Kriya yoga is a science about which we have ample references in the tantra shastras. The practices of kriya yoga are a combination of pranayama, mudra, bandha and dhyana. About seventeen kriya practices are popular. There are many more but they are not that important because you learn many of them in hatha yoga as propounded in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Seventeen of them are very important.
These kriyas are intended first to reverse the amrit from the solar point, the sun, back to the lunar point, the moon. The second point is that these practices are intended to awaken the six chakras – mooladhara, swadisthana, manipura, anahata, vishuddhi and ajna. Third point, these kriyas are intended to awaken sushumna, the nadi which flows between ida and pingala. Fourth point, these kriyas are intended to create a situation in the mind and body where you do not have to concentrate, where you do not have to make an effort to withdraw or pull your mind. Finally, these kriyas are intended to awaken the kundalini in phases.
I am using the term ‘in phases’ because awakening of kundalini abruptly is very difficult. Experiences which you have of an abrupt awakening of kundalini are very hard to face. You cannot understand what is happening to you. You cannot handle the experiences; this is what I mean. Therefore, these kriyas are intended to awaken the chakras, then sushumna and finally to awaken the kundalini in such a way that you do not have to handle the experiences with great difficulty.
It is called kriyas because every movement, every action is taking place within you, not outside you. Originally these kriyas were forming a part of tantra. Sometime in the Middle Ages, when our system underwent great suppression, tantra got a very bad name. Tantra was abused and misused. People did not even want to know it. So the wise people thought it was much better to take out the useful portion, and so they took out kriya yoga from tantra.
Why do I say this? For every yoga, raja yoga disciplines must be practised like satya, ahimsa, brahmacharya. For a householder it is not possible to practise everything. If he practises these he is not a grihastha. Maybe there are some householders who could, but most cannot. There are certain things in grihastha ashrama which are very necessary to experience life. The relationship between husband and wife is a natural relationship, it is necessary for your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual progress. Therefore, if you force yourself to practise brahmacharya you might even become sick.
The rishis thought, ‘What is the way?’ They gradually came to the conclusion that tantra is the way. In tantra, the ordinary behaviour of the grihastha ashrama is acceptable. You understand what I mean when I say ordinary behaviour? Like vishaya bhoga, sensual gratification, dukha, pain, sentiment, love, passion, greed they are called ordinary behaviour. These ordinary behaviours are acceptable in tantra.
Tantra marga says that whatever you are in the grihastha ashrama – whether you are a sattwic, rajasic or a tamasic grihastha – it does not matter. You practise kriya yoga. When you practise kriya yoga for a few years, what will happen? If you are a tamasic grihastha, you will progress and become a rajasic grihastha. If you are a rajasic grihastha you will make improvement and progress, you will become a sattwic grihastha. When you become a sattwic grihastha, the awakening of kundalini will take place.
Therefore, tantra says do not wait until you become sattwic. If you wait for nature to make you sattwic, it will take you births after births. So practise tantra, kriya yoga, and transform yourself from tamas to rajas and from rajas to sattwa.
26 January 1982, Mysore, Tamil Nadu