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Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography

With Personal Reflections & Reminiscences
by Swami Kriyananda



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Chapter Two: His Teenage Years

Mukunda's father held a high position with the Bengal-Nagpur Railway Company. Owing to that position, he could give his son free passes even to distant cities. Mukunda sometimes took advantage of this offer, traveling with a small group of friends.

Dr. Nagendra Das, a boyhood friend of his, told me, "Wherever we stopped, groups of boys would gather around Mukunda in a very short time, drawn by his magnetism." Indeed, Mukunda's—and later, of course, Yogananda's—power to win friends wherever he went was extraordinary.

Mukunda used to meditate in the attic room of the family home, at 4 Gurpar Road in Calcutta. The male cook teased him one day that he would tell Mukunda's older brother, Ananta, on him. Mukunda replied quite seriously, "Don't tease me about a thing like that. If I wish, I can discipline you."

"Oh, sure!" mocked the cook. "So tell me, little one, what can you do to me?"

"I can stick your hand to the wall."

"Just try it!" laughed the cook.

Mukunda took the cook's left palm and placed it against the wall, extending the attached arm out from the body. Suddenly the cook found that his hand wouldn't move. Try as he would, it remained stuck to the wall.

He pleaded to be released, but Mukunda answered gaily, "You'll have to stand there awhile. That is your punishment for making fun of my spiritual practices!"

It was some time before Mukunda, returning, released the cook, who at once fell to his knees and begged for forgiveness.

Mukunda's meditations were not what one might expect of a little boy. For one thing, he would often meditate for long hours—seven, eight at a time. As he told me, "I would practice Hong-Sau (a meditation technique) for seven hours at a time, until I went breathless." For another, he often had extraordinary visions.

He told himself, however, "Some day I must have a really long meditation. After all, what are seven or eight hours—out of a twenty-four hour day? Don't people work that long merely to supply their material needs?"

One morning Mukunda awoke with the thought, "A whole year has passed. And still I haven't fulfilled the promise I made to myself! Will a long meditation always wait until 'tomorrow'? Why not today? Why not this very morning?"

He sat down for meditation. Forty-eight whole hours passed. To Mukunda, they seemed more like forty-eight minutes. During a part of that ecstatic period, his body rose above the ground in levitation.

At last he returned to the pandemonium of this bustling world: the sounds of servants at their household chores; the voices of family members in the rooms below; the hubbub of people's voices in the streets, and the noise of traffic outside. This cacophony invaded his ears discordantly, though it could not disturb his inner peace. In the passageway to the kitchen he met the cook—the same one, perhaps, whose hand he had stuck to the wall. This faithful servant had for many years been suffering from a pain in his back. Mukunda touched him, and the man was instantly healed.

It was lunchtime. Mukunda's family members were seated Indian fashion on straw mats around the dining room floor. They had paid scant attention to Mukunda's absence of two days. They knew he liked to meditate, and left it at that.

Mukunda now joined them. While he ate, he was conscious of a transcendent detachment from everything. Looking up at one point, he noticed Bodi, the wife of Ananta (Mukunda's older brother), regarding him curiously. Bodi, like Ananta, had never approved of what they both considered Mukunda's "religious fanaticism." Smiling inwardly, Mukunda thought, "Let me have a little fun with them all, especially with Bodi!"

Withdrawing his consciousness partially from the body, he returned a little bit to the complete inwardness he had experienced scarcely half an hour earlier. His body, suddenly deprived of energy, fell silently backward to the floor. Bodi uttered a frightened cry. Quickly she stepped over and felt his pulse. There was no heartbeat. The rest of the family, terrified, gathered around the inert form.

The family doctor, frantically summoned, requested that the boy's body be carried to a couch. After careful examination, he pronounced the dreaded verdict: "He's dead."

Bodi looked around her solemnly. "This," she declared, "is what comes of too much yoga practice!"

The rest of the family uttered loving encomiums for this dear child, now lost to them forever.

Present in the room was a maidservant who was much loved by the family; they used to call her "Maid Ma." Maid Ma had served them for many years with an almost motherly devotion. But she would sometimes argue hotly with Mukunda for bringing his friends to the house, in ever-increasing numbers. Now she added her encomiums to those of the rest.

"Alas! though it's true he was mischievous, for all that he was a good boy." Then, disconsolately, she cried, "O Bhagavan (Lord)! now I won't have anyone to fight with anymore!"

Mukunda could contain himself no longer. "Oh, yes you will!" he cried.

"You!" shouted Maid Ma. "I knew you were only playing!" She picked up a broom and, in mock anger, threw it at him.

On another occasion Mukunda remarked to a friend, "People never see God because they never try to see Him."

"Never try! But thousands go every day to the temples. Don't they try?"

"Never sincerely try," Mukunda returned, his smile remote from this world.

"But if God longs to come to mankind, as you've so often told us, can't He quite easily do so when they at least pray to Him, even if not with deep concentration?"

"It isn't that He won't come," Mukunda replied. "Rather, it's that they won't meet Him on His level. Instead, they insist that He come down to theirs. But why should He come to them? He knows that most people only want to argue with Him! There is no room in worldly hearts for His perfect bliss. People are more concerned with their worldly desires than with the pure longing for His love."

"Are you saying, then, that if we sat down this very night and called to Him from our hearts, He would come?"

"Why not? Of course He would!" was the firm reply. "Why should He refuse us, whose only 'ulterior' motive is our love for Him?"

"Tonight!" his friend cried. "Why not tonight?"

"Agreed," said Mukunda.

Later, they went to Mukunda's attic room and sat on little mats in lotus posture.

"Do you think we might see God as Lord Krishna?" Mukunda's friend asked.

"Again, why not? Sri Krishna will surely come to us tonight!"

They began to chant. Later, chanting done, they practiced Kriya Yoga, then Hong-Sau (watching the breath), then simply called to Krishna in the silence, summoning him with their hearts' love to appear before their inward gaze. Hours passed. The night sky grew dim. They chanted, then meditated some more. Still Krishna had not appeared.

"I'm afraid he won't come now," Mukunda's friend finally said.

"He will come!" was the adamant reply.

Still later: "Mukunda, the dawn is breaking. He hasn't come yet. I'm growing sleepy!"

"You sleep if you like," Mukunda whispered reproachfully, "but if I die trying I will call to him until he comes!"

Suddenly, within his inner temple, he beheld a wondrous vision: Krishna walking on soft clouds of gold! Krishna, his sweet smile a gift of heavenly peace!

"I see him!" cried Mukunda. "I see him, the moon of Gokula!"

"It can't be true. You're imagining it."

"You shall see him for yourself!" Mukunda reached out and gently struck his friend on the chest over the heart.

"I see him too!" his friend cried. "Oh, I see him too!"

What bliss welled up in both their hearts that wondrous morning!

Mukunda's education was somewhat different from the norm. That is to say, though he went to class, he received more revelations inwardly than from his teachers. Usually he preferred to sit at the back of the classroom, where he could close his eyes without the teacher's notice, and listen to the truths that came to him from within. In one classroom, however, the teacher ordered him to keep his eyes open and pay attention. Mukunda tried, but didn't always succeed.

"Come sit in the front row before me!" the teacher ordered.

"I did so," Yogananda told me many years later. "But now the teacher took it for granted that I'd keep my eyes open. Right in front of him, I found it actually easier to close my eyes and meditate."

One day in school he slipped a note to the boy seated next to him. God had instructed him to write this note, so he did.

"I am your guru," said the note.

"The boy looked over at me reproachfully," Yogananda told me. "'Bad boy!' was his only comment, whispered under his breath.

"I smiled. That night, this classmate had a divine visitation. God showed him the truth of what I had written him. Thrilled, he tried to seek me out the next day. But I hid from him. Hours passed before we met again."

Mukunda worshiped God especially in the form of Mother. Westerners have scoffed at Hindus for what they consider "idol worship." In reality, it is not idol worship, but "ideal worship." Idol worship means to seek the things of this world: wealth, power, fame, and the like. None but the completely ignorant in India imagine that God is anything but infinite. Still, as God is everywhere, so a spiritual image is a part of that great reality, and can help us to focus our attention on Him. Infinity is a difficult concept to bring into focus. In fact, there are many instances in India's long history of God actually enlivening a stone image. There is an account, for example, from the life of Trailanga Swami, a great saint of Benares who also, like Gorakhnath, lived for centuries. He had an image in his temple—it may have been of Kali, but I no longer remember. A devotee of his begged him repeatedly to bless him through that image.

One evening the two of them were seated together in the next room. The image itself walked in, sat down, and conversed with them on lofty topics. After some time, the "idol" left the room and returned to its customary position. The divine power left it.

Trailanga looked at the devotee calmly and asked, "And now, what have you got?" That passing phenomenon had been inspiring, certainly, but had it changed the devotee to the extent of giving him God? As my guru was wont to say, "The path to God is not a circus!" The important thing is that we change ourselves. In this respect especially, Buddha was completely right.

Nevertheless, visions can be a consolation, certainly, though they are no guarantee that the visionary is a saint.

Mukunda, as I said, worshiped God especially in the form of Mother of the Universe. Because his friends knew this was the focus for his devotion, they would happily bring him news of any new Kali temple they found in the vicinity. One day they came to him bearing tidings of a new temple.

Mukunda smiled. "You all go, if you like. This evening I prefer to stay home."

"Stay home! But why?"

Mukunda only smiled. His friends went to the temple, prostrated themselves before the image it held of the Divine Mother, and chanted a few devotional songs. Their hearts were uplifted, but the upliftment lasted only for that evening.

At home, Mukunda went up to his attic room. Temples, too, have value, primarily as aids to bringing people's devotion to a focus. But Mukunda's devotion had long since achieved that focus at the point of superconscious ecstasy in the forehead—that is to say, in the frontal lobe of the brain behind that point.

"Mother with lotus feet!" he prayed. "Mother with hair spreading out over all creation! O Mother, come to me! Mother, your smile twinkles in a million stars. O Divine Mother, tear asunder this veil of darkness which hides You from me!"

Long he called to Her. Years earlier, when he had lost his earthly mother, his aching love for her had been redirected to the Divine Mother of the Universe. (Wise Child! Instead of grieving over our earthly losses, we should direct our love to God, where every pain becomes a blessing.) And now at last that Mother of all mothers had appeared to him!

"Kali!" he whispered. "Mother Kali, You have come! Oh, how beautiful You are! Mother, may my life be a song of constant love for Thee!"

The Divine Mother smiled. "Your prayer is granted, My child. Though you shall have to travel far, and bring many souls to My all-sheltering arms, in your heart of hearts you will always be at rest in My formless presence. And as often as you call to Me, whenever you desire it, so often shall I appear before you in this form."

Mukunda (Yogananda) called Kali, when seen in vision, "beautiful." But certainly the images presented of Her are anything but that. She is depicted with four arms, a garland of skulls, Her hair unkempt and straggling out in all directions, Her tongue lolling out of Her mouth, standing (as if in triumph, as the Westerner would perceive Her) on the prostrate form of Her husband, Shiva. All this, however, is deeply symbolic. The English thought of Her as the goddess of death, the form worshiped by Thuggees (a band of criminal assassins). Yogananda explained this symbolism to us:

"Kali represents Mother Nature. Her four arms symbolize Creation, Preservation, and Destruction, the fourth depicting the gift of salvation to those who go beyond Nature to the heart of Infinity. The garland of skulls signifies Her divine omnipresence in all human minds. Why skulls? Because all human life is temporary. Her hair streaming outward signifies God's energy reaching out through all Creation. In Her dance, the rhythmic steps signify the vibratory nature of Creation. Her husband Shiva is depicted as lying prostrate, because God the Father, the Eternal Spirit, is beyond Creation, beyond all vibration, alive in the vibrationless void of Brahman (Spirit).

"Kali's dance ceases when Her light footsteps touch the breast of the Infinite. The reason She is shown with Her tongue out is that She suddenly realizes She has gone too far! Finitude cannot penetrate into the heart of Infinity."

In India, one bites his tongue, sticking it out a little beyond the teeth, when he is conscious of having made a mistake. Even in Western countries, this is a common, instinctive gesture.

Needless to say, many Indians, too, fail to understand this deep symbolism, and assume that Kali's tongue is lolling out in blood lust; that Her streaming hair suggests almost a harridan raging about to find whom She may devour next. The garland of skulls suggests to them, again, blood lust. And the four arms seem to serve no purpose at all. Her position, standing on Shiva's breast, is taken for a posture of victory.

Indian images of God are often deliberately not beautiful, in order that the devotee may not be deluded into thinking that any image can ever define the Infinite. The images of Kali are certainly not beautiful. Yet She has been worshipped by many great saints and masters, including Yogananda and Sri Ramakrishna.

Ram Proshad, a great poet-saint of the seventeenth century, worshipped Kali also. One day he was mending a fence on his property, when his daughter came and helped him. He'd been singing. His daughter asked him, "To whom are you singing, Daddy?"

"I am singing to my Divine Mother Kali. But She's very naughty! Though I often sing to Her, She never comes to me."

"If She never comes, Daddy, why do you keep on calling? Isn't it all a useless waste of time?" With a light laugh, his daughter then ran away.

Later that day, his job finished, Ram Proshad went indoors. There he told his wife how their daughter had been helping him. The wife replied, "That isn't possible. She's spending the whole day on the other side of town with some friends."

When their daughter returned that evening, he questioned her. She answered, "Daddy, you can ask anybody. I wasn't here. I was far away, on the other side of town."

And then Ram Proshad realized that it had been his Divine Mother, coming to him in the form of his daughter, and teasing him by saying, "If She never comes, why do you keep calling to Her?"

So you see, Kali comes in many forms, and rarely, if ever, in the form one beholds in the temples. She can also be infinitely kind, friendly—even teasingly playful! Her eyes, however, though childlike, reveal also the deep, ego-free calmness of Infinity.

Lord Jagannath, depicted in the great Jagannath temple in Puri, is shown with both his arms truncated. The image itself is not at all beautiful, and has been deliberately marred by those truncated arms. The purpose of that disfigurement is to show that the Infinite Lord can never truly be captured in human form.

Interestingly, Bokhara rugs in Persia (Iran) always contain a flaw too, placed there deliberately. The purpose for this disfigurement is to state that perfection can never be captured in outward form.

Temples themselves are symbolic of the human body, wherein the devotee is counseled to sit in meditation and "go within." Otherwise, God is omnipresent; He cannot be localized in either space or time.


Chapter Seventeen: Yogananda's Salient Characteristics

It may be interesting to learn about some of the salient characteristics I observed in Paramhansa Yogananda during the years I lived with him. I will number them here, for convenience.

1. The outstanding trait I observed was his complete absence of ego. When I looked into his eyes, it was like looking into infinity. One time, Debi Mukerjee, a disciple from Calcutta, said something to Master about his humility. The Guru replied, "How can there be humility, when there is no consciousness of ego?"

A perfect example of his freedom from ego is a story I'll tell in the next chapter about a certain judge. My point here is that the Master could accept any insult and never be affected by it. As you'll see, he accepted that judge's withering contempt with utter good will. I never saw him affected to even the slightest degree by anything that anyone ever said about him.

2. Another trait that always amazed me in him was the deep, impersonal respect he gave everyone. His unwillingness to let Debi criticize a man for being in a state of "feeling no pain"; his perfect willingness to have people with whom he didn't agree have the last word: these are examples, merely, of a characteristic that is marvelous to contemplate in one as great in the eyes of the world as Yogananda was.

3. He had an impish, and utterly delightful, sense of humor. This trait may be seen in some of the jokes he told, many of which he'd heard from others.

One was a somewhat left-handed compliment, which he told with a childlike smile: "Your teeth are like stars: they come out at night!"

Another was of three men, an Irishman, an Englishman, and a Scotsman. All three were drinking whiskey when a fly landed in each of their glasses. The Irishman simply sloshed his glass sideways, losing a fair amount of whiskey along with the fly. The Englishman carefully flicked the fly out of the glass. But the Scotsman squeezed the fly! I still remember vividly the little touch of glee with which Master uttered that word, squeezed.

In still another joke, three Scotsmen attended church. As the collection plate was approaching them, one of them fainted, and the other two carried him out.

I'm sure he would have greatly enjoyed this one too, though I confess I'm not sure he heard it: An Irishwoman was coming through U.S. customs carrying a suspicious-looking bottle. "What's this?" cried the customs inspector.

"Oh, Sir, it's only holy water." The official opened the bottle and sniffed its contents.

"Aha!" he cried, "As I suspected: Irrrish whiskey!"

"Glory be to God!" she cried. "A miracle!"

In dictating his Bhagavad Gita commentaries, the Master gave the advice to eat only a little bit, but frequently: "Stokam, stokam, anekoda." (Sanskrit scholars, please forgive me if I have that wrong. This is how I remember the foreign-sounding words he pronounced.) Dorothy Taylor, his secretary, mistyped the phrase to read: "Stone 'em, stone 'em, a little bit but frequently." This was too delicious for Master not to quote to me later with a hearty chuckle.

Finally (because I could go on indefinitely in this vein), I recall how he once came into the monks' dining room between meals, and found it an embarrassingly utter mess! All he did was say with a smile, "Well, it might be worse!" (So much for certain disciples' description of him as a stern, even scowling, disciplinarian!)

4. He understood others from within themselves, and not as other people do, from the outside.

There was a young disciple, Abie George, whose talk was rather "salty," and who didn't show the usual respect for his guru. In fact, he was inwardly extremely respectful, but such had been his upbringing. He would actually sit in a chair with one leg over the armrest as he talked with the Master. But Master saw behind that facade. After some particularly unusual display of what, in other disciples, would have been blatant disrespect, Master embraced Abie with a loving laugh.

5. Yogananda was completely centered in the Infinite Self. As he wrote in his poem "Samadhi": "I, the Cosmic Sea, watch the little ego floating in me." Even a master requires enough ego to keep his body moving and active in this world, but such a person's true center lies by no means in his little body. I remember once walking with him at his desert retreat. He was deep in the Spirit. Two or three times I had actually to support his body in order to keep it from falling. He remarked to me one day, "I am in all bodies. It is difficult for me to remember to keep this one body, especially, moving."

In Los Angeles, I was told, he sometimes walked up and down Main Street in a locale that contained many bars. He didn't say a word, but to me it is clear that he was centered in those people inside the bars, perhaps protecting them from those low astral entities which are always eager to possess people who are on the brink of unconsciousness.

6. Desirelessness was another strong trait in the Master. One time, James J. Lynn, a wealthy disciple, wanted to buy him an overcoat and took him for that purpose into a men's clothing store. Yogananda saw one coat that appealed to him, but when he read the price tag he hastily looked elsewhere: the coat was very expensive. Mr. Lynn said to him, "I saw you looking at that one. Let me get it for you." Yogananda had to agree. To the coat, Mr. Lynn added a matching hat.

The Master always felt awkward wearing this expensive coat. After some time he prayed, "Divine Mother, it is too good for me! Please take it away." Some days later he entered a restaurant. (He continued the story:) "The Divine Mother told me She would be taking it away that evening, so I carefully emptied the pockets. When the meal was finished, I returned to the rack where the coat had been hanging. To my great relief, the coat was missing. But then I noticed an omission. 'Divine Mother!' I prayed. 'You forgot to take the hat!'"

One day at Mt. Washington he came downstairs, and saw a small group of us standing there, waiting for him. "Isn't it a warm day?" he asked.

We, knowing that he had it in mind to give us money for a little ice cream, answered, "Oh, it's not so warm, Sir."

"Are you sure it isn't a little warm?"

"Well, it is if you say so, Sir."

Finally, with decision, he concluded, "I can't keep money, and I won't! Here's a little money for ice cream. Go out and buy yourselves some."

It was only a little money. In any case, it wasn't the money, but his statement, "I can't keep money, and I won't!" that touched me especially. I spent some of my own money for the ice cream that day, in order to keep the bills he'd actually handed me. Those bills now rest in the little shrine-museum on the hill above my house.

7. Complete nonattachment was another characteristic of his. Toward the end of his life he made plans to go to India. I was one of the people he wanted to take with him. Twice he had to cancel his plans. The last year, those plans were canceled permanently by his final exit from the body. The last year but one I asked him, "Sir, shall we be going to India this year?"

"I am not curious about these things," he replied. "What Divine Mother wants, I do."

Not curious about a trip to India?! I was amazed.

8. He treated all people equally, and was as respectful toward any garage mechanic as toward someone prominent in the world of politics, business, or the arts.

He used to walk with a cane-not, as a rule, because he needed one, but because to him a cane was like the danda, or wooden staff which many swamis carry in India as a reminder to keep their spines straight and to live more at their own center. A few days before he left his body, he went to a dilapidated shop to buy a new cane. It was a small item, but he wanted to be a conscientious custodian of the organization's money, so he bargained carefully. Once he'd got the price he thought right, however, he looked about him. Seeing what a very poor shop it was, he gave the owner much more money than he'd saved by bargaining.

"You are a gentleman, Sir!" said the owner, and thereupon gave him a particularly fine antique umbrella.

Back at Mt. Washington, hours later, the Master said, "That man was so poor! He had a linoleum floor! I think I'll buy him a carpet."

9. He had the ability to enjoy everything with the joy of God. In this he made a strong contrast with a sadhu I once met in Puri, India, who said to me, "You shouldn't enjoy anything."

"Not even a beautiful sunset?" I asked.

"No, nothing!"

I thought, What a dry outlook. My guru, by contrast, enjoyed almost everything! In his enjoyment, however, he was attached to nothing. His enjoyment was the joy of God. Complete nonattachment was evident even in his eyes, the gaze of which was always, in a sense, remote from this world.

10. He was surprisingly innovative. He built, as far as I know, the first motor home. He called it a housecar, and used it to travel about the country, lecturing.

He told me he'd invented the toilet lid. He was also the first to suggest placing the gearshift of a car on the driving shaft rather than in the floor. "We drove in to Detroit with our invention," he told me. "People were very impressed."

11. Another fact I noticed about him was that he was completely positive. One time I mentioned something humorous, but not complimentary, about someone. He scolded me for being negative.

"Am I negative, Master?" I asked.

"Sometimes," he replied. "But there is a great deal of positive in your nature also."

"Why look at the drains," he said to us on another occasion, "when there is so much beauty all around?"

12. As you will see in the next chapter, he was concerned for the upliftment of all mankind. That was his mission on earth: quantitative, not only qualitative. Qualitative also, of course, for he brought techniques for transforming human consciousness through people's awareness and use of energy.

Some of his disciples were concerned only with their own salvation. That was fine by him, but he was grateful when he found anyone who wanted to bring his message to the whole world.

"New hope for all men!" was his motto.

13. Nothing ever excited him. Always, he was deeply calm. He could laugh. He could also move quickly, when he had to. But he was always calm.

Once, late for a lecture, he set out at a run. "Don't be nervous," a student cautioned.

"One can run nervously, or one can run calmly," was the Master's reply, "but not to run when you need to is to be lazy!"

14. One thing I noted about him was his always-blissful outlook on life. I would notice this fact not only in his calm, inward expression, but also from the deep bliss I often felt in his presence.

15. He was deeply loving to all, and concerned for their well-being. My mother once visited me at Mt. Washington, and was scheduled to have an interview with him. I asked him beforehand, "Sir, will you please pray that she be brought onto this path?"

"Yes," he said, so almost abruptly that I wasn't sure he'd even heard me correctly.

At the end of his interview with her, and as she was leaving the room, he followed her to the doorway. There they shook hands in farewell. He continued to hold her hand, however. Speaking out loud, he prayed to God and to our line of gurus, and said, "May you be brought onto this path." This, for me personally, was a deeply moving moment. With tears of gratitude, I touched his feet. In fact, toward the end of her life she did begin meditating.

16. Always, he was very much the leader. Wherever he went, something about him commanded respect. This fact was clearly evident, of course, in the demeanor of the thugs who menaced him during his early years. But he always emanated a quiet aura of authority.

One woman in the Hollywood Church congregation told me that when she first saw the Master, it was through a restaurant window. Suddenly, then, she tugged at her husband's sleeve.

"Look, Dear, through that window! That has to be the most spiritual man I've ever seen."

He was always, and quite naturally, in control of every situation. Wherever he went, people deferred to him. Speaking for myself, though I loved him deeply, I always held him in deep awe.

17. He had a strong, deep voice, filled with power. There was no self-abasement in his humility. There was a suggestion, rather, of his attunement to the power of the universe. Yet there was lightness also.

One night at the monks' retreat at Twentynine Palms, in California, I was suddenly awakened by a feeling of a great divine presence in the room. I was sleeping, along with several other men, on the floor of the living room. At once I sat up to meditate. Then I looked out the front window, and saw the Master walking slowly outside. Instantly I got up, went out, and touched his feet.

Later he commented with a smile, "I thought I was seeing a ghost!"

18. He had great divine power, as we saw in the story of that thug who menaced him in Lakeside Park, Chicago.

19. Yet he was respectful toward, even appreciative of, others' opinions, even when these differed widely from his own. One time a disciple, Dan Boone, wrote him a scathing letter, which reflected the delusions Boone himself was going through at the time. When the Master next saw him, he said to Boone, "You should take up writing. That was the best letter Satan ever wrote me." There was no sarcasm in his voice: only admiration and respect.

20. He wanted nothing from others except their own highest happiness. Once, after he'd scolded a disciple, the disciple said, "But you will forgive me, won't you?"

His question surprised the Master. Pausing briefly, he then said, "Well, what else can I do?"

21. He had keen insight into human nature. For even though a master no longer has any delusions-to the point even of wondering how anyone could be so blinded by them-he well remembers all the incarnations he himself suffered as he went through those same delusions himself.

Yogananda offered the above explanation, indeed, for the reason why Jesus would have had, first, to transcend delusion in a former life to be able to help others in this one. No human being, even a master, is ever directly a Son of God. I have read that claim on the part of disciples of other paths besides the Christian. Yogananda's answer to that was, "What would be the point? It is the destiny of every soul to merge back into oneness with God. But if a miraculously produced, direct incarnation of God were to descend on earth, what encouragement would that give to human beings to 'Go and do likewise'?"

22. The Master was a flawless mirror to the world. Thus alone could he bring out the best in people. To everyone he met-whether a disciple or chance acquaintance-he reflected back his or her own higher Self. In fact, he actually appeared physically different depending on the consciousness of the person he was reflecting.

There are two photographs that dramatically demonstrate this phenomenon. The first is one of Master with a famous opera singer and disciple, Amelita Galli-Curci. Yogananda's face is transformed with a gentle, feminine quality, and his physique seems delicate and frail like Mme. Galli-Curci's.

In the second, Master stands next to Senor Portes Gil, who was then President of Mexico. By contrast, Master face appears like a mirror of Portes Gil's hearty, masculine, jovial visage, and his body looks stocky, sturdy, and full of energy.

These two photos of Master seem hardly to be that of the same man, the change in facial expression, comportment, and energy is so dramatic.

These photographs and this subtle, unannounced, and serviceful activity of Master's demonstrate two things: First, Yogananda's complete lack of ego, to allow him to reflect back to each individual his own inner, divine Self-unmarred, on Master's part, by any egoic identification with or attachment to his own body. Second, Yogananda's unflagging commitment to spiritually help and act as a divine instrument for everyone he encountered.

As Master said, "Everyone whose path has crossed mine in this lifetime has been for a specific purpose."

23. He was inwardly childlike. I myself had always thought that a sage must be solemn, smiling only in concession to the weaknesses of ordinary human beings. To correct this impression in me, he once bought a few toys. (This episode occurred at his Twentynine Palms retreat.) We were seated in the kitchen at the time. He asked that something be brought to him. Whatever it was came enclosed in a paper bag.

The Master asked someone to turn out the light. We heard a few chuckles from him, along with a little crinkling of paper. Suddenly, sparks began flying out the barrel of a toy revolver. The light came back on. Then the Master looked at me.

"How do you like that, Walter?" he asked. (Walter was the name by which he always called me.)

"It's fine, Sir!" I replied, still trying to get over my astonishment.

Then, gazing at me penetratingly, he spoke, quoting the words of Jesus: "Suffer little children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of God."

He finished that charming lesson by firing, from another toy pistol, an object which rose in the air, then opened into a tiny parachute. We all watched solemnly as the parachute descended to the ground. I never saw him play with those toys again. I suspect he'd bought them only for my sake.

24. He laughed readily, but when he chose to be serious, no one could make him even smile. His control in such ways was remarkable. I never saw him succumb to hilarity.

25. His generosity extended far beyond mere money or material gifts. It included also, for example, allowing others to have the last word; deferring to their opinions; applauding whatever good they did.

26. He never judged anyone. Judgment he left to God. He was, truly, a friend to all.

27. I've indicated this before, but he had a strong will power. I remember a public function when he wanted to blow a conch shell. It seemed he had all but lost the knack for doing so. Instead of giving up with a self-deprecating smile, however, he continued determinedly through several tries until some sort of sound emerged. I can't say the sound was pure or beautiful, but it was, unmistakably, the sound of a conch shell!

One afternoon, after I'd served lunch for him and a few guests, he had me sit at the table with him for a time. He then tried to flip a fork into his empty glass. Again and again he failed. When finally he succeeded, the fork broke the glass.

"But I got it in!" he announced with an impish smile. I think he was teaching me a lesson in perseverance, whenever I set my will to anything.

28. His nature was enthusiastic, but never "bouncy." He never reacted emotionally to anything. His enthusiasm was always an expression of his bliss in God.

29. He always knew how to act appropriately.

One time, a newspaper sent two young women to interview him at a hotel. They wanted to enter his room, but he said, "Let's talk out here in the corridor." Both women wore provocatively low-cut blouses. The Master, throughout the interview, gazed fixedly into their eyes. As they left, they seemed disappointed. Yogananda went to the newspaper and asked the editor why he'd sent them, really.

"If you'd invited them into your room, or allowed your gaze to shift down for even a second," the editor responded, "I'd have plastered that story all over the front page."

"That's a terrible thing to do!" exclaimed Yogananda. "So in that way you ruin the reputations, and maybe the lives, of perfectly innocent people. I call that contemptible! A newspaper should report the news, not create it. And even if it does create it for editorial purposes, it should not be scurrilous."

30. Yogananda had an amazing ability to speak insightfully on any subject. When doctors were present, he could speak with them, using even their own specialized terminology. No matter what the subject, in fact, his ability to tune in to the consciousness of others made it possible for him to know everything they knew.

This gift was particularly evident in his ability to know every trend in religious history without having studied that era. He was no scholar, but somehow he knew all about the history of Christianity; the special missions of Buddha, of Shankaracharya, of Ramanuja, of Chaitanya. And he made clear his own place in that progression. Equally, without having studied it, he understood the whole history of Christian schisms, sects, movements, and countermovements. I myself had studied Christian history, and was amazed at his insight into all of it.

31. Physically speaking, I was impressed by his posture. It was always firmly upright. Somehow it was evident to me that his consciousness was always both centered in the spine and at the point between the eyebrows.

32. Although the Master was very accepting of others as they were, when it came to their aspiration for perfection he was uncompromising. In my own efforts to develop devotion, I had finally reached the point where I felt I had some cause for self-satisfaction. Master, however, was not satisfied. Soon afterward, he said to me, "If you love yourself, how can you love God?"


Chapter Twenty-Two: Miracles

A boatload of fishermen in Encinitas came back to shore early one afternoon. Yogananda was walking on the beach, and saw them. He didn't know the men.

"You are back early, aren't you?" he asked.

"Yeah," they replied despondently. "No fish."

"Why don't you go out one more time?"

Something in the way he'd spoken those words induced them to make one more effort. They returned from that final outing with a boat full of fish.

And so grew the legends around this strange swami who had so recently settled in their midst.

Miracles were a part of Yogananda's service to others. He seldom spoke of them, but among those whose lives were associated with his, miracles were common. Rarely did he himself even refer to them.

One day a disciple, Debi Mukerjee, was traveling by car with the Master. Suddenly the Guru said, "Stop here a moment!" The car stopped at the curb, and Yogananda, getting out, walked back a little distance to a small variety shop, which he entered. Inside he wandered about, selecting a few seemingly useless items, then took these to the front counter. When the proprietor, who was a stranger to him, had totaled the sale, she became quite excited. Then, when he paid her, she burst into tears.

"I very badly had to have just this sum of money today. Closing time was approaching, and I'd almost despaired of ever getting the amount I needed. Thank you, Sir! I was praying so deeply to God. It's clear to me that you are His answer to my prayer."

The Master returned to the car, got in, and left. He said nothing about the incident. "As far as I know," Debi told us later, "he never used any of the items he'd bought there."

There was another, mostly amusing miracle he performed at Twentynine Palms. This one he did tell us about, chuckling as he related the story, though this was something that happened to him, rather than being done by him.

Jerry Torgerson, about whom I wrote earlier (the one who said, "I'm sorry I'm so stubborn, Sir"), had decided to make sure the roof never leaked. His solution was to cover it with concrete! He had just nailed tarpaper to the top, driving many nails into the roof, when a rare storm blew over Twentynine Palms, bringing with it heavy rains. In the house, buckets, pots, bowls, cups, and every possible other container were placed around frantically to catch the water that dripped in every room. Even so, nothing was really safe.

"Water fell everywhere," Master told us later, laughing, "except in my sitting room where I dictate, and in my bedroom. As the storm ended, Divine Mother played a little joke on me: One drop fell into a waiting bucket in the living room, and another drop in my bedroom, where I was lying on my bed with a bare upper body. In that room, the drop fell onto my stomach!"

He usually attributed to the Divine Mother any miracle he performed. During his visit to India in 1935-36, he went on a steamship with a few friends to "Ganga Sagar," where the river Ganges enters the sea. There, to everyone's horror, the ship began to sink. The passengers were panic-stricken. Suddenly, the ship began to rise again in the water, and everyone was saved. The passengers, seeing this swami on board the vessel in his orange robes, expressed to him their heartfelt gratitude.

"You all did it," Yogananda replied, "by your prayers to Divine Mother."

The captain then approached him.

"Sir," he said, "can you help me? My duty as captain of this ship is to shout loudly when the need arises, but as you can see, I have a constriction in my throat that makes shouting impossible."

"Well, let's see what Divine Mother will do," replied the swami.

Later, friends who had come with the Master heard the captain bellowing his instructions loudly to the sailors.

Encinitas was the scene of other great miracles. One time a local real estate agent came to the Master and asked for help.

"My wife is very ill," he said, "and the doctors are beginning to despair of her life. Would you please come see her, and pray for her?"

"I will pray for her," the Master answered, "but God doesn't tell me to visit her at this time."

Several days later, a secretary came to the Guru and said, "I just got a phone call. The real estate agent's wife died a few minutes ago. His heart is broken."

Only at this point did Yogananda feel the inner guidance to go there. As he entered the house, he found it filled with grieving relatives and friends. When he asked to be shown to the bedroom, they made way for him. There, he asked to be left alone. He touched the woman on the forehead and over the heart. After some time, she opened her eyes, then finally smiled up at him. She was completely healed.

One evening, the Master and Durga had just returned to Mt. Washington when an unbelievably fierce wind arose. He later said, "It was a karmic build-up from World War II." He told Durga to take off one shoe, strike it on the porch, and recite a mantra (which he taught her). In a few seconds, the storm ceased altogether. So unusual was this freak wind that it was reported next day in the Los Angeles Times. "For some reason," the paper said, "the storm ceased unaccountably-as suddenly as it had begun."

In Encinitas, the Master was entertaining about ten guests in the living room one day when he decided to serve them carrot juice, newly produced in SRF's processing plant. He called Michael Krull (later, Brother Bhaktananda), and asked him to bring a large pitcherful of it. Michael returned to say, "I'm sorry, Sir, but the supply has become exhausted."

"Isn't there at least a little bit of it left?" the Guru inquired.

"Well, enough for perhaps a third of a teacup."

"Bring that," the Master told him, casually.

Michael brought that small amount, and poured it into a pitcher. "Perhaps," he thought, "there's enough for everyone here to have just a drop!"

He took the pitcher around. Somehow it seemed fuller after each serving. There turned out to be quite enough in it to fill a glass for everyone. None of the guests realized what had happened. Only Michael was aware that it had been a miracle.

The Master told me that really great miracles are reserved for highly advanced disciples. He told us once that Oliver Black, in Detroit, was his second most advanced disciple, after St. Lynn. Mr. Black himself told me the following story.

"I was visiting Master in Encinitas," he said. "It was raining heavily, and I was in my bedroom, glad to be out of the weather. Just then, a young monk knocked on the door, and told me that Master wanted me to go with him for a drive. I looked doubtfully out the window. The rain was falling, if anything, even harder than before.

"'Well,' I said to myself, 'if he says so. But I wonder if we'll even be able to see out the car window.'

"I put on some protective clothing, then went to the front door-only a few feet away, as you know. I went outdoors, then stopped in astonishment. The rain had ceased. The sky was blue. There was no sign even of dampness anywhere. The car and the ground around it were dry. I looked at Master in amazement.

"'For you, Oliver!' he said with a quiet smile."

What amazes me about this miracle is that it required Master somehow to change the very dream of reality for that day. Otherwise, how did every sign of that recent rainfall simply disappear?

Another miracle, far less amazing but still impressive, occurred while Norman and I were plastering the side of a garage. The structure stood near the front gate. The plaster we were using was evidently old, for it kept hardening, and I had constantly to soften it with more water.

A certain point came when I had just mixed a new load of plaster and poured it out onto the board. Just then, the Master's car drove up on its way out the gate. It stopped, and we heard Master call out to us. We came down and spoke with him.

He held us there for about half an hour, talking on a variety of subjects. We were of course delighted to be with him. In the backs of our minds, however, was the thought, "We'll have to take a sledgehammer to that plaster, when we get back to the job!"

Finally he released us about a half hour later. On returning to our work, we found, to our amazement, that the plaster was as soft as though fresh plaster had been newly poured onto the board. We had no more trouble with the plaster for the rest of that day.

Outside Boston, during Master's early years in America, Dr. Lewis and some other people were in his car, driving to participate in a spiritual gathering. It was snowing heavily, so Dr. Lewis drove very carefully. As they came to a narrow bridge, however, another car traveling in the opposite direction skidded suddenly, and stopped in a position that took up the whole road. A collision seemed certain. Just at that moment, as if a giant hand were being placed on the hood of Doctor's car, an unknown force brought the vehicle to a complete stop, only inches away from the other car.

The stopping of a vehicle happened once more that I know of. Norman was driving a large flatbed truck down the steep incline below Mt. Washington.

"At the bottom, as you know," Norman told us later, "there's a sharp corner, below which there is that steep embankment. If I'd gone over that, I'd have been a goner. But when I tried to brake for the turn, the brakes failed! I tried frantically to pump them: They wouldn't work at all! I then looked up briefly and prayed to Master, 'Is this what you want?' Suddenly, it was as though a large hand had been placed on the hood of the truck. I was able to bring the vehicle to a stop, and to curb it by turning the wheels in towards the side. All I can say is, I guess Master still wants me around!"

Jerry Torgerson-the "stubborn one"-hitchhiked one day to town. "I knew Master didn't want us to hitchhike," he said, "and I haven't done so since that day, but at the time it seemed as easy a way as any to get where I wanted to go.

"Well, a car stopped by me. Three men were in it already. No one in the car looked savory. Still, I thought, 'What can they do?' So I got in. And then I found they had no intention of going where I wanted to go. Instead, they drove me well out into the country. There was nothing I could do about it; I just sat there helplessly, praying to Master.

"Finally we came to a farmhouse. Two of the men got out; the third remained in the car to make sure I didn't get out.

"The two men knocked on the front door, waited, then knocked again. No one answered from within. The men, looking a little shaken, went on to knock on all the windows. Still, nobody answered.

"At last, very nervous, they returned to the car, took me back to the highway, pushed me out, and then drove off at high speed.

"The next Sunday I stood in line to tell Master what had happened. When I reached him, his first words to me were, 'Jerry, I told you not to hitchhike! Those men wanted to involve you in a crime. I had to stop the ears of everyone in that house so they wouldn't hear their accomplices knocking.'"

Another hitchhiking incident involved James Coller. He was driving a car, with another monk beside him. James stopped to pick up a hitchhiker. They drove some distance further, when he heard a voice in his ear. "Look out! He's got a knife!"

"I looked back," James told us later, "and saw the hitchhiker poised with knife, wearing an expression of unholy glee, just about to drive the knife into my friend, seated beside me.

"'Put down that knife!' I shouted loudly. The man was shaken out of his uncanny trance. I stopped the car, and he got out immediately, offering no argument."

In 1955 I visited Switzerland. A woman came to visit me from Czechoslovakia. She had known the SRF center leader in Prague, a Professor Novicky (pronounced Novitsky). Czechoslovakia was under communist rule at that time, and in people's hearts there was much fear of their government.

One day, a man came to Professor Novicky and asked for guidance in his yoga practices. The professor was in a quandary. He didn't know the man, but he didn't want to refuse help to a sincere seeker. On the other hand, if this man was a spy, Novicky would be sent to prison. The professor asked Yogananda inwardly for guidance.

"Suddenly," my informant told me, "he saw Yogananda standing behind the man. Yogananda slowly shook his head from side to side. Novicky then acted accordingly, telling the man he didn't know what he was talking about.

"Later, he learned that the man had indeed been a spy."

Some of the miracles the Master manifested were not done directly by him, but happened at a distance to disciples who had placed themselves under his guidance and protection.

He decided to construct a new building on the same grounds as the Hollywood Church, after such structures became once more legal. It was to be called India Center. Andy Anderson, the foreman in charge of the construction project, told me one day with a bewildered chuckle, "I don't know why all you yogis don't get killed on this job! Around construction work, one has to be extra careful, but you all act as though you were in your living rooms. Some of you walk about, never looking up to see if anything's falling. Others will drop a two-by-four and never look down to see if anyone is below them. I've seen with my own eyes a two-by-four drop just as another yogi was coming closer. When the board fell, at an angle certain to tip it over onto this man's head, damaging him severely, it rose up-and, so help me God!-fell the opposite direction!"

One day, Joe Carbone (who later took the name, Brother Bimalananda) was climbing a steep ladder up the front tower, which contained one of the golden lotuses that had been rescued from the fallen temple in Encinitas. Henry Schaufelberger (Brother Anandamoy) was twenty feet up, plastering the tower. Joe Carbone had on his shoulder another hod of plaster, which he was carrying up to Henry. The ladder, as I said, was steep, and the hod on Joseph's shoulder was very heavy. As Joe reached up to grasp the highest rung, the weight on his shoulder pulled the ladder backward. There was nothing he could do about it but pray. According to all the rules of logic, he should have continued his fall and crashed onto the cement twenty feet below him. It would probably have been a fatal accident. Joe did the only thing he could think of at the time. Thinking of Master, he chanted "AUM!" in one long breath. As he did so, the ladder came slowly upright; he was able to grasp the top rung again, and finish his climb. Henry said afterwards, "I saw it happen. There was no chance for him!"

Dr. Lewis once telephoned his guru, who was in Encinitas, to ask help for a friend of his. The man was in the hospital in Chicago, and was on the point of dying. Yogananda prayed. "Suddenly," the Master said, "what seemed like a bolt of lightning went out of me. That very moment a loud thunderclap resounded in the man's room. Immediately he sat up, completely cured.

"A nurse in the room witnessed it all, incredulously. 'There was no hope for the man,' she reported later. 'And suddenly, he was as well as you and I!' She was a very materialistic woman," finished the Master. This story was one he himself told, to show people that, no matter how ill they are, there is always hope of a cure by God's grace.

Some of his miracles were of prescience. I haven't told any of those here, so as not to clog the pages with a plethora of them, but this one is amusing and I thought to share it.

During the Master's early days in America, he had a student, a young man, who asked the Master to make him a monk.

"No," the Master replied. "I see a good wife in your future."

"I'll never marry," said the man.

Some days later, the man announced to him, "I've met a beautiful young woman. She's . . ."

"No," replied the Master. "She's not the one for you."

"What do you mean?" expostulated the other. "She's perfect for me! We are soulmates."

"You're setting yourself up for a disappointment," the Master concluded.

Again, some weeks later, the man returned with a long face.

"You were right!" he announced. "She took my money, then left me for another. I want to become a monk."

"Your bride has still to come," insisted the Master.

"Never! I want to be a monk."

"Let's wait and see," Yogananda replied with a smile.

Again a few weeks later the man came, laughing, "You'll never believe this, Sir. A large, fat, very plain woman has been following me around. She . . ."

"Oh, oh!" exclaimed the Master. "She feels like the right one."

"Oh no, Master! No! Please don't be right. You were right the first time; please be wrong this time."

"She feels like the right one for you."

Well, the woman turned out to have an angelic heart. The man fell deeply in love with her; they married, and settled down to a very happy marriage together.

After the Master's death, he appeared to several people in physical form. To Swami Atmananda, in India, he came and embraced him with divine love.

To Daya Mata he once appeared in physical form also. Though he didn't speak a word, he conveyed consolation to her, which she'd been needing.

Norman Paulson left the ashram to get married.

"This is the first time in many incarnations that he has fallen," the Master said. "But he is deeply devoted. He will be all right."

One night, Norman was lying in bed when the door burst open and the Master appeared by his bedside, looking very stern.

"Leave sex alone!" he ordered. Alas, Norman, who had often disobeyed him, disobeyed him again.

The Master's influence continues to this day. In the mid nineteen-eighties, a woman came to the Ananda retreat to buy something at the boutique. She saw a small, laminated photograph of someone she didn't even know. It was a picture of Yogananda, but she bought it only because she liked the face. She placed it, face out, on her bookcase. Some weeks later, she returned to Ananda, saying, "I just had to return and tell someone what happened to me.

"I've had a hard life. My first fiance died of a terminal illness. My second was killed in a car accident. I was so heartbroken that I finally decided to kill myself. I was walking toward the door to get into my car and go drive off a high bridge.

"Suddenly that photograph expanded and became life-sized. It stood in the doorway, and wouldn't let me through. I decided at that point to drop my plan of committing suicide."

Another story (which I'll relate more fully in Chapter Thirty-One): Three weeks after Yogananda's death, his body was found to be incorrupt. This same phenomenon accompanied his incarnations as William the Great in England and Fernando el Santo in Spain. Is Yogananda's body still in perfect condition? The world will never know, unless and until someone breaks open the copper seal.

One day, the nuns went to his crypt to pray. Louise Royston, the elderly nun to whom I've referred before, suddenly felt him standing beside her. Distinctly, then, she heard his voice say, "I'm not in there!"

Let me end this chapter with a sweet story that occurred in his presence, a miracle that was brought about for him, but not by him.

He was in his living room in Encinitas with Sister Shraddha. Beside him, in a vase, stood a single rose.

A monk came to the door, and Yogananda went there to speak with him. Sister Shraddha looked casually at the rose, and saw it pointing toward the door. "But," she thought, "I could swear that, a moment ago, I saw it pointing at his chair!"

The Master returned to his armchair. Shraddha looked at the rose again somewhat absentmindedly. Wasn't it pointed at the door a moment ago? Now, it was pointing toward the chair! "Is my memory deceiving me?" she asked herself.

After a while, another monk came to the door. Again the Master went there to confer with him. This time, Shraddha made it a special point to look at the rose. It was now definitely pointing toward the door. Master came back. A few minutes later, she noticed it pointing, again, toward his chair.

"Sir," she said at last. "You have a new devotee!" She explained what she had been observing.

The Master looked at the rose, and smiled lovingly.



See Also: Intro  

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