Two of Those Left Behind

[Listen to Asha read this story]

On July 28th, 1962, Swamiji was summoned to New York City for a private meeting with Daya Mata and Tara Mata. Effective immediately, they told him, he was expelled from Self-Realization Fellowship.

For the last four years, Swamiji had been living in India, serving SRF. Thousands of devotees looked to him for spiritual guidance. Now Tara and Daya ordered him never again to contact any SRF member.

“From now on,” Tara Mata told him forcefully, “we want to forget that you ever lived.”

Out of ingrained monastic obedience, and in the hope that by cooperation he could bring about a reconciliation, Swamiji agreed.

To ensure that he never returned to India, an SRF representative reported to the Indian government that Swamiji was a CIA agent and a Christian missionary in disguise. For ten years, the government refused to give Swamiji a visa.

To the Indian devotees, Swamiji simply vanished without explanation, and without so much as a “good-bye.”

"Being forced to betray the trust of all those people was, for me, the most painful part of the whole experience,” Swamiji said years later. “I couldn’t bear to think about it.”

Sri N. Keshava was the first mayor of Bangalore after India's independence. He was so well known that for much of his life a sufficient mailing address for him was simply, “Sri N. Keshava, former Mayor of Bangalore.”

He was one of many who took initiation into Kriya Yoga from Swamiji. Outwardly Swamiji disappeared from his life, but inwardly Sri Keshava remained faithful and continued to practice Kriya.

In the early 1970s, Sri Keshava’s sister moved to Oakland, California. She happened to see an announcement about a “Swami Kriyananda, direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda” who had an ashram a few hours away. When her brother came to visit, he was overjoyed to discover Swamiji’s whereabouts and made a pilgrimage to Ananda Village.

When he saw Swamiji again for the first time after so many years, he made a full prostration in front of him and bathed Swamiji’s feet with his tears. Swamiji was deeply moved by the reunion. He, too, wept—not only for Sri Keshava, but for all those in India whom he’d been forced to leave behind.

When Swamiji was finally able to return to India, there were many similar reunions. Kishan was one such friend from the past.

In 1962, Kishan was sixteen years old and often drove Swamiji around Delhi. Kishan has described himself as “Swamiji's driver,” but Swamiji corrects him, saying, “You were (and are) my friend.”

“In those years, Swamiji gave weekly discourses in Delhi,” Kishan said. “Thousands of people came. He was still a young man, but already it was obvious that he was a great soul. Very few are so devoted to their guru and so in love with the Almighty. We spent as much time with Swamiji as we could.

“In the years since, I have often said to my friends, ‘Even then, he was a Christ-like figure. Think what he has become now!’

“Sometimes I used to worry, ‘It has been so long since I have seen Swamiji. By now, he will have forgotten all about me.’ Then I thought, ‘If an ordinary person like me can still remember him, then a great person like Swamiji will still remember me.’

“Finally I saw Swamiji again. And it was true. After all these years, he had never forgotten me.”

with D. R. Kaarthikeyan

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