In 1861, Lahiri Mahasaya, a 33-year-old married man was out walking one day in the Himalayan foothills near Ranikhet where he was posted as an accountant for the Military Engineering Department of the British India Government. He heard a voice summoning him from the mountains and began to follow it, hiking for hours until finally encountering his guru, Mahavatar Babaji. It was a divine reunion of two who had been together in many lives past. Mahavatar Babaji initiated Lahiri into the science of Kriya Yoga and instructed him to bestow the sacred technique on all sincere seekers. It was a special dispensation. This once-secret teaching would now become available to “householders,” people leading ordinary lives – not just renunciants in remote monasteries.
Lahiri Mahasaya returned to his home in Banaras (Varanasi) to fulfill this mission. As the first to teach the lost ancient Kriya science in contemporary times, he is renowned as a seminal figure in the renaissance of Yoga that began in modern India in the latter part of the nineteenth century and continues to this day. Yogananda’s parents were among Lahiri Mahasaya’s disciples, as was Swami Sri Yukteswar who would one day become Yogananda’s guru. As an infant, Yogananda was presented by his mother to Lahiri who blessed the child and predicted that he would become a great Yogi.
Lahiri Mahasaya established no organization during his lifetime, but made this prediction: “About fifty years after my passing, an account of my life will be written because of a deep interest in Yoga that will arise in the West. The message of Yoga will encircle the globe. It will aid in establishing the brotherhood of man.”
Both the predictions came to pass when Yogananda moved in 1920 from India to the United States, where he taught and lectured for decades before writing his seminal Autobiography of a Yogi, in which he told Lahiri Mahasaya’s story, among many others. Through Yogananda’s writings and teachings, Kriya Yoga is now available to millions worldwide.