Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Padma and I (and others) just returned from a four-day retreat at Ananda Village whose theme was the art and science of kriya yoga. Kriya Yoga is the central practice of the meditation teachings brought from India to the West by Paramhansa Yogananda and which are at the heart of the spirituality of Ananda worldwide. This article was sent to Ananda members in the Seattle area.
Kriya Yoga is an advanced form of meditation known and recognized throughout the world. It was re-introduced to the world in 1861 to a humble Hindu accountant, Shyama Charan Lahiri (aka Lahiri Mahasaya) by the mysterious Himalayan saint known only as “Babaji” who gave “Lahiri” permission to initiate any sincere seeker of any faith whether monk or householder.
Through the traditional transmission from teacher to student-disciple-teacher, the spread of Kriya Yoga was destined to encircle the globe. It is well suited to the modern age where the emphasis is upon personal experience over belief. Paramhansa Yogananda’s now famous life story, Autobiography of a Yogi, put Kriya Yoga on the world map of popular meditation techniques.
Both by tradition and by intention, Kriya Yoga (KY) has been given only to those who have received preparation and training using various preparatory meditation techniques. Traditional yoga training includes a healthy diet, right attitude and moderation in sense faculties, study of spiritual teachings, and physical exercises in addition to a spectrum of meditation and purification practices such as yoga postures and breath control.
The basic purpose of this training is both to test the aspirant’s sincerity AND to prepare the body, nervous system, and the mind for deeper and more advanced meditation practices and experiences. With the popularity of meditation ever growing, most people naturally seek physical and mental benefits. For this purpose, mindfulness techniques (such as the Hong Sau - "Watching the Breath" - technique taught by Yogananda) are more than adequate. Kriya Yoga is for those seeking enlightenment (using any number of other possible words or terminology).
The other prerequisite intended by the reintroduction of KY into popular use is the recognition — part in gratitude and part as a transmission of actual spiritual awakening — of the need for a God-realized guru or preceptor. Such a person is no mere ordinary spiritual teacher; nor is the intended transmission thwarted by the guru’s no longer being in living, human form. Any technique given as initiation, including the Kriya technique, functions as much as a “channel” for the transmission of higher consciousness as it does a technique of meditation. Without the former, the latter is only partly effective. As we are “Spirit” and not merely a body with a personality, so the spiritual freedom we seek cannot come through merely material means or psychological efforts alone.
The true Goal of advanced meditation practices transcends ego, personality, body and matter: it “lives” in a realm without second, without form, and in unconditional consciousness. Such a state is therefore its source and being beyond ordinary perception must be channeled and received bit-by-bit just as a computer or a cell phone conversation carries information bit-by-bit. The technique is to the goal as a cell phone is to the substance of a conversation. The cell phone alone cannot substitute for the conversation even as the cell phone makes the conversation possible.
But as the guru or preceptor is a transmitting station, a sub-station and transformer, for the ultimate Goal, we must recognize that the preceptor, too, has no substantive personality. Our “discipleship” is not to a person but to an “instrument” (a rather “conscious” cell phone tower, if you will) sending us transmissions from Infinity. In this somewhat limited sense, then, the technique itself can become our guide and guru because it allows the transmission of higher consciousness to reach us. As Yogananda said of himself in the role of guru, “God is the guru. I killed Yogananda long ago.” Just as we can no more pick up our cell phone and call the President of the United States, so we must call the switchboard and talk to one of God's reps! Eventually, by building a relationship of trust with those who have His ear, we’ll get through to “the top.”
Yogananda, as the guru, is no longer present in a human form. Far too much is made these days by prospective and otherwise sincere devotees of the fear or doubt surrounding a discipleship relationship with him since it must needs be an inner relationship alone. Recognizing that through kriya yoga practice one can consciously draw on the spiritual power of Yogananda’s omnipresent consciousness is hardly a threat, except perhaps to the obstructive, no-saying donkey we call the ego!
Nor does such a relationship prohibit the recognition of other God-realized channels, for in God consciousness, there are no distinctions and no competition for loyalty. Whether world teacher or unknown, a free-soul is no more, or no less, free in God.
Given, however, that few devotees, even among the most committed, can spend more than an hour or two each day in the practice of kriya yoga, it must be recognized that the company of other (and especially more advanced) devotees is one of the most important ways of drawing on that spiritual transmission. This outward “transmission” is necessary so long as we are “outward” in our consciousness and self-definitions. Serving the outward work of the guru’s transmission with fellow devotees is easily one of the most important ways to advance spiritually and transcend ego consciousness. It doesn’t necessarily mean being a teacher: there are many ways to serve, each according to what is best spiritually for him. If one’s life circumstances permits such association but one balks at this opportunity, one would do well to question his spiritual readiness.
A wonderful description of Kriya Yoga can be found in Chapter 26 of “Autobiography of a Yogi.” The book can be read online for free at www.Ananda.org. You can also watch several video presentations by Padma and I on our own website: www.AnandaWA.org/kriya-yoga/ .
Sincerely and with unceasing blessings,
Nayaswamis Hriman and Padma