Yogananda’s Christmas Presents
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!
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 realization who, during my absence, had been in charge at Mt. Washington. From the paper tissues she lifted a sari of golden Benares 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.
Swami Vivekananda and the Silver Cup
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 multicolored 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.
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!”
Excerpted from Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda.