Kriya Yoga (by Paramhansa Yogananda)

My guru, Sri Yukteswar, liked a chant that I have translated, two lines from which go, “Pranayama be thy religion. Pranayama will give thee salvation.”

“Pranayama means control of the energy in the body, and its direction upward through the spine to the brain and to the Christ center between the eyebrows. This alone is the pathway of awakening. It isn’t a matter of dogma or belief. It is simply the way we were all made by God.

“The consciousness enters the body by way of the brain and the spine. When the sperm and ovum unite to create the physical body, they do so at what becomes the medulla oblongata, at the base of the brain.

“From this medulla, the life force moves out into the brain, down the spine and into the nervous system, then on to the muscles, etc., creating the body.

“The way out of the body, then, is to reverse this process. The difficulty in doing so lies in the fact that the life force is already conditioned by birth to continue its outward direction – through the senses and onward to the environment as it is perceived through the senses. Thus, we think to possess the world and to enjoy it through the body.

“We can never experience anything outside ourselves, however, except vicariously, as the senses report their impressions to the brain. We may try to expand our understanding of the world by study, or our enjoyment of it through sense pleasures. The fact remains, we can never know anything except through the medium of the senses, so long as the life force remains trapped in the body.

“There is a way out, however. It is for the life-force to merge with the cosmic energy; for the consciousness to merge in the infinite consciousness.

“The way to accomplish this end is to withdraw the life force from the senses, and center it in the spine; to direct it upward through the spine to the brain, and thence out through the Christ center between the eyebrows.

“The ego is centered in the medulla oblongata. This is the negative pole of self-consciousness. The positive pole is situated at the Christ center. Concentration at this center – in the spiritual eye, the seat of spiritual vision – projects the consciousness beyond the ego into Infinity.

“The spine is the highway to the Infinite. Your own body is the temple of God. It is within your own self that God must be realized. Whatever places of pilgrimage you visit outwardly, and whatever outward rituals you perform, the ultimate ‘pilgrimage’ must be within. And the ultimate religious rite must be the offering of your life-force on the altar of inner God-communion.

“That was why Jesus said, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ ‘He spake,’ the Bible adds, ‘of the temple of his body.’ (John 2:19,21) “This is the path of Kriya Yoga.”

– Pramhansa Yogananda

How to Meditate

STEP 1:

Find a quiet, peaceful place where you can be secluded and undisturbed during meditation. Create your own sanctuary exclusively for your meditation practice.

Sit on a straight chair or cross legged on a firm surface — cover that with a woolen blanket and/or a silk cloth. This insulates your seat from the downward pull of subtle earth currents.

STEP 2:

Erect Spine

One of the first requisites for meditation is correct posture. The spine should be erect. When the devotee is seeking to direct his mind and life force upward through the cerebrospinal axis to the centers of higher consciousness in the brain, he should avoid stricture or pinching of the spinal nerves caused by improper posture.

Sit on a Straight Armless Chair

Those persons whose legs are supple may prefer to meditate sitting cross-legged on a cushion on the floor, or on a firm bed.

However, Paramahansa Yogananda recommended the following meditation pose:

Sit on a straight armless chair with the feet resting flat on the floor. Hold spine erect, abdomen in, chest out, shoulders back, chin parallel to the ground. The hands, with palms upturned, should rest on the legs at the juncture of the thighs and the abdominal region to prevent the body from bending forward.

If the correct posture has been assumed, the body will be stable yet relaxed, so that it is easily possible to remain completely still, without moving a muscle.

Now, close your eyes and gently lift your gaze upward, without straining, to the point between the eyebrows — the seat of concentration, and of the spiritual eye of divine perception.

STEP 3:

1) Prayer

After you are established in the meditation posture, begin by offering God a prayer from your heart, expressing your devotion and asking His blessings on your meditation.

2) Tense and Relax to Remove All Stress

Inhale, tensing the whole body and clenching the fists.
Relax all the body parts at once and, as you do so, expel the breath through the mouth in a double exhalation, “huh, huh.”

Repeat this practice three to six times.

Then forget the breath. Let it flow in and out naturally, of its own accord, as in ordinary breathing.

3) Focus Attention at the Spiritual Eye

With the eyelids half closed (or completely closed, if this is more comfortable to you), look upward, focusing the gaze and the attention as though looking out through a point between the eyebrows. (A person deep in concentration often “knits” his brows at this spot.) Do not cross the eyes or strain them; the upward gaze comes naturally when one is relaxed and calmly concentrated.

What is important is fixing the whole attention at the point between the eyebrows. This is the Christ Consciousness center, the seat of the single eye spoken of by Jesus: “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light” (Matthew 6:22).

When the purpose of meditation is fulfilled, the devotee finds his consciousness automatically concentrated at the spiritual eye, and he experiences, according to his inner spiritual capacity, a state of joyous divine union with Spirit.

4) Pray Deeply to God in the Language of Your Own Heart

Whether you see the light of the spiritual eye or not, however, you should continue to concentrate at the Christ Consciousness center between the eyebrows, praying deeply to God and His great saints. In the language of your heart invoke Their presence and Their blessings.

Silently chant and pray to God, keeping the attention at the point between the eyebrows, until you feel God’s response as calm, deep peace and inner joy.

Adapted from Paramahansa Yogananda

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The Eight Limbs of Classical Yoga

1. YAMA

Restraints, or moral discipline. The yamas consist of five elements of outward spiritual practice performed to avoid unrighteous behavior:

  • Aparigraha

Non-acquisitiveness. In contemporary terms, this could mean to avoid greed and the acquisition of material goods, to avoid grasping for power, and to simplify your life. Be content with what you have. Do not hoard. Share and share alike.

  • Asteya

Nonstealing. Do not take that which does not belong to you in a material, physical, spiritual, intellectual, or emotional sense. Respect others’ boundaries and property.

  • Ahimsa

Nonviolence. Do no harm. Practice nonviolent words and deeds toward yourself and others. Live peacefully in word, deed, and thought.

  • Brahmacharya

Moderation, self-control, strength of will, sexual restraint. Though this yama was originally intended to mean abstinence from sexual activity or depravity for spiritual and religious purposes, it has far-reaching significance today. Even if you do not take a vow of celibacy, be virtuous and loving in thought and action. Do not fall prey to lust, selfishness, over-indulgence, or ego trips. In other words: If you talk the talk, you must walk the walk. You cannot live one way on the yoga mat and another off it. Beware of gurus and teachers who live this kind of double-life.

  • Satya

Truthfulness, sincerity, integrity, honesty, the power of the word. Speak the truth. Tell no lies. Be honest to yourself and others, and the world will reflect that honesty back to you, providing you with all the support you need.

2. NIYAMA

Observances; self-restraint. The niyamas consist of five inner practices to follow in maintaining correct moral principles. These are:

  • Samtosa

Contentment, equanimity, happiness, satisfaction. Practice happiness and contentment, honoring all that you are and all that you have right now in this moment. Know that it is truly enough. Be satisfied with your life on a deep level in the present moment. Enjoy the now.

  • Tapas

Burning zeal, desire to achieve self-realization, purification. Practice discipline and cultivate a fiery spirit. Burn through the ego. Practice endurance, building strength, stamina, and wisdom. Understand that discipline is a form of self-care, not self-deprivation.

  • Saucha

Purity of body and mind. Embrace purity in your body, environment, relationships, communications, and actions. Keep yourself and your life clear and clean, within and without. Care for your soul and the environment.

  • Svadhyaya

Self-observation, self-study. Be rigorous in looking at yourself. Practice introspection. Study the ancient texts and scriptures, read philosophy to enrich your mind and recite poetry to lighten your heart. Know yourself deeply and authentically, so that you may fully know others. Assess your thoughts and actions. Change what you don’t like, relinquish what does not serve you or others well. Embrace what does.

  • Ishvara Pranidhana

Surrender to God or the Divine. Be devoted. Let go of your small self and your ego, throw away willfulness and competition. Embrace a higher source, and trust in its benevolence. Accept the mystery and miracle of life, approach it with a sense of gratitude, awe and wonder.

3. ASANA

Yoga postures. An external spiritual practice that helps us attain stillness in mind and body. These powerful poses create strength, flexibililty, vitality and self-awareness, cleansing the body and mind and guiding us to a sense of stillness and unity within and without.

4. PRANAYAMA

Breath control; achieving a balanced state of mind through the steadiness of the breath. Pranayama refers to an array of invigorating and relaxing yogic breathing exercises that help us calm the mind and steady the thoughts, awakening inner peace and cleansing the system.

5. PRATYAHARA

Withdrawal of the senses, turning the senses inward, controlling the mind through the control of the senses. Practicing detachment from the vicissitudes of life. Moving beyond the ups and downs of external reality into a greater sense of stillness, ease, and spaciousness, by turning awareness inward.

6. DHARANA

Concentration, fixing the attention on one focal point to gain unbroken contemplation. Fostering equilibrium, equanimity, poise, and grace.

7. DHYANA

Meditation, sitting in stillness as the threshold to union with the Divine. Quieting the mind and opening the heart to allow the radiance of the Divine to nurture, heal, inspire, and enliven.

8. SAMADHI

Super-consciousness, pure contentment, equilibrium, enlightenment, ecstasy (standing outside the ordinary self), enstasy (standing inside the self), bliss, peace, union with the Divine. In this state, the spiritual seeker (sadak) loses the individual self and merges with the Universal Spirit. Samadhi is the state in which one feels, knows, and revels in the direct presence of the Divine with the entire body and soul.

Taken and Modified from:
Leza Lowitz;Reema Datta. Sacred Sanskrit Words: For Yoga, Chant, and Meditation.

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