The Science of Kriya Yoga
Excerpts from Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda
Kriya Yoga is a simple, psychophysiological method by which human blood is decarbonated and recharged with oxygen. The atoms of this extra oxygen are transmuted into life current to rejuvenate the brain and spinal centers. By stopping the accumulation of venous blood, the yogi is able to lessen or prevent the decay of tissues. The advanced yogi transmutes his cells into energy. Elijah, Jesus, Kabir, and other prophets were past masters in the use of Kriya or a similar technique, by which they caused their bodies to materialize and dematerialize at will.
Kriya is an ancient science. Lahiri Mahasaya received it from his great guru, Babaji, who rediscovered and clarified the technique after it had been lost in the Dark Ages. Babaji renamed it, simply, Kriya Yoga.
"The Kriya Yoga that I am giving to the world through you in this nineteenth century," Babaji told Lahiri Mahasaya, "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.”
Kriya Yoga in the Bhagavad Gita
Kriya Yoga is twice referred to by Lord Krishna, India’s greatest prophet, in the Bhagavad-Gita. One stanza reads:
"Offering the inhaling breath into the exhaling breath and offering the exhaling breath into the inhaling breath, the yogi neutralizes both breaths; thus he releases prana from the heart and brings life force under his control."
—The Bhagavad Gita IV:29
The interpretation is: “The yogi arrests decay in the body by securing an additional supply of prana (life force) through quieting the action of the lungs and heart; he also arrests mutations of growth in the body by control of apana (eliminating current). Thus neutralizing decay and growth, the yogi learns life-force control."
Another Gita stanza states:
"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 mid-spot of the eyebrows and by neutralizing the even currents of prana and apana [that flow] within the nostrils and lungs; and to control his sensory mind and intellect; and to banish desire, fear, and anger.”
—The Bhagavad Gita V:27-28
Kriya Yoga in Yoga Sutras by Patanjali
Kriya Yoga is mentioned twice by the ancient sage Patanjali, foremost exponent of yoga, who wrote:
"Kriya Yoga consists of body discipline,
mental control, and meditating on Aum."
—Yoga Sutras II:1
Patanjali speaks of God as the actual Cosmic Sound of Aum that is heard in meditation. Aum is the Creative Word, the whir of the Vibratory Motor, the witness of Divine Presence. Even the beginner in yoga may soon hear the wondrous sound of Aum. Through this blissful spiritual encouragement, he becomes convinced that he is in communion with supernal realms.
Patanjali refers a second time to the Kriya technique or life-force control thus:
"Liberation can be attained by that pranayama
which is accomplished by disjoining the course of inspiration and expiration.”
—Yoga Sutras II:49
Accelerated Spiritual Evolution with Kriya Yoga
"Kriya Yoga is an instrument through which human evolution can be quickened," Sri Yukteswar explained to his students. "The ancient yogis discovered that the secret of cosmic consciousness is intimately linked with breath mastery. This is India's unique and deathless contribution to the world's treasury of knowledge. The life force, which is ordinarily absorbed in maintaining heart action, must be freed for higher activities by a method of calming and stilling the ceaseless demands of the breath."
The Kriya Yogi mentally directs his life energy to revolve, upward and downward, around the six spinal centers (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.
One thousand Kriyas practiced in eight and a half hours gives the yogi, in one day, the equivalent of one thousand years of natural evolution: 365,000 years of evolution in one year. In three years, a Kriya Yogi can thus accomplish by intelligent self-effort the same result that Nature brings to pass in a million years. The Kriya shortcut, of course, can be taken only by deeply developed yogis. With the guidance of a guru, such yogis have carefully prepared their body and brain to withstand the power generated by intensive practice.
The body of the average man is like a fifty-watt lamp, which cannot accommodate the billion watts of power roused by an excessive practice of Kriya. Through gradual and regular increase of the simple and foolproof methods of Kriya, man's body becomes astrally transformed day by day, and is finally fitted to express the infinite potentials of cosmic energy, which constitutes the first materially active expression of Spirit.
Referring to the sure and methodical efficacy of yoga, Krishna praises the technological yogi in the following words:
"The yogi is greater than body-disciplining ascetics, greater even than the followers of the path of wisdom (Jnana Yoga), or of the path of action (Karma Yoga); be thou, O disciple Arjuna, a yogi!"
—The Bhagavad Gita VI:46
From Material to Divine Consciousness
The Kriya Yoga meditation techniques of pranayama, life-force control that transmutes breath into subtle lifetronic energy, bring positive realization that the composition of the body is pure cosmic energy.
In the adept practice of Kriya, the body is oxygenated and its atoms etherealized until it becomes light as a feather. Man has no idea how much power comes into the body when he has mastered the mystery of the breath. Kriya practice brings a regulated, continuous inflow of oxygen into the body, the atoms of which, by the process of pranayama, are transmuted into life force, reinforcing the subtle currents in the spine, which in turn awaken the astral cerebrospinal centers and spiritualize the entire body.
After years of successful practice, the body of the advanced Kriya Yogi becomes so spiritualized that in exalted states he can hardly feel it touch the ground. The suffusion of life force becomes so powerful that the whole body loses its delusive solidity and actually levitates. I can testify to that from my own experience. But the beginner should not expect to jump weightless tomorrow! Modern man is accustomed to getting results quickly; his industry and technology manufactures products so rapidly that he thinks there should be a convenience package of concise spiritual progress as well. A presumption of instant spiritual achievement is perhaps more than a bit audacious considering the innumerable lifetimes already spent in making oneself an unspiritual being. Even a lifelong practice is little to be required. Nevertheless, the Kriya Yoga science and art of meditation are not drudgery, because gradual transforming results are felt from the very beginning. (p.823, The Second Coming of Christ by Paramahansa Yogananda)