By Swami Sri Yukteswar
My friend Rama and I were inseparable. Because he was shy and reclusive, he chose to visit our guru Lahiri Mahasaya only during the hours of midnight and dawn, when the crowd of daytime disciples was absent. As Rama’s closest friend, I served as a spiritual vent through which he let out the wealth of his spiritual perceptions. I found inspiration in his ideal companionship.
Rama was suddenly put to a severe test. He contracted the disease of Asiatic cholera. As our master never objected to the services of physicians at times of serious illness, two specialists were summoned. Amidst the frantic rush of ministering to the stricken man, I was deeply praying to Lahiri Mahasaya for help. I hurried to his home and sobbed out the story.
“The doctors are seeing Rama. He will be well.” My guru smiled jovially.
I returned with a light heart to my friend’s bedside, only to find him in a dying state.
“‘He cannot last more than one or two hours,” one of the physicians told me with a gesture of despair. Once more I hastened to Lahiri Mahasaya.
“The doctors are conscientious men. I am sure Rama will be well.” The master dismissed me blithely.
At Rama’s place I found both doctors gone. One had left me a note: “We have done our best, but his case is hopeless.”
My friend was indeed the picture of a dying man. I did not understand how Lahiri Mahasaya’s words could fail to come true, yet the sight of Rama’s rapidly ebbing life kept suggesting to my mind: “All is over now.” Tossing thus on the seas of faith and apprehensive doubt, I ministered to my friend as best I could. He roused himself to cry out:
“Yukteswar, run to Master and tell him I am gone. Ask him to bless my body before its last rites.” With these words Rama sighed heavily and gave up the ghost.
“I wept for an hour by his beloved form. Always a lover of quiet, now he had attained the utter stillness of death. Another disciple came in; I asked him to remain in the house until I returned. Half-dazed, I trudged back to my guru.
“How is Rama now?” Lahiri Mahasaya’s face was wreathed in smiles.
“Sir, you will soon see how he is,” I blurted out emotionally. “In a few hours you will see his body, before it is carried to the crematory grounds.” I broke down and moaned openly.
“Yukteswar, control yourself. Sit calmly and meditate.” My guru retired into samadhi. The afternoon and night passed in unbroken silence; I struggled unsuccessfully to regain an inner composure.
At dawn Lahiri Mahasaya glanced at me consolingly. “I see you are still disturbed. Why didn’t you explain yesterday that you expected me to give Rama tangible aid in the form of some medicine?” The master pointed to a cup-shaped lamp containing crude castor oil. “Fill a little bottle from the lamp; put seven drops into Rama’s mouth.”
“Sir,” I remonstrated, “he has been dead since yesterday noon. Of what use is the oil now?”
“Never mind; just do as I ask.” Lahiri Mahasaya’s cheerful mood was incomprehensible; I was still in the unassuaged agony of bereavement. Pouring out a small amount of oil, I departed for Rama’s house.
I found my friend’s body rigid in the death-clasp. Paying no attention to his ghastly condition, I opened his lips with my right finger and managed, with my left hand and the help of the cork, to put the oil drop by drop over his clenched teeth. As the seventh drop touched his cold lips, Rama shivered violently. His muscles vibrated from head to foot as he sat up wonderingly.
“I saw Lahiri Mahasaya in a blaze of light,” he cried. “He shone like the sun. ‘Arise; forsake your sleep,’ he commanded me. ‘Come with Yukteswar to see me.’”
I could scarcely believe my eyes when Rama dressed himself and was strong enough after that fatal sickness to walk to the home of our guru. There he prostrated himself before Lahiri Mahasaya with tears of gratitude. The master was beside himself with mirth. His eyes twinkled at me mischievously.
“Yukteswar,” he said, “surely henceforth you will not fail to carry with you a bottle of castor oil! Whenever you see a corpse, just administer the oil! Why, seven drops of lamp oil must surely foil the power of Yama!”
“Guruji, you are ridiculing me. I don’t understand; please point out the nature of my error.”
“I told you twice that Rama would be well; yet you could not fully believe me,” Lahiri Mahasaya explained. “I did not mean the doctors would be able to cure him; I remarked only that they were in attendance. There was no causal connection between my two statements. I didn’t want to interfere with the physicians; they have to live, too.” In a voice resounding with joy, my guru added, “Always know that the inexhaustible Paramatman can heal anyone, doctor or no doctor.”
“I see my mistake,” I acknowledged remorsefully. “I know now that your simple word is binding on the whole cosmos.”