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This is not a webpage about philosophy, so I will deal mainly with the practical aspect of the kriya yoga path.
Some spiritual paths suggest a dualist matrix; i.e. living beings are viewed as independent entities, separate from God. Yoga teachings, on the other hand, present a monist matrix (from the Greek word “Monos”, which means "One"). It is thought that man, like any other creature, in the deepest part of his being (heart, essence) is "one" with an eternal intelligence, omnipresent and omniscient, conventionally defined, “God”. In the Italian language the word “God” (Dio) comes from a Latin word (Deus), while in English its origin is German (an ancient word which meant something like “the highest good”). Consciousness is the substratum (subtle principle) of every existing thing: gross or subtle, animate or inanimate.
In order to explain the concept of monism, I always use this simple story:
Imagine holding an empty bottle as you stand at the seashore. In your imagination open the bottle, fill it with water, seal the cap and throw it out to sea. Obviously the water in the floating bottle won't mix with the water of the sea, despite being made of the same substance, because of the sealed container. That container represents the ego, i.e. our sense of separate existence (Cogito ergo sum – I think, therefore I am). The purpose kriya yoga practice is simply to “remove the cap” (purify the ego), so that it becomes possible for the practitioner to have a simultaneous awareness of his individuality (the bottle) and his pure essence (the water).
This is the primary and ultimate reason for practicing: to reclaim the awareness of our real, enduring nature by restoring our awareness to its original purity and wholeness.
Does this seem to be an easy task? Paramahansa Yogananda said that this process may take an individual incarnations and incarnations, unless he/she agrees to make the right effort by following in a committed way a scientific (reliable) spiritual path. Reincarnation is an accepted reality in Kriya Yoga, though not emphasized, because it is not considered a useful focus. It is who we presently are and what we can usefully accomplish and contribute in the here and now that is most important. Speculating about the past, what might happen tomorrow or in a future incarnation, would be useless.
Kriya means “action” and Yoga means “to join” or “to link together”. It also means “Samadhi”, i.e. conscious union with the Absolute; the complete fusion of individualized consciousness with Supreme Consciousness (the highest aim of Kriya Yoga practice). The Kriya Yoga path could be described as union through action
The basic parts of kriya yoga practice are:
- Right living (which supports meditation practice)
- Right mental attitude (same as above)
- Study of the scriptures and of enlightened people's writings
Living rightly means having a balanced life in everything. Having the right attitude means mainly desiring spiritual evolution intensely. Both factors support the practice of meditation.
Meditation does not simply mean concentration. Meditation is a mental discipline by which one attempts to get beyond the conditioned "thinking" mind into a deeper state of relaxation or awareness. The goal of meditation practice is to reach a full awareness of one's divine nature.
If you want to practice a simple technique (the best period is early in the morning) in order to reach a meditative state, do the following things:
- Sit with your spine erect on an armless chair
- Feel completely relaxed, try not to move
- Inhale for five-six seconds
- Exhale for the same time ( Important: do not strain )
- Focus your concentration on your breath, don't try to control or force it. Just "watch it"
- When inhaling, think of a short sentence or use a mantra
- When exhaling finish the sentence ( Examples: I am ...Joy, or, if you use a mantra, hong....sau**)
- Go on for at least 10-15 minutes, let your breath flow naturally, do not force it at all
- After a while, discard the mantra and start fixing gently your gaze in the point between the eyebrows.
- Try to free your mind and actively perceive emptiness. If you see a light, concentrate your attention in the light and merge your awareness in it.
- Conclude the session, try to remain quiet for a while before standing up
- Start your daily activities with renewed awareness
(** Pronunciation "Hong-So". It is a Sanskrit mantra which is part of kriya yoga teachings)
Practising this exercise every day will help you to relax, to improve your functional abilities and your mental faculties. These are the first steps towards spiritual growth. You can find more about meditation on Center for Spiritual Awareness' page
Study of the scriptures
The most important texts to study on the kriya yoga path are:
- Patanjali's yoga sutras
- The Bhagavad Gita
Who Patanjali was is not certain. There have been many yogis with this name. According to a few scholars, it is possible that the “Yoga Sutras” (a collection of aphorisms describing in detail yoga practice and superconscious states) are the work of a few people who lived in different ages. My Guru-teacher, Roy Eugene Davis, often comments on the Yoga Sutras when lecturing and has published several inspired commentaries through the years. Sri Yukteswar used to present only a few aphorisms to his disciples (no more than twelve) and had them meditate on them for months to derive the deepest understanding and insight. Paramahansa Yogananda commented on the Yoga Sutras in a particular way compared to other yogis. He highlighted just a few aphorisms, using them as a starting point to present general teachings. So far his written commentary has never been published in book form.
The Bhagavad Gita is mainly a treatise on Spiritual psychology. The book is an allegory where two factions of cousins fight a virtual battle to conquer a kingdom. The plot is quite complicated and it was taken from an epic poem titled “Mahabharata”, of which the Bhagavad Gita is only a small portion. The two factions of cousins represent the human psychological characteristics which are in conflict in relation to the spiritual path: Virtue/righteousness (tendency towards spirituality) and Vice/unrighteousness (tendency towards materiality), whilst the human mind is represented in the story by the battlefield. The Gita has inspired generations of spiritual seekers for thousands of years. It was handed down verbally for centuries, before being transcribed. Roy Eugene Davis commented the Bhagavad Gita; in 2007 I translated his commentary into Italian, titled “The Eternal Way,” which was published in Italy as “Srimad Bhagavad Gita – La Via Eterna” by the Italian publisher Marco Valerio S.r.l. Paramahansa Yogananda also commented the Bhagavad Gita, by relating it extensively to Christian teachings. Lahiri Mahasaya’s and Sri Yukteswar’s commentaries were published in India.
Kriya Yoga initiations:
Initiation is the ceremony through which the kriya yoga pranayama (an advanced meditation technique) is correctly learnt. Please visit this page for more information on the subject.