Chapter 23 - I Receive My University Degree
"You ignore your textbook assignments in philosophy. No doubt you are depending on an unlaborious
'intuition' to get you through the examinations. But unless you apply yourself in a more scholarly manner, I
shall see to it that you don't pass this course."
Professor D. C. Ghoshal of Serampore College was addressing me sternly. If I failed to pass his final
written classroom test, I would be ineligible to take the conclusive examinations. These are formulated by
the faculty of Calcutta University, which numbers Serampore College among its affiliated branches. A student
in Indian universities who is unsuccessful in one subject in the A.B. finals must be examined anew in
all his subjects the following year.
My instructors at Serampore College usually treated me with kindness, not untinged by an amused tolerance.
"Mukunda is a bit over-drunk with religion." Thus summing me up, they tactfully spared me the embarrassment
of answering classroom questions; they trusted the final written tests to eliminate me from the list of A.B.
candidates. The judgment passed by my fellow students was expressed in their nickname for me"Mad Monk."
I took an ingenious step to nullify Professor Ghoshal's threat to me of failure in philosophy. When the
results of the final tests were about to be publicly announced, I asked a classmate to accompany me to the
"Come along; I want a witness," I told my companion. "I shall be very much disappointed if I have not
succeeded in outwitting the instructor."
Professor Ghoshal shook his head after I had inquired what rating he had given my paper.
"You are not among those who have passed," he said in triumph. He hunted through a large pile on his desk.
"Your paper isn't here at all; you have failed, in any case, through non-appearance at the examination."
I chuckled. "Sir, I was there. May I look through the stack myself?"
The professor, nonplused, gave his permission; I quickly found my paper, where I had
carefully omitted any identification mark except my roll call number. Unwarned by the "red flag" of my name,
the instructor had given a high rating to my answers even though they were unembellished by textbook
For the tests in my other subjects, I received some coaching, particularly from my dear friend and cousin,
Prabhas Chandra Ghose,2 son of my Uncle Sarada. I staggered painfully but
successfullywith the lowest possible passing marksthrough all my final tests.
Now, after four years of college, I was eligible to sit for the A.B. examinations. Nevertheless, I hardly
expected to avail myself of the privilege. The Serampore College finals were child's play compared to the
stiff ones which would be set by Calcutta University for the A.B. degree. My almost daily visits to Sri
Yukteswar had left me little time to enter the college halls. There it was my presence rather than my absence
that brought forth ejaculations of amazement from my classmates!
My customary routine was to set out on my bicycle about nine-thirty in the morning. In one hand I would
carry an offering for my gurua few flowers from the garden of my Panthi boardinghouse. Greeting me
affably, Master would invite me to lunch. I invariably accepted with alacrity, glad to banish the thought of college for the day. After hours with Sri Yukteswar, listening to his incomparable flow of
wisdom, or helping with ashram duties, I would reluctantly depart around midnight for the Panthi.
Occasionally I stayed all night with my guru, so happily engrossed in his conversation that I scarcely
noticed when darkness changed into dawn.
One night about eleven o'clock, as I was putting on my shoes 3 in
preparation for the ride to the boardinghouse, Master questioned me gravely.
"When do your A.B. examinations start?"
"Five days hence, sir."
"I hope you are in readiness for them."
Transfixed with alarm, I held one shoe in the air. "Sir," I protested, "you know how my days have been
passed with you rather than with the professors. How can I enact a farce by appearing for those difficult
Sri Yukteswar's eyes were turned piercingly on mine. "You must appear." His tone was coldly peremptory.
"We should not give cause for your father and other relatives to criticize your preference for ashram life.
Just promise me that you will be present for the examinations; answer them the best way you can."
Uncontrollable tears were coursing down my face. I felt that Master's command was unreasonable, and that
his interest was, to say the least, belated.
"I will appear if you wish it," I said amidst sobs. "But no time remains for proper preparation." Under my
breath I muttered, "I will fill up the sheets with your teachings in answer to the questions!"
When I entered the hermitage the following day at my usual hour, I presented my bouquet with a certain
mournful solemnity. Sri Yukteswar laughed at my woebegone air.
"Mukunda, has the Lord ever failed you, at an examination or elsewhere?"
"No, sir," I responded warmly. Grateful memories came in a revivifying flood.
"Not laziness but burning zeal for God has prevented you from seeking college honors," my
guru said kindly. After a silence, he quoted, "'Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and
all these things shall be added unto you.'"4
For the thousandth time, I felt my burdens lifted in Master's presence. When we had finished our early
lunch, he suggested that I return to the Panthi.
"Does your friend, Romesh Chandra Dutt, still live in your boardinghouse?"
"Get in touch with him; the Lord will inspire him to help you with the examinations."
"Very well, sir; but Romesh is unusually busy. He is the honor man in our class, and carries a heavier
course than the others."
Master waved aside my objections. "Romesh will find time for you. Now go."
I bicycled back to the Panthi. The first person I met in the boardinghouse compound was the
scholarly Romesh. As though his days were quite free, he obligingly agreed to my diffident request.
"Of course; I am at your service." He spent several hours of that afternoon and of succeeding days in
coaching me in my various subjects.
"I believe many questions in English literature will be centered in the route of Childe Harold," he told
me. "We must get an atlas at once."
I hastened to the home of my Uncle Sarada and borrowed an atlas. Romesh marked the European map at the
places visited by Byron's romantic traveler.
A few classmates had gathered around to listen to the tutoring. "Romesh is advising you wrongly," one of
them commented to me at the end of a session. "Usually only fifty per cent of the questions are about the
books; the other half will involve the authors' lives."
When I sat for the examination in English literature the following day, my first glance at the questions
caused tears of gratitude to pour forth, wetting my paper. The classroom monitor came to my desk and made a
"My guru foretold that Romesh would help me," I explained. "Look; the very questions dictated to me by
Romesh are here on the examination sheet! Fortunately for me, there are very few questions this year on
English authors, whose lives are wrapped in deep mystery so far as I am concerned!"
My boardinghouse was in an uproar when I returned. The boys who had been ridiculing Romesh's method of
coaching looked at me in awe, almost deafening me with congratulations. During the week of the examinations,
I spent many hours with Romesh, who formulated questions that he thought were likely to be set by the
professors. Day by day, Romesh's questions appeared in almost the same form on the examination sheets.
The news was widely circulated in the college that something resembling a miracle was occurring, and that
success seemed probable for the absent-minded "Mad Monk." I made no attempt to hide the facts of the case.
The local professors were powerless to alter the questions, which had been arranged by Calcutta
Thinking over the examination in English literature, I realized one morning that I had made a serious
error. One section of the questions had been divided into two parts of A or B, and C or D. Instead of
answering one question from each part, I had carelessly answered both questions in Group I, and had failed to
consider anything in Group II. The best mark I could score in that paper would be 33, three less than the
passing mark of 36. I rushed to Master and poured out my troubles.
"Sir, I have made an unpardonable blunder. I don't deserve the divine blessings through Romesh; I am quite
"Cheer up, Mukunda." Sri Yukteswar's tones were light and unconcerned. He pointed to the blue vault of the
heavens. "It is more possible for the sun and moon to interchange their positions in space than it is for you
to fail in getting your degree!"
I left the hermitage in a more tranquil mood, though it seemed mathematically inconceivable that I could
pass. I looked once or twice apprehensively into the sky; the Lord of Day appeared to be securely anchored in
his customary orbit!
As I reached the Panthi, I overheard a classmate's remark: "I have just learned that this year, for
the first time, the required passing mark in English literature has been lowered."
I entered the boy's room with such speed that he looked up in alarm. I questioned him eagerly.
"Long-haired monk," he said laughingly, "why this sudden interest in scholastic matters? Why cry in the
eleventh hour? But it is true that the passing mark has just been lowered to 33 points."
A few joyous leaps took me into my own room, where I sank to my knees and praised the mathematical
perfections of my Divine Father.
Every day I thrilled with the consciousness of a spiritual presence that I clearly felt to be guiding me
through Romesh. A significant incident occurred in connection with the examination in Bengali. Romesh, who
had touched little on that subject, called me back one morning as I was leaving the boardinghouse on my way
to the examination hall.
"There is Romesh shouting for you," a classmate said to me impatiently. "Don't return; we shall be late at
Ignoring the advice, I ran back to the house.
"The Bengali examination is usually easily passed by our Bengali boys," Romesh told me. "But I have just
had a hunch that this year the professors have planned to massacre the students by asking questions from our
ancient literature." My friend then briefly outlined two stories from the life of Vidyasagar, a renowned
I thanked Romesh and quickly bicycled to the college hall. The examination sheet in Bengali proved to
contain two parts. The first instruction was: "Write two instances of the charities of Vidyasagar." As I
transferred to the paper the lore that I had so recently acquired, I whispered a few words of thanksgiving
that I had heeded Romesh's last-minute summons. Had I been ignorant of Vidyasagar's benefactions to mankind
(including ultimately myself), I could not have passed the Bengali examination. Failing in one subject, I
would have been forced to stand examination anew in all subjects the following year. Such a prospect was
The second instruction on the sheet read: "Write an essay in Bengali on the life of the man who has most
inspired you." Gentle reader, I need not inform you what man I chose for my theme. As I covered page after
page with praise of my guru, I smiled to realize that my muttered prediction was coming true: "I will fill up
the sheets with your teachings!"
I had not felt inclined to question Romesh about my course in philosophy. Trusting my long training under
Sri Yukteswar, I safely disregarded the textbook explanations. The highest mark given to any of my papers was
the one in philosophy. My score in all other subjects was just barely within the passing mark.
It is a pleasure to record that my unselfish friend Romesh received his own degree cum laude.
Father was wreathed in smiles at my graduation. "I hardly thought you would pass, Mukunda," he confessed.
"You spend so much time with your guru." Master had indeed correctly detected the unspoken criticism of my
For years I had been uncertain that I would ever see the day when an A.B. would follow my name. I seldom
use the title without reflecting that it was a divine gift, conferred on me for reasons somewhat obscure.
Occasionally I hear college men remark that very little of their crammed knowledge remained with them after
graduation. That admission consoles me a bit for my undoubted academic deficiencies.
On the day I received my degree from Calcutta University, I knelt at my guru's feet and thanked him for
all the blessings flowing from his life into mine.
"Get up, Mukunda," he said indulgently. "The Lord simply found it more convenient to make you a graduate
than to rearrange the sun and moon!"
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