A Remarkable Encounter With Lahiri Mahasaya
By Sananda Lal Ghosh
From the book Mejda: The Family and the Early Life of Paramahansa Yogananda. The author was Yogananda’s younger brother, and addressed him as Mejda, a Bengali term for one’s second elder brother. Their eldest brother, also part of the following story, was named Ananta.
According to Ananta’s diary, it was on May 3, 1906, that we moved from Bareilly to Chittagong. Here Mejda used to take me with him to pick fruit from trees in the yards of neighboring homes. One of the homes had some beautiful large swans. Mejda decided he wanted to make a quill pen, so he plucked a feather from one of the graceful birds. The owner found out and complained to Ananta. Our brother sought to put an end to Mejda’s naughtiness, and decided the best way was to confine him during the day. So he personally took Mejda and me to the local school and enrolled us. Mejda did very well on his papers; mine just barely passed.
Ananta’s way was to restrict our movements with prohibitive orders: “Don’t do this! Don’t do that! Don’t go there! People won’t like you if you don’t behave!” Our days in Chittagong were filled with endless restrictions. But this only made Mejda more obstinate; in the face of unreasonable curtailment, he became more determined to do what he wanted.
One day, Mejda and I were told: “Don’t go toward the harbor. Stay away from the mouth of the river.”
I thought: “Mejda will never obey this. This is exactly what he rebels against.” Of course, it wasn’t long before he took me with him to the mouth of the river.
Ananta had directed all of us children to be home by early evening every day, to wash, and to begin our homework by six o’clock. The harbor at Chittagong was about four kilometers from home. Thus, after returning from school and taking tiffin, we couldn’t walk the round-trip distance of eight kilometers and be back at the specified time. So we used to run all the way to the harbor, watch the ships for a short while, then run home. From all this sprinting, Mejda became an excellent athlete. I, too, became a pretty good one; but not nearly so much so as Mejda.
The road to the mouth of the river followed several low hills. Fruit hung in abundance in the trees along our way. One day Mejda said, “Listen, when we return this evening we’ll pick some lichis. No one will see us in the twilight.”
So said, so done! Mejda was picking some of the luscious, sweet lichis when he heard someone call his name. Startled, Mejda stood stock still. All sense of adventure ended abruptly! Cautiously we moved in the direction from which the voice had come. The twilight was fast fading and we could not see far ahead in the shadows, but we soon discerned a man dressed in white. Seeing that we were somewhat afraid, he beckoned us closer in a friendly manner. If he were the watchman here, how would he have known Mejda’s name?
Slowly we advanced toward the gently smiling person. His form seemed lustrous with a wonderful light. I looked around to see where the light was coming from. Suddenly Mejda bowed before the saint and touched his feet. The saint embraced Mejda and kissed him on the head. I also bowed before the saintly figure. With a gesture of blessing, he said to us, “Jaiastu!” (“Victory be with you!”). And then he spoke to Mejda:
“Mukunda, it is God’s wish that I come to you today. Remember what I say to you. You have come on earth as God’s representative to fulfill His wishes. Your body is His temple, sanctified by prayer and meditation. Do not run after material pleasures or satisfaction. You will show the way that leads to true happiness; and by your spiritual knowledge you will deliver those who are suffering in ignorance. Never forget that you are one with Maha Purusha, attained only by those who are supremely successful in meditation. Your body, mind, and life must never deviate from the thought of God, even for a moment. The blessings of the Infinite Father are upon you. Your faith in Him must be absolute. He will protect you from all dangers. In this world only He is eternal; all else is transient and unreliable. One day your ideals of Yoga will inspire all mankind. Mukunda, march onward!”
I was fidgeting, for time was passing and darkness was upon us. We had a long way to go to reach home. A scolding by Father and a beating from Ananta were inevitable. The saint perceived my thought and said, “Do not be troubled. Go home freely; no one will notice that you are late.”
We started for home. After walking a short distance, we looked back and saw the saint blessing us with upraised hands. Then he vanished. I turned to Mejda and spoke, but he wasn’t listening. He was walking, head down, in a thoughtful mood. When we reached home, Mejda went directly to his prayer room. I inquired where Father and Ananta were. I learned that Ananta had been invited to a friend’s home, and that Father had not yet returned from an important meeting at the office. What joy! they did not know of our belated return. I ran to the prayer room to tell Mejda.
But Mejda was coming to get me. He took hold of my hand and led me to a photograph that hung on the wall. We stood a moment before it, then he said, “Do you recognize him? Was it not he who spoke to us?”
I was astonished. It was he — that very smile. But he had died long ago. How could he have come to us now? How could we have talked with someone who had been dead all these years? He had blessed us, embraced Mejda and kissed his head. I was choked with awe, unable to speak. I simply looked at Mejda. There was no doubt that Mejda and I had seen and talked with the great Lahiri Mahasaya! the saint whose counsel was sought by householders and sages alike throughout all India; the preceptor to whom people had come in endless streams to receive blessings and spiritual instruction. With Mejda, I had seen the Yogavatar with my own eyes and talked with him. I am thrilled to this day whenever I recall that wondrous experience. It is forever etched in my memory. I am blessed: His endless mercy, his crowning grace, is upon me. My gratitude knows no bounds.