Kriya Yoga for a New Millennium
Copyright © 1999 The hOMe Foundation
Copyright © 2009 The hOMe Foundation
All rights reserved
The First KriyaContents* (The chapter included here is in "red")
2. The Way In
3. The Path to God
6. Transcendental Experience
8. Male & Female
9. Change & the Changeless
10. The Call
13. Prayers & Songs
20. A Recipe for Bliss
24. The First Kriya* (The chapter, presented below, has been updated from the original version published in the book, A Recipe for Bliss, but the fundamental technique, The Sacred Heart Pranayam, is unchanged.)
25. Kriya Yoga for a New Millennium
This chapter presents some background information regarding Kriya Yoga. There is also a discussion of spiritual issues that includes both classical Buddhist and Vedantic principles along with a discussion of scientific discoveries of the past century. At the end of this chapter you will find a description of the first Kriya Technique that I teach, known as The Sacred Heart Pranayam.
It is not necessary to understand, or even totally agree with, the philosophical and scientific discussion in order to begin practicing this technique. However your practice might well be enhanced by an understanding of some of these basic principles. The most important aspect of this chapter is to introduce the reader to the deep inner path of Kriya Yoga. If you wish to go directly to the technique, please click on Sacred Heart. May the Holy Sound, Om, resound in your Heart exactly as it does throughout the entire Cosmos.
The First Kriya
The Sacred HeartKriya Yoga organizes and directs our conscious attention through specific actions. The word, Kriya, itself means "action." The fundamental purpose of these actions is to awaken consciously to our true nature, to see who we are and what we are doing to ourselves. If we don't really understand who we are, and if we don't fully realize what we are doing to ourselves, we will wander through life in a misdirected, careless and somewhat meaningless way. Our misdirection leads to our own suffering and to the suffering of others. Hence the primary purpose of Kriya is to reduce or end our suffering.
You could not have arrived at this reading without having already formed some opinion about the cause of your suffering. And undoubtedly you have heard, and quite possibly believe, that the ego is the primary culprit. But the term, ego, has a variety of meanings, some intended to be problematic, others intended to be the exact opposite—to actually be a viable solution to at least some of our problems. So it is important to be clear what is meant by, ego, if indeed this is something we are striving to eliminate through our practice. And it most definitely is.
There are at least five primary meanings of the word, ego.1. The self, as an identity distinct from a world of matter.It is unfortunate that English language is so unclear about what the word, ego, means. To avoid this confusion, we will be using definition #1 as the fundamental meaning of "ego." This is the "culprit" bound and determined to spoil the party of life. The "action" of Kriya is designed to eliminate this ego, this sense of separation from a world of matter. Open and free awareness fills the vacuum that is left when ego evaporates.
2. The self, as distinct from other selves.
3. In psychology or psychiatry, that part of the psyche that is self-aware, and that controls thought and behavior.
4. Inordinate self-importance or conceit.
5. Self-esteem.Our discussion will now venture into a number of somewhat diverse areas, including philosophy, science, Buddhism and Vedanta, the variety of yoga schools and yogic approaches, some personal reflections, some Kriya Yoga background, and finally the first Kriya technique that I share, The Sacred Heart Pranayam. You may find only some of these topics relevant to your yoga practice. I encourage you to try and follow the entire thread that is presented here. There is a definite purpose for presenting these converging areas of thought. Each is relevant in its own way. However, feel free to skip over any of these topics that don't seem important or unnecessary to you, especially if you want to begin practicing this yogic technique. I do recommend, however, that if you begin practicing this technique, that over time you return to this page and see how these philosophical and scientific issues might relate to your practice.Philosophical considerations:
If you have studied the history of Western philosophy, you have undoubtedly come across the name of the philosopher, René Descartes (1596-1650). His description of the division of life's creation into three distinct parts has influenced Western philosophy and, by extension, the entire Western view of life ever since the middle of the 17th century. It would be difficult to overestimate the effect of his influence on the entire culture of the West as it is today. And, I might add, our culture directly impacts our experience. Our culture has two very significant effects on our experience. It directs it and it limits it, unless we find ways to disengage from its grip and to think and operate in ways independent from our conditioning.
Descartes begins his search for truth and reality by first doubting every single thing that he experiences. He notes that because there are so many ways to be deceived, we cannot really trust either our senses or our mind to give us an undeniably true picture. He toils in an elaborate web of doubt until he arrives at the one thing that he cannot possibly doubt: his own existence. He wrote the statement of this singular realization in Latin, to emphasize it's primacy: "Cogito ergo sum." "I think, therefore I am."
Descartes then uses his own logical processes to deduce the fundamental nature of reality. He arrives at the conclusion that reality is divided into three separate categories: God, I (self or selves), and matter. For modern Westerners, at first glance, the response to this might be, "This is obvious. What's the problem?" In fact, it is difficult for most Westerners to even conceive of a philosophical basis that does not include at least two of these three divisions. Some will insist upon God, others will not be sure about God, and still others will insist that there is no God. But the other two, I and matter, subject and object, remain an obvious and logical division.
Our language, our individual and group goals, our politics, our economy, and our everyday actions all take this division as being primary, obvious and vital. It is so obvious, in fact, that any philosophy, religion or metaphysics that does not accept this division as fundamental is, in the West, generally assumed to be pipe dream—something you might imagine only after ingesting an hallucinogenic substance. And, indeed, over the past 50 years, a great many Westerners first came to doubt the division of subject and object while under the influence of one or more of these substances. It was going to require quite a jolt of some thing or another to dissuade our stubborn, calcified consciousness from believing a fundamental dogma that had been culturally rooted for the past 300 years. What's more, the acceptance of this division of God, self, and matter is not merely a dogma—something that is proclaimed without proof—but rather it is so totally assumed that one hardly even recognizes it as an assumption. It's not something we generally even notice, in the same way that a fish doesn't notice the water. Fish take water for granted. They don't have to "think" about it. This Cartesian division is more or less our invisible, assumed environment.
To suggest that this division is not fundamentally real would be like suggesting the sky is not really blue. So I will put this question to you. "Is the sky really blue?" Well... No!... The sky is not really blue. It's not green, or purple, or red either. Blue is a category of responsive perception that occurs within our eyes (or brain), and thereby registers to us as a color. Curiously enough, there is no way to be sure if what you experience as blue and what I experience as blue are actually the same thing. We suspect it is, but how can we actually know? The truth is: We can't.
But even if we realize that the sky is not really blue (in this sense), this does not tell us what the sky really is. If we set aside our senses, which are not totally reliable anyway, and use scientific instruments to make careful measurements, and then use our logical mind to formulate a description, we come up with a totally different set of ideas about the nature of the sky. We will find a number of gaseous as well as tiny, solid particles floating in the sky, at various temperatures, all of which is illuminated by light that reflects upon it and passes through it. This description of the sky is very different from saying, "It is blue." But are we any closer to knowing what the sky really is? For example, does the sky experience itself? For most Westerners to even pose this question seems silly.
Our dilemma as to the real nature of the sky does not mean that we can no longer use the word, blue, or gas, or molecules, when we are talking about the sky. We can continue to use these and a host of other descriptive terms for our ideas, our experiences and our measurements of the sky and all the other "things" we come across. For example, even though we don't really know what "matter" is, we can still use the word, matter (or elementary particles), in order to share a description of our experience and our ideas. But when we use the word, matter, it does not necessarily mean that we actually believe that matter is an inert substance, without consciousness, and separate from our own experience of it. And as we shall see later, Quantum Physics suggests that there is a lot more to matter, and in particular, elementary, quantum particles, than meets the eye... especially the eye of René Descartes.
Most classical Western philosophers suggest that it is quite obvious that we cannot possibly know the nature of our external reality in a direct way. For example, Immanuel Kant arrived at the immanently "reasonable" conclusion that there is some kind of material reality out there, but that our mind can never know what "that" is, because phenomena (what is out there) and noumena (what happens in our mind) are completely different in structure. Our minds may make interesting and reasonable correspondences between the variety of structures in material reality, but these correspondences are not the structure itself, they are only a partial description of the structure of our own mind relative to something "out there." The experience which initiates the description is obviously not the "thing itself." In a sense, all we are doing is making conversation... or at least that is what Immanuel Kant concluded. There is a significant body of scientific evidence that now suggests that Kant was somewhat, and quite possibly entirely, mistaken.
Not only is the universal reality immense beyond our wildest imagination, it has recently (within the past 80 years) coughed up a number of now, well-established paradoxes to disrupt this neat and clean Cartesian-Newtonian way of ordering and classifying things. Classical duality suggests that the structure of our mind and the structure of the "reality out there" are either: 1) so totally different that no realistic unification is possible, or 2) they are interconnected in some way that allows us to operate within the material reality, manipulate it to some degree, and to form some philosophical considerations about what it is... but, more importantly, and more painfully, to remain forever separate from it. In other words, we are temporary, and somewhat casual, observers of a meaningless material evolution.
There is, of course, another, more juicy possibility. What appears to be an objective, material reality, disembodied and "out there," could actually be a process that is going on, not just "in here," but everywhere in unison. The whole thing might well be consciousness itself, experiencing and participating in a dance of being, all the way down to the most elementary of particles. Furthermore, there is good reason to imagine that all of it is deeply interrelated in such a way that there are no uniquely separate things or beings. Instead of imagining the ghost of a mind, disembodied from material matter and separate from all the other ghosts, viewing matter as if it were lifeless stuff, mechanically going through outcomes via impersonal physical laws, we might rather view ourselves and nature to be a vast, organic, evolving process. We could then use the word, Mind, as it is used in Mahayana Buddhism, to mean this fully unified, conscious experience, called "Reality." Furthermore, we might even find a way (methodically through reasoning and understanding, or suddenly in a complete and instantaneous reckoning) to know that this is the case. For this to happen would require great insight or an experience of extraordinary quality. This experiential knowledge would be a unique and unusual form of awakening, and it would have to carry with it a certainty, shattering the ordinary sense of our own, heretofore, conscious incompetence. This extraordinary experience has been given the name: Enlightenment.
I should quickly add that descriptions of enlightenment vary, and they do not all attest to a philosophical statement that Consciousness and the external reality are one and the same thing. However, descriptions of enlightenment do suggest that this duality of subject and object does actually vanish. We are left to decide if duality vanishes because it is was never real to begin with, or it vanishes because it is no longer relevant.
If enlightenment is what we are after, then it doesn't really matter which of these two cases is true. What matters is our experience. What matters is Consciousness. I suggest that our "search" for enlightenment, then, should be very practical. At the very beginning, for example, we should recognize that what we actually believe, and how we believe it, will certainly affect the way in which our experience is capable of changing. If we have already firmly decided what reality is, and particularly if we imagine it to be lifeless stuff "out there," then we have effectively preempted ourselves from the living process. Generally speaking, every single thing that we believe (as distinct from what we know experientially) will impede the possibility of new in-sight. And since most everyone, at least in the West, believes in this two or three part division of reality, we should look very carefully within ourselves to discover the extent of this belief to see if it is holding us back.
At the outset two possibilities are there for you. 1) You might treat this duality as if it were purely theoretical, a possibility, but not something you would stake your life on, or 2) You might assume it to be absolutely definite, something you would not even begin to question. If your belief in duality is only theoretical, your actual modus operandi—your manner of living and experiencing life—might still be open to the possibility of complete and utter unity, undivided wholeness. You might easily slip into Cosmic Consciousness, particularly by means of some trigger, like meditation or pranayama, provided you haven't developed an inner resistance to any experience that might dissolve the ego state of affairs.
On the other hand, if your belief in duality is ingrained in your marrow as a matter of definite reality and practical experience, you will almost certainly resist any movement of your conscious awareness to let go of its separateness. Your identity won't want to "die." It will cling to its self-image, regardless of whether you actually "think" that this identity is imaginary or not.
Your consciousness will also cling to this identity even though it is the primary source of your pain. For, although we all would like to avoid pain, for some of us the very thought of completely letting go of our self-image is so foreign that we thoroughly resist it for fear of what might happen or what, if anything, might take its place. Hence we cling to it regardless of how painful it is. This happens every day in all sorts of ways.
I mention this at the outset because it is important for you to know up front the condition of your own inner nature and tendencies. I encourage you to think and feel you way through a thorough self-evaluation in this regard. Are you willing to give up this ego? Do you think your conscious system is ready for what might happen? Are you ready to give up "the ghost"?
I can assure you that you are. I can assure you that your system is ready for this. But my saying so does not guarantee that you will believe me, nor does it guarantee that simply believing it can happen will actually cause (or allow) it to happen.
Any philosophy, and especially any yoga that suggests that this duality is unreal, and any practice that affects our conscious status quo, or dramatically alters the manner of our own conscious inner attention and identity, will be held with considerable suspicion. Hence yoga and particularly Kriya Yoga have made inroads into Western culture in a very slow manner over the past 100 years. It has met considerable resistance and indifference. I suggest that the primary reason that any inroads have been made at all is that some of the adepts of yoga, like Paramhansa Yogananda, Ramana Maharshi, Maharshi Mahesh Yogi, Sri Aurobindo, and others have personalities that are especially charismatic and engaging. These individuals validate yogic practice, and enlightenment itself, by their presence.
Kriya Yoga is not really a philosophical system, per se, but it does have its roots in the Upanishads and the Vedas, which for the past five millennia have determined that this assumed Cartesian division of things is not the nature of the fundamental reality. Furthermore, the experiences of many yoga adepts reveal an extraordinary consciousness that denies the reality of the division of subject and object. After enlightenment manifests, the entire nature of our conscious world is changed forever. It may take some time to shed the remaining ingrained habits, samskaras, but the world will never be quite the same as it was.
Scientific theory, especially during the past 500 years, has been one of man’s most persistent attempts to bridge the gap between thought and reality. Science sets its sights on knowing and describing what this externalized world is made of, how it came to be, how it undergoes change, and where it is heading.
Human interest in science is both practical and theoretical. We want to be able to predict as well as change what will happen, and we also have a deep desire to know and understand what is happening. On the practical side of things, our ability to harness and use the power latent in matter, and to create a wide assortment of useful mechanical and electronic instruments attests to the success of scientific development. It also suggests that on some level we have almost certainly managed to "understand" (or at least we have learned how to "manipulate") a significant portion of this physical reality. But for now, let's set aside the extensive and complex issue of our practical achievements, and turn our attention to the nature of what we have learned about this so-called material reality.
In order for us to actually "understand" the nature of our universe, from the very large down to the very small, scientists attempt to find a set of unifying principles that will reduce the utterly vast and complex nature of reality to its essentials. Every age and every culture that has considered reality from a scientific perspective have operated within their own beliefs, assumptions, and techniques, all of which form the scientific paradigm for that culture and that time. It is also important to note that scientific paradigms are determined not only by what we measure, but also by the questions we ask. And these paradigms come and go.
A new paradigm usually comes rather suddenly, when some unexpected breakthrough, either philosophical or experimental, makes it clear that a previously held tenet is no longer tenable. I should add that the new paradigm usually comes rather suddenly (and often to only the younger crowd), while the old paradigm does not always pass away so easily. Max Planck, considered by many to be the founder of quantum physics, pointed out that, "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die."
Paradigm shifts often create a schism, which temporarily divide the old, "classical" view from the new emerging "modern" view. Old beliefs, even scientific beliefs and theories, often die hard, because the paradigm itself gets rooted into the structures of the group mind. Sometimes we refer to this as a "mind-set," for obvious reasons. Types and categories of thoughts become set in our consciousness. They settle in and become assumed. To dislodge well-established assumptions can be very difficult. It usually requires a discovery that is both surprising and yet undeniable.
Until the latter part of the 19th century, the classical paradigm of Western science had been well established over the preceding four centuries. And it had become especially set, like hard concrete, through the writings and theories of Sir Issac Newton. Almost single handedly he applied the coup de grâce to the dominance of the Catholic Church in Western affairs. He didn't eliminate religion entirely, but he clearly ended its complete control over the minds of otherwise free human beings. This new paradigm set the West free to investigate reality in all sorts of new ways. It ushered in a renaissance of new thinking, new art and new outlooks. Scientifically this led to a growing number of interesting and "solid" discoveries, including the close relationship between mathematics and material reality.
Mathematical correspondences to material reality forms a basic scientific principle, dating back to the time of Pythagoras. But these correspondences were fine-tuned and more extensively crafted during the Rennaissance, especially by Newton. The conclusions, and especially the consistent mathematical support for these conclusions, suggested a highly organized and mechanical causality. Mathematics also made it relatively easy to test theories in a reliable and convincing way.
Curiously enough, the high correspondence of mathematics and scientific measurements formed a cornerstone for classical physics, and yet later became the source of its demise. As mathematics became more sophisticated, it also became more imaginary, and eventually impossible, to picture. When abstract mathematics of more than three dimensions became a reliable measuring tool in scientific experiments, our so-called objective reality became increasingly less objectifiable. If abstract mathematics of many dimensions could be used to accurately "describe" physical reality, then perhaps reality itself is an abstraction... something more like a sentient mind than like a gigantic mechanical clock.
Scientists of the 20th century began to realize that matter, energy, light and even consciousness itself are all intimately interrelated. We might even say that theoretical physics began knocking on heaven’s door to clarify the elements once and for all. The discoveries and theories that Maxwell, Faraday, Einstein, Bohr, Bohm and other physicists have made, and the problems they have encountered in developing a consistent "story" about matter, energy and the universe as a whole, stem from the multiplicity of forces, the distortion of time and space, the inability to actually perceive what matter is at the atomic level, and, perhaps most importantly of all, because it is impossible to make a purely objective measurement.
If, for example, we can't actually perceive what a single atom is, can we reliably discuss what matter is? After all, matter is a collection of atoms, and any mass of an individual element (like hydrogen, or iron, or uranium) is a conglomeration of atoms of a single type. If we can't reliably picture one atom, how can we reliably picture a collection of billions of the same thing?
Two of the most perplexing problems facing scientists today are: 1) The difference in the nature and magnitude of force as our investigation moves from the very "large" (astronomical) to the very "small" (atomic and subatomic), and 2) The inability to determine precisely the nature of elementary (quantum) particles. Regarding elementary particles, the fundamental problem remains: Is an elementary particle a tiny piece of matter, or is it a wave? Modern physicsts now assume it is both, despite the fact that it is basically impossible to visualize how it can be both, simultaneously. Whenever we try to measure it as a particle, we get a particle-like measurement. Whenever we try to measure it as a wave, we get a wave-like measurement. Its properties seem to depend on our intention. To a classical physicist, however, this is utterly absurd.
When we begin to carefully evaluate the world of the extremely small, some other very odd and disturbing things appear to happen. Gravitational force, electromagnetic force and the "strong" and "weak" nuclear forces have very different strengths. They are so different that they appear to have different "origins." And if their origins are different, it is difficult to imagine the whole thing to actually be whole.
In principle, classical physics confronts, and yet tries desperately to sidestep, one aspect of our situation that is recognized by virtually every mystic, namely that we cannot comprehend the whole thing, while viewing it from outside. There is no place to make this observation. Our essence is not some part of the whole, which can step aside and view the remainder. We are very much within the whole, and might, in fact, actually BE the whole thing. As such, there is absolutely no place for reliable objectivity.
It is interesting to point out that Quantum Theory has now revealed this unavoidable fact, and this has literally transformed the nature of scientific theory over the past 80 years. But this transformation has not come easily. Classical physics, and particularly this Cartesian three-way division of God, I and the remaining material reality, had been deeply ingrained in scientific experimentation and theory for hundreds of years, essentially from the time of Galileo (1564-1642) and at least until the beginning of the 20th Century. The belief in a completely separate, independent and objective reality was not going to break, or even bend, easily without tremendous resistance.
Relativity Theory bent the rules, but allowed most of the fundamental classical principles to remain in tact. Two principles were disturbed by Relativity Theory: 1) The belief in a stationary, or absolute, framework of time and space irrespective of the individual observer was abolished (undermined by the Special Theory of Relativity, presented by Einstein in 1905), and 2) Gravity itself became known as an inherent property of the structure of time and space (revealed by the General Theory of Relativity, presented by Einstein in 1915). This gravitational effect is referred to as the "warping" of time and space, because this is what we might imagine time and space to actually look like in a Cartesian, squared up, stiff, three-dimensional, objective reality.
Quantum Theory, however, has shattered the illusion of a fully objectifiable material reality, at least for a great many physicists of the 20th and 21st centuries. Not all scientists agree on what this means existentially, but the myth of a reality that decisively divides the observer from the observation is essentially gone. The Uncertainty Principle, as clarified by Werner Heisenberg, which was established as a legitimate scientific theory in the 1920's, and verified countless times experimentally ever since, expresses a curious boundary condition for objective scientific measurement. Experiments in the 1980's and the 1990's gave further, virtually concrete, support to the quantum conditions of complementarity, non-locality and entanglement. Our universe can no longer be fully divided into subjective and objective domains. As bizarre as it sounds to the Western mind, our universe (even scientifically) appears to be an indivisible whole. And while most scientists are not suggesting that all matter is conscious, at least they have come to recognize the inescapability of a partial merging of subjectivity and objectivity.
The Uncertainty Principle also sets a definite limit to our ability to measure precisely. Even if we believe that things have a definite existence outside of our perception, there is absolutely no way to verify exactly what that is. Our inability to measure precisely is not simply a matter of the limitations of our measuring devices, but rather it arises from the absolute impossibility of any purely objective measurement of any kind. This limitation is innate to the act of measurement itself. Furthermore, Quantum Physics redefines what it means to "measure" something, by making it clear that such an act cannot be clearly separated from the conscious mind or the intention of the one doing the measuring, nor from the instrument that makes the measurement. They are all entangled in a very significant and profound way.
Today science is still searching for a Unified Field Theory, and other "Theories of Everything." But it is difficult to predict whether or not this will eventually lead to a "scientific" unification of matter and consciousness. However, there now is definite scientific evidence that all things are interrelated on the quantum level. And while this evidence does not directly prove it, it most definitely lends credence to the idea that "material reality" is a living process.
Buddhism and Vedanta:
Mahayana Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta claim that the duality of subject and object is not real. Since there is no place of actual objectivity, then there can be no objects at all, not even a self that is imagining the experience. Everything appearing to us as either subject or object is Consciousness, is an undivided conscious process.
This is, quite obviously, an extraordinary viewpoint, at least from a Western philosophical perspective. But whether this is existentially true or not is not nearly as significant as what happens to the so-called observer whose consciousness accepts this outlook. This Buddhist-Vedantic perspective cuts through our conceptualizations, rendering us "helpless", yet needing no help. It renders us without ground to walk on, but with no place down into which we might fall. In fact, it renders us free and unobstructed from the beginning. In effect: Nothing is happening externally! Everything simply IS.
There is a wonderful quote by John Wheeler that is especially poignant in this regard, "Time is what prevents everything from happening all at once." This statement, and the statement that, "Nothing is actually happening externally," really mean the same thing. Both point to essential being, rather than any kind of objectified activity. In one sense, this is a fundamental "idea" that mysteriously annihilates the endless wheel of ideas. The idea points to the center of the wheel, where externalized activity itself is meaningless.
Deep within each of us is the understanding that we are all moving toward some kind of profound awakening. But are we actually moving toward anything? Most of us suspect that if we find the right kind of discipline*, and pursue it diligently, we can achieve this—that we can break the bonds of our ignorance and extinguish the control of karma, whose grip permeates our individual cells and distracts us through our senses and our mental and emotional habituation.* Take note that some adherents of Advaita Vedanta and even John Wheeler (quoted above) would not agree that some form is discipline is required. In fact, Wheeler and others point out that the very act of disciplining essentially contradicts the essential reality of Being, which is, itself, immediate, unchanging and unbounded. Hence there is no "practice", but only the pointing to the original being. You either "get it" or you don't.If there are no objects, it would be ridiculous to act and think as if there were. If there are no things, no thing is born and no thing dies. Nothing can be lost or gained. Fear arises from the threat of loss, and particularly the threat of death and dying. This new world-view annihilates the very reason we are fearful. We fear loss, and now there is no-thing that can be lost.
I respect this form of "non-practice" and find it stimulating and even refreshing, perhaps even enlightening. The big question that the individual must ask himself is, "Does it stick?" If it sticks, then Bon App?tit! But this "non-path" is definitely not for everyone. There are, quite literally, many paths to the top of the mountain. If you can levitate there... Great! But there lingers the possibility of self-deception. The view can be excellent halfway up the hill. You might decide to take up residence there. I recommend that you follow your own instincts in this regard, but I also recommend that you develop a "practice." Even adepts of Advaita Vedanta would have to agree that, "It can't hurt."
When this outlook becomes infused in our regular practice, our basic problems disappear. The arcs of our karmic cycle are annihilated. For example, it becomes considerably easier to allow thoughts to cease. Resolving "thought problems" and apparent paradoxes are no longer vital or consequential. In fact, we now might wonder, "What was the big deal?" Body prana gives way to Cosmic Prana. We begin to resonate naturally as One Whole Being, because nothing is holding us back, and nothing divides us from any other thing. This conscious attitude is highly practical. Our habits of resistance end. Finally we see ourselves as unborn and unchanging.
Yoga schools and teaching methods:
Babaji discouraged his immediate devotees and initiates from forming spiritual organizations for good reason. To coalesce as a group, and particularly a group with an authority, doctrines and rules, mimics the way Cosmic Prana is contained, limited and reduced to body prana. The formation of an organization mirrors and supports the idea of ego, even as it intends to do the opposite. And this mirroring of ego tends to reinforce the egoic viewpoint.
A dilemma presents itself. When a clear pathway to the truth of our innate Being dawns upon someone, how is it to be shared? Can it be shared? Attempts to do so give rise to many different schools of yoga and spiritual discipline.
Compare the modus operandi of two well known spiritual groups of our day, namely the Self Realization Fellowship, established by Paramhansa Yogananda, and the fellowship initiated by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (known as Osho during his final years on earth).
SRF is highly structured and conservative in its daily operation. Course work, exercises and meditations are conducted in a very orderly and exacting manner. Regular, planned, group initiations are scheduled months, or even years in advance. Certain individuals are definitely "in charge." A de facto hierarchy of authority is there. This is not a value judgment, but rather a superficial statement of how SRF operates. After all, authority is an appearance. It is quite simply an aspect of Maya. Humans want to create order out of chaos in the personal world, so they select or allow certain individuals to be "in control." Yet, in actual fact, Cosmic Prana… the Force of the Whole Being God Is… is always in control. And deeper yet, nothing is actually happening.
When Rajneesh was upon this earth, his community was much less structured and more liberal, even libertine by some standards. Devotees were encouraged to discover the "authenticity" of their own experience of Being. This approach is more playful and less businesslike. It appeals to those who have a fundamental appreciation that the Being is unborn. To discipline that which is free from the beginning seems contradictory and Self defeating. His path was not, strictly speaking, Advaita Vedanta, but it does suggest some parallel to it.
The differences of these two schools parallel the differences of the Zen schools of gradual and instantaneous enlightenment, which formed during the time of Sh?n-hsiu and Hui-n?ng. Each will appeal to a different side of our own nature. The underlying prototypes for these two approaches reduce to discipline and freedom.
Are they compatible?
You must decide for yourself. Perhaps you will discover, as I have, that a middle way exists between these two that embraces both. They may very well be considered complimentary in much the same way that Quantum Physics describes an electron as being both a particle and a wave. These two aspects are complementary. Neither one fully circumscribes what an electron is. If you look for the particle aspect of an electron, you will find it. If you look for the wave aspect of an electron, you will find that too. And while it seems that these two aspects cannot possibly coexist, they do, in fact, coexist. They coexist because there is not a specific, objectifiable condition that can be totally separate from the individual (or piece of equipment) that makes the measurement.
In the same way, each of these two philosophical schools serves a purpose. For those who are capable of realizing their own true nature in an instant, so it shall happen. For those who need to be guided down a pathway with definite signposts along the way, so too it will happen. So why should we argue over methodology? It's like arguing which is better, an apple or an orange.
If it were not the case that we appear somewhat confined through self limitation, then discipline would not be required. We would experience our Whole Being as it is and always has been… fully spacious and absolutely free. Right action would be obvious, or at least spontaneous, at all times. Right action and being would be one and the same thing… inseparable. Yet as long as the yogi experiences the separation of ego, the recipe will include a dose of discipline.
To experience true freedom is much more tricky than to establish a regimen of discipline. Moment to moment we may feel free, or we may simply imagine it to be the case, when in reality we are only projecting an idea through a deep desire to become free.
Some personal reflections:
In 1970, after completing my second year with the American Peace Corps in the Philippines, I moved to Japan. In the evenings I would gravitate to the coffee shops in Shinjuku, Tokyo. Often I would find my good friend, Yoshi. We would sit for hours playing chess amid a set of large stereo speakers, blaring out the rock n’ roll of our day… volume on full.
The recordings of Woodstock were popular at that time. I particularly enjoyed the song, Freedom, by Richie Havens. "Sometimes I feel like I’m almost gone…" The effect of the song, the environment and the intense mental stimulation of the chess game caused me to experience a tremendous sense of physical annihilation, leaving only pure awareness, floating on a sea of Being… almost gone!
When I expressed my affection for the musician and this song, Yoshi responded dryly, "Yes… but is he free, or merely demonstrating an impassioned desire to be free?" That, I think, is a very cogent and important question.
During the human experience, complete freedom can seem attainable or utterly elusive from moment to moment. It is part of the enigma of experiencing life through form.
A marvelous presentation of the elusive struggle for freedom is expressed in the movie, Cool Hand Luke, produced in the mid 60’s. Luke (played by Paul Newman) finds himself in prison on a Southern chain gang, for lopping off the heads of parking meters, while in a drunken, carefree condition. The warden and the prison guards (the "bosses") operate with impunity, using intimidation and brute force where necessary to maintain control. They insist that every prisoner "gets his mind right!"
Luke’s physical predicament is a nightmare. He feels the harsh absurdity of his imprisonment for his simple libertine actions. To relieve the unbearable stress of his confinement, he escapes again and again. But he is always recaptured and his situation worsens. Each time he is more shackled and abused than before. There is no way for him to accept his situation. He simply cannot allow it. The warden (played by Strother Martin) speaks his unequivocal, yet infamous line, "What we have here is failure to communicate."
This parallels the human condition that we bring upon ourselves through our neurotic addictions. We are absolutely innocent. This is our essential nature. We cannot lose this innocence in any way. But innocence alone is not enough to release our mind from its entanglement. Repeatedly we act in certain ways, ingest certain substances, or get caught up in various emotional patterns that tighten the karmic grip. We are self destructive in varying degrees. We see the destructive pattern as the effects run their course, but we forget the pattern when we return to the initiating phase of the cycle. This is why Gurdjieff and Ouspensky placed an intense emphasis on remembering. There can be no self control until we recognize our patterns, and there can be no Self Realization until Cosmic Prana annihilates the body prana of the human constellation.
Between discipline and freedom is a middle way that embraces both. We can dis-organize the body prana, which has spread energetically throughout our cells. We can reconnect with the freedom of the Cosmic Design. We can resonate with, or more accurately as, the Primordial Energetic Reality. When two individuals stand at the top of a mountain and view the sunset, there will be no quibbling about how each one got there. There is only the beauty of the present moment.
There is definitely a middle way here. Lengthy periods of quiet reflection and meditation are very important. This allows us to dust off the attitudes and memories that have accumulated during the course of our neurotic activity. A regular discipline of meditation precipitates an ever new outlook for experience. It greases the wheels of our vehicles, allowing us to glide into true freedom and ecstasy. Seriousness evaporates. The muscles of our face relax. A smile slips out.
Two Buddhas meet
One speaks of God
The other one laughs.
For the average man, the human constellation remains so complex that inquiring minds of quiet desperation no longer feel the joy of a belly full of laughter. Hence, right action must first involve a reduction of activity. As our activity slows, our perception changes. Yoga then presents itself. For each devotee there will be a particular form of yoga and a particular sage who speaks directly to him. A way appears for every sincere, persistent seeker. By and by the yogi discovers, "The proof is in the pudding of experience."
The approach of Kriya Yoga:
When Paramhansa Yogananda was asked about the different techniques taught by various masters of yoga, he responded, "There are many paths up the mountain, but the view from the top is the same."
Distraction becomes a key issue to the practicing yogi. Any one of our three bodies can be a source of this annoyance. We discover through experience how to accommodate our activity, prana, and force to the Design, and thus not impede the advancing realization. This becomes the basic issue of life. Everything else seems like waiting.
Actually, how we "wait" is very significant. It sets the tone for life during most of its time… and tone is an essential quality of Self Realization. Harmonic Tone is the foundation of our Spiritual Essence, and thereby it forms the very foundation of Kriya Yoga. Our attitudes initiate tone during the periods of life when our practice seems to be taking a back seat to activity.
When we discover that events have no significance in and of themselves, how are we to spend this time? Are we annoyed by what is physically in front of us, or is it something we accept with enthusiasm? This is a crucial issue. The advancing yogi appreciates irony. He becomes enthusiastic while surrounded by the insignificant.
The enthusiasm is for Being, not the evanescent forms, the specific activities or accomplishments. He develops the skill of recognizing the Being as he is. He shares his natural compassion for others, without becoming distracted by personality, activity and attachments. This allows the yoga to penetrate time more consistently. The presence enters his consciousness with greater persistence.
The presence begins to penetrate into the subconscious and semi-conscious realms of our experience. In large measure through a consistent practice of yoga, we discover a way to remain eternally present as waves of feeling, ideas and images parade through our consciousness.
This presence even penetrates our dreams, first by allowing us to control the flow of self perpetuated imagery, and then by eliminating the drive for gratification. To do this we must remove the anxieties and the desires that initiate dreams in the first place. The extent of our willingness to desire should not be underestimated. The roots run deep into our cells, our tendencies and our psyche. To extinguish them demands a view of the Divine Blueprint and a steadfast attention upon the big picture. As the Resonance enters, the Way becomes clear.
At this point we will look closely at the first Kriya to create a deep symbiosis of experience… to resonate mutually. We shall call this an initiation. Take considerable time and make a specific effort to attune with this pranayam experientially. This is a definite way to initiate the Holy Sound. If you proceed as an enthusiastic child, trusting the instruction, you will establish an environment suitable for the Sound to register.
This technique works! It is more effective than even the most precise theorization.
The First Kriya: The Sacred Heart Pranayam
Meditation and its aftermath is a three part process:
1) There is one essential reason to meditate. It is the reason above all others. That reason is to experience bliss.
2) Once this bliss is experienced, reflect upon it. Reflect upon the bliss itself, in order to understand how bliss arises. Let this understanding be fully known. You might need it again sometime. One never knows.
3) Then, once you see how this bliss arises, use this understanding to promote collective bliss... shared bliss.
Sit comfortably in a position that you can maintain with ease for an extended period of time. Fifteen minutes would be the absolute minimum. Longer would be better. Take a minute or two to get as comfortable as possible. And then make a commitment to yourself to experience bliss. Leave all other thoughts and expectations behind. Make bliss your 100% objective. Essentially it is not something to think about. There will be time later to think about it. But not now. Now is the time to experience bliss.
Begin by taking a few long slow breaths. Gradually elongate the breath, and make it as slow and as smooth as possible. A good rule of thumb is to have each in-breath and each out-breath to take at least 10 to 15 seconds. (It is an excellent idea to have a silent clock in front of you to begin your practice to see what 10-15 seconds is when breathing.) When you have extended the pace of your breath to 10-15 seconds for each inhalation and each exhalation, you will feel how this relaxes you and helps you to feel comfortable.
With each in-breath, direct the flow of pranic energy, which is real etheric essence, into your Heart Center. The path of this flow is not identical to the flow of air. The prana passes through you on a more subtle level. It enters from above and behind you, through the upper back portion of your head, directly through the area where you spinal cord joins with the brain (the Medulla), and passes without obstruction into your Heart. The flow is smooth, deep, relaxed and continuous. The Heart Center fills with Cosmic Prana.
With the out-breath the flow reverses and the prana returns in exactly the opposite direction that it followed on the in-breath. It returns to its source. Inside and outside dissolve into a marvelous resonance. The standing wave of this etheric, bipolar action shall eventually initiate an audible Sound, OM, first heard as if coming from behind, and then within both of these centers and throughout the cosmos.
That is the entire technique. It is simple, yet highly effective.
Jesus is often pictured pointing to his heart. Buddha is known as the Compassionate One. These two tremendous beings of harmony experience a definite omnipresent radiation within the Heart. This feeling is so sweet and entrancing that often the "enlightened one" may appear utterly distracted. He/she is absorbed in bliss, having lost all interest in the details of the human experience of Maya. He simply wants to share the bliss, to share his Heart, without returning to the way of continual distraction.
When Buddha emerged from his enlightenment, he gravitated to the banks of the Ganges in Banaras, and began to describe the essence of man’s condition. At the heart of his teaching was a description of the middle way. Specifically he referred to a way between the two extremes of self-mortification and devotion to the pleasures of the senses. A path became clear to him, which he delineated as the Eightfold Way: Right view, right aim, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration. Yet the Heart of the experience was essentially indescribable. He spoke the way as best he could, but the radiation of essential Being is the true teaching. The radiation of essential Being is Bliss.
After spending considerable time with Krishna, Arjuna finally recognizes his karma. He accepts his superficial fate. He enters the fray through right action, one eye on the Infinite, the other two adjusting to conditions with all the skill at his disposal. Krishna sounds the conch. All is well.
The enlightened go about their way, virtually unnoticed. She might be playing music or running a marathon. He might be teaching kindergarten. She might be delivering the mail. He might be preparing dinner. Yet deep within the Heart, radiance issues without effort.
Each breath is tuned to this radiation. Each breath caresses the bell. Each breath acts like the moistened fingers of the musician, stroking the edge of a crystal glass. The glass is partially filled with water. The firm circling fingers move with precise intention. The continuous and gentle force upon the lip of the glass sustains a note of exquisite tone… a note eternal upon an inner ear.
The Sound, OM, has no beginning or ending. It is subtle, but definite! It causes easy, gentle movements. The spine straightens and the chest moves forward. This Heart radiates into all places. It shares itself. The Heart knows and accepts no limitation as its own. It sings without effort of any kind. Effortlessness is its primary nature.
The expanding radiance inexorably brings forth a smile. The eyes of the devotee light up. The weight of karma evaporates into sheer play. The only meaning that survives is joy!
Remember: Once you have experienced bliss, reflect upon it, in order to understand how it arises. Then use your understanding to promote collective bliss... shared bliss.
The Heart's pendant:
The book, A Recipe for Bliss, Kriya Yoga for a New Millennium, is now available through Amazon.com. It is also available directly from The hOMe Foundation.
The above is a description of the First Kriya as it has been shown to me. Listen carefully. Look deeply. Initiate the practice within yourself. If you have any questions, feel free to write.
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May you be deeply blessed... and Meditate!