A fundamental characteristic of the Siddha Yoga path is shaktipat-diksha, literally translated as “initiation by descent of divine power,” though which a seeker’s Kundalini Shakti is awakened by the Guru. Once active, this inner power is said to support the seeker’s steady efforts to attain self-realization.
Ashrams and meditation centers provide places to learn and practice Siddha Yoga. The two main ashrams are: Gurudev Siddha Peeth in Ganeshpuri, India, and Shree Muktananda Ashram in upstate New York. There are meditation centers in a number of countries, including India, the United States, Australia, United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Japan.
Vision and mission statement
The Siddha Yoga vision statement reads,
For everyone, everywhere, to realize the presence of divinity in themselves and creation, the cessation of all miseries and suffering, and the attainment of supreme bliss.
The Siddha Yoga mission statement reads,
Muktananda's spiritual teacher, Bhagawan Nityananda, has been widely regarded throughout India as a Siddha Guru and as an Avadhut since the mid-20th century. Born in South India, he first came to Ganeshpuri, a small village located 82 kilometers north of Mumbai, in 1936, settling there in a small hut built for him by the caretakers of the local Shiva temple. As his visitors and devotees increased in number, the hut expanded into an ashram.
In his autobiography, Play of Consciousness, Muktananda describes how he received shaktipat initiation from Nityananda on August 15, 1947, and how he attained God-realization or moksha after nine more years of sadhana and discipleship.
Nityananda installed Muktananda in a small three-room dwelling in Gavdevi, a mile from Ganeshpuri. After his death in 1961, Nityananda's Ganeshpuri ashram was converted into a samadhi shrine and has subsequently become a renowned temple and pilgrimage site. Under Muktananda's leadership the three-room dwelling in Gavdevi also expanded into a flourishing ashram and international retreat site (Sri Gurudev Ashram, now Gurudev Siddha Peeth).
In 1974, Muktananda founded the SYDA Foundation, an organization designated to protect, preserve and facilitate the dissemination of the Siddha Yoga teachings. In 1975 Muktananda founded the Siddha Yoga Ashram in Oakland in the San Francisco Bay Area, and in 1976 he established Shree Nityananda Ashram (now Shree Muktananda Ashram) in the Catskills Mountains, north of New York City. His 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.
One of Muktananda's earliest and principal disciples was Malti Shetty, a young woman from Mumbai who accompanied him as his English language interpreter on his second and third World Tours. In May 1982, Muktananda installed Shetty (now known as Gurumayi Chidvilasananda or Gurumayi) and her brother Subhash Shetty (now known as Mahamandaleshwar Nityananda) as co-Gurus and spiritual leaders of the Siddha Yoga path. Muktananda died on October 2, 1982.
In 1983 William Rodarmor wrote an article for the CoEvolution Quarterly charging that Muktananda had engaged in behavior at odds with his own teachings and with wider societal norms. In 1985, Nityananda stepped down amid controversy and soon started his own organization, Shanti Mandir. Chidvilasananda continued in her appointed role and has been the sole spiritual leader of Siddha Yoga since then. Lis Harris repeated and extended Rodarmor's allegations in an article in The New Yorker (1994). In 1996 former devotees started a website entitled 'Leaving Siddha Yoga' to express their grievances against Siddha Yoga. 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.
Chidvilasananda has expanded the philanthropic work initiated by Muktananda. In 1992 she founded the PRASAD Project, an independent, not-for-profit, charitable organization dedicated to providing impoverished communities in India with medical care, dental care, eye care, nutrition, education and community development. In 1997 she established the Muktabodha Institute, an independent non-profit foundation with its own publishing imprint, Agama Press, to foster and encourage the preservation and study of the ancient philosophical texts of India.
The Siddha Yoga practices are intended to help the seeker "touch and expand the inner mystical state, until over time he or she becomes established in his experience of yoga or oneness with God."
Siddha Yoga meditation, or the practice of turning the attention inward, involves silently focusing the attention on a mantra and on the flow of breath. The principal Siddha Yoga meditation and japa mantra is the mantra Om Namah Shivaya.
Siddha Yoga chanting involves the use of music and sacred mantras "to enter into a dialogue with the divine." There are two main types of Siddha Yoga chants: Nama Sankirtana (lyrical chanting of Sanskrit mantras, typically the names of God), and Swadhyaya (the chanting of longer Sanskrit scriptural texts). Scriptural texts chanted in Siddha Yoga ashrams and meditation centers include the morning and evening Arati; the Guru Gita, a hymn of 182 verses transmitted in the Skanda Purana; Shree Rudram, an ancient hymn to Rudra (Shiva) preserved in the Krishna Yajurveda; and the Kundalini Stavaha, an eight-stanza hymn to the Kundalini.
The SYDA Foundation, which is dedicated to protecting, preserving, and facilitating the dissemination of the Siddha Yoga teachings, offers a variety of courses and retreats throughout the year, including the meditation intensives first developed by Muktananda in the 1970s. The Siddha Yoga Meditation Intensive is a one or two day retreat in which devotees are said to receive shaktipat (the awakening of the shakti, or spiritual energy, that resides within the devotee). Intensives are typically held once or twice a year and are significant in Siddha Yoga because the "bestowal of shaktipat" is a core element in Siddha Yoga philosophy. The SYDA Foundation also offers retreats where students can deepen their experience of the practices.
The work of the organization (which involves the maintenance of Siddha Yoga ashrams and meditation centers, as well as the design and production of meditation programs, courses, retreats, and publications) is carried out by the work of "sevites," Siddha Yoga students engaged in seva, or "selfless service," as a transformational practice. Students can practice seva either through volunteer work at an ashram or a meditation center in their city, or by doing their worldly work as an offering to god.
Other Siddha Yoga practices include japa (mantra repetition), contemplation, and dakshina, the traditional practice of making a voluntary monetary offering to a saint as an expression of gratitude for what has been received.
All of the Siddha Yoga teachings and practices are intended to be compatible with everyday worldly life and with the teachings and practices of all religions.
Students of Siddha Yoga celebrate two major Hindu religious holidays: Maha Shivaratri (celebrated on the night of the new moon in late February) and Guru Purnima (celebrated on the full moon in July–August). They also celebrate the birthdays of Muktananda and Chidvilasananda; Muktananda's divya diksha day (the day he received initiation); and the mahasamadhi anniversaries of Muktananda and Bhagawan Nityananda.
The Siddha Yoga tradition draws its teachings from the yogic philosophy of Vedanta, Kashmir Shaivism, and the Maharashtran poet-saints. Principal texts from the Vedantic tradition include the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Viveka Chudamani of Shankaracharya, and the Yoga Vasistha. Texts from the Kashmir Shaivite tradition include the Shiva Sutras of Vasugupta, the Spanda Karikas of Vasugupta, the Prataybhijnahridayam, and the Vijnana Bhairava. Other texts referred to by Muktananda and Chidvilasananda include Jnaneshwari, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the Bhakti Sutras of Narada, the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, and poet saints such as Kabir and Tukaram Maharaj.
"Siddha Yoga" ("perfect" or "perfected" yoga) is a Sanskrit term adopted by Muktananda to describe the path of self-realization that he embarked on under the guidance of his spiritual teacher, the Indian saint Bhagawan Nityananda. Muktananda regarded the path he learned from his teacher as a perfect path because it embraced all of the traditional yogas (jnana yoga, hatha yoga, raja yoga, and bhakti yoga), spontaneously bringing the disciple to perfection in each. In 1975 Muktananda founded the SYDA Foundation (Siddha Yoga Dham Associates) to administer the work of his global "meditation revolution."
"Siddha Yoga" has been a registered service mark of the SYDA Foundation, a domestic non-profit corporation, since 1977. As an educational service mark, it is used in teaching and conducting workshops for individual spiritual development.
The ancient generic Sanskrit term "Siddha Yoga" (or "perfected" yoga) is attested in the Third Tantra of the Tirumantiram of Tirumular, a Tamil poet of the 7th or 8th century. A definition of "Siddha Yoga" is also offered by Swami Shankar Purushottam Tirtha, a yogi from the dual Tirtha/Siddhayoga lineage, who wrote two books on "Siddhayoga" in the early 1900s:
The easy way of attaining it (salvation) is said to be Siddhayoga... Siddhayoga or Siddhimarga is that means by which yoga can be attained without difficulty... Siddhayoga is attained by the infusion of spiritual force through the good grace of a saintly preceptor... Siddhayoga or Siddhimarga is nothing but the knowledge of the unity of Self and Brahma...
A further definition of "Siddha Yoga" was offered in 1948 by Swami Purushottam Tirtha's disciple, Swami Vishnu Tirth:
Therefore the yoga of Kundalini is known as Mahayoga. It is also sometimes called Siddhayoga because it can be acquired only through the favor of a perfect master (Siddha Guru), without any effort on the part of the initiated.
It has been said that through shaktipat Kundalini is soon awakened, and that Mahayoga or Siddhayoga is the direct outcome.
Muktananda himself defined a true Guru, or spiritual teacher, as "one who awakens the inner shakti Kundalini through shaktipat."
- 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. xix-l. ISBN 0965409600.
- "Centers and Ashrams". Retrieved 2009-12-02.
- "Vision and Mission". Retrieved 2009-12-02.
- Muktananda (1971)[page needed]
- "Hinduism Today, "Baba Muktananda's 'Meditation Revolution' Continues"". October 1992. Retrieved 2007-03-18.
- "Instant Energy". Time Magazine. July 26, 1976. Retrieved 2007-04-25.
- Rodarmor, William (1983). "The Secret Life of Swami Muktananda" (Reprint). CoEvolution Quarterly.
- "Former SYDA Co-Guru Explains". April 1995. Retrieved 2007-03-18.
- Harris, Lis (November 14, 1994). "O Guru, Guru, Guru" (Reprint). The New Yorker.[page needed]
- "Leaving Siddha Yoga website". Retrieved 2007-03-18.
- 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.
- "PRASAD Project". Retrieved 2007-03-18.
- "Muktabodha Webpage". Retrieved 2007-03-18.
- "The Siddha Yoga Practices". Retrieved 2009-12-02.
- "The Siddha Yoga Practices: Meditation". Retrieved 2009-12-02.
- "Siddha Yoga Glossary page". Retrieved 2007-03-18.
- "SYDA Foundation". Retrieved 2013-03-08.
- Meditation Revolution, Brooks (Agama Press) 1997, pp. 140–141
- "Siddha Yoga Holidays and Observances". Retrieved 2010-09-29.
- "The Scriptural Tradition". Retrieved 2009-12-02.
- "Swami Muktananda". Retrieved 2009-12-02.
- "United States Patent and Trademark Office – Trademark Electronic Search System". Retrieved 2007-05-04.. Questions about the trademarking of generic spiritual terms such as "Siddha Yoga" were raised by an editorial by <Palani, Sivasiva (November 1990). "The Trademark Wars". Hinduism Today..
- "New York State's Division of Corporations Entry for SYDA Foundation". Retrieved 2007-03-18..
- Natarajan (1979), p. 92
- Winternitz, p. 588, note 1.
- Swami Shankar Purushottam Tirtha's Yoga Vani: Instructions for the Attainment of Siddhayoga and Guru Bani: 100 Ways to Attain Inner Peace have been published in Bengali, Hindi, and English.
- Swami Shankar Purushottam Tirtha, "Yoga Vani: Instructions for the Attainment of Siddhayoga" (English translation, 1990), pgs. 2–4.
- Tirtha (1948), p. 79.
- Tirtha (1948), p. 80.
- Muktananda, Swami (1971). Play of Consciousness. SYDA Foundation. ISBN 0-914602-37-3. Also cited as: Publisher=Siddha Yoga Publications; ISBN=0-911307-81-8
- Tirtha, Swami Vishnu (1948). Devatma Shakti (Kundalini) Divine Power. India: Yoga Shri Peeth Trust. 1st edition (in English)
- Tirumular (1991). Tirumantiram. India: Sri Ramakrishna Matt. ISBN 81-7120-383-3., Second edition. (in Tamil, translated to English by Dr. B. Natarajan)
- Winternitz, Maurice (1972). History of Indian Literature. New Delhi: Oriental Books Reprint Corporation. Second revised reprint edition. Two volumes. First published 1927 by the University of Calcutta.
- Tirtha, Swami Shankar Purushottam Tirtha (1990). Yoga Vani: Instructions for the Attainment of Siddhayoga. New York: Sat Yuga Press. First English edition. First published the early 1900s in Bengali and Hindi.
- Tirtha, Swami Shankar Purushottam Tirtha (1995). Guru Vani: 100 Ways to Attain Inner Peace. New York: Sat Yuga Press. First English edition. First published the early 1900s in Bengali and Hindi.
- Brooks, Douglas; and Swami Durgananda, Paul E. Müller-Ortega, William K. Mahoney, Constantin Rhodes Bailly, and S.P. Sabharathnam (1997). Meditation Revolution: A History and Theology of the Siddha Yoga Lineage. Agama Press. ISBN 0-9654096-0-0.
- Miller, Timothy; Gene Thursby (1991). "Siddha Yoga: Swami Muktanada and the Seat of Power". When Prophets Die: The Postcharismatic Fate Of New Religious Movements. Albany: State University of New York Press. pp. 165–182. ISBN 0-7914-0717-9.
- Pearce, Joseph Chilton (2003). Spiritual Initiation and the Breakthrough of Consciousness: The Bond of Power. Park Street Press. ISBN 0-89281-995-2.
- White, John Warren (1990). Kundalini, Evolution and Enlightenment. New York: Paragon House. ISBN 1-55778-303-9. Professor Paul Zweig writes of his experience of receiving Shaktipat from Swami Muktananda in this anthology.