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We Visit Kashmir
strong enough now to travel. I will accompany you to Kashmir,"
Sri Yukteswar informed me two days after my miraculous recovery from
our party of six entrained for the north. Our first leisurely stop
was at Simla, a queenly city resting on the throne of Himalayan
hills. We strolled over the steep streets, admiring the magnificent
strawberries for sale," cried an old woman, squatting in a
picturesque open market place.
Master was curious
about the strange little red fruits. He bought a basketful and offered
it to Kanai and myself, who were near-by. I tasted one berry but
spat it hastily on the ground.
a sour fruit! I could never like strawberries!"
My guru laughed.
"Oh, you will like them --- in America. At a dinner there, your
hostess will serve them with sugar and cream. After she has mashed
the berries with a fork, you will taste them and say: 'What delicious
strawberries!' Then you will remember this day in Simla."
forecast vanished from my mind, but reappeared there many years
later, shortly after my arrival in America. I was a dinner guest
at the home of Mrs. Alice T. Hasey (Sister Yogmata) in West Somerville,
Massachusetts. When a dessert of strawberries was put on the table,
my hostess picked up her fork and mashed my berries, adding cream
and sugar. "The fruit is rather tart; I think you will like
it fixed this way," she remarked.
I took a mouthful.
"What delicious strawberries!" I exclaimed. At once my
guru's prediction in Simla emerged from the fathomless cave of memory.
It was staggering to realize that long ago Sri Yukteswar's God-tuned
mind had sensitively detected the program of karmic events wandering
in the ether of futurity.
Our party soon
left Simla and entrained for Rawalpindi. There we hired a large
landau, drawn by two horses, in which we started a seven-day trip
to Srinagar, capital city of Kashmir. The second day of our northbound
journey brought into view the true Himalayan vastness. As the iron
wheels of our carriage creaked along the hot, stony roads, we were
enraptured with changing vistas of mountainous grandeur.
Auddy said to Master, "I am greatly enjoying these glorious
scenes in your holy company."
I felt a throb
of pleasure at Auddy's appreciation, for I was acting as host on
this trip. Sri Yukteswar caught my thought; he turned to me and
flatter yourself; Auddy is not nearly as entranced with the scenery
as he is with the prospect of leaving us long enough to have
was shocked. "Sir," I said in an undertone, "please
do not break our harmony by these unpleasant words. I can hardly
believe that Auddy is hankering for a smoke."1 I looked apprehensively
at my usually irrepressible guru.
I won't say anything to Auddy." Master chuckled. "But
you will soon see, when the landau halts, that Auddy is quick to
seize his opportunity."
arrived at a small caravanserai. As our horses were led to be watered,
Auddy inquired, "Sir, do you mind if I ride awhile with the
driver? I would like to get a little outside air."
gave permission, but remarked to me, "He wants fresh smoke
and not fresh air."
The landau resumed
its noisy progress over the dusty roads. Master's eyes were twinkling;
he instructed me, "Crane up your neck through the carriage
door and see what Auddy is doing with the air."
I obeyed, and
was astounded to observe Auddy in the act of exhaling rings of cigaret
smoke. My glance toward Sri Yukteswar was apologetic.
right, as always, sir. Auddy is enjoying a puff along with a panorama."
I surmised that my friend had received a gift from the cab driver;
I knew Auddy had not carried any cigarets from Calcutta.
on the labyrinthine way, adorned by views of rivers, valleys, precipitous
crags, and multitudinous mountain tiers. Every night we stopped
at rustic inns, and prepared our own food. Sri Yukteswar took special
care of my diet, insisting that I have lime juice at all meals.
I was still weak, but daily improving, though the rattling carriage
was strictly designed for discomfort.
filled our hearts as we neared central Kashmir, paradise land of
lotus lakes, floating gardens, gaily canopied houseboats, the many-bridged
Jhelum River, and flower-strewn pastures, all ringed round by the
Himalayan majesty. Our approach to Srinagar was through an avenue
of tall, welcoming trees. We engaged rooms at a double-storied inn
overlooking the noble hills. No running water was available; we
drew our supply from a near-by well. The summer weather was ideal,
with warm days and slightly cold nights.
We made a pilgrimage
to the ancient Srinagar temple of Swami Shankara. As I gazed upon
the mountain-peak hermitage, standing bold against the sky, I fell
into an ecstatic trance. A vision appeared of a hilltop mansion
in a distant land. The lofty Shankara ashram before me was transformed
into the structure where, years later, I established the Self-Realization
Fellowship headquarters in America. When I first visited Los Angeles,
and saw the large building on the crest of Mount Washington, I recognized
it at once from my long-past visions in Kashmir and elsewhere.
A few days at
Srinagar; then on to Gulmarg ("mountain paths of flowers"),
elevated by six thousand feet. There I had my first ride on a large
horse. Rajendra mounted a small trotter, whose heart was fired with
ambition for speed. We ventured onto the very steep Khilanmarg;
the path led through a dense forest, abounding in tree-mushrooms,
where the mist-shrouded trails were often precarious. But Rajendra's
little animal never permitted my oversized steed a moment's rest,
even at the most perilous turns. On, on, untiringly came Rajendra's
horse, oblivious to all but the joy of competition.
race was rewarded by a breath-taking view. For the first time in
this life, I gazed in all directions at sublime snow-capped Himalayas,
lying tier upon tier like silhouettes of huge polar bears. My eyes
feasted exultingly on endless reaches of icy mountains against sunny
I rolled merrily
with my young companions, all wearing overcoats, on the sparkling
white slopes. On our downward trip we saw afar a vast carpet of
yellow flowers, wholly transfiguring the bleak hills.
next excursions were to the famous royal "pleasure gardens"
of the Emperor Jehangir, at Shalimar and Nishat Bagh. The ancient
palace at Nishat Bagh is built directly over a natural waterfall.
Rushing down from the mountains, the torrent has been regulated
through ingenious contrivances to flow over colorful terraces and
to gush into fountains amidst the dazzling flower-beds. The stream
also enters several of the palace rooms, ultimately dropping fairy
like into the lake below. The immense gardens are riotous with color ---
roses of a dozen hues, snapdragons, lavender, pansies, poppies.
An emerald enclosing outline is given by symmetrical rows of chinars,2 cypresses, cherry trees; beyond them tower the white austerities
of the Himalayas.
are considered a rare delicacy in Calcutta. Rajendra, who had been
promising himself a veritable feast on reaching Kashmir, was disappointed
to find there no large vineyards. Now and then I chaffed him jocosely
over his baseless anticipation.
I have become so much gorged with grapes I can't walk!" I would
say. "The invisible grapes are brewing within me!" Later
I heard that sweet grapes grow abundantly in Kabul, west of Kashmir.
We consoled ourselves with ice cream made of rabri, a heavily
condensed milk, and flavored with whole pistachio nuts.
took several trips in the shikaras or houseboats, shaded
by red-embroidered canopies, coursing along the intricate channels
of Dal Lake, a network of canals like a watery spider web. Here
the numerous floating gardens, crudely improvised with logs and
earth, strike one with amazement, so incongruous is the first sight
of vegetables and melons growing in the midst of vast waters. Occasionally
one sees a peasant, disdaining to be "rooted to the soil,"
towing his square plot of "land" to a new location in
the many-fingered lake.
In this storied
vale one finds an epitome of all the earth's beauties. The Lady
of Kashmir is mountain-crowned, lake-garlanded, and flower-shod.
In later years, after I had toured many distant lands, I understood
why Kashmir is often called the world's most scenic spot. It possesses
some of the charms of the Swiss Alps, and of Loch Lomond in Scotland,
and of the exquisite English lakes. An American traveler in Kashmir
finds much to remind him of the rugged grandeur of Alaska and of
Pikes Peak near Denver.
As entries in
a scenic beauty contest, I offer for first prize either the gorgeous
view of Xochimilco in Mexico, where mountains, skies, and poplars
reflect themselves in myriad lanes of water amidst the playful fish,
or the jewel-like lakes of Kashmir, guarded like beautiful maidens
by the stern surveillance of the Himalayas. These two places stand
out in my memory as the loveliest spots on earth.
Yet I was awed
also when I first beheld the wonders of Yellowstone National Park
and of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, and of Alaska. Yellowstone
Park is perhaps the only region where one can see innumerable geysers
shooting high into the air, performing year after year with clockwork
regularity. Its opal and sapphire pools and hot sulphurous springs,
its bears and wild creatures, remind one that here Nature left a
specimen of her earliest creation. Motoring along the roads of Wyoming
to the "Devil's Paint Pot" of hot bubbling mud, with gurgling
springs, vaporous fountains, and spouting geysers in all directions,
I was disposed to say that Yellowstone deserves a special prize
majestic redwoods of Yosemite, stretching their huge columns far
into the unfathomable sky, are green natural cathedrals designed
with skill divine. Though there are wonderful falls in the Orient,
none match the torrential beauty of Niagara near the Canadian border.
The Mammoth Caves of Kentucky and the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico,
with colorful iciclelike formations, are stunning fairylands. Their
long needles of stalactite spires, hanging from cave ceilings and
mirrored in underground waters, present a glimpse of other worlds
as fancied by man.
Most of the
Hindus of Kashmir, world-famed for their beauty, are as white as
Europeans and have similar features and bone structure; many have
blue eyes and blonde hair. Dressed in Western clothes, they look
like Americans. The cold Himalayas protect the Kashmiris from the
sultry sun and preserve their light complexions. As one travels
to the southern and tropical latitudes of India, he finds progressively
that the people become darker and darker.
happy weeks in Kashmir, I was forced to return to Bengal for the
fall term of Serampore College. Sri Yukteswar remained in Srinagar,
with Kanai and Auddy. Before I departed, Master hinted that his
body would be subject to suffering in Kashmir.
look a picture of health," I protested.
is a chance that I may even leave this earth."
I fell at his feet with an imploring gesture. "Please promise
that you won't leave your body now. I am utterly unprepared to carry
on without you."
was silent, but smiled at me so compassionately that I felt reassured.
Reluctantly I left him.
dangerously ill." This telegram from Auddy reached me shortly
after my return to Serampore.
I wired my guru frantically, "I asked for your promise not
to leave me. Please keep your body; otherwise, I also shall die."
as you wish." This was Sri Yukteswar's reply from Kashmir.
A letter from
Auddy arrived in a few days, informing me that Master had recovered.
On his return to Serampore during the next fortnight, I was grieved
to find my guru's body reduced to half its usual weight.
for his disciples, Sri Yukteswar burned many of their sins in the
fire of his severe fever in Kashmir. The metaphysical method of
physical transfer of disease is known to highly advanced yogis.
A strong man can assist a weaker one by helping to carry his heavy
load; a spiritual superman is able to minimize his disciples' physical
or mental burdens by sharing the karma of their past actions. Just
as a rich man loses some money when he pays off a large debt for
his prodigal son, who is thus saved from dire consequences of his
own folly, so a master willingly sacrifices a portion of his bodily
wealth to lighten the misery of disciples. 3
By a secret
method, the yogi unites his mind and astral vehicle with those of
a suffering individual; the disease is conveyed, wholly or in part,
to the saint's body. Having harvested God on the physical field,
a master no longer cares what happens to that material form. Though
he may allow it to register a certain disease in order to relieve
others, his mind is never affected; he considers himself fortunate
in being able to render such aid.
who has achieved final salvation in the Lord finds that his body
has completely fulfilled its purpose; he can then use it in any
way he deems fit. His work in the world is to alleviate the sorrows
of mankind, whether through spiritual means or by intellectual counsel
or through will power or by the physical transfer of disease. Escaping
to the superconsciousness whenever he so desires, a master can remain
oblivious of physical suffering; sometimes he chooses to bear bodily
pain stoically, as an example to disciples. By putting on the ailments
of others, a yogi can satisfy, for them, the karmic law of cause
and effect. This law is mechanically or mathematically operative;
its workings can be scientifically manipulated by men of divine
spiritual law does not require a master to become ill whenever he
heals another person. Healings ordinarily take place through the
saint's knowledge of various methods of instantaneous cure in which
no hurt to the spiritual healer is involved. On rare occasions,
however, a master who wishes to greatly quicken his disciples' evolution
may then voluntarily work out on his own body a large measure of
their undesirable karma.
signified himself as a ransom for the sins of many. With his divine
powers,4 his body could never have been subjected to death by crucifixion
if he had not willingly cooperated with the subtle cosmic law of
cause and effect. He thus took on himself the consequences of others'
karma, especially that of his disciples. In this manner they were
highly purified and made fit to receive the omnipresent consciousness
which later descended on them.
Only a self-realized
master can transfer his life force, or convey into his own body
the diseases of others. An ordinary man cannot employ this yogic
method of cure, nor is it desirable that he should do so; for an
unsound physical instrument is a hindrance to God-meditation. The
Hindu scriptures teach that the first duty of man is to keep his
body in good condition; otherwise his mind is unable to remain fixed
in devotional concentration.
A very strong
mind, however, can transcend all physical difficulties and attain
to God-realization. Many saints have ignored illness and succeeded
in their divine quest. St. Francis of Assisi, severely afflicted
with ailments, healed others and even raised the dead.
I knew an Indian
saint, half of whose body was once festering with sores. His diabetic
condition was so acute that under ordinary conditions he could not
sit still at one time for more than fifteen minutes. But his spiritual
aspiration was undeterrable. "Lord," he prayed, "wilt
Thou come into my broken temple?" With ceaseless command of
will, the saint gradually became able to sit daily in the lotus
posture for eighteen continuous hours, engrossed in the ecstatic
he told me, "at the end of three years, I found the Infinite
Light blazing within my shattered form. Rejoicing in the joyful
splendour, I forgot the body. Later I saw that it had become whole
through the Divine Mercy."
healing incident concerns King Baber (1483-1530), founder of the
Mogul empire in India. His son, Prince Humayun, was mortally ill.
The father prayed with anguished determination that he receive the
sickness, and that his son be spared. After all physicians had given
up hope, Humayun recovered. Baber immediately fell sick and died
of the same disease which had stricken his son. Humayun succeeded
Baber as Emperor of Hindustan.
imagine that every spiritual master has, or should have, the health
and strength of a Sandow. The assumption is unfounded. A sickly
body does not indicate that a guru is not in touch with divine powers,
any more than lifelong health necessarily indicates an inner illumination.
The condition of the physical body, in other words, cannot rightfully
be made a test of a master. His distinguishing qualifications must
be sought in his own domain, the spiritual.
bewildered seekers in the West erroneously think that an eloquent
speaker or writer on metaphysics must be a master. The rishis, however,
have pointed out that the acid test of a master is a man's ability
to enter at will the breathless state, and to maintain the unbroken samadhi of nirbikalpa.5 Only
by these achievements can a human being prove that he has "mastered" maya or the dualistic Cosmic Delusion. He alone can say from
the depths of realization: "Ekam sat, " --- "Only
"The Vedas declare that the ignorant man who rests content with making
the slightest distinction between the individual soul and the Supreme
Self is exposed to danger," Shankara the great monist has written.
"Where there is duality by virtue of ignorance, one sees all
things as distinct from the Self. When everything is seen as the
Self, then there is not even an atom other than the Self. . . .
as the knowledge of the Reality has sprung up, there can be no fruits
of past actions to be experienced, owing to the unreality of the
body, in the same way as there can be no dream after waking."
gurus are able to assume the karma of disciples. Sri Yukteswar would
not have suffered in Kashmir unless he had received permission from
the Spirit within him to help his disciples in that strange way.
Few saints were ever more sensitively equipped with wisdom to carry
out divine commands than my God-tuned Master.
When I ventured
a few words of sympathy over his emaciated figure, my guru said
has its good points; I am able now to get into some small ganjis (undershirts) that I haven't worn in years!"
Master's jovial laugh, I remembered the words of St. Francis de
Sales: "A saint that is sad is a sad saint!"
It is a mark of disrespect, in India, to smoke in the presence of
one's elders and superiors.
Back to text
The Oriental plane tree.
Back to text
Many Christian saints, including Therese Neumann (see page 372),
are familiar with the metaphysical transfer of disease.
Back to text
Christ said, just before he was led away to be crucified: "Thinkest
thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently
give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the
scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?"-Matthew 26:53-54.
Back to text
See pp. 246, 415 note.
Back to text
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