Kriya Yoga and Beyond

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

In our tradition, we move from hatha yoga to raja yoga and from raja yoga to kriya yoga. Kriya yoga is a path for the development of pranic force and spiritual upliftment. Kriya yoga is related to the chakras and kundalini shakti inside the human body.

The process of churning

Butter, yogurt and many other products are hidden in milk, al­though they cannot be seen in the milk. To take these products out the milk needs to be churned. The milk has to go through a process of transformation. There has to be a process of separation.

Similarly according to yogic philosophy, five different experiences in our life are hidden inside the human body: the physical body, pranic or energy body, the mental body, the psychic body, and the body of bliss.

The physical body is called annamaya kosha as it is made up of anna, grains. Pranamaya kosha is the body of energy, shakti, prana. Manomaya kosha, the mental dimension, is subtle and refined. Vijnanamaya kosha, the dimension of intuitive wisdom, is where the chakras and kundalini are experienced. With the help of yoga sadhana these experiences are separated. Cream and butter are separated and can be extracted by churning the milk.

Similarly, physical, pranic, mental, chakra-related, soul-related experiences can be expressed. Through the process of churning and splitting, hidden elements are expressed. Sadhana helps to express the hidden element of your life.

Hatha yoga practices are for annamaya kosha, the physical body. Raja yoga practices are for manomaya kosha. For pranamaya kosha both hatha yoga and raja yoga practices are useful. Vijnanamaya kosha, the seat of the chakras and kundalini, is related to kriya yoga. Some people consider it to be a process through which they can access the areas that are beyond the senses and mind and express the energies in life.

Descent of energy

According to yogic philosophy this body contains seven transformers. The purpose of these transformers is to regulate the energy. Where electricity is generated, it is produced in the scale of 10,000 kilowatt amperes. When that electricity is sent for general use, the transformers reduce 10,000 kilowatt amperes to 440, then again it is stepped down to 220, and it can be stepped down to 110. With the help of the transformer energy has been adapted for general use. This is the principle of kriya yoga.

The energy within us is cosmic energy. This cosmic energy manifests in life as physical energy, called prana or vital energy. It has taken itself through various transformers in order to manifest as physical energy in the chakras. The pure source of energy is sahasrara, where Shiva and Shakti, consciousness and energy, are in harmony, equally powerful, equally potent.

At the time of creation, the same energy transforms itself into the cosmic mind, ajna chakra. This cosmic mind divides itself into elements: akasha or space at vishuddhi chakra; vayu or air at anahata chakra; agni or fire at manipura chakra; jala or water at swadhisthana chakra; and prithvi or earth at mooladhara chakra.

Human beings have established themselves in the earth element. Consciousness and energy are in mooladhara and have become stagnant. Energy and consciousness have to be taken back, in the upward direction. This return journey is kriya yoga.

Mooladhara chakra represents the material mentality, which looks for security, satisfaction and comfort in society. Prana shakti or maha prana is sleeping in mooladhara chakra as kundalini shakti in the form of a serpent.

The serpent

The serpent is a symbol. In the Bible, Adam and Eve lived with God in heaven, in the Garden of Eden. One day, a serpent gives an apple to Adam and Eve and tells them to eat it. When Adam and Eve eat the apple they realize the difference between right and wrong. This means that their consciousness entered their intellect. Earlier their consciousness was one with the atman, where there were no restrictions, only oneness with the deity, with God.

When the feeling of duality enters their life after eating the apple, they know that they are the body and the Supreme Being is separate from them. The new judgment is based on what is true or untrue, right or wrong, and the intellect. With the knowledge of right and wrong Adam and Eve were thrown out of the Garden of Eden.

The serpent is considered the vehicle of right and wrong knowledge. It is considered the vehicle of duality and that is kundalini shakti in mooladhara in a dormant state. As long as it is dormant in mooladhara, there is the feeling of duality. There is a feeling of duality between you and God. There is a feeling of duality between you and the world, you and your family. This feeling of duality is a representation and symbol of the pranic energy which is absorbed in the world.

This energy has to be freed, made active and again raised towards sahasrara. This process is called kriya yoga. When you are able to refine your energies once again, you are able to define its subtle power and experiences. You are able to experience it and use it for your development in life.

Expression of seva

After kriya yoga, Sri Swami Satyananda brought forth another method of growth. It is the sadhana of expression. Expression of the individual takes place in society and the world. People are indebted to society and the world, therefore, a contribution should be made to the development of society and the world.

When you connect with the feeling of seva, you are able to bring happiness and peace into the lives of people. As long as you do not connect with the feeling of seva, how can you help others? You will not be able to help yourself. Through yoga you attain a state of mind where you are able to cross the limited and narrow mentality. You will spend life embracing and accepting an expanded vision. That expanded vision is called atmabhava, the essence of Vedanta. Atmabhava is not limited to philosophy. It is the expression of life. It is a path to awaken and evolve people. It is the final teaching of Vedanta.

Sri Swami Satyananda gave a concrete form to atmabhava in Rikhiapeeth, where he made seva the medium for the awakening and evolution of humankind.

Break the shackles of selfishness

The sankalpa of rishis and munis has been that their righteousness had only one purpose: to provide a solution for the removal of suffering. Suffering and affliction will not be eradicated, yet they can be reduced from one hundred percent to eighty percent. If they are reduced to eighty percent you will witness the establishment of a stronger society. This is the philosophy of Vedanta.

When human beings break the shackles of selfishness and see the whole of humanity as one, without any difference, it is the culmination of life in this world. Samadhi is not the culmination of human life. Samadhi is the last expression of selfishness. 'I have attained samadhi' expresses my selfishness. Samadhi is an achievement of personal selfishness.

Encouraging and uplifting everyone is an achievement of parmartha bhava, the feeling to serve others. This is the purpose of life as told by sages and Sri Swamiji. It is also the resolve of our tradition.

I invite you to come to Munger and Rikhia. Try to assimilate the resolve, the sadhana, the vibration of the surroundings there into your life.

—30 July 2014, Netaji Subhash Stadium, Kolkata, India