Sunday, May 27, 2007

Babaji's interest in the West

Babaji's interest in the West


Autobiography of a Yogi
by Paramahansa Yogananda

"MASTER, did you ever meet Babaji?"

It was a calm summer night in Serampore;
the large stars of the tropics gleamed over our
heads as I sat by Sri Yukteswar's side on the
second-story balcony of the hermitage.

"Yes." Master smiled at my direct question;
his eyes lit with reverence. "Three times I've
been blessed by the sight of the deathless guru.
Our first meeting was in Allahabad at a Kumbha

The religious fairs held in India since
time immemorial are known as Kumbha Melas; they've
kept spiritual goals in constant sight of the
multitude. Devout Hindus gather by the millions
every six years to meet thousands of sadhus,
yogis, swamis, and ascetics of all kinds. Many are
hermits who never leave their secluded haunts
except to attend the melas and bestow their
blessings on worldly men and women.

"I wasn't a swami at the time I met
Babaji," Sri Yukteswar went on. "But I had already
received Kriya initiation from Lahiri Mahasaya. He
encouraged me to attend the mela which was
convening in January, 1894 at Allahabad. It was my
first experience of a kumbha; I felt slightly
dazed by the clamour and surge of the crowd. In my
searching gazes around I saw no illumined face of
a master. Passing a bridge on the bank of the

I noticed an acquaintance standing near-by, his
begging bowl extended.

"'Oh, this fair is nothing but a chaos of
noise and beggars,' I thought in disillusionment.
'I wonder if Western scientists, patiently
enlarging the realms of knowledge for the
practical good of mankind, aren't more pleasing to
God than these idlers who profess religion but
concentrate on alms.'

"My smouldering reflections on social
reform were interrupted by the voice of a tall
sannyasi who halted before me.

"'Sir,' he said, 'a saint is calling you.'

"'Who is he?'

"'Come and see for yourself.'

"Hesitantly following this laconic advice,
I soon found myself near a tree whose branches
were sheltering a guru with an attractive group of
disciples. The master, a bright unusual figure,
with sparkling dark eyes, rose at my approach and
embraced me.

"'Welcome, Swamiji,' he said

"'Sir,' I replied emphatically, 'I'm not a

"'Those on whom I'm divinely directed to
bestow the title of "swami" never cast it off.'
The saint addressed me simply, but deep conviction
of truth rang in his words; I was engulfed in an
instant wave of spiritual blessing. Smiling at my
sudden elevation into the ancient monastic order,
[1] I bowed at the feet of the obviously great and
angelic being in human form who had thus honoured

"Babaji-for it was indeed he-motioned me to
a seat near him under the tree. He was strong and
young, and looked like Lahiri Mahasaya; yet the
resemblance didn't strike me, even though I had
often heard of the extraordinary similarities in
the appearance of the two masters. Babaji
possesses a power by which he can prevent any
specific thought from arising in a person's mind.
Evidently the great guru wished me to be perfectly
natural in his presence, not overawed by knowledge
of his identity.

"'What do you think of the Kumbha Mela?'

"'I was greatly disappointed, sir.' I added
hastily, 'Up till the time I met you. Somehow
saints and this commotion don't seem to belong

"'Child,' the master said, though
apparently I was nearly twice his own age, 'for
the faults of the many, judge not the whole.
Everything on earth is of mixed character, like a
mingling of sand and sugar. Be like the wise ant
which seizes only the sugar, and leaves the sand
untouched. Though many sadhus here still wander in
delusion, yet the mela is blessed by a few men of

"In view of my own meeting with this
exalted master, I quickly agreed with his

"'Sir,' I commented, 'I've been thinking of
the scientific men of the West, greater by far in
intelligence than most people congregated here,
living in distant Europe and America, professing
different creeds, and ignorant of the real values
of such melas as the present one. They are the men
who could benefit greatly by meetings with

India's masters. But, although high in
intellectual attainments, many Westerners are
wedded to rank materialism. Others, famous in
science and philosophy, don't recognise the
essential unity in religion. Their creeds serve as
insurmountable barriers that threaten to separate
them from us forever.'

"'I saw that you're interested in the West,
as well as the East.' Babaji's face beamed with
approval. 'I felt the pangs of your heart, broad
enough for all men, whether Oriental or
Occidental. That's why I summoned you here.

"'East and West must establish a golden
middle path of activity and spirituality
combined,' he continued. 'India has much to learn
from the West in material development; in return,
India can teach the universal methods by which the
West will be able to base its religious beliefs on
the unshakeable foundations of yogic science.

"'You, Swamiji, have a part to play in the
coming harmonious exchange between Orient and
Occident. Some years hence I shall send you a
disciple whom you can train for yoga dissemination
in the West. The vibrations there of many
spiritually seeking souls come flood-like to me. I
perceive potential saints in America and Europe,
waiting to be awakened.'"

At this point in his story, Sri Yukteswar
turned his gaze fully on mine.

"My son," he said, smiling in the
moonlight, "you're the disciple that, years ago,
Babaji promised to send me."

I was happy to learn that Babaji had
directed my steps to Sri Yukteswar, yet it was
hard for me to visualise myself in the remote
West, away from my beloved guru and the simple
hermitage peace.

"Babaji then spoke of the Bhagavad Gita,"
Sri Yukteswar went on. "To my astonishment, he
indicated by a few words of praise that he was
aware of the fact that I had written
interpretations on various Gita chapters.

"'At my request, Swamiji, please undertake
another task,' the great master said. 'Will you
not write a short book on the underlying basic
unity between the Christian and Hindu scriptures?
Show by parallel references that the inspired sons
of God have spoken the same truths, now obscured
by men's sectarian differences.'

"'Maharaj,' [2] I answered diffidently,
'what a command! Shall I be able to fulfil it?'

"Babaji laughed softly. 'My son, why do you
doubt?' he said reassuringly. 'Indeed, Whose work
is all this, and Who's the Doer of all actions?
Whatever the Lord has made me say is bound to
materialise as truth.'

"I deemed myself empowered by the blessings
of the saint, and agreed to write the book.
Feeling reluctantly that the parting-hour had
arrived, I rose from my leafy seat.

"'Do you know Lahiri?' [3] the master
inquired. 'He is a great soul, isn't he? Tell him
of our meeting.' He then gave me a message for
Lahiri Mahasaya.

"After I had bowed humbly in farewell, the
saint smiled benignly. 'When your book is
finished, I shall pay you a visit,' he promised.
'Good-by for the present.'

"I left Allahabad the following day and
entrained for Varanasi. Reaching my guru's home, I
poured out the story of the wonderful saint at the
Kumbha Mela.

"'Oh, didn't you recognise him?' Lahiri
Mahasaya's eyes were dancing with laughter. 'I see
you couldn't, for he prevented you. He is my
incomparable guru, the celestial Babaji!'

"'Babaji!' I repeated, awe-struck. 'The
yogi-Christ Babaji! The invisible-visible saviour
Babaji! Oh, if I could just recall the past and be
once more in his presence, to show my devotion at
his lotus feet!'

"'Never mind,' Lahiri Mahasaya said
consolingly. 'He has promised to see you again.'

"'Gurudeva, the divine master asked me to
give you a message. "Tell Lahiri," he said, "that
the stored-up power for this life now runs low;
it's nearly finished."'

"At my utterance of these enigmatic words,
Lahiri Mahasaya's figure trembled as though
touched by a lightning current. In an instant
everything about him fell silent; his smiling
countenance turned incredibly stern. Like a wooden
statue, sombre and immovable in its seat, his body
became colourless. I was alarmed and bewildered.
Never in my life had I seen this joyous soul
manifest such awful gravity. The other disciples
present stared apprehensively.

"Three hours passed in utter silence. Then
Lahiri Mahasaya resumed his natural, cheerful
demeanour, and spoke affectionately to each of the
chelas. Everyone sighed in relief.

"I realised by my master's reaction that
Babaji's message had been an unmistakable signal
by which Lahiri Mahasaya understood that his body
would soon be untenanted. His awesome silence
proved that my guru had instantly controlled his
being, cut his last cord of attachment to the
material world, and fled to his ever-living
identity in Spirit. Babaji's remark had been his
way of saying: 'I shall be ever with you.'

"Though Babaji and Lahiri Mahasaya were
omniscient, and had no need of communicating with
each other through me or any other intermediary,
the great ones often condescend to play a part in
the human drama. Occasionally they transmit their
prophecies through messengers in an ordinary way,
that the final fulfilment of their words may
infuse greater divine faith in a wide circle of
men who later learn the story.

"I soon left Varanasi, and set to work in
Serampore on the scriptural writings requested by
Babaji," Sri Yukteswar continued. "No sooner had I
begun my task than I was able to compose a poem
dedicated to the deathless guru. The melodious
lines flowed effortlessly from my pen, though
never before had I attempted Sanskrit poetry.

"In the quiet of night I busied myself over
a comparison of the Bible and the scriptures of
Sanatan Dharma. [4] Quoting the words of the
blessed Lord Jesus, I showed that his teachings
were in essence one with the revelations of the
Vedas. To my relief, my book was finished in a
short time; I realised that this speedy blessing
was due to the grace of my Param-Guru-Maharaj. [5]
The chapters first appeared in the Sadhusambad
journal; later they were privately printed as a
book by one of my Kidderpore disciples.

"The morning after I had concluded my
literary efforts," Master continued, "I went to
the Rai Ghat here to bathe in the Ganges. The ghat
was deserted; I stood still for awhile, enjoying
the sunny peace. After a dip in the sparkling
waters, I started for home. The only sound in the
silence was that of my Ganges-drenched cloth,
swish-swashing with every step. As I passed beyond
the site of the large banyan tree near the river
bank, a strong impulse urged me to look back.
There, under the shade of the banyan, and
surrounded by a few disciples, sat the great

"'Greetings, Swamiji!' The beautiful voice
of the master rang out to assure me I wasn't
dreaming. 'I see you've successfully completed
your book. As I promised, I'm here to thank you.'

"With a fast-beating heart, I prostrated
myself fully at his feet. 'Param-guruji,' I said
imploringly, 'will you and your chelas not honour
my near-by home with your presence?'

"The supreme guru smilingly declined. 'No,
child,' he said, 'we're people who like the
shelter of trees; this spot is quite comfortable.'

"'Please tarry awhile, master.' I gazed
entreatingly at him. 'I shall be back at once with
some special sweetmeats.'

"When I returned in a few minutes with a
dish of delicacies, lo! the lordly banyan no
longer sheltered the celestial troupe. I searched
all around the ghat, but in my heart I knew the
little band had already fled on etheric wings.

"I was deeply hurt. 'Even if we meet again,
I wouldn't care to talk to him,' I assured myself.
'He was unkind to leave me so suddenly.' This was
a wrath of love, of course, and nothing more.

"A few months later I visited Lahiri
Mahasaya in Varanasi. As I entered his little
parlour, my guru smiled in greeting.

"'Welcome, Yukteswar,' he said. 'Did you
just meet Babaji at the threshold of my room?'

"'Why, no,' I answered in surprise.

"'Come here.' Lahiri Mahasaya touched me
gently on the forehead; at once I beheld, near the
door, the form of Babaji, blooming like a perfect

"I remembered my old hurt, and didn't bow.
Lahiri Mahasaya looked at me in astonishment.

"The divine guru gazed at me with
fathomless eyes. 'You're annoyed with me.'

"'Sir, why shouldn't I be?' I answered.
'Out of the air you came with your magic group,
and into the thin air you vanished.'

"'I told you I would see you, but didn't
say how long I would remain.' Babaji laughed
softly. 'You were full of excitement. I assure you
that I was fairly extinguished in the ether by the
gust of your restlessness.'

"I was instantly satisfied by this
unflattering explanation. I knelt at his feet; the
supreme guru patted me kindly on the shoulder.

"'Child, you must meditate more,' he said.
'Your gaze isn't yet faultless-you couldn't see me
hiding behind the sunlight.' With these words in
the voice of a celestial flute, Babaji disappeared
into the hidden radiance.

"That was one of my last visits to Varanasi
to see my guru," Sri Yukteswar concluded. "Even as
Babaji had foretold at the Kumbha Mela, the
householder-incarnation of Lahiri Mahasaya was
drawing to a close. During the summer of 1895 his
stalwart body developed a small boil on the back.
He protested against lancing; he was working out
in his own flesh the evil karma of some of his
disciples. Finally a few chelas became very
insistent; the master replied cryptically:

"'The body has to find a cause to go; I'll
be agreeable to whatever you want to do.'

"A short time later the incomparable guru
gave up his body in

No longer need I seek him out in his little
parlour; I find every day of my life blessed by
his omnipresent guidance."

Years later, from the lips of Swami
Keshabananda, [6] an advanced disciple, I heard
many wonderful details about the passing of Lahiri

"A few days before my guru relinquished his
body," Keshabananda told me, "he materialised
himself before me as I sat in my hermitage at


"'Come at once to Varanasi.' With these
words Lahiri Mahasaya vanished.

"I entrained at once for Varanasi. At my
guru's home I found many disciples assembled. For
hours that day [7] the master expounded the Gita;
then he addressed us simply.

"'I'm going home.'

"Sobs of anguish broke out like an
irresistible torrent.

"'Be comforted; I shall rise again.' After
this utterance Lahiri Mahasaya thrice turned his
body around in a circle, faced the north in his
lotus posture, and gloriously entered the final
maha-samadhi. [8]

"Lahiri Mahasaya's beautiful body, so dear
to the devotees, was cremated with solemn
householder rites at Manikarnika Ghat by the holy
Ganges," Keshabananda continued. "The following
day, at ten o'clock in the morning, while I was
still in Varanasi, my room was suffused with a
great light. Lo! before me stood the flesh and
blood form of Lahiri Mahasaya! It looked exactly
like his old body, except that it appeared younger
and more radiant. My divine guru spoke to me.

"'Keshabananda,' he said, 'it's I. From the
disintegrated atoms of my cremated body, I've
resurrected a remodelled form. My householder work
in the world is done; but I don't leave the earth
entirely. Henceforth I shall spend some time with
Babaji in the Himalayas, and with Babaji in the

"With a few words of blessing to me, the
transcendent master vanished. Wondrous inspiration
filled my heart; I was uplifted in Spirit even as
were the disciples of Christ and Kabir [9] when
they had gazed on their living gurus after
physical death.

"When I returned to my isolated Hardwar
hermitage," Keshabananda went on, "I carried with
me the sacred ashes of my guru. I know he has
escaped the spatio-temporal cage; the bird of
omnipresence is freed. Yet it comforted my heart
to enshrine his sacred remains."

Another disciple who was blessed by the
sight of his resurrected guru was the saintly
Panchanon Bhattacharya, founder of the Calcutta
Arya Mission Institution. [10]

I visited Panchanon at his Calcutta home,
and listened with delight to the story of his many
years with the master. In conclusion, he told me
of the most marvellous event in his life.

"Here in Calcutta," Panchanon said, "at ten
o'clock of the morning which followed his
cremation, Lahiri Mahasaya appeared before me in
living glory."

Swami Pranabananda, the "saint with two
bodies," also confided to me the details of his
own supernal experience.

"A few days before Lahiri Mahasaya left his
body," Pranabananda told me at the time he visited
my Ranchi school, "I received a letter from him,
requesting me to come at once to Varanasi. I was
delayed, however, and couldn't leave at once. As I
was in the midst of my travel preparations, about
ten o'clock in the morning, I was suddenly
overwhelmed with joy to see the shining figure of
my guru.

"'Why hurry to Varanasi?' Lahiri Mahasaya
said, smiling. 'You shall find me there no

"As the import of his words dawned on me, I
sobbed broken-heartedly, believing that I was
seeing him only in a vision.

"The master approached me comfortingly.
'Here, touch my flesh,' he said. 'I'm living, as
always. Do not lament; am I not with you

From the lips of these three great
disciples, a story of wondrous truth has emerged:
At the morning hour of ten, on the day after the
body of Lahiri Mahasaya had been consigned to the
flames, the resurrected master, in a real but
transfigured body, appeared before three
disciples, each one in a different city.

"So when this corruptible shall have put on
incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on
immortality, then shall be brought to pass the
saying that's written, Death is swallowed up in
victory. death, where's your sting? grave, where's
your victory?"