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First Survey of Kriya Problems

Kriya yoga teachings Yogananda (1893-1952) spread much unverified hype about a yoga system he came to the USA with in 1920: kriya yoga. The Self-Realization Fellowship, SRF, backs up the hype of Yogananda, its founder. One had better be alerted to the possibility that there are halting statements and untruth in it, for starters. Go on and make sure.

If you want to go upright, refrain from believing everything you hear and loose your footing. Learn to consider instead. "Better be sure than be a loser (Scottish)," and "Error carries away the unteachable." [Ptah-Hotep]

There are different teachings about the effects of kriya yoga

Kriya for self-development and kriya for giving up former freedom - Here you will be shown that the guru Yogananda changed the kriya yoga teachings he came to America with, after some years there. And then the questions arise: Did he change them much, for good or bad and just as he said? And where is the evidence of his biggest boasts? And are there any snags involved in SRF, Self-Realization Fellowship, such as giving up one's freedom? Yes, there are. But don't despair if you would like to train yourself in kriya breathing, you too. Be pleased know there is a free basic kriya method to train with right here on the site. Also, there is another kriya yoga line called Satyananda Yoga, where kriya yoga is taught in books too, without invading your personal life. Alternatives are good to know of to avoid a bad start.

True good versus "Look, fishes" and "no matter what" of Yogananda. Kriya yoga was first brought to North America by the swami Yogananda. He got quite a following in the United States in his time - mind the difference between 'many' and 'good' right now, or "Quantity versus quality", if you like. And why not ponder if 'seemingly good' by boasts and overblown hype and 'truly good' are one and the same in all cases, and if what is good at first, will remain good in the long haul, even to the end. True good and uplifting may be understood as splendid in the beginning, middle, and end, in part as Buddha has it: "I have taught the truth which is excellent [glorious] in the beginning, excellent in the middle, and excellent in the end; it is glorious in its spirit and glorious in its letter. But . . .". [The rest of Paul Carus' rendering]. Anguttara Nikaya 11.12 gives more exact guidance in this, and it is not a bad start to learn it.

Excellent in the beginning (not deviating a lot from sound moral norms), in the middle (learning to meditate well) and in the long run and end (gain much sagacity or wisdom) is the key here. By Buddha's self-help fit way of life what is good may be tested by practice and also known by experience. Results may be long-range and material. A way of life that adheres to Buddha's guiding principles may be followed and perhaps form developments, maturation and enlightenment that is, supreme wisdom.

For our own great or developing good we may take such things into account too . . .

Yogananda's way of transmitting kriya yoga is opposed to free delivery without secrecy. He meant to keep kriya yoga secret, and the fellowship he founded, continue to bind persons by an oath, the Kriya Yoga Pledge. It helps to be informed, also about downsides of things and wrong takes. A biography on Yogananda by Sailendra Dasgupta has "Behind every effort by Yogananda was the root purpose of attracting men and women to kriya yoga, no matter what the means." (Psy 101). He also quotes Yogananda: "Look, I want to throw the net far and wide, so that at least a couple of big fishes can be caught." (Psy 79)

The fish net - stay away from it if fish you are. The net with its meshes - does it stand for freeing a haul or something else? That is for you to find out of, but guesswork is hardly as good as growing suspicions of trickery. Also worth knowing: Yogananda's kriya yoga and the prospects he offers to practitioners differ up to drastically from his own guru's teachings. A main focus on this page is on significant differences between Yogananda's kriya teachings and his guru's teachings and some of his guru-guru's teachings as well. Satyeswarananda is a kriya yogi who specifies many of the changes that Yogananda made to the techniques and ways of transmission.

Wisdom among other things recognises loose boasting and unverified hype and resists them well.. One has to ask for evidence of things throughout life, to be on the safe side of much. To be duped is different from that again. To get a better, initial understanding of "One should perform Kriya having taken refuge in indubitable wisdom," as Yogananda's guru Yukteswar sets down in his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita (Bhg 2:49), one needs to clarify which kriyas, in what order, how, how often, how much, how long, and be alerted to the much unverified hype that surrounds Yogananda's kriya yoga. It is taught by a church society he founded, Self-Realization Fellowship. It was registered in the state of California in late March 1935. Here we go:

Don't forget to ask "Really?" and "What's the fit evidence?"

The page at a glance

Now for a survey of what is detailed further down, where evidence in the form of book references is given too:

  1. Two vistas: Twelve times faster . . . Yogananda talks big about what kriya yoga (a set of methods) can do for "anyone" - but all right documentation is lacking so far. He tells it may accelerate human evolution twelve times faster than what his guru Yukteswar tells: Yogananda teaches that one million years without disease are needed for gaining Self-Realization, while Yukteswar teaches it takes twelve million years to gain it in that way. Here is one "SRF infallible guru" against another - and evidence of how it really may be seems to be completely lacking. A bad lore gives a bad faith.

  2. Old bold breathing. Yogananda altered kriya techniques by omitting some parts of the inherited kriya yoga system, parts that his guru's guru, Lahiri Mahasaya, says are essential. SRF teaches such changed kriya.

    What is more, the core of kriya yoga in another line also, is a well-known, publicly known method; it is a variant of the common pranayama (breathing) method called ujjayi, "bold breath". 'Bold' in this context suggests "may nourish one's confidence a lot". It would depend on what variant of ujjayi is practiced, and how well, among other things. Here is a variant of ujjayi explained in detail, with book references added: [Ujjayi variant explained].

    A publicly known core method, with some postures and other "things" of hatha yoga added to it may or may not be called mysterious and only for sworn-in people, depending on what else is added to it. In the SRF case it lies in the swearing-in, wchich binds a fellow hand and foot to Yogananda and his guru line, we are told.

  3. 144 times faster by a different way of reckoning - Yogananda says his simplified kriya (additions included) is twelve times more effective then the kriya system he was sent to the West with by several gurus of his line. He also said the time needed to get Self-realised by natural means is one twelfth of what his own guru says. This means Yogananda claimed kriya brings is glorious results 12 x 12 times faster, 144 times faster than what his guru says about the kriya Yogananda got and brought with him to the USA. Claiming and bluffing is at times easy; proving or disproving grand-looking claims can be toilsome, and it has not been done.

    Now, there is at least one or more errors involved in Yogananda's great claim, since Yogananda tells that Yukteswar of "unerring spiritual insight" [Hos v] was Divine Wisdom Incarnated [Pa 499-501], a master in every way [Ak 99], one whose words obliged the cosmos [Pa, ch. 17 etc.]. But did Yukteswar's words oblige panegyric Yogananda to stick to Yukteswar's time calculations and teachings of the kriya effects? No. And in Yogananda's SRF Church they find Yogananda's wisdom flawless. Remarkably? No, it is one of the key marks of a sect, or cult, really. [The letter] - [Cults] Which tales are true? I for one may say: "Avoid settling on a conclusion as long as there is no good evidence. That is a fair thing to do, also when faced with grand bluffs that dupe innocents."

  4. Two so-called infallible guys teach differently - then what? Yukteswar and Yogananda preach different doctrines. And besides, Yogananda followers are expected to stick to both of these Duces (Italian for leaders) who are found to be always right, no matter what it seems - and to four more, no matter what, after swearing an oath with a disagreeable underside called "slavish, sworn-in loyalty", in part in the name of no-swear Jesus, in short.

  5. An uncommon use of "scientifically" is encountered. Nowadays, 'scientific' stands for "relating to, derived from, or used in science; occupied in science; or conforming with the principles or methods used in science". Yogananda also tells kriya "works like mathematics". However, Yogananda and SRF have also drummed up that "the right attitude, grace and what the guru calls devotion" to explain away why followers who did the allegedly scientific kriya yoga a million times, as "scientifically" required, and yet did not attain any cosmic consciousness. In science, if an explanation does not truly explain a phenomenon, it is refined or discarded. — An older and rarer understanding of 'science' as a body of linked ideas and practices (somewhat like a discipline) could make SRF's goading use of "science" and "scientific" less far-fetched or wrong.

    Just don't be confused or mistaken about SRF's use of 'scientific' as "something we want to believe together is a lot". Handling pieces of bulwarked faith may boil down to "Ask for fit evidence", or "Don't get hooked on conform or sectarian beliefs that in time may amount to form misfits." Initially, that choice may be yours.

Grand but unproved guru claims or tales tend to call for blind faith unless we have the guts to ask for documentation up front - that is good. To enter the guru's flock of followers is to become a believer in inconsistencies - that easily works for bad within duped followers. Further, sectarian followers do not really appreciate that their top-dog hoaxes are debated or exposed. Some may get neurotic or worse if it happens. It may be in consequence of a bad, instilled faith in the first place.

Below is some evidence of what was summarized above. Since the talk is of delicate matters by way of yoga terms, some parts may be difficult to get at the first turn around. But many terms are succinctly explained in the on-site yoga glossary. There is a link to it in the bottom left part of the page. (Tips: Open it and keep it handily available when you encounter special yoga terms below. That could make the reading likable. [More])

Changed Kriya Lessons


Yogananda started to spead kriya yoga through printed lessons. There was an initial fee, and each printed lesson had a separate cost also. "After Yogananda's passing [in 1952], the Precepta Lessons were increased greatly in number and changes were also made to the original lessons. Yogananda's American disciples of earlier years were not happy with these changes." (Dasgupta 2006:54)

There are three sets of lessons involved: (a) Original lessons from 1925. (b) Praecepta Lessons from about 1934. (c) The SRF lessons from 1956.

"Revised and expanded" explains briefly what went on.

But were the kriya yoga methods, transmissions and teachings vastly improved?

There is reason to doubt whether Kriya can be given or taught properly by letters and circulars. (Dasgupta 2006:54)

Adding to this misgiving: Yogananda and/or SRF changed basic teachings and removed kriya techniques too. That was alarming to many kriya yogis at the time, and may still be.

False teachings are found - but which are true, if any of them?

Sri Yukteswar teaches that one kriya round is equal to one month's normal evolution, not a year's evolution, which Yogananda writes in his influential Autobiography, chap. 26.

FACE [A] half-minute of kriya equals one year of natural spiritual unfoldment . . .

One thousand kriya practised in eight hours gives the yogi, in one day, the equivalent of one thousand years of natural evolution . . . The kriya short cut, of course, can be taken only by deeply developed yogis. [Yogananda, Ay Ch 26]

If solid proofs are lacking, such vistas may look good on the surface and only there. They may also be too good to be true if Yogananda's guru, Yukteswar, got it right: He says in his commentary to the Bhagavad Gita that one round of kriya equals one month's evolution, not "one year's":

HRR "Practicing . . . the kriya of pranayam at one sitting, including its dawn and dusk, 12 times, meaning 14 times, accomplishes the work of one solar year. [Bhg 4:8].

This means that without evidence Yogananda and SRF say the kriya efficacy is twelve times better that his teacher-guru Yukteswar does. But that is not all, Yogananda concluded thus even after he has allegedly simplified the kriya. "Simpler and yet vastly better" -

Changed kriya techniques too

It has come to the fore recently that both Yogananda and SRF changed and reduced the repertoire of kriya techniques. Sailendra B. Das Gupta describes it in his biography on Yogananda:

In his methods of initiation into Kriya also Swami Yogananda added innovations. Perceiving that the average American found it difficult to sit in lotus posture, he taught that he could sit erect on a straight-back armless chair, legs hanging, and practise Kriya; initiation was also a mass affair. Instead of direct contact between the teacher and the taught – the Guru and the novice – the whole affair was reduced to something like an indoor class. Another startling innovation was that [the] Second or the Third Kriya was allowed to be practised without having to do Kechari Mudra ["tongue-lifting"]. All these innovations or rather deviation from the regular methods could not find favour with devotees and lovers of Kriya Yoga . . .

In his spiritual teachings Yogananda advocated performance of Yoni Mudra, which he preferred to call Jyoti Mudra, by which a devotee could experience Jyoti [Bright Light] and hear Omkar sound [Aum, also called the prime Vibration in Iv 51] after continued and prolonged efforts. Considering the hurdles involved in performing different Kriyas properly this method was found by him to be more suitable. [Ky Ch 5, section "Kriya Yoga Goes to America and the West."]

Such ballyhoo should come to an end

So Yogananda removed some of the handed-over kriya techniques he was sent to the United States to make known, and altered others. He taught that the kriya yoga he designed for Westerners, was twelve times more effective than what he had been taught himself (and probably taught in the States until 1934), and even shortened the time it would take to gain enlightenment to one million years naturally: "The scriptures aver that man requires a million years of normal, diseaseless evolution to perfect his human brain sufficiently to express cosmic consciousness. [Ay ch 26]. Regrettably, he does not say which scriptures. Demagogy has its ways. Now, his teacher, Yukteswar, said twelve million years, wherever he got that number from: "Now, I will explain . . . how to realize the Kaivalya, or Consciousness-alone, state which in the usual course of time takes 12,000,000 years." [Bhg 4:8]. An interesting scenario, considering the time humankind has been on the planet.

Why not pick your kriya yoga from another shelf, so to speak, after consider that both Yukteswar and Yogananda are hailed as gurus of flawless wisdom in SRF? Yukteswar gives you vastly worse odds of success, and it appears that Yogananda added nothing or very little to the basic method, actually.

It is good to be able to discern between facts and bluffs. Besides, "Big words don't fatten the cabbage (Proverb)".

In the Name of Jesus, but Really So?

Here it may be apt to tell that there is some documentation that kriya yoga has measured effects, although not at all those that Yogananda talks of. [Kriya research] The point for now is: A system of yoga methods - mostly publicly know ones - called kriya yoga in some circles, is not all a trick of confidence men. Yogananda put publicly attractive hype around it - and a severe oath to go along with it too, in part in the name of Jesus who said, "Do not swear". Did he just gurgle? Such words are too blatantly ignored by Yogananda and his fellowship.

THE SAID ROUTES: During kriya practice you seek to master or direct some life energy, prana, by a particular way of breathing in and out. Thereby you may steer a charge (surge) up and down the subtle area of "your interior spine", the teaching goes. Yoga literature says there is a subtle vessel for it, and calls that vessel sushumna nadi (in Sanskrit). It may be considered as a string with flowers on.

COMPLICATIONS OR VARIATIONS OR BOTH: The inside-the-organism route for the basic kriya technique is different in different camps: Lahiri sends the inside current straight up and down along the spine, from its bottom to the nape of the head, roughly. He calls it "the stick" - that is, "the stick of energy of Brahma" and goes on to say, "The Spinal Cord punishes and protects all. It remains awake during sleep." "The Stick is . . . Kriya." "All have won through Danda [the Stick]." [Hw 100]

Yukteswar says the prana current is to traverse the sushumna, after having discussed these matters with Lahiri Mahasaya and got his permission to publish it: "Having shown every section to him, I received His direct blessing and also his approval," he writes in the preface to his Bhagavad Gita Commentary. [Bhg Preface]. Thus, Shyama Lahiri and Yukteswar did not teach differently in this:

HRR Within this sushumna, travelling the six lotuses from the two-petalled to the Muladhar, the furthest point from the Sun – the jiva-Conscousness revealed in the Sahasrara – and again travelling through the six lotuses from the Muladhar to the two-petalled lotus – the nearest point to the Sun revealed as Consciousess – one month's work [evolution] is accomplished . . . In this way, shooting the prana united with mind to the Muladhar and again drawing it from there is called one "kriya of pranayam" in yogic scriptures . . .

Practicing . . . the kriya of pranayam at one sitting, including its dawn and dusk, 12 times, meaning 14 times, accomplishes the work of one solar year . . .

With its dawn and dusk, doing this Kriya 37 times, meaning 39 times [at one sitting] accomplishes the work of three solar years . . . [Bhg 4:8, emphasis added]

Also see: [Practising] Guru-instructed Kriya . . . she experiences through the flow of Consciousness in the spine the revelation of the six lotus-chakras located there." [Bhg, Commentary on ch 1, v 1]

Yukteswar also writes: "The sushumna is the path of the orbit of the jiva-consciousness sun and the lotuses are the points of the zodiac [Bhg 4:8]."

Yogananda's kriya-current route mimics rotation around the sun, but his sun is the ajna chakra, not the crown chakra (sahasrara) that Yukteswar speaks of. Thus Yogananda's kriya explanations differ somewhat from what his guru and Shyama Lahiri taught, as evidenced. His gurus say the current goes up and down in the central "backbones", the sushumna nadi, not around anything in that vessel for subtle prana charges.

Yogananda writes in his autobiography:

YOGANANDA The kriya yogi mentally directs his life energy to revolve, upward and downward, around the six spinal centres (medullary, cervical, dorsal, lumbar, sacral, and coccygeal plexuses) which correspond to the twelve astral signs of the zodiac, the symbolic cosmic man. One-half minute of revolution of energy around the sensitive spinal cord of man effects subtle progress in his evolution; that half-minute of kriya equals one year of natural spiritual unfoldment.

The astral system of a human being, with six (twelve by polarity) inner constellations revolving around the sun of the omniscient spiritual eye, is interrelated with the physical sun and the twelve zodiacal signs. All men are thus affected by an inner and an outer universe . . .

In three years, a kriya yogi can thus accomplish by intelligent self-effort the same result which nature brings to pass in a million years. [Ay Ch 26, emphasis added]

Yogananda has changed the "sahasrara sun" of Yukteswar to the spiritual eye, also called the third eye or ajna chakra in the forehead between the eyebrows - the eyebrow–medulla axis. This means Yogananda in his exposition (exegesis) has replaced the crown chakra (sahasrara) with the ajna chakra and disregarded the words of his guru.

Should we believe in correspondences that have gone substantially unverified for a million years or twelve million years?

Astrology and Jesus into It

THE FAITH SOME SHARE: In the Yogananda quotation above he refers to the foundational kriya yoga technique of gentle, almost inaudible and carefully calculated "gasping" and so on. Its key elements have remained about the same for a century or so, at least. One may suspect that his later estimates of its twelve times increased efficacy is due to humbug, or maybe his "all-knowing" guru Yukteswar and himself had got it wrong earlier? If so, that bodes not well either.

"The entire universe is in the body [Bi 31]," says Shyama Lahiri, the guru of Yukteswar. He also says that "the whole universe is the ultimate Self [Bi 136]." If you look around, it is easy not to grasp these two main ideas, which refer to subtle experiences of yogis who learn to puncture a tiny star inside a golden ring that can be seen between the eyebrows as a result of prolonged kriya practice, or better: "When that star bursts, a door reveals . . . the door of the heart [Ut 57]." From there it should be Self-like and a lot easier [cf Gv 32].

By the term "the spiritual eye" which Yogananda and his followers use, they refer to ajna chakra between the eyebrows as a reflection of the medulla oblongata by polarity. Now in his Gita Commentary Yukteswar tells there is a nadi [subtle energy vessel] between the forehead vortex and medulla oblongata, and that nadi [gate] explains perhaps why the spiritual eye is told of as "medullic" and in area between the eyebrows - both explanations are circulated. Yukteswar writes:

HRR "There is a nadi (medulla) located between the eyebrows formed like the shape of the back of a tortoise. When one has total absorption - samyama - in that tortoise-nadi, then immediately . . . Light prevails . . . the Ajna Chakra. Through this, the mind enters the sushumna. [Yukteswar, Bhg 1:15-18]

The claimed astrology-attuned link between chakras and constellations is not verified in any of the sciences. Also, the twelve inner constellations mentioned by Yogananda also leave out the thirteenth constellation, the Serpent-Holder, Ophiuchus. It lies between Scorpio and Sagittarius, and the sun takes 19 days to pass through it between Nov 29 and Dec 18, roughly. It is nowhere mentioned by Yogananda and Yukteswar, so their "inner constellations" correspondence is not true to life (as we know it), for:

The 12 astrological signs of the zodiac are each of 30 degrees, and these signs no longer correspond to the astronomical constellations in which the sun actually appears. The constellations are irregular in size and shape. The sun yearly passes through the constellation Ophiuchus too. [Source: EB, s.v. "zodiac"]

The Serpent-Holder, Ophiochus, is one of the thirteen constellations of the zodiac, but does not seem to have got any talked-of, corresponding chakra in the teachings of the SRF gurus, even though they teach that chakras correspond to constellations. Hm and hm again.

At the back of the Britannica information given above another problem comes to the fore: The signs are slowly changing as the stars are drifting away from one another in space. But the human form has remained the same for tens of thousands of years, when the constellation forms have changed very much. This makes the Lahiri teaching that the body contains the universe, and is a sign of the universe, much more entertaining. How is the rather once-and-for-all- set organism's drift of correspondence these days? The universe has gone on expanding for a long time. How does a human body and mind reflect drifting and slowly changing star images of irregular shapes, and without even considering the Serpent-Holder constellation?

An older faith of correspondences or signs (tokens, marks, displays, etc) is found in Lahiri Mahasaya's commentaries. He says, "The physical body is the sign (Linga) of the world [Hw 145]." He also teaches that when the prana arrives at the chakra of the brain (sahasrara, the thousand-petalled lotus) "it thereafter takes the shape of Mithun (Gemini) to be attuned in Oneness." Then he lists up various astrological tokens. "When one practices Kriya, one is Aswina [Libra] . . . When one eats like a monster, one is Kartika [Scorpio]." and "Increasing kriya practice . . . If thereafter, one eats like a monster, this is . . . Magha [Aquarius]."

You may wonder what a monster is in this teaching.

"A Monster is one who makes his attention outward [through senses] although he is not supposed to do so [Gv 55]." An awful lack of sleep creates a monster, then - at least it brings "monster-like" insanity within reach, just as sleep research has documented very well. Nightly sleep is valuable. [Sue]

Shyama Lahiri teaches that "The body is the Omkar Form and the ultimate Self is spread over the six centers." [Hw 137] His commentator Satyseswarananda considers that "The physical body is the condensed form of the entire universe." [Hw 40]. That statement leaves room for reflections: "If you by accident lose your tongue, hand, or feet, will the entire universe lose vast amounts of galaxies? But if another person is near and that one did not lose any members, will there be two universes, one for the cripple and another for the other person? Will there ultimately be one universe for each human being, reincarnated too, to accommodate for all these differences of genetic imprints, fingerprints, and other features?" How difficult, nay, impossible that teaching seems . . .

It becomes even more difficult to handle if we consider some animal shapes, as those of baboons. It boils down to this: The same universe seems to talk differently in different species and in different persons too.

Yogananda's claimed constellation correspondences are not without complications and implications among followers. At times snub followers seem badly indoctrinated, without any grasp on Ophiuchus and any "Ophiuchus chakra" (by polarity it would also be two phantom chakras, according to Yogananda's calculations above).

Perhaps old commentaries of the ancients do not attain to a verified, all right portrayal of several things.

The Time it Takes

REFLECTING ON NUMBERS. Moreover, to divide the time it takes to attain cosmic consciousness by kriya into year groups of 3, 6, 12, 24, and 48 years, which Yogananda does, seems arbitrary and little rewarding. Shyama Lahiri uses other figures where he says "Brahmanas, Khatriyas and Vaisyas will attain divine Knowledge in eight, eleven and twelve years, respectively." [Hw 42]. By these words he refers to the three upper castes. They are: priestly or educated ones; organisers or managerial people; and traders. But he also says somewhere else that the caste is something imagined, in his commentary to the Niralamba Upanishad, v. 8 [Ut 73]. For all that, his disciple Yukteswar says "A Sudra [member of the fourth caste of Hindus] does not the have the ability to utter the Pranava [say OM], and if the Divine Sound is not uttered, it is forbidden to recite the Vedas . . . How benevolent it was to prohibit the restless-minded, Pranava-less Sudras from touching the Vedas." [Bhg Introduction]

Others may think otherwise, for example, "Some are wise and others are otherwise."

It is hard to see how the "3 multiplied by 2" scale is more to the point than for example the 2-scale: it looks like mere talk. In contrast to it, lend ear to something Maharishi once said: When an apple falls from the branch, it eventually reaches the ground. May I add, unless it stands on the brink of a river or something? Then the fruit would fall into water . . . An apple that falls down from high up in the tree will need more time to fall down, and so on.

Yukteswar writes, "Even progressing in Kriya slowly can bring the attainment of Kaivalya or Brahman in 36 years, or 39 years if some occasions or events of householder life hinder progress [Bhg 4:8]"

A summary

To sum up a bit: How fast a method works is pretty much an individual matter, with additional modifications relating to how methodical and well the practice is done, how much strength the person has, and how depleting his fare or environment is, and so on. It looks a bit awkward to insert many and different spans and apply them onto what time it takes. Maybe it is not useful at all - and also in the light of Krishna's saying that hardly anyone who seeks him, finds him.

TALE Out of many thousands among men, one may strive for perfection, and of those who have won perfection, hardly one knows me in truth [or in essence]. [Bhagavad Gita 7:3].

Now, in his kriya promotion endeavours Yogananda claims his kriya is the same as the one Krishna allegedly taught his bowman Arjuna on the battlefield - But what if only one out of a million who are taught kriya yoga, gets lucky and really attains? What poor odds Krishna gives. With Ramakrishna the odds are five to ten times better: "One or two in a hundred thousand get liberation [Rap 614]."

You can improve the odds for good progress by learning the best methods available, study the effects carefully, and go for meticulous and accurate practice, and shy malpractice. It should not be overlooked. Shyama Charan Lahiri says, "Instead of doing 5 hours of pranayam [kriya], if you could do just 2 correctly, try to do that [Gle, ltr 81]." So note that how you do your techniques counts too. Ascertain again and again that you do them with ease and without strain. "What comes easily and without strain, that you should do . . . Do only as much as you can without strain," writes Shyama Lahiri to a disciple. Good quality is something to go for [Gle, ltr 20, 27, passim; cf ltrs 64, 69, 100]."

Also take into account that there are no fit clues in the Bhagavad Gita for holding that the kriya yoga of Babaji, Shyama Lahiri, Yukteswar, and Yogananda is talked of by Krishna there: Shyama Lahiri interpreted Gita stanzas in the light of kriya, and Yukteswar did likewise, with Shyama Lahiri's approval. Yogananda too followed up, and copied much of his material from the Gita commentaries of Shyama Lahiri and Yukteswar, it seems fair to say. He was in their line of yoga.

Now Yukteswar states in the preface of his Gita Commentary: "Gita is capable of endless, infinite and different meanings and interpretations (even different interpretations in the light of Kriya Yoga!) . . . To the lover of the Tantra Shastra, the Kriya was presented as a vast science of nadis and chakras and such. [Bhg, Preface]."

By the way, sound grrrs may be the appropriate response to being made a fool of by inappropriate, immodest guru claims "in east and west", that is, left, right, and centre, all round. It should pay to take care. "I tell everyone to be careful . . . cow's urine and cow dung . . . should be used . . . Kriya must be done according to the rules [Gle, ltr 47, 87]."

You may wonder how to use cow's dung and urine. They are used for cleansing. That is a traditional way. The Siva Purana spells out rules for how the gathering of devotees are to go ahead for listening to it. The ground of some excellent spot is to be scrubbed, cleaned and smeared with cowdung for the exquisite occasion [Si, Vol 1, p 25]. It is also well to know that as conditions change, the instructions may be changed to cope with them, as in "When cold weather come, increase kriya continuously [Gle, ltr 64]."

How can you go for no-gains and still do kriya yoga to attain that goal or the Great Goal of Yoga? Do not get confused: It is fit to go for proper gains, and Shyama Lahiri shows it too. He deals with instructions in yoga for the sake of promoting great gains. But the daily practice is to be detached enough to be done with accuracy, ease, and free from strain. There are many tips right there.

Among men, some without desires to attain may attain anyway, says Lahiri Baba repeatedly.

But those who ardently do Yogananda's kriya without chanting mantras mentally into the hidden chakras of the subtle spine during the practice, cannot have OK long-range results, he repeatedly tells. SRF and Yogananda have dispensed with the Shyama Lahiri advocated chakra-chanting. [Gle, ltr 79, 77, 96].

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Scientifically Made Kriya Changes?

YOGANANDA'S FIRST CLAIM IS THAT KRIYA IS PURELY SCIENTIFIC. An added reason for mentioning these things is the long held guru hoax that his kriya was purely scientific, and its results too. In an Inner Culture article from 1937 he writes in his magazine:

YOGANANDA The Guru-preceptor of Sri Yukteswarji . . . showed others how, by following [his] methods of meditation, they could bring about a sure, scientific union (Yoga) with God . . .

Sh[y]ama Charan Lahiri Mahasaya, by his exemplary life . . . gave the step-by-step methods of Self-Realization (the Ladder of Self-Realization) which enable all to climb to the high abode of complete freedom.

"Sure, scientific, and for all" stand out, and unreservedly, both in this citation and in other places of Yogananda's early writings. But when others came to him and said they had done it a million times and still had no cosmic consciousness, he added things like, "But your attitude was not right". Or "Devotion is necessary too, and grace from God and guru," and so on. He has thus confirmed that for the sake of great-sounding marketing some yogis do a lot that gives rise to great suspicions and forebodings after some time.

MODIFICATIONS WERE HAD. Parts of what SRF teaches after Yogananda's demise have been changed, and who can tell all is for the worse? Also, the former SRF vice president Kriyananda reports of the changes of how to do it that Yogananda dictated in 1948, about four years before his passing:

SEAGULL Master [Yogananda] reviewed also the lessons on Kriya Yoga, and made certain changes in the way he had taught them previously. "This doesn't alter the technique itself," he explained, "but it will make it easier to understand." [Tp, Ch 20].

Someone tells that the changes made by Yogananda are described in the book Kriya - Finding the True Path at

Scientific procedures and presentations are hardly handled properly by the charlatan.

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Sounds of the Kriya Sea

THE SECOND KRIYA: SRF's second kriya is advanced parts of the first original kriya. To mass and repeat "OM" - om japa - is an option - you recite these "to" or "in" the chakras as the currents or attention ascend or descend. This is the way Lahiri teaches kriya:

During Kriya practice mentally chant OM . . . Without chanting OM, Kriya practice does not generate upward Realization. [Hw 48]

Many do not practice mantra japa chakra by chakra. When this does not happen, it results in "tamasic" Kriya (Kriya with negative qualities), and the fruit of this is also "tamasic". Therefore, during pranayam, one must keep attention on the six chakras in the spine and practice japa in each of them [Gle, ltr 79].

In the Chandi [a part of the Markandeya Purana], the Goddess Ambhika uses Om for burning an enemy to death on the spot. [Iv 20]

The Sound of the Kriya Sea

Yogananda and SRF has dispensed with OM-chanting and OM-listening during the foundational kriya-"panting". Rather, OM-focusing in SRF is a method of its own. It is much like a Tibetan method where the practitioner gently "plugs" the years by some fingers and then listen attentively - helped by method - to any inner sounds that appear, and does this as regulated in the teachings. Yukteswar describes the sounds one may hear in a book that is made public, and, besides, the sounds are public knowledge from other sources too, including Teach Yourself Yoga [Lsy], a fine self-help book by James Hewitt:

HRR As the mind withdraws gradually from the senses as a result of deep concentration an unusual buzzing note emanates . . . and becomes audible . . . It appears as the sound of a bunch of disturbed black-bees . . . at the Muladhar Chakra [scrotum/perineum area] . . .

By diving deeper into the buzzing sound like that of black-bees the Yoga performer gets elevated into the next Chakra, the Svadhishthan [of sexual organs]. . . the sound becomes clearer and finer appearing like a note from the flute . . . It [helps] clear concentration associated with comprehension.

By concentrating on this sound of the flute [it "changes"] into the enchanting sound of the lute [Vina]. . . . one becomes filled with immense joy . . . This is the sign of achieving Manipur [navel] Chakra . . .

With still deeper concentration the sound of the lute changes into one like the prolonged unbroken stream of sound of the gong . . . which is called Anahata Nad [of] the Anahata [heart] Chakra in the Shushumna ["string"]. . .

The deepest and true concentration is achieved when the "all conquering" sound of thunder or the sound of roar of the sea manifests. This is the sign of reaching the Vishuddha [throat] Chakra . . . in the region of the Shushumna opposite the throat . . .

The above five strains of sound next mingling together become audible as a cluster and has been called the Panchajanya [pancha means five], the conch of Rishikesha, the "lord of the senses". [Ky Ch 2, "Mahabharata Imageries"]

Shyama Lahiri also tells of inner, subtle sounds and chakras in his commentaries to different works. [See e.g. Hw 155; 115] Try to be focused rather than strained (concentrated) during such listening for Om - the whole medley, that is. The chakras (padmas, lotuses, wheels of energy) are like buds and flowers inside the spine area, and likened to flowers on a string (sushumna). Various sounds and qualities are associated with them too, in much yoga literature.

Focused Om-chanting and Om-listening during kriya-panting was abandoned in SRF, even if Shyama Lahiri said that it is essential. Well, it can be a strain to do it for beginners, and kechari (lifting of the tongue in the ancient, regulated ways) appears to be downplayed in SRF for the same reason: convenience. In SRF it is hardly done in the yogi manner, but in some downplayed way at best. Also, that the tongue is to be lifted and held up toward the anterior roof of the mouth (palate or uvula) before it is "put into the head" further back, form stages of kechari mudra, which is part of the original basic kriya of Lahiri and was moved to the second (and secondary) kriya in SRF. Besides, the original second kriya was reputed to have contained mantras, words of power, which are not taught by SRF.

Shyama Charan Lahiri taught more kriyas than the four kriyas SRF have at their disposal. He also found that "Not even one of a thousand [in the "scripture business"] can be civilized [Hw 114]." See the reservation battery.

The Master said: The man of knowledge finds pleasure in the Sea. [Confucius, Soc 59]

Practical Issues

Shyama Lahiri writes in one of his letters:

Many who receive higher Kriya think that they no longer have to do much Pranayam [the first kriya technique in SRF is pranayama]. This causes most of the problems for the higher Kriyavans. You should do six hundred Pranayam and fifty/sixty Mahamudra; do Navikriya and the Fourth and the Fifth. [Gle ltr 53]

The SRF stand is different. Western kriya doers are seldom permitted to do more than 108 kriyas at a time, twice daily. Did something go wrong?

The magpie is a fine bird; that "Silence means consent" is far from the truth among all humans either. [cf Op 245]

Fit for Marriage, and Wanting to Learn Kriya

Shyama Lahiri was a householder. After some initial reluctance to leave the company of Babaji who had awakened him and taught him kriya, Shyama Lahiri got back to his wife. He decreed it was all right to be married, and also had children after he was enlightened. But he did not accept that she nagged him. He cautioned against the hardships of monks, and was reluctant to give his permission when a disciple wanted to become one.

A biographer tells he "would normally ask his disciples to marry at the proper age and adopt the house-hold life, as, for most people, a virtuous married life leads gradually to non-attachment." [Ysl, ch 4]

Even though he was ready to make exceptions for those with an overwhelming desire for a renunciate life, he wrote,

"I do not see anything wrong with marrying; on the contrary, I feel that it is a good thing. If one desires, marrying is the proper thing to do. Not doing so can bring about aberrant behavior." [Ysl, ch 4; Gle, ltr 7, abstract]

With the monk Yogananda the stance was different. In Sayings of Yogananda there is a section that runs quite like the following:

A follower told him, "I have always desired to seek God, but I want to get married."

"A young person who prefers to have a family first, thinking he will seek God afterward, may be making a grave error," Yogananda replied. "Modern man has little control over his senses and desires. He is quickly influenced by his environment. In the natural course of events he becomes overburdened and usually forgets to say even a tiny prayer." [Retold and abridged, from Say 52]

Another follower asked him, "Don't you believe in marriage? You often talk as though you are against it."

Yogananda replied, "Marriage is unnecessary and hampering for renunciants who are intensely seeking the long-lasting Lover.

But in ordinary cases I am not against marriage that is founded on unconditional friendship ['mutual' may be well enough, and 'unconditional' is such a next to impossible word]. Unstable persons get influenced by fleeting sex attraction or worldly considerations. First establish yourself irrevocably on the path; then if you marry you won't make a mistake," he said. [Retold from Say 21]

Yogananda also teaches:

  • "You don't know what fate may await you in marriage. The tragic stories that come to my ears are unimaginable! . . . People should be taught in youth how to control their emotions . . . Until one is emotionally stable, he is not fit to have a family." [Yogananda, Ak 460]
  • "In married life there is the compulsion of sex." [Yogananda, Ak 159]
  • "It is detrimental to your mental and physical well-being if you concentrate on sex apart from the expression of marital love or the procreative purpose of married life. One should not dwell on sex thoughts or act promiscuously on sex thoughts." [Yogananda, Ak 315] An extensive series of Yoganananda quotations on sex reveals he is against having sex at large. Nothing for the unmarried, and almost nothing for the married - Other kriya givers do not consider it fit to tell members how much sex to have.

Yogananda does not say: In the sect there may be up to debasing dictates. So note this Yogananda quote:

YOGANANDA The average man cannot think clearly . . . He needs the master mind of a Dictator in order to think right and do right." - Yogananda. "Interview". East-West, Vol. 6.
That quote to the wise may suffice, or maybe not. The dictator may not be wise, kind and considerate - may not be good. There is a problem. On the other hand, the average Joe, his wife and possibly children know that dictators are up to taking away from them some measures of freedom, and "offer" submission to harsh and brutal tyranny instead. Against that, democracies formed by lots of average Joes may be betterm especially informed Joes, and better -

Also consider the broader perspective: Of the dictators that Yogananda once wrote well of in his own magazine, (1) Hitler killed himself by gunshot. The remains were then taken up the stairs doused in petrol, and set alight in the garden outside the bunker. (2) Mussolini was shot, kicked, and spat upon, the body was hung upside down on meat hooks from the roof of an Esso gas station and then stoned by civilians from below. (Wikipedia, "Death of Adolf Hitler"; "Benito Mussolini")

It could be well to have an overview of the fare of dictators to do all justice. These two did not do so very well after some years. And many other dictators too are hailed while they live and spat on when they are dead. With the leaders of democracies it is quite different.

Dictatorship is a constant lecture instructing you that your feelings, your thoughts and desires are of no account, that you are a nobody and must live as you are told by other people who desire and think for you. [Stephen Vizinczey]

Ignorance is an evil weed, which dictators may cultivate among their dupes, but which no democracy can afford among its citizens. [William Beveridge]

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This interdisciplinary study of the guru Yogananda and analyses of his teachings as they are propagated by the church he founded, Self-Realization Fellowship Church, SRF Church), rarely speaks of havoc and shipwrecks they are causing. If you think the content so far looks bad, there is more - with references - in the following series of articles. One theme that keeps emerging, is that of a growing hybrid religion or a cult - hybridised to suit the tastes and preferences of many Americans.

One more thing: Swami Satyeswarananda refurbished his Sanskrit Classics pages and addresses earlier this year (2016). If you miss the references to older pages of his, pages that have been used here, do contact the site owner for new links. There is an email link on the bottom of the pages.


Yogananda changed Kriya Yoga, Literature  

Ak: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Man's Eternal Quest. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1975.

Ap: Mieder, Wolfgang (main editor), Stewart A. Kingsbury, and Kelsie E. Harder: A Dictionary of American Proverbs. (Paperback) New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Ay: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 1st ed. New York: Philosophical Library, 1946.

Bhg: Sriyukteshvar, Swami. Srimad Bhagavad Gita: Spiritual Commentary. Tr. Yoga Niketan. Lincoln, Ne: iUniverse, 2006.

Bi: Satyeswarananda, Swami, tr. Complete Works of Lahiri Mahasay Vol. II: The Bhagavad Gita Interpretations of Lahiri Mahasay. San Diego: The Sanskrit Classics, 1991.

Bpe: Allport, Gordon. Becoming: Basic Considerations for a Psychology of Personality. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1955. Repr, 1966.

EB: Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online or as the yearly Ultimate Reference Suite DVD. London: Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Gle: Lahiri, Shyama Charan. Garland of Letter. Coll Ananda Mohan Lahiri. Portland, Mn: Yoganiketan, 2004. On-line at

Gv: Satyeswarananda, Swami, tr. Complete Works of Lahiri Mahasay Vol. I: The Gitas: The Vedic Bibles. Guru Gita. Omkar Gita. Abadhuta Gita. Kabir Gita. 2nd rev. ed. San Diego: The Sanskrit Classics, 1992.

Hw: Satyeswarananda, Swami, tr. The Commentaries' Series Vol. III: Hidden Wisdom. With Lahiri Mahasay's Commentaries. 2nd rev. ed. San Diego: The Sanskrit Classics, 1986.

Iv: Satyeswarananda, Swami, tr. Inner Victory: With Lahiri Mahasay's Commentaries. San Diego: The Sanskrit Classics, 1987.

Ky: Dasgupta, Sailendra B. Kriya Yoga. Tr. Yoga Niketan. Lincoln, Ne: iUniverse, 2006.

Lsy: Hewitt, James. Lær selv yoga. Copenhagen: Hassing, 1966. (Teach Yourself Yoga. London: The English Universities Press, 1960).

Pa: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 11th ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1971.

Psy: Dasgupta, Sailendra. Paramhansa Swami Yogananda: Life-portrait and Reminiscences. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2006. - Also: Google Books, partial view.

Say: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Sayings of Yogananda. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1958.

Si: Shastri, J. ed. Siva Purana, Vols 1-4. Delhi: Banarsidass, 1969.

Soc: Giles, Lionel, ed. The Sayings of Confucius: A Translation of the Confucian Analects. Twickenham: Tiger Books, 1998.

Sue: Luce, Gay, og Julius Segal. Søvn. (Sleep) Oslo: Gyldendal, 1968.

Tp: Walters, James Donald. The Path: Autobiography of a Western Yogi. Nevada City: Crystal Clarity, 1977.

Ut: Satyeswarananda, Swami, tr. Complete Works of Lahiri Mahasay Vol. III: The Upanisads: The Vedic Bibles. San Diego: The Sanskrit Classics, 1992.

Ys: Satyanananda, Swami. "Yogiraj Shyama Charan Lahiri Mahasaya. A Biography." In Yoga Niketan: A Collection of Biographies of 4 Kriya Yoga Gurus by Swami Satyananda Giri. Lincoln, Ne: iUniverse, 2006.

Ysl: Chatterjee, Jogesh Chandra. Yogiraj Shri Shri Lahiri Mahashaya. Dallas, Tx: Amrita Foundation, Inc., 1997.

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