Kriya yoga is a system of yoga methods. Ujjayi, which is the backbone of kriya yoga, is a publicly available hatha yoga method, and described in books on yoga. For example, one early variant is described in Hatha Yoga Pradipika, a work from the 15th century. Ujjayi, or core kriya yoga, is also dealt with in a popular book by James Hewitt, The Complete Yoga Book: The Yoga of Breathing, Meditation and Posture. (1991). A modified kriya yoga system is taught by Yogananda, or SRF, Self-Realization Fellowship. Submitting to them takes your freedom away. More or less differing kriya yoga systems are taught by various teachers, and rules and regulations around it vary a whole lot. [Example].
How are people that are drawn to do kriya pranayama? Probably a variegated bunch. I was one such fellow. The Italian Ennio Nimis another. Nimis went at lengths to learn particular kriyas, and then published the cream of what he had learnt.
1. The author
Ennio Nimis from Italy writes at length about his life and experiences in walks of life centred on kriya yoga. He tells he has practiced kriya yoga for forty years. He writes how he started to practice it only after majoring at a university, and how he, as a quite young man, travelled in European countries and learnt kriya methods from teachers who came visiting. Nimis was intent on learning the original kriya yoga of Lahiri Baba, and frequently met with disappointments. From other authors it would seem that Lahiri's kriya was taught with variations or variants from the start. Nimis shares his experiences and methods he came to learn.
2. The identity of the book
Nimis' online pdf-presentation of kriya yoga refers to some kriya lines among several others. The kriyas that Lahiri Mahasaya made known, have branched off into many organisations and somehow overlapping kriya systems today. Thus, the kriya yoga of different organisations are not identical, and some parts are missing in at least the teachings of Yogananda and Self-Realization Fellowship. Yogananda's biographer, Sailendra Dasgupta has described what Yogananda removed, and what he added (2006). For many decades the California-based guru Param(a)hansa Yogananda's Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) had quite a monopoly on spreading kriya yoga in the West, but his semi-monopoly is no more. Further, it has shown up that Yogananda/SRF's kriya yoga is simplified and leaves out original parts of the practice, parts that Lahiri Mahasaya and many followers call vital. Also worth noting is the issue of sectarianism. For example, Yogananda advocated dictatorship as late as 1934, when he was in his forties. But all gurus are not like him.
The first part of Nimis' work covers several searches and dilemmas he had, in figurative, sketchy ways through seven chapters. Here he tells of his difficulties – from his own angle – and at times uses flowery speech to describe events by figurative means. He writes of a friend, for example:
As soon as the new technique was acquired and tested with indescribable emotion, my friend spent two days in sheer fervor.
A milder presentation could be, "My friend learnt a new technique, got too enthusiastic and went downwards, as I see it." I find it good to tone down expressions while dealing with interesting topics from this kind of online work. Nimis says he made grave mistakes in his quest. He writes on such issues too. The guy who says he used to be error-prone earlier, is he completely clear now? It may or may not be so.
So, the first part of his writing has a personal and emphatic tone and may be subjective, one-sided, and contain distortions for what you know.
The other party's say is not coming to the fore. This stands out. Nimis decides that the arena we went into was marked by teachers who want to promote themselves – and by various claims, for example "The kriya you do is wrong. Come to me, I am the only one who knows the original kriya!"
The first, autobiographical part of Nimis' text reminds me somewhat of another online book by a Canadian kriya guy who got very disappointed, but the Canadian's style is blunter and marked by far less tact; it seems to me more like an angered vengeance raid against "all kinds" of gurus [Geoffrey D. Falk. Stripping the Gurus: Sex, Violence, Abuse and Enlightenment]. However, the experiences of Nimis and Falk are not parallel, and their over-riding conditions have been different: Nimis is a mature European and Falk is a much younger North American who writes of clashes with SRF and his disillusionment with SRF and in part its guru Yogananda in chapter 26, "To a Nunnery".
The remaining two parts of Nimis' book are instructive, that is, teaching material. They describe how he does kriya yoga. It is fit to mark that kriya yoga's "original ways" are tedious and strenuous. That stands out from material on and by Lahiri Mahasaya on the Internet, most prominently on the site called Yoganiketan. It presents several works by Lahiri and followers.
Beginners could to well to study what research says of the documented effects of several meditation methods and compare them with each other. It is like getting tools – good tools in trained hands may accomplish more than alternatives. In a study of methods that have been tested and compared so far, ◦Transcendental Meditation, TM emerges on top. And there is a bit research findings on kriya effects around too.
Also take into account: Meditation methods differ, and effects are different too. Some help this, others that, so to speak, and others offer little or no help at all. Comparisons of methods are scanty, but ◦Transcendental Meditation stands out as all-round beneficial. As for methods that exist and have not been subjected to much testing on people, some may work fine, others may be boasted of subjectively, and that goes for Yogananda's kriya yoga too: There is very little research on its effects as compared to TM in particular, and hype that is made to look beautiful. Much work went into that instead of sound research, regrettably. Yogananda of the Lahiri kriya guru line excelled in bombastic, yet unproven statements that glorify kriya yoga and its long-run effects.
I suggest there is much to take into account, more than one man's view, and appropriate study of research findings offers help. Besides all that, some methods or ways are said to suit certain kinds of people, and other methods or ways suit other kinds of people better, according to Indian teachings of yoga. Buddha cautions against believing much without good evidence, by saying Ma bhabbarupataya and a few more worthy statements. [Kalama Sutta]
A permeating attitude - A certain SRF-defensive attitude surfaces in his book. It can be justified. Now, there is a theoretical chance that some kriya-linked persons that Nimis describes, could have been misnomed, more or less so. Nimis does not tell of possible, other ways of seeing those guys and events either. It is a "one-man-show" in such respects. Take, for example, long-time SRF kriya members who say that they have not got disappointed at all from being kriya yoga disciples of Yogananda. They don't seem to come to the fore in the book by Nimis - they could have written many books of their own, though. In the US, several Yogananda disciples have published books, and others in the kriya yoga traditions too. Satyeswarananda and Hariharananada come to mind. Swami Satyeswarananda has a page that lists
It may be worth considering that all do not have similar experiences with the gurus of SRF and the organization either. It could be wise to bear that in mind too. Still, Nimis' descriptions stand. Characterising happenings and persons is not unfit in itself, although there is a lot to consider. And, for what it is worth, parts of what he tells of and reflects on, is quite similiar to my own experience with the gurus and SRF.
I have no exact account of who the readers of the online book by Nemis are, or how many they are. Visiting the page of an on-line book does not mean reading that book, for example. Downloading it does not necessarily mean reading it, either. Some comment on it, though. Persons who appear to be interested in having kriya yoga exposed and then learn it, as the case may be, refer to his work on a few Internet boards in generally favorable ways. At least one such reader figured that SRF would be angry with Nimis for divulging the kriya teachings, but where is the evidence that it is so? It could be missing.
As for other and less shallow readers, perhaps, they may have chosen to look into the material and then keep silent. That could be expected from deep soil (deep minds, wise souls), according to the Bible. There is a parable about it. Enthusiastic responses without roots are not good enough, but fall off, it says. It is better to respond to glorious propaganda by listening, pondering a bit and understanding well, and maybe later to go on bearing good fruit from it. [Matthew 13:18-23] Applied lesson: You do not need to get outright enthusiastic about something you only hear of or read of where sound documentation is not found. It should also be noted that even scientific studies may be tinged by bias and preferences.
Be a good sport! I advocate thoughtful reading as the best way to handle the book, if one is interested enough. One may evolve significant ideas on top of thoughtful reading.
A new wave of yoga teachings has entered the West, and accommodation challenges may follow for many of those who get enthusiastic and foot-loose from it. The Nimis book stands out in such a terrain, where people are drawn to mystic teachings and teachers.
Nimis presents himself as someone who wanted to learn methods and who was not so keen on guru bonding. And free-standing westerners who teach yoga classes and yoga methods, tend to be less dominating than Eastern teachers. Some of them may profit from many forms of untruths too, not unlike the Christian Adolf Hitler, who said, "The great mass of the people . . . will more easily fall victims to a great lie than to a small one [Dq]." In 1934, when he was forty-one, Yogananda wrote well of Mussolini and Hitler, and praised dictatorship in writing in the February issue of his own magazine, by the way.
The more lenient "Western way" of teaching is far more liberal than the autocratic grip of cults that teach yoga and use big words (and big lies, at any rate thoroughly undocumented claims) as baits to trap gullible beginners. Nimis' work reflects how he got stuck in this propaganda field of conflicting, dominant attitudes and interests for many years. His stances and themes in the book reflect it too.
5. Other literature
Nimis' on-line book have SRF disillusionment in common with another on-line book by Geoffrey D. Falk, but Falk does not proceed to teach kriya yoga so far. Instead he criticised many sorts of gurus far and wide, living and dead, for example as when he speaks about Vivekananda who in younger years once visited an Indian brothel with comrades, but got so drunk that he could not avail himself of the services there [chap 3]. As it is said, "We all make mistakes," but what a coming guru does before he finds out of things, seldom matters a lot, I suggest. As a swami, Yukteswar also says, "The vanished lives of all men are dark with many shames. Human conduct is ever unreliable till anchored in the divine." [Ch 12, Autobiography of a Yogi]
Kriya yoga is quite a novelty in the West. Literature about it is largely part of guru propaganda and fervent proselytising without much sound documentation from the cult of SRF. But another kriya tradition has investigated its effects a bit.
It is customary in kriya yogi circles to claim that kriya is referred to in books by others, without evidence that they really did so, and often against their words too. Yogananda is notorious in misusing gospel teachings like that, for example. I find his proselytising marketing to be foul.
Nimis' book is written in English, and at least one part of it in Italian. The genre is related to novel cults and New Age concerns by and large. Nimis deserves thanks for his critical appraisals of the persons, incidents and teachings that popped up in his way, subjective though they may be. Along with the book he offers some on-line information.
6. Criticism, critics
Critique of Nimis' work is almost absent. However, there is a lot of more general critique on this site concerning SRF's ways of teaching and binding beginners by oath-making. Others too have raised their voices, although they are not addressing the core problems of suspect marketing very well. Many seminal ideas found in Yogananda's autobiography are swallowed more or less uncritically thus.
7. Typical themes and outlooks of the book
For ex members of SRF the book may be interesting reading. For current members it may be gruesome reading. That is not due to how it is formed literally, but its subject matter. The central concern of Nimis is to gain kriya yoga mastery, and his search for original kriya teachings in the jungle of followers and claimers and confusing propaganda, adding personal observations in retrospect. At last he teaches his kriya yoga for free.
Nimis points out in an interview that kriya is not the exclusive property of Lahiri Baba's disciples and their organisations. The kriya system of Lahiri draws in elements (methods, and the like) that are in part freely available in other traditions. Satyananda Yoga teaches a kriya yoga system, and other yoga techniques. Also, common hatha yoga contains some of the key practices, such as the breathing method ujjayi, which is a core part of the whole kriya system, and mudras, including mahamudra (Hewitt 1991; Satyananda 1981; 2001, Niranjanananda 2009).
I hope that the foregoing will help you to get an overall grip in dealing with Ennio Nimis' book. What follows next is gist from his first part of his book, about himself and his quest with added teachings.
❋ One man's tale is seldom the whole truth and all the sides to it. It may still be fine. I for one think Ennio Nimis's kriya work is fine, all in all.
The first book he read from page to page was on occultism, and when he was about ten or eleven, he saw the word 'yoga' for the first time. When he was fifteen and in high school, a friend told him he had a detailed textbook containing different Pranayama techniques. He began trying out yoga postures (asanas) in a corner of the school gymnasium during physical education classes, adding he was not very good anyway in sports anyway.
Each day for the first three months after high school graduation, he listened to Beethoven's "Missa Solemnis". During a walk in the country, sitting on a hill, that music rang out again in his memory. That was his first religious experience, he tells.
After majoring at a university, he realised that a happy chapter of his life was over. He then took up a way of life that wasted his mental energy, such as by discussions with friends, he tells. After sacrificing that pleasure, he very soon came to look on his friends as chickens cooped up in a narrow space. Mercilessly he assumed that they were eating, partying, having sex, and overindulging, sipping daily pleasures. He found it to be very sad and distressing, and ended in a gloomy mood for it.
What would have frightened others, encouraged him. If it provoked, then he was on the right track, he thought, and came to find a certain delight in opening and closing his nostrils with his fingers. "The pressure, the smooth flowing of the breath . . . every detail was pleasant."
He maintained that "Pranayama could destroy you, but . . . it was the perfect way of learning "how to die in order to live!"" On a quiet afternoon walk among trees just before sunset, he read some words from one of the Upanishads: "You are that!" He repeated the words as if in a trance.
Tat Tvam Asi is a Sanskrit sentence, literally "That you are," originally occurs in the Chandogya Upanishad 6.8.7, where it relates to just one person, Svetaketu. Different schools of yoga offer different interpretations of the phrase. In Advaita, 'tat' is taken to mean Ultimate Reality, and 'twam' is taken to be the individual self.
Then, after an afternoon that was spent cracking jokes and behaving like people he had always considered lazy and dull, he felt completely worn out. He began the practice of his pranayama again, and one night he had a pleasant sensation, described as an "upside-down avalanche" that lept up toward the sky, although he was not sure that "something" had really happened.
A healthy person strikes a balance between a life of positive relationships and a serene contact with one's own depths, but many lack such harmony he goes on to say, and advocates "a more efficient synergy between thoughts and emotions. In this way, intuition can flow freely."
He goes on to describe a few pranayama methods, and Ujjayi is one of them. The method can bring calmness and thereby allows focus training.
❋ "That you are" may be as deep as you deem it.
Our guy found that persons who did pranayama wanted to create a false image of themselves. He mercilessly unmasked their behaviour, and they replied that he was unable to love, to respect and to show human sympathy toward others.
Then he came across Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi, and his stubbornly swollen and in part non-verified tenets of kriya-yoga. He was induced to think, like so many others, that the subtle art of kriya yoga refinement of oneself was great and greater – all by a way of slow and deep breathing. His imagination was surely played on, and then it played freely.
He read that the magic breath was one of the most hidden secrets, and that Yogananda's publishers, SRF, had a correspondence course of lessons on kriya, and that it could be had by mail. While he was waiting for the written SRF instructions, a letter from SRF informed him of other SRF members not too far away. He quivered with cheerful anticipation to meet them. Up to that moment, his life had been too happy.
He visited one of the members and was shocked. He was welcomed him with enthusiasm and sincere eagerness.
But when it was clear that he himself had learned the kriya technique outside of the SRF channels, the other "was petrified, showing a bitter smile of disappointment." It was as if our guy "had declared that he was the criminal mastermind behind one of the greatest crimes of all time." Looking for a different spiritual path amounted to "a hateful rejection of the Divine hand, stretched out in benediction" in such circles.
But for some insider reason the other felt relieved, intimately "reassured," when he saw him breathing through the nose -
It showed up that Yogananda had changed the kriya techniques. Our guy could not imagine that Yogananda had decided to simplify the instructions and taught a way with no mental singing of Om.
The other became fully certain that our guy was talking nonsense, and recommended him to send a written account to their cult's management, describing what kriya he did, while hoping that they would accept him as a disciple, through the not so ideal SRF kriya pledge. The other also made it clear that he should never look for any tangible effects in the practice of kriya; much less should he display them, and promised he would pray for him!
Our guy soon participated in the SRF-regulated group, where people listened to Indian songs translated and harmonized for westerners and meditated together. At the end of each meeting, they were required to depart in silence.
Many did not have any family approval and support of their cult participation. Further, their meetings were embarrassed by the fact that the group was remote-controlled by SRF. Among the demands were not to talk about other spiritual paths or details about kriya. Because of the tight requirements, they group members could not find anything interesting and respectable to talk about among them, except the beauty of their spiritual path and their so-called remarkable fortune in having come to it.
Well, "an almost frightening boredom started to reign." Some risked entering the realm of light and innocent jokes, but many of the members and eventually succumbed to their cold attitude, "unable to show a single inch of true joviality". They "seemed divinely happy, but when you tried to be agreeable you got a look and a hint of a smile that left you frozen for the rest of the day," writes our guy, and also that many members who had joined in with enthusiasm decided to quit after a few month.
Our guy soon had no hope of reaching a point of contact, a common ground.
❋ Where you are accepted only by swearing oaths, trust is seldom good enough. A true family has a better set-up.
As I see it, the basic difficulty with the SRF Lessons is that they consist of jumbled contributions by Yogananda (1893-1952), the man who teaches the world is illusory, like dream, and that "we are all a little bit crazy" – such marring things. What he and his fellowship (read: cult) does not tell you further, is that when you state the world is illusory, what is in the world is illusory too – Yogananda, kriya teachings, and all else. There is a lesson in a few lines right here:
Whatever I said, whatever I did, I didn't mean it.Or why not Status Quo?
I didn't mean to say what I said when I said I didn't mean it
A piece of friendly advice: Listen to the songs on YouTube and think it is Yogananda who sings, "Whatever I said, whatever I did, I didn't mean it," – that must be the cornerstone Yogananda lesson for all of us – considering it is all illusory, and to wake up from illusions means getting disillusioned too. It happened to Ennio Nimis and it happened to me.
Or just be careful when you meet a guru who drums up illusions to speak and impresses gullible ones with, without meaning anything (meaning is illusory too if the universe were it). As a guru, be very careful about croaking wildly, for some guys might actually believe you and make a correspondence course of it – and then subscribers may get into deep trouble for it – and it goes on and on.
Much boring and boring much - do they differ? Shortly after our guy was admitted to the group, he had been introduced to an elderly lady of it. She was authorised by the cult to teach the preliminary kriya techniques. The first one is called Hong-So. Here it is.
Four months later she taught our guy another technique. To do it, you have to plug your ears somewhat. He found it fit to lock himself up in a room for it, repeating "Om, Om, Om . . . " mentally during the practice.
The woman went on to make clear that the simple Hong So technique was not easy at all. She concluded: "The technique contains all you need to come into contact with the Divine Essence". He "became very disappointed: it was the most boring technique in the world. The practice seemed useless and dull."
COMMENT. The boring technique is either boring or boring . . . either an adjective or a verb.
Years of adjustment attempts. When he adjusted his practice and wanted to discuss the results of it in his SRF group, he realized how hard it was for them to talk about such things. Sometimes he noticed "an enormous and unreasonable resistance towards such a discussion". In addition, when he tried to discuss these details with a woman who had been a friend of his family for many years, she pretended to listen, but in the end "she brutally declared she already had a Guru and did not feel the need of another one". Her remark cut him deeply. And his group friends went on mechanically performing what had become an empty ritual; which would appease their conscience.
Our guy was taught Yogananda's regrettably clownish explanations of Christianity's Holy Ghost, Son, and Father. The worshipped God Mom of Yogananda was typically the goddess Kali. Our guy, like myself tried his utmost to embrace the school's peculiar Hindu-Christian religious vision of things.
Then one day he took part in the kriya initiation ceremony. He could not understand why SRF made him wait so long for it, but the modified SRF kriya techniques could as a rule be applied for only after a year of study of their correspondence course.
He tried to be good; he waited and dreamed. Finally an envelope arrived. It contained ulterior introduction material. It was the first of a weekly series, whereas the proper complete technique would be sent within five weeks. It so happened that an SRF minister visited his country and he could take part in the initiation ceremony. About a hundred people were to be initiated in the ceremony in a room decorated with flowers. The room had been rented at a very high price. The two initiating SRF monks who had just arrived from abroad, entered bewildered for the ceremony.
Our guy accepted the wholesale demand of the cult and swore everlasting devotion not only to the Guru Yogananda but also to a six-master chain. He had been told that Christ was part of this chain. The up to burlesque idea that the spreading of kriya originated with Jesus was a pleasant idea at the time, even though it goes against what is told in the gospels.
Finally, he was taught the kriya pranayama he already knew. By the practice he expected that his breathing would become more relaxed. For three years he went on without changing the prescribed routine. Then, one day an aristocratic-looking woman revealed to him that a long time ago she had received the initiation in what are called higher kriyas. She said she had felt so unworthy that she had put them aside and, after some time, she had forgotten them entirely. And she told him that what she had was enough.
In time an SRF monk visited the country. When the monk arrived our guy was introduced to him and soon experienced something unpleasant. The monk was emphatic not to talk about parts of the original kriya of Lahiri Baba, including kechari mudra (tongue-lifting), and advised him "brutally to restrict his practice to the first kriya." The monk recommended him to write his questions to the school's head.
Our guy had trusted and respected SRF, and had studied the whole reference literature as if preparing for an exam. He was now consternated and "in an atrocious mental and emotional state." Those who saw him right after that meeting were shocked, he says, and an SRF friend with a honeyed voice suggested that he had just received an important lesson from Yogananda (dead 1952). Our guy was afraid that the monk would communicate to the SRF management and speak unfavourably of him, and thus reducing his chances to get coveted information from SRF in the future. He feared. And the elderly lady who had taught him "kriya preliminaries" blamed him of having made the interview with the SRF minister a troublesome event.
And years of futile attempts at SRF adjustment went down the drain. Some years later our pranayama enthusiast learnt that a group of kriya practitioners in a European country had, invited an Indian master to their group to explain the higher SRF kriyas (there are four kriyas in SRF) to them, for SRF did not. He accepted, but after "skimming through the written material, he said he was not able to decipher what was written there, since the kriya yoga that he had been practicing for so many years was quite different."
The written SRF teachings were ambiguous, but still our guy felt quite sure that this yogi was able to easily remove every doubt in few seconds. However, he did not. Our guy: "His performance was meant to give the impression that Yogananda's teachings were totally wrong, deceitful and made-up. He aimed at appearing as the teacher who saved those people from an abysmal mistake. He advocated the necessity to start all over again: he was ready to give them initiation into the first kriya." The Indian lost two thirds of the students on the spot. Further, confidentiality was broken, and some of those who were initiated by him, "disappeared as if sucked into a black hole; some swung in and out of the school, bringing on, as a consequence, a practice characterized by a lot of dissatisfaction and changes of mind."
Our guy now came to the conclusion that the elderly woman who had taught him methods in the start, perhaps knew less than him about SRF's higher kriyas. She could not clarify his technical doubts, and finally said in her sweet way that the minister's advice embodied God's will. That is the SRF belief.
He tried to reason with her about his eagerness to explore possible sources. He told her, "Should I receive a kriya teaching from the worse criminal in the world, I would be able of turning it into gold."
She was astonished, and soon uttered: "The Guru is not content with you!"
She then told him what happened when one of Yogananda's disciples decided to leave Yogananda's ashram. The Guru heard an inner voice that ordered him not to interfere with the disciple's freedom. He obeyed and in a flash of intuition foresaw all the disciple's future incarnations, those in which he would be lost, suffering, jumping from one error to another for thirty future lives. The moral of this story was that he was not to look for other help "because that was God's will". If not he would lose himself in a labyrinth of enormous sufferings.
But how could her cementing stories thwart his inner nature? She could not relieve his immense thirst for knowledge of the art of kriya. He got an impression that she was expecting him to act "disloyally". She told him of some direct disciples of Yogananda who had disagreed with the cult leaders after Yogananda's death and started on their own.
He bought all their published material, taped lectures and all. The first disciple seemed to him an expert in idle chatter. The second one – only one of his sentences shed a faint light on one of the higher kriyas. In the literature of the third disciple he found mainly devastating banality.
The counselling elderly woman came to know that he had read the "forbidden" books when a friend of his showed him a letter she had written. In it, she had called him "a man who stabs his Guru's back, handing out daggers to other people as well, so that they can do the same."
He felt a sort of tenderness toward her waves of emotions and decades of steadfast conditioning. Some years later, when his relationship with SRF was almost completely compromised, he met with another SRF minister who in five minutes showed him how to move while doing the third and fourth kriya of SRF, and encouraged him in the practice of all the kriya techniques. Our guy almost marvelled: he had met a polite and judicious person in SRF.
❋ When the guru's explanations of cornerstone concepts of Christianity differs widely from what the Bible says about them, the guru's Christianity is off the mark, or the Bible, full of forgeries as it is. But what can we expect from Yogananda who "lived the dream" of "Whatever I said, whatever I did, I didn't mean it"?
He began reading some books written by Lahiri Mahasaya's disciples. They did not have any connection with Yogananda. Our guy used to get annoyed with people who hinted about kriya secrets to be learnt outside Yogananda's legacy. The books written by Lahiri Mahasaya's disciples disappointed him. "They were but blank, meaningless words" along with "continuous changes of topic". A problem: how can that be true for anyone? Why say that meaningless words have changes of topic?
Now he decided to study all the material furnished by SRF again. He used to meet some kriya friends on Sundays, read crucial passages from those kriya lessons. He came to shudder at the thought of how fruitless their efforts were – but they went on for about two years. Then he had a "delicate relationship in the yogic way, but contrary to common sense, and it failed. He refused to believe that he had acted wrongly, and for some months he was unable to track down the thread of a single coherent thought. By now he had swallowed the very much unverified Yogananda idea that each kriya breath could produce "the equivalent of a solar year of spiritual evolution" and that through a million of these breaths he would infallibly reach Cosmic Consciousness. He tried just to perform the greatest possible number of Pranayama to complete quickly that number of kriyas. He felt no shame or remorse, but privileged.
Later he concluded that eagerness to learn kriya can drive a man to swear an indecent oath "just to please" or play the game of SRF.
Anyway, during kriyas, his breath calmed down and he could not move.
COMMENT. We can surmise that the state he refers to, is not that of being crippled or disabled so that movement is difficult or impossible. Nor tinged with any severe, enduring pains. – TK
He was lucky to get introduced to the thought of Aurobindo and was shown by Aurobindo's mantra-meditating successor the value of not trying to become pure in other people's eyes. According to her teachings in thirteen volumes, people become true individuals around their divine centre, sort of. And there is nothing wrong with that!
Afterwards our guy had an urge to "find his mantra". He experimented and also kept up the simplest routine of kriya and tried to live in a more aware way. He soon became joyful, and breathless at times.
❋ No shame or remorse, but gladness!
Nimis's main concern became "What kind of throat sounds are to be produced in the original kriya?" He tried to focus on the simplifying the first kriya, and soon found his efforts brought him into contact with "true vice", where there was a tendency of stocking up on techniques like food for a famine. He also tells that most people who practiced spiritualism in his circles, were mentally fragile fellows.
He also took to telling of unnamed kriya teachers as victimising their followers by a certain terminology and stands. It made one victim quiver with emotion, while others were optimistic and walking on air. The quivering one also got into a situation that threatened to sweep away his economic basis.
Along with this the author learnt that the sound of OM might course through all the different phases of kriya, and that many books on kriya yoga served to make people interested, leaving out practical explanations. True.
He became annoyed with kriya yoga forums on the Internet, where he felt that a few kriya practitioners used to reply to legitimate and reasonable questions with an unacceptable tone and facetious tenderness, thus "betraying the lowest form of consideration". Their explanations used to be quick and shallow; along with destructive criticism. And they labelled the desire for deepening the kriya practice as a "dangerous mania" and audaciously counselled the bewildered one to improve the depth of the already received techniques and be contented with them, but not necessarily saying that that the original kriya spirit had been lost in most kriya schools.
Our guy also read that the practice of Pranayama should be considered inaccurate and wrong if the practitioner after a fair number of breaths had not listened to the internal sound of Om without closing his ears. ◊
He also came to wonder if kriya teachings served only to spread the cult of certain persons who are "impudently" saintly, perfect, and majestic. By and by he also came to consider that the human mind works, through insatiable curiosity, and that retiring and living with a minimal income might be good, devoting time to listening to the Om sound with open ears as his proof of a deepening pranayama. and clarify his many doubts.
Yet, devoured by thirst for learning the complete kriya teachings, he turned to various kriya teachers, like so many others. Some rolled beneath a Yogananda-focused, almost instinctual, unverified idea of an automatic evolution determined by iron mathematic laws as an instinctive reflex. ◊◊
Our guy learnt the second kriya in this phase of his life, and found it to be easy and enjoyable, with a nice way of breathing. On the other hand a friend of his paid a fortune for techniques that might have been taken from some books and altered.
In the SRF group – his first kriya-related group – he met very moderate kriya practitioners. It seemed to him that they practiced the few techniques they knew as if making a sacrifice to atone for the "guilt" of existence.
He also heard alarming news of how kriya yoga fared in India. "It is not practiced any longer . . . not practiced throughout the whole Indian peninsula. Rather, you surely must be the only one still practicing it," a descendant of Lahiri Baba told a friend of his. He did not tell it was a marvellous technique worth a commendable effort. Nimis's friend was not able to learn anything from him. Nimis was taken aback when he was told him that in Benares, and probably throughout rest of India, kriya Yoga was not practiced any longer.
❋ Our guy came into contact with groups, teachers, and their followers, and tried to get the best techniques around. I would not say he learnt too much in that phase.
Our guy approached his new teacher from India with the idea of rejecting him if he seemed to be trying to guide him away from what he had learnt and practiced already. They met in a Yoga centre where our guy had been invited by some disciples who knew him.
The new teacher was aware of his former kriya teacher's choice not to teach the whole body of the kriya techniques. We are told that hot-tempered he exploded with rage when he was asked good questions. His reason for a tour to the West was to re-establish the original teachings.
His explained kriya in minutes. He demonstrated pranayama by an excessively loud, incorrect sound, but the last rows of students could hear it. He did not care to tell that the sound was to be smooth rather than vibrating. Many of the students believed that the wrong, vibrating sound was the "secret" from India and tried to reproduce it.
Nimis spent six years with this teacher, in the end to find that entering a kriya-founded organization meant to be ensnared and bewildered once again. It was as if a large portion of his brain withdrew while he tried his utmost to believe what was convenient to believe, while his sense of fairness of judgement was impaired. Slowly his values were reversed.
He read so-called spiritual literature from major religions. Then he came across the Lahiri Baba book Purana Purusha. The book had been little known for a long time, but was now translated into English. A lot of people studied this and other translated books by Lahiri Baba, but "we are not able to extract anything useful from them," he says. Others have done so, though. Take a look: [Link].
One day he felt as "not having a skin anymore". It means he mistook moods of others for his own.
He also read Carl Jung, and a book from the Taoist Internal Alchemy where a great aim is to nurture and transform the body. Otherwise, "the annoying problem of secrecy concerns also the Taoist Internal Alchemy." As a Taoist said to him: "We don't know why the ancients kept it so secret. We just imitate them".
❋ Six more years as a kriya follower, reading a lot, and meeting new disappointments speaks of a certain steadiness somehow – but do we really want that sort of living? Not if we can avoid it, is the bet.
A. Conflicts in a quasi-social fieldSome conceive of kriya as a philosophy that in itself has the power of redemption. What could be wrong with that? Kriya yoga is a system of techniques to practice.
In his seventh chapter, Nimis tells of his association with Shibendu Lahiri for several years, their break-up, and the book that came out of it. We are told that Nimis was foolishly involved for many years – What could be wrong with seeing that, to the degree it was true?
Nimis had been taught for a long time that kriya had to be received from an "authorized" person, not from books, and this had been repeated to him a thousand times, says Nimis. SRF propounds such a teaching. You may figure such a view does not hold for pioneers, for example the first one to discover kriya yoga, if that is what happened. Many pioneers go unauthorised! And that holds good for many inventors too.
Nimis came to see that he did not appreciate how Shibendu behaved and explained kriya. Moreover, he thought that Shibendu had a better life from touring in the West than he otherwise might have had, and that kriya practitioners had "the illusion of carrying on, from a distance, a relationship with a real person", and that for certain societies, secrecy is essential to preserve the societies.
Nimis got permission to teach kriya by Shibendu, and taught groups for him too. He noted these drawbacks among "the crew": They behaved towards him in a very cordial way, but made him feel like an idiot. Nimis could not see that all of them got anything out of their kriya practice either, but he was convinced that the failures were not inevitable.
Sometimes he revolted at the idea of asking his male students to look at women as "mothers" and women to look at men as "fathers" – as requested. It is part of Yogananda's teachings too. A more realistic appraisal is to look on every woman as a woman and women go through many phases, such as girlhood and motherhood. To consider every man a man is a good starting-point . . .
Nimis was still bent on getting kriya details right, and ventured to ask Shibendu about one such thing one day when they were alone. He tells that at that time Shibendu suddenly allowed him to practice in the way Nimis considered right.
Next, a split came about between them. Now Nimis regretted "all the time wasted" and he had a feeling of alienation that "seemed to stretch out as far as the horizon and touch the rim of the sky." He no longer tried to be a hypocrite, while before he had dreamt that he was swimming in manure. He no longer went here and there to organize seminars for Shibendu.
Nimis found himself crying with joy. A nightmare was over! He was free, after six years with Shibendu. Some coordinators of other groups in Europe also broke their contact with Shibendu, writes Nimis, and "They felt the time was ripe," he says.
I should tell that I have wiped out several harsh, disdainful Nimis-descriptions of Shibendu here, since Shibendu versions have not been heard by me. If a teacher is so bad as Nimis describes, why support him? What could lie underneath such adaptations? Such behaviour and harsh descriptions in retrospect look threatening in a way to someone like me.
B. A kriya synthesis comes aboutNimis conceived of the idea of writing a book on kriya. Shibendu had asked him to teach kriya to those who were interested in it, and Nimis had rejoiced at the opportunity to "explain everything in a complete and exhaustive way"
He had had enough of behaving as he had done for many years, and started to write a manual of kriya yoga and share it with others. Soon Nimis hatched an outline of the book. A book on kriya yoga – what could be wrong with that? What could possibly be wrong with sharing information he had culled from many sources – some fenced in by secrecy, as SRF instructions, and others without major disasters hanging over them if he broke his oaths and the secrecy surrounding these methods?
Nimis meant it was fit for him to violate the vow of secrecy he made concerning the highly thought of kriya techniques. Kriya, "supreme among all the spiritual techniques, the airplane route to God realization" (An SRF presentation). Yet he had failed to detect any God-realized SRF members. Apropos: "It takes one to know one."
On the other hand he knew persons who had been practicing kriya for years and had become dogmatic, and who turned against kriya as if it was a demonic product.
Then there was a chief of the most important Italian branch of the worldwide SRF cult – the chief had once instructed him: "Don't you understand that Yogananda is the Divine Mother Herself"? That teaching is part of SRF' mind-universe, and "I am your Divine Mother!" is a Yogananda quotation. Some persons do become like that from kriya practice. Similarly, there are many Krishnas around too -
Nimis soon pondered about some fools, "They don't trust the sheer employment of a technique unless it is coupled with a toilsome effort of tormenting their psychological structure," and, "Usually they place a great emphasis on ethics."
He bought a computer and reduced his social life to a minimum as he began the work of writing a book on kriya "explaining every technique in great detail." Sober, yet very rich in content, an extraordinary handbook, he says. That is what he envisaged. And to judge if a technique was essential, his criterion was that it should appear as the simplest logical translation of Lahiri Baba's words into practice. He discarded some variations as redundant and ineffective.
Now, are there other criteria to use in distilling a book that brings the essence of kriya yoga? Definitely. Besides, Nimis did not have recourse to all techniques that matter. His aim was to extract the most effective ways to do Lahiri Baba's kriya and not all other developments. The aim of his book was to provide information about technical sides to Lahiri Baba's kriya, which had branched off since his time, with some changes.
He tried to extract the essential kriya core from his heaps of notes from years with different teachers, and put the book on the Internet.
❋ He wanted to be joyous, and received much for it. He persevered in misfortunes, and wanted tolerance – and grieved over others and that his path through life was thorny – and then resorted to "a complete approach to original kriya" as he saw it. He has shocked other kriya practitioners by publishing kriya information, shocked and terrified others – The superior man examines himself –
How I evaluate the kriya of Nimis? I am, frankly, too little concerned to go into it. However, there are a few points that might be worth mentioning. From what he writes, he wanted to learn the original kriya of Lahiri Baba. Further, it seems he thought that just that form of kriya was worth working with. Not necessarily. It could work for him, though. And people are different. A comparison comes to mind:
1. A man wants to drive one the 1885-built Benz Patent Motorwagen with its three wheels, the first car to go into production with an internal combustion engine. He has a remarkable faith in the value of driving just that sort of car.
2. In 1934 André Citroën launched a Traction Avant model with its front-wheel drive. This newer model has four wheels, and you sit more protected from wind and weather in it. Most likely, you can drive faster too.
The first car may be likened to Lahiri Baba's original kriya yoga from the 1800s, and the second car may be likened to such as Yogananda's modified kriya from the first half of the 1900s. Is it so sure that the first car yields the best results? And is it so sure that the second car is good in all respects?
Today there are many other, further developed cars on the road, some older, some new, and very rarely a veteran car here and there too. And there are several forms of kriya yoga too, and some are not bad, actually. The original kriya of Lahiri was time-consuming, strenuous, and few people strove to do it as much as kriya guru disciples of Lahiri wanted them to. The modified kriya of Yogananda became simpler and easier to do – and then the question is: was it for good or bad, or for some good and some bad, or something else, perhaps. This topic has occupied the minds of many, including Yogananda's biographer Sailendra Dasgupta. He debates the problem toward the end of his Paramhansa Swami Yogaganda (2006).
Speaking of Yogananda, he simplified the methods and changed the hype surrounding it too, and launched many unverified, giant claims on behalf of it. Some of the claims are wrong, others are inconsistent. Yogananda made kriya routines simpler, in part by modifying techniques, in part by leaving out parts of the inherited kriya system that Lahiri said were indispensable, and said, in effect, that his kriya was 144 times more helpful than what his guru taught. There you have it, along with a caveat: "A comparison halts." You find solid documentation on these pages: [More] [Still more]
Since kriya yoga in Yogananda's and SRF's circles is restricted to those captured as his spirit-serfs of a sort, and even for life after life, it may be hard to ascertain all that is of interest in such cultish settings. What an outsider may come up with is often nothing more than, "Maybe yes, maybe no, what do I know?" May I add; "It is generally wise to stay out of cults."
The essence is that unless we have a good basis for judging certain matters, we had better refrain from forming public opinion in the matter for the sake of gullible ones, for example. Besides you may learn kriya yoga for free and preserve your freedom instead of getting hooked or fooled.
Cohen, J. M., and M. J. Cohen. The New Penguin Dictionary of Quotations. Rev. ed. London: Viking, 1992.
Dasgupta, Sailendra. Paramhansa Swami Yogananda: Life-portrait and Reminiscences. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2006; also Google Books, partial view.
Eckhart. Una preghiera in un respiro, intervista sul Kriya Yoga a Ennio Nimis. Innernet. 2008.
Falk, Geoffrey D. Stripping the Gurus: Sex, Violence, Abuse and Enlightenment. Toronto: Million Monkeys Press, 2009.
Hewitt, James. The Complete Yoga Book: The Yoga of Breathing, Meditation and Posture. London: Rider, 1991.
Nimis, Ennio. Kriya Yoga: Synthesis of a personal experience. Accessed 31 October 2009.
Niranjanananda, Swami. Prana and Pranayama. Munger, Bihar: Yoga Publications Trust, 2009.
Satyananda Saraswati, Swami. A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya. Munger: Yoga Publications Trust, 1981.
Satyananda Saraswati, Swami. Kundalini Tantra. 8th ed. Munger: Yoga Publications Trust, 2001.
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