Kriya Yoga - A bridge between the inner and the outer world
by Swami Janakananda
"In this context, however, the boundary between subject and object demands special attention. Any simple communication about our state of mind naturally implies a distinction between the content of our consciousness - and that background, which we loosely describe as 'ourselves'." (Niels Bohr)
Consciousness and Energy – The experiencer and the experienced
Can one overcome the limitations of the mind, and reach an insight that is not based on previous learning or that which one imagines, but which emerges from a fundamental and direct experience of consciousness and energy?
One of the most secret and advanced methods for such a transforming insight is called Kriya Yoga. For the time being, I will describe it as a sequence of deep reaching techniques for awakening and expanding consciousness and for strengthening the vital and psychic energy. Methods which create a harmonic balance between that which you experience and you who experience it, in all the various dimensions of your being.
Kriya means process and is a concept which encompasses many things in yoga. The word is used for the cleansing processes "Hatha Yoga Kriya" and as an attitude and a discipline in Raja Yoga. Even Ajapa Japa (see the previous article on the Source of Energy) is sometimes called Kriya Yoga. None of this, however, should be confused with the advanced Tantric Kriya Yoga or Kriya Kundalini Yoga.
But I will start by beating around the bush and tell a "story" about this yoga's traces in the earth's past:
The snake and the eagle
In ancient Egypt, two symbols can be found, the snake and the eagle. We also find them in the American Indian culture, but here they are sometimes coupled, so that the snake is held by the eagle (fig. 2), or they have merged into one being: The feathered snake Quetzalcóatl.
These symbols are often represented by local wildlife, "the eagle" can also be a falcon, a vulture or a condor. The snake is not always a cobra but can, for example, be a rattlesnake.
The Egyptian Pharaohs' rule of many thousands of years was, without a doubt, built upon a fundamental knowledge of psychic energy and an expanded consciousness, that is, of prana and kundalini and the resulting psychic abilities.
In Mexico, in the Maya, Olmek and Zapotek cultures; in Ancient India, in the urban cultures Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro of the Indus Valley; with the Druids, in the old Celtic culture, which stretched from southern Germany through France over Great Britain to Ireland, there were at that time leaders, who possessed great practical and worldly knowledge and spiritual and psychic power, matched with a deep wisdom, which was of benefit to their countries. The archaeologists today somewhat misleadingly call them priest-kings. These are cultures that had a high technological, material and spiritual level, and according to my research, a knowledge about yoga.
The snake and the eagle are depicted in several cultures, as a symbol of unity or as harmony between energy and consciousness, between the experiences and the one experiencing – here in a pre-Columbian sculpture from San Augustine in southern Colombia.
How the ancient Egyptians used their power from generation to generation, I cannot say - if one wants to be positive, then they have been enlightened guides to their people, who experienced a rich and long culture - a culture far older and more stable than any we know today. And it was not till after many thousands of years, after a period of decline, when the power passed from the original elite to the Greeks, beginning with Alexander the Great and ending with Cleopatra as the most well known rulers, that Egypt's days of glory, finally, were over.
The Pharaohs were part of an elite of so-called initiates. They didn't want the knowledge that they possessed, about the power and possibilities of man, revealed to just anyone - partly so that it shouldn't become diluted and be lost. Therefore, these initiates' abilities, and the means by which they gained their abilities and consciousness, were strictly guarded. Only a few, who proved to be worthy, were granted this knowledge, and the ones who disclosed it without fulfilling the given conditions, were often tracked down and punished with death.
An example of an initiate who possessed special abilities, is said to be Moses. He succeeded in breaking out from the inner circle to lead the Jews out of Egypt.
With the Celtic Druids, it was forbidden to write anything down about the secret meditations. They could only be learnt during silence and were passed on directly from the initiate to the aspirant.
To a certain extent, it was the same in India. However, no one has, to my knowledge, been killed, but perhaps excluded from further initiation and knowledge. In Tibet, we can see from Milarepa's life, that he had to go through a long and laborious training lasting more than twenty years, before the "secret" meditations, that he would later use in the solitude of the mountains, were granted to him.
How far back the history of this knowledge dates, is lost in the past, but judging from the symbols and graphic descriptions of meditating people in America, with the Celts and in Asia, it is a practise which has been known and used since prehistoric times.
It is not only yoga sculptures from central America and Celtic lands, or the knowledge about the chakras which the Hopi Indians possess, that shows this. With my personal knowledge of the deep meditations in the Tantric tradition I can, for example, from the Maya sculptures and paintings, tell that they have known of practises and states, which are closely related to the Tantric Kriya Yoga. The rulers knew how to awaken and make use of the power, so that they gained the resources necessary to do what they needed to do in a suitable and harmonious way.
The difference between the past and the present makes itself felt in many ways in our societies. Today, there is a greater personal freedom in many countries, a freedom to take a stand politically and maintain a democracy; from this follows a freedom to seek one's own attitude to life, and a freedom to take part in a knowledge, which earlier was reserved for the few. Naturally, it is not everybody who should use yoga and meditation - but for those who want to and are ready for it, the door is more open today than in any earlier time in our history on earth.
Outer and inner knowledge
Many symbols, having a common outer meaning, are at the same time, part of the initiates' language, which it has been possible to read and understand through thousands of years. Externally, exoterically, it is said, for example, that the upper and the lower Nile, the upper and the lower Egypt, are separately symbolised by two different crowns.
On many portraits of influential persons in Egypt, one sees a snake on the head of the person concerned, and the position of the snake's head is so that it looks forward from the eyebrow centre, a contact area for Ajna Chakra, the psychic centre in the middle of the head, often called the third eye (see further down the page).
The initiate's language
Not just symbols but also language were used to communicate the concealed to those who were ready for it and able to comprehend it. We know of such a secret language from the Tantric tradition in India. In Sanskrit, it is called sandhabhasa. In the Icelandic scriptures from the Vikings, the teachings of the Ases and even earlier the Vanes of the old North, this was called Launmál. In the ancient magical books of Iceland, runic forms called villurúnir (erring runes) were known to be used. They were coded runes designed to conceal their actual meaning. The Mayas also used a cryptic language. In fact, this phenomenon is found all over the world, where esoteric knowledge is hidden behind the double meaning of words and behind symbols. In Europe, there are certain folk tales - exciting tales on the one hand, but on the other they contain symbols which, behind it all, tell quite another story.
A rather wide-spread way of keeping this knowledge to the few was to circulate horror stories about it, and for this purpose, snakes - "the kundalini snake", dragons and the like were used. But at the same time, they also have the deeper psychological intention, that you can confront them and overcome your own fear and superstition, thereby causing less harm to yourself and others.
In short, we can say that the snake or the inverted triangle, or "Shakti" (that can both be a goddess and the name of the vital energy) stands for all that which is experienced. All experiences, all things, all beings, all that which I perceive through my senses and in my mind consists of energy. The eagle, on the other hand, or the triangle pointing upwards, or Siva (God or the symbol of consciousness) stands for the one who experiences, I, as consciousness and existence - that is, not as personality, occupation, sex or name, but as the experiencer of it. In his book Man and his Symbols Jung shows a coin from the middle ages, where Christ is represented as a human being on one side, and on the other side, as a snake on the cross, the Gnostic or esoteric meaning.
A person's unconscious radiation, determines his or her destiny *
The purpose of meditation and of Kriya Yoga is not trance or euphoria, but to have reserves of energy, clarity and total consciousness. One could also say strength, sensitivity and consideration - so that one's actions don't cause the harm, which ignorance, the random and unconscious, or inattention can do. This doesn't, however, exclude other kinds of expression such as dancing and music. When one comes out of the meditation, it is with sharpened senses and a body full of life.
There are many aspects to the psychic senses or centres, called chakras in the yoga tradition. Here, I just want to give you a glimpse of this by covering one small part of the interaction between energy and consciousness - a hint you could say. I will furthermore refer to my book, Yoga, Tantra and Meditation in Daily Life.
The interaction between energy and consciousness in the psychic centers
At Muladhara Chakra, the energy - the snake - is awakened to rise through the spine and unite with the consciousness - the eagle - in Sahasrara Chakra at the top of the head.
The snake is that reserve of energy which we need in the process of liberation to overcome all sluggishness, all habits and attachment to thoughts, emotions and actions. Therefore, the psychic symbol of Muladhara is an inverted red triangle, and inside this triangle is an egg with a snake coiled around it three and a half times.
Muladhara is one of the most important chakras, the chakra from which the energy reserves are gathered as the body and mind gradually become ready to receive it - for without energy there is no awakening.
In the relationship between consciousness and energy, we can, within yoga and meditation and especially with Kriya Yoga, talk about a real awakening of the chakras in the long term; and in the short term, a tangible improvement of one's clarity and ability to act. Today, there are certain commercial interests who, at first in the USA and later in Europe, have taken the idea of the chakras out of its context and used it without the required background and preparation. What they have come up with is often based on hypnosis, where they use the rainbow colours and a grotesque graduation of the chakras in a moralising and value-laden scale. What a shame to make people believe that this is all there is! These more or less imaginary experiences cannot be compared with a real awakening of energy and consciousness!
During hypnosis, consciousness is limited by the hypnotist's or the subject's own preconceptions, and its effect is of short duration; on the other hand, in meditation, I gain a new and greater alertness, an insight into possibilities, which I hadn't beforehand been able to imagine - not just unworldly or special experiences, but a fundamental activation and change of daily life.
When Swadhisthana Chakra is awakened by an increased energy level and greater awareness, one overcomes unconscious states and actions, and a development of one's personal creativity becomes possible.
At Manipura Chakra, the energy manifests itself in relation to the will and the penetrating power in one's actions. Gradually, as the chakras are awakened, consciousness is awakened in them. One can say that you open your psychic senses; through them, signals from different, normally unconscious areas are perceived, both signals coming from the world around you and signals that you send out yourself. In this way, one often knows what will happen ahead of time, and intuition as such is strengthened. At Manipura Chakra, one can also develop an ability to sense when there is danger before others are aware of it, or whether misunderstandings have arisen that evoke fear or anger, and in which situations to be careful. You can also send out warning signals yourself, which can have an effect no matter whether they are perceived consciously or subconsciously.
At Anahata Chakra, harmony arises - the first and fundamental result of real yoga - harmony between the experiencer and the experienced, symbolised by a yantra with two triangles, which form a six-pointed star. You are one with yourself as the one who experiences and no longer overcome by any influence or experience, neither do you react against them anymore. Everything is experienced independently without gripping fear or fascination. This is an experience that you acquire in meditation, an ability which develops and opens Anahata - an ability to feel other's deeper states and take them into consideration with the new insight into yourself.
Emotional states of others, even if they are not shown, are felt directly as they are in themselves. But the sensitivity in question is also one which allows a person to make previous experiences conscious and live through past emotions, when they are re-experienced spontaneously during the process of exploring life.
That energy which was bound up in emotional inhibitions is then transformed to free energy that furthers development and growth. This, however, has nothing to do with self-indulgence, an introvert search for old traumas or an agitated attempt to evoke emotions. You are not, as in many therapies, out to create any artificial crises that you then have to suffer from, risking losing ground in your growth.
At Vishuddhi Chakra, a fundamental cleansing takes place, physically and psychically - with certain kriyas in Kriya Yoga, one can impede the decaying process of the body and maintain a greater vitality, one can speak about a transformation. On the mental level, creativity is gained, which is based on an ability to experience without being blocked by personal ideas.
As we can act in life with both voice, arms and legs and perceive with our senses as a result of an interaction between our personality and our physical body - when the chakras are awakened, we find a similar interaction between consciousness and energy, which connects all the dimensions of our being in a harmonious and conscious communication. Therefore, different abilities are developed at the different chakras: at Vishuddhi Chakra for example an ability to, in some cases, protect oneself and others against danger. Abilities arise when one is aware and energy obeys consciousness.
Ajna Chakra is, like Muladhara, an important chakra. From here, the energy is managed and a harmonious balance is maintained in the different chakras as they unfold. In this way, we have in Ajna Chakra a superior control center, but also a chakra which can receive guidance from others who themselves have gone through this development.
At Sahasrara Chakra,unity between energy and consciousness arises, Quetzalcóatl, and freedom from limiting states and thoughts, unity with one's real identity, intense happiness, ananda.
In the next article, the subject of Kriya Yoga continues, with some of the following subjects: Where does Kriya Yoga come from? The use of Kriya Yoga from the Indian middle ages up to our days. What is Kriya Yoga? The balance between the inner and the outer life.
This the first article on Kriya Yoga, the second one is Kriya Yoga - to the depth of your nature
* Poul Martin Møller, a Danish writer "psychologist" and a kind of teacher to or influencer of Søren Kierkegaard.