This article is set out to outline the basics of Kriya Yoga History. Before we look at the particulars, perhaps we should summarise what Kriya Yoga is….. Amidst the vibrant tapestry of India’s spiritual traditions, Kriya Yoga stands out as a distinctive and transformative path. Rooted deep within ancient teachings and practices, it offers a systematic approach to self-realisation and spiritual evolution. But what are the origins of this sacred practice?
The early references
The exact beginnings of Kriya Yoga are shrouded in mystery, primarily because it was handed down orally through generations and only later documented. However, some believe that it has been practised in India for thousands of years.
The earliest literary reference to Kriya Yoga can be found in the Bhagavad Gita, one of India’s most revered scriptures. Here, Lord Krishna speaks to the warrior prince Arjuna about different paths of yoga, hinting at techniques that closely resemble the practices of Kriya Yoga.
Kriya Yoga history and the role of Siddhas
The lineage of Siddhas, ancient enlightened yogis, plays a pivotal role in the transmission of Kriya Yoga. Throughout history, many Siddhas have practised and passed on this sacred technique. Babaji, the immortal Himalayan yogi, is considered a central figure in this lineage. Legend says he reintroduced Kriya Yoga in more recent times to ensure its teachings remained accessible to spiritual seekers.
Revival by Paramahansa Yogananda
Kriya Yoga was brought to the West’s attention primarily through the efforts of Paramahansa Yogananda, a revered spiritual teacher from India. In his autobiography, “Autobiography of a Yogi”, he details his encounters with the legendary Babaji and how he was entrusted with the responsibility of spreading Kriya Yoga to the West. Yogananda’s teachings, and the Self-Realization Fellowship he founded, have made Kriya Yoga accessible to millions worldwide.
The essence of Kriya Yoga
Kriya Yoga is often referred to as the ‘lightning path’, denoting its efficacy in speeding up the spiritual evolution of its practitioner. Its techniques involve a combination of breath control (pranayama), energy circulation, and meditation to accelerate the spiritual practitioner’s progress.
It aims to directly stimulate the energy centres (chakras) in the spine, purifying the energy channels and allowing for the free flow of life force (prana). This results in a deeper awareness of one’s true self and a more profound connection with the divine.
Mahavatar Babaji and other lineages
While the lineage presented by Paramahansa Yogananda and the Self-Realization Fellowship is the most widely recognized Kriya Yoga tradition linked to Mahavatar Babaji, there are other lineages and teachers who also assert a connection to this enigmatic Himalayan master. For instance, Swami Satyananda Saraswati of the Bihar School of Yoga claims a lineage that passes through a series of illustrious gurus, including Babaji. Similarly, Lahiri Mahasaya had numerous disciples, besides Sri Yukteswar (Yogananda’s guru), who initiated others into Kriya Yoga. Some of these disciples formed their own lineages and schools, each with its unique set of techniques and teachings but all claiming to trace their roots back to Babaji.
With the increased popularity of Kriya Yoga in the West, multiple contemporary teachers have emerged, some of whom assert spiritual connections or visions of Babaji guiding their practices and teachings. It’s worth noting that Mahavatar Babaji is the Guru of Paramahamsa Vishwananda, the leading acharya of Bhakti Marga. As a child, Paramahamsa Vishwananda received the Atma Kriya Yoga techniques from Mahavatar, not merely given, but rather transmitted.
Kriya Yoga history – A summary
Kriya Yoga History is a testament to the timeless wisdom and spiritual depth of Indian traditions. Emerging from ancient scriptures and championed by luminaries over the centuries, this sacred practice has served as a beacon for countless seekers on the path to self-realisation. Its lineage, richly interwoven with stories of sages and mystics, offers invaluable insights into the evolution of spiritual thought and discipline in India.
Today, as the world grapples with unprecedented challenges, the teachings and techniques rooted in Kriya Yoga’s illustrious history offer a bridge to inner peace and transformative spiritual experiences. It’s a reminder that, regardless of the era, genuine spiritual practices like Kriya Yoga remain relevant, guiding individuals towards a deeper understanding of themselves and the universe. As we delve into its history, we not only appreciate its past but also recognise its enduring significance in contemporary times.
Learn Kriya Yoga
In Bhakti Marga, we run various yoga and meditation courses. One of the courses we teach is Atma Kriya Yoga which is a complete spiritual practice that includes, asana, mudra, pranayama, meditation and mantra. This course is designed to clean the energetic body, release Kundalini and lead the practitioner to a state of self-realisation. Atma Kriya Yoga ultimately leads to a divine love relationship between the individual and God. If you want to find out more, perhaps sign up to our free online Atma Kriya Yoga class.