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(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

In 1946, Swami Paramahansa Yogananda (1893–1952), founder of what today is known as the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), informed the world of his own guru lineage in his book, Autobiography of a Yogi. The practice of kriya yoga—the essence of the SRF’s teachings—had originated around 1861 with Lahiri Mahasaya, who passed it to Sri Yukteswar (1855–1936), who in turn taught Yogananda. The interesting part of the story, however, was Yogananda’s revelation that Lahiri Mahasaya had actually been taught by a mysterious figure known as Babaji. Babaji is said to have appeared to Yogananda early in the twentieth century, giving Yogananda his mission to teach in the West. Yogananda then demonstrated the power of the teachings by the incorruptibility of his body after death.

Since Yogananda’s death, a variety of stories have emerged and now gather around Babaji. He has been identified as an incarnation of Lord Shiva, one of the primary Hindu deities. Various texts have been searched to find ancient accounts of his repeated appearances, and modern stories of more recent encounters have emerged. Babaji was identified, for example, with a person known as Haidakhan Baba who lived in the foothills of the Himalayas from around 1890 to 1922. He promised his followers in 1922 to return. That story was continued in the career of one Mahendra Baba (d. 1969), who through the 1950s and 1960s announced Babaji’s return. By this time there were ashrams around India devoted to him. A person identified as Haidakhan Baba reappeared in 1970 and for fourteen years moved among the Babaji ashrams. Leonard Orr and Sondra Ray, the founders of the “rebirthing” movement, were among his American advocates, and Baba Hari Dass, an Indian guru residing in northern California, published a book about him. The Haidakhan Babaji movement is headquartered in Utter Predesh, India.

Quite apart from SRF or the Haidakhan Baba movement, another Indian teacher, S. A. A. Ramaiah, claimed that beginning in 1942, he and journalist V. T. Neelakantan became the direct students of Babaji and from him received the texts of three books, The Voice of Babaji and Mysticism Unlocked, Babaji’s Masterkey to All Ills, and Babaji’s Death of Death. He also revealed his actual beginning in human form. He was born in 203 CE in southern India (Tamil Nadu). His father was a priest of Shiva.

As a young man, Babaji traveled to the southern tip of Sri Lanka, where he studied with a guru and had a vision of Lord Muruga. He continuedhis studies in Tamil Naga and eventually went into the Himalayas to practice kriya yoga, into which he had been initiated. During this period he was transformed into a siddha and his body became free of the effects of disease and death. Since that time, Babaji has continued to exist, maintain a youthful appearance, and become the guide and inspiration of many of India’s great spiritual teachers through the centuries.

Ramaiah later founded the International Babaji Kriya Yoga Sangam, which teaches all of the kriya yoga material that Yogananda did not feel the West was ready for during his decades in the United States. Ramaiah’s work is carried on by Marshall Govindan, initiated by Ramaiah in 1971.

Among other persons who have claimed contact with Babaji is Swami Satyaswarananda, a guru who resides in San Diego, who has at Babaji’s insistence republished the writings of Lahiri Mahasaya in a series called “Sanskrit Classics.”


Govindan, Marshall. Babaji and the Siddha Kriya Yoga Tradition. 2nd ed. Freiberg, Germany: Hans Nietsch Verlag, 1999.
Hari Dass, Baba. Harikhan Baba Known, Unknown. Davis, CA: Sri Rama Foundation, 1975.
Orr, Leonard, and Makham Singh. Babaji. San Francisco, CA: privately printed, 1979.
Satyaswarananda, Swami. Babaji. Vol. 1: The Divine Himalayan Yogi. 3rd ed. San Diego, CA: Sanskrit Classics, 1993.
Yogananda, Paramahansa. The Autobiography of a Yogi. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1946.