In response to the question, “How does the desire for eternal life arise?” the great sage Ramana Maharshi replied, “Because the present state is unbearable. Why? Because it is not your True Nature.” Like many seekers on the spiritual path, I was looking for a way to find peace in my life, an inner happiness that would be unshakable in the turbulence of modern life. My earliest memories include a sense of spiritual yearning, wanting to know the truth about life, about my own self, and about God. Raised without formal religious training from my family but growing up in a multicultural neighborhood, I was exposed to many different religions and spiritual teachings. I came away from those experiences knowing that God dwells in every church, temple, mosque, and synagogue—that no one person or religion has exclusive ownership of the sacred. I also knew the sacred was accessible, that it could be experienced and known, and that this experience could be life changing. What I did not know was how to access this sense of the sacred in any predictable way, nor did I understand how my ideas about God were themselves a barrier to finding what I was looking for. I thought I was looking for something outside of my own essential nature.
Although I sensed the nearness of Divine Presence, I did not know where or how to search for It. I certainly had heard that the “kingdom of God” is within but I did not know how to enter that inner temple. Like many seekers of truth, I readily identified with the Sufi story of the wise fool, Mullah Nasruddin, who lost the keys to his house. When his friend finds him outside at night searching under the streetlight, he asks him what he is looking for. Mullah says, “I have lost my keys.” His friend naturally inquires, “Where did you last see them?” Mullah replies that he last saw them in the house. “Then why are you looking out here?” his friend asks. “Because the light is better out here,” Mullah says. Before learning how to access the higher states of consciousness within that connect us to the essential wholeness of our innate divine Self, most of us find it easier to look outside for fulfillment. We search here and there—in this relationship or that job—hoping to find the key to happiness and security. But, alas, the key is where it has always been. It is where we left it. It is in our own house—our own consciousness.
After years of searching, I was introduced to the path of Kriya Yoga, the spiritual practice rooted in ancient Vedic teachings. The philosophy and practice of yoga was the sacred key that provided the access I was looking for, allowing me to enter the holy temple within. And once within, to awaken from the illusion of separateness.
The disciplines of yoga, a systematic approach to spiritual realization, arose from the philosophical foundation of Vedic revelation. While the Vedic teachings have their historical origins in India and comprise the core of the Hindu religion, the essence of the Vedas extends beyond the boundaries of religion. The practice of yoga is not in and of itself a religion, but an individual path of authentic spiritual realization.
As one awakens to revealed truth through the practice of yoga, the inner way of their own particular religion becomes known. Yoga facilitates direct experience of the innate divine Self, allowing a seeker of truth to become a knower of truth. This realization—knowledge and experience—is transformative. Thus, it is often said that Christians can become better Christians, or Buddhists better Buddhists, as a result of their yoga practice. The transformation from ignorance of our essential nature to Self-realization is the universal way of spiritual awakening that is beyond words, thoughts, religious beliefs, or practices.
Kriya Yoga is the branch of yoga discipline brought to the United States by the Indian sage Paramahansa Yogananda in the early part of the twentieth century. His teachings, and those of others including Ramakrishna’s disciple, Swami Vivekananda, have taken root in the West and are now blossoming here as well as globally. I was blessed to be introduced to these teachings by my guru, Roy Eugene Davis, a direct disciple of Yogananda.
Roy Eugene Davis met Paramahansa Yogananda in 1949. He read Paramahansaji’s book, The Autobiography of a Yogi, when he was eighteen years old, and immediately recognized Yoganandaji as his guru and Kriya Yoga as his path. Mr. Davis traveled across the United States from his home in Ohio to California to study with Paramahansa Yogananda in person. He was accepted for discipleship, trained by him, and later ordained by Paramahansaji to represent this tradition of Kriya Yoga. Mr. Davis has taught this practical, direct way to God-realization throughout the world for over sixty years. I first learned of Mr. Davis in 1979 when a friend gave me a copy of his publication, Truth Journal magazine, and invited me to a lecture. There is nothing that compares to meeting one’s spiritual teacher for the first time. Though the teachings of Self- and God-realization are always available and ever have been, at that divinely destined meeting we finally hear them. A transmission occurs from soul to soul. As the poet Rumi said, “Soul receives from soul that knowledge, not from book or speech.” I began my studies with him immediately, was initiated into Kriya Yoga and accepted as a disciple in 1980, and ordained by him in 1982.
Kriya Yoga provides the integrated approach to the awakening process that I was yearning for. It addresses soul, heart, body, mind, and right action in the world that is particularly suitable for seekers today. The increased stress and alienation so often experienced in the fast pace of modern life with its ever-tantalizing, ever-present distractions requires just such a time-tested approach to stress reduction, self-awareness, and spiritually-conscious living.
The authentic, awakened life promises a true freedom and joy quite unlike anything the satisfaction of desires in the material world alone can offer. An ease of being, a Self-sustaining sense of fulfillment, and unconditional love await your discovery.
Namasté—Reverence to the Divine within you,
Yogacharya Ellen Grace O’Brian
For more information, refer to Yogacharya O’Brian’s Bio.