Yogi and mystic, Sadhguru, looks at what kriya yoga means, and what it takes to walk this path and explore the very mechanics of the life process.
Sadhguru: Fundamentally, kriya means internal action. When you do inner action, it does not involve the body and the mind because both the body and the mind are still external to you. When you have a certain mastery to do action with your energy, then it is a kriya.
If you do external activity we call it karma. If you do internal activity we call it kriya. In a way, both are certain kind of karmas or both are certain kind of kriyas. But traditionally, or in the general sense of the term it is understood like this: karmas are those which bind you, kriyas are those which release you.
Whatever we do with your body, your attitudes and your thought, for example today your thoughts may go in one direction. Tomorrow if another person comes and influences you, they will go another way. Similarly, whatever we do with your body, your body is well today so it likes asanas. Tomorrow morning if your body is stiff, you will hate asanas. Your emotions are not at all reliable. At any moment they can shift from this to that. But your energies are different. Once we start working with the energy in a certain way, it has a different kind of depth to life. Suddenly, there is a different dimension to every aspect of your life because your energies have been touched and activated in a completely different way.
A powerful way
Kriya yoga is a very powerful way to walk the spiritual path, but at the same time it is a very demanding way. What it demands out of a person is so tremendous. For a modern educated person today, kriya yoga would be inhuman because it needs that kind of discipline and a certain exactness about everything. Most people don't have the body, the mind or the stability of emotion for the kriya yoga path anymore because right from childhood, people are in too much comfort. Comfort does not mean physical comfort. Sitting in a comfortable chair is not an obstruction. But your whole being is seeking comfort always, that is a great obstruction. If you are sitting on something which is comfortable, enjoy it – there is no problem about it. But if you are constantly seeking comfort, then that kind of mind and emotion is unsuitable for the path of kriya yoga. Kriya yoga cannot be done with people who are loose, people who talk “freedom” everywhere, “Am I not free to do this, am I not free to do that, can't I eat this, can't I sleep there?”
If you take someone into the path of kriya, if I tell you sleep with your legs up and head down, that is how you should sleep without asking questions because all of it can never be explained. You may understand as you go, but it can never be explained. And if it has to be explained, the essence of the kriya will be lost. If people start asking stupid logical questions for everything, kriyas cannot be imparted.
If we want to teach you kriyas just as a physical practice, I can write a book about it, and you can read and learn it. But if you want the kriya to be a live process, if we want the kriya to be imprinted into your system in a certain way, then it needs discipline and dedication. It needs trust to open up your energies to the other person so that you become absolutely vulnerable. He may do anything with you, and initially you will start wondering what the hell he is doing with you because the initial stages of kriyas can be such that you don't know whether you are getting enlightened or you are going mad. You must have enough trust to sustain through those periods. Otherwise kriya will be difficult.
So generally on the path of kriya, most Gurus make the disciples wait. You come and you want to learn kriya yoga. “Okay, sweep the floor.” “No, I want to learn kriya yoga.” “That is why I said, sweep the floor.” You swept the floor for one year and said, “I did one year of sweeping.” “Oh, you are done with one year of sweeping the floor? Wash the dishes.” Just make him wait, wait, and wait. Use him, misuse him, abuse him, and still his trust does not shake, “Oh, there must be some reason.” When he comes to this, then he can be initiated into kriyas. Otherwise, once you power him in a particular way that his system is vibrant beyond normal standards, if his attitudes and emotions are not proper, he will cause immense damage to himself.
But in today's world, to get that kind of time with people to make them wait and go through all this and when they come to that kind of trust, then imprinting this is a little remote. It is not impossible, but it is a little remote in the modern world.
The mechanics of life
Kriya yoga is important only if you want to do things beyond realization. If your interest is only to somehow escape this prison and get away, you just want enlightenment or mukti, then you don't really have to walk the kriya yoga path because kriyas are so elaborate and involve so much discipline and focus. If you just want to be liberated, then kriyas can be used in a small way, it need not be too intense. Kriya as a whole path is not necessary because it needs too much application.
If you follow the path of kriya very intensely, without guidance it may take a few lifetimes to mature. If there is someone alive who can do things with you, then it can happen in this life. Otherwise kriya is a little roundabout way. With the path of kriya you are not only seeking realization, you also want to know the mechanics of life-making. You want to know the engineering of how life is built – what to do about it. That is why it is a much longer process.
People who have come up on kriya have a completely different kind of presence about them because of the mastery over their energies. They can dismantle life and put it back together. But if you are just pursuing other ways, like gnana for example, you are razor-sharp, you can do many things with your mind but still there is nothing much you can do with your energy. If you are on bhakti, there is nothing you can do and you don't care, you only want to dissolve. If you are on the path of karma yoga, you do many things in the world, but you can do nothing with yourself. But kriya yogis can do whatever they wish with themselves in terms of energy and they can do a lot with the world also.