Lahiri Mahasaya | Biography & Teachings Of The Great Guru-Householder

reviewed by Liz Burns 500H RYT
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Lahiri Mahasaya was the esteemed teacher of Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri, and mentor of Paramhansa Yogananda

Yogananda in fact gave him the title “Yogavatar”, translated as Incarnation Of Yoga.

Supposedly, Lahiri Mahasaya’s guru was the celestial and immortal Mahavatar Babaji, and it was Babaji who personally selected Lahiri Mahasaya to spread the profound teachings of Kriya Yoga worldwide.

Despite being recognized as a soul who had attained complete liberation, Lahiri Mahasaya embraced human life as a husband and accountant and shouldered numerous responsibilities.

He preached an interfaith approach to liberation or God-realization and paved the way for Kriya Yoga to enter the modern yogic discourse. 

In this article, we’ll cover the below on Lahiri Mahasaya:

  • Early Life And Background
  • Spiritual Awakening And Meeting Babaji
  • Teaching Kriya Yoga
  • Mahasamadhi
  • Spiritual Teachings
foothills of the himalayas

A quick note

Please note that much of the information regarding gurus of the 19th and early 20th century is hagiographic, featuring numerous accounts of extremely devout parentage and divinely patient gurus during their childhood, among other stories. 

It is important to approach this information with a degree of skepticism and recognize that it portrays these gurus as spiritually potent individuals in a rather favorable manner.

Early Life And Background

Lahiri Mahasaya, born on September 30, 1828, into a deeply religious Brahmin family of rich lineage, came into this world in the village of Ghurni, nestled in the Nadia district near Krishnanagar, Bengal.

Lahiri Mahasaya’s mother was his father “Gaur Mohan Lahiri”’s second wife, and he was her youngest son. His father’s first wife had sadly passed away during a pilgrimage.

During Lahiri Mahasaya’s formative years, his mother also passed away, leaving behind scant information about her, except for the revelation that she was a devotee of Lord Shiva.

Lahiri Mahasaya grew up in Ghumi in his ancestral home. Supposedly at about four years old, he would regularly be found sitting serenely in a yogic posture beneath the sand, his body concealed, as if immersed in profound contemplation.

statue of lord shiva

Tragically, in 1833, their home was destroyed when a river changed its course, submerging the land it once stood on.

After the flooding, Lahiri Mahasaya and his family left the area and moved to Benares. In Benares, his father built a temple dedicated to Shiva and taught Lahiri Vedic discipline, worship, charity, and scripture.

During this period, young Lahiri engaged in the study of Hindi, Urdu, Sanskrit, Bengali, French, and English. In addition to receiving Vedic instruction from his father, Lahiri independently developed a deep interest in and comprehension of the Vedas. 

He delved into studying the scriptures himself and eagerly listened to enlightening discourses on scriptures by learned local Brahmins.

So growing up, young Lahiri would study, bathe in the Ganges, and worship Lord Shiva.

In the year 1846, Lahiri Mahasaya married his wife. Together, they were blessed with a beautiful family, including two sons named Tincouri and Ducouri, and three daughters named Harimoti, Harikamini, and Harimohini.

Interestingly, both of Lahiri’s sons were renowned for their saintly qualities. 

young yogi with palms together

As fate would have it, Lahiri’s wife not only became his life partner but also his devoted disciple. Affectionately addressed as Guru Ma, she embraced the spiritual path under his guidance. 

Lahiri Mahasaya’s professional endeavors also led him on an adventurous journey across the vast expanse of India. 

He served as an accountant in the Military Engineering Department of the Indian government, and this occupation allowed him to traverse various regions of the country, experiencing its rich diversity and people.

Spiritual Awakening And Meeting Babaji

At thirty-three years old, it is suggested that Lahiri Mahasaya met the supernatural guru Mahavatar Babaji. They met in the Himalayan foothills, where Babaji is said to reside throughout the centuries.

It is considered a divine reunion, as Lahiri Mahasaya is the latest manifestation of Babaji’s disciple, having been together in previous lives. 

the himalayas where Lahiri Mahasaya met babaji

Babaji is said to have embraced Lahiri Mahasaya in a cave in the Himalayas, which shocked Lahiri back into knowing the memories of their previous guru-disciple relationship and also blessed him with enlightened God-realization.

Mahavatar Babaji taught him the philosophy of Kriya Yoga and bestowed upon him the task of spreading this technique to all true seekers of the yogic path. 

For the rest of his life, Lahiri Mahasaya would endeavor to fulfill this obligation. 

Teaching Kriya Yoga

In the history of Kriya Yoga, Lahiri Mahasaya is considered the first to have taught it in modern times. He is most well-known for bringing Kriya Yoga back into the discourse of yoga in modern India and across the world.

Afterward, Lahiri Mahasaya made his way back to Varanasi, a place that held deep spiritual significance for him. It was here that he embarked on a noble mission – to initiate earnest seekers into the transformative path of Kriya Yoga.

Word of his remarkable teachings spread like wildfire, drawing an increasing number of individuals who yearned to receive the profound wisdom of Kriya Yoga from Lahiri. 

To acknowledge his elevated spiritual stature, his devoted followers affectionately referred to him as Mahasaya, a Sanskrit term that translates to “large-minded”.

woman meditating in the sand

Moreover, he garnered other popular names among his followers, such as Yogiraj and Kashi Baba, which further highlighted his revered status. 

With a keen desire to disseminate spiritual knowledge, Lahiri Mahasaya organized numerous study groups and held regular discourses on the timeless wisdom encapsulated in the Bhagavad Gita

These gatherings, aptly named “Gita Assemblies,” served as enlightening platforms for his followers to delve into the profound teachings of the sacred scripture. 

Remarkably, Lahiri Mahasaya transcended the societal barriers of his time. Despite the prevailing stronghold of caste prejudice, he fearlessly embraced individuals from all walks of life, irrespective of their religious affiliations. 

He imparted Kriya initiation to individuals from diverse faiths, including Hindus, Muslims, and Christians. 

Lahiri encouraged his students to maintain their allegiance to their respective faiths, integrating the potent Kriya techniques into their existing practices, thereby enriching their spiritual journeys.

group of yogis walking barefoot

Interestingly, and quite uniquely, as an Indian self-proclaimed God-realized yogi, Lahiri Mahasaya continued to work professionally as an accountant. So he was both a guru and a householder.

This balance of work and spirituality continued until the year 1886 when he retired from work. As his fame and spiritual stature grew, an increasing number of seekers flocked to seek his divine presence. 

During this period, Lahiri Mahasaya, ever accessible and compassionate, rarely ventured beyond the confines of his living room, making himself available to all who sought his divine blessings and darshan

In this space, he often exhibited the awe-inspiring state of superconscious samadhi, transcending the limitations of ordinary consciousness. 

Throughout his life, Lahiri Mahasaya gave initiation into Kriya Yoga to individuals from various walks of life such as gardeners, postmen, kings, maharajas, sannyasis, householders, and even those who were considered to be of lower caste, Christians, and Muslims. 

Such an inclusive approach was uncommon during that era, particularly for someone adhering to the strict Brahmin traditions. 

Lahiri Mahasaya’s remarkable ability to bridge societal barriers and extend his spiritual guidance to people of all castes and faiths stood as a testament to his profound wisdom and unwavering compassion.

the river ganges

The Lineage Of Kriya Yoga

Some of his notable disciples included Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri, Swami Pranabananda, and Swami Brahmachari. We’ve written biographies on both Sri Yukteswar and his disciple Paramahansa Yogananda, who wrote Autobiography Of A Yogi.


A fascinating phenomenon of meditators, mahasamadhi is when a meditator chooses to enter a state of such mind-body concentration and effort that they choose to shut down their own body and die.

In the year 1895, Lahiri Mahasaya initiated the process of gathering his devoted disciples, confiding in some of them about his impending departure from his physical form, through mahasamadhi. 

Moments before his passing, he said the simple words, bringing solace to those around him: “I am going home. Be comforted; I shall rise again.

His remains were cremated at the ghats in Varanasi, paying homage to ancient Hindu tradition.

person reading from a sanskrit text

Spiritual Teachings

At the core of his teachings, Lahiri Mahasaya imparted the profound practice of Kriya Yoga to his devoted disciples. His ultimate teaching was that spiritual growth is found in the dedicated pursuit of Kriya Yoga.

Here are the key principles and techniques of Kriya Yoga:

  1. Kriya Yoga is a spiritual practice that focuses on attaining God-realization and union with the divine. 
  2. It emphasizes the power of breath control, pranayama, as a means to awaken and channel the life force energy (prana) within the body. 
  3. Kriya Yoga involves specific techniques that work on the subtle energy centers (chakras) and channels (nadis) in the body, facilitating the awakening of higher states of consciousness. 
  4. The practice includes various meditation techniques to calm and still the mind, leading to expanded awareness and inner peace. 
  5. Kriya Yoga teaches the importance of tapas, svadhyaya, and isvara pranidhana.
  6. It emphasizes the cultivation of virtues such as truthfulness, non-violence, purity, and selflessness as essential qualities on the path of spiritual evolution. 
  7. Kriya Yoga encourages the practitioner to develop a deep sense of introspection and self-inquiry, exploring the nature of the self and the ultimate reality. 
  8. It promotes the understanding that the divine is immanent and transcendent, and that realization of one’s true nature is attainable through disciplined practice and grace. 
  9. Kriya Yoga emphasizes the guidance and support of a qualified teacher (guru) who can impart the teachings and provide guidance on the path. 
  10. It encourages the integration of spiritual practices into daily life, fostering harmony and balance in all aspects of existence.

Further Information

If you’ve enjoyed reading this article on Lahiri Mahasaya, why not check out our other biographical articles:

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Born and raised in London, Luke is a passionate writer with a focus on travel, yoga, philosophy, and meditation. As a certified yoga teacher having studied under a swami in Rishikesh, Luke now lives in India pretty much just practising yoga, meditating and writing articles! Luke's life arc has gone from somewhat turbulent to peaceful, and he considers yoga and meditation direct methods to sustain introspective insight to manifest peace and happiness, despite life's challenges. Luke's passion for meditation has led him to complete multiple meditation retreats, where he spent almost 40 days in silence in the last two years. He practices various meditation techniques such as Vipassana, Anapana, and Metta Bhavana, each adding to his knowledge and experience of the true self. Most recently he meditated in Jaipur, India, and before that lived for a short spell in a monastery with forest monks in Northern Thailand. To Luke, yoga is more than just a physical exercise; it's a way of life that helps him cultivate a stronger mind-body connection. As a young man with arthritis, Luke understands the importance of observing and controlling his body, and yoga has been a vital tool in his journey to better health and well-being. The practice of yoga has not only helped him manage his symptoms but has also given him a new perspective on life. Luke's love for yoga and meditation is not limited to a single tradition or practice. He's fascinated by the spiritual teachings of all types of religious philosophy, including Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity for their essence and wisdom. His passion for spirituality is what drives him to continue learning and growing, and share his knowledge with other people. Luke in his spare time is an avid chess player, cyclist and record collector. He also has experience with addiction, and so sponsors multiple people from different walks of life in their recovery programmes.

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