Beginning its journey in a secret Himalayan cave, this highest of techniques for soul liberation is spreading to all lands, helping God‑seekers everywhere make the fastest possible spiritual progress toward the experience of direct personal communion with God.
This compilation, originally published in the Summer 2011 issue of Self-Realization magazine, presents selections from Paramahansa Yogananda’s words on the nature, efficacy, and sublime role of Kriya Yoga in today’s world.
1861: The Renaissance of Yoga for Modern Times
It was in his thirty‑third year that Lahiri Mahasaya saw fulfillment of the purpose for which he had reincarnated on earth. He met his great guru, Babaji, near Ranikhet in the Himalayas, and was initiated by him into Kriya Yoga.
This auspicious event did not happen to Lahiri Mahasaya alone; it was a fortunate moment for all the human race. The lost, or long‑vanished, highest art of yoga was again being brought to light.
As the Ganges came from heaven to earth, in the Puranic story, offering a divine draught to the parched devotee Bhagirath, so in 1861 the celestial river of Kriya Yoga began to flow from the secret fastnesses of the Himalayas into the dusty haunts of men.
Unknown to society in general, a great spiritual renaissance started in 1861 in a remote corner of Banaras. As the fragrance of flowers cannot be suppressed, so Lahiri Mahasaya, quietly living as an ideal householder, could not hide his innate glory. Devotee‑bees from every part of India began to seek the divine nectar of the liberated master....
His uniqueness as a prophet lies in his practical stress on a definite method, Kriya, opening for the first time the doors of yoga freedom to all men. Apart from the miracles of his own life, surely the Yogavatar reached the zenith of all wonders in reducing the ancient complexities of yoga to an effective simplicity within the ordinary grasp.
“Divine union,” the Yogavatar proclaimed, “is possible through self‑effort, and is not dependent on theological beliefs or on the arbitrary will of a Cosmic Dictator.”
Through use of the Kriya key, persons who cannot bring themselves to believe in the divinity of any man will behold at last the full divinity of their own selves.
An Ancient Science
In the Bhagavad Gita, the Lord said to Arjuna:
“I gave this imperishable Yoga to Vivasvat (the sun‑god); Vivasvat passed on the knowledge to Manu (the Hindu lawgiver); Manu told it to Ikshvaku (founder of the solar dynasty of the Kshatriyas). Handed down in this way in orderly succession, the Rajarishis (royal rishis) knew it. But, O Scorcher of Foes (Arjuna)! by the long passage of time, this Yoga was lost sight of on earth.” — IV:1–2
These two verses thus proclaim the historical antiquity of Raja (“royal”) Yoga, the eternal, immutable science of uniting soul and Spirit. At the same time, understood esoterically, they give a concise description of that science — the steps by which the soul descends from Cosmic Consciousness to the mortal state of identification with the human body, and the route it must take to reascend to its Source, the all‑blissful Eternal Spirit....
Ascension follows in reverse the exact course of descension. In man, that course is the inner highway to the Infinite, the only route to divine union for followers of all religions in all ages. By whatever bypath of beliefs or practices a being reaches that singular highway, the final ascension from body consciousness to Spirit is the same for everyone: the withdrawal of life and consciousness from the senses upward through the gates of light in the subtle cerebrospinal centers, dissolving the consciousness of matter into life force, life force into mind, mind into soul, and soul into Spirit.
The method of ascension is Raja Yoga, the eternal science that has been integral in creation from its inception.
Special Dispensation for the Current World Age
During the descent of man from a Spiritual Age to a Material Age, the knowledge of the science of yoga declines and is forgotten....In this once‑more‑ascending Atomic Age, the indestructible science of Raja Yoga is being revived as Kriya Yoga through the grace of Mahavatar Babaji, Shyama Charan Lahiri Mahasaya, Swami Sri Yukteswar, and their disciples....
As a matter of special divine dispensation, through Christ, Krishna, Mahavatar Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, and Swami Sri Yukteswar I was selected to spread the Kriya Yoga science worldwide through the united original yoga of Krishna and original Christianity of Christ as represented in the teachings of Self‑Realization Fellowship.
It is through the instance and blessings of Mahavatar Babaji (whom I ever perceive as one with Krishna in Spirit) and of Christ and my Guru and Paramguru that I was sent to the West and undertook the task of founding Self‑Realization Fellowship to serve as the instrumentality for the preservation and dissemination worldwide of the Kriya Yoga science.
Krishna is the divine exemplar of yoga in the East; Christ was chosen by God as the exemplar of God‑union for the West. That Jesus knew and taught to his disciples the Raja Yoga technique of uniting soul with Spirit is evidenced in the deeply symbolic Biblical chapter “The Revelation of Jesus Christ to Saint John.”*
Babaji is ever in communion with Christ; together they send out vibrations of redemption and have planned the spiritual technique of salvation for this age.
Kriya Yoga Focuses on Truth, Not Sectarian Dogma
Lahiri Mahasaya’s teaching is especially suited to the modern age because it does not ask anyone to believe dogmatically, but rather by practice of the proven techniques of Kriya Yoga to discover by personal realization the answer to the eternal question, “What is truth?” — about oneself and God.
Truth is no theory, no speculative system of philosophy. Truth is exact correspondence with Reality. For man, truth is unshakable knowledge of his real nature, his Self as soul.
In the end all speculations about the ultimate secrets of God and creation are profitless. The stark fact is always with us: man is here and now undergoing the painful tests of human incarnation. Just as prisoners plot ceaselessly to regain their freedom, so the wise among men endeavor to escape the confinement of mortality.
Kriya Yoga not only points out a universal highway of ascending the soul to the Spirit, but gives mankind a daily usable technique through whose practice the devotee, with the help of a guru, may reenter the kingdom of God. One theoretical teaching leads only to another, but any true practitioner of Kriya Yoga finds it to be the shortest way and quickest conveyance to the kingdom of Spirit.
Even an atheist cannot deny the ever-increasing joy that springs from the regular practice of Kriya. As an educator, I tried this method on skeptical students in my school, and found them converted, not by my words, but by the constantly exhilarating results ensuing from its regular practice.
Religion in its theoretical form is only partially satisfying, never fully convincing. I was won to my Master’s way of life partially by his words of wisdom, but principally because his emphasis on the deep and regular practice of Kriya Yoga enabled me to float on the boundless billows of joy. I am declaring to the world that Lahiri Mahasaya’s method gave me and is continually giving me ever-increasing happiness; and I fully believe it can produce the same bliss in all those, irrespective of temperament, who will seriously and regularly practice it.
The Kriya Yoga Science of Pranayama (Life-Force Control)
No devotee of any religion should be satisfied with untested beliefs and dogmas, but should engage himself in practical efforts to attain God‑realization. Union with Spirit is possible only when the devotee, casting aside the superficial method of ceremonial worship or of the ineffective “going into the silence,” begins to practice a scientific technique of God‑realization.
One cannot reach this goal just by mental meditation. Only deep concentration that disconnects the mind from breath, life force, and senses, and that unites the ego to the soul, is successful in producing the God‑wisdom of Self‑realization.
The life force is the link between matter and Spirit. Flowing outward it reveals the spuriously alluring world of the senses; reversed inward it pulls the consciousness to the eternally satisfying bliss of God.
The meditating devotee sits between these two worlds, striving to enter the kingdom of God, but kept engaged in battling the senses. With the aid of a scientific technique of pranayama [such as Kriya Yoga], the yogi is at last victorious in reversing the outward‑flowing life energy that externalized his consciousness in the action of breath, heart, and sense‑ensnared life currents. He enters the natural inner calm realm of the soul and Spirit.
Two men were meditating in different rooms, each of which contained a telephone. The telephone rang in each room. One man said to himself, in a mood of intellectual bullheadedness: “I will concentrate so deeply that I will not be able to hear the rings of the telephone!” It is true that, in spite of external noise, he may succeed in concentrating within; but he has needlessly complicated his task. This man may be compared to a jnana yogi who tries to meditate on God, ignoring the unceasing telephonic messages of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch, as well as the outward pulls of the life force.
The second man in our illustration had no illusions about his power to ignore the rude clamor of the telephone. He prudently withdrew the electrical plug and disconnected the instrument. He may be compared to the Kriya Yogi who prevents any sensory distractions during meditation by disconnecting the life force from the senses; he then reverses its flow, toward higher centers.
Withdrawing mind and life force from the sensory and motor nerves, the yogi leads them through the spine into the brain into eternal light. Here the mind and life become united with the eternal wisdom of Spirit manifested in the cerebrum.
The center of consciousness for the average individual is his body and the outer world. The yogi changes his center of consciousness by nonattachment to the body and to worldly hopes and fears. By a technique — such as Kriya Yoga — of consciously controlling the life processes that tie the consciousness to the body (stilling the heart and breath), the yogi becomes established in the eternal wisdom‑perception of Spirit that manifests in the spiritual center of cosmic consciousness in the brain. The yogi who can change his center of consciousness from the sentient body to the cerebral throne of Spirit ultimately centralizes his consciousness on omnipresence. He attains the Eternal Wisdom.
Kriya Yoga Practice Bestows Peace and Bliss
The aftereffects of Kriya bring with them the utmost peace and bliss. The joy that comes with Kriya is greater than the joys of all pleasurable physical sensations put together. “Unattracted to the sensory world, the yogi experiences the ever new joy inherent in the Self. Engaged in divine union of the soul with Spirit, he attains bliss indestructible.”
I met a very wealthy man in New York. In the course of telling me something about his life, he drawled, “I am disgustingly rich, and disgustingly healthy —” and before he could finish I exclaimed, “But you are not disgustingly happy! I can teach you how to be perpetually interested in being ever newly happy.”
He became my student. By practicing Kriya Yoga, and by leading a balanced life, ever inwardly devoted to God, he lived to a ripe old age, always bubbling with ever new happiness.
On his deathbed he told his wife, “I am sorry for you — that you have to see me go — but I am very happy to join my Beloved of the Universe. Rejoice at my joy, and don’t be selfish by sorrowing. If you knew how happy I am to go to meet my beloved God, you wouldn’t be sad; rejoice to know that you will someday join me in the festivity of eternal bliss.”
Those who never miss Kriya, and who sit long in meditation and pray intensely to God, will discover the longed‑for Treasure.
Kriya Awakens Inner Intuitive Guidance
[Sri Yukteswar told me:] “After the mind has been cleared by Kriya Yoga of sensory obstacles, meditation furnishes a twofold proof of God. Ever new joy is evidence of His existence, convincing to our very atoms. Also, in meditation one finds His instant guidance, His adequate response to every difficulty.”
No devotee should be satisfied until he has sufficiently developed his intuition — by impartial introspection and deep meditation, as in Kriya Yoga — to experience the communion of soul and Spirit.
If a devotee meditates intensely for at least short periods every day, and has longer periods of three or four hours of deep meditation once or twice a week, he will find his intuition becoming sufficiently superfine to realize unendingly the dialogue of blissful wisdom exchanged between the soul and God. He will know the interiorized state of communion in which his soul “talks” to God and receives His responses, not with the utterances of any human language, but through wordless intuitional exchanges.
The life of an advanced Kriya Yogi is influenced, not by effects of past actions, but solely by directions from the soul.
Divine Way to Overcome Problems and Bad Habits
No matter what the disciple’s problem, Lahiri Mahasaya advised Kriya Yoga for its solution.
Suppose you are a financial failure or a moral failure or a spiritual failure. Through deep meditation, affirming, “I and my Father are one,” you will know that you are the child of God. Hold on to that ideal. Meditate until you feel a great joy. When joy strikes your heart, God has answered your broadcast to Him; He is responding to your prayers and positive thinking. This is a distinct and definite method:
First, meditate upon the thought, “I and my Father are one,” trying to feel a great peace, and then a great joy in your heart. When that joy comes, say, “Father, Thou art with me. I command Thy power within me to cauterize my brain cells of wrong habits and past seed tendencies.” The power of God in meditation will do it. Rid yourself of the limiting consciousness that you are a man or a woman; know that you are the child of God. Then mentally affirm and pray to God: “I command my brain cells to change, to destroy the grooves of bad habits that have made a puppet out of me. Lord, burn them up in Thy divine light.” And when you will practice the Self-Realization techniques of meditation, especially Kriya Yoga, you will actually see that light of God baptizing you.
In India, a man who had a bad temper came to me. He was a specialist in slapping his bosses when he lost his temper, so he also lost one job after another. He would become so uncontrollably irate that he would throw at whoever bothered him anything that was handy. He asked me for help. I told him, “The next time you get angry, count to one hundred before you act.” He tried it, but came back to me and said, “I get more angry when I do that. While I am counting, I am blind with rage for having to wait so long.” His case looked hopeless.
Then I told him to practice Kriya Yoga, with this further instruction: “After practicing your Kriya, think that the divine Light is going into your brain, soothing it, calming your nerves, calming your emotions, wiping away all anger. And one day your temper tantrums will be gone.” Not long after that, he came to me again, and this time he said, “I am free from the habit of anger. I am so thankful.”
I decided to test him. I arranged for some boys to pick a quarrel with him. I hid myself in the park along the route where he used to pass regularly, so that I could observe. The boys tried again and again to goad him into a fight, but he wouldn’t respond. He kept his calmness.
By communing with God you change your status from a mortal being to an immortal being. When you do this, all bonds that limit you will be broken. This is a very great law to remember. As soon as your attention is focused, the Power of all powers will come, and with that you can achieve spiritual, mental, and material success.
Finding Perfect Love
The greatest love you can experience is in communion with God in meditation. The love between the soul and Spirit is the perfect love, the love you are all seeking....If you meditate deeply, a love will come over you such as no human tongue can describe, and you will be able to give that pure love to others....When you experience that divine love, you will see no difference between flower and beast, between one human being and another. You will commune with all nature, and you will love equally all mankind.
Freedom From Fear and Insecurity
Cessation of fear comes with the contact of God, nothing else. Why wait? Through Yoga you can have that communion with Him....When you find God, what assurance and fearlessness you will have! Then nothing else matters at all, nothing can ever make you afraid.
My prayer for each of you is that from today you will make a supreme effort for God, and that you never give up until you are established in Him. If you love Him you will practice Kriya with the greatest devotion and faithfulness. Continuously seek Him through prayer and Kriya Yoga. Be of good cheer, for as Babaji once said, quoting from the Bhagavad Gita: “Even a tiny bit of this real religion protects one from great fear (the colossal sufferings inherent in the repeated cycles of birth and death).”
*John speaks of the “mystery of the seven stars” and the “seven churches” (Revelation 1:20); these symbols refer to the seven astral centers of light in the spine. The recondite imagery throughout this nonunderstood chapter of the Bible is an allegorical representation of the revelations that come with the opening of these centers of life and consciousness, the “book sealed with seven seals” (Revelation 5:1).
From Self-Realization magazine, Summer 2011