Ruzbeh N. Bharucha
I was seventeen when I read The Autobiography of a Yogi, written by Swami Paramahansa Yogananda.
My uncle, Jamshed Guzdar, one evening, asked me if I was interested in reading a book, which didn’t involve guns, alcohol, and the occasional murder. I looked at him and remember answering him that as long as there was humour in the book I didn’t care if it talked about the seductive craft of garbage disposal.
So he handed me a book, dog eared and all, which had on the cover a handsome, long haired, healthy looking yogi, who looked back at me innocently. I remember I began reading the book at my uncle’s home at Warden Road, Mumbai. I left my uncle’s residence, stood at the bus stop, waiting for a bus to take me home, where I lived with my maternal grand-mother, uncle, aunt, God mother and my six brothers and sisters (most of them my cousins but we were closer than a pack of thieves). I kept reading the book and smiling and occasionally chuckling. In the back ground I did hear buses halting, the cling of the bell, and departing.
After a while I felt my uncle tapping me on the shoulder and telling me that it would be rather good for the blood pressure of the entire family, if I obliged one and all by getting on the darn bus.
For the entire next week I was mesmerized by The Autobiography of a Yogi. I was already into yoga, meditation and loved all there was about the occult and the paranormal. Even until now I consider this book to be the mother of all books where the paranormal and the essence and love of the Master, God, Goddess, are concerned. It reinforced my faith that if you possessed humour, every issue could be faced with calmness and all the mysteries (apart from the female of the specie) could be unraveled.
Every five years I pick up this book and go through it and am filled with the same love, happiness, devotion, and Oneness. I still laugh at the same lines that I found funny when I was seventeen. This either means, reality and the force of trueness never cease to impress and amaze me or that I haven’t really grown for the past thirty years.
I remember, even then, on and off while reading the book, I would turn to the section where the photographs of various sages and yogis were published and eventually I would halt at the photograph of this old man, sitting in a yoga pose, eyes partially open, with the cutest and most goofy look I had ever seen; the epitome of grand-fatherly love and the innocence of a child. I would look at the photograph and chuckle and tell myself, such a look can be brought about only when one was intoxicated by either the Divine or good old fashioned booze.
The sage whose snap even now makes me smile is Sri Shyamacharan Lahiree Mahasaya or as many spell the name as Lahiri Mahasaya.
I love Him for various reasons. The first being, at a time when spirituality was considered to be the prerogative of sages and celibates; when at a time one needed to be adorned by the uniform of religion and live in the mountains; when it was sort of taken for granted that spiritual grace and evolvement was the prerogative of only those who had renounced the family, the credit card and the world; here was a Man, who humbly and silently went about life, defying all prejudices and dogmas created by spiritual dwarfs.
Lahiri Mahasaya was a husband, a father of five children, an accountant and the one who gave back to the world, the lost science of Kriya Yoga, the most ancient form of meditation, where if one immersed oneself in this particular method of meditation, heart, body, mind and soul, one could burn away all accumulated karma, collected over one’s soul journey, in one lifetime and then merge with The One; The Big Daddy. One could be free of one’s own petty self, immersed in the Oneness of all things.
Like all Prophets and Perfect Masters, Lahiri Mahasaya did not believe in renouncing family and the world to realize God. Godhood resides within oneself and to renounce the world is no barometer of one’s dedication and love for the realization of Godhood. Baba Sai of Shirdi, in channeling so often says that, one does not need to detach from the world to begin to glimpse God but one must detach from one’s own self to be able to breathe in God and exhale one’s lower self. What is one’s own self or one’s lower self? All the base emotions, the yearning for the external, the need for power and the lust for gratifying the ‘i-me-myself’ syndrome, is the handiwork of one’s lower self. The false self. The self that identifies with the external and the material.
Thus, Lahiri Mahasaya with His sweet innocent smile, brought about due to the union of God and His true self, taught the world, especially the rigid, fanatics guised as sadhus, fakirs and yogis, that true renunciation was of one’s base emotions and not of family, friends and the world.
Virtually all His life, Mahasaya worked as a humble accountant in the Military Works Department, and just nine years before He took His Samadhi, did He retire from this job.
The second most important reason according to me why Lahiri Mahasaya is such a Spiritual Giant is the manner in which He balanced home, work and His spiritual journey. The beautiful detached way He went about in a matter of fact way, on one hand, a husband-father-accountant and on the other hand the King of Yogis. He thus became an inspiration for thousands who wanted spiritual growth in spite of being immersed in family and the world. He set free all those who were influenced and thus chained by the religious maggots, who claimed that God, sadhna, kundalini, chakras, the spiritual dimensions and liberation were only the prerogative of those who roamed about in various religious uniforms.
Lahiri Mahasaya reintroduced Kriya Yoga or Raja Yoga to mankind. This God given process of accelerating your spiritual growth and cleansing your karma via meditative and breathing techniques, is a gift of God to mankind. It can within years, make one reach supernatural states of realization and also without bearing the brunt of Karmic Cleansing; this technique can wash away one’s Karmic balance sheet. This meditation had disappeared. Apart from teaching Kriya Yoga meditation, what Lahiri Mahasaya did was He made complex spiritual issues easy to understand. What once was beyond the reach of the lay person, Mahasaya through His inherent simplicity and humility, made all those who came to Him, understand various facets of spirituality and went to the core of the matter in the simplest of manner. He opened the doors that were earlier shut to the common man and accessible only to realized souls and those who had walked the path of Gyan (the science of yoga and life). In simplicity, I truly believe, resides The Lord.
According to Paramahansa Yogananda, “No Prophet before him, 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….surely the Yogavatar (The King Of Yoga) reached the zenith of all wonders in reducing the ancient complexities of yoga to an effective simplicity within the ordinary grasp.”
Lahiri Mahasaya showed the way to all, that one can go about silently performing all roles in life, if one was centered, calm, and in the flow of cosmic breath, which is a fancy way of saying, being conscious of one’s breath, even when involved with external things.
Lahiri Mahasaya did something else that was unusual. He did not believe that meditation, the Kundalini, the Chakras, Oneness through breath, was the prerogative of any one religion. Hindus, Muslims, Christians and whoever was inclined to learn and grow spiritually were welcome. This was unheard of at that time. Those days religion and caste issues were rigid and one could be easily excommunicated from society and all the nonsense associated with social life.
The Hindus and the Muslims, like today, stuck to their lot, and in each community various shades of caste discrimination prevailed. And here was This accountant and a family man, who sat in His home, after work obviously, and taught one and all certain meditation techniques, explained spirituality and made it simple and practical, and helped all those who came, with the most mundane spiritual queries to the most sublime, irrespective of caste, creed and religion.
He would often say, “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.”
Forget religion demarcation, He gave initiation into various spiritual practices to gardeners, kings, sages-fakirs-priests, householders, postmen, the richest of the rich and those who supposedly belonged to the lower caste and for those who lived on the fringes of society. It did not matter to Lahiri Mahasaya, who you were and who you believed in, as long as you had the thirst, love and yearning for The Creator. If you wanted to embrace God and merge in Oneness, Lahiri Mahasaya was your Man.
Also, I love Him for The King of Yogis, took upon Himself, to teach the world how to live with grace and dignity, irrespective of the storms and ups and downs that life had to offer. He had on purpose taken birth, with the most turbulent and heart breaking destiny, to show the world, that if God and His realm was your reality, nothing could and should deter you from walking The Path.
This Man, this Yogi of Yogis, this accountant who helped you to finish your karmic balance sheet in the most calm and peaceful manner, Lahiri, who could materialize in various places at the same time, and still be found meditating in His humble home, who saved the lives of innumerable of His devotees and disciples, not only from death but financial ruin, allowed Himself to go through immense tribulations.
His second son, Dukari, had an attack of insanity. One of His daughter’s who He got married, died of cholera and the other daughter became a widow at an early age and came back to live with her parents for the rest of her life. Though He had worked hard all His life, and even received a substantial pension, Lahiri Mahasaya continued to work to support His family by giving tuitions to Maharaja’s son. Here was a King of Yogis, who could without blinking an eyelid, save scores of His followers from sorrow, death and financial strain, yet allowed Himself to go through it all, in order to show the world and all those who wanted to walk The Path of Oneness, that no matter what, if one’s priority was set on The Divine, nobody and nothing could come in the way of the one embracing The Light.
That nothing mattered but one’s love for The Creator and one’s union with The Oneness.
I truly believe this is what makes Lahiri Mahasaya such a Jewel in the Spiritual Crown. He personified what the Lotus represents. The lotus lives in mire but still keeps itself out of it, retaining its beauty and purity. Lahiri Mahasaya lived His life immersed in the world but still so out of it and managed to bring a diverse set of people from all over and fall in love with Him and what He stood for and embrace what He taught.
Shyamacharan Lahiri Mahasaya was born on September 30th 1828, on Dussera, the most auspicious day for the worship of Mother Durga, in the village Ghurni, West Bengal. Baba Sai of Shirdi took Samadhi on Dussera, while Lahiri Mahasaya was born on Dussera.
Lahiri Mahasaya’s mother died when He was not even five years of age. The family once was very affluent but a natural calamity took away most of the landed property. The family moved to Kashi and since childhood Lahiri Mahasaya was spiritually inclined. Babaji first met Lahiri when the latter was still a child and The Great Primordial Guru, promised Lahiri’s mother that He would always take care of the Blessed Child.
Lahiri Mahasaya completed His graduation and was well versed in English, Persian, Urdu, Sanskrit and His mother tongue, Bengali. He got married to Kashimoni Devi when He was eighteen and She was still nine years of age. He fathered five children as I have written above.
At the age of thirty three Lahiri Mahasaya met Babaji once again, who by touching the former on His spine, reminded Lahiri of His past life times and Babaji initiated Him into Kriya Yoga. Maha Avatar Babaji is the Most ancient Guru; for some He is the physical manifestation of The Creator, many associate Him with Lord Shiva in the physical body; eternally young and present. It is said that when Babaji decides to dematerialize His body for ever, the world will come to an end.
Anyway, what is this Kriya Yoga that I have been harping about? It is called the ‘airplane route to God’. Imagine one has to reach the 12th floor. If one were to reach the 12th floor using the stair way, apart from being extremely breathless, in a foul mood and panting like a constipated mule, the climb would take time and a lot of effort, depending upon one’s physical fitness and the urgency to reach the top floor. Using the methods of breathing and meditation techniques stated in Kriya Yoga, one would reach the 12th floor via the lift or the escalator.
“Kriya is an ancient science,” states Paramahansa Yogananda. “Babaji revealed this to Lahiri Mahasaya (about Kriya Yoga): ‘ The Kriya Yoga which I am giving to the world through you in this nineteenth century is a revival of the same science which Krishna gave, millenniums ago, to Arjuna, and which was later known to Patanjali, and to Christ, St. John, St. Paul, and other disciples.’ ”
According to those who have mastered it, Kriya Yoga through its step by step process leads the follower to a state of breathlessness (not to be confused with asthma). It is said that breathlessness is deathlessness which results to Cosmic Bliss; the One who can be peaceful for long periods of time, without breath reaches a state of deathlessness. It is all about the breath. Inhalation and exhalation is fine, but the bliss is found in the gap between; the space between inhalation and exhalation is where one finds initially glimpses of bliss and as one effortlessly masters this process one can eventually experience the state of Samadhi.
Sri Krishna, Elijah, Patanjali, Shankaracharya, Jesus Christ were known to have mastered Kriya Yoga, and many yogis and mystics believe that when Saint Paul declared, “I die daily!” He was referring to the breathlessness state leading to deathlessness leading to the state of Cosmic Bliss got about by Kriya Yoga.
That is why Lahiri Mahasaya would always insist that all knowledge, wisdom, spiritual growth and eventually merging with The One, took place via the breath, the prana. “Prana is the origin of all power. By practicing Pranasadhana, all sadhanas can be performed. 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?”
Lahiri Mahasaya filled up twenty six diaries where He has explained His philosophies as well as written on the Indian scriptures including The Bhagavad Gita and The Upanishads. The diaries also contain normal day to day happenings and routines, which make a profound and heartwarming read. For instance, Lahiri Mahasaya would take in His tiffin to office, a little ghee and sugar for breakfast and after dinner smoke a hookah every night. He would travel mainly by boat to the Court of the King to teach the King’s son, after retiring from work, in order to keep the home fires burning.
Lahiri Mahasaya before leaving His physical body predicted that: “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.”
Exactly fifty years later, The Autobiography of a Yogi was published and launched in America.
Lahiri Mahasaya fell very ill on September 26th 1895. He was surrounded by His disciples, and even then, was explaining to His disciples the meaning of His favourite verses from The Bhagavad Gita. Suddenly, He stood up and told one and all, “What am I doing here? Why am I wasting time? It is high time for me to go home to my real home.”
A few hours later three of His very close disciples who weren’t with Him when He left His body and thus weren’t aware of their Master having taken Samadhi, met Lahiri Mahasaya. The Lord of the Yogis had decided to pay His children a visit, even though He no longer was in the body.
Lahiri Mahasaya’s Mahasamadhi took place in Benaras, on September 26, 1895, the day of Mahastami, the day for worship of Mother Durga.
He was born on the day of the Mother. He became eternal on the day of the Mother.
May The Lord of the Yogis, The God of the Householders, The cosmic accountant bless us all.
Ruzbeh N. Bharucha