Once Yogananda asked a truly fatherly person, â€˜Swamiji, please tell me whether you are feeling the advance of age.Â As the body is weakening, are your perceptions of Ishwar suffering any diminution, that is, any lessening?â€™
He smiled angelically, â€˜The Beloved Ishwar is more than ever with me now.â€™Â His compete conviction overwhelmed the mind and soul.Â During this meeting Paramahansa Yogananda noticed that Swamijiâ€™s room contained many plants and packages of seed and asked their purpose.
â€˜I have left my residence at Banaras permanentlyâ€™, Swamiji said, â€˜and am now on my way to the Himalayas. There I shall open an ashram for my disciples. These seeds will produce spinach and a few other vegetables. My dear disciples will live simply, spending their time in blissful God-union. Nothing else is necessary.â€™ For the question, â€˜When will you return?â€™, the answer was, â€˜Never again. I go now to the Himalayas to throw off my mortal frame.â€™
Paramahansa Yogananda said, â€˜My eyes filled with tears at his words, but the Swami smiled tranquillyâ€¦.calmly. He reminded me of a little heavenly child sitting securely on the lap of a Divine Mother.Â The burden of the years has no ill effect on the great yogiâ€™s full possession of supreme spiritual powers. He is able to renew his body at will; yet sometimes he does not care to retard the aging process, but allows his karma to expend itself on the physical plane, using his present body as a time-saving device to preclude the necessity of working out remaining fragments of karma in a new incarnation.
Paramahansa Yogananda further said, â€˜Months later I met an old friend Sanandan who is one of Swamijiâ€™s close disciples. â€œMy adorable guru is goneâ€, he told me, amidst sobs. â€œHe established a hermitage near Rishikesh, and gave us loving training. When we were pretty well settled and had made rapid progress in his company, he proposed one day to feed a huge crowd from Rishikesh. I inquired why he wanted such a large number.
â€˜This is my last festival ceremonyâ€™, he said. I did not understand the full implications of his worlds. Swamiji helped with the cooking of great amounts of food. We fed about two thousand guests. After the feast he sat on a high platform and gave an inspired sermon on the Infinite. At the end, before the gaze of thousands, he turned to me, as I sat beside him on the dais, and spoke with unusual force. â€œSanandan, be prepared, I am going to kick the frame.â€
After a stunned silence, I cried loudly, â€˜Master, donâ€™t do it! Please, donâ€™t do it!â€™Â The crowd remained silent, wondering at my words. Swamiji smiled at me, but his eyes were already beholding Eternity.
â€œBe not selfish,â€ he said, â€œnor grieve for me. I have long been cheerfully serving you all; now rejoice and wish me Godspeed. I go to meet my Cosmic Beloved.â€
He looked at the sea of faces before us and gave a blessing. Directing his gaze inward to he spiritual eye, he became immobile. While the bewildered crowd thought he was meditating, he had already left the tent of the body and flesh, and plunged his soul into cosmic vastness. The disciples touched his body, seated in the lotus posture, but it was no longer warm flesh. Only a stiffened frame remained, the tenant had fled to the immortal shore.â€™
This is a beautiful and simple story of a holy man totally unafraid of death, who is able to choose the very moment of his passing after having performed his duties in a loving way to his spiritual community and the wider society, for he is already immersed in the bliss of Brahman. For such a one, death holds no terror, for the boundaries between life and death are indeed porous.
For most of us, however, death is something that, as Hamlet mused, â€™puzzles the willâ€™:
â€˜For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pauseâ€¦
The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveller returnsâ€¦.
â€¦.makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not ofâ€¦..â€™
However, in truly spiritual sages, fear of death is replaced by fearlessness and equanimity, for these souls have realized that there is no security, no permanence here on earth, where human life is transient and the individualâ€™s separate identity illusory.
For it is only when we understand that we are part of a truly magnificent wholeness, a cosmic unity, which exudes eternal peace and tranquillity that we can let go of our fear and melt it in the fire of compassion and love. Knowing this, we understand that we are a true reflection of the Universal Self, which is total perfection and peace. Thus we feel the unbounded joy of being enveloped in the unimaginable fullness of love of the Divine Mother. Knowing this with every fiber of our being, death loses its mystery and terror for us, and is simply a transition to a state of total freedom and bliss.