WHAT IS KRIYA YOGA?

By Rudra Shivananda

pexels-photo-356079.jpegThere are many different types of yoga systems and according to their proponents, each must be the best. This can be very confusing to sincere seekers but there may be no easy solution to differentiate these various paths in their minds. It is the nature of the mind to be confused due to karmic obstacles and desires which can lead one to ignore one solution and grasp for another. If the seeker strives to listen to the heart, then eventually the best path for this life-time will present itself. Until then, one should practice to one’s best capacity whatever one has had the good fortune to learn.

It would not be prudent to present any one path as being the best or right one for all seekers since if that was true, then there would not be the necessity for so many different systems. However, it is possible to describe and compare different paths – this is a reasonable act in accordance with our discriminatory faculties.

Kriya Yoga is a system for Self-Realization that has been taught since time immemorial and so there is a lineage and a procession of realized Masters who have achieved their liberation through its practice. It is said to be the practical system that underlies the Yoga of Patanjali and from which he derived his descriptive sutras. There is a great deathless being called Mahavatar Babaji who has initiated many Masters such as Shankaracharya and even some Avatars (manifestations of divinity to help humanity) into Kriya Yoga.

In modern times, Babaji has once again graced us with this practice through his great disciple Yogiraj Shri Shri Shyamcharan Lahiri Mahasaya who received it on our behalf in 1861 in the Himalayan ranges. The present lineage of Masters included Swami Shri Yuteswara and Paramhansa Yogananda. The living Himalayan Master, Yogiraj Siddhanath is from this lineage. The lives and teachings of these Masters attest to the efficiency and effectiveness of Kriya Yoga.

One of the distinctive marks of Kriya Yoga is its power and simplicity to achieve Self-Realization. It utilizes both meditation on the primal sound of Om and spinal breathing techniques. According to Lahiri Mahasaya, “Aum and Kriya constitute the secret of meditation. By meditation on Aum and the practice of Kriya pranayama, the fulfillment of the highest spiritual aspiration is attained.”

The spinal breathing meditation works on the spinal energy centers which evolve human consciousness to superhuman consciousness, speeding up our spiritual evolution.  As Yogananda explains in his Autobiography of a Yogi, “The Kriya Yogi mentally directs his life energy to revolve, upward and downward, around the six spinal centers (medullary, cervical, dorsal, lumbar, sacral, and coccygeal plexuses) which correspond to the twelve astral signs of the zodiac, the symbolic Cosmic Man. One half-minute of revolution of energy around the sensitive spinal cord of man effects subtle progress in his evolution; that half-minute of Kriya equals one year of natural spiritual unfoldment.”

Kriya Yoga is a scientific process to enable our evolving soul to gradually realize its fundamental unity with the immortal Spirit. Swami Satyananda, another disciple of Shri Yukteshwar is quoted as saying, “Kriya sadhana (spiritual practice) may be thought of as the sadhana of the practice of being in Atman (Spirit)”

The process of Kriya Yoga requires the raising of our dormant potentiality called Kundalini. A modern Master, Yogiraj Siddhanath has said, “By the ceaseless movement of the Kriya life-force breath, one’s prana, breath, vital fluid and mind become one to form the evolutionary life-force energy called kundalini.”

Kriya Yoga is a means of overcoming all our karmic obstacles to happiness and contentment. It is the path towards liberation from suffering, a goal that can be achieved within a single life-time if performed with dedication and perseverance.  Unlike some other paths, it does not require its practitioners to leave their family, friends and vocation to stay in the hidden caves of the Himalayas. Kriya Yoga is meant for contemporary householders and to help them to be in the world but not of the world while pursuing life’s greatest goal.

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