KRIYA (KRIIA) YOGA – THE BEST SELF-DEVELOPMENT OF AN INDIVIDUAL
The author of the article Svetlana Dubyanskaya
Kriya Yoga: Advaita and Sankhya, Yoga Sastra, Jainism, Buddhism
Mandukya Kariki is written by Gaudapada most likely influenced by some Buddhist ideas. Religiously and socially, Adi Shankara acted more as a traditionalist and conservative. The study of numerous Vedic literature was traditionally strictly forbidden to the representatives of lower castes. There are many versions regarding the perception of Advaita philosophy set forth by Shankara as a disguised Buddhism. In the first centuries of the new era there was a sharp controversy between various schools of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism in India.
Researchers note that in the culture of modern India, this is a complex topic demonstrating that the claims about the disguised Buddhism of Advaita are a great simplification of the true and real relationship and interconnection of Buddhism and Vedanta, their mutual influence and correlation. A number of European Indologists consider the Advaita Vedanta set forth by Shankara aslo be the most natural, absolutely logical and accurate interpretation of the main Upanishads.
Adi Shankara identified Avidya as Maya Shakti, the creative cosmic power of Brahman. Avidya Maya in his philosophical system is not defined as a really existing force. Unlike the concept of Shakti in the tradition of Kashmir Shaivism not as a perfect illusion.
For Adi Shankara, illusion or Maya, the creative force is neither real nor illusory in its identical identity. Maya Shakti, manifesting itself as the entire universe, hides in itself and behind itself the unchanging, eternal essence, devoid of properties and qualities, the identical absolute, one and not manifested Nirguna Brahman.
It would be incorrect to say that Advaita in its purest form is the basis for the practices of Kriya Yoga, it would probably be more accurate to describe Advaita as the goal that the practitioner of Kriya Yoga meditation strives for. For the worldview of Kriya Yoga, the goddess Shakti and the goddess Kali play an extremely important role. These goddesses are the inner spiritual power of an individual, in this sense, Shakti for Kriya Yoga is not an illusion, but the Divine Universal Mother blessing all living beings. Some even call the Kriya Yoga tradition an alternative to Shaktism or even Sri Vidya. From the point of view of Advaita, in its strict version, Maya turns out to be an illusory imposition on the eternal and unchanging Brahman. Being a subject to constant expansion, change and transformation, Maya Shakti is the power of concealing the eternal Brahman. Maya Shaki is the creative power of Brahman.
Shakti Devi includes some defilements of the intellect and perception, ignorance and lack of discrimination, the basis of an individual egocentric character and experience. Spiritual self-realization is understood by Adi Shankara as the complete dissolution of the individual subject, object and the process of self-knowledge itself in the impersonal Brahman. Nirguna Brahman, the basis of everything that exists and is manifested, is devoid of any qualities and modifications.
Sankara wrote that one cannot conceive that which basically permeates thought itself, that is Nirguna Brahman. In fact, there are no modifications and changes in the universe, all new terms and names are designations for the already existing one, which is the essence of Nirguna Brahman. Asserting the universal root cause of Para-Brahman, Adi Shankara denies secondary modifications and consequences, reducing it only to designation of the consequence, verbal form, speech turnover. At the same time, Brahman as the basis of the universe, endowed with qualities, is Saguna Brahman, manifested by a temporary and spatial continuum.
Kriya Yoga and Occultism
Occultism is translated from Latin as hidden and secret. Occultism is a general name and term for a large number of sciences and arts, such as alchemy, astrology, and magic. This knowledge relates to secret spiritual possibilities, hidden and not very well-known forces in the inner world of an individual, space and all surrounding nature.
It is very difficult to talk about the relationship between Kriya Yoga and occultism, primarily because Kriya Yoga has developed for thousands of years in the context of Vedic Hinduism, while occultism is a West European phenomenon. The Meters of Occultism include Elena Blavatsky, the founder of the Theosophical Society. She was also directly related to Raja Yoga (Kriya Yoga). In this sense, we can say that occultism is associated with Kriya Yoga through some prominent representatives of these traditions. The teachers of Blavatsky were Mahatma Moriya and Mahatma Kuthumi, who in turn were the disciples of Mahavatar Babaji. The Mahatmas told Blavatsky that they were practicing Raja Yoga (Kriya Yoga).
The term "Secret Philosophy" was first used in the 16th century by the mystic Agrippa of Nettesheim. The term “Occult Sciences” is associated with the famous book of Ezeb de Salvert. The term "Occultism" was first introduced for wider use by the great mystic Eliphas Levi in the middle of the 19th century. By the end of the 19th century, Joseph Peladan, under the concept of occultism, meant all types and directions of the occult sciences.
It would be a mistake to consider that Occultism is not a spiritual system, for Occultism is a spiritual system aimed at searching for God in the depths of the human soul. The only difference from Kriya Yoga is that Occultism, being a European mystical phenomenon, appeals to the hidden and secret meanings of the Bible. Kriya Yoga, in turn, is more often correlated with the Vedas, Tantras and Upanishads.
Occultism in European culture is considered the tradition of "hidden knowledge", in contrast to this there is a system of "open universal knowledge", usually called "official academic science." Occultism is also called the doctrine of the "hidden potentials, capacities and abilities of a man." Occultism also deals with the interaction with the invisible forces of nature.
European Occultism and Esotericism
A highly debatable opinion is in what sense Occultism is identical with esotericism. There is another closely related phenomenon called Hermeticism, named after one of the most famous mythical heroes named Hermes Trismegistus. This direction is more related to the designation of the tradition of ancient ritual magic practices that carry secret knowledge. Modern science and researchers are trying to classify most of the European Occult teachings as a system of knowledge and methods of working with human mental potentials.
The main issue is the motivation and true goals that practitioners of various spiritual systems set forth. Meditation in the Kriya Yoga tradition sets spiritual self-knowledge, self-development and self-improvement of an individual as his main goal.
Of course, the practices of Kriya Yoga can be used as healing and energetic practices, but it is not permissible to use them in order to acquire and develop beyond abilities. Genuine Occultism at its core, like Kriya Yoga, is basically a system of practices aimed at self-development and spiritual growth, evidence of this is the life and teachings of Eliphas Levi.
Etymologically, the term Occultism originally comes from the Latin word for “hidden,” “primordial,” “secret,” and “secret.” This word refers to the knowledge that is hidden from the uninitiated. The phrase "Secret Philosophy" corresponds to the Latin term "occult sciences", these terms have been widely used and well-known since the 16th century. The earliest use of the term in French is found in De Lestrange’s work, which was published in 1842 in “The Dictionary of New Words.”
Some researchers argue that at the first stage of using this term, it was associated primarily with Christian esotericism. The French mystic Eliphas Levi then began to use the term Occultism in his famous book on ritual magic. This work was first published in 1856, it had a significant impact on the esotericists of that time, as well as on all subsequent European spiritual literature related to secret doctrines, sciences, knowledge and magic.
French Freemason writer Jean-Marie Ragon also used the term Occultism in his book “Occult Masonry” which was published in France. This author associated Occultism with earlier mystical and spiritual practices that since the time of the early Renaissance the European esotericists called the "Occult Sciences", and sometimes the "Occult Philosophy". Eliphas Levi was obviously familiar with this book and, quite possibly, borrowed certain materials and terms from there. Levi also repeatedly claimed to be a true keeper of the ancient knowledge and traditions of the Occult Sciences, as well as a true adherent of Occult Philosophy.
It is due to the fact that Eliphas Levi used the term Occultism, it becomes widespread over time in certain circles and begins to be used by spiritual seekers in Europe. The dissemination of the term and the tradition occurred because Eliphas Levi was one of the main representatives of esotericism in Europe and the United States of the 19th century.
Esotericism, Self-Development, Occultism
Various esoteric authors of the 20th century used the term Occultism in very different ways, sometimes interpreting it in completely opposite ways. The German author Theodor Adorno, in his “Theses Against the Occult”, preferred to use the term as a common symbol and synonym for false doctrines and irrationality. The researcher Robert Amadou, in his work “Occultism”, published in the middle of the 20th century, used the term as a synonym for esotericism, which is basically correct.
Unlike Amadou’s position, many other scholars and authors more often considered the concepts of “occultism” and “esotericism” as completely different, although these are historically related phenomena. In the 70s of the 20th century a new point of view appeared stating that occultism is a term the use of which is applicable to mystical practices, methods, rituals and procedures. Esotericism is a term that refers to a system of religious or mystical-philosophical ideas, concepts and beliefs.
Such discussions are very strange in nature, because they mainly focus on the consideration of terminology and not the essence of traditions. Similar useless disputes exist in the context of different areas of Hinduism, for example, a comparative analysis between Shaivism and Vaishnavism. Another approach to understanding the European mystical terminology belongs to the traditionalist René Guénon, who often used the term Esotericism to refer to and describe what he perceived as a traditionalist, deeply internal teaching underlying the ancient mysteries and religions.
René Guénon used the term Occultism most often in a slightly derogatory and negative way to describe dubious new teachings, religions, trends and movements that he greatly disapproved of. Among them, Guénon attributed spiritualism, Theosophy and all kinds of secret orders and societies. Later scholars and authors of the 20th century, such as Serge Hutin, as well as Luc Benoist actively adopted from René Guénon the use of complex mystical terminology. As A. Hanegraff noted, using numerous complex esoteric terms, René Guénon took as a basis solely his personal traditionalist teachings, and this could not be recognized as an objective academic justification.
Over the course of the history of many centuries, the word Occultism has been used in completely different ways and in different meanings. In the modern era, the use of the term Occultism is most often used to refer to a variety of one of the Esoteric traditions that developed significantly in the 19th century. The terms Occultism and Esotericism were used to describe the forms of mystical teachings and practices that were actively developed in France in the 18th and 19th centuries, especially in the neo-Martinist circle of mystics.
The occult tradition, which began with the activities of Eliphas Levi, was actively supported by other French and German esotericists involved in the development of Freemasonry, Templarism, Rosicrucianism, Occultism; in this context, many mystical authors made a great contribution, including Papus.
In the 21st century the tendency for the active development of the traditions of meditation and yoga, primarily Kriya Yoga, Sivananda Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, continued in the West. Against this background, the interest of Western audiences in Occultism has decreased markedly compared with the 18th and 19th centuries. At this time, the spiritual systems traditional for Europe continue their development taking on new forms.
Kriya Yoga and Theosophy
There is a deep secret connection between the Kriya Yoga tradition and Theosophy, founded by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. Mahatma Moria and Mahatma Kuthumi taught Blavatsky and instructed her on the spiritual path. Both Mahatmas revealed to Blavatsky that they were practicing Raja Yoga (Kriya Yoga). The term Theosophy comes from the ancient Greek term "divine wisdom." Some consider Theosophy to be the theoretical and philosophical part of occultism, and Theosophical Society is often perceived as an influential occult movement.
In a broader sense of the word, Theosophy is the spiritual and mystical knowledge of God, meditation, and contemplation. In the process of meditation practice, the mysterious eternal knowledge of all things and most importantly, the mystery of the Absolute Consciousness is gradually revealed. Theosophy as a term and concept is rooted in mysticism, Gnosticism, Freemasonry and Neoplatonism. In a narrower sense of the term, Theosophy is understood only as the teaching of H.P. Blavatsky. In the 70s and 80s of the 20th century, a new movement arose among theosophical groups and communities called "The New Age".
The term Theosophy has been known since the second century AD, when the Neoplatonists who created this philosophical system began to use it frequently. The main goal of the system was to try to reconcile all existing religions, schools and esoteric directions, establishing a single eternal universal divine principle, as well as a common ethical system based on eternal truths and principles.
In Areopagitics, the term and concept of Theosophy is also used as a synonym for the word Theology. Later, Theosophy was gradually opposed to theology, for theology relied exclusively on the revelations of the prophets and the dogmas of church organizations. Theosophy began to be called free knowledge of God and spiritual self-development based on personal mystical experience, direct communication with the deity in a state of meditation and ecstasy.
It is difficult to say whether Blavatsky was initiated into the technique of Kriya Yoga or not, which some Indian teachers of that time called Raja Yoga. Since her direct mentors, the Mahatmas, were masters of this system of meditation, it is quite possible to assume that Helena Blavatsky was a practitioner of at least some of the techniques of Kriya Yoga (Raja Yoga).
Theosophy, as a philosophical system, is a doctrine of divine consciousness, which is largely based on highly personal and subjective mystical experiences. Unlike traditional pure mysticism, Theosophy mainly seeks to expound spiritual experience in the form of a system of symbols and concepts. When Theosophy is understood in a rather broad sense, it includes mystical Christianity, Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, Mahayana Buddhism, Kabbalah, Hermeticism, Rosicrucianism, and even Masonic symbolic philosophy.
Esoteric and mystical teachings are often called Theosophy that take their origins in the Middle Ages, which appeared primarily in the midst of Protestantism. Obviously, the formation of Theosophy was influenced by such mystics as Master Eckhart, as well as Paracelsus and Jacob Boehme, to some extent Emanuel Swedenborg, Louis De Saint-Martin, and of course the great Saint-Germain. Many Theosophists, such as the famous Paracelsus, believed that Theosophy necessarily included not only the pure mystical experience of meditation and contemplation of God, but also the discovery of the many secrets of nature and the ability to perform miracles.
In the philosophical system of Friedrich Schelling, the term Theosophy is a synthesis of esotericism, mystical knowledge of God and rational logical philosophy. He sometimes contrasted Theosophy with Theosophism as a kind of mysticism, which almost completely excluded any possibility of rational scientific understanding and knowledge. Under the direct influence of Schelling, the unusual term Free Theosophy appears in the philosophical system of Vladimir Solovyov.
Kriya Yoga and Blavatsky’s Theosophy
We started discussing Theosophy in the previous part of the article, and also mentioned the deep connection of Mahatma Moria and Mahatma Kuthumi with the tradition of Raja Yoga meditation. Theosophy is an ancient divine wisdom. This phenomenon first of all entered the history of world spirituality as the philosophical religiously mystical teaching of H.P. Blavatsky and her numerous followers both in the West and in India. This is the doctrine of the union of the eternal human soul with divine consciousness.
Most often, at any mention of the term Theosophy, it is primarily the books of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, who took this name as a designation of her spiritual tradition, that are primarily considered. Moreover, the so-called "Neo Theosophy" of Helena Blavatsky has absolutely nothing to do with the earlier Theosophical groups, teachings and concepts of Christian Gnosticism.
Exploring the ancient historical forms of esotericism and religion, Theosophy seeks to find common foundations and combine different teachings and religions through awareness of the identity of the deep esoteric meaning of all world religious teachings, mythology and symbols. The main provisions and concepts of Theosophical teachings of are set forth in the books of Blavatsky. However, in general, it can be stated as follows: on the primary basis of the origin of the universe is the Absolute Consciousness, the divine root cause.
Everything that exists in that space, including human beings, carry the divine and bright particle of the Absolute within. A person has every opportunity to return to the source of his being, to connect with the Absolute. Blavatsky’s teachings are generally based on Vedic Indian philosophy, as well as on Mahayana Buddhism.
In the writings of Blavatsky and other fundamental theosophists, the main goal was to preserve the original archaic truths, which are the most important foundation of all ancient knowledge and religions, from ignorant distortion. Theosophy is trying to reveal their sole interconnected basis, to show people the rightful high place in the Universe and the path of the spiritual evolution of Consciousness.
Blavatsky’s doctrine, Theosophy, set several other significant goals, including to prove that nature is not a random combination of atoms and molecules, to indicate to every person his natural rightful place in the system and scheme of the universe. Blavatsky sought to reveal the great secret, the fundamental unity from which all the true teachings and philosophical systems originated, she convincingly showed that the secret side of the universe was never fully accessible to academic science.
In the teachings of Blavatsky, the possibility of the existence of the anthropomorphic God Creator was denied, she even became a Buddhist. She affirmed the concept of universal principle, which can also be designated as the impersonal Absolute. She believed that the universe developed itself, from its original own being, without being created by anyone.
Most likely the most important thing for the Theosophy of Helena Blavatsky was the purification of the essence of souls.
Blavatsky taught ways of liberation from the depths of suffering, the importance of moral ideals, respect for the eternal principle of the brotherhood of all mankind. Blavatsky called herself not the author or creator of the philosophical system, but only a modest guide to the mysterious higher powers of great teachers. She was truly the guardian of outstanding hidden knowledge from the Himalayan teachers Mahatma Morya and Mahatma Kuthumi. It was from these teachers that Blavatsky received all the innermost theosophical philosophical truths and methods of spiritual practice.
It is very difficult to talk about the details of the life of higher teachers, however, on the level of assumption, we can say that there is a version that the Mahatmas who taught Blavatsky are the direct disciples of Mahavatar Babaji. This is a single divine hierarchy of teachers of Raja Yoga (Kriya Yoga).
Thanks to the successful activities of the Theosophical Society, which Blavatsky founded in 1875 in New York, Theosophy as a tradition and system of knowledge began to actively spread in various countries around the world. First of all, Theosophy became famous among intellectuals and professors mainly in India, Europe and the USA.
In the countries of the Western Europe and in Russia, many thinking spiritual seekers strived to learn the truths set forth in the books of Blavatsky. At the beginning of the 20th century, more than fifty Theosophical educational journals were published all over the world, including magazines published in Russia, “the Bulletin of Theosophy” and “Theosophical Review”, and a little later “Theosophical Life.”
Some researchers prefer to attribute the philosophical teachings of Blavatsky to occultism, others to religious philosophy, others to mystical and esoteric philosophy, and still others to neo-Buddhism.
Kriya Yoga and Esoterics
Esotericism or Esoterics comes from the ancient Greek word "internal", it is a system of internal mystical philosophical knowledge and methods. Esotericism is a combination of a huge amount of philosophical knowledge, information about the inner world of an individual, inaccessible to those who are not spiritually ready to receive initiation. Esoterics is a collection of special ways and methods of perceiving a higher reality that have deep secret meaning and content.
A large number of spiritual and energy practices can also be included in this system. Esoterics is naturally opposed to exoteric or exotericism, that is, to external open knowledge associated with physical and psychological reality. To what extent can Kriya Yoga be classified to esoterics? Meditation in the Kriya Yoga system has evolved for thousands of years in the context of the Vedic tradition, primarily as the basis of the Tantra system and Yoga Shastra.
At the beginning of the 20th century Paramahansa Yogananda immigrated to the United States and began to develop the tradition primarily in California. As soon as Kriya Yoga as a system of knowledge and mystical methods of self-development and self-knowledge came to the USA, it immediately began to be perceived by many as a variant of Esotericism.
In fact, Esoterics is not some kind of separate school or direction , it is any internal spiritual knowledge and a system of practices. For Esoterics it is not so important which cultural-historical or religious roots a tradition has, the depth of knowledge and practices is important. In this sense, the Kriya Yoga tradition in the context of the Western spiritual tradition may well be called an Esoteric Phenomenon.
The knowledge that a person gains through the practice of meditation and esoteric experience is very internal and subjective, therefore, there cannot be a single esoteric philosophical teaching. Esoterics is often defined as a typical pseudoscience, since it does not have a clear and objective system of evidence that would be understandable to a logically thinking mind.
Even in ancient times, Pythagoras, as well as Plato and Aristotle, under the word Esoterics meant a secret and internal teaching, transmitted exclusively and only to some of the most prepared students, who were called esotericists.
Esoterics, East and West
Both in Europe and in India, secret esoteric knowledge has always been passed on to a narrow circle of prepared disciples. In addition to the official Christian churches in Europe there was and is a tradition of Esoteric Christianity, the Gnostics, the Templar and Rosicrucianism line of transmission of esoteric knowledge. In the same way, in India, in addition to official Hinduism, secret esoteric schools of Kriya Yoga, Tantra, Shaktism, Sri Vidya, Navanath Sampradaya, Laya Yoga have always existed.
In the course of the history of the development of theological schools, Esotericism took the most diverse forms of theoretical and practical interpretation and application of secret mystical teachings. Nowadays, some prefer to include such directions as White Magic, Symbolic Alchemy, Western and Persian Astrology, Gnosticism, Christian Kabbalah, Neo Theosophy, Sunni Sufism, Sivananda Yoga, Vajrayana Tantra, Buddhist Tantrism, regular Freemasonry, Mondialism. Esoterism is widely regarded by some authors as a special type of mystical rationality, which in the present era is significantly exposed to the conscious and rigorous conceptualization and reflection of researchers. Other contemporary authors consider new forms of “parascience” as forms of Esotericism. The word Esotericism originally comes from "secret", "ancient", "hidden", "initiated into secrets." Esotericism is often associated with the initiation into some mystical society or secret teaching, open only to a narrow circle of the privileged. Such an antonym as exoteric, can most often be used as a system of knowledge about any external rite.
The modern term Esoterics was most likely first used in English by Thomas Stanley in 1701 in the book “The History of Philosophy.” The author described the Pythagorean schools for these purposes and applied this term. The teachings of Pythagoras himself were divided into several parts, accessible to all, and another internal part, which most often was taught only by a narrow circle of members of the secret order. The teaching took place after a serious oath not to divulge the teaching that they had been taught at the initiation was taken from the disciples
This secret part of the Pythagorean teachings, Stanley preferred to call the Esoteric part of the teachings. Historians still do not know what exactly was the secret Esoteric part of the teachings of the great Pythagoras. Later, the term Esoterics disseminated through other mystical teachings, it was propagated by numerous adherents among wide circles of the uninitiated.
A contemporary of Thomas Stanley, an English scientist John Toland put forward the thesis about the obvious need for two philosophical directions: Exoteric, open, explicit, public, and also the second part which is Esoterics, that is, a secret intended only for the initiated. By Exoteric philosophy, Toland probably meant primarily the official religion, and by Esoterics he could understand Materialism, Metaphysics and Alchemy.
The term Esoterics in French is also widespread, it first appeared possibly in 1828 in a book by Jacques Matter entitled "The Critical History of Gnosticism and its Influence." Matter explicitly implied independent and free research, mainly gleaned from the original Christian teachings, as well as from certain aspects of ancient Greek philosophy, especially the mystical teachings of Pythagoreanism. The term Esoterics was actively used and popularized in mystical teachings by Eliphas Levi in the middle of the 19th century.
Many modern Esoteric teachings of the West propagate their teachings and practices, therefore, strictly speaking, they cannot be called secret in the full sense of the word. For centuries, esotericism has been within official religions and other organizations. Only in the sense can we call these teachings Esoteric if they claim to deeply comprehend the divine mystery of the universe, inaccessible to a wide circle of the uninitiated, who simply cannot understand and apply this knowledge. Also in the modern language, the term Esoterics may well be understood in an extremely diverse and expanded sense, as a synonym for the words “internal”, “sacred”, “secret”, “accessible to a narrow circle”.
Kriya Yoga and Modern Esotericism
As we have already mentioned, the numerous esoteric teachings of the 20th century were strongly influenced by the mystical philosophical ideas of Helena Blavatsky, the founder of the world Theosophical Society in India, the USA and England.The philosopher, humanist and esotericist Rudolf Steiner, who at the beginning of his life worked closely with the centers of the Theosophical Society, later created an alternative teaching and, as a result, an international society the Anthroposophical Society. The famous esotericist of the early 20th century was the Russian mystic George Gurdjieff, his system is called the Fourth Way.
George Gurdjieff and his co-author Peter Uspensky were also engaged in the production of the esoteric ballet “The Battle of the Mages” and many other productions. At the beginning of the 20th century American mystic, esotericist and astrologer Max Handel founded the international Rosicrucian Brotherhood, which, in his opinion and words, was a direct and immediate continuation of the ancient tradition of the medieval mystical Rosicrucian Order. The Brotherhood laid the most important foundations of esoteric Christianity and Gnostics in Europe and the United States.
In the 30s Philosopher, Mystic and Freemason Menley Hall founded an international organization called the Philosophical Research Society in California, with the goal of studying and analyzing religion, symbolism, mythology, mysticism, metaphysics, and ancient occultism. The Society still has a huge library of 50,000 rare volumes, a collection of works of fine arts and rare ancient manuscripts. The Society regularly holds seminars and lectures, publishes research books, collections and a journal.
Mystic, orientalist, artist, researcher and traveler Nikolai Roerich and his wife Helena Roerich created their own esoteric system entitled Agni Yoga or Living Ethics.
Of course, to a greater extent the Roerichs were associated with Vajrayana Buddhism, however, the fact that the Roerichs were disciples of Mahatma Morya and Mahatma Kuthumi makes them part of the Raja Yoga tradition (Kriya Yoga).
It is difficult to say to what extent the Roerichs practiced meditations associated with the Raja Yoga tradition. However, it is obvious that their teaching Agni Yoga is a philosophical teaching based on the teachings and practices of this tradition.
In the second half of the 20th century, the anthropologist, scientist, researcher and mystic Carlos Castaneda had the greatest influence on esoteric tradition and thought. He published a large series of books with a large number methods for developing beyond abilities and ways to dive into the depths of the subconscious. Researchers sometimes believe that modern Esotericism is wrongly trying to find its true origins in the ancient, primitive and even pagan and originally mythological worldviews and views of ancient mankind.
In a sense, modern Western Esotericism creates the necessary details and elements of a worldview that it lacks, which is not so much the heritage of the past, but new and creative forms of neopaganism, characteristic of ultra modernity, and can be identified as the creation of modern thought. Esotericism is undoubtedly a complex phenomenon which includes many ancient teachings and methods of self-development. It is important that Esotericism quite easily combines both Western and Eastern methods of self-development and spiritual self-knowledge.
Kriya Yoga, Esotericism and Psychology
The attitude toward Esotericism from the point of view of academic science, the various directions of classical psychology is very different. Representatives of some schools and directions of modern psychology, analytical psychology, as well as trans-personal psychology, especially psycho-synthesis perceive the potentials of Esotericism as a whole positively and relate to various Esoteric methods and practices in a practical way. Many directions of psychology and psychoanalysis demonstrate a deep connection with Esoteric teachings and methods.
The classic of American psychology, William James, in his book “The Varieties of Religious Experience” tried to offer a pragmatic and technical approach to assessing the significance of ancient religious theories and phenomena in defining the concept of “religion.” James includes mystical and esoteric movements of many countries and epochs in his study. From the point of view of this original approach, any system of belief and practice should be assessed as a whole from the point of view of its impact on the reality of life and the spiritual health of a person. James often demonstrates a fairly positive perception and attitude towards the varieties of Esotericism and Mysticism, for example, to many areas of yoga.
On the other hand, a number of areas of modern psychology relate to Mysticism and Esotericism in general, and sometimes to certain areas extremely negatively. Sigmund Freud harshly criticized any explicit or indirect manifestations of magical practices and religious approach to consciousness. Modern critics of the traditions of Esotericism note its possible potential connection with various psychological and mental disorders and diseases.
From the point of view of the history of academic science, the greatest and deepest interest is the mutual penetration and influence of Esotericism and Psychology. Corinna Treitel in her book “A Science for the Soul” analyzes in detail the influence of Esotericism on the formation of modern psychology as an independent modern scientific discipline.
Kriya Yoga, Esotericism and Christianity
In the official Orthodox Christian Church there is a very widespread idea of the alleged connection of Esotericism, Yoga, Occultism, Tantra with numerous false totalitarian sects. Despite the obvious connection of many Esoteric traditions with Gnosticism and the original forms of Christianity, representatives of Christian churches often have a sharp negative attitude towards possible attempts to spiritually unite Christianity, Gnosticism and Orthodoxy with Esoteric traditions, philosophical systems and practices.
Paramahamsa Yogananda wrote in his books that Jesus Christ and his main disciples knew very well the practices of Kriya Yoga meditation and practiced them, as there were numerous testimonies in the New Testament. It is possible, Yogananda writes, that among the disciples of Jesus these meditation techniques were not called Kriya Yoga, most likely they could call these methods in a different way, but this did not change the essence of the practices.
Some scholars believe that the original Christianity, like all ancient religions, in addition to external forms called exoteric, also have an extensive internal esoteric spiritual system. The truth that accurately expresses the original metaphysical essence, independent of the dogmatic worldview and expression, is the obvious reality that lies in the diversity of spirituality. In particular, the traditional Orthodox Church Hesychasm is considered the reflection of the subtle Esoteric inner divine basis of Christianity.
In Islam, this equivalent is considered the philosophy and practices of Sufism, and in Judaism it is Kabbalah.There is a very common point of view that the Christian Hesychasm as a typical Esoteric practice. In the minds of the oldest Christian tradition, the feat of Hesychast monks was never perceived as a closed esoteric single cult, the destiny of a narrow circle of the elect, the practice of some mystical and spiritual eccentricity.
Some advanced directions of Protestantism, Lutheranism and Catholicism demonstrate a clear connection with certain ancient directions of Esotericism, most often in the version of the Templars and Rosicrucian. In recent centuries, the Western Christianity has been distinguished by a liberal attitude to the practices of meditation and self-development.
Anglicanism has a deep historical relationship with Regular Freemasonry. The head of the Church in England is the English Queen or King, the head of the United Grand Lodge of England is one of the members of the British Royal Family, currently the cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Edward, who is also an Orthodox Protestant. However, these principles are not valid in the situation with the original Grand Lodge of England, which is a Regular Masonic jurisdiction and is not controlled by the English royal authority.
Thus, the leadership of one of the areas of English Freemasonry and the Church of England were deeply interconnected at the highest level.
Another example of relationship between Esotericism and Christianity is the Liberal Catholic Church, whose creed and philosophy, owing to its creator Theosophist and mystic Wedgwood, included many diverse elements of Theosophy, Rosicrucianism and Templarism.
When Paramahansa Yogananda arrived in the United States in the early 20th century and began to preach the practices of Kriya Yoga, many Protestants, Baptists and Catholics of southern California enthusiastically accepted the theory and practice of Kriya Yoga. Methods and practices of Kriya Yoga began to be practiced even by some priests.
Kriya Yoga and Vedas
Kriya Yoga is a meditative system that has been in the context of Vedic philosophy for many millennia. Veda in Sanskrit means "know ", "knowledge", "teaching."
The Vedas are the collection of the most ancient sacred texts and scriptures from the period before the rise of Hinduism. Of course, modern Hinduism uses the Vedas, but the Vedas are much more ancient than Hinduism. The Vedas are written in the ancient language Sanskrit. The Vedas belong to the special category of Shruti, that is, "What Is Heard." The Vedas consist of Mantras, as well as hymns and chanting of the gods as prayers is also repeated. All these hymns and mantras are used in various mystical and religious rituals, festivals, events.
The main part of the four Vedas is Samhites, collections of hymns and mantras, which are adjoined by such parts as Brahmanas, Aranyakas and the final part of the Vedas is the Upanishads, texts that are in-depth comments on the Vedic Samhitas.
Over many eras and centuries, the four Vedas were transmitted verbally in detail in a special poetic form. Only much later, after many centuries, they were written on palm leaves. The Hindu religious philosophical tradition states that the four Vedas are eternal divine revelations, the writings of sages and prophets.
The Vedas were given as a revelation to the prophets and sages. Information about authorship is often indicated only indirectly. Now there are four Vedas, although before there were sixteen. So, these four Vedas are: the Rig Veda is the Veda of hymns, Yajur Veda is the Veda of sacrificial formulas, Sama Veda is the Veda of chants, Atharva Veda is the Veda of spells.
Kriya Yoga is a system of meditative practices, the philosophical part of this system is the “final part”, which is called the Upanishads. Kriya Yoga is a technique of meditation, but if there is no philosophy in this process of meditation, then Kriya Yoga turns into an ordinary energy practice. Kriya Yoga becomes a method of spiritual self-development which requires a deep philosophical foundation, that is, the Vedas and especially the Upanishads.
Philosophical systems and deep religious traditions that developed over the centuries in the Indian subcontinent occupied various spiritual positions. However, various philosophical and esoteric schools accept the absolute authority of the four Vedas. Other Eastern traditions, such as Theravada, Mahayana and Jainism reject the four Vedas and therefore fall into the category of parallel spiritual traditions. Besides Buddhism and Jainism, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism do not accept the high authority of the four Vedas either.
The Sanskrit word Veda means “knowledge” and “wisdom”, it comes from the original rootword VED, that is, “know”, akin to the ancient Indo-European root “know” and “see”.
Traditionally, Kriya Yoga practitioners study the Vedas and Vedic texts. Nowadays, many texts, primarily the Upanishads, have been translated into many languages. Those who cannot read Sanskrit can still study the Upanishads in order to deepen their practice of Kriya Yoga.
Dates of writing Vedic texts
Kriya Yoga is the oldest system of meditation, in fact, this system developed in parallel with the development of the Vedic texts. It is impossible to consider the practice of Kriya Yoga outside the context of the philosophy of the Vedas and Upanishads. It is very difficult to say when exactly the Kriya Yoga system appeared, and when the Vedas were written.
The Four Vedas are among the most ancient sacred texts in the history of world culture. According to modern researchers, Indologists and scholars claim that the four Vedas were compiled over many periods, which lasted about several thousand years.
The writing of the Vedas began with the compilation of the Rig Veda about two thousand years BC and reached its great peak with the creation of various texts. All these texts were written primarily in North India and ended at the time when Buddha Shakyamuni and grammarian Panini lived, this was in the 6th century BC.
Most scholars and researchers agree that before the four Vedas were ultimately recorded, for many centuries there was primarily an oral tradition that was passed down from generation to generation.
To write the Vedic texts tree bark was sometimes used in ancient times, but more often dried palm leaves. Due to the fragility of the material on which the Vedic texts were written at that time, the exact age of numerous manuscripts that have come down to us does not exceed just a few centuries. The oldest manuscripts of the first Vedas, namely the Rig Veda, date back to the 11th century. A unique manuscript dating from around the 14th century is kept at the Kashi Sanskrit University.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak (1856-1921), an Indian researcher who received an excellent European education, proposed an interesting concept that all four Vedas were written about 5000 years before BC. The main arguments of Tilak were mainly based on the philological and astronomical analysis of many texts that can be attributed to the Vedic scriptures. Tilak’s point of view was also based on the studies of commentaries that were written in the ancient times. The author’s conclusions were amazing, the scheme of the planets reproduced by the Vedic texts could only arise from those ancient people who lived exclusively in the circumpolar region of the Earth. The formulated theory created the Arctic hypothesis. However, these ideas did not find serious support and understanding among academic scientists.
Hindus believe that the Vedic texts are eternal and not created by the human mind. According to the ancient Puranas, at the beginning of each great cosmic cycle (Yuga), which occurs immediately after the creation of the Cosmos, the god Brahma again receives Vedic knowledge, teachings and wisdom from the god Vishnu.
At the end of each cosmic cycle, Vedic teachings and knowledge disappear in the subtle worlds of the unmanifest primordial state, and then miraculously reappear in the next new cycle of the creation of the universe. The great sages receive this knowledge, teachings through mystical revelations, and then, at the beginning, transmit them only in oral form. This has been happening for many millions of years. Thus, more than 5000 years ago, at the end of the previous Dvapara Yuga, Vedic traditional knowledge was recorded by the god Ganesha under the dictation of the greatest sage Vyasa.
Later, the Vedas were divided into four parts, hence, the four parts of Vedic knowledge appeared. This Vedic knowledge is also summarized in the aphorisms of the Vedanta Sutra.
The teachings of Kriya Yoga claim that the real age of the Vedic tradition is millions of years. How can one reconcile the views of academic science and yogis? It is probably important to respectfully listen to the arguments of each side. From the point of view of many traditions, the Vedic tradition is much older and more ancient than many scholars can imagine. Kriya Yoga is a system of meditation created by the Himalayan Mahatmas, whose lifetime is extremely difficult to determine. There is abundant information about immortal yogis such as Agastia, Patanjali, Parasurama, Sundarnath, Bhudnath, Nagaraj, Gorakhnath, Matsendranath. Stories about these great yogis also shape our understanding of the antiquity of the Vedic tradition.
We have information about the great Mahatmas owing to their messengers, among them outstanding teachers of Kriya Yoga, such as Lahiri Mahasaya, Paramahansa Yogananda and Yogi Ramaiah. A lot of important information and facts are told in the fascinating books of S. Dubyansky, which he wrote during the recent years, as memories of many years spent in the ashram of his guru Yogi Ramaiah.
Each of the four Vedas was personally handed down by the sage Vyasa for preservation and ordering to one of his main disciples. A disciple named Paila arranged the great hymns of the Rig Veda. Sanskrit mantras and hymns that were widely used in mystical and religious rituals were carefully collected by Vaishampayana and formed the text of the Yajur Veda.
In addition, we know that the sage Jaimini was able to collect Sanskrit hymns set to unique music that were later used in the Sama Veda and Atharva Veda. These texts represent an important collection of ancient hymns and mantras ordered by the sage Sumanta.
The structure of the Vedic texts
The philosophy of self-knowledge and self-inquiry is the most important basis of the Kriya Yoga meditation tradition. That is why the study of ancient texts has always been an important part of spiritual practice for Kriya yogis. Since for many eras the techniques of Kriya Yoga meditation have developed primarily in India, therefore, the Vedic texts were the basis for deep processes of self-exploration and self-development.
The main scriptures in Sanskrit are the Samhitas, which means “collections,” these can be collections of hymns or mantras which were usually intended to perform traditional fire rituals and sacrifices in ancient times. These texts are considered to be the oldest part of the Vedic philosophical texts by many. There are four Vedas, the Rig Veda (consisting primarily of hymns and mantras, intended mainly for chanting by priests), the Yajur Veda, the Sama Veda and the Atharva Veda represent a collection of spells.
The mantras included in the Samhitas are presented more often in the form of Sanskrit hymns, prayer texts, spells, ritual mystical formulas. All mantras are directed to the Hindu pantheon of gods called Devas.
The main deities of the Hindu Vedic pantheon, to whom most of the Sanskrit hymns, mantras and prayers are dedicated to, are such gods as Shiva, Rudra, Indra and Agni.
As a rule, three collections of special commentaries - "Brahmanas", "Aranyakas" and "Upanishads", are related to each Samhita. They explain and reveal the deep philosophical significance, aspects of a complex ritual tradition. Together with mantras and prayers, these Samhitas are often used in special sacred "pujas", rituals. Unlike the main Samhitas, this part of the Vedic texts is presented in a prosaic style.
Samhitas and Brahmanas mainly belong to the category of Karma Kanda, which is the ritual part of the texts. Aranyakas and Upanishads are the parts that belong to the large category of Jnana Kanda, this is the section on knowledge and self-exploration.
While the ancient Samhitas and Brahmanas are generally focused on special ritual traditional practices, the main topics of Aranyak and the Upanishads are the subtle spiritual self-exploration, the search for the nature of the soul and the philosophy of deep self-development.
The Upanishads primarily discuss the nature of Consciousness, Brahman, Atman, the complex themes of reincarnation and self-development. Aranyakas and Upanishads are primarily the basis of the philosophical system of Vedanta, one of the six main schools of ancient Hindu Vedic philosophy. Another large category of Vedic texts, scriptures, Brahmanas, is the collection of rituals, texts that describe all the necessary details of the rituals and sacrifices. These texts comment on the deep meaning of the ritual sacrificial offerings to the gods.
According to experts, numerous Sutras such as the famous Vedanta Sutra, Shrauta Sutra and Grhya Sutra belong to the most important scriptures in ancient Sanskrit. Researchers believe that they were written and composed in around the 5th century BC. The appearance of the earliest Vedangas, which in turn marked the end of the great Vedic period, significant texts in the so-called classical Sanskrit began to appear gradually.
Kriya Yoga Directions
In different parts of the world, in different countries there are schools, traditions and directions of ancient Kriya Yoga. Various directions of Kriya Yoga meditation actively teach various techniques, which, however, are very different from each other. Despite this, all the schools of Kriya Yoga have common essential principles of working with the internal energy information system of a person. In different schools and areas of the Kriya Yoga meditation system, quite different approaches to meditation, pranayamas and mantras are possible. This should not confuse spiritual seekers studying the ancient science of Kriya Yoga.
Meditation and Self-Development
The universe is very diverse, and it is natural that there can be very different principles and approaches to self-development, and a variety of effective systems of yoga and meditation. There are no contradictions and cannot be, all this is a manifestation of natural diversity. Let us give a short list of some of the traditions and directions of Kriya Yoga or similar systems and directions similar to Kriya Yoga.
- Kriya Yoga Saraswati, Bihar School of Yoga
- Tradition of Sri Yukteswar and Swami Hariharananda
- Atma Kriya Yoga founded by Swami Vishwananda, Bhakti Marga
- Kriya Yoga, Isha Kriya, Sadhguru
- Meditation Lessons, Tradition of Dada Sadananda
- Andrey Verba, yoga, pranayama, Vipassana
- Imram Giri, Imram Kriya
- Kundalini Yoga, Bhajan Yogi and Karta Singh
- Tantra Kriya Yoga, Subramanian Swamy
- Kriya Kundalini Yoga, Marshal Govindan
- Himalayan Yoga, Pilot Babaji
- Nath Tradition, Matsendranath
- The tradition of Kriya Yoga from Mahavatar Babaji to Yogi Ramayah which is now taught by Svyatoslav Dubyansky