Chapter 11 - Two Penniless Boys in Brindaban
"It would serve you right if Father disinherited you, Mukunda! How foolishly you are throwing away your
life!" An elder-brother sermon was assaulting my ears.
Jitendra and I, fresh from the train (a figure of speech merely; we were covered with dust), had just
arrived at the home of Ananta, recently transferred from Calcutta to the ancient city of Agra. Brother
was a supervising accountant for the Bengal-Nagpur Railway.
"You well know, Ananta, I seek my inheritance from the Heavenly Father."
"Money first; God can come later! Who knows? Life may be too long."
"God first; money is His slave! Who can tell? Life may be too short."
My retort was summoned by the exigencies of the moment, and held no presentiment. Yet the leaves of
time unfolded to early finality for Ananta; a few years later1 he
entered the land where bank notes avail neither first nor last.
"Wisdom from the hermitage, I suppose! But I see you have left Benares." Ananta's eyes gleamed with
satisfaction; he yet hoped to secure my pinions in the family nest.
"My sojourn in Benares was not in vain! I found there everything my heart had been longing for! You may
be sure it was not your pundit or his son!"
Ananta joined me in reminiscent laughter; he had had to admit that the Benares "clairvoyant" he
selected was a shortsighted one.
"What are your plans, my wandering brother?"
"Jitendra persuaded me to Agra. We shall view the beauties of the Taj Mahal2 here," I explained. "Then we are going to my newly-found guru, who has a
hermitage in Serampore."
Ananta hospitably arranged for our comfort. Several times during the evening I noticed his eyes fixed
on me reflectively.
"I know that look!" I thought. "A plot is brewing!"
The denouement took place during our early breakfast.
"So you feel quite independent of Father's wealth." Ananta's gaze was innocent as he resumed the barbs
of yesterday's conversation.
"I am conscious of my dependence on God."
"Words are cheap! Life has shielded you thus far! What a plight if you were forced to look to the
Invisible Hand for your food and shelter! You would soon be begging on the streets!"
"Never! I would not put faith in passers-by rather than God! He can devise for His devotee a thousand
resources besides the begging-bowl!"
"More rhetoric! Suppose I suggest that your vaunted philosophy be put to a test in this tangible
"I would agree! Do you confine God to a speculative world?"
"We shall see; today you shall have opportunity either to enlarge or to confirm my own views!" Ananta
paused for a dramatic moment; then spoke slowly and seriously.
"I propose that I send you and your fellow disciple Jitendra this morning to the near-by city of
Brindaban. You must not take a single rupee; you must not beg, either for food or money; you must not
reveal your predicament to anyone; you must not go without your meals; and you must not be stranded in
Brindaban. If you return to my bungalow here before twelve o'clock tonight, without having broken any
rule of the test, I shall be the most astonished man in Agra!"
"I accept the challenge." No hesitation was in my words or in my heart. Grateful memories flashed of
the Instant Beneficence: my healing of deadly cholera through appeal to Lahiri Mahasaya's picture; the
playful gift of the two kites on the Lahore roof with Uma; the opportune amulet amidst my
discouragement; the decisive message through the unknown Benares sadhu outside the compound of
the pundit's home; the vision of Divine Mother and Her majestic words of love; Her swift heed through
Master Mahasaya to my trifling embarrassments; the last-minute guidance which materialized my high
school diploma; and the ultimate boon, my living Master from the mist of lifelong dreams. Never could I
admit my "philosophy" unequal to any tussle on the world's harsh proving ground!
"Your willingness does you credit. I'll escort you to the train at once." Ananta turned to the
openmouthed Jitendra. "You must go along as a witness and, very likely, a fellow victim!"
A half hour later Jitendra and I were in possession of one-way tickets for our
impromptu trip. We submitted, in a secluded corner of the station, to a search of our persons. Ananta
was quickly satisfied that we were carrying no hidden hoard; our simple dhotis3 concealed nothing more than was necessary.
As faith invaded the serious realms of finance, my friend spoke protestingly. "Ananta, give me one or
two rupees as a safeguard. Then I can telegraph you in case of misfortune."
"Jitendra!" My ejaculation was sharply reproachful. "I will not proceed with the test if you take any
money as final security."
"There is something reassuring about the clink of coins." Jitendra said no more as I regarded him
"Mukunda, I am not heartless." A hint of humility had crept into Ananta's voice. It may be that his
conscience was smiting him; perhaps for sending two insolvent boys to a strange city; perhaps for his
own religious skepticism. "If by any chance or grace you pass successfully through the Brindaban
ordeal, I shall ask you to initiate me as your disciple."
This promise had a certain irregularity, in keeping with the unconventional occasion. The eldest
brother in an Indian family seldom bows before his juniors; he receives respect and obedience second
only to a father. But no time remained for my comment; our train was at point of departure.
Jitendra maintained a lugubrious silence as our train covered the miles. Finally he bestirred himself;
leaning over, he pinched me painfully at an awkward spot.
"I see no sign that God is going to supply our next meal!"
"Be quiet, doubting Thomas; the Lord is working with us."
"Can you also arrange that He hurry? Already I am famished merely at the prospect
before us. I left Benares to view the Taj's mausoleum, not to enter my own!"
"Cheer up, Jitendra! Are we not to have our first glimpse of the sacred wonders of Brindaban?4 I am in deep joy at thought of treading the ground hallowed by feet of
The door of our compartment opened; two men seated themselves. The next train stop would be the last.
"Young lads, do you have friends in Brindaban?" The stranger opposite me was taking a surprising
"None of your business!" Rudely I averted my gaze.
"You are probably flying away from your families under the enchantment of the Stealer of
Hearts.5 I am of devotional temperament myself. I will make it my
positive duty to see that you receive food, and shelter from this overpowering heat."
"No, sir, let us alone. You are very kind; but you are mistaken in judging us to be truants from home."
No further conversation ensued; the train came to a halt. As Jitendra and I descended to the platform,
our chance companions linked arms with us and summoned a horse cab.
We alit before a stately hermitage, set amidst the evergreen trees of well-kept grounds. Our
benefactors were evidently known here; a smiling lad led us without comment to a parlor. We were soon
joined by an elderly woman of dignified bearing.
"Gauri Ma, the princes could not come." One of the men addressed the ashram hostess. "At the last
moment their plans went awry; they send deep regrets. But we have brought two other guests. As soon as
we met on the train, I felt drawn to them as devotees of Lord Krishna."
"Good-by, young friends." Our two acquaintances walked to the door. "We shall meet again, if God be
"You are welcome here." Gauri Ma smiled in motherly fashion on her two unexpected charges. "You could
not have come on a better day. I was expecting two royal patrons of this hermitage. What a shame if my
cooking had found none to appreciate it!"
These appetizing words had disastrous effect on Jitendra: he burst into tears. The "prospect" he had
feared in Brindaban was turning out as royal entertainment; his sudden mental adjustment proved too
much for him. Our hostess looked at him with curiosity, but without remark; perhaps she was familiar
with adolescent quirks.
Lunch was announced; Gauri Ma led the way to a dining patio, spicy with savory odors. She vanished into
an adjoining kitchen.
I had been premeditating this moment. Selecting the appropriate spot on Jitendra's anatomy, I
administered a pinch as resounding as the one he had given me on the train.
"Doubting Thomas, the Lord works in a hurry, too!"
The hostess reentered with a punkha. She steadily fanned us in the Oriental fashion as we
squatted on ornate blanket-seats. Ashram disciples passed to and fro with some thirty courses. Rather
than "meal," the description can only be "sumptuous repast." Since arriving on this planet, Jitendra
and I had never before tasted such delicacies.
"Dishes fit for princes indeed, Honored Mother! What your royal patrons could have found more urgent
than attending this banquet, I cannot imagine! You have given us a memory for a lifetime!"
Silenced as we were by Ananta's requirement, we could not explain to the gracious lady that our thanks
held a double significance. Our sincerity at least was patent. We departed with her blessing and an
attractive invitation to revisit the hermitage.
The heat outdoors was merciless. My friend and I made for the shelter of a lordly cadamba tree at the
ashram gate. Sharp words followed; once again Jitendra was beset with misgivings.
"A fine mess you have got me into! Our luncheon was only accidental good fortune! How can we see the
sights of this city, without a single pice between us? And how on earth are you going to take me back
"You forget God quickly, now that your stomach is filled." My words, not bitter, were accusatory. How
short is human memory for divine favors! No man lives who has not seen certain of his prayers granted.
"I am not likely to forget my folly in venturing out with a madcap like you!"
"Be quiet, Jitendra! The same Lord who fed us will show us Brindaban, and return us to Agra."
A slight young man of pleasing countenance approached at rapid pace. Halting under our tree, he bowed
"Dear friend, you and your companion must be strangers here. Permit me to be your host and guide."
It is scarcely possible for an Indian to pale, but Jitendra's face was suddenly sickly. I politely
declined the offer.
"You are surely not banishing me?" The stranger's alarm would have been comic in any other
"You are my guru." His eyes sought mine trustfully. "During my midday devotions, the blessed Lord
Krishna appeared in a vision. He showed me two forsaken figures under this very tree. One face was
yours, my master! Often have I seen it in meditation! What joy if you accept my humble services!"
"I too am glad you have found me. Neither God nor man has forsaken us!" Though I was motionless,
smiling at the eager face before me, an inward obeisance cast me at the Divine Feet.
"Dear friends, will you not honor my home for a visit?"
"You are kind; but the plan is unfeasible. Already we are guests of my brother in Agra."
"At least give me memories of touring Brindaban with you."
I gladly consented. The young man, who said his name was Pratap Chatterji, hailed a
horse carriage. We visited Madanamohana Temple and other Krishna shrines. Night descended while we were
at our temple devotions.
"Excuse me while I get sandesh." 6 Pratap entered a shop
near the railroad station. Jitendra and I sauntered along the wide street, crowded now in the
comparative coolness. Our friend was absent for some time, but finally returned with gifts of many
"Please allow me to gain this religious merit." Pratap smiled pleadingly as he held out a bundle of
rupee notes and two tickets, just purchased, to Agra.
The reverence of my acceptance was for the Invisible Hand. Scoffed at by Ananta, had Its bounty not far
We sought out a secluded spot near the station.
"Pratap, I will instruct you in the Kriya of Lahiri Mahasaya, the greatest yogi of modern times.
His technique will be your guru."
The initiation was concluded in a half hour. "Kriya is your chintamani,"7 I told the new student. "The technique, which as you see is simple,
embodies the art of quickening man's spiritual evolution. Hindu scriptures teach that the incarnating
ego requires a million years to obtain liberation from maya. This natural period is greatly
shortened through Kriya Yoga. Just as Jagadis Chandra Bose has demonstrated that plant growth
can be accelerated far beyond its normal rate, so man's psychological development can be also speeded
by an inner science. Be faithful in your practice; you will approach the Guru of all gurus."
"I am transported to find this yogic key, long sought!" Pratap spoke thoughtfully. "Its unshackling
effect on my sensory bonds will free me for higher spheres. The vision today of Lord Krishna could only
mean my highest good."
We sat awhile in silent understanding, then walked slowly to the station. Joy was within me as I
boarded the train, but this was Jitendra's day for tears. My affectionate farewell to Pratap had been
punctuated by stifled sobs from both my companions. The journey once more found Jitendra in a welter of
grief. Not for himself this time, but against himself.
"How shallow my trust! My heart has been stone! Never in future shall I doubt God's protection!"
Midnight was approaching. The two "Cinderellas," sent forth penniless, entered Ananta's bedroom. His
face, as he had promised, was a study in astonishment. Silently I showered the table with rupees.
"Jitendra, the truth!" Ananta's tone was jocular. "Has not this youngster been staging a holdup?"
But as the tale was unfolded, my brother turned sober, then solemn.
"The law of demand and supply reaches into subtler realms than I had supposed." Ananta
spoke with a spiritual enthusiasm never before noticeable. "I understand for the first time your
indifference to the vaults and vulgar accumulations of the world."
Late as it was, my brother insisted that he receive diksha 8
into Kriya Yoga. The "guru" Mukunda had to shoulder the responsibility of two unsought disciples
in one day.
Breakfast the following morning was eaten in a harmony absent the day before. I smiled at Jitendra.
"You shall not be cheated of the Taj. Let us view it before starting for Serampore."
Bidding farewell to Ananta, my friend and I were soon before the glory of Agra, the Taj Mahal. White
marble dazzling in the sun, it stands a vision of pure symmetry. The perfect setting is dark cypress,
glossy lawn, and tranquil lagoon. The interior is exquisite with lacelike carvings inlaid with
semiprecious stones. Delicate wreaths and scrolls emerge intricately from marbles, brown and violet.
Illumination from the dome falls on the cenotaphs of Emperor Shah-Jahan and Mumtaz Mahall, queen of his
realm and his heart.
Enough of sight-seeing! I was longing for my guru. Jitendra and I were shortly traveling south by train
"Mukunda, I have not seen my family in months. I have changed my mind; perhaps later I shall visit your
master in Serampore."
My friend, who may mildly be described as vacillating in temperament, left me in Calcutta. By local
train I soon reached Serampore, twelve miles to the north.
A throb of wonderment stole over me as I realized that twenty-eight days had elapsed since the Benares
meeting with my guru. "You will come to me in four weeks!" Here I was, heart pounding, standing within
his courtyard on quiet Rai Ghat Lane. I entered for the first time the hermitage where I was to spend
the best part of the next ten years with India's Jyanavatar, "incarnation of wisdom."
Chapter1 - My Parents and Early Life
Chapter2 - My Mother's Death and the Mystic Amulet
Chapter3 - The Saint With Two Bodies
Chapter4 - My Interrupted Flight Toward the Himalayas
Chapter5 - A "Perfume Saint" Displays His Wonders
Chapter6 - The Tiger Swami
Chapter7 - The Levitating Saint
Chapter8 - India's Great Scientist, J.C. Bose
Chapter9 - The Blissful Devotee and His Cosmic Romance
Chapter10 - I Meet My Master, Sri Yukteswar
Chapter11 - Two Penniless Boys in Brindaban
Chapter12 - Years in My Master's Hermitage
Chapter13 - The Sleepless Saint
Chapter14 - An Experience in Cosmic Consciousness
Chapter15 - The Cauliflower Robbery
Chapter16 - Outwitting the Stars
Chapter17 - Sasi and the Three Sapphires
Chapter18 - A Mohammedan Wonder-Worker
Chapter19 - My Master, in Calcutta, Appears in Serampore
Chapter20 - We Do Not Visit Kashmir
Chapter21 - We Visit Kashmir
Chapter22 - The Heart of a Stone Image
Chapter23 - I Receive My University Degree
Chapter24 - I Become a Monk of the Swami Order
Chapter25 - Brother Ananta and Sister Nalini
Chapter26 - The Science of Kriya Yoga
Chapter27 - Founding a Yoga School in Ranchi
Chapter28 - Kashi, Reborn and Rediscovered
Chapter29 - Rabindranath Tagore and I Compare Schools
Chapter30 - The Law of Miracles
Chapter31 - An Interview with the Sacred Mother
Chapter32 - Rama is Raised From the Dead
Chapter33 - Babaji, the Yogi-Christ of Modern India
Chapter34 - Materializing a Palace in the Himalaya
Chapter35 - The Christlike Life of Lahiri Mahasaya
Chapter36 - Babaji's Interest in the West
Chapter37 - I Go to America
Chapter38 - Luther Burbank -- A Saint Amidst the Roses
Chapter39 - Therese Neumann, the Catholic Stigmatist
Chapter40 - I Return to India
Chapter41 - An Idyll in South India
Chapter42 - Last Days With My Guru
Chapter43 - The Resurrection of Sri Yukteswar
Chapter44 - With Mahatma Gandhi in Wardha
Chapter45 - The Bengali "Joy-Permeated" Mother
Chapter46 - The Woman Yogi Who Never Eats
Chapter47 - I Return to the West
Chapter48 - At Encinitas in California
Chapter49 - The Years - 1940 - 1951