On the evening of 15 August 1964, a brother-disciple, Joseph Heil, invited me to meditate at his house on the occasion of Sri Aurobindo’s birthday. Another disciple, Dr. Masha Karry, a skin specialist, was also present. She was all affection to us. We had a deep meditation and a long, serious talk, which lasted until 2:30 in the morning. As I was still unfamiliar with New York, Dr. Karry accompanied me to the 59th Street subway station and, leaving me at street level, she departed.
As soon as I descended the staircase, I saw two men ferociously aiming revolvers at the station master, who was forced to give them all the cash, bills and tokens. These he had to dump into a large, cloth bag at their terrifying command. Then the holdup men left the scene. The whole thing had taken only a few seconds. I was utterly stunned and shaken. The name of God seemed to come out of my mouth of its own accord at least a thousand times, starting from the moment I saw the revolvers.
An old lady of about seventy, an African-American man of the same age, and I were the only eye-witnesses. The woman burst into tears and sobbed frantically, but the man had nerves of steel. The station master, outraged and furious, immediately phoned the police and requested us to give evidence as witnesses. I told him I was fully prepared.
The African-American man said to the station master, “Why are you putting us into difficulty? We are not going to face such problems at this hour!”
“Go your way, then,” retorted the station master.
Then the African-American man asked me if I was an Indian and, when I replied in the affirmative, he simply pulled me through the door which led to the lower part of the station where the trains ran, for the tokens had all been grabbed in the holdup and we could not go through the turnstiles. The old woman, in spite of her sympathy for the station master, followed us. The old man forced me into a train and began rebuking me: “You Indians are so innocent. To help the station master at this hour is to invite trouble. The police will harass you and take you to the police station. These things happen because they do not keep police at the subway stations. Be wise and do not be innocent. Wisdom is more important than mere sincerity.”
While I did not entirely agree with his philosophy, I was deeply moved by his sincere concern for my protection.