The Mother Divine
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(A tribute)
Bhupendra Nath Sarkar
Mukundalal Ghose (later known as Paramahansa Yogananda) was born at Gorakhpur in north-eastern India. His paternal residence was at Gurpar in Calcutta. His father Bhagabati Charan Ghose and his mother were of saintly nature. Early in their married life his parents became disciples of Lahiri Mahasaya of Banaras.

From his childhood Mukunda had a craving for the Eternal. He was often on the look-out for saints. Two years elapsed between his flight with a friend of his towards the Himalayas and the great day of his preceptor, Sri Yukteswar's arrival into his life. During the interim period he met a number of sages-the Perfume Saint, the Tiger Swami, Nagendra Nath Bhaduri and Master Mahasaya.

In “the Over-Soul” Emerson wrote: “A man is the facade of a temple wherein all wisdom and all good abide. What we commonly call man, the eating, drinking, planting, counting man, does not, as we know him, represent himself but misrepresents himself. His we do not respect; but the Soul, whose organ he is, would he let it appear through his actions, would make our knees bend.” 

Once Bhaduri Mahasaya, the saint, said: “I have left a few paltry rupees, a few petty pleasures, for a cosmic empire of endless bliss. How, then, have I denied myself anything? The short-sighted worldly folk are verily the real renunciants! They relinquish an unparalleled divine possession for poor handful of earthly toys!”

In his heart of hearts Mukunda was yearning for the cosmic empire of endless bliss. After a good deal of wanderings here and there he met Sri Yukteswar at his ashrama and said: “Your wish shall be my law!” Yukteswarji retorted: “you must first pass your examinations to fulfil your fathers’ desire,” and added: “Someday you will go to the West. Its people will be more receptive to India's ancient wisdom if the strange Hindu teacher has a university degree.” By the grace of Sri Yukteswar, Mukunda became a graduate of Calcutta University; Yukteswarji initiated him into Kriya Yoga-the technique he had already received from two disciples of Lahiri Mahasaya-his father and his tutor, Swami Kebalananda. At his touch a flood of ineffable bliss overwhelmed his heart to the innermost core.

The Bible says: “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.” Mukunda' s preceptor had chosen to storm those inner citadels of wrath and egotism, whose fall is the height of a man's achievement. His Gurudev goaded him on to organisational work, saying: “God is the Honey, organisation are the hives; both are necessary. Any form is useless without the spirit, but why should you not start busy hives full of the spiritual nectar?”
Inspired by his Guru, Yoganandaji, as he came to be called on entering the monastic order, was determined to found a school where young boys could develop to the full stature of manhood. He first made a start at Sihika in Midnapore with seven children. In 1918 through the munificence of Sri Manindra Chandra Nandi of Kasimbazar, the Kasimbazar palace in Ranchi became the main building of his new school, which he called Yogada Satsanga Brahmacharya Vidyalaya. The curriculum included agriculture, industry, commerce and academic subjects. The students were taught Yoga meditation and a unique system of health and physical development. With seventy fertile bighas of land, the students and the staff enjoyed periods of gardening and other outdoor work. The Ranchi school grew from small and simple beginnings to an institution now well-known in Bihar and West Bengal.

Babaji, Yoganandaji’s grand grand-Guru, once made a remark to Yukteswarji, full of rich potentialities: “East and West must establish a golden middle path of activity and spirituality combined. India has much to learn from the West in material development; in return, India can teach the universal methods by which the West will be able to base its religious beliefs on the unshakable foundations of yogic science. Some years hence I shall send you a disciple whom you can train for Yoga dissemination in the West. I perceive potential saints in America and Europe, waiting to be awakened."

The prophecy of the sage came true. He received an invitation to serve as a delegate from India to an International Congress of Religious Liberals in America. His param-param Guru, Babaji appeared before him at Gurpar on the eve of his departure for the U.S.A. and said: "You are the one I have chosen to spread the message of Kriya Yoga in the West. Long ago I met your Guru Yukteswar at a Kumbha Mela; I told him then I would send you to him for training." He added: "Kriya Yoga, the scientific technique of God-realisation, will ultimately spread in all lands, and aid in harmonising the nations through man's personal transcendental perception of the Infinite Father."

Yoganandaji left India in August, 1920 for America. On October 6, 1920 he addressed the Congress with his maiden speech. It was at once inspiring and impressive. Thence forward he gave lectures, taught classes and wrote a book of poems- "Songs of the Soul."  He spoke before thousands in most of the principal cities. With the help of large-hearted students by the end of 1925 he established an American head-quarter on the Mount Washington Estate in Los Angeles, California, to which were added other centres of Yoga. His Yoga classes were attended by tens of thousands of Americans men and women. In 1929 he dedicated to them a book of prayers and poems- "Whispers from Eternity." He wrote a number of books including his "Autobiography of a Yogi," the most remarkable book ever published.

Luther Burbank, that celebrated scientist, was invited into Kriya Yoga by Yoganandaji. Burbank heartily joined with his preceptor in his appeal for international schools on the art of living, which, if established, would come as near to bringing the millennium as anything he knew of. He came back to India in 1935 perhaps to have the last glimpse of his Guru Yukteswar Giriji who passed away on March 9, 1936.

Yoganandaji sailed from Bombay in early June of this year. During his stay in India he came in contact with Mahatma Gandhi who was initiated by him into Kriya Yoga. He hunted out Giribala Devi, a woman saint in her village home in the district of Bankura. The Yogini was a rare phenomenon- a woman living and doing her household duties without taking any food or drink from the age of twelve years to over fifty-six years when she met Yoganandaji. Moreover, she had no bodily excretion. He tried his best to take Giribala Devi to America, but in vain.

During the year 1940 to 1951 Yoganandaji founded Self-Realisation centres mostly in the U.S.A. and in other parts of the world as well.

Yoganandaji fulfilled his mission to scatter the seeds of Kriya Yoga among the Westerners. He had on his ears the words of his Guru full of immense potentiality: "The ancient yogis discovered that the secret of cosmic consciousness is intimately linked with breath mastery. This is India's unique and deathless contribution to the world's treasury of knowledge".

In life he was great, in death he was greater. At Biltmore Hotel in Washington he addressed a meeting held in honour of India's Ambassador, Dr. B. R. Sen, on March 7, 1952. In the course of his speech he said: "When I hear of so many American millionaires, who die prematurely after making a business success then I like to be a Hindu – to sit on the banks of the Ganges and concentrate on the factory of Mind from which spiritual sky-scrapers can come, and to think of the great masters of India who are her perennial glory." He concluded his address with a few lines from his own poem on India: "God made the earth and man made confining countries. And their fancy-frozen boundaries… where Ganges, Woods, Himalayan caves and men dream God... I am hallowed: my body touch that God." with these last words, Paramhansaji slid to the floor with a beatific smile on his face, never to rise again.

It is a wonder of wonders that his mortal body remained intact for about three weeks, as admitted by the Mortuary personnel of Forest Lawn Memorial Park.