SHRI RAM CHANDRA MISSION
Shri Ram Chandra of Fatehgarh ( 1873-1931 ) was the founder of “ Sahaj Marg ”. He brought the highest spiritual approach within the reach of all who wished to receive it. Shri Ram Chandra of Shahjahanpur ( 1899-1983 ), took up the responsibilities and established “ Shri Ram Chandra Mission ” in the year 1945. Over the years, the Mission has grown enormously, and now has more than 1000 centres in India, and is present in 90 countries spread over all the continents. The Mission now has more than 200,000 abhyasis worldwide practising the Sahaj Marg system of meditation. Currently Shri Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari of Chennai is the president of the Shri Ram Chandra Mission world-wide.
Shri Ram Chandra of Fatehgarh Lalaji ( 1873 – 1931 )
Shri Ram Chandra of Fatehgarh, affectionately known as “ Lalaji ”, was the adi-guru .. first spiritual master .. of Shri Ram Chandra Mission.
“ Lalaji ” rediscovered the ancient art of transmission, whereby the master transmits divine energy into the heart of the aspirant in order to expedite his or her spiritual development.
Lalaji was born on 2nd February, 1873. He belonged to a distinguished family of jagirdars, originally from the district of Mainpuri in India.
“ Thirst for God ”
His father was a tax superintendent and his mother a devout woman who passed away when Lalaji was only seven years old, leaving upon him the imprint of her strong faith. The effect of his mother’s spiritual life was such that he developed a thirst for God at an young age.
As a child, he also displayed a deep love and aptitude for music and was known all his life for having a beautiful voice. He was educated by a private tutor and learned Hindi from his mother, receiving his later education at the Mission School at Farrukhabad. After his mother’s death, he was brought up by another lady with whom he shared a life-long affection and regard.
Before his father died, the family property was stolen by an unscrupulous king. Lalaji started life afresh in a humble position, but he was soon recognized as a spiritual saint of the highest caliber. Shortly after Lalaji’s marriage, his father died. Within a brief span of time he also lost his elder adopted brother and all that remained of his ancestral property. Accepting these misfortunes with grace and courage, he went to work for one of his father’s associates in Fatehgarh.
Lalaji credited his wife with inspiring him and keeping him alert on the path of truth. He considered her to be the personification of love and faith.
“ Normal family life is most conducive ”
It was Lalaji’s conviction that a normal family life was most conducive to self development and that any sincere seeker could progress to the highest level of spiritual attainment while fulfilling the duties of a householder.
Not content to pursue such a goal for himself alone, Lalaji offered his spiritual training to others without discrimination, assuring that the highest aspirations, previously reserved for renunciates and ascetics, were brought within the reach of all humanity.
His personality, mode of living and general behaviour earned Lalaji the affection and respect of his neighbours. He was much loved by Hindus and Muslims alike, and though he loved his followers with all their faults, he was at the same time a disciplinarian.
Lalaji was very much against rituals and spending more money on ceremonial occasions than one could afford. He was in favour of the remarriage of widows as well as the education of women, and his servants were like members of his own family.
It was said of Lalaji that he could bring about spiritual awakening in a person with a single movement of his eyelids, but display of any kind was repugnant to him and ego was likewise never allowed to grow. Rather, he advocated that aspirants should stay away from powers until they reached their goal and discipline was perfected.
“ Afflictions are divine blessings ”
For removing various complexities of the heart, he asked his followers to make friends of their enemies and the persons whom they dreaded. He regarded morality as essential to self-realization and love as the greatest ‘ tapas ’. He taught that afflictions are divine blessings holding many secrets, and that real craving for God will be found in only one person out of thousands.
When he was not at his office, Lalaji imparted training to abhyasis day and night and, after going to bed, transmitted to them until 2 O’clock in the morning.
After his retirement in the year 1929, he began giving all his time to spiritual work, spending two to three hours every day dictating books, articles and letters.
“ A great multi-lingual scholar ”
Lalaji was a great scholar of Urdu, Persian and Arabic and had a sound knowledge of Hindi and Sanskrit. Controversial phrases and words in scripture were explained by him in such a simple way that real knowledge became common property.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of his writings were lost after his death, when a servant mistook them for waste paper and burned them.
“ A simple and pious life ”
Lalaji led a simple and pious life. His name spread far and wide, and many people approached him for solace and spiritual guidance.
He was blessed with a melodious voice, and his songs had the power to touch the very soul of his audience.
It is on the strength of the spiritual work done by this great Master that ‘ Shri Ram Chandra Mission ’, the organizational arm of the Sahaj Marg system of spirituality, now stands erect, spreading his message throughout the world.
“ The final journey ”
During the period of illness leading up to his death on 14th August, 1931, one of his disciples began to weep at seeing his teacher in extreme pain.
Observing this, Lalaji remarked :
“ It can be removed within minutes if I exercise myself, but I am not touching it because it is all His will and we must abide by it. ”
He immersed himself in thoughts of God and was heard to say :
“ As the coveted hour of merger with the beloved gets nearer, so increases the fire of desire of him. ”
“ The art of transmission ” was passed from Lalaji to his most devoted disciple, who coincidentally bore the same name, Shri Ram Chandra of Shahjahanpur .. “ Babuji ”, as he was known .. further refined his Master’s teachings into the current practice of Sahaj Marg.
Shri Ram Chandra of Shahjahanpur Babuji ( 1899 -1983 )
While Lalaji was in a super-conscious state contemplating a successor to take forward his spiritual work, the form of “ Ram Chandra ” of Shahjahanpur appeared to him. Lalaji started transmitting his own spiritual condition to his presumed successor, thus attracting this special personality towards him.
“ Ram Chandra ” later became Lalaji’s spiritual representative and was affectionately known as “ Babuji ” to thousands of his devotees.
“ Babuji ” was born in the North Indian town of Shahjahanpur, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, on 30th April, 1899.
His father was a lawyer and noted scholar who educated Ram Chandra extensively in English, Urdu and Persian, perhaps hoping that his son would follow in his footsteps. But from an early age, Ram Chandra displayed a craving for spiritual realization which overshadowed all other interests.
Ram Chandra became a ‘ Babu ’, which in his native tongue designates a ‘ clerk ’, and it was from this profession that his affectionate nickname, “ Babuji ”, arose. He held the position of court clerk in the district court of Shahjahanpur for more than thirty years.
“ Marriage and Family ”
Babuji was married at the age of nineteen and his wife, “ Bhagwati ”, bore him two daughters and four sons before her death in the year 1949.
Babuji’s life was that of an ordinary householder .. never that of a renunciate, or sannyasi. He considered the home and family to be the finest training ground for spirituality, and it was in this light that he approached his familial responsibilities.
“ Meeting the Guru ”
Babuji began his spiritual education on his own, experimenting with the forms of devotion available in the Hindu religion and with certain yogic practices such as pranayama.
In June 1922, at a comparatively young age of twenty-two, he met his spiritual Master .. a man with the same name as himself .. who lived in the town of Fatehgarh, not far from Shahjahanpur. Ram Chandra of Fatehgarh, was considered a saint of the highest calibre. He recognized “ Babuji ” as the man who had appeared to him in a dream years before, the one who was destined to succeed him as the leader of the great spiritual renaissance which he, Lalaji, had already initiated.
Though there were very few meetings between teacher and disciple before Lalaji left his physical body in the year 1931, Babuji was in perpetual remembrance of Lalaji and insisted he could not live for a second without his Master’s inner guidance.
“ Carrying forward the legacy ”
Carrying forward Lalaji’s spiritual legacy became the singular mission of Babuji’s life. His conversation was punctuated by Lalaji’s name, and no honour that Babuji could show his Master was enough to express the great love that existed between them.
“ I went on with it regardless of all other things till I reached the level expressed by my master in the following words in a dream when he left the mortal frame : I became ‘ thee ’ and thou ‘ I ’. Now none can say that I am other than ‘ thee ’ or that ‘ thou art ’ other than me. ”
“ Spirituality, birthright of all ”
Babuji believed that spirituality is the birthright of all and that it should be offered freely to sincere seekers everywhere. Babuji defined the ultimate goal of human life as a condition of complete oneness with the divine, insisting that this is attainable in a single life-time for any sincere seeker, given an effective practice and the help of a capable living master.
“ A true master is the ultimate servant ”
Babuji believed that a true master is the ultimate servant, and he lived his life serving all, irrespective of caste, creed, religion, gender or nationality.
Babuji taught that material and spiritual life should go hand in hand, like the two wings of a bird, and that the normal life of a householder is the best environment in which to learn the twin virtues of love and sacrifice. Accordingly, he simplified and perfected the spiritual system of “ raja yoga ” so that ordinary people could practice it and reach the spiritual goal.
Babuji identified three obstacles in the path to self-realization :
“ We try, but there is no sustained attempt We try too many things at the same time We do not have enough confidence in ourselves ”
“ Do not dwell on the past ”
He advised his followers not to be discouraged by their faults and shortcomings, but rather to treat their weaknesses as belonging to the Master and proceed with their practice. This, he said, would contribute to steady spiritual progress. Likewise, he advised ‘ letting go ’ of mistakes, resolving not to repeat them but otherwise forgetting about them :
“ When we dwell on past regret, we intensify the impression and give it more influence over our lives. It is in the present that we develop our character and thus create a brighter future. ”
“ Perpetually striving for balance ”
Babuji was by nature, the humblest of people, yet moved by a vast pride in his great Master. The communication established between the two men .. after Lalaji left this world .. continued throughout Babuji’s life and filled his diaries with both astonishing visions into the nature of reality and practical instruction on how to lead a spiritual life.
Babuji was perpetually striving for balance, to be neither pleased by good words nor displeased by bad ; to maintain a temperament of humility but to avoid the habit of excessive modesty. It was his conviction that the ego .. being the production of God .. could not be annihilated. Rather, through utter surrender and devotion to his Master, he was able to modify the ego, identifying it not with the body but with the soul.
Of his spiritual condition he wrote :
“ There seems to be uniformity in love. Ties of relationship seem to have been severed. I have as much respect for my servant as for my respected father. I have as much love for the sons of other people as I feel for my own son. I have as much regard for a dog as I have for my own person, as if my own existence and that of a dog are identical. I also consider gold and soil of the earth to be the same. I see the pious and the wicked with one eye. ”
Shri Ram Chandra of Fatehgarh Lalaji ( 1873 – 1931 )
“ Travelling throughout India ”
Following Lalaji’s departure, Babuji began travelling throughout India using the gift of transmission or “ pranahuti ”. He would go alone to places where he had no friends or acquaintances, tour the city or town transmitting divine energy, and then leave without a word. The fruits of this labour are now visible in the widespread network of “ Sahaj Marg Centres ” throughout India.
“ World-wide Mission ”
In the year 1945, Babuji founded the “ Shri Ram Chandra Mission ” in honour of his Master. Convinced that God is simple and can be arrived at by simple means, he was confident that seekers of every culture and nationality would embrace the simple and effective spiritual practice that he offered.
In the year 1972, Babuji began taking the method of Sahaj Marg to countries outside India, bringing it to the cultures of Europe and America. He was accompanied on these travels by his attendant and long-time general secretary of the Mission, “ Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari ” of Madras.
Parthasarathiji, known to his associates as “ Chariji ”, was later chosen by Babuji to succeed him as his spiritual representative and president of Shri Ram Chandra Mission.
“ The end journey ”
Although physically weak, Babuji devoted his life to the spiritual upliftment of humanity with unremitting faith and devotion. The thought of his Master remained constant in his mind and heart from their first meeting until Babuji passed away in April 1983, at the age of eighty- three.
He wrote :
“ Where religion ends, spirituality begins ; the end of religion is the beginning of spirituality. The end of spirituality is the beginning of reality, and the end of reality is real bliss. When that too is gone, we have reached the destination. ”
“ Sahaj Marg ” is a living practice, and as such it has been adapted by each successive master to suit the times in which we live. At its core, however, it remains unchanged, with an intent that is both pragmatic and divine, described by Babuji in this way :
“ We have set up a tiny creation of our own, in the form of our individual material existence, having layers after layers of grossness and opacity. What is now to be done is to shatter off those layers of opacity one by one and assume the absolute state as we had at the time of creation.
“ This is all the gist of the philosophy of our system, Sahaj Marg. We are, so to say, to dissolve this tiny creation of our making or to unfold ourselves.”
Shri Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari of Chennai – “ Chariji ”
Shri Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari was born on 24th July 1927, in Vayalur, near Chennai, in the south of India.
His father, Shri C. A. Rajagopalachari, was a railway executive. He lost his mother, Janaki, when he was barely five years old, shortly after the birth of his sister, who also died a few years later.
Parthasarathiji and his two younger brothers were brought up with great care by their father. Nonetheless, the loss of his mother had a profound effect upon the young Parthasarathiji, leaving an emptiness that followed him into adult-hood.
Having studied in the Western system in North India, “ Chariji ” graduated from Benaras Hindu University with a Bachelor of Science degree. His first job was with Indian Plastics Limited in chemical engineering. He travelled abroad in this capacity and spent two years in Yugoslavia studying plastics manufacturing techniques.
He married Sulochana in the year 1955, and two years later their son, Krishna, was born. It was also in the year 1955, that Chariji joined the “ T.T. Krishnamachari Group of Companies ”, soon rising to the position of executive director in one of the group companies. His work required him to travel extensively in India and abroad, establishing a pattern of world travel that he would continue throughout his life and contributing to his development on many levels, both practical and spiritual.
“ Spiritual awakening ”
Chariji’s spiritual aspirations were awakened at the age of eighteen when he heard a lecture on the Bhagavad Gita, after which he took up a detailed study of religious and spiritual texts. At the age of thirty, he began Vaishnava traditional instruction in the Hindu religion, with a keen focus on yoga, philosophy, religion and spirituality.
Seven years later, in the year 1964, he met Shri Ram Chandra of Shahjahanpur and began the practice of “ Sahaj Marg Meditation ”, receiving transmission for the first time.
“ Sahaj Marg Literature ”
While continuing to fulfill his familial and business responsibilities, Chariji was vigilant in his spiritual practice and dedicated to the work of “ Shri Ram Chandra Mission ”.
As general secretary of the mission, he contributed greatly to its growth worldwide and to the publication of “ Sahaj Marg Literature ”. Over the years, he became Babuji’s most devoted disciple, ably assisting him in his spiritual work.
A constant companion to Babuji on his spiritual tours, Chariji travelled globally, explaining the “ Sahaj Marg System ” of spirituality to interested seekers and inspiring many to begin the practice of Sahaj Marg.
Chariji wrote several books revealing his deep love for his master, his mission and the method. His book “ My Master ”, a personal tribute to Babuji, has been published in nearly twenty languages.
His other books include .. diaries of his overseas travels with Babuji .. an autobiography and numerous volumes of his talks in India and abroad.
Babuji appointed “ Chariji ” as his spiritual representative and successor to carry on his work as president of the “ Shri Ram Chandra Mission”, a role Chariji assumed when his Master departed this world in the year 1983.
Chariji’s unceasing work and frequent tours abroad have fostered remarkable expansion of the Shri Ram Chandra Mission’s activities, which now include the education of youth, scholarship programs, free health care clinics and an association with the Department of Public Information of the United Nations ( UN DPI ).
Chariji’s spiritual work embraces all of humanity, addressing present needs as well as those anticipated in the future.