Perception of truthfulness
A husband and wife invited us to drive down and take a ride in their private plane. Most of us boys, I think all, jumped at the chance, though I am sure I had some qualms. Swami went along. But when the time for rides was offered—and we took turns going up (including a fly over the monastery)—he demurred and said he would not take a turn. Cajoled, begged, accused of fear, he would not budge. At last the truth came out: “You see, while leaving, I went to the shrine,” (as he always did) “and told the Lord where I was going. I didn’t realise we were going up in a plane, and I didn’t tell Him I would; so I cannot do it.”
— Swami Yogeshananda
Holy Mother’s cat
When the cat was first brought to the center, dying of leukemia, Swami nursed it with Ganga water and mahaprasad, which literally means “great sanctified offering.” Mahaprasad is an offering from the Jagannath Temple in Puri and is considered to be very sacred and very purifying. Needless to say, the cat recovered.
Swami always addressed the cat as “kitty” and made sure it was present for all his lectures and classes. He used to say that kitty was his best student, because it simply was not necessary to verbally understand the meaning of his classes and lectures on religious topics. The cat could imbibe the tanmatras, or subtle vibrations, from the sacred subjects that were being expounded in the lecture hall. That was enough for its spiritual progress—such was Swami’s conviction. And such was Swami’s dedication to his pet “student,” that he later mentioned that he’d even given the cat a Shiva mantra!
Holy Mother’s cat lived for quite a few years before it finally passed away. Swami asked that the cat’s body be brought into the shrine. There he knelt with the cat in his arms before the large shrine photo of Holy Mother. Swami stayed in that position for a very long time, silently kneeling before Holy Mother’s photo. We watched from the shrine doorway for what seemed like 10 or 15 minutes before he finally got up and left the shrine. Then he announced to those of us present that we would hold a memorial service for the kitty, and that everyone must attend and offer a flower. The ceremony took place out in the garden, next to the shrine. A little grave was dug, Swami chanted, said some prayers, and we each offered a flower on the grave itself. About a dozen people attended this simple, but touching ceremony.
— Pravrajika Brahmaprana
Relationship with household items
The mandate for anyone visiting the Portland Center was to absolutely follow every instruction given by the Swami, exactly. And before initiating anything, you’d better ask permission. This was Holy Mother’s center and Aseshanandaji was a strict caretaker. He could let lose a withering barrage in a loud voice, listing your errors and mistakes. Maybe even throwing in a “Useless Americans…” once in a while.
On one visit, I watched as Swami Aseshanandaji came in from watering the garden, with his pants soaking wet from the leaking hose, which had been repaired so many times it was leaking badly. He was even grumbling about the hoses. I thought, here’s my opening. So I drove to a hardware store and bought several hundred feet of very good garden hoses, brooms, and rakes. I was feeling great – but… Aseshanandaji lit into me, in full throated voice, “When you come here, you must do exactly as I say. You have no right to do these things. You are not welcome if you won’t obey me.” It left me shaken to my core. I really did feel as if I violated his rules, I had crossed a line. For the rest of the day, Swami gave me no relief, and we were leaving the next morning. As I was waiting for the time to leave, I sat on my bed in a room in the monastery with my suitcase packed. Near tears, I feared that this was going to be my last interaction with Swami.
Just then, Swami came into my room, full of love and sweetness and said, “You see, Dharmadas, these things, the hoses, the brooms, all of it – they are like old dear friends, and you can’t just throw them away.” I fully and deeply apologised and took the dust of his feet. His anger was truly like what is talked about in the Gospel, like a mark on water, the lesson remains, but without the pain.