“America! Surely these people are Americans!” This was my thought as a panorama of Western faces passed before my inward view.*
Immersed in meditation, I was sitting behind some dusty boxes in the storeroom of the Ranchi school. ** A private spot was difficult to find during those busy years with the youngsters!
The vision continued; a vast multitude, gazing at me intently, swept actorlike across the stage of consciousness.
[*Many of those faces I have since seen in the West, and instantly recognized.]
[**In 1995, marking the seventy-fifth anniversary of Paramahansa Yogananda’s coming to America, a beautiful Smriti Mandir (commemorative temple) was dedicated on the site of the former storeroom in Ranchi where Paramahansaji’s vision occurred. (Publisher’s Note)]
The storeroom door opened; as usual, one of the young lads had discovered my hiding place.
“Come here, Bimal,” I cried gaily. “I have news for you: the Lord is calling me to America!”
“To America?” The boy echoed my words in a tone that implied I had said “to the moon.”
“Yes! I am going forth to discover America, like Columbus. He thought he had found India; surely there is a karmic link between those two lands!”…
Tears stood in my eyes as I cast a last look at the little boys and the sunny acres of Ranchi. A definite epoch in my life had now closed, I knew; henceforth I would dwell in far lands…
Yogananda (right of center bearded) with teachers and students at Ranchi, circa 1920
The following day I received an invitation to serve as the delegate from India to an International Congress of Religious Liberals in America. It was to convene that year in Boston…
My head in a whirl, I sought out Sri Yukteswar in Serampore. “Guruji, I have just been invited to address a religious congress in America. Shall I go?”
“All doors are open for you,” Master replied simply. “It is now or never.”…
As I went about my preparations to leave Master and my native land for the unknown shores of America, I experienced not a little trepidation. I had heard many stories about the “materialistic West” — a land very different from India, steeped in the centuried aura of saints.
“To dare the Western airs,” I thought, “an Oriental teacher should be hardy beyond the trials of any Himalayan cold!”
One early morning I began to pray, with an adamant determination to continue, even to die praying, until I heard the voice of God. I wanted His blessing and assurance that I would not lose myself in the fogs of modern utilitarianism. My heart was set to go to America, but even more strongly was it resolved to hear the solace of divine permission.
I prayed and prayed, muffling my sobs. No answer came. At noon I reached a zenith; my head was reeling under the pressure of my agonies. I felt that if I cried once more, increasing the depth of my inner passion, my brain would split.
At that moment there came a knock on the door of my Garpar Road home. Answering the summons, I beheld a young man in the scanty garb of a renunciant. He entered the house.
“He must be Babaji!” I thought, dazed, because the man before me had the features of a young Lahiri Mahasaya. He answered my thought. “Yes, I am Babaji.” He spoke melodiously in Hindi. “Our Heavenly Father has heard your prayer. He commands me to tell you: Follow the behests of your guru and go to America. Fear not; you shall be protected.”
After a vibrant pause, Babaji addressed me again. “You are the one I have chosen to spread the message of Kriya Yoga in the West. Long ago I met your guru Yukteswar at a Kumbha Mela; I told him then I would send you to him for training.”
I was speechless, choked with devotional awe at his presence, and deeply touched to hear from his own lips that he had guided me to Sri Yukteswar. I lay prostrate before the deathless guru. He graciously lifted me up. After telling me many things about my life, he gave me some personal instruction and uttered a few secret prophecies.
“Kriya Yoga, the scientific technique of God-realization,” he finally said with solemnity, “will ultimately spread in all lands, and aid in harmonizing the nations through man’s personal, transcendental perception of the Infinite Father.”
With a gaze of majestic power, the master electrified me with a glimpse of his cosmic consciousness.
Paramahansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi, “I Go to America” (Self-Realization Fellowship, Complete Edition)
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