Paramhansa Yogananda was reminiscing one day. “There was a woman in our Ranchi school in India,” he told me. “She was a disciple of this path, and was very humble. She served me devotedly – hand and foot, as they say – obeying strictly everything I asked of her. Everything, that is to say, except one: She insisted on going about barefoot. I warned her not to, but she didn’t consider this piece of advice serious enough to heed, though I was as insistent on it as she was. She continued to go barefoot everywhere.
“When I left for America in 1920, I made her responsible for initiating those into Kriya Yoga who asked humbly for it. Upon my return there in 1935, I asked her, ‘How many people have you initiated?’ Almost with embarrassment she answered, ‘Oh, not many, Guruji. Only five thousand.’ Five thousand: what a huge number! Still, wherever she went, it was barefoot, and still I insisted she mustn’t.
“Some time later, she absorbed a disease through the soles of her feet, and died. She needn’t have died that way, had she listened. It is important, you see, to be faithful in everything Guru tells you.”
There is much food for thought in this story. A few readers may imagine, on hearing it, that the spiritual path resembles a game of musical chairs, where the ability to continue in the game depends on sheer accident. It must be remembered, however, that the Master wasn’t advising that woman casually, merely, to wear shoes. He insisted on it, repeatedly. People do often die, moreover, of apparently quite trivial causes. She had a karma to die that way. He wanted to prevent that karma from bearing fruit.
Saint Lynn, the Master’s chief disciple, died at a relatively young age. Doctor Lewis insisted to me, later, that it was because Saint Lynn had not considered it necessary to heed the Master’s caution to be less particular about his diet. Who knows? I remember how often the Master warned us, “You must listen to what I tell you, even in the little things.” I think we may take his words to mean, “especially in the little things.” For these, particularly, though they seem unimportant, may be vitally important for one, especially if he emphasized them repeatedly. He was thinking of our benefit. It was not the Master’s way to insist strongly. If he spoke earnestly about anything, however, one did well to listen to him carefully.
Few people, of course, have the benefit of a living guru. They should at least watch, therefore, for tendencies in themselves that they tend to “push out of sight”: things their conscience tells them they ought, or ought not, to do, that seem to them unimportant. They should look carefully, especially, at anything in themselves that they’d rather ignore, for in that very wish to ignore it there might be a danger signal.