By Life Positive
Paramahansa Yogananda is universally known for his book Autobiography Of A Yogi, which transformed several lives and which for many westerners has been the first contact with spirituality. A spiritual classic in its own right, this perennial bestseller talks of miracles and godmen, of Indian wisdom and practices. All through, however, Yogananda’s generous, humane spirit shines forth.
It was in the USA that he made his mark as a master, and stayed on, unlike Swami Vivekananda who stormed the country but returned to India. There, he popularized the ancient tradition of Kriya Yoga , even tracing its roots to the Bhagavad Gita and the teachings of Jesus Christ. During his 30 years in the USA, he founded the Self-Realization Fellowship and established many SRF centers to spread his basic philosophy of divine love and goal of self-realization.
Born Mukunda Lal Ghosh in 1893, in Gorakhpur, India, he had a strong desire to go to the Himalayas since early childhood. But he met his guru, Sri Yukteshwar Giri, a disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya , in the streets of Varanasi. After 10 years of discipleship in Giri’s ashram in Serampore, West Bengal, Mukunda joined the monastic order in 1915. He entered mahasamadhi, a yogi’s final conscious exit from the body, in Los Angeles. In India his work and mission is carried on by the Yogoda Satsang Society with its headquarters in Ranchi. Excerpts from his book Autobiography of a Yogi:
THE SCIENCE OF KRIYA YOGA
The science of kriya yoga became widely known in modern India through the instrumentality of Lahiri Mahasaya, my guru’s guru. The Sanskrit root of kriya is kri, to do, to act and react; the same root is found in the word karma, the natural principle of cause and effect. Kriya yoga is thus ‘union (yoga) with the Infinite through a certain action or rite (kriya)’. A yogi who faithfully practices the technique is gradually freed from karma or the lawful chain of cause-effect equilibrium.
Because of certain ancient yogic injunctions, I may not give a full explanation of kriya yoga in a book intended for the general public. The actual technique should be learned from an authorized kriyaban (kriya yogi) of Yogoda Satsanga Society/Self-Realization Fellowship. Here a broad reference must suffice.
Kriya yoga is a simple, psychophysiological method by which human blood is decarbonized and recharged with oxygen. The atoms of this extra oxygen are transmuted into life current to rejuvenate the brain and spinal centers. By stopping the accumulation of venous blood, the yogi is able to lessen or prevent the decay of tissues. The advanced yogi transmutes his cells into energy. Elijah, Jesus, Kabir and other prophets were past masters in the use of kriya or a similar technique by which they caused their bodies to materialize at will.
Kriya is an ancient science. Lahiri Mahasaya received it from his great guru, Babaji (the immortal Mahavatar Baba), who rediscovered and clarified the technique after it had been lost in the dark ages. Babaji renamed it, simply, Kriya Yoga.
‘The Kriya Yoga that I am giving to the world through you in this nineteenth century,’ Babaji told Lahiri Mahasaya, ‘is a revival of the same science that Krishna gave millenniums ago to Arjuna; and that was later known to Patanjali, and Christ, and to St. John, St Paul and other disciples.’
Kriya Yoga is twice referred to by Lord Krishna (one of the gods of the Hindu pantheon) in the Bhagavad Gita. One stanza reads: ‘Offering the inhaling breath into the exhaling breath, and offering the exhaling breath into the inhaling breath, the yogi neutralizes both breaths; thus he releases prana from the heart and brings life force under his control.’ The interpretation: ‘The yogi arrests decay in the body by securing an additional supply of prana (life force) through quieting the action of the lungs and heart; he also arrests mutations of growth in the body by control of apana (eliminating current). Thus neutralizing decay and growth, the yogi learns life force control.’
Another stanza in the Gita states: ‘That meditation-expert (muni) becomes eternally free who, seeking the Supreme Goal, is able to withdraw from external phenomena by fixing his gaze within the mid-spot of the eyebrows and by neutralizing the even currents of prana and apana within the nostrils and lungs; and to control his sensory mind and intellect; and to banish desire, fear and anger.’
Krishna also relates that it was he, in a former incarnation, who communicated the indestructible yoga to an ancient illuminato, Vivasvat, who gave it to Manu, the great legislator. He, in turn, instructed Ikshwaku, founder of India’s solar warrior dynasty. Passing thus from one to another, the royal yoga was guarded by the rishis until the coming of the materialistic ages. Then, because of priestly secrecy and man’s indifference, the sacred lore gradually became inaccessible.
Kriya Yoga is mentioned twice by the ancient sage Patanjali , foremost exponent of yoga , who wrote: ‘Kriya Yoga consists of body discipline, mental control, and meditating on Aum.’ Patanjali speaks of god as the actual cosmic sound of Aum that is heard in meditation. Aum is the creative word, the whir of the vibratory motor, the witness of divine presence. Even the yoga beginner may soon inwardly hear the wondrous sound of Aum. Through this blissful spiritual encouragement, he becomes convinced that he is in communion with supernal realms.
Patanjali refers a second time to the Kriya technique or life-force control thus: ‘Liberation can be attained by that pranayama, which is accomplished by disjoining the course of inspiration and expiration.’
St. Paul knew Kriya Yoga, or a similar technique, by which he could switch life currents to and from the senses. He was therefore able to say: ‘I protest by our rejoicing which I have in Christ, I die daily.’ By a method of centering inwardly all bodily life force (which ordinarily is directed only outwardly, to the sensory world, thus lending it a seeming validity), St. Paul experienced daily a true yoga union with the ‘rejoicing’ (bliss) of the Christ Consciousness. In that felicitous state he was conscious of being ‘dead’ to or freed from sensory delusions, the world of maya.
In the initial states of God-contact (sabikalpa samadhi) the devotee’s consciousness merges with the cosmic spirit; his life force is withdrawn from the body, which appears ‘dead’ or motionless and rigid. The yogi is fully aware of his bodily condition of suspended animation. As he progresses to higher spiritual states (nirbikalpa samadhi), however, he communes with god without bodily fixation; and in his ordinary waking consciousness, even in the midst of exacting worldly duties.
‘Kriya Yoga is an instrument through which human evolution can be quickened,’ Sri Yukteswar explained to his students. ‘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 action, must be freed for higher activities by a method of claming and stilling the ceaseless demands of the breath.’
The Kriya Yogi mentally directs his life energy to revolve, upward and downward, around the six spinal centers (medullar, 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.
The astral system of a human being, with six (twelve by polarity) inner constellations revolving around the sun of the omniscient spiritual eye, is interrelated with the physical sun and the twelve zodiacal signs. All men are thus affected by an inner and an outer universe. The ancient rishis discovered that man’s earthly and heavenly environment, in twelve-year cycles, pushes him forward on his natural path. The scriptures aver that man requires a million years of normal, diseaseless evolution to perfect his human brain sufficiently to express cosmic consciousness.
One thousand Kriya practiced in eight and a half hours gives the yogi, in one day, the equivalent of one thousand years of natural evolution: 365,000 years of evolution in one year. In three years a Kriya Yogi can thus accomplish by intelligent self-effort the same result that nature brings to pass in a million years. The Kriya shortcut, of course, can be taken only by deeply developed yogis. With the guidance of a guru, such yogis have carefully prepared their body and brain to withstand the power generated by intensive practice.
The Kriya beginner employs his yogic technique only fourteen to twenty-four times, twice daily. A number of yogis achieve emancipation in six or twelve or twenty-four or forty-eight years. A yogi who dies before achieving full realization carries with him the good karma of his past Kriya effort; in his new life he is naturally propelled toward his infinite goal.
The body of the average man is like a fifty-watt lamp, which cannot accommodate the billion watts of power roused by an excessive practice of Kriya. Through gradual and regular increase of the simple and foolproof methods of Kriya, man’s body becomes astrally transformed day by day, and is finally fitted to express the infinite potentials of cosmic energy, which constitutes the first materially active expression of spirit.
Kriya Yoga has nothing in common with the unscientific breathing exercises taught by a number of misguided zealots. Attempts to hold breath forcibly in the lungs are unnatural and decidedly unpleasant. Kriya practice, on the other hand, is accompanied from the very beginning by feelings of peace and by soothing sensations of regenerative effect in the spine.
The ancient yogic technique converts the breath into mind-stuff. By spiritual advancement, one is able to cognize the breath as a mental concept, an act of mind: a dream breath.
Many illustrations could be given of the mathematical relationship between man’s respiratory rate and the variations in his states of consciousness. A person whose attention is wholly engrossed, as in following some closely knit intellectual argument, or in attempting some delicate or difficult physical feat, automatically breathes very slowly. Fixity of attention depends on slow breathing; quick or uneven breaths are an inevitable accompaniment of harmful emotional states: fear, lust, anger. The restless monkey breathes at the rate of 32 times a minute, in contrast to man’s average of 18 times. The elephant, tortoise, snake, and other creatures noted for their longevity have a respiratory rate that is less than man’s. The giant tortoise, for instance, which may attain the age of three hundred years, breathes only four times a minute.
The rejuvenating effects of sleep are due to man’s temporary unawareness of body and breathing. During sleep one’s breath flows more slowly and evenly. The sleeping man becomes a yogi; each night he unconsciously performs the yogic rite of releasing himself from bodily identification and of merging the life force with healing currents in the main brain region and in the six subdynamos of his spinal centers. Unknowingly, the sleeper is thus recharged by the cosmic energy that sustains all life.
The voluntary yogi performs a simple, natural process consciously, not unconsciously like the slow-paced sleeper. TheKriya Yogi uses his technique to saturate and feed all his physical cells with undecayable light and thus to keep them in a spiritually magnetized condition. He scientifically makes breathing unnecessary, and does not enter (during his hours of practice) the negative states of sleep, unconsciousness, or death.
In men under Maya or natural law, the flow of life energy is towards the outward world; the currents are wasted and abused in the senses. The practice of Kriya reverses the flow; life force is mentally guided to the inner cosmos and becomes reunited with subtle spinal energies. By such reinforcement of life force, the yogi’s body and brain cells are renewed by a spiritual elixir.
Through proper food, sunlight, and harmonious thoughts, men that are led only by nature and her divine plan will achieve Self-realization in a million years. Twelve years of normal healthful living are required to effect even slight refinements in brain structure; a million solar returns are exacted to purify the cerebral tenement sufficiently for manifestation of cosmic consciousness. A Kriya Yogi, however, by use of a spiritual science, removes himself from the necessity for a long period of careful observance of natural laws.
Untying the cord of breath that binds the soul of the body, Kriya serves to prolong life and to enlarge the consciousness to infinity. The yoga technique overcomes the tug of war between the mind and the matter-entangled senses, and frees the devotee to re-inherit his eternal kingdom. He knows then that his real being is bound neither by physical encasement nor by breath—symbol of mortal man’s enslavement to air, to nature’s elemental compulsions. Master of his body and mind, the Kriya Yogi ultimately achieves victory over the ‘last enemy,’ Death.
So shalt thou feed on Death, that feeds on men;
And Death once dead, there’s no more dying then.
Introspection, or ‘sitting in the silence,’ is an unscientific way of trying to force apart the mind and senses, tied together by the life force. The contemplative mind, attempting its return to divinity, is constantly dragged back towards the senses by the life currents. Kriya, controlling the mind directly through the life force, is the easiest, most effective, and most scientific avenue or approach to the infinite. In contrast to the slow, uncertain ‘bullock cart’ theological path to god, Kriya Yoga may justly be called the ‘airplane’ route.
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