Spiritual Locomotives….

“Little Mother, Thy son will be a Yogi. As a Spiritual Engine, he will carry many souls to God’s Kingdom” was how Sri Lahiri Mahasaya, (one of India’s greatest saints) reportedly blessed Sri Paramahansa Yogananda when he was a small child, when his mother had carried him to Benares for the blessings of the great guru. The prophesy came more than true when Sri Paramahansa Yogananda later went to America and captured the hearts of millions of people around the world with his classic, “The Autobiography of a Yogi” where he reveals, perhaps for the first time in the history of such yogis, the intricacies of the search for God and Truth. The book, written in first person,  with an eye for detail, is a veritable account of one of the most moving, personal, true stories of a person in search of God and truth. The book itself reads like a long train journey, with many saints in each compartment.

In his quest for God and true Godmen and Godwomen, Mukunda Lal Ghosh, who later became Sri Paramahansa Yogananda, met with quite a few great souls, such as Mahendranath Gupta, also known as “M”, the author of `The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna’, the Tiger Swami, Yogini Giri Bala, Anandamoyi Ma, Therese Neuman, the stigmatist, Mahatma Gandhi, Jagadish Chandra Bose, Rabindranath Tagore, etc. His guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri Maharaj, trained him for his role of spreading the sacred teachings in the west.

Sri Paramahansa Yogananda’s father, Sri Bagabati Charan Ghosh, was a high official in the then Bengal Nagpur Railway, and thus, the comparison of Sri Paramahansa Yogananda to a train engine well established the monumental work that he would do later in life.

Sri Paramahansa Yogananda himself, describes his various train journeys in his autobiography. In some of the chapters, the narration is so telling, it is as if we are actually traveling with the author in the train!

Apart from the author’s train journeys, there is an interesting incident told in the “Autobiography of a Yogi”, of Abhoya, a woman disciple of Sri Lahiri Mahasaya, who, on arriving at Howrah station, finds the train to Benares already moving out of the platform. Not willing to wait for another train, in her anxiety, she mentally sends an urgent prayer to her guru, which is miraculously answered. The wheels continue to move but the train does not. Engineers and others climb down to witness this strange phenomenon. Only when she and her husband board the train, does the train start moving. And when later she meets Sri Lahiri Mahasaya, he tells her, “How you love to bother me! As if you could not have come here by the next train!”

Another devotee, Shri Hitalal Sarkar, who later became a renowned disciple of Sri Lahiri Mahasaya, came to the Howrah station, not knowing where to go in search of his guru. At the booking counter, as he was not able to explain where he wanted to go – and the clerk simply gave him a ticket to Benares. He then entrained for Benares, just like that, not knowing who or where his Guru was. He was led by circumstance (or divine grace?) to the home of Sri Lahiri Mahasaya, who treated him as if he was expecting him.

It seems trains have played a significant role in the lives of many saints, like when Sri Ramana Maharishi left his home during his early age, he chose to go by train to Villupuram from Madurai by the metre gauge train and it is said that on the train, he was met by a mysterious Maulvi (muslim ascetic) who helped him on his journey with some information that made his journey to Tiruvannamalai, possible.

Again, it is said that Swami Vivekananda, during his travels across the Indian subcontinent, would travel by train only if somebody bought him his ticket. Otherwise, he traveled on foot. Most of the time he starved, during his journeys –  Once it so happened that a fellow traveler on a train was eating a good meal, by the side of Swami Vivekananda, and even refused to acknowledge his presence. Even though Swami Vivekananda was hungry, he kept quiet. The haughty co-traveller, after eating, taunted Swami Vivekananda, saying that the Swamiji was an idler and who will feed him? – Just then, as if in answer to that taunt, a sweetmeat seller offered Swamiji some eatables and told that Sri Rama had introduced Swamiji to him in a dream! The haughty co-traveller was ashamed when he saw all this. It is a well known fact that when Swami Vivekananda returned from America to Indian shores, he was given a royal welcome. It is said that his historic train journey from Ramnad to Madras in the then Madras Province, drew unparalleled crowds along the track. Who could refuse to acknowledge the beacon of light from India, who rode the world of spirituality like a colossus, with the inaugural words, “Brothers and Sisters of America”?  The train journey of Swamiji was stopped at many places by enthusiastic Indians, who wanted to see the turbaned hero of India.

Legend has it that in 1909, Sri Shirdi Sai Baba materialized himself as a fakir in two different places and gave directions to a couple, the husband, Ramachandra Borkar, at Dhond, and the wife, Chandra Bai Borkar, at Khurudwadi and helped them find each other.

Once a judge of Gwalior went to Shirdi, during the First World War time. He was accompanied by Rege, another devotee of Sri Sai Baba. When they were traveling from Gwalior to Manmad, at a station called Mhow, all the passengers were asked to get down and make way for troops. Both the devotees prayed to Baba for help. After some time, the commander of the troops came and told that it was too small for the troops and the passengers were asked to board back! When they reached Shirdi the next day, Baba is said to have remarked that the judge was constantly calling him throughout the night, and that he had to tell the commander to let his children travel in the train instead of the troops.

Innumerable stories of Sri Shirdi Sai Baba are there, where he has performed many miracles involving train journeys at distant places, all the while sitting in Shirdi.

It is not just spiritualism that travelled on trains. Patriotism too, did. Abraham Lincoln, wrote his famous Gettysburg speech, sitting in his coach in the train.

Again, it would only be right to say that the Indian Freedom Movement actually began with a train journey in South Africa that carried Mahatma Gandhi.

It is well known that Mahatma Gandhi traveled widely across the Indian subcontinent by train. And two stories relating to the Father of the nation stand out for me : Once, one of his shoes (or sandal) slipped from his feet and fell out of the train, on the track  – he immediately took off the other one and threw it as close as possible to the first, so that the finder of the shoes will have a pair, and can use it, and not be left with just one shoe. At Madurai, during September 1921, when Mahatma Gandhi was traveling by train, he was pained when he saw that the majority of the population was not having enough clothing. During his stay at Madurai, he left wearing his usual dress and started wearing only the dhoti, a simple dress that characterized the simplicity of the Father of the Nation….

Trains have a distinct semblance to the journey of life itself, and that is why they are so powerfully appealing to children and elders alike…

Kali, the Mother

The terror and the fury

Of sickle and scythe –

Weapons of death and destruction

Dancing in her hands

Her bare breasts covered with blood

Still dripping from the severed head that she carries in her hand –

What terror she must infuse in the evil minds of evil men?

She annihilates the past, the present and the future,

As the presiding deity of Kala, time;

Her formless form pervades infinity,

Devouring the maya of time and space,

astride on the wings of Infinite knowledge;

In primal purity she stands, wearing nothing but

The fundamental elements of nature as her clothes;

Lord Shiva had to hurl himself on the ground

To stop her from destroying all creation

In mock regret she bites the tongue,

When her feet touches her lord’s inert body on the ground

What an excuse for the Shiva – Sakthi leela?

Fifty skulls adorn her neck

One for each character of the Sanskrit vowel, claim scholars

As if she belongs to a language!

Even if Sanskrit is heavenly, is she not the mother of the universe?

The mother of all, wicked or wise, weak or strong;

Her heart melts to true devotion, uncoated with egoistic and educated theology

Ferocious she may be,

She is still the loving mother of the world;

For all her ferocity, for all her intolerance of evil, and for all her Motherly Love,

She ever remains the Mystic Mother of the Cosmic Universe….

And yet, men paint her black and call her Kali.

( Navratri just got over. These days, the true meaning of Navratri celebrations is being lost in the commercial sellout of the festival. Hopefully, the real meaning will resurface after some westerner publishes a book about Indian festivals and their meanings……)

Note : The father aspect of God, the Father, and the mother aspect of God, the Mother, are two interesting concepts of Indian/Hindu faith. In this, the mother aspect of Kali, is most misunderstood as a primitive God, wanting sacrifices. On the contrary, we find great poets like Bharathi, Aurobindo, Tagore, Ramprasad Sen, Kamalakanta Chakravarti, Trailokyanath Sanyal, Kalidas, and Kazi Nazrul Islam inspired by the notion of the mother aspect of God, as MAA KAALI, or simply, MAA. To the Great Mother of this Cosmic Universe, the true symbol of feminine godliness, I humbly submit this poem.

a friend sent this….it was really enlightening….