Kriya-yoga is an ancient technique of meditation found in India since time immemorial. This is a very simple and scientific technique based on your prana, your vital force, and mind. This is meditation based on your breath. This does not require any equipment, external means or spiritual aids. With you, you have your body, mind and breath. You need nothing more for this practice. You do not need to change your dress for a particular sect, grow a beard, and put particular type of paste, sandalwood paste or colors on your forehead. You need not leave family for this practice. To live a family life or to procreate children and even earn money is not a crime but one should do it with self-restraint, in an honorable way as per the sanctions of scriptures without encroaching into others’ rights. Kriya-yoga does not interfere with the religious practices of your community or the laws of your country. It does not contradict your philosophical beliefs, you yourself will know the truth from your practice, by your own experience. And the result of this practice can be felt quickly. People belonging to all castes, communities, religions, languages, countries and sexes can practice this. This technique is according to the scriptures and is scientifically designed according to our bodily composition. Many practitioners has availed its benefits in the past and many are availing at present and many will be benefited in future.
We always suffer mentally. We can tolerate physical pain but mental sufferings we cannot tolerate. The physical and mental activities we undertake to counter the suffering and our reactions to it only bring us from bad to worse. At the beginning the water is dirty, not suitable for drinking, but instead of cleaning it we make it more polluted. However, in order to live we have to drink water, we thus drink the unsafe water and fall sick. We do not know how to filter and purify the water. If we don’t learn this we will remain sick forever. This is our main problem, the mental problem, perhaps the greatest problem of the present time. We are not able to sleep without sleeping pills, again we have heart problems and visit a heart specialist, we take medicines but hypertension is there as it is and again the hyperglycaemia troubles us. The cause of all these problems is our uncontrolled mind resulting in various psychosomatic diseases. We know this but are unable to take remedial measures. Kriya-yoga helps us to control our mind.
This yogic practice is an eternal tradition that begins with the human history. In the Upanishads this is described as pranavidya , knowledge of the Life Force; pranopasana , worship of the Life Force. This was referred to by Lord Krishna in the Shrimad Bhagavad-Gita in general and in chapters IV, V and VI in details. In chapter IV, He said that He had taught this technique to the Sun god who in turn taught this to his son Monu (to whom the origin of the human race is ascribed to in the scriptures) and Monu taught this to his son Iksvaku. In the Mahabharata (12-349-65) and in the Yajnavalka Smrti Lord Hiranyagarbha, Brahma the Creator is mentioned as the first profounder of Yoga, ‘hiranyagarbho yogasya vakta nanyah puratanah’. However, presenting Yoga in a capsular form was credited to Rishi Patanjali due to his famous work, the Yogasutras.
Though Kriya-yoga was present in India since ancient times, in modern day India it was reintroduced in its present form by a Himalayan yogi called Mahavatar Babaji Maharaj in the nineteenth century to Yogiraj Shri Shyamacharan Lahidi Mahasaya who taught this technique to many disciples, one of them being Swami Shriyukteswar Giri Maharaj. Paramahansa Yogananda, a disciple of Sriyukteswarjee, introduced this technique to western world in 1920 and it became very popular among the seekers of the west. His book, ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ became a familiar name all over the world.
The Yogasutras is the most authentic and widely accepted text on yoga and its practice. In this text Rishi Patanjali describes yoga in four chapters viz. Samadhi Pada, Sadhana Pada, Bibhuti Pada and Kaivalya Pada. The second chapter, Sadhana Pada, deals with sadhana or the practice of yoga. This says, ‘tapahsvadhyayesvarapranidhanani kriyayogah’ (Yogasutras: 2-1), tapah, austerities; svadhyaya, reading of scriptures; and iswara pranidhana, knowing Isvara or God, are kriya-yoga. Tapah or austerities mean control of the sense organs, the organs of action and the mind; this is self-restraint. One should not understand it as physically torturing the body by sleeping on thorns or putting fire around our body. Tapah means heat, the inner heat generated by spiritual practices which burns the impurities within; this is heat generated by breathing techniques, the first-kriya breathing technique is the best example along with the guru-pranam and mahamudra techniques. Svadhyaya is reading the scriptures also reading our inner self. The hamsa sadhana technique of kriya-yoga helps you in reading your own self. Isvara pranidhana is devotion to God, for success and knowledge you first need faith and devotion, ‘sradhavanllabhate jnanan’ (Sh. Bg.: 4-39). Isvara is the Lord; the ruler and pranidhana means to know in totality, to know with clarity when nothing is left to know. Isvara pranidhana is practicing, pranidhana, the Isvara composed of three syllabi viz. ee,sva and ra; ee is energy, shakti, and whose energy it is, it is the energy of sva, the Self which manifests into ra or light, prakasha. Light is the world, light is manifestation when we are in ignorance and light is knowledge when we are realized. In our body ee is inhalation and ra is exhalation, sva is in between our true self. The first- kriya technique is called i svara pranidhan kriya. We know Him within ourselves when, by the practice of breathing techniques, the actions of the mind are halted and the Self is reflected. All these techniques are given to the practitioners, sadhakas, in the first-kriya. All these three viz. tapah, svadhyaya and isvara pranidhana are further elaborated by Rishi Patanjali into eight fold limbs of yoga known as yama (rules), niyama (regulations), asana (posture), pranayama (breath technique), pratyahara (withdrawal), dharana (concentration), dhyana(meditation) and samadhi.
This is a simple technique and at the center stage is the breath. This is designed for common man, for householders who can practice this easily for their self-development. This is done after a traditional ‘guru diksha’ or initiation. We teach the technique according to the tradition of Sriyukteswarjee. On the first kriya the techniques like om technique, khechari mudra, guru pranam, hamsa sadhana, mahamudra, kriya proper, paravastha, jyotimudra and sambhavi mudra are taught and are given in a capsular form to practice.
This kriya-yoga technique will help the practitioner, sadhaka, in knowing his life. It is your breath, which is controlling your life. One can say the meaning of breath is life and the meaning of life is breath. How can it be so? Because what you are is due to your breath. Once your breath departs your body then you are no more here to complete your evolution into a divine being, you are in the grasp of death which is a temporary pause and the span of this pause depends on the life you just lived. Then you are again waiting for a human birth to complete your journey to the Self. All living beings are breathing. After you are born from your mother’s womb it is breath. Your life is hiding behind your breath. So do you think your life is like that of animals who are also breathing? No. Then why do we say our life is our breath? Because our mind, intellect and ego are all controlled by breath. You can find that for all moods of your mind, be it anger, frustration, sorrow, happiness, desires etc the mode of your breath changes. So for a mind in equanimity we need to breathe properly. That is the first lesson in yoga. One learns that through kriya-yoga.
By Rajahamsa Swami Nityananda Giri
(From Kriya-yoga: The Science of Life-force)
Copyright © Swami Nityananda Giri