THE TEACHING OF KRIYA YOGA
Ananda claims that Paramahansa Yogananda’s original guidelines regarding the teaching of kriya yoga were altered by Self-Realization Fellowship in order to insure that the Guru’s society would control the giving of kriya. To support their allegation, reference is made to a certain phrase in Autobiography of a Yogi regarding who is authorized to give kriya yoga initiation, which was purportedly changed without Paramahansaji’s authorization. The fact is that the wording in the first edition of the book was subject to misinterpretation, and Paramahansaji authorized the change in later editions to more clearly express his meaning.
See a full explanation of Paramahansaji’s revisions here: Changes to Autobiography of a Yogi, SRF Letter to Members, 1995
WHO IS AUTHORIZED TO GIVE KRIYA YOGA INITIATION?
The Kriya technique is the spiritual baptism of the SRF path, and with the Kriya Pledge the devotee enters into the eternal guru-disciple relationship with Paramahansaji and the SRF line of Gurus. Because Kriya is so central to Paramahansaji’s mission, his instructions on the subject were well-known to Sri Daya Mata and the other devotees he was training to guide his work.
Owing to the shortage of monastics in the early years, Paramahansaji gave permission to a few householder disciples to give Kriya under the auspices of Self-Realization Fellowship. As his life on earth drew to a close, and he saw the need to clarify the guidelines that would set the course for the future, he stipulated that Kriya was to be given only by the monastics of the SRF Order from then on. The policy originated by him, which has been in effect since 1952, states:
“Only the president, as the channel of Paramahansa Yogananda, has the authority to initiate in the Kriya Yoga. By virtue of the spiritual authority vested in the president, [he or she] may designate an ordained minister of the Church to conduct a Kriya Yoga ceremony, such designation to be reviewed annually.”
From a letter written by Mr. Walters on behalf of our Center Department in 1957, it is evident that he was well aware at that time of Paramahansaji’s wishes on this matter:
“…It is our policy to permit only ordained ministers to give the Kriya Yoga initiation. Master said that after his passing he wanted only SRF renunicates to be ordained as ministers, and at that only after a minimum of seven years in one of our colonies…”
Ananda also writes about SRF’s policy “formulated after Yogananda’s passing, of requiring applicants for Kriya Yoga initiation, to sign a pledge renouncing all other church affiliation and accepting exclusive membership in the Self-Realization Fellowship Church.” To clarify this, following is the actual wording of the pledge:
“I will practice Kriya Yoga faithfully and regularly to the best of my ability. I will not reveal its techniques to anyone without written permission from the Mother Center of Self-Realization Fellowship at Los Angeles, California. In my path toward God, I accept you as my Gurus, O Jesus Christ, Bhagavan Krishna, Mahavatar Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, Swami Sri Yukteswar, and Paramahansa Yogananda. To God, and to you my Gurus, I offer my unconditional devotion and loyalty. With this spiritual baptism of Kriya Yoga Initiation, I now become a member of Self-Realization Fellowship, and pledge that I will do my best to exemplify the ideals and promote the aims of this path.”
It was Paramahansaji himself who established this from the earliest years of his mission, when he would ask those who attended his Kriya initiations to repeat a pledge of loyalty and devotion upon entering the guru-disciple relationship. On numerous occasions he referred specifically to the importance of the Kriyaban’s link with the SRF Mother Center. Writing to Tara Mata about some material he was sending her for inclusion of one of his books, he said:
“I am sending to you immediately the wonderful things that came to me about Kriya Yoga and pranayama. Please strictly refrain from describing the technique of Kriya Yoga, which is indelibly a part of our work for disciples only…Kriya Yoga indeed has a very popular appeal…Everybody is anxious to receive it after reading the book [Autobiography of a Yogi], and I am giving it to them only after they have received their foundation in the Praecepta [SRF] Lessons. The Science of Kriya Yoga will be learned from SRF Headquarters.”
In a handwritten note titled Kriya Yoga (see photo, below), Paramahansaji expressed the thoughts to be conveyed to new initiates about the close association between Kriya, SRF and the line of Gurus:
“This is not the end of your relationship with SRF or Kriya Yoga—but the beginning. Keep contact with headquarters and you will be linked with the Masters, by which salvation is reached quickly…Some take Kriya Yoga and become fully satisfied and forget all about the link of the masters—they will never reach God.
“Kriya Yoga is the fastest airplane route to God, but it has to be piloted by the gurus—SRF teachings regularly received.”*
[Footnote: Reflecting an understanding of Paramahansaji’s guidance in this regard, Mr. Walters (when he was serving in the Center Department at our International Headquarters) wrote the following to a leader of an SRF Center:
“You know, perhaps, that a teacher of SRF is not expected to send out lessons on his own…That any member should consider the lessons of one of the teachers to be more important than the lessons of the Guru seems to us unbelievable…if we permit such laxity this work would never grow as the Master intended it shall.”
In recent years Mr. Walters has apparently abandoned this view. We understand that, though he refers to members of his Ananda Community as disciples of Paramahansa Yogananda, Mr. Walters now requires them to study his own course of lessons, “Fourteen Steps to Higher Awareness,” and discourages them from studying Paramahansa Yogananda’s Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons.]
A God-realized guru can help his disciples whether or not he is in physical form. Out of his love for the countless generations of truth-seekers to come, Paramahansaji left in his Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons a spiritual legacy infused with his divine power and blessings. He promised that disciples who came after his passing would have the same opportunity to find God-union as did those who knew him personally—through practice of his teachings as given in the Lessons. “The SRF Lessons,” he said, “are impregnated with the spirit of great masters. If you study them with reverence and deep attention, along with the practice of deep meditation, you will be in touch with the divine link of our masters, and will be lifted into the kingdom of Cosmic Consciousness.”
Thousands of loyal members of Self-Realization Fellowship/Yogoda Satsanga Society of India revere Paramahansa Yogananda and his line of Gurus as their eternal link with God. We know from countless letters received at the Mother Center that the guidance, intercession and ceaseless blessings of these divine ones is an ever-present benediction in the lives of SRF Kriya Yogis all over the world.
[*Footnote: A number of other teachers are including in their work some of the techniques that Paramahansaji taught, including Kriya Yoga. We leave it to each individual to follow the spiritual path in his or her own way. Those who come to Self-Realization Fellowship receive from us the teachings of our Guru, including Kriya Yoga, according to the instructions he left with us. Our sole aim is to walk in his footsteps, following his guidelines. We are not able to vouch for the activities of others who are also teachings in his name. But we hold goodwill toward all who are striving to help others.]