Yogiraj Sri Shama Charan Lahiri was born on 30 September 1828 in Ghurni village of Nadia district of West Bengal. While working for the railways in 1861, Lahiri Mahasaya was transferred to Ranikhet, in the foothills of the Himalayas. One day, while walking in the hills, he heard a voice calling to him. After climbing further, he met his Guru Mahavatar Babaji, who initiated him into the techniques of Kriya Yoga. Babaji told Lahiri that the rest of his life was to be given to spreading the Kriya message.
Mahaavatara Babaji is a deathless saint who is said to roam around the in the Himalayas, particularly near the temple of Badrinath with his disciples. He is literally immortal. Over many millennia he has guided great sadhakas and saints who are more popular in society, like Yogiraj Shamacharan Lahiri, while himself staying away from public. It is believed even taking the name of Mahaavatara Babaji with reverence brings some blessings of his onto the individual.
On one occasion in Benares, the great Indian sage Trailanga Swami, who was known to be nearly 300 years old, forsook his usual silence in order to pay public honor to Lahiri Mahasaya. One of Trailanga’s disciples objected.
“Sir”, he said, “why do you, a Swami and a renunciant, show such respect to a mere householder?”.
Trailanga replied, “My son, Lahiri Mahasaya is like a divine kitten, remaining wherever the Cosmic Mother has placed him. While dutifully playing the part of a worldly man, he has received that perfect Self-realization which I have sought by renouncing everything including my loin cloth.”
Lahiri Mahasaya stayed in a state of samadhi most of the times, sitting in his room and giving discourses on spiritual topics and guiding people on Kriya Yoga. During daytime ordinary people would visit him, at night great saints and siddhas would come to him. His dairies which were recovered later contain a remarkable collection of information on complex aspects of Kriya Yoga and his encounter with various siddhas.
Among the great Yogis who have come in public in the last few centuries, Yogiraj Sri Shama Charan Lahiri stands out as one of the greatest. It is said that taking a photo of Yogiraj was almost impossible, for the photos would come out blank. When asked he would casually say that he is only the Spirit and not the body, so how could anyone capture the spirit in photo? Finally someone requested him allow one photo to be taken, and he consented. That photo has today become world famous among Yogis.