The Life Story of Swami Keshwanandaji Maharaj Part 2

Since childhood, Swami Keshavananda was motivated by love for Iswara and it was in meditation where he found Iswara inside. In the great souls, the source of spiritual longing springs from direct experience and rarely from readings, the influence of others, or by external circumstances.

DSC00343Sri Keshav was born in the rich and aristocratic Shibpur, district of Howra, West Bengal, and his family belonged to a distinct brahminical family lineage consisting of teachers of Sanskrit, literature, music and arts. His parents realized that the contemplative life seduced him much more than studies and learning a trade. The boy spent the day sitting on the banks of the Hooghly river or wandering around the beautiful Shibpur Botanical Garden.

The Nature always attracted and charmed his mind. He knew that the whole forest and the garden was only a single tree – the big Banyan. Running through the woods, he touched every tree and said “- This is you! This is also you “, ” It is also you “, Enthralled by the idea of oneness he fell stunned to the ground, overcome with ecstasy. At that moment, he could not foresee that years later, a mysterious Babaji would plant one Banyan, near his hermitage in Haridwar, as a gift for him. This was a way the Lord told him He had His merciful eyes on him, since his childhood.

Who else can appreciate the gestures of love from Siva and his Sadhus unless it is His devotee and follower? The quality of full unconditional love between the Lord and his follower was a transcendental sweetness that always made Keshav dedicated to the sadhana of Kriya Yoga. In steps of the highest yogic life he himself found that the bhava or Cit-feeling is the very essence of kundalini. Without this love, the yogic practice becomes an annoyance, the mechanical repetition of a mere physical exercise. Many people want to be initiated directly into this meditation without following the path of love, prayer and contemplation; they see the Kriya Yoga as a technological tool that will help them climb the mountain of perfection without ever having cultivated bhava. What results?  Losing breath halfway up or falling from heights.

Keshav would contemplate the palm trees, smell the scent of water lilies, hear the birds sing all this was a meditation for him. A way to get rid of the thoughts inherent in the form of life conditioned and feel the real nature of the Atman.  Urban agglomerations and the charm of the cities did not attract him. When traveling with his father, he did not delight with Howrah, which was transformed into an industrial city, nor did he delight in  the center of Kolkata, surrounded by British soldiers wearing red coats. It was exactly one hundred years that the province of Bengal had served as a stage for the beginning of the British domination process. Patriotic spirits began to erupt throughout Bengal.

For Keshav, meditation was the most important activity of life. And what is the essence of Hinduism except meditation? Internally, he had renounced the promise of a quiet life along with wife and children. However, preparations for his wedding and taking a profession in outer life were being hastily arranged by his parents until the powerful force of fate suddenly came to undermine their health snatching their lives.

The young Keshav now lived under the tutelage of his uncles who sought to continue the paternal arrangements, and the householder function appeared to be an imminent reality. Until one night while his family slept, the 24 year-old left home and took the long road to Varanasi – the land of Lord Shiva – the decision to follow the path of renunciation had been revealed to him by prayer.

On foot, he journeyed to Varanasi covering a distance of 674 km, in a week of uninterrupted walking! However, Keshav was convinced initiation would be the most beautiful adventure of his life.

Arriving in Varanasi, he chose to remain in Dashashwamedh ghat, where the spectacular Ganga arati occurs. There, he was in search of a Guru who could initiate him into the ancient Order of Sadhus. Finding him, he embraced the religious life without ever turning back. His life now would be to roam the streets without family, money, work and fixed residence, but with the heart whole surrendered to God.

After his ordination as a brahmacari in Kamrup Math, the life of Keshavananda Brahmacari was no more than a continuous prayer (Japa) inside the meditation. However, Lord Shiva worshiped in Varanasi was not the same Shiva of little Shibpur of his childhood. The terrible Bhairava – the God of death and destruction – was the predominant deity in Varanasi … “Death” was the only possible meditation in the city of crematories, The sick and the elderly huddled in piles. The air was filled with the smell of burnt human flesh. On the ghats and the dirty, noisy streets bizarre, spectral and ghostly figures waiting for death could be seen. Those figures all longing for  moksha – the freedom from sasāra, the cycle of death and rebirth. Definitely, the spirituality of Varanasi did not fit with that of the young Swami who never worried about geting moksha, only about the internal experience – here and now – the bliss of Divine Union.

During the numerous pilgrimages made to hundreds of temples and holy places, Swami Keshavananda remained silent and deaf to the noises of the world. He avoided anything that might distract devotion to the Supreme. Avoiding even the company of other sadhus, especially those who smoked cannabis and practiced acts prohibited by the shastras.

ShriShyamaCharanLahiriMahasaya

Ten years had passed when Swami Keshavananda heard news about a young householder who had attained samadhi and diffused a new spiritual path – Kriya Yoga. His name: Shyama Charan Lahiri Mahasaya.

— The Lord showed me you in a dream! Welcome! I’ve waited for you for some time …

With these words Swami Keshavananda was received by Lahiri Mahasaya, whose age might be a half a dozen years older than him. During the conversation, Swami Keshavananda realized that the master, in his humbleness, tried in vain to resist the movement of the spiritual current that enraptured him. Suddenly he went out of the senses, closed his eyes and entered the breathless state. Swami Keshavananda realized that the Master was in samadhi. Finally, Swami had met in Varanasi someone bright who not only contemplated death, or moksha, but experiencing the bliss here and now.

The young baba, Sri Lahiri Mahasaya, said to him:

— Please, do not get upset with the lack of spiritual understanding in most sadhus who live here in Varanasi. When I moved here, I was also very disturbed by these sinister, grotesque and bizarre figures and came to despise them with disgust. But Lord Siva – speaking through the mouth of a holy person – taught me a great lesson of love, tolerance and humility. Please understand, the purpose of holy places of pilgrimage like Varanasi, Mathura and Vrindavan is, first of all to awaken bhava of the Divine Presence, not just a vague and abstract idea of God. Meditation on the temporalness of life – which is here exhaustively stimulated by perpetual cremation of bodies – aims to make men aware of their Jiva Tattva condition which is eternally subordinate to and dependent on the Supreme Power .. ..

—  What is the purpose of becoming aware of Jiva Tattva since all creatures are subject to the existential miseries such as illness, property losses, natural disasters, accidents, old age and death? – the Swami asked.

— Surely this fact is quite evident, however, the man easily forgets his condition of Jiva Tattva especially when in the enjoyment of good health, physical beauty, social class, money, etc. Considering the agent of the results of their actions, the ahamkara (false ego) invades the consciousness and clouds the spiritual nature – the Atman – creating a tangle of karma which binds the Jiva to the wheel of successive rebirths and deaths.

— Just as taught by Bhagavad-Gita! – replied the Swami.

— If even Indra – the king of the skies – in all his glory and power must accept his Jiva status why is it that humans will not bow before the Supreme Brahman, from which emanates the Self of everyone? There is nothing more painful for the conditioned soul than to be brought by force to the Jiva-Tattva consciousness through disease, death of loved ones or property losses. Here you are scourged daily by the mindfulness of being Jiva-Tattva, and therefore people feel so uncomfortable in Varanasi. Over a period of time, man becomes insensitive to these scourges and returns to forget his unhappy existential condition in this world.  It is seen here, those who make money with trading of death and those sadhus who wander through the crematories; they become unfeeling and indifferent.

— I saw sadhus that although having renounced everything in life were so attached to their thongs and miserable rags they fought one another for these things.

— Freedom from ahamkara – the feeling of “I” and “Mine” is the real poverty, this  is the true renunciation (sannyasa)! — Lahiri Mahasaya told him.

— Bapu, explain to me the correlation between the Jiva-Tattva and the path of Yoga?

— The reflection and meditation on Jiva-Tattva is complete only when related to the notion of Īśvarapraidhāna, which means surrender and full acceptance of our eternal dependence on Īśvara (God), and that includes accepting our dependency on natural elements such as earth, air, the sun, and also of other beings. As a sadhu, you know perfectly well that you depend on the charity of others to eat; the householder depends on his work to support his family, and society depends on each individual to exist, and every individual depends on the society to live. Surrender to this idea – within which there is no place for false ego (ahamkara) – brings a new feeling, the welcoming of neighbor, the benefit of other beings.

— Tell me, please, how the Jiva can attain the highest union with Brahman?

With his usual smiling face and his shallow eyes of ecstasy, Lahiri Mahasaya replied with all the patience of a baba (spiritual father):

—  There is a wide variety of meditation processes and each produces a particular type of Ananda (bliss). I will quote for you only the most important spiritual exercises by which the sadhak attains the highest Ananda. When Cit joins the pure Sat (Being), it produces a continuous anubhava, deep and perfect. This is achieved by meditating on the oneness between Atman and Brahman. This meditation was known in ancient Vedic time, however, with the growth of Buddhism, the teachings of the Upanishads were about to disappear; but they were rescued by Sri Sankaracharya and preserved by his disciples sannyasins.

When Cit (consciousness) joins bhava (feeling) it produces raptures that happen of improvise and sometimes ecstasy so deep it resembles the samadhi of Yogis. Not coincidentally, Patanjali emphasizes Isvarapranidhana. Although Japa, Vandana (prayers) and arcana (worship to the image) are essential parts of this path, the main spiritual exercise is the contemplation, which is to offer manasic seva to the Lord, His Consort and His Sadhus / Sadhvis of the spiritual world . These practices were propagated in the medieval period, starting from Tamil Nadu (South India), and were inspired by two groups of poets’ saints, 12 Alvars devotees of Vishnu and 63 Nayanmars devotees of Siva. In North India, this new form of bhakti – essentially monotheistic – produced saints as Gauranga, Jayadeva, Bilvamangala Thakur, Mirabai, Kabir and Surdas.

The traditional Yoga path, as taught by ancient lineages of North India, basically consists of seeking the purity of Cit. This path does not seek to join anything – not Sat or bhava. It is Cit upon Cit! Therefore, the main spiritual exercise is to focus the mind on the Bhrumadhya or any other object, internal or external, and keep our minds at this point, at least for 45 minutes. At some point, the spiritual current rises through the spine producing ecstasy. But often, ecstasy is like lightning – appears and then disappears very quickly. In other cases, the results are disastrous. This type of yoga that does not enrich the soul with spiritual knowledge, nor adorn it with transcendental mellows – bhavas –should be suspected.

A Raja Yogi gets samadhi through citta-vtti-nirodha (by restraining the mental modifications). A Bhakta gets samadhi through bhagavad-anubhava awakened by inner contemplation. A Jñani gets samadhi through atma-anubhava awakened by meditation on the oneness between Atman-Brahman.

However, there is another Yoga method that seeks to unite Cit to the Shakti and all His manifestations such as Prana (vital air), Nada (Sound) and Jyoti (Light). This is the Kriya Yoga path itself. In it, the very shakti or spiritual energy intervenes to purify the soul and make it taste the sweet stillness (Paravastha); in this state, the kriyavan lives with Cidakasha deeper intimacy as it becomes free from the strings that hold the soul to the breath, senses and thoughts.

All meditation processes aim to awaken some kind of bhava, feeling or inner experience, and bhava is the very source of Ananda (bliss). However, most of the Yoga methods are flawed because they try the annihilation of Vrittis (thoughts and emotions), and in this process they end up destroying also all possibility of uplift of the bhava. A Jñani has always atma-bhava whenever he comes across objects. So he does not try to annihilate the Vrittis. A Bhakta is always immersed in the inner contemplation of Bhagavan (God) He also does not check the Vrittis. A Kriyavan lives with his spine and brain intoxicated by the Divine Energy and he has always sva-bhava (essential self), the liberating feeling that he is pure Kevala Asti (Existence alone). He, like the Jñani and the Bhakta, does not feel the need to fight against Vrttis. Kriya Yoga is always dynamic and not force the immobilization of the mind on a single point. Even though he is plagued by worldly thoughts, Kriya Yoga appeases the mind completely.

Taking paper and pencil, by means of diagrams and drawings, Lahiri Mahasaya at length outlined the different stages of Kriya Yoga, and its relationship with the other processes of meditation, interpreting it in the light of different scriptures, especially the Bhagavad-Gita. Then he said:

— The ” suṣumnā breath” (Kriya Yoga) and its various phenomena, such as Bindu, Nada and Jyoti are described in veiled form by ancient shastras such as the Yoga-Upanishads. Kriya Yoga works directly with the spiritual energy without which none meditation process – Jnana, Bhakti or Yogar – can reach its full flowering. Even the ecstatic states of the great saints are due solely to the action of spiritual current through suṣumnā. This has no doubt!

That same night, Swami received initiation and instructions on how to practice Kriya Yoga. Realizing his disgust to live in Varanasi, Sri Lahiri Mahasaya suggested he go to the Himalayas and do his sadhana there. The master continued:

—Stay there and prepare the way for other kriyavans to come and who will want to follow in your footsteps, to meditate in the arms of the Mother of the Universe, with its hills, valleys and edges! Come back here at the end of a year to review the techniques and to receive the most advanced kriyas …

Swami Keshava had the opportunity to ask another question: — Guruji, please explain to me how Ishvara can communicate with us “in broad daylight”, that is, not only within the soul, hidden or subtle way …

— Practice Kriya Yoga assiduously and you will see the Lord communicate with you in different ways:  through the mouth of a child, a merchant, a widow, through a murti, a picture, your ajna chakra, dreams and  the gurus of the past. Do not yearn for this, let it happen naturally, if there is a need…

Swami Keshavananda went towards the Himalayas, covering kilometers away and going through several villages, where he received donation blankets and something to eat. He was aware that he needed to acclimate and adapt to the environment of the mountains and walking routine, rest, eat, hydrate, walk again, rest, hydration, sleep, wake up … He was not able to describe in words the feeling and the emotion he felt when contemplating the stunning landscapes of those mountains. Wonderful! The fresh and cool air helped a lot the pranayama process of Kriya Yoga, and he could practice during various periods of the day, without getting tired.

In the first week that Swami Keshava practiced Kriya Yoga – only 36 repetitions per session and during periods of sandhya, the spiritual energy went up and touched the ajna chakra. He saw everything bathed in the light of Cit-awareness and a profound sense of peace and bliss flooded his heart … But the experience was gradually dissipating. He knew this experience was a grace of Guru. 

In the caves of the Himalayas, Swami Keshavananda enjoyed deep silences and the long lonelinesses facilitated the re-entry of the soul in itself for the encounter with the pure atman. The spiritual current aroused by Kriya Yoga came always new to keep the flame of his sadhana and operate the internal changes necessary for divine union.

At the end of one year, Swami Keshava would be practicing 144 pranayamas – the maximum number of Kriya-1, doing interspersed with partial Nabhi technique for every 12-24 kriyas. Occasionally, he practiced all at once – 300 Nabhis in the center of the back at the navel.

{In those early years, Sri Lahiri Mahasaya taught only partial Nabhi. Before Kriya Yoga practice, it is important to stabilize the kanda in the center of the subtle body. This center encloses within itself the beginning of seventy-two thousand īs. The kanda, whose appearance resembles a white bird’s egg, can move for an extension of six fingers above or below the navel. Being out of place, hinders the functioning of the īs, thus affecting the circulation of prāṇa through the body. When kanda is well stabilized in the center, then the Prana can flow through the suṣumnā without difficulty.}

With the passing years, in so far as he received from Lahiri Mahasaya instructions for second and third granthi-bheda process, an irrepressible torrent of energy in the spine was continuously released and was no longer restricted to certain times of day, but constituted now a current that sank the soul into the bottomless ocean of ecstasy. His body had endured great austerities and penance, but could now bear the weight of that cascade of light and bliss?

Uniting the currents of the mind with the spiritual current (shakti), Swami Keshavananda started to distinguish two kinds of mystical achievements: those that present themselves under sense forms, for example, visions, internal sounds and lights, and others that affect the soul at its center or heart…. He begins to feel the particular bhava that is aroused by Kriya Yoga, the feeling that he was Pure Existence – Kevala Bhava. This bhava was going to become easily accessible when later he reached kevala kumbhaka, the spontaneous breathless state.
Much blessings, peace and bliss!


Prabhu Yogi2

Author: Yogi Professor Ramdas Prabhuji, Disciple of Shri Maheshwari Prasad Dubeyji in Shri Panchanan Lineage of Lahiri Mahasaya Kriya Yoga.

We Appreciate and Thank Nancy Swanson for Text Review!


See the Photo Gallery of Shri Keshavanandaji Ashram at Haridwar, More than 100 Photographs, Also Pictures of Shri Shyamacharan Lahiri Mahasaya’s Samadhi Sthala… Click the Link Below

Shri Keshavanandaji Ashram Haridwar, Photo Gallery

Shri Keshavanandaji Ashram at Haridwar India. Here, Shri Keshavanadaji, direct disciple of Shri Shyamacharan Lahiri Mahasaya did Kriya Yoga Sadhana here for a long time. This is a small and peaceful Ashram with lot of greenery and has rich vibrations for Kriya Yoga practice.
This is on Delhi – Haridwar highway, just after Shankaracharya Chowk in Haridwar, on main highway. You will find Holy Ganga on both side.

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