Swami Sri Yukteswar
Swami Sri Yukteswar was born on May 10, 1855, at Serampore in Bengal, India.
Sri Yukteswar about his life: "My family name was Priya Nath Karar. I was born here in Serampore, where Father was a wealthy businessman. He left me this ancestral mansion, now my hermitage. My formal schooling was little, I found it slow and shallow. In early manhood, I undertook the responsibilities of a householder, and have one daughter, now married. My middle life was blessed with the guidance of Lahiri Mahasaya. After my wife died, I joined the Swami Order and received the new name of Sri Yukteswar Giri. Such are my simple annals."
I entered the ashram room where Master's body, unimaginably lifelike, was sitting in the lotus posture—a picture of health and loveliness. A short time before his passing, my guru had been slightly ill with fever, but before the day of his ascension into the Infinite, his body had become completely well. No matter how often I looked at his dear form I could not realize that its life had departed. His skin was smooth and soft; in his face was a beatific expression of tranquillity. He had consciously relinquished his body at the hour of mystic summoning.
"The Lion of Bengal is gone!" I cried in a daze.
I conducted the solemn rites on March 10th. Sri Yukteswar was buried12 with the ancient rituals of the swamis in the garden of his Puri ashram. His disciples later arrived from far and near to honor their guru at a vernal equinox memorial service. The Amrita Bazar Patrika, leading newspaper of Calcutta, carried his picture and the following report:
The death Bhandara ceremony for Srimat Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri Maharaj, aged 81, took place at Puri on March 21. Many disciples came down to Puri for the rites.
One of the greatest expounders of the Bhagavad Gita, Swami Maharaj was a great disciple of Yogiraj Sri Shyama Charan Lahiri Mahasaya of Benares. Swami Maharaj was the founder of several Yogoda Sat-Sanga (Self-Realization Fellowship) centers in India, and was the great inspiration behind the yoga movement which was carried to the West by Swami Yogananda, his principal disciple. It was Sri Yukteswarji's prophetic powers and deep realization that inspired Swami Yogananda to cross the oceans and spread in America the message of the masters of India.
His interpretations of the Bhagavad Gita and other scriptures testify to the depth of Sri Yukteswarji's command of the philosophy, both Eastern and Western, and remain as an eye-opener for the unity between Orient and Occident. As he believed in the unity of all religious faiths, Sri Yukteswar Maharaj established Sadhu Sabha (Society of Saints) with the cooperation of leaders of various sects and faiths, for the inculcation of a scientific spirit in religion. At the time of his demise he nominated Swami Yogananda his successor as the president of Sadhu Sabha.
India is really poorer today by the passing of such a great man. May all fortunate enough to have come near him inculcate in themselves the true spirit of India's culture and sadhana which was personified in him.
Swami Sri Yukteswar was a disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya and attained the spiritual stature of a Jnanavatar, or incarnation of wisdom. It was to Sri Yukteswar that Paramahansa Yogananda came as a youth. Under Sri Yukteswar's spiritual training and discipline, Sri Yogananda was prepared to begin his worldwide mission in the West. Sri Yukteswar named Paramahansa Yogananda sole heir to his spiritual mantle and ashram properties.
Of his guru Paramahansa Yogananda said: "His every utterance was chiselled by wisdom. . . . The essence of truth, all-pervasive with even a physiological aspect, came from him like a fragrant exudation of the soul.. . . His feet were firm on the earth, his head in the haven of heaven." "Sri Yukteswar fitted the Vedic definition of a man of God: 'Softer than the flower, where kindness is concerned; stronger than the thunder, where principles are at stake.'"
W. Y. Evans-Wentz, M.A., D.Litt., D.Sc., noted scholar and author, wrote these words in a Preface to Autobiography of a Yogi: "It has been my privilege to meet ... Sri Yukteswar Giri... He questioned me concerning the distant activities, particularly those in California, of his chief disciple, Paramahansa Yogananda, whom he dearly loved, and whom he had sent, in 1920, as his emissary to the West. ... I am glad, indeed, to be able to record this testimony to the high character and holiness of Sri Yukteswar. Content to remain afar from the multitude, he gave himself unreservedly and in tranquility to that ideal which Paramahansa Yogananda, his disciple, has now described for the ages."
Sitting on my bed in the Bombay hotel at three o'clock in the afternoon of June 19, 1936—one week after the vision of Krishna—I was roused from my meditation by a beatific light. Before my open and astonished eyes, the whole room was transformed into a strange world, the sunlight transmuted into supernal splendor.
Waves of rapture engulfed me as I beheld the flesh and blood form of Sri Yukteswar!
"My son!" Master spoke tenderly, on his face an angel-bewitching smile.
For the first time in my life I did not kneel at his feet in greeting but instantly advanced to gather him hungrily in my arms. Moment of moments! The anguish of past months was toll I counted weightless against the torrential bliss now descending.
"Master mine, beloved of my heart, why did you leave me?" I was incoherent in an excess of joy. "Why did you let me go to the Kumbha Mela? How bitterly have I blamed myself for leaving you!"
"I did not want to interfere with your happy anticipation of seeing the pilgrimage spot where first I met Babaji. I left you only for a little while; am I not with you again?"
"But is it you, Master, the same Lion of God? Are you wearing a body like the one I buried beneath the cruel Puri sands?"
"Yes, my child, I am the same. This is a flesh and blood body. Though I see it as ethereal, to your sight it is physical. From the cosmic atoms I created an entirely new body, exactly like that cosmic-dream physical body which you laid beneath the dream-sands at Puri in your dream-world. I am in truth resurrected—not on earth but on an astral planet. Its inhabitants are better able than earthly humanity to meet my lofty standards. There you and your exalted loved ones shall someday come to be with me."
"Deathless guru, tell me more!"
Master gave a quick, mirthful chuckle. "Please, dear one," he said, "won't you relax your hold a little?"
"Only a little!" I had been embracing him with an octopus grip. I could detect the same faint, fragrant, natural odor which had been characteristic of his body before. The thrilling touch of his divine flesh still persists around the inner sides of my arms and in my palms whenever I recall those glorious hours.
"As prophets are sent on earth to help men work out their physical karma, so I have been directed by God to serve on an astral planet as a savior," Sri Yukteswar explained. "It is called Hiranyaloka or 'Illumined Astral Planet.' There I am aiding advanced beings to rid themselves of astral karma and thus attain liberation from astral rebirths. The dwellers on Hiranyaloka are highly developed spiritually; all of them had acquired, in their last earth-incarnation, the meditation-given power of consciously leaving their physical bodies at death. No one can enter Hiranyaloka unless he has passed on earth beyond the state of sabikalpa samadhi into the higher state of nirbikalpa samadhi. 1
"The Hiranyaloka inhabitants have already passed through the ordinary astral spheres, where nearly all beings from earth must go at death; there they worked out many seeds of their past actions in the astral worlds. None but advanced beings can perform such redemptive work effectually in the astral worlds. Then, in order to free their souls more fully from the cocoon of karmic traces lodged in their astral bodies, these higher beings were drawn by cosmic law to be reborn with new astral bodies on Hiranyaloka, the astral sun or heaven, where I have resurrected to help them. There are also highly advanced beings on Hiranyaloka who have come from the superior, subtler, causal world."
My mind was now in such perfect attunement with my guru's that he was conveying his word-pictures to me partly by speech and partly by thought-transference. I was thus quickly receiving his idea-tabloids.
"You have read in the scriptures," Master went on, "that God encased the human soul successively in three bodies—the idea, or causal, body; the subtle astral body, seat of man's mental and emotional natures; and the gross physical body. On earth a man is equipped with his physical senses. An astral being works with his consciousness and feelings and a body made of lifetrons.2 A causal-bodied being remains in the blissful realm of ideas. My work is with those astral beings who are preparing to enter the causal world."
"Adorable Master, please tell me more about the astral cosmos." Though I had slightly relaxed my embrace at Sri Yukteswar's request, my arms were still around him. Treasure beyond all treasures, my guru who had laughed at death to reach me!
"There are many astral planets, teeming with astral beings," Master began. "The inhabitants use astral planes, or masses of light, to travel from one planet to another, faster than electricity and radioactive energies.
"The astral universe, made of various subtle vibrations of light and color, is hundreds of times larger than the material cosmos. The entire physical creation hangs like a little solid basket under the huge luminous balloon of the astral sphere. Just as many physical suns and stars roam in space, so there are also countless astral solar and stellar systems. Their planets have astral suns and moons, more beautiful than the physical ones. The astral luminaries resemble the aurora borealis—the sunny astral aurora being more dazzling than the mild-rayed moon-aurora. The astral day and night are longer than those of earth.
"The astral world is infinitely beautiful, clean, pure, and orderly. There are no dead planets or barren lands. The terrestrial blemishes—weeds, bacteria, insects, snakes—are absent. Unlike the variable climates and seasons of the earth, the astral planets maintain the even temperature of an eternal spring, with occasional luminous white snow and rain of many-colored lights. Astral planets abound in opal lakes and bright seas and rainbow rivers.
"The ordinary astral universe—not the subtler astral heaven of Hiranyaloka—is peopled with millions of astral beings who have come, more or less recently, from the earth, and also with myriads of fairies, mermaids, fishes, animals, goblins, gnomes, demigods and spirits, all residing on different astral planets in accordance with karmic qualifications. Various spheric mansions or vibratory regions are provided for good and evil spirits. Good ones can travel freely, but the evil spirits are confined to limited zones. In the same way that human beings live on the surface of the earth, worms inside the soil, fish in water, and birds in air, so astral beings of different grades are assigned to suitable vibratory quarters.
"Among the fallen dark angels expelled from other worlds, friction and war take place with lifetronic bombs or mental mantric3 vibratory rays. These beings dwell in the gloom-drenched regions of the lower astral cosmos, working out their evil karma.
"In the vast realms above the dark astral prison, all is shining and beautiful. The astral cosmos is more naturally attuned than the earth to the divine will and plan of perfection. Every astral object is manifested primarily by the will of God, and partially by the will-call of astral beings. They possess the power of modifying or enhancing the grace and form of anything already created by the Lord. He has given His astral children the freedom and privilege of changing or improving at will the astral cosmos. On earth a solid must be transformed into liquid or other form through natural or chemical processes, but astral solids are changed into astral liquids, gases, or energy solely and instantly by the will of the inhabitants.
"The earth is dark with warfare and murder in the sea, land, and air," my guru continued, "but the astral realms know a happy harmony and equality. Astral beings dematerialize or materialize their forms at will. Flowers or fish or animals can metamorphose themselves, for a time, into astral men. All astral beings are free to assume any form, and can easily commune together. No fixed, definite, natural law hems them round—any astral tree, for example, can be successfully asked to produce an astral mango or other desired fruit, flower, or indeed any other object. Certain karmic restrictions are present, but there are no distinctions in the astral world about desirability of various forms. Everything is vibrant with God's creative light.
"When a soul is out of the cocoon of the three bodies it escapes forever from the law of relativity and becomes the ineffable Ever-Existent. Behold the butterfly of Omnipresence, its wings etched with stars and moons and suns! The soul expanded into Spirit remains alone in the region of lightless light, darkless dark, thoughtless thought, intoxicated with its ecstasy of joy in God's dream of cosmic creation."
"A free soul!" I ejaculated in awe.
"When a soul finally gets out of the three jars of bodily delusions," Master continued, "it becomes one with the Infinite without any loss of individuality. Christ had won this final freedom even before he was born as Jesus. In three stages of his past, symbolized in his earth-life as the three days of his experience of death and resurrection, he had attained the power to fully arise in Spirit.
"The undeveloped man must undergo countless earthly and astral and causal incarnations in order to emerge from his three bodies. A master who achieves this final freedom may elect to return to earth as a prophet to bring other human beings back to God, or like myself he may choose to reside in the astral cosmos. There a savior assumes some of the burden of the inhabitants' karma11 and thus helps them to terminate their cycle of reincarnation in the astral cosmos and go on permanently to the causal spheres. Or a freed soul may enter the causal world to aid its beings to shorten their span in the causal body and thus attain the Absolute Freedom." (— from Autobiography of a Yogi)