Kriya yoga seems to be the only widely known yogic path that is not directly mentioned in traditional scriptures. Many texts use the word kriya or even kriya yoga, but in a different context. For example, in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali it says: “Kriya yoga comprises tapas (austerity), swadhyaya (self study) and ishwara pranidhana (resignation to the cosmic will).”
(2:1) This has nothing to do with the kriya yoga that we will teach in this book. The form mentioned by Patanjali is intended as a preliminary means to harmonize a person’s life in preparation for raja yoga.
Kriya yoga is also mentioned in the Uddhava Gita of the Srimad Bhagavatam. Krishna describes what he called kriya yoga in response to a request by his disciple Uddhava. It involves ritualistic worship of one’s deity with flowers, food, etc. together with specific mantras, consecration of the deity and so forth. It has no connection with the kriya yoga that we will teach.
Various texts mention parts of kriya yoga, but never in much detail. Texts such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Gherand Samhita, Shiva Samhita and so forth give specific details regarding asanas, mudras and bandhas, many of which are part of kriya yoga, but they are not integrated together as they are in kriya yoga. The Kularnava Tantra is a very practical text which explains ajapa japa in some detail; this is a part of kriya yoga, but nowhere is kriya yoga mentioned specifically. The same applies to a number of other texts; they hint, but never give details.
Kriya yoga seems to have been known in China, for a system which is vaguely similar is mentioned in a scripture called the Tai Chin Hua Tzang Chih (The Secret of the Golden Flower). This text has been translated into English by Richard Wilheim with an introduction by Carl Jung. It describes the practice of rotating one’s awareness through the back and front psychic passages of the body, though the rotation is in the opposite direction to that of kriya yoga practised in India. We are not saying that the Chinese system and the Indian are the same, only that they have similarities.
It is interesting to note that China developed its own unique, dynamic meditative system called Tai Chi Chuan. Though kriya yoga and Tai Chi Chuan seem to have little in common from outside appearance, their fundamental aim is the same. Both are methods which induce meditation by bringing about perfect balance and harmony of the physical, bioplasmic and mental body. Both utilize flows of prana combined with heightened awareness.
All we can say is that kriya yoga is a secret technique that has been whispered down the ages by word of mouth from guru to disciple.