Lahiri Mahasaya Specialities
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Shyama Lahiri says in several places that contentment is a good thing. If you believe that, be content with these grunge-smacking essays, then. And maybe you see deeper and better and refrain from being content until you are in the flow of a fulfilling and rewarding life.
The essays contain somewhat contrasting text passages, and offer room for angst-giving statements, such as Lahiri's "If one does not read with tuning and vowels, one generates sin which destroys him. [Hw 173] The aesthetic here is stripped down, and the general appearance rejects the theatric. And the influence continues. These are hallmarks of grunge.
In some passages Lahiri talks of mysteries of sea stars. Their sea is not "out there", and the enigmatic sea stars are not either. And as sea stars has a remarkable digestive systems, so have the mystic sea stars, according to Lahiri. Sea stars lack any centralised brains. Let us stop the comparison there, as "The comparison halts," the saying goes.
"Remain contented with whatever you have."
You have a heartburn, ask a marring guru what to do about it, and he cites, "Remain contented with whatever you have." [Hw 77]. That yoga sentiment is repeated by Lahiri too, and elaborated by Satyeswarananda. "Learn how to remain contented with whatever one has and whatever one is. / There should not be any craving to have more desire or even to move anywhere," writes Satyeswarananda (op cit). Manu Samhita 4:12 lies at the back of the statement. It is a widely held yogi teaching.
Now suppose a sea star one sunny morning finds itself more or less starving because a newly built factory pollutes the sea floor there. "Remain contented with whatever you have, and stay where you are," is a councel that equals suicide in that case. A starfish is not that stupid - it seeks better pastures, and so should you if there are good and sane reasons to go for better over-all conditions.
"Whatever one receives, one should remain contented. Thereby, one can attain Tranquility. This is contentment (Santosh), the secret key to attain the highest Happiness," decrees Lahiri in the wake of Patanjali as well. [Hw 147]. This cherished idea of yogi contentment is of course not good if trusted in blindly and far and wide. If a one-celled animal had been content with going on as that, there might have been no evolution. If animals do not move about in search of food, not content with starving, it could very soon be the end of them. If Lahiri had been content with receiving kriya yoga in secret and not divulge it to many, he would have showed content in that yogi way. But he did not.
There is hopefully a "time and place" and rewarding conditions that speak of contentment, but unless and until there are ample reasons to be satisfied, being fulfilled in the on-going development that good yoga calls for, stupid contentment is not appropriate. Compare Abraham Maslow's pyramid of needs. Beware of too harsh guru teachings, then. They may be misleading, as when giving up the results of your actions is demanded or councelled too. "Man should create lots of good karma," says Buddha. It should be far better to stick with Buddha's Gentle Middle Way design for better living and get liberated, than being robbed of good karma treasures by too blunt "karma yoga" and as a result not having what is needed for getting ahead. Beware, and do not get content with what is not proper resolves. It is not considered a right resolve to remain content with sexual misconduct either.
❖ Speak up against indoctrination. Get a good life, and then be content -
A brahmin by birth organized study groups and launched variant interpretations of many works to study
Shyama Charan Lahiri (1828-1895), or Lahiri Mahasaya, initiated many thousand persons in formerly secret kriya yoga, and made kriya yoga widely known too, by initiating about 5000 disciples. He himself was a disciple of a secretive guru called Babaji ("honoured father") and the guru of Yukteswar (1855-1936).
Lahiri is his family name, and Mahasaya is a reverend title that means "largeminded".
Lahiri was born into a Brahmin family in the Nadia district of Bengal. His mother died when he was a child. As a child, he studied Urdu and Hindi, gradually moving on to Bengali, Sanskrit, Persian, and English at the Government Sanskrit College, along with study of the Vedas. Reciting the Vedas, bathing in the Ganges, and worship were part of his daily routine. He had four children with his wife, Srimati Kashi Moni.
In 1861 he was initiated into the techniques of Kriya Yoga by Babaji, and began initiating others into the path of Kriya Yoga, as a householder in Varanasi (formerly: Banaras), where he worked as an accountant for the Military Engineering Department of the British government.
Yoga pranayama practices constitute Lahiri's Kriya Yoga. His system aims at generating deep tranquillity. His general advice is to practice Kriya Yoga meticulously and attune oneself to the active inner guidance.
Lahiri always gave the Kriya technique as an initiation, and often he referred to the grace that comes automatically through the guru if his instructions are carefully followed. He taught the value of earning an honest living and practicing honesty. And for most of his disciples he advised marriage along with Kriya Yoga practice.
He organized many study groups and gave regular discourses on the Bhagavad Gita. In 1886 he retired on a pension.
Among his notable disciples was Panchanon Bhattacharya, who was permitted to start an institution in Kolkata to spread the teachings of Kriya Yoga. This Arya [Noble] Mission Institution published commentaries by Lahiri on the Bhagavad Gita and other spiritual books. Lahiri interpreted many works and launched a variant interpretation of the battle of Kurukshetra in the Bhagavad Gita: To him, it represented an inner psychological battle, and that specific main characters in the battle were psychological traits. By treating the characters figuratively, their historical value may evaporate somewhat, or totally.
This grasp on the Gita - where characters are said to symbolise different qualities by allotment milleniums after the action took place, according to the Hindu faith at large - was later repeated in Yukteswar's Gita commentary [Bhg], and Yogananda's Gita commentary, God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita [Gt]. Lahiri also taught that the whole Mahabharata epos - of which the Bhagavad Gita is a small part - showed the soul's descent into matter and gross and subtle challenges in getting back to spirit. Lahiri used to interpret a lot of Hindu classics through kriya yoga.
Although Lahiri himself preferred Kriya to spread naturally, disciples started organizations to spread the Kriya Yoga message, and with his permission. Yukteswar was among them. Lahiri became known in the west through Param(a)hansa Yogananda, a disciple of Yukteswar. Among Lahiri's disciples were both of Yogananda's parents.
Lahiri passed away in 1895.
A source for very much of this information is Yogananda's autobiography, which you may read here: [Link]
The core method of kriya yoga is explained in detail here for those who want to explore it, after all. It is not difficult, but you may benefit from being instructed in person too, so try to get it done also.
26 Works by Lahiri Mahasaya: Interpretations of gitas (songs) and samhitas (collections)
All the 26 works are available as books or parts of books at Sanskrit Classics in San Diego.
NOTE. Works marked by YN are currently online at yoganiketan.net, which also hosts Lahiri Mahasaya's Garland of Letters (Patravali). By comparing the texts from the Sanskrit Classics and the Yoganiketan works, you may get surprises. A random example may do for now. The second verse of the Dhyanabindu Upanishad looks like this in Paul Deussen's favourable translation [with diacritical notes omitted by me]:
Vishnu is called a great Yogin
And Lahiri's commentary or whatever it is, runs like this "from San Diego":
And Yoganiketan.net's online version to compare with is:
The Stillness which is after Kriya - the one who always has that -- "Vishnu" = "v[a]= Sound from the bosom; "i" - Stillness upon taking vayo to the head with Shakti, from the center to the end-Brahmarandhra, and again + "u" - coming to the Yoni - meaning the state which is after the performance of kriya, that Stillness. "Mahamaya" = the movement of breath on the left and right side is called "maya," and it is like that in all jivas - therefore: "mahamaya". [yoganiketan.net, sv. "Krishna-Yajurvedia Dhyanabindu Upanishad"]
What Lahiri Mahasaya seems to have done, is to read things into an old Sanskrit work. He even puts his own spin on some passages. If what he teaches is wise, it remains much unproved at any rate. And it is not wise to believe much, because of the danger of being taken in. And that is a careful teaching by Buddha too.
The Dhyanabindu Upanishad ("esoteric doctrine of the point [bindu] to which the meditation relates"), is explained and commented on in Paul Deussen's Sixty Upanisads of the Veda [So 699-702]. The upanishad in question does speak for silence in meditation, through breath practice, even though verse 2 does not seem to give one clue of it.
And if you sometimes sigh, "People don't understand me," there may be gurus and yogis that are far less understandable . . . It is widely acknowledged that Lahiri's output is not easy to find out of, not even among followers in his line of yoga. His commentaries were "recorded talks" put on paper by various disciples, some more accurate than others. And Lahiri often spoke like a drunk as a result of his spiritual attainments, they inform at Yoga Niketan. [sv. "Important information about These Commentaries" there.
What I Have Done on These Pages
I have gleaned Lahiri output from San Diego, and the gist is presented and modified into Self-lore, aiming at better understanding. For copyright reasons I have resorted to abstracts when they may do just as well as verbatim quotations, or better. As a result, I call the special gleanings specialities and hope you may understand yoga lore better from reading into i.
Detailed references to sources are found, as usual on the site, so can see for yourself what is written by who in the matter - which should be good for many. And for your own good you are always cautioned against believing in this and that on this site, for the sake of you own rational coping and development. Along with Gautama Buddha's teachings, come general reservations That works if you apply it. I am not in the belief business, and great-sounding words are not always good for folks, says Tao Te Ching, ch 70, 81 etc.
Further, the gleanings are put into a form that works well for basic research. And maybe you can learn something above the statements (meta-ideas) from it. Special gists are for that. It is generally advised to take a look at a chapter's gist before reading the chapter, for appropriation may be helped by it. [Link]
I am highly valued, for few understand me. [Tao Te Ching, ch 70]
Teachings on the Self are hopefully useful up to a point. But words about the Self or Nirvana are not experiencing the Self and Nirvana. Compare the words of Guru Dev, "Spiritual teachings . . . cannot throw light on the inner Self, for the Self is Light."
Shankara writes many words about the Self from the stand of Advaita Vedanta ("monism"). Ramana Maharsi does too. So there are teachings of other famous gurus and of Buddhism to compare this gist with.
Bhg: Yukteswar, Swami. Srimad Bhagavad Gita: Spiritual Commentary. Portland, Mn: Yoganiketan, 2002. On-line.
Bi: Satyeswarananda, swami, tr. Complete Works of Lahiri Mahasay Vol. II: The Bhagavad Gita Interpretations of Lahiri Mahasay. San Diego: The Sanskrit Classics, 1991.
Gt: Yogananda, Paramahansa. God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita, 2 Vols. 2nd ed. Paperback. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 2001.
Hw: Satyeswarananda, swami, tr. The Commentaries' Series Vol. III: Hidden Wisdom. With Lahiri Mahasay's Commentaries. 2nd rev. ed. San Diego: The Sanskrit Classics, 1986.
So: Deussen, Paul, tr. Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Vols 1-2. Varanasi: Banarsidass, 1980.
Ut: Satyeswarananda, swami, tr. Complete Works of Lahiri Mahasay Vol. III: The Upanisads: The Vedic
Bibles. San Diego: The Sanskrit Classics, 1992.
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