In the sixty years, now, that I have been on this path, I cannot recall to mind a single instance where a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda has failed to find protection in time of real need. Considering the length of time involved, and the thousands of disciples I have known during this period, this is quite an amazing record.
The most striking of these cases occurred among those who had placed their lives unreservedly in the Guru’s care. Dr. Lewis told of an episode similar to Norman’s, when, on a cold winter night in Massachusetts, he had been out driving to a meditation meeting. With him were two fellow disciples, Mrs. Laura Elliott and Mrs. Alice Hasey (Sister Yogmata). Suddenly, as they approached a narrow bridge, they found their way blocked by another car that had skidded sidewise across the icy road. A crash seemed inevitable.
“At that moment,” Dr. Lewis said, “we felt as if a giant hand were being pressed down on the hood of the car. We slowed instantly to a stop, our car still safely on the road.”
Señor J. M. Cuaron, the leader of the SRF center in Mexico City, related the following incident to me.
“I was badly in need of a job, but for a long time could find no work anywhere. Then one day an excellent offer came from a company in Matamoros. Taking that job would mean moving away from Mexico City; I therefore wrote Master to request his permission to put the SRF center in someone else’s charge. My letter was, to me, a mere formality; I was sure Master would congratulate me on my good luck. Imagine my surprise, then, when he replied by telegram: ‘No. Absolutely not. Under no circumstances whatever accept that job.’ I admit I was a bit upset. But even so, I obeyed him.
“One month later the news came out in the papers: The company that had offered me that job was exposed for fraud. Its officers, including the man who had taken the post I’d been offered, were sent to prison. He hadn’t been aware of the firm’s dishonesty, just as I would not have been. Because of the position he held, however, he was imprisoned with the rest. It was only by Master’s grace that I was spared that calamity!”
Tests there must be in life, of course. They come especially on the spiritual path, for if devotees are to escape the coils of maya (delusion), they must learn the lessons they need to develop in wisdom. Master didn’t shrink from giving us whatever lessons we needed, to grow. For example, although on that occasion he saved Señor Cuaron from ignominious arrest, he never helped him to find the employment he so badly wanted. Señor Cuaron in fact had enough money to live on simply, as became a world-renouncing yogi. Master evidently saw no good reason to help him return to his former levels of opulence.
But our tests were always blessings; outright misfortune Master spared us. And where a test was not required for a disciple’s spiritual growth, Master often removed it from his path altogether.
I remember how he “de-jinxed” a student (not a close disciple) who was having trouble earning money. It was Jean Haupt’s brother, Richard. Not long after Master’s intercession, the man became quite well-to-do.
In 1955 I went to Switzerland on a lecture tour. There I met a lady from Czechoslovakia who told me a story concerning Professor Novicky, the late leader of a small SRF group in Prague.
“One day,” she said, “after Yogananda’s passing, a stranger came to Professor Novicky and requested instruction in yoga. The professor didn’t know what to do. Normally he kept his spiritual activities a secret so as not to expose himself to persecution. If this man was a genuine seeker, the professor would want to help him. But if he was a communist government spy, any admission of interest in yoga might result in a prison sentence for him. Our friend prayed for guidance. Suddenly, standing behind that self-proclaimed ‘devotee,’ Paramhansa Yogananda appeared. Slowly the Master shook his head, then vanished. Professor Novicky told the man he had come to the wrong place for information. Sometime later, he learned that the man was indeed a government spy.
“I am free to tell this story now,” my informant continued, “for the good professor died recently, of natural causes.”
On January 5, 1959, my own life was spared in a remarkable manner. The incident took place in India. I was preparing for a religious gathering in Dakshineswar, outside Calcutta, for which event Daya Mata was to be the principal speaker. Part of my task was to set up the loud-speaker equipment. With both hands I grasped the microphone boom to move it. Suddenly 230 volts of electricity shot through my body, lifting me right off the ground. Involuntarily I cried out. Such high voltage tightens the muscles, making it impossible to release anything one is holding. Unable as I’d have been to let go of the metal boom, I would have been killed instantly. Just at that moment, inexplicably, the fuse blew. The function was delayed half an hour till another fuse was located, but my life was spared. The only ill effect I suffered was a slight tremor of the heart that lasted two or three days.
Other occasions there have been. One was at the men’s retreat at Twenty-Nine Palms. I was out walking one day, when all of a sudden a flock of crows began circling around me. I thought, “This surely is a bad omen.” Two days later I unmade my bed — I had been sleeping out on the patio — preparatory to leaving. Between the sheets I found a squashed black widow spider — the sting of which is often fatal.
Death must, of course, come to everyone sooner or later. But I have been struck by its beauty and dignity when it has visited disciples of this path.
A member of our Hollywood church congregation died of a stroke. His wife later told me, “In his final moments, my husband whispered to me lovingly, ‘Don’t feel badly, dear. I am so happy! And I see a bright, bright light all around me.’”
Another church member, who had known the Master since his early years in America, exclaimed at the end of her life, “Swamiji is here!” Her face was radiant; it wore a blissful smile.
And Sister Gyanamata’s last words were, “Such joy! Too much joy! Oh, too much joy!”
Disciples who have died of cancer or other painful diseases have left their bodies peacefully, with a smile on their lips.
People often point to the sufferings of humanity as proof either that God doesn’t exist, or that He doesn’t care for His human children. Paramhansa Yogananda’s answer to that charge was that people don’t care enough about God to tune in to His help. Indeed, by their indifference they create the very problems which, later, they lay accusingly at His door. If, in daylight, a person moves about a room with closed eyes, he may bump against a piece of furniture and hurt himself. By closing one’s eyes to light, one creates his own darkness. By closing one’s heart to love, one creates his own fear, hatred, or apathy. By closing one’s soul to joy, one creates his own misery.
In case after case I have seen fulfilled Yogananda’s promise that faithful devotees of his path would be protected. “For those who stay in tune to the end,” he added, “I, or one of the other masters, will be there to usher them into the divine kingdom.” Truly, the words of the great Swami Shankaracharya have found justification in Paramhansa Yogananda’s life: “No known comparison exists in the three worlds for a true guru.”
It is perhaps the greatest sign of God’s aid to His devotees that, when the soul yearns deeply for Him, He sends to that soul the supreme blessing of a God-awakened master to guide it along the highway to Infinity.