Siddha Yoga is a spiritual path founded by Muktananda (1908–1982). The organization states in its literature that the Siddha Yoga tradition is "based mainly on eastern philosophies". It also states that it "draws many of its teachings from the Indian yogic texts of Vedanta and Kashmir Shaivism, the Bhagavad Gita and the poet-saints." The present head of Siddha Yoga is Gurumayi Chidvilasananda.
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.
"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, karma 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."
Teachings and practices
Muktananda's Siddha Yoga is based on his personal selection "from the teachings of his guru, Nityananda, and philosophical and practical traditions that preceded him, especially premodern hatha yoga, Vedanta, and Kashmir Shaivism."[note 1]
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 mantra is 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: namasankirtana (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 Stavah, an eight-stanza hymn to Kundalini.
Siddha Yoga students can participate in satsang, group meetings or programs held weekly at Siddha Yoga ashrams and meditation centers. Satsangs typically include talks, chanting, and meditation. The SYDA Foundation offers a variety of courses and retreats throughout the year, including the meditation intensives first developed by Muktananda in the 1970s.
Siddha Yoga students engage in seva, or "selfless service," as a spiritual practice. Students can practice seva through volunteer work at an ashram or a meditation center in their city. The work of the SYDA Foundation is carried out by the work of "sevites."
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 the grace and teachings one is said to have received.
A central element of the Siddha Yoga path is shaktipat-diksha, literally translated as “initiation by descent of divine power,” through which a seeker’s Kundalini Shakti is awakened God-realization by the Guru. Once active, this inner power is said to support the seeker’s steady efforts to attain self-realization.[note 2]
Students of Siddha Yoga celebrate two major Hindu religious holy days: Maha Shivaratri (celebrated two days before the new moon in February/March) 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.
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).
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. 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.
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.
Muktananda also created The Prison Project in 1979, designed to making the teachings, practices and experience of the Siddha Yoga path available to incarcerated seekers.
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 1985, Nityananda stepped down, then two years later started his own organization, Shanti Mandir. Chidvilasananda continued in her appointed role and has been the sole spiritual leader of Siddha Yoga since then.
In 1992 Chidvilasananda 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 Chidvilasananda 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.
Author Andrea Jain asserts "Muktananda engaged in secret sexual rituals with several of his young female disciples - some of whom were teenagers - that were meant to transmit sakti to the tantric hero." In 1981, Stan Trout, a swami for Siddha Yoga, wrote an open letter in which he referred a number of stories of Muktananda engaging in sexual activities with young women, and threats and harassment to force people to "stop talking about your escapades with young girls in your bedroom." In 1983 William Rodarmor printed several allegations in CoEvolution Quarterly from anonymous female devotees that Muktananda regularly raped them. In the article, based on twenty five interviews, former devotees charged that Muktananda had engaged in sexual interactions with young devotees, which "drew naive young women into esoteric Tantric rituals." Lis Harris repeated and extended Rodarmor's allegations in an article in The New Yorker (1994). According to Lola Williamson, "Muktananda stressed the value of celibacy for making progress on the spiritual path, but he almost certainly violated his own rules." Sarah Caldwell, in an essay in the academic journal Nova Religio (2001), argued that Muktananda was both an enlightened spiritual teacher and a practitioner of Shakta Tantrism, but also "engaged in actions that were not ethical, legal or liberatory with many disciples." In 1996 former devotees started a website entitled 'Leaving Siddha Yoga' to express their grievances against Siddha Yoga.
- The Siddha Yoga tradition is "based mainly on estern philosophis," and "draws many of its teachings from the Indian yogic texts of Vedanta and Kashmir Shaivism, the Bhagavad Gita and the 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.
- The Siddha Yoga vision statement is, "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, "To constantly impart the knowledge of the Self. (Shiva Sutras III.28)
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- Tirtha, Swami Vishnu (1948). Devatma Shakti (Kundalini) Divine Power. India: Yoga Shri Peeth Trust. 1st edition (in English)
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- Harris, Liz (14 November 1994). "O Guru, Guru, Guru". The New Yorker: 92–93. Retrieved 30 May 2021.
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- 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 978-0-9654096-0-5.
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- White, John Warren (1990). Kundalini, Evolution and Enlightenment. New York: Paragon House. ISBN 978-1-55778-303-5. Paul Zweig writes of his experience of receiving Shaktipat from Swami Muktananda in this anthology.
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