SWAMI KRIYANANDA talks about the ‘universal science of Kriya Yoga’ as
taught by his guru, ParamhansaYogananda
Yoga is not so much a philosophy as a science, offering definite, practical techniques for raising human consciousness inwardly through the spine, and uniting its samskaras or myriad directional tendencies with the highest potential in the Self. The nerves are the main passages of life force in the body. They correspond to the subtler, more refined nadis of the astral body. Ordinarily, nerve passages of the human body are ‘clogged’ with toxins owing to wrong diet, and are impaired in their functioning by unnatural living. Yogis, therefore, advise purifying the nerves by proper diet, yoga asanas, and the practice of yoga meditation techniques, among which Kriya Yoga is pre-eminent.
Kriya Yoga is the science that was particularly recommended by my own guru, ParamhansaYogananda, and by his line of gurus. Kriya Yoga helps one to equalise incoming and outgoing breaths, and to absorb one’s energy in the spine, where one feels the currents as cool (rising) and slightly warm (descending) current. The physical act of breathing is intimately associated with and is, indeed, caused by the energy rising and descending in the spine through the ida and pingalanadis, or nerve channels. Ida begins on the left side;pingala, on the right. Breathing in the astral body takes place in these two nadis. The breath in the astral body is in the spine, and is composed of energy, not of inhalation and exhalation with the lungs. The ascending energy is called prana; the descending, apana.
The slow, careful, conscious circulation of energy around the spine constitutes the ancient science known as Kriya Yoga. This circulation magnetises the spine, and redirects the mental tendencies, called samskaras, toward the brain in a way interestingly reminiscent of the realigning of molecules in a north-south direction in a bar of metal. Similar to the bar magnet, the spine becomes magnetised in the sense that the energy, flowing ever more uni-directionally up toward the brain, is drawn into the deep spine, the sushumna, where, with the awakening of the kundalini, it rises through the chakras, lifting one’s energy and consciousness upward toward God. Thus, the energy is brought to the spiritual eye, finally to become united with sahasrara, the thousand-petaled lotus at the top of the head.
In the Bhagwad Gita, Krishna states in chapter 5, verses 27-28: “The muni (one for whom liberation is the sole purpose of life) controls his senses, mind, and intellect, removing himself from contact with them by neutralising the currents of prana and apana in the spine, which manifest outwardly as inhalation and exhalation in the nostrils. He fixes his gaze in the forehead at a point midway between the two eyebrows thereby converting the dual current of physical vision into the single, omniscient vision of the spiritual eye. Such a one attains complete emancipation”.
From whatever direction one approaches a mountaintop, as long as he continues moving upward, he will eventually reach the peak. What is all-important is the direction of one’s climb. In the spine that direction, of course, is upward. The spine is central in the human body.
Whatever else one does spiritually, he must also awaken and raise the spine’s energy. This remains true even if one’s path is devotional chanting, or serving the poor and other ways of helping to relieve human suffering. He may follow the path of mental discrimination, distinguishing what is true or false in this world. If, however, his energy is not raised in the spine even by these indirect means, he cannot achieve spiritual awakening. True religion — inner experience, that is to say, not mere belief — is not a question of pleasing some deity up there. We ourselves must raise our own awareness to the superconscious level, which for us in the physical body, exists only up there.
Thus, yoga, and particularly the science of kriya yoga, is supremely practical. This teaching is universal, since it addresses the central reality of what occurs anyway on the spiritual path for every sincere aspirant, whatever his outward beliefs. Therefore, Krishna says in the Gita, “Arjuna, be thou a yogi.”