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Babaji, the Yogi-Christ of Modern India
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. 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.
spiritual state is beyond human comprehension," Sri Yukteswar
explained to me. "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."
The Upanishads have minutely classified every stage of spiritual
advancement. A siddha ("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 thralldom
and its reincarnational round. The paramukta therefore seldom
returns to a physical body; if he does, he is an avatar, a divinely
appointed medium of supernal blessings on the world.
avatar is unsubject to the universal economy; his pure body, visible
as a light image, is free from any debt to nature. The casual gaze
may see nothing extraordinary in an avatar's form but it casts no
shadow nor makes any footprint on the ground. These are outward
symbolic proofs of an inward lack of darkness and material bondage.
Such a God-man alone knows the Truth behind the relativities of
life and death. Omar Khayyam, so grossly misunderstood, sang of
this liberated man in his immortal scripture, the Rubaiyat:
Moon of my Delight who know'st no wane,
The Moon of Heav'n is rising once again;
How oft hereafter rising shall she look
Through this same Garden after me --- in vain!"
of Delight" is God, eternal Polaris, anachronous never. The
"Moon of Heav'n" is the outward cosmos, fettered to the
law of periodic recurrence. Its chains had been dissolved forever
by the Persian seer through his self-realization. "How oft
hereafter rising shall she look . . . after me --- in vain!" What
frustration of search by a frantic universe for an absolute omission!
expressed his freedom in another way: "And a certain scribe
came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever
thou goest. And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and
the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where
to lay his head."1
omnipresence, could Christ indeed be followed except in the overarching
Buddha, and Patanjali were among the ancient Indian avatars. A considerable
poetic literature in Tamil has grown up around Agastya, a South
Indian avatar. He worked many miracles during the centuries preceding
and following the Christian era, and is credited with retaining
his physical form even to this day.
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, ancient founder of the Swami Order, and
to Kabir, famous medieval saint. His chief nineteenth-century disciple
was, as we know, Lahiri Mahasaya, revivalist of the lost Kriya art.
The Mahavatar is in constant 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 the body, and one without it --- is to inspire the
nations to forsake suicidal 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.
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 which 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. I give in these pages on
Babaji merely a hint of his life --- only a few facts which he deems
it fit and helpful to be publicly imparted.
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 saint), Maha Yogi (greatest of yogis), Trambak Baba and
Shiva Baba (titles of avatars of Shiva). Does it matter that we
know not the patronymic of an earth-released master?
anyone utters with reverence the name of Babaji," Lahiri Mahasaya
said, "that devotee attracts an instant spiritual blessing."
guru bears no marks of age on his body; he appears to be no more
than a youth of 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.
A very strange fact is that Babaji bears an extraordinarily exact
resemblance to his disciple Lahiri Mahasaya. The similarity is so
striking that, in his later years, Lahiri Mahasaya might have passed
as the father of the youthful-looking Babaji.
my saintly Sanskrit tutor, spent some time with Babaji in the Himalayas.
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 symbolic 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
can be seen or recognized by others only when he so desires. He
is known to have appeared in many slightly different forms to various
devotees --- sometimes without beard and moustache, and sometimes with
them. As his undecaying body requires no food, the master seldom
eats. As a social courtesy to visiting disciples, he occasionally
accepts fruits, or rice cooked in milk and clarified butter.
incidents of Babaji's life are known to me," Kebalananda went
on. "His disciples were sitting one night around a huge fire
which was blazing for a sacred Vedic ceremony. The master suddenly
seized a burning log and lightly struck the bare shoulder of a chela
who was close to the fire.
how cruel!' Lahiri Mahasaya, who was present, made this remonstrance.
you rather have seen him burned to ashes before your eyes, according
to the decree of his past karma?'
words Babaji placed his healing hand on the chela's disfigured shoulder.
'I have freed you tonight from painful death. The karmic law has
been satisfied through your slight suffering by fire.'
occasion Babaji's sacred circle was disturbed by the arrival of
a stranger. He had climbed with astonishing skill to the nearly
inaccessible ledge near the camp of the master.
you must be the great Babaji.' The man's face was lit with inexpressible
reverence. 'For months I have pursued a ceaseless search for you
among these forbidding crags. I implore you to accept me as a disciple.'
great guru made no response, the man pointed to the rocky chasm
at his feet.
refuse me, I will jump from this mountain. Life has no further value
if I cannot win your guidance to the Divine.'
then,' Babaji said unemotionally. 'I cannot accept you in your present
state of development.'
immediately hurled himself over the cliff. Babaji instructed the
shocked disciples to fetch the stranger's body. When they returned
with the mangled form, the master placed his divine hand on the
dead man. Lo! he opened his eyes and prostrated himself humbly before
the omnipotent one.
are now ready for discipleship.' Babaji beamed lovingly on his resurrected
chela. 'You have courageously passed a difficult test. Death shall
not touch you again; now you are one of our immortal flock.' Then
he spoke his usual words of departure, 'Dera danda uthao';
the whole group vanished from the mountain."
An avatar lives
in the omnipresent Spirit; for him there is no distance inverse
to the square. Only one reason, therefore, can motivate Babaji in
maintaining his physical form from century to century: the desire
to furnish humanity with a concrete example of its own possibilities.
Were man never vouchsafed a glimpse of Divinity in the flesh, he
would remain oppressed by the heavy mayic delusion that he cannot
transcend his mortality.
Jesus knew from
the beginning the sequence of his life; he passed through each event
not for himself, not from any karmic compulsion, but solely for
the upliftment of reflective human beings. His four reporter-disciples --- Matthew,
Mark, Luke, and John --- recorded the ineffable drama for the benefit
of later generations.
Babaji, also, there is no relativity of past, present, future; from
the beginning he has known all phases of his life. Yet, accommodating
himself to the limited understanding of men, he has played many
acts of his divine life in the presence of one or more witnesses.
Thus it came about that a disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya was present
when Babaji deemed the time to be ripe for him to proclaim the possibility
of bodily immortality. He uttered this promise before Ram Gopal
Muzumdar, that it might finally become known for
the inspiration of other seeking hearts. The great ones speak their
words and participate in the seemingly natural course of events,
solely for the good of man, even as Christ said: "Father .
. . I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people
which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast
my visit at Ranbajpur with Ram Gopal, "the sleepless saint,"3 he related the wondrous story of his first meeting with Babaji.
left my isolated cave to sit at Lahiri Mahasaya's feet in Benares,"
Ram Gopal told me. "One midnight as I was silently meditating
in a group of his disciples, the master made a surprising request.
Gopal,' he said, 'go at once to the Dasasamedh bathing ghat.'
reached the secluded spot. The night was bright with moonlight and
the glittering stars. After I had sat in patient silence for awhile,
my attention was drawn to a huge stone slab near my feet. It rose
gradually, revealing an underground cave. As the stone remained
balanced in some unknown manner, the draped form
of a young and surpassingly lovely woman was levitated from the
cave high into the air. Surrounded by a soft halo, she slowly descended
in front of me and stood motionless, steeped in an inner state of
ecstasy. She finally stirred, and spoke gently.
am Mataji,4 the sister of Babaji. I have asked him and also Lahiri Mahasaya
to come to my cave tonight to discuss a matter of great importance.'
light was rapidly floating over the Ganges; the strange luminescence
was reflected in the opaque waters. It approached nearer and nearer
until, with a blinding flash, it appeared by the side of Mataji
and condensed itself instantly into the human form of Lahiri Mahasaya.
He bowed humbly at the feet of the woman saint.
I had recovered from my bewilderment, I was further wonder-struck
to behold a circling mass of mystical light traveling in the sky.
Descending swiftly, the flaming whirlpool neared our group and materialized
itself into the body of a beautiful youth who, I understood at once,
was Babaji. He looked like Lahiri Mahasaya, the only difference
being that Babaji appeared much younger, and had long, bright hair.
Mahasaya, Mataji, and myself knelt at the guru's feet. An ethereal
sensation of beatific glory thrilled every fiber of my being as
I touched his divine flesh.
sister,' Babaji said, 'I am intending to shed my form and plunge
into the Infinite Current.'
already glimpsed your plan, beloved master. I wanted to discuss
it with you tonight. Why should you leave your body?' The glorious
woman looked at him beseechingly.
is the difference if I wear a visible or invisible wave on the ocean
of my Spirit?'
replied with a quaint flash of wit. 'Deathless guru, if it makes
no difference, then please do not ever relinquish your form.'5
so,' Babaji said solemnly. 'I will never leave my physical body.
It will always remain visible to at least a small number of people
on this earth. The Lord has spoken His own wish through your lips.'
"As I listened
in awe to the conversation between these exalted beings, the great
guru turned to me with a benign gesture.
not, Ram Gopal,' he said, 'you are blessed to be a witness at the
scene of this immortal promise.'
sweet melody of Babaji's voice faded away, his form and that of
Lahiri Mahasaya slowly levitated and moved backward over the Ganges.
An aureole of dazzling light templed their bodies as they vanished
into the night sky. Mataji's form floated to the cave and descended;
the stone slab closed of itself, as if working on an invisible leverage.
inspired, I wended my way back to Lahiri Mahasaya's place. As I
bowed before him in the early dawn, my guru smiled at me understandingly.
happy for you, Ram Gopal,' he said. 'The desire of meeting Babaji
and Mataji, which you have often expressed to me, has found at last
a sacred fulfillment.'
disciples informed me that Lahiri Mahasaya had not moved from his
dais since early the preceding evening.
gave a wonderful discourse on immortality after you had left for
the Dasasamedh ghat,' one of the chelas told me. For the
first time I fully realized the truth in the scriptural verses which
state that a man of self-realization can appear at different places
in two or more bodies at the same time.
Mahasaya later explained to me many metaphysical points concerning
the hidden divine plan for this earth," Ram Gopal concluded.
"Babaji has been chosen by God to remain in his body for the
duration of this particular world cycle. Ages shall come and go --- still
the deathless master,6 beholding
the drama of the centuries, shall be present on this stage terrestrial."
1 Matthew 8:19-20.
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The omnipresent yogi who observed that I failed to bow before the
Tarakeswar shrine (chapter 13).
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"Holy Mother." Mataji also has lived through the centuries;
she is almost as far advanced spiritually as her brother. She remains
in ecstasy in a hidden underground cave near the Dasasamedh ghat.
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This incident reminds one of Thales. The great Greek philosopher
taught that there was no difference between life and death. "Why,
then," inquired a critic, "do you not die?" "Because,"
answered Thales, "it makes no difference."
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"Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying (remain
unbrokenly in the Christ Consciousness), he shall never see death."-John
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