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Two Penniless Boys in Brindaban
"It would serve you right if Father disinherited you, Mukunda!
How foolishly you are throwing away your life!" An elder-brother
sermon was assaulting my ears.
I, fresh from the train (a figure of speech merely; we were covered
with dust), had just arrived at the home of Ananta, recently transferred
from Calcutta to the ancient city of Agra. Brother was a supervising
accountant for the Bengal-Nagpur Railway.
know, Ananta, I seek my inheritance from the Heavenly Father."
first; God can come later! Who knows? Life may be too long."
first; money is His slave! Who can tell? Life may be too short."
retort was summoned by the exigencies of the moment, and held no
presentiment. Yet the leaves of time unfolded to early finality
for Ananta; a few years later1 he entered the land where bank notes avail neither first nor last.
from the hermitage, I suppose! But I see you have left Benares."
Ananta's eyes gleamed with satisfaction; he yet hoped to secure
my pinions in the family nest.
in Benares was not in vain! I found there everything my heart had
been longing for! You may be sure it was not your pundit or his
me in reminiscent laughter; he had had to admit that the Benares
"clairvoyant" he selected was a shortsighted one.
are your plans, my wandering brother?"
persuaded me to Agra. We shall view the beauties of the Taj Mahal2 here," I explained. "Then we are going to my newly-found
guru, who has a hermitage in Serampore."
arranged for our comfort. Several times during the evening I noticed
his eyes fixed on me reflectively.
that look!" I thought. "A plot is brewing!"
took place during our early breakfast.
feel quite independent of Father's wealth." Ananta's gaze was
innocent as he resumed the barbs of yesterday's conversation.
"I am conscious
of my dependence on God."
are cheap! Life has shielded you thus far! What a plight if you
were forced to look to the Invisible Hand for your food and shelter!
You would soon be begging on the streets!"
I would not put faith in passers-by rather than God! He can devise
for His devotee a thousand resources besides the begging-bowl!"
Suppose I suggest that your vaunted philosophy be put to a test
in this tangible world?"
agree! Do you confine God to a speculative world?"
see; today you shall have opportunity either to enlarge or to confirm
my own views!" Ananta paused for a dramatic moment; then spoke
slowly and seriously.
that I send you and your fellow disciple Jitendra this morning to
the near-by city of Brindaban. You must not take a single rupee;
you must not beg, either for food or money; you must not reveal
your predicament to anyone; you must not go without your meals;
and you must not be stranded in Brindaban. If you return to my bungalow
here before twelve o'clock tonight, without having broken any rule
of the test, I shall be the most astonished man in Agra!"
accept the challenge." No hesitation was in my words or in
my heart. Grateful memories flashed of the Instant Beneficence:
my healing of deadly cholera through appeal to Lahiri Mahasaya's
picture; the playful gift of the two kites on the Lahore roof with
Uma; the opportune amulet amidst my discouragement; the decisive
message through the unknown Benares sadhu outside the compound
of the pundit's home; the vision of Divine Mother and Her majestic
words of love; Her swift heed through Master Mahasaya to my trifling
embarrassments; the last-minute guidance which materialized my high
school diploma; and the ultimate boon, my living Master from the
mist of lifelong dreams. Never could I admit my "philosophy"
unequal to any tussle on the world's harsh proving ground!
does you credit. I'll escort you to the train at once." Ananta
turned to the openmouthed Jitendra. "You must go along as a
witness and, very likely, a fellow victim!"
A half hour later Jitendra and I were
in possession of one-way tickets for our impromptu trip. We submitted,
in a secluded corner of the station, to a search of our persons.
Ananta was quickly satisfied that we were carrying no hidden hoard;
our simple dhotis3 concealed
nothing more than was necessary.
As faith invaded
the serious realms of finance, my friend spoke protestingly. "Ananta,
give me one or two rupees as a safeguard. Then I can telegraph you
in case of misfortune."
My ejaculation was sharply reproachful. "I will not proceed
with the test if you take any money as final security."
is something reassuring about the clink of coins." Jitendra
said no more as I regarded him sternly.
I am not heartless." A hint of humility had crept into Ananta's
voice. It may be that his conscience was smiting him; perhaps for
sending two insolvent boys to a strange city; perhaps for his own
religious skepticism. "If by any chance or grace you pass successfully
through the Brindaban ordeal, I shall ask you to initiate me as
had a certain irregularity, in keeping with the unconventional occasion.
The eldest brother in an Indian family seldom bows before his juniors;
he receives respect and obedience second only to a father. But no
time remained for my comment; our train was at point of departure.
a lugubrious silence as our train covered the miles. Finally he
bestirred himself; leaning over, he pinched me painfully at an awkward
no sign that God is going to supply our next meal!"
doubting Thomas; the Lord is working with us."
you also arrange that He hurry? Already I am famished merely at
the prospect before us. I left Benares to view the Taj's mausoleum,
not to enter my own!"
up, Jitendra! Are we not to have our first glimpse of the sacred
wonders of Brindaban?4 I am
in deep joy at thought of treading the ground hallowed by feet of
The door of
our compartment opened; two men seated themselves. The next train
stop would be the last.
lads, do you have friends in Brindaban?" The stranger opposite
me was taking a surprising interest.
of your business!" Rudely I averted my gaze.
are probably flying away from your families under the enchantment
of the Stealer of Hearts.5 I
am of devotional temperament myself. I will make it my positive
duty to see that you receive food, and shelter from this overpowering
let us alone. You are very kind; but you are mistaken in judging
us to be truants from home."
No further conversation
ensued; the train came to a halt. As Jitendra and I descended to
the platform, our chance companions linked arms with us and summoned
a horse cab.
We alit before
a stately hermitage, set amidst the evergreen trees of well-kept
grounds. Our benefactors were evidently known here; a smiling lad
led us without comment to a parlor. We were soon joined by an elderly
woman of dignified bearing.
Ma, the princes could not come." One of the men addressed the
ashram hostess. "At the last moment their plans went awry;
they send deep regrets. But we have brought two other guests. As
soon as we met on the train, I felt drawn to them as devotees of
young friends." Our two acquaintances walked to the door. "We
shall meet again, if God be willing."
welcome here." Gauri Ma smiled in motherly fashion on her two
unexpected charges. "You could not have come on a better day.
I was expecting two royal patrons of this hermitage. What a shame
if my cooking had found none to appreciate it!"
words had disastrous effect on Jitendra: he burst into tears. The
"prospect" he had feared in Brindaban was turning out
as royal entertainment; his sudden mental adjustment proved too
much for him. Our hostess looked at him with curiosity, but without
remark; perhaps she was familiar with adolescent quirks.
Lunch was announced;
Gauri Ma led the way to a dining patio, spicy with savory odors.
She vanished into an adjoining kitchen.
I had been premeditating
this moment. Selecting the appropriate spot on Jitendra's anatomy,
I administered a pinch as resounding as the one he had given me
on the train.
Thomas, the Lord works --- in a hurry, too!"
hostess reentered with a punkha. She steadily fanned us in
the Oriental fashion as we squatted on ornate blanket-seats. Ashram
disciples passed to and fro with some thirty courses. Rather than
"meal," the description can only be "sumptuous repast."
Since arriving on this planet, Jitendra and I had never before tasted
fit for princes indeed, Honored Mother! What your royal patrons
could have found more urgent than attending this banquet, I cannot
imagine! You have given us a memory for a lifetime!"
we were by Ananta's requirement, we could not explain to the gracious
lady that our thanks held a double significance. Our sincerity at
least was patent. We departed with her blessing and an attractive
invitation to revisit the hermitage.
The heat outdoors
was merciless. My friend and I made for the shelter of a lordly
cadamba tree at the ashram gate. Sharp words followed; once again
Jitendra was beset with misgivings.
mess you have got me into! Our luncheon was only accidental good
fortune! How can we see the sights of this city, without a single
pice between us? And how on earth are you going to take me back
God quickly, now that your stomach is filled." My words, not
bitter, were accusatory. How short is human memory for divine favors!
No man lives who has not seen certain of his prayers granted.
not likely to forget my folly in venturing out with a madcap like
Jitendra! The same Lord who fed us will show us Brindaban, and return
us to Agra."
A slight young
man of pleasing countenance approached at rapid pace. Halting under
our tree, he bowed before me.
you and your companion must be strangers here. Permit me to be your
host and guide."
It is scarcely
possible for an Indian to pale, but Jitendra's face was suddenly
sickly. I politely declined the offer.
surely not banishing me?" The stranger's alarm would have been
comic in any other circumstances.
my guru." His eyes sought mine trustfully. "During my
midday devotions, the blessed Lord Krishna appeared in a vision.
He showed me two forsaken figures under this very tree. One face
was yours, my master! Often have I seen it in meditation! What joy
if you accept my humble services!"
am glad you have found me. Neither God nor man has forsaken us!"
Though I was motionless, smiling at the eager face before me, an
inward obeisance cast me at the Divine Feet.
will you not honor my home for a visit?"
kind; but the plan is unfeasible. Already we are guests of my brother
give me memories of touring Brindaban with you."
gladly consented. The young man, who said his name was Pratap Chatterji,
hailed a horse carriage. We visited Madanamohana Temple and other
Krishna shrines. Night descended while we were at our temple devotions.
me while I get sandesh." 6 Pratap entered a shop near the railroad station. Jitendra and I
sauntered along the wide street, crowded now in the comparative
coolness. Our friend was absent for some time, but finally returned
with gifts of many sweetmeats.
allow me to gain this religious merit." Pratap smiled pleadingly
as he held out a bundle of rupee notes and two tickets, just purchased,
of my acceptance was for the Invisible Hand. Scoffed at by Ananta,
had Its bounty not far exceeded necessity?
sought out a secluded spot near the station.
I will instruct you in the Kriya of Lahiri Mahasaya, the
greatest yogi of modern times. His technique will be your guru."
initiation was concluded in a half hour. "Kriya is your chintamani,"7 I told the new
student. "The technique, which as you see is simple, embodies
the art of quickening man's spiritual evolution. Hindu scriptures
teach that the incarnating ego requires a million years to obtain
liberation from maya. This natural period is greatly shortened
through Kriya Yoga. Just as Jagadis Chandra Bose has demonstrated
that plant growth can be accelerated far beyond its normal rate,
so man's psychological development can be also speeded by an inner
science. Be faithful in your practice; you will approach the Guru
of all gurus."
"I am transported
to find this yogic key, long sought!" Pratap spoke thoughtfully.
"Its unshackling effect on my sensory bonds will free me for
higher spheres. The vision today of Lord Krishna could only mean
my highest good."
We sat awhile
in silent understanding, then walked slowly to the station. Joy
was within me as I boarded the train, but this was Jitendra's day
for tears. My affectionate farewell to Pratap had been punctuated
by stifled sobs from both my companions. The journey once more found
Jitendra in a welter of grief. Not for himself this time, but against
my trust! My heart has been stone! Never in future shall I doubt
approaching. The two "Cinderellas," sent forth penniless,
entered Ananta's bedroom. His face, as he had promised, was a study
in astonishment. Silently I showered the table with rupees.
the truth!" Ananta's tone was jocular. "Has not this youngster
been staging a holdup?"
But as the
tale was unfolded, my brother turned sober, then solemn.
law of demand and supply reaches into subtler realms than I had
supposed." Ananta spoke with a spiritual enthusiasm never before
noticeable. "I understand for the first time your indifference
to the vaults and vulgar accumulations of the world."
as it was, my brother insisted that he receive diksha 8 into Kriya Yoga. The "guru" Mukunda had to shoulder
the responsibility of two unsought disciples in one day.
following morning was eaten in a harmony absent the day before.
I smiled at Jitendra.
not be cheated of the Taj. Let us view it before starting for Serampore."
to Ananta, my friend and I were soon before the glory of Agra, the
Taj Mahal. White marble dazzling in the sun, it stands a vision
of pure symmetry. The perfect setting is dark cypress, glossy lawn,
and tranquil lagoon. The interior is exquisite with lacelike carvings
inlaid with semiprecious stones. Delicate wreaths and scrolls emerge
intricately from marbles, brown and violet. Illumination from the
dome falls on the cenotaphs of Emperor Shah-Jahan and Mumtaz Mahall,
queen of his realm and his heart.
Enough of sight-seeing!
I was longing for my guru. Jitendra and I were shortly traveling
south by train toward Bengal.
I have not seen my family in months. I have changed my mind; perhaps
later I shall visit your master in Serampore."
My friend, who
may mildly be described as vacillating in temperament, left me in
Calcutta. By local train I soon reached Serampore, twelve miles
to the north.
A throb of wonderment stole over me as I realized that twenty-eight
days had elapsed since the Benares meeting with my guru. "You
will come to me in four weeks!" Here I was, heart pounding,
standing within his courtyard on quiet Rai Ghat Lane. I entered
for the first time the hermitage where I was to spend the best part
of the next ten years with India's Jyanavatar, "incarnation
See chapter 25.
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The world-famous mausoleum.
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A dhoti-cloth is knotted around the waist and covers the legs.
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Brindaban, in the Muttra district of United Provinces, is the Hindu
Jerusalem. Here Lord Krishna displayed his glories for the benefit
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Hari; an endearing name by which Lord Krishna is known to his devotees.
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An Indian sweetmeat.
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A mythological gem with power to grant desires.
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Spiritual initiation; from the Sanskrit root diksh, to dedicate
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