A Total Experience

Delivered by Swami Satyananda Saraswati at the Convention of the European Union of National Federations of Yoga in Zinal, Switzerland, 1977.

In the science of tantra, kriya yoga is one of the ways used for awakening the spiritual consciousness in man. Traditionally, this system was transmitted only from guru to disciple, but now the time has come for it to be more widely known. Actually, in many ancient traditions throughout the world, there were mystic practices which were similar to kriya yoga and they were communicated in the same way.

The word 'kriya' means movement. In this sense it represents the internal movement of consciousness, and its goal is the evolution of this consciousness. The individual consciousness is inherent in every living being. It is the soul and the spirit of every speck of existence, and within every speck of this existence there is unseen motion going on. Everything is evolving, progressing, and changing every second. The whole of existence is inexorably moving towards one fulfilment and this movement is called evolution. The word 'kriya' symbolises this movement and so kriya is inherent in every speck of creation.

Evolution is the law of nature and we are all evolving unconsciously, automatically, but this natural movement of evolution for us will take millions of years. In order to accelerate this inner motion of evolution in us, tantra has formulated many practices, one of which is the cosmic motion of kriya yoga.

What is this evolution? The first process of evolution is the production of energy from matter. During the course of millions of years that we human beings have existed on this planet, we have liberated our consciousness considerably (not completely) from the gross existence of instinct, and we have become more aware of existence in relation to time and space. During the previous period when we were still living on the instinctive plane, we were responsive to sensory stimuli, we were able to enjoy, and we were able to express suffering, as we see in the animal kingdom now. However, we have definitely passed through that phase of existence - not completely, perhaps half or a little more of our existence is still on the instinctive plane. To some extent we still think and act instinctively through the mind and senses, not because we know how to do it, but just because it happens. However, with the advent of humanity we have developed a higher consciousness, a realisation of the self. We are not just conscious of our environment, we are aware of ourselves. Thus we have greater knowledge and greater control over our awareness. I know that I am, but also I know that I know I am. This is self awareness and this is evolution.

In the course of evolution we have now come to the point at which we are aware of our existence, but this evolution has taken millions of years. If we allow nature to take its own course it may take many more millions of years for us to evolve fully and maybe before that this planet will come to an end. Therefore the purpose of kriya yoga is to accelerate this evolution. Then we not only become aware of the knowledge of our own existence, but we also become aware of the real nature of this whole existence.

Who am I ? This is the question, and of course there is an answer, but that answer is not very clear. The answer is not clear because it can only be derived from self experience and most people do not have that experience. Fortunately, to help us evolve the mind to that height where we can experience our real nature effectively the practices of kriya yoga have come to the rescue. As I have told you, kriya yoga is a self-contained system of practices from tantra, but unless you have first mastered perfectly the practices of hatha yoga you will not be able to practice kriya yoga successfully. Therefore, you must practice the six techniques of hatha yoga to purify the whole physical structure. Then kriya yoga becomes easy. Kriya yoga itself is a combination of mudras, bandhas, pranayamas, asanas and awareness which will lead to an awakening of the kundalini in mooladhara chakra; but this will only take place according to the purification of the body. If the nadis are purified then the awakening of kundalini becomes a divine experience.

The practices themselves

The first practice of kriya yoga is 'vipareeta karani mudra'. The position itself is the same as it is in hatha yoga, but in addition to this the consciousness changes the flow of shakti. It starts from manipura chakra - the centre in the spinal column behind the navel - and with the help of pranayama, and of willpower, the shakti is made to change its downward course and move upward to vishuddhi chakra which is located in the spinal column behind the throat. This is practiced eleven times with the eyes open and the body still.

The second kriya is the discovery of the chakras and is known as 'chakra anusandhana'. In this, we are trying to discover and learn the right location of the chakras in our body. Mooladhara chakra is situated at the perineum in the male while in the female it is behind the mouth of the uterus (cervix). Swadhisthana chakra is at the bottom of the spinal cord.

Manipura chakra is in the spine behind the navel. Anahata chakra is in the spine just behind the sternum or the heart. Vishuddhi chakra is in the spine behind the throat, and ajna chakra is at the top of the spinal column, behind the eyebrow centre. Bindu or 'bindu visarga' is at the top back of the head where Hindus have their tuft of hair, and sahasrara chakra is just underneath the upper frontal region of the skull, within the brain.

Most of the chakras also have contact centres at the front of the body. Mooladhara actually has no contact centre, but swadhisthana has its contact centre in the lower abdominal region, the pubic area, at the upper root of the urinary organs. The contact centre for manipura chakra is the navel, for anahata the heart, for vishuddhi the throat, and for ajna the eyebrow centre or brumadhya. Sahasrara has its contact centre down in mooladhara chakra. Mooladhara is the switch for sahasrara and bindu visarga has no contact centre.

It is important that we practice and get enough knowledge of the chakras so that when we meditate later on we don't have any difficulty in finding them. This can be done in any easy sitting posture, not necessarily padmasana or siddhasana. You may keep your eyes open or closed. This is a mental practice, but do not try to concentrate. Rotate your awareness up the contact centres and down along the chakras. First think of mooladhara chakra, then swadhisthana contact centre, then manipura contact centre, then anahata contact centre, then vishuddhi contact centre, and straight back to bindu. The descent through the spinal passage begins from bindu. From bindu go to ajna, from ajna to vishuddhi, from vishuddhi to anahata and then manipura, swadhisthana, mooladhara. This is one round. You have to practice nine rounds, ascending the frontal passage and descending through the spinal passage. This technique is the basis of all the practices in kriya yoga.

The third practice is where the real kriya yoga begins. It is known as 'nada sanchalana' that is, conducting the sound vibration. Sitting in any comfortable posture place both hands on the knees, eyes open, and don't try to concentrate. In this practice you first have to raise your awareness through the frontal passage up to bindu. Retain the consciousness in bindu for three seconds and then release the sound vibration down the sushumna. This is practiced thirteen times. Sit in the easy posture with the hands on the knees, eyes open. Now practice simple jalandhara bandha. Concentrate on mooladhara chakra. Mentally repeat three times, 'mooladhara, mooladhara, mooladhara'. Then draw the breath up with ujjayi through the frontal passage, moving the head upwards as you pass vishuddhi until you are concentrating on bindu in akashi mudra. Then say, 'bindu, bindu, bindu' while you hold the prana there. Then release a long AUM and imagine that the sound is being conducted slowly down to mooladhara. Retain the prana in mooladhara saying 'mooladhara, mooladhara, mooladhara'. Practice jalandhara. Again draw the breath with ujjayi through the frontal passage up to bindu in akashi mudra.

I shall now give you the fourth kriya yoga practice, 'pawan sanchalana'. Do not change your posture or close your eyes, just follow my instructions. At the bottom, in the perineum or the cervix, is mooladhara - just say mentally 'mooladhara'. Then come up the front to the root of the urinary organs - mentally say 'swadhisthana'. Don't try to concentrate. Now bring your mind to the navel - just say mentally 'manipura'. Then bring your awareness to the centre of the heart and say 'anahata'. Do not make the eyes tense, be at ease. Then bring your mind to the throat- say mentally 'vishuddhi'. Then go to bindu and say mentally 'bindu'. Now from bindu the descent. Just behind the eyebrow centre think for a while and say mentally 'ajna'. Then bring your mind down the spinal passage to the neck and say 'vishuddhi'. Now pass down the spine to the heart level, concentrate and say mentally 'anahata'. Behind the navel in the spine say mentally 'manipura'. At the root of the spinal cord mentally say 'swadhisthana', then go back to mooladhara. This is one round. You should perform nine rounds. Don't close your eyes, don't tense your eyes and body. Just move your awareness.

Of all the kriya practices tantra says that 'maha mudra' and 'maha bheda mudra' are the two most important. Many of you must have read the books by Sir John Woodroffe and also the translations of 'Satchakra Nirupana'. In these you will have seen the physical postures of maha mudra and maha bheda mudra. The maha mudra of kriya yoga is a little more advanced than the maha mudra of hatha yoga. It incorporates 'shambhavi mudra', gazing at the eyebrow centre, and 'moola bandha', contraction of the perineum. Moola bandha is a short name for 'mooladhara bandha'. This contraction is usually difficult to perfect because most people have poor control over their muscles. Thus they not only contract mooladhara but also the anus, swadhisthana and half a dozen other muscles at the same time. Therefore, we must practice it over and over again until we master it. Maha mudra itself can be practiced in siddhasana or in pada uttanasana.

There are many subsidiary practices which are considered very important in kriya yoga. One of them is vajroli mudra, contraction of the vajra nadi which controls almost all of the urinary and sexual complex. You must also perfect nasikagra drishti, nose tip gazing. Those who concentrate on the tip of the nose for a particular time develop the ability to smell psychic fragrances. Shambhavi mudra (bhrumadhya drishti) is gazing at the eyebrow centre. Then there is akashi mudra, consciousness of inner space, and unmani mudra, the meditative attitude. You also have to know jalandhara bandha, uddiyana bandha, khechari mudra and naumukhi mudra. In naumukhi you seal all the nine gates: the two eyes, two ears, mouth, nose and urinary and excretory outlets. Through vajroli you close the urinary gate, with moola bandha you close the excretory gate, with yoni mudra you close the rest. Then you awaken the trident of Shiva in sushumna. This trident is not made from copper. It is made from the most subtle, divine and heavenly elements, and its sharp prongs pierce bindu at the top back of the head.

There are twenty seven practices in kriya yoga, but fourteen are enough. After the seventh practice we stop external pranayama and do internal pranayama. Kumbhaka, rechaka and pooraka - retention, inhalation and exhalation- are done on a different plane altogether. After the tenth practice, the eyes are closed, the body is made immobile, only the individual self becomes the subject matter of our awareness. The mind is brought down to a point, awareness of shiva linga is awakened and the astral body is brought in front of our mind. When you are able to handle the mind, then you are able to handle anything in life.

Those who take up kriya yoga, but cannot practice all the fourteen kriyas, must at least do maha mudra and maha bheda mudra. However, those who are really keen to develop the inner process must take up the full practice of kriya yoga. I have written a complete manual on kriya yoga and it is my personal opinion that in this age, when minds are so restless, these practices must be freely available to the aspirant.

Kriya yoga is one of the most effective methods for coming closer to inner awareness. According to the philosophy of tantra, everybody has a right to higher unfoldment. Therefore, your personal status in life, whether you are male or female, brahmacharya, householder or sannyasin matters little. Kriya yoga is open to all.

In kriya yoga the aspirant does not enter into meditation, he experiences meditation. The self is already tranquil. The self is always in eternal equipoise. Samadhi is not an achievement; it is the awareness already existing in us. Through the practice of kriya yoga an awakening takes place in mooladhara, then the mind suddenly enters the state of samadhi, I do not use the word 'trance' - samadhi is absolute equilibrium. I have never considered meditation to be absolute equilibrium. I have never considered meditation to be absolutely internal awareness. The state of meditation, the state of samadhi includes all dimensions of awareness, external awareness as well as internal awareness, and these should be experienced simultaneously. During the practice of meditation you are transcending the external experience, but finally you have to stretch your mind to the external consciousness. In samadhi, the mind, the self, the spirit becomes homogeneous, and for that spirit, for that consciousness which is samadhi, both internal and external awareness are the same. Kriya yoga meditation is a total experience and when we use the words 'total experience' we mean the experience of the inner life and the outer life at the same time. The self, the spirit or the consciousness becomes a witness of all the states of the mind and all the states of awareness.