Experiences with My Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda
It is a great honor for me to write the experiences of Paramhansa Yogananda.
I was born into a family where my grandfather, Bhagabati Charan Ghosh, and my grandmother, Gyanaprova Ghosh, both became disciples of the great guru Lahiri Mahasaya of Varanasi. That was the turning point of this family. Paramhansa Yogananda, our beloved Guruji, was born and was blessed by Lahiri Mahasaya, and gradually he grew up to become a great figure in the spiritual world.
I am the happiest man not only because I am Guruji’s nephew, but because I was born in Guruji’s home at 4 Garpar Road, Calcutta, and I have been living here for 74 years. Just imagine what a blessing it is to be born in Guruji’s family and to live in the same house where Guruji lived and was enlightened.
I am also happy as I was born with the blessings of Guruji. It so happened I had an elder brother who died when he was only eleven months old. When my mother was carrying me, Guruji was leaving for America in 1920. My mother asked his blessings so that this time the child would live.
Guruji blessed my mother and said, “Don’t worry. You will have another male child and this time he will live.” He also gave my mother a small bangle (armlet) for me which was made of gold, silver, and copper and asked my mother to have me wear the bangle after my birth. I was born only two months after Guruji left for America. When he came back to India 15 years later in 1935, he inquired about me.
“Where is Hare Krishna?” My parents showed me to him. Guruji caught hold of me and asked me, “Where is that bangle I gave to your mother for you?” I showed him the bangle, which I was wearing on my right arm. Guruji himself took away the bangle from my arm and gave it back to my mother and said, “This boy does not require this any more. He is quite safe.” So you see how I was born with his blessings.
I grew up in the spiritual environment of our house as many yogis and saints like Sri Yukteswarji, Sri Kebalanandaji (Guruji’s Sanskrit teacher), Sri Bhupendra Nath Sanyal (Sanyal Mahasaya), and many others used to come to meet with my grandfather from time to time. As I was a calm and quiet boy, my life was transformed to be religious minded. I remember when I was five or six years old, I heard about Guruji for the first time from my grandfather and my mother. They used to tell me many stories about Guruji and I was at once attracted to him.
My mother, Parul Lata Ghosh, was religious minded. She was a lean and thin lady but very active, and looked after the household work efficiently all through her life. Her love for children and all the relatives was unique. I always respected her sweet nature and behaviour. She was very popular amongst all the relatives of our family, young or old.
I lived with my grandfather (Guruji’s father) for 22 years. Among all his grandchildren, I was one of his favorites. He was a great yogi and a man of discipline.
When I was a teenager I slept in the same room with my grandfather for several years, so I knew him very well. He used to meditate late at night and also meditate early in the morning. And he was satisfied with candle lamps placed in one corner of the room, because after evening he did not write or read anything. He never went to any cinema house; he never read news specials. He used to say, “Don’t read newspapers. Don’t let the bad ideas come inside your brain.” So he never accepted any invitations from relatives on any occasion. He used to remain at home. He just meditated.
I have seen him meditating every evening for hours together sitting on his bed. He was a very simple man — calm and quiet and used to take care of all his needs himself without anybody’s help. He was of sweet nature and I never saw him angry for a single day. He did not talk much and had strong spiritual power.
At the age of 82 the strangulation of a hernia suddenly troubled him. The best surgeon of Calcutta was called and said an immediate operation should be done, but chloroform (there was no anesthesia at that time) couldn’t be applied on him as he was too weak and aged and would die from it. At this time my grandfather said, “Arrange for the operation. I will do my pranayam and I won’t feel any pain.”
Everything was arranged. My uncle Bishnu Ghosh, who was a famous bodybuilder, even engaged some of his strong students to stay inside the room to hold the patient during the operation. Just before the operation, my grandfather asked, “Who are these young boys? Ask them to leave the room. I will feel no pain.” But my uncle asked the boys to wait outside in case anything went wrong.
It was a major operation: it took one hour and everything went smoothly. The surgeon said, “I cannot believe how I could operate without chloroform.” He never felt any pain during the operation.
People have asked me if my grandfather ever recognized Guruji for who he was. My grandfather, sometimes he would oppose Guruji, contradict him in some way. But finally, as he was a very wise man, he agreed with Guruji on many things. When Guruji didn’t agree to marry, I heard that my grandfather agreed to that. He said, “Okay, the next brother will marry!”
I met Sri Yukteswar when I was very young. From my very childhood I met him many, many times because he used to come to our house. I felt that he was a great soul. You could tell largely from his very appearance and his personality. When he used to come to our house, we, everybody, were quite alert! He was so tall and very well built. The first thing we used to see whenever he would arrive in our house was the door filled with his large frame.
Many people would gather at our house to see and hear him. He was a God-like person. He could draw people in in no time. He was also a great friend and a brother disciple of my grandfather. At least once or twice every month he used to come to Guruji’s home to meet my grandfather, and whenever he used to come he would remain at our house for the whole day long.
I have seen him taking his midday meals along with my grandfather sitting side by side together, and my mother used to cook their food and serve them. He was a very kind and loving man to the common people and friends. Only he was strict to his disciples. He loved all the children and used to bring lozenges and chocolates for us the children. And he used to talk with us as an ordinary man.
He was fond of feeding friends and devotees or whoever used to visit him in his Serampore house and also in his Puri ashram. I have heard his speeches on many occasions when he used to advise his devotees to meditate, meditate, and meditate, more and more with utmost devotion to God, and he used to say, “By this way you will minimize the cycle of life and death.” He used to explain, “A man takes birth, then he dies. Again he is born; again he dies. This cycle he can minimize if he practices meditation deeply.”
The first time Guruji went to Serampore to see Sri Yukteswarji, in 1935, we accompanied Guruji in the same car, along with Richard Wright (his secretary and brother to Daya Mata). So there Guruji pronamed to Sri Yukteswarji, took the dust from his feet, and they embraced each other for some minutes. There were tears in their eyes. That was a scene to be seen.
Sri Yukteswarji entertained the whole group very nicely, especially Richard Wright. He was kept aside. And I have seen Mr. Richard Wright every morning when he used to touch Yoganandaji’s feet first thing. That opened my eyes, because before that I had never seen a Western man touching the feet of an Indian. He also would do the same for Sri Yukteswarji and be the first to touch his feet.
Sri Yukteswarji was very serious about his meditation. How he loved God! And he used to meditate and meditate. When I went to Serampore, to his house, along with Guruji, as soon as Guruji went there, after greeting him, Guruji said, “Sri Yukteswar, Guruji, your house is not in good condition, so I would like to get your house nicely repaired and painted.” So Yukteswarji told him, “If you wish you can repair my house. You can get it painted, but in that case I will not be able to meditate as before because my mind will be on the repaired house and the new paint.” Still, Guruji got it repaired and painted.
Once a rich disciple of Sri Yukteswar (a maharaja) invited Sri Yukteswar and my father and some other devotees to his house. He was to go there in the afternoon, but he got caught in a traffic jam or something so he didn’t arrive until late in the evening. Well, by that time that disciple went to bed because he thought that Sri Yukteswarji was not coming.
So when Sri Yukteswarji arrived there and the servant of that house told Sri Yukteswarji, “My master is sleeping so he cannot get up now,” Sri Yukteswarji was very much angry. He said, “I have come here to my disciple’s home, and if I am not received by him, then I won’t come in. I will stand outside here the whole night unless he comes and receives me.”
So the servant was very much startled and he went to the master and said that Sri Yukteswarji has come and he is standing at the doorway and he’s not coming in. After hearing this, that disciple jumped up from his bed, came running downstairs, and fell at the feet of Sri Yukteswar. Then only did Sri Yukteswar come in the house. He was so strict!
We first heard about Sri Yukteswarji passing away in Puri when the telephone rang in our house and Guruji talked with someone from the ashram there. I was just standing by Guruji’s side at that moment. Guruji was very much anxious and in sorrow to hear the news that Sri Yukteswarji was ill, so he said at once, “Go book the railway tickets.” The same evening he left with my father and uncle to go to Puri to see Sri Yukteswar. I heard from my father afterward that when they were going to Puri, after 40 – 50 miles, in the dead of night, Sri Yukteswarji passed away. Guruji said, “My Guru is a great man.”
His body was placed in lotus posture under the temple that was in the Puri Ashram. The construction of the temple that is there now was supervised by my father according to Guruji’s wish in 1952. He spent several months there to supervise the construction. The lotus on the top of the temple was designed by my father as well.
The two pictures of Sri Yukteswar — one in lotus posture sitting on the floor and the other in standing posture with a little side view — were taken by my father on the roof of 4 Garpar Road in 1930, when I was ten years old. I remember I held the screen behind on one side when my father took the photos. Guruji was in the USA at that time, and he was very much pleased with these photographs.
I was present at Howrah Railway Station to receive Guruji along with my father and uncle Bishnu. Many devotees came to receive Guruji, including the Maharaja of Kashimbazar, who belonged to the land of Ranchi Ashram. There is a photograph taken of Guruji, my father, and my uncle, and I am also in the photograph. I am between the Maharaja and Guruji.
So there, when the train arrived, Guruji leaned his face from inside the door. It was a wonderful sight because Guruji was not very fair complexioned, but I felt a strange divine light around his face. That was a wonder. And he was received very wonderfully by all after 15 years.
Guruji came down from the train and embraced my father and uncle and many senior devotees. I was thrilled to see him for the first time and I found him much more than what I expected. He was taken home in a beautiful aluminum Rolls Royce car which was especially sent by the Raja of Santosh. I was so thrilled that I jumped into the same Rolls Royce car and sat by Guruji’s side.
It was a grand reception at home, and we saw the wonderful sight when Guruji and my grandfather embraced each other after such a long time.
My grandfather always used to stay on the first floor, but when Guruji arrived and was received in our house on the ground floor, my grandfather came downstairs to receive him. And Guruji took the dust of his feet and then they embraced. There were blissful tears in their eyes as well as in everyone else’s. Everybody present there — his brothers, sisters, and devotees — pronamed, touching his feet to pay their respects.
Here I was introduced to Guruji by my parents and he took the bangle from my arm. I was surprised to see Romaji, who was Guruji’s much elder sister, pronam, touching Guruji’s feet. In India an elderly person cannot touch the feet of a younger one. Guruji was surprised and asked Romaji, “Didi (elder sister), you too are touching my feet?” At this Romaji said, “I must touch your feet as you are a great guru.”
Here I must mention that Romaji, whom I have seen for many years, was a very pious lady and highly spiritual soul. She was a great worshipper of the Mother Divine.
On many occasions I heard her saying, “Mother Divine just left this place after talking with me,” while sitting with many ladies, including my mother and my youngest aunt, Purnamoyee. Romaji had loving eyes, just like Guruji’s.
I felt Yogananda was my guru long before he came to Calcutta in 1935. From my early childhood I heard about all the masters from my grandfather and my mother, so from that very moment I don’t know what attracted me, but whenever I came back from school in the evening, leaving aside my class books, I used to turn the pages of the magazine sent by Guruji to our house. That was East-West. It was a great big magazine, 14” long and 9” wide. I could not read or write much English, but I used to turn the pages. That was a very big attraction for me. Every evening.
Guruji was a highly spiritual soul. He was great in his very appearance, his personality, his way of talking, his love for mankind, love for children, his smiles, his songs, his delivering lectures, his humorous stories, and what not! He was great in all respects. To my mind he was a modern yogi, with a modern and broad-minded outlook — much ahead of his time. He was not satisfied meditating only for his own benefit in a remote corner of the Himalayas or any lonely place. He came on this earth for the benefit of mankind, teaching Kriya Yoga throughout the world. This universal love was a special quality in him.
During his stay in Calcutta I was always with him, and always whenever he used to stay in my house, my seat was always just by his side. We had a permanent stage constructed by the side of our house, so there Guruji used to give lectures every day to the many devotees, especially in Bengali, but in English, too. Whenever I used to go to school, I would see him in the morning, surrounded by devotees and Guruji answering so many questions.
And when I came back from school at 4:00 in the afternoon, I used to see the same thing. Always, Guruji sitting in the middle and surrounded by devotees. I was proud of him at once and always felt that I was not afraid of anything in this world as long as I used to sit by his side.
Here I should mention that among all his nephews and nieces, I and Srimati Amiya Bose (daughter of Ananta, Guruji’s eldest brother) were among his favorite. He was very much fond of both of us. We accompanied Guruji to many of his lectures and pilgrimages. He had respect for all religions. I learned to love people from him. Many times I heard him singing a few devotional songs, playing the harmonium himself. He sang Bengali songs and American divine songs also. You can just imagine what a wonderful voice I heard when he was only 43 years old.
To tell you the truth, I heard many great singers of India but nothing like Guruji. I thought that this voice was not a human voice. I thought to myself it must be God’s voice. There was a special and divine touch in his voice. Anyone could be charmed to hear him sing. Guruji and Sri Yukteswarji used to chant together also. When Guruji was not there, Sri Yukteswar would sing in our home, and his voice was almost the same as Guruji’s.
Before Guruji came to India, already everybody in our home had a mind to be a devotee and disciple of Guruji. So when one day my father told Guruji that my father and mother wanted to take initiation from him, Guruji said, “I will initiate the whole family together.” That was how I was initiated by Guruji himself along with my father, mother, uncle, aunt, and some of our near relatives. It was a special family initiation. And he taught everything of Kriya Yoga to my father, and from my father everybody followed the same teachings.
The holi festival (Del Poornima) fell on the full moon day in March, 1936, and we had a wonderful time with Guruji on that occasion enjoying the exchange of coloured powders — putting the colours on the face and body of Guruji by all of us including many of his devotees. Guruji also in turn applied coloured powders on all of us present there. The whole body of Guruji was filled with different colours, and Guruji fed all present there with different Bengali sweets. After the festival we all accompanied Guruji to take a bath in the holy Ganges to clean ourselves.
You may be interested to know how tall Guruji was. So far as I remember, Guruji was 5 feet, 8 inches in height, which is more than the average height of the people of India. Because he was very well built, he looked shorter in pictures. Much more can be said about him but it will take a long time and a lot of paper! My life was changed after I had met him. Many years have passed since then, but still today I can feel his presence and see him any moment I like — He is just before my eyes, smiling and blessing.
Now I will mention some more of my experiences with him:
When I used to sit by his side, he would rest his arm on my shoulder while answering the many devotees, and I and my brother, Shyamsunder, used to massage his arms, shoulders, legs, and back muscles every day. He was very pleased with us and one day asked us what we would like to have from him as a gift. As we were young we insisted on a bicycle. At once he ordered my father and said, “Gora (my father’s nickname), take money from me and buy a nice bicycle for Hare Krishna and Shyamsunder.” It was a grand “Hercules” bicycle made in England, and we used it for many many years. In those days bicycles were not manufactured in India.
One day as I was sitting by his side with many devotees all around, suddenly we found Guruji kept quiet, not answering to us all and sitting very still. After some time, some devotees asked, “Guruji, why are you silent, not answering to us?” At this Guruji smiled and said, “I was talking with God.” I was so thrilled to hear this that I at once came very close to Guruji touching his body with mine. I looked at Guruji’s face but he was absolutely normal. I was astonished and thought to myself, “Can a man talk with God so easily, so effortlessly?” I also thought to myself that God just came here and talked with our Guruji but we could not feel anything. So this was an experience for me.
One evening Guruji sat in the middle surrounded by many devotees including a few ladies. My mother and my youngest aunt (Guruji’s youngest sister, Purnamoyee or “Thamu” ) were also there. They were of the same age. They had been requesting Guruji for some days to show them something so that they may know God. First of all Guruji did not agree, but with repeated requests he said, “OK, I will show you something.”
Guruji asked all the devotees to leave the room and then, as I was also leaving, asked me, “Hare Krishna, you stay here. Close the door and switch off the light.” It was evening time and a faint light was coming inside the room from the street light. I sat just by Guruji’s side.
Afterwards Guruji asked my mother and aunt to sit side by side facing him. Guruji asked them to close their eyes and to concentrate on God just at the middle of their eyebrows. Then Guruji uttered a few slokas in a low voice which I could not understand. I sat there and watched and suddenly I was amazed to find a sort of strange divine light fall on my mother and aunt’s faces and they were slightly smiling.
After some time Guruji asked me to switch on the light and open the door. When everything was over, I asked my mother, “Mother, what did you see?” My mother said, “Son, I cannot describe in what divine bliss we were.” Later Guruji said to me, “I have shown your mother and aunt Bhagawan Jyoti — the ‘Light of God’.”
One evening I accompanied Guruji to Albert Hall on College Street, Calcutta, where Guruji was to deliver a speech. My father, uncle, and some of our relatives were also present there. The hall was packed with many eminent people of the city. While Guruji spoke, some people requested him to show any miracle or anything about God’s power. With repeated requests Guruji asked everyone to clasp their hands, gripping their fingers tightly together, and said, “I will count from one to ten and as I count you grip your fingers tightly thinking more and more of God only between your two eyebrows.”
Guruji started counting in a loud voice and when he finished counting to ten, everybody’s hands were locked. No one could separate their hands. After some time, Guruji said, “Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.” Everybody’s hands came out. Guruji said, “This is no credit to myself. I have only shown you so that people have faith in God — only for that purpose.”
I saw this miracle on another occasion when Guruji was invited to deliver a speech by Shri Jugal Kishor Birla, who was the eldest of the Birla brothers and one of the top industrialists of India. He was a great admirer of Guruji and arranged the lecture on the grounds of his Calcutta residence. Many eminent citizens were also invited by Shri Birla. Guruji’s speech was much appreciated by the audience with pin drop silence. There also Guruji showed the same miracle. Shri Birla then entertained Guruji and his whole party with the best possible food, with great devotion.
Guruji of course, knew everything. Whenever we used to drive with Guruji in Calcutta, we found as soon as the car started, Guruji would be asleep within one half a minute. He could sleep so fast. One day as we were driving along, my father and my uncle were discussing something about how they would do this and that concerning satsangs or something. Suddenly we found Guruji woke up and he said, “No, don’t do that.” But he was sleeping! We were surprised how Guruji could hear all this conversation. From that day, we knew that Guruji could sleep within a minute and could wake up within a minute. We were surprised, that he could hear everything while sleeping.
I accompanied Guruji one evening to the YMCA Hall on Chowringhee Road, Calcutta where Guruji, while lecturing, called a doctor from the audience to feel his pulse and heartbeat. The doctor examined him and could not feel his pulse after a minute. He could also not hear his heartbeat with his stethoscope. Then Guruji came back again to his normal speech. The doctor was amazed and declared, “This is a miracle. I cannot imagine a man doing this type of miracle!”
On 14th January, 1936, Guruji went on a pilgrimage to the holy Ganga Sagar festival. Hundreds of pilgrims from all over India attend once a year just at this time. Ganga Sagar is situated 80 miles south of Calcutta, where the river Ganges meets the sea, the Bay of Bengal. I was very fortunate to accompany Guruji to that pilgrimage. My parents opposed my going to Ganga Sagar, as the place is too cold at that time of the year, but as Guruji loved me so much, he said to my parents, “Hare Krishna must come with me.”
In that group my cousin sister, Amiya, her mother Subarnalata, my aunt Ashalata, Guruji’s friend Tulsi Bose and his wife, (lovingly called “Martan Ma” by those who knew her), and a few other distant relatives also accompanied Guruji. Early in the morning we boarded a big steamship, along with hundreds of pilgrims from all over India. After sailing 40 miles by the river Ganges where the river was very wide and the two sides of the shore could be seen faintly, suddenly we found the ship was going down, down, down little by little into the waters, and the waters were coming up on the decks of the ship.
At this all the pilgrims were frightened and running all over the decks out of fear. Even the captain of the ship was afraid. Many pilgrims seeing our Guruji clad in a saffron-colour robe, came running to him and requested him to save their lives.
Guruji said, “Be calm, don’t worry and don’t run, out of fear. Everything will be all right. Sit down where you are and pray to God for your lives.” So the pilgrims became calm and began to pray to God. After some five or ten minutes we found the waters of the river went down from the decks and the ship came out of the water to its normal level. Then again the pilgrims came to Guruji and said, “Guruji, you have saved our lives!” But Guruji said, “No, I have not saved your lives. You prayed to God and so God has saved all our lives.”
This was again a miracle for me. Everyone was relieved of the tension of being drowned.
After this incident we safely arrived at Ganga Sagar. Then the captain also came to Guruji and said, “Guruji, my voice is choked since a long time. I consulted many doctors but no one could cure me. I cannot shout and command my sailors.” Saying this he was trying to come near and touch Guruji’s feet for his blessings. But Guruji said, “You need not come near me. I bless you. You will be cured.” The next day, when we were returning back home by the same boat, we found the captain shouting at the top of his voice, commanding his sailors. With a smile Guruji said to me, “Hare Krishna, see the captain’s voice is all right now.”
One early morning, in the month of September, Sri Yukteswarji came to our house at 4 Garpar Road. At his advice we arranged for a Nagar Sankirtan that morning. Nagar Sankirtan means marching on different roads by many devotees singing devotional songs, with different musical instruments carried with them.
On that day, this musical procession was led by Sri Yukteswarji and Guruji. Many devotees, including myself, my uncle, and my father and other relatives, were following them singing devotional songs.
We made many rounds of different streets, and after some time we came to a certain locality which was inhabited by people of another religion. As we were passing though that area we found a furious man brandishing a stick over his head and shouting, “Stop the music! Stop the songs!” We stopped in fear and stopped singing. Still the man was very furious.
At this point Sri Yukteswarji told Guruji, “Yogananda, you go to that man and see what is wrong with him.” We were more afraid and thought, “What will happen to our Guruji if he goes to that angry man?” But without any hesitation Guruji stepped forward and stood before that man and said, “What is the matter with you? Why are you so angry? We believe in all religions and are not disturbing anyone; we are only singing our devotional songs.”
As soon as Guruji uttered these words, we found that angry man totally changed then and there. That man apologized to Guruji and said, “I am sorry. You may proceed and carry on with your devotional songs.” We started our songs and marched past him.
One day as I was sitting by Guruji’s side, with many devotees all around, a man came and stood at the door with tears in his eyes. He was trying to come in and touch Guruji’s feet and say something to him. Guruji looked at him and said to him, “No, don’t come in.”
I was surprised to see Guruji refusing to let that man come in. But the man was still standing there. After some time Guruji said to that man, “When you repent for what you did, you are pardoned.”
The man came in and touched Guruji’s feet and said, “Guruji, I am very sorry for what I said before you left for USA. I am very sorry for those words.” Then Guruji blessed him. When all was over, I was very curious and asked some of the senior devotees as to the cause of all this.
I asked them, “Who was that man and what happened to him?” Because I saw that the man’s face was disfigured and he could not talk properly. The devotees told me, “Hare Krishna, this man, out of some jealousy or some other reason spoke some bad words against Lahiri Mahasaya in front of Guruji.” This happened just before Guruji was going to America in 1920. So naturally Guruji was very upset with that man and asked him to withdraw those words which he said against Lahiri Mahasaya, but the man didn’t withdraw his words. Then Guruji said to that man, “If you do not withdraw your remarks, you will be punished by God, and the mouth by which you speak those words will be disfigured.” And so it happened.
After Guruji left for America, that man gradually showed signs of what Guruji said. He could not speak properly and could not eat properly for 15 years. But in 1935 I have seen that man become quite normal within 15 days when Guruji blessed and pardoned him. So I have seen Guruji apparently angry at times but he was always merciful, too. I also felt that this was the all powerfulness of Lahiri Mahasaya.
Though Guruji was a great soul and busy all the time, he was like a common man and very humourous. He loved children and mixed with all the people alike. He was an early riser. When every morning he used to see us, the children, at home sleeping late, he used to roll small pieces of paper and put those in our ears and noses to make us rise early. He used to say, “Get up! Get up children! You are sleeping so late in the morning. See the sun is above the sky, so get up quick!” Guruji used to enjoy doing all these things.
One day Guruji was invited by one of his devotees to take lunch in his house. Some of his relatives and devotees were also invited. The lunch was served and I was sitting just by Guruji’s side. Out of the several items of food on my plate, I kept one particular item which I thought of eating last, as it was especially delicious and tasty and a favorite of mine. Guruji was sitting on my left; I was eating and talking with a few devotees on my right.
Suddenly I found that particular item was missing from my plate. I was surprised and wondered where that item had gone. I looked at Guruji but he was quite normal and eating his food. Then again, after I was talking with devotees on my right, suddenly I found that item of food again on my plate like magic. I thought to myself and could not guess who might have taken it. After some time Guruji smiled and said, “Hare Krishna, you are talking too much with others. Why not talk with me?” Then I understood that Guruji had played this trick!
Another day as I was sitting by Guruji’s side with many devotees around, suddenly Guruji asked me, “Hare Krishna, you clasp your hands and grip your fingers and I will count from one to ten.” I was afraid! I wondered why Guruji was asking me alone to grip my fingers. What will he do to me? Anyway, with some courage, I gripped my fingers and Guruji counted from one to ten. Then Guruji said, “Now Hare Krishna, open your fingers and separate your hands.” To my surprise I at once separated my hands. All the devotees present there were surprised and looking at each other. They asked, “Guruji, why were Hare Krishna’s hands not locked? How is it?” Guruji smiled and said, “Hare Krishna is my brother’s son. How can I lock his hands?”
Experiences of Guruji and My Father
The picture of Mahavatar Babaji which we see now is not a photograph but it is a reproduction from a drawing by my father, Sananda Lal Ghosh. One day in 1935, Guruji asked my father to draw a picture of Babaji. My father at once started working on the sketch. I was present on the spot. I was sitting on one side of my father watching the drawing, and on the other side, sitting on a chair, Guruji described Babaji to my father as he had had the vision of Mahavatar Babaji.
So my father did this drawing hearing the description from Guruji, and when it was completed, Guruji was very pleased with my father. He said, “Gora, you have done a great job for me. This drawing is just like Mahavatar Babaji.”
My uncle Bishnu was a great bodybuilder. I heard from my father that my father was also an athlete in his school days. My father could run very fast, and later he was a bodybuilder also, like Bishnu, his brother. He had a good physique, my father, and Bishnu — both of them — but I heard from my father both of them learned yoga and physical culture exercises from Guruji when they were very young. Guruji taught them everything in physical culture, and in later years, Bishnu became the bodybuilder, my father became an artist and a painter, and of course, Guruji was an avatar.
And I found that also in 1935, when he was 43 years old, Guruji asked a running competition to be arranged in front of our house on the road. Among others, my father and uncle participated in this run. I was astonished to see Guruji run so fast that he was in front of many runners who were much younger than Guruji. They couldn’t run as fast as Guruji and he was 43 years old!
In that time when Guruji was with us, my father used to paint many portraits in the downstairs room during the day. A friend of my father’s used to come every day to our home just to learn painting from my father. But after being there for some minutes, say 15 – 20 minutes, in the mid-day, he used to sleep on the floor, just by my father’s side while my father used to paint.
So one day, when Guruji was coming home, that friend of my father’s was sleeping, lying down and sleeping. So after some time, Guruji asked my father, “Didn’t you ask your friend not to sleep in the daytime? How is it he’s sleeping?” So my father said, “I told him many times but he didn’t listen to me. He’s been following my painting for some time, but every day he sleeps here.”
The next day when Guruji was coming in again, he again found that friend sleeping, so Guruji quietly came in the room and he took some paints, artist’s paints, from my father and he put them on those ears, cheeks, and everywhere on the face of my father’s friend. Then in the afternoon when that man was going home, Guruji was chanting outside on the upstairs balcony, so he enjoyed what happened next.
As soon as the friend was out on the street, everyone in the neighborhood started laughing. When he finally realized something was wrong with him, he at once came inside and stood before a mirror and he saw his face. Then my father told him that his brother had done all of this. I wonder if he ever fell asleep again!
Once I heard from my father that when they were teenagers Guruji was very keen to visit many high saints. Whenever they used to come to Calcutta, Guruji would visit them. And he always used to take my father along with him. In those days Guruji had no money, so they used to walk mile after mile to visit the saints. One day as Guruji and my father were going out of 4 Garpar Road, Guruji pretended that he left something behind. Guruji wanted to teach him a lesson. You see, Guruji knew my father was a little bit restless, and because he had so many friends, he would sometimes forget Guruji and go off with his friends, leaving Guruji alone.
So Guruji said, “Okay, Gora, I forgot something in the house and I’m just coming back within the minute. You stay here,” and he asked my father to place his palm on the cement wall of the 4 Garpar Road house. So my father touched the wall and Guruji came inside the house. Then my father found his hand was stuck on the wall! He could not pick up the hand, so that my father could not go away somewhere.
So, in the meantime, a friend arrived there and said, “Gora, why are you standing there? Come with me.” And my father said, “My hand is stuck. I cannot come.” He pulled the hand, but he couldn’t pull the hand from the wall. He tried his utmost, but couldn’t. Then Guruji came back and said, “Om, peace, peace. Om, peace, shanti,” and the hand came off.
Another time when he did like that, my grandfather was coming home, and he found my father’s hand stuck there on the wall. He was surprised. He thought immediately that this was a trick of Yogananda. “Mukunda!”(1) He came inside and asked Guruji, “Mukunda, you are doing a very bad thing. Why have you applied the power of God to your brother and with many others?” He never did that trick again.
Personal Help from Lahiri Mahasaya
From my very childhood I heard about the greatness of Lahiri Mahasaya from my grandfather and also from my parents. They always mentioned to me that Lahiri was the saviour of mankind. He was my idol as a great Guru and greatly influenced my life.
In 1935, when Guruji returned to India, he also mentioned Lahiri Mahasaya as one of the great saints of India. On many occasions he advised his disciples to remember and to take the name of Lahiri Mahasaya during any difficulty.
Later in my life I experienced this as true. In 1946, during the Hindu-Muslim riots in India, some of us in my family were standing on the roof of our house when my younger brother, Shyamsunder, was unfortunately shot dead and my father also received a bullet injury in his chest.
Though I was also there I escaped miraculously with the grace of God and Guruji. That was a terrible mishap in our family and all of us were in grief. My parents decided to go to Varanasi for a change. So in the month of January, 1947, we went to Varanasi for one month. My father rented a house very near to Lahiri Mahasaya’s house, and every morning all of us used to go to Lahiri Mahasaya’s house and sit in meditation in his room, and immediately we had peace of mind. We also found an old man sitting every morning at the doorway of Lahiri Mahasaya’s house. This man used to see us every day and somehow he came to know that we were in grief.
One day while we were coming out of the house, the old man asked my father, pointing out to me, “Is he your older son?” My father said, “Now he is my only son.” Then the old man said, “I would like to examine your son’s palm.” So he examined my palm for some time and said to my father, “Your son will live long and he will be married within a year, and the bride will be beautiful and good in all respects, and she will be most appropriate to your family.”
My father heard everything but did not pay much attention to his words. But strangely enough the same evening, when my parents went out for shopping along with my sister Shefali and my mother’s sister in the Biswanath Lane, which leads to the holy Biswanath Temple and where there are many sari shops, there my mother first saw a beautiful young girl who also came there with her family for shopping.
My mother liked her very much and thought to take her as a bride of this family. Then my mother asked her name and address. She said she was from Calcutta and we came to know that her house was near to Guruji’s house. My mother was also very much delighted to know the girl’s name was Anjali Bose, because the Ghosh and Bose families are most appropriate for marriage.
Now here it is very interesting to note that Yogananda’s mother belonged to Bose family before her wedding; his three sisters were married into Bose families; Ananta’s daughter, Amiya; Bishnu’s daughter, Ava; and my daughter, Papia all married into Bose families. My son Somnath also married Sarita Bose. So my mother was delighted that Anjali was from Bose family.
After the two families came back to Calcutta from Varanasi, negotiations about the marriage ceremony started between the guardians of the two families, and myself and Anjali were married on 7th February, 1948.
I, along with my parents and Anjali, strongly feel and believe that as this marriage originated from Lahiri Mahasaya’s house, this marriage took place with Lahiri Mahasaya’s great blessings. According to that old man’s sayings, Anjali is worthy and appropriate in this family, doing everything to keep the house clean, maintaining Guruji’s attic meditation room as a holy shrine with flowers, welcoming each and every devotee, serving prasad to them.
Besides this, she looks after the needy relatives and distributes new clothes to needy neighbors. All these are possible with Lahiri Mahasaya’s blessings.
I heard from Anjali’s uncle and parents after our wedding that Anjali was pious and religious from childhood. She has also been greatly influenced by Guruji’s life and his blessings, although she never met him in person.
One day she had a vision: While passing through a field, she noticed a saintly person with saffron-coloured dress sitting under a tree, and saw many people standing in a queue to go to him. Anjali stood at the back of the line, but she was very impatient to go to him quickly and was looking at him, leaning out from the line. Guruji called to Anjali and said, “Hello, young lady, come here. Do you know me?” Anjali at once went to him and pronamed, touching his feet, and trying to introduce herself said, “You are my beloved uncle-in-law and Guru.” Guruji raised his hand and said, “I know everything — be a good wife to your family.”
Anjali meditates every day in Guruji’s attic room, and while meditating always feels that he is also there. After the meditation she sings a few devotional songs or bhajans. One evening while meditating and singing she had a clear vision of him in lotus posture, sitting on the right side space in that room. The vision lasted for a few seconds only but it was very real and has stayed with her always.
This 4 Garpar Road home was all along well maintained by my father till he died in 1979. Guruji wrote on many occasions to my father to maintain the house properly. He wrote, “4 Garpar — My Place of Salvation where I found God.” Now it is my duty to look after this house and maintain it properly, and I am doing it to the best of my ability with the grace of God and Guru. I am also happy that all the devotees of Guruji love me, and that gives me the strength to receive the devotees who visit this home.
My son, Somnath, also is very keen to keep the house clean and suitable for all the devotees who come here. He is the one who took the dictation of the book Mejda from my father, and he wrote the manuscript of the book. He learned many things from my father and many facts about the history of this family. I always depend upon him with the repairing, maintenance, and painting of Guruji’s home, as he has a good knowledge to take care of an old house. This is a great blessing of Guruji. I feel very honored that he and my daughter-in-law, Sarita; granddaughters, Sudarshana and Sulagna; my daughter, Papia Bose; son-in-law, Somen Bose; my granddaughter, Sukanya Bose; and my sister, Shefali are all religious minded.
It was our long desire to visit the shrines of Guruji in America, but for so long it was not possible for us. Now this long desire is fulfilled as Sri Kriyananda, a direct disciple of Guruji and founder and spiritual director of Ananda Church of Self-Realization, invited me and my wife to visit America. He took us to America and Europe twice. We were his guests, and he took us to all the shrines of Guruji and did everything for our tour and travel in America and Europe. We also visited many Ananda branch colonies in different states and were happy to see the sincere devotion and love of Ananda devotees for Guruji and his family.
It is great to see that the lives of all the devotees are changed and all of us have peace of mind with the blessings of Guruji. I feel that Guruji is always with us, blessing and protecting us.
- Yogananda’s boyhood name.
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