Satyananda Saraswati

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Satyananda Saraswati
Born(1923-12-25)25 December 1923
Died5 December 2009(2009-12-05) (aged 85)
Senior posting
GuruSivananda Saraswati

Satyananda Saraswati (25 December 1923 – 5 December 2009), was a sannyasin, yoga teacher and guru in both his native India and the West. He was a student of Sivananda Saraswati, the founder of the Divine Life Society, and founded the Bihar School of Yoga in 1964.[1] He wrote over 80 books, including his popular 1969 manual Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha.


Early life[edit]

Satyananda Saraswati was born 1923 at Almora, Uttaranchal,[2] into a family of farmers and zamindars.[citation needed]

As a youth he was classically educated and studied Sanskrit, the Vedas and the Upanishads. He says that he began to have spiritual experiences at the age of six, when his awareness spontaneously left the body and he saw himself lying motionless on the floor. Many saints and sadhus blessed him and reassured his parents that he had a very developed awareness. This experience of disembodied awareness continued, which led him to many saints of that time such as Anandamayi Ma. He also met a tantric bhairavi, Sukhman Giri, who gave him shaktipat and directed him to find a guru to stabilise his spiritual experiences.[3][page needed] However, in one of his early publications, Yoga from Shore to Shore, he says he would become unconscious during meditation and that "One day I met a mahatma, a great saint, who was passing by my birthplace...So he told me I should find a guru."[4]

At age eighteen, he left his home to seek a spiritual master. In 1943 at the age of twenty, he met his guru Sivananda Saraswati and went to live at Sivananda's ashram in Rishikesh.[1] Sivananda initiated him into the Dashnam Order of Sannyasa on 12 September 1947 on the banks of the Ganges and gave him the name of Swami Satyananda Saraswati. He stayed with Sivananda for a further nine years but received little formal instruction from him.[2]

Bihar School of Yoga[edit]

In 1956, Sivananda sent Satyananda away to spread his teachings. Basing himself in Munger, Bihar, he wandered as a mendicant travelling through India, Afghanistan, Nepal, Burma and Ceylon for the next seven years (although on several occasions he said he travelled only through India[5]), extending his knowledge of spiritual practices and spending some time in seclusion.[2]

In 1962 Satyananda established the International Yoga Fellowship Movement (IYFM) in Rajnandgaon.[2][6] IYFM inspired the establishment of ashrams and yoga centers spiritually guided by Swami Satyananda in India and all over the world.[7][1][8]

In 1964, he founded the Bihar School of Yoga (BSY) at Munger,[1][9] with the intention that it would act as a centre of training for future teachers of yoga as well as offer courses on yoga.[7]

Among those who attended courses at BSY were students from abroad and students who subsequently emigrated from India. Some of these people in turn invited Satyananda to teach in their own countries. He lectured and taught for the next twenty years, including a tour of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, North America between April and October 1968. The foreign and expatriate students also established new centres of teaching in their respective countries.[citation needed]


In 1988 Satyananda handed over the active work of his ashram and organisation to his spiritual successor, Niranjanananda Saraswati, and left Munger.[citation needed]

From September 1989 he was in Rikhia, Deoghar, Jharkhand.[10] There he lived as a paramahamsa sannyasin and performed vedic sadhanas including panchagni, an austerity performed before five blazing fires outdoors during the hottest months of the year.[11] At Rikhia, Satyananda conducted a 12-year Rajasooya Yajna which began in 1995 with the first Sat Chandi Maha Yajna, invoking the Cosmic Mother through a tantric ceremony. During this event, Satyananda passed on his spiritual and sannyasa sankalpa to Niranjanananda.[12]

He died on 5 December 2009.[13]


Satyananda's teachings emphasise an "Integral Yoga" with a strong emphasis on Raja Yoga, known as the "Bihar Yoga" system or "Satyananda Yoga". This system addresses the qualities of head, heart and hands – intellect, emotion and action – and attempts to integrate the physical, psychological and spiritual dimensions of yoga into each practice.[14] His system of yoga involves the practice of:

  • Kundalini Yoga, in the tradition following Sivananda's explanation. Kundalini Yoga is the yoga of the evolutionary energy of the universe.
  • Kriya Yoga through the practices of pratyahara, dharana and dhyana, which are the three components of Kriya yoga, in combination with other practices such as asana, pranayama, mudras and badhas. Kriya Yoga aims to awaken the dimensions of consciousness where our dormant potential and creativity lies.
  • Mantra Yoga, the repetition of sacred sounds.
  • Laya yoga, the practice of a state of absorption on an object of meditation.
  • The four advanced stages of the Eight Limbs of Yoga as codified by Patanjali: Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.

Satyananda classified and expounded the techniques given in the Yoga as a series of different stages and levels of pratyahara, such as antar mouna, and different stages of meditation.[15] He invented a technique of yoga-nidra, now known worldwide as Satyananda Yoga Nidra, and defined and codified the different stages of the technique.[16]


Satyananda wrote over 80 books, including his popular 1969 manual Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha.[17][18] Satyananda's writings have been published by the Bihar School of Yoga and, since 2000, by the Yoga Publications Trust established by his disciple Niranjanananda to promote his teachings.[19]

Australian Royal Commission inquiry into abuse of children[edit]

Testimony given to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse from 2014 in various ways implicates Swami Satyananda and his successors.[20] According to reports of the Commission, Swami Satyananda was a violent sexual abuser.[21] The testimony before the Royal Commission involved child abuse, rape, gang rape, coercion and physical abuse such as beatings, and the knife cutting of a young girl by Swami Akhandananda. They involve Swamis deploying spiritual "teachings" to manipulate young people into having sex with each other and with adults. The testimony points toward a pattern of psychological, physical and sexual abuse, carried out by numerous Swamis against numerous children and young adults.[22][23][24]


  1. ^ a b c d Melton (2010), p. 1483.
  2. ^ a b c d Aveling (1994), p. 60.
  3. ^ Saraswati (2004).
  4. ^ Saraswati (1974), p. 8.
  5. ^ Saraswati (1974), p. 10, 72.
  6. ^ Saraswati (2011), p. 159.
  7. ^ a b Aveling (1994), p. 61.
  8. ^ "International Yoga Fellowship Movement". Bihar School of Yoga. November 1964. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  9. ^ Saraswati (2011), p. 188.
  10. ^ "Paramhamsa Swami Satyananda, the Sadhana of a Sage". Archived from the original on 18 July 2011.
  11. ^ Saraswati, Satyasangananda. "Panchagni – the Bath of Fire".
  12. ^ Past, Present and Future: consolidated history of Bihar School of Yoga, Swami Yogakanti, Swami Yogawandana (eds.), 2009, Yoga Publications Trust
  13. ^ "Yoga Magazine – Synopsis of the Life of Swami Satyananda Saraswati". Retrieved 7 June 2016.
  14. ^ Saraswati, Niranjanananda. "The Growth of Satyananda Yoga or Bihar Yoga". Retrieved 9 December 2009.
  15. ^ Meditations From the Yoga, Satyananda Saraswati, Yoga Publications Trust
  16. ^ Yoga Nidra, Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Yoga Publications Trust
  17. ^ Saraswati 1969.
  18. ^ "100 Best Asana Books of All Time". BookAuthority. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  19. ^ "Yoga Publications Trust". Satyananda Yoga. Archived from the original on 27 December 2014. Retrieved 27 December 2014.
  20. ^ Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. "Case Study 21".
  21. ^ "Yoga Guru Violent Sexual Abuser". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  22. ^ "Yoga Ashram didn't Consider Sexual Abuse as a Crime". The Guardian. 4 December 2014.
  23. ^ Pankhania, Josna; Hargreaves, Jacqueline (December 2017). "Culture of Silence".
  24. ^ Browne, Rachel (28 November 2014). "Satyananda Yoga Ashram is the subject of royal commission hearing". The Sydney Morning Herald.


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