The situation was getting more desperate every day. The entire neighborhood crawled out of bed in the morning groggy and heavy-eyed, and went to work more tired than the day before. All night “music” concerts were keeping everyone awake until dawn and it seemed like nothing could be done.

The howling of stray cats

A group of superstitious men, fearful of evil spirits, believed that making loud music would keep them safe from the spirits during the night. But this wasn’t music at all, and certainly not the sweet devotional chanting that Mukunda, as Yogananda was then called, loved, or the lively festival music that was familiar in India. The superstitious men banged loudly on drums and cymbals and their singing sounded like the howling of stray cats fighting over garbage.

They did not care that people complained, or that their music disturbed everyone who could hear. The growing exhaustion and anger of their neighbors meant nothing. They thought only of keeping the ghosts away.

As a young man, Mukunda was known for his pranks and tricks. One morning he overheard someone remark, “The uproar they make is enough to wake the dead!” Mukunda smiled and told his friend that he had a plan. He then asked his friend to spread the word to all the boys in the neighborhood to come to his house at ten o’clock that night and to bring wooden spoons and tin pots.

Mukunda’s pranks were well known but his fun was always centered in love.  If Mukunda had a plan, his friends were sure it would be hilarious and they wanted to help. All day the boys whispered in anticipation and passed on Mukunda’s instructions. By ten o’clock a crowd of boys had arrived at Mukunda’s home.

A ghostly rout

Mukunda knew that the thoughtless “musicians” would only heed complaints that came from the very “ghosts” they were so afraid of. If these men were convinced that even the evil spirits were tired and annoyed, surely they would stop.

The boys sneaked quietly through the darkness and surrounded the noisy house. The men inside couldn’t hear anything through all the noise they were making, and the boys didn’t make a sound until Mukunda signaled.

When Mukunda gave his signal, the boys began beating on their pots. They all howled and screeched and moaned until they sounded like an army of angry ghosts—the frightening noise was deafening.

The boys’ racket finally got the attention of the musicians who all stopped to listen. Mukunda signaled and the boys stopped too. The moment of silence was tense. One of the musician’s timidly opened the door and called out into the darkness, “Brother Ghost?”

Mukunda aimed and threw firecrackers through the open door, exploding the silence. Then all the boys renewed their ghostly noises, louder than before.  It sounded as if every evil spirit in Calcutta was descending on that house!
This uproar was too much for the poor men who were now certain that they had angered the entire spirit world.  Every one of them dropped their instruments and ran out into the darkness.

Peace restored

Mukunda’s family and neighbors slept well that night, grateful that peace had been restored and a solution had been found without anger or serious consequences. However, when the frightened men discovered that the “ghosts” they had heard were led by Mukunda, they demanded that the school principal expel him from school as punishment.

Fortunately, the principal saw how inconsiderate the men had been and understood Mukunda’s humorous plan. He told the men that if the disturbances continued he would do something about it himself. Angry ghosts, real or imaginary, and a school principal after them were enough to make the men promise never to resume their midnight music.

Adapted by Lorna Knox from Stories of Mukunda by Swami Kriyananda. Lorna Knox, a teacher and member of the Portland Ananda Church, is the author of I Came from Joy, Spiritual Affirmations for Children, Crystal Clarity, Publishers.

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