To a person who wanted me to share what I know about Yoganandaji’s highly advanced disciple, Yogacharya Oliver Black.
In 1968 I was able to go to Detroit for an SRF Sunday service at the Art Institute conducted by Yogacharya Black, and the entire next day I spent with him at his home. He spoke of many interesting things, but here are those I remember that related to his association with Paramhansa Yogananda and his yoga practice.
The Golden Lotus Temple
The first time he went to California to be with Yogananda, they were at Encinitas. The Master led him from the hermitage to the Golden Lotus Temple on the edge of the cliff overlooking the ocean. (Later the sea eroded the foot of the cliff and the temple fell into the ocean, and only the steps remained.) The temple was a miniature of the Taj Mahal with a tower at each corner. At the top of each tower was a one-room suite. Master Yogananda pointed to one and explained that it was used by him. Another was for Rajasi Janakananda, and another for Dr. Lewis. Then he pointed to the fourth tower and said: “This one is for you. Whenever you come here this is where you will stay.” Mr. Black was astonished at this, wondering why the Master would show him such generosity. But his later life as a disciple certainly demonstrated why. (He did not say that–I did!)
The next day was Sunday and he naturally was at the service conducted by Yoganandaji. He told me that as Yogananda was speaking he saw a figure he somehow knew was a Himalayan yogi standing just behind the Master. The yogi’s long black hair was streaming back behind him as though being blown by a strong wind. More surprising, the yogi was moving his mouth exactly like the Master, though no sound was coming out. Yogacharya decided that the yogi was speaking through Yoganandaji, but after bit realized that the yogi was Yogananda as Mr. Black had known him in a previous life, and the Master was showing this to him.
Just for you, Oliver
Since we are “at” Encinitas in this narrative, I want to tell you something more than one disciple of Yoganandaji told me about Oliver Black. Whenever he stayed at Encinitas with the Master, he would take him every day for a drive, considering this was his way to show his appreciation for the great guru’s blessing in his life.
One day as they were going to the car for the drive, it began to rain heavily. Mr. Black was disappointed that he would not be able to take his guru for a drive that day. But Yoganandaji went out of the building and around to the passenger side of the car, looked up and instantly there was no rain and the sun began shining brightly. Then he looked at Yogacharya and quietly said: “Just for you, Oliver, just for you.” And so it was.
The crash of 1937
Mr. Black owned a factory that made auto parts used by the various automobile manufacturers in Detroit. The economy had recovered from the crash of 1929 and everyone was optimistic. But in mid-1937 he realized one night in meditation that another crash was coming, though not as severe.
Early the next morning he called in his chief executive and gave him a check from the Chrysler Corporation for thirty-eight thousand dollars. “Charter a plane right away and fly to New York and cash this check. Bring the money back here to me, today,” he told him. The man looked at the check and said: “This check is on the Chase Manhattan Bank–there’s no better in the country!” “Do what I tell you. Tomorrow you will know why,” Mr. Black assured him. The next day the crash came and that check would have been worthless.
Inventions through meditation
All through the depression, from 1929 onward, Mr. Black made a great deal of money solely through good business moves that were prompted by his intuition developed through meditation. There was an even more profitable aspect to his meditation.
He told me that sometimes he would start seeing visions in meditation that made no sense to him at all. First it would be a short vision and then be repeated, getting longer each time. Then other visions would come, and as he pondered them he would suddenly understand their meaning and would have a clue to an invention of some kind. Since he had not even graduated from high school, he no technical understanding, so he would find some expert and explain his ideas. Each time they would be declared viable and he would eventually sell the invention for a great deal of money.
He invented the vertical take-off plane, but the Air Force stole the idea and claimed it as their own. He was in litigation over it for years, including at the time he told me about it. But: You Can’t Fight City Hall. So nothing came of it.
He invented a 3-D camera that put the viewer into the picture. Kodak offered twenty-four thousand dollars, and he told them they knew it was worth many times more. But they kept hoping he would accept their first offer, and he did not.
After one series of visions he made a drawing of something he did not even know the nature of, but he knew the parts that would go into it, and that it was supposed to fly. He took it to the Department of Aeronautics at Wayne State University and showed it to one of the senior staff. “Do you know what this is?” the man demanded. “No. I came here for you to tell me,” was Mr. Black’s reply. “You have invented a flying saucer. This thing will do everything saucers are reported capable of doing. For example, it can change directions in an instant. And even more amazing: all the parts to assemble one are available right now! One could be made tomorrow.” At the time he told me of this, he was beginning to present it to companies that made “flying machines.” That, too, was not bought by anyone.
He told me about some visions he was having that were very strange and really made no sense. The next time I saw him about a year later he told me that the invention had to do with motel beds, and he was in negotiation to sell it. Later I learned from a member of his SRF center that he sold it for tens of thousands of dollars.
Help from Babaji
Since we are on high finance, here is something about Babaji and Big Business. Mr. Black was on the board of one of the big automotive corporations in Detroit. (I believe it was General Motors.) There was another board member that at every meeting would bring up something he was displeased about and complain and carry on for a long time. Every one would sit there and wait until he shut up and then the meeting would proceed, nothing being done about his silly complaint.
One day Mr. Black went a couple of hours before the board meeting and decided to meditate in the board room. As he was meditating, he prayed: “Babaji, all of us are so sick of hearing this man fuss and fuss, wasting our time, at every meeting. Will you please do something to stop him?” The meeting proceeded as usual, and at one point the grouch got up and began. But he did not get through even a sentence. Suddenly he stopped speaking and got a look of terror on his face, then flopped back down into his chair and did not speak during the rest of the meeting. And never afterward did he bring up his pet gripe. “So it pays to talk to Babaji,” laughed Mr. Black as he finished the account.
Yogananda manifests before Oliver Black
Master Yogananda ask the Yogacharya to keep in frequent contact with him, to write or telephone often. But for some reason he never did, only rarely communicating with the guru.
After a few years of this, one morning as he sat on the floor of his meditation room meditating, he opened his eyes and saw Yoganandaji sitting right in front of him! He was sure it was not a vision but a physical materialization. Yoganandaji was sitting with his back to Mr. Black. His long hair was in a kind of bun at the back of his neck and he was wearing a really ratty old bathrobe (Mr. Black’s words). Oliver waited for the Master to speak or do something, but he then clearly got the impression that his guru was displeased with his non-communication and so had his back to him. After looking at the guru’s back for a while, he closed his eyes and resumed meditating.
After meditation, when he knew he could get through to Mount Washington headquarters on the telephone, he put in a person-to-person call to Faye Wright, the future president of Self-Realization Fellowship (then to be known as Sri Daya Mata). “Tell me,” he asked her as soon as she came on the phone, “does Master ever put his hair in a kind of bun on the back of his neck?” “He does it sometimes in his room when others aren’t around,” she told him. “Well, tell me this. Does he ever wear an old, beat-up bathrobe?” “Oh! That old thing!” she exclaimed. “He has been wearing that in meditation for years. It is so awful that we keep threatening to take and burn it. Why are you asking?” So he told her. And from then on kept in frequent contact with his Master.
Yogananda’s stories of Trailanga Swami
He told me three stories Master Yogananda told him about Trailanga Swami. I told about them in answer to a question from a friend, but will repeat them here.
- Trailanga Swami liked to tantalize the British police in Benares. Of course, they were scandalized at his nudity, so they were always trying to arrest him for it. He really liked having them run after him, for though he weighed a great deal, he could go very fast, but would always run only an arm’s length away from them. Eventually he would take a street that led to the Ganges, and just as they thought they would catch hold of him he would leap far out into the Ganges. There he would either just sit on the water, remaining stationary even through the river was flowing very swiftly, or when the water was clear he would sink to the bottom and sit in meditation. Whichever he did, he would remain there for days with the police taking shifts to watch and eventually arrest him. And then he would disappear! Eventually it would start all over.
- In Autobiography of a Yogi, Yoganandaji tells of times when Trailangaji would be locked in a jail cell and then after a while be seen walking along the roof. But there was a variation on that. Just like in the Middle Ages, there were stout wooden “cages” at the juncture of streets where the police would put criminals to be mocked and pelted with rocks and whatever the cowardly populace had to hand. Since he was so fat, they would have a hard time jamming Trailanga Swami in one of those cages, and when they did, his fat body would bulge out through the slats. But after a while he would suddenly be sitting on top of the cage, and not inside. When the police would start climbing up to grab him, he would jump out into the street, and the whole chase scene would be repeated.
- Having decided that I would not be shocked at the account, Mr. Black then told me that often Trailanga Swami would stand in the Ganges and make his genitals as large as a fire hose and spray the pilgrims (and police) with the same force as a fire hose. But it was not urine, it was marvelous perfume! He would also go into a Shiva temple and either urinate on the linga or urinate in his hand and then pour it over the linga. Of course, the priests and worshippers went wild, but it would be discovered that it was heavenly perfume, and not urine at all.
A shocking revelation
And now, maybe the worst for last, though it delighted me. In 1969, after returning from India, I was able to pass through Detroit and again go for the Sunday service at the Art Institute. This Sunday for the first time there was going to be a cafeteria lunch after the service so people could speak and listen to Yogacharya Black on a more personal and informal basis. People were asking questions and he was answering, but my memory has only retained one.
The subject of sex and “marital relations” came up. Mr. Black began to laugh. He turned to me (I was sitting next to him on his left hand) and asked: “Shall I tell them what Master said about this? Shall I tell them?” “Yes! Yes!” I answered. “Really? Do you want me to tell them? Do you want me to tell you?” he repeated, turning back to them, continuing to chuckle.
“All right, then. You asked about it. Master said” ‘It is nothing more than the joining of two sewers’!”
Stunned silence. Stunned consternation. I studied the faces of all those around us and found their expressions and reactions most interesting. Some were overtly angry, even outraged. Others were smiling in agreement. And others were intensely deadpan so no one would know they were the hardest hit. But Mr. Black simply sat there, quietly chuckling to himself and occasionally looking askance at me and continuing to chuckle.
That was the last time I saw him, though I continued to get news of him occasionally.
In writing the previous sentence I remembered something that I had been told about Yogacharya Oliver in 1961, that I want to include. At the previous triennial convocation at the SRF Lake Shrine, Mr. Black had spoken. Many of the audience were amazed and awed to see that throughout his talk all four of the great Masters–Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, Sri Yukteswarji and Paramhansaji–appeared behind him in turn. One would appear, and immediately upon his fading away, another would appear. This continued over and over as long as he spoke. I think this was a message from the Masters about this beloved disciple’s inner unity with them.
- Stories About Yogananda’s Second American Disciple: Warren Vickerman
- Untold Stories of Mahavatar Babaji of Yogananda’s “Autobiography of a Yogi”
- How to Get Your Prayers Answered