Question: Please compare Babaji's Kriya Yoga with the Kriya Yoga promoted by Yogananda and his successors.
BKY: Yogananda faced the daunting task of a pioneer trying to introduce yoga in a largely hostile environment, where there was a tremendous amount of ignorance, skepticism and even fear with regards to yoga in what was a fundamentalist Christian culture. For the first five years of his stay in America, from 1920 to 1925, while residing in Arlington, Massachussetts, just north of Cambridge, one of the most liberal places in America, he tried to teach yoga and Indian spirituality as he had learned it. Only a handful of persons responded. He felt that his mission called him to reach large numbers of persons in the West, so he cut his hair, stopped wearing ochre colored cloth in public, except for special occasions, and transformed his vocabulary and theology from that of Hinduism to that of Christianity. He asked for $10,000 from his chief benefactor, Dr. Lewis, to go on a cross country lecture tour. It was during crossroads in his life Yogananda began simplifying the teaching of Kriya Yoga, by eliminating the postures, concentrating on only two simple meditations, the sound of "Om", and "Hong-Sau", and greatly simplifying the practice of Kriya Kundalini pranayama. "Va-Shee" became "Ah-eee", to avoid offending fundamentalist Christians who might feel that repeating the name "Shiva" would be blasphemous. Yogananda also promoted "self-energizing" exercises, which involved mostly static contraction of various groups of muscles. It was a unique variation of ancient techniques, but it enabled many Westerners to keep fit, without doing hatha yoga. During the 1920's and 1930's there were many theories about differences between the races, and it was commonly believed up until the 60's that Westerners could not practice hatha yoga because their bodies, generally, shorter and stockier, were ill suited to hatha yoga. Indians, on the other hand were thought to be mostly thin and lean. Yogananda’s presentation of Kriya Yoga is also framed by his desire to reconcile his interpretation of Christianity with the teachings of Yoga, as well as his preferred personal conception of God as a She, the Divine Mother.
Yogananda's great contribution, however, aside from getting many persons started on the path of yoga, was his metaphysical writings. Most of these have been published in book form. The correspondence course lessons, which are required reading prior to initiation by the SRF, are excerpts from these publications. They are a wonderful source of guidance in how to live one's life. He greatly emphasized the use of "affirmations", which like their more modern forms of "auto-hypnosis" and Neuro-linguistic programming", seeks to change deep-rooted subconscious attitudes.
All of our readers can compare the above with the five-fold path of "Babaji's Kriya Yoga," with its emphasis on yoga asanas, Kriya Kundalini pranayama, numerous dhyana kriyas, mantras and bhakti yoga. Unlike the SRF which teaches only a handful of techniques of meditation, Babaji's Kriya Yoga is a complete and elaborate system of 144 Kriya or techniques which encompass all five dimensions of human existence: the physical, vital, mental, intellectual and the spiritual. These require training in a progressive series of initiation seminars.
Rather than choosing for its practitioners the Divine form which they should worship, we encourage them to follow their own heart. Babaji's Kriya Yoga is the practical side of all world religions. It is not a religion, which involves a particular belief system. It is a scientific art which requires, practice, and skill and its results can be scientifically replicated. It is not a belief system, requiring its members to avoid other belief systems. Its practioners are encouraged to seek God and Self realization from all sources.
Questions are encouraged in Babaji's Kriya Yoga, not as a means of cultivating doubts, but as a constructive way to convert doubts into steps towards Self-realization. Babaji's Kriya Yoga is a living, oral, tradition, growing in the hearts and experience of its practitioners. It is not confined between book covers, or the stories of its leaders, or the walls of an institution.
Babaji's Kriya Yoga is inspired by the teachings of the 18 Tamil Yoga Siddhas, such as is found in the Siddhar Tirumular’s "Thirumandiram", as well as the "Sanatana Dharma", "the eternal religion" of India. The Siddhas, however, emphasized that God was not to be found only in temples or elaborate ceremonies, but with our hearts, by stripping away the veils of ignorance, desire and egoism.
Question: Why does the SRF deny that Babaji is still on the physical plane?
BKY: Today the existence and person of Kriya Babaji has become obscured by solemn pronouncements by the Self-Realization Fellowship and by others that Babaji no longer exists on the physical plane. This is like claiming "that Japan does not exist, because I have never seen it." Babaji's own promise in the "Autobiography of a Yogi," is that he would remain on the physical plane until the end of the age, thousands of years henceforward. Since the early 1950's it has been SRF policy to treat him as inaccessible in any way. In effect he has become a historical footnote, or at best, like a saint in the Catholic Church, rather than, the living fountainhead, the sole guru of the Kriya Yoga tradition.
Question: Are the techniques of Babaji’s Kriya Yoga the same as taught at the SRF?
BKY: Although there are great similarities in the pranayama technique, which involves circulating the energy from the breath through the spinal centers, there are also many differences. In BKY this most important technique is taught in a much more elaborate manner than the way in which Yogananda simplified it for Westerners. Also Babaji’s Kriya Yoga is an integral Yoga which includes a progressive and more comprehensive system of techniques in five limbs or categoires which lead to transformation on all levels of being. Kriya Hatha Yoga for the physical; Kriya Kundalini Pranayama for the vital, Kriya Dhyana meditations for the mental, Kriya Mantra for the Intellectual and Kriya Bhakti, love and devotion for the Spiritual Transformation.
Question: Where do these techniques come from?
BKY: During a six month period in 1954, at his ashram near Badrinath, in the Garwhal Himalayas, Babaji initiated S.A.A. Ramaiah into a complete system of 144 Kriyas, or practical techniques, involving postures, breathing, meditation, mantras and devotional techniques. The latter blossomed as a yogi, and began a worldwide mission to bring this system, referred to as "Babaji`s Kriya Yoga" to thousands of aspirants. In 1970 to 1971 he initiated M. Govindan, into all 144 Kriyas. M. Govindan practiced these intensively on the average for eight hours per day for 18 years under Yogi Ramaiah's guidance in ashrams in India, the USA and Canada. In 1983, Yogi Ramaiah gave him rigorous conditions to fulfill to begin initiating others. After fulfilling these, Babaji himself appeared to him in 1988 and directed him to go and teach His Kriya Yoga to others.
Since 1989, he has initiated over 10,000 individuals into Babaji's Kriya Yoga. These are learned and practiced systematically, and if done regularly bring about the gradual integrated transformation of the individual at all levels. In this system, there are three levels of initiation.
Question: Is the Guru known as Herakhan Baba the same Immortal Babaji of the Kriya Yoga lineage?
BKY: In 1971, a young man with occult powers was discovered by villagers in a cave near the village of Herakhan. Known as "Herakhan Baba," he grew in popularity and was discovered and promoted by Leonard Orr and Sondra Ray, the founders of the "rebirthing" movement, as none other than the immortal Babaji. The photographs of Herakhan Baba as a beautiful young teen and the books written about him by his devotees have created the confusion. Regardless of the greatness of this Guru, there never was any reason to associate him with the Immortal Babaji. After being repeatedly pressed by his new American agents, "Aren`t you Babaji? You must be Babaji?," he finally gave up resisting and declared "If you say I am Babaji, I must be Babaji." Herakhan Baba did not teach any form of Kriya Yoga. Herakhan Baba created an ashram with his own rules and died in 1983, from poisoning. Our research has further revealed that he was born to the Sikh maid servant of a retired British civil servant, a Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson’s family still live in Ranikhet in the Himalayas and the locals there refer to Herakhan Baba as "Wilson Baba." He was raised from the age of five by a notorious Tantric master, Naintal Baba, who taught him how to appear in others dreams and he attained many tantric powers. This Naintal Baba himself claimed to be the Immortal Babaji, until he himself died inearly 2009.
Question: Does Kriya Babaji still show himself at times to his devotees in the physical?
BKY: Fortunately, Babaji has at times come out from behind the veils of anonymity, which he finds so useful for his work. Babaji appeared to Swami Satyaswarananda in the Kumaon Hills of the Himalayas, in the early 1970`s and given him the assignment of translating and publishing the writings of Lahiri Mahasaya. This he has done in a series, the "Sanskrit Classics," from his home in San Diego, California. Shibendu Lahiri, one of the great-grandsons of Lahiri Mahasaya, also claims to have been visited by Babaji, at his home, in the late 1980's. Babaji is said to have blessed him in his efforts to teach Kriya Yoga all over the world. Babaji gave his "darshan" on the vital plane to the author, M. Govindan, in October 1999, on two occasions. This occurred 30 kilometers north of Badrinath, at an altitude of nearly 5,000 meters, at the source of the Alakananda River. During these visitations, Babaji appeared as a radiant youth, with copper colored hair, clad in a simple white "dhoti" or waist cloth, and allowed the author to touch his feet.
He gave the author much personal guidance and His blessings on the lay order of teachers of Kriya Yoga, "Babaji`s Kriya Yoga Order of Acharyas," which the author had founded.
Question: Is the goal of Babaji’s Kriya Yoga to attain powers and achieve immortality like Babaji?
BKY: One cannot really know who Babaji is, or even begin to conceive of his grandeur, without appreciating the culture of the Siddhas from which he has emerged. Rather than seeking an other worldly escape in some heaven, after realizing the presence of the Divine within, the Siddhas sought to surrender their entire being to It, and to allow It to manifest at all levels. They sought a complete transformation of our human nature. The aspiration of a Kriya Yoga sadhaka should be this transformation of his or her human nature, rather than aspiring to attain siddhis or immortality. This ultimate transformation of human nature as a whole is the ultimate goal of Babaji;s Kriya Yoga.
"Thirumandiram," by the Siddha Tiirumoolar, written in the 2nd to 4th century A.D. in 3,000 gemlike verses, reveals the breath and depth of the Siddhas attainments. Our research has revealed that Thirumoolar was a brother disciple of Boganathar, Babaji's guru, and of Patanjali, one of the most well known sources of Yoga. While most of the Siddha's literature has not been translated outside of their native language of Tamil and Sanskrit, there exist a few good studies, most notably Dr. Kamil Zvelibil's "Poets of the Powers," and Professor David Gordon White"s "The Alchemical Body." Both of these academic works demonstrate at length the remarkable attainments of the Siddhas, and reveal that Babaji was not some unique extraterrestrial. He manifests what Sri Aurobindo referred to and aspired to for all humanity: "the supramental transformation" of our human nature, perhaps the next step in our evolutionary process. As such, he is not our savior. Nor is he the founder of some religion. He does not seek our adulation or even our recognition. Like all of the Siddhas, he has surrendered completely to the Supreme Being, the Supreme Abstraction, and as a divine instrument, brings down into this murky world the clear light of consciousness, unconditional joy and supreme peace. Kriya Babaji wants everyone to attain this, our greatest human potential.
Question: Why should I take Initiation into Babaji’s Kriya Yoga?
BKY: Are you seeking happiness in your life? Everyone is seeking happiness with more or less experience and wisdom. Going from one experience to the next, the individual discovers how elusive happiness can be. Consider even the happiest moments of your life. Why didn’t that happiness last? What caused the happiness to disappear? Some anxiety, or a desire, or fear crept in? Right? Where did such concerns come from?
According to the Siddhas, who developed the scientific art of Yoga, such concerns arise from the subconscious mind, where the residue of all of our experiences are stored. Like clouds covering the sun, such concerns block our inner bliss. The Siddhas have diagnosed our human condition as, "We are dreaming with our eyes open," because most of what we do, we do subconsciously, out of habit. In the depths of meditation the Siddhas realized that there is, a space within ourselves which is totally fulfilled, totally joyful, 24 hours a day, and independent of all circumstances. The paradox of our human existence is that we keep losing this perfect happiness, because of the reactions of our subconscious mind. What is their prescription for this universal human dilemma? They have said: "The amount of happiness in life is proportional to ones self-discipline." To act with awareness is the meaning of self discipline, or "sadhana." With this objective, one of the great 18 Siddhas, Patanjali, defined yoga in verse 2 of his famous "Sutras" as "the process of cleansing the modifications arising from the subconscious". The Siddhas, developed various techniques, known as "kriyas," "actions with awareness," to facilitate this cleansing and to enable us to act with awareness rather than from habit. These kriyas are the foundation of the techniques of Babaji’s Kriya Yoga. Learning these kriyas leads us to enduring happiness.
Question: Will I be disloyal to Christianity by practicing Kriya Yoga?
BKY: In the West, many persons, even those who are not practicing Christians or Jews, fear that by practicing a spiritually based Yoga such as Babaji's Kriya Yoga, they will somehow be disloyal to their own religion. Is Yoga a religion? How is it related to Hinduism? Can I practice Yoga and still be a Christian? A Jew? A Muslim? These are questions that persons with this religious background may seriously ask.
1. The late Kriya Yogi S.A.A. Ramaiah was fond of simplifying the solution by stating: “Yoga is the practical side of all religions. It will make a Christian a better Christian, a Jew a better Jew, and a Buddhist a better Buddhist.” Because it emphasizes what one does, not what one believes. Religions distinguish themselves in particular by their systems of belief, usually defined in scriptural sources or formal creeds. Yoga on the other hand, says that if you practice it, you will feel healthier, more energized, peaceful, and this will enable you to experience within yourself the presence of the Divine.
2. Religions are the creation of men and women, purportedly inspired by God. In the case of the religions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism, God's inspiration passed through the founders over many years and was only later collected by others in the form of scriptures, written accounts. Religious people, including Hindus and Buddhists, attribute ultimate authority to such scriptures. Yogis, like other Gnostics and mystics, however, attribute ultimate authority to their own inner experience of the Divine, through meditation and spiritual experience. This appeals to those who appreciate a more experimental or scientific approach. Such persons do not want to follow some belief blindly, and they may have serious doubts about miraculous or mythological claims made by scriptures. They want you to “show me.”
3. Religions emphasize forms: belief systems, temples, churches, personalities, symbols, ceremonies, words and prayers. Yogis and mystics emphasize the spirit, which has no form, but which can be experienced by raising one's consciousness, for example in meditation. A Yogi or mystic or a gnostic, however, can participate in religion without difficulty, recognizing that the forms are symbolic reminders of the inner truths. Religious persons are sometimes afraid of the spiritual, out of ignorance, but as they mature, a minority of them become seekers after spiritual experience and realization.
4. Religions begin with the spiritual experiences of their founders. Mystics and yogis seek to recreate those experiences and realizations within themselves, by practicing spiritual disciplines. Religious persons seek to reach a heavenly afterlife by following the tenets of their religion, which promises reward in return for righteous conduct or, for example, accepting Jesus as one's personal savior.
5. By understanding the relationship mentioned above between the world of religious forms, and the spiritual formless truths accessible by spiritual disciplines such as meditation, it is possible for religious persons to mature spiritually. This depends however upon their overcoming of fears, born of ignorance, as to the nature of spirituality and its disciplines. The wisdom teachings of all spiritual traditions are a good place to begin, and then one is open to experimenting with basic meditative practices.
6. Modern critical scholars of the New Testament have concluded that Jesus was an itinerant wisdom teacher, and that while not much can be known about what he did, as there are no eyewitness reports, we can say that the most authentic sayings attributed to Jesus are limited to a few dozen parables and short, provocative statements. These often paradoxical statements are remarkably similar to those of the Yoga Siddhas, and therefore indicate that even if Jesus never went to India or practiced Yoga, he did realize and taught what the Yoga Siddhas realized and taught. A comparison between these authenticated sayings and parables of Jesus with those of the Yoga Siddhas, exemplify the best of universal wisdom teachings. By reflecting deeply upon them, anyone can experience their truth. For such a comparison, with an illuminating commentary, see our publication “The Wisdom of Jesus and the Yoga Siddhas.”
“Highly recommend for Christian spiritual seekers of all denominations.” - Midwest Book Review.
Question: Is Babaji's Kriya Yoga a part of Hinduism?
BKY: Yes it is. Yoga is a Sanskrit word, which means "union." It was developed over a period of 5,000 years in India by hundreds of generations of sages and yogis. It is perhaps the greatest gift of India to all of humanity. The term "Hindu," is of recent origin, and was first used by the invaders of India, the Muslims and later the British to describe the people living there, in the Indus river valley (indus=hindus). The more descriptive term, though more difficult to pronounce, for Hinduism is "Sanatana Dharma," which means "the Eternal Truth," or the "the path to perennial truth." Therefore, a Hindu would consider any sincere seeker of truth to be a follower of "Sanatana Dharma," even persons who are Christians or Buddhists or Muslims. Hinduism is really a confederation of faiths, which includes thousands of diverse sects. All of these sects subscribe to a belief in the "unity in diversity" of this world. Unlike Western religions, which depend upon only one sacred text such as the Bible or the Koran, Hinduism includes hundreds of sacred texts, sixty four traditional arts and sciences, related to art, music, dance, medicine, logic, philosophy, theology, botany, and yes, even Yoga.
The most ancient of its ancient texts, the Vedas, and their philosophic commentaries, the Upanishads are the foundation of Sanatana Dharma, and what is referred to as Vedanta or Vedic culture. In the south of India, in particular, other texts known as the Agamas are sources of authority related to the practical conduct of life, temple worship, prayer, ethics, diet, meditation, architecture, medicine, and Yoga. Hinduism in the non-Vedic Dravidian culture of South of India attributes even more authority to the experience of enlightened masters, known as Siddhas, in all of these domains. The Yoga Siddhas were the "the tradition which opposes" tradition, as they considered organized, institutional religion to be a kind of half-way house along the path, where the spiritual seeker may become trapped by vested interests. Such religious institutions associated with temples, priests, castes, and religious observances may actually discourage the individual's need to go beyond all limited expressions, however sacred, to the inexpressible, the Truth itself. The Yoga Siddhas such as Tirumular, recognized that the intellect is limited to making distinctions between this and that. Therefore it is incapable of grasping the most profound of truths, one's essential Oneness with everything. And for this reason, they said that not by religion, but only by the practice of an integral Yoga leading to Self-realization or samadhi, transcendence of the egoistic perspective, can Truth be known.
Therefore, Yoga, particularly Babaji's Kriya Yoga, which is part of the the Siddha tradition, encourages everyone to honor above all their own inner spiritual experience. In this way, the practitioner is not restricting their search for Truth within a body of literature, or religious beliefs, however sacred. One's search parallels that of the scientist, but within one's own experience. The technique or kriya is like the scientist's hypothesis, waiting to be tested. The practice, or discipline regular practice, becomes the scientific experiment. The results are faithfully recorded, and then like the scientist, one's results are compared and discussed with other researchers.
An integral Yoga, such as Babaji's Kriya Yoga, also encourages its practioners to honor the Siddha Gurus, who are the manifestations of Truth itself, the Guru Tattva, by which Truth, Love, Beauty, is revealed, through initiation, precept teaching, example, and presence.
A great commenator on the Yoga Sutras, Swami Hariharananda Aranya, said: "If the purpose of human knowledge is to relieve human suffering, then that knowledge which eliminates such suffering completely is the greatest knowledge." To remove human suffering and reach Self-realization is the stated purpose of "Kriya Yoga" accordiing to the Yoga Sutras (verse II.2).
Hindus of all stripes share a belief in two things: reincarnation and karma. While neither of these are mentioned explicity in the Western Abrahamic faiths, there are references to the reincarnation of prophets in the Bible and the Koran. Furthermore, the concepts of "sin," and "judgment," "justice," "heaven/hell," are clearly expressions of the the principle of "karma," that all thoughts, words and actions have moral consequences." Furthermore, one need not subscribe to a belief in reincarnation, nor to the philosophic principle of karma to practice Yoga, until of course one begins to become conscious of the soul's journey and the moral consequences of ones actions.
So while Yoga is profoundly rooted in Hinduism, and is indeed available to all of humanity as its greatest heritage, it cannot be claimed to belong to any one religion or even culture. Neither should its leadiing modern exponents ignore its origins in Hinduism, and its shared goals and promise. To do so, is to sell it short. Today, too often, it is being sold short as a means of looking good, relieving stress, or assuaging existential doubt. This has lead to much misunderstanding, fear, and resentment among both Hindus and Western Yoga exponents.
Westerners are often surprised to learn that most Hindus do not practice Yoga, at least, the form with which they are most familiar: Hatha Yoga, the physical postures and breathing exercises. Until recently, Hindus considered Yoga to be the preserve of renunciant monks, dedicated to an austere life style in search of God realization. Most Hindus, until recently limited their practice of Yoga to religious worship or devotional chanting (bhakti yoga) and a minority of intellectuals to scriptural study and reflection (jnana yoga.) But as Yoga as become hugely popular in the West, and everyone, including Indians have become more stressed with the quickening pace of modern, materialistic pursuits, even this limited form of Hatha Yoga has become very popular in India. Coinciding with this rise in popularity of Hatha Yoga, is a growing resentment by Hindus that "Yoga" has been stolen by the Westerners, and repackaged as a money making commercial product. Hindus are alarmed that the Hindu origins of Yoga are not even mentioned, much less honored my many so-called Yoga teachers in the West.
On the otherhand, if your concern is that the practice of Yoga may be incompatible with your religion, then it will be useful for you to reconsider the above discussion of the meaning of Hinduism, and to consider Yoga as a means for realizing the Truth which transcends religious differences, and which mystics coming out of all religions have claimed is inexpressible. "Truth is One, paths to it are many," says Hinduism. You may or may not believe that, depending upon whether you hold to an exclusive religious doctrine which dictates "this alone is the true path." While Babaji's Kriya Yoga does not seek to convert anyone from their religion, it recognizes that as we grow in consciousness, as well as understanding of Yoga, our religious beliefs may evolve or become more profoundly meaningful. Furthermore, the practice of Yoga, particularly its observances, known as the "yamas" or restraints, including non-harming, truthfulness, chastity, non-stealing, greedlessness, and its observances, the "niyamas," of purity in thought, word and deed, contentment, austerity, self study, and surrender to the Lord, will enable a Christian to become a better Christian, a Jew a better Jew, a Muslim a better Muslim, and even an agnostic, a better agnostic. My teacher, Yogi Ramaiah often emphasized that Yoga is therefore the "practical side of all religions." So, becoming "better" means less egoistic, more virtuous, more spiritual, not better versed in the doctrines of yoursor any other religious sect or denomination.
Therefore, whether you believe that only the doctrines of your religion are true, or whether you believe that those of other religions can also be valid for others, the practice of Yoga is going to make you better as a person and as a believer.