Rarely fortunate, I was able to remain near Lahiri Mahasaya for ten years. His Benares home was my nightly goal of pilgrimage. The guru was always present in a small front parlor on the first floor. As he sat in lotus posture on a backless wooden seat, his disciples garlanded him in a semicircle. His eyes sparkled and danced with the joy of the Divine.
It was years before I came to realize the divine stature of my husband. One night, in this very room, I had a vivid dream. Glorious angels floated in unimaginable grace above me. So realistic was the sight that I awoke at once; the room was strangely enveloped in dazzling light. My husband, in lotus posture, was levitated in the center of the room, surrounded by angels who were worshiping him with the supplicating dignity of palm-folded hands.
Unknown to society in general, a great spiritual renaissance began to flow from a remote corner of Benares. Just as the fragrance of flowers cannot be suppressed, so Lahiri Mahasaya, quietly living as an ideal householder, could not hide his innate glory. Slowly, from every part of India, the devotee-bees sought the divine nectar of the liberated master.
It appears that the master had an aversion to being photographed. Over his protest, a group picture was once taken of him and a cluster of devotees. It was an amazed photographer who discovered that the plate which had clear images of all the disciples, revealed nothing more than a blank space in the center where he had reasonably expected to find the outlines of Lahiri Mahasaya. The phenomenon was widely discussed.
Years ago, I too was anxious to put on weight. During convalescence after a severe illness, I visited Lahiri Mahasaya in Benares. “Sir, I have been very sick and lost many pounds.” “I see, Yukteswar, you made yourself unwell, and now you think you are thin.” This reply was far from the one I had expected; my guru, however, added encouragingly: “Let me see; I am sure you ought to feel better tomorrow.”
A blind disciple, Ramu, aroused my active pity. Should he have no light in his eyes, when he faithfully served our master, in whom the Divine was fully blazing? One morning I sought to speak to Ramu, but he sat for patient hours fanning the guru with a hand-made palm-leaf punkha. When the devotee finally left the room, I followed him. “Ramu, how long have you been blind?”
His wife was not the only woman disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya; there were hundreds of others, including my mother. A woman chela (disciple) once asked the guru for his photograph. He handed her a print, remarking, “If you deem it a protection, then it is so; otherwise it is only a picture.”
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.
Lahiri Mahasaya’s picture had a surpassing influence over my life. As I grew, the thought of the master grew with me. In meditation I would often see his photographic image emerge from its small frame and, taking a living form, sit before me. When I attempted to touch the feet of his luminous body, it would change and again become the picture.
I will tell you how priceless is a guru’s help. I used to meditate with another disciple for eight hours every night. We had to work at the railroad office during the day. Finding difficulty in carrying on my clerical duties, I desired to devote my whole time to God. For eight years I persevered, meditating half the night.
Years ago, before you were born, I asked my superior officer—your father—to give me a week’s leave from my Gorakhpur duties in order to visit my guru in Benares. Your father ridiculed my plan. “Are you going to become a religious fanatic?” he inquired. “Concentrate on your office work if you want to forge ahead.” Sadly walking home along a woodland path that day, I met your father in a palanquin.