Attending to the Self:
The Magic of Babaji's Kriya Hatha Yoga
by Durga Ahlund
OM KRIYA BABAJI NAMA AUM
This mantra has the power to
connect ones own heart to the heartbeat of the Universe. One cannot
speak of Babaji's Kriya Yoga without mention of this mantra. It
creates a direct line of communication with the "Divine Grace"
of the legendary Himalayan Siddha, Kriya Babaji Nagaraj. Just
as God cannot be seen with the physical eyes, but reveals himself
to His Devotees, so it is with Sathguru Kriya Babaji. Babaji shows
his physical form to so very few, but reveals Himself to all His
In the Fall of 1994, I attended an Introductory lecture and meditation
of Babaji's Kriya Yoga with Marshall Govindan. I had been practicing
yoga intensely for a decade, was staunch in my discipline and
was a collector/practitioner of techniques, but, when Mr. Govindan
intimately inquired to all of us assembled why we had come, I
didn't have an answer. What I did know was that I still suffered
periodically from melancholia stemming from an "emptiness,"
a knowing that something was missing. During the evening we were
introduced to the mantra, Om Kriya Babaji Nama Aum. We chanted
it in a call and response fashion. Tears rolled down my face as
we sang and a shock of light appeared at my brow. As I was registering
to attend the weekend seminar I told Govindan that the mantra
was the reason I had come that evening. He said, "Humm, then
why did you wait so long?" I said, "I'll ask Babaji,
I guess all comes in good time, right?" The practice of Yoga
has generally become synonymous with Hatha Yoga in the West, where
it is practiced primarily as a physical form of exercise. Many
Yoga practitioners eventually come to feel that there is something
missing in their practice. We may have begun to practice Hatha
.Yoga to become strong physically, to control the effects of stress
or to overcome a health problem. But the magic of Yoga is that
as we fulfill one need, another unfulfilled need arises, and always
there remains "something missing." With our practice
of Yoga we gradually grow aware and conscious of what we are missing.
There are so many schools of yoga in the west, but few traditions,
and even fewer which bring about an integral development of the
whole person, fulfilling our needs at all levels, as does Babaji's
Kriya Yoga. It is a comprehensive practical discipline, an open-hearted
approach, to practice yoga and to living life. It flows directly
from the southern Indian Siva Yoga Siddhantam tradition developed
by the 18 Tamil Yoga Siddhas primarily during the period of 200
to 1200 A.D. Kriya Babaji Nagaraj developed his "Kriya Yoga"
from the techniques and teachings of this 18 Siddha Tradition,
in particular from those taught by his guru Boganathar. 1 This
is the same Babaji who was described by Paramhamsa Yogananda in
his "Autobiography of a Yogi."2 His Kriya Yoga was written
about by M. Govindan in "Babaji and the 18 Siddha Kriya Yoga
Tradition, and in a series of books written by V.T. Neelakantan
and S.A.A. Ramiah.3
" The Five-fold Path of Babaji's Kriya Yoga"
Babaji's Kriya Yoga is a five-fold path which includes Kriya Hatha
Yoga for the physical body, Kriya Kundalini Pranayama for the
vital body, the seat of the emotions, Kriya Dhyana Yoga (meditation)
for the mental body, the rational mind, and the seat of the senses,
Kriya Mantra Yoga for the higher mind of the intellectual body,
and Kriya Bhakti Yoga for the spiritual body, the body of bliss.
These purify the individual consciousness at all five levels of
existence, building an integrated foundation for enduring peace,
love and equanimity. Each of these five types of Yoga profoundly
affect more than one body, and in practice, they are often combined
together. So, for example, in Babaji's Kriya Yoga, we may chant,
meditate or visualize and direct the life force while practicing
the various postures.
" Babaji's Kriya Hatha Yoga"
Babaji's Kriya Yoga teaches a foundation of 18 asana with variations.
"The Siddhas, masters of Yoga, recorded their teachings on
palm leaves. The Siddhas viewed ones life and body as their experimental
field. A human body they said, was to be transformed into a divine
body and used as an aid to self-realization. The Siddhas spoke
of some 8.4-million hatha yoga asanas. Babaji distilled the practice
of his Hatha Yoga down to the standard 17 and the sun salutation
series, with variations to be used to condition the subtle body
and to prepare it for deep states of meditation. This series of
asana when practiced daily with the "kriyas" (repetitive
micro-movements), deeply and thoroughly massage and cleanse energy
pathways and strengthen organs and systems throughout the physical
body, in addition to stimulating the awakening of the kundalini
shakti, by generating an internal heat. The intensity of a daily
practice greatly benefits us both physically and spiritually.
For indeed, it is the daily repetition, practicing patiently
with ever increasing perseverance, which generates this internal
heat. The physical movements of the asana alone strengthen
the body and the developing awareness can bring success in day-to-day
activities. But in addition, the daily practice of Kriya (action
with awareness) Hatha Yoga, which combines awareness with physical
control, activates the process of realizing who one truly is.
Who we are is pure consciousness residing in a body. Our life
is interspersed with movements from all our planes of existence,
our thoughts, emotions, tensions, sense perceptions and our memories.
We are caught in a complex web. The postures within the 18 series
were chosen to purify us on all five levels of existence. To purify
and calm the mind is to purify a certain function of consciousness,
but it has to be supported by work on the physical, emotional,
intellectual and spiritual levels. These postures as a science
can teach us to have awareness of the physical body as a whole
without separating it into mind, body, and sensations. We have
to change the whole of life simultaneously, not just in bits,
piece by piece. We must learn to be attentive to the physical
body and its inner sensations, for the body itself is a guide
to our health. We can support the body by strengthening its nervous
system. We build strong nerves by directing the movements of energy
within the body in the stillness of a static pose. In stillness
with attention on slowing the breath, our thoughts slow and come
to rest leading us to discover the source of our thoughts. From
this place, we can begin self-examination of our habitual doubts
and fears and impulses, as well as perceive and nourish our spiritual
aspirations. It is only with a calm mind that the higher spiritual
faculties of insight and intuition can work on us. This is a Yoga
" Patanjali and Asana"
Patanjali in his classic Yoga Sutras, prescribes how to advance
in yoga asana. He tells us the asana should be sthira (steady,
stable) and sukha (ease, comfortable). Sukha means "ease,"
but it also means "joy" or "bliss." Patanjali
defines asana as a state. He says these qualities of our body
of steadiness and ease should apply to our mind as well. The mind
should be free of tension and turbulence. He says to use pranayama
to calm and balance the body and mind, by integrating the prana
with individualized consciousness. Advancing into asanas involves
a relaxing of effort and attuning the mind in the expansive qualities
of pure sensation, pure vibration. He adds to the formula and
tells us in the later stages of the practice of asana to train
the mind to be concentrated by being continuously aware of an
infinite object. He says to stay longer in this state of sukha
in asana, warding off all distractions and dualities so that eventually
you become "invulnerable to the dualities" where "nothing
can disturb you anymore." The heart of Kriya Hatha Yoga is
to allow the postures to emerge out of effort into effortless
holding where the state of mind is continuously aware of an infinite
subject or object. In order to do this, we were taught to learn
to balance tension and relaxation. Balancing tension and relaxation
we are able to maintain a posture quite easily. But moreover,
this system emphasizes balancing the tension in a pose with a
period of relaxation once we come out of the pose. This is not
a relaxation into inertia but relaxation into our spiritual body.
This relaxation enables our spiritual body to lighten, heal and
transform the not so subtle bodies.
" Directing the Flow of Pranic Energy"
When we release contractions of the body and mind and are free
of restlessness and disturbance, we find our self opening to the
movements of spiritual consciousness. When we balance tension
and relaxation while in the posture we create space and conditions
in the body, in which the prana, the animator of life the energy
of Consciousness, can enter and permeate. As I placed my body
in each fixed position of the poses, I deliberately channeled
the movement of this energy, by directing the breath, with the
intention of cleansing and strengthening the pathways within the
subtle body that distribute the life force. I was intent on encouraging
blocked areas, which were restricting the circulation of energy
and reducing the nourishment to the cells, to open and be nourished.
As cells became penetrated with prana both physical and mental
discomfort disappeared and I felt joy. Yogic asana was nourishing
me at a deep level.
How do we consciously move prana in the postures?
Presence and effort are required. By observing the breath, by
concentrating on each inhalation and exhalation we can slow each
in-breath and each out-breath, equalizing them and making the
breath rhythmic. This way we acquire the first condition necessary
to control prana, awareness and quietude. In this state the prana
can be directed to wherever we place our attention. When our attention
is on the breath, we can "let go" into any sensation
present. In addition, the "kriya" phase (small repetitive
micro-movements) gently massages internal organs and increases
the flow of circulation. Once the prana is flowing into a blocked
area one of two things will happen. Muscle fibers will either
release progressively with each exhalation and the contracted
area will "let go" and open to the energy of the prana,
or the area won't "let go" and instead an emotion will
come up accompanied by a specific sensation, which we can follow.
Either way as we move through this posture series consciously,
with sensitivity and reflection we can gently feel the "healing"
power of the prana penetrate the deep recesses of the body and
the deeply held tensions of the body and mind. As I repeatedly
touched my chronically tight areas, I become aware of the persistent
yearnings and cravings of my mind which must have created those
tensions. My fears arose along with my doubts and feelings of
not being worthy of spiritual experiences. I discovered deeply
held beliefs, which were holding me back in my body, my practice
and in my life. The magic of this practice was that as these negative
beliefs and concepts of myself arose I found myself "letting
them go" and subsequently "lightening up." Each
time I came out of a posture series I felt myself relieved, free,
and sometimes even amused at my self. Conscious deep breathing
induced my mind to relax but moreover, as I entered into the quiet,
relaxation developed into a steady and stable calm. The postures
were gradually being held by prana rather than through effort.
" A Path to Self-realization"
Babaji's Kriya Hatha Yoga practice invites us to explore our physical
body in our search for the Self. From the moment we begin, our
attention is directed to our inner Self, to our higher Self. In
Kriya Asana Vanekom, the Salutation pose, the first pose, we honor
the Self, the God, the Seer which dwells within us, as us. We
are not aware of our own Divinity, as the Self because of the
impurities of the mind and distractions of the senses. These include
the fundamental ignorance created by egoism, the habit of identifying
with our thoughts. Our thoughts of being " less than,"
form a barrier that prevents us from knowing what is beyond the
mind. In addition, what I found through the continual watching
of my inhalations and exhalations, was a realization of the mystic
sound Aum playing through the breath. Kriya Yoga teaches us about
the power of the divine formula of "Soham,"
the mantric sound of the breath. "So," That, the universal
Self and "aham," I, the individual ego. I am
That. Through our normal breath we are all constantly
being urged to realize the Truth of our Self, to assert our Divinity
with each in-breath, and deny our existence with each out-breath.
" Self-study and Asana Practice"
Patanjali defines his Kriya Yoga as constant practice, devotion
to the Lord, and self-study in his Yoga-Sutras (II.1).4 In Babaji's
Kriya Yoga we use the asana practice as a means of self study.
As I began to observe my mind, its automatic responses and movements.
I discovered the games it was playing and how these were obstructing
my growth. I recorded my personal desires, those controlled and
uncontrolled and my goals, what I was reaching for, and what my
mind feared it might miss out on or what it might lose. Kriya
Yoga has helped me develop a true understanding of the need for
self-study. I learned the value of the yogic qualities of "detachment"
and "constant practice." Detachment released my mind
from confusion and anxiety. Detachment and constant practice helped
me to simplify and to cheerfully make the right choices for my
life. With these tools I uncovered deep attachments, tendencies
and desires, which had kept me bound to rounds of suffering. It
was detachment and constant practice which helped me to identify
my needs from my desires and to discover what is truly worth having,
" Purification through Kriya Hatha Yoga"
As my hatha practice became
more committed and more meditative and worshipful, I began to
tune into the energies and the grace of the practice. Negative
emotions began to drop away as I would do asana, sit in asana,
or turn inward and tune into the Self. I knew Babaji's Kriya Yoga
was aiding me in my practice of yoga when I began to refuse to
express negative emotions. I observed that outwardly expressing
an emotion such as anger left me feeling exhausted but, conversely,
not expressing a negative emotion did not leave me tired or feeling
"upset," if I just allowed the emotion freedom
to travel through me. The inner sensing I was learning
through my daily posture practice helped me to observe emotions
as "pure sensation" in the body throughout my day. Kriya
Yoga also teaches one to have a sense of reverence towards the
body and towards others. It teaches the deepest meaning of ahimsa,
non-harming. Awareness of this helps me to reject negativity by
releasing it, as it arises.
" Spiritual Effects of my
practice of Kriya Hatha Yoga"
It is said that by meditating
on the Infinite, asana is mastered. Patanjali tells us that by
mastering asana, we can learn to be undisturbed by the pairs of
opposites, and progressively learn discernment between the permanent
and impermanent. Staying for longer periods of time, floating
on the prana, I truly began to use this Kriya Hatha yoga practice
to experience the Self. The Sages tell us that the human nervous
system is designed to express the totality of Consciousness. Is
it possible for us to abide in the Infinite while living in this
finite body? When effort ceased and body/mind/asana lost their
respective identities I found I could dissolve into the Infinite.
Although I cannot fathom the Infinite, I have felt an up-rush
of deep happiness or peace, even bliss, as I felt an expansion
of my heart. I felt silence and stillness pervade my body, in
a sense of a uniform diffusion of Consciousness. \ The Siddhas
tell us that the human body is the mystic center, the sacred passage
to the ultimate reality and liberation is available only within
it. 5 If Divinity exists in each of us, then it is for each of
us, to test that for ourselves. I know I found what I was "missing."
1. The Yoga of the Tamil Siddha
Boganathar, T.N. Ganapathy 2. Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahamsa
Yogananda 3. Babaji and the 18 Siddha Kriya Yoga Tradition, M.
Govindan 4. Kriya Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. 5. Philosophy of the
Tamil Yoga Siddhas, T.N. Ganapathy 6. Babaji`s Kriya Hatha Yoga:
Self-realization through action with awareness, videocassette
by Durga Ahlund and M. Govindan.
Copyright December 2000 by Jan Ahlund. All
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Babaji's Kriya Yoga