There are a number of kriya yoga lineages that have branched out from the disciples of Lahiri Mahasaya. Many of these true and sincere branches spread the mission of Babaji and Lahiri Mahasaya in a wonderful way.
It can be confusing to know which lineage you should follow. Here are a few guide points:
- Are their teachings consistent with universal truths given in timeless scripture?
- Do the disciples of a particular lineage have bright eyes and are they happy?
- Does what the Guru say make sense? A true Guru is a liberated soul, who is united with the divine.
Lastly, you will need to follow your intuition about which lineage feels right to you. As you get to know fellow gurubhais they should feel like family members to you.
The first in this line of gurus, Babaji is of unknown age and lives in the Himalayas with a few highly advanced disciples.
Paramhansa Yogananda in his book Autobiography of a Yogi said, “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)…
The deathless guru bears no marks of age on his body; he appears to be no more than a youth of twenty-five.
In 1920, Paramhansa Yogananda was commanded in a vision to serve as the emissary of the Kriya Yoga teachings to the West. Yogananda decided to pray deeply to God, intent on receiving God’s assurance and blessing on his impending mission. In response Babaji himself appeared to Yogananda, blessing him and promising him the ultimate protection:
“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.” – Babaji to Yogananda
(1828 - 1895)
The second in this line of Gurus is Lahiri Mahasaya. The Guru of Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri.
Shyama Charan Lahiri was the original name of the great master of Yoga. His disciples lovingly added “Mahasaya,” which means “great-minded one.”
A fully liberated soul, Lahiri Mahasaya was yet a married householder with numerous responsibilities. His harmonious life served as a beacon of hope and inspiration to show men with worldly responsibilities how they too could tread the path of Enlightenment.
A yoga master of the highest achievement, his entire life served as an example of how to live “in the world, yet not of the world.”
Lahiri Mahasaya was the one who made the ancient science of Kriya Yoga available not just to those who had renounced the world, but to all sincere souls. He was chosen by his Guru Mahavatar Babaji to disseminate the teachings of Kriya Yoga to the world.
He lived most of his life in Benares until his Mahasamadhi in 1895.
He was also the Guru of Paramhansa Yogananda’s parents, and he predicted that Paramahansa Yogananda would be a “Spiritual Engine,” carrying many souls to God’s kingdom.
Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri
(1855 - 1936)
The third in this line of Gurus is Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri. The Guru of Paramhansa Yogananda.
Sri Yukteswar’s birth name was Priya Nath Karar. He was born to a wealthy businessman in Serampore, India.
Upon leaving college, he married and had a daughter, and in 1884 he became a disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya. After the death of his wife, Priya Nath Karar became a Swami and received the name, Sri Yukteswar Giri.
He met Babaji, the guru of Lahiri Mahasaya, in 1894. Babaji told him that one day he would send Sri Yukteswar a disciple who would share the teachings of yoga in the West. This disciple turned out to be Paramhansa Yogananda.
Babaji also asked Sri Yukteswar to write a book on the essential unity of the Bible and Bhagavad Gita, the most well-known scripture in India. Sri Yukteswar titled this book ‘The Holy Science’.
Sri Yukteswar entered Mahasamadhi on March 9, 1936, at the age of 81. Soon after, he appeared to Yogananda in his physical form to proclaim the immortality of the soul and to give insights into the nature of the afterlife. This description can be found in the Autobiography of a Yogi.
(1893 - 1952)
The last in this line of Gurus is Paramhansa Yogananda.
Paramhansa Yogananda’s birth name was Mukunda Lal Ghosh. He was born in Gorakhpur, India into a spiritually inclined family.
From a very early age, he showed a great spiritual disposition which was extraordinary.
Yogananda’s parents were disciples of Lahiri Mahasaya. The yoga master reintroduced Kriya Yoga for the modern world.
In adulthood, Mukunda sought out the company of saints and sages in India to guide him in his spiritual quest. During this search, he met his guru Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri. Mukunda spent the next ten years in his guru’s hermitage receiving spiritual discipline from the revered Master.
Often, Sri Yukteswar told young Mukunda that he had been chosen to disseminate the ancient science of Kriya Yoga in America and worldwide.
After formal education (Bachelor of Arts) from Calcutta University, Mukunda took the vows of India’s monastic swami order. During this time, he received the name, Yogananda.
From 1920 – 1952 Yogananda lived in America. He traveled throughout the United States on what he called his “Spiritual Campaigns”. He continued to lecture and write up to his conscious passing (Mahasamadhi) in 1952.
Paramhansa Yogananda’s reply to a newcomer, while he was in America.
WHY IS JESUS ON THE ALTAR?
“Was it for political reasons,” a newcomer asked, “that you put Jesus Christ on your altar – because this is a mostly Christian country?”
“No, that was not the reason,” Yogananda replied.
“Jesus Christ is one of our line of five gurus.”
“In what way?” pursued the newcomer. “And why have you placed him at the center?”
“It was Jesus Christ,” the Master explained, “who appeared to Babaji in the Himalayas and asked him to send this message to the West. ‘My followers,’ he said, ‘are doing good work, but they are forgetting inward communion with God. Together let us send someone to the West to teach them the art of meditation.’
“That is the reason I was sent. Jesus is at the center because this message to the West began with him. To the left of him is Babaji, then Babaji’s disciple Lahiri Mahasaya. To the right is Swami Sri Yukteswarji, then his disciple – whom, as my Master told me, Babaji had sent to him for training.”
Because of Jesus’ request, Babaji commissioned Yogananda as an emissary to the west to bring back the original teachings of Jesus Christ and show the underlying unity of these teachings with the teachings of Lord Krishna.
Yogananda said that Jesus Christ and Babaji (Krishna) who was Lord Krishna in a previous life are jointly taking care of the spiritual evolution of the world.