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I Meet My Master, Sri Yukteswar
in God can produce any miracle except one --- passing an examination
without study." Distastefully I closed the book I had picked
up in an idle moment.
exception shows his complete lack of faith," I thought. "Poor
chap, he has great respect for the midnight oil!"
promise to Father had been that I would complete my high school
studies. I cannot pretend to diligence. The passing months found
me less frequently in the classroom than in secluded spots along
the Calcutta bathing ghats. The adjoining crematory grounds,
especially gruesome at night, are considered highly attractive by
the yogi. He who would find the Deathless Essence must not be dismayed
by a few unadorned skulls. Human inadequacy becomes clear in the
gloomy abode of miscellaneous bones. My midnight vigils were thus
of a different nature from the scholar's.
The week of
final examinations at the Hindu High School was fast approaching.
This interrogatory period, like the sepulchral haunts, inspires
a well-known terror. My mind was nevertheless at peace. Braving
the ghouls, I was exhuming a knowledge not found in lecture halls.
But it lacked the art of Swami Pranabananda, who easily appeared
in two places at one time. My educational dilemma was plainly a
matter for the Infinite Ingenuity. This was my reasoning, though
to many it seems illogic. The devotee's irrationality springs from
a thousand inexplicable demonstrations of God's instancy in trouble.
Mukunda! I catch hardly a glimpse of you these days!" A classmate
accosted me one afternoon on Gurpar Road.
Nantu! My invisibility at school has actually placed me there in
a decidedly awkward position." I unburdened myself under his
Nantu, who was
a brilliant student, laughed heartily; my predicament was not without
a comic aspect.
utterly unprepared for the finals! I suppose it is up to me to help
The simple words
conveyed divine promise to my ears; with alacrity I visited my friend's
home. He kindly outlined the solutions to various problems he considered
likely to be set by the instructors.
questions are the bait which will catch many trusting boys in the
examination trap. Remember my answers, and you will escape without
The night was
far gone when I departed. Bursting with unseasoned erudition, I
devoutly prayed it would remain for the next few critical days.
Nantu had coached me in my various subjects but, under press of
time, had forgotten my course in Sanskrit. Fervently I reminded
God of the oversight.
set out on a short walk the next morning, assimilating my new knowledge
to the rhythm of swinging footsteps. As I took a short cut through
the weeds of a corner lot, my eye fell on a few loose printed sheets.
A triumphant pounce proved them to be Sanskrit verse. I sought out
a pundit for aid in my stumbling interpretation. His rich voice
filled the air with the edgeless, honeyed beauty of the ancient
exceptional stanzas cannot possibly be of aid in your Sanskrit test."
The scholar dismissed them skeptically.
with that particular poem enabled me on the following day to pass
the Sanskrit examination. Through the discerning help Nantu had
given, I also attained the minimum grade for success in all my other
Father was pleased
that I had kept my word and concluded my secondary school course.
My gratitude sped to the Lord, whose sole guidance I perceived in
my visit to Nantu and my walk by the unhabitual route of the debris-filled
lot. Playfully He had given a dual expression to His timely design
for my rescue.
I came across
the discarded book whose author had denied God precedence in the
examination halls. I could not restrain a chuckle at my own silent
would only add to this fellow's confusion, if I were to tell him
that divine meditation among the cadavers is a short cut to a high
my new dignity, I was now openly planning to leave home. Together
with a young friend, Jitendra Mazumdar,2 I decided to join a Mahamandal hermitage in Benares, and receive
its spiritual discipline.
desolation fell over me one morning at thought of separation from
my family. Since Mother's death, my affection had grown especially
tender for my two younger brothers, Sananda and Bishnu. I rushed
to my retreat, the little attic which had witnessed so many scenes
in my turbulent sadhana.3 After a two-hour flood of tears, I felt singularly transformed,
as by some alchemical cleanser. All attachment4 disappeared; my
resolution to seek God as the Friend of friends set like granite
within me. I quickly completed my travel preparations.
one last plea." Father was distressed as I stood before him
for final blessing. "Do not forsake me and your grieving brothers
Father, how can I tell my love for you! But even greater is my love
for the Heavenly Father, who has given me the gift of a perfect
father on earth. Let me go, that I someday return with a more divine
parental consent, I set out to join Jitendra, already in Benares
at the hermitage. On my arrival the young head swami, Dyananda,
greeted me cordially. Tall and thin, of thoughtful mien, he impressed
me favorably. His fair face had a Buddhalike composure.
I was pleased
that my new home possessed an attic, where I managed to spend the
dawn and morning hours. The ashram members, knowing little of meditation
practices, thought I should employ my whole time in organizational
duties. They gave me praise for my afternoon work in their office.
try to catch God so soon!" This ridicule from a fellow resident
accompanied one of my early departures toward the attic. I went
to Dyananda, busy in his small sanctum overlooking the Ganges.
"Swamiji,5 I don't understand what is required of me here. I am seeking direct
perception of God. Without Him, I cannot be satisfied with affiliation
or creed or performance of good works."
ecclesiastic gave me an affectionate pat. Staging a mock rebuke,
he admonished a few near-by disciples. "Don't bother Mukunda.
He will learn our ways."
I politely concealed
my doubt. The students left the room, not overly bent with their
chastisement. Dyananda had further words for me.
I see your father is regularly sending you money. Please return
it to him; you require none here. A second injunction for your discipline
concerns food. Even when you feel hunger, don't mention it."
gleamed in my eye, I knew not. That I was hungry, I knew only too
well. The invariable hour for the first hermitage meal was twelve
noon. I had been accustomed in my own home to a large breakfast
at nine o'clock.
gap became daily more interminable. Gone were the Calcutta years
when I could rebuke the cook for a ten-minute delay. Now I tried
to control my appetite; one day I undertook a twenty-four hour fast.
With double zest I awaited the following midday.
train is late; we are not going to eat until he arrives." Jitendra
brought me this devastating news. As gesture of welcome to the swami,
who had been absent for two weeks, many delicacies were in readiness.
An appetizing aroma filled the air. Nothing else offering, what
else could be swallowed except pride over yesterday's achievement
of a fast?
the train!" The Heavenly Provider, I thought, was hardly included
in the interdiction with which Dyananda had silenced me. Divine
Attention was elsewhere, however; the plodding clock covered the
hours. Darkness was descending as our leader entered the door. My
greeting was one of unfeigned joy.
will bathe and meditate before we can serve food." Jitendra
approached me again as a bird of ill omen.
I was in near-collapse.
My young stomach, new to deprivation, protested with gnawing vigor.
Pictures I had seen of famine victims passed wraithlike before me.
Benares death from starvation is due at once in this hermitage,"
I thought. Impending doom averted at nine o'clock. Ambrosial summons!
In memory that meal is vivid as one of life's perfect hours.
yet permitted me to observe that Dyananda ate absent-mindedly. He
was apparently above my gross pleasures.
weren't you hungry?" Happily surfeited, I was alone with the
leader in his study.
yes! I have spent the last four days without food or drink. I never
eat on trains, filled with the heterogenous vibrations of worldly
people. Strictly I observe the shastric6 rules for monks of my particular order.
problems of our organizational work lie on my mind. Tonight at home
I neglected my dinner. What's the hurry? Tomorrow I'll make it a
point to have a proper meal." He laughed merrily.
within me like a suffocation. But the past day of my torture was
not easily forgotten; I ventured a further remark.
I am puzzled. Following your instruction, suppose I never asked
for food, and nobody gives me any. I should starve to death."
This alarming counsel split the air. "Die if you must Mukunda!
Never admit that you live by the power of food and not by the power
of God! He who has created every form of nourishment, He who has
bestowed appetite, will certainly see that His devotee is sustained!
Do not imagine that rice maintains you, or that money or men support
you! Could they aid if the Lord withdraws your life-breath? They
are His indirect instruments merely. Is it by any skill of yours
that food digests in your stomach? Use the sword of your discrimination,
Mukunda! Cut through the chains of agency and perceive the Single
I found his
incisive words entering some deep marrow. Gone was an age-old delusion
by which bodily imperatives outwit the soul. There and then I tasted
the Spirit's all-sufficiency. In how many strange cities, in my
later life of ceaseless travel, did occasion arise to prove the
serviceability of this lesson in a Benares hermitage!
sole treasure which had accompanied me from Calcutta was the sadhu's silver amulet bequeathed to me by Mother. Guarding it
for years, I now had it carefully hidden in my ashram room. To renew
my joy in the talismanic testimony, one morning I opened the locked
box. The sealed covering untouched, lo! the amulet was gone. Mournfully
I tore open its envelope and made unmistakably sure. It had vanished,
in accordance with the sadhu's prediction, into the ether
whence he had summoned it.
with Dyananda's followers grew steadily worse. The household was
alienated, hurt by my determined aloofness. My strict adherence
to meditation on the very Ideal for which I had left home and all
worldly ambitions called forth shallow criticism on all sides.
Torn by spiritual
anguish, I entered the attic one dawn, resolved to pray until answer
Mother of the Universe, teach me Thyself through visions, or through
a guru sent by Thee!"
hours found my sobbing pleas without response. Suddenly I felt lifted
as though bodily to a sphere uncircumscribed.
cometh today!" A divine womanly voice came from everywhere
experience was pierced by a shout from a definite locale. A young
priest nicknamed Habu was calling me from the downstairs kitchen.
enough of meditation! You are needed for an errand."
I might have replied impatiently; now I wiped my tear-swollen face
and meekly obeyed the summons. Together Habu and I set out for a
distant market place in the Bengali section of Benares. The ungentle
Indian sun was not yet at zenith as we made our purchases in the
bazaars. We pushed our way through the colorful medley of housewives,
guides, priests, simply-clad widows, dignified Brahmins, and the
ubiquitous holy bulls. Passing an inconspicuous lane, I turned my
head and surveyed the narrow length.
man in the ocher robes of a swami stood motionless at the end of
the road. Instantly and anciently familiar he seemed; my gaze fed
hungrily for a trice. Then doubt assailed me.
confusing this wandering monk with someone known to you," I
thought. "Dreamer, walk on."
After ten minutes,
I felt heavy numbness in my feet. As though turned to stone, they
were unable to carry me farther. Laboriously I turned around; my
feet regained normalcy. I faced the opposite direction; again the
curious weight oppressed me.
is magnetically drawing me to him!" With this thought, I heaped
my parcels into the arms of Habu. He had been observing my erratic
footwork with amazement, and now burst into laughter.
you? Are you crazy?"
emotion prevented any retort; I sped silently away.
my steps as though wing-shod, I reached the narrow lane. My quick
glance revealed the quiet figure, steadily gazing in my direction.
A few eager steps and I was at his feet.
"Gurudeva!"7 The divine face was none other than he of my thousand visions.
These halcyon eyes, in leonine head with pointed beard and flowing
locks, had oft peered through gloom of my nocturnal reveries, holding
a promise I had not fully understood.
"O my own,
you have come to me!" My guru uttered the words again and again
in Bengali, his voice tremulous with joy. "How many years I
have waited for you!"
We entered a
oneness of silence; words seemed the rankest superfluities. Eloquence
flowed in soundless chant from heart of master to disciple. With
an antenna of irrefragable insight I sensed that my guru knew God,
and would lead me to Him. The obscuration of this life disappeared
in a fragile dawn of prenatal memories. Dramatic time! Past, present,
and future are its cycling scenes. This was not the first sun to
find me at these holy feet!
My hand in his,
my guru led me to his temporary residence in the Rana Mahal section
of the city. His athletic figure moved with firm tread. Tall, erect,
about fifty-five at this time, he was active and vigorous as a young
man. His dark eyes were large, beautiful with plumbless wisdom.
Slightly curly hair softened a face of striking power. Strength
mingled subtly with gentleness.
As we made our
way to the stone balcony of a house overlooking the Ganges, he said
give you my hermitages and all I possess."
come for wisdom and God-contact. Those are your treasure-troves
I am after!"
The swift Indian
twilight had dropped its half-curtain before my master spoke again.
His eyes held unfathomable tenderness.
you my unconditional love."
A quarter-century elapsed before I had another auricular proof of
his love. His lips were strange to ardor; silence became his oceanic
give me the same unconditional love?" He gazed at me with childlike
love you eternally, Gurudeva!"
love is selfish, darkly rooted in desires and satisfactions. Divine
love is without condition, without boundary, without change. The
flux of the human heart is gone forever at the transfixing touch
of pure love." He added humbly, "If ever you find me falling
from a state of God-realization, please promise to put my head on
your lap and help to bring me back to the Cosmic Beloved we both
He rose then
in the gathering darkness and guided me to an inner room. As we
ate mangoes and almond sweetmeats, he unobtrusively wove into his
conversation an intimate knowledge of my nature. I was awe-struck
at the grandeur of his wisdom, exquisitely blended with an innate
grieve for your amulet. It has served its purpose." Like a
divine mirror, my guru apparently had caught a reflection of my
reality of your presence, Master, is joy beyond any symbol."
time for a change, inasmuch as you are unhappily situated in the
I had made no
references to my life; they now seemed superfluous! By his natural,
unemphatic manner, I understood that he wished no astonished ejaculations
at his clairvoyance.
go back to Calcutta. Why exclude relatives from your love of humanity?"
dismayed me. My family was predicting my return, though I had been
unresponsive to many pleas by letter. "Let the young bird fly
in the metaphysical skies," Ananta had remarked. "His
wings will tire in the heavy atmosphere. We shall yet see him swoop
toward home, fold his pinions, and humbly rest in our family nest."
This discouraging simile fresh in my mind, I was determined to do
no "swooping" in the direction of Calcutta.
am not returning home. But I will follow you anywhere. Please give
me your address, and your name."
Sri Yukteswar Giri. My chief hermitage is in Serampore, on Rai Ghat
Lane. I am visiting my mother here for only a few days."
I wondered at
God's intricate play with His devotees. Serampore is but twelve
miles from Calcutta, yet in those regions I had never caught a glimpse
of my guru. We had had to travel for our meeting to the ancient
city of Kasi (Benares), hallowed by memories of Lahiri Mahasaya.
Here too the feet of Buddha, Shankaracharya and other Yogi-Christs
had blessed the soil.
come to me in four weeks." For the first time, Sri Yukteswar's
voice was stern. "Now I have told my eternal affection, and
have shown my happiness at finding you --- that is why you disregard
my request. The next time we meet, you will have to reawaken my
interest: I won't accept you as a disciple easily. There must be
complete surrender by obedience to my strict training."
I remained obstinately
silent. My guru easily penetrated my difficulty.
think your relatives will laugh at you?"
return in thirty days."
Bowing reverently at his feet, I departed without lightening the
controversial tension. As I made my way in the midnight darkness,
I wondered why the miraculous meeting had ended on an inharmonious
note. The dual scales of maya, that balance every joy with
a grief! My young heart was not yet malleable to the transforming
fingers of my guru.
The next morning
I noticed increased hostility in the attitude of the hermitage members.
My days became spiked with invariable rudeness. In three weeks,
Dyananda left the ashram to attend a conference in Bombay; pandemonium
broke over my hapless head.
is a parasite, accepting hermitage hospitality without making proper
return." Overhearing this remark, I regretted for the first
time that I had obeyed the request to send back my money to Father.
With heavy heart, I sought out my sole friend, Jitendra.
leaving. Please convey my respectful regrets to Dyanandaji when
leave also! My attempts to meditate here meet with no more favor
than your own." Jitendra spoke with determination.
met a Christlike saint. Let us visit him in Serampore."
And so the "bird"
prepared to "swoop" perilously close to Calcutta!
Sanskrita, polished; complete. Sanskrit is the eldest sister of
all Indo-European tongues. Its alphabetical script is Devanagari,
literally "divine abode." "Who knows my grammar knows
God!" Panini, great philologist of ancient India, paid this
tribute to the mathematical and psychological perfection in Sanskrit.
He who would track language to its lair must indeed end as omniscient.
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He was not Jatinda (Jotin Ghosh), who will be remembered for his
timely aversion to tigers!
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Path or preliminary road to God.
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Hindu scriptures teach that family attachment is delusive if it
prevents the devotee from seeking the Giver of all boons, including
the one of loving relatives, not to mention life itself. Jesus similarly
taught: "Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?" (Matthew
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Ji is a customary respectful suffix, particularly used in direct
address; thus "swamiji," "guruji," "Sri
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Pertaining to the shastras, literally, "sacred books,"
comprising four classes of scripture: the shruti, smriti, purana,
and tantra. These comprehensive treatises cover every aspect of
religious and social life, and the fields of law, medicine, architecture,
art, etc. The shrutis are the "directly heard" or "revealed"
scriptures, the Vedas. The smritis or "remembered" lore
was finally written down in a remote past as the world's longest
epic poems, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Puranas are literally
"ancient" allegories; tantras literally mean "rites"
or "rituals"; these treatises convey profound truths under
a veil of detailed symbolism.
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"Divine teacher," the customary Sanskrit term for one's
spiritual preceptor. I have rendered it in English as simply "Master."
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