On Sadhana -
on cycles in healing and learning, and on keeping Silence during the initiation in Kriya Yoga
by Swami Janakananda
I am not seeking to change
and no one needs to tell me
what to believe in.
Life to me is a gift.
My Sadhana is to be constantly able
to accept life as it is
and to receive it, as it comes.
Yoga and meditation are my tools.
To keep the transformation alive,
is all I want.
The Children of Yogi Goraknath
The mystic explores, works consciously with him/herself, and comes to know him/herself. Contrary to the philosopher or the preacher - who thinks and talks theory, without having experienced that which s/he teaches others (and with 'experience' I do not include the euphoria that anybody can work themselves into) - the mystic acts, seeks and finds.
Was it the fault of the mystic from the beginning that people would rather listen to a sermon or a prophecy than explore and experience reality? Was it because some mystics talked about their experiences (rather than teaching the methods that gave them insight) that prejudice, zealousness and censoriousness developed and were used against different-minded people? Or was it perhaps that later successors, in the third, fourth or fifth generation put up rules for how to become 'worthy' of the 'pure' teaching? Did they impart a parrot-learning, which hindered the individual from having deeper experiences, from obtaining insight and drinking "the water of life" (also called Amrit, Nectar, Ambrosia or Soma)?
Fervour and devotion are the finest marks of religion, and this it has in common with mysticism. However, did the organised religions teach co-operation and sensitivity towards others, or show consideration and understanding also towards those who have another view of life, another culture or faith? What does history tell us, and how does it look today? Isn't it tolerance, insight and individual experience we need, rather than people who patronise us?
One of the fundamental ideas of wisdom is furthermore expressed in the innermost teachings of the world religions – have no expectations: if you form a picture of the god or the deepest reality or call it by name, then you will not be able to recognize it when you stand in front of it. You will not be able to open yourself and receive the gift, the boon, the grace…
At a certain point in time, the individual reaches a stage on the path of evolution where understanding and knowledge from books and preachers is not enough anymore. Then the human being must, as a part of evolution, consciously intervene in his/her own development by using the available methods, by taking part in that experience which is passed on from one individual to another.
Here I should like to quote the well known writer and yogi Gopi Krishna:
"With all my heart, I wish that in the exploration of consciousness mystical tradition – not the methods of traditional psychology – were to be followed to bring a correct awareness of its evolution to the world. Intellectual dissertations, beyond a certain limit, would only lead to confusion and chaos in a province where first-hand experience is necessary to know the truth. Like the exploration of the sky, intellectual exercise can carry us only a short distance. After that, the use of the telescope becomes absolutely necessary for correct knowledge of the position. In the same way, for the study of the inner firmament, a dive into the depths of one's being is essential to know the reality."
Gopi Krishna lived in India, but even in India, there are 'yogis', who are so infatuated with the simplified, the popular and with explanations and holiness, that they don't look through the telescope of mysticism.
Throughout the history of yoga, the actual yoga has been kept alive by those yogis who have practised the exercises and used the meditations. Let me mention the master Goraknath. He is seen as one of the very greatest teachers, and is looked upon as standing side by side with Buddha and Patanjali. But he did not give people anything to dream about, no ideals, he pointed to action and consistency, when he was asked. Therefore, he did not become so well known among the masses.
Goraknath and other yogis were often succeeded by interpreters and writers of commentaries, therefore they were mistaken for philosophers and moralists. Those 'followers' were people who had not themselves sought advanced yoga and meditation, nor did they explore it by long and thorough use. They did not have the desire for transformation, for discovering the possibilities and the finer states, to discover the whole thing, the self. Instead, they came up with interminable explanations, where they idealised yoga and put forward unnecessary demands.
The yogi experiences, that yoga is transforming. No change of your temperament or your behaviour is necessary in advance, since, as a result of the use of Kriya Yoga, for example, a harmonisation happens in body and mind and thereby a change in your fundamental state takes place.
While moralists and philosophers demand understanding and ethics, as a precondition for beginning to meditate – while they slander and throw suspicion on people who think differently than themselves and start religious wars, then the common man begins to meditate, gets results and wonders what all the fuss is about.
If there is something that brings us closer to harmony and a natural ethic, like not tormenting our fellow beings – human beings as well as animals – it is a good and genuine meditation. But those guardians of morality who pass judgement on how other people live will not even hear this. They would rather live on pretence and mirror their own fear in whatever warnings they send out, than realise that the human qualities and the human genius can very well be strengthened as a result of the use of meditation.
Maybe, dear reader, you want to say that people would rather dream, hear about things and believe in tales, than tread the path themselves and experience the transformation. That they would rather torment themselves and others with feelings of inadequacy and frustrations stemming from not being able to live up to their own hopeful ideals, than really seek clarity and the experience of unity. And maybe you are right.
Ramakrishna told about a corridor in a house, where there were two doors at the end. On one of the doors there was written "heaven", on the other "lecture about heaven". When you looked at the floor in front of both the doors, the floor in front of the door that led into the lecture was worn through the varnish and way down into the floor boards. In front of the other door, the one to heaven, the varnish was as clean and fresh as the day it was applied.
Lectures, however inspiring they may be, remain lectures, second-hand knowledge and spiritual entertainment.
This is not only about the personality or the mind, or the body - but the essence, that which resides deeper, the soul, the self … When you reach your own essence, then you experience, at once, that you include it all and that all is part of the same whole. But if you only identify with a part of the whole, for instance the mind, then you lose it all. The German word: "Geist," signifying mind, originally meant: "that which scares the soul." The soul, the consciousness, that which you really are, forgets itself. Instead, it identifies with the content of the mind, with understanding, worries, plans, that which I have to do in a while, in a month, in a year, time, death and the dream of a life after this, another place. Then, it does not matter whether you call it resurrection or reincarnation. The door to heaven is called here and the key to it is called now.
"What is the greatest hindrance to self realisation?" a student asked me on the 3-month retreat this year. "Expectations of any kind," I answered. The mystic is present and attentive in everything he does – or strives to be. While others are busy inventing conditions and mythologies to follow and believe in, to 'understand' life and become 'worthy' of living it, the mystic sees through this and gets results using yoga. He knows that you do not have to be a perfect human being to make use of the tools of yoga. Such an idea only gives you a feeling of guilt and bad conscience, because no changes appear in the world of expectations.
This is not to say that there are not things that one has to be able to do and precautions to take into consideration, if one wants to undergo a transformation. And that I am also going to write about in this article.
Then, what are the merits of Goraknath? That he was never tempted to make himself look knowledgeable at the expense of others, to become a philosopher, prophet, or the like? That he did not sell yoga for morality or religion or the New Age? That he did not modify it, make it easier, shorter or lesser – so it lost its effect. No, he gave instructions, so people could have their own experience. He trusted that they were able to do that, because he knew what he was teaching. He sought and walked the path unasked. He knew the effects of yoga and its possibilities from personal experience.
Today, even doctors know that yoga works. In the British journal, The Lancet, there is a mention of the research done on Yoga Nidra in a PET-scanner that we described in one of our articles. It concludes:
Yoga is not a quick fix for health, but it may hold surprises for those who are willing to make the effort. (Kelly Morris)
On getting used to the light …
Sadhana - to consciously take part in your own maturing
"The term 'Sadhana' comes from the root 'Sadh,' which means to exert, to 'endeavour to get a particular result or Siddhi' [special ability] Sadhana is a means to attain the goal of human life. Without Sadhana no one can achieve the purpose of life." (Swami Sivananda)
For me, the yearly 3-Month Sadhana Retreat, the Kriya Yoga teaching, the work with the yoga teachers and the structure of Haa International Retreat Center, as an Ashram, is a great help to live an intensive life. This applies not only to my inner life, but to my communication and my encounter with other people. It is very much working in the midst of society. Here, I am part of a creative process together with the people who, for a period, have chosen to work with themselves. This interaction helps me wear off my edges and realise that my inner world is not the only one, but that each person represents a unique world of their own. They come from different backgrounds, with different potentialities and capacities.
The Tantric awareness training, which is both part of the teaching and of the daily life in the ashram, is a form of artistic work. For every artist and in every teacher-student relationship, it is about mastering your field and your instrument. Here, however, the instrument is the body, the mind and the personality – and it is about teaching yourself to actively participate in the creative process we call life.
We proceed step by step:
"The Yoga and meditation made me aware of the tensions, which had been sitting in my body and my mind for a long time. After all, the same crises returned again and again, but each time I got more adroit and better at handling them.
During a part of the course I experienced the blackest depressions, but at the most, for five minutes at a time. Before it had taken me months to go through the same. It was partly due to the wonderful Kriya Yoga and partly to the Tantric training."
(Synne, a student from Denmark, on the first 3-month Sadhana Retreat)
A three month retreat is a course of a very special nature. It is a Sadhana retreat. In a Sadhana, you make use of "that which leads to the goal". It includes everything which awakens your consciousness and keeps it awake, from the life together with a teacher, the use of methods, unselfish work and acts, to awareness training in daily life – and the three months gives enough time for this to take root.
During the three month Sadhana retreat, not only do you learn to use some of the most advanced yoga and meditation methods, like Kriya Yoga, Prana Vidya, Chidakash Dharana and advanced variations of Antar Mauna (Inner Silence), but - with the culmination of 33 days of silence – a real perspective grows forth.
This is truly an initiation. In certain respects, it is similar to what we know from the Vision Quests of the North American natives and from the Walkabouts of the Australian Aborigines – to spend one period (or several) in your life, taking a break from all outer influences, to be able to see better, both forwards and backwards, and, above all, to be able to rest in your self and awaken your inner resources.
Such a period also symbolises the daily meditation, that you can use later on to maintain that which you have achieved.
The urge to practice Sadhana for a period of time is deeply rooted in many people. To stop for a while and be free from the unbroken bombardment of information, news, advertising and media noise and, through Sadhana, to use concrete ways to seek and reach the innermost, the sincere and genuine. One day, you have had enough of thinking, reading, hearing and talking about well-being, energy, concentration and other states. Now you want to experience it yourself – to do something about it.
One might say that the urge to do Sadhana is a prerequisite in order to learn, for instance, Kriya Yoga. Kriya Yoga is not just something you collect, like, "I also want this."
One who wishes to learn Kriya Yoga is seeking more than just a mere method. He or she is seeking something immensely valuable, of which Kriya Yoga is only a part, and which is expressed in the word Sadhana – a transforming process which leads to the meeting with yourself.
In the East, there is a tradition that people go to Zen cloisters in Japan, to Buddhist cloisters in Thailand and to Indian ashrams to undertake training – which lasts for several months, yes, sometimes even years – at least once in a lifetime. They do it to create a foundation for their unfolding in life and to maintain a spiritual anchoring – to themselves and to the values which ensure a real quality of life.
They are people who are sincere, they do not do it because of conventions or because it is in fashion. They seek no compromises, neither outer theoretical knowledge nor diluted instant-methods to satisfy their curiosity – methods which have only short term effects or no effects at all. They seek an unavoidable situation, which has been prepared in such a way that you can meet your self, discover your capacities and realise your unity with the universal.
They do not travel from course to course, from guru to guru or only attend weekend courses. They know, that it is not possible in a short time or piecemeal to reach a real insight or initiation which lasts. They do not build their search on busyness, restlessness, 'easy' or 'new' solutions. That was never part of the timeless tradition of mysticism.
Nor do they overindulge their bodies or get obsessed by a mental/emotional narcissism or self-involvement, which you find today within certain branches of yoga and in certain therapies, where the body and/or thoughts and emotions are all – and where the self and a greater whole is not perceived.
The 3-month Sadhana Retreat is an indispensable part of the four year yoga teacher training which takes place at the Scandinavian Yoga and Meditation School. As the course is very comprehensive, yoga teachers with other backgrounds and training also participate in this retreat. They do it to go further as teachers and gain a better personal knowledge of yoga and meditation, but also to get their inner base in order.
What kind of people, both here in the south of Sweden, in the East and probably also in other places, decide to experience a real Sadhana period? They are people who want something with their lives. They are artists, actors, musicians and above all 'ordinary people' and – what is typical, especially for Japan, but also for us here in Sweden – managers from the business world and people from the field of science, medicine, politics and the media. What is it worth if you bring about something in life and don't bring yourself along?
"I also discovered that there was a difference between thinking something about something and really experiencing it and living it." (Synne)
It's great, I'm sure, to take a walk in the countryside and talk about how beautiful it is and what the trees are called, or to remember the name of the constellation of stars you see above you, among all other stars. But it is something else to be together with it all. To experience the fields, trees, houses, animals and all stars at once, as part of the same whole, as the all. Without talking about it, without describing it or giving it names - but to be in it and part of it – that state is called Brahmacharya – you are one with yourself and everything else. In the face of this experience, the mind becomes silent.
Is it sensational to keep silence?
A few years ago, it suddenly became headline news in the media that people from many countries come to our three month retreats to keep silence for 33 days. " The Whole World keeps Silence in Ljungby", Expressen, one of the major Swedish newspapers wrote on their placards. 'The news' spread like wildfire and newspapers and radio stations around the world focused on this one thing, the silence and that people paid money to be silent for about a month. That the silence was part of a larger context with all that went on at the retreat, e.g. yoga – relaxation – karma yoga – intestinal cleansing – dance – music – meditation and awareness training, apparently was less interesting.
"What news?" we thought to ourselves, while we welcomed the journalists and let ourselves be interviewed. We have, after all, run these courses for many years, and before us others have used silence for thousands of years, within yoga and elsewhere, also in the West.
The Rest is Silence
"From pure sensation to the intuition of beauty, from pleasure and pain to love and the mystical ecstasy and death – all the things that are fundamental, all the things that, to the human spirit, are most profoundly significant, can only be experienced, not expressed. The rest is always and everywhere silence."
(from Music at Night by Aldous Huxley, from the essay: The rest is silence)
To be silent while you learn yoga and meditation increases your ability to go deep and gives a more direct experience of everything.
The silence helps to remove deeply rooted tensions in the brain. When I don't have to defend or hold on to some opinion I express, when I don't have to explain or evaluate everything around me, then my mind will relax and open itself.
Since the more intellectual activities in the brain, like analysis, appraisal, reading, talking and writing take place especially in the left hemisphere of the brain, then the silence, together with the breathing exercise Nadi Shodan and the deep relaxation Yoga Nidra, contributes to a better balance in the brain. That part of the brain which deals with totalities, colour, form, music and emotion is allowed to play a role.
The openness enables our resolutions (which arise during this period unhindered by your own habits or the doubts and the faint-heartedness of others) to influence life from then on.
Together with yoga and meditation, the silence strengthens both the experience of one self, of other human beings and of the nature surrounding you.
"As the senses were sharpened the experiences in everyday life got stronger. Now and then I stopped and wondered: 'Is this possible'?" (Synne)
Silence is part of the courses at Haa
Silence, Mauna, is not Kriya Yoga in itself but an original condition for the initiation. You learn Kriya Yoga under complete silence. No reading, no writing, no talking.
On the 3-Month Sadhana Retreats, as mentioned before, you are silent for 33 days and on the one month courses for 21 days during the learning of Kriya Yoga.
On the 10 and 14 day courses, there is silence for 2½ days, while you learn the finer of the nine steps of the meditation Ajapa Japa. Curiously enough, it is often those who are going to be silent for 'only' 2½ days, who experience it more sensationally than those who have decided to be silent for a month. Probably, the participants are prepared to be silent for a longer period of time, but this is also due to the thorough preparation we give them during the first five weeks of the three month course. Here, among other things, they learn, at greater depth, the meditation and yoga methods usually taught on the 14 day courses, and we have even more time to go deep and get used to the practice. So when we begin the long silence, the body is well trained and fit and the mind more concentrated and peaceful.
"We became more sensitive towards each other in the group, there was a greater affection present among us, but also our clashes were more strongly experienced." (Synne)
You experience each other more clearly during the silence than when you talk all the time. You are more fundamentally present for each other.
As a rule, people discover that there are other ways to communicate. However, not in a way that you are constantly playing pantomime for each other.
All the energy you normally spend in talking, is preserved and channelled by yoga. Thus, you rest more in yourself and misunderstandings do not arise so easily. This is also important in the relationship to the teacher and the teaching.
Also, there are those who experience that their intuition has become clearer from the silence and the meditation together.
The mind is left in peace
"It is, literally, as if an armour has been removed, so I have a more direct contact with the life that exists around me, with light and air." (Synne)
Haa International Retreat Center is situated in the countryside of Southern Sweden about 25 km from Ljungby, the nearest town. It is an area with a great variety of nature - forests, fields, lakes and a river, with plenty of opportunities for horse riding, walks and canoeing.
The surroundings of the Retreat Center, therefore, are quite peaceful. Also, there are no shops, no newspapers, no radio or TV and during the silence the students' mail is kept aside. The teaching and the whole set-up however give you enough to do and experience. You do not get bored.
When the outer stimuli and influences lessen, when restlessness and self-indulgence diminish with the help of yoga and the meditations, and with your own desire to move in this direction, then inner and outer awareness is strengthened.
"After my first 33 days of silence I regretted that, although I had not talked at all, I had not been truly silent. I knew I had foregone a very precious opportunity. On subsequent courses, I have grown to appreciate the silence even more." (Robyn Taylor from Queensland, Australia)
Life receives a richer dimension (quality instead of quantity). This is one of the reasons that Kriya Yoga is taught during a long period of unbroken silence. The longer the silence lasts, the more the brain relaxes and that strengthens the ability to perceive even very fine things.
Now the student can, in quite another way, receive the subtleties in the teaching and learn what he or she needs. When you do not talk together, you don't disturb each other with another concept or a grandiose description. It is one's own experiences that count and that is the best. Every one in this way is equal. From here you go deeper.
When Kriya Yoga is taught as an initiation with all conditions in order - as we shall see in the second part of the article - and not as a hurried and busy mechanical teaching, then it can contain things, which can only be perceived or become possible during a long period of silence.
This sensitivity and awareness does not arise, or can even be lost, if you talk it all away and let opinions and judgement stand in the way of insight. Therefore, the learning period itself contains very little or no theory and explanations - so the teacher is in this way rather silent. Through his instructions and his guidance, he intends to give the student a direct experience.
The Retreat and the Pyramid
At the Retreat Center in Haa, we have an isolation tank built according to the ideas and instructions of Dr. John C. Lilly. Added to that, it is comfortably big, extra sound proofed and has the form of a pyramid. Here, an environment has been created, where the sense impressions are minimal. You don't hear or see anything, you lie completely still and float on the back in body-warm saline water. The water carries you so you hardly feel the gravity, the air is well ventilated and the temperature is stable.
When the mind does not get any new impulses through the senses for a while, it calms down. No "new" thoughts arise. The mind gets time to empty itself and is strengthened to meet future influences with composure and perspective. After an hour in the pyramid, you come out in a state of strong and undisturbed calm.
This pyramid to me is a symbol for what has been called many names, i.e. a retreat, "pax", a Sadhana course. The silence and the lack of distractions in and around the Retreat Center is necessary, if you are to calm down and go deep confidently with the methods we use.
The Length of the Silence and the Initiation
A biological cycle
We are used to machines carrying out our commands immediately, at the press of a button. Sometimes we compare our brains with computers. Most of us exist in a world of noise and automation. All the time, we hurry on to the next sense experience, the next task, next movie, next piece of music on the radio, next piece of news, next high.
Therefore, it is easy to forget that life unfolds itself according to organic laws, and that all takes time, like the cycles of the year, and the cycles of the moon.
Nothing in our nature can be forced and if we try anyway, then we may risk all kinds of consequences, from a strong shock, to reaction, disharmony, frustration or complete indifference, because we find nothing and reach nothing of what we are actually looking for.
You can't buy Kriya Yoga - what you pay, apart from accommodation, food and the space you have reserved on the course, is making it possible for us teachers to be there for you, and for this situation or ashram to be available.
In North and Central Europe and North America, you can just walk into a shop or a railway station, and demand what you want, as long as you pay for it. In a number of southern and eastern countries, this cannot be done. You have to give the human being on the other side of the counter your attention.
I have seen a European having to give up trying to buy a box of matches in a little shop in Israel. It was impossible for him not to treat the shop owner as a slot machine. I have seen an American at the railway station in Delhi getting near to breakdown as he, glowing hot and red in the face, just kept demanding things without any respect for the person sitting on the other side of the hatch. And it does not help to pretend, you have to be present yourself.
We don't know what we have missed - no matter how much we pay, no matter how many courses we sign up for, no matter how many journeys we embark upon - because we never really experienced it, we did not have the time. After all, there was something else that we had to do afterwards, tomorrow, after the retreat, next summer, next winter, when we get better conditions…
We forgot to live, while we did it.
Therefore, we try to choose easy solutions – quick solutions – diluted solutions, that do not come up with a real challenge, but just a taste, a flirt, an interest – and our preconceived ideas stand in the way of us learning something new.
In other words, if we don't follow our biological cycles, we risk missing the target.
Seven years is one kind of biological cycle, I have learned. During that time, the idea is that the body changes all cells, apart from some nerve cells. Also, there are cycles of twelve years and twenty years.
Apart from observing silence for longer periods of time during a course, here are some ideas for daily life:
"They have a notion that when people are met together, a silence does much improve conversation: this I found to be true; for during those little intermissions of talk, new ideas would arise in their thoughts, which very much enlivened the discourse."
(About the Yahoos, from Gullivers Travels by Jonathan Swift.)
Keep silence every now and then together with others, for example at dusk. This is an old tradition in Scandinavia, among other places. An exert from The Twilight Hour – a time to be:
"In the spring and in the autumn, we children used to play outdoors after the evening meal. I remember coming boisterously into the living room where my parents sat silently in the dusk. My disturbing them wasn't popular, also not at the home of friends when their parents sat like that."
And then, of course, the obvious: Don't talk about unimportant things which make you and others forget your presence in the now.
Gossip can also be cut away, and the eternal judging: positive-negative, wonderful-terrible. You can complete the list yourself if you want to waste the time.
When I came home from India in 1970, I met many Danish yoga teachers with a long experience of teaching. They called a person who talked too much a "prana eater".
(Prana = Vital Energy).
21 days is also a cycle, that is the time it takes for the body to establish the healing process. The proteins for instance are renewed within 21 days and so is the outer layer of the skin. Not only is the body part of this process, the mind also – consciously or unconsciously – needs time for change and adaptation.
When I learned the Kriya Yoga from Swami Satyananda, it took about 33 days, apart from the preparation that preceded it, as well as the period following it, to digest what had been learned, where you got used to practising the different Kriya Yoga programs under conducive conditions. He took time to honour those conditions, which he said were part of the tradition. For instance, every kriya has to be learned in a certain sequence, the instructions have to be repeated a certain number of times and, with most of the kriyas, you only learn one new kriya a day, while you 'warm-up' with those already learned, and end the sequence with a certain meditation which is used during the learning period.
There are said to be other cycles than those mentioned above, so called biorhythms, 33 days for the intellectual cycle, 28 for the emotional cycle and 23 days for the physical cycle.
So, it is important that this kind of initiation takes place over a period where you can live through these cycles. Therefore, the shortest Kriya Yoga retreats are one month, and the longest three months, with 33 days of silence.
We are not machines, but living, organic beings. As the life of a flower, from seed to full blossom, can be described as a cycle where all phases take their time to unfold; so, the best learning of Kriya Yoga is ensured during a complete cycle of around 33 days of silence.
On the one month courses, only those people come who have been well prepared in advance after participating on a 10 or 14 day course and who therefore have meditated before – so the body and the mind can better absorb what they learn - and the energy can go through the cleansing that is involved when learning the 24 kriyas I teach.
Many things are legitimately called kriya within the yoga tradition, for instance, the Hatha Yoga Shatkarmas or kriyas, the physical cleansing processes. Also in Raja Yoga, Patanjali has some disciplines that he calls kriya yoga, which, however, are more of a disciplinary mental nature and have nothing to do with the Tantric Kriya Yoga. The meditations we teach on the 10- and 14-day courses, the Source of Energy and Ajapa Japa, are preliminary Kriya Yoga, and by some teachers they are also called kriya yoga. Concerning the cleansing processes, they are a natural part of our courses; among other things in preparation for the great Tantric Kriya Yoga.
On one of the first three month courses I taught, one day toward the end of the silent period, I had to go down to Copenhagen together with our cook. When we came off the ferry, I started to wonder about the facial expressions of people, they seemed hard. It made me ask my companion whether there was a crisis going on or what? We did not find any explanation then and there. But when we came back to the students at Haa Course Center, we realised that we had grown used to the soft faces gradually acquired by the people on the course. The silence and the yoga had relieved them of the conscious or unconscious need to hold on to a mask.
It became clearer to me which things inhibited me in every day life. For instance, my worrying about how I looked. After all, I also judged other people in that way. I began to realise how much easier it would be if I took it more naturally. (Synne)
For the mind to open and become receptive to the deeper kriyas - and to be able to perceive what happens behind the instructions - since Kriya Yoga is not taught with words alone – for the mind to let go of its content (of habitual thoughts, limiting states, attitudes …) and for this ability to last, the silence must be as long as possible. It takes time for the mind to get used to taking it easy and to going deep, and to really experience all nuances in the teaching and in life - in this situation, here and now.
"In one of the Upanishads it is said that atman or spirit is homogeneous silence. How do you experience this? Not by the sensory or psycho-emotional communications, but by tuning yourself into silence. This is what you must do to experience the process of transmission. You don't have to become rigid at all and you don't have to put on that serious 'Sunday face'. Be as bright and as natural as you are. The barrier is not in spirit, because spirit is one. The barrier is in man's mind. Once you surrender this personal mind, then the mind becomes homogeneous and is called the cosmic mind." (Swami Satyananda)
You can compare the period of silence and the Kriya Yoga initiation to a meditation - it will never get deep if it is short. It is about slowing down and reaching a calmness, where the mind is given time to think, time to let memories come forth, to dare to be creative and to get a general view - and time to let go of the thoughts and 'experiences'.
"During the 33 days of silence, I realised that Swami Janakananda did not just want to teach me something, he wished to give me the opportunity to explore dimensions of my being that I hadn't been aware of before." (Morten Jon Jepsen)
Antar Mauna, the inner silence - a Tantric meditation technique
From a meditation in one of my classes:
"It is important that you don't explain to yourself why you have an experience. During the silent period of this course, I am sure that you have experienced different emotional states. Probably, you also had a reason to have these experiences. But to know the reason does not help you here. It is your ability to be content with experiencing what happens in your emotional and mental life which counts. By not making up your mind for or against anything, by not reacting, you can stay with the experience until it has exhausted itself.
This course is composed in such a way that it mirrors the way you react and how you experience things. It will constantly show you where you forget yourself. When do you end up in self-indulgence instead of being present in what you do, think and feel – and how do you find your way back to the direct experience from the essence of your being?
When you meditate, and that is what we are doing right now, then of course you can avoid the naked experience all the time by explaining to yourself, why you have this thought or emotion and what it is about. Of course, there are situations in life where you need analysis and making up your mind about things. But here, you are silent! You confine yourself to experiencing the thought. Then it stops being something that influences you automatically. It loosens its grip and you don't have to take it for granted anymore, you don't have to follow it blindly. You are able to see it, purely and simply, as just a thought.
It is not necessary to tell yourself, or me, or anybody else why you have this feeling of hatred, this reaction, or why you feel this hope or this intense joy! Settle for the experience alone. Let it be. This is important.
During the meditation no analysis is taking place. No understanding either. And if your mind becomes analytical here, you don't try to stop it. You again look at it as just another thought. Let things come and go. Feel them, see them, taste them, smell them ... That is all.
With the experience that 'I experience this', 'I accept this', you free the fetters of the mind. And when you have let go of things you don't need anymore, then there is no reason to look back for them. When you are finally rid of your headache, then you don't search for it again so you can find it and get it back.
The meditation teaches you to allow and accept these emotions or thoughts. You let go unconditionally, with no resistance and without wanting to pursue them afterwards – you get time to experience them, you are allowed to feel them and experience them. You have a choice, you need not pursue your thoughts and emotions, and therefore they do not create any unwanted consequences in your life.
So, if you suddenly feel hate, feel hate! If you live through this hate in your meditation, it will not drive you to act afterwards. No, it is the things we don't allow ourselves to feel, or that we feel without knowing that we do or that we explain away, that make us behave unreasonably towards others – and towards ourselves.
Therefore no understanding, no explanation, no justification during the meditation. Settle for the best: Experience and let go!"
For the student who understands how to use the silence on the course, it can, in connection with the meditation Antar Mauna, become rich and fruitful – also in the long run.
"During the silence, I felt that I wanted to say stop to certain thoughts. These were thoughts that seemed to me that I had only by the force of old habit – there was not really anywhere in me where they could get a hold. 'Stop' I said, like in the fourth step of Antar Mauna. It is a wonderful feeling, for instance during a walk, 'stop!'" (Anna, a student from Sweden, on a three month retreat)
A basic requirement for using Kriya Yoga, is to be be familiar with the practice of the techniques that are included in the seven steps of the meditation Antar Mauna (Inner Silence). They are fundamental in this work. Read more about this in, Harmony between the Experiencer and the Experienced and in the following text of this article. Supplement it with, On the Ability to Experience and The Twilight Hour - a time to be and the text on Antar Mauna in the descriptions of the retreats at Haa International Retreat Center.
The silence, together with the meditation Antar Mauna and supported by the Kriya Yoga, shows you the 'place', your self, from where you experience. In the beginning, it comes as a glimpse, and by practice it gets more and more steady. A state, a place to return to again and again, to be, to rest and restore the fundamental harmony in body and mind.
From here, I gaze upon life:
Life changes constantly, but here nothing changes. Here is still, here IS – silence, the background on which life unfolds.
- after the retreat
After the silence, the effects also show themselves when the influences are launched again. The inner strength lasts longer, when the silence has had its full length, and if the course has been long. It goes without saying that students from a three month course feel it the most, but also people from a one month course experience an unmistakable effect.
"When I came home [from the three month course], I suddenly realised how much information you are engulfed by every day. The advertising, also, was overbearing" he says.
The surroundings saw him in a new light.
"My father and my fiancée said that I had become calmer, happier and more harmonious. I have always had a nervous nature, but after the course it has become more difficult to throw me off balance."
"During the course, you get all your habits and automatic thought patterns broken at a single blow …" says Christian Frøkjær Thomsen … Today seven years later, he has found a balance between yoga and his job as a medical doctor at an alcoholics out-patients' clinic.
(Quotations from an article by Thomas Bjerg Mortensen in the Danish newspaper Berlinske Tidende 12.5.1995)
A tool in the mystic search and realisation has always been seclusion (and therefore silence). Apart from India, for instance in the desert in the Middle East, in the mountains of Tibet and in Catholic monasteries, like one you find nowadays on the island Bornholm in Denmark, where monks in white robes are always silent.
A large group of Quakers, after sitting in silence for three days on the East coast of the USA, agreed upon where they should go as settlers. The Quakers have silent church services.
My friend, the painter Sohan Qadri, grew up in Punjab in India. One day, when he was young, he had to go from his village to another, which was about a day's walk away. He had had the route explained, but knew that he would probably have to ask for directions when he reached a village which was situated about half way.
When he reached the village, however, it had become noon and everyone was asleep, so he decided to try and find the way himself on the other side of the village.
On his way out of the village he saw an old man in the distance coming towards him. "Well, I can probably ask him," he thought, but as he approached the man he lost the desire to ask him and passed him without doing so.
A little bit later, he arrived at a cross-road, and since there were no signs, he had to give up and return to the village to ask for directions. The first house inside the village was a bicycle shop. The midday break was now over so he entered the shop and asked a young man there for directions.
While they talked, he saw the same old man sitting in the yard. "Now, it suddenly strikes me that I passed that old man who is sitting in there," Sohan told the bicycle man. "But I could not ask him for directions, isn't that odd?" "No", said the bicycle man, "it is not, he is my father, he is a Muni, he is observing silence (Mauna) ".
Illustrations: Both the photos of Swami Janakananda and the pictures of the conches are done by the artist Ingela Hageman, Sweden © 1997, 1998. Head of eagle, PhotoDisc inc. Flying eagles, Corel PhotoCD.
Haa International Retreat Center
The Three-month Sadhana Retreat
The One-month Kriya Yoga Retreat
The next article in this series is:
The Greenhouse, the Process and the Ritual - On initiating and being initiated in advanced Kriya Yoga