The History of Prana Kriya Yoga
The origins of Prana Kriya Yoga can be traced back to Indian yogi, guru and disciple of master Mahavatar Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya in the mid 1800s. Babaji, who is one of the most elusive yogis, is reported to have initiated Mahasaya into the secret yoga techniques of Kriya Yoga and asked to revive its yogic science to the wider public after centuries of being kept under wraps. Legend has it that Babaji was an immortal yogi saint who was in continuous communication with Christ himself.
Paramahansa Yogananda, a Hindu monk, yogi and guru who introduced millions of people to Kriya Yoga through his organisation Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) / Yogoda Satsanga Society (YSS) of India, has stated that Babaji told Mahasaya that “the Kriya Yoga I am giving to the world through you in this nineteenth century, is a revival of the same science that Krishna gave millenniums ago to Arjuna; and it was later known to Patanjali, and Christ, and to St. John, St. Paul, and other disciples.” Yogananda would also highlight that Babaji and Christ “planned the spiritual technique of salvation for this age.”
Mahasaya spread Kriya Yoga throughout India and Yogananda proceeded to bring it to the United States and Europe during the 20th century. He created a unity between Eastern and Western religions, preaching a way of life which balanced Indian spirituality and the material growth of the West. Yogananda’s strong influence on the American yoga movement and the yoga culture in Los Angeles, which is where he settled, has led him to be referred to as the "Father of Yoga in the West.” He reports having received a visit from Babaji in 1920, while in deep prayer, who told him that he was chosen by the Masters to spread Kriya Yoga outside of India. Yogananda soon departed for the United States and founded SRF; he established its international headquarters in 1925.
Yogananda wrote down his “Aims and Ideals for SRF/YSS”:
- To disseminate among the nations a knowledge of definite scientific techniques for attaining direct personal experience of God.
- To teach that the purpose of life is the evolution, through self-effort, of man's limited mortal consciousness into God Consciousness; and to this end to establish Self-Realization Fellowship temples for God-communion throughout the world, and to encourage the establishment of individual temples of God in the homes and in the hearts of men.
- To reveal the complete harmony and basic oneness of original Christianity as taught by Jesus Christ and original Yoga as taught by Bhagavan Krishna; and to show that these principles of truth are the common scientific foundation of all true religions.
- To point out the one divine highway to which all paths of true religious beliefs eventually lead: the highway of daily, scientific, devotional meditation on God.
- To liberate man from his threefold suffering: physical disease, mental inharmonies, and spiritual ignorance.
- To encourage “plain living and high thinking”; and to spread a spirit of brotherhood among all peoples by teaching the eternal basis of their unity: kinship with God.
- To demonstrate the superiority of mind over body, of soul over mind.
- To overcome evil by good, sorrow by joy, cruelty by kindness, ignorance by wisdom.
- To unite science and religion through realisation of the unity of their underlying principles.
- To advocate cultural and spiritual understanding between East and West, and the exchange of their finest distinctive features.
- To serve mankind as one’s larger Self.
Prana Kriya Yoga consists of a number of levels of mantras, pranayamas, and mudras based on techniques that truly accelerate spiritual development, generate a profound state of tranquillity and increase communication with God. In his Autobiography Yogananda writes "The Kriya Yogi mentally directs his life energy to revolve, upward and downward, around the six spinal centres (medullary, cervical, dorsal, lumbar, sacral, and coccygeal plexuses) which correspond to the twelve astral signs of the zodiac, the symbolic Cosmic Man. One-half-minute of revolution of energy around the sensitive spinal cord of man effects subtle progress in his evolution; that half-minute of Kriya equals one year of natural spiritual unfoldment".
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