The three essential spiritual practices of Kriya Yoga listed in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are discipline, study, and surrender.
Study stands out like a bridge or a connecting link, right in the middle between self-discipline and self-surrender. Does it connect the two? I think so.
The role of spiritual study is, just like the place it occupies—central.
The Role of the Spiritual Study in Kriya Yoga Tradition
The crucial role of spiritual study is due to its very nature. Unlike academic education, which is generally focused on gathering information from external sources, study in the Kriya Yoga tradition is primarily to aid our connection with the innate wisdom of the Self or the soul. We arrange conditions for this knowledge to be revealed via three primary avenues. All of them are significant: the study of scripture, self-inquiry and observation, and satsang—meeting with a spiritual teacher and with others of like-minded spiritual aspiration.
While it might seem sufficient to read philosophical texts, meditate regularly, and cultivate thoughts and actions in harmony with the teachings, without satsang we miss an essential avenue of support.
The most profound subject of study is the Self—which cannot be put into words but can, of course, be realized through direct experience because it is our essential nature.
Benefits of Kriya Yoga Study with a Spiritual Teacher
When we study with a spiritual teacher steeped in the revealed wisdom of the Vedas, spiritual knowledge is transmitted from soul to soul. In this atmosphere, we can experience the teachings—not only through listening and pondering them at the mental level but by realizing the truth revealed within us.
We also benefit from the consciousness, commitment to the path, and questions of other students. With satsang, we enter a shared field of consciousness where due to the elevated subject and sincere focus, there is a palpable presence of divine grace supporting everyone who is receptive to it.
Laughter and lighthearted (or even seeming mundane) stories are not uncommon at a satsang. If that surprises you or has you scratching your head, it can be helpful to remember that it is not the content that matters as much as the context and the pervasive uplifting consciousness of the teacher and the group. Swami Sri Yukteswar noted that he sometimes thought his guru, Lahiri Mahasaya, was simply sharing humorous stories in his satsang but later would discover the most profound wisdom arising from it.
Instructions for Devotees
Sri Yukteswar noted five “sermons” or instructions for devotees he received from Lahiri Mahasaya and distributed them to his disciples. They are:
1. Be humble. Engage in service, worship, and surrender to God.
2. Always engage in satsang—through meditation, association with saintly people, and study of spiritual teachings. Remain absorbed in the awareness of the soul or of God.
3. Participate in group discussions on meditation and sadhana, or spiritual practice.
4. Do not denigrate any spiritual name.
5. Make a retreat with your spiritual teacher every year. 
When I look at those five instructions for sincere spiritual practitioners, I am struck by the emphasis on satsang—being with one’s teacher, studying and practicing in a group, surrounding yourself with others who live a spiritually focused life, and participating in group discussions.
I think of the teachings of Jesus when he said whenever two or more gather in my name, there I am in the midst of them. Or, as Coleman Barks speaking of Sufi practices, wrote, “The work of the dervish community was to open the heart, to explore the mystery of union, to fiercely search for and try to say the truth, and to celebrate the glory and difficulty in being in a human incarnation. To these ends, they used silence and song, poetry, meditation, stories, discourse, and jokes.”
Satsang, a meeting like no other.
May the Lord protect us. May the Lord nourish us.
Let us bring our energy together and grow strong.
May our study bring illumination.
May we be free from enmity.
Om! Peace, Peace, Peace!
 Five Sermons of Shri Lahiri Baba (Retold by Swami Shriyukteshwar) quoted in Lahiri Mahasaya: Fountainhead of Kriya Yoga by Paramahamsa Prajnanananda (Austria: Prajna Publication, 2009), 98.
 Coleman Barks, The Soul of Rumi: A New Collection of Ecstatic Poems (HarperOne, 2002)
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