day of the Blue Pearl Experience Course, which was held in the Meditation Hall at Shree Muktananda Ashram, South Fallsburg, New York September 16, 1989 and broadcast live all over the world. What a great send off for my wonderful Guru!! .
One of Yogacharya's long time students, Peggy Braden was present at Yogacharya's Mahasamadhi and gives this wonderful account. This is an excerpt from Evelyn 'Betty' Howard's book 'Angels Among Us, The Fabulous J. Oliver Black'
The Eternal in Us Cannot Die, By Peggy Braden
DEATH IS A TRANSITION; or so we're told. As I watched my yoga teacher draw his last breath, I doubted the helplessness of humanity in the face of death, and questioned even the finality of death itself.
The following is from a talk given at Song Of The Morning Ranch Sunday September 6, 1991 During Yogacharya’s Birthday Remembrance by one of Yogacharya's foremost disciples Irmgard Elizabeth Kurtz.
Yogacharya's Mahasamadhi was September 16,1989 at the Otsego County Memorial Hospital in Gaylord. At that time he was 96 years old and had been a disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda's for over 55 years. He had trained many disciples throughout the years and had brought thousands to the philosophy of Yoga and Self Realization Fellowship. He was intensely loyal to his master and his work; always giving all credit and praise to his Guru. One interesting somewhat mystical happening on the date of
Yogacharya's Mahasamadhi, was the world wide broadcast and recording of
Raga Bhupali, 'The Great Redeeming Mantra'. The recording was made the last
" Whenever a man gains greatness on this earth, he has his reward according to his meditation." (The Upanishads)
Yogacharya did not seem the victim of death, but rather met it on his terms--in meditation. His leaving seemed more a transition than a finality.
" Nay, but as one layeth his worn out robes away,
And taking new ones, sayeth, 'These will I wear today!'
So putteth by the spirit lightly its garb of flesh,
And passeth to inherit a residence afresh."
Feeling very calm, as if just a witness, I got up and went over to him. I very quietly called his name and ever so lightly touched his hand. I didn't want to shock him out of a deep state of meditation, if that was the case. But there is no immediate return for a yogi from the final state of meditation, or "mahasamadhi". It is their final exit from the body into the infinite Spirit. When there was no response from him I went for the nurse nearby. Not much later, the Herculean efforts of a team of doctors and nurses to revive him were of no avail. He had done the "dipsy doodle", just as he had joked about with his twinkling eyes and joyful laugh.
The transition now became ours as we adjusted to life without our dear friend and mentor. His yoga students from all over the country cooperated to keep his dream alive and thriving; his Song of the Morning Yoga Retreat.
A play written to honor his last birthday, based on the teaching stories of Yogananda, contains a passage that was the theme of the play:
Yogacharya ate and spoke little that day and spent much of his time sitting up with eyes closed and legs crossed in meditation posture. Later that evening I joined him in meditation, sitting on the bed across the room. the room was suffused with a stillness and deep spiritual peace. Although my own meditation was quite wonderful, I opened my eyes frequently to check on him, as the railings on the side of the bed were not up. He was strong, in good health, yet frail at 96. He had been sitting up and lying down under his own power all day. As the hour of mystic summoning approached, I glanced at him once more. Suddenly I saw him begin to fall backwards on the bed, eyes upturned and locked at the midspot between the eyebrows, his legs still folded in "sadhana" position. His breath was leaving him with the sound of a loud, hoarse whisper.
On the second day of his hospital visit, September 16, 1989, I was happy to relieve his secretary at his bedside. I was to stay until the doctor arrived on rounds the next morning. Yogacharya was courteous and appreciative, as always. His many successful years at the helm of his own large auto parts business in Detroit and his great devotion to family and friends were products of his refined, gracious, yet down-to-earth nature. He had been a yoga teacher for over 50 years, founding a forested yoga retreat in northern Michigan in 1971. By 1989 he was the oldest living disciple of Yogananda.
Yogacharya had talked for years about doing the "dipsy doodle" someday-- meaning "leaving the body, or dying". When he entered the hospital at age 96, he remarked to a long-time student, "This seems as good a place as any, doesn't it? The student didn't quite know what Yogacharya meant at the time, but later reflected that he knew his time of departure was soon. Over the years he had quietly mentioned once in a while that he knew the year and day of his death.
Another Scripture, the Upanishads, holy to the Hindus, was often quoted by Yogacharya, (a name meaning "yoga teacher" and given to Oliver Black by Paramahansa Yogananda) especially in the months preceding his passing: "A mortal ripens like corn, and like corn he is born again." It is a significant line in a story of a young man's efforts to outwit death and return to his family. He eventually succeeds in learning a carefully guarded secret from Yama, the god of Death himself, that the Eternal in man cannot die.
A Biblical verse from the book of Job, which Handel set to music so beautifully in his oratorio Messiah, says: "O Death, where is Thy sting; O Grave where is Thy victory?" It is set as a duet, as if two voices, representing humankind and death, are locked in an eternal struggle. In this scenario, the victory is won for humankind by the Son of God, a manifestation of the Eternal.
YOGACHARYA TOUCHED INNUMERABLE LIVES with his grace, his blessings, with his goodness, joy and love. I am one of those blessed ones who had the great and good fortune to be able to be with Yogacharya for many years—both, through his SRF work at the Detroit Institute of Arts, and later here, (at Song of the Morning Ranch).
Today I would like to tell you—with Yogacharya’s sweet permission, how I met him, this remarkable soul who became the greatest blessing, and also the greatest challenge of my life.
Thinking back, it seems as though we have always known each other, but we actually met Thanksgiving weekend 1964. I had gotten started with the SRF lessons 3 1/2 years before, and had practiced the meditation techniques faithfully. However, there was one “small” problem, I had been rather seriously hurt during a bombing raid in Germany, years before. After a six week hospital stay I thought all was well; but then over the next several years I started to develop headaches that became more excruciating as time went by, until our family physician scheduled me for “exploratory surgery” the week after Thanksgiving. I had written to the SRF Mother Center previously concerning this problem, and they advised me to go to Detroit SRF center to see Yogacharya J. Oliver Black.
Now, my then husband was so set against anything “yoga”, that I could just as soon had planned a trip to the moon. In the meantime the surgery date moved closer, and I became quite concerned, thinking that there was not one “normal” brainwave to be found in me, after practicing the Kriya Yoga techniques for about 3 years. So, at the suggestion from Mother Center on one hand, and urging from one of my Chicago SRF friends, my husband finally relented just to get my mind off the surgery. And so I went.
I stayed over night at my friend’s place of the Chicago SRF group. We were leaving the following day for Detroit. Strangely, I was rather neutral about this upcoming visit. I knew nothing about Yogacharya, or Mr. Black, as we still called him then. So, not knowing what to expect, I took my famous “wait, look and listen” stance.
I slept in the meditation room on the couch that night: when early the following morning I awoke by something that felt as though I had been struck by lightening in the middle of my heart-center. I sat bolt-upright and looked to see what had happened. There, on the altar, the white robed picture of Yogacharya radiated light. And the picture, and the radiating light kept expanding until it filled the whole room, and still the light expanded until there was no more meditation room left, no building, but throughout the sky all I could see was Yogacharya’s face in this radiating light.
I don’t know how long I sat there, watching, filled with joy and awe, and I couldn’t wait after that to see this living master and saint.
Sunday morning found us at the Art Institute in Detroit. I was still Totally shaken from this experience, and could hardly wait to see him face to face. Finally, a slender man, looking about 50, came out on the podium, wearing a dark blue suit, and sat down on the solitary chair. The place grew quiet. I wondered if this could be the same master I had seen in this ever-expanding light the morning before. I was now looking for a giant!! So I made the great mistake to search his face and looked intently at his spiritual eye. . . now, that was my first mistake, or my second blessing, because at the same time Yogacharya hooked his gaze, somehow, into my own spiritual eye and I “saw and felt” that he read and unrolled my whole life’s history like a scroll. It seemed I viewed all The events of my life with him at the same time. That is quite an experience, and it can also be quite disconcerting. But at the same time I felt such love and compassion flowing from him to me, that it totally overwhelmed me, and I knew my search had ended, and I had found what I termed “the living light,” and my spiritual home, —and I knew I would never leave him again.
I don’t remember much of the service—I was swimming in a sea of bliss and tears—and if that was not enough blessing: after the service, during our fellowship time, he also healed me of those excruciating headaches. Over my feeble protests that I was too heavy, he smiled and said he was a very strong yogi—he just lifted me up by the shoulders and neck, and cracked my head and neck a few times until I could feel the warmth of blood and life-force rushing through the left side of my head again. “Oh, it was just like a ‘kink in a garden hose,” yogi, (Yogacharya) said afterwards.
When I tried to thank him, . . .And: “you’ll be allright now!” —and I was! When I got home, still totally overwhelmed, all I had to do was to explain to my husband and my doctor why I no longer needed surgery, not exploratory, or otherwise. After some interesting discussions (!) They finally relented; I will count it to their honor: they agreed to re-do the tests —almost against their better judgment. Only this time the tests were all “normal”.
And so, by the grace of god I was not only healed, but had found what I had been looking for all my life—a living master, and my spiritual home. This is my story, and it is true, every word of it. I have told this to some of my closest friends over the years, but mostly have kept this in my heart, now it can be told, that he who “walked with me and talked with me” was, and is a very special, a very great soul. This is my tribute to you, sweet Yogacharyaji! Thank you for what you have taught me, thank you that you were here for all of us. Thank you master of mine, thank you for your light, your God-consciousness, your eternal love.
(Irmgard, your devotee.)