The samAdhi state is reached momentarily when we have intense joy by connecting to an event or scene completely.  With full attention, our senses do not block our perception and we get immersed in our consciousness fully.  The question comes if we can maintain our discriminating faculty all the time.  The logic of “intense joy” is that we lose our body sensation in that brief moment.  The joyfulness is pure and natural when we merge ourselves with the rest of the universe.  The body is burdensome and metabolic; it separates us from the universe.  It can have happiness, but no joy.  Joy happens when we transcend from the body, which only happens occasionally.  Such occasions are only just moments.  How do we expand them?


Unlike the older sAnkhya concepts, Patanjali theorized that the state of joy always exists inside each being and this state can be discovered by suitable discipline and practice.   He accepted sAnkhya cosmology that each being is a product of his/her guNa(s), but he empirically discovered that the guNa(s) manifest through the mind.   So, the technique is to release the mind from the control of the guNa(s).  sAnkhya would say that guNa(s) accumulate through our genetic mutations, technically called samskAra.  Patanjali brilliantly put focus on human mind as the cause of human misery. More and more therapists, physicians and caregivers are gradually accepting the role of mind in the human condition of causing pain and happiness in the body.


So, we must clean our mind.  Here Patanjali went one step further.  He hypothesized that the mind itself is only a conduit of our brain processes manifesting as “thoughts”.  He further observed that we don’t seem to have any control over our thoughts.  Mind has the ability to act on a thought, just like eye has the ability to look at an object.  Since thoughts can taint the mind, the only recourse left is to replace any negative thoughts with neutral or positive thoughts.  This process of replacing the thoughts according to Patanjali is to engage the mind in activities such that the negative thoughts have less time to germinate.  He gave the name Kriya Yoga to such a process.  Complete elimination of all thoughts leading to a joyful samAdhi state would need more work and he coined the phrase ashTAnga yoga in order to proceed towards the spiritual culmination.  We will take up the examination of full ashTAnga yoga in the future articles.


Kriya Yoga in principle is a part of ashTAnga yoga, in the discipline called niyama.  The first two parts of Niyama are s’aucha “cleanliness” and santosha “contentment.” Both of these depend on external factors and hence some amount of insulation and detachment are required in order to accomplish these two.  The rest three of the niyama quintet are doable, hence the phrase kriya “work”; we can work on them.   Kriya yoga is the prescription of a socio-religious life for any person wishing to gain creativity, wisdom, love and friendship.


The first step of Kriya Yoga is termed tapas.  It comes from the verb tap, which is used in the meaning of making personal efforts in disciplining oneself.  People who could stay still for days together in meditation were called tapasvI, meaning a person who may carry the attribute of tapas with them.  It does not have to be meditation, but one-mindedness in an effort where the senses could be cooperating fully.  This cooperation is achieved by purifying the senses, affected by practice.  Through discipline, we bring the senses to our control such that they do not distract us.  We also need our body to be fully purified such that it does not yield to instincts.  Long apprenticeship in a school with a teacher is the beginning of the tapas process.  Kriya Yoga bases itself on the postulate that our deficiencies in attention, perception and concentration can be cured by practicing higher morals called yama that we will discuss later.


The principle behind tapas is that the human being has the ability to shut himself/herself from the outside world by the sheer execution of will power which is a function of desire, determination and focus.  Tapas is the process of constant refinement of our limbs such that we reduce defects in them and energize them.   It is a whole-hearted and continuous effort to prepare the body for a determined task.  In the process one discovers the power of the mind and gains the ability of drawing the mind to the action through the limb.   The defects are indeed the distractions in the mind and tapas helps prepare the mind by suppressing the distractions.


Once we gain tapas, our next task is svAdhyAya, “self study.”  Self-study is the part of the contemplative process when we concentrate in studies of the scriptures or practice recitation.  Self-study is by definition a personal effort for introspection, when we may analyze our own being and intentions.  In a practical sense, it is to keep our brain and mind occupied such that we can keep away from the myriads of stray thoughts that might appear in our mind.  svAdhyAya is an extension of tapas but is directed towards the brain activity, thinking and analysis.  The scriptures are designed to map human conditions in the form of stories; hence the svAdhyAya process illumines our internal self in helping us to get a better reading of our own personality.  The process may not be straightforward and we may take many years of practice to come into the terms of our self-analysis.


Sometimes in various situations, the scriptural study is replaced by pure repetition of a word or a mantra.  In Patanjali’s language the word is praNava, which is the sound Aum of the Vedas.  In principle the praNava can be any sound that is useful to a person and Aum is a good substitute.  Some people do carry a full phrase as a mantra and repeat it dutifully for significant periods of time during the day.  Mantras are inherited in the families or are obtained through the initiation by a teacher.  The idea behind the repetition is that the word or mantra reveals itself with new meaning as we continue its recitation.  Through such process we observe the finer aspects of our own intellect.


The final step of the Kriya Yoga is termed IshvarapraNidhAnaIshvara is a powerful construct in Patanjali’s work.  Unlike the prevailing definition of Ishvara as the Creator in the early sculptures and the Gita, Patanjali’s Ishvara is a concept.  Taking the clue of purusha from sAnkhya, Patanjali defines a special purusha who is untouched by the stress of life, the work in life, the results of work or by the necessary supports required in everyday life.  It is an ideal and special entity.  It could be a manifested object but is completely unattached to any other object.  Extrapolating from the sAnkhya’s purusha, it is an asymptotic realization.  In yoga theory, it is a human condition when one is fully released from any anxiety of life.


In Patanjali’s method, the third step of Kriya yoga is to have full dedication to Ishvara such that the practitioner accepts it completely for his/her meditative contemplation.  The Sanskrit verb dhA means to hold, nidhAna would mean a receptacle and praNidhAna would suggest a full reservoir.  So IshvarapraNidhAna would mean the object which is filled up by Ishvara.  Let there be no other thought beside Ishvara in one’s mind, that is the idea.  In such situations, the practitioner can steadily approach towards the Ishvara state through one’s own tapas and svAdhyAya.


While Kriya Yoga might appear straightforward, the deficiencies in human life are too many to be cleaned easily.  Some deficiencies are fundamental and some are derived.  We will analyze them following Patanjali in the next article.   It should also be mentioned that there has been a late effort during the last hundred years or so to create a discipline of Kriya Yoga based purely on the breathing exercises. We will discuss these when we get to prANAyAma exercises of Patanjali.


Let Sai bless all.

Bijoy Misra