India and her miracle-feast: come and enjoy yourself, part 2 — Traditional Indian stories about Shyama Charan Lahiri

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Introduction by the Author

I have decided to narrate a few traditional stories which are well-known in India. These stories are not my own creations; they are about spiritual Masters who used to show their occult power as easily and as often as we drink water. I am one of those who do not appreciate miracles, for quite often miracles only feed curiosity, and there is a yawning gulf between curiosity and aspiration. Again, there are some Masters who think that it is advisable for an individual to start his spiritual journey, even if he has to start with curiosity. Eventually the same person will enter into the world of true aspiration.

Sometimes occultists want to prove that modern science does not have the last word with regard to God’s creation. They want to show that the infinite wealth of the inner world can easily silence all the achievements of mankind in the outer world. To be sure, what we call a miracle is nothing but a common occurrence in the world beyond our senses. Inwardly we can learn from these great Masters, from their fascinating miracles, from their soul-stirring lives. That is why I am interested in telling these stories.

— Sri Chinmoy

Lahiri's initiation

One evening, Shyama Charan Lahiri was roaming at the foot of the Himalayas while on a short visit to the area, when he heard a voice saying, “Shyama Charan, Shyama Charan.” He was surprised to see a sadhu calling him from a distance. The sadhu approached him and said, “Can’t you recognise me, my child, my son?” Then he uttered the name of Shyama Charan’s father and grandfather. Even then Shyama Charan could not recognise him. The sadhu showed him abundant affection and led him into a cave and showed him a trident, a sacred water pot, a lion skin, a tiger skin and some beads. He said, “Can you recognise these? They are all yours,” but Shyama Charan could not recognise them. The sadhu then placed his hand on Shyama Charan’s spine. Immediately Shyama Charan came to realise that those were indeed his belongings.

The sadhu said to him, “My name is Babaji, my son. You were my dear disciple in your previous incarnation. You left the body at a very high stage of spiritual development. I want you to complete your spiritual life in this incarnation.”

Shyama Charan bowed to his Master and cried and cried. He said that he would not go back to his wife and family, but Babaji said, “No, you have to return to them. God wants you to lead a family life and, at the same time, remain in your highest consciousness and guide householders in leading a better, higher and purer life. I shall initiate you in a few days’ time. As long as you remain near the Himalayas, come and see me every day.”

Shyama Charan was overjoyed that his Master was going to initiate him. With a heart full of gratitude and delight, he left.

A few days later Lahiri returned to the Master. Babaji said, “The time has come for me to initiate you, but before I do, you have to drink this liquid.”

Shyama Charan drank a very large quantity of an oily liquid from an earthen jar. It caused him to vomit and empty himself many, many times. Then Babaji said, “Now you are purified, my son. I am giving you puri, halwa and other sweetmeats. Eat them to your heart’s content.” Shyama Charan ate them voraciously. Then the Master initiated him compassionately, unreservedly and unconditionally.

Commentary: To say that each soul is blessed with only one incarnation is to commit a Himalayan blunder. Each soul goes through many, many incarnations before it embodies, reveals and manifests the ultimate Truth. We start from one point and eventually there comes a time when we reach the goal. Each incarnation helps the soul go forward to the destined goal. If we start something in this incarnation and do not complete it, then in the next incarnation we shall have to complete it, for unless we do, we shall have no abiding satisfaction. Each incarnation means covering a few more steps while walking along Eternity’s road. If we keep walking, marching and running forward, each incarnation is undoubtedly a movement forward to a more illumining and more fulfilling reality.

Master saviour

After initiating Shyama Charan, Master Babaji, the Lion Yogi, said to his disciple, “Initiation is of paramount importance; therefore, I have initiated you. But now, in three days’ time, I want you to leave for your home. You have to go back to work. Your family needs you badly.”

Shyama Charan cried and cried. He did not want to go. His Master consoled him and said, “No, you have to do something most special for God while staying with your family and leading the life of a householder. But I assure you, whenever you are in need of me, just invoke me, and I shall come to see you and bless you.”

With a heavy heart, Shyama Charan left for home. On his way, he stayed for two or three days at the home of some of his friends. His friends said to him, “Do you believe in occult power or spiritual power? We don’t believe in it. There was a time when Indian sadhus had occult power, but now those days are gone. People who claim that they have occult powers are all fakes.”

Shyama Charan said, “What do you mean? I have just been initiated by a great spiritual Master. I know how much occult power he has.”

His friends did not believe him, so he said, “If you don’t believe me, I can prove it. You just leave this room, allow me to meditate for a few minutes and I assure you my Master will come here.”

Lahiri’s friends had no faith in occult power, but they were all curious, so they left. When his friends left the room, he invoked his Master most soulfully. In fifteen minutes’ time Babaji came into the room in his subtle body, and then he assumed his physical body.

Shyama Charan was overjoyed to see his Master inside the room, but Babaji scolded and insulted him mercilessly. He said, “Look at your audacity! I came from such a great distance, only to please your curiosity and to challenge your atheist friends. I warn you, I will never, never do this kind of thing again. I told you that whenever you invoke me I shall come, but I am revoking my promise to you. Now I wish to say that whenever I want to see you, only then shall I come to you, wherever you are.”

Shyama Charan cried and cried for forgiveness. Babaji said, “I have forgiven you, but never invoke me any more to display my occult power or to display your devotion. Only when I feel the need shall I come to see you. In the inner world you can invoke me, you can feel my presence, but I don’t want to show my physical presence this way any more.”

Shyama Charan bowed down to Babaji and said, “Now that you have come, O Master, out of your infinite Compassion, please, please give me a boon.”

“What is your boon?” Babaji asked.

“I want my friends to come and see you,” said Shyama Charan, “so that they will believe in your occult power.”

The Master laughed at him, saying, “Yes, and also in your invocation-power. Go and tell them to come.”

Shyama Charan opened the door and his friends came in. They were so surprised to see a sadhu with long hair and a long beard seated in a lotus position. Babaji did not talk to them, but he smiled at everyone and everybody bowed down to him. Shyama Charan brought some food for the Master and the Master ate in front of them. Then Babaji asked everyone to leave for a few minutes. When they returned, he had disappeared.

Commentary: The display of occult power or spiritual power in order to create aspiration is an indication of a lack of wisdom. Miracle-power does not and cannot change humanity’s face. Humanity’s face can be transformed only by inner awakening, inner cry, inner dedication and inner surrender to God. Curiosity is not spirituality. An inner cry is the only true spirituality which God appreciates lovingly, compassionately and unreservedly. For God’s universal Oneness, universal Love, universal Light and universal Delight can be made manifest only in our heart’s inner cry.

The conqueror of time and space

Shyama Charan used to work in an office. It happened that for a few days his boss, who was an Englishman, was very sad and disturbed. One day he asked his boss the reason for his sadness. The boss said that his wife was extremely ill in a hospital in England, and that he had not heard any recent news from her or from the family.

Shyama Charan said to him, “Let me enter into the adjacent room and meditate for some time. Then I will bring you some news.” The boss smiled at the young clerk and inwardly appreciated his good will, but he did not have real faith in him. He felt that to do this kind of thing, one had to be a great spiritual Master with tremendous occult power.

In fifteen minutes, Shyama Charan came out of the room and said to his boss, “In two or three days’ time you will receive a letter from your wife. She is doing well. I assure you, you don’t have to worry about her at all.” He even told his boss what was inside the letter.

In three days, a letter did arrive from his wife, and the contents of the letter were exactly what Shyama Charan had said. But the story does not end here. In a few months, the boss’s wife came to India. One day she visited her husband’s office. When she saw Shyama Charan, her eyes opened wide in surprise. She said to her husband, “How can this man be here? I saw him near my death bed in the hospital. He looked at me and smiled, and then I recovered.” Her husband and all those who were working in the office were taken aback. But Shyama Charan continued his job as a clerk in that office for many, many years, for he had to support his family. Only after many years, when he had collected a few disciples, was he able to retire.

Commentary: A spiritual Master is he who has solved space problems, time problems and all other human problems. In his oneness-heart with God’s Cosmic Will, the length and breadth of the world abides. He does not go anywhere; he is just there when necessity demands. Medical power is quite often uncertain. But spiritual power is uncertain only when it is not aware of the omniscient capacity of the Source. When spirituality is fully aware of the capacity of the Source, and its surrender gradually gains the capacity of the Source, lo and behold, it is blessed by the Source and grows into the all-powerful Source itself.

The art of photography surrenders

Shyama Charan Lahiri was dead against anyone’s taking a photograph of him. But since his intimate disciples were repeatedly requesting permission to take his photograph, he once agreed. The disciples called in a photographer, and like a child the Master asked him questions. The photographer was deeply honoured, so he taught the Master the ABCs of photography.

But when it was time for the Master’s picture to be taken, the photographer could not see him in the viewfinder. He aimed the camera at the Master, but the Master was not visible. When he focused on others, he saw them perfectly, but when he focused on Shyama Charan, there was nothing visible at all.

Finally the frustrated photographer said to the Master, “It is impossible. I can’t take your picture. I don’t know what you are doing.”

The Master smiled and said, “All right, I shall behave myself. Now you can take it.” This time when the photographer looked through the viewfinder, Shyama Charan Lahiri was clearly visible, so he snapped the picture. Then Shyama Charan Lahiri said to him, “Spirituality and spiritual power far surpass modern science. Just have faith in the Real, which is spirituality.”

That particular picture is an immortal picture, the most authentic and the highest picture taken of the Master. His disciples now worship in front of that picture.

Commentary: Some spiritual Masters are not in favour of picture-taking. They feel that since the body-reality is so transient, why pay any attention to it? There are other Masters who are of the opinion that a photograph does not represent a mere object, but can serve as an inspirational force and an elevating and illumining experience. These Masters feel the supreme necessity of seeing the highest reality inside the body-reality first, and then transforming the body-reality into the soul’s universal mission and transcendental vision. According to them, a photograph is not a mere piece of paper reflecting an outer face or appearance; it is an illumining revelation of what one inwardly is.

There are those who think the achievements of the world, in the world, are useless, and the world itself is useless, for it is unreal; therefore, they do not want to leave behind anything when they enter into the other world. But those who think of the world as the field of God-manifestation will strive to leave behind a transformed life and revelations of an immortal soul. Both parties are equally correct in their respective approaches to reality, according to the depth and height of their own realisation.

Medical science cries, spiritual science smiles

A disciple of Shyama Charan Lahiri, Chandra Mohan, had just got his medical degree. He went to his Master and placed himself at his feet. The Master blessed him and asked him quite a few questions about medical science. Then he said to his disciple, “Can you tell me if I am alive?” Immediately the Master lay down and stopped his heartbeat. The young man who had just got his degree could not feel the Master’s pulse or heartbeat. He was astonished. There were other men there and they also could not feel anything. Shyama Charan Lahiri was absolutely like a dead body.

This went on for ten or fifteen minutes. Then suddenly Shyama Charan Lahiri opened his eyes and said, “You people should always remember that far beyond medical science is spiritual science. The medical world will never be able to fathom the spiritual mysteries. But these spiritual mysteries are not mysteries as such. They are the real realities of normal people, and normal people are those who believe in God implicitly.”

Commentary: Spirituality invents, medical science discovers. This invention of spirituality is in perfect harmony with God’s omniscient Vision and omnipotent Reality. Spirituality is the foundation of the life-reality-building. This building has quite a few floors: science, art, philosophy, religion and so forth. If there is no foundation, there can be no edifice. It is the spirituality-foundation that supports all the floors and, at the same time, transcends the capacity of even the upper floors. It is consciously one with the root-reality of God’s Existence-Consciousness-Bliss.

Justice-light shines

One of Shyama Charan Lahiri’s disciples was named Kali Kumar. He worked in an office and used to visit the Master quite often. Unfortunately, Kali Kumar’s boss did not like the idea of his being devoted to a spiritual Master. His boss was a middle-aged man, and he wanted to be Kali Kumar’s only boss, so he literally hated the spiritual Master.

One day, the boss followed Kali Kumar to his Master’s ashram with the idea of insulting the Master. He wanted to complain that Kali Kumar was not as obedient to him as he was to the Master. Before the boss could say anything, however, Shyama Charan Lahiri started speaking to Kali Kumar. “Today I wish to show you something which may please you. Turn off the light.” Kali Kumar turned off the light and they meditated for a few minutes. Then the Master said, “Can you see anything?” Both Kali Kumar and his boss saw a most beautiful young girl. Then the Master said to the boss, “Do you recognise her?” The boss was so ashamed and embarrassed. “Is it not your lover?” Shyama Charan continued. “Your wife and children are so devoted and faithful to you. How is it that you have fallen desperately in love with this girl?”

Kali Kumar’s boss cried and cried. “Please forgive me,” he begged the Master, “I want to become your disciple. I want to be initiated by you.”

Shyama Charan said, “I can’t initiate you right now. You have to wait for six months. If you lead a pure life for six months and remain faithful to your wife, I will initiate you.”

The boss remained faithful to his wife for only three months; then he went back to his girlfriend, and after four months he passed away.

Commentary: If you try to harass a real spiritual Master, then ruthless embarrassment will dog you. The spiritual Master will easily forgive you, but it will be most difficult, almost impossible, for your own soul to forgive you. Your soul knows that a true spiritual Master is not only your best friend but your only friend. When you harass a spiritual Master, you attempt to break the eternal friendship that shines between your soul and the spiritual Master; therefore, your soul does not approve of it at all. At that time, your soul invokes the cosmic Will or justice-light to play their role inside your unaspiring and unlit life.

The thirsty person and the well

A great aspirant named Kebalananda used to go to a spiritual Master named Bhaskarananda to study metaphysical subjects, but actually his real Guru was Shyama Charan Lahiri. One day Bhaskarananda asked Kebalananda to speak to Shyama Charan Lahiri on his behalf. He wanted to learn a few spiritual secrets from the Master.

But when Kebalananda mentioned the matter to his Guru, Lahiri said, “Why should I do this? Always if somebody is thirsty, that person goes to the well. Does the well go to the thirsty person?”

When Kebalananda took this message to Bhaskarananda, Bhaskarananda felt embarrassed and ashamed and he went to Shyama Charan Lahiri personally to learn the spiritual secrets.

Commentary: It is quite natural for the thirsty person to go to the well to quench his thirst, for usually there is and can be no other way. But again, we have to know who the thirsty person is. If the thirsty person is a helpless little child who lacks the outer capacity or strength to come to the Source, then the Source, out of its infinite Compassion, has to go to the child who is parched with thirst.

Often the role of the seeker is that of a little child and the role of the Master is that of the affectionate mother. The childlike seeker cries in one room of the building and the mother comes running to fulfil the child’s needs. But if the seeker is mature in every human way, then he should come to the Master, the Source, wherever he is, for the seeker will get tremendous delight if he drinks Nectar-Bliss at the Source, and also he will have the opportunity to appreciate his own personal efforts to come to the Source.

Awareness and wisdom-light

Shyama Charan Lahiri’s wife’s name was Kashimani. Once she woke up in the middle of the night and was so surprised to see that her husband was not at his usual meditation spot. He was seated in a lotus position high up in the air, quite a few metres above the ground. Her husband said to her, “Kashimani, it is high time for you to wake up from your sleep. This time when you wake up, remain in that condition forever. Don’t go back to ignorance-sleep. Get up and look for wisdom-light within.”

Commentary: Human life is unconscious sleep. Divine life is conscious awareness. Unconscious sleep makes us feel that there are millions of things which we cannot do on earth. Conscious awareness shows us clearly that there is nothing here on earth or there in Heaven which we cannot do. As a matter of fact, it makes us feel unmistakably that everything has already been done; what we are doing now is only observing and appreciating it.

The Master's spiritual power

Sri Yukteshwar, who later became Swami Yogananda’s Guru, was a very close disciple of Shyama Charan Lahiri. One day his dearest friend, Ram, was attacked by cholera. Two doctors tried to save his life, but it seemed that all their efforts were in vain. It was a matter of a few hours before Ram would die.

Yukteshwar ran to his Master, crying to him to save his friend’s life. Shyama Charan Lahiri said to Yukteshwar, “You have doctors. Why do you need me? The doctors will save him. They will be able to do the needful. I don’t have to be involved.”

Yukteshwar went back, full of hope, but gradually his friend’s condition became worse. When it was a matter of four or five minutes before he would die, Ram said to his dearest friend Yukteshwar, “I will be dead in a few minutes. Please tell the Master that I have a last wish. My last wish is that he come and touch my dead body and thus bless me. This will be my last plea to him.” In a few minutes’ time he passed away.

Crying, Yukteshwar went back again to Shyama Charan Lahiri in order to give him Ram’s message. The Master said, “How is Ram?”

Yukteshwar replied, “Please go and see him yourself. This was his last prayer to you: that you would touch his dead body and bless him.”

But Shyama Charan said, “Then why should I go? He is not dead.”

“Yes,” said Yukteshwar, “He is dead. The doctors have pronounced it.”

Shyama Charan Lahiri took some oil from a lamp and said, “Go and put a little bit of this oil into his mouth.”

His friend was dead, but this was the command of the Master, so what else could Yukteshwar do? He went and put a small quantity of the oil that his Master had given him into Ram’s mouth. In a few minutes Ram came to life, saying that he had had a dream in which he saw Shyama Charan Lahiri in a most beautiful form. The Master had said to him, “Ram, why are you sleeping? Get up and come to me.”

Then Ram stood up, put on his clothes and both the friends went to Shyama Charan’s place. The Master said to Yukteshwar, “Now I have taught you how to conquer death. From now on if anybody dies, just take a small quantity of oil and put it into his mouth. I have given you the medicine to conquer death.” Everybody laughed and laughed, because they knew perfectly well that the oil was just an outer gesture, a token, a symbol, whereas the actual gift of life had come from Lahiri.

Commentary: It is only the omnipotent spirituality that can turn impossibility into facile possibility. But spirituality, out of its sheer magnanimity, tries to adopt outer earthly means so that it can convince the physical mind that the truth-principle can be accessible to the human in us. Otherwise, without the least possible hesitation, one can say that it is the spiritual force that in silence turns the impossible reality into clear and certain possibility. Not only that, but afterwards it turns possibility into practical and inevitable reality.

It was the Master’s spiritual power that revived Ram. Otherwise, no matter what kind of oil one puts into a dying man’s mouth, will he survive? It could have been anything. Only to convince the physical mind with a physical object did the Master tell his disciple to use oil. That is why spiritual Masters say, “Do this, do that,” when somebody is sick. Actually, it is their spiritual power which cures, but they know that this will convince the physical mind, so the patient’s physical mind can believe that the Master has true concern for him.

The call from the world beyond

On 26 December 1895, Shyama Charan Lahiri was extremely sick and was lying down. He was surrounded by his intimate disciples and was explaining to them some of his favourite verses from the Bhagavad Gita. All of a sudden he stood up and said, “What am I doing here? Why am I wasting time? It is high time for me to go home to my real home.”

A few hours later, on the same day, three of his intimate disciples at different places saw his luminous spiritual body consoling them. They did not know of his passing; they knew only that he was extremely sick. But when they went to their Master’s ashram, they found that he had died. His physical body was dead, but he had travelled to visit them in his spiritual body.

Commentary: When the soul-bird comes out of the body-cage, it can be easily visible to those who want to see it. At that time the limitations of the body disappear and the infinite expansion of the soul appears. When a sincere seeker enters into the ignorance-life, he says to himself, “What am I doing here?” When the same seeker enters into the aspiration-world, he says to himself, “Why do I not remain here all the time?” Our earthly home embodies the desire-life; our heavenly home embodies the illumination-life.

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