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Five Tuesdays in March give us the opportunity to explore each of the five masters in the Self-Realization lineage of Kriya Yoga Masters and their individual contributions to the process by which Kriya Yoga has brought back to the modern world. Lost in the mists of time and the ignorance of lower ages, Kriya Yoga disappeared from mankind’s spiritual practices for centuries. Resuscitated by the long-lived Babaji from an earlier time in his life, the powerful techniques of Kriya were brought into practice once again with each master playing his specific role.
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“In the divine plan, Jesus Christ was responsible for the evolution of the West, and Krishna (later, Babaji), for that of the East. It was intended that the West specialize in developing objectively, through logic and reason, and that the East specialize in inner, intuitive development. But in the cosmic plan the time has come to combine these two lines into one. East and West must unite.” —Paramhansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi
The presence of Jesus on the altar is more than just a courtesy to Westerners. Yogananda said it was Jesus himself who appeared to Babaji and asked him to send this teaching of Self-realization to the West. Jesus said to Babaji, “My followers have forgotten the art of divine inner communion. Outwardly they do good works, but they have lost sight of the most important of my teachings, ‘to seek the kingdom of God first.’”
“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. ‘Babaji’s spiritual state is beyond human comprehension. . .’—Sri Yukteswar.” — Paramhansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi
Babaji means “Revered Father” and is described by Yogananda in his Autobiography of a Yogi as “the deathless guru.” Babaji is of unknown age, and lives in the Himalayas with a few highly advanced students. Yogananda called him “Babaji-Krishna”, saying that Babaji was Krishna in a former incarnation. Seeing that in the present scientific age, people were better prepared to receive higher knowledge, Babaji directed his disciple, Lahiri Mahasaya, to reintroduce the meditation science of Kriya Yoga to the world.
LAHIRI MAHASAYA (1828-1895)
“The science of Kriya Yoga, mentioned so often in these pages, became widely known in modern India through the instrumentality of Lahiri Mahasaya, my guru’s guru. . . A yogi who faithfully follows its technique is gradually freed from karma or the universal chain of causation.
Kriya is an ancient science. Lahiri Mahasaya received it from his guru, Babaji, who rediscovered and clarified the technique after it had been lost in the Dark Ages.”
— Paramhansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi
After his initiation by Babaji in 1861, Lahiri Mahasaya continued to live the modest life of a married householder in Varanasi, India. He set an ideal example of balanced living, attending to both his worldly and his spiritual duties. Over the years, as he meditated quietly in his front room, thousands came to him for initiation into Kriya Yoga. One of his foremost disciples was Sri Yukteswar, the destined guru of Paramhansa Yogananda. Lahiri is his family name; Mahasaya means “large minded.” One of Yogananda’s chief aims in writing Autobiography of a Yogi was to share the life of Lahiri with the general public for the first time.
SRI YUKTESWAR (1855-1935)
“Kriya Yoga is an instrument through which human evolution can be quickened,” Sri Yukteswar explained to his students. “The ancient yogis discovered that the secret of cosmic consciousness is intimately linked with breath mastery. This is India’s unique and deathless contribution to the world’s treasury of knowledge. The life force, which is ordinarily absorbed in maintaining the heart-pump, must be freed for higher activities by a method of calming and stilling the ceaseless demands of the breath.”
“[Sri Yukteswar] fitted the Vedic definition of a man of God. ‘Softer than the flower where kindness is concerned, stronger than thunder, where principles are at stake.’ He taught by sublimity of example alone the true measure of a man.” — Paramhansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi
Yukteswar was a disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya, and Yogananda’s guru. An “incarnation of wisdom,” he possessed a keen intellect and discrimination. He received two commissions from Babaji. One was to write “a short book on the underlying unity between the Christian and Hindu scriptures, to show that the inspired sons of God have spoken the same truths.” This book is The Holy Science. The second was to train Yogananda for his mission to the West. Early in life, Yukteswar was married; later he became a renunciate and lived in his hermitage near Calcutta, India. Sri is a respectful title meaning “holy.” Yukteswar means “united to Ishwara” (the name of God in his aspect as the Cosmic Ruler).
PARAMHANSA YOGANANDA (1893-1952)
“The vibrations of many spiritually seeking souls come floodlike to me. I perceive potential saints in America and Europe, waiting to be awakened.” Said Babaji to Yogananda: “You are the one I have chosen to spread the message of Kriya Yoga in the West.” — Paramhansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi
Yogananda came to America in 1920 not to “dogmatize you with a new theology,” as he later told his students, but “to teach you how to commune with God directly.” He lectured to hundreds of thousands throughout the country. His Autobiography of a Yogi, first published in 1946, has become one of the most well-read spiritual books of the last century, and a classic of religious literature. He was devoted to helping unite East and West by bringing the original teachings of yoga to the West, and showing their underlying unity with the original teachings of Christ. He advocated the founding of what he called “world-brotherhood colonies” where people could live together in spiritually supportive communities.
Yogananda means “Divine Bliss through Yoga.” Paramhansa means “highest swan.” The white swan or hansa is said to have the power of extracting only milk (wisdom, enlightenment) from a mixture of milk and water (the mundane world), and is a symbol of spiritual discrimination.