The Tree of Knowledge
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 anavatara. 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, 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.”
At the age of thirty-three, while walking one day on Drongiri mountain, in the Himalayan foothills near Ranikhet, Lahiri Mahasaya 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.”
No limiting facts about Babaji’s family or birthplace, dear to the annalist’s heart, have ever been discovered. His speech is generally in Hindi, but he converses easily in any language. He has adopted the simple name of Babaji (Revered Father); other titles of respect given him by Lahiri Mahasaya’s disciples are Mahamuni Babaji Maharaj (Supreme Ecstatic Master), Maha Yogi (the Great Yogi), and Trambak Baba or Shiva Baba (titles of avatars of Shiva). Does it matter that we know not the patronymic of a fully released master?
“Whenever anyone utters with reverence the name of Babaji,” Lahiri Mahasaya said, “that devotee attracts an instant spiritual blessing.” The deathless guru bears no mark of age on his body; he appears to be a youth of not more than 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. Sometimes Babaji’s face closely resembles that of Lahiri Mahasaya. On occasion the similarity was so striking that Lahiri Mahasaya, in his later years, might have passed as the father of the youthful-looking Babaji.
The Upanishads have minutely classified every stage of spiritual advancement. Asiddha (“perfected being”) has progressed from the state of a jivanmukta (“freed while living”) to that of a paramukta (“supremely free” — full power over death); the latter has completely escaped from the mayic thraldom and its reincarnational round. The paramukta therefore seldom returns to a physical body; if he does return, he is an avatar, a divinely appointed medium of supernal blessings on the world. An avatar is unsubject to the universal economy, his pure body, visible as a light image, is free from any debt to Nature. (…) 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, reorganizer of the Swami Order, and to Kabir, famous medieval master. The chief nineteenth-century disciple was, as we know, Lahiri Mahasaya, revivalist of the lost Kriya art.
Babaji is ever in 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 a body, and one without a body — is to inspire the nations to forsake 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 that 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. These notes on Babaji are merely a hint of his life—only a few facts that he deems fitting and helpful to be publicly imparted.
“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 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’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, reorganizer of the Swami Order, and to Kabir, famous medieval master. The chief nineteenth-century disciple was, as we know, Lahiri Mahasaya, revivalist of the lost Kriya art. Shortly before Paramahansa Yogananda left for America in 1920, Mahavatar Babaji came to Yoganandaji’s home in Calcutta, where the young monk sat deeply praying for divine assurance regarding the mission he was about to undertake. Babaji said to him: “Follow the behest of your guru and go to America. Fear not; you shall be protected. 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. Kriya Yoga, the scientific technique of God-realization, will ultimately spread in all lands and aid in harmonizing the nations through man’s personal, transcendental perception of the Infinite Father.”
The Best Babaji Quotes: Mahavatar Babaji to Lahiri Mahasaya: “Wake! All your earthly thirsts are about to be quenched forever. (…) My son, arise. Receive your initiation into the kingdom of God through Kriya Yoga.”
“The cries of many bewildered worldly men and women have not fallen unheard on the ears of the Great Ones. (…) You have been chosen to bring spiritual solace through Kriya Yoga to numerous earnest seekers. The millions who are encumbered by family ties and heavy worldly duties will take new heart from you, a householder like themselves. You should guide them to understand that the highest yogic attainments are not barred to the family man. Even in the world, the yogi who faithfully discharges his responsibilities, without personal motive or attachment, treads the sure path of enlightenment.”
“Give Kriya to all who humbly ask you for help. Repeat to each of your disciples this majestic promise from the Bhagavad-Gita [II:40]: Swalpamapyasya dharmasya trayate mahato bhayat. [‘Even a little practice of this dharma (religious rite or righteous action) will save you from great fear (mahato bhayat)’ — the colossal sufferings inherent in the repeated cycles of birth and death.]”.
“For more than three decades I have waited for you to return to me. (…) You slipped away and disappeared into the tumultuous waves of the life beyond death. The magic wand of your karma touched you, and you were gone! Though you lost sight of me, never did I lose sight of you! I pursued you over the luminescent astral sea where the glorious angels sail. Through gloom, storm, upheaval, and light I followed you, like a mother bird guarding her young. As you lived out your human term of womb life, and emerged a babe, my eye was ever on you.”
Extracts from ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ by Paramhansa Yogananda and ‘Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master: A Yogi’s Autobiography’ by Sri M.
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