Sri Yukteswar in Autobiography of a Yogi, Yogananda

Autobiography of a Yogi – Yogananda


I Meet My Master, Sri Yukteswar


“Faith 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.

“The writer’s exception shows his complete lack of faith,” I thought. “Poor chap, he has great
respect for the midnight oil!”

My 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.

“Hello, Mukunda! I catch hardly a glimpse of you these days!” A classmate accosted me one
afternoon on Gurpar Road.

“Hello, Nantu! My invisibility at school has actually placed me there in a decidedly awkward
position.” I unburdened myself under his friendly gaze.

Nantu, who was a brilliant student, laughed heartily; my predicament was not without a comic

“You are utterly unprepared for the finals! I suppose it is up to me to help you!”

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

“These questions are the bait which will catch many trusting boys in the examination trap.
Remember my answers, and you will escape without injury.”

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

I 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 tongue. 10-1

“These exceptional stanzas cannot possibly be of aid in your Sanskrit test.” The scholar dismissed
them skeptically.

But familiarity 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 subjects.

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 comment:
“It 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 school diploma!”

In my new dignity, I was now openly planning to leave home. Together with a young friend,
Jitendra Mazumdar, 10-2 I decided to join a Mahamandal hermitage in Benares, and receive its
spiritual discipline.

A 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. 10-3 After a two-hour flood of tears, I felt singularly transformed, as by some
alchemical cleanser. All attachment 10-4 disappeared; my resolution to seek God as the Friend of
friends set like granite within me. I quickly completed my travel preparations.

“I make one last plea.” Father was distressed as I stood before him for final blessing. “Do not
forsake me and your grieving brothers and sisters.”

“Revered 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 understanding.”

With reluctant 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.

“Don’t 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

“Swamiji, 10-5 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.”
The orange-robed 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.

“Mukunda, 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.”

Whether famishment 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.

The three-hour 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.

“Dyanandaji’s 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?

“Lord hasten 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.

“Dyanandaji 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.
“The next 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.

Intense absorption yet permitted me to observe that Dyananda ate absent-mindedly. He was
apparently above my gross pleasures.
“Swamiji, weren’t you hungry?” Happily surfeited, I was alone with the leader in his study.
“O 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 shastric 10-6 rules for monks of
my particular order.

“Certain 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

Shame spread within me like a suffocation. But the past day of my torture was not easily
forgotten; I ventured a further remark.

“Swamiji, I am puzzled. Following your instruction, suppose I never asked for food, and nobody
gives me any. I should starve to death.”

“Die then!” 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 Cause!”

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!

The 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.

My relationship 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 was

“Merciful Mother of the Universe, teach me Thyself through visions, or through a guru sent by

The passing hours found my sobbing pleas without response. Suddenly I felt lifted as though
bodily to a sphere uncircumscribed.

“Thy Master cometh today!” A divine womanly voice came from everywhere and nowhere.

This supernal experience was pierced by a shout from a definite locale. A young priest nicknamed
Habu was calling me from the downstairs kitchen.

“Mukunda, enough of meditation! You are needed for an errand.”

Another day 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.

A Christlike 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.
“You are confusing this wandering monk with someone known to you,” I thought. “Dreamer, walk

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.

“The saint 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

“What ails you? Are you crazy?”

My tumultuous emotion prevented any retort; I sped silently away.

Retracing 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!” 10-7 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

“I will give you my hermitages and all I possess.”

“Sir, I 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.

“I give you my unconditional love.”

Precious words! A quarter-century elapsed before I had another auricular proof of his love. His
lips were strange to ardor; silence became his oceanic heart.

“Will you give me the same unconditional love?” He gazed at me with childlike trust.

“I will love you eternally, Gurudeva!”

“Ordinary 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 worship.”

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

“Do not grieve for your amulet. It has served its purpose.” Like a divine mirror, my guru
apparently had caught a reflection of my whole life.

“The living reality of your presence, Master, is joy beyond any symbol.”

“It is time for a change, inasmuch as you are unhappily situated in the hermitage.”

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.

“You should go back to Calcutta. Why exclude relatives from your love of humanity?”

His suggestion 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.

“Sir, I am not returning home. But I will follow you anywhere. Please give me your address, and
your name.”

“Swami 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.

“You will 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

I remained obstinately silent. My guru easily penetrated my difficulty.

“Do you think your relatives will laugh at you?”

“I will not return.”

“You will return in thirty days.”

“Never.” 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.

“Mukunda 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.

“I am leaving. Please convey my respectful regrets to Dyanandaji when he returns.”

“I will leave also! My attempts to meditate here meet with no more favor than your own.”

Jitendra spoke with determination.

“I have met a Christlike saint. Let us visit him in Serampore.”

And so the “bird” prepared to “swoop” perilously close to Calcutta!
10-1: 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.

10-2: He was not Jatinda (Jotin Ghosh), who will be remembered for his timely aversion to tigers!

10-3: Path or preliminary road to God.

10-4: 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 12:48.)

10-5: Ji is a customary respectful suffix, particularly used in direct address; thus “swamiji,” “guruji,” “Sri Yukteswarji,” “paramhansaji.”

10-6: 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 andthe Ramayana. Puranas are literally “ancient” allegories; tantras literally mean “rites” or “rituals”; these treatises conveyprofound truths under a veil of detailed symbolism.

10-7: “Divine teacher,” the customary Sanskrit term for one’s spiritual preceptor. I have rendered it in English as simply “Master.”


Years In My Master’s Hermitage


“You have come.” Sri Yukteswar greeted me from a tiger skin on the floor of a balconied sitting
room. His voice was cold, his manner unemotional.

“Yes, dear Master, I am here to follow you.” Kneeling, I touched his feet.

“How can that be? You ignore my wishes.”

“No longer, Guruji! Your wish shall be my law!”

“That is better! Now I can assume responsibility for your life.”

“I willingly transfer the burden, Master.”

“My first request, then, is that you return home to your family. I want you to enter college in
Calcutta. Your education should be continued.”

“Very well, sir.” I hid my consternation. Would importunate books pursue me down the years?

First Father, now Sri Yukteswar!

“Someday you will go to the West. Its people will lend ears more receptive to India’s ancient
wisdom if the strange Hindu teacher has a university degree.”

“You know best, Guruji.” My gloom departed. The reference to the West I found puzzling, remote;
but my opportunity to please Master by obedience was vitally immediate.

“You will be near in Calcutta; come here whenever you find time.”

“Every day if possible, Master! Gratefully I accept your authority in every detail of my life-on one


“That you promise to reveal God to me!”

An hour-long verbal tussle ensued. A master’s word cannot be falsified; it is not lightly given. The
implications in the pledge open out vast metaphysical vistas. A guru must be on intimate terms
indeed with the Creator before he can obligate Him to appear! I sensed Sri Yukteswar’s divine
unity, and was determined, as his disciple, to press my advantage.

“You are of exacting disposition!” Then Master’s consent rang out with compassionate finality:
“Let your wish be my wish.”

Lifelong shadow lifted from my heart; the vague search, hither and yon, was over. I had found
eternal shelter in a true guru.

“Come; I will show you the hermitage.” Master rose from his tiger mat. I glanced about me; my
gaze fell with astonishment on a wall picture, garlanded with a spray of jasmine.

“Lahiri Mahasaya!”

“Yes, my divine guru.” Sri Yukteswar’s tone was reverently vibrant. “Greater he was, as man and
yogi, than any other teacher whose life came within the range of my investigations.”

Silently I bowed before the familiar picture. Soul-homage sped to the peerless master who,
blessing my infancy, had guided my steps to this hour.

Led by my guru, I strolled over the house and its grounds. Large, ancient and well-built, the
hermitage was surrounded by a massive- pillared courtyard. Outer walls were moss-covered;
pigeons fluttered over the flat gray roof, unceremoniously sharing the ashram quarters. A rear
garden was pleasant with jackfruit, mango, and plantain trees. Balustraded balconies of upper
rooms in the two-storied building faced the courtyard from three sides. A spacious ground-floor
hall, with high ceiling supported by colonnades, was used, Master said, chiefly during the annual
festivities of Durgapuja. 12-1 A narrow stairway led to Sri Yukteswar’s sitting room, whose small
balcony overlooked the street. The ashram was plainly furnished; everything was simple, clean,
and utilitarian. Several Western styled chairs, benches, and tables were in evidence.

Master invited me to stay overnight. A supper of vegetable curry was served by two young
disciples who were receiving hermitage training.

“Guruji, please tell me something of your life.” I was squatting on a straw mat near his tiger skin.

The friendly stars were very close, it seemed, beyond the balcony.

“My family name was Priya Nath Karar. I was born 12-2 here in Serampore, where Father was a
wealthy businessman. He left me this ancestral mansion, now my hermitage. My formal schooling
was little; I found it slow and shallow. In early manhood, I undertook the responsibilities of a
householder, and have one daughter, now married. My middle life was blessed with the guidance
of Lahiri Mahasaya. After my wife died, I joined the Swami Order and received the new name of
Sri Yukteswar Giri. 12-3 Such are my simple annals.”

Master smiled at my eager face. Like all biographical sketches, his words had given the outward
facts without revealing the inner man.

“Guruji, I would like to hear some stories of your childhood.”

“I will tell you a few-each one with a moral!” Sri Yukteswar’s eyes twinkled with his warning. “My
mother once tried to frighten me with an appalling story of a ghost in a dark chamber. I went
there immediately, and expressed my disappointment at having missed the ghost. Mother never
told me another horror-tale. Moral: Look fear in the face and it will cease to trouble you.
“Another early memory is my wish for an ugly dog belonging to a neighbor. I kept my household
in turmoil for weeks to get that dog. My ears were deaf to offers of pets with more prepossessing
appearance. Moral: Attachment is blinding; it lends an imaginary halo of attractiveness to the
object of desire.

“A third story concerns the plasticity of the youthful mind. I heard my mother remark
occasionally: ‘A man who accepts a job under anyone is a slave.’ That impression became so
indelibly fixed that even after my marriage I refused all positions. I met expenses by investing my
family endowment in land. Moral: Good and positive suggestions should instruct the sensitive
ears of children. Their early ideas long remain sharply etched.”

Master fell into tranquil silence. Around midnight he led me to a narrow cot. Sleep was sound and
sweet the first night under my guru’s roof.

Sri Yukteswar chose the following morning to grant me his Kriya Yoga initiation. The technique I
had already received from two disciples of Lahiri Mahasaya-Father and my tutor, Swami
Kebalananda-but in Master’s presence I felt transforming power. At his touch, a great light broke
upon my being, like glory of countless suns blazing together. A flood of ineffable bliss,
overwhelming my heart to an innermost core, continued during the following day. It was late that
afternoon before I could bring myself to leave the hermitage.

“You will return in thirty days.” As I reached my Calcutta home, the fulfillment of Master’s
prediction entered with me. None of my relatives made the pointed remarks I had feared about
the reappearance of the “soaring bird.”

I climbed to my little attic and bestowed affectionate glances, as though on a living presence. “You
have witnessed my meditations, and the tears and storms of my sadhana. Now I have reached the
harbor of my divine teacher.”

“Son, I am happy for us both.” Father and I sat together in the evening calm. “You have found
your guru, as in miraculous fashion I once found my own. The holy hand of Lahiri Mahasaya is
guarding our lives. Your master has proved no inaccessible Himalayan saint, but one near-by. My
prayers have been answered: you have not in your search for God been permanently removed
from my sight.”

Father was also pleased that my formal studies would be resumed; he made suitable
arrangements. I was enrolled the following day at the Scottish Church College in Calcutta.
Happy months sped by. My readers have doubtless made the perspicacious surmise that I was
little seen in the college classrooms. The Serampore hermitage held a lure too irresistible. Master
accepted my ubiquitous presence without comment. To my relief, he seldom referred to the halls
of learning. Though it was plain to all that I was never cut out for a scholar, I managed to attain
minimum passing grades from time to time.

Daily life at the ashram flowed smoothly, infrequently varied. My guru awoke before dawn. Lying
down, or sometimes sitting on the bed, he entered a state of samadhi. 12-4 It was simplicity itself
to discover when Master had awakened: abrupt halt of stupendous snores. 12-5 A sigh or two;
perhaps a bodily movement. Then a soundless state of breathlessness: he was in deep yogic joy.
Breakfast did not follow; first came a long walk by the Ganges. Those morning strolls with my
guru-how real and vivid still! In the easy resurrection of memory, I often find myself by his side:
the early sun is warming the river. His voice rings out, rich with the authenticity of wisdom.
A bath; then the midday meal. Its preparation, according to Master’s daily directions, had been
the careful task of young disciples. My guru was a vegetarian. Before embracing monkhood,
however, he had eaten eggs and fish. His advice to students was to follow any simple diet which
proved suited to one’s constitution.

Master ate little; often rice, colored with turmeric or juice of beets or spinach and lightly
sprinkled with buffalo ghee or melted butter. Another day he might have lentil-dhal or channa 12-
6 curry with vegetables. For dessert, mangoes or oranges with rice pudding, or jackfruit juice.
Visitors appeared in the afternoons. A steady stream poured from the world into the hermitage
tranquillity. Everyone found in Master an equal courtesy and kindness. To a man who has
realized himself as a soul, not the body or the ego, the rest of humanity assumes a striking
similarity of aspect.

The impartiality of saints is rooted in wisdom. Masters have escaped maya; its alternating faces
of intellect and idiocy no longer cast an influential glance. Sri Yukteswar showed no special
consideration to those who happened to be powerful or accomplished; neither did he slight others
for their poverty or illiteracy. He would listen respectfully to words of truth from a child, and
openly ignore a conceited pundit.

Eight o’clock was the supper hour, and sometimes found lingering guests. My guru would not
excuse himself to eat alone; none left his ashram hungry or dissatisfied. Sri Yukteswar was never
at a loss, never dismayed by unexpected visitors; scanty food would emerge a banquet under his
resourceful direction. Yet he was economical; his modest funds went far. “Be comfortable within
your purse,” he often said. “Extravagance will buy you discomfort.” Whether in the details of
hermitage entertainment, or his building and repair work, or other practical concerns, Master
manifested the originality of a creative spirit.

Quiet evening hours often brought one of my guru’s discourses, treasures against time. His every
utterance was measured and chiseled by wisdom. A sublime self-assurance marked his mode of
expression: it was unique. He spoke as none other in my experience ever spoke. His thoughts
were weighed in a delicate balance of discrimination before he permitted them an outward garb.

The essence of truth, all-pervasive with even a physiological aspect, came from him like a fragrant
exudation of the soul. I was conscious always that I was in the presence of a living manifestation
of God. The weight of his divinity automatically bowed my head before him.

If late guests detected that Sri Yukteswar was becoming engrossed with the Infinite, he quickly
engaged them in conversation. He was incapable of striking a pose, or of flaunting his inner
withdrawal. Always one with the Lord, he needed no separate time for communion. A self-
realized master has already left behind the stepping stone of meditation. “The flower falls when
the fruit appears.” But saints often cling to spiritual forms for the encouragement of disciples.
As midnight approached, my guru might fall into a doze with the naturalness of a child. There was
no fuss about bedding. He often lay down, without even a pillow, on a narrow davenport which
was the background for his customary tiger-skin seat.

A night-long philosophical discussion was not rare; any disciple could summon it by intensity of
interest. I felt no tiredness then, no desire for sleep; Master’s living words were sufficient. “Oh, it
is dawn! Let us walk by the Ganges.” So ended many of my periods of nocturnal edification.
My early months with Sri Yukteswar culminated in a useful lesson-“How to Outwit a Mosquito.”
At home my family always used protective curtains at night. I was dismayed to discover that in
the Serampore hermitage this prudent custom was honored in the breach. Yet the insects were in
full residency; I was bitten from head to foot. My guru took pity on me.

“Buy yourself a curtain, and also one for me.” He laughed and added, “If you buy only one, for
yourself, all mosquitoes will concentrate on me!”

I was more than thankful to comply. Every night that I spent in Serampore, my guru would ask
me to arrange the bedtime curtains.

The mosquitoes one evening were especially virulent. But Master failed to issue his usual
instructions. I listened nervously to the anticipatory hum of the insects. Getting into bed, I threw
a propitiatory prayer in their general direction. A half hour later, I coughed pretentiously to
attract my guru’s attention. I thought I would go mad with the bites and especially the singing
drone as the mosquitoes celebrated bloodthirsty rites.

No responsive stir from Master; I approached him cautiously. He was not breathing. This was my
first observation of him in the yogic trance; it filled me with fright.

“His heart must have failed!” I placed a mirror under his nose; no breath-vapor appeared. To
make doubly certain, for minutes I closed his mouth and nostrils with my fingers. His body was
cold and motionless. In a daze, I turned toward the door to summon help.

“So! A budding experimentalist! My poor nose!” Master’s voice was shaky with laughter. “Why
don’t you go to bed? Is the whole world going to change for you? Change yourself: be rid of the
mosquito consciousness.”

Meekly I returned to my bed. Not one insect ventured near. I realized that my guru had
previously agreed to the curtains only to please me; he had no fear of mosquitoes. His yogic
power was such that he either could will them not to bite, or could escape to an inner

“He was giving me a demonstration,” I thought. “That is the yogic state I must strive to attain.” A
yogi must be able to pass into, and continue in, the superconsciousness, regardless of
multitudinous distractions never absent from this earth. Whether in the buzz of insects or the
prvasive glare of daylight, the testimony of the senses must be barred. Sound and sight come
then indeed, but to worlds fairer than the banished Eden. 12-7

The instructive mosquitoes served for another early lesson at the ashram. It was the gentle hour
of dusk. My guru was matchlessly interpreting the ancient texts. At his feet, I was in perfect peace.
A rude mosquito entered the idyl and competed for my attention. As it dug a poisonous
hypodermic needle into my thigh, I automatically raised an avenging hand. Reprieve from
impending execution! An opportune memory came to me of one of Patanjali’s yoga aphorisms-
that on ahimsa (harmlessness).

“Why didn’t you finish the job?”

“Master! Do you advocate taking life?”

“No; but the deathblow already had been struck in your mind.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Patanjali’s meaning was the removal of desire to kill.” Sri Yukteswar had found my mental
processes an open book. “This world is inconveniently arranged for a literal practice of ahimsa.
Man may be compelled to exterminate harmful creatures. He is not under similar compulsion to
feel anger or animosity. All forms of life have equal right to the air of maya. The saint who
uncovers the secret of creation will be in harmony with its countless bewildering expressions. All
men may approach that understanding who curb the inner passion for destruction.”

“Guruji, should one offer himself a sacrifice rather than kill a wild beast?”

“No; man’s body is precious. It has the highest evolutionary value because of unique brain and
spinal centers. These enable the advanced devotee to fully grasp and express the loftiest aspects of
divinity. No lower form is so equipped. It is true that one incurs the debt of a minor sin if he is
forced to kill an animal or any living thing. But the Vedas teach that wanton loss of a human body
is a serious transgression against the karmic law.”

I sighed in relief; scriptural reinforcement of one’s natural instincts is not always forthcoming.
It so happened that I never saw Master at close quarters with a leopard or a tiger. But a deadly
cobra once confronted him, only to be conquered by my guru’s love. This variety of snake is much
feared in India, where it causes more than five thousand deaths annually. The dangerous
encounter took place at Puri, where Sri Yukteswar had a second hermitage, charmingly situated
near the Bay of Bengal. Prafulla, a young disciple of later years, was with Master on this occasion.

“We were seated outdoors near the ashram,” Prafulla told me. “A cobra appeared near-by, a four-
foot length of sheer terror. Its hood was angrily expanded as it raced toward us. My guru gave a
welcoming chuckle, as though to a child. I was beside myself with consternation to see Master
engage in a rhythmical clapping of hands. 12-8 He was entertaining the dread visitor! I remained
absolutely quiet, inwardly ejaculating what fervent prayers I could muster. The serpent, very close
to my guru, was now motionless, seemingly magnetized by his caressing attitude. The frightful
hood gradually contracted; the snake slithered between Master’s feet and disappeared into the

“Why my guru would move his hands, and why the cobra would not strike them, were
inexplicable to me then,” Prafulla concluded. “I have since come to realize that my divine master
is beyond fear of hurt from any living creature.”

One afternoon during my early months at the ashram, found Sri Yukteswar’s eyes fixed on me

“You are too thin, Mukunda.”

His remark struck a sensitive point. That my sunken eyes and emaciated appearance were far
from my liking was testified to by rows of tonics in my room at Calcutta. Nothing availed; chronic
dyspepsia had pursued me since childhood. My despair reached an occasional zenith when I
asked myself if it were worth-while to carry on this life with a body so unsound.

“Medicines have limitations; the creative life-force has none. Believe that: you shall be well and

Sri Yukteswar’s words aroused a conviction of personally-applicable truth which no other healer-
and I had tried many!-had been able to summon within me.

Day by day, behold! I waxed. Two weeks after Master’s hidden blessing, I had accumulated the
invigorating weight which eluded me in the past. My persistent stomach ailments vanished with a
lifelong permanency. On later occasions I witnessed my guru’s instantaneous divine healings of
persons suffering from ominous disease-tuberculosis, diabetes, epilepsy, or paralysis. Not one
could have been more grateful for his cure than I was at sudden freedom from my cadaverous

“Years ago, I too was anxious to put on weight,” Sri Yukteswar told me. “During convalescence
after a severe illness, I visited Lahiri Mahasaya in Benares.

“‘Sir, I have been very sick and lost many pounds.’

“‘I see, Yukteswar, 12-9 you made yourself unwell, and now you think you are thin.’

“This reply was far from the one I had expected; my guru, however, added encouragingly:

“‘Let me see; I am sure you ought to feel better tomorrow.’

“Taking his words as a gesture of secret healing toward my receptive mind, I was not surprised
the next morning at a welcome accession of strength. I sought out my master and exclaimed
exultingly, ‘Sir, I feel much better today.’

“‘Indeed! Today you invigorate yourself.’

“‘No, master!’ I protested. ‘It was you who helped me; this is the first time in weeks that I have
had any energy.’

“‘O yes! Your malady has been quite serious. Your body is frail yet; who can say how it will be

“The thought of possible return of my weakness brought me a shudder of cold fear. The following
morning I could hardly drag myself to Lahiri Mahasaya’s home.

“‘Sir, I am ailing again.’

“My guru’s glance was quizzical. ‘So! Once more you indispose yourself.’

“‘Gurudeva, I realize now that day by day you have been ridiculing me.’ My patience was
exhausted. ‘I don’t understand why you disbelieve my truthful reports.’

“‘Really, it has been your thoughts that have made you feel alternately weak and strong.’ My
master looked at me affectionately. ‘You have seen how your health has exactly followed your
expectations. Thought is a force, even as electricity or gravitation. The human mind is a spark of
the almighty consciousness of God. I could show you that whatever your powerful mind believes
very intensely would instantly come to pass.’

“Knowing that Lahiri Mahasaya never spoke idly, I addressed him with great awe and gratitude:

‘Master, if I think I am well and have regained my former weight, shall that happen?’

“‘It is so, even at this moment.’ My guru spoke gravely, his gaze concentrated on my eyes.

“Lo! I felt an increase not alone of strength but of weight. Lahiri Mahasaya retreated into silence.

After a few hours at his feet, I returned to my mother’s home, where I stayed during my visits to

“‘My son! What is the matter? Are you swelling with dropsy?’ Mother could hardly believe her
eyes. My body was now of the same robust dimensions it had possessed before my illness.

“I weighed myself and found that in one day I had gained fifty pounds; they remained with me
permanently. Friends and acquaintances who had seen my thin figure were aghast with
wonderment. A number of them changed their mode of life and became disciples of Lahiri
Mahasaya as a result of this miracle.

“My guru, awake in God, knew this world to be nothing but an objectivized dream of the Creator.

Because he was completely aware of his unity with the Divine Dreamer, Lahiri Mahasaya could
materialize or dematerialize or make any change he wished in the cosmic vision. 12-10

“All creation is governed by law,” Sri Yukteswar concluded. “The ones which manifest in the outer
universe, discoverable by scientists, are called natural laws. But there are subtler laws ruling the
realms of consciousness which can be known only through the inner science of yoga. The hidden
spiritual planes also have their natural and lawful principles of operation. It is not the physical
scientist but the fully self-realized master who comprehends the true nature of matter. Thus
Christ was able to restore the servant’s ear after it had been severed by one of the disciples.” 12-11

Sri Yukteswar was a peerless interpreter of the scriptures. Many of my happiest memories are
centered in his discourses. But his jeweled thoughts were not cast into ashes of heedlessness or
stupidity. One restless movement of my body, or my slight lapse into absent- mindedness,
sufficed to put an abrupt period to Master’s exposition.

“You are not here.” Master interrupted himself one afternoon with this disclosure. As usual, he
was keeping track of my attention with a devastating immediacy.

“Guruji!” My tone was a protest. “I have not stirred; my eyelids have not moved; I can repeat each
word you have uttered!”

“Nevertheless you were not fully with me. Your objection forces me to remark that in your mental
background you were creating three institutions. One was a sylvan retreat on a plain, another on a
hilltop, a third by the ocean.”

Those vaguely formulated thoughts had indeed been present almost subconsciously. I glanced at
him apologetically.

“What can I do with such a master, who penetrates my random musings?”

Main building at the Mount Washington Estates in Los Angeles, established in 1925 as
American headquarters for the Self- Realization Fellowship.

“You have given me that right. The subtle truths I am expounding cannot be grasped without your
complete concentration. Unless necessary I do not invade the seclusion of others’ minds. Man has
the natural privilege of roaming secretly among his thoughts. The unbidden Lord does not enter
there; neither do I venture intrusion.”

“You are ever welcome, Master!”

“Your architectural dreams will materialize later. Now is the time for study!”

Thus incidentally my guru revealed in his simple way the coming of three great events in my life.
Since early youth I had had enigmatic glimpses of three buildings, each in a different setting. In
the exact sequence Sri Yukteswar had indicated, these visions took ultimate form. First came my
founding of a boys’ yoga school on a Ranchi plain, then my American headquarters on a Los
Angeles hilltop, finally a hermitage in southern California by the vast Pacific.

Master never arrogantly asserted: “I prophesy that such and such an event shall occur!” He would
rather hint: “Don’t you think it may happen?” But his simple speech hid vatic power. There was
no recanting; never did his slightly veiled words prove false.

Sri Yukteswar was reserved and matter-of-fact in demeanor. There was naught of the vague or
daft visionary about him. His feet were firm on the earth, his head in the haven of heaven.

Practical people aroused his admiration. “Saintliness is not dumbness! Divine perceptions are not
incapacitating!” he would say. “The active expression of virtue gives rise to the keenest

In Master’s life I fully discovered the cleavage between spiritual realism and the obscure
mysticism that spuriously passes as a counterpart. My guru was reluctant to discuss the
superphysical realms. His only “marvelous” aura was one of perfect simplicity. In conversation he
avoided startling references; in action he was freely expressive. Others talked of miracles but
could manifest nothing; Sri Yukteswar seldom mentioned the subtle laws but secretly operated
them at will.

“A man of realization does not perform any miracle until he receives an inward sanction,” Master
explained. “God does not wish the secrets of His creation revealed promiscuously. 12-12 Also,
every individual in the world has inalienable right to his free will. A saint will not encroach upon
that independence.”

The silence habitual to Sri Yukteswar was caused by his deep perceptions of the Infinite. No time
remained for the interminable “revelations” that occupy the days of teachers without self-
realization. “In shallow men the fish of little thoughts cause much commotion. In oceanic minds
the whales of inspiration make hardly a ruffle.” This observation from the Hindu scriptures is not
without discerning humor.

Because of my guru’s unspectacular guise, only a few of his contemporaries recognized him as a
superman. The popular adage: “He is a fool that cannot conceal his wisdom,” could never be
applied to Sri Yukteswar. Though born a mortal like all others, Master had achieved identity with
the Ruler of time and space. In his life I perceived a godlike unity. He had not found any
insuperable obstacle to mergence of human with Divine. No such barrier exists, I came to
understand, save in man’s spiritual unadventurousness.

I always thrilled at the touch of Sri Yukteswar’s holy feet. Yogis teach that a disciple is spiritually
magnetized by reverent contact with a master; a subtle current is generated. The devotee’s
undesirable habit-mechanisms in the brain are often cauterized; the groove of his worldly
tendencies beneficially disturbed. Momentarily at least he may find the secret veils of maya
lifting, and glimpse the reality of bliss. My whole body responded with a liberating glow whenever
I knelt in the Indian fashion before my guru.

“Even when Lahiri Mahasaya was silent,” Master told me, “or when he conversed on other than
strictly religious topics, I discovered that nonetheless he had transmitted to me ineffable

Sri Yukteswar affected me similarly. If I entered the hermitage in a worried or indifferent frame
of mind, my attitude imperceptibly changed. A healing calm descended at mere sight of my guru.
Every day with him was a new experience in joy, peace, and wisdom. Never did I find him
deluded or intoxicated with greed or emotion or anger or any human attachment.

“The darkness of maya is silently approaching. Let us hie homeward within.” With these words at
dusk Master constantly reminded his disciples of their need for Kriya Yoga. A new student
occasionally expressed doubts regarding his own worthiness to engage in yoga practice.

“Forget the past,” Sri Yukteswar would console him. “The vanished lives of all men are dark with
many shames. Human conduct is ever unreliable until anchored in the Divine. Everything in
future will improve if you are making a spiritual effort now.”

Master always had young chelas 12-13 in his hermitage. Their spiritual and intellectual education
was his lifelong interest: even shortly before he passed on, he accepted for training two six-year-
old boys and one youth of sixteen. He directed their minds and lives with that careful discipline in
which the word “disciple” is etymologically rooted. The ashram residents loved and revered their
guru; a slight clap of his hands sufficed to bring them eagerly to his side. When his mood was
silent and withdrawn, no one ventured to speak; when his laugh rang jovially, children looked
upon him as their own.

Master seldom asked others to render him a personal service, nor would he accept help from a
student unless the willingness were sincere. My guru quietly washed his clothes if the disciples
overlooked that privileged task. Sri Yukteswar wore the traditional ocher-colored swami robe; his

laceless shoes, in accordance with yogi custom, were of tiger or deer skin.

Master spoke fluent English, French, Hindi, and Bengali; his Sanskrit was fair. He patiently
instructed his young disciples by certain short cuts which he had ingeniously devised for the study
of English and Sanskrit.

Master was cautious of his body, while withholding solicitous attachment. The Infinite, he
pointed out, properly manifests through physical and mental soundness. He discountenanced any
extremes. A disciple once started a long fast. My guru only laughed: “Why not throw the dog a

Sri Yukteswar’s health was excellent; I never saw him unwell. 12-14 He permitted students to
consult doctors if it seemed advisable. His purpose was to give respect to the worldly custom:

“Physicians must carry on their work of healing through God’s laws as applied to matter.” But he
extolled the superiority of mental therapy, and often repeated: “Wisdom is the greatest cleanser.”

“The body is a treacherous friend. Give it its due; no more,” he said. “Pain and pleasure are
transitory; endure all dualities with calmness, while trying at the same time to remove their hold.

Imagination is the door through which disease as well as healing enters. Disbelieve in the reality
of sickness even when you are ill; an unrecognized visitor will flee!”

Master numbered many doctors among his disciples. “Those who have ferreted out the physical
laws can easily investigate the science of the soul,” he told them. “A subtle spiritual mechanism is
hidden just behind the bodily structure.” 12-15

Sri Yukteswar counseled his students to be living liaisons of Western and Eastern virtues. Himself
an executive Occidental in outer habits, inwardly he was the spiritual Oriental. He praised the
progressive, resourceful and hygienic habits of the West, and the religious ideals which give a
centuried halo to the East.

Discipline had not been unknown to me: at home Father was strict, Ananta often severe. But Sri
Yukteswar’s training cannot be described as other than drastic. A perfectionist, my guru was
hypercritical of his disciples, whether in matters of moment or in the subtle nuances of behavior.

“Good manners without sincerity are like a beautiful dead lady,” he remarked on suitable
occasion. “Straightforwardness without civility is like a surgeon’s knife, effective but unpleasant.
Candor with courtesy is helpful and admirable.”

Master was apparently satisfied with my spiritual progress, for he seldom referred to it; in other
matters my ears were no strangers to reproof. My chief offenses were absentmindedness,
intermittent indulgence in sad moods, non-observance of certain rules of etiquette, and
occasional unmethodical ways.

“Observe how the activities of your father Bhagabati are well- organized and balanced in every
way,” my guru pointed out. The two disciples of Lahiri Mahasaya had met, soon after I began my
pilgrimages to Serampore. Father and Sri Yukteswar admiringly evaluated the other’s worth. Both
had built an inner life of spiritual granite, insoluble against the ages.

From transient teachers of my earlier life I had imbibed a few erroneous lessons. A chela, I was
told, need not concern himself strenuously over worldly duties; when I had neglected or carelessly
performed my tasks, I was not chastised. Human nature finds such instruction very easy of
assimilation. Under Master’s unsparing rod, however, I soon recovered from the agreeable
delusions of irresponsibility.

“Those who are too good for this world are adorning some other,” Sri Yukteswar remarked. “So
long as you breathe the free air of earth, you are under obligation to render grateful service. He
alone who has fully mastered the breathless state 12-16 is freed from cosmic imperatives. I will not
fail to let you know when you have attained the final perfection.”
My guru could never be bribed, even by love. He showed no leniency to anyone who, like myself,
willingly offered to be his disciple. Whether Master and I were surrounded by his students or by
strangers, or were alone together, he always spoke plainly and upbraided sharply. No trifling
lapse into shallowness or inconsistency escaped his rebuke. This flattening treatment was hard to
endure, but my resolve was to allow Sri Yukteswar to iron out each of my psychological kinks. As
he labored at this titanic transformation, I shook many times under the weight of his disciplinary

“If you don’t like my words, you are at liberty to leave at any time,” Master assured me. “I want
nothing from you but your own improvement. Stay only if you feel benefited.”
For every humbling blow he dealt my vanity, for every tooth in my metaphorical jaw he knocked
loose with stunning aim, I am grateful beyond any facility of expression. The hard core of human
egotism is hardly to be dislodged except rudely. With its departure, the Divine finds at last an
unobstructed channel. In vain It seeks to percolate through flinty hearts of selfishness.

Sri Yukteswar’s wisdom was so penetrating that, heedless of remarks, he often replied to one’s
unspoken observation. “What a person imagines he hears, and what the speaker has really
implied, may be poles apart,” he said. “Try to feel the thoughts behind the confusion of men’s

But divine insight is painful to worldly ears; Master was not popular with superficial students.
The wise, always few in number, deeply revered him. I daresay Sri Yukteswar would have been
the most sought- after guru in India had his words not been so candid and so censorious.

“I am hard on those who come for my training,” he admitted to me. “That is my way; take it or
leave it. I will never compromise. But you will be much kinder to your disciples; that is your way.

I try to purify only in the fires of severity, searing beyond the average toleration. The gentle
approach of love is also transfiguring. The inflexible and the yielding methods are equally
effective if applied with wisdom. You will go to foreign lands, where blunt assaults on the ego are
not appreciated. A teacher could not spread India’s message in the West without an ample fund of
accommodative patience and forbearance.” I refuse to state the amount of truth I later came to
find in Master’s words!

Though Sri Yukteswar’s undissembling speech prevented a large following during his years on
earth, nevertheless his living spirit manifests today over the world, through sincere students of
his Kriya Yoga and other teachings. He has further dominion in men’s souls than ever Alexander
dreamed of in the soil.

Father arrived one day to pay his respects to Sri Yukteswar. My parent expected, very likely, to
hear some words in my praise. He was shocked to be given a long account of my imperfections. It
was Master’s practice to recount simple, negligible shortcomings with an air of portentous
gravity. Father rushed to see me. “From your guru’s remarks I thought to find you a complete
wreck!” My parent was between tears and laughter.

The only cause of Sri Yukteswar’s displeasure at the time was that I had been trying, against his
gentle hint, to convert a certain man to the spiritual path.

With indignant speed I sought out my guru. He received me with downcast eyes, as though
conscious of guilt. It was the only time I ever saw the divine lion meek before me. The unique
moment was savored to the full.

“Sir, why did you judge me so mercilessly before my astounded father? Was that just?”

“I will not do it again.” Master’s tone was apologetic.

Instantly I was disarmed. How readily the great man admitted his fault! Though he never again
upset Father’s peace of mind, Master relentlessly continued to dissect me whenever and wherever
he chose.

New disciples often joined Sri Yukteswar in exhaustive criticism of others. Wise like the guru!
Models of flawless discrimination! But he who takes the offensive must not be defenseless. The
same carping students fled precipitantly as soon as Master publicly unloosed in their direction a
few shafts from his analytical quiver.

“Tender inner weaknesses, revolting at mild touches of censure, are like diseased parts of the
body, recoiling before even delicate handling.” This was Sri Yukteswar’s amused comment on the
flighty ones.

There are disciples who seek a guru made in their own image. Such students often complained
that they did not understand Sri Yukteswar.

“Neither do you comprehend God!” I retorted on one occasion. “When a saint is clear to you, you
will be one.” Among the trillion mysteries, breathing every second the inexplicable air, who may
venture to ask that the fathomless nature of a master be instantly grasped?

Students came, and generally went. Those who craved a path of oily sympathy and comfortable
recognitions did not find it at the hermitage. Master offered shelter and shepherding for the
aeons, but many disciples miserly demanded ego-balm as well. They departed, preferring life’s
countless humiliations before any humility. Master’s blazing rays, the open penetrating sunshine
of his wisdom, were too powerful for their spiritual sickness. They sought some lesser teacher
who, shading them with flattery, permitted the fitful sleep of ignorance.

During my early months with Master, I had experienced a sensitive fear of his reprimands. These
were reserved, I soon saw, for disciples who had asked for his verbal vivisection. If any writhing
student made a protest, Sri Yukteswar would become unoffendedly silent. His words were never
wrathful, but impersonal with wisdom.

Master’s insight was not for the unprepared ears of casual visitors; he seldom remarked on their
defects, even if conspicuous. But toward students who sought his counsel, Sri Yukteswar felt a
serious responsibility. Brave indeed is the guru who undertakes to transform the crude ore of ego-
permeated humanity! A saint’s courage roots in his compassion for the stumbling eyeless of this

When I had abandoned underlying resentment, I found a marked decrease in my chastisement.
In a very subtle way, Master melted into comparative clemency. In time I demolished every wall
of rationalization and subconscious reservation behind which the human personality generally
shields itself. 12-17 The reward was an effortless harmony with my guru. I discovered him then to
be trusting, considerate, and silently loving. Undemonstrative, however, he bestowed no word of

My own temperament is principally devotional. It was disconcerting at first to find that my guru,
saturated with jnana but seemingly dry of bhakti, 12-18 expressed himself only in terms of cold
spiritual mathematics. But as I tuned myself to his nature, I discovered no diminution but rather
increase in my devotional approach to God. A self-realized master is fully able to guide his various
disciples along natural lines of their essential bias.

My relationship with Sri Yukteswar, somewhat inarticulate, nonetheless possessed all eloquence.
Often I found his silent signature on my thoughts, rendering speech inutile. Quietly sitting beside
him, I felt his bounty pouring peacefully over my being.

Sri Yukteswar’s impartial justice was notably demonstrated during the summer vacation of my
first college year. I welcomed the opportunity to spend uninterrupted months at Serampore with
my guru.

“You may be in charge of the hermitage.” Master was pleased over my enthusiastic arrival. “Your
duties will be the reception of guests, and supervision of the work of the other disciples.”

Kumar, a young villager from east Bengal, was accepted a fortnight later for hermitage training.

Remarkably intelligent, he quickly won Sri Yukteswar’s affection. For some unfathomable reason,
Master was very lenient to the new resident.

“Mukunda, let Kumar assume your duties. Employ your own time in sweeping and cooking.”

Master issued these instructions after the new boy had been with us for a month.

Exalted to leadership, Kumar exercised a petty household tyranny. In silent mutiny, the other
disciples continued to seek me out for daily counsel.

“Mukunda is impossible! You made me supervisor, yet the others go to him and obey him.” Three
weeks later Kumar was complaining to our guru. I overheard him from an adjoining room.

“That’s why I assigned him to the kitchen and you to the parlor.” Sri Yukteswar’s withering tones
were new to Kumar. “In this way you have come to realize that a worthy leader has the desire to
serve, and not to dominate. You wanted Mukunda’s position, but could not maintain it by merit.
Return now to your earlier work as cook’s assistant.”

After this humbling incident, Master resumed toward Kumar a former attitude of unwonted
indulgence. Who can solve the mystery of attraction? In Kumar our guru discovered a charming
fount which did not spurt for the fellow disciples. Though the new boy was obviously Sri
Yukteswar’s favorite, I felt no dismay. Personal idiosyncrasies, possessed even by masters, lend a
rich complexity to the pattern of life. My nature is seldom commandeered by a detail; I was
seeking from Sri Yukteswar a more inaccessible benefit than an outward praise.

Kumar spoke venomously to me one day without reason; I was deeply hurt.

“Your head is swelling to the bursting point!” I added a warning whose truth I felt intuitively:

“Unless you mend your ways, someday you will be asked to leave this ashram.”

Laughing sarcastically, Kumar repeated my remark to our guru, who had just entered the room.
Fully expecting to be scolded, I retired meekly to a corner.

“Maybe Mukunda is right.” Master’s reply to the boy came with unusual coldness. I escaped
without castigation.

A year later, Kumar set out for a visit to his childhood home. He ignored the quiet disapproval of
Sri Yukteswar, who never authoritatively controlled his disciples’ movements. On the boy’s return
to Serampore in a few months, a change was unpleasantly apparent. Gone was the stately Kumar
with serenely glowing face. Only an undistinguished peasant stood before us, one who had lately
acquired a number of evil habits.

Master summoned me and brokenheartedly discussed the fact that the boy was now unsuited to
the monastic hermitage life.

“Mukunda, I will leave it to you to instruct Kumar to leave the ashram tomorrow; I can’t do it!”
Tears stood in Sri Yukteswar’s eyes, but he controlled himself quickly. “The boy would never have
fallen to these depths had he listened to me and not gone away to mix with undesirable
companions. He has rejected my protection; the callous world must be his guru still.”

Kumar’s departure brought me no elation; sadly I wondered how one with power to win a
master’s love could ever respond to cheaper allures. Enjoyment of wine and sex are rooted in the
natural man, and require no delicacies of perception for their appreciation. Sense wiles are
comparable to the evergreen oleander, fragrant with its multicolored flowers: every part of the
plant is poisonous. The land of healing lies within, radiant with that happiness blindly sought in a
thousand misdirections. 12-19

“Keen intelligence is two-edged,” Master once remarked in reference to Kumar’s brilliant mind.

“It may be used constructively or destructively like a knife, either to cut the boil of ignorance, or
to decapitate one’s self. Intelligence is rightly guided only after the mind has acknowledged the
inescapability of spiritual law.”

My guru mixed freely with men and women disciples, treating all as his children. Perceiving their
soul equality, he showed no distinction or partiality.

“In sleep, you do not know whether you are a man or a woman,” he said. “Just as a man,
impersonating a woman, does not become one, so the soul, impersonating both man and woman,
has no sex. The soul is the pure, changeless image of God.”

Sri Yukteswar never avoided or blamed women as objects of seduction. Men, he said, were also a
temptation to women. I once inquired of my guru why a great ancient saint had called women
“the door to hell.”

“A girl must have proved very troublesome to his peace of mind in his early life,” my guru
answered causticly. “Otherwise he would have denounced, not woman, but some imperfection in
his own self-control.”

If a visitor dared to relate a suggestive story in the hermitage, Master would maintain an
unresponsive silence. “Do not allow yourself to be thrashed by the provoking whip of a beautiful
face,” he told the disciples. “How can sense slaves enjoy the world? Its subtle flavors escape them
while they grovel in primal mud. All nice discriminations are lost to the man of elemental lusts.”

Students seeking to escape from the dualistic maya delusion received from Sri Yukteswar patient
and understanding counsel.

“Just as the purpose of eating is to satisfy hunger, not greed, so the sex instinct is designed for the
propagation of the species according to natural law, never for the kindling of insatiable longings,”
he said. “Destroy wrong desires now; otherwise they will follow you after the astral body is torn
from its physical casing. Even when the flesh is weak, the mind should be constantly resistant. If
temptation assails you with cruel force, overcome it by impersonal analysis and indomitable will.
Every natural passion can be mastered.

“Conserve your powers. Be like the capacious ocean, absorbing within all the tributary rivers of
the senses. Small yearnings are openings in the reservoir of your inner peace, permitting healing
waters to be wasted in the desert soil of materialism. The forceful activating impulse of wrong
desire is the greatest enemy to the happiness of man. Roam in the world as a lion of self-control;
see that the frogs of weakness don’t kick you around.”

The devotee is finally freed from all instinctive compulsions. He transforms his need for human
affection into aspiration for God alone, a love solitary because omnipresent.

Sri Yukteswar’s mother lived in the Rana Mahal district of Benares where I had first visited my
guru. Gracious and kindly, she was yet a woman of very decided opinions. I stood on her balcony
one day and watched mother and son talking together. In his quiet, sensible way, Master was
trying to convince her about something. He was apparently unsuccessful, for she shook her head
with great vigor.

“Nay, nay, my son, go away now! Your wise words are not for me! I am not your disciple!”

Sri Yukteswar backed away without further argument, like a scolded child. I was touched at his
great respect for his mother even in her unreasonable moods. She saw him only as her little boy,
not as a sage. There was a charm about the trifling incident; it supplied a sidelight on my guru’s
unusual nature, inwardly humble and outwardly unbendable.

The monastic regulations do not allow a swami to retain connection with worldly ties after their
formal severance. He cannot perform the ceremonial family rites which are obligatory on the
householder. Yet Shankara, the ancient founder of the Swami Order, disregarded the injunctions.

At the death of his beloved mother, he cremated her body with heavenly fire which he caused to
spurt from his upraised hand.

Sri Yukteswar also ignored the restrictions, in a fashion less spectacular. When his mother passed
on, he arranged the crematory services by the holy Ganges in Benares, and fed many Brahmins in
conformance with age-old custom.

The shastric prohibitions were intended to help swamis overcome narrow identifications.

Shankara and Sri Yukteswar had wholly merged their beings in the Impersonal Spirit; they
needed no rescue by rule. Sometimes, too, a master purposely ignores a canon in order to uphold
its principle as superior to and independent of form. Thus Jesus plucked ears of corn on the day
of rest. To the inevitable critics he said: “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the
sabbath.” 12-20

Outside of the scriptures, seldom was a book honored by Sri Yukteswar’s perusal. Yet he was
invariably acquainted with the latest scientific discoveries and other advancements of knowledge.
A brilliant conversationalist, he enjoyed an exchange of views on countless topics with his guests.
My guru’s ready wit and rollicking laugh enlivened every discussion. Often grave, Master was
never gloomy. “To seek the Lord, one need not disfigure his face,” he would remark. “Remember
that finding God will mean the funeral of all sorrows.”

Among the philosophers, professors, lawyers and scientists who came to the hermitage, a number
arrived for their first visit with the expectation of meeting an orthodox religionist. A supercilious
smile or a glance of amused tolerance occasionally betrayed that the newcomers anticipated
nothing more than a few pious platitudes. Yet their reluctant departure would bring an expressed
conviction that Sri Yukteswar had shown precise insight into their specialized fields.
My guru ordinarily was gentle and affable to guests; his welcome was given with charming
cordiality. Yet inveterate egotists sometimes suffered an invigorating shock. They confronted in
Master either a frigid indifference or a formidable opposition: ice or iron!

A noted chemist once crossed swords with Sri Yukteswar. The visitor would not admit the
existence of God, inasmuch as science has devised no means of detecting Him.

“So you have inexplicably failed to isolate the Supreme Power in your test tubes!” Master’s gaze
was stern. “I recommend an unheard-of experiment. Examine your thoughts unremittingly for
twenty-four hours. Then wonder no longer at God’s absence.”

A celebrated pundit received a similar jolt. With ostentatious zeal, the scholar shook the ashram
rafters with scriptural lore. Resounding passages poured from the Mahabharata, the
Upanishads, 12-21 the Bhasyas 12-22 of Shankara.

“I am waiting to hear you.” Sri Yukteswar’s tone was inquiring, as though utter silence had
reigned. The pundit was puzzled.

“Quotations there have been, in superabundance.” Master’s words convulsed me with mirth, as I
squatted in my corner, at a respectful distance from the visitor. “But what original commentary
can you supply, from the uniqueness of your particular life? What holy text have you absorbed
and made your own? In what ways have these timeless truths renovated your nature? Are you
content to be a hollow victrola, mechanically repeating the words of other men?”

“I give up!” The scholar’s chagrin was comical. “I have no inner realization.”

For the first time, perhaps, he understood that discerning placement of the comma does not
atone for a spiritual coma.

“These bloodless pedants smell unduly of the lamp,” my guru remarked after the departure of the
chastened one. “They prefer philosophy to be a gentle intellectual setting-up exercise. Their
elevated thoughts are carefully unrelated either to the crudity of outward action or to any
scourging inner discipline!”

Master stressed on other occasions the futility of mere book learning.

“Do not confuse understanding with a larger vocabulary,” he remarked. “Sacred writings are
beneficial in stimulating desire for inward realization, if one stanza at a time is slowly assimilated.
Continual intellectual study results in vanity and the false satisfaction of an undigested

Sri Yukteswar related one of his own experiences in scriptural edification. The scene was a forest
hermitage in eastern Bengal, where he observed the procedure of a renowned teacher, Dabru
Ballav. His method, at once simple and difficult, was common in ancient India.
Dabru Ballav had gathered his disciples around him in the sylvan solitudes. The holy Bhagavad
Gita was open before them. Steadfastly they looked at one passage for half an hour, then closed
their eyes. Another half hour slipped away. The master gave a brief comment. Motionless, they
meditated again for an hour. Finally the guru spoke.

“Have you understood?”

“Yes, sir.” One in the group ventured this assertion.

“No; not fully. Seek the spiritual vitality that has given these words the power to rejuvenate India
century after century.” Another hour disappeared in silence. The master dismissed the students,
and turned to Sri Yukteswar.

“Do you know the Bhagavad Gita?”

“No, sir, not really; though my eyes and mind have run through its pages many times.”

“Thousands have replied to me differently!” The great sage smiled at Master in blessing. “If one
busies himself with an outer display of scriptural wealth, what time is left for silent inward diving
after the priceless pearls?”

Sri Yukteswar directed the study of his own disciples by the same intensive method of one-
pointedness. “Wisdom is not assimilated with the eyes, but with the atoms,” he said. “When your
conviction of a truth is not merely in your brain but in your being, you may diffidently vouch for
its meaning.” He discouraged any tendency a student might have to construe book-knowledge as
a necessary step to spiritual realization.

“The rishis wrote in one sentence profundities that commentating scholars busy themselves over
for generations,” he remarked. “Endless literary controversy is for sluggard minds. What more
liberating thought than ‘God is’-nay, ‘God’?”

But man does not easily return to simplicity. It is seldom “God” for him, but rather learned
pomposities. His ego is pleased, that he can grasp such erudition.

Men who were pridefully conscious of high worldly position were likely, in Master’s presence, to
add humility to their other possessions. A local magistrate once arrived for an interview at the
seaside hermitage in Puri. The man, who held a reputation for ruthlessness, had it well within his
power to oust us from the ashram. I cautioned my guru about the despotic possibilities. But he
seated himself with an uncompromising air, and did not rise to greet the visitor. Slightly nervous,
I squatted near the door. The man had to content himself with a wooden box; my guru did not
request me to fetch a chair. There was no fulfillment of the magistrate’s obvious expectation that
his importance would be ceremoniously acknowledged.

A metaphysical discussion ensued. The guest blundered through misinterpretations of the
scriptures. As his accuracy sank, his ire rose.

“Do you know that I stood first in the M. A. examination?” Reason had forsaken him, but he could
still shout.

“Mr. Magistrate, you forget that this is not your courtroom,” Master replied evenly. “From your
childish remarks I would have surmised that your college career was unremarkable. A university
degree, in any case, is not remotely related to Vedic realization. Saints are not produced in
batches every semester like accountants.”

After a stunned silence, the visitor laughed heartily.

“This is my first encounter with a heavenly magistrate,” he said. Later he made a formal request,
couched in the legal terms which were evidently part and parcel of his being, to be accepted as a
“probationary” disciple.

My guru personally attended to the details connected with the management of his property.
Unscrupulous persons on various occasions attempted to secure possession of Master’s ancestral
land. With determination and even by instigating lawsuits, Sri Yukteswar outwitted every
opponent. He underwent these painful experiences from a desire never to be a begging guru, or a
burden on his disciples.

His financial independence was one reason why my alarmingly outspoken Master was innocent of
the cunnings of diplomacy. Unlike those teachers who have to flatter their supporters, my guru
was impervious to the influences, open or subtle, of others’ wealth. Never did I hear him ask or
even hint for money for any purpose. His hermitage training was given free and freely to all

An insolent court deputy arrived one day at the Serampore ashram to serve Sri Yukteswar with a
legal summons. A disciple named Kanai and myself were also present. The officer’s attitude
toward Master was offensive.

“It will do you good to leave the shadows of your hermitage and breathe the honest air of a
courtroom.” The deputy grinned contemptuously. I could not contain myself.

“Another word of your impudence and you will be on the floor!” I advanced threateningly.

“You wretch!” Kanai’s shout was simultaneous with my own. “Dare you bring your blasphemies
into this sacred ashram?”

But Master stood protectingly in front of his abuser. “Don’t get excited over nothing. This man is
only doing his rightful duty.”

The officer, dazed at his varying reception, respectfully offered a word of apology and sped away.
Amazing it was to find that a master with such a fiery will could be so calm within. He fitted the
Vedic definition of a man of God: “Softer than the flower, where kindness is concerned; stronger
than the thunder, where principles are at stake.”

There are always those in this world who, in Browning’s words, “endure no light, being
themselves obscure.” An outsider occasionally berated Sri Yukteswar for an imaginary grievance.

My imperturbable guru listened politely, analyzing himself to see if any shred of truth lay within
the denunciation. These scenes would bring to my mind one of Master’s inimitable observations:

“Some people try to be tall by cutting off the heads of others!”

The unfailing composure of a saint is impressive beyond any sermon. “He that is slow to anger is
better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.” 12-23

I often reflected that my majestic Master could easily have been an emperor or world-shaking
warrior had his mind been centered on fame or worldly achievement. He had chosen instead to
storm those inner citadels of wrath and egotism whose fall is the height of a man.
12-1: “Worship of Durga.” This is the chief festival of the Bengali year and lasts for nine days around the end ofSeptember. Immediately following is the ten-day festival of Dashahara (“the One who removes ten sins”-three of body,three of mind, four of speech). Both pujas are sacred to Durga, literally “the Inaccessible,” an aspect of Divine Mother,Shakti, the female creative force personified.

12-2: Sri Yukteswar was born on May 10, 1855.

12-3: Yukteswar means “united to God.” Giri is a classificatory distinction of one of the ten ancient Swami branches. Srimeans “holy”; it is not a name but a title of respect.

12-4: Literally, “to direct together.” Samadhi is a superconscious state of ecstasy in which the yogi perceives the identityof soul and Spirit.

12-5: Snoring, according to physiologists, is an indication of utter relaxation (to the oblivious practitioner, solely).

12-6: Dhal is a thick soup made from split peas or other pulses. Channa is a cheese of fresh curdled milk, cut intosquares and curried with potatoes.

12-7: The omnipresent powers of a yogi, whereby he sees, hears, tastes, smells, and feels his oneness in creationwithout the use of sensory organs, have been described as follows in the Taittiriya Aranyaka: “The blind man pierced thepearl; the fingerless put a thread into it; the neckless wore it; and the tongueless praised it.”

12-8: The cobra swiftly strikes at any moving object within its range. Complete immobility is usually one’s sole hope ofsafety.

12-9: Lahiri Mahasaya actually said “Priya” (first or given name), not “Yukteswar” (monastic name, not received by myguru during Lahiri Mahasaya’s lifetime). (See page 109.) “Yukteswar” is substituted here, and in a few other places inthis book, in order to avoid the confusion, to reader, of two names.

12-10: “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shallhave them.”-Mark 11:24. Masters who possess the Divine Vision are fully able to transfer their realizations to advanceddisciples, as Lahiri Mahasaya did for Sri Yukteswar on this occasion.

12-11: “And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. And Jesus answered and said,Suffer ye thus far. And he touched his ear and healed him.”-Luke 22:50-51.

12-12: “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them undertheir feet, and turn again and rend you.”-Matthew 7:6.

12-13: Disciples; from Sanskrit verb root, “to serve.”

12-14: He was once ill in Kashmir, when I was absent from him. (See chapter 23.)

12-15: A courageous medical man, Charles Robert Richet, awarded the Nobel Prize in physiology, wrote as follows:”Metaphysics is not yet officially a science, recognized as such. But it is going to be. . . . At Edinburgh, I was able toaffirm before 100 physiologists that our five senses are not our only means of knowledge and that a fragment of realitysometimes reaches the intelligence in other ways. . . . Because a fact is rare is no reason that it does not exist. Becausea study is difficult, is that a reason for not understanding it? . . . Those who have railed at metaphysics as an occultscience will be as ashamed of themselves as those who railed at chemistry on the ground that pursuit of thephilosopher’s stone was illusory. . . . In the matter of principles there are only those of Lavoisier, Claude Bernard, andPasteur-the experimental everywhere and always. Greetings, then, to the new science which is going to change theorientation of human thought.”

12-16: Samadhi : perfect union of the individualized soul with the Infinite Spirit.

12-17: The subconsciously guided rationalizations of the mind are utterly different from the infallible guidance of truthwhich issues from the superconsciousness. Led by French scientists of the Sorbonne, Western thinkers are beginning toinvestigate the possibility of divine perception in man.

“For the past twenty years, students of psychology, influenced by Freud, gave all their time to searching thesubconscious realms,” Rabbi Israel H. Levinthal pointed out in 1929. “It is true that the subconscious reveals much of themystery that can explain human actions, but not all of our actions. It can explain the abnormal, but not deeds that areabove the normal. The latest psychology, sponsored by the French schools, has discovered a new region in man, which itterms the superconscious. In contrast to the subconscious which represents the submerged currents of our nature, itreveals the heights to which our nature can reach. Man represents a triple, not a double, personality; our conscious andsubconscious being is crowned by a superconsciousness. Many years ago the English psychologist, F. W. H. Myers,suggested that ‘hidden in the deep of our being is a rubbish heap as well as a treasure house.’ In contrast to thepsychology that centers all its researches on the subconscious in man’s nature, this new psychology of thesuperconscious focuses its attention upon the treasure-house, the region that alone can explain the great, unselfish,heroic deeds of men.”

12-18: Jnana , wisdom, and bhakti , devotion: two of the main paths to God.

12-19: “Man in his waking state puts forth innumerable efforts for experiencing sensual pleasures; when the entire groupof sensory organs is fatigued, he forgets even the pleasure on hand and goes to sleep in order to enjoy rest in the soul,his own nature,” Shankara, the great Vedantist, has written. “Ultra-sensual bliss is thus extremely easy of attainmentand is far superior to sense delights which always end in disgust.”

12-20: Mark 2:27.

12-21: The Upanishads or Vedanta (literally, “end of the Vedas”), occur in certain parts of the Vedas as essentialsummaries. The Upanishads furnish the doctrinal basis of the Hindu religion. They received the following tribute fromSchopenhauer: “How entirely does the Upanishad breathe throughout the holy spirit of the Vedas ! How is everyone whohas become familiar with that incomparable book stirred by that spirit to the very depths of his soul! From everysentence deep, original, and sublime thoughts arise, and the whole is pervaded by a high and holy and earnest spirit. . . .

The access to the Vedas by means of the Upanishads is in my eyes the greatest privilege this century may claim beforeall previous centuries.”

12-22: Commentaries. Shankara peerlessly expounded the Upanishads .

12-23: Proverbs 16:32.

About the author



We are all leaves, flowers
And fruits
On the different religion-branches
Of the birthless and deathless

(Sri Chinmoy)

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