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The practices of kriya yoga follow a specific plan and can be divided into three distinct groups. These groups combined together systematically induce:

2 Dharana (concentration)

3 Dhyana (meditation) The first techniques are designed to induce pratvahara, the second group induce dharana; this leads to dhyana, which is actually beyond all techniques. This whole process is progressive and natural, without any strain and frustration. It is essential to induce a spontaneous outflow of dhyana. For this reason we will describe the process in more detail.

Pratyahara: From the day we are born we are conditioned to remain concerned only with the outside world and to believe that it is the only reality. Our whole motivation is directed to external experience. As a result it becomes difficult to internalize one's awareness. This is the first block in advanced yoga and it is a difficult block to overcome. Habits are easy to pick up but difficult to eradicate.

The mind is conditioned to continually receive and react to data coming from the outer world. The mind is tuned to external stimuli and, since these external stimuli are continuously impinging on our senses, the mind is always busy. It is ever in a state of turmoil. The process of pratyahara is intended to stop this process by disconnecting one's awareness from the sense organs. This brings about an internalization of awareness.

The mind is like a naughty child: it does the opposite of what you want. Therefore, it has been found by the experience ofmany people that excessive effort to forget the outside surroundings leads to the opposite result. That is, applied effort to forget the outside world leads to an increase in external perception. This often leads to frustration and many people give up their attempt to introspect.

Kriya yoga is designed to overcome this problem in a unique yet obvious manner: it enters the house of the mind by the back door. In the first group of kriyas no attempt is made to curb or cut off external sense stimuli. In fact the eyes, which receive the largest amount of external stimuli, are purposely kept open for some time in the earlier kriyas. This seems to contradict logic, but it brings results. It induces internalization of awareness. One does each kriya, allows internal stimulation to arise - and lo and behold, the unexpected happens: after some time one's awareness becomes introverted spontaneously. Kriya yoga achieves a 1 Pratathara petfyetoflSdfeawunning means.

Cutting off external sense stimuli, however, brings its own problems; it easily leads to the opposite extreme - total absorption in inner thought processes and psychic realms. People are conditioned in such a way that their awareness must always be absorbed or entangled in something. Therefore, disconnection of one's awareness from the outside world leads to absorption and identification with the inner processes of the mind. One starts to brood over personal problems, fear, conflicts, or becomes attached to beautiful psychic scenery. This is like a bee that pulls itself free from sticky honey on the inside of a jar only to fly into the honey on the opposite surface of the jar. Freedom from one extreme leads to entanglement in the opposite extreme. Each is as bad as the other. Thus disentanglement from external stimulation of the mind can easily lead to internal involvement. Both have to be avoided if one wants success in yoga practice.

Many people try to meditate. They close their eyes, manage to forget the outside world, but immediately become overwhelmed by subconscious thoughts and psychic visions. This is not a bad thing in the early stages of yoga practice. In fact it is necessary since it helps to exhaust negative disturbing sam-skaras from the subconscious mind. But eventually one must prevent awareness becoming abducted by both the events of the outside world and the processes of the inner psychic and mental realms. That is, one must tread the razor's edge between ida and pingala - the path of sushumna1. In order to induce pratyahara one must be firmly fixed on the sushumna path, lost neither in the ida nor pingala dimension of being. This leads to real pratyahara and eventually to dharana. Without mastery of pratyahara it is impossible to induce dharana.

The incredible sophistication of kriya yoga is that it brings a balance between total external awareness (outer distraction) and total inner haziness, where one lapses into a dreamy reverie or psychic picture show. It automatically leads to sushumna awareness. In the early practices, as already explained, the eyes are kept open for sometime and then closed for some time. This allows one's awareness to tread the middle path; the closed eyes tend to induce introspection and the open eyes tend to induce extroversion. Eventually this can lead to a balance point and intense dharana arises automatically. This becomes the gateway to dhyana.

In most yoga practices, one tends to close the eyes during meditative practice. This easily leads to a dreamlike state, especially with beginners. Some systems, such as Zen Buddhism, try to overcome this introversion tendency by doing meditative practices with the eyes open. This too presents problems to beginners, for one is continually distracted by the outside world. Kriya yoga strikes a balance between the two extremes: the eyes are kept closed for a short time then opened for a short time. For this reason it brings fantastic results. It systematically and quickly induces pratyahara and leads directly to dharana.

Dharana: After performing and completing the initial group of kriyas, there is a likelihood that you may be in a state of pratyahara. The induction of pratyahara depends on regularity and intensity of practice, as well as the state of turmoil or calmness in your mind. Pratyahara can be easily and automatically induced in a calm mind, whereas a disturbed mind will require more regular practice over a period of months. Also induction of pratyahara depends on auspiciousness. That is, one day it may arise, on another it may not. This is one reason why you should be regular in your practices; on one auspicious day, because of favourable circumstances, you might be launched into a state of dharana and dhyana. It can occur at a most unexpected time. It can never be predicted.

When pratyahara practices are finished then the eyes are kept closed. Ideally, at this stage most internal and external disturbances should have faded away. The second group of kriyas is then practised to induce dharana. This is done gradually by first of all rotating awareness throughout the inner psychic circuits. This slowly induces more perception. As the kriya practice progresses, one's awareness is confined more and more so that it becomes increasingly one-pointed. Dharana arises spontaneously.

The distinctive feature of kriya yoga is that concentration is not forced; it spontaneously arises as a consequence of performing the mechanics of the kriyas. Often concentration is forced during meditative practices which leads the individual nowhere, only to a headache and frustration. Many people grit their teeth, tense their facial muscles and light their mind in an effort to bring about concentration. They do this because they know that concentration is an essential part of higher yoga practices, and that if they can attain high states of concentration then they will induce dhyana, but dhyana must be spontaneous. Forced concentration is not really concentration; it creates tension in the mind, which leads away from the path to dhyana. Practise kriya yoga and concentration will arise. Dharana leads to dhyana.

Dhyana: We have nothing to say about dhyana, for it is the realm of the unspeakable. When it is known, no words are needed. Before it is experienced words will only cause confusion, misconception and over-intel-lectualization. It is better to say nothing. There are no techniques for dhyana; all the techniques of kriya yoga are intended to bring about the state of dhyana.

It is a continuous flow from pratyahara to dharana to dhyana. There is no rigid division as we have given; this classification has been given for ease of explanation. Don't take the classification too seriously. If you master kriya yoga to a reasonable degree then you will automatically flow from one state to the next. You will not need to think: "Ah yes, I must start dharana" and so forth. Everything will happen spontaneously. All you have to do is practise the kriyas in the correct manner.

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