The science of Kriya Yoga
The Importance of Techniques
One of the difficulties that the Western man meets when studying the teachings of India and yoga is the existence of a tradition of meditation techniques that doesn’t seem to exist in the western Christian or Jewish religion. Approaching this tradition, which is centuries old in India, one may ask: “Why use techniques? I only want to love!” However, we see that when one is trying to do something without method and inspiration, it does not work well. Take, as an example, typing on the computer: if you don’t know how to touch-type in order to type words more quickly, you can go on typing with only two fingers for the rest of your life; but it might take you years to write a novel or a long poem, when instead you could do it in a few months. Without a technique you can’t do it.
So the techniques are necessary in everything you do. If you are trying to become a pianist, I can assure you that you need to know how to move your fingers. When I started writing music, I had a bit of a hard time because I hadn’t studied composition, and it would have been easier if I had studied it (on the other hand, perhaps it was a blessing that I hadn’t, because not knowing the chords, I had to learn to feel them from inside, but that is another topic).
The same thing is true also for yoga, which is not something outside of man. Everybody should discover from within even the most subtle truths that yoga teaches, but who has done it? Even among the saints few have discovered them, because usually you need a tradition and here in the West we only had a saint here, another there, who has known God, how to reach Him, and have written about samadhi.
The First Christians Had Methods and Techniques
Saint Bernard has written about the state of ecstasy, saying that when one is united with God one does not lose himself, like a drop of wine that is poured in a large container of water: you don’t see the wine, but it is still there, and likewise when the soul merges itself in Spirit it does not lose consciousness, the sense of being itself, but rather expands this sense of being into Infinity. Saint Therese of Avila said that in ecstasy one understands in a flash what the scientist, or whoever tries to grasp truth only with the intellect, would take years in understanding. Even the first Christians talked about and practiced various methods and techniques; for example, while inhaling they would say, “Lord Jesus Christ” and while exhaling, “Have mercy upon me”, something that the mystics have been doing in Greece. They too had a tradition of breathing techniques; someone read in one of their writings that when you inhale repeating “Lord Jesus Christ” you will feel a cool current that rises up the spine; when you exhale, you feel a warm current descending the spine. So you see, there is something there that is linked to the technique of Kriya Yoga.
When Jesus left his body, he made a movement with the head that is part of a technique of Kriya Yoga; and you read in the Autobiography of a Yogi that Lahiri Mahasaya turned around three times before leaving his body, all of this is yoga. And one could ask himself where else in the Bible may be found other yogic truths that have not yet been noticed.
One of these is quoted by Jesus, and all Christians know and repeat it every Sunday at the mass: “Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.” But what is this strength? How can you love and worship with your strength? Strength is energy, but how can you love with your energy? There is only one way to worship God with your energy, besides working and offering your service to Him, and it is a very subtle thing: when you meditate, you will feel that there is something that comes automatically to you – even without techniques, but it’s easier to feel it when you are practicing a technique – and that is the energy leaving the body and the senses [allowing you to feel God’s love]. Those who feel the deep, intense love for God in their hearts may start crying, because it is something so powerful! One must understand that it’s necessary to calm and withdraw the energy from the body and direct it to the Christ Center, so that this love does not lose itself in emotion but expands itself in Infinity. This is an experience that the saints all have but they don’t call it yoga because they don’t know it. It is important to know for us Westerners when we talk about yoga, and also when we talk more specifically about Yogananda’s mission, that the practice of the techniques is central and fundamental. It is not only seeking to enter the silence, but also the right kind of silence! It has to be a mental silence, a silence of the body’s energy, and above all a silence of the soul; this you do not find through a vague practice of “going into the silence”, as they say. It is much more. When you are practicing, don’t think that you are doing the technical part of meditation, because you will see that at the end there will be joy in what you do; it’s not a merely mechanical thing. In meditation, however, after practicing the techniques, you must not think: “Good, now I can meditate!” No, that too is meditation! Therefore whatever you do, do it with joy, do it with energy, and you will achieve success!
Martha and Mary
The Gospel tells the story of Martha and Maria, in which Martha complained to Jesus that Mary was meditating while she had so many things to do. But Jesus rebuked her, saying: “Martha, why do you worry, Mary has chosen the better part!” What is this right part? It’s not the way people usually see it, that in the Catholic Church and other Churches there are some monks and nuns who work, teach in schools and serve in hospitals, while others, who are contemplative, like in Camaldoli, only have the job of praying for others. In this way they have separated the two things, and it is good to have both, I don’t mean to say that it shouldn’t be this way; however I don’t want to say that Jesus was saying that contemplative people are in the right and the others aren’t: it’s not like that, they are both the same. He did not rebuke Martha because she was cooking, it would have been silly: he rebuked her because she was working without the thought of God, working restlessly instead of calmly. His words, “You are restless and worry about too many little things”, didn’t mean that she shouldn’t do those little things; he was saying: “Do not worry when you work, work peacefully, work with the thought of God, be interiorized”, and in this way you will see that the two roads are not really different, and Mary’s part is not only to meditate. Who can meditate all the time? Very few. The others can’t.
Yogananda told us that he saw many Himalayan hermits who became lazy, since they couldn’t meditate all the time and because they weren’t working: they slept, ate and chatted, and gradually became physically lazy, then mentally, and then their souls got lazy. This is wrong, because then they fall prey to temptation. We need to meditate with energy, and Jesus was teaching both things: working for God and meditating with a sense of energy, both paths are right and need to be combined to reach God.
Do what you need to do, what is right to do, but always remember that the most important thing remains what Mary was doing, which is meditation, sitting in the silence and understanding that what you seek is within you.
The Art of Kriya
So, coming back to the techniques, think also that God is doing them through you. In every path there are also defects and not only benefits. Yoga’s main defect is the thought – and I have found that also in myself – “I am the Self, I am everything and therefore you don’t exist”, and one becomes arrogant. It takes time to reach a point where you understand all of this, it isn’t easy: it’s a task spanning whole lifetimes. When I came to Yogananda I had some intellectual pride, but I didn’t like it and wanted to get rid of it and started making some progress in this direction. After some months, however, I woke up one morning with the thought, “My goodness, I am becoming proud of my own humility!” How to escape from this labyrinth which is in the mind? It takes a long time to reach the point where you see that everything is really God alone.
So when you practice yoga, don’t think: “I am doing this, I will become a great yogi!” But who is a great yogi? A great yogi is someone who is no longer a yogi. Yogananda once said: “My enemies are saying that I’ve lost my powers. The truth is, I didn’t know I ever had any!” And this is the secret, that you have no powers, God does everything; you do not do yoga: God does it through you. When you practice any one of the yoga techniques, think that God is practicing them in your own body, in your mind, and you are merely a channel for Him doing it.
Look at the example of a good musician – and there are very few – he doesn’t think of doing anything, he loses himself completely in what he’s doing! It is God that is acting through him, so when you are practicing the techniques think of Him doing them through you. He is meditating and doing everything – do that even in your work, and you will see that everything will go much better.
When you will think more and more that God is the doer and that you are only His instrument, you will be one of the few ones that not only seek Him, but know Him. This is not a small thing, but for this you need to dedicate your whole life. So you are all already blessed for the fact that you are looking for Him, but you can also know Him, even in this very lifetime if you are sincere.