Yogic tradition has long been such that very powerful techniques, such as those in Kriya Yoga, have been handed down directly from Guru to disciple by means of personal initiation. The question is, what’s the purpose of this and why is it important?
First, let’s clear up what the term means. Forget any strange cultish images that might pop into your head when you hear the word “initiation”. It’s not that. Instead, let’s look at what the word literally means: to cause something to begin. The Guru gets the disciple started, not just by teaching, but a true Master of the technique will kick-start the disciple into the practice by direct energetic experience of the technique’s effect. In the case of Yogiraj Gurunath for example, he transmits palpable Kundalini energy as part of the initiation into Kriya Yoga. So the first purpose of initiation is for the Guru to provide the initial energetic spark that enlivens the practice and paves the way for the disciple’s success.
Second, a Master takes personal responsibility for the disciple’s progress and safeguards him or her along the journey. Advanced yogic practices are potentially dangerous when practiced without proper guidance and supervision. This is one of the main reasons Kriya Yoga is not given freely and openly to all — it’s to safeguard people. For example, let’s say someone begins practicing just the Pranayama Kriya several hours per day without ever doing the complementary Maha Mudra. They may become energetically out of balance or completely overwhelmed by the effect of so much spiritual practice (a term known as “spiritual indigestion”). They could even activate the Kundalini prematurely without being able to handle it. Initiation from a Master ensures such things never happen.
Lastly, initiation ensures the techniques are passed down in their pristine form and preserves the long-standing tradition to honor and respect the knowledge being given and the source from which it came. In Kriya Yoga initiation, we honor the direct lineage of Masters and take their blessings in witness of the five elements. We vow to keep the practice to ourselves and do our best to practice and progress. All this is done in recognition of the sanctity and gravity of receiving a priceless gift.
It’s true you can learn Kriya Yoga online without any initiation. Many advanced Kriya techniques have been published in direct violation of those who originally gave them. While those who did this probably feel they’ve done the world a great service by making them more available, they don’t realize what harm may come as a result. Initiation is not about keeping techniques secret and locked up to a special few. It’s about keeping people safe and directly connected to a spiritual Dynamo — that is any living Master — who can work spiritually with the disciple, even from a great distance, to ensure smooth and steady progress while minimizing disturbances along the way. To take up advanced practices without initiation is like setting off to the rugged seas alone without a compass.