Kriya and Kundalini

From the teachings of Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Although there are varieties of practices for awakening the inner power, most of them have brought man into conflict with the mind. Right from the beginning, man has not been able to make any tangible progress in spiritual life, because most of his time has been spent in fighting, controlling and suppressing the grosser tendencies of the mind. Since the tendencies of the mind are endless affairs, man has had continual problems with the mind. Even if one is able to control and pacify the mind for a period of six months, it is no guarantee that the mind will not lose its gales once more. After many years of quiet, the mind again becomes restless over petty matters. Therefore, it is necessary to discover a way which does not involve and confront the mind.

With this purpose in view, the ancient yogis designed a way for bypassing the nature of the mind in spiritual life, which was known as the path of kriya yoga. This path is a combination of powerful practices based on hatha yoga. In the practice of kriya yoga you try to influence the mind through the body, just as you influence the mind through the ingestion of certain chemicals.

People have always known that the mind can be influenced. When you try to change the mind through the mind, it is raja yoga. When the mind is influenced by self-enquiry, it is jnana yoga. When you transform the mind through emotion, it is bhakti yoga. When you try to change the mind through selfless service and detachment, it is karma yoga. When you change the nature of the mind through mantra, it is part of tantra yoga. When you try to influence the mind by adjusting and balancing the chemicals of the body, that is hatha yoga.

In the practice of kriya yoga you are not at all concerned with the distractions that are tossing within your mind. If your mind lacks the fundamental qualification of concentration, and is swayed by passions, depressed by worries, psychotic or neurotic, even if you are on the worst of mental planes, it makes no difference in kriya yoga. Whether you are tamasic, rajasic or sattwic, it makes no difference.

In raja yoga you have to be constantly aware of the functions of the mind. You have to make your mind consistent and one-pointed, otherwise you will fail. But in kriya yoga the constancy of the mind is not important; you are concerned with the practices only. The practices are done on the physical plane and the mind has minimum involvement. It is not necessary to be consistent and one-pointed, but you have to practise the kriyas in the manner specified.

Vipareeta karani mudra

For example, in vipareeta karani mudra, the first practice of kriya yoga, you must be able to maintain the correct position. While practising the physical posture, you have to inhale in ujjayi from manipura chakra up to vishuddhi, stop there, and then breathe out without any passage. In vipareeta karani mudra the inspiration has a passage from manipura to vishuddhi, but the expiration has no passage. You may expire in any manner you like, and then start the second round from manipura to vishuddhi. Practise this 11 times.

Now what is the science behind the practice? The texts on hatha yoga say that the moon secrets nectar and the sun consumes it. Thus the yogi loses his spiritual power and death overtakes him. Therefore let him send the nectar back to the moon and become immortal. This is the basis of vipareeta karani mudra.

Here not only the flow of nectar and prana, but even the blood circulation is reversed to the brain. If you enrich your brain with a surplus of these three, then you can realize the higher self. Vipareeta karani mudra is a means of enriching your brain and preparing yourself for further practices.

By the practice of vipareeta karani mudra, you are able to stimulate the sahasrara chakra, known in modern science as the pituitary body, which is located in the higher centre of the brain. From different areas of the pituitary, powerful hormones are secreted which control all the other glands of the body, thereby influencing the functioning of all the organs and systems as well as the mind and emotions.

Of these multiple hormones the most important are the sex hormones. In yoga these hormones are known as retas, and it is said that they are responsible for arresting degeneration. As long as the body is saturated with retas, one remains young and the body emits a pleasant odour. The preservation of this hormone is known as brahmacharya. When this hormone goes down to the navel region, it turns into veerya or semen and leaves the body by emission. As a result of this, restlessness is created in the mind and one becomes mentally and physically broken. This cycle of degeneration is prevented by the practice of vipareeta karani mudra. Before the retas turn into veerya, you reverse the whole process and send the hormone and prana back to the brain.

In order to be tranquil in mind, you must have ample force in the brain. When there is ample force in the brain, the mind stops and kundalini wakes up. When the brain is weak and has no prana, the mind grows restless. Many people sit for dhyana, but instead of becoming peaceful, their minds become anxious, fearful and nervous. The reason for this is very simple: there is not ample prana shakti in the higher centres. If you practise vipareeta karani mudra for nine minutes every day and are able to reverse the process of prana, there is no reason why your mind should not stop. Therefore, vipareeta karani mudra is the first practice of kriya yoga.

Chakra anusandhana

Here is another example of how the awareness can be awakened without involving the mind. In this practice the consciousness is rotated through the chakras and their contact points. All the chakras except for mooladhara and bindu have contact points at the front side of the body which are parallel to the chakra points in the spine. From mooladhara to bindu you ascend through the contact points, and from bindu to mooladhara you descend through the chakra points. The upper terminal is bindu and the lower terminal is mooladhara.

As you ascend through the contact points in the frontal passage, say the name of each one to yourself and touch it mentally: mooladhara – perineum, swadhisthana – pubic bone, manipura – navel, anahata – sternum, vishuddhi – throat pit, bindu – top back of the head.

As you descend through the chakra points in the spine, again say the name of each one mentally and touch it mentally: bindu – top back of the head, ajna – top of the spine, vishuddhi – behind the throat pit, anahata – behind the sternum, manipura – behind the navel, swadhisthana – coccyx, mooladhara –perineum, and terminate.

In this practice concentration is not necessary, but the awareness should keep moving from centre to centre as quickly as possible. If you are slow the mind will wander out. Practise nine rounds of chakra anusandhana.

The tradition

Kriya yoga is a compilation of practices taken from hatha yoga and different sources in tantra. For example, vipareeta karani mudra is a posture of hatha yoga, but in hatha yoga we do not teach the other details. Similarly, maha mudra and maha bheda mudra, the two important kriyas, are also taught in hatha yoga, but not in detail. In the same way, naumukhi mudra is also taught in hatha yoga, but not in its complete form. In hatha yoga it is called shanmukhi or yoni mudra, in which you close the seven gates: two ears, two eyes, two nostrils, and the mouth. In naumukhi, however, all nine gates including the urinary and excretory orifices are closed. This leaves only the tenth gate open for the passage of prana and kundalini. So, in kriya yoga we teach a little more than we teach in hatha yoga.

In our century the practices of kriya yoga are being taught by many people, but they have been simplified to a great extent. I do not want to simplify these practices, however, because if I do, future posterity will not know what kriya yoga really is. Although many people today are unable to practise kriya yoga in its complete form, they may be ready to practise it in a year or two, providing they know what it is.

Relationship between kundalini and kriya

Kundalini yoga is not a practice but a system, just as hatha yoga is not a practice but a system. Kriya yoga is one part of kundalini yoga; it is a practice and not a system.

The word kundalini has to be explained properly. According to the modern writers, kundalini is a coiled serpent, but according to tantra, the word kunda means ‘a deeper place’. When you make a fire sacrifice you make a small square hole in the ground in which you put the fire. When the fire is burning you offer oblations. When you offer oblations the fire blazes, so the word kunda literally means ‘a fireplace in a hole’. Kundalini is shakti; fire is shakti. Kundalini yoga is the science of fire in the kunda. In this deeper fireplace the fire burns in dormant potential form. This is the sleeping kundalini. This fire is not physical fire; it is known as the yogic fire, which is also generated through pranayama. The external fire is only a symbol.

In the deeper place, in mooladhara chakra, there is an oval shaped, astral lingam. The word lingam has two meanings: phallus and causal body, but most people only understand the first meaning. The lingam in mooladhara is the causal body or you can say the unconscious of modern psychology. This is the total libido. In kundalini tantra and in kriya yoga, we conceive of three places for the Shiva lingam – in mooladhara, ajna and sahasrara. In mooladhara the lingam is hazy; in ajna it is smoky, and in sahasrara it is luminous. The word shiva here means the ‘individual soul’. This is the relationship between kundalini yoga and kriya yoga. Kriya yoga is a practice of kundalini yoga.

Kundalini yoga has many more practices, not only kriya yoga. But the practices of kriya yoga are the easiest, the best and the most powerful. Furthermore, kriya yoga is most suitable for the people of these times because it does not lay down any restrictions regarding food, habits, marital life, etc.

By following the path of kundalini yoga and practising kriya yoga, you can awaken your spiritual personality without interfering with your mind. Let your passions, jealousies, pride and prejudice continue. Live with your depressions and elations, pleasure and pain. They do not stand as obstacles on the path of spiritual awakening.