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Yogananda’s Last Days

Today is the 58th year since the passing of the great master, Paramhansa Yogananda. This is a transcript of a talk given by Dr. M. W. Lewis, Yogananda’s first American disciple, on March 10, 1952, just three days after Yogananda’s mahasamadhi. It includes his personal account of the Master’s last days. An audio file of the talk can be found at the end of this transcript.

Paramhansa Yogananda, photographed hours before his mahasamadhi

This photograph, often called the “last smile,” was taken just hours before Yogananda’s mahasamadhi, or passing from this world.

For the Bible reading this morning, in honor of the Master, I’m going to read the 23rd Psalm, and add a few comments.

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.…” As we know, the shepherd is he who takes care of the sheep. “The Lord” means Christ Consciousness. And so, it is the Christ Consciousness with which the Master keeps us together. If we stay in that, we are secure. Now a great saint, as the Master, has that Christ Consciousness, as many of you know. And no matter whether he is here or not, when you’re in that consciousness, you are with him. He is with you, watching over you.

“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters.…” Now, in “green pasturess” we find luxurious growth, and it is like that illustration, if we follow the Christ Consciousness, we will be in, so to speak, green pastures. We will have all we need. Because everything comes from God, everything is in His great consciousness in all creation. Be in that. You will be in green pastures.

“He leadeth me beside the still waters.…” The “still waters” here can be likened to the pure Holy Ghost flowing in through us, coming from the great cosmic energy, in through the medulla center, spreading out through the body, spoken of many times as the river Jordan, and by the Hindus as the Ganges. If you follow God, He will lead you in that still peace by virtue of His presence. He leads me besides the still waters.

“He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.…” If you unite your consciousness with the great consciousness of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost, the Aum vibration that is the Name of God, the remembrance of your soul, as a child of God, will be restored without doubt.

“He restoreth my soul.…” Keep in that vibration. You will realize that you are not this body, but something which does not pass away. You will realize the soul.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. for Thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.…” Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death: in material consciousness, there is death, nothing else. It passes away. And as we begin to rise above material consciousness and the functions of the body, the senses and the movement of the body lessens and slows down. That is the shadow of death. But, if we go beyond that, we find the great life eternal. And so, even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, “I will fear no evil.” Why? Because beyond that is the real life. This body passes away. But that life which you contact in meditation, by deep prayer, or the Light, when you see the Light of the Infinite. That does not pass away.

“For Thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.…” We have the rod and the staff. Sometimes the spinal chord is spoken of as “the rod,” “the rod of David.” Because there is the power of the Spirit. And through the Holy Vibration you’ll feel its power, and that will always be with you. That will comfort you. No matter how depressed you are. No matter how bad things seem. If you can lift your consciousness from outer things, and place it in the spine–or at the point between the eyebrows)–those other things cannot exist. Because the only reality is the presence and the power of God.

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.…” “Thou preparest a table before me” means that in spite of all the enemies, both outward–the enemies of the physical habits, the different tendencies which are within us, pulling us down–in spite of those, the Presence of God, at table of all things we need, is there. If you will just be one with His presence, “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence….” Despite all those devices of bad habits, or real enemies, God can always be contacted. No matter how great the difficulty, if you look within, [you can] feel, and be one with His Holy Vibration.

“Thou anointeth my head with oil. My cup runneth over.” You know, the Sanskrit word for oil means “energy.” And when you’re in His Holy Vibration, in the spinal region, and rise up to this point [between the eyebrows, you] feel the Presence of God, His great energy flows over you, and anoints you. These are facts. Meditate. Go within. You feel your consciousness lifted to this point, and you’ll feel as a benediction His great power and cosmic energy naturally flowing through you. That’s what real anointing with oil means. “Thou anointeth my head with oil. My cup runneth over.…” If you feel the Presence of God, you need nothing else. Your cup is full.

And finally: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Contact Him. Contact the Holy Vibration. You will have eternal life. No other way. Living in outward consciousness, you will pass away, because the body passes away. Living in the eternal Presence of God, you will have eternal life.

Now, this morning I’m going to vary the service just a bit. In these difficult times, excessive speech is uncalled for. But rather I’ll give you a few words, a few humble words, from the heart.

Of course, as you know, the Master has left this vehicle in which we are accustomed to see him. But, as I have said, and will point out shortly in these few words which I give you, that he is, and will be, nearer to you now that the limitations of the body have been taken away.

When your best friend, your greatest friend, is suddenly removed from you, there is a great emptiness left within the soul. And when he who has lifted you from delusion and uncertainty into the Light and Presence of God has gone, then that void seems bottomless. But, then I remember his words wherein he said, “Remember. I’ll be closer to you when I leave the body, than I have been while in the body.” And I feel the power to carry on and go forward, because I know that that promise will be kept. Because in all the years that I have known the Master, he has never once broken a promise.

And so I know that I can tell you: Be not distressed. We will miss him, naturally. But he will be nearer to you in a much easier way, when you struggle and try to lift your consciousness from outward things to the consciousness where he is, which is the Christ Consciousness found at this point [between the eyebrows]. Contact that just a little. And the Master, as all great masters, is one with that consciousness.

The Master’s last days

Now I want to tell you a few things of the last days of the Master here, which I have just jotted down on the way down here. It was in the desert a few days ago before coming here, that he had wonderful experiences of ecstasy, during some of which I had been with him. And the last few days out in the desert he didn’t sleep at all, but was in that state of ecstasy. And out there he told [Miss Wright:] “It may be a matter of days or hours.”

And so, although we knew these many things, which I will point out shortly–as he has told me and others–although we know these things, the Lord is so clever that he keeps it from you. He keeps that which is coming from you to spare you too much of a shock. The shock is great for those who just see the final event when the Master leaves. Those who have followed and have listened carefully will see that naturally it is coming.

A few years ago when he was so much in ecstasy due to the weakness of the body from taking the karma of so many people, and he was practically gone–they’d given him up–he called me up early in the morning, and I could just hear his voice over the telephone. And he said, “Doctor,” he said, “they nearly killed me today.” Some nurse was real rough with the body, which was racked in pain and so forth, he said, “they nearly killed me today.” He said, “I’ll tell you about it sometime.”

And then in a few days after that they were weeping and crying because he seemed gone. But I remembered his words, that he had said, “I will tell you about that someday.” So I knew he would tell me. And so he did stay on, and he told me about it. And at that time I spoke to him, and he said, “This body, is nothing.” “This shell,” he says, “is nothing.” “But,” I said, “I know, but how about the rest of us? Why not wait awhile?” He never said. He just looked down. But he has stayed two years now–a year and a half. I’m not saying my words did it; I’m telling you facts.

And then, from then on it was a terrific fight. For a long, long time he just laid there. Because you cannot take the karma of thousands of people, thousands of people, without a reaction–that’s the spiritual law. It is not ordinary sickness. People make that mistake. It is because he takes the sins and the karma of others. And he has told me two things which were a direct result of the taking of karma of others. One was the condition of his legs. The other was the condition of his heart.

And so, from then on, for months he laid without moving. Gradually up, and walking about. He said many times, “I have no interest.” He said, “It’s only a few little things I have to make myself want to enjoy the senses,” and so forth. “But,” he said, “for a few of you, I stay.” Now these are facts.

And so, in the desert before coming in, he told us, “It looks like it may be a matter of days, or it may be a matter of hours.” And then he came in.

And he had a meeting scheduled with the new ambassador from India. The other ambassador he had been unable to contact, and there was not that feeling for him. But this ambassador felt for the Master. And he was so pleased, because you know that his greatest joy was in his efforts to help India, and bring better relations between India and the United States. And he was the one who would have done it in the right way. He has worked for peace in the right way by changing the hearts of men. No actual peace will come until the hearts of men have been changed. And all of you who have met the Master know that when you left him your heart was changed. And all of you who have read his books and his words know that when you read those books, in his writings, that your heart is changed. And so, he’s worked along those lines to bring peace into the world by changing the hearts of men. That is the only way to bring lasting peace. And the cause of world peace has an irreparable loss in the passing of the Master.

And now, going on–as I say, his relationship with the new ambassador from India, was the right relationship. I met his Excellency, Mr. Sen, and he had just the right spirit. That had been cemented and established in the last day or two before I met the Master. He was very happy. He says, “I feel this is the happiest day I’ve had, because that had been accomplished.” And so they had a little luncheon at the India House, and the Ambassador was there, and the Consul General of Asia, and severalothers–Mr. Sen and several other members from the Indian embassy. And so we had a nice luncheon.

And that night we talked to the Master for quite a while. And Mrs. Lewis was talking to him a little bit and he told her, “It is so hard to be interested–for me to be interested in the body. It is nothing but a shell.” You could see that. I’d seen it for days. But still I hoped, and hoped that he would stay even longer and longer. So he told her, he said, “The body’s nothing but a shell. This is the last step.” And then he said, “No matter what happens, I want you to be always happy.”

Then he said, “How is the Doctor?” I wasn’t there, I was in the other room. She said, “Oh, he’s all right.” He said, “No. He isn’t. He’s very much depressed.” Well, Mrs. Lewis passed it off. And I will say that I had been very much depressed lately. And Monday he called to come up there, and I said, “Well, I don’t feel I can go up.” And I understand that Mrs. Lewis had to urge me pretty much to go, as I remember it now. Then, when I went up, I told him, I said, “I wasn’t coming up, but I thought I’d like to because perhaps you’d want me.” He said, “I understand.” That’s all he would say. “I understand how you feel.” And I went up. And now Master leaves, and I see why the depression was there. The soul knows everything, even though sometimes we’re not conscious of the exact cause of these things that are happening. The soul realizes those things.

And he also told Mrs. Lewis when she was alone with him, “Now, I have been cross many times.…” He used to give it to her. Oh, boy! And to all those near him. We got it good. I know those times. But we could never leave his side. Otherwise he would not be where he is. He said, “I want you to be always happy, no matter what happens.”

Personal memories

Now I’ll tell you one or two things about my own experiences with him the last few days. Lately he has been reminiscing about how we started way back in Boston, 32 years ago. He said, “Remember Electric Avenue?” That’s where we used to live. “All the good times we used to have?” And I said, “Yes.” And he said, “We’ve had a good life, haven’t we?” I said, “That’s right.” I said, “Yes, we might have been hanging around a night club and things like that. But no. This is better. We can let go.” Then he said quickly, without much emphasis, “We’ll be parted for a little while and then we’ll be together again.” But the delusion is so great that even then I wouldn’t accept it. I knew my soul went just right back when he said it. Sure, the Lord keeps it covered up pretty well.

When he said we’d be separated for a little bit but then together again, then he said right at that time, I remember so distinctly, “But remember, I’ll be closer to you when I’m out of this body, than I have been in the body.” So remember, there is the key. So let us not be depressed. Let us not feel bad. God is running the show. We are His children, and His Infinite Light is with us. In that Light is the Master and all great saints. There is nothing to fear except if we do not stay in that Light and Consciousness. That’s all.

And so, I feel better. A load has been lifted. I didn’t know what the load was, with some physical trouble going with it. But the load was that coming events cast their shadow, and the Soul knows it. And so be of good cheer. The Master is not away from us. He is with us more, and more.

Now coming to the last days when the Master came in, and we had the luncheon at India House. I stayed with Him that night and the next day, and then I had to come back here. And there was to be a banquet, as you know, at the Hotel Biltmore. And there the Master was the guest of honor with the Ambassador from India. Master had a room in the Biltmore Hotel, and he stayed in that room before going down to the banquet. But just as he was going down he told Miss Wright, “I feel shouldn’t go down.” Then she said, “Why not sir? Why don’t you just cancel?” He said, “No. But I must go. I feel I shouldn’t go down.” Then he said, “But I must, I must go through with it.” And so he went down. And I know you all know the outcome and what happened at that banquet.

And so the Master’s body was brought back to Mount Washington. And I went up with St. Lynn as soon as I heard the word. I had finished my class here Friday night. And Mrs. Lewis didn’t tell me until I got home. And then she told me. So we got ready and went right up. And they had brought the Master’s body back and it was in his room. And he looked as if he was sleeping, as if he was at peace. And I know I’d often felt the last few days that though we hate to have those leave us, when you see them struggling just to stay to help others…when we know that he has said many times, “My time is up long ago,” you feel, “Well, how much better that he can be always in peace:.” And so, that was the expression that came on his face.

And so we sat there for a long time. All sat around, of course, with much feeling, naturally. But that went on until the next day. Several were in there. I was in a room near there. And then they were chanting and meditating. A great Light came to many, and the Om vibration was very strong and seemed to fill the room. And I know in my own case, I’d come back from sitting in the room and I was meditating and looking, and the Great Light came easily. And in that Light I could see the Master lying with his body covered with Light, in gold. Laying there just as he was.

And just right after that there was a severe electrical storm, and then things lifted and things were better. His body changed. His body remained just the same, I think, for about 24 hours, until that point, and then it began to change. You felt it began to change. The changes set in. We noticed that. And I feel that that is the reason–that great responsibility [was lifted]. Because he told me many times, “My life is different. My life is a ransom for many.” If you ask, it was true. I might, to give
answers with him.

Experiences of others

Many others had similar experiences. I want to tell one of the experiences my daughter had, which was very interesting. A few days ago she had a dream. She never dreams much, but she said, “It was a distinct dream; I can’t get over it. The Master was there, and you and I were there, and he had us by the hand. And we were strolling on the clouds, running here and there, and I know it was in the astral.” So I passed it off. I think that we were talking with Mrs. Lewis together, and my daughter said, “Well we left you out. You couldn’t join us.” But that was a significant thing, seeing what happened.

And so, yesterday I had called up and told her [of the Master’s passing]. She was quite depressed, so she came over to the hermitage and walked around the grounds, very depressed. And then she came into my apartment and sat down and we began to chant. And the whole room was filled with Light. And up in the corner came a little cross in Light. We started to close our eyes and then open them. And then she said Christ was with her–she felt free. That is the same as happened in Mt. Washington. That depression lifted.

When great saints pass, there is a great disturbance in the counterpart, in the spiritual side. And so, these things are interesting, showing that although the Master seems to be gone, he is not. He’s steadfast more now than ever. He will nearer to us than he ever has been.

As I have said, when your best friend is taken you feel, naturally, the emptiness. And when the one who has gave you soul, then lifted you from uncertainty and delusion into Realization, into the Light, the Presence of God, when he goes, naturally, there is a great void [from the absence of] his [physical] body. And remember his words, “I am nearer to you all now” having left the body. I am closer to you than I could have been, or ever was, while in the body. So let us be of good cheer. Not be depressed, but feel his presence.

And so, in closing, let us, in this little part of the service, let us rise and repeat together one of the Master’s Whispers, a part of it, a tribute to his guru. And as you repeat with me, feel that is your tribute to your guru, Paramahansa Yogananda.

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Further Reading:


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