This article was published in an online magazine on the 7th of January 2021. link provided
Before getting down to write, I typed in Kriya Yoga on the search bar and it threw up 1,10,000,00 search results in seconds. That made me wonder what new information I could share that will be different from everything told and retold about this practice. It is my friend Sanjeev who urged me to write about this very special form of Yog Sadhana, one that has been a part of my present life since 1998, when I met my Satguru, first in a vision then initiated into this in person, a practice which I, from day one, took to like a fish takes to water.
As usual I write from personal experience and inference about spiritual truths as revealed to me by the grace of my Satguru Yogiraj Siddhanath and my personal journey in this sadhana of Kriya Yoga. Read it for what it is, a respectful bow by a sadhak to a practice given by a Satguru. Yogiraj Siddhanath is one of the masters of the present times entrusted with teaching the Kriya Yoga by none other than the Mahavatar Babaji.
But first the beginning of Kriya Yoga in modern times
The torch of Kriya Yoga in its present form was brought to humankind by Sri Shama Charan Lahiri, aka Lahiri Mahasaya, pronounced Moshai in Bengali and Mahashay in Hindi; it is a common form of address in India meaning revered or most respected sir. His meeting with Babaji has been detailed by Paramahamsa Yogananda in his book Autobiography of a Yogi. For the accounts of Lahiri Mahasaya’s life in this article, I have referred to the book Purana Purusha, excerpts from the diaries of Lahiri Baba himself and its introduction by Yogacharya Vacaspati Dr. Ashok Kumar Chatterjee.
From the start what endeared and inspired me most about Lahiri Baba, was his simple life. Despite his spiritual brilliance, of which he seemed unaware until his meeting with the Mahavatar at age 40, he went about life in a most ordinary manner.
A childhood normal in most ways, with some indications of his spiritual yogic nature, a father who paid great attention to his education, his early marriage to Kashimoni followed in time by birth of two sons and three daughters. At age 23 he was commissioned a sarkari job as a clerk in PWD, Military Engineering Works. To bolster his income he gave lessons in Hindi and Urdu to a few English army officers.
And then in the year 1868, one day while out on a walk in the hills of Ranikhet, he was authoritatively summoned by an ascetic and taken to meet the divine Mahavatar Babaji. After this momentous experience and realisation, Lahiri Mahasaya went right back to his job and family and in a quiet manner started to carry out the instructions of his Guru to spread the light of Kriya Yoga from his home in Kashi.
In fact his second and youngest daughter were born after his meeting with the radiant Mahavatar, proof of a continuance of a normal householder’s life. The Master showed by example how a truly spiritual life can be led whilst living in the material world – for me this is one of the greatest teachings by Lahiri Mahasaya.
That is how simple Kriya Yoga is, a fast track evolutionary technique of pranayam that takes you to the highest stages of yog sadhana while keeping you rooted in the ground of a householders life.
This lesson is amply set forth in present times by my Satguru who is also a householder yogi and continues to radiate the awareness of Kriya Yoga from his forest ashram in Pune Maharashtra, inspiring disciples to find tranquility in the midst of turmoil.
A quick note here as today most people know of Kriya Yoga and the lineage of Lahiri Mahasaya, Sri Yukteswar Giri and Yogananada due to the world famous book Autobiography of a Yogi. But it is important to note that Shama Charan Lahiri had many advanced disciples of whom one was Sri Yukteswar who in turn had many advanced disciples one of whom was Yogananda. Now all these disciples have their own lineages and student and teachers base. Most follow the original Kriya Yoga as revived by Lahiri Mahasaya with the grace and blessings of Mahavatar Babaji, and many of them in their own right had personal and deep experiences with Babaji.
The importance of a living Guru
Satguru’s have been appearing from time to time to enliven and refresh this evolutionary fast track practice to attain self realisation for disciples. Often the disciples who come and quickly flow into the practice are also souls who have been introduced to this path in lives past and come to continue the journey with the present master. Actually nothing is lost, the practice continues from where it was left off. Yogiraj Siddhanath is one such master.
Personally for me the present Guru, in my case Yogiraj Siddhanath, is enough to lead one to enlightenment without the unnecessary encumbrance of past masters and the desire for “original” techniques. As the human brain and nervous systems evolve the practices are tweaked by the masters who come to suit present day requirements.
This is a point of much debate and lots of jostling by various branches of Kriya Yoga schools, but this is my realisation that the present true Guru leads the disciple without fail towards the goal of self realisation (sabikalpa/sarvikalpa) and god realisation (nirbikalpa/nirvikalpa). As a disciple what is required is Vivek buddhi and swadhyaya which will help in discerning a true master from a pretender, that’s the only thing to watch out for and what many seekers fear.
When I met Yogiraj Siddhanath, the first time it was in a vision where he summoned me to his ashram in Pune. Those were pre-internet days of landline phones in 1998, how I reached the Pune ashram is a story by itself. You can read about this in my book, One Master, one disciple. This guiding to the Guru, bolstered my confidence that the disciples find their way to the Guru without fail when their time comes and this has been proved by recounts of many disciples on how they found the Guru or on how the Guru found them!
The living Guru, for me, is the concrete connecting bridge who steers the disciple unerringly on the path individually. Also there are no doubts about the messages, instructions and milestones that arrive during practice which can otherwise be coloured by our own ego and or flights of fancy or just misunderstood by the mind. The living guru keeps the disciple steady and on course each according to their own needs. The greatest gift the living guru bestows is as the disciple reaches out to the external Guru, the external Guru guides the disciple to the inner Guru and once this connection is established no separation of the Guru and the disciple is possible.
The Mystical Mahavatar Babaji
Lahiri Mahasaya said simply, “Budha baba ohi Kisun,” hinting at the stature of a person addressed as Babaji, a generic term used for the elderly in India connecting him to the purnavatar Krishna. There are accounts by many of their meeting with this exalted being, their trysts with the Mahavatar and the lessons learnt from him. The magical mystical meetings have given rise to many books and schools of learning.
Here I write about the one I know firsthand recounted by my Guru, Yogiraj Siddhanath. Yogiraj had deep and personal experiences of this Being, whom he calls Mahavatar Shiva Goraksha Babaji, in both the human and cosmic form in the Himalayas at the Jhilmili Gufa at the base of the Neelkantheshwar peak in Badrinath and at the confluence of the Alakhnanada and Mandakini rivers at Rudraprayag, Uttarakhand. In his experience of the Mahavatar is the realisation of the Mahavatar as none other than Gorakhnath, the being who burst out of the heart of Adi Nath Shiva. In his book, Babaji: the Light Standing Still he connects the Mahavatar Babaji unerringly with Shiva Gorakhshanath and the Nath lineage with references from historical and spiritual texts.
Among other inferences, Yogiraj has shown the similarity between the Goraksha Kriya from the Goraksha Shatak and the Babaji Kriya of Mahavatar Babaji. Says Yogiraj Siddhanath in his book Babaji, the Lightning Standing Still, “The hundred verses of the Gorksha Shataka given below connect beautifully to the original Kriya Yoga which is given to us by Shiva Goraksha Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya and Sri Yukteshwar Giri. Some of the instructions of Kriya Yoga have been taken ad verbatim from the Goraksha Shataka.
This only goes to make clear that Babaji of Autobiography of a Yogi and Goraksha Nath, who wrote the Shataka, are one and the same.” Both have the Omkar Kriya, Hamsa (pronounced Hong Sha in Bengali) sadhana, Kriya Yoga Pranayam, Nabhi Kriya, Mahamudra, Yoni or Jyoti Mudra, Unmani/ Para Avastha, Khechari Mudra, Thokar Kriya and so on.
(Earth Peace Temple at Siddhanath Forest Ashram)
The Earth Peace Temple at the ashram in Pune houses one of the largest consolidated akhanda mercury shivling. Disciples and devotees from across the globe visit to sit in the peaceful radiation of this linga and be propelled to high states in their sadhana. The consolidation of mercury is an alchemical process whose custodians are the Nath yogis. Yogiraj Siddhanath, it should be noted is the first to reveal the commonalities between the Nath Sampradaya of Gorakhnath and the Kriya Yoga lineage of Mahavatar Babaji.
(Yogiraj with Parad Shivling)
Kriya Yoga, the spinal highway to evolution
Much has been written about the practice itself so I will limit myself to a few fundamentals according to my realisations. Yogananda called it the aeroplane path and Yogiraj defines it as the lightning path. Both showing the fast track nature of this pranayam to propel the practitioner towards realisation of the Self.
The spine has been the measurement of evolution from invertebrate to vertebrate to Homo Erectus, the upright man. Further evolution from human to divine, I understood, also takes place along the subtle sushumna channel within the spine, wherein starts the scope of Kriya Yoga.
The fundamental goal of any practice from the sanatan repertoire is to free the soul from the cycle of birth and rebirth into suffering…, Kriya Yoga achieves this by a dual movement of evolving the awareness while simultaneously burning past karmas of the practitioner freeing them from this cyclic repetition.
As the practice takes roots the practitioner is propelled towards the higher stages of yog sadhana- to pratyahar, dharana, dhyan and by the grace of the living Satguru samadhi.
The Process of Learning
A simple technique to learn, the magic of transformation is in the consistency of practice. There are many schools of Kriya Yoga that have branched out of the fountainhead of Lahiri Mahasaya and his disciples and their disciples and so on and so forth. All have their own systems in place for the sharing of this wisdom.
In some, the initiation or deeksha is given by authorised teachers and the empowerment or anugraha is imparted in a sacred ceremony by the Satguru. In others both are done by the Satguru who initiates and empowers in one ceremony. Some give all the Kriyas together and others over an extended period of time. As a seeker one must find the one that suits the most.
Yogiraj Siddhanath has authorised many teachers in India and around the globe to impart this technique but seekers are also welcome to go directly to his events, at the Pune ashram or in various cities of India and abroad, which he visits periodically, to be initiated and empowered by him directly.
The forest ashram in Pune is built at the base of the Singhad hills and has room for over a hundred people to stay. The ashram is rustic but with all modern amenities, a gym and a swimming pool. Retreats are organised regularly and one activity is meditating in the pool as the water helps in the movement of the meditative breath. The other daily activity is meditating in the presence of the Satguru and the consolidated mercury shivling for enhanced meditation and healing.
Yogiraj is one of the rare living masters who is still personally available and disciples can spend time in his presence at the ashram and during his travels. The very environs of the ashram brings stillness and peace to the person entering.
For more information on Yogiraj’s events: www.siddhanath.org
(Picture of Chandigarh Centre)
(Author with kids)
At my centre in Chandigarh regular yog classes and initiations into Kriya Yoga are held. Though, these days all classes have moved online. Activities also focus on introducing children to the benefits of yog and meditation, on living in harmony with others and nature.
When Yogiraj visits it becomes a hub for people from all over who come to be in his presence and partake of the Kriya knowledge and avail of the transmissions of Shaktipat, Pranpat and Shivapat that Yogiraj is constantly radiating.
In conclusion do I think Kriya Yoga to be speedy, scientific and practical? Or esoteric, secretive and mystical? Yes to both of course, a speedy, scientific and practical technique to learn, the practice of it introduces and opens up the awareness to esoteric secrets of the mystical. Liberating one from the daily trammels of one’s life it leads one unerringly towards the goal of yog sadhana- final liberation.
Author Kriyacharya Jyoti lives in Chandigarh.
To read by Yogiraj Siddhanath – Babaji: The Lighting Standing Still
To read about and buy by author – One Master, One Disciple A thrilling spiritual adventure
To read all articles by author on site (eSamskriti)
PART 2 soon to come…