Immediately the atmosphere became electric and the air sizzled with tension. The word spread quickly that Mukunda was taking on the bully. There was no backing down now as a crowd began to gather around the two. Soon the fight was on and though he was wildly cheered it soon became apparent that the fight was one sided and Mukunda was taking a terrible beating. To finish off the fight the bully hoisted Mukunda over his head and threw him to the ground. It appeared as if the crash on the ground broke Mukunda’s back and he writhed in pain and gasped for air. Everybody knew that he was finished and there was hushed silence. Mukunda knew that he was beaten but he also knew in his heart that this was not the outcome that was destined to come about.
He drew on his reserve of strength and attempted to get up. The bully saw this but could not believe his eyes and rushed towards Mukunda. He planned to once again pick Mukunda up in the air and throw him to the ground to finish off the fight once for an all. But somehow Mukunda locked the bully in a death grip as he bent down to pick him up. With all his might Mukunda pressed the bully’s neck with relentless pressure. Unable to free himself from this grip the bully began to bang Mukunda’s head against the ground. The impact was so ferocious that Mukunda almost passed out, but somehow he held on to his grip. Soon the bully began to lose strength and he grasped for air. “Promise me now that you will never again bully anybody and I will release you!” Mukunda said. The bully was reluctant and once again tried to push Mukunda’s head against the ground. He was not successful this time and as Mukunda increased the pressure he found that he would soon pass out. Finally out of desperation the bully assented and Mukunda released him immediately. A wild cheer arose in the crowd. Mukunda had won the fight!
As soon as the bully recovered he attempted to re-engage Mukunda in a fight but the crowd intervened, “If you try to fight Mukunda now, we will all get together and beat you!” Outnumbered, the bully fled the scene as he realized that the boys he formerly tormented were no longer afraid of him. He knew his bullying days were over.
After the congratulations were over and the crowd dispersed, Mukunda sat quietly. He felt no triumph. In fact he felt that he had let himself down. Though he had many wounds and his head throbbed with pain, what bothered him more was that he had allowed himself into a situation where his anger got the better of him. As he walked away from the scene he made himself a promise: He would never again allow anger and violence become part of his thoughts and actions.
That was a daunting promise to make and keep but Mukunda did keep his promise throughout his life even though there were many incidents in life where losing his calm would have been wholly justified. Mukunda was no ordinary kid, even at this young age he was spiritually advanced and had already displayed, in many incidents, his extraordinary spiritual intuition and awareness. Mukunda would go on to become the world famous yogi: Paramahamsa Yogananda. His book, “Autobiography of an Yogi” would go on to become an iconic bestseller that would inspire millions.
Mukunda’s story really begins before he was born. The date is around 1892. The scene has Mukunda’s father, Bhagabati Ghosh, as a boss and it also has his employee, Abinash, who is pleading with him to allow him to take a few days off. Bhagabati is reluctant to allow any more leave as Abinash had just returned from another vacation. Abinash wanted leave to meet his guru and Bhagabati is not impressed, “I cannot allow you any more time off, especially if you choose to run after these phony so-called holy men!” Abinash did not relent and the argument continued as both of them walked. The roadway they were walking along was lined with large trees whose branches were intertwined to form a natural canopy over them. As they passed the line of stately trees they came upon a large field that had waves of rippling grass that had turned auburn in the setting sun. Both men paused to take in the majestic scene.
Suddenly without any warning the form of Abinash’s guru, Lahri Mahasaya, appeared in front of Mukunda’s father. “Bhagabati, you are too harsh on your employee!” He said. Before Mukunda’s stunned father could respond the form of the guru disappeared! This convinced Mukunda’s father. Not only did he grant the requested leave but asked Abinash to take him to his guru.
Bhagabati decided to also take his wife along to meet this great yogi and sage, Lahri Mahasaya. The two of them along with Abinash proceeded to the city of Benaras where Lahri Mahasaya lived. It so happened that they were expecting their fourth child, Mukunda, when they went to meet Lahri Mahasaya. The great sage was extremely happy that Bhagabati bought his wife along. Looking directly into her eyes he said, “My daughter, through the grace of God your son will be a prophet. He will show mankind the way to God-realization. Through his life and teachings, many people will work off the delusions of this world and find salvation. Just as the engine of the train pulls the railcars behind it, in the same manner your son will draw souls from the ordinary into the divine spheres!”
Just as the great sage, Lahri Mahasaya, had predicted a boy was born. The date was January 5, 1893. He was given the name Mukunda.
From the get go Mukunda showed extraordinary devotion to all things spiritual. While other kids of his age were pestering their parents for money to buy them stuff, Mukunda was pestering his mother to make him an idol of the Divine Mother that he could install in his private altar. While other kids were spending their time and energy in academic studies and fun and games, Mukunda on the other hand wanted to spend all his time in the company of holy men.
This is illustrated via a simple incident. When Mukunda’s father was transferred to Lahore in 1902 Mukunda was only 9 years old. When they arrived in their new large home everyone ran about inspecting the different rooms and balconies. However Mukunda had no such interest. His sole interest was to find a suitable location for his altar where he could worship and meditate. He soon determined that a balcony in an upper floor would suit his purpose. Soon he had installed his idol of the Divine Mother and was quietly praying there.
Two years later there was another transfer and the family was on the move again. Mukunda’s eldest brother was about to get married and most of the family moved to Calcutta where the marriage was to be held. Meanwhile Mukunda and his father proceeded to Bareilly where he was transferred. One night Mukunda woke up in panic and began to cry. The sound of his crying woke his father and he asked Mukunda why he was upset. Mukunda told him that mother was dying and that they should immediately proceed to Calcutta if they wanted to see her before she passed away. Mukunda’s mom was in good health and there was no indication that she was even ill. Mukunda’s father dismissed the notion and ordered him back to sleep. The next morning a telegram arrived indicating that mother was seriously ill. Both father and son rushed to Calcutta but mother had already passed before they arrived. Never again would Mukunda’s father distrust his son’s intuition.
In spite of the prophecy, and even though Mukunda repeatedly showed from an early age that he was a spiritually advanced being, Mukunda’s path into deeper spirituality was anything but straightforward. It shows us, ordinary souls, that even spiritually advanced beings have to face their share of difficulties as they make spiritual progress and that we should not be daunted by the inherent problems in our own situation.
This is the first of a series of posts that will cover the life of Paramahamsa Yogananda. The next post in this series is: Finding The Guru.
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