Kriya Yoga: A Comprehensive Path to Spiritual Awakening

Kriya Yoga offers a profound journey towards spiritual awakening, blending ancient teachings with transformative practices.

Kriya Yoga is an integral body-mind-soul methodology for spiritual awakening.

Three overarching principles of Kriya Yoga, self-discipline, self-study, and self-surrender remove impediments to direct knowledge of our essential spiritual nature, and the natural experience Self-realization ensues.

Kriya Yoga isn't just a practice—it's a transformative journey towards awakening to one's deepest spiritual essence.

Fall in Love with Your Life and Live the Life You Love

Life can be a perpetual search for happiness in its myriad forms—pleasure, security, success, contentment, joy. Ever notice that we look for it and find it, only to lose it again? Or want more from wherever it seemed to come from?

At some point, we begin to ask: What is this deep desire for happiness? Is there a way to satisfy it once and for all? What do I really want? Can I find freedom from sorrow? Is that even possible? When these questions arise, the journey of spiritual awakening begins.

What is Kriya Yoga?

Kriya Yoga is a path for spiritual awakening—a way to discover our essential nature and live a more conscious and fulfilling life.

The Kriya path is a way of life. It is a way to sanctify one’s life through four essential disciplines—contemplation, meditation, cultivation of the virtues, and surrender of the sense of separate existence.

Kriya Yoga is not a religion. It is a way of life, open to all who seek to live a spiritually balanced, wholesome life. Practitioners of Kriya Yoga from different faiths, ethnicities, cultures, economic status, or vocations—are joined by the common goal in the heart of every seeker of truth—the goal to awaken.

Kriya Yoga According to Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

YS 2.1 Self-discipline, self-study, and surrender of the illusional sense of separate self constitute Kriya Yoga.

YS 2.2 Kriya Yoga facilitates superconscious union with Absolute Reality and reduces and removes the causes of suffering.

The principal path of yoga delineated in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is Kriya Yoga. Patanjali (beyond the name, nothing is known of this sage) compiled the Yoga Sutras from the Vedic body of yogic wisdom around 200 C.E. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali consists of 195 concise aphorisms called “sutras” which connect to vast reservoirs of ancient teachings as well as inner knowledge.

The four sections of the Yoga Sutras are: the cultivation of pure awareness, the path or way including the eight limbs of practice, soul powers, and spiritual liberation.

In the second chapter of Yoga Sutras, Patanjali introduces Kriya Yoga, which is universally applicable, practical method for Self-realization and superconscious living. Kriya” means “action” and “yoga” means conscious union of body, mind, soul, and Spirit. Yoga, in the highest sense, is realizing we are one with the Infinite—integrally connected with all that is.

Kriya Yoga refers to those actions we take that support the goal of yoga — spiritually conscious living, the Oneness-realization that is samadhi.

The three strategies or practices that Patanjali offers as the way to remove obstructions and cultivate superconsciousness are self- discipline, self-study, and self-surrender.

Self-discipline is practiced every day through intentionally joyful living, by staying focused on higher purpose and true fulfillment. It’s all the choices we make to live in harmony with the soul, to align our thoughts, speech, and action with the spiritual truth of our being.

Self-study is investigation of higher realities and inquiry into the nature of consciousness, which includes contemplation and superconscious meditation.

Self-surrender is letting go of the illusional sense of a separate self, releasing the erroneous idea that we are separate from the Source of life and its ongoing support.

In essence, Patanjali is like a salesman who informs us that we already have what we are trying to buy. While the purpose of Kriya Yoga is to foster our ability to experience samadhi, the method is simply to remove any obstruction to experiencing that which is natural to us. Superconsciousness is the ground of our being, our essence. Kriya Yoga is not about doing anything to become spiritual. It’s an affirmation that we already are. Through yoga, we remove anything that gets in the way of knowing and experiencing it. We get ready to expand our consciousness, ready to grow and prosper.

The Eight Limbs of Yoga Practice

In the second chapter of the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali introduces the eight limbs or means for accomplishing the cessation of thought activity and experiencing pure awareness. The eight limbs (or components of practice) are:

  1. The Restraints (Yamas): Harmlessness, Truthfulness, Nonstealing, Right Use of Vital Force, and Nonattachment
  2. The Observances (Niyamas): Cleanliness, Contentment, Self-Discipline, Study of Nature of Consciousness, and Surrender of the Sense of Separateness
  3. Posture (Asana)
  4. Control of Vital Force (Pranayama)
  5. Interiorization (Pratyahara)
  6. Concentration (Dharana)
  7. Meditation (Dhyana)
  8. Oneness (Samadhi)
A graphic of eight limbs of yoga

The limbs provide a structure for combining the practice of meditation and cultivation of virtues. This systematic approach to Self – and God-realization brings forth the inner experience that fuels the devotee’s ability to make real change. This experience of knowing the truth of who we are provides the sustaining motivation for changing our life. The combination of meditation and cultivation of the virtues brings stability as we awaken and our lives transform.

How to Practice Kriya Yoga

"God can be realized through Kriya even while leading a worldly life." –Lahiri Mahasaya

Yogacharya O'Brian's spiritual teacher, Roy Eugene Davis, often remarked that many reached out to him for initiation and instruction in the practice of Kriya pranayama after reading Paramahansa Yogananda’s autobiography, thinking that pranayama comprised the entirety of the practice. He would clarify: Kriya Yoga is a complete practice that includes a disciplined, healthy lifestyle, study of the nature of Reality, adherence to ethical precepts, regular practice of superconscious meditation, dedicated discipleship, living with higher purpose while contributing to the well-being of all, and surrender of the illusional sense of separate existence.

Kriya is a dynamic form of pranayama. Still, the comprehensive enlightenment path of Kriya Yoga is so much more than a technique. The Sanskrit word kriya means action or practice. It can refer to those actions we take to purify the body and mind, as well as the spontaneous purificatory actions (kriyas) initiated by awakened kundalini (primordial cosmic energy). The word kriya combined with the word yoga (Kriya Yoga) refers to the comprehensive philosophy and practices for spiritual realization and actualization.

Kriya Yoga brings together the most effective elements of all systems of yoga including:

  • Step-by-step meditation methodology of Raja Yoga with its eight limbs of practice;
  • Surrendered devotion of Bhakti Yoga;
  • Focused self-inquiry of Jnana Yoga; and
  • Importance of selfless service that is Karma Yoga.
Young man practicing kriya yoga, a spiritual meditation practice, in the park.

The Components of the Kriya Yoga Practice

The emphasis in this tradition is placed on healthy, purposeful, conscious living, supported by superconscious meditation practice. It is an intentional, universal approach to Self-realization and spiritual enlightenment. Enlightenment is not only the goal for every person; it is considered the certain destiny. Since we are already spiritual beings, enlightenment is the revelation of that, waking up to it. Knowing it. Living it. Everyday.

A close up of a blue and green peacock that symbolizes enlightenment.

Here are the steps and actions we take that contribute to spiritual analyzing the realization of Oneness.

  • We meditate and experience our essence of being.
  • We contemplate and inquire into the nature of Reality.
  • We reflect on how to live with wisdom and compassion.
  • We explore, engage in spiritual practices, and discover what works for us.

Kriya Yoga offers a timely and time-tested perspective that enlightenment is a natural revelation of what is true. It occurs when the mental obstacles to it are removed. When the mind becomes calm and quiet, it is illumined by the radiance of the Self. Then the truth of what we are is naturally revealed. It is experienced directly. This experience transforms us because it changes our point of view. We are no longer a person identified with the body and mind who thinks they might have a soul. We now know we are the soul—we are That. We are the divine Self, expressing through the body and the mind.

There is no spiritual condition to create and no enlightenment to attain. Only the realization of what is so.

pictures of five gurus in Kriya Yoga lineage

Kriya Yoga Lineage

This system of Kriya Yoga reflects the teaching emphasis and specific procedures of the Kriya Yoga tradition brought from India to the West by Paramahansa Yogananda in 1920.

Kriya Yoga in this tradition has been passed on through the centuries from guru to disciple through instruction, initiation and transmission. This lineage begins with Mahavatar Babaji, the great avatar or yoga master, whose mission is to support the awakening of souls and planetary evolution. Through him, the teachings were transmitted to his disciple Lahiri Mahasaya.

After receiving permission from Babaji to make the teachings of Kriya Yoga more widely available to sincere seekers, Lahiri Mahasaya, a family man known as a householder yogi, initiated thousands of students, including Swami Sri Yukteswar.

Swami Sri Yukteswar trained and initiated, Mukunda Lal Ghosh, one of his foremost disciples who would later be instrumental in the worldwide dissemination of the teachings of Kriya Yoga. Mukunda had been initiated into the practices of Kriya Yoga early in life by his father who was also a disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya. Yet, his destined guru-disciple relationship was with Swami Sri Yukteswar who faithfully guided him and supported his unfolding spiritual realization. After years of devoted study and practice with his guru, he entered the swami order and took on the monastic name, Swami Yogananda. At a later date, Sri Yukteswar gave Yogananda the monastic title of Paramahansa, meaning "supreme swan" and indicating the highest spiritual attainment, which formally superseded his previous title of "swami."

Paramahansa Yogananda came to America in 1920 with the blessings of his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, to spread the liberating teachings of Kriya Yoga in the West. He initiated thousands into the spiritual practices of Kriya Yoga and inspired seekers worldwide to discover the liberating truth of their spiritual nature and their relationship with the Infinite. His seminal book, Autobiography of a Yogi, remains a bestseller today and continues to attract seekers to the path.

Among those Paramahansa Yogananda trained, and ordained to teach and initiate others into Kriya Yoga, was his American disciple Roy Eugene Davis. He met Paramahansa Yogananda in 1949, was accepted for monastic training and later ordained by Yogananda in 1951. Mr. Davis dedicated his life to offering Kriya Yoga teachings worldwide for over 60 years.

Yogacharya O’Brian met her guru, Roy Eugene Davis, in 1979 and was initiated by him into Kriya Yoga the following year. After initial training, Mr. Davis ordained her to teach in this tradition in 1982. She has been teaching Kriya Yoga meditation methods and lifestyle wisdom now for over four decades.

Paramahansa Yogananda, Sri Yukteswar, Lahiri Mahasaya, and Mahavatar Babaji, the Kriya Yoga masters who came before, illumined the path and made it possible for sincere seekers to find it today. The vitality of Center for Spiritual Enlightenment, with the spiritual direction of Yogacharya Ellen Grace O'Brian, a disciple of Mr. Davis, abides in the living legacy of this teaching tradition.

Yogacharya O’Brian with her teacher,   Roy Eugene Davis at CSE - San Jose CA

Yogacharya O’Brian with her teacher,

Roy Eugene Davis at CSE - San Jose CA

A picture of Mahavatar Babaji with a quote
A picture of Mahavatar Babaji with a quote
A picture of Mahavatar Babaji with a quote
A picture of Mahavatar Babaji with a quote
A picture of Mahavatar Babaji with a quote

A Path for Spiritual Awakening

The transformation of lives—hearts blossoming with compassion and minds illumined by inner wisdom; watching people discovering lasting happiness and inner peace that cannot be taken away by circumstances—offers great hope for our world. A sustainable way to live in harmony with nature and with one another can only arise from an awakened heart and mind that recognizes our oneness, our common humanity, and shared divinity with all of life. An awakened world is possible—one awakened person at a time.

A picture of Kriya Yoga guru Yogacharya Ellen Grace O'Brian with a quote


Dive Deeper into Yoga Teachings and Practices

Live the Eternal Way: The Art and Practice of Self-realization

Engage in this six-week online course with Yogacharya O’Brian and learn how to meditate and live by spiritual principles. This course, based on the science of Self-realization of Kriya Yoga, will provide the method, practices, and philosophy that will facilitate the direct encounter with your divine Self that will transform your life.

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