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What Is Kriya Yoga?

Kriya Yoga is an advanced technique for spiritual evolution that comes down from higher ages of spiritual enlightenment. Part of the ancient science of Raja Yoga, it is referred to by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras and by Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. Although the actual Kriya technique can be revealed only to initiates, its purpose and basic nature have been described by both Yoganandaji and Kriyanandaji in their respective autobiographies, in chapters dedicated to this subject.

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.
—Paramhansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi,1946 Original Edition

Kriya Yoga directs energy lengthwise around the spine, gradually neutralizing the eddies of chitta. At the same time it strengthens the nerves in the spine and brain to receive cosmic currents of energy and consciousness. Yogananda stated that Kriya is the supreme yoga science.
—Swami Kriyananda, The Path

The knowledge of Kriya became obscured during the dark age of materialism, known in India as Kali Yuga. It was revived in 1861 by the immortal Indian master, Babaji, when he taught it to his disciple Shyama Charan Lahiri of Benares. This disciple, also honoured by the title of Lahiri Mahasaya, then developed the Kriya principles into a specific series of meditation and pranayama practices. He taught this science to thousands of disciples, mostly family people who, like himself, maintained their worldly responsibilities while at the same time practicing Kriya.

In one of the key passages from Autobiography of a Yogi concerning Kriya in the modern age, Babaji says to Lahiri Mahasaya:

A deep purpose underlay the fact that you did not meet me this time until you were already a married man, with modest business responsibilities. You must put aside your thoughts of joining our secret band in the Himalayas; your life lies in the crowded marts, serving as an example of the ideal yogi-householder.

    The cries of many bewildered worldly men and women have not fallen unheard on the ears of the Great Ones, he went on. You have been chosen to bring spiritual solace through Kriya Yoga to numerous earnest seekers. The millions who are encumbered by family ties and heavy worldly duties will take heart from you, a householder like themselves. You must guide them to see that the highest yogic attainments are not barred to the family man. Even in the world, the yogi who faithfully discharges his responsibilities, without personal motive or attachment, treads the sure path of enlightenment… A sweet new breath of divine hope will penetrate the arid hearts of worldly men. From your balanced life, they will understand that liberation is dependent on inner, rather than outer, renunciations…
    I gazed beseechingly at Babaji. “I pray that you permit me to communicate Kriya to all seekers, even though at first they cannot vow themselves to complete inner renunciation. The tortured men and women of the world, pursued by the threefold suffering, need special encouragement. They may never attempt the road to freedom if initiation be withheld from them.”
    “Be it so. The divine wish has been expressed through you.” With these simple words, the merciful guru banished the rigorous safeguards that for ages had hidden from the world.    —Paramhansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi, 1946 Original Edition

Kriya Yoga in the Western World

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Paramhansa Yogananda in Washington, D.C.

 

The Kriya technique has been transmitted through the same sacred initiation ceremony that was performed by Babaji for Lahiri Mahasaya, passed down through the disciples of Lahiri Mahasaya and onward through their disciples to succeeding generations.

Paramhansa Yogananda is a direct spiritual descendant of Babaji and Lahiri Mahasaya. His guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri, was one of Lahiri Mahasaya’s most advanced disciples. In 1920 Yoganandaji was instructed by his guru to go to the West to share the practices of Kriya and the knowledge of the eternal, universal truths. From then until his passing in 1952, he lived in the United States, where he initiated tens of thousands of sincere seekers in Kriya, inspiring them to dedicate their lives to the pursuit of God realization.

Whereas in India the guidelines for living a spiritual “yogic” life are well known, in the West Yoganandaji had to educate people about such things as proper diet; right attitudes; balanced living that harmonizes body, mind, and soul; the development of will power and self-discipline; and transcendence of physical and emotional attachments.

These “how-to-live” teachings have become an essential part of the path of Kriya Yoga and are a requisite to learning the technique of Kriya in the same way that the yamas and niyamas of Patanjali are necessary steps towards higher levels of Raja Yoga.

Yoganandaji’s teachings thus put the technique of Kriya Yoga into the wider context of a yogic lifestyle. Educational centres and communities based on this lifestyle have been developed in the United States, Europe, and India by his direct disciple Swami Kriyananda.
See our Web site www.anandaindia.org for more information.

Kriya Yoga through Ananda Sangha

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Spiritual masters usually empower some of their close disciples to carry on their tradition, even during their own lifetime. For example, it is mentioned in the Bible, “Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples.” —John 4:2

Paramhansa Yogananda also authorised a number of his close disciples to give Kriya initiation on his behalf. Some of these disciples were part of his monastic order; others were householders in the Kriya tradition of Lahiri Mahasaya.

When Kriyanandaji had been with Yoganandaji for less than one year, Master placed him in charge of the monks and authorised him to give Kriya initiation. During the remaining years of his guru’s life, Kriyanandaji often gave the initiation. Following his guru’s passing, Kriyanandaji was sent around the world to speak about Self-realisation and give initiation into Kriya.

After founding Ananda in 1968, Swami Kriyananda continued to train devotees in the teachings of Self-realisation, helping them to prepare for and receive Kriya, each student according to his own capacities and pace. In recent years Kriyanandaji has authorised some members of the Ananda Sangha to give Kriya initiation in Yoganandaji’s name.

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Ananda Sangha Kriyacharyas