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Autobiography of a YOGI
by Paramhansa Yogananda
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"Studying him reverently from time to time, I noted that he is of large, athletic stature, hardened by the trials and sacrifices of renunciation. His poise is majestic. A decidedly sloping forehead, as if seeking the heavens, dominates his divine countenance. He has a rather large and homely nose, with which he amuses himself in idle moments, flipping and wiggling it with his fingers, like a child. His powerful dark eyes are haloed by an ethereal blue ring. His hair, parted in the middle, begins as silver and changes to streaks of silvery-gold and silvery-black, ending in ringlets at his shoulders. His beard and moustache are scant or thinned out, yet seem to enhance his features and, like his character, are deep and light at the same time.

"He has a jovial and rollicking laugh which comes from deep in his chest, causing him to shake and quiver throughout his body-very cheerful and sincere. His face and stature are striking in their power, as are his muscular fingers. He moves with a dignified tread and erect posture.

"He was clad simply in the common DHOTI and shirt, both once dyed a strong ocher color, but now a faded orange.

"Glancing about, I observed that this rather dilapidated room suggested the owner's non-attachment to material comforts. The weather-stained white walls of the long chamber were streaked with fading blue plaster. At one end of the room hung a picture of Lahiri Mahasaya, garlanded in simple devotion. There was also an old picture showing Yoganandaji as he had first arrived in Boston, standing with the other delegates to the Congress of Religions.

"I noted a quaint concurrence of modernity and antiquation. A huge, cut-glass, candle-light chandelier was covered with cobwebs through disuse, and on the wall was a bright, up-to-date calendar. The whole room emanated a fragrance of peace and calmness. Beyond the balcony I could see coconut trees towering over the hermitage in silent protection.

"It is interesting to observe that the master has merely to clap his hands together and, before finishing, he is served or attended by some small disciple. Incidentally, I am much attracted to one of them-a thin lad, named Prafulla, {FN40-2} with long black hair to his shoulders, a most penetrating pair of sparkling black eyes, and a heavenly smile; his eyes twinkle, as the corners of his mouth rise, like the stars and the crescent moon appearing at twilight.

"Swami Sri Yukteswarji's joy is obviously intense at the return of his 'product' (and he seems to be somewhat inquisitive about the 'product's product'). However, predominance of the wisdom-aspect in the Great One's nature hinders his outward expression of feeling.

"Yoganandaji presented him with some gifts, as is the custom when the disciple returns to his guru. We sat down later to a simple but well-cooked meal. All the dishes were vegetable and rice combinations. Sri Yukteswarji was pleased at my use of a number of Indian customs, 'finger-eating' for example.

"After several hours of flying Bengali phrases and the exchange of warm smiles and joyful glances, we paid obeisance at his feet, bade adieu with a PRONAM, {FN40-3} and departed for Calcutta with an everlasting memory of a sacred meeting and greeting. Although I write chiefly of my external impressions of him, yet I was always conscious of the true basis of the saint-his spiritual glory. I felt his power, and shall carry that feeling as my divine blessing."

From America, Europe, and Palestine I had brought many presents for Sri Yukteswar. He received them smilingly, but without remark. For my own use, I had bought in Germany a combination umbrella-cane. In India I decided to give the cane to Master.

"This gift I appreciate indeed!" My guru's eyes were turned on me with affectionate understanding as he made the unwonted comment. From all the presents, it was the cane that he singled out to display to visitors.

"Master, please permit me to get a new carpet for the sitting room." I had noticed that Sri Yukteswar's tiger skin was placed over a torn rug.

"Do so if it pleases you." My guru's voice was not enthusiastic. "Behold, my tiger mat is nice and clean; I am monarch in my own little kingdom. Beyond it is the vast world, interested only in externals."

As he uttered these words I felt the years roll back; once again I am a young disciple, purified in the daily fires of chastisement!

As soon as I could tear myself away from Serampore and Calcutta, I set out, with Mr. Wright, for Ranchi. What a welcome there, a veritable ovation! Tears stood in my eyes as I embraced the selfless teachers who had kept the banner of the school flying during my fifteen years' absence. The bright faces and happy smiles of the residential and day students were ample testimony to the worth of their many-sided school and yoga training.

Yet, alas! the Ranchi institution was in dire financial difficulties. Sir Manindra Chandra Nundy, the old Maharaja whose Kasimbazar Palace had been converted into the central school building, and who had made many princely donations was now dead. Many free, benevolent features of the school were now seriously endangered for lack of sufficient public support.

I had not spent years in America without learning some of its practical wisdom, its undaunted spirit before obstacles. For one week I remained in Ranchi, wrestling with critical problems. Then came interviews in Calcutta with prominent leaders and educators, a long talk with the young Maharaja of Kasimbazar, a financial appeal to my father, and lo! the shaky foundations of Ranchi began to be righted. Many donations including one huge check arrived in the nick of time from my American students.

Within a few months after my arrival in India, I had the joy of seeing the Ranchi school legally incorporated. My lifelong dream of a permanently endowed yoga educational center stood fulfilled. That vision had guided me in the humble beginnings in 1917 with a group of seven boys.

In the decade since 1935, Ranchi has enlarged its scope far beyond the boys' school. Widespread humanitarian activities are now carried on there in the Shyama Charan Lahiri Mahasaya Mission.

The school, or Yogoda Sat-Sanga Brahmacharya Vidyalaya, conducts outdoor classes in grammar and high school subjects. The residential students and day scholars also receive vocational training of some kind. The boys themselves regulate most of their activities through autonomous committees. Very early in my career as an educator I discovered that boys who impishly delight in outwitting a teacher will cheerfully accept disciplinary rules that are set by their fellow students. Never a model pupil myself, I had a ready sympathy for all boyish pranks and problems.

Sports and games are encouraged; the fields resound with hockey and football practice. Ranchi students often win the cup at competitive events. The outdoor gymnasium is known far and wide. Muscle recharging through will power is the YOGODA feature: mental direction of life energy to any part of the body. The boys are also taught ASANAS (postures), sword and LATHI (stick) play, and jujitsu. The Yogoda Health Exhibitions at the Ranchi VIDYALAYA have been attended by thousands.

Instruction in primary subjects is given in Hindi to the KOLS, SANTALS, and MUNDAS, aboriginal tribes of the province. Classes for girls only have been organized in near-by villages.

The unique feature at Ranchi is the initiation into KRIYA YOGA. The boys daily practice their spiritual exercises, engage in GITA chanting, and are taught by precept and example the virtues of simplicity, self-sacrifice, honor, and truth. Evil is pointed out to them as being that which produces misery; good as those actions which result in true happiness. Evil may be compared to poisoned honey, tempting but laden with death.

Overcoming restlessness of body and mind by concentration techniques has achieved astonishing results: it is no novelty at Ranchi to see an appealing little figure, aged nine or ten years, sitting for an hour or more in unbroken poise, the unwinking gaze directed to the spiritual eye. Often the picture of these Ranchi students has returned to my mind, as I observed collegians over the world who are hardly able to sit still through one class period. {FN40-4}

Ranchi lies 2000 feet above sea level; the climate is mild and equable. The twenty-five acre site, by a large bathing pond, includes one of the finest orchards in India-five hundred fruit trees-mango, guava, litchi, jackfruit, date. The boys grow their own vegetables, and spin at their CHARKAS.

A guest house is hospitably open for Western visitors. The Ranchi library contains numerous magazines, and about a thousand volumes in English and Bengali, donations from the West and the East. There is a collection of the scriptures of the world. A well-classified museum displays archeological, geological, and anthropological exhibits; trophies, to a great extent, of my wanderings over the Lord's varied earth.

The charitable hospital and dispensary of the Lahiri Mahasaya Mission, with many outdoor branches in distant villages, have already ministered to 150,000 of India's poor. The Ranchi students are trained in first aid, and have given praiseworthy service to their province at tragic times of flood or famine.

In the orchard stands a Shiva temple, with a statue of the blessed master, Lahiri Mahasaya. Daily prayers and scripture classes are held in the garden under the mango bowers.

Branch high schools, with the residential and yoga features of Ranchi, have been opened and are now flourishing. These are the Yogoda Sat-Sanga Vidyapith (School) for Boys, at Lakshmanpur in Bihar; and the Yogoda Sat-Sanga High School and hermitage at Ejmalichak in Midnapore.

A stately Yogoda Math was dedicated in 1939 at Dakshineswar, directly on the Ganges. Only a few miles north of Calcutta, the new hermitage affords a haven of peace for city dwellers. Suitable accommodations are available for Western guests, and particularly for those seekers who are intensely dedicating their lives to spiritual realization. The activities of the Yogoda Math include a fortnightly mailing of Self-Realization Fellowship teachings to students in various parts of India.

It is needless to say that all these educational and humanitarian activities have required the self-sacrificing service and devotion of many teachers and workers. I do not list their names here, because they are so numerous; but in my heart each one has a lustrous niche. Inspired by the ideals of Lahiri Mahasaya, these teachers have abandoned promising worldly goals to serve humbly, to give greatly.

Mr. Wright formed many fast friendships with Ranchi boys; clad in a simple DHOTI, he lived for awhile among them. At Ranchi, Calcutta, Serampore, everywhere he went, my secretary, who has a vivid gift of description, hauled out his travel diary to record his adventures. One evening I asked him a question.

"Dick, what is your impression of India?"

"Peace," he said thoughtfully. "The racial aura is peace."

{FN40-1} We broke our journey in Central Provinces, halfway across the continent, to see Mahatma Gandhi at Wardha. Those days are described in chapter 44.

{FN40-2} Prafulla was the lad who had been present with Master when a cobra approached (see page 116).

{FN40-3} Literally, "holy name," a word of greeting among Hindus, accompanied by palm-folded hands lifted from the heart to the forehead in salutation. A PRONAM in India takes the place of the Western greeting by handshaking.

{FN40-4} Mental training through certain concentration techniques has produced in each Indian generation men of prodigious memory. Sir T. Vijayaraghavachari, in the HINDUSTAN TIMES, has described the tests put to the modern professional "memory men" of Madras. "These men," he wrote, "were unusually learned in Sanskrit literature. Seated in the midst of a large audience, they were equal to the tests that several members of the audience simultaneously put them to. The test would be like this: one person would start ringing a bell, the number of rings having to be counted by the 'memory man.' A second person would dictate from a paper a long exercise in arithmetic, involving addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. A third would go on reciting from the RAMAYANA or the MAHABHARATA a long series of poems, which had to be reproduced; a fourth would set problems in versification which required the composition of verses in proper meter on a given subject, each line to end in a specified word, a fifth man would carry on with a sixth a theological disputation, the exact language of which had to be quoted in the precise order in which the disputants conducted it, and a seventh man was all the while turning a wheel, the number of revolutions of which had to be counted. The memory expert had simultaneously to do all these feats purely by mental processes, as he was allowed no paper and pencil. The strain on the faculties must have been terrific. Ordinarily men in unconscious envy are apt to depreciate such efforts by affecting to believe that they involve only the exercise of the lower functionings of the brain. It is not, however, a pure question of memory. The greater factor is the immense concentration of mind."



CHAPTER: 41

AN IDYL IN SOUTH INDIA

"You are the first Westerner, Dick, ever to enter that shrine. Many others have tried in vain."

At my words Mr. Wright looked startled, then pleased. We had just left the beautiful Chamundi Temple in the hills overlooking Mysore in southern India. There we had bowed before the gold and silver altars of the Goddess Chamundi, patron deity of the family of the reigning maharaja.

"As a souvenir of the unique honor," Mr. Wright said, carefully stowing away a few blessed rose petals, "I will always preserve this flower, sprinkled by the priest with rose water."

My companion and I {FN41-1} were spending the month of November, 1935, as guests of the State of Mysore. The Maharaja, H.H. Sri Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV, is a model prince with intelligent devotion to his people. A pious Hindu, the Maharaja has empowered a Mohammedan, the able Mirza Ismail, as his Dewan or Premier. Popular representation is given to the seven million inhabitants of Mysore in both an Assembly and a Legislative Council.

The heir to the Maharaja, H.H. the Yuvaraja, Sir Sri Krishna Narasingharaj Wadiyar, had invited my secretary and me to visit his enlightened and progressive realm. During the past fortnight I had addressed thousands of Mysore citizens and students, at the Town Hall, the Maharajah's College, the University Medical School; and three mass meetings in Bangalore, at the National High School, the Intermediate College, and the Chetty Town Hall where over three thousand persons had assembled. Whether the eager listeners had been able to credit the glowing picture I drew of America, I know not; but the applause had always been loudest when I spoke of the mutual benefits that could flow from exchange of the best features in East and West.

Mr. Wright and I were now relaxing in the tropical peace. His travel diary gives the following account of his impressions of Mysore:

"Brilliantly green rice fields, varied by tasseled sugar cane patches, nestle at the protective foot of rocky hills-hills dotting the emerald panorama like excrescences of black stone-and the play of colors is enhanced by the sudden and dramatic disappearance of the sun as it seeks rest behind the solemn hills.

"Many rapturous moments have been spent in gazing, almost absent-mindedly, at the ever-changing canvas of God stretched across the firmament, for His touch alone is able to produce colors that vibrate with the freshness of life. That youth of colors is lost when man tries to imitate with mere pigments, for the Lord resorts to a more simple and effective medium-oils that are neither oils nor pigments, but mere rays of light. He tosses a splash of light here, and it reflects red; He waves the brush again and it blends gradually into orange and gold; then with a piercing thrust He stabs the clouds with a streak of purple that leaves a ringlet or fringe of red oozing out of the wound in the clouds; and so, on and on, He plays, night and morning alike, ever-changing, ever-new, ever-fresh; no patterns, no duplicates, no colors just the same. The beauty of the Indian change in day to night is beyond compare elsewhere; often the sky looks as if God had taken all the colors in His kit and given them one mighty kaleidoscopic toss into the heavens.

"I must relate the splendor of a twilight visit to the huge Krishnaraja Sagar Dam, {FN41-2} constructed twelve miles outside of Mysore. Yoganandaji and I boarded a small bus and, with a small boy as official cranker or battery substitute, started off over a smooth dirt road, just as the sun was setting on the horizon and squashing like an overripe tomato.

"Our journey led past the omnipresent square rice fields, through a line of comforting banyan trees, in between a grove of towering coconut palms, with vegetation nearly as thick as in a jungle, and finally, approaching the crest of a hill, we came face-to-face with an immense artificial lake, reflecting the stars and fringe of palms and other trees, surrounded by lovely terraced gardens and a row of electric lights on the brink of the dam-and below it our eyes met a dazzling spectacle of colored beams playing on geyserlike fountains, like so many streams of brilliant ink pouring forth-gorgeously blue waterfalls, arresting red cataracts, green and yellow sprays, elephants spouting water, a miniature of the Chicago World's Fair, and yet modernly outstanding in this ancient land of paddy fields and simple people, who have given us such a loving welcome that I fear it will take more than my strength to bring Yoganandaji back to America.

"Another rare privilege-my first elephant ride. Yesterday the Yuvaraja invited us to his summer palace to enjoy a ride on one of his elephants, an enormous beast. I mounted a ladder provided to climb aloft to the HOWDAH or saddle, which is silk-cushioned and boxlike; and then for a rolling, tossing, swaying, and heaving down into a gully, too much thrilled to worry or exclaim, but hanging on for dear life!"

Southern India, rich with historical and archaeological remains, is a land of definite and yet indefinable charm. To the north of Mysore is the largest native state in India, Hyderabad, a picturesque plateau cut by the mighty Godavari River. Broad fertile plains, the lovely Nilgiris or "Blue Mountains," other regions with barren hills of limestone or granite. Hyderabad history is a long, colorful story, starting three thousand years ago under the Andhra kings, and continuing under Hindu dynasties until A.D. 1294, when it passed to a line of Moslem rulers who reign to this day.

The most breath-taking display of architecture, sculpture, and painting in all India is found at Hyderabad in the ancient rock-sculptured caves of Ellora and Ajanta. The Kailasa at Ellora, a huge monolithic temple, possesses carved figures of gods, men, and beasts in the stupendous proportions of a Michelangelo. Ajanta is the site of five cathedrals and twenty-five monasteries, all rock excavations maintained by tremendous frescoed pillars on which artists and sculptors have immortalized their genius.

Hyderabad City is graced by the Osmania University and by the imposing Mecca Masjid Mosque, where ten thousand Mohammedans may assemble for prayer.

Mysore State too is a scenic wonderland, three thousand feet above sea level, abounding in dense tropical forests, the home of wild elephants, bison, bears, panthers, and tigers. Its two chief cities, Bangalore and Mysore, are clean, attractive, with many parks and public gardens.

Hindu architecture and sculpture achieved their highest perfection in Mysore under the patronage of Hindu kings from the eleventh to the fifteenth centuries. The temple at Belur, an eleventh-century masterpiece completed during the reign of King Vishnuvardhana, is unsurpassed in the world for its delicacy of detail and exuberant imagery.

The rock pillars found in northern Mysore date from the third century B.C., illuminating the memory of King Asoka. He succeeded to the throne of the Maurya dynasty then prevailing; his empire included nearly all of modern India, Afghanistan, and Baluchistan. This illustrious emperor, considered even by Western historians to have been an incomparable ruler, has left the following wisdom on a rock memorial:

This religious inscription has been engraved in order that our sons and grandsons may not think a new conquest is necessary; that they may not think conquest by the sword deserves the name of conquest; that they may see in it nothing but destruction and violence; that they may consider nothing as true conquest save the conquest of religion. Such conquests have value in this world and in the next.



Asoka was a grandson of the formidable Chandragupta Maurya (known to the Greeks as Sandrocottus), who in his youth had met Alexander the Great. Later Chandragupta destroyed the Macedonian garrisons left in India, defeated the invading Greek army of Seleucus in the Punjab, and then received at his Patna court the Hellenic ambassador Megasthenes.

Intensely interesting stories have been minutely recorded by Greek historians and others who accompanied or followed after Alexander in his expedition to India. The narratives of Arrian, Diodoros, Plutarch, and Strabo the geographer have been translated by Dr. J. W. M'Crindle {FN41-3} to throw a shaft of light on ancient India. The most admirable feature of Alexander's unsuccessful invasion was the deep interest he displayed in Hindu philosophy and in the yogis and holy men whom he encountered from time to time and whose society he eagerly sought. Shortly after the Greek warrior had arrived in Taxila in northern India, he sent a messenger, Onesikritos, a disciple of the Hellenic school of Diogenes, to fetch an Indian teacher, Dandamis, a great sannyasi of Taxila.

"Hail to thee, O teacher of Brahmins!" Onesikritos said after seeking out Dandamis in his forest retreat. "The son of the mighty God Zeus, being Alexander who is the Sovereign Lord of all men, asks you to go to him, and if you comply, he will reward you with great gifts, but if you refuse, he will cut off your head!"

The yogi received this fairly compulsive invitation calmly, and "did not so much as lift up his head from his couch of leaves."

"I also am a son of Zeus, if Alexander be such," he commented. "I want nothing that is Alexander's, for I am content with what I have, while I see that he wanders with his men over sea and land for no advantage, and is never coming to an end of his wanderings.

"Go and tell Alexander that God the Supreme King is never the Author of insolent wrong, but is the Creator of light, of peace, of life, of water, of the body of man and of souls; He receives all men when death sets them free, being in no way subject to evil disease. He alone is the God of my homage, who abhors slaughter and instigates no wars.

"Alexander is no god, since he must taste of death," continued the sage in quiet scorn. "How can such as he be the world's master, when he has not yet seated himself on a throne of inner universal dominion? Neither as yet has he entered living into Hades, nor does he know the course of the sun through the central regions of the earth, while the nations on its boundaries have not so much as heard his name!"

After this chastisement, surely the most caustic ever sent to assault the ears of the "Lord of the World," the sage added ironically, "If Alexander's present dominions be not capacious enough for his desires, let him cross the Ganges River; there he will find a region able to sustain all his men, if the country on this side be too narrow to hold him. {FN41-4}

"Know this, however, that what Alexander offers and the gifts he promises are things to me utterly useless; the things I prize and find of real use and worth are these leaves which are my house, these blooming plants which supply me with daily food, and the water which is my drink; while all other possessions which are amassed with anxious care are wont to prove ruinous to those who gather them, and cause only sorrow and vexation, with which every poor mortal is fully fraught. As for me, I lie upon the forest leaves, and having nothing which requires guarding, close my eyes in tranquil slumber; whereas had I anything to guard, that would banish sleep. The earth supplies me with everything, even as a mother her child with milk. I go wherever I please, and there are no cares with which I am forced to cumber myself.

"Should Alexander cut off my head, he cannot also destroy my soul. My head alone, then silent, will remain, leaving the body like a torn garment upon the earth, whence also it was taken. I then, becoming Spirit, shall ascend to my God, who enclosed us all in flesh and left us upon earth to prove whether, when here below, we shall live obedient to His ordinances and who also will require of us all, when we depart hence to His presence, an account of our life, since He is Judge of all proud wrongdoing; for the groans of the oppressed become the punishment of the oppressor.

"Let Alexander then terrify with these threats those who wish for wealth and who dread death, for against us these weapons are both alike powerless; the Brahmins neither love gold nor fear death. Go then and tell Alexander this: Dandamis has no need of aught that is yours, and therefore will not go to you, and if you want anything from Dandamis, come you to him."

With close attention Alexander received through Onesikritos the message from the yogi, and "felt a stronger desire than ever to see Dandamis who, though old and naked, was the only antagonist in whom he, the conqueror of many nations, had met more than his match."

Alexander invited to Taxila a number of Brahmin ascetics noted for their skill in answering philosophical questions with pithy wisdom. An account of the verbal skirmish is given by Plutarch; Alexander himself framed all the questions.

"Which be the more numerous, the living or the dead?"

"The living, for the dead are not."

"Which breeds the larger animals, the sea or the land?"

"The land, for the sea is only a part of land."

"Which is the cleverest of beasts?"

"That one with which man is not yet acquainted." (Man fears the unknown.)

"Which existed first, the day or the night?"

"The day was first by one day." This reply caused Alexander to betray surprise; the Brahmin added: "Impossible questions require impossible answers."

"How best may a man make himself beloved?"

"A man will be beloved if, possessed with great power, he still does not make himself feared."

"How may a man become a god?" {FN41-5}

"By doing that which it is impossible for a man to do."

"Which is stronger, life or death?"

"Life, because it bears so many evils."

Alexander succeeded in taking out of India, as his teacher, a true yogi. This man was Swami Sphines, called "Kalanos" by the Greeks because the saint, a devotee of God in the form of Kali, greeted everyone by pronouncing Her auspicious name.

Kalanos accompanied Alexander to Persia. On a stated day, at Susa in Persia, Kalanos gave up his aged body by entering a funeral pyre in view of the whole Macedonian army. The historians record the astonishment of the soldiers who observed that the yogi had no fear of pain or death, and who never once moved from his position as he was consumed in the flames. Before leaving for his cremation, Kalanos had embraced all his close companions, but refrained from bidding farewell to Alexander, to whom the Hindu sage had merely remarked:

"I shall see you shortly in Babylon."

Alexander left Persia, and died a year later in Babylon. His Indian guru's words had been his way of saying he would be present with Alexander in life and death.

The Greek historians have left us many vivid and inspiring pictures of Indian society. Hindu law, Arrian tells us, protects the people and "ordains that no one among them shall, under any circumstances, be a slave but that, enjoying freedom themselves, they shall respect the equal right to it which all possess. For those, they thought, who have learned neither to domineer over nor cringe to others will attain the life best adapted for all vicissitudes of lot." {FN41-6}

"The Indians," runs another text, "neither put out money at usury, nor know how to borrow. It is contrary to established usage for an Indian either to do or suffer a wrong, and therefore they neither make contracts nor require securities." Healing, we are told, was by simple and natural means. "Cures are effected rather by regulating diet than by the use of medicines. The remedies most esteemed are ointments and plasters. All others are considered to be in great measure pernicious." Engagement in war was restricted to the KSHATRIYAS or warrior caste. "Nor would an enemy coming upon a husbandman at his work on his land, do him any harm, for men of this class being regarded as public benefactors, are protected from all injury. The land thus remaining unravaged and producing heavy crops, supplies the inhabitants with the requisites to make life enjoyable." {FN41-7}

The Emperor Chandragupta who in 305 B.C. had defeated Alexander's general, Seleucus, decided seven years later to hand over the reins of India's government to his son. Traveling to South India, Chandragupta spent the last twelve years of his life as a penniless ascetic, seeking self-realization in a rocky cave at Sravanabelagola, now honored as a Mysore shrine. Near-by stands the world's largest statue, carved out of an immense boulder by the Jains in A.D. 983 to honor the saint Comateswara.

The ubiquitous religious shrines of Mysore are a constant reminder of the many great saints of South India. One of these masters, Thayumanavar, has left us the following challenging poem:

You can control a mad elephant; You can shut the mouth of the bear and the tiger; You can ride a lion; You can play with the cobra; By alchemy you can eke out your livelihood; You can wander through the universe incognito; You can make vassals of the gods; You can be ever youthful; You can walk on water and live in fire; But control of the mind is better and more difficult.

In the beautiful and fertile State of Travancore in the extreme south of India, where traffic is conveyed over rivers and canals, the Maharaja assumes every year a hereditary obligation to expiate the sin incurred by wars and the annexation in the distant past of several petty states to Travancore. For fifty-six days annually the Maharaja visits the temple thrice daily to hear Vedic hymns and recitations; the expiation ceremony ends with the LAKSHADIPAM or illumination of the temple by a hundred thousand lights.

The great Hindu lawgiver Manu {FN41-8} has outlined the duties of a king. "He should shower amenities like Indra (lord of the gods); collect taxes gently and imperceptibly as the sun obtains vapor from water; enter into the life of his subjects as the wind goes everywhere; mete out even justice to all like Yama (god of death); bind transgressors in a noose like Varuna (Vedic deity of sky and wind); please all like the moon, burn up vicious enemies like the god of fire; and support all like the earth goddess.

"In war a king should not fight with poisonous or fiery weapons nor kill weak or unready or weaponless foes or men who are in fear or who pray for protection or who run away. War should be resorted to only as a last resort. Results are always doubtful in war."

Madras Presidency on the southeast coast of India contains the flat, spacious, sea-girt city of Madras, and Conjeeveram, the Golden City, capital site of the Pallava dynasty whose kings ruled during the early centuries of the Christian era. In modern Madras Presidency the nonviolent ideals of Mahatma Gandhi have made great headway; the white distinguishing "Gandhi caps" are seen everywhere. In the south generally the Mahatma has effected many important temple reforms for "untouchables" as well as caste-system reforms.

The origin of the caste system, formulated by the great legislator Manu, was admirable. He saw clearly that men are distinguished by natural evolution into four great classes: those capable of offering service to society through their bodily labor (SUDRAS); those who serve through mentality, skill, agriculture, trade, commerce, business life in general (VAISYAS); those whose talents are administrative, executive, and protective-rulers and warriors (KSHATRIYAS); those of contemplative nature, spiritually inspired and inspiring (BRAHMINS). "Neither birth nor sacraments nor study nor ancestry can decide whether a person is twice-born (i.e., a BRAHMIN);" the MAHABHARATA declares, "character and conduct only can decide." {FN41-9} Manu instructed society to show respect to its members insofar as they possessed wisdom, virtue, age, kinship or, lastly, wealth. Riches in Vedic India were always despised if they were hoarded or unavailable for charitable purposes. Ungenerous men of great wealth were assigned a low rank in society.

Serious evils arose when the caste system became hardened through the centuries into a hereditary halter. Social reformers like Gandhi and the members of very numerous societies in India today are making slow but sure progress in restoring the ancient values of caste, based solely on natural qualification and not on birth. Every nation on earth has its own distinctive misery-producing karma to deal with and remove; India, too, with her versatile and invulnerable spirit, shall prove herself equal to the task of caste-reformation.

So entrancing is southern India that Mr. Wright and I yearned to prolong our idyl. But time, in its immemorial rudeness, dealt us no courteous extensions. I was scheduled soon to address the concluding session of the Indian Philosophical Congress at Calcutta University. At the end of the visit to Mysore, I enjoyed a talk with Sir C. V. Raman, president of the Indian Academy of Sciences. This brilliant Hindu physicist was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1930 for his important discovery in the diffusion of light-the "Raman Effect" now known to every schoolboy.

Waving a reluctant farewell to a crowd of Madras students and friends, Mr. Wright and I set out for the north. On the way we stopped before a little shrine sacred to the memory of Sadasiva Brahman, {FN41-10} in whose eighteenth-century life story miracles cluster thickly. A larger Sadasiva shrine at Nerur, erected by the Raja of Pudukkottai, is a pilgrimage spot which has witnessed numerous divine healings.

Many quaint stories of Sadasiva, a lovable and fully-illumined master, are still current among the South Indian villagers. Immersed one day in SAMADHI on the bank of the Kaveri River, Sadasiva was seen to be carried away by a sudden flood. Weeks later he was found buried deep beneath a mound of earth. As the villagers' shovels struck his body, the saint rose and walked briskly away.

Sadasiva never spoke a word or wore a cloth. One morning the nude yogi unceremoniously entered the tent of a Mohammedan chieftain. His ladies screamed in alarm; the warrior dealt a savage sword thrust at Sadasiva, whose arm was severed. The master departed unconcernedly. Overcome by remorse, the Mohammedan picked up the arm from the floor and followed Sadasiva. The yogi quietly inserted his arm into the bleeding stump. When the warrior humbly asked for some spiritual instruction, Sadasiva wrote with his finger on the sands:

"Do not do what you want, and then you may do what you like."

The Mohammedan was uplifted to an exalted state of mind, and understood the saint's paradoxical advice to be a guide to soul freedom through mastery of the ego.

The village children once expressed a desire in Sadasiva's presence to see the Madura religious festival, 150 miles away. The yogi indicated to the little ones that they should touch his body. Lo! instantly the whole group was transported to Madura. The children wandered happily among the thousands of pilgrims. In a few hours the yogi brought his small charges home by his simple mode of transportation. The astonished parents heard the vivid tales of the procession of images, and noted that several children were carrying bags of Madura sweets.

An incredulous youth derided the saint and the story. The following morning he approached Sadasiva.

"Master," he said scornfully, "why don't you take me to the festival, even as you did yesterday for the other children?"

Sadasiva complied; the boy immediately found himself among the distant city throng. But alas! where was the saint when the youth wanted to leave? The weary boy reached his home by the ancient and prosaic method of foot locomotion.

{FN41-1} Miss Bletch, unable to maintain the active pace set by Mr. Wright and myself, remained happily with my relatives in Calcutta.

{FN41-2} This dam, a huge hydro-electric installation, lights Mysore City and gives power to factories for silks, soaps, and sandalwood oil. The sandalwood souvenirs from Mysore possess a delightful fragrance which time does not exhaust; a slight pinprick revives the odor. Mysore boasts some of the largest pioneer industrial undertakings in India, including the Kolar Gold Mines, the Mysore Sugar Factory, the huge iron and steel works at Bhadravati, and the cheap and efficient Mysore State Railway which covers many of the state's 30,000 square miles.

The Maharaja and Yuvaraja who were my hosts in Mysore in 1935 have both recently died. The son of the Yuvaraja, the present Maharaja, is an enterprising ruler, and has added to Mysore's industries a large airplane factory.

{FN41-3} Six volumes on ANCIENT INDIA (Calcutta, 1879).

{FN41-5} Neither Alexander nor any of his generals ever crossed the Ganges. Finding determined resistance in the northwest, the Macedonian army refused to penetrate farther; Alexander was forced to leave India and seek his conquests in Persia.

{FN41-5} From this question we may surmise that the "Son of Zeus" had an occasional doubt that he had already attained perfection.

{FN41-6} All Greek observers comment on the lack of slavery in India, a feature at complete variance with the structure of Hellenic society.

{FN41-7} CREATIVE INDIA by Prof. Benoy Kumar Sarkar gives a comprehensive picture of India's ancient and modern achievements and distinctive values in economics, political science, literature, art, and social philosophy. (Lahore: Motilal Banarsi Dass, Publishers, 1937, 714 pp., $5.00.)

Another recommended volume is INDIAN CULTURE THROUGH THE AGES, by S. V. Venatesvara (New York: Longmans, Green & Co., $5.00).

{FN41-8} Manu is the universal lawgiver; not alone for Hindu society, but for the world. All systems of wise social regulations and even justice are patterned after Manu. Nietzsche has paid the following tribute: "I know of no book in which so many delicate and kindly things are said to woman as in the LAWBOOK OF MANU; those old graybeards and saints have a manner of being gallant to women which perhaps cannot be surpassed . . . an incomparably intellectual and superior work . . . replete with noble values, it is filled with a feeling of perfection, with a saying of yea to life, and a triumphant sense of well-being in regard to itself and to life; the sun shines upon the whole book."

{FN41-9} "Inclusion in one of these four castes originally depended not on a man's birth but on his natural capacities as demonstrated by the goal in life he elected to achieve," an article in EAST-WEST for January, 1935, tells us. "This goal could be (1) KAMA, desire, activity of the life of the senses (SUDRA stage), (2) ARTHA, gain, fulfilling but controlling the desires (VAISYA stage), (3) DHARMA, self-discipline, the life of responsibility and right action (KSHATRIYA stage), (4) MOKSHA, liberation, the life of spirituality and religious teaching (BRAHMIN stage). These four castes render service to humanity by (1) body, (2) mind, (3) will power, (4) Spirit.

"These four stages have their correspondence in the eternal GUNAS or qualities of nature, TAMAS, RAJAS, and SATTVA: obstruction, activity, and expansion; or, mass, energy, and intelligence. The four natural castes are marked by the GUNAS as (1) TAMAS (ignorance), (2) TAMAS-RAJAS (mixture of ignorance and activity), (3) RAJAS-SATTVA (mixture of right activity and enlightenment), (4) SATTVA (enlightenment). Thus has nature marked every man with his caste, by the predominance in himself of one, or the mixture of two, of the GUNAS. Of course every human being has all three GUNAS in varying proportions. The guru will be able rightly to determine a man's caste or evolutionary status.

"To a certain extent, all races and nations observe in practice, if not in theory, the features of caste. Where there is great license or so-called liberty, particularly in intermarriage between extremes in the natural castes, the race dwindles away and becomes extinct. The PURANA SAMHITA compares the offspring of such unions to barren hybrids, like the mule which is incapable of propagation of its own species. Artificial species are eventually exterminated. History offers abundant proof of numerous great races which no longer have any living representatives. The caste system of India is credited by her most profound thinkers with being the check or preventive against license which has preserved the purity of the race and brought it safely through millenniums of vicissitudes, while other races have vanished in oblivion."

{FN41-10} His full title was Sri Sadasivendra Saraswati Swami. The illustrious successor in the formal Shankara line, Jagadguru Sri Shankaracharya of Sringeri Math, wrote an inspiring ODE dedicated to Sadasiva. EAST-WEST for July, 1942, carried an article on Sadasiva's life.



CHAPTER: 42

LAST DAYS WITH MY GURU

"Guruji, I am glad to find you alone this morning." I had just arrived at the Serampore hermitage, carrying a fragrant burden of fruit and roses. Sri Yukteswar glanced at me meekly.

"What is your question?" Master looked about the room as though he were seeking escape.

"Guruji, I came to you as a high-school youth; now I am a grown man, even with a gray hair or two. Though you have showered me with silent affection from the first hour to this, do you realize that once only, on the day of meeting, have you ever said, 'I love you'?" I looked at him pleadingly.

Master lowered his gaze. "Yogananda, must I bring out into the cold realms of speech the warm sentiments best guarded by the wordless heart?"

"Guruji, I know you love me, but my mortal ears ache to hear you say so."

"Be it as you wish. During my married life I often yearned for a son, to train in the yogic path. But when you came into my life, I was content; in you I have found my son." Two clear teardrops stood in Sri Yukteswar's eyes. "Yogananda, I love you always."

"Your answer is my passport to heaven." I felt a weight lift from my heart, dissolved forever at his words. Often had I wondered at his silence. Realizing that he was unemotional and self-contained, yet sometimes I feared I had been unsuccessful in fully satisfying him. His was a strange nature, never utterly to be known; a nature deep and still, unfathomable to the outer world, whose values he had long transcended.

A few days later, when I spoke before a huge audience at Albert Hall in Calcutta, Sri Yukteswar consented to sit beside me on the platform, with the Maharaja of Santosh and the Mayor of Calcutta. Though Master made no remark to me, I glanced at him from time to time during my address, and thought I detected a pleased twinkle in his eyes.

Then came a talk before the alumni of Serampore College. As I gazed upon my old classmates, and as they gazed on their own "Mad Monk," tears of joy showed unashamedly. My silver-tongued professor of philosophy, Dr. Ghoshal, came forward to greet me, all our past misunderstandings dissolved by the alchemist Time.

A Winter Solstice Festival was celebrated at the end of December in the Serampore hermitage. As always, Sri Yukteswar's disciples gathered from far and near. Devotional SANKIRTANS, solos in the nectar-sweet voice of Kristo-da, a feast served by young disciples, Master's profoundly moving discourse under the stars in the thronged courtyard of the ashram-memories, memories! Joyous festivals of years long past! Tonight, however, there was to be a new feature.

"Yogananda, please address the assemblage-in English." Master's eyes were twinkling as he made this doubly unusual request; was he thinking of the shipboard predicament that had preceded my first lecture in English? I told the story to my audience of brother disciples, ending with a fervent tribute to our guru.

"His omnipresent guidance was with me not alone on the ocean steamer," I concluded, "but daily throughout my fifteen years in the vast and hospitable land of America."

After the guests had departed, Sri Yukteswar called me to the same bedroom where-once only, after a festival of my early years-I had been permitted to sleep on his wooden bed. Tonight my guru was sitting there quietly, a semicircle of disciples at his feet. He smiled as I quickly entered the room.

"Yogananda, are you leaving now for Calcutta? Please return here tomorrow. I have certain things to tell you."

The next afternoon, with a few simple words of blessing, Sri Yukteswar bestowed on me the further monastic title of PARAMHANSA. {FN42-1}

"It now formally supersedes your former title of SWAMI," he said as I knelt before him. With a silent chuckle I thought of the struggle which my American students would undergo over the pronunciation of PARAMHANSAJI. {FN42-2}

"My task on earth is now finished; you must carry on." Master spoke quietly, his eyes calm and gentle. My heart was palpitating in fear.

"Please send someone to take charge of our ashram at Puri," Sri Yukteswar went on. "I leave everything in your hands. You will be able to successfully sail the boat of your life and that of the organization to the divine shores."

In tears, I was embracing his feet; he rose and blessed me endearingly.

The following day I summoned from Ranchi a disciple, Swami Sebananda, and sent him to Puri to assume the hermitage duties. {FN42-3} Later my guru discussed with me the legal details of settling his estate; he was anxious to prevent the possibility of litigation by relatives, after his death, for possession of his two hermitages and other properties, which he wished to be deeded over solely for charitable purposes.

"Arrangements were recently made for Master to visit Kidderpore, {FN42-4} but he failed to go." Amulaya Babu, a brother disciple, made this remark to me one afternoon; I felt a cold wave of premonition. To my pressing inquiries, Sri Yukteswar only replied, "I shall go to Kidderpore no more." For a moment, Master trembled like a frightened child.

("Attachment to bodily residence, springing up of its own nature [i.e., arising from immemorial roots, past experiences of death]," Patanjali wrote, {FN42-5} "is present in slight degree even in great saints." In some of his discourses on death, my guru had been wont to add: "Just as a long-caged bird hesitates to leave its accustomed home when the door is opened.")

"Guruji," I entreated him with a sob, "don't say that! Never utter those words to me!"

Sri Yukteswar's face relaxed in a peaceful smile. Though nearing his eighty-first birthday, he looked well and strong.

Basking day by day in the sunshine of my guru's love, unspoken but keenly felt, I banished from my conscious mind the various hints he had given of his approaching passing.

"Sir, the KUMBHA MELA is convening this month at Allahabad." I showed Master the MELA dates in a Bengali almanac. {FN42-6}

"Do you really want to go?"

Not sensing Sri Yukteswar's reluctance to have me leave him, I went on, "Once you beheld the blessed sight of Babaji at an Allahabad KUMBHA. Perhaps this time I shall be fortunate enough to see him."

"I do not think you will meet him there." My guru then fell into silence, not wishing to obstruct my plans.

When I set out for Allahabad the following day with a small group, Master blessed me quietly in his usual manner. Apparently I was remaining oblivious to implications in Sri Yukteswar's attitude because the Lord wished to spare me the experience of being forced, helplessly, to witness my guru's passing. It has always happened in my life that, at the death of those dearly beloved by me, God has compassionately arranged that I be distant from the scene. {FN42-7}

Our party reached the KUMBHA MELA on January 23, 1936. The surging crowd of nearly two million persons was an impressive sight, even an overwhelming one. The peculiar genius of the Indian people is the reverence innate in even the lowliest peasant for the worth of the Spirit, and for the monks and sadhus who have forsaken worldly ties to seek a diviner anchorage. Imposters and hypocrites there are indeed, but India respects all for the sake of the few who illumine the whole land with supernal blessings. Westerners who were viewing the vast spectacle had a unique opportunity to feel the pulse of the land, the spiritual ardor to which India owes her quenchless vitality before the blows of time.



The first day was spent by our group in sheer staring. Here were countless bathers, dipping in the holy river for remission of sins; there we saw solemn rituals of worship; yonder were devotional offerings being strewn at the dusty feet of saints; a turn of our heads, and a line of elephants, caparisoned horses and slow-paced Rajputana camels filed by, or a quaint religious parade of naked sadhus, waving scepters of gold and silver, or flags and streamers of silken velvet.

Anchorites wearing only loincloths sat quietly in little groups, their bodies besmeared with the ashes that protect them from the heat and cold. The spiritual eye was vividly represented on their foreheads by a single spot of sandalwood paste. Shaven-headed swamis appeared by the thousands, ocher-robed and carrying their bamboo staff and begging bowl. Their faces beamed with the renunciate's peace as they walked about or held philosophical discussions with disciples.

Here and there under the trees, around huge piles of burning logs, were picturesque sadhus, {FN42-8} their hair braided and massed in coils on top of their heads. Some wore beards several feet in length, curled and tied in a knot. They meditated quietly, or extended their hands in blessing to the passing throng-beggars, maharajas on elephants, women in multicolored SARIS—their bangles and anklets tinkling, FAKIRS with thin arms held grotesquely aloft, BRAHMACHARIS carrying meditation elbow-props, humble sages whose solemnity hid an inner bliss. High above the din we heard the ceaseless summons of the temple bells.

On our second MELA day my companions and I entered various ashrams and temporary huts, offering PRONAMS to saintly personages. We received the blessing of the leader of the GIRI branch of the Swami Order-a thin, ascetical monk with eyes of smiling fire. Our next visit took us to a hermitage whose guru had observed for the past nine years the vows of silence and a strict fruitarian diet. On the central dais in the ashram hall sat a blind sadhu, Pragla Chakshu, profoundly learned in the SHASTRAS and highly revered by all sects.

After I had given a brief discourse in Hindi on VEDANTA, our group left the peaceful hermitage to greet a near-by swami, Krishnananda, a handsome monk with rosy cheeks and impressive shoulders. Reclining near him was a tame lioness. Succumbing to the monk's spiritual charm—not, I am sure, to his powerful physique!-the jungle animal refuses all meat in favor of rice and milk. The swami has taught the tawny-haired beast to utter "AUM" in a deep, attractive growl-a cat devotee!

Our next encounter, an interview with a learned young sadhu, is well described in Mr. Wright's sparkling travel diary.

"We rode in the Ford across the very low Ganges on a creaking pontoon bridge, crawling snakelike through the crowds and over narrow, twisting lanes, passing the site on the river bank which Yoganandaji pointed out to me as the meeting place of Babaji and Sri Yukteswarji. Alighting from the car a short time later, we walked some distance through the thickening smoke of the sadhus' fires and over the slippery sands to reach a cluster of tiny, very modest mud-and-straw huts. We halted in front of one of these insignificant temporary dwellings, with a pygmy doorless entrance, the shelter of Kara Patri, a young wandering sadhu noted for his exceptional intelligence. There he sat, cross-legged on a pile of straw, his only covering-and incidentally his only possession-being an ocher cloth draped over his shoulders.

"Truly a divine face smiled at us after we had crawled on all fours into the hut and PRONAMED at the feet of this enlightened soul, while the kerosene lantern at the entrance flickered weird, dancing shadows on the thatched walls. His face, especially his eyes and perfect teeth, beamed and glistened. Although I was puzzled by the Hindi, his expressions were very revealing; he was full of enthusiasm, love, spiritual glory. No one could be mistaken as to his greatness.

"Imagine the happy life of one unattached to the material world; free of the clothing problem; free of food craving, never begging, never touching cooked food except on alternate days, never carrying a begging bowl; free of all money entanglements, never handling money, never storing things away, always trusting in God; free of transportation worries, never riding in vehicles, but always walking on the banks of the sacred rivers; never remaining in one place longer than a week in order to avoid any growth of attachment.

"Such a modest soul! unusually learned in the VEDAS, and possessing an M.A. degree and the title of SHASTRI (master of scriptures) from Benares University. A sublime feeling pervaded me as I sat at his feet; it all seemed to be an answer to my desire to see the real, the ancient India, for he is a true representative of this land of spiritual giants."

I questioned Kara Patri about his wandering life. "Don't you have any extra clothes for winter?"

"No, this is enough."

"Do you carry any books?"

"No, I teach from memory those people who wish to hear me."

"What else do you do?"

"I roam by the Ganges."

At these quiet words, I was overpowered by a yearning for the simplicity of his life. I remembered America, and all the responsibilities that lay on my shoulders.

"No, Yogananda," I thought, sadly for a moment, "in this life roaming by the Ganges is not for you."

After the sadhu had told me a few of his spiritual realizations, I shot an abrupt question.

"Are you giving these descriptions from scriptural lore, or from inward experience?"

"Half from book learning," he answered with a straightforward smile, "and half from experience."

We sat happily awhile in meditative silence. After we had left his sacred presence, I said to Mr. Wright, "He is a king sitting on a throne of golden straw."

We had our dinner that night on the MELA grounds under the stars, eating from leaf plates pinned together with sticks. Dishwashings in India are reduced to a minimum!

Two more days of the fascinating KUMBHA; then northwest along the Jumna banks to Agra. Once again I gazed on the Taj Mahal; in memory Jitendra stood by my side, awed by the dream in marble. Then on to the Brindaban ashram of Swami Keshabananda.

My object in seeking out Keshabananda was connected with this book. I had never forgotten Sri Yukteswar's request that I write the life of Lahiri Mahasaya. During my stay in India I was taking every opportunity of contacting direct disciples and relatives of the Yogavatar. Recording their conversations in voluminous notes, I verified facts and dates, and collected photographs, old letters, and documents. My Lahiri Mahasaya portfolio began to swell; I realized with dismay that ahead of me lay arduous labors in authorship. I prayed that I might be equal to my role as biographer of the colossal guru. Several of his disciples feared that in a written account their master might be belittled or misinterpreted.

"One can hardly do justice in cold words to the life of a divine incarnation," Panchanon Bhattacharya had once remarked to me.

Other close disciples were similarly satisfied to keep the Yogavatar hidden in their hearts as the deathless preceptor. Nevertheless, mindful of Lahiri Mahasaya's prediction about his biography, I spared no effort to secure and substantiate the facts of his outward life.

Swami Keshabananda greeted our party warmly at Brindaban in his Katayani Peith Ashram, an imposing brick building with massive black pillars, set in a beautiful garden. He ushered us at once into a sitting room adorned with an enlargement of Lahiri Mahasaya's picture. The swami was approaching the age of ninety, but his muscular body radiated strength and health. With long hair and a snow-white beard, eyes twinkling with joy, he was a veritable patriarchal embodiment. I informed him that I wanted to mention his name in my book on India's masters.

"Please tell me about your earlier life." I smiled entreatingly; great yogis are often uncommunicative.

Keshabananda made a gesture of humility. "There is little of external moment. Practically my whole life has been spent in the Himalayan solitudes, traveling on foot from one quiet cave to another. For a while I maintained a small ashram outside Hardwar, surrounded on all sides by a grove of tall trees. It was a peaceful spot little visited by travelers, owing to the ubiquitous presence of cobras." Keshabananda chuckled. "Later a Ganges flood washed away the hermitage and cobras alike. My disciples then helped me to build this Brindaban ashram."

One of our party asked the swami how he had protected himself against the Himalayan tigers. {FN42-9}

Keshabananda shook his head. "In those high spiritual altitudes," he said, "wild beasts seldom molest the yogis. Once in the jungle I encountered a tiger face-to-face. At my sudden ejaculation, the animal was transfixed as though turned to stone." Again the swami chuckled at his memories.

"Occasionally I left my seclusion to visit my guru in Benares. He used to joke with me over my ceaseless travels in the Himalayan wilderness.

"'You have the mark of wanderlust on your foot,' he told me once. 'I am glad that the sacred Himalayas are extensive enough to engross you.'

"Many times," Keshabananda went on, "both before and after his passing, Lahiri Mahasaya has appeared bodily before me. For him no Himalayan height is inaccessible!"

Two hours later he led us to a dining patio. I sighed in silent dismay. Another fifteen-course meal! Less than a year of Indian hospitality, and I had gained fifty pounds! Yet it would have been considered the height of rudeness to refuse any of the dishes, carefully prepared for the endless banquets in my honor. In India (nowhere else, alas!) a well-padded swami is considered a delightful sight. {FN42-10}



After dinner, Keshabananda led me to a secluded nook.

"Your arrival is not unexpected," he said. "I have a message for you."

I was surprised; no one had known of my plan to visit Keshabananda.

"While roaming last year in the northern Himalayas near Badrinarayan," the swami continued, "I lost my way. Shelter appeared in a spacious cave, which was empty, though the embers of a fire glowed in a hole in the rocky floor. Wondering about the occupant of this lonely retreat, I sat near the fire, my gaze fixed on the sunlit entrance to the cave.

"'Keshabananda, I am glad you are here.' These words came from behind me. I turned, startled, and was dazzled to behold Babaji! The great guru had materialized himself in a recess of the cave. Overjoyed to see him again after many years, I prostrated myself at his holy feet.

"'I called you here,' Babaji went on. 'That is why you lost your way and were led to my temporary abode in this cave. It is a long time since our last meeting; I am pleased to greet you once more.'

"The deathless master blessed me with some words of spiritual help, then added: 'I give you a message for Yogananda. He will pay you a visit on his return to India. Many matters connected with his guru and with the surviving disciples of Lahiri will keep Yogananda fully occupied. Tell him, then, that I won't see him this time, as he is eagerly hoping; but I shall see him on some other occasion.'"

I was deeply touched to receive from Keshabananda's lips this consoling promise from Babaji. A certain hurt in my heart vanished; I grieved no longer that, even as Sri Yukteswar had hinted, Babaji did not appear at the KUMBHA MELA.

Spending one night as guests of the ashram, our party set out the following afternoon for Calcutta. Riding over a bridge of the Jumna River, we enjoyed a magnificent view of the skyline of Brindaban just as the sun set fire to the sky-a veritable furnace of Vulcan in color, reflected below us in the still waters.

The Jumna beach is hallowed by memories of the child Sri Krishna. Here he engaged with innocent sweetness in his LILAS (plays) with the GOPIS (maids), exemplifying the supernal love which ever exists between a divine incarnation and his devotees. The life of Lord Krishna has been misunderstood by many Western commentators. Scriptural allegory is baffling to literal minds. A hilarious blunder by a translator will illustrate this point. The story concerns an inspired medieval saint, the cobbler Ravidas, who sang in the simple terms of his own trade of the spiritual glory hidden in all mankind:

Under the vast vault of blue Lives the divinity clothed in hide.

One turns aside to hide a smile on hearing the pedestrian interpretation given to Ravidas' poem by a Western writer:

"He afterwards built a hut, set up in it an idol which he made from a hide, and applied himself to its worship."

Ravidas was a brother disciple of the great Kabir. One of Ravidas' exalted chelas was the Rani of Chitor. She invited a large number of Brahmins to a feast in honor of her teacher, but they refused to eat with a lowly cobbler. As they sat down in dignified aloofness to eat their own uncontaminated meal, lo! each Brahmin found at his side the form of Ravidas. This mass vision accomplished a widespread spiritual revival in Chitor.

In a few days our little group reached Calcutta. Eager to see Sri Yukteswar, I was disappointed to hear that he had left Serampore and was now in Puri, about three hundred miles to the south.

"Come to Puri ashram at once." This telegram was sent on March 8th by a brother disciple to Atul Chandra Roy Chowdhry, one of Master's chelas in Calcutta. News of the message reached my ears; anguished at its implications, I dropped to my knees and implored God that my guru's life be spared. As I was about to leave Father's home for the train, a divine voice spoke within.

"Do not go to Puri tonight. Thy prayer cannot he granted."

"Lord," I said, grief-stricken, "Thou dost not wish to engage with me in a 'tug of war' at Puri, where Thou wilt have to deny my incessant prayers for Master's life. Must he, then, depart for higher duties at Thy behest?"

In obedience to the inward command, I did not leave that night for Puri. The following evening I set out for the train; on the way, at seven o'clock, a black astral cloud suddenly covered the sky. {FN42-11} Later, while the train roared toward Puri, a vision of Sri Yukteswar appeared before me. He was sitting, very grave of countenance, with a light on each side.

"Is it all over?" I lifted my arms beseechingly.

He nodded, then slowly vanished.

As I stood on the Puri train platform the following morning, still hoping against hope, an unknown man approached me.

"Have you heard that your Master is gone?" He left me without another word; I never discovered who he was nor how he had known where to find me.

Stunned, I swayed against the platform wall, realizing that in diverse ways my guru was trying to convey to me the devastating news. Seething with rebellion, my soul was like a volcano. By the time I reached the Puri hermitage I was nearing collapse. The inner voice was tenderly repeating: "Collect yourself. Be calm."

I entered the ashram room where Master's body, unimaginably lifelike, was sitting in the lotus posture-a picture of health and loveliness. A short time before his passing, my guru had been slightly ill with fever, but before the day of his ascension into the Infinite, his body had become completely well. No matter how often I looked at his dear form I could not realize that its life had departed. His skin was smooth and soft; in his face was a beatific expression of tranquillity. He had consciously relinquished his body at the hour of mystic summoning.

"The Lion of Bengal is gone!" I cried in a daze.

I conducted the solemn rites on March 10th. Sri Yukteswar was buried {FN42-12} with the ancient rituals of the swamis in the garden of his Puri ashram. His disciples later arrived from far and near to honor their guru at a vernal equinox memorial service. The AMRITA BAZAR PATRIKA, leading newspaper of Calcutta, carried his picture and the following report:

The death BHANDARA ceremony for Srimat Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri Maharaj, aged 81, took place at Puri on March 21. Many disciples came down to Puri for the rites.

One of the greatest expounders of the BHAGAVAD GITA, Swami Maharaj was a great disciple of Yogiraj Sri Shyama Charan Lahiri Mahasaya of Benares. Swami Maharaj was the founder of several Yogoda Sat-Sanga (Self-Realization Fellowship) centers in India, and was the great inspiration behind the yoga movement which was carried to the West by Swami Yogananda, his principal disciple. It was Sri Yukteswarji's prophetic powers and deep realization that inspired Swami Yogananda to cross the oceans and spread in America the message of the masters of India.

His interpretations of the BHAGAVAD GITA and other scriptures testify to the depth of Sri Yukteswarji's command of the philosophy, both Eastern and Western, and remain as an eye-opener for the unity between Orient and Occident. As he believed in the unity of all religious faiths, Sri Yukteswar Maharaj established SADHU SABHA (Society of Saints) with the cooperation of leaders of various sects and faiths, for the inculcation of a scientific spirit in religion. At the time of his demise he nominated Swami Yogananda his successor as the president of SADHU SABHA.

India is really poorer today by the passing of such a great man. May all fortunate enough to have come near him inculcate in themselves the true spirit of India's culture and SADHANA which was personified in him.

I returned to Calcutta. Not trusting myself as yet to go to the Serampore hermitage with its sacred memories, I summoned Prafulla, Sri Yukteswar's little disciple in Serampore, and made arrangements for him to enter the Ranchi school.

"The morning you left for the Allahabad MELA," Prafulla told me, "Master dropped heavily on the davenport.

"'Yogananda is gone!' he cried. 'Yogananda is gone!' He added cryptically, 'I shall have to tell him some other way.' He sat then for hours in silence."

My days were filled with lectures, classes, interviews, and reunions with old friends. Beneath a hollow smile and a life of ceaseless activity, a stream of black brooding polluted the inner river of bliss which for so many years had meandered under the sands of all my perceptions.

"Where has that divine sage gone?" I cried silently from the depths of a tormented spirit.

No answer came.

"It is best that Master has completed his union with the Cosmic Beloved," my mind assured me. "He is eternally glowing in the dominion of deathlessness."

"Never again may you see him in the old Serampore mansion," my heart lamented. "No longer may you bring your friends to meet him, or proudly say: 'Behold, there sits India's JNANAVATAR!'"

Mr. Wright made arrangements for our party to sail from Bombay for the West in early June. After a fortnight in May of farewell banquets and speeches at Calcutta, Miss Bletch, Mr. Wright and myself left in the Ford for Bombay. On our arrival, the ship authorities asked us to cancel our passage, as no room could be found for the Ford, which we would need again in Europe.

"Never mind," I said gloomily to Mr. Wright. "I want to return once more to Puri." I silently added, "Let my tears once again water the grave of my guru."

{FN42-1} Literally, PARAM, highest; HANSA, swan. The HANSA is represented in scriptural lore as the vehicle of Brahma, Supreme Spirit; as the symbol of discrimination, the white HANSA swan is thought of as able to separate the true SOMA nectar from a mixture of milk and water. HAM-SA (pronounced HONG-SAU) are two sacred Sanskrit chant words possessing a vibratory connection with the incoming and outgoing breath. AHAM-SA is literally "I am He."

{FN42-2} They have generally evaded the difficulty by addressing me as SIR.

{FN42-3} At the Puri ashram, Swami Sebananda is still conducting a small, flourishing yoga school for boys, and meditation groups for adults. Meetings of saints and pundits convene there periodically.

{FN42-4} A section of Calcutta.

{FN42-5} APHORISMS: II:9.

{FN42-6} Religious MELAS are mentioned in the ancient MAHABHARATA. The Chinese traveler Hieuen Tsiang has left an account of a vast KUMBHA MELA held in A.D. 644 at Allahabad. The largest MELA is held every twelfth year; the next largest (ARDHA or half) KUMBHA occurs every sixth year. Smaller MELAS convene every third year, attracting about a million devotees. The four sacred MELA cities are Allahabad, Hardwar, Nasik, and Ujjain.

Early Chinese travelers have left us many striking pictures of Indian society. The Chinese priest, Fa-Hsien, wrote an account of his eleven years in India during the reign of Chandragupta II (early 4th century). The Chinese author relates: "Throughout the country no one kills any living thing, nor drinks wine. . . . They do not keep pigs or fowl; there are no dealings in cattle, no butchers' shops or distilleries. Rooms with beds and mattresses, food and clothes, are provided for resident and traveling priests without fail, and this is the same in all places. The priests occupy themselves with benevolent ministrations and with chanting liturgies; or they sit in meditation." Fa-Hsien tells us the Indian people were happy and honest; capital punishment was unknown.

{FN42-7} I was not present at the deaths of my mother, elder brother Ananta, eldest sister Roma, Master, Father, or of several close disciples.

(Father passed on at Calcutta in 1942, at the age of eighty-nine.)

{FN42-8} The hundreds of thousands of Indian sadhus are controlled by an executive committee of seven leaders, representing seven large sections of India. The present MAHAMANDALESWAR or president is Joyendra Puri. This saintly man is extremely reserved, often confining his speech to three words-Truth, Love, and Work. A sufficient conversation!

{FN42-9} There are many methods, it appears, for outwitting a tiger. An Australian explorer, Francis Birtles, has recounted that he found the Indian jungles "varied, beautiful, and safe." His safety charm was flypaper. "Every night I spread a quantity of sheets around my camp and was never disturbed," he explained. "The reason is psychological. The tiger is an animal of great conscious dignity. He prowls around and challenges man until he comes to the flypaper; he then slinks away. No dignified tiger would dare face a human being after squatting down upon a sticky flypaper!"

{FN42-10} After I returned to America I took off sixty-five pounds.

{FN42-11} Sri Yukteswar passed at this hour-7:00 P.M., March 9, 1936.

{FN42-12} Funeral customs in India require cremation for householders; swamis and monks of other orders are not cremated, but buried. (There are occasional exceptions.) The bodies of monks are symbolically considered to have undergone cremation in the fire of wisdom at the time of taking the monastic vow.



CHAPTER: 43

THE RESURRECTION OF SRI YUKTESWAR

"Lord Krishna!" The glorious form of the avatar appeared in a shimmering blaze as I sat in my room at the Regent Hotel in Bombay. Shining over the roof of a high building across the street, the ineffable vision had suddenly burst on my sight as I gazed out of my long open third-story window.

The divine figure waved to me, smiling and nodding in greeting. When I could not understand the exact message of Lord Krishna, he departed with a gesture of blessing. Wondrously uplifted, I felt that some spiritual event was presaged.

My Western voyage had, for the time being, been cancelled. I was scheduled for several public addresses in Bombay before leaving on a return visit to Bengal.

Sitting on my bed in the Bombay hotel at three o'clock in the afternoon of June 19, 1936-one week after the vision of Krishna-I was roused from my meditation by a beatific light. Before my open and astonished eyes, the whole room was transformed into a strange world, the sunlight transmuted into supernal splendor.

Waves of rapture engulfed me as I beheld the flesh and blood form of Sri Yukteswar!

"My son!" Master spoke tenderly, on his face an angel-bewitching smile.

For the first time in my life I did not kneel at his feet in greeting but instantly advanced to gather him hungrily in my arms. Moment of moments! The anguish of past months was toll I counted weightless against the torrential bliss now descending.

"Master mine, beloved of my heart, why did you leave me?" I was incoherent in an excess of joy. "Why did you let me go to the KUMBHA MELA? How bitterly have I blamed myself for leaving you!"



"I did not want to interfere with your happy anticipation of seeing the pilgrimage spot where first I met Babaji. I left you only for a little while; am I not with you again?"

"But is it YOU, Master, the same Lion of God? Are you wearing a body like the one I buried beneath the cruel Puri sands?"

"Yes, my child, I am the same. This is a flesh and blood body. Though I see it as ethereal, to your sight it is physical. From the cosmic atoms I created an entirely new body, exactly like that cosmic-dream physical body which you laid beneath the dream-sands at Puri in your dream-world. I am in truth resurrected-not on earth but on an astral planet. Its inhabitants are better able than earthly humanity to meet my lofty standards. There you and your exalted loved ones shall someday come to be with me."

"Deathless guru, tell me more!"

Master gave a quick, mirthful chuckle. "Please, dear one," he said, "won't you relax your hold a little?"

"Only a little!" I had been embracing him with an octopus grip. I could detect the same faint, fragrant, natural odor which had been characteristic of his body before. The thrilling touch of his divine flesh still persists around the inner sides of my arms and in my palms whenever I recall those glorious hours.

"As prophets are sent on earth to help men work out their physical karma, so I have been directed by God to serve on an astral planet as a savior," Sri Yukteswar explained. "It is called HIRANYALOKA or 'Illumined Astral Planet.' There I am aiding advanced beings to rid themselves of astral karma and thus attain liberation from astral rebirths. The dwellers on Hiranyaloka are highly developed spiritually; all of them had acquired, in their last earth-incarnation, the meditation-given power of consciously leaving their physical bodies at death. No one can enter Hiranyaloka unless he has passed on earth beyond the state of SABIKALPA SAMADHI into the higher state of NIRBIKALPA SAMADHI. {FN43-1}

"The Hiranyaloka inhabitants have already passed through the ordinary astral spheres, where nearly all beings from earth must go at death; there they worked out many seeds of their past actions in the astral worlds. None but advanced beings can perform such redemptive work effectually in the astral worlds. Then, in order to free their souls more fully from the cocoon of karmic traces lodged in their astral bodies, these higher beings were drawn by cosmic law to be reborn with new astral bodies on Hiranyaloka, the astral sun or heaven, where I have resurrected to help them. There are also highly advanced beings on Hiranyaloka who have come from the superior, subtler, causal world."

My mind was now in such perfect attunement with my guru's that he was conveying his word-pictures to me partly by speech and partly by thought-transference. I was thus quickly receiving his idea-tabloids.

"You have read in the scriptures," Master went on, "that God encased the human soul successively in three bodies-the idea, or causal, body; the subtle astral body, seat of man's mental and emotional natures; and the gross physical body. On earth a man is equipped with his physical senses. An astral being works with his consciousness and feelings and a body made of lifetrons. {FN43-2} A causal-bodied being remains in the blissful realm of ideas. My work is with those astral beings who are preparing to enter the causal world."

"Adorable Master, please tell me more about the astral cosmos." Though I had slightly relaxed my embrace at Sri Yukteswar's request, my arms were still around him. Treasure beyond all treasures, my guru who had laughed at death to reach me!

"There are many astral planets, teeming with astral beings," Master began. "The inhabitants use astral planes, or masses of light, to travel from one planet to another, faster than electricity and radioactive energies.

"The astral universe, made of various subtle vibrations of light and color, is hundreds of times larger than the material cosmos. The entire physical creation hangs like a little solid basket under the huge luminous balloon of the astral sphere. Just as many physical suns and stars roam in space, so there are also countless astral solar and stellar systems. Their planets have astral suns and moons, more beautiful than the physical ones. The astral luminaries resemble the aurora borealis-the sunny astral aurora being more dazzling than the mild-rayed moon-aurora. The astral day and night are longer than those of earth.

"The astral world is infinitely beautiful, clean, pure, and orderly. There are no dead planets or barren lands. The terrestrial blemishes—weeds, bacteria, insects, snakes-are absent. Unlike the variable climates and seasons of the earth, the astral planets maintain the even temperature of an eternal spring, with occasional luminous white snow and rain of many-colored lights. Astral planets abound in opal lakes and bright seas and rainbow rivers.

"The ordinary astral universe-not the subtler astral heaven of Hiranyaloka-is peopled with millions of astral beings who have come, more or less recently, from the earth, and also with myriads of fairies, mermaids, fishes, animals, goblins, gnomes, demigods and spirits, all residing on different astral planets in accordance with karmic qualifications. Various spheric mansions or vibratory regions are provided for good and evil spirits. Good ones can travel freely, but the evil spirits are confined to limited zones. In the same way that human beings live on the surface of the earth, worms inside the soil, fish in water, and birds in air, so astral beings of different grades are assigned to suitable vibratory quarters.

"Among the fallen dark angels expelled from other worlds, friction and war take place with lifetronic bombs or mental MANTRIC {FN43-3} vibratory rays. These beings dwell in the gloom-drenched regions of the lower astral cosmos, working out their evil karma.

"In the vast realms above the dark astral prison, all is shining and beautiful. The astral cosmos is more naturally attuned than the earth to the divine will and plan of perfection. Every astral object is manifested primarily by the will of God, and partially by the will-call of astral beings. They possess the power of modifying or enhancing the grace and form of anything already created by the Lord. He has given His astral children the freedom and privilege of changing or improving at will the astral cosmos. On earth a solid must be transformed into liquid or other form through natural or chemical processes, but astral solids are changed into astral liquids, gases, or energy solely and instantly by the will of the inhabitants.

"The earth is dark with warfare and murder in the sea, land, and air," my guru continued, "but the astral realms know a happy harmony and equality. Astral beings dematerialize or materialize their forms at will. Flowers or fish or animals can metamorphose themselves, for a time, into astral men. All astral beings are free to assume any form, and can easily commune together. No fixed, definite, natural law hems them round-any astral tree, for example, can be successfully asked to produce an astral mango or other desired fruit, flower, or indeed any other object. Certain karmic restrictions are present, but there are no distinctions in the astral world about desirability of various forms. Everything is vibrant with God's creative light.

"No one is born of woman; offspring are materialized by astral beings through the help of their cosmic will into specially patterned, astrally condensed forms. The recently physically disembodied being arrives in an astral family through invitation, drawn by similar mental and spiritual tendencies.

"The astral body is not subject to cold or heat or other natural conditions. The anatomy includes an astral brain, or the thousand-petaled lotus of light, and six awakened centers in the SUSHUMNA, or astral cerebro-spinal axis. The heart draws cosmic energy as well as light from the astral brain, and pumps it to the astral nerves and body cells, or lifetrons. Astral beings can affect their bodies by lifetronic force or by MANTRIC vibrations.

"The astral body is an exact counterpart of the last physical form. Astral beings retain the same appearance which they possessed in youth in their previous earthly sojourn; occasionally an astral being chooses, like myself, to retain his old age appearance." Master, emanating the very essence of youth, chuckled merrily.

"Unlike the spacial, three-dimensional physical world cognized only by the five senses, the astral spheres are visible to the all-inclusive sixth sense-intuition," Sri Yukteswar went on. "By sheer intuitional feeling, all astral beings see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. They possess three eyes, two of which are partly closed. The third and chief astral eye, vertically placed on the forehead, is open. Astral beings have all the outer sensory organs-ears, eyes, nose, tongue, and skin-but they employ the intuitional sense to experience sensations through any part of the body; they can see through the ear, or nose, or skin. They are able to hear through the eyes or tongue, and can taste through the ears or skin, and so forth. {FN43-4}

"Man's physical body is exposed to countless dangers, and is easily hurt or maimed; the ethereal astral body may occasionally be cut or bruised but is healed at once by mere willing."

"Gurudeva, are all astral persons beautiful?"

"Beauty in the astral world is known to be a spiritual quality, and not an outward conformation," Sri Yukteswar replied. "Astral beings therefore attach little importance to facial features. They have the privilege, however, of costuming themselves at will with new, colorful, astrally materialized bodies. Just as worldly men don new array for gala events, so astral beings find occasions to bedeck themselves in specially designed forms.

"Joyous astral festivities on the higher astral planets like Hiranyaloka take place when a being is liberated from the astral world through spiritual advancement, and is therefore ready to enter the heaven of the causal world. On such occasions the Invisible Heavenly Father, and the saints who are merged in Him, materialize Themselves into bodies of Their own choice and join the astral celebration. In order to please His beloved devotee, the Lord takes any desired form. If the devotee worshiped through devotion, he sees God as the Divine Mother. To Jesus, the Father-aspect of the Infinite One was appealing beyond other conceptions. The individuality with which the Creator has endowed each of His creatures makes every conceivable and inconceivable demand on the Lord's versatility!" My guru and I laughed happily together.

"Friends of other lives easily recognize one another in the astral world," Sri Yukteswar went on in his beautiful, flutelike voice. "Rejoicing at the immortality of friendship, they realize the indestructibility of love, often doubted at the time of the sad, delusive partings of earthly life.

"The intuition of astral beings pierces through the veil and observes human activities on earth, but man cannot view the astral world unless his sixth sense is somewhat developed. Thousands of earth-dwellers have momentarily glimpsed an astral being or an astral world.

"The advanced beings on Hiranyaloka remain mostly awake in ecstasy during the long astral day and night, helping to work out intricate problems of cosmic government and the redemption of prodigal sons, earthbound souls. When the Hiranyaloka beings sleep, they have occasional dreamlike astral visions. Their minds are usually engrossed in the conscious state of highest NIRBIKALPA bliss.

"Inhabitants in all parts of the astral worlds are still subject to mental agonies. The sensitive minds of the higher beings on planets like Hiranyaloka feel keen pain if any mistake is made in conduct or perception of truth. These advanced beings endeavor to attune their every act and thought with the perfection of spiritual law.

"Communication among the astral inhabitants is held entirely by astral telepathy and television; there is none of the confusion and misunderstanding of the written and spoken word which earth-dwellers must endure. Just as persons on the cinema screen appear to move and act through a series of light pictures, and do not actually breathe, so the astral beings walk and work as intelligently guided and coordinated images of light, without the necessity of drawing power from oxygen. Man depends upon solids, liquids, gases, and energy for sustenance; astral beings sustain themselves principally by cosmic light."

"Master mine, do astral beings eat anything?" I was drinking in his marvelous elucidations with the receptivity of all my faculties-mind, heart, soul. Superconscious perceptions of truth are permanently real and changeless, while fleeting sense experiences and impressions are never more than temporarily or relatively true, and soon lose in memory all their vividness. My guru's words were so penetratingly imprinted on the parchment of my being that at any time, by transferring my mind to the superconscious state, I can clearly relive the divine experience.

"Luminous raylike vegetables abound in the astral soils," he answered. "The astral beings consume vegetables, and drink a nectar flowing from glorious fountains of light and from astral brooks and rivers. Just as invisible images of persons on the earth can be dug out of the ether and made visible by a television apparatus, later being dismissed again into space, so the God-created, unseen astral blueprints of vegetables and plants floating in the ether are precipitated on an astral planet by the will of its inhabitants. In the same way, from the wildest fancy of these beings, whole gardens of fragrant flowers are materialized, returning later to the etheric invisibility. Although dwellers on the heavenly planets like Hiranyaloka are almost freed from any necessity of eating, still higher is the unconditioned existence of almost completely liberated souls in the causal world, who eat nothing save the manna of bliss.

"The earth-liberated astral being meets a multitude of relatives, fathers, mothers, wives, husbands, and friends, acquired during different incarnations on earth, {FN43-5} as they appear from time to time in various parts of the astral realms. He is therefore at a loss to understand whom to love especially; he learns in this way to give a divine and equal love to all, as children and individualized expressions of God. Though the outward appearance of loved ones may have changed, more or less according to the development of new qualities in the latest life of any particular soul, the astral being employs his unerring intuition to recognize all those once dear to him in other planes of existence, and to welcome them to their new astral home. Because every atom in creation is inextinguishably dowered with individuality, {FN43-6} an astral friend will be recognized no matter what costume he may don, even as on earth an actor's identity is discoverable by close observation despite any disguise.

"The span of life in the astral world is much longer than on earth. A normal advanced astral being's average life period is from five hundred to one thousand years, measured in accordance with earthly standards of time. As certain redwood trees outlive most trees by millenniums, or as some yogis live several hundred years though most men die before the age of sixty, so some astral beings live much longer than the usual span of astral existence. Visitors to the astral world dwell there for a longer or shorter period in accordance with the weight of their physical karma, which draws them back to earth within a specified time.

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