The Science of Kriya Yoga and Contribution of Sri Paramhansa Yogananda and other Yogoda Gurus in propagating Kriya
Prof. Keshav Sharma, M.A., B.Sc., M.Ed., M.Phil. (Edu.), Ph.D. (Edu.) Professor of Education International Centre for Distance Education and Open Learning, Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla-171 005, India
Abstract The Science of Kriya Yoga and Contribution of Sri Paramhansa Yogananda and other Yogoda Gurus in propagating Kriya Yoga This paper discusses the science of Kriya Yoga as propagated by Yogoda Gurus. Mention of Kriya Yoga is found twice in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras ( Yoga Sutra II:1 and II:49) and Bhagawad Gita (Bhagawad Gita IV:29, V:27-28). The author takes up discussion from the commentary on Bhagawad Gita by Paramhansa Yogananda. Concepts of Prana and types of Pranas and Pranayama, classification of Pranayama, importance Kriya Yoga, techniques of Kriya Yoga as taught by Lahiri Mahashaya and Paramhansa Yogananda are discussed in details. This is followed by the concept of higher Kriyas and Paravastha of Kriya, requirements for Kriya. The greatest contribution of Sri Paramhansa Yogananda and other Yogoda Gurus namely Mahavatar Babaji, Sri Shyama Charan Lahiri Mahashaya and Swami Sriyukteshwar Giri, to the modern world is the revival of ancient science of Kriya Yoga, the same yoga which was given by Bhagwan Sri Krishna to Arjun long ago. Over the passage of time, due to a number of reasons, this science became obscure and was not available to ordinary mortals. It was revived and modified by immortal Mahavatar Babaji (still in body and helping humanity). In 1861, he initiated Lahiri Mahashaya in Kriya Yoga and through the instrumentality of Lahiri Mahashaya, this science became widely known. Later his disciples propagated Kriya Yoga and after the publication of "Autobiography of a Yogi" by Sri Paramhansa Yogananda, Kriya Yoga became a household word. In his tradition (Parampara) in order to keep the techniques of Kriya Yoga pure and accurate, only officially authorised persons of Yogoda Satsanga Society of India and Self-Realization Fellowship (both established by Sri Paramhansa Yogananda) can give initiation to the desirous devotees. The author has quoted extensively from the original works of Yogoda Gurus in order to keep the purity and accuracy of all the relevant Kriya Yoga techniques and concepts. It may however be kept in mind that practice of Kriya Yoga should not be done after reading from books but the technique must be learnt from Guru or authorised Kriya Yogi. Guru-disciple relation is most important for attaining success in Kriya Yoga practice. Mention of Kriya Yoga is found twice in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras ( Yoga Sutra II:1 and II:49) and Bhagawad Gita (Bhagawad Gita IV:29, V:27-28). Kriya Yoga in Bhagawad Gita
In Bhagawad Gita. Prana-yama is therefore life control and not "breath science of breath for control. It is the power lodged between soul and matter for the purpose of expressing the former and moving the latter. At the soul's command. Other devotees offer as sacrifice the incoming breath of prana in the outgoing breath of apana. Prana. the specific prana gradually builds from a primal single cell the body of the infantaccording to that individual's astral karmic pattern-and continues to sustain that form throughout its lifetime. the universe is filled with prana and all creation is nothing but simple a manifestation of this force (prana). oxygen. neither grossly material nor purely spiritual. the causative agents of breath and heart action and concomitant body consciousness. the immanent energy or force which is derived from the Infinite Spirit. Sri Paramhansa Yogananda has explained Kriya Yoga in details. thus arresting the cause of inhalation and exhalation (rendering breath unnecessary) by intent practice of Pranayama (the life-control technique of Kriya Yoga) Paramhansaji explains this stanza in following words: By the concentrated practice of Kriya Yoga Pranayama-offering the inhaling breath into the exhaling breath (prana into apana) and offering the exhaling breath into the inhaling breath (apana into prana) -the yogi neutralizes these two life currents and their resulting mutations of decay and growth. which enters the body through the medulla ("the mouth of God") and is stored in the reservoir of life in the cerebrum. but primarily by the universal prana. but soul is the conscious unit. "specific prana enters the body with the soul (in the soul's astral encasement) at the time of conception. its servant. borrows from the soul its power of activating the body. Specific prana pervades the whole body and differs in its function in different parts." According to Yogananda the broadest meaning of the word prana is force or energy. He further explains that the universal prana is thus the Para-Prakriti (pure Nature). and which permeates and sustains the universe. This bodily prana is continuously reinforced not only by gross sources such as food an. Kriya Yoga is mentioned specifically by Bhagwan Krishna in Verse 29 of Chapter IV." Meaning of Pranayama Word PRANAYAMA IS DERIVED from two Sanskrit words-prana (life) and ayama (control). but has no consciousness in the empirical. and in the centres of the spine whence it is distributed by the functions of the specific prana.In his commentary on Bhagawad Gita. thereby quieting the breath and heart by rendering their purifying actions unnecessary. The yogi thus attains conscious life-force control. It can be classified into five different pranas according to these functions:
. "God talks with Arjuna". the yogi stops bodily decay. According to him. obeys.' the cosmic energy. By recharging the blood and cells with life energy that has been distilled from breath and reinforced with the pure spiritualized life force in the spine and brain. Soul through ego dictates. and the outgoing breath of apana in the incoming breath of prana. In this sense. Prana is an intelligent force. Classification of Prana Yogananda further explains the role of prana in building of complete body from a single cell. nor transcendental sense. and prana. It is the basis of the empirical consciousness.
and nerves begins to be exhausted by this motor and senseperceptive activity-especially through excessive. or skin. There are two main currents in the body. The apana current is restless and engrosses man in sensory experiences. v yana. however. The vital current flowing outward from the brain and spine to the cells. from the opposite pulls of the prana and apana currents in the spine. 3. Human consciousness is pulled downward or upward by the tug-of-war between these two currents to bind or release the soul. samana. and 5. or the power of circulation. which flows from the coccyx to the point between the eyebrows or the Kutastha . flows from the point between the eyebrows to the coccyx. by which various foods are processed and assimilated for the nourishment of the body and for building new cells. 2. There is thus an opposite pull exercised by the downwardly flowing current (apana) and the upwardly flowing current (prana). One expression of this positive-negative duality involves the interaction between prana and apana. through bodily motor movements (voluntary and involuntary) and mental activity. "decay. It is used up. There prana quickly distils a quantity of necessary life force from the electronic and
. the power of excretion. it pulls the vital breath laden with oxygen into the lungs. nonequilibrated actions-prana works to recharge them and keep them vitalized. the inhalations and exhalations of breath are born. 4. so does this same contest in duality take place on a microcosmic scale in man's body. According to Paramhansa Yogananda.1. it withdraws inwardly the devotee's attention during sleep and in the wakeful state. When the prana current goes upward. As there is a "tug-ofwar" the macrocosmic scale reflecting Spirit's projecting wish to create and His opposing attracting wish to bring the many back into the One. and so on) by infinite disintegrations and integrations among themselves. the immediate purifying action of prana becomes necessary to remove the accumulation of this "decay" or death would soon occur. The physiology of this exchange is breath. prana (by preeminence). tissues. or assimilation." One such product is carbon dioxide excreted by the cells into the blood stream. the scavenger energy of the body by which bodily waste products are thrown out. The nature of this life current is calm. inharmonious. or muscle. the apana current. and nerves becomes attached to and clogged up in matter. The other main current is that of prana. or the main power that brings all other functions into manifestation. udana. and in meditation unites the soul with Spirit in the Kutastha Centre in the brain. tissues. apana. they give off waste products. like electricity. This downwardly flowing current distributes itself through the coccyx centre to the sensory and motor nerves and keeps the consciousness of man delusively tied to the body. In the process of consuming life energy. One. digestion.
Prana and Apana Paramhansa Yogananda further adds that this Gita verse deals with two specific functions of life force in its differentiations as prana and apana. or the power by which cells are differentiated in their functions (some growing hair. As the life in the cells.
Importance of Kriya Yoga Bhagavad Gita advocates Pranayama as the most effective scientific technique for releasing his soul from the bondage of breath. Venous blood is ordinarily pumped by the heart into the lungs for purification.) That refined energy is sent by the prana current to all bodily cells. in turn. accomplished physiologically through a series of complex nervous reflexes-chemical and mechanical-involving primarily the medulla oblongata and the sympathetic. breath. is empowered by the prana and apana currents working through the vital branches of astral life current that correspond to the physical sympathetic nervous system-the main branches of which are called ida and pingala. they would die. or involuntary. the astral body follows it to an astral world. venous blood ceases to accumulate. The Gita states: "The yogi is greater than body-disciplining ascetics (hath-yogi). Yogananda states that respiration. heart slow down but they are not completely stilled. The apana current then pulls the astral body out of the physical body. Inspiration and expiration go on largely involuntarily through one's life. The surplus oxygen from the inhaled breath carried by the blood throughout the body. lungs. whenever the downwardly flowing current (apana) in the exhalation becomes more powerful. seeking the Supreme Goal. It is thus accepted that the human breath is responsible for tying the knots between soul and the body. The intricate sympathetic system. Freed from this
. So long as the life current (prana) pulls the inhaling breath into the lungs. also extols Kriya Yoga Pranayama: "Liberation can be attained by that Pranayama which is accomplished by disjoining the course of inspiration and expiration" (Yoga Sutras II:49)." In sleep. The life energy distilled from the oxygen also helps to reinforce the life-force centres in the spine and at the point between the eyebrows. Paramhansa Yogananda explains this verse in these words: "It is Kriya Pranayama that is referred to is evidenced not only in this verse IV:29. activated by the dual currents of prana and apana. foremost exponent of yoga. owing to lack of agitation and to complete physical and mental stillness. The ancient sage Patanjali. but also in V:27-28: "That meditation expert (muni) becomes eternally free who. Without such replenishment of pure life force. the cells would be powerless to carry on their many physiological functions. (It takes a longer time for prana to distil life force from the grosser liquid and solid foods present in the stomach.lifetronic composition of the oxygen atoms. But by Kriya Yoga the breath is gradually quieted and the movements in the lungs and the body stilled. When motion leaves the entire body. be thou a yogi!" (VI:46). nervous system. It is the process of breathing resulting from the two opposite spinal currents that gives man perception of the external world According to Paramhansaji these sensations also produce body consciousness and duality and thus obliterate the unified soul consciousness. where it is utilised by the five vital pranas in various physiological processes. man dies. is able to withdraw from external phenomena by fixing his gaze within the midspot of the eyebrows and by neutralizing the even currents of prana and apana [that flow] within the nostrils and lungs. greater even than the followers of the path of wisdom or of the path of action. and the main reservoir of life energy in the cerebrum. man lives. When the final breath leaves the body through the action of the outgoing current apana.
independent of breath or any external source of life. The life force. not to say impossible. the transcendent yogi realises that his life is not conditioned by exhalation and inhalation. but to the natural breathlessness brought about by scientific Pranayama. Certain teachers do advice unscientific. exhalation and inhalation are no longer needed. and making them vitally self-sustained. the body of the Kriya Yogi is recharged with extra energy distilled from breath and reinforced by the tremendous dynamo of energy generated in the spine. refers not to the forcible holding of the breath in the lungs. unnatural. which was dissipated in cellular. and by will power withdraws both currents into one revealing sphere of spiritual light at the point between the eyebrows.constant work of blood purification. He thus neutralizes the dual movement. When the pulsating life of the heart pump becomes quiet. owing to non-pumping of venous blood. This practice enables the devotee to dispel the illusion of growth and decay of the body as flesh. or the retention of the breath mentioned in enlightened yoga treatises. during the nightly state of sleep. magnetizing them. This light of pure life energy scintillates from the cerebrospinal centres directly to all the bodily cells. Anyone holding the breath for a few minutes in the lungs feels pain. This lessens and ultimately makes unnecessary the blood-cleansing function of the heart. Even mortal man. Impact of Kriya Yoga WHEN BY KRIYA YOGA the mortal breath disappears from the lungs. Unlike the ordinary man. has nothing in common with the foolish practice of trying to control life current by forcible retention of breath in the lungs-an unscientific. respiratory. by fresh oblations of life force or prana. the death process by which energy is switched off from the senses (causing the disappearance of the body consciousness and the simultaneous appearance of the soul consciousness). Breath ceases to go in and out of the lungs by the mechanical action of the diaphragm. This adverse bodily effect should be sufficient proof that yogis would not recommend such unnatural practices. the decay of bodily tissues decreases. Kriya Yoga Pranayama. which renders breathing unnecessary. In the words of Paramhansa Yogananda. nervous. the scientific method of neutralization of breath. long retention of breath in the lungs-a practice completely tabooed by God-enlightened yogis. distilled from the inhaling breath. the yogi consciously experiences. True kumbhaka. suffocation and heart strain. and harmful practice. The Kriya Yogi then learns how to commingle the upwardly flowing life current (prana) into the downwardly flowing current (apana) and commingle the downwardly flowing current (apana) into the upwardly flowing current (prana). arresting decay and growth. he then realizes it as made of lifetrons . Yogananda clarifies that the Kriya Yoga Pranayama stops the bodily decay associated with apana. withdraws from the external senses and organs and unites with the current in the spine. and heart action. without dying. rises psychologically above the consciousness of breath. the heart and the lungs are quieted. manifest in the exhaling breath. but that the steady life force in the brain is continuously reinforced through the medulla from the omnipresent cosmic current. his life force then partially becomes still and reveals a glimpse of the soul as the deep joy of
ascending in a chariot of fiery atoms and lifetrons commingled with the cosmic light of God. able at last to perceive consciously the inner worlds and supernal spheres of divine consciousness. By experiencing the reality of the body as lifetrons. Here various techniques forming the basis of Kriya Yoga are also explained. The first Kriya leads to perfection in the Khechari Mudra (see Talabhya Kriya below). The first level of Kriya Yoga (First Kriya) contains the following techniques to be followed in the order given below: Talabhya Kriya : This technique is preparatory for Khechari mudraas it helps to lengthen one’s tongue and make it flexible. When. however. placing the chin against the throat cavity and concentrating on the navel. or. The yogi perceives the illusion of the body dream dematerialize into the reality of God. he realizes the physical body to be made of lifetrons that are surrounded by a halo of grosser electroatomic cells. the yogi becomes one with Him. He realises then that it is the storm of human breath that is responsible for the action of the dream wave of the human body and its sensations. it is breath that causes body consciousness. At the fourth initiation. In the first stages of ecstasy by Kriya Yoga. With that divine consciousness the yogi is able to create. the yogi has the option of leaving his physical dream body on earth to gradually disintegrate into cosmic atoms. or dematerialize the dream atoms of his body or of any other object in creation. The breathless yogi. the yogi perceives soul blessedness.sleep. Attaining this power. These techniques are best learnt from a Kriya Yogi. the mind becomes detached and interiorized. life force is switched off from the senses. the yogi learns to dissolve his Self by projecting his prana out through the sahasrara chakra (crown center of the body). His luminous physical and astral ream bodies and his causal body and soul merged into Cosmic Consciousness. the highest level. like Elijah. realises the state of conscious "death" as a far deeper and more blessed state than that bestowed by the deepest blissful semisuperconscious sleep. controlled by the thought of God. Nabhi Kriya: The yogi mentally chants 'Om' a certain number of times. or he can keep his dream body on earth indefinitely like Babaji. who has been duly authorised to give this initiation. Elisha witnessed the body of Elijah become etheric. he is suffused with an incomparable bliss. the yogi recognizes the infinite Self. with cessation of breath and the quieting of the heart. preserve. he can dematerialize its dream atoms into the Divine Fire. Technique of Kriya Yoga Four different levels of Kriya initiation are explained in the following pages. By higher ecstasies that come as a result of complete mastery of the breathless state. The chin is raised and
. the practice of these techniques can be harmful to the body and mind. After the second and third initiations. though many secret explanations of these techniques can not be included in this paper. thus ending the eternal cycle of life and death. Without the grace of a true Guru. When breath ceases in the Kriya Yogi. The First Initiation (The First Kriya) The Kriya Yoga contains four initiations. These were taught by Sri Shayama Charan Lahiri Mahashaya to his disciples and are religiously kept in pure form by his line of disciples.
Jyoti Mudra: This is practiced a few times to see the Third Eye at the Kuthastha. 5. At the end of each inhalation of the Kriya Pranayama. Mental Pranayama: The mind is allowed to go up and down the spine. The tongue will be in Khechari Mudra and the mouth will be closed. that even at the age of nearly 87 years. 4. he is completely fit due to the practice of Maha Mudra. 6. The yogi is now supposed to pierce this star to have a glimpse of other dimensions. 'Om' is chanted at that point. Energisation exercises which help the kriya yogi in relaxing the muscles of the body. the mind concentrates on the spinal point behind the navel.the head is thrown backward. hands hold the feet. 'Om' is chanted a number of times in this position. With practice. the forehead touches the knees. Maha Mudra helps in preparing the body for Kriya Yoga Pranayama. Hong-Sa (Hansa) Technique: The Kriya Yogi watches the breath for calming the mind. Paramhansa Yogananda propagated one version of the Kriya Yoga techniques. but Paramhansa Yogananda used the term Jyoti Mudra which also aptly denotes this technique) The mind is placed at a point between the eyebrows. The light condenses into a golden ring with a blue sphere at the center of which a five-pointed Silver Star emerges. the body cells are automatically oxygenated and decarbonized. 2. 3. Simultaneously. At the end of each inhalation of the Kriya Pranayama. Talabhya Kriya: The practice ends by performing the Talabhya Kriya again.
. The middle finger closes the nostril. MahaMudra: Legs are stretched out. the tongue should remain in Khechari Mudra. Thumbs block the ear. Yoni Mudra or Jyoti Mudra: ( The original name is Yoni Mudra. MahaMudra: Legs are stretched out. Throughout this. The index finger holds the eyeball steady to create stillness. Om technique: In this technique. uttering 'Om' at each of the spinal centers. His line of disciples practice: 1. The author was told by Dr. The mind ascends the spine while breathing in and descends on exhalation. Prafulla Kumar Hazara. disciple of Swami Sriyukteshwar Giri (And whose name appears in Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda). the forehead touches the knees. both established by Paramhansa Yogananda. With time. Breath is held as long as comfortable. hands hold the feet. Maha Mudra: This is done as explained earlier. the Inner Light is seen at the third eye. Kriya Yogi listens to the creative sound of Pranav. Pranayama: Breathing is reduced through gradual practice to 1/10th its normal rate. Many other senior Kriya Yogis have also confirmed this view. This results in cessation of breathing. Kriya Pranayama: The practitioner does Kriya Pranayama as learnt from an authorised Kriya Yogi of Yogoda Satsanga Society of India or SelfRealization Fellowship.
For higher Kriyas." "One of the pre-requisites for receiving higher Kriyas apart from acquiring penetration into "inner" realizations. the Third and Fourth Kriyas have to be obtained from the Guru or in his absence from one who has been authorised by the Guru. One bright. Kechari lies in the capacity to push one's tongue through the septum behind the uvula upwards. experiencing "inner light" and "inner sound" become easy. the path aims at achieving Tranquility. being freed from all thoughts. However. light of fire. the Second. It is meditating on the thoughtless state of Consciousness. doing all works without expectations for the results thereof. another Tantra feature. The Fourth Kriya is difficult.7. especially holding that state of Consciousness where there is no sun. as the principle underlying these are mastered after successfully completing the first four Kriyas. This is followed by silent meditation using other techniques. renouncing every desire before it originates. When all the three qualities are harmoniously together in one rhythm inside the Spinal Cord. impossible to perform unless one has mastered the art of the Third due to the supreme
. the revelation of the Pranava sound (the Omkar) becomes a reality." "The Third and Fourth Kriyas are said to be extensions of the Second Kriya. however. for attainment of spiritual bliss and supreme elevation about half a dozen are deemed sufficient. the second Kriya can only be done by performing Khechari Mudra. These first four are the Guru given Kriyas. Mastering this Kriya gives one deeper penetration and finer and finer subtle experiences. Higher Kriyas "Some say that Lahiri Mahashaya taught as many as 108 kinds of Kriya directed towards achieving powers and beatitudes laid down in all the various Yoga Shastras. In the traditional system taught by Lahiri Mahashaya. dazzling star of Consciousness is seen very secretly in between the eyebrows. Increasing the practice of Kriya. moon. going beyond the sentiments of discrimination between good and bad." "The Third Kriya is known as "Omkar Kriya" coming from the fact that with diligent performance of this Kriya. and the unmanifested state of Consciousness is revealed. in fact. and terminating all desired expectations. without being taught. The remainder of the Kriyas can be divined out by the Kriya Yogi himself. The various principles and step by step principles must be shown in initiation." "The second Kriya is known as the "Thokar Kriya. This is an essential prerequisite without which higher Kriyas cannot be performed successfully." the nick-name coming from the "Thokar" or jerk that is introduced in the course of this Kriya. They cannot be performed. is the particular physical ability of being able to perform Khechari Mudra. still everything is seen eternally. the First. then the supreme Being is revealed. observing everything which is revealed in Yoni Mudra (Beatific Inner Revelation Kriya).
Light of Kriya Yoga. Yoga Sutra. God Talks with Arjuna. Some of the requirements as stated by Swami Sriyukteshwar Giri are: 1. He should treat all women as his mother. 1986. CA: Self-Realization Fellowship." (From the book Kashi. the ecstatic stage which is reached after the perfect performance of Kriya technique. Yogananda P. References: 1. copyright 2004.
. Pune: International Academy of Ayurveda. 3. 2. Los Angelas . 3. This point cannot be overemphasised. It requires mastery of the Third before stepping into the Fourth. and DasGupta. Yoga Niketan Inc.level of breath mastery which is required to perform the technique. Ranchi: Yogoda Satsanga Society of India. In the course of Kriya Yoga the Yogi attains different spiritual heights. Kriya Yoga and Shri Yukteshvar. 1988. The person should lose self-importance to curb the ego. and keep it in its place. 7. 4. The person should not smoke and drink. The person should practice Kriyas every day in strict accordance with the instructions personally received from his or her Gurudev. Requirements for Kriya It is very important that the person desirous of practicing Kriya Yoga must fulfill a number of very stringent requirements. 1999. Yogananda P. Yoga Niketan Inc. except her husband. except his wife. 5. Patanjali. Autobiography of a Yogi. and she should treat all men as her father. 2. Sri Sailendra Bejoy. The person should sit a little lower than his or her Gurudev or Master's seat and offer everything to him. Complete samadhi occurs when the yogi is completely concentrated at the Ajna Chakra between the eyebrows. The person must be honest and not a liar.) Paravastha of Kriya These are the four steps the yogi passes through in the passage towards ultimate success. 6. copyright 2004. The person should read some portion of the Bhagawad Gita every day. Lahiri Mahashaya had called this stage the "Paravastha of Kriya".