Brij Mohan Sharma
Emerging in every generation, India has an unending stream of rishis and munis, saints and sages, who have been instrumental in writing the destiny of this holy land an guiding its people in their quest for ultimate verities.
Paramahansa Yogananda was one of such saints. He entered this world on January 5, 1893 and left it in America on March 7, 1952. Taking into account his life and works, he was by all standards a born yogi. This fact is further substantiated and corroborated by his own Autobiography where he says “I find my earliest memories covering the anachronistic features of an previous incarnation. Clear recollection came to me of a distant life in which I had been a yogi amid the Himalayan snows. This glimpse of the past, by some dismensionless link, also afforded as a glimpse of the future.’’
What was this glimpse of the future ? He emerged as great yogi and a most enlightened Guru in this incarnation also, who not only blessed his own countrymen with the spiritual teachings and techniques of yoga, but also made the westerners risch by the scientific yogic system of India which, if practised sincerely, enables man to establish communion with the Infinite.
He initiated about one million students in Kriya Yoga, a proven scientific technique meant for awakening the divine counsciousness in man. Paramhansa Yogananda is recognised as a world teacher, an enlightened exponent of universal science of yoga, a great son and spiritual ambassador of India, a benefactor of mankind and a God-realized Master.
In 1920, he began his mission in the West, where he founded his society known as Self-Realization Fellowship. (In India, this society is known as Yogoda Satsang Society of India).
It may be pertinent to mention here that Paramhansaji did not go to the West of his own, but he was instructed to do so by his param paramguru Mahavatar Babaji, who told him: “You are the one I have chosen to spread the message of Kriya Yoga in the West.’’ It might interest the readers to know that Babaji is still living near Badrinarayan and has retained his physical form for centuries, perhaps for milleniums. The deathless Babaji is an avatara. His spiritual state is beyond human comprehe sion. It is said that he had given initiation to Shankara, the reorganiser of the Swami Order and to Kabir, the famous medieval master.
What is Kriya Yoga? The science of Kriya Yoga is the revival of the same science that Krishna gave milleniums ago to Arjuna, and that was later known to Patanjali and other disciples.
The Sanskrit root of Kriya is kri, to do, to act and react. Yoga means union. Kriya Yoga is thus union (yoga) with the Infinite through certain action or rite (kriya).
Paramhansaji says : “Kriya yoga is a simple psychophysiological method by which human blood is decarbonized and recharged with oxygen. The atoms of this extra oxygen are transmitted into life oxygen. The atoms of this extra oxygen are transmitted into life current to rejuvenate the brain and spinal centres. By stopping the accumulation of venous blood, the yogi is able to lessen or prevent the decay of tissues.’’
It is said that some of our prophete were past masters in the use of Kriya or a similar technique by which they caused their bodies to materialise and dematerialise at will.
Needless to mention that Kriya Yoga became known to the worldwide audience through the “Autobiography’ of a Yogi’’ by Paramhansa Yogananda published in 1946.
The ancient yogis discovered that the secret of evolutionary growth is intimately linked with breath mastery; and this is India’s unique and deathless contribution to the world’s treasury of knowledge.
“The flesh of man could carry on activity nor manifest energy and motion’’, explained Pramahansaji, “were it not for the life currents transmitted by soul and body through the instrumentality in unenlightened man, of the breath (gaserous energy)’’.
It is a proven fact that there exists mathematical relationship between man’s respiratory rate and the variations in his state of consciousness. A person whose attention is wholly engrossed, as in flooowing some closely knit intellectual argument,or in attempting some delicate or difficult physical jfeat, automaticlaly breathes slowly, whereas quick or uneven breaths are an inevitable accompaniment of harmful emotional states such as fear, lust, anger, etc.
‘’The rejuvenating effects of sleep’’, explained paramahansaji, “are due to man’s temporary unawareness of body abnd breathing. Tbhe sleeping man becomes a yogi each night the unconsciously performs the yogic rite of releasing himself from bodily identification’’. Whereas, “The voluntary yogi performs a simple natural process consciously, not unconsciously, like the slow-paced sleeper. The Kriya yogi.. scientifically makes breathing unncessary and does not enter (during the hours of practice) the negative states of sleep, unconsciousness or death.’’
Untying the cord of breath that binds the soul to the body, kriya serves to prolong life and to enlarge the consciousness to infinite. The yoga technique overcomes the tug of war between the mind and the matter-entangled senses, and frees the devotee to reinherit his eternal self.
As a word of caution, it may be stated here that Kriya yoga has nothing in common with the unscientific breathing exercises taught by a number of misguided zealots. Attempts to hold breath forcibly in the lungs are unnatural and decidedly unpleasant. Kriya yoga practice, on the other hand, is accompanied by feelings of peace and soothing sensations of regeneratives effects.
What made it imperative for rishis to evolve yoga? Man, by nature, has an inquisitive mind. And, this is the reason that from his very origin on earth he is in the process of unravelling the mysteries of nature. However, all the discoveries made by him are of materialistic nature. He could not unravel the mystery about his own self. Thus, his enquiries as to “Who am I ?’’ ‘Who is my Creator ?’, ‘Wbat is the purpose of my life?’, etc. remained unanswered. It was only by the discovery of yoga my our rishis that man has been able to get answers to all his spiritual enquiries.
Yoga makes it possible for a yogi to sit motionless for long periods without mental or bodily urge towards restless activity. Only by such quietude the soul finds its way back to God. A regular and sincere devotee is sure to receive rewards in body and mind and in soul awareness.
Brij Mohan Sharma