The Incredible Life of Lokenath Baba
Sri Sri Lokenath Baba is one of the greatest mystic saints the world has ever witnessed. He was born on Janmashtami, the birthday of Lord Krishna, on 31 August, 1730 AD (18th Bhadra, 1137 BS) to a Brahmin family in the village of Chakla, 24 Parganas, India, a couple of miles away from Kolkata. Lokenath’s father’s name was Ramnarayan Ghoshal and mother’s name was Kamaladevi. He was the fourth child of his parents. He was also known as Lokenath Brahmachari or Baba Lokenath. Let’s know the incredible life of Lokenath Baba.
When Lokenath was getting older, Ramnarayan Ghoshal ventured to a nearby village of Kochua and pleaded with Pandit Bhagawan Ganguly to be his son’s guru (spiritual teacher) and teach him the Vedic Shastras. As the Diksha (initiation) guru, Bhagawan Ganguly lived in the country for a few years and came to Kalighat with two disciples, Lokenath and Benimadhab. Later Bhagawan Ganguly took them to Varanasi. Before his death Bhagwan Ganguly handed over his two disciples to Hitlal Mishra (eventually Trilanga Swami). There they studied yoga with Swamiji for some days and then the three aspirants went on a journey. For 25 years, Lokenath lived in the Himalayan wilderness, selflessly serving his guru and practicing the Ashtanga Yoga of Patanjali along with the most difficult Hatha Yoga.
Lokenath Baba was about seven feet tall with little flesh on him. He was a real yogi. He could live by denying the needs of the body, never sleeping, never closing his eyes, not even dropping his eyelids. He went about stark naked, and in that state he immersed himself in deep meditation or samadhi for five decades ignoring the extreme cold of the Himalayas. Eventually, at the age of ninety, his self-realization occurred.
Lokenath and his friend, Benimadhab stayed at Badrika Ashram, a cold-prone area, for pre-preparation with the desire to travel to the Arctic. From there they crossed the modern known boundary and went far to the north. It was not possible to determine the time as there was no sunrise. But on the way, they saw the snow falling and melting 20 times. Eventually tied to the Himalayan peaks, they headed to the east and arrived in China.
At one time they both started their separate journey. Benimadhab began to live in Kamakhya ( a place in the Indian state, Assam) and Lokenath in Baradi (a village in Narayanganj, Bangladesh). Lokenath also spent few days in Chandranath, Chittagong. Actually Lokenath returned to Bengal in 1866 and settled down at Baradi, where he built a small thatch out of mud and bamboo using his own hands. This would later grow to be his ashram for the rest of his life. The plot of land was donated by Dengu Karmakar, a landlord, whom Baba had saved from a conviction in the past. Lokenath Baba was then 136 years of age. There he put on a sacred thread and clothed himself in saffron robes. When the villagers first noticed Lokenath, in his thinly clad appearance, they gave him the nickname ‘the naked sadhu’. Once they encountered his higher wisdom, they gave him the title of ‘Baba’ meaning father. He has been known to his devotees as ‘Baba Lokenath’, ‘Lokenath Baba’, ‘Baradi’s Brahmachari’ etc. ever since. For the rest of his life, he bestowed miracles and celestial wisdom on all who came to him to seek blessings. He spread the universal teachings of compassion for all creatures and submission to god. He welcomed people of all faiths in his hermitage uniting them under the one truth he revered the most: Love is God and it is the highest religion.
Rumor has it that Lokenath in his lifetime covered thousands of miles on foot, walking to Afghanistan, Persia, Israel and China, all the way to Siberia. His fascination with the teachings of Islam led him to make three pilgrimages to Mecca. While walking through the desert, Lokenath came across the great mystic Abdul Gaffar who instructed him on the Quran. Lokenath said that he had met three real Brahmins in his lifetime. They were Trailinga Swami, Abdul Gaffar and he himself.
There are many legends about the spiritual power of Lokenath Baba. Some say, he was a Jatismar (one who can remember the incidents of one’s former lives). Some say, he could know the feelings of others by being out of his body. Also, he had the amazing ability to cure the disease by bringing the disease of others into his own body.
There is a debate among the disciples about the birthplace of Lokenath. Nityagopal Saha, a devotee, filed a case in the High Court in this regard. According to the verdict of that case, his birthplace was identified as Kachua. Although many believe that his birthplace is the village of Chakla in the present North 24 Parganas district, India. This place is also known to Lokenath devotees as Chakladham.
It is said that Lokenath Baba set the date of his death in advance and informed his disciples. On the 19th day of Jyestha, 1297 (June 3, 1890 AD), at 11:45 a.m., he was seated in his Gomukh yoga asana. He went into a trance with his eyes open, and while still meditation, he left his physical body forever.
Sri-Sri Lokenath Brahmachari Ashram ( Baradi Ashram) and Sri Sri Lokenath Samadhi Mandir are located at Baradi, Narayanganj, Bangladesh. In the post-war period, Lokenath Baba’s monastery was the only one in Bangladesh. Now Lokenath Ashram has been established in many places around the world.
Sri Sri Lokenath Brahmachari Ashram
Kartik Vrat festival is the most important festival held at Sri-Sri Lokenath Brahmachari Ashram (Baradi Ashram).It is said that, Baba Lokenath suggested to observe fasting in the month of Kartik and to burn ghee lamps in the Ashram premises to avoid epidemic diseases like cholera, smallpox etc. From there, Lokenath devotees observe the festival held on every Saturday and Tuesday at Baradi Lokenath Ashram during the last 15 days of Kartik month named as ‘Kartik brat’, ‘Rakshar Upavas’, ‘Gosaiyer Upavas’, or Ghrito Prodip Projjolon’.
On the occasion of the annual Kartik Vrat, the whole village of Baradi is decorated with a festive look and thousands of devotees throng Lokenath Ashram. They come with various offerings including soil-lamp, ghee, banana leaf, flowers, paddy-durba, green coconut, milk, etc. Before evening the fruits brought from the house are kept for some time in front of the idol of Lokenath. Then the devotees sit in a row on the open ground. The lamp on the Banana leaf is placed in front. The fruits are arranged around different colors. The bell is rung immediately after sunset. Hundreds of lamps are lit together. The view from above is like a dream. Everyone present there chants Baba’s name. After the lamps are lit, Lokenath devotees break the fast which is carried out for the wellbeing of their friends and families as well as to eliminate the evil from the world.
Lokenath Baba gave many valuable advice to his disciples. Many of these advice are popular among his followers. Here are few of them: (1) Whenever you are in danger, whether in ocean or in war or in the wild, remember me. I shall save you. (2) I’ve traveled the mountains for hundreds of years, and I’ve made a lot of money. Now you can possess it sitting idly. (3) Familiarity breeds contempt. (4) If you want to be free from life, you have to give up family ties. (5) The body is like a bird’s cage. (6) If I don’t get caught, who can catch me? (7) Death can be averted if one can endure words and separations. (8) It is not the disciple’s job to judge the guru’s mantra correctly. The disciple will chant what the guru has given. (9) This is not the place of my advice, this is the place of command. (10) You may not know me. You may not realize who I am. Just pray to me with a little touch of your heart, and I shall liberate you from gripping sorrows and sufferings.