Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What is the best or original Kriya Yoga?

As the practice of kriya yoga (a meditation technique(s)) grows exponentially in popularity and public awareness, the number of teachers of kriya and books about or revealing the kriya yoga technique also grows.

Different ones or groups claim to have the "original," or the best, or the correct technique. For better or worse, the term "kriya" is generic. It is almost equivalent to the term, in English, "technique." I refer readers to that which has put kriya on the public map: Chapter 26 of "Autobiography of a Yogi," by Paramhansa Yogananda. Thus there are many "kriya" techniques: some are preparatory for the more advanced kriyas as taught by Lahiri Mahasaya and his line (which includes Paramhansa Yogananda). Examples include navi kriya and talabya kriya, to name just two. Some teachers who use the term "kriya" in describing what they teach offer techniques that only casually resemble what Lahiri and his lineage have taught (directly and through their disciples).

To a "bhakta," or one who approaches God through devotion, techniques are either boring or virtually sacrilegious because presuming upon self-effort to achieve salvation (as if the yogi ignores the power of grace through God and guru!). A "gyani," or one who approaches Truth through the intellect and observation and strict non-attachment and monism, may view "kriyas" as unnecessary, distracting and smacking of dualism, as if affirming the yogis separateness from the One. A "karmi," or one who is self-sacrificing in rendering service without thought of self, may view "kriyas" as tempting self-invovlement and lacking in compassion for others. All of these objections, moreover, may, in some cases, be valid.

But the eightfold path taught by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras and the path of yoga as taught by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, both confirm that right feeling (devotion), right attitude (non-attachment and ego transcendence), and right action (nishkam karma) are integral aspects of the inner path of meditation (raja yoga--of which kriya yoga is a part). Krishna, in the Bhagavad Gita, counsels Arjuna (us) to "Be thou a yogi." This counsel is repeated throughout the Gita.

In prior blogs I have pointed out that there is no "best" technique, best religion, or most exalted guru but that which inspires our souls to seek freedom in God. For some yogis, a simple mantra is best. For others, watching the breath. For others, more complex techniques such as kriya yoga (which as taught by Paramhansa Yogananda includes a body of at least four core techniques and several supportive ones).

In the blatthering blog-a-sphere, one sees these debates about "best" and "original" going on. Those who defy the "ancient injunctions" of secrecy in regards to who is authorized to teach kriya, will claim a higher path of public service and decry the misuse of teacher-student relationship in regards to secrecy. It's not, of course, secrecy, per se, it's preparedness: mental, emotional, psychological, and physical. Preparedness means the more sensitive and inward understanding that it's not really about a technique: it's a matter of the heart: devotion and commitment. It's as if the "secrecy" thing is a direct challenge to the ego to reach for a deeper understanding.

Nonetheless, all sincere points of view have their place. As a given fact, why cry over the spilt milk of others' seeming transgressions. And besides, some teachers have misused these sacred teachings for personal gain.

In reading one author's revelations of his decades long search for the "real" kriya, it is evident that, as Patanjali warns us, he "missed the point." The point isn't "best" or "original." It is: how much of yourself are you willing to give? Still his account was interesting for all the lesser teachers that abound and that are tempted to use the knowledge they've received for self-aggrandizement. How blessed I feel for the self-honesty, the wisdom, the patience and the loyalty of my teacher, Swami Kriyananda: a direct disciple, indeed, of Yogananda! Kriyananda was blithely dismissed by this author (as a source for knowledge of kriya) by the author's cursory acceptance of the condemnation of Kriyananda by others as being disloyal. Well, that's fine, of course. Each to his own. I suspect, however, the real reason is that Kriyananda did not write or publish details of the basic and so-called higher kriya techniques in accordance with his guru's wishes. Thus he was of no interest to this author.

According to my teacher, Swami Kriyananda, Lahiri Mahasaya emphasized, and indeed, I may have heard him say, even, required mastery of the kechari mudra before giving the first kriya initiation! So few people that I know have a tongue long enough to do this technique at all or for very long that it would be a shame not to learn kriya yoga on the basis of not being able to place the tongue behind the soft palate and up into the nasal passage behind it! Yes, there are techniques for stretching the tongue, but, golly, how weird do we yogis have to be, anyway, to find God? (I'm all for kechari! I look forward to it; but my tongue isn't there yet.)

If, therefore, Paramhansa Yogananda, in coming to the West taught the technique without requiring or even, sometimes, mentioning kechari (except to close disciples), I, for one, think he knew what he was doing. With kechari mudra, the technique is essentially done with mouth closed (or air passage through it blocked). Without kechari, the kriya technique is more easily and powerfully done otherwise. To accuse Yogananda of changing or diluting the technique on the basis of doing or not doing kechari is silly. Ignoring for the moment, the grace and power of the guru's instructions, a survey of techniques going by the name kriya, and knowing, indeed, the advanced (or "higher") kriya techniques, it's obvious that there are an infinite number of minor variations to these techniques. Some of these will naturally occur to the dedicated kriya yogi as he practices and calls upon divine guidance to guide his practice. Swami Kriyananda has pointed out that the purpose and result of spiritual growth is to go more and more by intuition: by the inner guru. Thus a kriya yogi, in time and with dedicated and right practice, earns the "right" (by intuition) to explore the inner path and techniques in ways that are suitable at that moment. (Whether one teaches or shares such things is also a matter of both inner guidance and validated outer commission. See my prior blog.)

Collecting them all like baseball cards produces only pride, confusion, and restlessness. Surely not devotion, in any case; nor yet self-offering and humility.

Let us therefore understand that the spiritual path is unique to each and an inner journey. It can be supported by techniques but only with right attitude, right technique, and right teacher. "Right" means "right" for our soul's highest potential.

Blessings to all,

Nayaswami Hriman