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A Mohammedan Wonder-Worker
ago, right in this very room you now occupy, a Mohammedan wonder-worker
performed four miracles before me!"
Yukteswar made this surprising statement during his first visit
to my new quarters. Immediately after entering Serampore College,
I had taken a room in a near-by boardinghouse, called Panthi. It was an old-fashioned brick mansion, fronting the Ganges.
what a coincidence! Are these newly decorated walls really ancient
with memories?" I looked around my simply furnished room with
is a long story." My guru smiled reminiscently. "The name
of the fakir1 was Afzal Khan.
He had acquired his extraordinary powers through a chance encounter
with a Hindu yogi.
I am thirsty; fetch me some water.' A dust-covered sannyasi made this request of Afzal one day during his early boyhood in a
small village of eastern Bengal.
I am a Mohammedan. How could you, a Hindu, accept a drink from my
truthfulness pleases me, my child. I do not observe the ostracizing
rules of ungodly sectarianism. Go; bring me water quickly.'
reverent obedience was rewarded by a loving glance from the yogi.
good karma from former lives,' he observed solemnly. 'I am going
to teach you a certain yoga method which will give you command over
one of the invisible realms. The great powers that will be yours
should be exercised for worthy ends; never employ them selfishly!
I perceive, alas! that you have brought over from the past some
seeds of destructive tendencies. Do not allow them to sprout by
watering them with fresh evil actions. The complexity of your previous
karma is such that you must use this life to reconcile your yogic
accomplishments with the highest humanitarian goals.'
instructing the amazed boy in a complicated technique, the master
faithfully followed his yoga exercise for twenty years. His miraculous
feats began to attract widespread attention. It seems that he was
always accompanied by a disembodied spirit whom he called 'Hazrat.'
This invisible entity was able to fulfill the fakir's slightest
his master's warning, Afzal began to misuse his powers. Whatever
object he touched and then replaced would soon disappear without
a trace. This disconcerting eventuality usually made the Mohammedan
an objectionable guest!
large jewelry stores in Calcutta from time to time, representing
himself as a possible purchaser. Any jewel he handled would vanish
shortly after he had left the shop.
was often surrounded by several hundred students, attracted by the
hope of learning his secrets. The fakir occasionally invited
them to travel with him. At the railway station he would manage
to touch a roll of tickets. These he would return to the clerk,
remarking: 'I have changed my mind, and won't buy them now.' But
when he boarded the train with his retinue, Afzal would be in possession
of the required tickets. 2
exploits created an indignant uproar; Bengali jewelers and ticket-sellers
were succumbing to nervous breakdowns! The police who sought to
arrest Afzal found themselves helpless; the fakir could remove
incriminating evidence merely by saying: 'Hazrat, take this away.'"
rose from his seat and walked to the balcony of my room which overlooked
the Ganges. I followed him, eager to hear more of the baffling Mohammedan
"This Panthi house formerly belonged to a friend of mine. He became
acquainted with Afzal and asked him here. My friend also invited
about twenty neighbors, including myself. I was only a youth then,
and felt a lively curiosity about the notorious fakir."
Master laughed. "I took the precaution of not wearing anything
valuable! Afzal looked me over inquisitively, then remarked:
powerful hands. Go downstairs to the garden; get a smooth stone
and write your name on it with chalk; then throw the stone as far
as possible into the Ganges.'
As soon as the stone had vanished under distant waves, the Mohammedan
addressed me again:
a pot with Ganges water near the front of this house.'
I had returned with a vessel of water, the fakir cried, 'Hazrat,
put the stone in the pot!'
stone appeared at once. I pulled it from the vessel and found my
signature as legible as when I had written it.
"Babu,3 one of my friends
in the room, was wearing a heavy antique gold watch and chain. The fakir examined them with ominous admiration. Soon they were
please return my prized heirloom!' Babu was nearly in tears.
was stoically silent for awhile, then said, 'You have five hundred
rupees in an iron safe. Bring them to me, and I will tell you where
to locate your timepiece.'
Babu left immediately for his home. He came back shortly and handed
Afzal the required sum.
to the little bridge near your house,' the fakir instructed
Babu. 'Call on Hazrat to give you the watch and chain.'
away. On his return, he was wearing a smile of relief and no jewelry
I commanded Hazrat as directed,' he announced, 'my watch came tumbling
down from the air into my right hand! You may be sure I locked the
heirloom in my safe before rejoining the group here!'
friends, witnesses of the comicotragedy of the ransom for a watch,
were staring with resentment at Afzal. He now spoke placatingly.
name any drink you want; Hazrat will produce it.'
asked for milk, others for fruit juices. I was not too much shocked
when the unnerved Babu requested whisky! The Mohammedan gave an
order; the obliging Hazrat sent sealed containers sailing down the
air and thudding to the floor. Each man found his desired beverage.
of the fourth spectacular feat of the day was doubtless gratifying
to our host: Afzal offered to supply an instantaneous lunch!
order the most expensive dishes,' Babu suggested gloomily. 'I want
an elaborate meal for my five hundred rupees! Everything should
be served on gold plates!'
soon as each man had expressed his preferences, the fakir addressed himself to the inexhaustible Hazrat. A great rattle ensued;
gold platters filled with intricately-prepared curries, hot luchis, and many out-of-season fruits, landed from nowhere at our feet.
All the food was delicious. After feasting for an hour, we started
to leave the room. A tremendous noise, as though dishes were being
piled up, caused us to turn around. Lo! there was no sign of the
glittering plates or the remnants of the meal."
I interrupted, "if Afzal could easily secure such things as
gold dishes, why did he covet the property of others?"
"The fakir was not highly developed spiritually," Sri Yukteswar
explained. "His mastery of a certain yoga technique gave him
access to an astral plane where any desire is immediately materialized.
Through the agency of an astral being, Hazrat, the Mohammedan could
summon the atoms of any object from etheric energy by an act of
powerful will. But such astrally-produced objects are structurally
evanescent; they cannot be long retained. Afzal still yearned for
worldly wealth which, though more hardly earned, has a more dependable
I laughed. "It
too sometimes vanishes most unaccountably!"
was not a man of God-realization," Master went on. "Miracles
of a permanent and beneficial nature are performed by true saints
because they have attuned themselves to the omnipotent Creator.
Afzal was merely an ordinary man with an extraordinary power of
penetrating a subtle realm not usually entered by mortals until
now, Guruji. The after-world appears to have some charming features."
"I never saw Afzal after that day, but a few years later Babu
came to my home to show me a newspaper account of the Mohammedan's
public confession. From it I learned the facts I have just told
you about Afzal's early initiation from a Hindu guru."
The gist of
the latter part of the published document, as recalled by Sri Yukteswar,
was as follows: "I, Afzal Khan, am writing these words as an
act of penance and as a warning to those who seek the possession
of miraculous powers. For years I have been misusing the wondrous
abilities imparted to me through the grace of God and my master.
I became drunk with egotism, feeling that I was beyond the ordinary
laws of morality. My day of reckoning finally arrived.
I met an old man on a road outside Calcutta. He limped along painfully,
carrying a shining object which looked like gold. I addressed him
with greed in my heart.
am Afzal Khan, the great fakir. What have you there?'
ball of gold is my sole material wealth; it can be of no interest
to a fakir. I implore you, sir, to heal my limp.'
the ball and walked away without reply. The old man hobbled after
me. He soon raised an outcry: 'My gold is gone!'
"As I paid
no attention, he suddenly spoke in a stentorian voice that issued
oddly from his frail body:
not recognize me?'
speechless, aghast at the belated discovery that this unimpressive
old cripple was none other than the great saint who, long, long
ago, had initiated me into yoga. He straightened himself; his body
instantly became strong and youthful.
My guru's glance was fiery. 'I see with my own eyes that you use
your powers, not to help suffering humanity, but to prey on it like
a common thief! I withdraw your occult gifts; Hazrat is now freed
from you. No longer shall you be a terror in Bengal!'
on Hazrat in anguished tones; for the first time, he did not appear
to my inner sight. But some dark veil suddenly lifted within me;
I saw clearly the blasphemy of my life.
I thank you for coming to banish my long delusion.' I was sobbing
at his feet. 'I promise to forsake my worldly ambitions. I will
retire to the mountains for lonely meditation on God, hoping to
atone for my evil past.'
regarded me with silent compassion. 'I feel your sincerity,' he
said finally. 'Because of your earlier years of strict obedience,
and because of your present repentance, I will grant you one boon.
Your other powers are now gone, but whenever food and clothing are
needed, you may still call successfully on Hazrat to supply them.
Devote yourself wholeheartedly to divine understanding in the mountain
then vanished; I was left to my tears and reflections. Farewell,
world! I go to seek the forgiveness of the Cosmic Beloved."
A Moslem yogi; from the Arabic faqir, poor; originally applied to
dervishes under a vow of poverty.
Back to text
My father later told me that his company, the Bengal-Nagpur Railway,
had been one of the firms victimized by Afzal Khan.
Back to text
I do not recall the name of Sri Yukteswar's friend, and must refer
to him simply as "Babu" (Mister).
Back to text
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