This year marks the 150th anniversary of the resurrection of Kriya Yoga, the royal system of yoga, for the modern world. In the autumn of 1861, in a remote cave in the Himalayas, the great yogi householder Lahiri Mahasaya experienced his first encounter with his guru, Mahavatar Babaji, and received Kriya Yoga from him. It was at this seminal meeting, immortalized in the pages of Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi, that Babaji instructed Lahiri Mahasaya to teach Kriya openly for the first time, to all earnest seekers, and later requested that Yogananda be trained to give this soul-revealing technique to the West. Following are excerpts describing Lahari Mahasaya’s meeting with Babaji, and Babaji’s instruction for Yogananda to go West to establish Self-Realization Fellowship to spread the Kriya Yoga teachings. The selections are from Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi.
In the following passages from Autobiography of a Yogi, “I Go To America,” Paramahansa Yogananda recounts his plans to go to the West.
My head in a whirl, I sought out Sri Yukteswar in Serampore.
“Guruji, I have just been invited to address a religious congress in America. Shall I go?”
“All doors are open for you,” Master replied simply. “It is now or never.”
“But sir,” I said in dismay, “what do I know about public speaking? Seldom have I given a lecture, and never in English.”
“English or no English, your words on yoga shall be heard in the West.”
I laughed. “Well, dear Guruji, I hardly think the Americans will learn Bengali! Please bless me with a push over the hurdles of the English language.”
When I broke the news of my plans to father, he was utterly taken aback. To him America seemed incredibly remote; he feared he might never see me again.
“How can you go?” he asked sternly. “Who will finance you?” As he had affectionately borne the expenses of my education and whole life, he doubtless hoped that his question would bring my project to an embarrassing halt.
“The Lord will surely finance me.” As I made this reply, I thought of the similar one I had given long ago to my brother Ananta in Agra. Without very much guile, I added, “Father, perhaps God will put it into your mind to help me.”
“No, never!” He glanced at me piteously.
I was astounded, therefore, when Father handed me, the following day, a check made out for a large amount.
“I give you this money,” he said, “not in my role as a father but as a faithful disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya. Go then to that far Western land; spread there the creedless teachings of Kriya Yoga.”
* * *
One early morning I began to pray, with an adamant determination to continue, even to die praying, until I heard the voice of God. I wanted His blessing and assurance that I would not lose myself in the fogs of modern utilitarianism. My heart was set to go to America, but even more strongly was it resolved to hear the solace of divine permission.
I prayed and prayed, muffling my sobs. No answer came. At noon I reached a zenith; my head was reeling under the pressure of my agonies. I felt that if I cried once more, increasing the depth of my inner passion, my brain would split.
At that moment there came a knock on the door of my Garpar Road home. Answering the summons, I beheld a young man in the scanty garb of a renunciant. He entered the house.
“He must be Babaji!” I thought, dazed, because the man before me had the features of a young Lahiri Mahasaya. He answered my thought. “Yes, I am Babaji.” He spoke melodiously in Hindi. “Our Heavenly Father has heard your prayer. He commands me to tell you: Follow the behests of your guru and go to America. Fear not; you shall be protected.”
After a vibrant pause, Babaji addressed me again. “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.”
I was speechless, choked with devotional awe at his presence, and deeply touched to hear from his own lips that he had guided me to Sri Yukteswar. I lay prostrate before the deathless guru. He graciously lifted me up. After telling me many things about my life, he gave me some personal instruction and uttered a few secret prophecies.
“Kriya Yoga, the scientific technique of God-realization,” he finally said with solemnity, “will ultimately spread in all lands, and aid in harmonizing the nations through man’s personal, transcendental perception of the Infinite Father.”
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Photos courtesy of Self-Realization Fellowship, Los Angeles. Above: Paramahansa Yogananda, Below: Lahiri Mahasaya