There are eight Kriya yoga gurus who are considered to be the modern masters of the practice. Their lineage was created by one master anointing a worthy disciple as his successor. Each master has picked up the torch to disseminate the teachings of Kriya yoga to an even wider audience. The first guru in this lineage, Mahavatar Babaji Maharaj, is considered to be "a perfect divine incarnation in human form," according to the Angel Fire website. However, subsequent masters are decidedly human.
Kriya yoga is said to be a scientific practice that leads to spiritual growth, primarily through meditation and controlled breathing. Kriya yoga masters are able to attain a motionless, breathless and pulseless state that resembles suspended animation. It is the highest achievement in Kriya yoga, allowing them to commune with God in a state of detachment from the world, mind and body. Attaining cosmic consciousness of the oneness of all creation, which enables the practitioner to view the world with unconditional love, gratitude and joy, is the ultimate goal of Kriya yoga. A nonsectarian practice, Kriya yoga finds truth in the teachings of all the world's great religions.
Mahavatar Babaji and Lahiri Mahasaya
Babaji is considered to be over 2,000 years old, according to Kriya yoga beliefs. He is said to be an immortal, "a great spiritual being beyond human limitations," who usually remains invisible, according to the Kriya yoga website. It is said that Babaji lives in the Himalayas, where he is joined by advanced disciples. The next master in the modern lineage, Lahiri Mahasaya, is said to have received his Kriya yoga training from Babaji in 1861. He supposedly met Babaji on a road in the Himalayas and became his student. Babaji instructed Lahiri to initiate anyone who desired to practice Kriya yoga, and Lahiri attracted thousands of followers to the discipline. As a result, Lahiri is sometimes called the father of Kriya yoga. Lahiri is an important role model for Kriya yoga, since he lived a normal family life, held an ordinary job and yet reached the heights of self-awareness.
The next three masters built on the foundations laid by Lahiri. Shrimat Bhupendranath authored dozens of books and established a number of ashrams in India. Swami Shriyukteshwar was an academic who promoted a key Kriya yoga principle: that Eastern and Western religions share essential characteristics. Satyananda Giri might be best known for promoting a childhood friend, Paramahansa Yogananda, to the lineage of Kriya yoga masters.
The Modern Masters
Paramahamsa Yogananda brought Kriya yoga to the United States in 1920 and stayed to found the Self-Realization Church, preaching the compatibility of yoga and Christian teachings. His book, "The Autobiography of a Yogi," remains extremely popular, and his church continues to thrive in America in the 21st century. Paramahamsa Hariharananda then picked up the torch and founded the Kriya Yoga Institute, which has chapters throughout America, Europe and the rest of the world. His successor and the current master, Paramahamsa Prajnanananda, was born in India in 1960. He is a former professor of economics, a scholar of religious scripture and a prolific author and speaker who continues to increase the following for Kriya yoga.
Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.