One of the most memorable chapters in Autobiography of a Yogi is “Two Penniless Boys in Brindaban,” in which Yoganandaji puts his faith in God to the test. If you remember, young Yogananda and his friend and fellow seeker, Jitendra, stop to visit the Master’s skeptical elder brother, Ananta, at his home in Agra.
Trying to undermine his younger brother’s faith, the materialistic Ananta declares: “Money first; God can come later! Who knows? Life may be too long.”
Yoganandaji defiantly replies: “God first; money is His slave! Who can tell? Life may be too short.”
The next morning, Ananta presents a challenge of faith to the two young men. He will provide them with one-way train tickets to the nearby town of Brindaban, where Krishna played out the glory of his early life. The following conditions were to be met: They must 1) take no money, 2) not beg for money or food, 3) not reveal their predicament to anyone, 4) not go without meals, and finally 5) not be stranded there.
Without hesitation (but with a little reluctance on Jitendra’s part), Yogananda accepts the challenge.
What follows is one of the most delightful and inspiring proofs of God’s ever-present care for His children. Lavish meals are miraculously provided. A young man, Pratap, has a vision of Krishna, who shows him the faces of Yogananda and Jitendra sitting under a tree. Pratap finds them, and lovingly guides them around Brindaban, providing delicious sweetmeats as well as return tickets to Ananta’s home in Agra.
At the end of their divine adventure, a transformed Jitendra admits, “How shallow my trust! My heart has been stone! Never in future shall I doubt God’s protection!“ When the two young men return, having more than amply fulfilled each condition of the challenge, a shocked Ananta turns solemn and then sober. Against tradition, he insists that his younger brother initiate him then and there into Kriya Yoga.
The days of divine protection in Brindaban are not over. For many years, abandoned and abused widows from throughout India have made their way there to seek the protection of Lord Krishna. It is estimated that eight thousand homeless, destitute “widow mothers” beg on the streets for their survival.
In 2014 Ananda established the Paramhansa Yogananda Public Charitable Trust to care for those that have been heartlessly rejected by both family and society. We currently have five ashrams, which house 130 widow mothers and provide them with a clean, uplifting environment, healthy meals, and medical care. In addition, the workers of the Trust make home visits to the poor of Brindaban, providing an estimated four thousand needy people with daily milk, staples, and vegetables.
I could share with you more details about the accomplishments of the Trust, but the real stories have to be felt with the heart. When we visited there recently, we saw dignified, elderly women who had recently been homeless beggars, now being lovingly cared for and respected.
Gracefully draped in simple saris, the widow mothers were engaged in keeping the ashrams clean, working on crafts projects, or caring for others in the ashram who needed more help. Their rooms were colorful and neat; an aura of blessings and light seemed to fill everyone and everything we saw.
They told us how their own families had abused and rejected them, but that now, with the Trust staff, they have found more love than they ever knew before. One said, “This is my family now. I am so happy here. I will never go back.” At the end of the day, as we drove back to Delhi, our hearts were filled with reverence and gratitude to know that such a work in God’s name is being done.
In Brindaban more than one hundred years ago, Yoganandaji accepted his brother’s challenge and showed us that faith in God’s protection is never unjustified. Today, in that very city, he is demonstrating the same truth to us once again, through this trust established in his name.
We are given such examples of divine protection not that we may applaud from the sidelines, but in order to strengthen our own faith. When, in the midst of darkness and doubt, we can summon the courage and trust to call on God’s help, we will not be left empty-handed. Rather, we will find an abundance of love and support from a source that the materialistic person may never know.
With gratitude for our loving Divine Mother,
P.S. You may enjoy watching a recording of one of the stories of the Brindaban widows, Sridevi Ma, via Facebook here.