Monday, May 2, 2016

Following the Steps of Paramahansa Yogananda in Calcutta: 2nd Part

Paramahansa Yogananda Calcutta Pilgrimage

On Tuesday March 15, just two days before leaving India, I decided to complete my pilgrimage following the steps of Paramahansa Yogananda in Calcutta by visiting guruji's house in 4 Garpar Road. A few days before I had done a pilgrimage to visit the Dakshineswar Kali Temple, Yogoda Math, Belur Math and Sri Yukteswar's temple in Serampore. I wrote about that pilgrimage in my previous post.

I had not realised how easy it was to reach guruji's house from the Baptist Mission Society guesthouse where I was staying in Kolkata. It was on the same way that I had to take every day to go to Daya Dan, the home where I was doing volunteering work with the Missionaries of Charity. So that day at noon, right after finishing my volunteer work, instead of going back to my guesthouse I went straight to guruji's house.

Paramahansa Yogananda house in Calcutta
Paramahansa Yogananda's house in 4 Garpar Road, Kolkata (Calcutta)

Paramahansa Yogananda house in Calcutta

When I rang the bell a lady showed up from a window. Her name is Sarita Gosh, the wife of Somnath Gosh who is the grandson of Sananda Lal Ghosh, guruji's younger brother. Right from her window she told me that before coming to visit the house I first needed to make an appointment with the ashram, Yogoda Satsanga Math.

I understood. This is their residency and I imagine that almost everyday there are pilgrims coming to visit the house. Fortunately when I told her that I was leaving in two days she was very kind to tell me to come back the same day at 6pm.

So I returned to the house exactly at 6pm. Sarita was very welcoming and I guess she did the usual "pilgrims tour" that she does for all the pilgrims that come regularly to visit the house.

As soon as I entered the house she showed me the entrance to the little attic that Yoganandaji used for many years as his personal retreat for his sadhana (spiritual practice). She asked me to go inside to meditate for a little while. What a blessing! Imagine meditating in the same room where guruji meditated for so many years.

In one of the stories in his autobiography Yoganandaji writes how his attachment to his family produced some anxiety in him just before leaving his home in Calcutta to go live in an ashram in Varanasi (Benares or Kasi). He went to his little attic to find some consolation and guidance.

"A desolation fell over me one morning at thought of separation from my family. Since Mother’s death, my affection had grown especially tender for my two younger brothers, Sananda and Bishnu. I rushed to my retreat, the little attic which had witnessed so many scenes in my turbulent sadhana. After a two-hour flood of tears, I felt singularly transformed, as by some alchemical cleanser. All attachment disappeared; my resolution to seek God as the Friend of friends set like granite within me. I quickly completed my travel preparations."

Paramahansa Yogananda meditation attic

Paramahansa Yogananda meditation attic

Paramahansa Yogananda meditation attic

After a few minutes meditating I met again Sarita outside the little attic. She reminded me that the window inside the attic was the same window from which guruji threw out some of his belongings in one of his fail attempts to escape to the Himalayas with his friend Amar and his cousin Jatinda.

In guruji's own words:

"Hearing the wheels of Amar’s carriage in the road, I hastily tied together a blanket, a pair of sandals, Lahiri Mahasaya’s picture, a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, a string of prayer beads, and two loincloths. This bundle I threw from my third-story window. I ran down the steps and passed my uncle, buying fish at the door."

Sarita then guided me to guruji's bedroom. Now there are only portraits of guruji's family. She showed me the picture of Mahabatar Babaji and said that this was the original portrayed made according to guruji's instruction which appears in his book. I was like "The original! Really?"

Paramhansa Yogananda talks briefly about this portrait in his autobiography, right after telling the story of his meeting with Babaji:

"Until now, I have never recounted to anyone this story of my meeting with Babaji. Holding it as the most sacred of my human experiences, I have hidden it in my heart. But the thought occurred to me that readers of this autobiography may be more inclined to believe in the reality of the secluded Babaji and his world interests if I relate that I saw him with my own eyes. I have helped an artist to draw a true picture of the great Yogi-Christ of modern India; it appears in this book."

Mahavatar Babaji
Babaji (web image)


Then Sarita showed me the picture of Lahiri Mahasaya. She said that this was the only picture of Lahiri Mahasaya where he appears with his eyes open. I was thrilled. Although I had already visited guruji's house about ten years ago, I still felt like Kung Fu Panda when he entered for the first time the Jade Palace. I was like "wooow." Lol.

Lahiri Mahasaya
Lahiri Mahasaya (web image)


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Just before leaving the house, while Sarita was guiding me to the door I asked her, "Did you meet your husband's grandfather? Did he tell you many stories of guruji?" and she replied, "Oh yes, many stories." I asked her to please share some stories with me but she simply smiled and said, "Maybe next time." I will take that as a promise.

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