Introduction to Kriya Yoga
What is Yoga?
There are many meanings of Yoga around. Some relate it with physical
postures, some to breathing techniques and yet some others to mental techniques.
In this section you will learn the meaning of Yoga as described in the ancient
Indian Yogic texts.
The Sanskrit word Yoga means union. Union with the God. The God is referred
by many names. Some call Him Atman, some Soul, some Bramhan
and some others call Him Creator. Whatever you name Him the underlying principle
remains the same.
Though the meaning of Yoga is union it also refers to all the means and
processes adopted to achieve this union. These means and processes include many
things such as meditation, breathing techniques, kriyas and many
others. If you see the underlying principle of any of these techniques you will
realize that they all finally aim at controlling the mind and expanding the
consciousness. Be it Mantra Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Laya Yoga or Raja Yoga, all aim at
the state of God union called Samadhi. In the state of Samadhi,
self-realization comes naturally. Thus Yoga means restraining fluctuations or
patterns arising in your mind and realizing the true nature of the Self.
Imagine that you are sitting near a lake. Whenever some external cause such
as wind create ripples in the water you are unable to see its bottom. When the
ripples fade away you can see the bottom clearly. The same holds true for God
union also. Unless you are able to divert your outward going mind into the deep
realms of internal consciousness you will not be able to achieve this union.
External world will always cause ripples in your mind.
It is as if, the little tides riding on the big ocean always feel that they
are separate from the ocean. The external factors such as wind and gravitational
force give them a false impression of their existence. When they are made
standstill they realize that they and the ocean are the same. There was never a
difference between them. Some delusion made them believe in untruth. The same
thing happens to us. We are all identifying ourselves with our gross body. We
have forgotten that we are nothing but manifestations of the God. We were never
different from Him. It is the cosmic delusion (Maya) that makes us
identify with this body. If we want to return to Him we must learn to dissolve
the waves arising in the mind. We must learn to destroy the Maya. Once
the Maya is destroyed we understand our true nature.
The philosophy of Kriya Yoga can be nicely summarized by couple of verses
from Kularnava Tantra. It says:
(Lord Shiva says) O Devi! This body is temple. The living being
inside is Shiva himself. Renounce debris of ignorance and worship him with "I am
that" attitude. The living being is Shiva and Shiva is the living being. The one
who is trapped by bondage is living being and the one who is free from it is
Why practice Yoga?
You may ask - "Why practice Kriya Yoga at all?". It is important for any
spiritual seeker to have a clear answer to this question. If you carefully
observe the human life you will realize that irrespective of religion,
geographical location, gender, cast and social status each and every human being
lives for one and only one thing - happiness! This happiness presents itself in
various flavors ranging from sensual pleasure, satisfaction, social work, money,
relationships and so on. Unfortunately all these sources of happiness cannot
yield permanent happiness. They give you temporary happiness that fades away
with time. Thus it has been an eternal quest of human beings to search for
permanent happiness and since he doesn't know how to remain permanently happy he
looks for worldly means to satisfy his thirst.
The true happiness can come only through self-realization.
Rest all ways are futile. It is misery of human life that he realizes this fact
the hard way. Only few wise men and women get convinced by this fact and decide
to take a different route - the route of Yoga. Their path may look
difficult at the beginning but it gives them permanent happiness that is not
dependent on material luxuries. They taste the divine nectar that nourishes
their soul and leads them to liberation.
Yoga benefits you in many ways. Good health, peace of mind, stress reduction,
harmony in relationships are some of them. However, it is important to remember
that these are all byproducts of your practice. The final aim is undoubtedly
Types of Yoga
Ancient Yogic scriptures talk about four types of Yoga viz. Mantra Yoga,
Hatha Yoga, Laya Yoga and Raja Yoga. A brief explanation of each of these types
is as follows:
- Mantra Yoga: At gross level mantra Yoga includes
reciting a mantra (or mystic syllable as some call it) certain number of
times. This later leads the practitioner to a subtle level where union of
prana and apana manifests through the natural breathing
- Hatha Yoga: Hatha Yoga refers to union of the prana
and apana through various body postures and breathing techniques.
Hatha Yoga at times gives too much importance to keeping physical body
strong and healthy.
- Laya Yoga: Laya means dissolution or absorption. Thus
Laya Yoga means absorption prana in apana or apana
in prana. Laya Yoga involves techniques such as listening to
unstruck sounds or Anahata Nada.
- Raja Yoga: Raja Yoga is the highest form of Yoga and
refers to attainment of Samadhi. This Samadhi is attained
through various meditative techniques.
The common theme running through all the four types of Yoga is the union of
prana and apana.
The literal meaning of the word prana is forward moving force and that of
apana is downward moving force. At gross level they correspond to
inhalation and exhalation. The union of prana and apana leads
you to a state called Kevala Kumbhaka or spontaneous breath suspension.
What is Kriya Yoga?
The Sanskrit word Kriya means action. In the context of Kriya Yoga
this action refers to the practice of certain Yogic techniques. Kriya Yoga
contains a right blend of all the four types of Yoga mentioned above. Instead of
using a particular type of Yoga exclusively it harnesses the good features of
all of them leading the practioner to self-realization.
In every human being there lies a dormant spiritual energy called
Kundalini at the base of the spinal column. The main aim of Kriya Yoga is
to awaken this dormant energy and lead it through several physic centers
often called as chakras or
lotuses. As the Kundalini
passes through these centers the practitioner experiences a new level of
consciousness. The awakened Kundalini ends her journey when she reaches
its destination located in a center located in the head.
The origin and history of Kriya Yoga
The origin of Kriya Yoga and Yoga in general is possibly lost in pre-history.
It is an ancient technique mentioned directly or indirectly in many Yogic
scriptures and Tantras. In ancient Indian Yogic and Tantric texts Lord Shiva
is regarded as the inventor of these disciplines. It was he who taught this
knowledge to his consort Parvati. In fact in Tantras the Lord Shiva
in unmanifested form (nirguna) is considered as the supreme reality,
the destination of Yogis.
In his Yoga Sutras the sage Patanjali terms Kriya Yoga as a
threefold path of self-study, austerities and surrendering everything to God. A
more direct and clear reference to Kriya Yoga is found in Shiva Samhita,
one of the authorative text on Yoga , in which Lord Shiva says -
"By the practice of Kriya success is attained. Without Kriya how could one
attain success? Hence, Yogis should practice Kriya as per guidelines."
Credit must be given to a great incarnation named Babaji for reintroducing
Kriya Yoga in recent times. He asked Lahiri Mahashaya to spread this sacred science amongst common people.
As a student of Kriya Yoga there is no need to delve in its history. It would
be more useful to focus on the actual practice of this royal science.
Kriya Yoga practices
Kriya Yoga contains dozens of practices. A glance at the history will tell
you that each teacher propagated his own style and teachings. Irrespective of
the differences between practices recommended by various teachers the fact
remains that Kriya Yoga is one of the best method of accelerating spiritual
progress in today's world.
The practices of Kriya Yoga can be divided into three categories:
- Breathing techniques or Pranayama
- Physical gestures or Mudras
- Meditative practices or Dharana-Dhyana-Samadhi
The following six practices are highly effective and time
honored. You may question - Why only six when there are dozens of practices? The
answer is that practicing too many variations doesn't give you any added
advantages as such. Moreover, an average practitioner doesn't have time for
practicing all of these techniques. These six techniques together act like a
master key that opens the door of self-realization. A sincere and regular
practice will prove this point to you.
In this course you will learn the following six practices:
- Nadishodhana Kriya
- Bhutashuddhi Kriya
- Mahabandha Kriya
- Japa Kriya
- Nadashravana Kriya
- Shambhavi Kriya