Friday, February 24, 2012

Yoga Sutras: a guide to meditation: Book 2 – Kriya Yoga

In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras the first book, Samadhi Pada, focuses upon the state of Oneness born of meditative concentration. We turn now to Book Two, Sadhana Pada. It focuses on those actions and attitudes necessary to achieve samadhi.

In this blog series which attempts to explore practical aspects for meditation inspired by the Yoga Sutras, we find in the first stanza of book two the term “kriya yoga.” This term has been made famous through Paramhansa Yogananda’s life story, “Autobiography of a Yogi.” In it, he uses the term kriya yoga in reference to a specific meditation technique that characterizes his teachings and lineage. I have practiced kriya yoga for several decades and can attest to its transformative spiritual power.

However, the yoga sutras are not, per se, a book on how to meditate. Therefore a technique such as Kriya Yoga (as taught by Yogananda) is not going to be described and taught in such a “scripture.” In India we find the term “kriya” applying to a great many practices and techniques. Even in the kriya yoga lineage of Yogananda and the masters of Self-realization (Babaji, Lahiri Mahasay, and Swami Sri Yukteswar) we have navi kriya and talabia kriya, offshoot techniques supportive of the main technique of kriya.

The term “kriya” moreover is so generic that it could be translated to mean any “technique.” This is in contradistinction to the so-called paths of yoga such as Bhakti yoga (devotion), karma yoga (selfless service) and gyana yoga (study of self, of scripture, and concentration of the mind). Some might even say that the practice of any set of breath control techniques are the practice of “kriya yoga.” Hence the term, once removed from Yogananda’s lineage, can be a bit confusing.

Returning now to Stanza 1 of Book Two, we find that Patanjali describes the path of yoga (generally) as based upon purification, study, and giving the fruits of all action in devotion to God. This is strikingly similar to much of the message of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita.

From our point of view in this series, what I find in this is the admonition to understand the value of a definite “sadhana.” By this is meant a method of meditation and consistency of meditation undertaken in a spirit of self-offering and purification of desires and attachments. Patanjali identifies that egoity, attachment, aversion and “clinging to life” are impediments to the release of our identity from objects of the senses and mental imagery that is necessary to achieve samadhi.

Many spiritually minded people rest content with good fellow feelings, and high ideals. This might include enjoying spiritual music (chanting, bhajans, mantras) or spiritual ritual or dance, or service in humanitarian causes, or intensive study and debate of fine scriptural or metaphysical points. Good works produce good karma. Good karma can balance out “bad” karma but even if it does it brings us to zero. Unless we use the zero point to transcend the dualities of the opposites and the dual qualities of nature, we will be drawn back into the maelstrom.

Unless we perceive that our ego cannot by itself release us from the ceaseless flux of the opposites and thereby we offer ourselves into a greater Power and Presence, we will not find release. Our peace meditative experiences will only relieve us of tedium or stress but will not free us.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions” it has been well said. I have met or learned of many good, fine, virtuous and noble people. I have met many devotees who could be real “schmucks.” But virtue alone will not free us from the wheel of suffering and rebirth. To paraphrase Jesus, “She has loved much and her sins, though many, are forgiven.”

There must come a point when we actively, intensively, and “scientifically,” seek freedom from delusion. To do that we naturally seek the grace and power of God. This comes not in some vague way, as if calling the White House will connect us to the President, but through the agency of those incarnate souls who come to earth to help others and who are, themselves, already free. They thus know “the way” and have the power.

Such souls are few, relatively to the plethora of spiritual leaders and teachers. We ascend step by step by our own sincerity and self-purification to attract to ourselves, progressively, more advanced souls who can empower our journey.

Therefore, meditate with the desire for freedom; meditate seeking divine grace, power, and presence; meditate with surrender to the Infinite Power which, by whatever name or form, no name or form, we are inspired to address.

We need a specific, proven technique of meditation; we need an understanding of the meaning and goal of life that inspires us and is true; we need a teacher who is above the obstructing qualities of nature.

As Jesus Christ said it so well: “Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven, and its righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Never miss your daily appointment with the Divine within you and never fail to see that presence in all forms and circumstances, both agreeable and challenging.

Blessings to you,
Nayaswami Hriman