I was present at Howrah Railway Station to receive Guruji along with my father and uncle Bishnu. Many devotees came to receive Guruji, including the Maharaja of Kashimbazar, who belonged to the land of Ranchi Ashram. There is a photograph taken of Guruji, my father, and my uncle, and I am also in the photograph. I am between the Maharaja and Guruji.
So there, when the train arrived, Guruji leaned his face from inside the door. It was a wonderful sight because Guruji was not very fair complexioned, but I felt a strange divine light around his face. That was a wonder. And he was received very wonderfully by all after 15 years.
Guruji came down from the train and embraced my father and uncle and many senior devotees. I was thrilled to see him for the first time and I found him much more than what I expected. He was taken home in a beautiful aluminum Rolls Royce car which was especially sent by the Raja of Santosh. I was so thrilled that I jumped into the same Rolls Royce car and sat by Guruji’s side.
It was a grand reception at home, and we saw the wonderful sight when Guruji and my grandfather embraced each other after such a long time.
My grandfather always used to stay on the first floor, but when Guruji arrived and was received in our house on the ground floor, my grandfather came downstairs to receive him. And Guruji took the dust of his feet and then they embraced. There were blissful tears in their eyes as well as in everyone else’s. Everybody present there — his brothers, sisters, and devotees — pronamed, touching his feet to pay their respects.
Here I was introduced to Guruji by my parents and he took the bangle from my arm. I was surprised to see Romaji, who was Guruji’s much elder sister, pronam, touching Guruji’s feet. In India an elderly person cannot touch the feet of a younger one. Guruji was surprised and asked Romaji, “Didi (elder sister), you too are touching my feet?” At this Romaji said, “I must touch your feet as you are a great guru.”
Here I must mention that Romaji, whom I have seen for many years, was a very pious lady and highly spiritual soul. She was a great worshipper of the Mother Divine.
On many occasions I heard her saying, “Mother Divine just left this place after talking with me,” while sitting with many ladies, including my mother and my youngest aunt, Purnamoyee. Romaji had loving eyes, just like Guruji’s.
I felt Yogananda was my guru long before he came to Calcutta in 1935. From my early childhood I heard about all the masters from my grandfather and my mother, so from that very moment I don’t know what attracted me, but whenever I came back from school in the evening, leaving aside my class books, I used to turn the pages of the magazine sent by Guruji to our house. That was East-West. It was a great big magazine, 14” long and 9” wide. I could not read or write much English, but I used to turn the pages. That was a very big attraction for me. Every evening.
Guruji was a highly spiritual soul. He was great in his very appearance, his personality, his way of talking, his love for mankind, love for children, his smiles, his songs, his delivering lectures, his humorous stories, and what not! He was great in all respects. To my mind he was a modern yogi, with a modern and broad-minded outlook — much ahead of his time. He was not satisfied meditating only for his own benefit in a remote corner of the Himalayas or any lonely place. He came on this earth for the benefit of mankind, teaching Kriya Yoga throughout the world. This universal love was a special quality in him.
During his stay in Calcutta I was always with him, and always whenever he used to stay in my house, my seat was always just by his side. We had a permanent stage constructed by the side of our house, so there Guruji used to give lectures every day to the many devotees, especially in Bengali, but in English, too. Whenever I used to go to school, I would see him in the morning, surrounded by devotees and Guruji answering so many questions.
And when I came back from school at 4:00 in the afternoon, I used to see the same thing. Always, Guruji sitting in the middle and surrounded by devotees. I was proud of him at once and always felt that I was not afraid of anything in this world as long as I used to sit by his side.
Here I should mention that among all his nephews and nieces, I and Srimati Amiya Bose (daughter of Ananta, Guruji’s eldest brother) were among his favorite. He was very much fond of both of us. We accompanied Guruji to many of his lectures and pilgrimages. He had respect for all religions. I learned to love people from him. Many times I heard him singing a few devotional songs, playing the harmonium himself. He sang Bengali songs and American divine songs also. You can just imagine what a wonderful voice I heard when he was only 43 years old.
To tell you the truth, I heard many great singers of India but nothing like Guruji. I thought that this voice was not a human voice. I thought to myself it must be God’s voice. There was a special and divine touch in his voice. Anyone could be charmed to hear him sing. Guruji and Sri Yukteswarji used to chant together also. When Guruji was not there, Sri Yukteswar would sing in our home, and his voice was almost the same as Guruji’s.
Before Guruji came to India, already everybody in our home had a mind to be a devotee and disciple of Guruji. So when one day my father told Guruji that my father and mother wanted to take initiation from him, Guruji said, “I will initiate the whole family together.” That was how I was initiated by Guruji himself along with my father, mother, uncle, aunt, and some of our near relatives. It was a special family initiation. And he taught everything of Kriya Yoga to my father, and from my father everybody followed the same teachings.
The holi festival (Del Poornima) fell on the full moon day in March, 1936, and we had a wonderful time with Guruji on that occasion enjoying the exchange of coloured powders — putting the colours on the face and body of Guruji by all of us including many of his devotees. Guruji also in turn applied coloured powders on all of us present there. The whole body of Guruji was filled with different colours, and Guruji fed all present there with different Bengali sweets. After the festival we all accompanied Guruji to take a bath in the holy Ganges to clean ourselves.
You may be interested to know how tall Guruji was. So far as I remember, Guruji was 5 feet, 8 inches in height, which is more than the average height of the people of India. Because he was very well built, he looked shorter in pictures. Much more can be said about him but it will take a long time and a lot of paper! My life was changed after I had met him. Many years have passed since then, but still today I can feel his presence and see him any moment I like — He is just before my eyes, smiling and blessing.
Now I will mention some more of my experiences with him:
When I used to sit by his side, he would rest his arm on my shoulder while answering the many devotees, and I and my brother, Shyamsunder, used to massage his arms, shoulders, legs, and back muscles every day. He was very pleased with us and one day asked us what we would like to have from him as a gift. As we were young we insisted on a bicycle. At once he ordered my father and said, “Gora (my father’s nickname), take money from me and buy a nice bicycle for Hare Krishna and Shyamsunder.” It was a grand “Hercules” bicycle made in England, and we used it for many many years. In those days bicycles were not manufactured in India.
One day as I was sitting by his side with many devotees all around, suddenly we found Guruji kept quiet, not answering to us all and sitting very still. After some time, some devotees asked, “Guruji, why are you silent, not answering to us?” At this Guruji smiled and said, “I was talking with God.” I was so thrilled to hear this that I at once came very close to Guruji touching his body with mine. I looked at Guruji’s face but he was absolutely normal. I was astonished and thought to myself, “Can a man talk with God so easily, so effortlessly?” I also thought to myself that God just came here and talked with our Guruji but we could not feel anything. So this was an experience for me.
One evening Guruji sat in the middle surrounded by many devotees including a few ladies. My mother and my youngest aunt (Guruji’s youngest sister, Purnamoyee or “Thamu” ) were also there. They were of the same age. They had been requesting Guruji for some days to show them something so that they may know God. First of all Guruji did not agree, but with repeated requests he said, “OK, I will show you something.”
Guruji asked all the devotees to leave the room and then, as I was also leaving, asked me, “Hare Krishna, you stay here. Close the door and switch off the light.” It was evening time and a faint light was coming inside the room from the street light. I sat just by Guruji’s side.
Afterwards Guruji asked my mother and aunt to sit side by side facing him. Guruji asked them to close their eyes and to concentrate on God just at the middle of their eyebrows. Then Guruji uttered a few slokas in a low voice which I could not understand. I sat there and watched and suddenly I was amazed to find a sort of strange divine light fall on my mother and aunt’s faces and they were slightly smiling.
After some time Guruji asked me to switch on the light and open the door. When everything was over, I asked my mother, “Mother, what did you see?” My mother said, “Son, I cannot describe in what divine bliss we were.” Later Guruji said to me, “I have shown your mother and aunt Bhagawan Jyoti — the ‘Light of God’.”
One evening I accompanied Guruji to Albert Hall on College Street, Calcutta, where Guruji was to deliver a speech. My father, uncle, and some of our relatives were also present there. The hall was packed with many eminent people of the city. While Guruji spoke, some people requested him to show any miracle or anything about God’s power. With repeated requests Guruji asked everyone to clasp their hands, gripping their fingers tightly together, and said, “I will count from one to ten and as I count you grip your fingers tightly thinking more and more of God only between your two eyebrows.”
Guruji started counting in a loud voice and when he finished counting to ten, everybody’s hands were locked. No one could separate their hands. After some time, Guruji said, “Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.” Everybody’s hands came out. Guruji said, “This is no credit to myself. I have only shown you so that people have faith in God — only for that purpose.”
I saw this miracle on another occasion when Guruji was invited to deliver a speech by Shri Jugal Kishor Birla, who was the eldest of the Birla brothers and one of the top industrialists of India. He was a great admirer of Guruji and arranged the lecture on the grounds of his Calcutta residence. Many eminent citizens were also invited by Shri Birla. Guruji’s speech was much appreciated by the audience with pin drop silence. There also Guruji showed the same miracle. Shri Birla then entertained Guruji and his whole party with the best possible food, with great devotion.
Guruji of course, knew everything. Whenever we used to drive with Guruji in Calcutta, we found as soon as the car started, Guruji would be asleep within one half a minute. He could sleep so fast. One day as we were driving along, my father and my uncle were discussing something about how they would do this and that concerning satsangs or something. Suddenly we found Guruji woke up and he said, “No, don’t do that.” But he was sleeping! We were surprised how Guruji could hear all this conversation. From that day, we knew that Guruji could sleep within a minute and could wake up within a minute. We were surprised, that he could hear everything while sleeping.
I accompanied Guruji one evening to the YMCA Hall on Chowringhee Road, Calcutta where Guruji, while lecturing, called a doctor from the audience to feel his pulse and heartbeat. The doctor examined him and could not feel his pulse after a minute. He could also not hear his heartbeat with his stethoscope. Then Guruji came back again to his normal speech. The doctor was amazed and declared, “This is a miracle. I cannot imagine a man doing this type of miracle!”
On 14th January, 1936, Guruji went on a pilgrimage to the holy Ganga Sagar festival. Hundreds of pilgrims from all over India attend once a year just at this time. Ganga Sagar is situated 80 miles south of Calcutta, where the river Ganges meets the sea, the Bay of Bengal. I was very fortunate to accompany Guruji to that pilgrimage. My parents opposed my going to Ganga Sagar, as the place is too cold at that time of the year, but as Guruji loved me so much, he said to my parents, “Hare Krishna must come with me.”
In that group my cousin sister, Amiya, her mother Subarnalata, my aunt Ashalata, Guruji’s friend Tulsi Bose and his wife, (lovingly called “Martan Ma” by those who knew her), and a few other distant relatives also accompanied Guruji. Early in the morning we boarded a big steamship, along with hundreds of pilgrims from all over India. After sailing 40 miles by the river Ganges where the river was very wide and the two sides of the shore could be seen faintly, suddenly we found the ship was going down, down, down little by little into the waters, and the waters were coming up on the decks of the ship.
At this all the pilgrims were frightened and running all over the decks out of fear. Even the captain of the ship was afraid. Many pilgrims seeing our Guruji clad in a saffron-colour robe, came running to him and requested him to save their lives.
Guruji said, “Be calm, don’t worry and don’t run, out of fear. Everything will be all right. Sit down where you are and pray to God for your lives.” So the pilgrims became calm and began to pray to God. After some five or ten minutes we found the waters of the river went down from the decks and the ship came out of the water to its normal level. Then again the pilgrims came to Guruji and said, “Guruji, you have saved our lives!” But Guruji said, “No, I have not saved your lives. You prayed to God and so God has saved all our lives.”
This was again a miracle for me. Everyone was relieved of the tension of being drowned.
After this incident we safely arrived at Ganga Sagar. Then the captain also came to Guruji and said, “Guruji, my voice is choked since a long time. I consulted many doctors but no one could cure me. I cannot shout and command my sailors.” Saying this he was trying to come near and touch Guruji’s feet for his blessings. But Guruji said, “You need not come near me. I bless you. You will be cured.” The next day, when we were returning back home by the same boat, we found the captain shouting at the top of his voice, commanding his sailors. With a smile Guruji said to me, “Hare Krishna, see the captain’s voice is all right now.”
One early morning, in the month of September, Sri Yukteswarji came to our house at 4 Garpar Road. At his advice we arranged for a Nagar Sankirtan that morning. Nagar Sankirtan means marching on different roads by many devotees singing devotional songs, with different musical instruments carried with them.
On that day, this musical procession was led by Sri Yukteswarji and Guruji. Many devotees, including myself, my uncle, and my father and other relatives, were following them singing devotional songs.
We made many rounds of different streets, and after some time we came to a certain locality which was inhabited by people of another religion. As we were passing though that area we found a furious man brandishing a stick over his head and shouting, “Stop the music! Stop the songs!” We stopped in fear and stopped singing. Still the man was very furious.
At this point Sri Yukteswarji told Guruji, “Yogananda, you go to that man and see what is wrong with him.” We were more afraid and thought, “What will happen to our Guruji if he goes to that angry man?” But without any hesitation Guruji stepped forward and stood before that man and said, “What is the matter with you? Why are you so angry? We believe in all religions and are not disturbing anyone; we are only singing our devotional songs.”
As soon as Guruji uttered these words, we found that angry man totally changed then and there. That man apologized to Guruji and said, “I am sorry. You may proceed and carry on with your devotional songs.” We started our songs and marched past him.
One day as I was sitting by Guruji’s side, with many devotees all around, a man came and stood at the door with tears in his eyes. He was trying to come in and touch Guruji’s feet and say something to him. Guruji looked at him and said to him, “No, don’t come in.”
I was surprised to see Guruji refusing to let that man come in. But the man was still standing there. After some time Guruji said to that man, “When you repent for what you did, you are pardoned.”
The man came in and touched Guruji’s feet and said, “Guruji, I am very sorry for what I said before you left for USA. I am very sorry for those words.” Then Guruji blessed him. When all was over, I was very curious and asked some of the senior devotees as to the cause of all this.
I asked them, “Who was that man and what happened to him?” Because I saw that the man’s face was disfigured and he could not talk properly. The devotees told me, “Hare Krishna, this man, out of some jealousy or some other reason spoke some bad words against Lahiri Mahasaya in front of Guruji.” This happened just before Guruji was going to America in 1920. So naturally Guruji was very upset with that man and asked him to withdraw those words which he said against Lahiri Mahasaya, but the man didn’t withdraw his words. Then Guruji said to that man, “If you do not withdraw your remarks, you will be punished by God, and the mouth by which you speak those words will be disfigured.” And so it happened.
After Guruji left for America, that man gradually showed signs of what Guruji said. He could not speak properly and could not eat properly for 15 years. But in 1935 I have seen that man become quite normal within 15 days when Guruji blessed and pardoned him. So I have seen Guruji apparently angry at times but he was always merciful, too. I also felt that this was the all powerfulness of Lahiri Mahasaya.