(This letter was sent to Ananda members and students in the Seattle area in anticipation of a kriya initiation ceremony on Saturday, July 23, 2016)
This weekend we will conduct kriya initiation: the sacred ceremony in which the technique(s) of kriya meditation are taught to those who have undergone the requisite training and preparation. In Paramhansa Yogananda’s famous life story, “Autobiography of a Yogi,” Chapter 26 (called Kriya Yoga), he explains the basic nature of kriya yoga as a meditation technique: how it accelerates our spiritual evolution by dissolving psychic blocks which reside deep in the subtle spine of the astral body.
Obviously not every member or student at Ananda has been or seeks to be initiated into kriya, nor is that expected or required. Ananda means many things to different people: for some, the practice of hatha (“Ananda”) yoga; others, serving and sharing through their talents and interests with others of like-mind, others, yet, the study of spiritual teachings east or west; others are devoted to God or gurus in the heartfelt practices of chanting, prayer and constant, inner devotion; others, find inspiration in friendship and community; others are engaged in the practical application of their ideals ranging from growing food to teaching children at Living Wisdom School, serving at East West Bookshop or the Living Wisely Gift and Thrift Store! Food, health, healing, teaching, sharing, studying, playing, supporting, chanting, prayer, counseling and so many, many activities are doorways to fellowship and spiritual awakening!
Nonetheless, the centerpiece of the science of yoga for which Paramhansa Yogananda was sent to the West and to the world is the ever-increasingly popular practice of kriya yoga. Why is this, a relatively simple meditation technique, so central to the work of a world spiritual teacher and to a worldwide work of yoga?
In Yogananda’s autobiography he writes that “The ancient yogis discovered that the secret of cosmic consciousness is intimately linked with breath mastery. This is India’s unique and deathless contribution to the world’s treasury of knowledge. The life force, which is ordinarily absorbed in maintaining the heart-pump, must be freed for higher activities by a method of calming and stilling the ceaseless demands of the breath.”
Consider now for a moment how many of you, and millions of others, have turned away from orthodox religion and/or are committed to reason and the evidence-based findings of modern science. In effect, SCIENCE is the religion of modern times. We get excited when science pushes the envelope of knowledge and hints at cosmic or subtle realities. No more do we turn to religion or theology or priests for describing or defining reality.
Next: consider if you could achieve health, vitality, calmness and happiness by working with the psycho-physiological and biological realities of meditation techniques. Researchers are falling all over themselves in studying the techniques and effects of meditation. Not a week passes without a new study discovering yet another amazing and demonstrable benefit from meditation.
And what is that biological reality that offers so much promise? Yes, you’re right: the breath! The most elemental necessity and evidence of life itself!
Science and society is steadily and inexorably moving towards the same discovery that yogis and rishis made thousands of years ago: that the relationship of breath to mind (and mind to breath) holds the key to unlocking our own highest potential.
Any thoughtful person knows that we cannot always control the circumstances of life and that, in consequence, our happiness and health depends, rather, on how we respond to life. In the scientific and provable fact that our reactions to life produce responses in heart and breath rate, AND, that heart and breath control can, in turn, re-direct and calm our reactions to life holds for us the greatest promise of health and happiness in an age of constant turmoil, change, and uncertainty.
But, we all know that there’s more to spiritual awakening than doing breathing exercises! Devotion, wisdom, kindness and generosity (the “yamas” and “niyamas” as Patanjali teaches in the Yoga Sutras) is, of course, the foundation for spiritual consciousness. But the greatest obstacle to actually achieving a superconscious state of spiritual awakening is the monkey mind and its obsession with the body and ego. The relationship of breath to mind (and mind to one’s state of consciousness, happiness, contentment, and awareness) holds a key to a rapid acceleration of higher consciousness.
This is where kriya comes in. Kriya operates directly upon the nervous system, brain, and breath to safely and gradually slow the breath and heart rate that the higher states of divine awareness may appear on the horizon of the mind’s inner, or spiritual, “eye.” This is why Yogananda called kriya yoga the “airplane route” to God. Good deeds, rites and rituals are what he called “the bullock cart route” to the release of the ego into soul consciousness. The mystic key to the doorway of higher consciousness has been re-discovered to accelerate our spiritual evolution in an age of rapid change and growth.
So we ask for your blessings upon this sacred weekend where the light of kriya yoga with the grace of the guru spreads person to person. If you find yourself inspired to learn more, we welcome your interest and offer free classes to explain more about kriya yoga and even have several videos on our website that you might find helpful!
Blessings and joy to you!
Nayaswamis Hriman and Padma