[Swami Shyamanandaji (first head of YSS under Daya Mataji) tells of his witnessing a great spiritual experience of Daya Ma that convinced him to take Paramahansaji and YSS as his Guru and spiritual path.]
Daya Mataji ~~ “I knew it would be impossible to accomplish anything worthwhile for Guru’s institution in India without the support of some staunch, capable devotee who was a native of that country. … Swami Shyamananda has been the very backbone of our work throughout India. And wherever he has traveled in India and abroad in serving the work, he has commanded not only the respect but also the deep love of the people. … Shyamananda was much inspired by the life of our saintly second president, Rajarsi Janakananda. Rajarsi became his ideal, and I would say that in his own way he was Rajarsi’s Indian counterpart.“
“Daya Mataji’s form disappears into light”
…Swami Shyamananda Giri also accompanied Sri Daya Mata’s party to the Yogoda Satsanga ashram of Swami Yukteswar in Puri. If any doubts remained in Shyamananda’s mind, on this trip they were to be dispelled forever.
Jagannath Temple at Puri is considered one of the holiest in India. It held a special reverential place in Shyamananda’s heart. He had made pilgrimages there many times, and his meditations in its sacred environs had always been blessed deeply. By special concession granted by His Holiness Sri Shankaracharya Bharati Krishna Tirtha, Sri Daya Mata was the first American ever to be allowed to enter Jagannath Temple. Shyamananda was in her party that day.**
As she meditated before the altar–on which are images of Krishna in the aspect of Jagannath, Lord of the Universe…she went deep into an ecstatic state, becoming totally oblivious of all around her. Shyamananda related his own experience at that time:
“I stood at a distance on one side, against the wall, watching Ma in meditation. Suddenly her form began to disappear into light. I looked at Jagannath’s image at the altar, then back to Ma, and again at the altar; several times I did this, shaking my head to be sure I was not imagining. I knew they were One! This experience continued for a long time, then gradually Ma’s form began to reappear. After a while she got up and left the temple. As she did so I noticed that she dropped her ochre handkerchief. I wondered why those who were with her did not pick it up. I was extremely reluctant to touch it. In that sacred place, witnessing what I had just witnessed, that handkerchief was a symbol. To pick it up was to commit myself before the Lord, as if picking up her banner. I had never thus committed myself to anyone or any organization. Yet I couldn’t leave it lying there. I looked frantically at the altar and prayed, “Lord, what are you doing? What are you asking?’ Finally I said, ‘What is to be, let it be, O Lord.’ And I picked up the handkerchief and carried it outside to Ma.”
Sri Daya Mata had been only dimly aware of dropping the handkerchief, and of sensing his reluctance to pick it up. She also understood it was a symbol. When he handed it to her, it was a confirmation of what she already knew: God had chosen him to help rebuild her guru’s work in India.
A similar symbolic act of “picking up Guru’s banner”
A similar symbolic act of “picking up Guru’s banner” had taken place years earlier in Shyamananda’s life. During Durga Puja in 1930, the young Binayendra and a few of his close friends …had rented a bungalow in Ranchi for a month… Unbeknown to the vacationers, this bungalow…had once been used by Paramahansa Yogananda’s Yogoda school… “When we arrived there,” said Shyamananda, “I noticed a Yogoda signboard lying on the ground. It was covered with dirt, and the white ants were eating it. I could never bear to see anything being spoiled, even if it did not belong to me. I also thought, ‘This must have been some spiritual institution; it is not right that this signboard lies on the ground for people to walk on.'” He picked up the sign, brushed off the dirt and ants, and propped it against a tree: his first thoughtful, though unknowing, act of service to his guru.
While Shyamananda was in Puri with Sri Daya Mata, he asked her to give him diksha. The ceremony took place in the memorial temple erected by Paramahansaji over the burial place of Swami Sri Yukteswarji on the Yogoda ashram grounds. Shyamananda was the first person in India to take diksha from Sri Daya Mata. It was the beginning: a spark of life had returned to Paramahansa Yogananda’s work.
extract from ‘In Memoriam: Swami Shyamananda Giri’ from the SRF Magazine – Fall 1971.