. Demonstrating the superiority of mind over body, and of soul over mind.
  9. Fighting the Satan of Ignorance - man's common enemy. [The thoughtful one: "If Satan of Ignorance orders me to eat nuts, he could kill me by that directive, if my allergetic reactions are severe. Uha again."]
  10. Establishing a spiritual unity among all nations.
  11. Overcoming evil by good, overcoming sorrow by joy; overcoming cruelty by kindness. [The allergetic one: "The drive to ask someone like me to eat plenty of nuts can and should be overcome by kindness or healing, and preferably both of them."]
  12. Realization of the purpose of life as being the evolution from human consciousness into divine consciousness, through individual struggle.
  13. Realization of the truth that human life is given to man to afford him opportunity to manifest his inner divine qualities, and not for physical pleasure nor selfish gratifications.
  14. Furthering the cultural and spiritual understanding between East and West, and the constructive exchange of the distinctive features of their civilizations. [Someone: (1) "I think I have done something by pointing out that individual needs and difficulties are problems that need good, individually adapted solutions as seems fit. (2) I see that North and South are often missing in the guru's line of thinking, and concern for persons on northern altitudes seldom surfaces with the same force as east-west thinking, which is much depending on the eye of the beholder or speaker too."]
  15. Uniting science and religion through study and practical realization of the unity of their underlying principles. [Someone: "It may not work well, as the one depends on some deviation which opens up to durable findings and so on, and the other moves stealthily or tip-toes in great conformity basically, and finds pleasures in punishing transgressions too."]
Source: East West Vol 3, No 3. [The text of that issue]

Current Aims and ideals of Self-Realization Fellowship

Set forth by Paramahansa Yogananda, founder

Here come the SRF-reworked SRF ideals and aims. In other words, the first set was not good enough. But the second set has its great flaws too; there should be no question about that. For example, take a look at the concept "original Christianity as taught by Jesus Christ". It is a bluff. And what is more, kriya yoga is as independent of faith as breathing, Yogananda's biographer Dasgupta informs. So there was no need to drag faith in Yogananda or something else into a kriya yoga dispensation at all. To see it demonstrated, look at the extensive kriya yoga of Satyananda's line. That kriya system is freely dispensed, and is described in excellent repository books (compendiums) on kriya [Cy; Kta].

This array is found on page 499 of the 11th edition of Autobiography of a Yogi, page 481 in the 12th edition, and in many SRF published books. I can also be viewd on this SRF address: [◦Link]

  • To disseminate among the nations a knowledge of definite scientific techniques for attaining direct personal experience of God. — The techniques are not exactly scientific, at least it has not been fairly documented. Rather the art of meditation rests on deep principles of life, and mastery of the methods that employ the most helpful of them. TM - worth a try?
  • To teach that the purpose of life is the evolution, through self-effort of man's limited mortal consciousness into God Consciousness; — Strangely, SRF also goes for "get rid of the ego", and these two Yogananda notions - of evolving the ego (I) and killing the ego (0) - do not go well along together . . . — and to this end to establish Self-Realization Fellowship temples for God-communion throughout the world, and to encourage the establishment of individual temples of God in the homes and in the hearts of men.
  • To reveal the complete harmony and basic oneness of original Christianity as taught by Jesus Christ and original Yoga as taught by Bhagavan Krishna; — That "complete harmony" is is missing: Yogananda, however, teaches the soul (atman) is immortal [Sayings of Yogananda 1980:25]; Jesus says it can be destroyed in hell. — and to show that these principles of truth are the common scientific foundation of all true religions — Conflicting words and faiths in fine-looking garbs that hide and obscure instead of clarify, are wrongly mated.
  • To point out the one divine highway to which all paths of true religious beliefs eventually lead: the highway of daily, scientific, devotional meditation on God. — "Scientific devotional", alas again. You do not need devotion to meditate, unless you define it as Shankara does, in his Crest-Jewel of Discrimination, v. 16-34, or being intent on your own Self. That is good. It is also fine to cultivate skilfulness. Buddhism talks for that. Also, good methods can help both the inward-going and more fit living - Much research shows how Transcendental Meditation helps best among the tested methods by and large.
  • To liberate man from his threefold suffering: physical disease, mental inharmonies, and spiritual ignorance. — To liberate man from garbled and misleading SRF verbiage, is not bad, accordingly.
  • To encourage "plain living and high thinking"; and to spread a spirit of brotherhood among all peoples by teaching the eternal basis of their unity: kinship with God.
  • To demonstrate the superiority of mind over body, of soul over mind.
  • To overcome evil by good, sorrow by joy, cruelty by kindness, ignorance by wisdom.
  • To unite science and religion through realization of the unity of their underlying principles. — Quack.
  • To advocate cultural and spiritual understanding between East and West, and the exchange of their finest distinctive features. — North and South is left out here, as so often otherwise . . .
  • To serve mankind as one's larger Self. — If mankind is not your larger Self, then what?

- but what do they do and carry through? That is the question.

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The Cat Who Went to Heaven

A children's book by Elizabeth Coatsworth

Clippings from the first few lines

Once on a time, far away in Japan, a poor young artist sat alone in his little house waiting for his dinner. His housekeeper had gone to market, and he sat sighing to think of all the things he wished she would bring home. . . .

He heard her step, and jumped up. He was very hungry!

. . .

"Sir," said the housekeeper, seeing the direction of his look, "it has often seemed to me that I was kept awake by rats."

At that the artist laughed out loud.

"Rats?" he repeated. "Rats? My dear old woman, no rats come to such a poor house as this where not the smallest crumb falls to the mats."

Then he looked at the housekeeper and a dreadful suspicion filled his mind.

"You have brought us home nothing to eat!" he said.

"True, master," said the old woman sorrowfully.

"You have brought us home a cat!" said the artist.

. . .

"Oh, a three-colored cat," said the artist. "Why didn't you say so from the beginning? They are very lucky, I understand."

As soon as the little cat heard him speak so kindly, she walked over to him and bowed down her head as though she were saluting him, while the old woman clapped her hands for joy. The artist forgot that he was hungry. He had seen nothing so lovely as their cat for a long time.

"She will have to have a name," he declared, sitting down again on the old matting while the cat stood sedately before him. "Let me see: she is like new snow dotted with gold pieces and lacquer; she is like a white flower on which butterflies of two kinds have alighted; she is like –"

. . .

How The Story Goes On

Unusually neat behaviour of the cat causes the painter to name her "Good Fortune". At breakfast, the painter notes that the cat appears to be paying homage to the image of Buddha. The painter comments on his own lack of prayer; a result of the hard times he has lived through, he says.

Then, when he is almost completely destitute, the painter is given a commission by the monks at the local temple. The artist is to paint a picture of the dying Buddha surrounded by animals paying homage to him. The artist is given a large sum of money as a first payment, to "put his mind at ease".

As the artist progresses with the painting, he meditates on the life of Buddha to be able to paint each part of the scene sincerely.

Towards the end of the painting process, and after painting many other animals, the painter realises that his noble cat is not allowed to be represented in the painting, due to the prevailing belief in his time was that cats had such pride and sense of superiority that they refused to bow before Buddha in his lifetime, and therefore were barred from entering Nirvana. And thus, in the painter's village the common prejudice is that no cat might enter Heaven.

When the picture is completed, Good Fortune seems to notice the lack of any cat in the painting and sadly protests. Deeply touched by her sadness, the artist finally paints a small cat in the corner, even though he knows that this will greatly displease the monks. When seeing the cat in the painting, Good Fortune dies of happiness. She is buried beneath a peach tree. They hang a bell from its branches to remember her by, and the housekeeper says she can hear the bell singing "Rejoice!"

The large painting is finally delivered, and is greatly praised by the monks until they notice a cat in it and reject it completely. The painter is in disgrace. Nevertheless, the evening brings the news of a miracle. The painter arrives to find the image has miraculously changed: the dying Buddha has extended his hand in blessing over a small white cat which is next to him in the painting.

[Wikipedia, s.v. "The Cat Who Went to Heaven"]

Book Data

The Cat Who Went to Heaven is a 1930 novel by Elizabeth Coatsworth, and very touching to a cat lover. It won the Newbery Medal for excellence in American children's literature in 1931. The story is set in ancient Japan, and is about a poor painter and a cat he adopts.

The storyline includes many Buddhist concepts is supposedly based on an old Buddhist folk tale. The story includes, as asides, a short telling of Buddha's life.

In the story, the artist's housekeeper has eight songs in the form of poems; each one appearing at the end of a chapter.

You are not all too poor as long as you can afford a housekeeper.

Book editions are many

Coatsworth, Elizabeth. The Cat Who Went to Heaven. New York: MacMillian, 1930. — — Among newer editions, one is published by Aladdin Paperbacks (New York, 2008).

Contents


Autobiography of a Yogi chapters, Paramahansa Yogananda, Literature  

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

Cy: Satyananda Saraswati, Swami. A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya. Munger: Yoga Publications Trust, 1981.

Ha: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 12th ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), 1981.

Kta: Satyananda Saraswati, Swami. Kundalini Tantra.8th ed. Munger: Yoga Publications Trust, 2001.

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

Psy: Dasgupta, Sailendra. Paramhansa Swami Yogananda: Life-portrait and Reminiscences. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2006. Pdf: yoganiketan.net and at Google Books, partial view.

Tms: Self-Realization Fellowship. The Master Said: Sayings and Counsel to Disciples by Paramhansa Yogananda. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1957.

Kriyananda, Swami. Rescuing Yogananda. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity, 2010. Online.

Parsons, Jon R. A Fight For Religious Freedom: A Lawyer's Personal Account of Copyrights, Karma and Dharmic Litigation. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity, 2012.

Russell, Ron. "A Mountain of Discontent." New Times Los Angeles, 1 June 2000.

Satyananda Saraswati, Swami. A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya. Munger: Yoga Publications Trust, 1981.

Satyananda Saraswati, Swami. Kundalini Tantra. 8th ed. Munger: Yoga Publications Trust, 2001.

Williamson, Lola. Transcendent in America: Hindu-Inspired Meditation Movements as New Religion. London: New York University Press, 2010.



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