“Where are you going?” Sri Yukteswar’s face was unsmiling.
“Sir, I (Paramhansa Yogananda) hear that you and Kanai will not take the trip we have been planning. I am seeking Behari. You will recall that last year he was so anxious to see Kashmir that he even offered to serve without pay.”
“I remember. Nevertheless, I don’t think Behari will be willing to go.”
I was exasperated. “He is just eagerly waiting for this opportunity!”
My guru silently resumed his walk; I soon reached the schoolmaster’s house. Behari, in the courtyard, greeted me with a friendly warmth that abruptly vanished as soon as I mentioned Kashmir. With a murmured word of apology, the servant left me and entered his employer’s house. I waited half an hour, nervously assuring myself that Behari’s delay was being caused by preparations for his trip. Finally I knocked at the front door.
“Behari left by the back stairs about thirty minutes ago,” a man informed me. A slight smile hovered about his lips.
I departed sadly, wondering whether my invitation had been too coercive or whether Master’s unseen influence were at work. Passing the Christian church, again I saw my guru walking slowly toward me. Without waiting to hear my report, he exclaimed:
“So Behari would not go! Now, what are your plans?”
I felt like a recalcitrant child who is determined to defy his masterful father. “Sir, I am going to ask my uncle to lend me his servant, Lal Dhari.”
“See your uncle if you want to,” Sri Yukteswar replied with a chuckle. “But I hardly think you will enjoy the visit.”
Apprehensive but rebellious, I left my guru and entered Serampore Courthouse. My paternal uncle, Sarada Ghosh, a government attorney, welcomed me affectionately.
“I am leaving today with some friends for Kashmir,” I told him. “For years I have been looking forward to this Himalayan trip.”
“I am happy for you, Mukunda. Is there anything I can do to make your journey more comfortable?”
These kind words gave me a lift of encouragement. “Dear uncle,” I said, “could you possibly spare me your servant, Lal Dhari?”
My simple request had the effect of an earthquake. Uncle jumped so violently that his chair overturned, the papers on the desk flew in every direction, and his pipe, a long, coconut-stemmed hubble-bubble, fell to the floor with a great clatter.
“You selfish young man,” he shouted, quivering with wrath, “what a preposterous idea! Who will look after me, if you take my servant on one of your pleasure jaunts?”
I concealed my surprise, reflecting that my amiable uncle’s sudden change of front was only one more enigma in a day fully devoted to incomprehensibility. My retreat from the courthouse office was more alacritous than dignified.
I returned to the hermitage, where my friends were expectantly gathered. Conviction was growing on me that some sufficient if exceedingly recondite motive was behind Master’s attitude. Remorse seized me that I had been trying to thwart my guru’s will.
“Mukunda, wouldn’t you like to stay awhile longer with me?” Sri Yukteswar inquired. “Rajendra and the others can go ahead now, and wait for you at Calcutta. There will be plenty of time to catch the last evening train leaving Calcutta for Kashmir.”
“Sir, I don’t care to go without you,” I said mournfully.
My friends paid not the slightest attention to my remark. They summoned a hackney carriage and departed with all the luggage. Kanai and I sat quietly at our guru’s feet. After a half hour of complete silence, Master rose and walked toward the second-floor dining patio.
“Kanai, please serve Mukunda’s food. His train leaves soon.”
Getting up from my blanket seat, I staggered suddenly with nausea and a ghastly churning sensation in my stomach. The stabbing pain was so intense that I felt I had been abruptly hurled into some violent hell. Groping blindly toward my guru, I collapsed before him, attacked by all symptoms of the dread Asiatic cholera. Sri Yukteswar and Kanai carried me to the sitting room.
Racked with agony, I cried, “Master, I surrender my life to you;” for I believed it was indeed fast ebbing from the shores of my body.
Sri Yukteswar put my head on his lap, stroking my forehead with angelic tenderness.
“You see now what would have happened if you were at the station with your friends,” he said. “I had to look after you in this strange way, because you chose to doubt my judgment about taking the trip at this particular time.”
I understood at last. Inasmuch as great masters seldom see fit to display their powers openly, a casual observer of the day’s events would have imagined that their sequence was quite natural. My guru’s intervention had been too subtle to be suspected. He had worked his will through Behari and my Uncle Sarada and Rajendra and the others in such an inconspicuous manner that probably everyone but myself thought the situations had been logically normal.