The Meaning of Kriya Yoga

by YogaYami


The Meaning of Kriya Yoga

Just kidding…it’s really just Kriya Yoga.  First of all, if you live in Dallas and you’ve never been to a full moon pipe ceremony…you’ve got to go.  If you don’t live in Dallas, I’m sure there are gatherings somewhat similar to this in your community.

Although, perhaps not with such a gifted teacher as Silver Ra who led our ceremony.   I was humbled to be in his presence.  What an incredible carrier of light, wisdom, truth, knowledge.

He led us through several sacred rituals, but basically, the most powerful part to me was when each one of us spoke our prayers out loud, one after another, around the circle.

If we didn’t feel like speaking our prayers we didn’t have to, but everyone did.  It was so powerful.  This was my first full moon pipe ceremony ever.

I was, unintentionally, seated to the right of Silver Ra. So, I was the first to speak both times when he asked us to share.  The first thing he asked us to share was our name, why we were there and how we touch the world with beauty.

I said I was there to receive clarity, direction, understanding, insight on the path I am meant to take to know with absolute certainty I am going in the best direction and following Divine Will.  I said I touch the world with beauty by making a commitment to love unconditionally…

I also was the first to speak when we spoke our prayers.  It was scary, at first, to pray out loud, but then it became incredibly empowering and transformational to let my heart speak so openly in front of so many people I hadn’t ever met.  What an incredible circle.

I’ll be attending more of these ceremonies, as well as, a sweat lodge.  I’ve never been to a sweat lodge but Silver also guides people through this experience, as well.  If you aren’t a part of a prayer circle, I highly encourage you to seek one out and become part of a community like that.  We need to know we have the strength of community supporting us in our spiritual development and journey.

A strong spiritual community allows one to open up and grow into all of the experiences we are meant to grow into in life with the support of spiritualized love and friendship by our side.  It’s almost like how unstoppable you would feel if you knew Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Gandhi were always by your side.

Well, guess what…they are.  We just don’t see them.  But they are always with us strengthening us each step of the way.  Being a part of a prayer group or circle allows us to realize we have that spiritual support surrounding us all the time.

Those people in the world who seek to harm someone by not living in accordance with the spiritual laws of the Universe, the Yamas, will have a price to pay for their actions.

A spiritual community protects us with a great spiritual shield of Light that redirects any harmful intent back to the doer.  Basically, a spiritual community enforces the law of karma on the planet by strengthening someone spiritually.

Those who are not virtuous toward their fellow human being will face the karmic consequences of their harmfully intended actions whether a person has a spiritual community or not.

But, sometimes, when a person doesn’t feel strong, a person with harmful intent can get away with those actions for a longer period of time, simply because the one harmed isn’t strong enough to repel their intent or harmful ways.

But, when a person realizes they are strengthened and has a force field of spiritual support surrounding them, anyone who tries to harm that person will face immediate, instantaneous consequences for harmfully intended actions.  I have felt emotionally and spiritually attacked by others, at times.

Viciously so, in fact.

I’m grateful to now feel such an unstoppable, powerhouse of spiritual support surrounding me.  It was always there.  But, now I know it’s there.  Our parents were our protectors as children growing up.  But, we still need protectors in this world.  I’m glad I know I have them now.

When I went for a run on Sunday, (Yes, I run sometimes…but not to try to burn calories, so much, moreso just to sweat, breathe, be outside and for a cardiovascular workout.  I only like to run in warm weather, really.  And, I only run occasionally.  It just depends.  I can go months without running.  And, then sometimes I go through times where I’ll run a couple of times a week.  But, Pattabji Jois, the father of Ashtanga Yoga says running is for animals.  He says humans weren’t meant to run.  Animals are meant to run because they have horizontal spines to the earth.  Human spines are vertical to the earth.  Too much running, and not enough Yoga, can compress the vertebrae of the back.  But, all things in moderation, even running, is ok.)

Anyhow, as I shuffled my iPod songs, a track from the Rod Stryker Yoga training I attended in September 2008, came on my iPod.  So, I decided to listen to it while I was running.  (I usually only run for about 20 minutes.)  It’s been a while since I’ve listened to anything from that Yoga training, which, was really incredible.

Rod Stryker is an amazing Yoga teacher.

He has been practicing Yoga for 30 years and they call him a Yogarupa, one who embodies Yoga.  On this track I was listening to, which is called Kriya Yoga overview, he goes into a description of what Kriya Yoga is.  Some of you may know the technique of meditation that Paramahansa Yogananda taught is called Kriya Yoga.

But, Rod Stryker is referencing Kriya Yoga as taught by Patanjali, the father of Yoga, who wrote the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.  The Yoga Sutras were written somewhere around 500 BC.  This information is really powerful, so I’d like to share some of it with you here.

It really helped me a lot, after listening to it the other day, to remember we’re heading in the right direction on the path of Yoga.  The following is a transcribed audio recording of a Yoga training I attended with Rod.

“So, what Patanjali means when he says Kriya Yoga, is the work of Yoga.  Or, the action of moving toward Yoga, attaining Yoga, embodying Yoga, the work of Yoga itself.  He mentions the work of Yoga only involves three things.  There are three paths.  The intense path, medium path and mild path.

In Patanjali Yoga there are actually three paths he describes and Kriya Yoga is the second…the medium path.  If you want to work toward Yoga there are 3 things.  It’s a lot easier than remembering the 8 limbs plus the 5 Yamas and Niyamas.  Not necessarily easier to do, but easier to remember.

A yoga teacher sits in a sukhasana on a black background. Dynamic kriyas against a background of white dust.

So, the first word is tapas.  The second one is swadhyaya.  And the third word is Ishwara pranidhana.  So, according to Patanjali, if you do these 3 things you are going to work toward and attain Yoga.

Tapas is a word that often gets translated as austerityWhat do we mean by austerity?  Well, it really means a kind of self-discipline.  It also means purification.

So, in the name of tapas it also means to heat.  In fact, that’s the literal translation, to heat.  Or, most accurately, tapas means that which makes you shine.  That which brings out your shining.

So, how do all of these ideas tie together?  According to the Yoga tradition, you don’t have to add anything onto yourself to be who you want to be, to be perfect or to be the absolute you or to feel complete, to feel whole, you don’t have to add anything.  You already have everything you need .  But, what you do need is a catalyst to awaken that potential.

So, let’s use an example of something in real life that’s like that.  And, the metaphor I use is a match.  Everything is there for that match to be luminous, to have a flame.

But, what it needs is a catalyst.  It needs a flint.  It needs some kind of thing to activate the potential that’s in the match.  Each one of us needs something to provoke that light and that completeness that we already are.  We need something to bring it out of us.

This idea of tapas, can we melt you, can we heat you in a way that then creates this opportunity where impurities can be dissolved.  Certainly there’s a lot of Yoga techniques that it’s all about that.

We create a hot enough environment, an intense enough or challenging enough environment, where we slowly begin to get softened up, and then the sweat pours out of us and impurities pour out of us and, lo and behold, more and more we begin to shine.  A lot of Yoga teachers describe intense Asana practice as tapas.  And, to a large extent they are right.  That’s certainly an aspect of tapas.

However, it’s a superficial one.  Because really what tapas is, is the purification not of your body, but of your character.  Tapas is actually the purification of character, not your bodyYou can sweat forever, and not necessarily transform your character.  It helps, it will certainly give you a leg up in going the distance, to be physically purified.  And, in fact, Vyasa mentions fasting as a key tool in this process.

Diet, in general, is quite important in terms of physical purification.  But, fasting is mentioned as a means of self-discipline.

And, again, think of tapas as the sand in an oyster that creates the pearl.  It’s something that just provokes you then to shine.  And, mentioned in this methodology, is not really Asana so much.

So, there’s fasting and Asana.  Being able to regulate yourself in the relationship to food and develop more self-control.  (Baron Baptiste suggests an awesome cleanse which you can read about in his book, Journey into PowerThis is one of the books I recommend in the recommended book section.)

Time and time again, though, what we see is PranayamaPranayama is mentioned as one of the most powerful forms of tapas we have.  I won’t go into a long thing about Pranayama.  But, the basic idea is that the way you think is mirrored in your breath.  You may think you know how you think.

But, there’s a lot of your thinking that goes unseen by you.  Your wife has seen you think in ways that you haven’t seen yourself think.  But, even below the surface of her perception is a thought process.

It can be found in your breath…you’ll search…and, no offense to psychiatrists and psychologists.  I think there’s really a role for them in life.  But, you will find things your psychologist will never find if you deeply inspect your breath.  It’s odd…today this afternoon we’ll do a little Pranayama.

And, you may find although it’s simple…it’s very simple…you are sitting still…but you may find you start to break out in a sweat.   Just sitting there breathing as slowly as you can breathe…suddenly you feel your pores opening and a little heat taking place on the surface of your body.

And, what it has to do with is both the regulation of prana, prana breaking through obstacles and imbalances…pranic blocks in you…so this is consistently mentioned as the primary form of tapas, as waking this energy up and bringing out your shining.   Tapas is, ultimately, a form of self-discipline that brings out your light.

In light of that description what I’ll say is, it’s different for everyone at different times in their life.  What may have been challenging for you at one point, and brought the heat out, the light out and brought out optimism and really helped you discover hidden potential…at certain times of your life certain modalities worked for that…and then it starts to go flat at a certain point.

For some people, it’s much easier for you to be active than for you to be still.  So, guess what?  What is tapas for you?  Is tapas for you sweating or is tapas for you getting more still?  More still.

The self-discipline that provokes your light coming out and seeing what is unseen in you.  We want to challenge the status quo.  We want to challenge the momentum.  We want to block the old pattern to find out what’s keeping us in that pattern and bring out what possibly sits below the surface.

That’s tapas.

So, in the end, if you want to continue to develop your character and develop your light, we suggest that you find a means, that the means changes as you progress.

And, that’s the whole idea of viniyogaha…which Patanjali mentions in the book…is that we progress.  That we don’t use the same thing for tapas when we were 20, first starting, and that as we go through the cycles of our life it will change.

A little bit of austerity, through your life, is recommended.  For all yogis.  Even if you can afford to indulge every whim.  You should always have a little grain of restraint.  Is what this teaching is about.   There should always be some level of restraint.  Just invite it in.  And, you figure out what that is.  And, by doing so, one develops an appreciation and strengthens your self-discipline.

Tapas in the end becomes something like tejas.  Almost the word of Texas, isn’t it.  Tejas is a kind of luminous quality.  There was a writer who was an Indian sage, his name was Eknath Eswaran, he just died a few years ago.  And, he described tejas this way.  Tejas is the radiant splendor of personality that expresses itself as courage, creativity, love, and a melting tenderness that draws all hearts.

That’s the description of a Yogi.  Someone whose fire is bright.  Someone who has activated this tapas stuff.  So, he (Patanjali) doesn’t tell you what to use.

There are some recommendations about fasting, about pranayama, about asana done in the right way, about your way of life.  It’s no more specific than that, other than we need tapas.  We need some measure of self-discipline.

Second thing this is simple.  Swa means self.  Dhyaya means study.  So, self study.  But, let’s be clear what this means.  Self study means studying your soul.  It doesn’t mean studying your mind.  The beauty of psychotherapy, what it does if it’s working well and someone works it well, is for us to gain insight about our upbringing, the various things in our unconscious that shape our behavior and our thinking.  Our actions, what we’re thinking and what we say comes out of these influences.

Psychotherapy is a form of pathology.  It’s about studying where there is disharmony in our lives.  We go to a psychotherapist, normally, when we don’t feel perfect.  What this form of study is, is the study of our soul.   It’s the study of our wholeness.

To view and spend time reflecting on our completeness.  How do you do that?  It’s a short list according to Vyasa.  He says Mantra and the study of the scriptures.  The word and scripture.  That word is said to reveal your highest nature.

So, it’s important what word you pick and what word you use.  It doesn’t have to be a Sanskrit word.  But, a form of meditation.  We’re not going to say a prayer.  Not hoping for something, not doing that kind of prayer, but really through mantra connecting to your wholeness.

Yesterday we talked a little bit about mantra and japa and we mentioned that meditation on a special soul, who has no afflictions, no karma, whose already complete, no worries, no doubts, no inconsistencies, no suffering.  That is how we do mantra.  We pick a mantra associated to that.  And, the other idea of it is scripture.  Study scripture.  In which we see our whole nature reflected.  We see what’s possible.  What’s possible of human achievement.

Finally, the third thing here is Ishwara pranidhana.  So, this means the Presiding Intelligence, the Lord, ruler of the world, all worlds…that’s Ishwara.  And, by the way, Ishwara is a very generic name. It doesn’t say that it can’t be Buddha or Mohamed or Jesus.   It doesn’t say what it is.  Purposely, he used a word that means, simply, that which rules over the universe.  So, pick it.  What’s your version of the Lord.

That’s the beauty of this text.  He never tells you, you gotta study mine, i’s gotta be my God, and the God looks like this or has this name…he never says that.  Ishwara is just a name that is a way of describing that thing that we believe, individually, there is some ruler, there is some organizing principle to this thing.  You pick the form of it.  And, pranidhana…literally means…pran…in this case means food.

And, dhana means to offer.  To offer food.  And what that refers to, specifically, is the offering of the fruits of your actions to Ishwara.  In other words, you will take all the actions whether it’s related to your Yoga practice and spiritual practice, it’s related to your work, it’s related to your family, it’s related to your aspirations…all the works you do to it.

Patanjali says the third part of the Yoga process is to now remove the burden, let go of the burden, that it has to turn out a certain way.

Do your job and then put the fruits of your actions at the feet of the ruler of the universe.  That’s more of an attitudinal one.  There’s no specific practice, at least spelled out in the formal Yoga Sutras.  Vyasa, again, gives you a technique to do it and that we’ll do this afternoon.

So, when we come down to all of this, what it really says, is that the work of Yoga is to awaken a burning passion, informed by a sense of wholeness, the knowledge of your true identity, and to take that passion and wholeness into the world and be free of the burden of the fruits of your actions.

That’s Kriya Yoga.

That’s the action of Yoga.  That’s the work of attaining and sustaining the state of Yoga.  It’s a beautiful, beautiful philosophy.  Just in 5 words he says that.  With a burning passion and an identity and awareness of your wholeness, move into the world, and allow all the fruits of your labors, offer them to the ruler of the universe.  Something bigger than you.

You can do step one and two.  Which are obviously the very Yogic methodologies, you know, asana, pranayama and fasting…do all that stuff…swadhyaya…do that meditation…anchor yourself in that light…but then if you go into the world and take ownership and say this is how it has to be, this is the way it’s going to be, this is how my kids have to turn out.  Even if you do steps one and two…still we need this third step for it to be Yogic.  Turning the fruits of all of our actions over to the universe.

(In this last part, he is talking about a Yoga Asana practice he is going to guide us through to, specifically, activate tapas.)

To awaken that passion, there are certain techniques that speed up that process.  How do you build character?  How do you purify your character?  Metaphorically speaking it’s like you digest the parts of your character that are non-helpful, non-constructive.

Some part of you has the awareness and the strength to digest, to break down the parts of your personality that are non-constructive and to continue to be nurtured by the parts of your personality that are constructive.

That’s basically what this is.

So, this is really a fire building kind of concept.  On the one hand, if you have the right attitude about life.  Everything builds fire.  If you have the right attitude about life, everything builds fire.

Every challenge you face, every hardship, every broken bone, every broken relationship, every disappointment, was of opportunity for fire.  It was either an opportunity for a grievance, or for you to transform yourself, learn what you had to learn and then moved on and been bigger and better for it.  Every opportunity in life is fire if you have the attitude of Ishwara pranidhana.  So, that’s a general sense of how to build tapas, the fire.

So, one the one hand everything is fire if you have the right attitude.  But, the yogis were pretty helpful about this.  And, we’re just going to borrow a little from tantra today.  And just say, you know what.

They actually had a very specific idea of where that fire lives, that fire that allows you to build your character, and it’s in this area of your body, in your abdomen.  That fire, for the most part, is used to digest food.  Your body has this amazing capacity to transform that substance (food) into energy.

Really what you are hungry for is energy.  You are hungry for calories.  That’s a unit of heat.  That’s a measurement of heat.  You are hungry for heat.  You are hungry to light your fire.  And, if you run out of food long enough your fire will go out.  So, this is where the fire is, normally you use it to digest food.

You can take that fire and transform it so it’s the kind of fire that digests aspects of your character that are not healthy.  One is called chitara agni, agni means fire.  Chitara agniChitara means stomach.  Stomach fire.  And then you have Buddha agniWhat is buddha?  Buddha means a lot of things but it means elements, or elemental.

So, something very subtle, basic.  But, it also means ghosts.  So, your ghost fire. The fire that burns your ghosts.  The fire that burns the subtle things in the way back of your mind, in that dark area of your mind, that you really don’t spend a lot of time thinking about.

One it’s fire.  And you can transform it from chitara agni to buddha agni through different Yoga techniques.  And, that’s what we’ll spend today’s Yoga practice focused on…how to build tapas…specifically through asana…and through this awareness of how we build fire.  And, I’ll make a very short description of this.  We need to now have a conversation around energy in your body.

Normally, you have energy here, pelvic floor around that area.  And, that’s responsible for helping you evacuate the body, urinate, menstruate, and perspire, outward going, it’s also childbirth.  Outward going.  That’s that energy.  You also have energy in your heart that normally moves inward and upward.

Apana is outward going Pran is inward moving…this is what replenishes you.  Apana is normally going down and pran is going in and up.  Apana is normally a little hot.  Learn how to pull pran energy down and apana  energy up.

And when the two meet, it creates a unique kind of combustion and as a result this fire is stoked and that fire starts to develop into Buddha agni.

When that fire gets warm enough and bright enough, then the area where you hold the aspects of character that are not helpful, basically what the Yogis say is they are in your navel center, second chakra and first chakra, this is where 98% of those aspects of your character reside.  As the fire gets brighter, lo and behold over time, it starts to melt, the impurities start to get burned away.

So, the intention of the practice would be to build tapas, but in a way that deals with the psychic aspects of it, specifically buddha agni, ghost fire, the fire that burns the ghosts.  The non-constructive aspects of the personality.  Alright…nothing to it.

It sounds a little exotic.  I don’t want to build your expectations.  And, I’m assuming you know this already.  It’s not like we are going to burn all the ghosts.  There might be one or two left.

But, you’ll at least get an experience of what, perhaps, if you were to do this in a concentrated way, this would be about.  You get an experience of it.

In terms of doing it one time, it’s not going to be anything dramatic.  It’s unlikely.  Some of you might find you have interesting dreams tonight, but that’s maybe as dramatic as it gets.  There’s a couple of contraindications.

I don’t want you to do it if you are feeling extremely emotional.  Maybe a little emotional, because it will probably help.  But, if you are really feeling completely at the mercy of emotions, not great.  On the other hand, people with depression, chronic depression, this could be fantastic.

Because it’s a way of building the fire and bringing light to help to melt that stuff.  And, women during their menstrual cycle, as as general rule, don’t do it during menses.  Just today, fine.  But, as a general rule, don’t do it.”

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