Lahiri Mahasaya was born on September 30, 1828, in the village of Ghurni in Bengal, India. At the age of thirty-three, while walking one day on Drongiri mountain, in the Himalayan foothills near Ranikhet, he met his guru, Mahavatar Babaji. It was a divine reunion of two who had been together in many lives past; at an awakening touch of blessing, Lahiri Mahasaya became engulfed in a spiritual aura of divine realization that was never to leave him. Mahavatar Babaji initiated him in the science of Kriya Yoga and instructed him to teach the sacred technique to sincere seekers. Lahiri Mahasaya returned to his home in Banaras to fulfil this mission. [Mahasaya, a Sanskrit religious title, means “large-minded.”]
Paramahansa Yogananda wrote in Autobiography of a Yogi: “As the fragrance of flowers cannot be suppressed, so Lahiri Mahasaya, quietly living as an ideal householder, could not hide his innate glory. Devotee-bees from every part of India began to seek the divine nectar of the liberated master… The harmoniously balanced life of the great householder-guru became the inspiration of thousands of men and women.” As Lahiri Mahasaya exemplified the highest ideals of Yoga, union of the little self with God, he is revered as a Yogavatar, or incarnation of Yoga.
Disciple of Mahavatar Babaji and guru of Swami Sri Yukteswar (Paramahansa Yogananda’s guru), Lahiri Mahasaya was the one whom Babaji chose to teach openly for the first time the ancient, almost lost science of Kriya Yoga. He was a Christlike teacher with miraculous powers; but also a family man with business responsibilities, who demonstrated for the modern world how an ideally balanced life can be achieved by combining meditation with right performance of outer duties.
Lahiri Mahasaya was a seminal figure in the renaissance of Yoga in modern India, giving instruction and blessing to countless seekers who came to him, without regard to caste or creed. No prophet before him, Paramahansa Yogananda pointed out, had distilled the entire Raja Yoga system of Patanjali and the yoga teachings of Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita into a number of uncomplicated techniques capable of producing the greatest Self-realization. “Apart from the miracles of his own life,” Paramahansaji wrote, “surely the Yogavatar reached the zenith of all wonders in reducing the ancient complexities of yoga to an effective simplicity within the ordinary grasp.”
Lahiri Mahasaya established no organization during his lifetime, but made this prediction: “About fifty years after my passing, an account of my life will be written because of a deep interest in Yoga that will arise in the West. The message of Yoga will encircle the globe. It will aid in establishing the brotherhood of man: a unity based on humanity’s direct perception of the one Father.”
Lahiri Mahasaya entered mahasamadhi in Banaras, September 26, 1895. Fifty years later, in America, the prediction of Lahiri Mahasaya was fulfilled. An increasing interest in Yoga in the West inspired Paramahansa Yogananda to write Autobiography of a Yogi, which contains an account of the Yogavatar’s life.
He only is wise who devotes himself to realising, not reading only, the ancient revelations. Solve your problems through meditation. Exchange unprofitable speculation for actual God-communion.
Clear your mind of dogmatic theological debris; let in the fresh, healing waters of direct perception. Attune yourself to the active inner Guidance; the Divine Voice has the answer to every dilemma of life. Though man’s ingenuity for getting himself into trouble appears to be endless, the Infinite Succor is no less resourceful.
Divine union is possible through self-effort, and is not dependent on theological beliefs or on the arbitrary will of a Cosmic Dictator.”
Meditate unceasingly, that you quickly behold yourself as the Infinite Essence, free from every form of misery. Cease being a prisoner of the body; using the secret key of Kriya, learn to escape into Spirit.
Seek divine wealth, not the paltry tinsel of earth. After acquiring inward treasure, you will find that outward supply is always forthcoming.
“Banat, Banat, Ban Jai!” (‘Making, making, some day made!’),
It was Lahiri Mahasaya’s encouragement to persevere in meditation.
If you don’t invite God to be your summer Guest, He won’t come in the winter of your life.
Through delusion you are perceiving yourself as a bundle of flesh and bones, which at best is a nest of troubles. Meditate unceasingly, that you quickly behold yourself as the Infinite Essence, free from every form of misery. Cease being a prisoner of the body; using the secret key of Kriya, learn to escape into Spirit.
The yogic key will not lose its efficiency when I am no longer present in the body to guide you. This technique cannot be bound, filed, and forgotten, in the manner of theoretical inspirations. Continue ceaselessly on your path to liberation through Kriya, whose power lies in practice.
I am ever with those who practice Kriya. I will guide you to the Cosmic Home through your ever enlarging spiritual perceptions. —from Autobiography of a Yogi
Lahiri taught that if one is earning an honest living and practicing honesty, then there was no need to alter one’s external life in any significant way in order to become aware of God’s presence. If a student neglected his worldy duties, he would correct him. It was extremely rare for him to advise sannyas, or complete worldly renunciation by becoming a swami. Instead, he advised marriage for most of his disciples along with Kriya Yoga practice.
He generally eschewed organized religion. However, this wasn’t a strict dogma for him, as he allowed at least one of his advanced disciples, Panchanon Bhattacharya, to open the “Arya Mission Institution” in Kolkata to spread the Kriya teachings. Other disciples of Lahiri also started organizations to spread the Kriya Yoga message, including Yukteswar Giri with his Satsanga Sabha. Generally, he preferred Kriya to spread naturally.
Temples of Lahiri Mahasaya are situated in Kakdwip, West Bengal, India and Pune, Maharastra, India by another Kriya yoga organization ‘Yogiraj Shyamacharan Sanatan Mission’ to spread the teachings of Lahiri Baba.Mahayogi and author of the books ‘Purana Purusha’ and ‘Who I This Shama Churn’ – Yogacharya Dr. Ashoke Kumar Chatterjee is the founder-director of this organization.
Lahiri frequently taught the wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita. His regular Gita assemblies, called Gita Sabha, attracted many disciples. He asked several of his close disciples to write interpretations of the Gita by tuning in to his own realization. Lahiri taught that the battle of Kurukshetra was really an inner psychological battle, and that the different characters in the battle were actually psychological traits within the struggling yogi. This understanding would later become the foundation of Paramahansa Yogananda’s commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita. He also taught that the epic story of the Mahabharata showed the soul’s descent into matter, and its challenges in retracing its way back to spirit.