Kriya Techniques

Question

I understand from reading that Paramahansa Yogananda introduced the energization exercises and hong-sau technique to Kriya Yoga. I am curious to know, how Lahiri Mahasaya, Sri Yukteswar, and Babaji practiced Kriya Yoga? Did they use only the OM technique and the kriya technique? Or did they have their own kinds of energization and concentration techniques?

—Patrick, Australia

Answer

Dear Patrick,

A close examination of the history of the many techniques practiced in India under various headings reveals that all of the techniques of our lineage have some roots in tradition. Both Hong Sau and Aum have been taught for millennia (there is the Hong Sau Upanishad, e.g.)

Yet each of the kriya masters, from Babaji to Yoganandaji adapted according to the needs of those whom they served. Of course, only Yogananda went to America and the West so his adaptations had to take into account those to whom he taught. Even energization (though not the system as Yogananda refined it — and he made various changes even to his system over the years of his life) can be found in certain movements and pranayams as taught by different lineages and teachers.

I imagine that Babaji gave the least detail and perhaps focused primarily on what we now might call the first kriya initiation. My impression from Lahiri’s journals is that he was something like a “mad scientist” (picture Einstein with his hair sticking out) drawing in techniques from hatha, tantra, kriya, gyana, laya, nada, and various genuine sources to distill their essence into the makings of the path of Kriya Yoga.

It is a misunderstanding to assert that any of them, and especially Yogananda, diluted the techniques for consumption by the West. This lineage paired the techniques down to their elemental essence and winnowed away the plethora of techniques and variations in those techniques that had grown up like a jungle during the long period of Kali Yuga.

It is true that Yogananda did dial back (relative to Lahiri) on the practice of Kechari Mudra, e.g. but he DID teach it, especially to close disciples. Yogananda had every reason to conclude that Kechari was way beyond what Americans in this lifetime were able and ready “to swallow!”

Sri Yukteswar made certain changes to the first kriya and in the beginning, Yogananda taught Sri Yukteswar’s version.  Later in his life, however, he changed it back (noting wryly that he “hoped his guru would forgive him!”

We, disciples of this lineage, consider all of the lineage as avatars. Hence, each surely has the right to both experiment and adapt to the needs of those they serve.

In addition, the deeper understanding is that it is the guru’s grace (divine grace through the guru) that effects the real transformation in the disciple who is attuned. The technique, though not unimportant, serves as a medium, a channel, or an instrument through which the vibration of God-realization is sent. In other lineages, for example, Hong Sau or an equivalent watching the breath with mantra technique, is the technique of diksha (initiation) and the primary technique given by the guru to the disciple. (Yogananda said that one could achieve self-mastery by practicing Hong Sau two hours a day!)

The disciple’s willingness to practice and to do so as taught is in no small measure a measure and vehicle for that attunement and power to receive. (“To as many as received Him to them He gave the power to become the sons of God.”)

One can find assertions in books and on the internet about one thing or another (how Yogananda changed this or that, e.g.) but it amounts mostly to gossip considering the consciousness of these great masters and the sensitive relationship between technique (objective) to inner attunement (subjective). Not to mention individual karma! There’s a place for each, of course. The masters do not argue among themselves as to who is right and who is wrong. Only the disciples do this. [I am not suggesting this is your attitude, just that these questions are debated by some.]

So while I find these historical facts and the evolution of the teachings interesting, also, I resist “cherry-picking” techniques according to my own “whims and fancies” and find that if my “sadhana” (practices) follow the counsel given to me by my guru (Yogananda and as he represents the lineage as the last of the lineage) I feel “in tune” and “protected by the parapets” of His grace!

Joy and Blessings to You!
Nayaswami Hriman
Seattle WA USA
www.Hrimananda.org