Kriya-Yoga is a practical, preliminary yoga, and it is composed of austerity, self-study and surrender to God.
The practice of Kriya-Yoga reduces misery, and leads towards samadhi.
Miseries are caused by: lack of awareness, egoism, attractions, repulsions, clinging to life and fear of death.
Whether they be in the states of dormancy, attenuation, alteration or expansion, it is through lack of awareness that the other causes of misery are able to operate.
The ordinary humanity can be divided into two basic types: one is the sadist and the other the masochist. The sadist enjoys torturing others, and the masochist enjoys torturing himself. The sadist, of course, is attracted towards politics. There, there is the possibility, the opportunity to torture others. Or, he is attracted toward scientific research, particularly medical research. There, there is the possibility, in the name of experiment, to torture innocent animals, patients, dead and alive bodies. If politics is too much and he is not so certain about himself, or not intelligent enough to move into research, then the sadist becomes a schoolmaster – to torture small children. But the sadist always moves, knowingly or unknowingly, toward a situation where he can torture. In the name of country, in the name of nation, society, revolution, in the name of truth, discovery, in the name of reformation, of reforming others, the sadist is always in search of an opportunity to torture someone.
Sadists are not very attracted towards religion. The other type is attracted toward religion, the masochists. They torture themselves. They become great mahatmas, they become great saints, and they are revered by the society because they torture themselves. A perfect masochist always moves directly toward religion, just as a perfect sadist moves toward politics. Politics is the religion of the sadist; religion is the politics of the masochist. But if a masochist is not too certain, then he can also find some other sub-paths. He can become an artist, a painter, a poet, and can allow himself to suffer in the name of poetry, literature, painting.
You must have heard the name Vincent van Gogh, the great Dutch painter. He was the perfect masochist. If he had been born in India, he would have become a Mahatma Gandhi; but he became a painter. He had not much money. His brother used to give him only enough to survive. So, out of the seven days of the week he would eat only on three days, and the other four days he would fast in order to paint.
He was in love with a woman, but the father of the woman wouldn’t allow him to see her. So he forced his hand on a burning flame and he said, “I will keep my hand on the burning flame until you allow me to see her.” He burned his hand.