16 May 1908|
Mangalore, present day Karnataka, India
|Died||2 October 1982(aged 74)|
Muktananda (16 May 1908 – 2 October 1982) is the monastic name of the Siddha Yoga guru who was the founder of the Siddha Yoga spiritual path. Muktananda was a disciple and the successor of Bhagavan Nityananda. He wrote a number of books on the subjects of Kundalini Shakti, Vedanta, and Kashmir Shaivism, including a spiritual autobiography entitled The Play of Consciousness.
Muktananda was born in 1908 near Mangalore in Karnataka State, India, into a well-off family. His birth name was Krishna Rau. At 15 he encountered Bhagavan Nityananda, a wandering avadhoot who profoundly changed his life. After this encounter, Krishna left home and began his search for the experience of God. He studied under Siddharudha Swami at Hubli, where he learned Sanskrit, Vedanta and all branches of yoga, and took the initiation of sannyasa in the Sarasvati order of the Dashanami Sampradaya, taking the name of Swami Muktananda. After Siddharudha's death, Muktananda began wandering India on foot, studying with many different saints and gurus.
After more than 20 years of searching through the subcontinent of India, in 1947 Muktananda went to Ganeshpuri to receive the darshan of Bhagavan Nityananda, the renowned saint who had originally inspired Muktananda's search for God. He received shaktipat initiation from him in the early morning of 15 August of that year. Muktananda often said that his spiritual journey didn't truly begin until he received shaktipat from the holy man Bhagavan Nityananda. According to his description, it was a profound and sublime experience.
August 15, 1947 Nityananda stood facing me directly. He looked into my eyes again. Watching carefully, I saw a ray of light entering me from his pupils. It felt hot like burning fever. Its light was dazzling, like that of a high-powered bulb. As that ray emanating from Bhagavan Nityananda's pupils penetrated mine, I was thrilled with amazement, joy, and fear. I was beholding its color and chanting Guru Om. It was a full unbroken beam of divine radiance. Its color kept changing from molten gold to saffron to a shade deeper than the blue of a shining star. I stood utterly transfixed. He sat down and said in his aphoristic fashion, "All mantras... one. Each... from Om. Om Namah Shivaya Om... should think, Shivo'ham, I am Shiva... Shiva-Shiva...Shivo'ham...should be internal repetition. Internal...superior to external".
Muktananda spent the next nine years living and meditating in a little hut in Yeola. He wrote about his sadhana and kundalini-related meditation experiences, in his autobiography published in 1970 as GURU, by Harper & Row, and as Play of Consciousness, in India in 1971. In 1956, Bhagawan Nityananda acknowledged the culmination of Muktananda's spiritual journey, and gave him a small piece of land at Ganeshpuri, near Bombay, instructing Muktananda to create an ashram there.
Between 1956 and 1982, when he died, Muktananda taught the path he founded and named: the Siddha Yoga path. Central to his teachings were:
- "See God in each other."—Swami Muktananda 
- "Honor your Self. Worship your Self. Meditate on your Self. God dwells within you as you."—Swami Muktananda  Muktananda often gave a shorter version of this teaching: "God dwells within you as you." 
From August 27 to 30, 1974, Muktananda led the first Shaktipat Intensive in Aspen, Colorado. Through Shaktipat Intensives, created by Muktananda, participants are said to receive shaktipat initiation (the awakening of Kundalini Shakti that is said to reside within a person) and to deepen their practice of Siddha Yoga meditation. Muktananda was known as a "shaktipat guru because kundalini awakening occurred so readily in his presence". Historically, Shaktipat initiation had been reserved for the few who had done many years of spiritual service and practices; Muktananda offered this initiation to newcomers and yogis alike. Making shaktipat much more widely available has been variously described as "Swami Muktananda's innovative transmission of shaktipat" and "an unprecedented and significant historical shift."
Between 1970 and 1981, Muktananda went on three world tours, establishing Siddha Yoga ashrams and meditation centers in many countries. In 1975, he founded the Siddha Yoga Ashram in Oakland, in the California Bay area, and in 1979 he established Shree Nityananda Ashram (now Shree Muktananda Ashram) in the Catskills Mountains, northwest of New York City.
Muktananda established Gurudev Siddha Peeth as a public trust in India to administer the work there, and founded the SYDA Foundation in the United States to administer the global work of Siddha Yoga meditation. He wrote many books; sixteen are still kept in print by the SYDA Foundation.
In May 1982, Muktananda appointed two successors as joint leaders of the Siddha Yoga path, Swami Chidvilasananda and her younger brother, Swami Nityananda who later resigned and formed his own group. Muktananda died in October 1982 and is buried at Ganeshpuri, where the Gurudev Siddha Peeth ashram houses his samādhi shrine.
Praise and Critique
During Muktananda's lifetime, he received accolades and praise from many different sources. Muktananda's fame increased to the point that he was made the subject of a New York Magazine article ("Hanging Out with the Guru") and a Time Magazine article ("Instant Energy") both in 1976. Time Magazine quoted a follower of Muktananda: "I don't think people come here looking for a religion. What they come for is an experience that will give meaning and substance to their lives. You don't have to believe or profess anything to be a follower of Baba. We don't become Hindus. People get whatever it is they get from Baba, and their lives are changed."
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who made Transcendental Meditation popular in the West in the 1960s, praised Muktananda: "In him, consciousness is in its own place. Not only does he flow within himself, but the world also flows with him. Consciousness constantly flows from him."
In his autobiography, the Reverend Dr. Eugene Callender, Presbyterian Minister in New York City, describes meeting Muktananda for the first time in Carnegie Hall in 1979:
"[Muktananda] said something that I had never heard in all my years in church, all my years in Sunday school, in seminary, in ministry: "God dwells within you as you." I sat there dumbfounded. These words were very powerful. Before this, I had only heard that God was somewhere up in heaven. God was up there, out there, somewhere, but not in here, not in my own heart. And now, here I was being told that God was in me too. I was astonished... For the first time in my life, I began to feel the presence and the meaning of being created in the image of God, and of God's Holy Spirit dwelling in me... I was filled with hope."
There are several published accounts that describe the reception of shaktipat from Muktananda. Paul Zweig, poet, author, and former Head of Department of Comparative Literature at Queens College, New York, wrote one such account of receiving shaktipat from Muktananda. In Gurus of Modern Yoga, Andrea Jain, in her chapter on Muktananda, quotes an anonymous source, a man who now has a PhD in Religious Studies. In the following passage, he is describing his moment of shaktipat, when he was 19 years old, conferred by Muktananda with a wand of peacock feathers in 1975:
"I almost jumped when the peacock feathers, firmly but with a soft weightiness, hit me repeatedly on my head, and then gently brushed my face as [Muktananda] ... powerfully pressed one of his fingers into my forehead at a spot located just between my eyebrows.... I'm honestly somewhat reluctant to write about what happened next because I know that whatever I say will inevitably diminish it, will make it sound as if it were just another "powerful experience." This was not an experience. This was THE event of my spiritual life. This was full awakening. This wasn't "knowing" anything, because you only know something that is separate from you. This was being: the Ultimate - a fountain of Light, a dancing, ever-new source. Utter freedom, utter joy... Completely fulfilled, completely whole, no limits to my power and love and light..."
In 1983 William Rodarmor wrote an article for the CoEvolution Quarterly charging that Muktananda, in the last year of his life, had engaged in behavior at odds with wider societal norms. Lis Harris repeated and extended Rodarmor's allegations in an article in The New Yorker (1994). An article by Sarah Caldwell in the academic journal Nova Religio (2001) argued that Muktananda was both an enlightened spiritual teacher and a practitioner of Shakta Tantrism.
- Light on the Path (1972), Siddha Yoga Publications, ISBN 0-914602-54-3
- Mukteshwari: The Way of Muktananda (1972), SYDA Foundation
- Getting Rid of What You Haven't Got (1974), Wordpress ISBN 0-915104-00-8
- Ashram Dharma (1975), SYDA Foundation, ISBN 0-911307-38-9
- I Love You (1975), SYDA Foundation
- Selected Essays (1976), Siddha Yoga Publications, ISBN 0-911307-37-0
- God is With You (1978), Siddha Yoga Publications ISBN 0-914602-57-8
- I Am that: The Science of Hamsa from the Vijnana Bhairava (1978), Siddha Yoga Publications, ISBN 0-914602-27-6
- I Welcome You All With Love (1978), Siddha Yoga Publications, ISBN 0-911307-65-6
- In the Company of a Siddha: Interviews and Conversations With Swami Muktananda (1978), Siddha Yoga Publications ISBN 0-911307-53-2
- The Nectar of Chanting: Sacred Texts and Mantras Sung in the Ashrams of Swami Muktananda (1978), SYDA Foundation, ISBN 0-914602-16-0
- Play of Consciousness: A Spiritual Autobiography (1978), Siddha Yoga Publications, ISBN 0-911307-81-8
- Satsang with Baba : questions and answers between Swami Muktananda and his devotees (1978), Volumes 1 – 5, SYDA, ISBN 0-914602-40-3
- Kundalini: The Secret of Life (1979), Siddha Yoga Publications, ISBN 0-911307-34-6
- To Know the Knower (1979), Siddha Yoga Publications, ISBN 0-914602-91-8
- Meditate (1980), State University of New York Press, ISBN 0-87395-471-8
- Kundalini Stavah (1980), SYDA Foundation, ISBN 0-914602-55-1
- The Perfect Relationship: The Guru and the Disciple (1980), SYDA Foundation, ISBN 0-914602-53-5
- Reflections of the Self (1980), Siddha Yoga Publications, ISBN 0-914602-50-0
- Secret of the Siddhas (1980), Siddha Yoga Publications, ISBN 0-911307-31-1
- A Book for the Mind (1981), SYDA Foundation
- Does Death Really Exist? (1981), Siddha Yoga Publications, ISBN 0-911307-36-2
- Lalleshwari (1981), SYDA Foundation, ISBN 0-914602-66-7
- Where Are You Going?: A Guide to the Spiritual Journey (1981), Siddha Yoga Publications, ISBN 0-911307-60-5
- I Have Become Alive: Secrets of the Inner Journey (1985), Siddha Yoga Publications, ISBN 0-911307-26-5
- From the Finite to the Infinite (1990), Siddha Yoga Publications, ISBN 0-911307-31-1
- Mystery of the Mind (1992), SYDA Foundation
- The Self is Already Attained (1993), Siddha Yoga Meditation Publications, ISBN 0-914602-77-2
- Bhagawan Nityananda (1996), Siddha Yoga Publications, ISBN 0-911307-45-1
- Nothing Exists that Is Not Shiva: Commentaries on the Shiva Sutra, Vijnana Bhairava, Guru Gita, and Other Sacred Texts (1997) Siddha Yoga Publications, ISBN 0-911307-56-7
- S.P. Sabharathnam Douglas Brooks. Meditation Revolution: A History and Theology of the Siddha Yoga Lineage. Agama Press, 1997. ISBN 978-0-9654096-0-5
- "Baba Muktananda's Meditation Revolution Continues Ten Years After His Passing". Hinduism Today. October 1992. Retrieved 1 June 2006.
- Douglas Brooks, Swami Durgananda, Paul E. Muller-Ortega, Constantina Rhodes Bailly, S.P. Sabharathnam. Meditation Revolution: a History and Theology of the Siddha Yoga lineage. (Agama Press) 1997, p.32
- John Paul Healy (2010), Yearning to Belong: Discovering a New Religious Movement, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., p.9
- Muktananda, Swami (1978). Play of Consciousness. Siddha Yoga Publications. ISBN 0-911307-81-8.
- "Essential Teachings". Retrieved 2014-07-09.
- Reverend Eugene S. Callender, Nobody is a Nobody, (Amazon) 2010, p.290
- Brooks, Douglas; Durgananda, Swami; Muller-Ortega, Paul; Mahony, William; Rhodes-Bailly, Constantina; Sabharathnam, S.P. (1997). Meditation Revolution: A History and Theology of the Siddha Yoga Lineage; Agama Press; Appendix 2, p 576. ISBN 0965409600.
- Brooks, Douglas; Durgananda, Swami; Muller-Ortega, Paul; Mahony, William; Rhodes-Bailly, Constantina; Sabharathnam, S.P. (1997). Meditation Revolution: A History and Theology of the Siddha Yoga Lineage; Agama Press; pp 135-152. ISBN 0965409600.
- Homegrown Gurus, edited by Ann Gleig and Lola Williamson, chapter 4, Swamis, Scholars and Gurus by Lola Williamson, page 87
- Brooks, Douglas; Durgananda, Swami; Muller-Ortega, Paul; Mahony, William; Rhodes-Bailly, Constantina; Sabharathnam, S.P. (1997). Meditation Revolution: A History and Theology of the Siddha Yoga Lineage; Agama Press; p 93. ISBN 0965409600.
- Amanda Lucia, Innovative Gurus: Tradition and Change in Contemporary Hinduism, International Journal of Hindu Studies 18, 2: 221-263, 2014, page 242
- Andrea Jain, Muktananda, in Gurus of Modern Yoga, page 199, edited by Mark Singleton and Ellen Goldberg, Oxford University Press, 2014
- Brooks, Douglas; Durgananda, Swami; Muller-Ortega, Paul; Mahony, William; Rhodes-Bailly, Constantina; Sabharathnam, S.P. (1997). Meditation Revolution: A History and Theology of the Siddha Yoga Lineage; Agama Press; ISBN 0965409600.
- "Muktananda's Legacy". Hinduism Today. April 1995. Archived from the original on 22 May 2006. Retrieved 1 June 2006.
- "Religion: Instant Energy". Time Magazine. 26 July 1976.
- Yoga Journal: 40. March 1977. Missing or empty
- Reverend Eugene S. Callender, Nobody is a Nobody: the Story of a Harlem Ministry Hard at Work to Change America, Amazon, 2010
- Paul Zweig, in John White (editor), Kundalini, Evolution, and Enlightenment (ISBN 1-55778-303-9)
- Andrea R. Jain, Muktananda: Entrepreneurial Godman, Tantric Hero, Chapter 9 of "Gurus of Modern Yoga," edited by Mark Singleton and Ellen Goldberg, Oxford University Press, 2014
- Rodarmor, William (1983). "The Secret Life of Swami Muktananda" (Reprint). CoEvolution Quarterly.
- Lis Harris, The New Yorker, O Guru, Guru, Guru, November 14, 1994
- Sarah Caldwell (2001). "The Heart of the Secret: A Personal and Scholarly Encounter with Shakta Tantrism in Siddha Yoga" (Reprint). Nova Religio 5 (1): 9–51. doi:10.1525/nr.2001.5.1.9.