A Visit from Mt. Washington
A few weeks after that, Sister Sailasuta, a direct disciple of Yogananda’s from the SRF Mt. Washington monastery, came to Calcutta. She showed deep reverence for her guru, and radiated to everyone great joy and energy from a heart that was warm and expansive. We soon became good friends. Master gave her the nickname of Sailasuta, meaning “daughter of the mountains,” because she was a good hiker. Oh, how she loved to recall how Master had called her that! (After his passing, she took Sailasuta as her monastic name because of the fondness of those memories.) She was a fast hiker, and whenever we climbed a hill together she was always “up there” while I was still “down here”!
One day she asked me to accompany her to Puri, where Sri Yukteswar had had a seaside ashram. The ashram was now owned by YSS.
We were privileged, in Puri, to be able to visit Sri Bhupen Sanyal Mahasaya, a direct disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya, and to meditate in his presence every evening. He used to say, “Don’t gossip: Just meditate!” At our request, he would often relate the teachings of Lahiri Mahasaya, his gurudeva, or tell us stories about him. With great enthusiasm he spoke of things he had heard directly from Lahiri’s wife, Kashi Moni.
“One day,” he said, “a few disciples had gathered at Guruji’s home. Some of them had expressed a desire for the higher Kriya Yoga initiations. Guruji looked at them, smiling. Just then, the front door opened. In came the postman, Brinda Bhagat. Lahiri greeted him: ‘Ah, Brinda! Would you like to receive the second Kriya initiation?’
”’Oh, please, Master, no!’ Brinda protested. ‘What would I do with higher initiations? I came here to ask a favor: I am so filled with God’s presence already that I am hardly able to deliver my mail. Please, Guruji, would you request the Divine Postmaster to release me from my work, so that I can devote more time to the initiation I have received already?’ Those impatient devotees were shamed to silence!“
I was told on a number of occasions that Lahiri Mahasaya used to bestow the higher Kriya initiations according to what the people themselves actually needed-that is to say, according to what would truly be effective for them, and not just for the sake of ”getting more,“ greedily. Some of his disciples never received more than one initiation, even though they were with him for many years. Lahiri Mahasaya would say to them, ”One is enough for you.“ Others, such as Sanyal Mahasaya, received three initiations. I know of four that Sri Yukteswar received.
On another occasion Sanyal Mahasaya told us, ”One of Lahiri Mahasaya’s close disciples and her husband wanted to come to Guruji’s home for a puja ceremony. They were late in getting to the train station, however, and arrived just as the train was pulling out. Anxiously they prayed to our guru for help. Suddenly, the train stopped! The engineer stepped down. The stationmaster ran out. General concern! What could the trouble be? Meanwhile, the couple boarded the train. The puzzled engineer got back on and tried once again to get the train moving. This time it started out of the station as if nothing had happened! The couple could not doubt that this was a miracle caused by Guruji’s intervention.
“The following morning, when they reached Lahiri Mahasaya’s home, he scolded them with a smile saying, ‘Next time, be on time! I had to call on God’s power to get you on that train.’”
Another time Sanyal told us, “One morning Lahiri Mahasaya’s wife Kashi Moni (‘Guru Ma,’ as we liked to call her) rushed into the Master’s room to scold him about the household finances-or, rather, the lack of them. She spoke loudly, but didn’t find him there. Thinking he must have gone outside, she raised her voice even louder. Suddenly she beheld her husband-who was her guru, also-seated in the lotus pose near the ceiling, suspended in air!
”’It is all nothing, don’t you see?’ he said to her. ‘How could a nothing like me provide support for your earthly needs?’ Beside herself with terror, she implored his forgiveness. Quietly, then, she slipped out of the room. Never again did she think of him as her husband. He was only her divine guru! Kashi Moni learned to see Lord Shiva, Destroyer of delusion, in the form of her husband. Soon afterward, a disciple of his offered material support for the family.“
Sanyal Mahasaya said that his guru often told his disciples, ”’Bon-e, kon-e, mon-e!‘ That is to say, ‘Whether in a forest, in your room at home, or only in your own mind, be always with God.’“
We visited Sanyal Mahasaya several times more. Every time he blessed us, we felt the presence of the Divine. He would often quote Lahiri Mahasaya’s advice, ”If you don’t invite God to be your summer guest, he won’t come to you in the winter of your life.“ Throughout my life I have remembered the inspiration I drew from Sanyal Mahasaya.
It was in 1962 that Bhupendra Sanyal left his body.
After a few days in Puri, we left to visit Ranchi, the town where Yogananda’s school first became firmly established. It was here also that Master had his vision telling him to go to America, and showing him many future disciples in that country. I couldn’t help thinking that Sailasuta was one of those disciples!
Anandamoyee Ma had an ashram also in Ranchi, where we visited every afternoon for satsang, and to receive her blessing. Many times we sat before her in meditation, not speaking for long periods. She went often into samadhi, or chanted softly. We went only with the purpose of being in her holy vibrations.
Four days later we returned to Calcutta and the Dakshineswar ashram. One day after our arrival, Swami Atmanandaji asked me please to build a retaining wall to prevent the bank of mud at one of the ashram boundary lines from slipping into the river. For three months I was prevented, therefore, from visiting saints in the Himalayan foothills. I’d become accustomed to trekking there, roaming about as I pleased and meeting advanced souls in secluded caves or huts. But I was grateful also to be in my guru’s ashram, and passed the summer months there happily.
Finally the wall (and also a guest room) was finished. I was free at last, then, to return to my beloved mountains.
This time I went to Ranikhet and stayed once again at Mrs. Clark’s hotel. A well-known fortune teller, named Rani Ma, lived nearby. At some point I befriended her. It didn’t take me long, however, to realize that fortune telling was not a worthy occupation for her. I asked her, ”Why do you spend so much of your time in this way? Why not teach the people who come here with shallow questions the path of meditation? In that way, they might get their own answers. That, surely, would be much more helpful to them.“ Rani Ma was a sincere devotee of Lord Rama. I could see she had much deeper things to give people.
One evening around 9 p.m., as I was walking slowly back from visiting Rani Ma, my thoughts on the conversation earlier that evening, I heard a noise and looked up. A large tigress was on a rock above the road, crouched as if ready to leap down on me! Her gaze was focused intently on my face! I loudly chanted, ”Jai Ram! Jai Ram! Jai Guru!“
The tigress turned away and jumped down towards the valley below. I don’t pretend to know for certain why she didn’t attack me, but I have always believed it was by the grace of my great guru. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed with gratitude.
A few days later, this same tigress-an obviously persistent beast!-returned and entered the grounds surrounding Mrs. Clark’s hotel. The tigress was just about to attack one of the dogs that always guarded the inn, when all four dogs charged her. They clawed at her face ferociously, and tore out her eyes. Eventually they succeeded in killing her. One of the dogs was seriously wounded, and I had to call the local police. There was no recourse, unfortunately, but to shoot her.
My heart pounded for a long time after this episode. Among my other emotions, the reflection came that I never would have believed that dogs could kill a tiger! The ways of Nature are often strange. Every creature has a certain destiny-determined among lower animals, so Master wrote, by ”group karma.“ I certainly felt part, that day, of the magnificence of cosmic Mother Nature!
Soon thereafter I met a very advanced soul, Kailash Pati, who lived on Kalika Hill about four miles from Ranikhet. Pilgrims sometimes ask the sadhus they meet to tell them their fortunes. If a sadhu of deep intuition sees something that may be helpful for a person to know, he may speak. Otherwise, he will remain silent. I myself do not believe in asking for such things. I travel in the mountains only to be with great souls who spend their lives in God, or in seeking Him. I therefore never asked Kailash Pati for any favor. He was very happy to see that I’d come for purely spiritual reasons. Over the six years that I got to visit him, I had a chance to meditate with him for long periods of time. Each of those meditations holds precious memories for me. I would sit with him while he remained in samadhi for hours at a time.
Before I left the first time, he encouraged me to visit a great yogi, Hari Gauri, in the small nearby town of Naini Tal, giving me directions to the saint’s home. He hinted that the trip would not be easy, but it didn’t dawn on me that the way there would prove dangerous. It wasn’t until the summer of 1958 that I finally got my chance to go see him. Much of the trail was, in fact, so narrow that in many places it was only one-and-a-half-feet-wide!
On the outskirts of Naini Tal there is a large, serene lake. A mandir, or sacred temple, stands majestically at the north end of the lake. I stayed at a small inn for the night. The next morning I left for the Hari Gauri Mandir, though in fact I was seeking the living Hari Gauri.
Someone local to the area told me I would find it three and a half kilometers behind the Governor’s forest bungalow. I went first to the temple and bowed to Naini Devi, the murti of Divine Mother that is worshiped there. Then I began to walk in search of Hari Gauri. From the directions I’d been given, I knew that after several kilometers I would see a large tree, from which point I must turn left and climb a hill toward the ashram.
As I was walking I talked mentally to my Divine Mother Kali, singing Her praises. In doing so, however, I was paying insufficient attention to my surroundings, and missed the large tree. More than a mile farther on, I realized that I was lost. I stopped in confusion. Just then a young girl, typical of the hill people, came towards me with a bundle of wood in her arms. It surprised me to see a hill girl alone in that deep jungle. Usually, people traveling there would go in groups of fifteen or more for protection.
”Where are you going?“ she asked me. ”Are you lost?“ She spoke in the accent of hill people: similar to Hindi, but slightly different also. She added, ”Don’t go any further. There are tigers living beyond this spot. Come, follow me.“
I asked her why she was walking alone so deep in the forest, but she only smiled and repeated, ”Follow me.“
After about fifteen minutes we came to the tall, stately tree I had been told to look out for. Here she said, ”Go up this path here. It’s just a few minutes farther.“ I turned from glancing at the path to thank her. To my amazement, she was no longer there! I shouted loudly. Still, I heard no response.
My body perspired and my eyes filled with tears, for I realized just Who this little girl had been. Fervently I thanked my Divine Mother Kali. After waiting a few minutes, hoping to catch a glimpse of Her, I proceeded on my way.
Hari Gauri was waiting for me before the gate. ”Welcome, welcome!“ he said. ”Divine Mother saved you. Next time, watch where you are going! Follow Kailash Pati’s instructions.“
In his mandir I found a beautiful statue of Kali. We meditated before it for four hours. The whole time I chanted, ”Kali, Kali!“ I could not check my tears. Afterwards, this saintly man invited me in to eat kitchuri (a simple dish of rice, daal, and vegetables) with him.
As we were eating, Hari Gauri told me he had met Paramhansa Yogananda while he lived in the United States for four years working as an electrical engineer. He had great love and regard for Master. After a while, I said it was time for me to leave as I didn’t want to impose on his time any longer. However, he asked me first to come into his small hut. It had a room containing two beds, and another room for meditation and asanas (yoga postures). The place had very powerful vibrations. Inside was a woman, whom he introduced to me as Gauri.
”Do you know who she is?“ he asked. I told him I thought she must be his partner in tantra. ”She is that also,“ he replied, ”but she is far more. She is my mother, my sister, my friend, and last of all my legitimate wife.“ Both of them said, ”May Divine Mother Kali bless you.”
The next day I left for Benares to spend three days with Anandamoyee Ma, after that returning once more to Dakshineswar.