Mahavatar Babaji


Babaji, or “Mahavatar Babaji” is the incarnation of Krishna and deathless yogi first encountered by the Indian saint, Lahiri Mahasaya and his disciples. The Great Yogi appeared to Paramhansa Yogananda before his departure for America in the city of Kolkata. We are blessed indeed to be in the very city where the Great Mahavatar Babaji gave darshan! The story of that appearance is told below in the section called “I go to America” from Autobiography of a Yogi.

Babaji first appeared to Lahiri Mahashaya in 1861 and became Lahiri’s guru. “Mahavatar” means “great avatar”, and “Babaji” simply means “revered father”. Paramhansa Yogananda explained that Babaji and Jesus worked together to bring the original teachings of yoga to the West, in order to shake-off modern dogmas and re-awaken our desire for personal, inward experience of spiritual truth. From humble beginnings in the ancient city of Banares with Sri Lahiri Mahashaya the ancient technique of kriya was reawakened, and spread around the entire globe.

Babaji reintroduced the path and practice of Kriya Yoga, which had been referenced in the great spiritual literature of ancient India but which had been all but forgotten until Babaji revived the practice.

Here are some excerpts about Babaji.

From The New Path, by Swami Kriyananda

Mahavatar Babaji is the first in this direct line of gurus. A master of great age, he still lives in the Badrinarayan section of the Himalayas, where he remains accessible to a few highly advanced souls.

In the latter half of the Nineteenth Century, Babaji, feeling that in the present scientific age mankind was better prepared to receive higher knowledge, directed his disciples, Shyama Charan Lahiri, to reintroduce to the world the long-hidden, highest science of yoga.

Lahiri Mahasaya, as his disciples called him, named this exalted science Kriya Yoga, the meaning of which is, simply, “divine union through a certain technique, or spiritual act.”

Other techniques bear the same name, but, according to our own line of gurus, the Kriya Yoga of Lahiri Mahasaya is the most ancient and basic of all yoga techniques.

Babaji explained that it was to this technique that Lord Krishna, India’s greatest ancient prophet, was referring in the Bhagavad Gita when he said, “I related this imperishable yoga to Bibaswat: Bibaswat taught it to Manu (the renowned founder of the Solar dynasty).”

In this way it was handed down in orderly succession to great sages until, after long stretches of time, knowledge of that yoga deteriorated in the world (because the generality of mankind lost touch with spiritual realities).

From A Festival of Light, by Swami Kriyananda
A devotional ceremony, based on ancient scripture, which tells the story of the soul’s evolution, through poetry, prose and song.

High in the Himalaya, eyes filled with divine love, Jesus appeared to the great master Babaji.

“The lights on the high altar of my church,” he said, “have been growing dim. Though still lit on lower altars of good works, the noble taper of inner communion with the Lord burns low, and is ill attended.

“Let us together, united in Christ love, Set lights ablaze on that high altar once again!”

Thus a new ray of light was sent to earth through the great masters of our path.

Greater can no love be than this: From a life of infinite joy and freedom in God, willingly to embrace limitation, pain, and death for the salvation of mankind.

Such, ever, has been the sacrifice of the great masters for the world.

From Autobiography of a Yogi (1946 Edition) by Paramhansa Yogananda, Chapter 33.

The northern Himalayan crags near Badrinarayan are still blessed by the living presence of Babaji, guru of Lahiri Mahasaya. The secluded master has retained his physical form for centuries, perhaps for millenniums. The deathless Babaji is an avatara. This Sanskrit word means “descent”; its roots are ava, “down,” and tri, “to pass.” In the Hindu scriptures, avatara signifies the descent of Divinity into flesh.

“Babaji’s spiritual state is beyond human comprehension,” Sri Yukteswar explained to me. “The dwarfed vision of men cannot pierce to his transcendental star. One attempts in vain even to picture the avatar’s attainment. It is inconceivable.”

An avatar is unsubject to the universal economy; his pure body, visible as a light image, is free from any debt to nature. The casual gaze may see nothing extraordinary in an avatar’s form but it casts no shadow nor makes any footprint on the ground. These are outward symbolic proofs of an inward lack of darkness and material bondage. Such a God-man alone knows the Truth behind the relativities of life and death.

Krishna, Rama, Buddha, and Patanjali were among the ancient Indian avatars.

Babaji’s mission in India has been to assist prophets in carrying out their special dispensations. He thus qualifies for the scriptural classification of Mahavatar (Great Avatar). He has stated that he gave yoga initiation to Shankara, ancient founder of the Swami Order, and to Kabir, famous medieval saint. His chief nineteenth-century disciple was, as we know, Lahiri Mahasaya, revivalist of the lost Kriya art.

The Mahavatar is in constant communion with Christ; together they send out vibrations of redemption, and have planned the spiritual technique of salvation for this age. The work of these two fully-illumined masters-one with the body, and one without it-is to inspire the nations to forsake suicidal wars, race hatreds, religious sectarianism, and the boomerang-evils of materialism. Babaji is well aware of the trend of modern times, especially of the influence and complexities of Western civilization, and realizes the necessity of spreading the self-liberations of yoga equally in the West and in the East.

That there is no historical reference to Babaji need not surprise us. The great guru has never openly appeared in any century; the misinterpreting glare of publicity has no place in his millennial plans. Like the Creator, the sole but silent Power, Babaji works in a humble obscurity.

Great prophets like Christ and Krishna come to earth for a specific and spectacular purpose; they depart as soon as it is accomplished. Other avatars, like Babaji, undertake work which is concerned more with the slow evolutionary progress of man during the centuries than with any one outstanding event of history. Such masters always veil themselves from the gross public gaze, and have the power to become invisible at will. For these reasons, and because they generally instruct their disciples to maintain silence about them, a number of towering spiritual figures remain world-unknown. I give in these pages on Babaji merely a hint of his life-only a few facts which he deems it fit and helpful to be publicly imparted.

“Whenever anyone utters with reverence the name of Babaji,” Lahiri Mahasaya said, “that devotee attracts an instant spiritual blessing.”

The deathless guru bears no marks of age on his body; he appears to be no more than a youth of twenty-five. Fair-skinned, of medium build and height, Babaji’s beautiful, strong body radiates a perceptible glow. His eyes are dark, calm, and tender; his long, lustrous hair is copper-colored. A very strange fact is that Babaji bears an extraordinarily exact resemblance to his disciple Lahiri Mahasaya. The similarity is so striking that, in his later years, Lahiri Mahasaya might have passed as the father of the youthful-looking Babaji.

Swami Kebalananda, my saintly Sanskrit tutor, spent some time with Babaji in the Himalayas.

“The peerless master moves with his group from place to place in the mountains,” Kebalananda told me. “His small band contains two highly advanced American disciples. After Babaji has been in one locality for some time, he says: ‘Dera danda uthao.’ (‘Let us lift our camp and staff.’) He carries a symbolic danda (bamboo staff). His words are the signal for moving with his group instantaneously to another place. He does not always employ this method of astral travel; sometimes he goes on foot from peak to peak.

“Babaji can be seen or recognized by others only when he so desires. He is known to have appeared in many slightly different forms to various devotees-sometimes without beard and moustache, and sometimes with them. As his undecaying body requires no food, the master seldom eats. As a social courtesy to visiting disciples, he occasionally accepts fruits, or rice cooked in milk and clarified butter.”

From Chapter 37: “I Go to America”

At that moment there came a knock outside the vestibule adjoining the Gurpar Road room in which I was sitting. Opening the door, I saw a young man in the scanty garb of a renunciate. He came in, closed the door behind him and, refusing my request to sit down, indicated with a gesture that he wished to talk to me while standing.

“He must be Babaji!” I thought, dazed, because the man before me had the features of a younger Lahiri Mahasaya.

He answered my thought. “Yes, I am Babaji.” He spoke melodiously in Hindi. “Our Heavenly Father has heard your prayer. He commands me to tell you: Follow the behests of your guru and go to America. Fear not; you will be protected.”

After a vibrant pause, Babaji addressed me again. “You are the one I have chosen to spread the message of Kriya Yoga in the West. Long ago I met your guru Yukteswar at a Kumbha Mela; I told him then I would send you to him for training.”

I was speechless, choked with devotional awe at his presence, and deeply touched to hear from his own lips that he had guided me to Sri Yukteswar. I lay prostrate before the deathless guru. He graciously lifted me from the floor. Telling me many things about my life, he then gave me some personal instruction, and uttered a few secret prophecies.

“Kriya Yoga, the scientific technique of God-realization,” he finally said with solemnity, “will ultimately spread in all lands, and aid in harmonizing the nations through man’s personal, transcendental perception of the Infinite Father.”

With a gaze of majestic power, the master electrified me by a glimpse of his cosmic consciousness. In a short while he started toward the door.

“Do not try to follow me,” he said. “You will not be able to do so.”

“Please, Babaji, don’t go away!” I cried repeatedly. “Take me with you!”

Looking back, he replied, “Not now. Some other time.”

Overcome by emotion, I disregarded his warning. As I tried to pursue him, I discovered that my feet were firmly rooted to the floor. From the door, Babaji gave me a last affectionate glance. He raised his hand by way of benediction and walked away, my eyes fixed on him longingly.

After a few minutes my feet were free. I sat down and went into a deep meditation, unceasingly thanking God not only for answering my prayer but for blessing me by a meeting with Babaji. My whole body seemed sanctified through the touch of the ancient, ever-youthful master. Long had it been my burning desire to behold him.

Until now, I have never recounted to anyone this story of my meeting with Babaji. Holding it as the most sacred of my human experiences, I have hidden it in my heart. But the thought occurred to me that readers of this autobiography may be more inclined to believe in the reality of the secluded Babaji and his world interests if I relate that I saw him with my own eyes. I have helped an artist to draw a true picture of the great Yogi-Christ of modern India; it appears in this book.

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