Who is Babaji?

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Babaji (revered elder/guru)

Babaji Definition

Babaji, also commonly known as Mahavatar Babaji, is the name of an ageless Indian siddha yogi said to reside somewhere in the Himalayas. He is said to have discipled some of the most prominent spiritual teachers of the 19th and 20th Century, including Lahiri Mahasaya, Sri Yukteswar Giri, and Paramahansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi.

Mahavatar means “Great Avatar.” More precisely, however, avatara in Sanskrit means “descent,” as in descent from the sky, from the spiritual into flesh.

Babaji means “revered guru/elder/father.”

Babaji Deep Dive

A small number of people dating back to 1861 claim to have seen the reclusive and mysterious Mahavatar Babaji. It is said that he reveals himself only to a few to ensure that his teachings, not his personage or physical manifestation, remain the focus.  Considered nirmanakaya, a ceaseless manifestation or buddha appearing in a physical body, he is said to have lived for centuries. However, there are no historical or statistical records of Babaji’s existence.

a statue of babaji surrounded by flowers

Babaji is said to have revealed his past to journalist and author Sri V.T. Neelakanthan and guru S.A.A Ramaiah beginning in 1942. He told them he was born the son of Brahmans on November 30th, 203 AD in Parangipettai, Tamil Nadu, India. Then named Nagaraja (meaning “king of the mountains” or “king of serpents”), possibly in reference to kundalini, he was kidnapped at age 5 and sold into slavery. He was released by his master, and then joined groups of wandering yogis and monks with whom he studied the scriptures.

He then went in search of the renowned siddha and sage, Agastya, who features in many Hindu scriptures. Eventually he found Agastya, became his student, and attained enlightenment.

It is claimed by some that Babaji has lived in the Himalayas with his disciples ever since, passing down divine wisdom and inspiration over the millennia. He is credited with the re-emergence of Kriya yoga via his disciple, Lahiri Mahasaya.

He leads people to enlightenment through:

  • Rigorous yogic practice, including kundalini, pranayama, and other aspects of raja yoga, or classical yoga.
  • Surrender of the ego through sadhana.
  • Teaching his disciples to see and serve the divine in others.

Some organizations teaching Kriya yoga claim that a student can communicate with Babaji directly during their first initiation. They recite a mantra calling on him: Om Kriya Babaji Nama Aum.

a drawing of a man in lotus pose with chakras

Babaji In Your Life

As the disciples of Babaji often claimed, he wasn’t just a guru, he was their inner guru. He was satchidananda (truth, knowledge, and bliss itself).

Can you relate to your inner guru?

Arguably, many of the yogic practices in existence today would not be as well-known – if at all – without Babaji and his disciples. The revival of Kriya yoga, kundalini yoga, and pranayama around India and across the world, as well as the renewed interest in scriptures such as Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita are attributable to his impact.

Indeed, your own understanding Babaji’s message – a message for all time – might begin with reading the Yoga Sutras or Bhagavad Gita.

And if you are the kind of yogi that benefits from a teacher-student relationship in your learning, then the methods passed down by Babaji may be of great benefit. While many yogis today self-teach, there is often immense value in learning from somebody who has learned from a guru themselves and spent a long time in tapas (disciplined purifying practices) svadhyaya (self-study including reciting and memorization), and isvarapranidhana (surrender and commitment of one’s actions to the Divine). Seek out a teacher – a guru – if this kind of relationship speaks to you.

Maybe one of the organizations teaching Kriya yoga is for you. Some of these organizations offer intensive in-house learning taught by experts, and they can be found all over the world.

You may also benefit from a kundalini yoga class. These classes are often much different in style than hatha or vinyasa classes. Ask your kundalini teacher about the meaning and purpose behind the practices, which include chanting, pranayama, and movements you may not be familiar with.

You may find that Babaji is already a part of your yoga journey.

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To go deep and expand your yogic knowledge, access our free Yoga Terms Encyclopedia, where we host a profound wealth of ancient and timeless yogic wisdom in an accessible modern format.

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Hailing from the Yukon, Canada, David (B.A, M.A.) is a yoga teacher (200-hour therapeutic YTT) and long-time student and practitioner of various spiritual disciplines including vedanta and Islam.

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