Babaji, the deathless master with his many miracles, seems to stand out in Autobiography of a Yogi as the epitome of an inaccessible Himalayan master and miracle worker. But think of the example we’re given there of how he cares for his disciple. He watches over Lahiri between lifetimes, and for the first decades of his life, until the time finally comes to draw him back to his guru. And then Babaji carefully orchestrates all the job transfers and chance hiking trips until Lahiri is standing before him once more, remembering, and seeing how his master had so lovingly preserved his meditation cave, his bowl and blanket, for just that moment of his return.
Swami Sri Yukteswar’s stern visage in the photos we have of him reminds us of his strict training and his attitude that his tiger mat was kingdom enough for him, separate from a “vast world interested only in externals.” After looking at his picture that way, however, we would do well to reread Richard Wright’s description of him in the Autobiography, and revel in his “jovial and rollicking laugh which comes from deep in his chest, causing him to shake and quiver throughout his body—very cheerful and sincere.” And of all the gifts that Yogananda brought back to him on his return visit to India, do you remember which was his favorite? It was the umbrella, because Yukteswar knew his little chela had originally bought it for himself, but decided to give it to his guru instead, and that touched his heart.
And then we come to Paramhansa Yogananda, our own beloved gurudeva, who promised us that he would bring us to God, coming back again and again, “crossing a million crags of suffering, with bleeding feet... if need be, a trillion times,” as long as any one of us remains in need. That is a promise for which we are grateful to him every day of our lives. And yet Swami Kriyananda has also said that Master could be completely and utterly — apparently he could only use the word — cute. He was adorable, Swamiji says, absolutely charming, and able to relate to anyone and make them feel that they had a friend in him. That is the Master we can carry with us in our hearts, even as he does his work as “God’s boatman” behind the scenes.
The evening concluded with a rendition of “O Master” from all the assembled hearts and voices, shining on both the vast and the personal in our relationship with our gurus.