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Satyananda Saraswati

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Satyananda Saraswati
In later life
Born(1923-12-25)25 December 1923
Almora, Uttarakhand
Died5 December 2009(2009-12-05) (aged 85)
Senior posting
GuruSwami Sivananda Saraswati

Satyananda Saraswati (25 December 1923 – 5 December 2009), was a Sanyasi, 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 the popular 1969 manual Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha.


Early life[edit]

Satyananda Saraswati was born in 1923 at Almora, Uttaranchal,[2] into a family of farmers and kshatriyas, the warrior caste.[S 1]

It is claimed that he was classically educated and studied Sanskrit, the Vedas and the Upanishads. He stated 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. This experience of disembodied awareness continued, leading him to saints of that time such as Anandamayi Ma. He claimed to have met a tantric bhairavi, Sukhman Giri, who gave him shaktipat and directed him to find a guru to stabilise his spiritual experiences.[S 1] In another version of his life in Yoga from Shore to Shore, he stated that 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."[S 2]

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 further 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, Satyananda wandered as a mendicant through India,[S 3] extending his knowledge of spiritual practices and spending some time in seclusion.[2]

In 1962, Satyananda established the International Yoga Fellowship Movement in Rajnandgaon.[2][S 4] This inspired the establishment of ashrams and yoga centres spiritually guided by Swami Satyananda in India and around the world.[3][1][4]

In 1964, he founded the Bihar School of Yoga at Munger,[1][S 5] with the intention that it would act as a centre of training for future teachers of yoga as well as offer courses on yoga.[3]

Among those who attended courses at the Bihar School of Yoga were students from abroad and students who subsequently emigrated from India.[S 6][S 7] 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.[S 7]


In 1988 Satyananda handed over the active work of his ashram and organisation to his spiritual successor, Niranjanananda Saraswati, and left Munger.[5]

In September 1989 he moved to Rikhia, Deoghar, Jharkhand.[6][7] There he lived as a paramahamsa sannyasin and performed vedic sadhanas including Panchagni ("Five fires"), an intense spiritual practice performed outdoors surrounded by four fires under the Indian sun.[S 8] It was during the Panchagni sadhana that he claimed to have received the divine mandate "Take care of your neighbours as I have taken care of you".[S 9] There too, he 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 responsibilities to Niranjanananda.[S 10]

During his stay in Rikhia, he undertook the task of constructing homes for the homeless, and established the Rikhiapeeth ashram.[8] Its activities are based on the three cardinal teachings of Sri Swami Sivananda – serve, love and give through the activities of Sivananda Math, which provides free medical care and basic amenities to the people of Rikhia and the neighbouring villages, and supplies methods for the villagers to develop their own livelihood, thus enabling the development of a self-sustained society.[S 9]

He entered into the state of Mahasamadhi, i.e leaving the body at will on 5 December 2009[9]


Swami Satyananda's teachings are based on the yoga teachings of Swami Sivananda. They emphasize an integral approach known as the Satyananda System of Yoga. They present yoga as a lifestyle to enhance the quality of life, including one's daily activities, interactions, thoughts and emotions, rather than reducing it to a practice or philosophy.[S 11]

This integral system combines six main branches of yoga. Hatha, Raja and Kriya Yoga are referred to as the external yogas, as they focus on improving the quality of body and mind, the expression of the senses and behavior. They aim at reconditioning and fine tuning the various aspects of the aspirant's personality. Karma, Bhakti and Jnana Yoga are referred to as the internal yogas, as they are concerned with cultivating a positive attitude towards life's situations and the expression of creativity. Here ideas and perceptions can be transformed, based on the aspirant's experience, understanding and sadhana (sustained practice), allowing a harmonious expression of one's inner qualities.[S 12]

In this way the Satyananda system of yoga 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.[S 13]

Based on the classical texts of Hatha yoga and his personal experience, Swami Satyananda presented Hatha Yoga in his widely-used and much-translated work Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha.[S 14]

Swami Satyananda's name is closely associated with the modern form of yoga nidra, a deep relaxation technique.[10]


Satyananda wrote over 80 books, including his popular 1969 manual Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha.[S 14][11] Satyananda's writings have been published by the Bihar School of Yoga and, since 2000, by the Yoga Publications Trust established by his disciple Swami Niranjanananda.[S 15]

Alleged abuse[edit]

An Australian Royal Commission investigated allegations of child sexual abuse at the Satyananda Yoga Ashram at Mangrove Mountain, New South Wales, Australia during the 1970s and 1980s. Alleged abuses by and against multiple individuals took place between 1974 and 1989, with eleven witnesses alleging abuses in Australia, and two witnesses alleging abuses in both Australia and India.[12] [13] [14] Two witnesses alleged that Satyananda, who was no longer alive at the time of the Royal Commission, had sexually abused them; this evidence was deemed "out of scope" and "untested", and accordingly no finding was made against Satyananda in the Australian Royal Commission's final report.[15][16][17][18]

The psychotherapist Josna Pakhana and the yoga teacher and researcher Jacqueline Hargreaves write that "shocking levels of abuse were deeply entrenched"[17] in Satyananda's Mangrove Mountain ashram in Australia in the 1970s.[17] They state that the Royal Commission "concluded that Swami Satyananda Saraswati (b. 1923, d. 2009), the founding guru, had overarching authority at the Mangrove Mountain ashram (and its centres) in his role as head of Satyananda Yoga worldwide."[17]



  1. ^ a b Saraswati 2011, pp. 18–23
  2. ^ Saraswati 1974, p. 8
  3. ^ Saraswati 1974, pp. 10, 72
  4. ^ Saraswati 2011, p. 159
  5. ^ Saraswati 2011, p. 188
  6. ^ Saraswati 2018, p. 3
  7. ^ a b Saraswati 2013b, pp. 8–10
  8. ^ Saraswati, Satyasangananda. "Panchagni – the Bath of Fire". Archived from the original on 14 June 2009.
  9. ^ a b Saraswati 2012
  10. ^ Past, Present and Future: consolidated history of Bihar School of Yoga, Swami Yogakanti, Swami Yogawandana (eds.), 2009, Yoga Publications Trust
  11. ^ Saraswati 2019, p. 17
  12. ^ "The Most Important Yogas" (PDF). Yoga. Vol. 9, no. 2. Munger, Bihar, India: Bihar School of Yoga. February 2020. pp. 24–25.
  13. ^ Saraswati, Niranjanananda. "The Growth of Satyananda Yoga or Bihar Yoga". Retrieved 9 December 2009.
  14. ^ a b Saraswati 1969
  15. ^ "Yoga Publications Trust". Satyananda Yoga. Archived from the original on 27 December 2014. Retrieved 27 December 2014.


  1. ^ a b c d Melton (2010), p. 1483.
  2. ^ a b c d Aveling (1994), p. 60.
  3. ^ a b Aveling (1994), p. 61.
  4. ^ "International Yoga Fellowship Movement". Bihar School of Yoga. November 1964. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  5. ^ Pidgeon (2014), p. 15.
  6. ^ Pidgeon (2014), p. 60,125.
  7. ^ Srivastav, Arun. "Paramhamsa Swami Satyananda, the Sadhana of a Sage". life-positive.com. Archived from the original on 18 July 2011.
  8. ^ Pidgeon (2014), p. 56-67.
  9. ^ Pidgeon (2014), p. 124-129.
  10. ^ Birch, Jason; Hargreaves, Jacqueline (January 2015). "Yoganidrā". The Luminescent. Retrieved 11 March 2022.
  11. ^ "100 Best Asana Books of All Time". BookAuthority. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  12. ^ Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (April 2016). "Report of Case Study No. 21" (PDF). p. 9.
  13. ^ Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (April 2016). "Report of Case Study No. 21" (PDF). p. 29.
  14. ^ Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (April 2016). "Report of Case Study No. 21" (PDF). p. 31.
  15. ^ Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (April 2016). "Report of Case Study No. 21" (PDF). p. 31.
  16. ^ "Yoga Ashram didn't Consider Sexual Abuse as a Crime". The Guardian. 4 December 2014.
  17. ^ a b c d Pankhania, Josna; Hargreaves, Jacqueline (December 2017). "Culture of Silence". The Luminescent.
  18. ^ Browne, Rachel (28 November 2014). "Satyananda Yoga Ashram is the subject of royal commission hearing". The Sydney Morning Herald.


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