Babaji’s Interest in the West
"Master, did you ever meet Babaji?"
It was a calm summer night in Serampore; the large stars of the tropics gleamed over our heads as I sat by Sri Yukteswar's side on the second-storey balcony of the hermitage.
"Yes." Master smiled at my direct question; his eyes lit with reverence. "Three times I have been blessed by the sight of the deathless guru. Our first meeting was in Allahabad at a Kumbha Mela."
The religious fairs held in India from time immemorial are known as Kumbha Melas; they have kept spiritual goals in constant sight of the multitude. Devout Hindus gather by millions every twelve years to meet thousands of sadhus, yogis, swamis, and ascetics of all kinds. Many are hermits who never leave their secluded haunts except to attend the melas and there bestow blessings on worldly men and women.
"I was not a swami at the time I met Babaji," Sri Yukteswar went on. "But I had already received Kriya initiation from Lahiri Mahasaya. He encouraged me to attend the mela that was convening in January, 1894 in Allahabad. It was my first experience of a kumbha; I felt slightly dazed by the clamour and surge of the crowd. I gazed around searchingly, but saw no illumined face of a master. Passing a bridge on the bank of the Ganges, I noticed an acquaintance standing nearby, his begging bowl extended.
"'Oh, this fair is nothing but a chaos of noise and beggars,' I thought in disillusionment. 'I wonder if Western scientists, patiently enlarging the realms of knowledge for the practical good of mankind, are not more pleasing to God than these idlers who profess religion but concentrate on alms.'
"My smouldering reflections on social reform were interrupted by the voice of a tall sannyasi who halted before me.
"'Sir,' he said, 'a saint is calling you.'
"'Who is he?'
"'Come and see for yourself.'
"Hesitantly following this laconic advice, I soon found myself near a tree whose branches were sheltering a guru with an attractive group of disciples. The master, a bright unusual figure, with sparkling dark eyes, rose at my approach and embraced me.
"'Welcome, Swamiji,' he said affectionately.
"'Sir,' I replied emphatically, 'I am not a swami.'
"'Those on whom I am divinely directed to bestow the title of swami never cast it off.' The saint addressed me simply, but deep conviction of truth rang in his words; I was instantly engulfed in a wave of spiritual blessing. Smiling at my sudden elevation into the ancient monastic order, I bowed at the feet of the obviously great and angelic being in human form who had thus honoured me.
"Babaji-for it was indeed he-motioned me to a seat near him under the tree. He was strong and young, and looked like Lahiri Mahasaya; yet the resemblance did not strike me, even though I had often heard of the extraordinary similarities in the appearance of the two masters. Babaji possesses a power by which he can prevent any specific thought from arising in a person's mind.
Evidently, the great guru wished me to be perfectly natural in his presence, not overawed by knowledge of his identity.
"'What do you think of the Kumbha Mela?'
"'I was greatly disappointed, sir,' I said, but added hastily, 'up until the time I met you. Somehow saints and this commotion don't seem to belong together.'
"'Child,' the master said, though apparently I was nearly twice his own age, 'for the faults of the many, judge not the whole. Everything on earth is of mixed characters, like a mingling of sand and sugar. Be like the wise ant which seizes only the sugar, and leaves the sand untouched. Though many sadhus here still wander in delusion, yet the mela is blessed by a few men of God-realization.'
"In view of my own meeting with this exalted master, I quickly agreed with him.
"'Sir,' I commented, 'I have been thinking of the leading scientific men of the West, greater by far in intelligence than most people congregated here, living in distant Europe and America, professing different creeds, and ignorant of the real values of such melas as the present one. They are the men who could benefit greatly by meetings with India's masters. But, although high in intellectual attainments, many Westerners are wedded to rank materialism. Others, famous in science and philosophy, do not recognize the essential unity in religion. Their creeds serve as insurmountable barriers that threaten to separate them from us forever.'
"'I saw that you are interested in the West, as well as in the East.' Babaji's face beamed with approval. 'I felt the pangs of your heart, broad enough for all men. That is why I summoned you here. 'East and West must establish a golden middle path of activity and spirituality combined,' he continued. 'India has much to learn from the West in material development; in return, India can teach the universal methods by which the West will be able to base its religious beliefs on the unshakable foundations of yogic science.
"'You, Swamiji, have a part to play in the coming harmonious exchange between Orient and Occident. Some years hence I shall send you a disciple whom you can train for yoga dissemination in the West. The vibrations there of many spiritually seeking souls come flood-like to me. I perceive potential saints in America and Europe, waiting to be awakened.'”
At this point in his story, Sri Yukteswar turned his gaze fully on mine.
"My son," he said, smiling in the bright moonlight, "you are the disciple that, years ago, Babaji promised to send me."
I was happy to learn that Babaji had directed my steps to Sri Yukteswar, yet it was hard for me to visualize myself in the remote West, away from my beloved guru and the simple hermitage peace.
"Babaji then spoke of the Bhagavad Gita," Sri Yukteswar went on. "To my astonishment, he indicated by a few words of praise that he knew I had written interpretations of several Gita chapters.
"'At my request, Swamiji, please undertake another task,' the great master said. 'Will you not write a short book on the underlying harmony between the Christian and Hindu scriptures? Their basic unity is now obscured by men’s sectarian differences. Show by parallel references that the inspired sons of God have spoken the same truths.’
"'Maharaj,' I answered diffidently, 'what a command! Shall I be able to fulfil it?'
"Babaji laughed softly. 'My son, why do you doubt?' he said reassuringly. 'Indeed, Whose work is all this, and Who is the Doer of all actions? Whatever the Lord has made me say is bound to materialize as truth.'
"I deemed myself empowered by the blessings of the saint, and agreed to write the book. Feeling that the parting hour had arrived, I rose reluctantly from my leafy seat.
"'Do you know Lahiri?' the master inquired. 'He is a great soul, isn't he? Tell him of our meeting.' He then gave me a message for Lahiri Mahasaya.
"After I had bowed humbly in farewell, the saint smiled benignly. 'When your book is finished, I shall pay you a visit,' he promised. 'Good-by for the present.'
"I left Allahabad the following day and entrained for Banaras. Reaching my guru's home, I poured out the story of the wonderful saint at the Kumbha Mela.
"'Oh, didn't you recognize him?' Lahiri Mahasaya's eyes were dancing with laughter. 'I see you couldn't, for he prevented you. He is my incomparable guru, the celestial Babaji!'
"'Babaji!' I repeated, awestruck. 'The Yogi-Christ Babaji! The invisible-visible saviour Babaji! Oh, if I could just recall the past and be once more in his presence, to show my devotion at his lotus feet!'
"'Never mind,' Lahiri Mahasaya said consolingly. 'He has promised to see you again.'
The material has been sourced from "Autobiography of a Yogi" by Paramahansa Yogananda, courtesy Yogoda Satsanga Society of India.