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Founding a Yoga School in Ranchi
you averse to organizational work?"
startled me a bit. It is true that my private conviction at the
time was that organizations were "hornets' nests."
a thankless task, sir," I answered. "No matter what the
leader does or does not, he is criticized."
you want the whole divine channa (milk curd) for yourself
alone?" My guru's retort was accompanied by a stern glance.
"Could you or anyone else achieve God-contact through yoga
if a line of generous-hearted masters had not been willing to convey
their knowledge to others?" He added, "God is the Honey,
organizations are the hives; both are necessary. Any form is useless, of course, without the spirit, but why should you not
start busy hives full of the spiritual nectar?"
moved me deeply. Although I made no outward reply, an adamant resolution
arose in my breast: I would share with my fellows, so far as lay
in my power, the unshackling truths I had learned at my guru's feet.
"Lord," I prayed, "may Thy Love shine forever on
the sanctuary of my devotion, and may I be able to awaken that Love
in other hearts."
On a previous
occasion, before I had joined the monastic order, Sri Yukteswar
had made a most unexpected remark.
will miss the companionship of a wife in your old age!" he
had said. "Do you not agree that the family man, engaged in
useful work to maintain his wife and children, thus plays a rewarding
role in God's eyes?"
I had protested in alarm, "you know that my desire in this
life is to espouse only the Cosmic Beloved."
Master had laughed
so merrily that I understood his observation was made merely as
a test of my faith.
he had said slowly, "that he who discards his worldly duties
can justify himself only by assuming some kind of responsibility
toward a much larger family."
The ideal of
an all-sided education for youth had always been close to my heart.
I saw clearly the arid results of ordinary instruction, aimed only
at the development of body and intellect. Moral and spiritual values,
without whose appreciation no man can approach happiness, were yet
lacking in the formal curriculum. I determined to found a school
where young boys could develop to the full stature of manhood. My
first step in that direction was made with seven children at Dihika,
a small country site in Bengal.
year later, in 1918, through the generosity of Sir Manindra Chandra
Nundy, the Maharaja of Kasimbazar, I was able to transfer my fast-growing
group to Ranchi. This town in Bihar, about two hundred miles from
Calcutta, is blessed with one of the most healthful climates in
India. The Kasimbazar Palace at Ranchi was transformed into the
headquarters for the new school, which I called Brahmacharya
Vidyalaya1 in accordance with the educational ideals of the rishis. Their forest
ashrams had been the ancient seats of learning, secular and divine,
for the youth of India.
At Ranchi I
organized an educational program for both grammar and high school
grades. It included agricultural, industrial, commercial, and academic
subjects. The students were also taught yoga concentration and meditation,
and a unique system of physical development, "Yogoda,"
whose principles I had discovered in 1916.
that man's body is like an electric battery, I reasoned that it
could be recharged with energy through the direct agency of the
human will. As no action, slight or large, is possible without willing, man can avail himself of his prime mover, will, to
renew his bodily tissues without burdensome apparatus or mechanical
exercises. I therefore taught the Ranchi students my simple "Yogoda"
techniques by which the life force, centred in man's medulla oblongata,
can be consciously and instantly recharged from the unlimited supply
of cosmic energy.
boys responded wonderfully to this training, developing extraordinary
ability to shift the life energy from one part of the body to another
part, and to sit in perfect poise in difficult body postures.2 They performed
feats of strength and endurance which many powerful adults could
not equal. My youngest brother, Bishnu Charan Ghosh, joined the
Ranchi school; he later became a leading physical culturist in Bengal.
He and one of his students traveled to Europe and America, giving
exhibitions of strength and skill which amazed the university savants,
including those at Columbia University in New York.
At the end of
the first year at Ranchi, applications for admission reached two
thousand. But the school, which at that time was solely residential,
could accommodate only about one hundred. Instruction for day students
was soon added.
the Vidyalaya I had to play father-mother to the little children,
and to cope with many organizational difficulties. I often remembered
Christ's words: "Verily I say unto you, There is no man that
hath left house, or brethren or sisters, or father, or mother, or
wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, but
he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses and brethren,
and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions;
and in the world to come eternal life." 3 Sri Yukteswar
had interpreted these words: "The devotee who forgoes the life-experiences
of marriage and family, and exchanges the problems of a small household
and limited activities for the larger responsibilities of service
to society in general, is undertaking a task which is often accompanied
by persecution from a misunderstanding world, but also by a divine
One day my father
arrived in Ranchi to bestow a paternal blessing, long withheld because
I had hurt him by refusing his offer of a position with the Bengal-Nagpur
he said, "I am now reconciled to your choice in life. It gives
me joy to see you amidst these happy, eager youngsters; you belong
here rather than with the lifeless figures of railroad timetables."
He waved toward a group of a dozen little ones who were tagging
at my heels. "I had only eight children," he observed
with twinkling eyes, "but I can feel for you!"
With a large
fruit orchard and twenty-five fertile acres at our disposal, the
students, teachers, and myself enjoyed many happy hours of outdoor
labor in these ideal surroundings. We had many pets, including a
young deer who was fairly idolized by the children. I too loved
the fawn so much that I allowed it to sleep in my room. At the light
of dawn, the little creature would toddle over to my bed for a morning
One day I fed
the pet earlier than usual, as I had to attend to some business
in the town of Ranchi. Although I cautioned the boys not to feed
the fawn until my return, one of them was disobedient, and gave
the baby deer a large quantity of milk. When I came back in the
evening, sad news greeted me: "The little fawn is nearly dead,
through over feeding."
In tears, I
placed the apparently lifeless pet on my lap. I prayed piteously
to God to spare its life. Hours later, the small creature opened
its eyes, stood up, and walked feebly. The whole school shouted
But a deep lesson
came to me that night, one I can never forget. I stayed up with
the fawn until two o'clock, when I fell asleep. The deer appeared
in a dream, and spoke to me:
holding me back. Please let me go; let me go!"
I answered in the dream.
I awoke immediately,
and cried out, "Boys, the deer is dying!" The children
rushed to my side.
I ran to the
corner of the room where I had placed the pet. It made a last effort
to rise, stumbled toward me, then dropped at my feet, dead.
the mass karma which guides and regulates the destinies of animals,
the deer's life was over, and it was ready to progress to a higher
form. But by my deep attachment, which I later realized was selfish,
and by my fervent prayers, I had been able to hold it in the limitations
of the animal form from which the soul was struggling for release.
The soul of the deer made its plea in a dream because, without my
loving permission, it either would not or could not go. As soon
as I agreed, it departed.
All sorrow left
me; I realized anew that God wants His children to love everything
as a part of Him, and not to feel delusively that death ends all.
The ignorant man sees only the unsurmountable wall of death, hiding,
seemingly forever, his cherished friends. But the man of unattachment,
he who loves others as expressions of the Lord, understands that
at death the dear ones have only returned for a breathing-space
of joy in Him.
Ranchi school grew from small and simple beginnings to an institution
now well-known in India. Many departments of the school are supported
by voluntary contributions from those who rejoice in perpetuating
the educational ideals of the rishis. Under the general name of Yogoda Sat-Sanga,4 flourishing branch schools have been established at Midnapore, Lakshmanpur,
Ranchi headquarters maintains a Medical Department where medicines
and the services of doctors are supplied freely to the poor of the
locality. The number treated has averaged more than 18,000 persons
a year. The Vidyalaya has made its mark, too, in Indian competitive
sports, and in the scholastic field, where many Ranchi alumni have distinguished themselves
in later university life.
school, now in its twenty-eighth year and the center of many activities,5 has been honored by visits of eminent men from the East and the
West. One of the earliest great figures to inspect the Vidyalaya in its first year was Swami Pranabananda, the Benares "saint
with two bodies." As the great master viewed the picturesque
outdoor classes, held under the trees, and saw in the evening that
young boys were sitting motionless for hours in yoga meditation,
he was profoundly moved.
to my heart," he said, "to see that Lahiri Mahasaya's
ideals for the proper training of youth are being carried on in
this institution. My guru's blessings be on it."
A young lad
sitting by my side ventured to ask the great yogi a question.
he said, "shall I be a monk? Is my life only for God?"
Pranabananda smiled gently, his eyes were piercing the future.
he replied, "when you grow up, there is a beautiful bride waiting
for you." The boy did eventually marry, after having planned
for years to enter the Swami Order.
Swami Pranabananda had visited Ranchi, I accompanied my father to
the Calcutta house where the yogi was temporarily staying. Pranabananda's
prediction, made to me so many years before, came rushing to my
mind: "I shall see you, with your father, later on."
As Father entered
the swami's room, the great yogi rose from his seat and embraced
my parent with loving respect.
he said, "what are you doing about yourself? Don't you see
your son racing to the Infinite?" I blushed to hear his praise
before my father. The swami went on, "You recall how often
our blessed guru used to say: 'Banat, banat, ban jai.'6 So keep up Kriya Yoga ceaselessly, and reach the divine portals quickly."
The body of
Pranabananda, which had appeared so well and strong during my amazing
first visit to him in Benares, now showed definite aging, though
his posture was still admirably erect.
I inquired, looking straight into his eyes, "please tell me
the truth: Aren't you feeling the advance of age? As the body is
weakening, are your perceptions of God suffering any diminution?"
He smiled angelically.
"The Beloved is more than ever with me now." His complete
conviction overwhelmed my mind and soul. He went on, "I am
still enjoying the two pensions --- one from Bhagabati here, and one
from above." Pointing his finger heavenward, the saint fell
into an ecstasy, his face lit with a divine glow --- an ample answer
to my question.
Pranabananda's room contained many plants and packages of seed,
I asked their purpose.
left Benares permanently," he said, "and am now on my
way to the Himalayas. There I shall open an ashram for my disciples.
These seeds will produce spinach and a few other vegetables. My
dear ones will live simply, spending their time in blissful God-union.
Nothing else is necessary."
his brother disciple when he would return to Calcutta.
again," the saint replied. "This year is the one in which
Lahiri Mahasaya told me I would leave my beloved Benares forever
and go to the Himalayas, there to throw off my mortal frame."
My eyes filled
with tears at his words, but the swami smiled tranquilly. He reminded
me of a little heavenly child, sitting securely on the lap of the
Divine Mother. The burden of the years has no ill effect on a great
yogi's full possession of supreme spiritual powers. He is able to
renew his body at will; yet sometimes he does not care to retard
the aging process, but allows his karma to work itself out on the
physical plane, using his old body as a time-saving device to exclude
the necessity of working out karma in a new incarnation.
I met an old friend, Sanandan, who was one of Pranabananda's close
guru is gone," he told me, amidst sobs. "He established
a hermitage near Rishikesh, and gave us loving training. When we
were pretty well settled, and making rapid spiritual progress in
his company, he proposed one day to feed a huge crowd from Rishikesh.
I inquired why he wanted such a large number.
is my last festival ceremony,' he said. I did not understand the
full implications of his words.
helped with the cooking of great amounts of food. We fed about 2000
guests. After the feast, he sat on a high platform and gave an inspired
sermon on the Infinite. At the end, before the gaze of thousands,
he turned to me, as I sat beside him on the dais,
and spoke with unusual force.
"'Sanandan, be prepared; I am going to kick the frame.7 '
a stunned silence, I cried loudly, 'Master, don't do it! Please,
please, don't do it!' The crowd was tongue-tied, watching us curiously.
My guru smiled at me, but his solemn gaze was already fixed on Eternity.
not selfish,' he said, 'nor grieve for me. I have been long cheerfully
serving you all; now rejoice and wish me Godspeed. I go to meet
my Cosmic Beloved.' In a whisper, Pranabanandaji added, 'I shall
be reborn shortly. After enjoying a short period of the Infinite
Bliss, I shall return to earth and join Babaji.8 You shall soon know when and where my soul has been encased in a
cried again, 'Sanandan, here I kick the frame by the second Kriya
at the sea of faces before us, and gave a blessing. Directing his
gaze inwardly to the spiritual eye, he became immobile. While the
bewildered crowd thought he was meditating in an ecstatic state,
he had already left the tabernacle of flesh and plunged his soul
into the cosmic vastness. The disciples touched his body, seated
in the lotus posture, but it was no longer the warm flesh. Only
a stiffened frame remained; the tenant had fled to the immortal
inquired where Pranabananda was to be reborn.
a sacred trust I cannot divulge to anyone," Sanandan replied.
"Perhaps you may find out some other way."
later I discovered from Swami Keshabananda 10 that Pranabananda, a few years after his birth
in a new body, had gone to Badrinarayan in the Himalayas, and there
joined the group of saints around the great Babaji.
Vidyalaya, school. Brahmacharya here refers to one of the four stages
in the Vedic plan for man's life, as comprising that of (1) the
celibate student (brahmachari); (2) the householder with worldly
responsibilities (grihastha); (3) the hermit (vanaprastha); (4)
the forest dweller or wanderer, free from all earthly concerns (sannyasi).
This ideal scheme of life, while not widely observed in modern India,
still has many devout followers. The four stages are carried out
religiously under the lifelong direction of a guru.
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A number of American students also have mastered various asanas
or postures, including Bernard Cole, an instructor in Los Angeles
of the Self-Realization Fellowship teachings.
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Yogoda: yoga, union, harmony, equilibrium; da, that which imparts.
Sat-Sanga: sat, truth; sanga, fellowship. In the West, to avoid
the use of a Sanskrit name, the Yogoda Sat-Sanga movement has been
called the Self-Realization Fellowship.
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The activities at Ranchi are described more fully in chapter 40.
The Lakshmanpur school is in the capable charge of Mr. G. C. Dey,
B.A. The medical department is ably supervised by Dr. S. N. Pal
and Sasi Bhusan Mullick.
Back to text
One of Lahiri Mahasaya's favorite remarks, given as encouragement
for his students' perseverance. A free translation is: "Striving,
striving, one day behold! the Divine Goal!"
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I.e., give up the body.
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Lahiri Mahasaya's guru, who is still living.
(See chapter 33.)
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The second Kriya, as taught by Lahiri Mahasaya, enables the devotee
that has mastered it to leave and return to the body consciously
at any time. Advanced yogis use the second Kriya technique during
the last exit of death, a moment they invariably know beforehand.
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My meeting with Keshabananda is described in chapter 42.
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