In early November of last year, I began studying Paramahansa Yogananda’s Self-Realization Fellowship home study lessons. I just finished reading the 17th lesson in the series yesterday, and will complete the final one some time early next month.
The lessons are an introduction to an entire way of life, introducing Yogananda’s philosophy and theology, along with the practices and techniques of his lineage of gurus. They give instruction in three of the essential practices of SRF (Hong Sau Meditation, Energization Exercises and AUM Meditation). They form the foundation and preparation for the fourth, and purportedly most powerful, practice – Kriya Yoga.
So, as I complete the course of study, the question is posed. Do I wish to proceed on the SRF Kriya Yoga path, formally accepting Yogananda as my guru, and placing myself under the direction and discipline of his teachings henceforth?
The Guru/Disciple relationship is something that is not well understood in our Western culture, principally because the sort of commitment that it requires is also rather foreign to us. One’s guru is not the only light in one’s life, but is one’s principal light, teacher, guide and master. It is a sacred obligation on the part of both parties, which goes beyond the simple desire of one to learn from the other.
Although I have the highest regard for Yogananda and his teachings, and have been a serious student these eight months, I’m not prepared (at least not at the moment) to adhere to the Kriya Yoga path as my sole discipline and way of life.
I take it as a sign of maturity that I can show this sort of discernment. I have tended to be a “joiner” for much of my life, and the temptation to remain on this path (particularly following these many months of study) is great. I do find that the teachings make sense, and the techniques and practices are powerful and valuable, but I cannot picture myself putting the SRF at the center of my life. Also, although I find no contradiction in a being a faithful Roman Catholic and practicing the yogic techniques taught by Yogananda, I suspect that becoming his disciple in a formal way would be inconsistent with my Catholic Faith. The SRF reveres Jesus, along with Krishna and the four Kirya Yoga gurus (Mahavatar Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, Sri Yyukteswar and Yogananda), but their ideas about him depart from Catholic dogma. In my heart of hearts, I suppose that my beliefs are actually closer to those of Yogananda than they are to many of the teachings of the Catholic Church, but being “faithful anyway” is the biggest part of being a faithful Catholic for me.
Still, I have found the basic practices taught in the SRF lessons (particularly Hong Sau Meditation and the tension exercises) to be incredibly helpful, and intend to continue to grow and learn in their practice. I also wanted to learn more about the Kriya Yoga technique than what was available to the general public from “official” sources such as SRF or Ananda (a schism from Yogananda’s lineage). Fortunately, as you might guess, there is a lot of information available online these days about these once secret techniques and practices. Careful research is necessary to find the reliable and authoritative sources, but after sifting through all of that, I was delighted to find Ryan Kurczak’s writings and YouTube Channel.
I’m nowhere near ready to begin actually practicing the advanced Kriya Yoga techniques at this time, but I’m finding a wealth of practical, actionable wisdom in Kurczak’s work. His video shared at the top of this post especially resonated with me, and seemed almost as if it had been produced to address my own particular situation at the moment with regard to further study.
Isn’t it funny how that sort of thing happens? We find the thing that we need, at just the time that we need it.