Shri Shyama Charan Lahiri
Shiva is the presiding deity of Kashi and Shiva is said to be a Mahayogi and Mahabhogi. This duality pervades the air of Kashi. The inhabitants of Kashi are blessed with this mysterious gift, which is manifested in their stoic gusto, which they show in their approach towards life. To them Death –in-Life is no different than Life-in-Death. In Hindu thought Art, Dharma, Kaam, Mokch are the four goals of life. Mokch or salvation is attained if the glories of earth are enjoyed without getting attached to them much in the same way the imagery of an age-old spiritual metaphor -lotus in a murky pond- exemplifies. Swami Shri Shyama Charan Lahiri is the perfect living example of this metaphor who was a householder and yet experienced the distilled essence of the divine realization. He is a mahayogi of Kashi. The sacred soil of Kashi has produced and nurtured many a sons who have contributed to the renaissance process of recovering, reviving and recasting India’s spiritual wealth in larger, more modern and secular terms. These saints are popular names in India and revered by people of all religions because their teachings carry essential spiritual truths to which no one religion or person or age can make exclusive claim. The ghats of holy Ganga still reverberate with the devotional chaupais of Ram Charit Manas by Tulsidas and the footsteps of weaver saint Kabir and his guru Ramanand are still heard. Trailanga Swami can still be envisioned floating on the waves of Ganga. Ravidas lived here and the famous aghori saint Baba Keenaram made Kashi his taposthali. A great householder saint revered by high and low of all religions – Swami Shri Shyama Charan Lahiri – is one of them. His greatness was recognized by Swami Tailanga who ran to meet Lahiri Mahasaya when he went to pay obeisance to him. One of the disciples of Tailanga swami did not like this and asked his guru why should a renunciant of his stature go to meet an householder? And he replied, what he could attain in his loincloths Shyama Charan has attained as an householder. This is precisely the reason why Shayama Charan Lahiri’s guru Maha avtar Babaji refused his disciple’s wish to remain immersed in Samadhi when he met him in Ranikhet. He wanted him to do his sadhana while engaged in his Government job, in a family consisting of his wife, sons and daughters and to set an example by his disciplined life that it is not impossible to realize the spirit while being engaged in worldly duties. He became a beacon of hope to thousands who are tied in the shackles of household duties and yet long to reach the ultimate of self-realization. Lahiri Mahashaya was the exponent of kriya yoga. Yoga as described by sage Patanjali is cessation of thought waves. Self is only restless Prana (breath) on which ride the thought waves. So long Prana is restless, self too remains restless. The flow of precious life -force bursts outwards; currents are wasted in the enjoyment of senses. Restless self runs helter skelter and cannot perceive the true self. For this, Prana or breathing has to be controlled. The only method with which this can be achieved is internal Pranayama known as kriya yoga. This pranayam is different from several yogic exercises and postures which are meant primarily for preparing the body for meditation and physical well being eventually covering only one aspect of kriya yoga. Kriya yoga covers the body, mind and soul. A stage comes when even the body-consciousness leaves and only pure consciousness remains. By doing kriya yoga with devotion, self reaches a stage of stability and man gets stationed in ‘kutastha’. Everything then automatically becomes illuminated and he becomes a yogi. Kuthastha, between two eyebrows, is also known as ‘third eye.’ Christ referred to this third eye when he said let your two eyes become single and there will be light. The physical eyes see only the fragmented vision of material world. The inner eye opens the mystical astral world and the self experiences a bliss which no material thing can ever yield. The consciousness which till now was caged in the physical body gradually expands and covers the entire cosmos. That is how the yogis know the past, present and future and suffer with the suffering humanity because they become one with everyone. There are numerous events in the lives of yogis to exemplify this truth. Once Lahiri Mahashaya was sitting with devotees and suddenly he started feeling suffocated as if drowning. Next day the devotees read in newspapers that there was a shipwreck and many people had drowned in the sea near Japan. In GITA lord Krishna tells Arjuna to become a yogi. The path of yoga is generally believed to be ancient and therefore, tough and beyond the capacity of common man of this age. Shyama Charan Lahiri lived only a little more than a hundred years ago and by his own example proved this to be false. He noted down his spiritual experiences in diaries in Bangla that have been explained and clarified by his followers. These books have been translated in many Indian languages. He told his disciples that kriya yoga should be the only duty of human beings. It needs no rituals only two objects -self and breath and two tools- utmost concentration and deep devotion. Adhering to the eight fold path of Patanjali (yama, niyam, aasan, pranayam, pratyahar, dhyana, dharna, samadhi) will smoothen the way and take you to the goal of liberation. No forced renunciation is required: the realization of the futility of the worldly wealth automatically makes you a renunciant. Living in his house in Madanpura area in Benares he gave initiation of kriya yoga to thousands who asked for it, without any distinction of religion, caste, creed or gender. A Muslim was one of his advanced disciples. There were sadhaks, intellectuals, maharajas, as well as people from lower class. According to him no one is lowly only mind is lowly. Parents of Paramhansa Yogananda, the great saint and the author of world famous AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A YOGI were his disciples. The AUTOBIOGRAPHY tells us in detail about kriya yoga and the life of Lahiri Mahashaya who revived this ancient science in this materialistic age for the benefit of common man.