The East has a long tradition of secrecy and ceremony regarding initiations and yoga techniques. The West, on the other hand, is fast becoming a completely open society. Our sense of freedom dictates that there is no need for secrets at all. Today on the Internet, information is available on virtually anything we can imagine, and plenty we could never imagine. Most of it is completely free. Some in the West have made this their battle cry:
NO MORE SECRETS!
The young seekers of the West, and particularly those who experienced the full force of the 60’s, turned to the East to discover another way of life. The life they faced in the wake of the Viet Nam War and the pulsating, yet deeply searching rock n’ roll of that era pushed them to look elsewhere for resolutions. The once quaint phrase, “A rolling stone gathers no moss,” took on a more immediate meaning through the insistent voice of Bob Dylan:Now, some decades later, the East has come to the West through these same seekers. The ways of both are blending together (albeit very slowly). It was bound to happen that the deep requirement of total freedom of expression and free access to truth would undermine the secrecy of Eastern traditions. But, like a Seinfeld episode where “worlds collide,” much ado has been made about nothing. The art of living is enhanced when we recognize that the world at large is a Shakespearian stage, but the world within is not only the Real World, it is a world that is available to anyone who chooses to enter.
“When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.
You’re invisible now; you’ve got no secrets to conceal.”– Like a Rolling Stone
These “secrets” are now being exposed all around you, and more importantly, within you, within the layers of your life experience. In truth, the Way is wide-open. It is up to you to do the investigation and sort out the conclusions. All the information you need is now available. The real task is to decide what is true and what to do about it. The surest way to decide what is true is to listen with your heart. The only sensible way to proceed is with kindness.
I feel a deep empathy for Martin Luther. Consider the tortured feelings he experienced as he battled the conservative Catholic Church of his day. His call for Christian unity can be found in his poetry:Luther is best known for posting his famous 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church. He prefaced it with the following:“Dear Christians, one and all, rejoice,
With exultation springing,
And, with united heart and voice,
And holy rapture singing,
Proclaim the wonders God hath done.”
“Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed…”
He must have known that all hell would break loose for him. But deep within he had no choice. Later he wrote a letter to Pope Leo X. He hoped to calm the firestorm of controversy, without backing off his deep desire to lift the spirit of Christianity beyond the trifling differences of individual beliefs and personal ego. He wanted to shatter the myths of dogma and hierarchy, and share the good news that God dwells uniformly in every Heart. His letter opens:
“Among those monstrous evils of this age with which I have now for three years been waging war, I am sometimes compelled to look to you and to call you to mind, most blessed father Leo. In truth, since you alone are everywhere considered as being the cause of my engaging in war, I cannot at any time fail to remember you… yet I have never been so alienated in feeling from your Blessedness as not to have sought with all my might, in diligent prayer and crying to God, all the best gifts for you and for your see.”
Martin Luther is revisiting the earth in many forms today. He came again in the dramatic insistence for non-violence by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. They both met, and somehow welcomed, violent death from angry men who wanted to keep the world separate.
He came again in the sweet textures of the songs of Donovan, expressing both our responsibility and our innocence:
“He’s the universal soldier, and he really is to blame. His orders come from far away no more. They come from here and there and you and me… and Brothers, can’t you see, this is not the way to put an end to war.”– The Universal Soldier, written by Buffy Ste Marie
“When you feel you just can’t make it anymore, with your head bowed down you’re starin’ at the floor. Just call out to me as I ramble by… I’ll sing a song for you.”
For an emerging generation of “hippies” the Ten Commandments were reduced to two: Innocence and non-violence. Those who stake a position in this world eventually will feel threatened when the simple voice of innocence and truth comes to question just what is the purpose of their “position” in the first place. Martin Luther returns, alive and well in the voices of all who cherish the openness of humanity and the oneness of Spirit.
Upon the skin of our physical bodies collects the dust of everyday contact with our evolving physical planet. Few of us would allow twenty-four hours to pass without bathing, to remove the bacteria and the grime that has taken residence upon us. Yet many of those who are fastidious about cleansing the epidermis ignore the more significant cleansing that is required to remove the emotional and psychic debris that collects within. Our emotional and mental bodies readily become saturated with feelings and thoughts that cause pain and serve us poorly. These bodies need to be cleansed even more regularly and attentively than our physical body, in order for them to function in a wholesome and healthy way. Meditation and pranayama are the soap and shower for our etheric bodies. I recommend that you take this shower every day for as long and as often as needed to get clean, to become translucent, and eventually completely transparent.
This leads us naturally to a point of controversy. We do not make a secret of how to bathe our physical bodies. We would all recognize how silly that would be. Just imagine the smell, the itch and the dis-ease we would all have to endure if soap and water were not freely available, if somehow bathing our bodies were the secret of a chosen few. Yet, in some esoteric circles, this is exactly what is being done. A great effort has been made and is still being made to keep secret the wonderful, yet simple techniques of yoga that cleanse and purify our emotional and mental bodies. It is a curiosity to me that some have privatized these forms of etheric bathing. It is my view that we are ready for a brighter day and a larger family. We are ready to become transparent. We are not only ready, it is way past time to get on with it.
I remember my first encounter with the phrase, “I’m not at liberty to tell you that.” This was the response I received long ago when I asked a friend about his yogic practice. I was quite open. I was eager to know a technique, so that I could begin meditating in a more specific and definite way. My curiosity was pure and insistent. I wanted to know the whole truth and I wanted to cross over into the Real World. A not so small part of me was furious to hear this response. How arrogant! How exclusive! If these practices are so wonderful, why are they so secretive? Why set up artificial hurdles if we are to progress together toward liberty and enlightenment?
The standard response is that you must receive this from the guru. So, in effect, we are “required” to make a great leap of faith, i.e. accept a master first, before we can even begin. This can feel like a long, dark psychic tunnel, through which we must travel in order to discover the unknown and hopefully true Path in some future place and time. Many thereby postpone the start of their practice until a guru is found. So their “real” practice is stalled indefinitely until He appears. This puts the cart before the horse. The way to find this guru and the way to contact the Holy Sound, Om, are the same. The way is through deep silence. True yoga techniques usher you to this silence.
In one sense, secrecy is something of a myth. If asked to name the single greatest “secret” of Kriya Yoga, indeed, of every form of yoga, every religion and every spiritual discipline, I would have no problem at all. This one single greatest secret is kindness. Kindness opens the pranic floodgates. It won’t matter what other secret techniques you employ. It won’t matter what esoteric mantra you recite. It won’t matter who is your guru. None of these things will have a lasting effect until you open up and awaken the sacred heart of kindness.
Other "secrets" of yoga are not so startling as we imagine. A great secret of yoga is patience. Without this, it will be virtually impossible to find the Path and stay on it. You must also be utterly determined. You must train yourself to concentrate on the deep and true inner life. You must have a passion for the whole truth. Only then will Spirit blow the lid off of Pandora’s box, and annihilate the container completely.
We are caged by ego. And, the whole truth will rattle our cage. We are interested in personal success. In fact, most of us are completely mesmerized by it. Yes, we are interested in spiritual liberation, but only if it allows us to be successful in other ways. We ignore the size of the universe and forget that we are playing on a small temporary stage. Once this scene is over, an entirely new scene, act or play will commence. Past successes will then be meaningless. All that will remain are the samskaras, the persistence of an historical pattern of conscious tendency. Once we get a clear overview of the larger drama, then the need for patience will be more obvious. Then we will begin to settle into the complete spiritual nature of existence. Patience will then become our companion. It won’t inhibit the revolution of consciousness, but it will cool the urgency of immediate desires.
Another great secret is service. The yogi who turns inward, yet tries to hold it in and own it privately, will find it impossible to dissolve the edges of his experience. He will fail to merge with the Whole. Patience and service may not seem like great secrets at first glance, but those who proceed long upon the inner path will encounter them over and over in new guises.
God cannot be contained. Anything contained cannot be God. Anyone viewing this information on this screen is capable of knowing this. You’ve come this far in your search for truth and lasting peace. You are capable of experiencing the one and only God as your True Being… in all places… for all time. It is completely available to you. All you really need is passion, patience and kindness.
Having said that, however, lets consider the fuss that is made about secret techniques.
Secrecy is the classical, established way of initiating Kriya Yoga and many other disciplines as well. There is one, very definite downside to this secrecy. It creates an unnecessary and offensive mystique for us. What should be simple and open becomes obscure and divisive.
Secrecy is an obstacle for many true seekers. First, the initiate-to-be is expected to have faith in a process before he has tried it even once. He is usually asked or required by a pledge to maintain this secrecy upon receiving these techniques. So he enters into a secretive and confining expectation. How peculiar! Why should we obscure the path to Reality?
Furthermore, problems arise even within the group that is privy to these secrets. Levels of hierarchy and degrees of subordination creep into the picture. There are those “close” to the master and there are those who are more distant. There are those who have received just the first “level” of initiation and those who have passed many levels. But, obviously, there is the most clear-cut and divisive of all measurements: Some people are members of the group, and the rest are not.
For many seekers of truth, devotees of God in their own right, this is all too much. Pledges in the dark and spiritual degrees of separation create barriers far too high and secure to pass. They are forced by inner circumstances to look elsewhere. From the perspective of the members, those who can’t accept these conditions are “not ready.”
The Kriya classes that I offer online (completely free of charge) are for anyone and everyone, those who are “not ready” and those who apparently were. I see no distinction in these two classes of people, and therefore support no such distinction between individuals or groups. Furthermore, I discourage any attempt to establish or sustain this kind of imaginary distinction. In my view, aristocracy has no place among devotees. There is only one God, and we are all part of Him. These artificial and arbitrary divisions of people are unnecessary, undesirable and, quite frankly, a little childish.
It may not always be clear how secrecy and divisions arise in the first place. True masters of yoga do not experience any separation, let alone encourage and support it. So if a real master is there, it must be the devotees who create and sustain the idea of separation and the notion of being elite. Division and hierarchy are antithetical to spiritual enlightenment. But I have not come to rattle the cloisters. I am here to encourage unity. There is but one Force that sustains life for all beings. It is no longer necessary to make it appear separate and private to entice us out of our slumber. Secrecy is the signature of an age that will one day be a fading memory.
Vows can cause problems as well. A vow is a double-edged sword. Consider the vows required for initiates of the Radha Soami order. Initiates must promise to eat no meat, fish or eggs, to avoid all sex outside of marriage and to not use any drugs or alcohol. And you must meditate 2½ hours each day. Westerners, steeped in a tradition of freedom above all else, find these vows excruciating. To a steady disciplined devotee, they will usually make sense, but to a libertine, they will be torture.
At the beginning, vows like these serve a purpose to put one on the "straight and narrow." After awhile the straight and narrow can feel like a tightrope. Many promising devotees slip and then fall into a gulf of guilt and remorse. This is a common tribulation for young Catholics. (I was once one of them, so I know the feeling well.)
The strings of a musical instrument must be tuned properly. Each string must be tight, but not too tight. There is an exact tension required for each string to be in perfect harmony with the whole instrument. It is the same with Kriya. It is my way to encourage each one to tune his own instrument. Self-tuning is the actual Path itself, so why should I try to establish any rules for someone else?
The interiorized pathway to conscious awareness of our true Essence is inviting. A pure heart will not abuse this invitation. A pure heart is open, radiant, unfettered and boundless. It includes all and everyone. It does not retreat into discrimination. It does not divide. There is no place for it to hide and sees no good reason to do so.
Those who are requesting a pledge of secrecy and silence from you do not really stand in your way. No one stands in your way. The Way is not blocked by any real thing. The Way of Kriya is 5% technique, and 95% practice and understanding the heart. The path of Kriya begins as a completely inward journey. You must rise up inside your apparent form, perhaps for a very long time, until a moment comes when inward and outward are no longer relative, and no longer relevant. In samadhi there is no division of Self whatsoever. Kriyas will take you to a point where this samadhi is possible, but it won't happen as long as you hold yourself back by imagining yourself as separate. So know from the outset that the only obstruction in your way is that which you imagine. What is being falsely imagined is that the Self is separate from the Whole.
The "form" of Spirit relative to man's desires is like that of a well. The well has already been drilled and encased. It comes complete with a pump handle and spout. Beside the well is a jar of water. At the bottom of the well is a reservoir of water that is completely infinite in source, capable of quenching any thirst at any time... for all time.
The man standing at the well has a deep thirst. He has applied force to the pump handle, back and forth, but he hears the sound of air passing through the pipe. So he knows the pump must be primed in order to yield any more water. There is a temptation to drink the single jar of water now, because his thirst is intense in this moment. But he also knows it will not last long. The thirst will return. Then he will be completely out of options.
This single jar of water is the single separate self of your current human experience. It is capable of quenching the thirst, somewhat, for a single momentary life. How the handle is pumped is likened to the techniques of Kriya... Pranayama. What the thirsty man must do is risky. He must be willing to pour his single container of water into the well, and begin to pump. He must give himself up, if he is to unite with the Whole Being God Is.
Kriya will do the work. They will prime this pump and set the flow in motion. The waters will rise, and this thirst will be quenched.
Some people attach great significance to historic authenticity, and the question of the exact techniques given to Lahiri Mahasaya by Babaji is raised often. Yogananda gave out Kriya initiation to his disciples in a measure that they could perform well and grow spiritually. There were some differences in the techniques that he prescribed, depending on the individual. This is a practical and very sensible approach.
Certain fundamentalists take issue with this approach. Their insistent criticism can be seen in two distinctly different ways. If we believe they are right, their criticism will seem to be necessary to set the record straight, and the Path as well. If we believe they are wrong, or at least inappropriately close-minded to the great variety of ways to reach Self-realization, then their criticism will seem silly and divisive.
How are we to judge?
Let’s imagine that you have found a “guru” who teaches the techniques of Kriya Yoga exactly as they were prescribed by Lahiri Mahasaya. (Of course you would have to proceed with some measure of faith here, for there is no way to be absolutely sure, other than to find Babaji or Lahiri to verify the claim.) Will this authenticity, in and of itself, open your heart and awaken a loving attitude within you? Yogananda once said that God makes Himself known to those who love him the most, and not specifically those who perform the greatest number and most intense Kriyas. Kriya Yoga is a path of certain definite actions, but it is also a path of understanding and heart. Kindness is the environment that allows the techniques to work their magic.
To enter into the eternal present requires that you set the past aside. The Kriyas demonstrated here shall definitely serve this function. By entering that place that has no inside and no outside, awareness finds itself in the center of All and Everything, without the urge to distinguish things. No Kriya can function within anyone until that person begins to understand, in a deep and immediate way, the source of his own apparent separation.
The wondrous resonance of the Inner Music and the dance of the Inner Light are mysterious throughout. If you follow this Path, you will not only revel in the poetry and song of others, but it will flow from your own lips and from your own hearts.
If you are to become enlightened in this life, you must be something of a maverick. The whole world is telling you what you should and should not do, not just the world of parents, churches, newspapers and politics, but even some of these gurus and yoga centers as well. Are you going to do what they tell you to do and think as they tell you to think, or are you going to discover this understanding within yourself? How will you free yourself from the expectations of others?
You must find your way to the center of yourself so that you begin to become independent of local circumstances. Then you must penetrate deep within upon waves of cosmic sound and light to the Radiance of God that issues to you within the Spiritual Eye and descends through your senses and your cells into your present form. The surest way to do this is to meditate. If you are reading these lessons, but are not meditating, you have totally missed the point. These lessons are not food for thought. They are food for Spirit.
The way of Ramana Maharshi is a way of deep interiorized inquiry: “Who am I?” But this is not a way of intellectual thought. Thought brought him to where the Path begins, just to the front door. The finest and last thought regarding our spiritual circumstances is that thinking will take you no further than it has already. You refine and refine your thinking over a long time, until you finally discover that thinking itself is the nature of your prison.
Our thoughts and our assumptions form a veil, separating us from God. Om manages to slip through only the very finest of thoughts. To hear this is a true moment of initiation. This is a fork in the road of attention. The two are there together, and you must choose. Will you continue to think, or will you enter the Sound? The way of Kriya is to dissolve your self in the Holy Sound. When the Light of God shines within your heart, it will dissolve your separate needs. The radiation will do the work, not your thoughts or your plans.
Kriya is not a competition. There are many possible Kriyas to practice. Some teachers and Kriya centers share only a few, while others provide over a hundred of them. The goal of every Kriya is to help crack the shell of the psychic egg. The chick inside might break through the side, the top or the bottom, but eventually the shell will be completely discarded and the chick steps out into the open world, released from her confinement. Any Kriya (interior action) that helps crack the shell of our imagination of separate being is worthwhile.
I have discovered a number of Kriyas, which come without any expressed urging to make them secret. My purpose in this class is to share the techniques and to describe the fertile ground of understanding and practice that nurtures them into an unfolding of God within all beings. In the book, A Recipe for Bliss, I listed twelve Kriyas*. Kriya Yoga may look like a linear and rigid approach, but really it is not. Once the Holy Sound, Om, is contacted, many of these and other Kriyas will become spontaneous within you. Those who attune deeply within will find their own in-sight upon the Path.* I completed this book about ten years ago. Over the years I have revised some of these techniques, added a few, and removed a few. Some might conclude that this is a sign of impurity and vacillation. For me, the changes have enhanced my practice and made the Way more direct.Regarding the Kundalini Pranayam there is much controversy and some variations. The purpose of this pranayam is to stimulate the flow of prana directly through the Sushumna, and to raise your conscious attention into the Spiritual Eye and lock it there. Variations of this technique are highly guarded by many teachers. On the other hand, some teachers will tell you to ignore all the Centers below the Heart. Still others confine their attention upon the 6th and 7th Chakras entirely. The yogi should keep firmly in mind that the Design of Spirit is already fully in place within him. The more he looks within, the more he will discover the certainty and the ease of the Path. Do not feel that you are missing something because there are techniques that remain hidden from you. God is not hidden. He may seem invisible, but He is not.
A deep purpose lies within our actions. It is our karma working itself out. Every life is a wave. We cannot help but make waves. This is what we are doing all the time. But life is not a competition unless we make it so. There is no opposition in Reality, so there is no reason to imagine it. Opposition lies in the unreal region of our imagination.
A true seeker must throw caution to the wind. He may bide his time for a while, but eventually he must open up and dissolve the boundaries that separate him from the Whole. The wonder that awaits him is the breathless and deathless. Those who choose the path of inner freedom may, for a time, disturb the status quo. But through the fiery test shall come the inner vision of God within, at peace with the world. Our Heavenly Father bears no grudge. Quite simply... He hasn’t got the time for something like that.
To read a discussion of Kriya Yoga as well
as a description of the first Kriya technique,
please click on:
The Sacred Heart Pranayam