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Untold Stories of Mahavatar Babaji of Yogananda’s “Autobiography of a Yogi”

Mahavatar Babaji of Autobiography of a Yogi

Mahavatar Babaji

To someone who wished I would write anything I might know about Mahavatar Babaji that is not in Autobiography of a Yogi.

I will tell you what others told me in India about Babaji.

Dr. Mukherji

Within a week of my landing in India in 1962, I was staying at the Anandamayi Ashram in Ranchi, less than a mile from the Yogoda Satsanga Ashram. “My” room was the free homeopathic dispensary in the daytime and my bedroom at night. It was wonderful. I was in India!

The dispensary was run by Dr. Mukherji, a disciple of Swami Purnananda who was a direct disciple of Babaji. In our conversations he told me some things that I gladly pass on.

Other names of Babaji

Lahiri MahasayaAs recorded in Autobiography of a Yogi, the disciples of Lahiri Mahasaya called Babaji by several names: Mahamuni Babaji Maharaj, Maha Yogi, Trambak Baba and Shiva Baba. Purnananda and many of his fellow-disciples of Babaji simply called him Babaji Brahmananda. That appeals to me the most.

Babaji is not as inaccessible as many people think. He does not just roam in solitude in the Himalayas with only a handful of disciples with him. And though comparatively speaking few people stay with him, there is a small trickle of aspirants who come to spend some time with him.

Swami Purnananda stayed with Babaji more than one time in the Himalayas, sometimes for years. He told Dr. Mukherji that the famous Devendranath Tagore (see the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna), a Bengali philosopher and religious reformer, was a disciple of Babaji and spent quite some time with him in the Himalayas. When his even more famous son, Rabindranath Tagore, was in his teens Devendranath sent him to live with Babaji for three years.

Other disciples, other yoga sadhanas

There is also a misperception about Babaji and his spiritual mission. It is assumed that he only had one disciple “in the world,” Lahiri Mahasaya. What I have written here shows this is not true. Furthermore, it is believed that Kriya Yoga is the only practice favored by Babaji. But there are two of his disciples whose teaching contradict this.

Vijay Krishna Goswami

Vijay Krishan GoswamiThe renowned Bengali saint, Vijay Krishna Goswami (also in the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna) was a disciple of Babaji. He was of the Vaishnava philosophy and taught to his disciples and the public in general the continual repetition and singing of the Maha (Great) Mantra that is found in the Kalisantara Upanishad:

Hare Rama, Hare Rama,
Rama, Rama, Hare Hare.
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna,
Krishna, Krishna, Hare Hare.

I can tell you an amusing story about Babaji’s rescuing Vijay from his shrewish wife–at least for a while.

Vijay and his wife were in Brindaban where Krishna lived until the age of twelve. Vijay’s wife was always complaining about his ascetic ways and all the time he spent spreading the message (for which Babaji had commissioned him) of the Maha Mantra and the time spent with his disciples–much like the wife of Babaji’s disciple, Lahiri Mahasaya.

After days and days of this fussing, as his wife was continuing on and on with her complaints, Vijay silently prayed: “Gurudeva, please free me from this misery!” Immediately his wife found herself in the Himalayas with Babaji and his holy band. She remained there a while and then walked all the way back to Brindaban, arriving there six months after her disappearance. She was much more docile after that.

Neem Karoli Baba

Neem Karoli BabaAnother very famous disciple, also not a Kriya teacher, was Neem Karoli Baba who lived to be over three hundred and fifty years old, and was reputed to be an incarnation of Hanuman, the great devotee of Lord Rama, an avatar who lived in Indian thousands of years ago.

For three and a half centuries Neem Karoli Baba taught people to continually repeat the sacred mantra Ram–the name of Rama. (Many yogis of India repeat Ram, but do not consider it the name of the avatar, but a name of the Absolute Itself. Interestingly, Ram is also a Hebrew name of God.) Several books have been written about Sri Neem Karoli Baba. I only saw him once, and every moment I looked at him I was literally drunk with bliss.

Finally I want to tell you about three people I have met that saw Babaji.

An attorney

Dasashwamedh GhatOne was a supreme court lawyer living in New Delhi. He had never heard of Babaji, but one time when on pilgrimage to Varanasi, he was sitting in the evening at Dasashwamedh Ghat. An extraordinarily beautiful woman came up to him and simply said: “Follow me.” He did not know it, but this was Babaji’s sister, about whom Yogananda wrote in Autobiography of a Yogi.

He followed her through dark narrow alleyways and then down narrow stairs into an underground cave. Only a single light was burning there, and by its light he saw a young man with bright red hair sitting there in meditation. The woman motioned for him to sit. When he asked who the man was, she only said: “Great Babaji,” and indicated he should not speak.

He sat there an hour or so looking at the radiant figure before him. Then in silence the woman signaled he should stand up and follow her. She led him back to Dasashwamedh Ghat and left without a word. Only a day or so after he returned to New Delhi he came across Autobiography of a Yogi and saw the picture of Babaji which was just like the yogi he had seen. Many times he went back to Varanasi seeking Babaji or his sister, but was not successful.

A woman-yogi friend

I met the above lawyer in the home of a woman who had also met Babaji. From her I learned the following.

Babaji's CaveWhen Babaji met Lahiri Mahasaya near Ranikhet, he took him to a cave where they had been together in Lahiri Baba’s previous life. That is commonly known as “Babaji’s cave.”

But Babaji has several caves, and one has a most peculiar character. It is located in a dense forest populated by many ferocious tigers and other dangerous animals. When someone becomes lost in that forest toward nightfall one of Babaji’s disciples comes and leads him to that cave. According to what the lost person is accustomed to at home, that is what he finds in the cave. Poor people find it very sparse, others find it simply furnished and well-to-do people find it luxuriously furnished–with carpets, chairs, tables and a comfortable bed. Each one if given the kind of food he would usually have at home. In the morning the disciple shows him the way out of the jungle. Some people meet Babaji himself in the cave, but some others do not.

My friend and three others went high into the Himalayas to find that particular cave in hope of seeing Babaji. They stayed in a simple guest house near the forest. One day as night was about to fall, they suddenly heard tremendous roaring of a tiger that seemed to be very near them. Remembering the way they had entered the forest, they began running as fast as they could, desperately praying to Babaji to protect them. The guest house was some miles away, but they reached in it twenty to thirty minutes! This was a miracle and a miraculous escape by Babaji’s blessing, they were confident.

Rescued by Babaji

Every day they went out searching. But after a few days my friend became very ill and ran a high fever. She urged the others to go on and continue their search for the cave, which they reluctantly did. After some time a radiant figure came in through the open door of her room. His features were not easy to see because rays of light were shining from his body, but he looked to her exactly like Babaji’s picture, and he had reddish hair in a knot on his head in the style of the ancient sages rather than hanging down as in his picture. He sat and had a long conversation with her on spiritual matters. (She never told me what was said.) Then he said: “The others are coming, so I will leave now.” He started for the door and melted away from her sight.

For the next three or four days the same thing happened. But the time was running out for the other pilgrims and they had to return to their jobs. So my friend told them to go ahead and she would try to get to the railway station several miles away in some manner. This they did not want to do, but she insisted, and the next day they left.

That afternoon, the radiant yogi returned as usual, but told her that she must leave and get treatment in Delhi, otherwise she would die. “But I can’t walk,” she protested. “Then I will carry you on my back,” he said. And so he did. He carried her luggage and she held on around his neck and away they went. In another miraculously short time they were at the station. The yogi put her in a compartment, said farewell, and was gone.

As she sat waiting for the train to start, she began to pray: “O Master Babaji, if this was really you who visited me and brought me here, come back and let me see you and be sure.” Nothing happened. The train started up, and as it gained speed leaving the station, suddenly Babaji was there standing on the platform. Her heart leaped up and she tried to get up and leave the train, but it was going too fast.

The next station was quite a distance away, but she prayed: “O Babaji, please come to the next station. Then I will know it is really you I have seen.” She was so invigorated by her desire that she was able to feebly get up and out of the train when the train stopped at the station. She went up and down the platform looking, looking and looking here and there. But saw nothing. The conductor blew his whistle and she hurried back to the train but stood in the door looking out, planning to jump out onto the platform if Babaji appeared. The train was picking up speed, and when it was going so fast it was impossible for anyone to get out of the train, suddenly Babaji was there, standing and looking at her. Then she knew the deathless master had truly come to her and saved her life. She and her son told me this just as I have now related it to you.

A yogi-friend

The preceding two accounts were told to me during my first pilgrimage to India. Early on in my second pilgrimage I was staying at Sivanandashram in Rishikesh in the Himalayan foothills. There I met a very well-known and respected young yogi of North India and spent much time with him.

One afternoon he began asking me about Babaji, and if he ever left the Himalayas. I told him that he definitely did and came down to the plains at the feet of the Himalayas. “Well, I saw him in the Lucknow train station only a week ago,” he told me. Then he described to me how he had seen a young man with long, bright red hair waiting on the platform of the Lucknow station with several other men. All were simply dressed like Himalayan yogis.

“I could not quit looking at him,” the young monk told me. “I have never seen anyone like him in my life. I knew this had to be a great soul. When the northbound train came, he got into a third-class coach with the others, and as the train left the station I realized that this must be the Babaji of Yogananda’s autobiography. The thought had not occurred to me before. I believe he kept me from realizing who he was until it was too late to approach him.”

So that is what little I know.

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