History Lesson: Hot Yoga Lineage, Before Bishnu Ghosh

So before we even start talking about Bishnu Ghosh, we should talk about what lead up to his creation of Ghosh Yoga. I recently posted this map (see below) of the Ghosh Yoga Lineage:

Let's talk about everyone on this image above Bishnu Ghosh.

It all starts out with Mahavatar Babaji. Mahavatar Babaji is the name given to an Indian saint and yogi by Lahiri Mahasaya and several of his disciples who met Mahavatar Babaji between 1861 and 1935.  In Yukteswar Giri's book The Holy Science.  Sri Guru Babaji, i.e., Mahavatar Babaji was Lord Shiva. In his book, he mentions Sri Guru Babaji changing his form to Lord Shiva. Paramahansa Yogananda has also written in Autobiography of a Yogi that the deathless avatar has resided for untold years in the remote Himalayan regions of India, revealing himself only rarely to a blessed few. Mahavatar Babaji revived the lost scientific meditation technique of Kriya Yoga. Mahavatar Babaji's given name is unknown, so those who met him during that period all called him by the title first given to him by Lahirī. "Mahavatar" means "great avatar", and "Babaji" simply means "revered father". 

Mahavatar Babaji's student, Lahiri Mahasaya was choosen by Babaji to reintroduce the lost practice of Kriya Yoga to the world. Lahiri Mahasaya lived from 1828-1895 and was know as Yogiraj and Kashi Baba. He was unusual among Indian holy people in that he was a householder — marrying, raising a family, and working as an accountant for the Military Engineering Department of the British Indian government. Lahiri lived with his family in Varanasi rather than in a temple or monastery. He achieved a substantial reputation among 19th century Hindu religionists. Lahiri Mahasaya was the Guru to Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri as well as Bhagabati Charan Ghosh and Gyan Prabha Ghosh, the parents of both Paramahansa Yogananda and Bishnu Ghosh. Lahiri prophesied when Paramahansa Yogananda was an infant that he would grow up to be a yogi who would act as "a spiritual engine, bringing many souls to God's kingdom".

Swami Sri Yukteswar Gigi, student of Lahiri Mahasaya, lived from 1855 to 1936Sri Yukteswar was a Kriya yogi, a Jyotisha (Vedic astrologer), a scholar of the Bhagavad Gita and the Bible, an educator and an astronomer. He was also a member of the Giri branch of the swami order. In 1894, he met Mahavatar Babaji who asked him to write a book comparing Hindu scriptures with the Christian Bible. He completed the book that year. It is entitled The Holy Science

There is not much written about Bhagabati Charan Ghosh and Gyan Prabha Ghosh except for what is found in Autobiography or a yogi, where Yogananda praises his parents for the wonderful home and life they provided. Both were students of Lahiri Mahasaya and practictioners of Kriya Yoga and great influences on their children.

Pramahansa Yogananda, older brother of Bishnu Ghosh, was a world renowned Yogi and spiritual master. Born Mukunda Lal Ghosh, he lived from 1893 to 1952. He met his Guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar Gigi when he was 17 and describes the meeting as the rekindling of a relationship that has lasted many centuries. Yogananda founded the Ranchi School for Boys outside of Calcuta (also know as the Yogoda Satsanga Society of India) and the Self Realization Fellowship Center in Los Angeles. His book, “Autobiography of a Yogi”, continues to be one of the best known and influential works of our time. At the Ranchi school, Yogananda combined modern educational techniques with yoga training and spiritual ideals. This included a practice called the Yogoda system. (You can now purchase the book on amazon: Yogoda: or Tissue Will system for Physical Education by Pramahansa Yogananda.)

Professor R.N. Guha Thakurta, director of physical education at the University of Calcutta is listed as one of Bishnu Ghosh'sgreatest influences. Although not much is written about the man himself, he is responsible for introducing Bishnu Ghosh to the concept of physical culture. Ghosh studied physical education with Prof. Thakurta at the University of Calcutta. Here, Prof. Thakurta taught calisthenics and weight training techniques. The age of physical culture highly influenced the development of Ghosh yoga and can be seen in the practice today.

So after reading all of this, you might wonder, is Ghosh yoga a form of Kriya Yoga? And what is Kriya yoga anyway? So the answer to the first question is: not really. Although Ghosh came from a long lineage of Kriya practictioners, the Ghosh Yoga practice is primarily a physical system for the body, although there are definitely spiritual benefits of practicing any type of physical yoga. The answer to the second question is more complicated. I will quote Bonnie Knight's paper, Bishnu Charan Ghosh and His Influence on Modern Postural Yoga:

Kriya Yoga is known as the yoga performed with awareness.   The word “kriya” comes from the Sanskrit root of “kri” meaning “action” and “ya” meaning “awareness”.   It is also known as “integral yoga” bringing about an integration or complete transformation for an individual in all of the five major planes of existence; physical, vital, mental, intellectual and spiritual.  The practice slowly strips away the layers of conditioning which prevents the individual from having an universal vision. The body is seen as a vehicle or temple of Divine manifestation. One cares for the body not for its own sake but as an expression of the Divinity

The Kriya Yoga defined by Babaji consisted of a series of techniques and practices grouped in five major categories of Hatha Yoga, Kundalini Pranayama, Dhyana Yoga, Mantra Yoga and Bhakti Yoga.  Each of these categories corresponded to each of the five major planes of existence and are thought to have progressively manifested toward the subtler life force of each individual where the emergence with the Divine would be experienced.