Kriya, Kundalini and Tantra

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

We have been hearing about kriya yoga for many years. We have heard and also experienced that there are many yogic and tantric techniques which can be practised without having to fight very much with the mind in concentration and meditation.

When you try hard to concentrate your mind against its current, then there arises a conflict and a split within it. The mind which is wavering is the same mind which is trying to get itself unified. Therefore the mind has a double tendency, and this causes the split. Both tendencies of the mind are very strong. The sensual tendency of the mind which is given to fluctuations is just as strong as the other tendency of the mind that wants to achieve unification. Therefore a split is imminent.

It is in this context that tantra developed a system by which you didn't have to worry much about the fluctuating tendencies of the mind. You just went on with your tantric or yogic practices and found that, through certain techniques, the mind became quieter and exhausted all its potentialities. This set of methods is known as kriya yoga, the basis of which is tantra.

In the tantric system they feel, they believe, the mind is not something against which you should start a war. There are religions in the world - including my own religion, Hinduism - which teach you as the first thing to fight with the mind, to start a war. Tantra teaches just the opposite. It says, don't fight with the mind because the mind is power; the mind is full of potentialities and if at all you do start a war with your mind, ultimately this will lead you to regression in the process of spiritual evolution. Therefore the tantric philosophy and belief is to let the mind be, for what it is and where it is; do not interfere. Rather, follow the mind for some time. Get to know the whole mind.

You are presently trying to control the mind without knowing its mysteries, its potentialities, its idiosyncrasies. Do you know whom you are controlling? Have you any idea of the person? Have you any idea of the object? Have you any idea of the mind, which we are trying to control in yoga? You are only controlling your thought, and your thought is not the mind, though you understand it to be. In meditation, in any meditation taught by a guru, including myself, when you are trying to control your mind you are actually controlling your thought and not the mind. What you know about the mind is just nothing. What I know about the mind or what I can say about the mind is nothing. Just as when you see an iceberg, most is below the waterline and only a little is above. So we only talk about thoughts; we talk about emotions and passions, greed and sensations, but they are nothing so far as the homogeneity and the infinity of the mind are concerned. The mind is infinite. And yoga aspirants must behave very cautiously with this infinite mind. Therefore in tantra they advise you to please be friendly with your mind, follow your mind for some time - that is the advice.

In kriya yoga there are the practices of pranayama, mudra, bandha and so on. I am not going to deal with all of them at this moment, because I have written plenty of detailed material specifically on kriya yoga, and of course those of you who would like to dive deeply into the subject should not miss out on this material. Now, however, I'm only trying to draw your attention to a method which does not require you to go in for fisticuffs with the mind. In these practices you don't even have to close your eyes; you do not even have to maintain steadiness constantly in the lotus or the adept pose. There are about seventeen to twenty practices which you should follow in sequence. You don't need to worry about what your mind is doing or how it is behaving, but just go on practising. By the time you come to the end of the practices, you will find that the mind is comparatively relaxed and equipoised, that its fluctuations have been comparatively minimized, and you are now in a position to concentrate on the symbol. Whether it is kriya yoga or any other form of yoga, the important thing is the symbol. The inner vision has to become clear. And in order to purify the inner vision, in order to clear the obstructions from the inner vision, all these practices are prescribed.

So this kriya yoga has been one of the most important subjects of people's attention all over the world for centuries. Even in biblical times and before that, in the vedic period, kriya yoga was very popular. One of the practices I can cite here and now is maha mudra. I do not regard this as a secret practice which can only be given to those who are prepared for it. Everybody can do kriya yoga; everybody is qualified. After all, please tell me, what qualifications do you really need for kriya yoga? An imperfect mind, an imbalanced mind, a fluctuating mind, a depressed mind, a mind which is completely broken and torn into pieces is the qualification you need for kriya yoga. You don't need an emancipated mind, you don't need a calm, quiet and transcended mind, you need a mind which has to grow, which needs to grow.

So in the practice of maha mudra, you first sit in vajrasana. Then stretch one of the legs forward, keeping the knees together and place your hands on the knees. Do jalandhara bandha, concentrate three times on mooladhara chakra. Then draw the breath in with ujjayi through the frontal passage right up to bindu, and hold the breath there for three seconds.

Hold your toes, do shambhavi mudra, focusing your eyes on the eyebrow centre. Also do khechari mudra by folding your tongue up against the palate, and moola bandha, contraction of the anus. Rotate your awareness alternately through these three centres - shambhavi, khechari, mool, the eyebrow centre, the place where the tongue touches the palate, and the completely contracted anus - a maximum of twelve times. Then bring your hands back to the knees and draw the breath back down to mooladhara. This is maha mudra. Do it four times, and then see how your mind is.

The mind is an element, and it can be controlled through the nerve-reflexes by pranayama, kriya yoga, mudras and bandhas. Just sitting quietly doing japa of aum or soham, and then trying to push back the mind, is not a scientific method; it is the method of a person who has no guru.

Now we come to kundalini yoga, which is a very important subject because it is a part of tantra; it is also a part of kriya yoga. In kundalini yoga the important thing to remember is that by awakening some of the psychic centres in the body, you can transcend the levels of the mind. For example (I do not suggest that you try this) when someone takes hashish or LSD, no matter how vacillating their mind is, within a moment it becomes unified. In the same way, in the practices of kundalini yoga, you have certain centres in the spinal column which you should try to awaken, and if one of these centres wakes up, then the whole mood changes. The mind begins expanding or you might say disintegrating, and you no longer feel your pangs and difficulties. You see that you are at one with yourself.

Out of these, the first centre is mooladhara chakra at the bottom. In the masculine body it is located in between the urinary and excretory organs, above the perineum and below the coccyx. It is a small nerve, like a gland, which is physiologically something, but its potentialities are dormant. It is located differently in the feminine body, inside and behind the uterus. In order to awaken this mooladhara chakra, there are certain definite methods: mudras and bandhas such as vajroli mudra, maha mudra which I just taught you, and moola bandha. These are very important practices for the awakening of mooladhara.

When any psychic centre in the body wakes up, the whole consciousness of the mind changes. When you take spirits or wine, they do change the state of consciousness a bit in one way or another. Likewise, the awakening of mooladhara chakra may not be able to alter the state of your consciousness to the supreme degree, but it will definitely alter your consciousness to a point where you can start meditation easily, without having trouble with the mind.

From mooladhara upwards, you have many other psychic centres - please study them thoroughly. One of the most important is anahata chakra, which some people prefer to call the heart centre. Its location is near the sternum in the spinal cord. The awakening of anahata chakra does alter the normal state of consciousness. You feel different and you feel very different. What has been said about love, light and unity, you can actually feel at that moment. In this state of consciousness where we are now, love, unity and light don't really mean much to us. But when this normal state of consciousness is altered, and the higher, deeper or more expanded state of consciousness is achieved, then love, light and unity are a matter of experience, not only of understanding.

Another centre, called ajna chakra, is behind the top of the spinal column. Ajna chakra is our symbol for the International Yoga Fellowship Movement. When ajna chakra is awakened, then the psychic powers begin to flow. You are at one with the deeper realms of the universe. As you already know and so I need not prove it the universe is not only matter, it is also force. In this universe you have force-fields like electromagnetic fields and thermonuclear fields; these are the material fields, and you know many of them. The universe is not only that which you can see with the naked eye. In this universe there are subtle vibrations, but we are not able to plug ourselves into those subtle vibrations, those higher messages, or higher realities. With the awakening of ajna chakra the mind expands; the consciousness changes; the voltage is different; everything is innovated. At once you are plugged into the universe, you are connected with the great cosmos. At this moment we are disconnected from this cosmos. We are far, far away from the vision of the cosmos because we have no such mind, we haven't got that consciousness. So, with the awakening of ajna chakra by any method, the vision of the cosmos takes place, and this is just an example of how kundalini yoga can help you to attain transcendence over the mind.

Please note well how careful I have been in expressing my sentiments about the mind. I am one of the greatest friends of the mind. My mind is always my friend, and I have never fought with it. It has been turbulent at times, but I haven't minded, because after all, he is me and I am he. Talking for myself, and hoping that you too will think the same way, I must say that I have never been guilty or ashamed about the behaviour of my mind. My mind has been thinking hopeless things for years and years together, but still I know that I am he and he is me. How can I abuse my mind? How can I be scandalized by it? How can I criticize my mind - I thereby criticize myself.

I believe that we must transcend the mind rather than kill the mind. I sometimes even believe that we have to jump over the mind rather than transform it. In many of my books, I have spoken about the transformation of the mind, but now I feel that rather than use the word 'transform', a better expression would be to 'transcend' the mind. How can you transform the mind? Mind is mind. The nature of the mind is to jump, to think, to feel, to act, to react, the mind is always dynamic. When you soar high in an aeroplane, the big skyscrapers below look like matchboxes. You don't have to pull the skyscrapers down to make them small; you just go up to thirty-six thousand feet in your jumbo jet and see them as matchboxes, if you see them at all. That is transcendence. Likewise in spiritual life and in yoga, all of you have to find a method for yourself which doesn't require you to come to blows with your mind; a method by which you don't have to kill the mind, but by which you will be able to transcend the mind. Kundalini yoga teaches exactly the method of transcending the mind. And I can assure you that in all the tantric texts which I have read, I have never come across one sentence anywhere in which we are asked to control the mind.

The picture presented to us of kundalini yoga seems to be very frightening at times. Many people have vague ideas about it; they think that if kundalini wakes up, god only knows what will happen. You are so afraid of the effects of kundalini, but have you ever thought about what's going to happen to you when you drink too much? Man always talks about the negative effects of spiritual life because he wants to stick to the lower plane, so sometimes the picture seems very discouraging. There are many books which warn aspirants, saying that kundalini yoga is dangerous. They would never say that cortisone is dangerous, or that LSD is dangerous, that alcohol or smoking is dangerous. Everything else is all right, but kundalini yoga is dangerous.

This kundalini yoga is the only means by which you can really expand your consciousness, by which you can alter the states of your mind, by which you can control the hormones and the reflexes of the nervous system. The practices of kundalini yoga, the mudras and bandhas, have a direct bearing on the endocrinal functions, and nervous balance and imbalance. How do emotions arise? Where do they come from? Why do I feel? Once you are able to get the right nerve, you are going to transcend all of these problems. It can be done, but you must have the key. There is a particular centre which you have to tackle and regulate.

Attachment and detachment, nervous welfare, nervous imbalance, nervous breakdown, everything is subject to the state of human consciousness. The moment you change your consciousness, everything is gone. All of these things are experiences, they are not permanent realities. Love, sympathy, hatred, jealousy will remain with you no matter what you do, no matter how many doctors you go to, no matter how many psychiatrists you visit. They will be with you, unless you have transcended that state of consciousness. I am here and you are here, so I must see you; I can't help it. If I don't want to see you, the best thing for me to do is to leave this hall. Thus, in kundalini yoga and in kriya yoga we emphasize very much that this state of consciousness, personal consciousness, must be altered. And it can be altered to the ultimate degree when the consciousness becomes aware of itself. This is called nirvana, samadhi, self-realization, god-realization or kaivalya. There are various names but this is the highest state.

This consciousness can be altered temporarily. For instance if you are unhappy, open a bottle, drink a little bit nicely, and you will be all right for a while. But the next morning, again depression, the same thing. Momentarily influencing the material edge of consciousness does not help. Neither hashish, nor LSD nor any other drug can permanently change the structure of your consciousness. The subject matter of kriya yoga, kundalini yoga and tantra is to change your consciousness. This change of consciousness can be effected very slowly by prayer, by japa and other such practices, but that is a very gradual path. It is like going to India first by walking to Darwin, then taking a raft over to Indonesia and so on. The practice of kundalini yoga and kriya yoga is like taking a jumbo jet from Sydney to Calcutta and being there the next morning.

This is the path, and our generation today is ready. We have had enough of sensual food, haven't we? We have had enough of life - we have fed our senses, we have fed our mind, we have fed our emotions. Plenty, plenty, oh, we are overfed! So a generation, a civilization or a culture which is overfed with sensuality's is qualified for kriya yoga, kundalini yoga and tantra. But a generation or a civilization which is underfed or unfed in the sensual life is not fit for kriya yoga, kundalini yoga or tantra.

In addition to what I said yesterday about meditation, I am today adding another point. If you want to reach the higher stages of meditation, please fix up the mind first. It will not allow you to pass beyond it, it is a very big barrier. No matter what you do, whether you practice bhastrika or Rajanishaji, or the transcendental meditation of Maharishi, or the ajapa japa of Swami Satyananda, or any method of any Swamiji, the barrier shall stay there, and no one can break this barrier. This is my experience, and this is the experience of all those who have been treading this path for decades and decades. You have to first fix the mind, and the way is through kriya yoga, kundalini yoga and tantra.