The Meaning of Kriya
The word Kriya is composed of two syllables, kri and yâ. In Sanskrit, kri means karma dhatu – action of the elements, and yâ means Soul. The word Kriya indicates action of the Soul. The first and most important action of the Soul is breath.
The word yoga comes from Sanskrit yuj which means union. The union of the individual soul with Spirit.
Kriya Yoga is a method to attain the union of breath and Soul in each inhalation and exhalation.
The practice of Kriya Yoga is based on breath, the brain and the spinal cord. Breath is the mediator between Soul and mind. The brain is the mediator between the sense organs and the mind. All our physical actions are reflected on our sense organs through the intermediary of the lower part of the brain located in the spinal cord. From this lower part of the brain where the lower mind is situated, we pass to the higher mind, then to breath, and lastly from breath to Soul (and then inversely).
The mind is in constant motion. Our inner and outer actions change constantly and this is reflected by our breath. When we are afraid our breath is agitated, when we feel joy our breath is different, it is also different when we are angry or have any other type of emotion. When the breath is calm, the mind is calm. So, it is only through breath that we learn to be able to control the mind. Since Kriya Yoga is based on breath, you can practice this special technique during the whole day and in whatever activity you do. When it comes to sitting for meditation, it may be practiced whenever you have time.
The teaching of Kriya Yoga is done gradually. It is sectioned into six stages referred to as. First Kriya, Second Kriya and so on. The beginner starts with First Kriya. First Kriya is the root, the very foundation which allows for progress through the spiritual path for followers of any religion. It gives access to knowledge of the body, of the Soul and the chakras. It allows for comprehension of the gross body, the astral body and the causal body. Later, after having practised regularly over a period of time and achieved the necessary demanding level of mastery, one can receive second Kriya, and thus progress towards the higher Kriya levels.
Describing Kriya Yoga in words has little meaning. A person may truly understand only through practice. If you wish to know what an apple is, a simple description is not enough. Take the fruit, touch it, taste it, then you will really and immediately understand what an apple is. The same goes for Kriya Yoga.
Effects on Life
Prana shakti (life force) flows from the top to the bottom, then inversely from the bottom to the top, of the spine. In this way all the chakras (centres) are touched by life force and by vacuum. The first and second techniques are called pranam and correspond to Yama in Patanjala’s Yoga Sutra. Yama means to obtain inner control or sâmyam. Nothing can be controlled from without because the root is found in our spine. This is why we during the practice of Kriya Yoga bend the spine forward allowing the magnetic life force to flow in the spinal cord. The vacuum is always at the top of our body, this is why we retain equilibrium. So when we bend our spine, the vacuum magnetizes the spine.
Shûnya dhaur bhavet prâna: The vacuum element is our life force. When the vacuum leaves the body, life also leaves.
By practicing Kriya Yoga, we create an inner fire called tapa agni. In the same way that the outer fire, drabya agni, burns whatever we put into it, the inner fire, tapa agni, allows the practitioner to burn his karmas, the results of his past actions, his thoughts as well as all his mental or psychological problems.
Through Paramahansa Yogananda and his “Autobiography of a Yogi” it became popular in the West in the 1920s, yet it remains a mysterious and fascinating spiritual path. It is taught by a limited number of masters, most of whom are Indian. Paramahansa Yogananda arrived in the United States in 1920, where he taught Kriya Yoga in accordance with his master’s request. The transmission of this teaching has been continued without interruption ever since. Several masters have in the past come to Western countries to teach Kriya Yoga so that it is available to everyone.
Swami Shankarananda Giri is a spiritual heir in this tradition, and teaches these techniques in its original form as they were transmitted by the lineage of masters. Those who desire to receive instructions in this path as a means for spiritual evolution, may take contact with one of the centres. Swami Shankarananda Giri has been teaching Kriya Yoga techniques in India since 1974, and in Europe since 1978. He has also inherited the astrological system called Cosmic Astrology from his master Swami Narayana Giri (“Prabhujee”). This system was established by Shri Yukteswar.
Swami Shankarananda Giri is also the founder of three schools in India. The first school, running for over fifteen years, and has over 1000 students following the Indian Government defined curriculum as well as support for poor students, ayurvedic medical treatments, hatha yoga, meditaton, school library and computer lab classes.