A Useful Tool

From On the Wings of the Swan, Volume VII, Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

How do the kriya yoga practices and techniques by themselves help us become better or stronger personalities? For example, our negativities will still have to be dealt with by other practices like japa, antar mouna, yoga nidra, the SWAN technique, karma yoga, satsang and so on.

First you have to understand the placement of kriya yoga in the scheme of yogas. Yoga begins with hatha yoga, the preparation and purification of the physical body and the pranas. Then it moves on into raja yoga, mind management; then on to jnana yoga, developing wisdom in life. Next is bhakti yoga, channelling the emotions, and then one comes to the higher yogas like kundalini yoga and kriya yoga. Therefore when you are learning kriya yoga it is because you have already gone through the processes of hatha and raja yoga, you have had a glimpse of jnana and bhakti yoga, and then at the end you come to kriya yoga.

Understand the correct sequence

The preparation of the nadis, senses and brain, and the detoxificationof the body take place through hatha yoga. All the mental behaviours are adjusted through raja yoga, so that by the time you come to practise kriya yoga you do not have to worry about anything physical or mental, you can just focus on developing the experience of kriya yoga. This question is not properly put because the function of kriya yoga is not to make you a better personality or a better yogi, rather it is to give you access to the layers of consciousness which you have not yet tapped or experienced: that is the psychic dimension of the human being.

You are aware of your body because it is something that is physical, visible, and can be touched, felt and experienced. After the body you become aware of the mind. You can have glimpses of the mind because of the thoughts that come up, the desires that come up, the different mental behaviours that manifest when you encounter the various mental expressions. You then realize that there is something beyond the body which you have called ‘the mind’. Beyond the mind is another dimension of experience, and that is consciousness. None of you have experienced that consciousness until today; you have experienced the mind, but not consciousness. Even in the highest heights of samadhi you are pacifying and stilling the mind; there is no direct cognition of human consciousness.

Human consciousness is infinite. It is not confinedto time and space; it is just a continuity of existence, a continuity of experience. With the practices of kriya yoga you are able to come to the point where you begin to access the dimension of consciousness. The energy, the strength, the force that you encounter in that dimension is utilized to improve the quality of life in this dimension. Therefore kriya yoga is a practice which stands by itself. It does not work with your personality or mental behaviour or attitudes, rather it brings about an awakening of the dormant centres of the personality.

Is kriya yoga not a process in which the chakras, the brain and human nature are being tinkered with in a manner that is both unnatural and uncalled for? Is it true that Sage Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras do not refer to anything like kriya yoga and if so, what or who is the source of this technique called ‘kriya yoga’?

First of all, Sage Patanjali was not an authority on kriya yoga. He was a simple sannyasin like us and his masters degree, his thesis or dissertation, was on raja yoga, not on kriya yoga, kundalini yoga, chakras, hatha yoga, mantra yoga or anything else. When you go to university for your masters degree you have to write a thesis, a dissertation. What do you do? Do you write the dissertation on every subject that you have studied in the university, or do you choose one topic and write on that? You choose one topic.

Sage Patanjali was a raja yogi. When Patanjali came to the Yoga University he was called to write a dissertation and his dissertation was on raja yoga. Yogi Swatmarama, the author of Hatha Yoga Pradipika, was a hatha yogi. Like this, all the masters of the past have picked one topic of yoga and expanded on that. Therefore Patanjali’s authority is on raja yoga and not on any other form of yoga, please remember that. He might have known the other yogas, he might have practised the other yogas, but his masters degree was received when he wrote the thesis of raja yoga. It was not necessary that Patanjali refer to kundalini or kriya yoga in the book that he was writing, just as if you are writing a thesis on math you do not refer to history, geography and biology because the thesis is on maths.

Creativity and sadhana

As far as kriya yoga is concerned, what do you mean by ‘tinkering with chakras, brain and human nature’? In this world everything is subject to permutation and combination. You take earth, soil, and mix water to it; you knead it, you prepare it, you make clay, and then you make a pot. Why are you tinkering with soil in that manner, in an unnatural way? Why are you mixing water and making soil into a pot? I mean, this logic should apply everywhere, not only with kriya yoga. In order to make paper you use the bark of the tree. Why? In order to make fabric or even a building you use so many different things and put them together. Remember that in this world everything, nature, all the elements and gunas, are subject to combinations and permutations. The combination of different things gives birth to a new entity, such as a pot.

Similarly, the human body and human life are endowed with great possibilities and potentials which remain untapped and unknown until today. Because they are untapped and unknown, some people believe that a natural process should take place in their awakening. If you are waiting for a natural process to take place, you will have to wait maybe millions of years, but if you are keen to explore and discover the possibilities and potentials that are inherent, then you begin the journey by opening the door and stepping out of the house, and the process of sadhana is that. There is a statement in the Yoga Sutras about sadhana (1:14)- Sa tu dirghakala nairantaryasatkarasevito dridhabhumih - “Any practice done for an extended period of time, in a continuous manner, without breaks and with faith, prepares the ground for sowing the right seeds.”

Know your own house

This is the concept of sadhana, and kriya yoga is a sadhana, preparing the ground and discovering what is contained in the house in which you live. After all, when you have an apartment, when you have a house, you know everything that is in the house; which room has the bed, where you keep your food items, where you keep your money, where you keep your clothes and other items. That house is known to you; if you need a spoon you know where it is, if you need a book or a writing pad you know where it is, if you need to sleep, you know where to go. Do you know the same thing about your body and mind and spirit, the house in which you have lived for so many years? Do you know what is inside? No. Regarding the body, you know that you have the senses and that you have this body. Regarding the mind, there is a vague understanding, but beyond that there is no other concept of what you have inside waiting to come out, waiting to flower. In the desert all you see is yellow sand, but when the rain comes, suddenly the desert blooms with flowers. When the right environment comes, the entire desert can become a field of flowers. Just by looking at the yellow sand one cannot say that there is an absence of plants and flowers in the desert; the conditions have to be right and then the flowerswill grow. In the same manner, look at yourself. Right now everything is barren; yellow sand inside the heart, yellow sand inside the mind, yellow sand in the personality. However, create the right conditions, let there be rain, and you will see the floweringin your heart and mind. Everything happens because of two things coming together, one thing by itself is insufficient. Soil cannot become a pot by itself; it needs water to become a pot.

Then transcend the limitations

Similarly, you have a perception or an understanding of yourself that is more focused in the dimension of the body, and an understanding of your mind that is mainly focused in the dimension of your likes, dislikes, ambitions, desires and expectations, but nothing beyond that. This is a very restricted awareness and understanding of your own nature and of your own life. With this restricted awareness and understanding of yourself you function in this world. However, all the spiritual traditions, as well as the religious traditions of the past, have spoken of a possibility of transcending the material consciousness. Transcending the material consciousness is an effort, no doubt, and to establish oneself in spiritual consciousness is also an effort, because it is a conditioning of existence. In yoga we use the term Brahmi vritti, meaning a mental modification which is divine, transcendental.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali is talking about the definition of yoga as Chitta vritti nirodhah (1:2), stopping the patterns of mind, these patterns and behaviours of mind which are external. Through this you are giving birth to a new vritti, a new conditioning known as Brahmi vritti, the transcendental conditioning of mind that takes you through your spiritual journey. Therefore ‘tinkering’ is not the right word to use for kriya yoga. It is a combination, permutation and transformation of the different faculties and qualities that are inherent within you which have to be brought to the surface of existence. For that purpose, kriya yoga is a useful tool.

—29 September 2007