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Did Yogananda Water Down Kriya Yoga?
June 3rd, 2014

It’s not uncommon to hear people make the claim that Paramhansa Yogananda diluted the Kriya technique, or that he changed it for Westerners. Sometimes it’s done through a conscious intent to deceive and promote one’s own Kriya teacher, sometimes out of ignorance. Either way it’s an unfortunate sign that the world of Kriya Yoga is not free from narrow sectarianism.

First, I’ll let Swami Kriyananda answer the question:

Did Master “dilute” Lahiri Mahasaya’s—and Babaji’s—kriya technique? Did he teach kriya differently in India from the way he taught it in America? No! I state this denial as an unequivocal fact. I took advantage of several opportunities to check out the differences that have been claimed between Master’s Kriya and that of other lines from Lahiri Mahasaya. Some differences do exist, but they are superficial.

In fact, there are at least superficial differences between all the different lineages that teach Kriya Yoga. Lahiri Mahasaya himself often took a very individual approach with his Kriya disciples.

What Yogananda did was to teach certain components of Kriya in a progression. For example, he taught his Kriya students to add the technique of khechari mudra only after they had been practicing the central Kriya technique for some time. Read Paramhansa Yogananda and Khechari Mudra for a more complete description of how Yogananda taught khechari mudra. Yogananda taught the Kriya techniques just as Lahiri Mahasaya taught them.

In fact, contrary to the claims of his detractors, Yogananda enhanced the effectiveness of Kriya with his energization exercises. He also explained the technique in a way that modern minds could best understand and apply the central concepts.

Which is the “best” Kriya Yoga?

Because some Kriya teachers and students boast that theirs is the best or only true version of Kriya, I’m often asked the question, “Which is the best Kriya for me to learn?” My answer is usually, “The way that your Guru gives Kriya to you is the best.”

First, the technique of Kriya cannot be separated from the Guru/Disciple relationship. In Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi, he describes how Kriya was reintroduced in modern times when it was given by Babaji to Lahiri Mahasaya. It was given only after Babaji had blessed Lahiri and reaffirmed their connection as Guru and Disciple.

The technique of Kriya is not effective by itself—it needs the blessings of the Guru. That aspect of the Guru/Disciple relationship is a component of any valid Kriya initiation to this day. So the proper question to ask yourself is, “Who is my Guru?”, and then learn and practice Kriya the way that your Guru gives it to you.

Second, true spiritual teaching is individual. Lahiri Mahasaya guided his various disciples in different ways in how they practiced Kriya—not with the basic technique so much as in what should be given emphasis, along with the number and order of the different techniques. But the differences were enough that it causes quite a bit of consternation in those who would prefer a more rigid form to their religion.

“By their fruits ye shall know them”

Not all Kriya teachers or Gurus are equal. Without a certain amount of discernment, one can easily be swayed by confident claims and promises, including the subject and title of this blog. Speaking more generally, how does one know if a teacher and teaching—not just on the Kriya path—is a good one or the right one?

The biblical advice, “By their fruits ye shall know them,” can be applied to a teaching, a teacher, and their students.

When I first visited Ananda Village in December 1976, I already knew about Kriya and had been practicing some of the meditation techniques taught by Yogananda. I wanted to learn Kriya Yoga, and soon! When I met a few residents of Ananda Village, I knew right away that I wanted to receive Kriya through Ananda. The people that I met had light in their eyes, along with deep joy, humility, and graciousness. I was witnessing the fruits of a true spiritual practice. My first thought was, “I want what they have.”

If you are looking into a particular spiritual path, look at the results that the teacher and teaching are producing in the students. Instead of depending on great claims of exalted spiritual states, look for the most essential and true spiritual qualities:

  • Are they humble and kind?
  • Do they have love for God?
  • Do they show respect for other teachings and teachers?
  • Are they calm and centered?
  • Do they have joy and energy?
  • Do they have respect for the sacredness of the Guru/Disciple relationship vs. trying to draw people away from their Guru to follow themselves?
  • Are they free from narrow dogmatic thinking?
  • In the case of Kriya, are they part of a spiritual lineage that descends from Lahiri Mahasaya—a lineage that can be verified?

I can say—perhaps not objectively!—that Kriya Yoga as taught by Paramhansa Yogananda has shown extraordinary effectiveness. I see it every day in my own life, and in the countless Kriya yogis who I’ve served over the years in my role at Ananda’s Kriya Sangha. In the end, the only relevant test of a teaching is “does it work?”

Not a casual decision

The decision on how and where to learn Kriya should not be a casual one! I’ve been surprised at the number of people who learned it from a teacher only because that teacher just happened to be passing through their town. Others choose a teacher because they found one who would casually dispense Kriya at their very first meeting. I haven’t been surprised at the confusion that some of these people have later expressed to me.

The choice of teacher and teaching on the spiritual path may well be the most important decision that one ever makes, certainly for the serious spiritual seeker. Choose wisely!


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40 Responses

  1. Kailash says:

    What you said is very true. I asked the questions that you put in the end to myself, regarding Ananda’s and Master’s role in my life. I answered everything affirmative!

  2. Karl says:

    Further confirmation that I have chosen and continue to chose wisely. Thank you for these illuminating words.

  3. Judy says:

    I recently had a young man share a book which reveals the secrets of kriya. He had studied it and practiced the techniques with energy and purpose. He was seeking confirmation on the techniques in the book. I could only share that when I finish Kriya techniques as given to me through Ananda, my heart opens and is filled with love for God and Guru… that is when my spirit soars. No other confirmation is needed.

  4. Dayanand says:

    A nice clear explanation. There is too much infighting among religious followers. I remember some words that Swamiji wrote me once on this subject: “When one encounters such a bickering mentality, one is constrained to silence. Truth flourishes only in an atmosphere of humility, openness, and above all, love.”

  5. Brindey says:

    Dearest Devarshi,

    Thank you for writing on this very important question!

    It gave me a deepening sense of Joy once again in being a Kriyaban…encased
    in the lineage of our Great Ones! Bless you! You are very dear to us all! In Master, Brahmacharini Brindey

  6. v.k.sonakia says:

    I have gone through the article and i m impressed the way every bit has been told about kriyayoga.i need to know more about village Ananda if possible.

  7. K V Raghuram says:

    Beloved Sir,

    Whatever you have mentioned is quite true. All great Gurus, stress on one particular point that for every divine process, God Almighty’s grace is vital. Let us all hope, that all our noble thoughts would have the requisite support and encouragement of the divine grace.

    Om Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram.

    With Love and Respects

    K V Raghuram

  8. K V Raghuram says:

    Beloved Sir,

    I am a Kriyaban. It gives me tremendous joy that God Almighty has shown the Kriyayoga way to me. The joy derived by doing the Jyothi Mudra and Kechari Mudra are tremendous and enduring.

    Love to all.

    K V Raghuram

  9. jitendra kumar singh says:

    Today my confusion is removed. I was searching for such information

  10. Nhalinikantt Raw says:

    swami yogananada he is my inspiration in all aspects of my life.

  11. ronald says:

    What you say is nice. However when one reads the literature on kriya that exist from lahiri we find many discrepancies from what is taught through most organizations. One of the main ones is lahiris description of what guru really is. Search and see what you find. God bless.

    • Nayaswami Devarshi says:

      Lahiri Mahasaya’s words have been both interpreted, and translated (often poorly!), in different and seemingly contrary ways by different organizations. That’s only natural.

      If we look at Lahiri Mahasaya’s actions, they tell a clear and direct story. He received initiation into Kriya only after he had reaffirmed his Guru-Disciple relationship with Babaji. Lahiri Mahasaya had a Guru.

      Lahiri Mahasaya also had disciples and gave Kriya only through sacred initiation, the traditional manner of transmitting the spiritual power of the Guru to the disciple. Some of his disciples also acted in the role of Guru. It was obvious from the many letters that he wrote to his disciples that he acted in the role of both Guru and teacher to them.

      There is no scriptural authority that teaches one does not need a Guru. Regarding what a Guru is, yes there can be many shades of meaning in that regard. One of the misconceptions that Lahiri Mahasaya was trying to correct was a common error: that of complete dependence on the Guru to do everything for the disciple. He gave a very specific technique and practice for the disciple to take home and use. He also gave his spiritual power for the disciple to add to the technique and practice. He did not reject the need for a Guru, but did clarify the correct way of discipleship.

      Adi Shankara said that there is no greater blessing in all the three worlds for a true God-realized Guru. The scriptures of India are full of this teaching in the many stories of great saints and masters, their disciples, and their Guru-disciple relationship. This is why the very first sentence in Paramhansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi is “The characteristic features of Indian culture have long been a search for ultimate verities and the concomitant disciple-guru relationship.” In the end that search and that relationship are inseparable.

  12. VENU MADASU says:

    Jai Gurudev.
    Kriya Of Yogananda Gurudev Is The Same Original Given By Lahiri Mahashaya’s. It Is Not Diluted. It Is More Energized.simple. Much Effective. By Sincere Practice..no Questions W’ll Arrive.. Do Sadhana.Evolute Fast.

  13. shailesh says:

    Regards to everyone!
    Guru/Disciple relationship is very significant. Apart from discipline and guidance, Guru’s role is also to understand and evaluate his Disciple. Ramakrishna Paramhansha of Dakshineshwar had 6 prime disciple and he had guided all of them on varied/customized path. Our Guru-lineage too has clearly shown variations in Kriya yoga practice, but surely all has been done under Babaji’s divine Guidance. Secondly, its guru’s role to decide and deliver what disciple is ready for in terms of preparedness. In Guruji’s mission and size of receiving end was enormous. So to my understanding the format of Kriya yoga that we follow is in best possible manner for it to be well received and understood.

  14. Pratap Chavada says:

    In spiritual process when you march on guidance needed in the journey just comes from some corner if you are in that state and longing for from within.Your param soul will guide you.All kriyas are after all stepping stones to reach the destinations …a complete soltitude, bliss, crossing the barrier of mayavi clutches of mind and reaching the twilight zone of Godliness.

  15. Joy Antony N says:

    I practise kriya as taught by Sri Parama Hansa Yoganada and benefitted immensely from it.I was born in a Roman catholic family and If he had not taught it in this way my life wouldnt have been so rich. Jai Gurudev.

  16. dr saibabu says:

    Mahavatar babaji statue what you have shown is so devine. Your comments on kri ya are correct.

  17. Manash Roy says:

    I also had the same doubt in my mind as different people say and practice in different ways; and they claim that paramahansi Yoganandji simplified Kriya technque for the people of west and it is less effective then the techniques taught by lahiri mahasaya .They claim that Kriya is not effective without Khechari mudra. But I think a self realized Master Knows the best and our duty is to follow him unquestionigly

  18. dr saibabu says:

    Nice to know about kri ya yoga

  19. Vinod Shah says:

    where is your Center in India

  20. Rajen Moktan says:

    Every man has different level of understanding so if the master dilutes his teaching a bit so that his pupil can understand it then what is the harm ?

  21. KAustubh SInnarkar says:

    The Guru tells the way towards the spiritual path. How much one progress is individuals strengths.

    There is nothing to compare between various Gurus , Their methods may have slight variations but they have that authority to do that.


  22. Rakesh says:

    I am from Kolkata and I want to learn kriyayoga. Can someone help me please.

  23. geetasomaiya says:

    I want to know all about kriya yoga.

  24. rajni says:

    Sir ..
    I hv so many questions in my mind. .hp will get answered here…1.wt exactly is kriya yog ?…2.where we can learn in pure form.? 3.how much time it take…and is there any age factor in learning process. ? 4 I hv been learning yog..but am always puzzled hw it helps spiritual y as from I hv learnt thy focus on asanas..only..
    Pls if u can guide.. 5where is ananda village…as I want to grow spiritually. .

  25. rm ramu says:

    Swami yogananda words I like very much

  26. lakshminarasimhan says:

    For me sri paramahamsayogsnadas autobiography is a eye opener it has enlightened me about divine presence in all life existence ie animals birds ets it is also made me to get convinced what ever efforts we are making towards spirituality is followed by great beings from above the will send some body when we are ready our duty to do whatever learnedon keeping faith in Guudev

  27. subhash dixit says:

    Very true once you choose a Guru you aught to follow him unconditionally otherwise collisions will lead you nowhere

  28. indrani mukherjee says:

    I want to learn kriyajog nd looking for a guru who can teach me.I read the autobiography of swami Yogananda. My pronam to swami ji.

  29. Ravi says:

    details about KY

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Director of Ananda Kriya Sangha

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