Treating his master’s wish as his command, Swami Yogananda made immediate arrangements for his departure to India and soon set sail to India via Europe. The year was 1935 and accompanying him were Richard Wright (The brother of Daya Mata, the future president of Self Realization Fellowship) and an elderly lady Miss Ettie Bletsch.
The group arrived in London and soon departed for Germany to meet the Catholic mystic Therese Neumann of Konnersreuth. After some difficulty the group was able to locate her and as soon as Swami Yogananda met Therese they found an immediate connection. At the age of 20 she was paralyzed and blinded by a series of accidents. She then regained her sight and mobility miraculously by praying to St. Therese of Lisiuex, also known as “little flower”.
From 1923 onwards Therese did not eat anything. The only thing she had daily was one paper-thin coin-sized consecrated host. Swami Yogananda immediately understood that she got her energy from the sun via subtle channels. He mentions this in his Autobiography and also mentions that Therese was delighted to meet somebody who finally understood from where she got her energy. Later in his trip Swami Yogananda also met, in India, an elderly lady named Giri Bala. Just like Therese she had completely forgone food, proving that the case of Therese of Konnersreuth was not an isolated one.
Therese also had stigmata and Swami Yogananda witnessed her trance where the wounds of stigmata opened up and she started bleeding. Though she knew only the German language, she would mumble phrases in her trance that scholars identified as ancient Aramaic. She also spoke in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek in her trance. Swami Yogananda was able to enter into an yogic state and verify that she was indeed witnessing the scenes of the Passion of Christ.
Soon the group reached India and then went to Calcutta by train. The time then arrived for an epic meeting of Swami Yogananda and his guru the great Swami Sri Yukteswar. With tears in his eyes Swami Yogananda bowed before his guru and touched his feet. Soon the two men embraced. Both had tears in their eyes and were speechless with emotion for many minutes.
It was very clear that Sri Yukteswar was making arrangements for his final departure. He transferred all his property and ashrams to Swami Yogananda. One day he called Swami Yogananda into his presence and in a simple ceremony bestowed the title of “Paramahamsa” on him. From now on Swami Yogananda would be known as Paramahamsa Yogananda. This title is bestowed only to those who have reached the highest state of permanent bliss and communion with the Divine.
More important for Paramahamsa Yogananda was the short conversation that happened shortly before the ceremony.
“What is the question?” Asked Swami Sri Yukteswar.
“Guruji, I came to you as a high-school youth, now I am a grown man, even with a gray hair or two. Though you have showered me with silent affection from the first hour to this, do you realize that once only, on the day of first meeting, have you ever said, “I love you”?” Yogananda told his Guru, anxious to hear from his Guru’s mouth a direct affirmation of his love for him.
Swami Yukteswar was a stern disciplinarian, not easily given to emotional talk. He lowered his gaze and said, “Yogananda, must I bring out into the cold realms of speech the warm sentiments best guarded by the wordless heart?”
He then continued, “During my married life I often yearned for a son, to train in the yogic path. But when you came in my life, I was content; in you I have found my son.” Two clear teardrops stood in Sri Yukteswar’s eyes. He then said the words Yogananda was aching to hear, “Yogananda, I love you, always.”
This touching exchange recorded in Paramahamsa Yogananda’s Autobiography shows that the power of love does not leave even advanced sages untouched.
In spite of all clear signs that Sri Yukteswar was providing, Paramahamsa Yogananda could not bring himself to accept that these were the final few days on earth for his guru. He proceeded on to a fruitless journey to Allahabad to witness the kumbha mela a gathering of millions on the bank of Ganges. On his return he learnt that his guru was making final preparations to depart from his body, and that he should proceed immediately to Puri where his guru was. Even then he hesitated as he knew in his heart that if he would be beside his guru, that out of his infinite devotion and love for his guru, he would hinder rather than help him in his final task. He delayed his journey to his guru by a day, and that night as he sat in the train speeding towards Puri, he realized that his guru had just passed away by voluntarily giving up his life using a special Yogic technique.
On reaching his guru’s ashram he proceeded to the room where his master’s body was placed in a sitting lotus posture. He could not believe that the form of guru in front of him did not contain any life. His skin was still smooth and soft; and his face had an expression of quiet tranquility. “The Lion of Bengal is gone!” he remarked. He then knew that his task here in India was done. There was now nothing further remaining to be done in India except taking care of a few administrative and legal tasks. In a few months he would return back to the US never again to set foot on the land of his birth. The story continues: Extraordinary End