The first meeting of Yogananda and Dr. M. W. Lewis
Dr. Minott W. Lewis, a Boston dentist, met Paramahansaji a short time after the Guru’s arrival in America in 1920, and became a lifelong disciple. During the many years that he served as a vice-president and well-beloved minister of Self-Realization Fellowship, he often shared with his audiences uplifting stories about Paramahansaji. Among the most inspiring was his account of his first meeting with Paramahansaji. The following narrative incorporates details compiled from several of Doctor’s talks given over the years:
In late 1920, not long after Paramahansa Yogananda had arrived in America, the young swami was invited to speak at a Unitarian church in the Boston area, where Dr. Lewis’ longtime friend Mrs. Alice Hasey was a member of the congregation. Mrs. Hasey (to whom Paramahansaji later gave the name Sister Yogmata) knew of Dr. Lewis’ interest in spirituality, and strongly suggested to him, “You should meet Swami Yogananda.”
An appointment was made for Christmas Eve at Unity House, where the Master had a room. When Doctor left his home to keep this engagement he thought he would be gone just a short time. He told his wife, Mildred, that he would be back soon to decorate the Christmas tree.
On his way to Unity House, Doctor recalled parental warnings against being deceived or misled by charlatans who pose as religious teachers; his frame of mind was sceptical.
Paramahansaji received Dr. Lewis warmly. The young dentist had many spiritual questions on his mind, and Paramahansaji gave him satisfying answers. Many years later, Doctor said of this occasion, “I was ‘from Missouri,’ and I had to be shown. Worse than that, I was from New England, and I had to know!”
On that Christmas Eve in 1920 he said to Paramahansaji: “The Bible tells us: ‘The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.’ Can you explain this?”
“I think so,” the Guru replied.
Doctor was still doubtful. “I have asked many persons,” he said, “but no one seems to know the meaning.”
“Can the blind lead the blind?” Paramahansaji responded. “Both would fall into the same ditch of error.”
“Can you show me these things?”
“I think so,” the Master reiterated.
“Then, for heaven’s sake, please show me!”
Placing a tiger skin on the floor, the Guru asked Doctor to sit cross-legged on it, and sat opposite him. Looking directly into Doctor’s eyes, Paramahansaji asked: “Will you always love me as I love you?”
Doctor replied in the affirmative. Then the Guru said, “Your sins are forgiven and I take charge of your life.”
“With these words,” Doctor later recounted, “I felt a great load lifted from my shoulders. It is a fact. I felt a great relief — as though I had been freed from mountains of karma and delusion. A great weight lifted, and that weight has been lifted ever since. There have been many trials — plenty of them — but that load has never returned.”
Continuing the story, Dr. Lewis said:
“The Master then placed his forehead against my forehead. He told me to lift my eyes and look at the point between the eyebrows, which I did. And there I beheld the great light of the spiritual eye. The Master did not suggest that I see anything. He did not in any way influence me through suggestion. What I saw came in a natural way.
“I was fully conscious, fully awake, fully alert, and I saw the spiritual eye because the Master stilled the waves of my mind and allowed my own intuition of the soul to show this to me. As I looked further in the great golden light, the whole spiritual eye formed, with its inner dark-blue centre representing or manifesting the Christ Consciousness within me, and finally the little silver star in the centre, the epitome of Cosmic Consciousness. [See “spiritual eye” in glossary.]
“Of course, I was overwhelmed at having found someone who could show me the inner reality that is within each and every one of us. I realized that he was not an ordinary person, but one far different from the ordinary run of men who profess to know about such spiritual things.
“We talked for a few minutes, and then he once more pressed his forehead against my forehead; and it was then that I saw the great light of the thousand-rayed lotus [the highest spiritual centre, located in the top of the brain] — the most exquisite thing that can be seen, with its many, many rays of silver leaves. At the bottom of the thousand-rayed lotus I could see, outlined in denser light, the walls of the large arteries at the base of the brain. And lo and behold, as I watched, little sparks of light inside the arteries were bobbing along, striking the walls as they passed before my vision. These were the blood corpuscles, each with its little spark of astral light manifesting as it carried out its duty in God’s play of light.
“Seeing these wonderful things, I was most grateful for having met such a man of realization. And I remember the Master said, ‘If you will allow me to discipline you, and follow regularly the path I lay down, these things will be with you always.’ I have endeavoured to do that, and I can testify that the words of the Master came true.”
Paramahansaji also said: “I want you to promise that you will never avoid me.” Doctor promised.
Of this pact between guru and disciple Doctor said later, “Many times it was very difficult, for the discipline of a guru is not easy; but it is always for your highest good, guiding you to the abode of Light.”
After showing Dr. Lewis how to see the light of the spiritual eye, and giving him other spiritual instruction, Paramahansaji asked him if he thought other Americans would be interested in these teachings.
“Yes, I do,” Doctor replied.
“Then,” the Guru said, “after you practice what I have taught you, if these techniques of meditation appeal to you and benefit you, will you help others to know about them?”
“I certainly will,” said Doctor.
It was two o’clock on that Christmas morning in 1920 when Doctor returned home from his appointment with Paramahansaji. Mrs. Lewis had been understandably alarmed by his long absence; but when she saw his face, she realized that the meeting of her husband with Paramahansaji had been a transforming experience.
Often afterward, when telling of this divine awakening, Doctor said, “It was my first real Christmas!”
Describing the impression made on him by that initial meeting with his guru, he later wrote: “As we sat together on the tiger skin rug enjoying God’s presence, and I looked into his face, I saw no show of consciousness of superior ability. He might well have expressed it; for to be able, by such great calmness and realization, to help another to feel the Divine Consciousness is no mean accomplishment. But instead there was present an expression of humbleness, love, and supreme satisfaction that another of God’s children was able, like himself, to enjoy the presence and bliss of the Lord, our common Father. Such humility has been and always will be a deep inspiration to me. To my mind, it is a characteristic of true greatness.”
Telling of this incident many years later, at the dedication of the Self-Realization Ashram Centre in Encinitas, Doctor said:
“That is why, friends, I have been interested in Self Realization Fellowship, and that is why I have tried to help; because I knew that some good, some great good, would come from Paramahansa Yogananda. America has given me much, and I am thankful for it; but there is one thing that America did not give me, and that is the spiritual realization and understanding I received from India; they came to me from Paramahansa Yogananda.”