Kriya Yoga in the Yoga utensils

Already at Patañjali there is a definition of Kriya Yoga (sūtra 2.1):

tapaḥ svādhyāya īśvarapraṇidhānāni kriyā-yogaḥ 

For the most part, this sūtra is translated and interpreted analogously to sūtra 2.32 (see the explanation for the second level of astanga yoga), with the exception that Patañjali does not mention purity (śauca) and contentment (saṁtoṣa) here. Kriya Yoga, or the Yoga of Action (after the translation of many commentators of the Yogasutren) would be practically identical to the second level of Astanga Yoga (niyama). In the traditional interpretation of this sūtras by the teachers of Kriya Yoga, which was revealed in 1861 by the legendary mahāyogi Babaji to Lahiri Mahasaya from Varanasi (Benares), there is a small but important difference.

Tapas is not only translated as self-discipline or asceticism but also as embers, heat. And we have heat in the body because the soul lives in the body. The place of residence of the soul is ātmāstān, or the sixth chakra. That’s why the sixth chakra is called tapa loka. Tapas now means to feel a permanent connection with ātmā, with the sixth center (cakra).

svādhyāya means, as we have already seen, self-study, especially the study (adhyāya) of the own soul (sva). īśvara means God and praṇidhāna means attention, so īśvarapraṇidhānāni means giving God constant attention (love and devotion).

The entire sūtra gives the instruction of what Kriya Yoga is: Kriya Yoga always means to feel the presence of Atma in the sixth cakra, to study the Self with each breath and to see God in everything.

All the exercises of Astanga Yoga are based on the fact that the consciousness in connection with ātmā remains in the ājñā cakra (the sixth chakra). He is the true doer and when the practitioner realizes that not he as a person but He as ātmā performs all the exercises, then only the spiritual success sets in.

The same explanation is also given by the word meaning of the term “Kriya Yoga”: k means to do, ya means soul, and as described above, yoga is unity. All actions are done in union with the soul. Every action should be done with Atma. But what does that mean? Every bodily function depends on the breath that keeps the body alive. The breath is controlled by Atma. So every action is essentially Atma’s plot.

In the Kriya Yoga tradition, in this way, every action (karma) is given to the divine Self – Atma. He is the real agent. Out of this attitude, Atma gives the human being deeper understanding and knowledge (jñāna) of all things of this world, of the everyday worldly things and the spiritual aspects of life. This deeper understanding in turn leads to more love and devotion (bhakti) to the Creator and His creation.

In this tradition, the teacher is aware that there is only one teacher in the entire universe – God Himself. And God Himself is as active inside a student as he is inside a teacher. The task of the (external) teacher is to show the student the way to his own inner teacher or guru. And he achieves that best through his own role model.

You might wonder how Rishi Patañjali wrote about Kriya Yoga around AD 200, but that Babaji did not reveal the Kriya Yoga technique to his disciple Lahiri Mahasaya until 1861. Well, all masters, yogis, and enlightened ones of all times have practiced Kriya Yoga. Kriya yoga is nothing more than consciously perceiving the perfect union with the Creator in each act. And Rishi Patañjali was a great master who was fully aware of it, as well as Babaji.

It remains to be said: Kriya Yoga is a secret technique. Neither Babaji nor Rishi Patañjali have described the actual Kriya Yoga technique. The technique can only be passed on by an authorized teacher.


For more information on the tradition of Kriya Yoga teachers (Guruparampara), visit