It is difficult, if not impossible, to pinpoint the origin of a worldwide shift in consciousness. The following story accomplishes just that. It reveals how one man’s change of heart set in motion a series of events that led to the spiritual awakening of millions of people around the globe, a movement that may yet be in its infancy.
A GURU IN GORAKHPUR
Abinash was Bhagabati’s subordinate officer in Gorakhpur. One day Abinash applied for a week’s leave. Because he had previously taken several leaves of five to seven days, Bhagabati refused. Work could not be kept current if employees took unnecessary time off. Talking the matter over with Abinash, Bhagabati asked him where he went on these leaves.
“I go to Banaras to see my guru,” Abinash replied.
Bhagabati upbraided Abinash: “So you are trying to acquire piety. Can you tell me what religion really is? Our nation is being ruined in the name of religion. My dear man, there is nothing in it. Don’t be a fanatic. If you want to get ahead in life, work. Work, and you will surely profit in the long run.”
Bhagabati hadn’t intended to be rude. His sarcasm reflected an undercurrent of sensitive frustration about his own unsatisfactory relationship with religion. He soon repented of having spoken so harshly. “After all,” he reasoned to himself, “each one has to make his own choices in life. Only then can he say for certain whether the decisions were good or bad. In any case, roughness in unbecoming.” Bhagabati decided to talk further with Abinash.
That afternoon he met Abinash on his way home from the office. Dismissing his palanquin, he walked with Abinash and tried to explain his reasoning. Abinash remained silent. Bhagabati could see that he was grieving, and also embarrassed because of the difference in their official positions at work. A junior officer would never contest an issue with his superior. At the time, Bhagabati didn’t know that Abinash was fervently praying to his guru!
The roadway was lined with large, shady trees, their leafy branches intertwined overhead to for a natural caravansary. In this peaceful setting it was not difficult to feel the presence of the Divine Architect. Passing beyond the line of stately trees, they came upon a large field, waves of rippling grass turned auburn in the flaming rays of the setting sun. Such a supernal scene they had never witnessed before. A thrill of joy filled their hearts, and both felt an overpowering desire to become one with that beauty.
Bhagabati was silent, motionless, absorbed in this grand display of nature. Then, just a few yards ahead, a person of tranquil visage suddenly appeared. Abinash exclaimed: “He is Lahiri Mahasays, my guru!”
Both Bhagabati and Abinash were astonished to hear Lahiri Mahasaya’s gentle remonstrance: “Bhagabati Babu, you are too hard on your employee.” In an instant Lahiri Mahasays disappeared. Though they searched the area, the master was nowhere to be found. With a rush of tears, Abinash threw himself to the ground.
Bhagabati was awestruck. Kneeling down, he tenderly touched Abinash and said affectionately, “Abinash, I will surely grant you leave; and I, too, want to go to Banaras. Will you take me to your guru? He who can appear at will to help his devotee is surely a great being—one with the Preceptor of the Universe! My wife and I will take initiation from him, and seek his guidance for our sadhana.” Abinash was beside himself with joy.
Bhagabati and his wife, Gyana, who was expecting her fourth child, Mejda, departed for Banaras the next evening, accompanied by Abinash. They arrived the following morning and made their way to Lahiri Mahasaya’s simple dwelling in a narrow lane. The Guru was in the drawing room, seated in the lotus posture in meditation. They bowed before him.
Opening his half-closed eyes, Lahiri Mahasaya looked at Bhagabati with penetrating gaze and said, in the same tone they had heard in the field two days before, “Bhagabati Babu, you are too hard on your employee.” Bhagabati was thrilled to the very core of his heart. He hung his head humbly. No one had ever chastised him before.
After a vibrant pause, the great yogi said, “But you have made me very happy today. Not only have you granted Abinash leave to come here, you also have come with your wife to receive initiation.” Needless to say, Bhagabati was startled to hear Lahiri Mahasays speak the thoughts in his mind.
In receiving Kriya Yoga initiation, Bhagabati and Abinash became brother disciples and intimate friends. As long as they lived, they were loyally devoted to one another.
Lahiri Mahasaya showed keen interest in Mejda’s impending birth. After initiating Gyana, he said, “My daughter, through the grace of God your son will be a prophet. He will show manking the way to God-realization. Through his life and teachings, many people will slough off the delusions of this world and find salvation. You traveled here by train. Verily you saw how the engine pulled the cars. In the same manner your son will draw souls from the ordinary to the divine spheres.”
POSTSCRIPT: Years later, Gyana told Mejda, “I first knew your destined path when you were a babe in my arms.I carried you then to the home of my guru in Banaras. . . . Lahiri Mahasaya seated you on his lap, placing his hand on your forehead by way of spiritually baptizing you. “Little mother, thy son will be a yogi. As a spiritual engine, he will carry many souls to God’s kingdom.”
The child born to Bhagabati and Gyana on January 5, 1893, grew up to become Paramahansa Yogananda, founder of Self-Realization Fellowship and author of the 1946 book, Autobiography of a Yogi. Yogananda, whose teachings have inspired millions of spiritual seekers, has by any measure succeeded in fulfilling Lahiri Mahasaya’s prophecy.
This story is from pages 13 to 16 of the book, Mejda, by Sananda Lal Ghosh, Yogananda’s younger brother. Mejda is a Bengali term for one’s second eldest brother.
The excerpt above is verbatim, except for the substitution of actual names for the terms “Father” and “Mother.”