extract from “And the Truth Shall Make You Free: An Interview With Mukti Mata,” by Margaret Wolff, Self-Realization magazine, Spring 1999
MW: “You were with Paramahansa Yogananda from 1945 until his passing in 1952. How did you first meet him?”
“I would search the faces of strangers looking for those eyes.”
The story actually begins several years before I met Paramahansaji. Throughout my childhood I often wondered if there was someone on this earth who could tell me about the purpose of life and what we were all here to learn. As I grew older I would periodically—about every two or three years—draw a pair of brown eyes in which I would try to create an expression of eternity. There were times when my concentration on those eyes became so one-pointed that they took on a dimension all their own, as if they were a route into heaven. Each time this occurred I would proceed no further with the drawing, but for some time afterward I would search the faces of strangers looking for those eyes. Never finding what I was looking for, the experience brought on by the drawing would eventually fade from my mind, temporarily forgotten.
At the beginning of World War II, I began a job as a technical illustrator. Each day on my way to work I passed a church. Inscribed on the cornerstone were the words “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” One day I had walked a block past the church when my mind was drawn to that inscription, as if by a strong, unseen magnetism. I stopped and pondered those words for quite some time and realized then that very few of us actually knew what Truth was. Later, I determined that, just maybe, Truth and God might be one and the same.
“Lord, if You exist, prove it to me!”
My interest in Truth—and my need for it—increased. One day I called out, “Lord, if You exist, prove it to me!” Instantly I became aware of a powerful Presence—unseen yet filled with joy and humor. “Don’t laugh!” I said, “I mean business!” As if in response, the Presence immediately sobered up a little. Realizing I had just challenged the Lord Himself, I mentally placed the entire incident in an imaginary cupboard, locked the door, and resolved to attend to only those parts of my life that were tangible, and thus explainable.
Paramahansa Yogananda at Hollywood Temple, 1942
Two weeks later a friend came by and invited me to go to Hollywood. I thought, “Hollywood! What are we going to do there?”…To my surprise, we went to the service at the Self-Realization Fellowship Hollywood Temple. As we entered the chapel I felt a deep peace permeating the building and I said to my companion, “This is the first real church I’ve ever been in!” Then the curtains behind the podium parted, and I saw Paramahansa Yogananda for the first time. It was obvious he was no ordinary man. I whispered to my friend, “This man has eyes like Jesus.” Though I had never had the blessing of seeing Jesus, I knew that somehow I had spoken the truth. I realized then that, in Paramahansa Yogananda, I had found the eyes I had tried to draw years before.
“His gaze was ancient, timeless.”
I was awed at the immensity of his consciousness and intuitively knew it was not limited in the same way ordinary human consciousness is limited. I began to envision him in a cathedral, something suited to his spiritual stature, but nothing I could imagine seemed large enough. I remember thinking, “Only the sky can be the roof of his cathedral.” When I left the temple that day my mind and my soul were locked on his message about God.
I returned to the temple each Sunday thereafter. Five weeks from the day I first heard him speak—on Sunday, December 23, 1945—I arrived at the temple an hour before the lecture. Though I didn’t know how to meditate, I planned to just sit quietly in the chapel and absorb the atmosphere. As I neared the entrance to the building, I had the impulse to turn around. There stood the Master.
His gaze was ancient, timeless. He stood there silently looking at me for several moments. Years later, I thought perhaps my feelings that day were something akin to what he must have felt upon seeing his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswarji, for the first time. Had he beckoned me, I would have approached him, but I felt it would be sacrilegious to go to him unless he called to me. So I walked on. As I was about to go inside, I couldn’t resist the impulse to look back. When I did, he was gone.
“I felt as if a large door within my consciousness started to open.”
Paramahansaji ended the service that day with two announcements: the first was that if you were free of family obligations, you could come to Mt. Washington—headquarters for the worldwide work of the Self-Realization Fellowship—and serve God; the second was that there would be an eight-hour Christmas meditation the following day at Mt. Washington. Though I had no knowledge that Paramahansaji was a guru with disciples, after the first announcement I felt as if a large door within my consciousness started to open. And, although I wanted to be there, I thought, after hearing the second announcement, that not knowing how to meditate would disqualify me from attending the Christmas meditation.
About nine o’clock the next morning I was overwhelmed with the desire to be at that meditation. I had no idea where Mt. Washington was or how I would get there, and had less than an hour to figure this all out. The thought came, “Call your brother.” I explained my situation; he came right over and I arrived at Mt. Washington with three minutes to spare. Paramahansaji began the meditation with an opening prayer, then gave some general guidelines on how to meditate. I followed his instruction and, by his grace and the grace of God, I got along quite well.
“…hundreds of thousands of unseen veils were pulled back, one after another”
When the meditation ended, he stood at the door of the chapel and blessed each one of us as we left. Standing there, waiting to come before him, I felt like a small child who had lost both of her earthly parents and had now found her real parents in one form. I also felt the tremendous awe and respect you naturally feel for one as great as he. After he blessed me, he said, “I want to see you.” So I waited by the fireplace in the reception hall, and in a short while Daya Mata appeared and I followed her back into the chapel. Paramahansaji was seated on an old-fashioned bench, his eyes alive with eternity. Coming into his presence…it was as if hundreds of thousands of unseen veils were pulled back, one after another. Then a Voice of Silence said to me, “You have always wondered if anyone exists who is beyond human limitation, beyond greed, selfishness, anger”—all those lovely things that beset us all—and, as I said earlier, I had wondered about this. Then the Voice said, “I am Yogananda.” The Voice then qualified that statement by saying, “Yogananda has become Me.”
I was aware that Paramahansaji knew not only what I had just experienced, but also that I knew he knew my thoughts. The first thing he said to me was, “You have come.” “Yes, sir,” I said, and though I didn’t know what I had come to, I knew I had answered truthfully. We talked about what I was doing and when I might be able to move to Mt. Washington. He invited me to the Christmas banquet the following day and then to his birthday party on January 5. I went to live at Mt. Washington four weeks later.