Saturday, April 8, 2017

What is the relevance of Kriya to the processes and stages of Meditation

"Kriya Yoga, or Yoga in Action, embraces:

Tapas: igniting the purifying flame
Swadhaya, sacred study of the Divine through scripture, nature and introspection.
Iswara Pranidhana:wholehearted dedication to the Divine Light in all."

(Yoga Sutram 2:1, Translated and Interpreted by Nischala Joy Devi)

For me, before studying at Integrative Yoga Therapy if one spoke of Kriya Yoga I thought of Paramahansa Yoganada and his writings of doing Kriya Yoga in his path to being a Yogi.  I see now that it is defined in the Yoga Sutras as tapas, swadhaya, and iswara pranidhana but somehow I missed it there and only remember Yogananda.

In order to understand the relevance between Kriya Yoga and Meditation we need to define Kriya Yoga. One of my favorite books on the Yoga Sutras and yoga in general is The Secret Power of Yoga. I had the amazing opportunity to study with Nischala Devi for ten days last year.  She is an important teacher in my life.  She writes, "Kriya Yoga or Yoga in Action, seamlessly weaves the reaching of Yoga into our everyday world, becoming a template for our hands, heads and hearts to follow.  When mixed in the correct proportions, actions thought, and feelings harmonize completely allowing our inner spirit and the outer worlds to unite." (Devi, Secret Power of Yoga, p.106)

If meditation unity and "experience of our true nature which is always present, waiting to be discovered. (Joseph Le Page)" then the harmonization and unification achieved by Kriya Yoga sounds them same as meditation or at least achieves the same goals as meditation

According to the Self-Realization fellowship Kriya Yoga is "a comprehensive system (of) meditation techniques (that) enable the practitioner to achieve the highest benefits and divine goal of the ancient yoga science. . . Correct practice of Kriya Yoga enables the normal activities of the heart and lungs and nervous system to slow down naturally, producing deep inner stillness of body and mind and freeing the attention from the usual turbulence of thoughts, emotions, and sensory perceptions. In the clarity of that inner stillness, one comes to experience a deepening interior peace and attunement with one's soul and with God."

These SRF Kriya Yoga Techniques techniques include

1. Energization Exercises: A series of psycho-physical exercises that prepare the body for meditation. They are an active way of eliminating stress and tension. Practicing them prior to meditation helps one become calm and centered.

2. Hong-Sau Technique of Concentration. This is inhaling Hong exhaling Sau and is very similar to So Hum meditation, It is a concentration technique that leads one to one-pointedness.

3. Aum Technique of Meditation

4. Kriya Yoga Technique which is an advanced Raja Yoga technique of pranayama

I have practiced the first two of these many times at Expanding Light but I am not sure if I have practiced the last two. If I have the weren't specifically named to me.

In the Yoga Therapy perspective taught by Integrative Yoga Therapy and Joseph Le Page Kriya Yoga is a process or unfolding of stages not a specific technique. "Healing is the life journey itself, from birth to death, and is the ongoing realization of non-separation in all aspects of our life.  The process has three stages - (1) Opening, (2) Awareness, and (3) Acceptance - leading to transformation.  This process is know as kriya yoga.  Ultimate health is synonymous with ultimate freedom, liberation and enlightenment" (Joseph and Lilian le Page)

"Through kriya yoga, that which is unconscious becomes conscious and can, therefore, be surrendered into the source or ground of reality, which is unity. When we are one with reality itself, there is no separation and, therefore, no stress." (Joseph and Lilian Le Page)

In my opinion Nischala Joy Devi, Joseph Le Page and Paramahansa Yogananda all are describing a path to Self-Realization/Samadh/Enlightenment but the roads are a little different.  Paramahansa Yogananda tells us to meditate,  Kriya for him is meditation.

"Practice! Practice! Practice! All is coming!" says Pattabhi Jois and this I believe is Yogananda attitude for Kriya Yoga. Meditate! Meditate! Meditate! All is Coming! or replace the words meditate with Do Kriya Yoga.

I think it's important to look at the stages of Kriya as defined by the Yoga Sutras to further investigate the topic.


Purification sometimes requires heat. Tapas is the fire that burns away the ego. When we melt down the ego we can see our true nature and understand we no more important than anyone else, in fact, we are all connected. We are all God's creatures.

"The practice of Tapas reflects Karmaa Yoga (dedicated service to all) and invites is to embrace all experiences without expecting any specific result." (Devi, Secret Power of Yoga, p.186). This quieting of the ego and attitude of service and connection quiets the mind for practice of higher conscious states and meditation.

When we are ill (physical or mentally) we often become very selfish.  The universe seems to be only about us and our problems.  With Tapas we can see the bigger picture.  Often when people come to me depressed I advise them to do some Seva.  This was taught to me by Nischala Joy Devi.  Service to others gives them a larger purpose in life and takes them out of their narcissism.


This stage is often described as self study.  Here we look at ourselves and strengthen our vijanamayakosha, our witness consciousness.  "Through swadhyaya we feel our emotions fully, but without identifying with them as the essence and most instrinsic part of who we are." (Joseph and Lilian Le Page).  The act of witnessing with out identifying to me sounds like Mindfulness Meditation.  As we examine ourselves without judgment or identification we are already meditating.

"The real intention of meditation is to glimpse and progressively identify with our deeper Self, whose intrinsic nature is wholeness, happiness, and freedom.  This freedom, often called enlightenment, is the fulfillment of our human potential and the completion of the journey of human being. (Joseph and Lilian Le Page"


"Ishvara Prandhiana is an aspect of Bhakti Yoga, the ...wholehearted dedication to the Divine Light in all. Through this practice, the intoxication of the Divine is made present at every moment and with every action." (Devi, Secret Power of Yoga, p.106).

When we practice meditation in all its forms then life itself becomes a meditation and meditation is the "nature of life."  With devotion to the divine (ishvara pranidhana) we experience an ecstatic union between ourselves, everything and the divine. We are in the highest states of meditation we are next to if not in Samadhi.

In the words of Yognanda:

"Practice Kriya Yoga, and you will surely succeed on the spiritual path. That is my own experience. The liberating power of Kriya Yoga sunders the prison bars of karma. I have never found in East or West such a great technique as this. Everyone who is a follower of Kriya and of this path of Self-Realization Fellowship will go far ahead. Meditate and see the results in yourself." .(Paramahansa Yogananda:

So for me, it doesn't much matter if its the concrete steps of Yogananda or the vaguer and more personal steps of Nischala Devi and Joseph Le Page.  The main thing is just to get in the game, meaning to meditate no matter what the technique. for "meditation is the path that offers an ultiamte solution to all human dilemmas and challenges, including health challenges, by seeing the deeper Self whose nature is limitless, timeless, deathless freedom."

And freedom is so important. Freedom to chose who to live, how to live, what to worship.  That is Samadhi.  Being a black Jewish girl from an industrial East Coast city. Some family lives in America, some family slaves in Egypr. Some family killed in the holocaust, some family killed by brutal masters, racist police or in middle passage freedom is of ultimate importance. So meditate so you can experience the last lines of that old negro spiritual.

Free at last
Free at last
Thank God Almighty
We are Free at last!

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