If you take the word age-old, and add yoga to, you have age-old yoga, "formerly secret Age-old Yoga" and so on. If you also say 'age-old' appears in old books from hundreds of years ago and refers to your newly coined age-old yoga, is that proof that such old books refer to your "age-old yoga" because of the word age-old in them? Think twice. Detect the fallacy "It is age-old, respected, tried and tested and established because a Yogananda line strives to make it so." Your part is to ask for good evidence and know what is not good evidence hurled in your face. It means a lot to be saved from gullibility snares.
From manipulative plays on 'age-old' to later regret
The mysterious shapeshifter called Babaji tells that the yoga system he gave Shyama Lahiri (also called Lahiri Baba and Lahiri Mahasaya) in 1861 and named kriya yoga then, is the same kriya that is mentioned in some ancient scriptures.
Ancient uses of the Sanskrit word 'kriya' (do, work, etc.) are not taken to mean kriya yoga - by a body of Sanskrit translators. Further, it is not according to the rules of scholars to backdate the meaning of a term to get seeming scriptural support by what may well be fraudulent alignments.
Doubt well instead of being taken in. That is a teaching of Buddha. The kriya gurus Yukteswar and Yogananda advocate scepticism and good use of reason too - at times, in some places. Get the edge of calm doubt - that is, make neat doubting much profitable.
So Yogananda teaches that belief in him and his school had better be provisional - Thus, feel free to check teachings with great care. You normally do well in not giving up your freedom as a faith-slave, or cultish guy. Instead of have a mind to follow up Yogananda on this one too, "It is all right to enjoy the good things of this world [Jse 141]." Neither deep nor provisional faith in Buddha's teaching is forbidden by Buddha. As for the teachings of Yogananda's guru Yukteswar (also called his proxy guru):
Many teachers will tell you to believe; then they put out your eyes of reason and instruct you to follow only their logic. But I want you to keep your eyes of reason open; in addition, I will open in you . . . wisdom." . . . [As told in Man's Eternal Quest (1982:114).
So what are we confronted with by the much unverified scriptural claims surrounding kriya yoga? Could it be bluffs to impress or mislead the stupid and naive ones all around? One had better take the possibility of great Babaji bluffs into account after finding he broke his promise over a trifle (above). Much could be at stake if we get entangled by the unverified things in life - being taken in could lead to cult membership, for example. Better heed Yogananda's words and investigate the beliefs he inculcates.
Sound study is called for
First, it helps to know that core kriya yoga is the simple way of breathing (pranayama method) called ujjayi. It is publicly known and described in several books and online. It is one of the pranayama ways of hatha yoga. Babaji's claim of reviving a yoga system that is built up around it - such a common way of breathing and which has been known since the 1500th century, could seem a bit off the mark.
Second, you get some gist to get a grip. Then follows a detailed study into various scriptures and what is in them - as opposed to what a guru in a Babaji line flaunt-tells. And a recurrent lesson in these circles is: "Beware of clowning. Don't be taken in all the time: don't believe so blindly." There is a real risk of being fooled. To sum up a bit:
Kriya Yoga spelled out
Kriya yoga is at bottom a way of breathing, pranayama. Core kriya is the common, very easy and public pranayama method called ujjayi. A variant is described in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (2:51-54) from the 1400s. There are several other variants around. Niranjanananda describes many in his book Prana and Pranayama. (2009). James Hewitt describes a good form of ujjayi in two of his yoga books (1991, 1992). The basic way of breathing is described in detail here: [Link]
Some kriya yoga lines
Kriya yoga is propagated by several gurus and organisations. One line comes through Swami Sivananda (1887–1963). Another line is through Lahiri Mahasaya, but with many ramifications. And so on. Many maintain kriya yoga is secret, but in its basic shape, ujjayi, it is free and public knowledge and a good method in hatha-yoga.
Yogananda's hard claims
As a young swami-monk, the monk Yogananda (1893–1952) was sent to the West in 1920 to spread "Babaji's kriya". However, while living in the USA, he removed what were considered essential parts of the kriya he had been taught by his guru in the Babaji-Lahiri line. He also added some features that were not part of original kriya. The kriya he had devised, worked twelve times faster or better than "the original" kriya, he also claimed. Without evidence.
However, an investigation into the effects of kriya yoga on seven Indian yogis by the researchers Das and Gastaut (1957) is interesting. It seems unlikely that the Indian yogis that were investigated used Yogananda's changed kriya for Westerners, for in India, the yogis in his line had misgivings about the changes he had made, writes Yogananda's biographer Sailendra Dasgupta [Psy 101]. [More]
Kriya and Kriya
Breathing is ancient . . . known to mankind for a long time.
Lahiri Mahasaya learnt a system of kriya yoga from his guru. There is a scene in Yogananda's Autobiography where a master called Babaji was said to transfer a long lost science of breath to his fresh disciple Lahiri Mahasaya in 1861. Watch out for some hoofs of demagogy right here:
Kriya is an ancient science. Lahiri Mahasaya received it from his guru, Babaji, who rediscovered and clarified the technique after it had been lost in the Dark Ages.
"Big words won't fatten the cabbage"
A science? It depends on which sense of the word is meant. Science today is taken to mean a systematic endeavour to build and organise knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about nature and the world. In an older, related meaning, 'science' refers to a (settled) body of knowledge itself, one that can be wisely explained and reliably applied, and, moreover, is linked to philosophy. We may stick to that sort of meaning of the word in the Babaji waters, so to speak.
Results of breathing can be studied, coupled to fit forms of research. Results of kriya can also be studied. The key to success in such breathing is not how many times you breathe, but how wisely and well it is done, how well each round of gentle pranayama breathing is done - is a fine point Yogananda seldom brings to light. Thus, there is the art of kriya too - how well it is done, in other words.
Now, if 'science' is used loosely in its old sense, Babaji's quoted wording may pass. However, there are some who resort to the world 'science' as a glamour word alone. In those cases it is wiser to get suspicious than duped by bold assertions and ask routinely, "Where is the evidence?" It is not so bad to keep a sound mental reserve for your own good.
For one thing, one may come to wonder how apostles like John and Paul managed not to spread the kriya method (ujjayi with additions). Could it be because their salvation was to get the Holy Spirit, as the New Testament says? Consider it. Ask those who claim so much, for a little evidence too.
After all, kriya yoga was not all lost in the "dark ages" either, when there were "similar techniques" around (quotation above). There still are. (Wikipedia, "Ujjayi breath"; "Kriya Yoga")
At any rate, as time went by after the 1860s, assertions and claims on behalf of Babaji's kriya yoga became plenteous and larger. That sort of kriya yoga (ujjayi with additions) was now "seen" in or read into scripture after scripture, from a time when the kriya science of Babaji allegedly was lost - with ramifications. It is all according to Yogananda in his notoriously post-mortem edited Autobiography, chap 26.
The deeper problem
'Kriya' is a Sanskrit word with a range of meanings, all related to a Sanskrit verb for "do, work" and similar. The root is in 'create' and 'creativity' too. Other scripture translators than gurus of a kriya line, seem to have had no difficulties in translating the word kriya in some ancient texts as "work" and similar, and NOT drag Babaji's (long lost) kriya, and ujjayi, into it. All in all, there is little or no good substantiation that kriya yoga is what is referred to in ancient scriptures. What we are told of Babaji's kriya (or ujjayi with added body postures and holdings, mudras), is that it was named so long after antiquity, around 1860, according to Yogananda.
There are goof proofs around, and one sort is that of reading unsubstantiated meanings into scriptures and lead folks astray by those "jellyfishy means". A close encounter with jellyfish may cause severe, burning pain, swollenness, wounds and constrictive suffering afterwards - in some cases also death, depending on the amount of exposure. Better avoid it.
Kriya yoga, allegedly in scriptures of East and West
Yogananda formed a society and got it registered as a church in California in 1935. The society has been called a sect by many former members. It publishes the guru's canon. In tit, there are perhaps wild claims that kriya yoga is referred to in ancient Hindu scriptures, and the Christian Bible. Good proof that it is so, seems to be lacking.
Try to check grandiose claims so as not to be misled by some of them
Upon investigation one should find that many guru claims on behalf of kriya yoga are not substantiated. To the degree that good proof of a claim is missing, consider a play of claims and faith. Faith can tie you or even bring you down. One had better consider such dark and dim sides to Yogananda's teachings too, for to learn his kriya yoga from his church, you have to be sworn in, so to speak, and thereby you abstain from your freedom, and is told not to have sex, or have sex just a little; what to eat, how little you should sleep, and further on. In short, a life-style is dictated onto you by a long series of "shoulds" if you submit in order to learn a kriya with initially hidden strings and little-known regret buttons.
Kriya yoga in the light of good study
There are good questions to ask when someone raises claims that this and that passage in texts from long ago, mean this and that, and on what grounds. For example, what ancient texts relate to kriya yoga as it is performed in a line stemming from Babaji? And why choose some texts and leave out the rest? Interestingly, Babaji's disciple Shyama Lahiri read kriya yoga into twenty-six different commentaries of scriptures. They are changed a lot "in the light of kriya" and are published by The Sanskrit Classics in San Diego. [◦Link]
Old texts may be difficult to understand and may get many differing translations, depending the interpretations used in such cases. Which to choose, and why? Another problem is the use of fragments by taking them out of their proper contexts for the sake of furthering one's own ends or putting them under one's own sway or spin. Yogananda does that, but not fully, as Lahiri. Where it is not made clear that such use or abuse of fragments of scriptures is resorted to, mature rectitude may be lacking. Further, what is just read into text fragments or claimed with hardly any evidence, may not be salient. The method or approach may be called silly too.
Much of the rest of this article contains in-depth study.
❋ Conclusion so far: Consider how the big, bad wolf used special breathing and subterfuges to enter the homes of little pigs.
Some guru claims call for commentaries
Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952) taught and changed kriya-yoga in the United States for thirty years and wrote an autobiography where he talks for kriya yoga and tell tall tales. However, "Erroneous claims don't make things so." Below, several guru assertions and in-depth scriptural commentaries are given for the purpose of clarification: Many alleged references to 'kriya' in older Hindu scriptures probably do not refer to the kriya yoga system of Babaji and Yogananda at all. And evidence that they do, seems insignificant.
❋ Beware of the soap and mean hoaxes. • Free kriya yoga is here: [Core kriya yoga]
Sottish claims are not always found to be acceptable
Bhagavad Gita forms part of a long epos
The teachings of the Bhagavad Gita are delivered on the brink of war, in a Mahabharata scene where two armies are arrayed against one another on a battlefield. Standing between these two armies, Krishna and the bowman Arjuna start talking about what is best in life, and with delicate nuances. The initially despondent Arjuna never cries, "This is not the time or place for deep subjects! Please!"
In his Autobiography of a Yogi, Yogananda writes that "Kriya is an ancient science" (chap. 26, section 4), and that Lahiri Mahasaya received it from Babaji, who rediscovered, clarified, and renamed the technique Kriya Yoga (ibid, section 6). Basic kriya yoga is also known as ujjayi, which is is a publicly well-known way of breathing, though. It is no more secret than that. In Babaji's system there are additions to basic kriya, that is, elaborations and additions to ujjayi pranayama. Further, in Satyananda's line of yoga, a similar system of kriya yoga is taught for free in books [Cy; Kta].
A "same science" claim
Yogananda also claims that Babaji said in 1861: "The Kriya Yoga that I am giving to the world through you in this nineteenth century, is a revival of the same science that Krishna gave millenniums ago to Arjuna; and that was later known to Patanjali and Christ, and to St. John, St. Paul, and other disciples." (Chap. 26, section 4).
Either it is true or untrue. The quotation could need a few comments:
In for adequate handling of issues
It had better be pointed out that translators translate as they understand or interpret text. Obscure texts from long ago may be difficult to adapt to with certaintly.
You will get a number of other translations of the verses in question in the following, following that of Yogananda, to the end that you too may have a foundation for evaluating the matter a bit better than just blurting out, "What kind of lunacy is this?"
How to manage breathing - Deals of many translatons
An interesting leitmotif in the Bhagavad Gita (4:29) is what to do with your breath in yoga. There is sensible yoga and insensible yoga. Key translations of the Gita offer these alternatives of what you have to do with your breath to end up enlightened in the end:
Some more detail to add to the verbals above is below. The emphasises here are added. And full text references are at bottom of the page:
Are these different ways of telling of the same method, or similar methods? If so, how is a well performed "breath-offering" performed? You may not find out of it until you get well accomplished in yoga and meditation. That idea should not deter you from progressing wonderfully in TM, ◦Transcendental Meditation, a most sensible meditation method, according to substantial research. Findings of quality research matter.
Also, we are supposed to "climb above words too" as our meditations deepen. Hence, that translations differ should not upset us at all. Our task is to make sense out of the jumble if we can, or go on as well as we can. Proficient meditation matters.
There may be no better way to find out which of all these takes are adequate, than to learn the very best, documented meditation methods in good freedom, and progress a lot. How long will it take? "Once the apple has started from its branch, it is headed for the ground, whether it has a short fall or a longer one."
Another take appears: try basic kriya yoga for free. It is up to you. Passages in ancient texts seldom specify yogic methods.
More on Yogananda's 'cause-arrest'Wading through words, we have found that Yogananda's kriya alignment to the Bhagavad Gita 4:29 says that doing kriya is to arrest the cause of breath. This is said twice, both in his Autobiography (above) and in his translation of the Bhagavad Gita with a commentary [Yogananda 1999] Is there a problem or a nuisance here? One: Breathing is goverend by the lower half of the brain stem (the medulla oblongata). The medulla deals with autonomic functions, such as breathing. If you hold your breath forcibly, you may swoon, and when you are unconscious, medulla functions make you breathe anyway. In such ways the lower brain is a rather marked cause of breath. Breath is also tied in with metabolism. If you relax, the breath generally gets calmer. [Wikipedia, s.v. "Medulla oblongata"]
Also, on the way to a sensible understanding and not just a play with words, one had better take into account that 'arrest' has many meanings and synonyms. Collins English Dictionary offers:
to deprive (a person) of liberty by taking him into custody, especially under lawful authority
But there are many other choices to govern the understanding. Collins' Thesaurus offers these synonyms to 'arrest':
1 capture, catch, lift (slang), nick (slang, chiefly Brit.), seize, run in (slang), nail (informal), bust (informal), collar (informal), take, detain, pinch (informal), nab (informal), apprehend, take prisoner, take into custody, lay hold of / release
Taking into account that words can carry lots of meaning, and generalities seldom help when specific descriptions are required, you get gentle kriya yoga carefully described and keys as to how it is properly done. It is public knowledge. It is not difficult.
Hence, good, specific descriptions matter, and skillful practice and monitoring matter more.
The exalted Lord said to Arjuna:
These Gita verses (4:1-2) may not be easily verified. I go on to a full quotations of verse 4:29, where the "juice" is. Yogananda on verse 4:29:
Other devotees offer as sacrifice the incoming breath of prana in the outgoing breath of apana, and the outgoing breath of apana in the incoming breath of prana, thus arresting the cause of inhalation and exhalation (rendering breath unnecessary) by intent practice of pranayama (the life-control technique of Kriya Yoga). [4:29]
"The Bhagavad Gita clearly mentions in this stanza the theory of Kriya Yoga, the technique of God-communion that Lahiri Mahasaya gave to the world in the nineteenth century," writes Yogananda [Gt 496]. His Gita commentary includes the topic of prana connected to this verse, how it permeates the world and people, how it has five functions, and that there are two main prana currents in the body: one flows up to the head and another down from the head, simply said. Prana currents thereby cause in-breath and out-breath. His prana thinking is not controversial among yogis.
Here we have got to what Yogananda means by "the cause of breath" - not something physical, but vital. When the vitality (life) is all gone the body, the body usually turns into a decaying corpse.
And yet, in the yoga tradition there are different methods for trying to balance these currents by working on the breath in varying ways. Basic kriya yoga is one of them. Moreover, the Gita may not have referred to Babaji's kriya yoga at all by these words, but some other yoga techniques, for what we know.
In his commentary to the verse, Yogananda also brings in verses 5:27-28:
That meditation expert (muni) becomes eternally free who, seeking the Supreme Goal, is able to withdraw from external phenomena by fixing his gaze within the midspot of the eyebrows and by neutralizing the even currents of prana and apana [that flow] within the nostrils and lungs . . . [Gt 501]
There should be nothing wrong with these added notions of prana and prana control, but reading the system kriya yoga into the Gita passages may be manipulative, or may not – it is not said what methods are referred to, if any specific methods at all. The verses may be said to cover several yoga methods that are for stilling the breath somehow, or methods that have such effects. Besides, the kriya yoga system is not specified in the old texts, where you get more general statements, and the term "kriya yoga" could have been coined as late as 1861 by Babaji. That is what Yogananda says in his autobiography [Chap. 34, opening passages and chap. 26].
I will stay mainly with verse 4:29 of the Gita in the following, since it is pivotal for Yogananda's claim that the Gita contains kriya references.
Now for other translations. First in line is Bhaktivedanta, who offers a transliteration and comment of verse 4:29 and all the others.
Still others, who are inclined to the process of breath restraint to remain in trance, practice by offering the movement of the outgoing breath into the incoming, and the incoming breath into the outgoing, and thus at last remain in trance, stopping all breathing. Others, curtailing the eating process, offer the outgoing breath into itself as a sacrifice. [4:29]
Bhaktivedanta's Sanskrit transliteraton: apane juhvati pranam / prane 'panam tathapare / pranapana-gati ruddhva / pranayama-parayanah / apare niyataharah / pranan pranesu juhvati
Bhaktivedanta's text broken up in parts
apane – in the air which acts downward;
juhvati – offer;
pranam – the air which acts outward;
prane – in the air going outward;
apanam – the air going downward;
tatha – as also;
apare – others;
prana – of the air going outward;
apana – and the air going downward;
gati – the movement;
ruddhva – checking;
prana-ayama – trance induced by stopping all breathing;
parayanah – so inclined;
apare – others;
niyata – having controlled;
aharah – eating;
pranan – the outgoing air;
pranesu – in the outgoing air;
juhvati – sacrifice.
From Bhaktivedanta's purport – verse 4:29
This system of yoga for controlling the breathing process is called pranayama, and in the beginning it is practiced in the hatha-yoga system through different sitting postures. ... This practice involves controlling the airs [pranas] within the body ... The apana air goes downward, and the prana air goes up. ...
Here are the passages in Sivananda's on-line translation, with a Sanskrit transliteration offered too:
Yet some offer as sacrifice, the outgoing into the in-coming breath, and the in-coming into the out-going, stopping the courses of the in-coming and out-going breaths, constantly practising the regulation of the vital energy; while others yet of regulated food, offer in the Pranas the functions thereof. [4:29]
Evidence sorted somehow
There may be no ancient, scriptural evidence that refers specifically to the kriya yoga system of Babaji, for kriya yoga was handed over to Lahiri Mahasaya under that name only in 1861, Yogananda tells. Ancient scriptures predate the year 1861. Further:
"The kriya yoga which I am giving to the world through you in this nineteenth century," Babaji told Lahiri Mahasaya, "is a revival of the same science which Krishna gave, millenniums ago, to Arjuna, and which was later known to Patanjali, and to Christ, St. John, St. Paul, and other disciples. - [As rendered in Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi, chap. 26].I wonder how true it is. If all of them knew it, they hid it well or forgot it well and did not propagate it well for nearly 2000 years either.
Now, the simple, ancient meditation method that is called Hamsa fits the Gita's pranayama description too. As for the other statements quoted, see further down.
The two Gita passages that Yogananda uses to underpin his kriya yoga message, do not detail the essentials of core kriya yoga, i.e., ujjayi pranayama that the guru taught a singular version of. Furthermore, the verses can be used to anchor other methods to ancient, scriptural authority too. But the passages do suggest the prana-abating side to kriya yoga – among other methods, including the Hamsa way of breath meditation. The Gita may refer to kriya yoga and other techniques, or just other techniques, or just kriya, since the verses do not refer specifically to Babaji's kriya yoga system, which is based on the publicly known calming breathing way called ujjayi, according to Satyananda Yoga.
Conclusion so far: Solid textual proof differs from meanings read into an ancient writing and tough claims along with that.
Questions and Answers
Q. Does Patanjali talk of kriya yoga, or does he use the Sanskrit word kriya in a general meaning?
A. He does use the word "kriya(h)". Some translators translate it into "kriya yoga", but most translations I have seen, do not. To almost all translators it is something like "the yoga to do", and that is a general way of speaking, not mentioning any specific method by the term 'kriya'.
Q. How many times do the word "kriya" appear in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras?
A. Four times only.
Q. How do different translators deal with the term?
A. They translate it differently.
Q. What English translations are around?
A. There are many. Vivekananda has a ◦translation and yogic commentary in Raja Yoga. Prabhavananda and Isherwood's translation and commentary is in book form. Sivananda's translation is on-site, and so is a translation by Bhaktivedanta - both translations are without their commentaries, which are on-line on other sites. Further, Nikhilananda's translation (in book form) contains an interesting commentary rooted in Shankara's Vedanta commentary. [Compare].
Q. On what grounds is it Yogananda-claimed that Babaji's kriya yoga is referred to in the Yoga Sutras?
A. According to Yogananda's Autobiography, when Babaji initiated Shyama Lahiri in kriya yoga in 1861, he said, "The kriya yoga which I am giving to the world through you in this nineteenth century, is a revival of [what] was later known to ... Christ, St. John, St. Paul, and other disciples." Yogananda writes that "Babaji ... rediscovered and clarified the technique after it had been lost ..." [Autobiography, chap. 26]
Many translators don't think that the Sanskrit term 'kriya' as found in ancient works refers to specific methods called kriya-yoga, because 'kriya' is a widely used Sanskrit word for work, activity, and similar. Hence, their translations differ from Yogananda's. And much claimed evidence that Yogananda drums up for an obscure "kriya yoga" in ancient texts - just because of the plain Sanskrit 'kriya' word for work, looks footloose thereby, not properly grounded. If you cannot substantiate a claim better than the guru Yogananda in the matter, you are on very thin ice. What is more, you may be suspected to strive to impress a lot without any good proof of your claims.
A. Yogananda's shot at Patanjali 2:1 compared to views of notable others
Yogananda assesses that Kriya Yoga is mentioned in verse 2:1 of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. Patanjali says,
tapah svadhyay-esvarapranidhanani kriya-yogah [2:1]
In his Autobiography Yogananda translates verse 2:1 thus: "Kriya Yoga consists of body discipline, mental control, and meditating on Om." In a note, this is added: "In using the words Kriya Yoga, Patanjali was referring either to the technique later taught by Babaji or to one very similar. That Patanjali was mentioning a definite technique of life-force control is proved by his aphorism in Yoga Sutras 2:49 [Ay Ch 26, n 6]
Yogananda: "Patanjali refers a second time to the life-control or kriya technique thus: "Liberation can be accomplished by that pranayama which is attained by disjoining the course of inspiration and expiration."" [Yoga Sutras 2.49] [Ay chap 26 with note]
Also: "The ancient sage Patanjali, foremost exponent of yoga, also extols Kriya Yoga pranayama: "Liberation can be attained by that pranayama which is accomplished by disjoining the course of inspiration and expiration"" (Yoga Sutras 2:49). [Gt 502]
It may or may not be kriya yoga pranayama (core kriya) that is referred to by Patanjali; some other technique are also said to fit his rather cryptic description - by added interpretations, that is.
Yogananda's "Meditating on Om" (verse 2:1) is missing in nearly all the translations that follow, but the same exegesis is found in Lahiri Mahasaya's commentaries (below). Yogananda is of that guru line.
A variety of other translations
Mortification, study, and the surrender of the fruits of work to God are called kriya-yoga. [2:1]
He explains that kriya-yoga in this place literally means practising yoga through work. What is meant by "mortification"? It means keeping the body and the organs under proper control, he says. What is meant by "study"? Study of those works which teach the liberation of the soul. . . . Books are many and time is short; therefore take what is essential and try to live up to it. The yogi wants to go beyond the senses. [Extract]
Hariharananda Aranya translates the verses thus:
Tapas (austerity or sturdy self-discipline – mental, moral and physical), Svadhyaya (repetition of sacred Mantras or study of sacred literature) and Isvara-pranidhana (complete surrender to God) are Kriya-yoga (Yoga in the form of action). [2:1]
The translators and commentators Pranabhananda and Isherwood say: "Having devoted the first chapter of his aphorisms to the aims of yoga, Patanjali now begins a chapter on its practice. These preliminary steps toward yoga are known collectively as kriya-yoga, which means literally "work toward yoga."" [Yof 67]
I do not know of any ancient scriptural evidence that the "kriya" word in the Sanskrit sutra here, refers to the particular methods that Babaji named kriya yoga as late as in 1861. That date appears to be over two thousand years after most of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras handbook was written. Besides, the Sanskrit word 'kriya' is for most part taken to mean such as practice, actions, and work. Yogananda also says in the opening lines of chapter 26 of his autobiography: "The Sanskrit root of kriya is kri, to do, to act and react; the same root is found in the word karma." [Ay ch 26].
We may well translate Patanjali 2:1 differently from Yogananda. Many translators do that. My shot at it is:
Proper austerity, self-study, and turning one's devotion within to see Bright Light, is the yoga to do.
Most translations of Patanjali 2:49 do not contain any reference to Babaji's kriya yoga system.
B. Yogananda's shot at Patanjali 2:49
Yogananda assesses that Kriya Yoga is into verse 2:49 of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras too. Patanjali says,
tasmin sati shvasa prashvasayor gativichchedah pranayamah. [2:49]
Speaking for kriya yoga, Yogananda says: "Patanjali refers a second time to the life-control or kriya technique thus: "Liberation can be accomplished by that pranayama which is attained by disjoining the course of inspiration and expiration."" [Yoga Sutras 2.49] [Ay, chap 26 with note]
Yogananda also says, "That Patanjali was mentioning a definite technique of life-force control is proved by his aphorism in Yoga Sutras 2:49 [Ay Ch 26, n 6]
There is more than one method that could suit Patanjali's sutra 2:49. It depends on interpretation, how skilled, well-founded and fair it is. How can anyone document that Patanjali refers to a specific set of yoga methods by tapah-svadhyayeshvara-pranidhanani kriya-yogah? The line carries these basic meanings:
Tapas (austerity or sacrifice as self-discipline), Svadhyaya (self-study, traditionally understood as study with or without delicate repetition of fit mantras or learning good books) and Isvara-pranidhana (pious attention within to Ishwara – God of Light) constitute Kriya-yoga (Activity Yoga) [2:1].
Control of the motion of exhalation and inhalation follows after this. [2:49]
Vivekananda explains: "When posture has been conquered, the motion of the prana is then to be broken – that is, stopped – and then controlled. Thus we come to pranayama, the controlling of the vital forces of the body. Prana is not the breath, though it is usually so translated ... We begin by controlling the breath as the easiest way of getting control of the prana." [Via]
That (Asana) having been perfected, regulation of the flow of inhalation and exhalation is Pranayama (breath control). [2:49]
Pranabhananda and Isherwood:
After mastering posture, one must practice control of the prana (pranayama) by stopping the motions of inhalation and exhalation. [2:49] [Yof]
This is perhaps needless to remark: One should not forcibly try to stop breathing, for the result is swooning - or perhaps dying within some minutes - depending on how the breath is stopped. But it is not success in yoga meditation. B. K. S. Iyengar:
Pranayama is the regulation of the incoming and outgoing flow of breath with retention. It is to be practiced only after perfection in asana is attained. [2:49]
Simultaneously, the interruption find reversal (and therefore the balancing) of the flow of inhalation and exhalation, of the positive (life-promoting) energy and the negative (decay-promoting) energy, constitutes the regulation of the life-force which is then experienced as the totality of all its functional aspects previously and ignorantly viewed as the building up and the breaking down opposed to each other. [2:49]
Patanjali's pranayama teachings may include something like kriya, but this is not specified
Patanjali writes of pranayama. Yogananda says passages in Patanjali Yoga Sutras refer to kriya yoga or something similar.
The medley below suggests other, more general ways of understanding verse 2:41 of the Patanjali Sutras:
"Regulating" – "regulation of breath" – "Control of the breath, cutting off of the motion of in-breath and out-breath" – "Stopping breathing in and out" – "Restraining the breathing in and out" – "Regulation of breath (Pranayama) is the stoppage of the inspiratory and expiratory movements (of breath) which follows, when that has been secured" – Raghanath Iyer understands this to mean that "pranayama is the regulation of breath, the restraint of inhalation and exhalation." – B. K. S. Iyengar writes "Pranayama is the regulation of the incoming and outgoing flow of breath with retention."
Vital elements of pranayama are inhaling and exhaling and having the flow of breath dwindle and pause, that is, stop a bit by itself too. Patanjali's terse-obscure sutra leaves room for various interpretations. Further, there are several pranayama methods attuned to the gist of Patanjali here, along with teachings and warnings. "The breath may be stopped externally, or internally, or checked in mid-motion, and regulated according to place, time and a fixed number of moments, so that the stoppage is either protracted or brief," write Pranabhananda and Isherwood, and also that "prana means the vital energy by which we live".
Pranabhananda and Isherwood also add about prana that "this [vital] energy is renewed by breathing, prana may sometimes be translated as "breath"; but the word has a much broader reference". "All the powers of the body ... and the mind are regarded as expressions of the force of prana." Prana is many old texts is understood as a "primal energy". [Yof 2:50, comments. p 112]
The sutras 49, 50 and 51 all allude to regulation of the breath. Sutra 51 alludes to an interconnection between mind and breathing: Interiorising the mind deeply may affect the breathing. Sleep modifies the breathing too. Control of the prana through exercises, or after reached a certain stage of spiritual development, the breathing may cease of its own accord for many seconds while he is deeply absorbed. This is natural. [Yof 112-17, passim]
In yoga literature prana is associated with bhutas, elements, and with said centres of vital energy in the subtle spine, which is called the sushumna nadi, which is a vessel for such energies. When the mind reaches the seventh centre of the sushumna (seventh chakra, wheel, or padma, lotus) at the top of the head by backing up the "subtle energy trek" through the sushumna, yoga samadhi is attained. One becomes a knower of Brahman [God], united with Brahman.
Hence, yoga teaches that by directing a pent-up vital energy (prana) in a good way, some obtain enlightenment. The main aim of serious pranayama is to rouse a coil of energy that normally lies dormant at the bottom of the spine, and thereby use the vital energy toward development and yoga. Breathing exercises are means to the end. Pranayama is centred in arresting the breath in ways that matter in yoga. There are more terms involved: If the breath is arrested after an exhalation, when the lungs have been emptied of air, the stoppage is said to be "external." If the breath is checked after an inhalation, this is an "internal" stoppage.
And pranayama comes with warnings: "No one should practice the advanced exercises of pranayama without the constant supervision of an experienced teacher. And no one should practice them under any circumstances ...", tell Pranabhananda and Isherwood in what stands out as our humorous abortion of a longer period that continues like this: "unless he is leading an absolutely chaste life devoted entirely to the search for God. Otherwise they may easily lead to mental disturbances of the most dangerous kind. Those who encourage others to adopt such practices out of curiosity or vanity can only be described as criminals." – Their stipulations or demands do not suit all.
There is; however, a harmless breathing exercise, they inform, and below it is made even simpler than they show:
Breathe in deeply, measuredly, with great ease, and keep relaxed
This exercise can be continued – and enlarged on too. Now you are into yoga breathing, which is breathing – your breathing, in fact. Yoga breathing consists of various modulations of natural and preferably easy breathing. You may try to breathe through the nostrils only or the nostrils and the mouth at the same time. You do as you find best if you do not get tense. Do not overdo anything or go too far.
Now it is hard to see how breathing with ease can hurt you as you go ahead. Just remember to do it with no strain and pressure. You can enrich your life by it several times a day, and up to five and ten minutes each time, if you so desire. The practice could help the quality of your breathing in the long run, is the bet, and such improvement is needed for many stressed persons. Also, the little practice can lead into pleasant yogi breathing of filling your lungs more and relaxing a bit as instructed. Maybe you should learn pleasant yoga breathing in a yoga class. It could work well against enervation.
Sound breathing practice improves with skill and should not involve holding the breath excessively or over-stimulating the body with too much oxygen. Nor should it serve to trigger latent neuroses and insanity in anybody. [Yof 112-17, passim]
Many translations carry a bias, or a spin, somehow. Translations can reflect the stands, cultures, times and understanding of the translators to some degree. Some translations are better, more cultured, and more reliable than others. If you do not know who they are, there are these lax rules of the thumb:
The translator's renown can be studied. Books by well educated people and published by university publishers could be good, as these agents have standards and depend on repute. Translations that appear on the Internet are of mixed quality.
I have not detected any dandy way of dealing with all sorts of Internet-published works. Some publications on the Internet may not be up to best standards. The same may be said of quite old books that are republished on the Internet: Even thought they were first published by what once was thought of as eminent writers and publishers, much of them may not be actual enough (in line with current interests and understandings), and factual enough (based on facts, i.e, reliable) well as judged by today's standards and knowledge. Many famous books might need to be updated. Textbook writers experience updating problems frequently.
In older works the fit standard of today may be almost there ... And parts may be brilliant or fine too, and that should be acknowledged.
Hence, sifting works with a view to quality can be rather tough and laborious at times, but I have hinted at "what and who" to rely on in gross outline.
Gather works by doctors, professors, published by renowned publishers, such as university presses, and works that get much acclaim otherwise too.
This stratagem may be a help. I for my part have looked into nearly a dozen translations and a couple of Sanskrit transliterations for this study.
More than two fragments: four fragments ...
The Sanskrit word 'kriya" appears in four places of the whole Patanjali work. They are verses 1, 2, 18, and 36 of chapter 2.
Raghavan Iyer brings you the Sanskrit and translations of these verses
- Raghavan Narasimhan Iyer. [Kys].
Hariharananda Aranya translates these verses:
Swami Hariharananda Aranya (1869-1947) was of an austere lifestyle and intense spiritual practice. In April 1947, his body was frail and he decided against continuing further. Hariharananda calls the second chapter "On practice".
Tapas (austerity or sturdy self-discipline – mental, moral and physical), Svadhyaya (repetition of sacred Mantras or study of sacred literature) and Isvara-pranidhana (complete surrender to God) are Kriya-yoga (Yoga in the form of action). [2:1]
- Swami Hariharananda. [Ypp]
Lahiri Mahasaya's Version
We should wonder how certain is it that something forgotten has been revived, revived well, completely, without flaws, and so on. And to say that a dim, forgotten-yet-revived kriya yoga system is shown in prestigious works of Hinduism, like the Bhagavad Gita and Patanjali Yoga Sutras, is that making use of obscure stanzas much like square holes for round pegs? Shyama Lahiri (1828-95) with added titles of respect after the surname, basically interprets the Yoga Sutras and many other works in the light of kriya. By that he applies kriya yoga teachings to those works.
Many old statements are tersely obscure, and allow for several interpretations. Solid translations require background knowledge – knowledge of the wider context – and much else. Take a look at how knowing how to interpret texts in general offers help [Link].
Today there are different versions of Lahiri Mahasaya's work on the Yoga Sutras. I can make do with one, the "San Diego text".
Now, we turn to the instruction of how to practice Yoga, which is to be practiced under the direct (personal) guidance of the Guru. Tapa, Swadhyaya and Iswarapranidhana constitute Kriya Yoga.
The quotations above are verbatim, except that words in italics in the original are not in italics here. Parenthetic matter in round brackets is there in the original.
Lahiri talks of subtle happenings in meditation. To what degree you think Patanjali covers all of them in his two verses (2:1-2) is for you to decide.
Several decades ago Yogananda's fellowship sold Charles Johnston's translation of Patanjali. It is on-line now. In his text the two sutras are:
The practices which make for union with the Soul are: fervent aspiration, spiritual reading, and complete obedience to the Master – Their aim is, to bring soul-vision, and to wear away hindrances." [Charles Johnston, 2:1-2]
Jesus and Kriya Yoga
"The Kriya Yoga that I am giving to the world through you in this nineteenth century, is a revival of the same science that Krishna gave millenniums ago to Arjuna; and that was later known to Patanjali and Christ, and to St. John, St. Paul, and other disciples," Babaji is quoted to say in Autobiography of a Yogi, chap 26.
In his Bhagavad Gita commentary, Yogananda also launches a more or less soporific claim about Jesus. "That Jesus knew and taught to his disciples the Raja Yoga technique of uniting soul with Spirit is evidenced in the deeply symbolic Biblical chapter "The Revelation of Jesus Christ to Saint John." Revelations may be used to "talk of" so many different things; there is a problem. What you "see" in those obscure passages, tends to reflect the interpreter by what he or she reads into it. [Gt 427].
If Jesus knew kriya-yoga, he hid it well. The dispensation he heralded, was different; it was the Holy Spirit falling on persons, and no methods taught. That is the central happening of Acts in the New Testament - the sine qua non for Christianity.
Yogananda also tells in several places that the wise men of the Gospel were the SRF gurus, and all without evidence. Claims without evidence allow for corrupted claims as time goes by. His direct disciple James Donald Walters says Yogananda dictated this, seemingly out of the blue:
Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, and Sri Yukteswar," he dictated, "were the three wise men who came to visit the Christ child in the manger. When Jesus became old enough, he returned their visit. [Np, chap 20]
Yogananda manages the obscure "art" of seemingly reconciling irreconcilable teachings from different heads.
❋ To end up confused, put faith in everything you are told. [Compare]
Paul and Kriya
The apostle Paul told he died daily, but why should that garbled account be used to promote kriya yoga? Where did Paul learn it from, if he ever did? Jesus said in one place he had taught nothing in secret (but also said on another occasion that his apostles had learnt secrets." To quote:
"I said nothing in secret," said Jesus [John 18:20] – "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. [Matthew 13:11; Luke 8:10]
Accordingly, they knew the secrets of Heaven, although he had not shown them to them . . . Other ways of understanding the seemingly self-contradictory statements in the New Testament are possible too.
Paul also writes:
Once I was alive ... but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died ... the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. [Rom 7:9-10]
[NOTE: He was alive and not dead when he wrote that. Call the bluff.]
I die every day – I mean that, brothers – just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord . . . If the dead are not raised, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." [1 Corinthians 15:31-32]
[NOTE: Do not focus on just dying if you die daily; for in such a case you come to life daily too - presumably . .. Besides, I for one find it awfully hard to believe that the dead are raised when their every cell has rotted away and been recycled, or blown away in a huge desert of sand dunes. Paul had been a Pharisee before he was converted. Pharisees were distinguished from the Sadducees in that Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead. And that faith looks too outré for long gone bodies there is nothing left of, to say the least.]
What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. [1 Corinthians 15:36]
[NOTE: Wrong. A plant species continues its life through phases, and the seed phase is one of them. It is better to say that the seed gives itself up as the sprouting plant, for that is what happens.]
"Where, death, is your victory?" [1 Corinthians 15:55]
[NOTE: Paul died soon enough, demagogy aside.]
Is all in the translated Paul but garbled?
As to "dying to live": It is rooted in poor understanding of seeds. Jesus holds the same erroneous notion too: "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (John 12:24-26)." It does not all die, the key parts of it sprout. It is the same with a potato. You sow one in the soil and the next you know is that it sprouts. It does not die, its most vital parts sprout and use other parts as nourishment in the first phases, as the case may be. Do not get confused in such matters.
Further, some seeds that sprout well, survive year after year as trees. Some of them are naturally able to be alive for hundreds of years. Let there be no misleading teachings about seeds. The seed does not die when a vital part of it sprouts and grows into another plant of the same sort, cycle after cycle, time and time again.
As for Paul's "dying daily", it appears to be a figurative term, and Paul seems to have lived daily too. Few or no Christian scholars interpret his sayings literally. Yogananda, however, found the statement fit to attach kriya yoga to and thereby seek legitimacy without much regard for Church understanding of the phrase and without much regard for Jesus and facts either. The Bible scholar Geza Vermes sums up from years of Jesus research:
During his days of preaching, Jesus of Nazareth addressed only Jews, "the lost sheep of Israel" (Matthew 10:5; 15:24). His disciples were expressly instructed not to approach gentiles or Samaritans (Matthew 10:5). On the few occasions that Jesus ventured beyond the boundaries of his homeland, he never proclaimed his gospel to pagans, nor did his disciples do so during his lifetime. The mission of the 11 apostles to "all the nations" (Matthew 28:19) is a "post-Resurrection" idea. It appears to be of Pauline inspiration and is nowhere else found in the Gospels (apart from the spurious longer ending of Mark [Mark 16:15], which is missing from all the older manuscripts). Jesus' own perspective was exclusively Jewish; he was concerned only with Jews. (Vermes 2012)
Why were Yogananda concerned with a Jewish healer who wrongly taught the end of the world was near, and whose teachings were for Jews only? Yogananda does not appear to be a gospel knower and qualified for going into the teachings of Jesus the Jews for his fellow Jews only. He obviously showed lack of proper knowledge and perhaps a thorough-going lack of fit "Jesus-only-for-Jews" respect too. That is not a sign of a healthy guy, since it is made plain that healthy persons of sound spirit and mind should not need Jesus. Who says that? Jesus.
Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. . . . I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." [Matthew 9:12-13]
When good proof of a series of claims is lacking, there is a call for faith. Because of their faith some people end up disappointed. But it is not really needed to believe texts and claims, says Buddha. Vivekananda too. Appropriate ways and means often involve to have claims examined.
As for the efficacy of what is called kriya yoga, some interesting research has been done. I present old and recent research findings on kriya studies on another page in this kriya collection. [More]
However, TM, very easily learnt, has a much wider range of documented good effects than Babaji's kriya yoga system, and is less time-consuming. That could be taken into account.
Vermes, Geza. From Jewish to Gentile: How the Jesus Movement Became Christianity. Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) 38:06, Nov/Dec 2012.
Ay: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 1st ed. New York: Theosophical, 1946. Online.
Bh: Bhaktivedanta, swami. The Bhagavad Gita As It Is. London: Collier, 1968. Online version: vedabase.net/bg/4/en
Cy: Satyananda Saraswati, Swami. A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya. Munger: Yoga Publications Trust, 1981.
EB: Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica 2014 Ultimate Reference Suite DVD. London: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2013.
Gt: Yogananda, Paramahansa. God's Talk with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita, 2 Vols. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1999.
Ha: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 12th ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1981.
Iv: Satyeswarananda, sw., tr.: Inner Victory: With Lahiri Mahasay's Commentaries. The Sanskrit Classics. San Diego, 1987.
Kta: Satyananda Saraswati, Swami. Kundalini Tantra. 8th ed. Munger: Yoga Publications Trust, 2001.
Kyb: Iyer, Raghavan. Kriya Yoga – Yoga Sutras Book II – Patanjali. Np: Theosophy Trust Books, 2009. Online.
Lys: Iyengar, B. K. S. Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. London: Thorsons, 1996.
Mba: Mahesh Yogi, Maharishi. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on the Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation and Commentary with Sanskrit Text. Chapters 1 to 6. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1972.
Mmw: Ganguli, K., tr. The Mahabharata, Vols 1-12. 4th ed. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1981, book 6, section 28.
Np: Kriyananda, Swami. The New Path: My Life with Paramhansa Yogananda. 3nd ed. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity, 2010.
Ppa: Niranjanananda, Swami. Prana and Pranayama. Munger, Bihar: Yoga Publications Trust, 2009.
Srbg: Swarupananda, Swami, tr. comm. Srimad-Bhagavad-Gita. Mayavati, Almora: Advaita Ashrama, 1909.
Tdg: Fosse, Lars Martin. The Bhagavad Gita: The Original Sanskrit and an English Translation. Woodstock, NY: YogaVidya.com, 2007.
Tyy: Hewitt, James. Yoga. 4th ed. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1992.
Via: Nikhilananda, swami. Vivekananda. The Yogas and Other Works. Rev. ed. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1953.
Yof: Isherwood, Christopher, and swami Pranabhananda. How To Know God. New York: Mentor, 1969.
Ybk: Hewitt, James. The Complete Yoga Book: The Yoga of Breathing, Meditation and Posture. London: Rider, 1991.
Ypp: Hariharananda, Swami. Yoga Philosophy of Patanjali. Calcutta: Calcutta University Press, 1977. – Revised ed. 2000. (State Universitity of New York, 1983).
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