|Sacred Space: Yogis, Siddhas, Gurus
Babaji: Legendary Master & Amar Yogi
The legendary Babaji is known by different names in many places through centuries of time, in what appears to be a seemingly unsolvable mystery. What should I refer to him as?
He has been associated with the historical figure, Haidakhandi Babaji or Hairakhan Baba, about whom there are many references and cited meetings during the late 19th century and early 20th century. Some people refer to him as Mahavatar Babaji, from Lahiri Mahashaya's meeting in 1861, made popular by Paramhamsa Yogananda-ji's book, Autobiography of a Yogi. Others have mentioned the legendary Kripacharya, or the Chiranjeevi Ashwatthama from the days of the Mahabharata, when referring to him. He is also known as Kriya Babaji. As a perfect siddha, he has been associated with Guru Gorakhnath, also known as Shiva Goraksha.
Masters & Sages|
One of the earliest documented appearances is when Yogi Sri Shyama Charan Lahiri Mahashaya met him in 1861. Babaji later met his disciple, Sri Yukteshwar who was Yoganandaji's guru. Lahiri Mahashaya developed many siddhis or yogic powers and had numerous disciples, among whom was Sri Yukteshwar Giri, whose disciple, Mahayogi Yogananada was responsible for spreading his message to an international audience who got to know him as Mahavatar Babaji, the name by which Yogananda-ji referred to him.
According to Vedic Sanatan spiritual philosophy, Mahavatar is the transcendental Truth, the very fountainhead revealed in form through the avatars. While the Mahavatar is supremely free, he appears in form in different existences according to the faith and devotion of devotees. He manifests to dispel the darkness of ignorance. Lahiri Mahashaya often said, "If you do not invite God as your summer guest, he will not come in the winter of your life."
Often referred to as Kriya Babaji, he has initiated many masters into the mysteries of Kriya Yoga and is known for his propagation of Sahaja Samadhi. He has generally worked behind the scenes but there are several references to him by many different masters, presently working in the world.
In the Kumaon hills he is popularly known as Hariakhan Babaji and many tales are told about him in these parts. Even today there are those rare few who met and remember the many miracles that spontaneously occurred in his presence. The commisioner of that division, Ramsay spoke of incidents that occured in his presence, including his initial encounter with him at Thandi Sarak in Nainital. An oft-told story relates to Jwala Dutt Joshi of Almora who was at the time Education Minister of Gwalior state. He was riding a horse near Ranibag, where Babaji was at the time working with the labourers. Seeing the 'coolie' burst into laughter as his horse passed, he was annoyed at his impudence and demanded he be told the cause of the mirth. Babaji explained that he was laughing because in distant Badrinath the bell had fallen and they were having difficulty lifting the heavy bell. Enraged at what he thought was a preposterous bluff, he had a telegram sent to Badrinath and learnt that in truth the incident had occurred. He returned to invite Babaji as a state guest of the ruler at the time, Madhavrao Scindia, grandfather of the late Madhavrao Scindia, MP.
There are many stories told about him in the Kumaon hills of Uttaranchal. When he stayed at Khurpatal Lake near Nainital, an educated young man speculating on his identity, heard that he had been present at the battle of Kurukshetra which took place over 5,000 years ago. He reasoned that Babaji must really be the immortal warrior, Ashwathama. In the Mahabharata it is recorded that Ashwathama was wounded on his head. The man figured this must be the reason that he habitually wore a covering on his head.
Excited by his own theory, he sought out Babaji. As soon as Babaji saw the man he suggested a bath in the cool waters of the lake. The young man was delighted at this easy way of ascertaining the truth and looked forward to seeing him remove the cap he wore, when he took his bath. In his presence, however, the man got into a state of trance and as they returned to the hut, he realised he had completely forgotten to look for scars on Babaji's head. The great mahatma replied to his unspoken thoughts, "Meet a saint or an evolved soul with respect. Only those blessed by God can recognize a saint. He who has a pure heart attains the grace of saints."
Babaji is an enlightened master, deeply revered and loved by those whose lives have been touched by his 'darshan'. In truth he lives in many different realms. He belongs in the world of the sages and the masters, the rishis, the siddhas and yogis. And he moves with utmost simplicity among his devotees, his disciples and those who seek his darshan with an open heart. They know the immortal mahayogi as they know you and me.
More on Babaji in Romola Butalia's book:
Sri Babaji: Immortal Yogi of the Himalayas
Also read Romola Butalia's book:
Editor: Romola Butalia   (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.
Header design & Photo Credit: Alok Johri