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Kriya Yoga Smartness

There are "rules of the game." They vary among the lines of transmission. It could be good to know that, to avoid getting outsmarted into blatant submission.

First counsel. Find kriya yoga teachers that allow you a say and teach for your own good out of compassion and the like. Also, go for methods that work for your own, long-range good. And shun what is clearly detrimental to good growth, and hazardous.

Sun Look to cats. A cat may be one of the finest teachers. If handed-over doctrines conflict with liberal cat living, drop them and maybe you can also remedy mistakes:

There are many teachings as to what constitutes fit yoga. Some traditions, such as Paramahansa Yogananda's, say no to sex for singles and perhaps once a year to married couples. It can be terrible to live up to such rigid endorsements and violate them too as normal needs arise. We normally do well to protect our measure of free will in things that matter. Some have the good luck to preserve an astounding degree of inner independence to favour all right living, and a cat is splendid at it. It rises above sham or dog training too.

Lahiri's teachings. The key yoga practice which Lahiri Mahasaya taught to his disciples, was kriya yoga, a series of pranayama (gentle breathing) practices. Kriya Yoga may also be applied as a training system free from dogmas. Its main value lies in practice. Lahiri taught: "Clear your mind of dogmatic theological debris." Lahiri modified kriya yoga methods to suit different disciples, advised marriage along with Kriya Yoga practice for most of his disciples, and advocated that kriya yoga knowledge be spread without propagation by organisations. Still, some of his disciples started organisations to spread kriya yoga with his permission.

Lahiri's outlook on yoga training links up to Patanjali Yoga Sutras instructions. For example, the left column below shows how he interprets verse verse 2:32 of it. Charles Johnston's translation in the middle column of the table is there to compare with, and so is Vivekananda's to the right. Vivekananda's translation is from Raja Yoga [Via], chapter II. For an online version, see the reference Cos in the Back Matters.

Lahiri wordsCharles Johnston's translationVivekananda
1. Outer purityPurityCleanliness
2. Contentment (Internal purity)SerenityContentment
3. Following what the guru says (Tapah)Fervent aspirationAusterity
4. Perceiving and tuning in to the sound of [nadis, i.e.] Omkar(a). [the Aum-sound]. (This step is called svadhyaaya)Spiritual readingStudy
5. Pure devotion and remembrance of IshvarPer feet obedience to the MasterSelf-surrender to God


Many Sanskrit words allow for different nuances of interpretation and also different interpretations. As for Lahiri Baba's appraisal of the fourth point, study, it goes into how sruti (revelation, inspiration) is had - by delving into the Sound and origin of scriptures to study, according to Hindu teaching. You may consider it the inward approach to understanding, whereas the other approach rests on understanding as formulated by other people somewhere, some time. This clarifies the different translations of the original, hopefully.

I, for one, think Vivekananda's translation is wohl geglückt - a very good one. Further, his collected works are on-line, for those who seek a well-known yogi's view on a wide range of subjects [Cos].

  1. Outer purity is quite relative. Some bacteria are likely to remain on the skin and in the mouth after you wash yourself with soap and so on anyway. Can you breathe with hands, face, and mouth unclean? If so, you can do kriya too. A good point is to remove or adjust what makes you uncomfortable. It is nice to be clean and tidy and practice comfortably and well.

  2. One should not call for outward contentment while drifting downhill or being ruined and seeing one's near ones sect destroyed. Inner contentment (Skr. saucha) does not need to hinder good coping. True contentment is natural, spontaneous when the flux of inner and out factors suit oneself. It is not something to be forced or strained, and serenity is a good word.

  3. What gurus say, differs. Some teach this, others that. Some say the world is illusory, others that it is real (enough), and so on. If what a guru teaches is largely untrue and unfit or brings on an inconvenient life fare, shun that guru. Stay rational and well-bred.

  4. There is tinnitus and the sounds that yogis train to hear. Tinnitus is not itself a disease but a symptom. It can be perceived in one or both ears or in the head. It is usually described as a ringing noise, but in some it takes the form of a high pitched whining, buzzing, hissing, humming, or whistling sound, or as ticking, clicking, roaring, "crickets" or "tree frogs" or "locusts", tunes, songs, or beeping. It has also been described as a "wooshing" sound, as of wind or waves. Tinnitus can be intermittent or it can be continuous. In the latter case, this "phantom" sound can create great distress in the sufferer. In many cases, however, no underlying physical cause can be identified. The sound perceived may range from a quiet background noise to one that can be heard even over loud external sounds. The term "tinnitus" usually refers to more severe cases. Heller and Bergman (1953) conducted a study of 80 tinnitus-free university students placed in a chamber without echoes, and found that 93% reported hearing a buzzing, pulsing or whistling sound. [Wikipedia]

    So what is the difference between tinnitus and yoga sounds? None, at least outwardly . . . But you should learn to switch the sound on and off too - it goes along with mastery in that sort of training. The tinnitus-resembling medley of inner shrieks and muffled sounds you should hear if you attune yourself consistency by a yoga method, could be great help. There are yoga methods for listening in to the hum of Aum and the vessel sounds of life force swirling about in one's body and those of others). The same issue is covered in yoga teachings of Tibet too. One method in use is to "plug the ears" (using one's fingers) to better focus on the sounds that appear from the activities of the nadis (circulating energies).

    Attentiveness this way supersedes textual readings in Lahiri's understanding of how things had better be.

  5. Devotion directed outwards can be good, and so can admiration and submission to a true helper. But fervent devotion is a main factor in developing cultishness, so there is a need for delicate balance that rises above much else here. Devotion is of id (libidous urges), and needs to be taken care of by rational instructions and handling. Devotion may lead to over-stretching outwardly too, which may go against the drift of good yoga, which is an inward-turning, in essence. One is to drop fixations in doing it. It should be very, very wise to adhere to proper development through Eriksonian life stages and the like. There could be better things to do too.

    The essence of Ishvar (alias God to some) is inner, subtle light that floods you. To remember the light of yesterday is seldom as good as experiencing today full well - yet there could be situations or conditions where much remembrance would be okay as well. Much depends.

    The guru as inner Light is a great Hindu concept. The word 'gurudeva' relates to it, in that Sanskrit deva means 'shining one'.

In decent yoga there are sane primers, sane commitments, sane attitudes and sane handling, including fit "rules of the thumb" with some margins for adjustments. Unquestioning obedience to others and blind belief is not useful for a Buddhist delighting in Buddha's Kalama Sutta. Belief is not really and truly needed for making essential progress, it says. Those who call for submission by blind belief in dictums and dogmas can have ulterior motives. So is it good for development toward Freedom (moksha, nirvana, etc.) to succumb to slavish infantilism?

There is also a need for marking off what is good and bad, to save people from many notorious traps. Being careful like a cat with whiskers in approaching teachings and teachers of yoga can be a good help. Being very careful in choosing a yoga teacher is part of the ancient yogi heritage. A kind guru is benign and someone to thank for.

To remain judicious can bulwark against becoming nuts through bossy or over-bossy slogans.


Kriya Yoga Sources

Today you can learn kriya yoga for free. You may also submit to an authoritarian cult (SRF) to learn it and be boss-ridden for the rest of your life. It may be up to you.

If you want to understand what the delicate, gentle breathing that is called kriya is, here is the basic technique. While you explore it, staying within the set-up regulations, you may also want to study the free teachings in the Sivananda line of transmission. In it, kriya yoga is explained in detail in a repository book (Cy) and a supplement, (Kty). Their approach suits the supple.

Yogananda and SRF of the Lahiri line is sugar-coatedly authoritarian. Yogananda's simplified kriya yoga is surrounded by great, unverified and changed claims, and calls for deep, unfit submissiveness by a guru-serving kriya pledge. One third of the monastics of his fellowship left it in a few years around 2001, disappointed and maybe wiser. [Link]

What goes into elaborate kriya yoga training, is for most part a series of methods in a sort of all-round pack:

  • Common hatha yoga postures. Well chosen and generally safe postures can improve health if practised for a few months and longer, as medical science has shown. There are advanced postures, movements and holdings (mudras) too.
  • Mantra meditation How to use sound medleys for meditation is described as mantra yoga. Along with such explorations come guidelines for making good progress in life. [Link]
  • Om technique - listening in to inner (nadi, vessel) sounds. It may take time before you hear things. Tibetans teach how to "plug one's ears" by shutting the ear somehow for as long as you can handle it. You use some fingers, and the particulars of the methods are not divulged here. Then there are various nadi ("energy vessel") sounds to focus on, and a sound medley called variously, including Pranava and OM too. Some basic features have been suggested briefly through this.
  • Kriya is at bottom a pranayama (breathing) method. Different organisations give different total paks, call the steps or levels by different names. The training may get very time-consuming, but it does not have to. And core kriya is not so very complicated either. [Here it is]

Kriya Transmissions

The best is still not to get outsmarted.

In the guru line of Lahiri Mahasaya kriya practice is very time-consuming, and sides of the more or less rigorous life-style required may be more than annoying, such as refusing your wife or husband sex for nine months on end, for example. [More].

In Satyananda's line an elaborate system of kriya yoga is made public, as it is published in books [Cy; Kta]. There are less strings to speak of on that line, if any, and no decreed demands on your life-style, except for incorporating yoga elements it they suit you, basically. [A comparison]

In any case it can't be all bad to think carefully over the conditions and requirements and possible changes and regulations of life-style before one commits oneself. Go for preserving your human rights - and a tough thing to do may be to wait and make no further plans to find a Great Helper -

If you think authoritarian submissiveness is a road to greatest freedom and the thing for you, consult a psychotherapist and try loosening up by sound self-help too. Also, study the research before committing to anything or anyone. That could help. As for the effects of kriya, that is dependent on whether you maintain your autonomy or become a sectarian loser. Among the methods that have been well researched today, ▫TM has proved very beneficial.



Kriya yoga transmissions, Literature  

Cos: Vivekananda, Swami. The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vols 1-8. 6th ed. Calcutta: Advaita Asram, 1977. On-line.

Cy: Satyananda Saraswati, Swami. A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya. Munger: Yoga Publications Trust, 1981.

Kta: Satyananda Saraswati, Swami. Kundalini Tantra. 8th ed. Munger: Yoga Publications Trust, 2001.

Mmm: Roth, Robert. Transcendental Meditation Revised And Updated. New York: Plume Books, 1994.

Via: Nikhilananda, Swami. Vivekananda. The Yogas and Other Works. Rev. ed. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1953.

Yn: Satyananda Saraswati, Swami. Yoga Nidra. 6th ed. Munger: Yoga Publications Trust, 2001.

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