Kriya Yoga: One Step at a Time

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati, Ganga Darshan, December 1994

Please reconsider your decision to teach only the first fourteen kriyas during the present Kriya Yoga course.

When people come to yoga they want to learn everything immediately, but a considerate yoga teacher doesn't teach everything immediately. It has been our experience that many people have learnt different yogas, including Kriya Yoga, then because of lack of perfection have reached a point from which they cannot progress. So we have decided to teach the kriyas in stages, allowing people time to perfect or fully experience each stage.

Even if you study the traditional aspect of the kriyas, you will find that the practices have been divided into three groups: pratyahara kriyas, dharana kriyas and dhyana kriyas. It is advisable that you perfect the pratyahara kriyas and the dharana kriyas before attempting to move on to the advanced dhyana kriyas.

After all, what is Kriya Yoga? Kriya Yoga is not a group of practices which leads to an instantaneous awakening of the pranas and an instantaneous awakening of kundalini. No. In Kriya Yoga you will find combinations of asana, pranayama, concentration and visualisation. Frankly speaking, although we teach the kriyas, we teach under compulsion. If it was up to us we would not be teaching the kriyas to anyone at all. We teach under compulsion because there are many practitioners of yoga who attain a certain level and need a push to go further in the practices.

The subtle dimensions of personality

Now, in Kriya Yoga where many different components are combined, the result of awakening is experienced in the physical body, in the psychic body and in the pranic body. These are the three main bodies which are activated, awakened and stimulated in kriya practice. Yoga says that there are five different dimensions or koshas in the human body: annamaya kosha, the physical body or the body of matter; pranamaya kosha, the body of energy; manomaya kosha, the body of mind or mental experiences; vijnanamaya kosha, the body of cognitive faculties; anandamaya kosha, the body of bliss.

The physical practices of Hatha Yoga, asana and pranayama, influence and alter the performance of annamaya kosha. If we go deeper into the practices of mudra and bandha we find that pranayama kosha is stimulated. Then if we go deeper into the practices of Raja Yoga, pratyahara and dharana, we will find that manomaya kosha is activated. Vijnanmaya kosha is activated by the practices of dhyana.

In Kriya Yoga where we combine asanas, breath awareness, breath control, visualisations and willpower, we are approaching four different dimensions of our personality, excluding anandamaya kosha, at the same time. The awakening of the subtle dimensions of personality is not easy to handle. We can't handle the fear, anger, frustration and depression that we experience every day. Yet we still want to go deep into our consciousness, and think that we can handle the psychic changes that take place.

I think this is a great human misconception. If we can handle our anger, fear, frustration, jealousy and hatred, then we are ready for Kriya Yoga, otherwise not. When we don't have the ability to channel and direct the mental and emotional forces which govern our life, how can we handle and direct the psychic awakening of which we have absolutely no concept right now?

We are taken by the beauty of the concept of chakra awakening. “Wow! It must be something great!” We are taken by the beauty of the concept of kundalini. “Wow! If kundalini awakens – fantastic!” I'm sure most mothers will agree with me that going through the experience of pregnancy was not in their minds when they decided to become mothers – they just wanted someone to care for! But nine months of pregnancy really makes them wonder whether it is all worthwhile. The same implies with Kriya Yoga.

Therefore, for your own sake, not mine because personally I don't care if you go crazy or remain sane, but because you have to remain sane, it is better that you practise the kriyas in stages. Perfect each state and when you are ready we will know you are ready. It is no use learning some of the practices here, and returning after a year of doing nothing to learn the rest of the practices. By looking at a person I can definitely tell whether or not he or she has been practising and what the level of progression has been. There are symptoms which manifest in the body, in the behaviour and in the attitude of a person who practises yoga. I can't tell you what they are because they are tricks of the trade.

Awakening of the pranas and chakras

With psychic awakening many things happen. The first level of awakening is known as pranotthana, and at this stage the dissipated pranas in the body become one and begin to flow in one direction. If the awakening is not handled properly, if the body, the brain and the mind are not ready, then the practitioner will experience a negative result, for example, loss of sleep and hyperactivity for an indefinite period of time which have to be managed with the practices of asana, pranayama, mudra and bandha.

When the pranas have become stable, the chakras awaken. Chakra awakening is the second stage and the hardest to handle. Prana deals with the realm of energy. But chakra awakening also changes the relevant part in the field of consciousness. Many people have experienced that with the awakening of mooladhara chakra, they become sexually very active, physically, mentally, emotionally and continuously. If this energy is not handled properly then the person can even become a rapist! Such a reaction is possible because the mind is not able to cope with the new form and perception of consciousness.

With the awakening of the chakras, negativity and positivity come to the surface and, as always, the negative forces are more powerful than the positive ones. Not powerful in the sense of strength, but because they cause extremes to manifest in the personality. Extremes don't manifest with the positive qualities because harmony is manifesting.

So, with the awakening of a chakra, a corresponding change also takes place in the consciousness, behaviour, vision, attitude and lifestyle of a person. When swadhisthana awakens, and if we are not able to handle that awakening properly, then insecurities and fears will be very strong, so much so that people can even try to commit suicide, because they are not able to adjust anywhere in the world. So, in each chakra there are both positive and negative qualities which must be handled very carefully, and under the direction of a competent teacher.

The need for guidance

At BSY we are not competent to handle such cases. Generally, when people write and tell me that this is happening, I advise them to see a psychiatrist. I am not willing to take responsibility for people who come to the point of awakening of their own accord, without any supervision from my side. If you do it without guidance then you can manage it, but if you do it under my guidance then I will take responsibility. This has to be very clear.

We not only have to learn and practise the kriyas but at the same time we have to be aware of how to handle the situations which come up with either prana or chakra awakening. When the chakras are awakened, when the consciousness is purified, when the instincts are manageable and under control, then at that time kundalini awakens.

Kundalini is the transcendental force. Kundalini is not prana; prana is an aspect of kundalini. Kundalini is not consciousness, although the power of kundalini can change and alter the structure of consciousness. Kundalini is the transcendental force which awakens only after the physical and mental energies are purified, only after, as Paramahamsaji used to say, the dross of the mind has been removed. When the energy is pure and the consciousness is pure then the transcendental energy and consciousness, in the form of kundalini, manifests in the life of a sadhaka.

Therefore, you should be happy that you are being given the opportunity to move stage by stage, step by step, and that we are willing to take responsibility for you. If you don't want us to take responsibility then we can teach you the twenty kriyas in one day.

How can I incorporate the Kriya Yoga practices into my normal daily sadhana so that steady progress can be made?

Rule No.1 – Don't be in a hurry, because if you are in a hurry you will have a lot of worries.

Rule No.2 – Never practise all the kriyas all together. In the past many people might say they have practised a number of kriyas at the same time. However, from my own experience and understanding of the kriya system, I am saying that you should never practise all the kriyas together because it will be too powerful, too strong. Rather, combine them with the normal practices of asana and pranayama, concentration and relaxation.

First, do the normal sadhana. Then at the end add one or two kriyas to the daily practice. Practise the same kriyas – let us say No.1 and No.2 – for one week along with the other sadhana. In the second week practise No.3 and No.4, and leave No.1 and No.2 behind. In the third week leave behind No.3 and 4 and practise No.5. and No.6.

Gradually go on building up your receptive ability, and at the same time balancing the awakening of energy with the normal sadhana practices. These are the two main rules for kriya practice which you should understand.

Is the practice of Kriya Yoga a faster way to evolve? If so, do karmas and deep-rooted samskaras come up faster or get resolved faster, or do we simply bypass them?

Kriya Yoga is not a system by which you can evolve faster and quicker. It will give you an opportunity to experience yourself with a different vision and viewpoint, but you will have to continue working with karmas and samskaras.

Rather, I feel that those people who have gone through and perfected the practices of Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga, and who have in the course of their lives overcome the basic samskaras and karmas of life with the practices of Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Dhyana Yoga will have better results when they practise Kriya Yoga. However, if you begin to practise Kriya Yoga without having gone through the initial stages of purification, things will be stirred up even more and you will have to face your samskaras and karmas in the form of happiness, joy, depression, crying and frustration, sometimes with a very open feeling, sometimes in a very closed way. You will have to face the mind stuff.

As the consciousness changes, you have to handle both the good and the bad, the positive and the negative. In this process you are dealing with your own samskaras and karmas which bind you to the earthly plane. You definitely cannot bypass the samskaras and karmas unless you are an exceptional and extraordinary person.

The most important thing is your commitment to the practice of the kriyas. Swami Sivananda used to say, and still says through me, “One ounce of practice is better than tons of theory.” There is a statement in the Yoga Sutras that a practice which is done regularly, for an extended period of time, and with faith, prepares the ground for higher realisation. There are three concepts here. Regularity, without a break; for an extended period of time, allowing the practice to purify, harmonise and balance the inner structure of the personality; and faith, the conviction that eventually we will experience the result of the practice.