Sciatica and meditation posture, Hong-Sau technique

Question

I have bouts of sciatica which makes it painful to sit at times. I have tried to do Kriya's lying down, with my knees up, feet flat, to feel like sitting. After a few tries, it seems to work well and I don't fall asleep. Can I do Kriyas this way?

Also, what is the differences between Hong Sau and So Hum? Are they used for different practices?

—MS, North Carolina

Answer

Ideally, of course, we should sit upright when meditating, with the spine straight.

But since our bodies don’t always cooperate with this concept of “ideal,” we should adjust accordingly. When severe back problems make it impossible to sit up, then the first step would be to try and sit with some back support, against the back of a chair or a wall.

If even that is impossible, then keep adjusting your position until you find something that works. Once your back is better, then of course go back to sitting upright. Until then, do the best you can, just as you are doing. The problem with lying down while meditating is that we tend to go into our habitual lying-down state of subconsciousness.

Regarding “Hong-Sau” vs. “So-Hum.” Swami Kriyananda wrote about this in one of his books, Visits to Saints of India. It is available from our India Publisher, after being out of print for many years.

Here is an excerpt from the book, where Swami Kriyananda asks an extremely respected and saintly pundit (scholar) about the issue, based upon hearing the claim that The Upanishads teach “So-Ham”:

“So now I saw my opportunity. I asked Swami Narayan whether it was true that the Upanishads teach only So-Ham, never Hong-Sau. Swamiji replied:

“‘No, on the contrary, all the Upanishads teach it as Hong-Sau.’

“There followed about forty-five minutes of going through various Scriptures. One of them, the Hong-Sau Vidya, says, ‘This is the highest mantra.’ It also calls it ‘the god of all mantras,’ and says, ‘The world is created with it; the world is preserved with it; and the world is destroyed with it.’

“‘By chanting this mantra,’ the Scripture goes on to say, ‘the seeker quickly attains liberation.’

“Swamiji went on to say, ‘Nowhere is So-Ham referred to with nearly so much authority.’

“‘Why, then,” I inquired, “has it been so much insisted upon?’

“‘People,’ he replied, ‘who don’t have an adequate knowledge of the Vedas go about creating their own misunderstandings.’

“But then he added the most vital point of all: “Whatever Guru says is higher than any Scripture.” (Because it contains his power, and because it is specific for the disciple, rather than something general for all mankind.)”