Category: Kriya Yoga
A Blank Mind: Dangerous or Desirable?
March 22, 2012
Every now and then I come across the term "a blank mind". Can you please explain to me in detail what a "blank mind" is? I have read that one shouldnt drink alcohol or take drugs because they can make the mind go blank which can me dangerous. I have also read that one shouldnt meditate with a "blank mind". English is not my native language but when I translate the word blank into German it means empty. If I then Google "empty mind" I get loads of articles about how important it is to have a blank (empty) mind in meditation. So now I am totally confused. I would really love your help on this one. Thank you very much.
The only meditation I have studied and practiced is Kriya Yoga as taught at Ananda. Kriya to me includes not just the technique learned through initiation after a year or so of preparation, but also the whole approach to spiritual life brought to the West by Paramhansa Yogananda.
I was fortunate to find this path early, to be deeply inspired by it, and to have never felt the need to explore deeply any other way. So what I know of "blank mind" meditation was either told to me by others or picked up in snippets of reading here and there.
It seems wiser, then, for me to describe "blank mind" from the point of view of Kriya - which recommends against it, as you have discovered - rather than trying to speak for it from the point of view of those who teach it.
I prefer to do this also because often the words we use in languages other than Sanskrit to describe subtle states of consciousness are given meaning by those who use them and are not always self-evident or consistent from one tradition to another. Sanskrit has specialized in describing states of consciousness, whereas the speakers of other languages have not focused on these inner realities to the same extent and do not have such a specific vocabulary.
This is a good example. "Blank" or "empty" mind in the Kriya tradition is not offered as a positive image, whereas in other traditions it forms the heart of the practice. Perhaps this is a fundamental disagreement or perhaps it is just semantics.
In Kriya practice, the emphasis is on devotion and will power. A blank mind is considered undesirable insofar as it is the result of low or passive energy. If by "blank" one means "still and focused" that would be entirely different. "Still and focused" are words we often use in Kriya because they are more precise than empty or blank.
Even though meditation involves relaxation, the art of it is to let go of tension without also lowering one's energy level. We know how to put out energy on the conscious level by keeping the mind and body active and busy. Meditation requires that we still both the mind and body, but not - as we are habituated to doing - falling into a state of subconscious sleep.
Rather we must take all the energy that we usually direct in an outward way, and use it to keep the mind and body absolutely still in a state of complete, relaxed, alert awareness.
No surprise that this is not so easy to do! Among other reasons, this is why in Kriya we do not recommend meditating while lying down on your back, even though this position allows you to relax with a straight spine. The association between lying down and falling asleep is simply too great for most people to resist!
Because in meditation we have to withdraw our attention from what usually preoccupies it - mundane activities and thoughts - and because where we are going is a state of awareness often unfamiliar to us before we experience it, sometimes people will say, "Make your mind blank," or "Empty your mind." The meaning here would be to withdraw the mind from where it usually rests.
The problem is succinctly described in the a statement taken from the scientific study of the natural world, "Nature abhors a vacuum." What this means is that when one force is withdrawn, another will rush in to fill the now empty space.
In meditation, an empty mind is very difficult to achieve. As soon as you withdraw your attention from one preoccupation, another will rush in to the fill the vacuum.
Thoughts, Yogananda explains in Autobiography of a Yogi, are not individually created, but universal streams of consciousness that we attune to and receive. We are not separate from the universe, but merely an individual expression of greater realities than just our own ego.
The art of meditation, as explained in Kriya Yoga, is not to attune yourself to nothing. Some meditation methods conscientiously avoid any mention of higher realities, especially God. They may even pride themselves on what I have heard called "non-deistic spiritual practices."
Kriya Yoga is not like that. Kriya Yoga is about attuning to God. Satchidananda is the ideal way to describe it, since the word "God" in English has no clear meaning. Satchidananda means "ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new bliss." It is definitely Something. Not emptiness. Not a blank mind.
So in Kriya practice we are encouraged to withdraw from mundane realities and focus with great will power and relaxation (it is simple, but not easy!) on the Divine. Whether we define that impersonally or personally, as I said, it is definitely Something other than emptiness.
The danger of an empty or blank mind comes from two possibilities. The first is simply that in trying to become blank, one may too easily fall into low, passive energy, which will not bring success either in meditation or in any other area of life. Think about it. Do passive, uncreative people without will power accomplish anything in any field? No, they don't. Why, then, would this approach bear positive fruit in meditation? It wouldn't make any sense.
The other danger of the blank mind is the possibility of possession by disincarnate entities. "Nature abhors a vacuum." If you are not using your mind, someone else may rush in to fill the empty space. Wow! That is scary! Definitely not something you want to mess around with.
That's why I respectfully concede that the seeming disagreement between the way Kriya Yoga is explained and other teachings that use "emptiness" and "blank mind" in a positive way could be more about semantics than anything else.
Both alcohol and drugs do lessen your ability to control your own mind. They blur your focus and lessen your will power. The long-term effect of marijuana use, for example, which some people consider to be a "harmless" drug, is the inclination not to put out will power to accomplish goals. Under the influence of marijuana, trivial things appear profound, small stimulation brings great enjoyment. The "munchies," for example are considered to be one of the great happy effects of marijuana - a delight in eating that is far greater than usual.
As a result, habitual marijuana users begin to rely on getting high as a way to enjoy life and miss completely the divine truth that the greater our awareness and the more dynamic our will power, the greater the sense of true satisfaction.
One need not live in constant fear of being taken over by a ghost; nonetheless, the fact is that disincarnate souls hover around in great numbers the places where people drink and take drugs looking for opportunities to slip into a physical body that is not their own, either for the duration of the substance-induced stupor, or for longer if blank-minded passivity has become that person's habit.
Disincarnate beings like this died while so focused on physical pleasures that their progression through the astral world and eventually into another physical body of their own has been derailed by their consuming desire to experience again the pleasures they feel have been taken away from them. Or, even worse, they are beings seeking to have power over others. Bad news any way you look at it!
Normally, disincarnate beings are held at bay by the fact that a body is fully occupied by someone else. There is no room for another consciousness to come in.
However, diminishing self-control and awareness by drugs or alcohol, or deliberately reducing your will power and blanking the mind, can be a way of opening the door for someone else to move in.
Many crimes are committed under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Afterwards, the one who is imprisoned for the dastardly deed may say, "I have no memory of doing it and no idea why I would have done it." Sometimes it was that person's subconsciousness given free rein because conscious control was obliterated by mind-altering substances. But it can also be that, literally, someone else used his body to do it.
The good news is, meditation practiced with will power, with a focus on higher realities, protected and guided by a guru, unequivocally slams the door against intrusion by these lower entities. There is no possible entry into your mind when you have lifted it, or are sincerely trying to lift it, into divine attunement.
The Paths of Raja Yoga and Kriya Yoga
March 6, 2012
Recently I went in to Raja yoga medition by sahaj Marg and having a confusion whether I need to follow Raja Yoga or Kriya yoga. Please suggest me which path I need to go and how to choose ?
Your question is really two questions in one. One question is: Should I practice the teachings of sahaj Marg or of Yogananda?
The second question is: What is the difference between Raja Yoga and Kriya Yoga?
The answer to your first question is found on a very personal and individual basis. Different teachings, even though similar, even though originating from the same general tradition (yoga), feel different or - as one hears - have a different, subtle vibration. You need to spend time with each teaching, and ideally, with the teacher or diciples of the teacher, in order to decide which teachings feel best to you.
There are many true paths, many true teachers; but one teaching will tend to draw you, to inspire you to get more involved.
The answer to your second question is more about technique than personal preference.
Yogananda taught Raja Yoga, one part of which is Kriya Yoga. Raja Yoga, or royal yoga, is a collection of teachings and practices that address all aspects of life:
- Hatha yoga, which addresses the health of the physical body, is part of Raja Yoga.
- Meditation, which addresses the mind and communion with higher consciousness, is a part of Raja Yoga.
- Devotional chanting, which addresses the heart, is part of Raja Yoga.
Kriya Yoga is a specific technique of life force control (pranayama) which addresses the flow of subtle energy in the body, and directs it upward to the spiritual eye at the point between the eyebrows. Kriya Yoga is a part of Raja Yoga, although it is of such importance in the teachings of Yogananda that it can seem as though it is considered a separate path.
That is not the case. Kriya Yoga is practiced most effectively when accompanied by the many complimentary Raja Yoga practices that Yogananda gave us.
I hope you find this answer helpful.
Puru (Joseph) Selbie
Does Kriya Burn Up Samskaras?
February 14, 2012
How do we overcome the hidden Samskaras that are latent within us? They can be anything - Jealousy, Selfishness etc. Your conscious mind is absolutely sure that you don't have those characteristics, but they manifest themselves in certain situations.
I'm a Kriyaban from Ananda Sangha and Kriya Yoga is definately helped me control my mind and my lifeforce and its a blessing.
But I still wonder bout my hidden Samskaras.
Does Kriya "burn" them too!?
Indeed, that is one of the most wonderful benefits of Kriya. According to our line of Kriya masters, the practice of Kriya burns up many seeds of past karma, often before they even have the chance to make an appearance in our lives. Those 'seeds' are actually vrittis, or vortices of energy in the astral spine, which are borne of past actions, desires, thoughts, etc.
Samskaras, or tendencies like you describe, are typically based on past actions and the ensuing vortex of energy created by that action/thought/desire. Kriya practice helps to bring a very strong current of spiritual energy through the astral spine, helping to dissolve those vrittis, often before they manifest as tendencies that we can see in ourselves.
According to Swami Kriyananda, any deep spiritual exprience - of God as overwhelming bliss, light, love, etc. - has even more power to dissolve those past seeds of karma. Kriya is not mechanical in the way that it works, but when done deeply, and with a sense of deep devotion and awareness of Divine Grace, also has that same power to free us from past karmas and tendencies.
please enlighten whether there is any relation or connection of Kriya yoga with the teachings of Sri Ramkrishna Paramhansa.
with regards & pranam
Dr Snehasis Chatterjee.
There isn't a formal connection between the two teachings, but of course they are related, in two significant ways.
The first is that Paramhansa Yogananda and Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa were both from Kolkata. Even though they never met, Yogananda had a deep love and fondness for Ramakrishna, often visiting the temple at Dakshineswar, and meditating there for many hours at a time.
Yogananda also had a great friendship with Mahendranath Gupta (called "Master Mahashaya" in Autobiography of a Yogi), who wrote the beautiful Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna (Sri Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita) as "M."
I've personally enjoyed that book tremendously over the years, and have always seen the Ramakrishna lineage as our spiritual cousins, in a way.
The other deep connection is that the devotional aspect of the Kriya teachings is rooted in the same love for God that Ramakrishna taught - devotion to God in all forms, and also notably to God as the Divine Mother. It isn't very well understood by many people, but this deep devotion is an integral part of the path of Kriya Yoga.
Kriya Yoga also works with a very specific set of techniques, with the actual Kriya technique being just one of them. Ramakrishna didn't commonly teach techniques, even though he did practice them at various times in some of the different sadhanas (spiritual practices) he performed.
So yes, there is both a relation and connection in what is perhaps the most important way: a common and deep bhakti (devotion) for God, and the understanding that the goal of all life is to seek God and final union with the Divine.
Joy and blessings to you,
How to Maintain Attunement in the Midst of a Busy Life
December 9, 2011
My Kriya practice has become very important to me and I fear losing the discipline to continue meditating consistently due to my outer life creating distractions. My question is how to keep strong attunement to God and Gurus while maintaining a demanding outer life of service.
I think most kriyabans experience a tug-of-war between the outward pull of responsibilities and an inner call to maintain attunement and a regular sadhana. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Try to keep God and Gurus in your consciousness during your outward service. Serve them through whatever it is you are called to do. Include them and ask for their guidance in your outer duties. Let them work with you and through you as your partner during the day. In other words, don't make too rigid a separation between your inner and outer life.
2. Spiritual indifference can be our greatest enemy on the spiritual path. Fan your desire for God and feed it. If it burns brightly, the rest will follow naturally and you need not worry. Ask yourself, "Is my love for God growing? Is it strong within me?" Keep in mind why you came to these teachings in the first place and don't be satisfied until your heart's true longing is satisfied.
3. Dive even more deeply into your kriya practice to experience joy. As Paramhansa Yogananda used to say, "Once you taste good cheese, you will no longer be satisfied with stale cheese." If you feel God's blessings in meditation, you will want to return again and again to experience more. The temptation to become distracted with outer duties will lessen.
4. I can't emphasize enough the importance of spiritual company - satsanga. Associate as much as possible with others who share your spiritual ideals. You will be carried over the rough spots. But even if you are without such friends and company, remember what Yoganandaji asked a disciple, "Am I not always with you?"
I hope these few thoughts prove helpful.
The Path of Kriya Yoga Compared to Bhastrika Pranayam
October 18, 2011
Are you able to tell me the differences and similarities between bhastrika pranayam & kriya yoga.
I know some people who do bhastrika pranayam and I wonder which is the superior pranayam?
It's hard to compare the two at all, since bhastrika is a single technique, and Kriya Yoga is a comprehensive spiritual path-which includes several techniques, along with discipleship, devotion, and attunement to the Guru.
The Kriya technique itself, which is one of four main techniques on the path of Kriya Yoga, works with the life force in the deep astral spine. One of the effects that makes Kriya so powerful is that it gives one pranayama, or control over the life force.
Many people think that pranayama refers to breathing exercises, but in fact it refers to having the condition of pranayama. When one has complete control of the life force, one has gained the condition of pranayama.
Patanjali, in his Yoga Sutras, was referring to pranayama in that way. Just as asana (singular!) in the Yoga Sutras refers to the perfect still posture required for deep meditation - rather than to the countless asanas (plural) that have evolved in modern times.
So, bhastrika and Kriya Yoga serve two very different purposes. Both have benefits, but Kriya Yoga is a comprehensive spiritual path - even a way of life - so the two can't really be compared to each other.
Steps to Kriya Initiation
October 12, 2011
I have recently finished reading Swami Kriyananda's book "The New Path" and have thought of taking Kriya Yoga course. Somehow, part of me is not sure if I am ready to take them, even with your free online offer of the overview course. I have been meditating for quite sometime and really would like to have proper intructions to help me improve. Is there a way I would know that I am ready for the work of Kriya Yoga ? Or, any other suggestions? Thank you.
It's good that you are approaching this thoughtfully. You don't need to decide at this point about your readiness. The full course takes about 1 year, culminating in the Kriya initiation.
During that year you will be learning several of our preliminary techniques, which are general and can be applied to many meditation types. About half way through you will be asked if you want to become a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda and this line of gurus ( a requirement for the intiation). If so, your studies will continue.
But whether or not you become a disciple, these beginning techniques will help in improving your ability to concentrate and still the body and the breath. They will become a foundation for your practice, whether you take the Kriya initiation or follow another path.
If, after you have taken some of the course, you don't feel ready to continue, that is fine too. We give this course all the time, and Kriya initiations are offered many times throughout the year. So, take your time and give yourself the chance to find out if this is your path.
Joy to you,
Nayaswami Sadhana Devi
The Sequence of Meditation Techniques
October 8, 2011
In terms of a daily habitual meditation routine, what should be the order?
I know your suppose to do the Hong-Sau then Aum Meditation and then Kriya.
But can you reverse the order?
If Kriya calms the breath and heart, then shouldn't Kriya be done first then Aum meditation and then Hong-Sau?
It just feels like doing Kriya FIRST would make the AUM and Hong-Sau more effective.
Thanks for your help.
The order of the techniques was taught this way by Paramhansa Yogananda as a beginning practice. After one has established a stable routine, and has reached a point where he is regularly sitting longer and doing a larger number of Kriyas, he can go on to practicing in a different order if his intuition and experience call for it.
The Energization Exercises help the body to relax and become calm; Hong Sau helps to quiet the breath and focus the mind, and the Aum technique helps to continue the process of interiorization. All these are necessary before one can successfully practice Kriya. Trying to do Kriya with a restless mind and body is usually counterproductive.
That said, you won't do any harm to yourself if you practice Kriya first, but it probably won't be very helpful to you either. We often counsel people to practice the way the guru has told us so that we can increase our attunement and draw his grace.
And, if we awaken devotion by asking the guru to practice through us, in this way we make ourselves more aware of his inner guidance. Then we can more easily discern whether or not to make changes in the routine.
I hope this helps. Many blessings on your practice!
Joy to you,
Nayaswami Sadhana Devi
- Guru-Disciple Relationship
- Health and Healing
- Karma, Reincarnation
- Kriya Yoga
- Paramhansa Yogananda
- Science and Yoga
- Spiritual Community
- Spiritual Parenting
- Spiritual Path
- Swami Kriyananda
- The Arts
- The Yugas
- Yoga Postures