The Pure, Loving Spirit of Gulab Singh

he irreplaceable Gulab Singh

The irreplaceable Gulab Singh

Today, I attended a memorial service for a most remarkable man. Gulab Singh, a fellow usher at the Self-Realization Fellowship Temple in Encinitas, California, had been felled by a heart attack on Saturday, January 26, at the age of fifty-nine. I loved serving with Gulab. He was a model of sincerity and devotion, and I’m very glad I told him all that in an e-mail just five days before his passing.

Gulab’s memorial service was heartfelt, moving and poignant. I teared up a number of times, and I know I was not alone in doing so. Gulab was the magnetic center of a large, extended family of more than two dozen people, and was dearly loved, respected and admired by all.

To know Gulab was to be uplifted, for he had undergone a wondrous transformation in the last six months of his life. As his loved ones explained in their eulogies, he had become a pure vessel of divine love, offering love and kindness to all who crossed his path. At the end of the service, a friend of Gulab’s came to the podium to share a story. He had had lunch with Gulab three weeks before Gulab passed away. The friend, who  had been out of town for a number of months, told Gulab that he had heard of his spiritual transformation and asked him what the source of it was. He said Gulab got very quiet; he tried to speak but got choked up and needed a few moments to compose himself. Finally, he said, very simply, “I realized that I could turn my attention to God.”

In those ten words, Gulab revealed the secret to a joyous life. Ceaselessly turn your attention to God with love and devotion and you will not only become the embodiment of loving kindness, your very presence will uplift, inspire and transform others. May Gulab’s example be a reminder to us all to strive to be the kind of person whom others can gaze upon and think, So that is what’s possible.

I shared this photo of Gulab, which was taken by Chris Gray, with my daughter. She told me, “That picture is awesome. You can tell he had wonderful energy and was a pure, loving soul.” It’s true. Gulab’s devotion shone in his eyes. He will be sorely missed.

Click here to read how Gulab’s family memorialized him through a living donation at the Temple.


mejda-paramahansa-yogananda-book-coverGulab’s ten-word epiphany called to mind this story from the book, Mejda, by Sananda Lal Ghosh, the younger brother of Paramahansa Yogananda, author of the spiritual classic Autobiography of a Yogi and founder of Self-Realization Fellowship. At the time of this story, Yogananda, whose birth name was Mukunda Lal Ghosh, was thirteen and Sananda was eight. Mejda is a Bengali term for one’s second eldest brother.

From now on, whenever I think of Gulab, I will be reminded of this story and of the importance of turning my attention to God. In this way, I will be honoring Gulab for his legacy of love and devotion.

One day, Mejda and I were told [by our older brother, Ananta]: “Don’t go toward the harbor. Stay away from the mouth of the river.”

I thought: “Mejda will never obey this. This is exactly what he rebels against.” Of course, it wasn’t long before he took me with him to the mouth of the river.

Ananta had directed all of us children to be home by early evening every day, to wash, and to begin our homework by six o’clock. The harbor at Chittagong was about four kilometers form home. Thus, after returning from school and taking tiffin, we couldn’t walk the round-trip distance of eight kilometers and be back at the specified time. So we used to run all the way to the harbor, watch the ships for a short while, then run home. From all this sprinting, Mejda became an excellent athlete. I, too, became a pretty good one; but not nearly so much so as Mejda.

The road to the mouth of the river followed several low hills. Fruit hung in abundance in the trees along our way. One day Mejda said, “Listen, when we return this evening, we’ll pick some lichis. No one will see us in the twilight.”

So said, so done! Mejda was picking some of the luscious, sweet lichis when he heard someone call his name. Startled, Mejda stood stock still. All sense of adventure ended abruptly! Cautiously we moved in the direction from which the voice had come. The twilight was fast fading and we could not see far ahead in the shadows, but we soon discerned a man dressed in white. Seeing that we were somewhat afraid, he beckoned us closer in a friendly manner. If he were the watchman here, how would he have known Mejda’s name?

Slowly we advanced toward the gently smiling person. His form seemed lustrous with a wonderful light. I looked around to see where the light was coming from. Suddenly Mejda bowed before the saint and touched his feet. The saint embraced Mejda and kissed him on the head. I also bowed before the saintly figure. With a gesture of blessing, he said to us, “Jaiastu!” [“Victory be with you!”} And then he spoke to Mejda:

Mukunda, it is God’s wish that I come to you today. Remember what I say to you. You have come on earth as God’s representative to fulfill His wishes. Your body is His temple, sanctified by prayer and meditation. Do not run after material pleasures or satisfaction. You will show the way that leads to true happiness; and by your spiritual knowledge you will deliver those who are suffering in ignorance. Never forget that you are one with Maha Purusha [“The Great Soul,” a title of the supreme Spirit], attained only by those who are supremely successful in meditation. Your body, mind, and life must never deviate from the thought of God, even for a moment. The blessings of the Infinite Father are upon you. Your faith in Him must be absolute. He will protect you from all dangers. In this world only He is eternal; all else is transient and unreliable. One day your ideals of Yoga will inspire all mankind. Mukunda, march onward!”

I was fidgeting, for time was passing and darkness was upon us. We had along way to go to reach home. A scolding by Father and a beating from Ananta were inevitable. The saint perceived my thought and said, ‘Do not be troubled. Go home freely; no one will notice that you are late.”

We started for home. After walking a short distance, we looked back and saw the saint blessing us with upraised hands. Then he vanished. I turned to Mejda and spoke, but he wasn’t listening. When we reached home, Mejda went directly to his prayer room. I inquired where Father and Ananta were. I learned that Barda [a respectful title for one’s eldest brother] had been invited to a friend’s home, and that Father had not yet returned from an important meeting at the office. What joy! They did not know of our belated return. I ran to the prayer room to tell Mejda.

But Mejda was coming to get me. He took hold of my hand and led me to a photograph that hung on the wall. We stood a moment before it, then he said, “Do you recognize him? Was it not he who spoke to us?”

I was astonished. It was he—that very smile. But he had died long ago. How could he have come to us now? How could we have talked to someone who had been dead all these years? He had blessed us, embraced Mejda and kissed his head. I was choked with awe, unable to speak. I simply looked at Mejda. There was no doubt that Mejda and I had seen and talked with the great Lahiri Mahasaya! The saint whose counsel was sought by householders and sages alike throughout all India; the preceptor to whom people had come in endless streams to receive blessings and spiritual instruction. With Mejda, I had seen to Yogavatar with my own eyes and talked with him. I am thrilled to this day whenever I recall that wondrouse experience. It is forever etched in my memory. I am blessed: His endless mercy, his crowning grace, is upon me. My gratitude knows no bounds.

This story and photo are used with permission from Self-Realization Fellowship, Los Angeles, California.

Click here to view all my posts about Paramahansa Yogananda and Self-Realization Fellowship.

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2 Responses to “The Pure, Loving Spirit of Gulab Singh”

  1. Harbir Singh Rathee Says:

    We send our heart felt condolence at the sad demise of Gulab Singh.We pray to Almighty God for adoring peace to the departed soul.

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    *pranams in divine friendship*

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