Masters of the Tradition – Rajahamsa Swami Nityananda Giri speaks about the Kriya Yoga Masters of his lineage
Kriya-yoga is an ancient science of spiritual knowledge and practice found since ancient days but in the course of time this precious knowledge of Kriya-yoga tended to be mutated and forgotten. This Himalayan yogi is believed to incarnate himself each time when it is necessary to reintroduce and revitalize the Kriya Yoga. Mahavatar means “the Great Incarnation”, a title bestowed on Babajee, the revered father. He in 1861 gave Kriya Yoga initiation to his beloved disciple Yogiraj Shri Shyamacharan Lahiri Mahasaya, in Dunagiri hills near Ranikhet, and thereby restored to the world the ancient technique of Self-realization. In 1894 in Kumbha Mela at Allahabad he instructed Sriyukteswarjee to write a book, Kaivalya Darshanam (The Holy Science).
Sri Lahiri Mahasaya (30 September 1828 – 26 September1895)
Yogiraj Shri Shyamacharan Lahiri is popularly known as Lahiri Mahasaya or Lahiri Baba. The story of Lahiri Mahasaya’s meeting with Mahavatar Babajee is narrated in Paramahamsa Yogananda’s book, Autobiography of a Yogi. Kriya Yoga was taught to Lahiri Mahasaya in the nineteenth century by this Himalayan yogi known under the name of Mahavatar Babajee. He was born to a Brahmin family in Ghurni village in Nadia District of West Bengal and was the youngest son of Smt. Muktakasi Devi and Shri Gour Mohan Lahiri. Lahiri Mahasaya was a householder, married to Smt. Kashi Moni Devi and had two sons and three daughters; he was working as an accountant in the Military Engineering Department of British India Government, but also obtained the supreme realization by the means of Kriya Yoga. He soon became famous for teaching this ancient meditation and many disciples were attracted to him. He taught Kriya Yoga to monks as well as to householders. He spent most of his life at Varanasi and achieved reputation among 19th century religious leaders of India. He has been called as Yogavatar, “An Incarnation of Yoga”.
Swami Shriyukteshwar Giri (10 May 1855 – 09 March 1936)
One of Lahiri Mahasaya’s best disciples was Swami Shriyukteswar who was born as Shri Priyanath Kadar at Srirampur in Kolkatta, West Bengal to Smt. Kadambini Devi and Shri Kshetranath Kadar. He was a householder and has a daughter but later took orders of dashnam sannyas tradition from Bodh Gaya Math and thenceforth was known as Swami Shriyukteswar Giri. He met Lahiri Mahasaya in 1884 and learned Kriya Yoga from him. He was a great yogi and astrologer, and reinvented a form of astrology known as Cosmic Astrology that establishes the relation between the planets, the zodiac signs and the nakshatras with the energy centers (chakras) within the human body. This astrology has a direct relationship with the practice of Kriya Yoga. He was also a scholar of Srimad Bhagavad Gita and Bible. When he was a student of Srirampur Christian Missionary College he developed interest in Bible and later in his book, Kaivalya Darshanam (The Holy Science), discussed the unity among the underlying principles of Yoga, Jnana and Bible. He has been called as Jnanavatar, “An Incarnation of Wisdom”.
Paramahamsa Yogananda (05 January 1893 – 07 March 1952)
Shriyukteswarjee had many disciples, most shining among whom was Paramahamsa Yogananda. Paramahamsa means “a supreme swan”, a title bestowed upon him by his master Shriyukteswarjee in 1935. This is a title of rare distinction bestowed on highly evolved monks. He was born as Shri Mukunda Lal Ghosh in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh to Smt. Jnanaprabha Devi and Shri Bhagavati Charan Ghosh. He met his master Sriyukteswarjee in 1910; in June 1915 he graduated from Serampore College of Calcutta University and in the same year took dashnam sannyas order becoming Swami Yogananda Giri. Paramahamsa Yogananda is author of the book, Autobiography of a Yogi, and travelled to USA in 1920 to propagate Kriya Yoga. He has founded Yogada Satsang Society (YSS) and Self Realization Fellowship (SRF). He resided in the United States until his mahasamadhi (final conscious exit from the body) in 1952, and had an important role in spreading Kriya Yoga in the west. He has been called as Premavatar, “An Incarnation of Love”.
Prabhujee Swami Narayana Giri (xxxx- 30 October 1985)
Among Shriyukteswarjee’s highly realized disciples was Swami Narayana Giri. Not much is known about his parents as he was an orphan from his childhood. He was born as Shri Kenaram Pradhan and was brought up by his maternal uncles Shri Sarbeswar Maiti and Shri Iswara Maiti at Bhisindipur in Midnapore District of West Bengal. He met Shriyukteswarjee for the first time at about the age of eight when he was lost in Gangasagar Mela and was brought to Sriyukteswarjee’s camp. Later, at about the age of twelve he joined his master in Srirampur and was his closest disciple remaining at his service till his master’s last breath. Later he established Shriyuktashram at Bhisindipur. Shriyukteswarjee affectionately used to call him as Prabhu means “my lord”, hence he is known as Prabhujee. Through his service to his master he got the teachings. Among the different ways to receive knowledge, service to one’s master is considered to be the best while at the same time this is most difficult. Hence he has been called as Sevavatar, “An Incarnation of Service”.
Swami Shankarananda Giri (28 August 1948 – )
Swami Shankarananda Giri has learned Kriya Yoga from Prabhujee Swami Narayana Giri and Paramahamsa Hariharananda. He was born as Shri Krushna Chandra Maharana to Smt. Radha Devi and Shri Kshetrabasi Maharana by the banks of Chilka Lake in Rambha town in the state of Odisha. He is believed to have been born in 28 August 1948 on the auspicious day of Janmasthami though exact record about his birth is not available. He was brought up by his maternal grandmother Smt. Phula Devi, and at an early age he received Kriya Yoga at Shriyukteswarjee’s Puri Ashram. He started teaching Kriya Yoga in 1979 and in the year 1982 he entered the dashnam sannyas order. Swami Shankarananda Giri also inherited the astrological system called Cosmic Astrology from his masters. He is the author of the book, Kriya Yoga Darshan- Theory and Practice, and has established ashrams at Bhubaneswar, Rairakhol and Rishikesh in India and many centers in Europe.
Rajahamsa Swami Nityananda Giri learned the Kriya-yoga techniques from Swami Shankarananda Giri.