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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 Shiva. 

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 self-realization.

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 process.
  • 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

Bipin Joshi is a software consultant, an author and a yoga mentor with more than 22 years of experience in classical yoga system of India. He is an internationally published author and has authored or co-authored more than ten technology books for Apress and WROX press. He has been awarded as a Most Valuable Professional by Microsoft. He has also written a few Marathi books including Devachya Davya Hati and Natha Sankentincha Danshu. Having embraced yoga way of life he also teaches Kriya and Meditation to selected individuals.

बिपीन जोशी लिखित देवाच्या डाव्या हाती आणि नाथ संकेतींचा दंशु या पुस्तकांची आपली प्रत आजच विकत घ्या. त्यांच्या अजपा योग मार्गदर्शनाविषयी अधिक माहिती येथे उपलब्ध आहे.


Posted On : 02 Jan 2007


Tags : Yoga Patanjali Shiva Kriya Yoga Ashtanga Yoga Natha Courses