An Introduction to Kriya Yoga
The essence of every person is pure consciousness. The body and mind are exterior vehicles that allow this essence to express in the phenomenal realms. Ordinary human awareness lacks the realization of this timeless truth.
Through blind identification with the body and mind, confusion results. Then forgetfulness arises and suffering follows. When we are not attuned to our true nature as pure consciousness life can be painful.
Many people think that life is easy in youth and as the years pass it becomes progressively worse. This misconception results from two distinct errors in understanding. Life is not a series of events or a time span of human existence. Life is the very essence of our being. Life does not get progressively worse. It appears this way because most people were never given the proper tools to effectively deal with and digest the events presented during the life situation.
This state of affairs can be corrected with effort. There are, in fact, various tools available for the task. By far, the two most effective tools are adopting a lifestyle that promotes physical and psychological well being and the practice of meditation. When these two tools are united in purpose, we can then effectively understand our essence as pure consciousness and function in harmony with the trends of the natural world.
Kriya Yoga is the path of effective living and intentional meditation practice. Based mainly on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Kriya Yoga utilizes lifestyle guidelines common to all authentic spiritual traditions intent on realizing enlightenment. It includes specific meditation techniques that quickly and effectively cleanse awareness of debilitating thoughts, memories and energetic patterns that prevent the realization of our essence as pure consciousness.
The term “Kriya” is generally translated as a cleansing action. “Yoga” in this context refers to unification with our essence. Any action that carries us closer to the realization of our essence as pure consciousness is considered to be Kriya Yoga. Kriya Yoga embraces all enlightening traditions. In this regard, the devotional methods of any religious practice that functions to support the unification of our present state with our spiritual origins can easily be practiced along with the methods of Kriya Yoga outlined in this text.
Kriya Yoga is a method that effectively quickens our spiritual realizations regardless of our religious preference. Also note that these methods do not need to be labeled “spiritual”. An atheist can realize the true essence of being. Reality remains ever what it is. Labels such as spiritual do not change it.
The scope of Kriya Yoga is broad. As mentioned earlier, the term “Yoga” by itself generally refers to any practice that serves to unite the ordinarily fragmented awareness. There are many paths of Yoga. Each path provides a route of reunification suitable to a particular temperament. For the intellectually discriminating yogi there is the way of knowledge, or Jnana Yoga. The person of a devotional temperament may choose Bhakti Yoga. Service oriented individuals can offer up their work for the world as a method of Karma Yoga. The physically inclined who are able to purify and strengthen their bodies through psycho-physiological efforts can practice Hatha Yoga. The culmination and synthesis of all these paths to oneness constitute the body of Kriya Yoga.
Jnana Yoga methodically clarifies awareness through discernment. Through inquiry into the true nature of existence, all that is not truth is cast aside. As the practice deepens, the shining light of wholeness reveals itself through the intellect of the yogi. Inquiry is mainly practiced through meditation and delving into questions such as “What am I?” The difference between Jnana Yoga and philosophical speculation is that the questioning process is given total concentration until the truth is revealed from within.
Of all the branches of Yoga this may be the least theistic. An idea of the divine is not necessary to practice Jnana Yoga; although it is possible that inner realizations may lead to this concept. Ultimately, through Jnana Yoga all concepts are dissolved. Then there is only the reality of being.
Bhakti Yoga invites the presence of divine love to gracefully mend our fragmented awareness. By devotional worship, song, meditation, and service, the Bhakti yogi directs all attention towards the form of the divine most beloved to the heart. The energy of their love and attention clears the way for clearer states of consciousness to emerge. Just as the Jnana yogis masters their attention and direct it to the goal of realization through inquiry, the Bhakti yogi does so through intense devotion. Separately, both routes lead to the same state of consciousness. Together the combination is unbeatable.
Karma Yoga provides a route of practice for people inclined toward assisting the world to reach a more harmonious state of affairs. Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mother Theresa are excellent examples of Karma Yogis. Through their work and service performed as spiritual practice, the world was uplifted. In a sense, all branches of yoga fall under the category of Karma Yoga. As each individual undertakes the task of uplifting and clarifying his or her awareness in whatever way best suites them, the awareness of the whole is uplifted and clarified as well. Any effort to improve the individual improves the whole and vice versa. As you will learn through the practice of Yoga, there is no real boundary between yourself, the world and anyone else.
The most widely known form of Yoga in the West is Hatha Yoga. More precisely this can be called “asana” yoga. An asana is a bodily posture held to strengthen the body and improve the quality of the life force. When the body is strong and the life force flows without disturbance the foundation for profound meditation is set. Hatha Yoga primarily is a preparatory practice for higher realization. Although, practiced with alert attention hatha yoga can also produce a powerful form of moving meditation.
To practice Kriya Yoga means to engage all our capacities by enlisting all four branches of Yoga in a surrendered effort to realize the purpose of incarnated life. As Paramahansa Yogananda has said, “You are in this world for but a little while. The ultimate purpose for being here is much different than what most people imagine it to be.”
The purpose of this school that many people call “life” is not intended to gather riches, rule the world, have lots of friends or gratify all the senses. If this were the case then people who satisfied these goals would be fulfilled. Through the efforts of Kriya Yoga the purpose of life is fulfilled. When the mind, the heart’s desire, the work we offer as service, and the maintenance of the physical bodily temple are all consecrated to realizing the truth of our being in relationship to the wholeness of life, all is accomplished.
---This is an excerpt of Ryan Kurczak's book Kriya Yoga: Continuing the Lineage of Enlightenment.