Paramahansa Yogananda is often called the “Father of Yoga In the West.” And Swami Vivekananda came to America 30 years before him. But yoga in the Western world was all foreseen by Yogananda’s guru’s guru, Lahiri Mahasaya.
In the 1860s, then known as Shyama Charan Lahiri, the great yogavatar met his own guru, the saint whom he later referred to as Mahavatar Babaji. Babaji’s given name may have been Nagaraj. Lahiri Mahasaya was taught kriya yoga, a practice which had for centuries gone dormant. Mahavatar Babaji told Lahiri-ji that the search for God had become steeped in the practice of external ritual, and had distanced itself from the yoga of inner realization given to Arjuna by Lord Krishna. Babaji entrusted Lahiri Mahasaya with the duty of passing kriya yoga to serious, willing, and perceptive students.
Much like Jesus the Christ’s mission to re-establish a more devotional practice as opposed to the ritual and the money making temples in His time and place, Lahiri Mahasaya would establish a new order not only amongst Hindus, but the world. He prophesied that Yogananda would do just that.
Lahiri Mahasaya was a military clerk, and a true householder yogi. If Rajarsi Janakananda showed us that we could be intensely active in the world but remain “not of the world”, Lahiri Mahasaya showed seekers that family life was not a roadblock to true God-Realization, or Self-realization, if you prefer.