We pushed our way through the colorful medley of housewives, guides, priests, simply-clad widows, dignified Brahmins, and the ubiquitous holy bulls. Passing an inconspicuous lane, I turned my head and surveyed the narrow length.
A Christlike man in the ocher robes of a swami stood motionless at the end of the road. Instantly and anciently familiar he seemed; my gaze fed hungrily for a trice. Then doubt assailed me.
“You are confusing this wandering monk with someone known to you,” I thought. “Dreamer, walk on.”
After ten minutes, I felt heavy numbness in my feet. As though turned to stone, they were unable to carry me farther. Laboriously I turned around; my feet regained normalcy. I faced the opposite direction; again the curious weight oppressed me.
“The saint is magnetically drawing me to him!” With this thought, I heaped my parcels into the arms of Habu. He had been observing my erratic footwork with amazement, and now burst into laughter.
“What ails you? Are you crazy?”
My tumultuous emotion prevented any retort; I sped silently away.
Retracing my steps as though wing-shod, I reached the narrow lane. My quick glance revealed the quiet figure, steadily gazing in my direction. A few eager steps and I was at his feet.
“Gurudeva!” The divine face was none other than he of my thousand visions. These halcyon eyes, in leonine head with pointed beard and flowing locks, had oft peered through gloom of my nocturnal reveries, holding a promise I had not fully understood.
“O my own, you have come to me!” My guru uttered the words again and again in Bengali, his voice tremulous with joy. “How many years I have waited for you!”
We entered a oneness of silence; words seemed the rankest superfluities. Eloquence flowed in soundless chant from heart of master to disciple. With an antenna of irrefragable insight I sensed that my guru knew God, and would lead me to Him.
The obscuration of this life disappeared in a fragile dawn of prenatal memories. Dramatic time! Past, present, and future are its cycling scenes. This was not the first sun to find me at these holy feet!
My hand in his, my guru led me to his temporary residence in the Rana Mahal section of the city. His athletic figure moved with firm tread. Tall, erect, about fifty-five at this time, he was active and vigorous as a young man. His dark eyes were large, beautiful with plumbless wisdom. Slightly curly hair softened a face of striking power. Strength mingled subtly with gentleness.
As we made our way to the stone balcony of a house overlooking the Ganges, he said affectionately:
“I will give you my hermitages and all I possess.”
“Sir, I come for wisdom and God-contact. Those are your treasure-troves I am after!”
The swift Indian twilight had dropped its half-curtain before my master spoke again. His eyes held unfathomable tenderness.
“I give you my unconditional love.”
Precious words! A quarter-century elapsed before I had another auricular proof of his love. His lips were strange to ardor; silence became his oceanic heart.
“Will you give me the same unconditional love?” He gazed at me with childlike trust.
“I will love you eternally, Gurudeva!”
“Ordinary love is selfish, darkly rooted in desires and satisfactions. Divine love is without condition, without boundary, without change. The flux of the human heart is gone forever at the transfixing touch of pure love.”
He added humbly, “If ever you find me falling from a state of God-realization, please promise to put my head on your lap and help to bring me back to the Cosmic Beloved we both worship.”
He rose then in the gathering darkness and guided me to an inner room. As we ate mangoes and almond sweetmeats, he unobtrusively wove into his conversation an intimate knowledge of my nature. I was awe-struck at the grandeur of his wisdom, exquisitely blended with an innate humility.
“Do not grieve for your amulet. It has served its purpose.” Like a divine mirror, my guru apparently had caught a reflection of my whole life.
“The living reality of your presence, Master, is joy beyond any symbol.”
“It is time for a change, inasmuch as you are unhappily situated in the hermitage.”
I had made no references to my life; they now seemed superfluous! By his natural, unemphatic manner, I understood that he wished no astonished ejaculations at his clairvoyance.
“You should go back to Calcutta. Why exclude relatives from your love of humanity?”
His suggestion dismayed me. My family was predicting my return, though I had been unresponsive to many pleas by letter.
“Let the young bird fly in the metaphysical skies,” Ananta had remarked. “His wings will tire in the heavy atmosphere. We shall yet see him swoop toward home, fold his pinions, and humbly rest in our family nest.” This discouraging simile fresh in my mind, I was determined to do no “swooping” in the direction of Calcutta.
“Sir, I am not returning home. But I will follow you anywhere. Please give me your address, and your name.”
“Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri. My chief hermitage is in Serampore, on Rai Ghat Lane. I am visiting my mother here for only a few days.”
I wondered at God’s intricate play with His devotees. Serampore is but twelve miles from Calcutta, yet in those regions I had never caught a glimpse of my guru. We had had to travel for our meeting to the ancient city of Kasi (Benares), hallowed by memories of Lahiri Mahasaya. Here too the feet of Buddha, Shankaracharya and other Yogi-Christs had blessed the soil.
“You will come to me in four weeks.” For the first time, Sri Yukteswar’s voice was stern. “Now I have told my eternal affection, and have shown my happiness at finding you — that is why you disregard my request. The next time we meet, you will have to reawaken my interest: I won’t accept you as a disciple easily. There must be complete surrender by obedience to my strict training.”
I remained obstinately silent. My guru easily penetrated my difficulty.
“Do you think your relatives will laugh at you?”
“I will not return.”
“You will return in thirty days.”
“Never.” Bowing reverently at his feet, I departed without lightening the controversial tension. As I made my way in the midnight darkness, I wondered why the miraculous meeting had ended on an inharmonious note. The dual scales of maya, that balance every joy with a grief! My young heart was not yet malleable to the transforming fingers of my guru.