Lahiri Mahasaya

(September 30, 1828 to September 26, 1895)

Yogacharya David Hickenbottom

We celebrate the life of the fully liberated Master, Lahiri Mahasaya. No words or stories can convey the greatness of any man, much less a Yogavatar such as Lahiri Babaji. Only God, through the Master himself, may remove the scales of indifference and delusion that keep us from seeing the innate divine Light shining from his sacred form and life. We have included here some stories by descended lineages of Kriyabans; you should read the remarkable descriptions of the Yogiraj in the Autobiography of a Yogi as well. By reverently absorbing the stories of this great Guru you will imbibe a wonderful blessing from him; this is what the Master has promised.

The Sublime Advent

…On the morning of Tuesday, the seventh day of the dark fortnight and 16th Aswin of the Bengali year 1235 (30th September 1828 AD) this Divine Child [Lahiri Mahasaya] caused His Descent at village Ghurni, His parents being Gourmohan Lahiri (Sarkar) and Muktakeshi Devi, second wife of Gourmohan….The Dear Child of Muktakeshi Devi grew up gradually. He was affectionately named Shama Churn by everyone. In those days there was a general practice of naming children after gods and goddesses. It would serve the purpose of calling the children as well as remembering God. Sometimes Muktakeshi Devi would lull the Child to sleep or sometimes take Him to the Siva temple, place Him beside her and worship Siva with rapt attention.

The Child would also keeping His eyes closed, be seated like Siva. Again
she would sometimes accomplish her tasks by making the Child sit on the sandy banks of the river. The Child would smear sand all over His body and assuming the posture of Siva, sit down with eyes closed. Childish impudence was rarely found in this Divine Child. Instead He could be seen wandering in the realm of thoughts stoically, as though He wanted to establish a union with the Infinite. By observing the attitude and behaviour of this Child, many guessed that He was not an ordinary Child.

Siva was the household deity of the Lahiri family. The temple of the deity was adjacent to the house. One day Muktakeshi Devi was absorbed in deep meditation of Siva with the Child seated beside her. The Child also was sitting with closed eyes emulating His mother. Suddenly a handsome, large built Samnyasin [sic] with matted hair appeared before the temple and addressed Muktakeshi Devi as ‘Mother’. She became unnerved and lifted the Child on her lap. The Samnyasin said, “Mother don’t be afraid. I am a Samnyasin, there’s nothing to be afraid of me.” Still Muktakeshi Devi stood overwhelmed with fear. The Samnyasin stated, “That Son of yours is not an ordinary human Child; it is I who have sent Him to this earth, to show the esoteric path of sadhana to countless people, distressed with the worries and woes of family life. This Child Himself will maintain a family existence and attract others to practice yogasadhana. Mother you have nothing to fear. I shall constantly keep a watch upon Him like a shadow.” After this the Samnyasin departed with gentle steps.

From the book, Purana Purusha Yogiraj Sri Shama Churn Lahiree
by Dr. Ashoke Kumar Chatterjee

Lahiri Mahasaya—Praeceptor

This Noble Yogi would constantly dwell in the extra-sensory realm. A Himalayan serene tranquility would perpetually prevail in Him. He disliked futile religious discussions with people who did not practice sadhana. Rather He assigned a greater importance on yama (control); niyama (rule); asana (sitting posture); Pranayama (Prana-action); pratyahara (withdrawal of senses); dharana (realization); dhyana (soul engrossment) and samadhi
(trance); the esoteric eight steps of action of the scripturally stipulated yoga-sadhana.
His direct yogic realisation was marvelous.

Depending on those yoga derived realizations, He would impart religious advice and confer interpretations to the spiritual texts. None of His expressions were underlied with emotion. The counsel given to His devotees was His direct yogic realization. Therefore His advice would create an impression on the minds of men. His descriptions were lifelike. He would ask man to derive direct realisation through Kriya and gradually become one with the infinite soul. This is the highest wealth in a man’s life. Without dhyana, realization and samadhi, one cannot enter the domain of the spiritual kingdom’s subtlest of the subtle essence of the infinite soul.

This is His fundamental statement. He would say—Prana is the origin of all power. By practicing Pranasadhana, all sadhanas can be performed. This Prana has three states. In the beginning and end He is still, in the middle dynamic. Being still in the beginning and end comprises one state and the middle being dynamic is another state, thus Prana basically has two states. (Gita 2/28) implies that all elements initially are inexpressible; expressible in the middle when they attain shape and finally after merging inexpressible again. Dynamic Prana is the Primordial Energy. The vibratory Prana is a living being’s present existence. The entire universe has manifested itself from this dynamic Prana. All actions emanate from this vibratory Prana. But still Prana is the place of origin for dynamic Prana. Neither does the passive Prana perform anything nor does He actuate any action. He is a constant spectator only.

Still Prana actuates when He becomes dynamic. Dynamic Prana is the Female Primordial Energy and still Prana is the Male Primordial Energy. This dynamism is the living being and the stillness is Siva. This dynamism is bondage and stillness is emancipation. Thus the pull or motion towards Prana’s vibratory state is bondage and the pull or motion towards stillness is salvation.

The sastras have similarly noted thus Niscalam Brahma ucyate—the static or still state is Brahma. That is the state of immortality, because in this sublimely still state there is neither birth nor death. It is constantly eternal, for there is none before Him, He is all pervasive. This is the state of Buddha, since it is beyond knowledge for knowledge also cannot reach there. It is ever emancipated, for bondage is absent here. This state is state beyond action or is the transcendental state of Kriya because all types of actions are non-existent there. Due to the extermination of dynamism, no type of action can exist here. The contracted state of Prana is Siva and expansive state is the living being. Therefore it is imperative for a sadhaka to completely cease dynamism through sadhana and attain stillness.
When a living being by terminating dynamism achieves the sublimely still Absolute Prana, he himself only will become Siva then.

Everyone is the Ambrosial son. None is base or noble. Though Yogiraj Himself was seated in the exalted rank of Preceptor, He would always disregard this exalted position and would advise all to think likewise. He stipulated the requisites of yogasadhana to be a healthy and sound human body, along with immense mental strength and a noble intention. One who possesses this wealth can easily practice yogasadhana. No impediment can act as a deterrent.

None is sinful or sinless. Everyone is equal. Since everyone is the son of God, everyone has the right to practice sadhana. Irrespective of sex or class all have the right to practice this yogasadhana. It is not meant for any particular class of society. Yogiraj would state that placing the mind on Kutastha, sin is absent, not placing tantamounts to sin. Kutastha is God, He is the Supreme Brahma.

Whether you maintain a domestic existence or renounce the world, wherever you are, Prana exists within your body; meaning God is within you. If He is absent, you are non-existent. As long as Prana is alive in your body, you are alive. What is the necessity for renouncing the world when you have to search for Him in your body?

Rather, the domestic existence is a favourable domain for sadhana. By remaining here everything can be achieved. The one who by maintaining a family life practices sadhana of Prana-God within the body, is a heroic sadhaka. On realisation of Prana-God within the body, the ubiquitous Godessence can be comprehended.

From the book, Purana Purusha Yogiraj Sri Shama Churn Lahiree by
Dr. Ashoke Kumar Chatterjee

Lahiri Mahasaya and the Bank
Story told by Acharya S.B. Dasgupta

One day Lahiri Mahasaya had gone to the bank to take care of some business. Now at that time the bank was very busy and there was a very long line of people waiting for assistance. Because of this long line Yogiraj had gone to a bench in the bank to sit down and wait. Now as he had been sitting and waiting the Yogiraj gradually began to become immersed into the Inner Bliss. He became fully immobile in breathless Samadhi State there sitting on that bench. Yogiraj was lost in that state for a long time.

It came time for the bank to close up for the day and the bank employees spotted the Yogiraj there. They summoned the manager to ask what to do. Now the manager of that bank was [a] very righteous man and he was brought to the place where the Yogiraj was seated in samadhi. He immediately understood what was occurring and he had known who the Yogiraj was. He very kindly said to the bank employees, “Well, we must not disturb this great being in any way. We shall just wait here for his holy trance to end. We are actually very blessed that we should be here for this.”

Gradually, after some time the Yogiraj began to regain outer consciousness. He looked around shyly and saw that it was dark outside and that the bank was closed. Lahiri Mahasaya was a very humble and modest Master. When he realized the situation he bowed his head and apologized to the bank employees for keeping them from going home to their families. The bank manager and employees however felt VERY BLESSED and would accept no apology on the part of the Yogiraj and they said, “Holy Sir, it was our great honor to be here with you. Please do not think of apologizing!”

They then took care of Yogiraj’s bank transaction with great loving care even though the bank was “officially” closed to business. Yogiraj then, very quietly, with head bowed, slipped out through the door of the bank and returned to his home.

I bow to the lotus feet of the performers of Kriya from all the different lines and traditions.

From the website: Used with permission.

Lahiri Mahasaya and the Bandage

Dearest Sisters and Brothers in Kriya, In India among the lesser known “hidden” Kriya circles there are many stories told of Yogiraj Lahiri Mahasaya and the great saints of Kriya which describe various states of consciousness which are experienced through
diligent practice of Kriya. Those who practice Kriya with great diligence and earnestness will understand these stories. Others may not understand them.

Here is one story which is told of Yogiraj Lahiri Mahasaya. A great Yogi who lives and practices in secret in Canada has requested that I tell this story. What can I do? I must obey this Maharaj. I had heard two slightly different variations of this story but the essence remains the same. I am combining the two versions here.

Each day Yogiraj used to walk to the Ganges to bathe. On these occasions he was accompanied by his great and faithful disciple known as Krishnaram. (In fact, Krishnaram was so devoted he often followed Yogiraj like a shadow everywhere he went. Yogiraj in turn had very great love for Krishnaram). One day as they walked (and in India there is very great respect for the Acharyas and for this reason Krishnaram would always make himself walk slightly behind the Yogiraj). There they walked down the narrow lanes of Banares. Suddenly Yogiraj called out to Krishnaram and said “Krishnaram, please tear a piece of cloth for a bandage!” Now Krishnaram was very puzzled and he did not know why Yogiraj should want a bandage, however, he did as instructed and tore a piece of cloth from his dhoti. Suddenly a rock flew up—thrown upwards by the wheel of a passing cart. The rock hit the leg of Yogiraj causing a large bleeding gash. Yogiraj then asked Krishnaram for the bandage and he wrapped his leg. Krishnaram watched in respectful but puzzled silence as Yogiraj bandaged one of his legs (you shall soon understand the puzzlement!).

Krishnaram asked Yogiraj, “Sir, if you knew the rock was coming why could you not have avoided it.” Yogiraj explained to him that some karma must be worked out by allowing it to happen. Now on they walked.

Soon they came to the house of Yogiraj. There standing in front was the dear and blessed wife of Yogiraj—the great and revered Kashimani Lahiri. Kashimani called to Yogiraj and asked what had happened. Yogiraj explained that a rock had caused a cut to his leg and so he had wrapped a bandage around it. Kashimani began to laugh heartily and pointed to his leg. Looking downward the Yogiraj realized that he had been so inwardly absorbed in Bliss that he had bandaged the WRONG LEG!!

From the website: Used with permission.

Lahiri Mahasaya & Hatilal Sarkar

I wonder if I might relate to you the story of one of the great disciples of Yogiraj Sri Sri Lahiri Mahasaya. This particular disciple was called Sri Hatilal Sarkar. This is the story of how he came to meet the Yogiraj.

Sri Sarkar had been employed in a brick-making factory. One day as he was working he suddenly was overcome with very strange feeling that he had to “go somewhere” but he did not know where. This feeling became very overpowering and he could not control himself. He immediately left his work right at mid-day and went straight to the train station. He was very distressed over this overpowering feeling which had taken control over him.

He approached the ticket-selling window and told the clerk that he just wanted to go somewhere. He had in his pocket only a few rupees. He asked the clerk where he might go for that amount of rupees. The clerk had observed carefully Sri Sarkar’s confused expression and then recommended to him that perhaps he would like to go to the city of Benares as that is a very holy place. The clerk had perhaps thought that there in that sacred place Sri Sarkar might find some peace of mind.

And so he entrained for that holy city. Stepping down off the train he did not know where to go. Because he was a Bengali gentleman he then engaged a carriage to take him to the Bengali section of Benares. The carriage then took him to that place and left him at the head of a certain lane. By foot then Sri Sarkar just wandered down that lane until he reached the end.

At this point he did not know where to go. Suddenly a very kind stranger appeared at the doorway of the house before which Sri Sarkar had stood. This man was the Yogiraj Sri Sri Lahiri Mahasaya. Yogiraj kindly greeted Sri Sarkar and asked him if he would please come in. Sri Sarkar had said to Yogiraj “Sir, who are you and how is it that you seem to know me?” Yogiraj gently told the man that he should not worry over such matters at least until he should have a meal and take some rest. Now Yogiraj arranged for every comfort for Sri Sarkar and was very, very kind and loving. This was all very strange to Sri Sarkar.

Now later that day many learned Yogis came to that house and assembled before the kindly Yogiraj. Some lofty discussion of Yoga had taken place. Sri Sarkar understood not one word of these things. Early the next morning Yogiraj and Sri Sarkar went together to bathe in the Ganges. Then at that time Yogiraj had told Sri Sarkar that it was he who had silently drawn Sri Sarkar to Benares as it was “time” for his initiation into the liberating technique of Kriya.

From the website: Used with permission.
Purana Purusha
Imparting spiritual enlightenment about the esoteric mystery of idol-worship Yogiraj Lahiri Mahasaya] would explicate to His devotees—“Look at the Image of Bhagavan Krishna. The sages to explain the essences of this yůgas‚dhana to common men have made remarkable arrangements. Krishna holds a flute in His hands and this flute has six holes. This is allegorical of the six cakrŠs [chakras].

Above the re is another hole, it represents the Sahasr‚ra cakrŠ. Krishna is piping His flute, this implies the internally oriented airs’ actions that is [sic] Pr‚nŠkarma in the path of the six cakrŠs.

Practicing this Pr‚nŠkarma regularly, Kutastha is visualized. Therefore Krishna dons peacock feathers on His head. The eye design in the feather is symbolic of Kutastha [Third Eye].

He stands in the Tribhangamur‚Ū position (standing posture of Bhagavan Krishna having three bends at head, waist and legs) representing the release of obstructions of tongue, an‚hata [heart center] and MŻl‚dh‚ra [1st or base] cakrŠs which in turn symbolizes releasing the obstructions of Brahm‚, Vishnu and MahÍsa respectively.

He stands on His left leg and His right one is aslant across it, this is symbolic of ”mkara Kriy‚. Know that the complete yůga essence pervades the images of Bhagavan, in this manner. One who worships Krishna likewise is the true worshipper of Krishna.”
He would remark—A woman can never pose as an impediment to man. If woman acts as a deterrent to man, then it is imperative that man would also pose as an impediment to woman. Both have been created by God and to maintain that creation both are required. Both have the equal authority to practice ¬tmas‚dhan‚. Thus none act as deterrents to the other.

Reckon upon the maxim of God, He has noted—O Partha (Arjuna), those who are born of sinful progenitors or the downtrodden like Vaisya, Sudras, even if they take shelter in Me shall surely attain salvation.

Money is required for food, clothing, medicines, etc. One should execute one’s existence on one’s own earnings rather than depend on others, but at the same time it is not proper to become a slave of money in any manner. You consider that earning an immense amount of wealth as a mark of manly prowess. It is not so. True manly prowess is how spiritedly you can practice ¬tmas‚dhan‚. Reorient a portion of the mind you constantly keep engaged in the earning of wealth, towards s‚dhan‚ and endeavors should be made by all for this.

You say that you do not derive any time for s‚dhan‚, this is not correct. Everyone should make efforts to find a certain amount of time off from his daily routine for the practice of  ¬tmas‚dhan‚. Therefore the compassionate s‚dhaka has expressed—As long as life exists you will not derive any spare time from work; you have to reserve a certain amount of time from work to unite yourself with God. Establish a yogic bond with ¬tmar‚ma and remain united with Him in Kutastha.

Attachment cannot completely be relinquished with the help of the present kinetic mind because it remains kinetic. As long as the mind is kinetic, attachments will prevail till then. Passion, anger, greed, illusion, arrogance, envy, mind, intelligence, intellect, pride, hunger, thirst, sleep, sloth, visualization, audition, olfaction, thoughts, anxieties, attachment, love, affection, vanity, body consciousness etc. [and] all types of physical and mental propensities and dispositions which are existent have all been derived from the dynamic Prana. In a word, all that can be observed in a living state, have all originated from the vibratory Prana.

Immediately after birth, Prana becomes active and breathing commences. As long as Prana will remain dynamic, till then breathing will continue and a living being will remain alive. Therefore as long as Prana remains vibratory or breathing continues, till then all the aforementioned types of physical and mental propensities and dispositions will be prevalent.

Again the more Pranakarma is practiced, the more Prana will progress towards stillness. The more progress is made towards stillness the more those propensities and dispositions will decrease. In this manner when Prana becomes completely still or there is a cessation of vibration, then none of them will exist, as in a still Prana any type of propensity or body-consciousness does not prevail. This is the true purification of the elements. After vibration has been exterminated, this five elemental body becomes purified. Therefore the dead loses all kinds of differentiation.

Again this is the real Upavasa (fasting). Upa means near. When Prana becomes still, settlement occurs near the soul. Abstinence from food is not actual fasting or Upavasa, again Prana is the Purhita (Puro means body-abode and hita means benefaction). Prana maintains an equilibrium on either side, one is dynamic, the other still. If one side increases, the other side decreases.

Thus one devotee asked Him—“By what means can this restless mind remain quiet well?” Yogiraj rejoined—“If there is an absence of mind’s existence.” Love, devotion, affection all these depend upon the existence of Prana’s dynamic state in the body. The love between mother and child; between husband and wife; the devotee’s love towards God; the root of all these is that Prana.

Body cannot love body. Prana loves Prana because the source of love is Prana. In a body sans Prana there is no love or affection. The source by which one embraces one’s wife, the same source is adopted to embrace the daughter. Therefore you must first love your own Prana, nurse Him (by practicing Pranakarma only, one can serve Him). If this is performed the universal Prana can be comprehended, then you will have an equality of vision in all creatures and all elements.

Just as knowledge about the sea can be acquired by observing it from the seashore, it is not necessary to see the entire sea; similarly if [your] own inherent Prana is realized knowledge of sublime Prana can be attained.
Like other days even on that day Yogiraj went for an evening promenade along the banks of the Ganges at Ranamahal Ghat with Krishnaram. Sometimes a little distance away, the helmsmen could be heard steering their boats with a splashing sound. At a moderate distance away in a temple, above the cemented ghat, Siva-invocation by assembled devotees could be heard.

A newcomer arrived and paying obeisance with folded hands to Yogiraj, started developing an acquaintance with Him. The newcomer said—“I have heard your name before, but I did not have the fortune to meet you all these days.” Yogiraj smiled and engaging in a pleasant conversation with him, enquired about his name, his habitat, etc.

While walking, the newcomer suddenly asked—“If You give me courage, can I ask You one question.” Yogiraj said—“Surely, you can.” The newcomer humbly enquired—“I have heard You practice dhyana in Your room. But of which God do you practice dhyana?” Yogiraj smilingly replied—“I do not know about that.” The newcomer further enquired—”You must be practicing dhyana of Siva, Krishna or Kali?” Yogiraj answered—“I practice dhyana of that One Who is prevalent in Siva, Krishna or Kali, you, Me and everyone else.” The newcomer was amazed and stated—“I could not follow what You said.” Yogiraj replied—“Neither can I explain, nor can you understand.”

From the website: Used with permission.