Thursday, June 11, 2009
Kriya in the Upanishads
Already in the ancient Upanishads we find Kriya or something very similar to Kriya mentioned as the path to divine Union. The Mundakopanishad has it that: "dhanur grihitvaupanishadam mahaastram sharam hy upaasaainishitam sandhayiita, aayamya tad-bhaava-gatena cetasaa lakshyam tad evaaksharam somya viddhi "pranavo dhanuh sharo hy aatmaa brahma tal-lakshyam ucyate apramattena veddhavyam sharavat tanmayo bhavet" "Seize the bow, the great weapon of the Upanishads, Fix the arrow sharpened through meditation, Stretch it (the bow) through the mind directed on the existence of That, and hit, O dear one, the Imperishable as the target. "Om is the bow, the arrow is the mind, Brahman is said to be its target. It is to be shot by one who is unflinching. Like an arrow he should remain one with it." To all practitioners of Kriya it will be very clear what is meant here. The following is a humble commentary elucidating in hints the various phases. Seize the bow, the great weapon of the Upanishads The bow is Om, the mystical syllable, the sound-manifestation of the Divine. Om is the BrahmaMantra, the Mantra of the Supreme. Yogis use Om in their Kriya. Om is the nucleus of their meditation. It is the spontaneous flow of joy emanating from the divine sound Om which is the aim of the Yogi's Sadhana. Almost every Kriya is an Om-Kriya, a Kriya involving Om. Without Om Kriya is empty of substance. Why is Om said to be the ‘aupanishada mahaastra’, the great weapon of the Upanishads? It is ‘of the Upanishads’ because the Upanishads first revealed its glory. Naturally the glory of Om, the reality of Om, is timeless, but the Upanishads revealed it. In the Kathopanishad we read:
"sarve vedaa yat padam aamananti, tapaamsi sarvaani ca yad vadanti, yad icchanto brahmacaryam caranti, tat te padam sangrahena braviimi - om ity etat" "That Word which all the Vedas proclaim, which all spiritual disciplines herald, desiring which they follow spiritual life, that Word I shall proclaim to thee in short - it is Om." So Om is the way as well as the goal. Why is Om called the Maha-Astra, the great weapon? Because surrender to Om, meditating on Om, doing Kriya with Om, destroys all limitations and brings the mind into the higher realm. All the Cakras are harmonized by the help of Om. The heart-knot is pierced with Om. Lahiri Mahashay explained Astra, weapon, as Pranayam. If Pranayam is Astra, then Om or Nada is the Maha-Astra, the great weapon. These two weapons are enough to bring us to perfection. Fix the arrow sharpened through meditation To translate Upaasanaa as meditation is not so accurate. Upaasanaa means all kinds of spiritual activities: Mantra, Kriya, devotion, study, self-inquiry and so on. What are these for? They are for sharpening the arrow of the mind. If the mind is not sharpened, it cannot dive into the ocean of the Divine. In the first stages of Kriya the Yogi learns to sharpen the mind. A silent mind is a sharp mind. Sharp mind does not mean a mind that can simply concentrate well. It means a mind that can pierce through the countless layers of ignorance. And that is best done through stillness, through pure silence. Then, when the mind is sharp, it is ‘shot at God’. Stretch it (the bow) through the mind directed on the existence of That To stretch Om means to do the respective Kriya. It can also mean Paravastha, when the Om-sound is totally clear and mind is totally concentrated on Kutastha, divinely enchanted by Kutastha. ‘tad-bhaava-gatena cetasaa’, ‘the mind or consciousness gone to the Bhava, the existence, of That’. This shows the mental state necessary for doing the Kriya. Because the mind or consciousness is so pure - and this is related to the harmony of breath that the Yogi has developed - there are no more hindrances. The Kriya brings him directly to the innermost being, the inner realm. And hit, O dear one, the Imperishable as the target. "dvaav imau purushau loke ksharash caa'kshara eva ca ksharah sarvaani bhuutaani kuutastho'kshara ucyate" "There are two kinds of persons in this world: the perishable and the Imperishable. The perishable are all these beings. The Imperishable is the Kutastha." These are the words of Lord Krishna in his divine Song, the Bhagavad Gita. So it is clear what is meant by Imperishable. The mind is ‘shot’ into Kutastha. Naturally this is a process, not a hysterical event. Like an arrow he should remain one with it This is the higher Paravastha when mind has fully merged with Kutastha and the Advaita-Bhava, the non-dual experience takes place. This is Self-realization.
First Steps in Yoga - The Five Yamas
Our Master once told an old story: "Many hundreds of years ago there was a young student of Yoga. His daily meditation was always inspiring and he was quite satisfied with himself. However, he had not yet experienced God. One day he went to his Master and asked him a question: ‘Master, how great does my devotion to God have to be that I can experience him?’ The Master told him to join him on a walk. They came to a lake. Suddenly the Master grabbed the disciple's head and pushed it in the water. After two minutes the young disciple started getting no air. But he didn't resist, because he knew that his Master was very wise and that even this strange act would have some meaning. But then it became unbearable. He was about to loose consciousness when the Master released his grip. The disciple gasped for air. After regaining his composure he asked the Master about the meaning of the event. The Master told him: ‘Look, my dear. When you shall be gasping for the vision of God, for the experience of the Divine, just as you were gasping for air - then He will reveal himself to you.’"
What is Yoga?
Every attempt to live life deeper, every attempt, however small it may be, to see and understand things a little deeper, is a form of Yoga. Everyone more or less or from to time ascends to a higher understanding, so every human being is a potential Yogi. This simple fact is an underlying concept of Yoga. A Yogi thinks not that he is primitive and that the practice of some special techniques shall change this and make him something special. He simply acknowledges that by nature there is something special about him, that, in contrast to other forms of life, his existence is characterized by a thorough awareness - for only man clearly knows that he is - and he wants to discover this further, he wants to see and experience his own existence in a light more transparent, with a feeling more vast and real. The consequences of this search are that the Yogi begins to experience himself as a being beyond the idle fetters of the physical, as a ‘something’ distant from the limited vision of the ordinary person. He realizes the real thing in him, the vast thing in him, that which is truly valuable since it stands behind all values. And what is that? Himself. He realizes himself. Man has become so engrossed in his thoughts and feelings, in his relationships, work, day-to-day events, that he has forgotten himself. Everything that happens around us, everything that we experience, all problems, all joys, just everything, emanates from something. What is that something? Us. Yoga helps us to find us, the real us, our inner being, that in us which is the same in all. The movement, the progress, the search as a whole, is called Sadhana. The person searching is called the Sadhaka. One whose search has come to an end is a Yogi.
History of Yoga
First Forms of Yoga The roots of Yoga lie in the spiritual disciplines developed and practised by great sages and Yogis of India approximately 3500-4000 years ago. The first Yogic practices are seen in the Upanishads. Upanishads are a famous collection of Indian sacred Scriptures teaching the oneness of God, soul and world. They were greatly loved by the German philosopher Arthur Schoppenhauer. According to the Upanishadic sages God, the soul and the world are one and the same existence-principle. They are in truth not different from each other; it is merely a veil of ignorance that makes it appear so. When this veil is removed, the soul experiences itself as the one nucleus of everything, as the cosmic consciousness, as an existence beyond time and space, beyond all limitations. This concept of oneness, by the way, has stayed alive almost unchanged for thousands of years, and most forms of Eastern spirituality have sprung form it. As an example we would like to show you the following verse possibly describing an ancient form of Yoga. It belongs to one of these highly philosophical and sacred texts having the name ‘Upanishad’: "A wise man should offer his speech into the mind; the mind he should offer into the knowledge-sphere; that he should offer into the vast sphere; and that he should offer into the peace-sphere." - Katha Upanishad No one who is not a Yogi can perceive the exact meaning of this verse. Why? Because the sage who spoke it was doing so from the heights of his own spiritual consciousness. Only one who reaches those heights can see what exactly he means. To offer speech into mind could be a Yogic technique, for example to be silent, not to speak. This technique is called Mauna. It helps the mind calm down and turn more inwardly. To offer the mind into the knowledge-sphere could mean simply to let thoughts rest in the consciousness from which they emanate. In Yoga thoughts are considered tiny rays of the one sun of consciousness. Instead of letting those rays pass into and loose themselves in the jungle of the mind, the sage lets them rest in their source. The vast sphere is the sphere beyond the individual consciousness. The sage goes deeper and deeper; he passes beyond the limitations of the physical and the mental, and enters a sphere of vastness, a sphere of freedom. Yet even this sphere is not the ultimate. He passes on and then takes the ‘stepless step’: he realizes his true being, which is pure silence, absolute peace, which is beyond time and space. Naturally this is merely an interpretation. We cannot know in full what the sage means. And yet, since Yogic progress is characterized by similar experiences, it could be that the sage was in fact a Yogi, one of the first proper Yogis in the history of mankind. Raja-Yoga The first real form of Yoga was called Raja-Yoga. ‘Raja’ means ‘king’. Raja-Yoga was first structured by a Yogi called Patanjali. He is famous for his Yoga-Sutras. The Yoga-Sutras are a set of
small instructions on the nature of Raja-Yoga, Raja-Yogic practices etc. They are available along with translations in several languages and you can obtain them in any spiritual bookshop if you wish to know more about Raja-Yoga. In short, a Raja-Yogi uses his power of concentration to enter the divine Sphere. He concentrates as hard as possible on an object and lets his entire consciousness become merged in it. This merging is called Samadhi. More about other forms of ancient Yoga shall be presented later.
Theory of Yoga
Stages Every kind of Yoga is characterized by a common feature: it is structured into stages. Raja-Yoga, Hatha-Yoga, Kriya-Yoga - all are structured into stages. It is very important for a Yogi to know all of these, to practise all of them, and most of all, to perfect all of them. For example, a Kriya-Yogi who practises only the Kriyas, the techniques, of the higher stages, shall not benefit much from them. Why? His being is not at all tuned to them. He is in no way ready. Similarly, a Raja-Yogi who tries to practise the higher forms of his Yoga will fail drastically if the mind is not mature. There is a verse in Sanskrit, the ancient language of India: "paripakvam mano yeshaam kevalo'yam ca siddhidah" "This - the path of Yoga - is only beneficial to those whose minds are mature." The Stages of Raja-Yoga Raja-Yoga is the first proper form of Yoga. Consequently, many elements of Raja-Yoga are still used in the later approaches. A thorough study and understanding of the basic elements of this ancient Yoga will greatly benefit the newly aspiring Yogi of any approach. Therefore let us understand these basic elements. Raja-Yoga is also famous by the name of ‘Ashtanga-Yoga’, lit. ‘Yoga having Eight Parts’. This is so because the Yogi following this path passes through eight stages. They are: 1. Yama, Virtues of Self-Control 2. Niyama, Virtues of a Regulated Life 3. Asana, Meditation-Posture 4. Pranayama, Control of the Prana, the life-force 5. Pratyahara, Withdrawing the Senses 6. Dharana, Concentration 7. Dhyana, Meditation 8. Samadhi, Absorption We shall now elucidate the first of the eight stages. Yama, Virtues of Self-Control
The word ‘yama’ is made from the Sanskrit root ‘yam’, which literally means ‘to control’. Accordingly it basically just means control. However, the sage Patanjali, the founder of Raja-Yoga, chooses this word as the title of a group of five great disciplines. These are: 1. Ahimsa, Non-harming 2. Satya, Truth 3. Brahmacarya, Conserving the Life-force 4. Asteya, Non-stealing 5. Aparigraha, Non-possession What is Ahimsa? Ahimsa means not to harm anyone, in body, speech as well as mind. It is an attitude of kindness and love towards all. Every kind of aggression is abandoned and the Yogi becomes very peaceful innerly. The sage Patanjali says that the result of Ahimsa is that in the presence of the Yogi all kinds of aggressions are abandoned. The Yogi shall never have any problems. And it is really true. There is a Yogi we know. Once a woman was very angry on him due to some reason. She came to him in great fury, but the moment she stood before him her heart melted. She just couldn't be angry anymore. She had to smile because she couldn't create the anger. How can we learn to follow Ahimsa? First we can abandon physical and vocal Himsa, which means we consciously do not hurt others with whatever we do or say. It is a very powerful discipline, especially if it is done very consciously. A great inner confidence and happiness arises even when it is practised just for a few days. Try it. A kind of love will come up from the soul, from very deep down. Already 2500 years ago Buddha preached and practised Ahimsa. It was his only real teaching. No one would ever have any aggression or aggressive feelings in his presence. So, a Yogi, whether he be a Raja-, a Hatha- or a Kriya-Yogi, consciously develops that inner love, that inner attitude of peace and calm strength. What is Satya? Satya means to be truthful to oneself and to others, both in thoughts, in speech and in actions. This is the most important of all the Yamas, of all the virtues that a Yogi develops and follows. Mahatma Gandhi, a great Indian politician, was able to do great works merely because of the power of his truthfulness. He would never tell a lie. There are several aspects involved. Firstly, by telling lies the character becomes unclear, it is no more able to see or accept things as they are. A kind of veil comes over the whole mind. Secondly, if we go a little deeper into the subject, to be untruthful also to oneself, to make a show of things innerly as well as outerly, is very silly. We can never reach anywhere if we are not truthful to ourselves. So, if we seriously wish to achieve a higher understanding, a deeper knowledge, then we must consciously be truthful to ourselves. Thirdly, by being truthful, outerly, innerly, in all aspects, the faculty of intuition is greatly stimulated. The Sadhaka, the spiritual aspirant, becomes capable of knowing things which a normal person cannot know. His inner eye becomes connected to the cosmic knowledge, the cosmic truth, and he begins to know things from within. That is one of the greatest virtues of truthfulness. Moreover, a person who is always truthful is loved and trusted by all. In the presence of such a person we automatically feel sheltered and safe. Let us try to very consciously speak the truth just for two weeks. Every word that comes from the mouth should be exact and in accordance with what is. A great inner power shall arise.
Swami Vivekananda, the famous sage who spread the wisdom of the East in America in the 19th century, had truthfulness as his power. Whatever he spoke came from the innermost corners of his being, directly from his heart. Accordingly it was filled with a great power. What is Asteya? ‘a-steya’ literally means ‘non-stealing’. It seems to be a very simple rule for a Yogi to follow. However, a deeper scrutiny can enhance the meaning. Asteya means not only not to steal, but to remain complete in one's own heart. There is a verse in the Isha Upanishad indistinctedly yet beautifully describing the substance of this virtue: "All this, whatsoever moves or does not move in the world, is to be covered with the Divine. Enjoy by giving up. Do not desire anything, for whose is real wealth?" So, the virtue of Asteya is in a way connected to an inner feeling of satisfaction. And that satisfaction comes from Sadhana, from spiritual practice. Gradually the Yogi realizes that only the inner world, only the divine world, is really valuable, and he loses all proper interest in outer things. It is difficult to practise the real Asteya, but simply not stealing is a good virtue. One of the Ten Precepts (Gebote) of Jewish moral taught by Moses is also not to steal. What is Brahmacarya? ‘brahma-carya’ literally means ‘moving in Brahman, God’. Accordingly, it can also mean just an elevated state of mind in which the Yogi is aware of the Divine. However, in the Yogic context it means to conserve the vital energy by not engaging in excessive sexual activity. This is an important factor of spiritual life. The vital energy is closely related to the spiritual and mental energies. When a person lacks vital energy it is difficult for him to bloom in spiritual awareness. So, the Yogi controls in a reasonable way his sexual activity. He also lets his mental be totally free regarding sexual matters. He has no problem with anything and his being is saturated by a higher understanding. In detail, the Yogic tradition says that sexual intercourse once or at the most twice a month is healthy. Neither too much nor too little is good for the whole system. Otherwise the mind remains totally caught up in the physical. It understands only a part, not the whole. So, if we wish to understand the whole, if we wish to see truth, to live with and in truth, then we must conserve and use rightly our life-energy. What is Aparigraha? ‘a-parigraha’ literally means ‘non-possession’. A Yogi is not bound by the things he possesses. The most important treasure is always the own existence, the true existence, not the many things projected on it. Of course, a reasonable human being cannot let go of possessions. He cannot give up his house or car or even his clothes because he wants to become a Yogi. What the sage Patanjali wishes to tell is, if we let go from within, if we do not attach ourselves too much to the things around us but rather attach ourselves to the one great Truth in which everything rests, from which everything has come, then we can easily avoid problems. That is the meaning. So, the Yogi develops these five excellent qualities: he harms no one so that no one may harm him. He is totally truthful , so that truth he may see. He does not steal , which means, he is satisfied with what he has, satisfied with what God has given him. He conserves his life-energy , in order that his subtle consciousness can bloom. He does not attach himself too much to outer things , but lives in the outer from the vision of the inner.
Praxis of Yoga
Consequently, the first real practice that a truth-seeker follows is simply to develop these virtues:
- to harm none and have an attitude of simplicity and love towards all - to be truthful, to live in truth - to live in oneself, not in others - to conserve the energy of life - to attach oneself to the inner substance, not the outer. The most important of these virtues are the first two. And among these two, it is truthfulness that shines as the greatest of all. So, let us practise these virtues for only a few days. The results shall be immediate. Om
Kriya and Virtues
...So, my dear, just work on yourself, learn to become steady on all levels. When you become more and more centred in the Self - in the ‘I’-feeling when it is freed from the limiting personality - then Prana and these things are automatically refined and expanded. It all goes alongside. Development of love and broader vision has a great effect on Prana. The Prana becomes refined. You have seen the result of a method like Om-Kriya on your mother. Perhaps she hasn’t practised any yogic techniques in our sense, but she has perfectly developed her vision. That is why her energetic field is so refined and vast. There is always a special radiance on her face and in her eyes. So all these things go alongside. The practice of Kriya simply concentrates everything into the mystical experience. The Prana is refined systematically and very rapidly and then the human experience itself, the mental experience itself, is expanded and reaches dimensions unimaginable by the normal human being. This is the specialty of Kriya. But if one develops virtues like love and compassion alongside then the process goes much quicker still. One achieves ‘Godspeed’ as sweet Yogananda would call it So, I would advice you to practise the method twice a day: only for a short time in the morning, and for a little longer in the evening. Then your whole day is enveloped by Kriya-practice, is blessed by the gradual awakening of higher energies, higher potentials, perceptions, mystic experience... Om