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Path: One Man's Quest On the Only Path There Is
by J. Donald Walters (Swami Kriyananda)
God Protects His Devotees
entered the dining room one day at lunchtime looking stunned.
"This morning," he announced shakily, "I was driving the big flat-bed truck down Mt. Washington. As I came to the steepest part of the hill, I stepped on the brake to slow down for that hairpin turn at the bottom, but my foot went right to the floor! I pumped frantically; nothing happened. By this time the truck was going so fast I couldn't shift down. In moments I knew I'd be hurtling to my death over the edge of that steep embankment. Desperately I prayed to Master: 'Is this what you want?'
"Suddenly the truck slowed to a complete stop! The brakes still weren't working, but I was able to park safely in gear and curb the front wheel.
"What a blessing," Norman concluded, "to have a God-realized master for a guru!"
As disciples of a great yogi, we often found that we had only to call Master mentally for misfortune to be speedily averted.
A year before Norman's miraculous escape, Jerry Torgerson, another disciple, hitchhiked into Los Angeles. This mode of travel was contrary to Master's advice, but Jerry, like many other young Americans, had been practically raised on hitchhiking; more than Master's casual proscription was needed, evidently, to get him to change his habits.
"Three guys picked me up," he told us. "We were riding along, when suddenlyöhow, I couldn't sayöI knew they were criminals. 'I want to get out right here,' I told them. But they wouldn't stop. After some distance we left the main road, and drove through open countryside to a secluded house. One of the men got out; the other two stayed in the car with me. I didn't know what they had in mind, but I can tell you I was plenty scared. I started praying to Master for help.
"Well, the first guy went and knocked at the front door. No answer. He went around the house, knocking and calling at every door and window. Still no answer. By this time the two men in the car were getting worried. 'Let's get outa here!' they called out nervously. The first fellow came back, just as nervous as they were. We all drove back to the main road, and there they let me out. The moment I'd slammed the door behind me, they rushed off at high speed.
"I never did find out what they had in mind, but I had the strong impression that they were planning to use me in some crime.
"I said nothing to anyone about all this. After church the following Sunday, I went up to Master for his blessing. The moment he saw me, he scolded, 'You see, Jerry? I told you not to hitchhike! I had to close the ears of all the people in that house so they wouldn't hear that man when he called to them.'"
Some months later, Joe Carbone and Henry Schaufelberger (now Brothers Bimalananda and Anandamoy) were plastering the lotus tower that forms the archway entrance to the SRF church grounds in Hollywood. Joe was mixing and carrying the plaster. Henry, at a height of about twenty feet, was troweling it onto the wall. The ladder Joe was using was set at too steep an angle. On one climb, as he reached up to grasp the top rung, he missed it. The heavy hod on his shoulder began pulling him backward; he could no longer grasp the rung with either hand. A twenty-foot drop with all that weight on his shoulder might very well have killed him. Realizing that it was now too late to save himself, Joe thought urgently of Master; aloud, he chanted, "Om!"
Both men later testified as to what happened next. As Joe was chanting, some invisible force pushed him slowly back upright. A moment later he was able to grasp the rung again. Gasping with relief, he completed his climb.
Andy Anderson, the foreman on this job, was a professional carpenter and builder who had been hired from outside to oversee our work. He knew nothing of our philosophy, and often chuckled at the thought of working with "all these yogis!" But there was no doubt in his voice when he told me of how he had witnessed an uncanny instance of protection:
"Why you guys don't all get killed on this job beats me. You just aren't careful enough. I was standing right over there one day, when someone on a scaffold dropped a long two-by-fouröwithout even looking below him! Another of you yogis was standing underneath, for all I could tell not even minding his own business! The two-by-four struck the ground at such an angle that it couldn't possibly have missed him as it fell over. It might've killed him.
"'Look out!' I hollered. Just then that two-by-fouröleaning in his direction, mind youöstood back upright and, so help me, fell over in the opposite direction! I know I wasn't just seeing things."
Andy ended up becoming a lay-disciple himself.
James Coller told us of another hitchhiking incident, one in which he and another monk gave a man a ride. The two monks were in the front seat. "When we picked this man up," James said, "there was no room for him in front, so he sat in the back. Some minutes later, as we were driving along, I suddenly heard a voice in my inner ear: 'Look out! He has a knife!' I turned around quickly. The man was leaning forward, a fiendish expression on his face. His hand was upraised, holding a knife; he was on the very point of striking the boy beside me, who was gazing ahead unsuspectingly.
"'Put that knife down!' I commanded sternly. The man was so astonished he obeyed me. I stopped the car. He got out without a word."
In the almost thirty years that I have been on this path, I cannot recall to mind a single instance where a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda has failed to find protection in time of real need. Considering the length of time involved, and the thousands of disciples I have known during this period, this is quite an amazing record.
The most striking of these cases occurred among those whose lives were placed unreservedly in the Guru's care. Dr. Lewis told of an episode similar to Norman's, when, on a cold winter night in Massachusetts, he had been out driving. With him were two fellow disciples, Mrs. Laura Elliott and Mrs. Alice Hasey (Sister Yogmata). Suddenly, as they approached a narrow bridge, they found their way blocked by another car that had skidded sidewise across the icy road. A crash seemed inevitable.
"At that moment," Dr. Lewis said, "we felt as if a giant hand were being pressed down on the hood of the car. We slowed instantly to a stop, our car still safely on the road."
Se–or J. M. Cuaron, the leader of the SRF center in Mexico City, related the following incident to me.
"I was badly in need of a job, but for a long time could find none anywhere. Then one day an excellent offer came from a company in Matamoros. Taking that job would mean moving away from Mexico City. I therefore wrote Master to request his permission to put the SRF center in someone else's charge. My letter was just a formality. I was sure Master would congratulate me on my good luck. Imagine my surprise, then, when he replied by telegram: 'No. Absolutely not. Under no circumstances whatever accept that job.' I'll admit I was a bit upset. But even so, I obeyed him.
"One month later the news came out in the papers: The company that had offered me that job was exposed for fraud. Its officers were sent to prison, including the man who had taken the post I'd been offered. He hadn't been aware of the firm's dishonesty, just as I wouldn't have been. But because of the position he held, he was imprisoned. It was only by Master's grace that I was spared that calamity!"
Tests there must be in life, of course. They come especially on the spiritual path, for if devotees are to escape the coils of maya (delusion), they must be taught the lessons they need to develop in wisdom. Master didn't shrink from giving us whatever tests we needed to grow. For example, although on that occasion he saved Se–or Cuaron from ignominious arrest, he never helped him to find the employment he so badly wanted. Se–or Cuaron in fact had enough money to live on simply, as became a world-renouncing yogi. Master saw no good reason, evidently, to help him return to his former levels of opulence.
But our tests were always blessings; outright misfortune Master spared us. And where a test was not required for a disciple's spiritual growth, Master often removed it from his path altogether.
I remember how he "de-jinxed" a studentönot a close discipleöwho was having trouble earning money. It was Jean Haupt's brother, Richard. Not long after Master's intercession, the man became quite well-to-do.
In 1955 I went to Switzerland on a lecture tour. There I met a lady from Czechoslovakia who told me a story concerning Professor Novicky, the late leader of a small SRF group in Prague.
"One day," she said, "after Yogananda's passing, a stranger came to Professor Novicky and requested instruction in yoga. The professor didn't know what to do. Normally he kept his spiritual activities a secret, so as not to expose himself to persecution. If this man was a genuine seeker, the professor would want to help him. But if he was a government spy, any admission of interest in yoga might result in a prison sentence. Our friend prayed for guidance. Suddenly, standing behind the self-proclaimed 'devotee,' Paramhansa Yogananda appeared. Slowly the Master shook his head, then vanished. Professor Novicky told the man he had come to the wrong place for information. Sometime later, he learned that the man was indeed a government spy.
"I am free to tell this story now," my informant continued, "for the good professor died recently, of natural causes."
In January 1959 my own life was spared in a remarkable manner. The incident took place in India. I was preparing for a religious gathering in Dakshineswar, outside Calcutta, at which Daya Mata was to be the principal speaker. Part of my task was to set up the loud-speaker equipment. With both hands I grasped the microphone boom, to move it. Suddenly 230 volts of electricity shot through my body, lifting me right off the ground. Involuntarily I cried out. Such high voltage tightens the muscles, making it impossible to release anything one is holding. Unable as I'd have been to let go of the metal boom, I would certainly have been killed. But just at that moment, inexplicably, the fuse blew. The function was delayed half an hour till we located another fuse, but my life was spared. The only ill effect I suffered was a slight tremor in the heart that lasted two or three days.
Death must, of course, come to everyone sooner or later. But I have been struck by its beauty and dignity when it has visited disciples of this path.
A regular visitor to our Hollywood church died of a stroke. His wife later told me, "In his final moments, my husband whispered to me lovingly, 'Don't feel badly, dear. I am so happy! And I see a bright, bright light all around me.'"
Another church member, who had known the Master since his early years in America, exclaimed at the end of her life, "Swamiji is here!" Her face was radiant; she smiled blissfully.
And Sister Gyanamata's last words were, "Such joy! Too much joy! Too much joy!"
Disciples who have died of cancer or other painful diseases have gone peacefully, with a smile on their lips.
People often point to the sufferings of humanity as proof either that God doesn't exist, or that He doesn't care for His human children. Paramhansa Yogananda's answer to that charge was that people don't care enough about God to tune in to His help. Indeed, by their indifference they create the very problems which, later, they lay accusingly at His door. If in daylight one moves about with closed eyes, he may bump against something and hurt himself. By closing one's eyes to light, one creates his own darkness. By closing one's heart to love, one creates his own fear, hatred, or apathy. By closing one's soul to joy, one creates his own misery.
In case after case I have seen fulfilled Yogananda's promise that faithful devotees of his path would be protected. "For those who stay in tune to the end," he added, "I, or one of the other masters, will be there to usher them into the divine kingdom." Truly, the words of the great Swami Shankaracharya have found justification in Paramhansa Yogananda's life: "No known comparison exists in the three worlds for a true guru."
It is perhaps the greatest sign of God's aid to His devotees that, when the soul yearns deeply for Him, He sends to it the supreme blessing of a God-awakened master to guide it along the highway to Infinity.