Excerpt from the original edition of Autobiography of a Yogi , Paramahansa Yogananda 1947
Kashi, Reborn and Rediscovered
“Please do not go into the water. Let us bathe by dipping our buckets.”
I was addressing the young Ranchi students who were accompanying me on an eight-mile hike to a neighboring hill. The pond before us was inviting, but a distaste for it had arisen in my mind. The group around me followed my example of dipping buckets, but a few lads yielded to the temptation of the cool waters. No sooner had they dived than large water snakes wiggled around them. The boys came out of the pond with comical alacrity.
We enjoyed a picnic lunch after we reached our destination. I sat under a tree, surrounded by a group of students. Finding me in an inspirational mood, they plied me with questions.
“Please tell me, sir,” one youth inquired, “if I shall always stay with you in the path of renunciation.”
“Ah, no,” I replied, “you will be forcibly taken away to your home, and later you will marry.”
Incredulous, he made a vehement protest. “Only if I am dead can I be carried home.” But in a few months, his parents arrived to take him away, in spite of his tearful resistance; some years later, he did marry.
After answering many questions, I was addressed by a lad named Kashi. He was about twelve years old, a brilliant student, and beloved by all.
“Sir,” he said, “what will be my fate?”
“You shall soon be dead.” The reply came from my lips with an irresistible force.
This unexpected disclosure shocked and grieved me as well as everyone present. Silently rebuking myself as an enfant terrible, I refused to answer further questions.
On our return to the school, Kashi came to my room.
“If I die, will you find me when I am reborn, and bring me again to the spiritual path?” He sobbed.
I felt constrained to refuse this difficult occult responsibility. But for weeks afterward, Kashi pressed me doggedly. Seeing him unnerved to the breaking point, I finally consoled him.
“Yes,” I promised. “If the Heavenly Father lends His aid, I will try to find you.”
During the summer vacation, I started on a short trip. Regretting that I could not take Kashi with me, I called him to my room before leaving, and carefully instructed him to remain, against all persuasion, in the spiritual vibrations of the school. Somehow I felt that if he did not go home, he might avoid the impending calamity.
No sooner had I left than Kashi’s father arrived in Ranchi. For fifteen days he tried to break the will of his son, explaining that if Kashi would go to Calcutta for only four days to see his mother, he could then return. Kashi persistently refused. The father finally said he would take the boy away with the help of the police. The threat disturbed Kashi, who was unwilling to be the cause of any unfavorable publicity to the school. He saw no choice but to go.
I returned to Ranchi a few days later. When I heard how Kashi had been removed, I entrained at once for Calcutta. There I engaged a horse cab. Very strangely, as the vehicle passed beyond the Howrah bridge over the Ganges, I beheld Kashi’s father and other relatives in mourning clothes. Shouting to my driver to stop, I rushed out and glared at the unfortunate father.
“Mr. Murderer,” I cried somewhat unreasonably, “you have killed my boy!”
The father had already realized the wrong he had done in forcibly bringing Kashi to Calcutta. During the few days the boy had been there, he had eaten contaminated food, contracted cholera, and passed on.
My love for Kashi, and the pledge to find him after death, night and day haunted me. No matter where I went, his face loomed up before me. I began a memorable search for him, even as long ago I had searched for my lost mother.
I felt that inasmuch as God had given me the faculty of reason, I must utilize it and tax my powers to the utmost in order to discover the subtle laws by which I could know the boy’s astral whereabouts. He was a soul vibrating with unfulfilled desires, I realized—a mass of light floating somewhere amidst millions of luminous souls in the astral regions. How was I to tune in with him, among so many vibrating lights of other souls?
Using a secret yoga technique, I broadcasted my love to Kashi’s soul through the microphone of the spiritual eye, the inner point between the eyebrows. With the antenna of upraised hands and fingers, I often turned myself round and round, trying to locate the direction in which he had been reborn as an embryo. I hoped to receive response from him in the concentration-tuned radio of my heart.1
I intuitively felt that Kashi would soon return to the earth, and that if I kept unceasingly broadcasting my call to him, his soul would reply. I knew that the slightest impulse sent by Kashi would be felt in my fingers, hands, arms, spine, and nerves.
With undiminished zeal, I practiced the yoga method steadily for about six months after Kashi’s death. Walking with a few friends one morning in the crowded Bowbazar section of Calcutta, I lifted my hands in the usual manner. For the first time, there was response. I thrilled to detect electrical impulses trickling down my fingers and palms. These currents translated themselves into one overpowering thought from a deep recess of my consciousness: “I am Kashi; I am Kashi; come to me!”
The thought became almost audible as I concentrated on my heart radio. In the characteristic, slightly hoarse whisper of Kashi,2 I heard his summons again and again. I seized the arm of one of my companions, Prokash Das, 3 and smiled at him joyfully.
“It looks as though I have located Kashi!”
I began to turn round and round, to the undisguised amusement of my friends and the passing throng. The electrical impulses tingled through my fingers only when I faced toward a near-by path, aptly named “Serpentine Lane.” The astral currents disappeared when I turned in other directions.
“Ah,” I exclaimed, “Kashi’s soul must be living in the womb of some mother whose home is in this lane.”
My companions and I approached closer to Serpentine Lane; the vibrations in my upraised hands grew stronger, more pronounced. As if by a magnet, I was pulled toward the right side of the road. Reaching the entrance of a certain house, I was astounded to find myself transfixed. I knocked at the door in a state of intense excitement, holding my very breath. I felt that the successful end had come for my long, arduous, and certainly unusual quest!
The door was opened by a servant, who told me her master was at home. He descended the stairway from the second floor and smiled at me inquiringly. I hardly knew how to frame my question, at once pertinent and impertinent.
“Please tell me, sir, if you and your wife have been expecting a child for about six months?”
“Yes, it is so.” Seeing that I was a swami, a renunciate attired in the traditional orange cloth, he added politely, “Pray inform me how you know my affairs.”
When he heard about Kashi and the promise I had given, the astonished man believed my story.
“A male child of fair complexion will be born to you,” I told him. “He will have a broad face, with a cowlick atop his forehead. His disposition will be notably spiritual.” I felt certain that the coming child would bear these resemblances to Kashi.
Later I visited the child, whose parents had given him his old name of Kashi. Even in infancy he was strikingly similar in appearance to my dear Ranchi student. The child showed me an instantaneous affection; the attraction of the past awoke with redoubled intensity.
Years later the teen-age boy wrote me, during my stay in America. He explained his deep longing to follow the path of a renunciate. I directed him to a Himalayan master who, to this day, guides the reborn Kashi.
1 The will, projected from the point between the eyebrows, is known by yogis as the broadcasting apparatus of thought. When the feeling is calmly concentrated on the heart, it acts as a mental radio, and can receive the messages of others from far or near. In telepathy the fine vibrations of thoughts in one person’s mind are transmitted through the subtle vibrations of astral ether and then through the grosser earthly ether, creating electrical waves which, in turn, translate themselves into thought waves in the mind of the other person.
2 Every soul in its pure state is omniscient. Kashi’s soul remembered all the characteristics of Kashi, the boy, and therefore mimicked his hoarse voice in order to stir my recognition.
3 Prokash Das is the present director of our Yogoda Math (hermitage) at Dakshineswar in Bengal.