Editor’s Note: Kamala Silva, one of Paramhansa Yogananda’s first disciples in America, served as leader of the SRF center in Oakland, California during Yogananda’s lifetime. The following events occurred after the 1952 Lake Shrine dedication in Los Angeles, when Kamala, at Yogananda’s request, accompanied him to Mt. Washington.
Upon our return to Mt. Washington, Paramhansaji worked almost around the clock. Disciples alternated to keep pace with these activities. There was never any formality in the coming and going of disciples to attend to duties or receive instructions. Some came in regard to office matters; others had questions concerning the forthcoming issues of the magazine and the publication of books. His advice was sought on a wide range of matters.
Stories of miracles as a small boy
Often Master talked to us in the late evening, sitting by the open windows. Once, when he was reminiscing about his life in India, he recalled, with a chuckle, a childhood memory and related the story to us. It concerned his music lessons, which kept him from play, so he did not welcome the regular visit of the teacher, who was soon to arrive.
On this particular day, entirely without such intent, he put an end to the teacher’s coming. Young Mukunda (Paramhansa’s given name), remarked to his sister, “When he comes he will have coins in his pocket.” He named the exact sum of money.
His sister, unbelieving, gleefully told the teacher, expecting to show her brother’s statement to be a product of his imagination! The teacher listened and took the contents from his pockets. He saw exactly what the small boy had declared. Then Mukunda named details regarding other objects and he began to verify these too. As each statement was proven, the poor professor grew pallid. He suddenly dropped the coins and other objects and fled from the house, never to return!
Questioned by his Father, the boy admitted this unusual behavior and further added that he would recite word for word from any book opened in some other room while he remained where he stood, blindfolded. His proposal was accepted. His Father put a blindfold on him, chose a book and page at random in an adjoining room, and heard him call out accurately a recital of the entire page. The Father realized this to be amazing but when the boy concluded, his wise parent told him not to repeat such performances, which were all too startling to the beholder.
“What miracles compare with these?”
Through the tall treetops the night sky was azure and summer sounds were present in the air. But our minds were still in India where Master’s story had taken us, and a disciple brought up a question regarding a certain yogi who used to walk under the water on the bottom of a deep-flowing river. Paramhansaji answered her, then very simply said to me, “I can do that too.” I nodded. It is conclusive that one who can control heartbeat and breath can also remain underwater.
Master has said, “I could walk on fire and fill every auditorium with curiosity-seekers, but what good would that do? See the stars and clouds and the ocean; see the mist on the grass. What miracles compare with these? People need to know the love of God.”
Our Guru always showed us by example and teaching that absorption in God is the reason for our being and that nothing less can satisfy us for long.
His guidance was never imposed
Master always knew how to guide the disciple to elicit the best and to help him or her grow better. The suggestions and counsel of a Master can undoubtedly help the disciple bypass much unhappiness and lessen life’s difficulties. But I found our Guru’s guidance was never imposed, never forced, and often very subtly given. He gave freedom of will and choice.
One instance of this, in my own life, concerned a time when my Guru gave me an unusual blessing which he said would continue throughout my life. At the same time he enjoined me not to do a certain thing. Since this was a usual kind of activity which I thought might at times, be necessary, I asked if I could make exceptions. He looked away and then said yes, but was averse to give his consent.
Master was always so happily enthusiastic about anything he knew to be right, and I should have realized that asking for an exception was not for the best thing for me. I made this exception and soon after, adversity resulted. The benefits I thought I needed were entirely lost! I finally saw how he had tried to guide me but I had not grasped the full import of his wise counsel. Since then I have never made exceptions. The special blessing remained with me.
“God will not let me say.”
A Master will never disclose anything without an inner prompting from God. At those times he sometimes commented, “God has let me tell you this,” or he might explain gently, “God will not let me say.”
Many years ago Master told me that when we first met he had recognized me at once, from the past. Later he mentioned a past association, briefly conveying his part and my own, but never referred to it again. His comment brought to mind how the Guru continues to be with his disciples life after life.
Early tendencies and impressions had suggested certain settings to me, such as my occasional surprise in childhood when I looked in a mirror and expected to see my face reflected, but of another nationality. I was also a vegetarian from birth. Although meat was served daily at our table, I was not made to partake of it. I wondered, fleetingly, from these and other reactions, where I had lived in a recent incarnation. I asked Master, yet I am surprised I did so, knowing a Guru will tell you when he wishes you to know.
I found him reluctant to speak, and he looked away, yet in kindness he named a country as a general answer. This corroborated much I had felt and I asked for a specific location. He replied, still more reluctantly, with a name that thrilled me: Brindaban—place of pilgrimage—birthplace of the great avatar, Krishna.
However, Master’s brevity forbade further questions. I realized, even more deeply, that he wished my attention to be focused upon the soul’s unchanging identity with Spirit. He always emphasized our lineage from God rather than our earthly incarnations, since our spiritual heritage is to be found through remembrance of the unchanging Eternal Self.
A dynamic force
I have heard both disciples and visitors speak of sensing a power in Paramhansaji. He possessed a dynamic force that was evident even when he sat quietly absorbed in some work. I have seen it in his eyes, sometimes, and it acquainted me with the reality of power and dominion of a kind the mind cannot fully grasp. Always reined with gentleness, it could be intuitively felt.