History of Shyamacharan Lahiri

Yogiraj Shyamacharan Lahiri was one of the greatest Yogis of modern times, who gave the doctrine of ‘Kriya-yoga’ to the world. He was born in a pious family of Ghurni, a place near Krishnanagar in the Nadia district of West Bengal in the year 1828. His father was Gourmohan Lahiri and mother was Muktkeshi Devi. As his mother died in his early childhood, Shyamacharan’s father Gourmohan Lahiri shifted to Kashi. The spiritual atmosphere of Kashi had its impact on the child Shyamacharan. It left a profound impression upon his adolescent mind. Shyamacharan was given good education and was taught Sanskrit, Persian and English languages. He also studied Hindu scriptures and Vedas under Nag Bhatt. He was also apt at Hindi and Urdu. At the age of eighteen, he was married to Kashimani Devi, who played an important role in his spiritual life. She proved to be an ideal wife for Yogi Shyamacharan. He joined the Public Works Division of the then Royal Indian Army at Danapur at the age of 23. After about two years his father Gourmohan Lahiri passed away in the year 1853, as a result of which the responsibility of the entire family fell onhis shoulders.

While working with the Public Works Division of the then Royal Indian Army,Shyamacharan was posted at various places. At the age of 33 he had an occasion to visit Ranikhet in connection with some official work. This was an eventful year in his life when in 1861 ‘Babaji’-the Guru of his previous birth met him and took him in his shelter. Babaji was hundreds of years old but looked young. The young Shyamacharan Lahiri having finished his work was walking through the mountainous path surrounded with deodar and pine trees. The Nanda Devi peak in front of his eyes was getting engulfed in the darkness of evening. Suddenly some one called him by his name. He looked in thatdirection where a glorious yogi was standing at the threshold of a cave, who in a sweet voice told him ‘Yes, it is me who is calling you’. As Shyamacharan was looking astonishingly towards him, Babaji told him about his father and grandfather.

This made him further wonder as to how this yogi knew about him. Babaji then told him that ‘all these places are well known to you but you are not able to recollect. In your previous birth you were my disciple. When you were rooted in a very high spiritual state, you died. You have been reborn to complete the divine work assigned to you and I have come here to re-initiate you. The telegram sent mistakenly to you to come here from Danapur was inspired by me. You would have to return to Danapur after seven days but in these seven days my purpose would be achieved.’ Shyamacharan was then led inside the cave where he was saw a piece of tiger skin, a stick and a Kamandal (an earthen or wooden water-pot traditionally used by hermits). By the divine grace of Mahavatar Babaji Maharaj, he could immediately recognize Babaji as his immortal Guru and the belongings as his own from the previous birth. From the next day Shyamacharan shifted his camp near that cave and started visiting Babaji regularly. After finishing his official work he used to spend his time at the feet of Babaji and used to eat as directed by Babaji. A day before his Deeksha, Babaji asked him to drink a liquid lying in a vessel. At first Lahiri Mahashay thought that by mistake some oil like thing has been kept in that vessel but when Babaji insisted, he drank it without any hesitation. Babaji then asked him to lie down at the bank of a river Gagas flowing nearby. Lahiri Mahashay vomited and passed stool repeatedly, because of which he became extremely weak. Suddenly there was flash flood in the river, which drowned him and took him far away. Lahiri Mahashay felt like dead. The next morning he saw Babaji, who encouraged him saying it is good that all the impurity from hisstomach had been cleaned. Babaji then fed him with good food and in the evening gave him Deeksha. Lahiri Mahashay absorbed all the spiritual irradiations spontaneously and gained deep insight. Lahiri Mahashay now wanted to renounce his family and society and dedicate himself fully at the lotus feet of his Guru Babaji Maharaj but Babaji did not agree and asked him to return to the society to propagate the doctrine of ‘Kriya yoga’, amongst the deserving persons. Babaji also asked him to keep on visiting him till he was there in Ranikhet. During this period Babaji also showed him a yogi five kilometers away from Dronagiri, who could cure people of incurable diseases just by a mere sight.

A week passed away and Lahiri Mahashay got marching orders back for Kanpur. On the way back he stayed in Muradnagar for two-three days. During chat with one of his friends Lahiri Mahashay mentioned that even now it is not impossible to come across great yogis. His friend asked him whether he could make him meet some such yogi. Lahiri Mahashay started meditating in a closed room and prayed Babaji Maharaj to appear. Babaji Maharaj appeared before him but told him that he had come there on his calling but he had not bestowed upon him this power to use it in this manner. In future he

would not appear on his calling but only when he considered it appropriate. Lahiri Mahashay with great hesitation requested Babaji to allow people to see him in order that they may have faith. When Babaji agreed, people saw him. Lahiri Mahashay used to finish his work quickly and the remaining time he usedto spend in sadhana. He kept his spiritual attainments a secret from the people. Once, however, his British boss was very upset as his wife was seriously ill in England. Lahiri Mahashay was moved seeing him so upset and told him that he (Lahiri Mahashay) would obtain a message about his wife’s health. In the nearby room Lahiri Mahashay sat in meditation and after rising from meditation he told this officer that his wife is well now and soon she is going to write him about her health. When he got letter from his wife, he was surprised to see that the letter contained exactly the same information and in the same language as told by Lahiri Mahashay. Many months later when this lady came to India she told-‘I had seen this Mahatma (Lahiri Mahashay) near my cot when I was ill and by his grace I got well and got a new life’.

Once Lahiri Mahashay saw a sadhu in torn and dirty clothes and smoking hemp sitting in front of his house under a tree. On approaching him Lahiri Mahashay saw that his Guru Babaji Maharaj was cleaning the Lota (a small round pot) of this sadhu. Lahiri Mahashay was surprised and asked Babaji about it. Babaji Maharaj told him that he was serving a sadhu, as he sees the presence of the Creator in all creatures. This was a lesson for Lahiri Mahashay, who from then on started seeing the Lord in all creatures. Lahiri Mahashay retired from service in 1885. His disciples were generally thehouseholders and he discouraged people from renouncing family-life. Even then many Sanyasis also accepted him as their Guru. Sepoy Brinda Bhagat and Abdul Gafoor Khan made great spiritual progress. Yukteshwar, the Guru of Yoganandji was a close disciple of Lahiri Mahashay. Lahiri Mahashay now started living in Kashi. He was always conscious about the welfare and spiritual progress of his disciples. Lahiri Mahashay had given life to a close friend of Yukteshwar, named Ram after his death and similarly he saved the life of a newly born child by appearing in the labor-room of his disciple Abhaya. Some of his prominent disciples are spiritual luminaries like Shri Yukteshwar Giri Maharaj, Shri Balananda Brahmachari, Shri Pranabananda Giri Maharaj, Shri Kebalanandaji Maharaj, Shri Keshabanandaji Maharaj, Shri Panchanan Bhattacharya Mahashay, Shri Bhupen Sanyal Mahashay, Shri Ramgopal Majumdar Mahashay, Shri Ramdayal Majumdar Mahashay, Shri Bhagabati Charan Ghosh and Sri Brinda Bhagat. Mahatma Tailanga Swami, Balanand Brahmchari and Bhaskaranand Saraswati were his great admirers. Tailanga Swami once expressed that "many a yogi would renounce everything to achieve the yogic stage that Shyamacharan Lahiri Mahashay had so gracefully attained while continuing to remain a family man".

Once his wife suddenly got up in the night to see to her surprise that the room was lit with a divine light and the seat of Lahiri Mahashay was hanging in air. She was wondering whether she was seeing this in dream or it was an illusion. Just then she heard Lahiri Mahashay saying that it is neither dream nor illusion. Later she became his disciple. Lahiri Mahashay was never seen sleeping. Kalikumar Roy stayed with him for weeks together and witnessed that in the middle of night many Sadhus would come for satsang and in the early morning would disappear.

Once a young doctor Chandramohan De came to seek his blessing. During the chitchatting Lahiri Mahashay asked him who is considered dead by the medical science and then asked him to examine him (Lahiri Mahashay). Chandramohan De found that Lahiri Mahashay was neither breathing nor his heart beat was present. After a little while Lahiri Mahashay opened his eyes and told him that the modern science with its limited knowledge can not reach the depth of the attainments of the Indian Yogis.

Once his disciples wanted to take his photo but they could do so only after Lahiri Mahashay agreed. He encouraged people to indulge in welfare activities and never did ignore the worldly duties. He was conscious of social etiquettes and behavior. He had told about his death six months ago to some of his close disciples and his wife. On 26 September 1895, while he was sitting with his disciples, he adopted the Padmasana posture and breathed his last.