According to Paramhansa Yogananda in his Autobiography of a Yogi, Kriya Yoga is the most effective technique for reaching the goal of Yoga: Self-Realization.
Self-Realization is the knowing in all parts of body, mind, and soul that you are now in possession of the kingdom of God; that you do not have to pray that it come to you; that God’s omnipresence is your omnipresence; and that all you need to do is improve your knowing. — Paramhansa Yogananda
What is Kriya Yoga?
Kriya Yoga is an ancient meditation technique of energy and breath control, or pranayama. It is part of a comprehensive spiritual path, which includes additional meditation practices along with right living.
The Kriya technique was hidden in secrecy for many centuries. It was revived in 1861, when the great yogi Mahavatar Babaji taught the technique to his disciple Lahiri Mahasaya. Lahiri then taught the technique to his disciple Sri Yukteswar, who taught it to his disciples, including Paramhansa Yogananda.
Yogananda then popularized Kriya Yoga through his book, Autobiography of a Yogi, and through his public teaching in the West. Kriya has been taught in an unbroken link of spiritual succession to this day.
Meditation Techniques of the Kriya Yoga Path
Paramahansa Yogananda provides a description of Kriya Yoga in his Autobiography of a Yogi. The actual technique is given to students of the Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons-after a preliminary period of study and practice of the three preparatory techniques taught by Paramahansa Yogananda.
Taken together as a comprehensive system, these meditation techniques enable the practitioner to achieve the highest benefits and divine goal of the ancient yoga science.
1. Energization Exercises: A series of psycho physical exercises developed by Paramahansa Yogananda in 1916 to prepare the body for meditation. Regular practice promotes mental and physical relaxation and develops dynamic will power. Making use of the breath, life force, and concentrated attention, the technique enables one to draw abundant energy consciously into the body, purifying and strengthening all the body parts systematically in turn. The Energization Exercises, which take about fifteen minutes to perform, are one of the most effective means of eliminating stress and nervous tension. Practicing them prior to meditation is a great help in entering a calm, internalized state of awareness.
Benefits of Meditation
The benefits of meditation are multiple. Through regular practice, subtle transformations take place in one’s body, mind, and inmost consciousness. Some of these benefits are experienced right away; others unfold progressively and may take more time to become apparent.
- Inner peace is one of the first fruits of meditation. Along with that come greater clarity, understanding, and guidance from within.
- Meditation brings objectivity and intuitive knowledge of how to address the problems that arise in the course of daily life. It improves one’s concentration and efficiency, and one’s attitude toward work.
- It brings greater harmony and joy to relationships and family life, awakening the capacity to give — and receive — unconditional love.
- It harmonizes the life forces in the body, removing harmful stress and promoting health and vitality.
- Most importantly, it helps to attune one’s consciousness to the Divine, bestowing an unshakable inward happiness and security amidst all circumstances of life.
These results come with sincere effort and by mobilizing the will to continue striving until one finds the ultimate goal in life — ever new bliss and union with God through Self-realization.
What Is Meditation?
Meditation is the science of reuniting the soul with the Infinite Spirit or God. By meditating regularly and deeply, you will awaken your soul — the immortal, blissful divine consciousness at the innermost core of your being. Yoga meditation is the time-proven way of unlocking our soul’s infinite potential. It is not a vague mental process of thinking or philosophical pondering. It is the direct means of freeing the attention from life’s distractions, stilling the turbulent and restless thoughts that keep us from knowing our real Self — the wondrous divine being that we really are. Through the discipline of meditation, we learn to concentrate within, discovering our centre of unshakable peace and joy.
As you progress in meditation, gradually you experience an ever-increasing inner peace and joy that comes from the soul. In the most exalted states, your soul realizes its complete oneness with God. This is the goal of meditation — ecstatic, super-conscious, blissful divine communion, which is called samadhi.
Paramahansa Yogananda taught a system of powerful meditation techniques as part of the science of Kriya Yoga. These techniques are available through the Yogoda Satsanga Lessons. Anyone wishing to learn and benefit from the highest techniques of meditation will find these lessons to be an invaluable resource and lifelong support.
If you have not yet enrolled for the Yogoda Satsanga Lessons, you will find on these pages some some basic instructions on how to meditate, which you can use right away to begin experiencing the peace and divine consciousness that meditation brings.
How to Learn Kriya Yoga
Those wanting to learn the advanced Ananda Kriya meditation techniques need first to develop a regular daily practice of meditation and the Energization Exercises. Further steps include lessons and courses in discipleship that are available. It typically requires a minimum of 9 months to one year of daily practice of the enervation exercises and the Hong-Sau technique before one receives Kriya Initiation
“In the divine plan, Jesus Christ was responsible for the evolution of the West, and Krishna (later, Babaji), for that of the East. It was intended that the West specialize in developing objectively, through logic and reason, and that the East specialize in inner, intuitive development. But in the cosmic plan the time has come to combine these two lines into one. East and West must unite”. — Paramhansa Yogananda
The presence of Jesus on the altar is more than just a courtesy to Westerners. Yogananda said it was Jesus himself who appeared to Babaji and asked him to send this teaching of Self-realization to the West. At that meeting, Yogananda tells us, Jesus said, “My followers have forgotten the art of divine inner communion. Outwardly they do good works, but they have lost sight of the most important of my teachings, ‘to seek the kingdom of God first.
Yogananda wrote in God Talks With Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita that the science of Kriya Yoga was given to Manu, the first man according to the Vedas, and through him to Janaka and other royal sages. According to Yogananda, Kriya Yoga was well known in ancient India, but was eventually lost, due to “priestly secrecy and man’s indifference”.Yogananda says that Krishna refers to Kriya Yoga in the Bhagavad Gita:Offering inhaling breath into the outgoing breath, and offering the outgoing breath into the inhaling breath, the yogi neutralizes both these breaths; he thus releases the life force from the heart and brings it under his control.
Yogananda also stated that Krishna was referring to Kriya Yoga when “Krishna … relates that it was he, in a former incarnation, who communicated the indestructible yoga to an ancient illuminate, Vivas vat, who gave it to Manu, the great legislator. He, in turn, instructed Ikshwaku, the father of India’s solar warrior dynasty.”Yogananda stated that Patanjali wrote about the Kriya technique when he wrote: “Liberation can be attained by that pranayama which is accomplished by disjointing the course of inspiration and expiration.”A direct disciple of Sri Yukteswar Giri, Sailendra Dasgupta (d. 1984) has written that, “Kriya entails several acts that have evidently been adapted from the Gita, the Yoga Sutras, Tantra shastras and from conceptions on the Yugas.”
The Bhagavad Gita does not teach kriya yoga by name, though Yogananda claimed that the practice was described there. According to Paramahansa Yogananda in his book God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita, Krishna describes kriya Yoga thus:
How Does Kriya Work?
According to Yogananda, Kriya Yoga is the most effective technique available to mankind today for reaching the goal of Yoga: union with the Divine. Kriya Yoga is so effective because it works directly with the source of growth — the spiritual energy deep in our spines.
All yoga techniques work with this energy, usually indirectly. Yoga postures, for example, can help open up the spinal channels, and balance the energy in the spine. Yoga breathing exercises or pranayama, can help to awaken that energy.
However, Kriya Yoga is more direct. It helps the practitioner to control the life force by mentally drawing that life force up and down the spine, with awareness and will. According to Yogananda, one Kriya, which takes about a half a minute, is equivalent to one year of natural spiritual growth.
Kriya is also very practical in its effectiveness. Kriya Yogis find that it enhances their ability to concentrate, to become more effective in business and in family life, and to become better people in every way.