Kri comes from the Sanskrit meaning “to act” and is from the same root word as karma. Kriya yoga translates to mean union with the divine (yoga) via a specific rite or act. Kriya yoga is said to be thousands of years old, but its practices were kept hidden by learned yogis for thousands of years for fear that the teachings would be misused or misunderstood. Just as Einstein remindes us, “The release of atomic energy has not created a new problem. It has merely made more urgent the necessity of solving an existing one.”
In 1861; however, Kriya yoga was introduced to Lahiri Mahasaya by his guru, Mahavatar Babaji. Since that time, the philosophy and teachings of Kriya yoga has been passed down from guru to disciple. There are eight total gurus in the lineage: Babaji Maharaja, Shymacharan Lahiri, Swami Shriyukteshwar Giri, Shrimat Bhupendranath Sanyal, Paramahamsa Yogananda, Swami Satyananda Giri, Paramahamsa Hariharanda, and Paramahamsa Praj?anananda. There are also five current swamis in the lineage and thirty yogacharyas of the lineage. It is mentioned in the book, Autobiography of a Yogi and Paramahansa Yogananda personally authorized his disciple, Swami Kriyananda (founder of Ananda) to initiate qualified people into Kriya. The practices of Kriya yoga are similar to many other branches of yoga but with subtle differences in means of attainting enlightenment. For all branches of yoga, though, this is the ultimate goal.
Kriya yoga is part of the ancient philosophies of Raja Yoga. Raja Yoga is known as classical yoga or royal yoga. Raja yoga is one of the six astika schools of yogic philosophy mentioned by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. The school focuses primarily on meditation, or dhyana as a means of attaining spiritual enlightenment. The same way a king maintains control over his kingdom, the Raja yogi maintains control over his mind and faculties. Kriya yoga has the same aim, and is mentioned also in Patanjali’s yoga sutras as well as by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, the great epic Hindu story of Arjuna the warrior and Krishna as the ultimate Godhead. Raja yoga presumes that we have lost sight of our true nature due to disturbances in the mind. Raja yogis live in a state of bliss, realized through a balancing of the mind, body and heart. The Bhagavad Gita tells us, “When, through the practice of yoga, the mind ceases its restless movements,and becomes still, the aspirant realizes the Atman.” Atman comes from the Sanskrt Atma meaning the true self or soul. This is the essential self, beyond association with the phenomenal reality of worldly existence.
Taming the mind is not an easy task. Those who have tried to sit in meditation even for a moment can see who quickly the mind pours forth any number of ridiculous and unimportant thoughts. It is like a wild child that has never been taught to sit at the dinner table or to usea fork and knife. It is only through training that the mind learns to be still. Just as if we were training achild who was rasied by wolves, we would not expect it to sit still on the first occasion. The Bhagavad Gita tells us again, “Patiently, little by little, spiritual aspirants must free themselves from all mental distractions, with the aid of the intelligent will. They must fix their minds upon the Atman, and never think of anything else. No matter where the restless and unquiet mind wanders, it must be drawn back and made to submit to the Atman alone.” It is only through regular, consistent and disciplined attempts that we start to learn to control the mind in order that we might glimpse the power of our own life force.
Kriya yoga focuses on teaching the aspirant to control his life force through pranayama. In the Svetasvatara Upanishad, verse 6:11, it is written, “One heavenly Father is hiding in the head of every human being, all-pervading, the inner self of all beings.” Paramahamsa Hariharananda elaborates, “Residing here, in every human being, God is inhaling. God is inhaling from the day we are born. We are thus born for God realization, because our whole body is God, the whole universe is God. Without His inhalation, life ends.” It is thought that by harnessing the power of the life force through the breath, all challenges to obtaining enlightenment are eradicated. The life force is thought, metaphorically, to be settled like a sleeping snake at the base of the spine. There are several specific practices taught to beginning practitioners of Kriya yoga in order that they might become better able to handle this great life force once it is awakened. If it is awakened prematurely without a strong spiritual base, or an awareness of the stages which will transpire following its awakening, the yogi can actually harm himself and his nervous system. The imagery of Darth Mal and Darth Vader in the Star Wars movies are excellent examples of what can go wrong with awakened spiritual power that is not channeled and grounded properly in the divinity of spiritual goodness. Although Kriya yoga presumes a fast-track to spiritual enlightenment, great care is taken to prepare the aspirant, for one the spiritual practices are learned, they are said to be very effective and expeditiously so. According to Paramahansa Yogananda, one Kriya, which takes only a half-minute to complete, is equivalent to one year of natural spiritual growth. Paramahansa Yogananda tells us in Autobiography of a Yogi, “The Kriya Yogi mentally directs his life energy to revolve, upward and downward, around the six spinal centers…One-half minute of revolution of energy around the sensitive spinal cord of man effects subtle progress in his evolution; that half-minute of Kriya equals one year of natural spiritual unfoldment.”
The techniques of Kriya yoga are taught in person, and although some techniques may seem simplistic in their scope, such as the one listed above, there are subtle nuances to each practice that must be taught to the disciple directly from the guru. They are not outlined for the general public for the same reasons that they were kept secret for so many thousands of years. A guru can see the heart of his or her disciple and know the true intention of his soul. It is only when that intention is thought to be pure that the kriyas are taught. Yogananda further states, “The Kriya technique will bring you to the source of inspiration and will give you answers, clear the brain and stimulate it, strengthen the medulla, and open the spiritual eye, as well as greatly magnetize the body.
By this method, the blood becomes so oxygenated that gradually dependence upon mortal breath becomes less and less. In this way the student of Self-Realization lives more by the Word of God, or Cosmic Energy, and less by the bread of life, or breath and solid and liquid foods. When the current is sent through and around the spine, the higher perception of God in the spine and brain is felt. The spinal cells then become the whole body. According to the Prashna Upanishad, verse 3:6, it is precisely 727,210,201. Because of our breath, our blood remains liquid and circulates throughout the whole body. The breath is our own living power of God. Breath is dharma. Dharma means "that which holds life together.”
The science of Kriya yoga is fascinating, and bares witness, once again to the Star Wars imagery and storyline. Kriya yogis purport that the practices contained within it are simple, psychophysiological methods by which the human blood is decarbonized and recharged with oxygen. When this happens, the atoms are then able to transmute the extra oxygen into a life current (often called Pran in India or Chi in China or Ki in Japan) which then rejuvenates the brain and spinal column. The practices also stop the accumulation of venous blood thereby preventing the decay of tissues in the body. Advanced Kriya yogis are said to be able to transmute his cells into pure energy.
Essentially, Kriya yoga consist of an introductory lecture, an “initiation” into Kriya yoga, followed by at least 3 group meditations supervised by a Kriya yoga mentor called a Yogacharya. A Yogacharya is someone authorized by Paramahamsa Prajnananandaji. The practices deal, primarily, with learning how to harness Kundalini energy. Kriya yoga is not the only form of yoga which deals with awakening this energy, and its practices are rather shrouded. One might presume that the balance of power is meant to be kept with the teacher and not the disciple, but many branches of yoga teach us that someone who has walked the spiritual path before us can be very helpful. It does not mean we need to give away our power to them, nor follow them blindly. Jainism, for example, has no “Gods” as in Hindusim, just a lineage of teachers who have walked the spiritual path to enlightenment already and helpful advice about how to travel the same path. Furthermore, Raja yoga, particularly, requires a teacher because it is easy to strain oneself while on the path, or to delude onerself into high level hallucinations rather than actual experiences of a higher consciousness.
(continue reading in the secrets of Kriya Yoga Part II)
Christina Sarich http://www.yogaforthenewworld.blogpost.com
Swami Sadhanananda Giri http://www.kriyayogabook.net/
Paramahansa Yogananda Autobiography of a Yogi,