My native village is in Panpur, in Howrah district. My maternal aunt was a tenant on the first floor of the house of Dr. Panchanan Bose of Raja Dinendra Street of Calcutta. Dr. Panchanan Bose was the brother-in-law of Paramhansa Yoganandaji (sister Nalini’s husband).
One day, in the year 1936, I went to my maternal aunt’s house for a casual visit. Fortunately, on that very day Gurudev also visited Nalini Pisima’s house. While I stood on the front balcony Gurudev was kind enough to talk to me. He asked, “What is your name? To whom have you come? Do come to our house.” At first glance I was spellbound and could not even answer him — how divine, tranquil and dignified the appearance was. Still today that divine melodious voice rings in my heart. Most impressive were his large, bright, expressive divine eyes with plumbless wisdom.
A short time after this event, I came to know that Paramhansaji selected me as the bride of Shri Ramakrishna Ghosh, the only son of his elder brother Anantalal Ghosh.
Gurudev’s Care of Our Family
The late Anantalal Ghosh was my father-in-law. He left this world at a premature age, dying of typhoid. At that time, my husband, as I have been told, was only a child of four years and my only sister-in-law, Amiya Bose, was just ten months old. As they lost their father’s lap at a very early stage of life, Gurudev loved them specially, and looked after them so that they had no suffering and sorrows. Later, when he was in the far away land of America, he always used to send them news by letter, every line of which expressed his anxiety and affection for all of us. So long as he was alive he always took fatherly care of us, which we still remember gratefully.
My wedding was celebrated on the 10th Shravana [about July 25th] 1936. This was definitely a gala day for me. When the marriage proposal came to my father, Hari Charan Biswas, by Gurudev and some other relatives, my father was not ready to accept it, because in the Hindu marriage system then a dowry was a must. Paramhansaji convinced my father by saying, “Please don’t think much over it. We have no demands. Moreover, I shall bear all the expense of the marriage.” He added smilingly, “Only bless your daughter so that she may be happy in life. I have chosen your daughter as a lady of our family.” Naturally, my father agreed to this proposal. Gurudev joyfully supervised every pro and con of my wedding preparations and participated in the elaborate and pompous wedding ceremony in both the houses.
On the marriage day Gurudev accompanied me, the bride, and his elder brother’s son, Shri Ramakrishna Ghosh, to my father’s house. A good number of his disciples were also with him, among whom Mr. Wright can be mentioned. According to Hindu marriage codes, the bride and bridegroom accept one another in the presence of a holy fire and a holy stone called Saalgram Sila. Amidst a whole range of rituals, while the elaborate marriage was going on, Gurudev was present the entire time with his disciples. Some of them were from Europe. They were finding it difficult to understand the Sanskrit chants and mantras. Gurudev translated the sacred hymns into English for their convenience.
Gurudev said, “For a long period I have not taken food on a banana leaf plate sitting on the ground.” Accordingly, arrangement was made and he joined the dinner with his disciples in a pure Bengali custom. It was certainly a memorable event in my humble life.
Next day, as is the custom, I went to my in-laws’ house along with my husband. Then quite a lot of group photos of Gurudev were taken along with us. My mother-in-law, Subarnalata Ghosh [Ananta’s wife], asked Guruji, “Please say how will be the bride?” “Very good girl,” he replied promptly. “She is pious, generous, kindhearted and will be well matched to our family.”
Gurudev, as I saw him, liked to be playful with family members and friends. After my marriage, my sister-in-law, Mrs. Amiya Bose [Ananta’s daughter], and some other relatives expressed their opinion that my husband was fairer than me. Listening to this, Gurudev placed my hand on his lap and my husband’s hand on the opposite side to compare the complexion and came to the conclusion, “Bauma’s1 complexion is much fairer, of this I am sure. I challenge anyone.” To celebrate Bauma’s victory, he presented saris to all of us.
On the wedding feast day, many guests assembled in my in-laws’ house on Raja Ram Mohan Roy Road, Calcutta. The house was tastefully illuminated according to the wish of Gurudev. Nearly two thousand guests were invited to join the celebration. In front of me, Gurudev sat on a chair and talked jovially with the guests. At one point he threw a paper ball onto my lap. I threw it back until on the third throw I understood that by throwing the ball he wanted to draw my attention to it. I picked it up and looked at it. It was a cheque for five thousand rupees! Thereafter, a necklace was purchased for me with that money. In such ways Gurudev liked to play with his family members.
Then I was a mere teenaged girl, but the sweet memories of the days spent with him are still engraved in my mind. His everlasting affection can’t be expressed by pen only. His message to me then was: “Today you are only a bride, but later you will grow into a mother with lots of duties. Let love and service to all be the candlelight of your future life.”
Pilgrimage to Tarakeswar
India, our homeland, is a country of great yogis, hermits, and holy places. Tarakeswar is one such place of pilgrimage, situated in the Hooghly District of West Bengal. It is the holy seat of Lord Shiva, the Lord of the Universe. It is an ancient place with the famous temple named after Taraknath, another name of Lord Shiva, the residing deity. A large number of pilgrims all over the country endlessly come here barefoot to sprinkle holy water of the Ganges on the Lingam representing the deity. It is believed that quite a good number of invalids and ailing people have been cured by the miraculous divine power of Lord Taraknath, the living God.
According to Hindu customs, newlywed couples are taken to holy places by their close relatives to offer puja, prayer, and homage to the residing deity. A fortnight after my wedding, Swamiji advised my mother-in-law to take us to Tarakeswar along with him. It is believed that if one visits Tarakeswar during the month of Shravana (July – August) and offers prayers there, Lord Taraknath will be pleased and bestow his blessings on the devotee. Accordingly, myself, my husband, Ramakrishna, my sister-in-law Amiya, and her two-year-old son Shyamal all went to Tarakeswar in a vast Buick car. The most fortunate thing was that Swamiji accompanied us.
Upon reaching there, we rented a clay hut for the entire day. Gurudev purchased clay utensils and other useful items. Amidst a lot of difficulties, Gurudev’s enthusiasm was still there in cooking khichiri in the open air. At that time, I was of a very tender age. The Master asked me to hold a bedcover as a curtain to prevent air to flame the fire-oven. The cooking was being done in the process of burning logs and twigs. I held the bedcover lightly with the little grip of my hand but it fell a number of times due to the strong winds. After great difficulties, the cooking was completed and we all sat in a row to taste the half-cooked rice and pulse which we ate with unforgettable delight. While eating, Gurudev told us, “In this holy place all the food is holy so eat it with pleasure.”
We spent the day with joy and fun. Gurudev guided us to all the important sites and blessed spots. We offered puja to Lord Taraknath. At dusk, we came back to our Garpar House in Calcutta.
My Visit to New Market with Gurudev
After the marriage, according to custom, I entered a new phase of life in my husband’s home. During that time, Gurudev used to be absorbed in meditation and worship. Sometimes, we also joined with him in meditation. Sometimes, he used to be in a jovial mood. One such day, Gurudev called me and said, “Soon I have to go back to America, so let us go to New Market to buy some gifts for everybody.” Really, it was his kind pleasure to present gifts now and then. Anyhow, I dressed myself up and went out for marketing along with Amiya and Gurudev. I was looking here and there through the glass window of the shop when suddenly an elderly European approached me, caught hold of my hand, and asked me to get into his car. Gurudev appeared at the spot right then, and inquired why the old man was with me. The man meekly replied that his daughter had also come to the market along with him, and he mistook me for his daughter. He also begged to be pardoned for his mistake.
For this folly Gurudev did not rebuke me, but asked why I went with the man. He laughed a divine laugh after listening to my reply: “Gurudev, I thought he might be one of your friends or familiar to you.”
On that day he purchased a beautiful deep green fur coat for me and a heap of gifts for all other family members.
After my wedding I had the fortune to see Guruji closely, as he was the uncle of my husband. Throughout this period he counseled moral teachings and talked of many things about God, the Omnipotent. At the time cosmic rays surrounded his eternal body and a divine aura used to come out of him. He was kind enough to teach me: “Treat everybody alike. Serve humanity as best you can because true happiness lies in selfless love. Do not cheat others for yourself. God is within all human beings. Thus, to serve men is to serve the Almighty.” His face used to be lit with a divine glow. He went on to say, “All evil comes from confusion which is born out of ignorance. So destroy it from within. Only devotion can bring you closer to God; absence of devotion draws us far away from Him. Think always of our Heavenly Father who can save you from all calamities of the world.”
Swamiji stayed with us sometimes at our home at Raja Ram Mohan Roy Road in the Garpar district of Calcutta. Swamiji used to be immersed most of the time in worship and meditation. Once I made my way into Swamiji’s room to tell him something, only to find him in meditative posture — being rock-steady with eyes closed. I called him twice but received no answer. Being worried, I rushed to my mother-in-law and informed her of my phenomenal experience. She listened and immediately went to that room with me. Both of us bowed down to the sacred feet of the Master. She told me, “Do not get panicked, my daughter. Now Swamiji is in the state of samadhi, a cosmic experience. Please do not disturb him. Body and soul have no physical bondage now and are united with the omnipotent. In this state body retains no sign of earthly life. Both body and mind become united with the cosmic power.” After a couple of hours, his body bobbed a bit and Gurudev opened his lotus eyes.
Whenever I recall that unique experience I shiver with wonder and joy. I can now visualize him in that posture, as a cosmic figure with a dim luminous circle haloed around him. This thought still renders me speechless for a couple of moments.
We cannot understand God merely by studying scriptures or by academic knowledge. The omnipotence and existence of God can only be realized by absolute faith, loyalty, and sincere devotion which will culminate in wholehearted surrender to God’s will.
Soon thereafter, Paramhansaji initiated me into Kriya Yoga. I cannot express the feelings of ecstasy of that auspicious moment. He placed his soft divine palm on my head and blessed me with the strength which still protects me from sorrows and sufferings.
The only path to God is patience and devotion. The teaching which he bestowed on me still guides my way of life and I try my best to follow his teachings accurately.
He forecasted that I would have two children, a son and a daughter. His blessings came true. I have my daughter, Krishna, and my son, Durlav.
Gurudev and Ramakrishna
Gurudev was a melodious and gifted singer. He taught my husband the secrets of good singing and presented a harmonium2 to him. My husband, Ramakrishna, was also a good singer. He used to sing the songs written by Gurudev throughout his life. He regarded Gurudev as the living manifestation of God and lived on the path of life as directed by Guruji. No earthly complications or sufferings could ever touch or pain him, by the grace of Guruji.
In that year, I used to suffer from a bad headache every evening. It was so severe that I had to confine myself to bed. Many renowned physicians, like Dr. Panchanan Bose or Dr. Prakash Ghosh, treated me. I also took various medicines prescribed by them, but nothing could relieve the pain. Seeing no other way, my mother-in-law informed Swamiji of my sufferings. Next morning Guruji called on me and blessed me with a flower and said, “When you get the pain, touch the flower to your head.” I did accordingly, which relieved me of my headache forever. I have kept the treasure with me with utmost care as a shield against all difficulties even today.
My Potato Curry Cooking
It was a funny occasion when a wholly inefficient cook, a teenaged girl, cooked potato curry for her uncle-in-law, our divine Guruji. I was quite a novice in cooking then, but Gurudev asked, “I like potato curry very much. Would you cook it for me?” At first I took the posture of an efficient cook, but when Guruji expressed his desire I was frightened. With palpitation of heart I tried to cook potato curry as best as I could and Gurudev appreciated my cuisine very much.
Gurudev was a real guide who inspired everyone so that he might develop the qualities which are within himself. I never saw him become vexed with anybody in spite of his errors. He presented an ornamented box to me as a compliment. That box is still with me as a memory of his divine love, affection, and guidance.
Worshipping the Holy Feet of Gurudev
Gurudev once went to Serampore to visit his master, Shri Yukteswarji. He spent the whole day there chanting holy hymns and also walking around the streets and lanes singing prayers to God. In the evening, when he returned to our house, he was extremely tired. My mother-in-law requested him to take rest on the bed and asked me to comfort his tired legs. Gurudev instantly disagreed saying, “No, no, she is still very tender and a little girl. I do not want to trouble her.” Despite his disinclination, I obeyed my mother-in-law’s instructions and Gurudev did not stop me any further. Such was how I got the opportunity of worshipping the holy feet of our Gurudev.
Paramhansaji Plays a Prank on Me
Paramhansaji loved to play pranks on his family and friends. After I was married a short time, Guruji asked me to rub his legs almost every day, which I did. One day he asked Ramakrishna, “Does Bauma rub your legs also?” When my husband said, “No,” Gurudev decided to play a trick on me.
One night Gurudev told Ramakrishna to lay down on his bed. Then he covered him with his own red ocher cloth. The light in the room was very dim, so when I came in to rub Gurudev’s legs, I thought he was there asleep. But I rubbed his legs for some time in the usual manner. After a while though, the figure on the bed called out to Paramhansaji, “Mejokaka!3 Please come here at once, otherwise your loving Bauma will break my legs!” (Ramakrishna was not used to having his legs rubbed and was in pain!) Gurudev with all the other family members immediately came into the room.
I was astonished, wondering whose legs I had been rubbing all this time! Gurudev laughed and said, “That’s funny, Ramakrishna, Bauma is not rubbing my legs, she’s rubbing your legs!”
Sight of Cosmic Ray
Just a few days before his return voyage to America, Gurudev called my mother-in-law, my husband Ramakrishna, and me to participate in meditation with him. We all were absorbed in meditation. The room was dark. He assured us that he would show us the divine light in the course of meditation. When I sank into the depth of meditation, and concentrated my vision and mind just at the center of two eyebrows, I experienced an unforgettable glow of divine light which is still evergreen in the depth of my heart.
I realize it very much that by the good deeds of my bygone lives I got the opportunity to come to such a family which is holiest of holy places to me. I also believe that I am so fortunate to have had a sight of the divine man Swami Yogananda, and to have him as one of my relatives. By the grace of Guruji I experienced the existence of God, and I bathed in the fountain of his kind love and affection.
As a parting gift, Gurudev gave an idol of Kali, the Divine Mother, to my husband. Since his childhood Gurudev used to worship this idol. So he advised my husband to worship Kali. From that day onward, my husband worshipped the image till his last breath. That image is placed on our family altar at Serampore. We worship the divine goddess every day as my husband used to do.
The great Guru of my Guru was Yukteswarji. I am very fortunate to have had a glimpse of him. Outwardly, he was a man of cosmic beauty with strong personality, but inwardly he had a soft motherly mind, the touch of which can heal any agony. In his residence at Serampore, a holy mass used to be celebrated every year on 9th Paush [December]. Day-long chanting of the Holy One used to be recited by his many disciples with devotion and reverence. On the completion of the ceremony, a large number of people were given holy food — prasadam. The divine Guru loved everyone alike and volunteered to teach many poor students of the locality. He looked after his neighbors with fatherly guidance. He was a graduate of the Calcutta University.
After the demise of his first wife, Shri Yukteswarji married for the second time. He had only one daughter, whose husband was Makhanlal Ghosh. She had ten sons — among them Jawharlal, Pannalal, Chunilal, Hiralal, Maniklal, and Muktalal.
I think myself very fortunate to have come into the contact of great revered masters like Shri Yukteswar and my Guru Paramhansa Yoganandaji.
Parents of Gurudev
Shri Bhagabati Charan Ghosh, my grandfather-in-law, was the father of my Guru Swami Yoganandaji. He lived only six to seven years after my marriage. I had the privilege of spending these years in his association. I respected him as my great honored teacher and tried to serve him as best as I could.
He was a great affectionate man of ascetic temperament and strong personality. We lived happily a couple of years under the roof of that great fountain of love and blessing. He gave me many sermons as a guideline for family life which had a beneficial influence over my life. He was a disciplined man of self-restriction because he was a self-made man and had to pass through hardship. He loved me profoundly. I used to attend to him at lunch and dinner time and helped him take his food comfortably. He lovingly called me “Baudi.” When I came to this family as a new bride, almost all my relatives were alive except my father-in-law Anantalal Ghosh and aunt-in-law Umashashi (Gurudev’s elder brother and elder sister).
Once in that time my grandfather-in-law Bhagabati Charan Ghosh needed a hernia operation. The doctor intended to anesthetize him before the operation. He said, “There is no necessity for anesthesia. I can remain senseless for an hour by means of pranayam.” Attending doctors agreed to his request. The patient remained senseless by means of yoga which is unknown even today to modern medical science, and the miraculous operation was a grand success.
Gurudev’s mother, Gyanprabha Devi, was my grandmother-in-law. I never met her but have learned a lot about her from my mother-in-law and grandfather-in-law. I reproduce these stories here so far as I can remember. She was an affectionate lady with kind heart of inner qualities. She chose her elder daughter-in-law (my mother-in-law, Subarnalata Ghosh) and longed heartily to receive her as the bride of her elder son, Anantalal Ghosh. Shortly before the marriage was to take place, cruel death snatched her away from her children and husband. Guruji was very much shocked at the premature departure of his mother.
Gyanprabha Devi had a very strong sense of art and culture. Her clay modeling and needleworks were the culmination of her inner artistic ability. She loved her children very deeply and was really a symbol of eternal Bengali motherhood — one who would sacrifice even her life for the sake of family and children. She had an open and kind hand towards the needy and sick. Gyanprabha Devi had six sisters and seven brothers. The gifts which she presented my mother-in-law as a token of love and blessing were inherited by me from my mother-in-law as gifts. I still have kept these things as memories of blessing and affection from two great ladies of this family — my grandmother-in-law and my mother-in-law.
In this connection, I recall a special event heard by me from my grandfather-in-law, Bhagabati Charan Ghosh. One day just one month after the birth of Paramhansaji, the mother (Gyanprabha Devi) went out of the room for some household work, leaving the sleeping baby alone in the room. After a while she came back to witness a miraculous scene. Though the only light in the room was from a dim earthen lamp, the entire room was glittering with the cosmic rays of a heavenly light, and a heavenly halo surrounded the head of the sleeping baby. At first glance she became spellbound, then she called her husband to witness the heavenly sight.
Sometime after 1936, I, along with my husband, went to Jamshedpur, according to Guruji’s advice, to visit Anandamayee Ma and her husband, Bholanath (both Hindu yogis). At that time Swami Bholanath was observing silence, so he replied to our questions by writing. We had a long conversation with Ma Anandamayee. She told us, “We shall meet again.” That came true when, after long years, we again met at Serampore and the blessed Mother gave me a package of sweets after giving some sermons. She told me, “Do not think of anything as your own. Never utter ‘my son,’ ‘my house,’ etc. Be not selfish.” Then a short period of joy and bliss passed by with the great Indian yogis, Anandamayee Ma and Swami Bholanath.
I had close association with Gurudev for a very short period of one month only, because then he set out for America for the last time. We could not even dream that he was leaving us forever. He had reincarnated on this earth to perform the great divine task of the salvation and welfare of the great nation of America. Before departure, Gurudev preached sermons and cured many of diseases. He taught me the application of some medicine from household things which I use with excellent results even now.
In this ripe age, I now realize that in the year 1936 I witnessed the living manifestation of God in my Guru Swami Yoganandaji. The mantra which he gave me is the most powerful blessing of my life. I wish to breathe my last by chanting this great mantra.
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