Lewis - Accomplished Yogi, Devoted Disciple and Householder
Dr. and Mama Lewis, Borrego, 1956
In spite of his very busy schedule, Dr. Lewis spent long hours in
deep meditation at Borrego Springs during the time he ministered to
the SRF devotees, taking one day of silent communion with God every
week. Mrs. Lewis draped heavy black cloth over his meditation room
so that the solar light would not diffuse the great spiritual light
that he beheld.
After Dr. Lewis left his body, Mama had a beautiful chapel built
there in honor of her late husband. The chapel was blessed by
Brother Anandamoy and is now used by the monks who go on retreat at
Borrego since the Lewis' home was recently given to SRF following
Doctor’s and Mama’s wishes.
John and Brenda Rosser, 1964
Holidays at Borrego Springs
(This story was told by Mary Crawford who lived with Mama Lewis
as friend and caretaker for thirty years. Mama Lewis died in her
arms in 1988.)
It was not unusual for Dennis Weaver, James Arness, Mama Lewis,
John and Brenda Rosser and Mary Crawford to spend weekend after
weekend and holidays at Borrego Springs in the Lewis' retreat. They
spent hours meditating, chanting, praying, eating, swimming and
enjoying all of God's creation.
Christmas and Easter were very special for all. But these
meditations ended when Mother Lewis passed away. Gatherings were not
the same without her – she was such a loving “mother” to all!
There were usually up to 20 people seated in the chapel, filling
it to capacity. Brenda played all the chants and the music for the
day and John said the opening and closing prayers. We also listened
to a recording of Master’s Christmas message. Then we would eat
Mama’s famous fresh pea soup followed by a delicious buffet,
followed by an evening of caroling lead by Brenda on the organ. The
spirit of love and fellowship went on and on. I miss those glorious
Mama Lewis and Brenda Rosser
Mama Lewis and Dennis Weaver
What Are You?
Doctor Lewis said that he couldn't have made it without his
weekly retreats in Borrego, getting away from his duties as Vice
President of SRF and his responsibilities in Encinitas, San Diego
and Hollywood Temples.
When he was in Borrego, Mrs. Lewis took care of all the home
duties to make Doctor's stay as peaceful and relaxing as possible,
for she was keenly aware that her husband was not like other men -
she knew of his tremendous sadhana and his deep spiritual
One morning, as Doctor was slowly eating his breakfast, Mrs.
Lewis was sitting across the table from him, saying nothing. She
looked long and hard at him and then thought, "What are you anyway?"
This is commensurate with an experience John Rosser had with
Doctor Lewis in the minister's room at the Hollywood Temple. After
his regular interview with Doctor, John Rosser said to him, "Nobody
knows what you are, do they, Doctor?" And Doctor Lewis replied, "No,
even Mildred doesn't know me."
It is said that you can only truly recognize a saint when you
Paramahansa Yogananda and Dr. Lewis at Lookout
Dr. Lewis -
Accomplished Yogi, Devoted Disciple and Householder
Dr. Lewis was a very close disciple and friend to the great guru
Paramahansa Yogananda. From the day Doctor met Master in Boston on
Christmas Eve, 1920 (when he became the first American Kriyaban and
was shown the spiritual eye and the thousand petal lotus), to his
glorious passing on April 13, 1960, his life was that of an
exemplary yogi disciple following faithfully in the steps of his
Swami Yogananda lived in Doctor’s home for three years before
embarking on his cross-continental tour that led him to California.
When Master left, he asked Doctor to stay in Boston to lead the
meditation group there and to continue to raise money to support his
lecture tours in America – which Doctor obediently did even though
he dearly wished to follow his guru. Master finally asked Doctor and
Mama to move to Encinitas in 1945.
Doctor then began to lecture at the Encinitas and San Diego
temples and was put in charge of the Encinitas Colony. After
Master’s passing in 1952, Doctor became Self Realization
Fellowship’s first Vice-President. He continued to lecture in
Hollywood, Encinitas and San Diego, giving up to 7 lectures a week
in addition to being in charge of the monks’ training in Encinitas
and giving Kriya Initiations.
In spite of his very busy schedule, he always took time for
meditation, taking one day of silent communion with God every week
in his home in Borrego. Mrs. Lewis draped heavy black cloth over his
meditation room so that the solar light would not diffuse the great
spiritual light that he beheld.
His great yogic passing was witnessed by his wife, Mildred Lewis,
and recorded in the book: Dr. M.W. Lewis: The Life Story of One of
the Earliest American Disciples of Paramahansa Yogananda (published
Dr. Lewis, 1923
“On April 7th, 1960, Doctor entered Scripps Memorial
Hospital in La Jolla for a rest and medical tests. On April 13th, as
I was visiting him, Doctor took a nap at seven p.m. He slept
peacefully until seven-thirty when he awakened and told me, “I want
to sit up straight.” I arranged the pillows at his back as he
assumed the lotus pose for his usual evening meditation. His hands
were upturned, his eyes closed. I sat beside the bed, thinking that
I too would meditate.
I was aroused in two or three minutes by a tremendous sound. It
resembled the suction sound of a huge pump, or the breath sound of a
giant Kriya. With the sound came a great flash of spiritual white
light, whose brilliance might be compared to that given forth by a
million electric light bulbs.
Doctor’s blue eyes opened; piercing flashes of blue light came
from them. Then they were locked at the Christ center in the
forehead. His head lowered somewhat, but his body remained erect.
For an instant, the face of Swami Sri Yukteswarji appeared,
enveloping Doctor’s face. Then all was over.
How many times I have thanked God, the Great Ones, and beloved
Master that I was privileged to witness such a glorious passing!
Doctor Lewis’ example heartens us to continue making efforts in
our sadhana. Master’s guidance and encouragement (published in
Treasures Against Time: Paramahansa Yogananda with Doctor and Mrs.
Lewis) are applicable to all of us who strive to reach our spiritual
goal while carrying our family and world responsibilities.
The text and pictures in these
pages are from John Rosser and Brenda Lewis-Rosser and used
with their permission. Brenda Rosser is the daughter of Dr.
and Mrs. Lewis. Mr. Rosser served Dr. Lewis when he
ministered at the Hollywood Temple.
Doctor and Mrs. Lewis meet Swami
Yogananda in Boston
The first place where Master spoke in Boston (1920)
was a Methodist church located in the neighborhood where the Lewis
family lived and where Doctor Lewis had his practice. Alice Haysey,
who later became Sister Yogamata, was one of the first Bostonians to
meet Master. She was very excited about this Swami from India and
invited her friend, Mrs. Mildred Lewis to come and meet him at their
community church. Mrs. Lewis accepted.
The young Swami exchanged pleasantries with the ladies. Then he
told Mrs. Lewis that he would like to talk to her privately and she
went along with him. He took her into an adjacent room where they
could be alone.
Mrs. Lewis later said that she didn’t remember anything of what
the Swami said or did in that room, but she was with him for almost
an hour. When she came out, she was in tears. She doesn’t know what
happened but she knew later that Master’s spiritual power had
overtaken her consciousness and changed her in everyway. (From this
day till her passing in 1989…, Mrs. Lewis was always by the guru’s
side. Often when a situation occurred where a strong and
discriminative mind was needed, Master would say, “Get Mildred.”)
After this meeting, Mrs. Lewis encouraged Doctor to meet the
Swami; although he was quite reluctant do so until Mrs. Lewis
persuaded him. And from that meeting came the first Kriya initiation
in America and the start of SRF. (The story of Doctor’s first
meeting with Master can be read in “Treasures Against Time”.)
Afterwards, Master moved in with the Lewis family and shared in
the daily life with them until 1923. The children were raised with
“a Father, a Mother, and a Swamiji”, as Brenda later told us.
Master saves Doctor from Drowning
This dramatic story of Master’s miraculous intervention in 1922
along with other miraculous events in the Lewis’ lives can be found
in the book Treasures Against Time.
Letter from Sri Yukteswar to Dr.
In Treasures Against Time there is a letter from Sri Yukteswarji
to Doctor Lewis where the great guru praises Doctor for advancing in
"My dear Doctor: Yours of the 9th of May is at hand (l922). I
heartily congratulate you that you have advanced so much in
spiritual consciousness and appreciate the real truth of the
Innumerable thanks to our Almighty Father through whose blessings
my disciple Swami Yogananda has become a help to you. If our Sadhu
Sadha gets a home for Satsanga at your place, I shall be extremely
glad to be with you out there, and enjoy a pleasant trip with your
company round the world.
With my whole heart's love, I remain, Very sincerely yours, Swami
Dr. and BrendaLewis, 1923
Pie For Santa
By Brenda Lewis Rosser
In the early days in our home, the Christmas tree was not
decorated until Christmas Eve after Bradford and I were in our beds.
On this particular night, Mother had been baking her pies and cakes
for the holiday, especially her famous apple pie. My brother and I
asked her if we could have a piece of the pie to leave for Santa
Claus, to which she agreed.
We set a place at the dining room table and mother cut a piece of
her pie and left it for Santa. We were finally sent off to bed so
that Mother could complete the Christmas tree.
After awhile my brother and I slipped out of our rooms and took
up our vigil at the head of the stairs awaiting the arrival of Santa
Finally, Bradford said he heard the reindeer stopping on the
roof. We kept watching the dining room table when all of a sudden a
familiar face appeared at the table. It was Swamiji! He sat down and
ate Santa’s pie – but what greater Santa could there be than a true
Back in the early days in Boston, when Master was living at the
Lewis home, there was a lot of controversy in the city about a
condemned man. There was a great division on both sides whether he
was guilty or not. Appeal after appeal was made for a stay of
execution, but none were honored. Then a last appeal was sent to the
governor but he turned it down.
Doctor thought that the condemned man life’s should be spared, since
he was certain that he was not guilty of the crime he was accused
of. So Doctor asked Master if he could do “anything about it” and
Master went to his room saying, "We will see..."
In the morning, when Doctor went to pick up the paper, there was
just one word blazoned across the headline, "REPRIEVED". People
thought the governor had a change of heart, but Doctor knew in his
soul that it was Master’s doing.
Bradford and Brenda Lewis, 1925
During the l920's one could buy stock in the stock market without
putting up much money... They called it buying on the margin.
Everyone was reveling in the continuing upsurge of the market and so
Doctor thought he would get in and make some money for Master's
He jumped in heavily, investing $500,000.00 which in today's
money would represent several million. But the market suddenly went
down. Mama Lewis said that Doctor was “sweating blood” after this
happened How could a dentist come up with that much money? While
Doctor was feeling all this stress, Master walked in the room.
Doctor turned on the stock report on the radio and found that the
market had surged back up past where he had bought in so he was
saved from bankruptcy.
Master had stayed calm through the ordeal. Doctor asked him how he
could stay so calm when they were facing financial ruin? Master
quietly said, "The same father who protects me, protects you. He is
our Common Father."
During the depression in l933, all the banks were closed. Mama
Lewis was frightened for her children for they had no cash and had
no way to get any. She called Doctor at the office. He told her to
keep her eye on the sewing machine. She did, and when he got home he
opened it up and took from the money he had hid. There was enough to
see them through until the banks opened again.
But Doctor reminds us, "One of the greatest things we have in SRF
is the great sense of security we feel in God's Presence."
It wasn’t long after Master landed in Boston that he began his
lecture tour. One of the first places he spoke was in the
prestigious Symphony Hall in Boston. There was a lot of interest in
the city about this man from India speaking at their great concert
hall and a large crowd was expected. Dr. and Mrs. Lewis were
excited, too, about the prospects of hearing their guru speak to the
Mrs. Lewis was concerned about her two small children, Bradford
and Brenda. Master told her to bring both of them to the lecture,
and make sure they stayed awake for then they would be receptive to
the words and the consciousness of the evening which would lodge
permanently in their souls.
Years later, Doctor Lewis baptized two young children in the
Hollywood Temple. He said that both of the children were scratching
at their forehead trying to erase the feeling there, which was the
Divine Vibration. Doctor always liked to baptize the children for he
said they were fresh from God and more receptive than older devotees
whose consciousness had been besmirched by the world.
The Attempted Robbery
During the depression there was less crime than in ordinary
times, although there are always those who were lurking to get
something for nothing. Dental offices with their supply of gold were
always fair game.
One day while Doctor was working on a patient, a stranger came
in. Doctor immediately saw that the man had a gun and obviously was
going to try and rob him. But Doctor had learned from Master that
the vibration of a man of realization can ward off evil and so he
caught the eye of the would-robber and concentrated his gaze. The
man became very nervous and in the next moment, dropped his gun and
ran out of the office.
Evil has no force that can overtake the Divine vibration.