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Sahaja Yoga

Sahaja Yoga
Founder Nirmala Srivastava (aka Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi)
Established 1970
Practice emphases
kundalini, meditation, self-realization[1]

Sahaja Yoga is a spiritual technique founded by Nirmala Srivastava, more widely known as Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi or as "Mother" by her followers, who are called Sahaja yogis.[2] According to the movement, Sahaja Yoga is the state of self-realization produced by kundalini awakening and is accompanied by the experience of thoughtless awareness or mental silence.[3][4]

Sahaja Yoga is not only the name of the movement, but also the technique the movement teaches and the state of awareness achieved by the technique.[5] The movement teaches the belief that self-realization through kundalini awakening is a transformation which results in a more moral, united, integrated and balanced personality.


  • History 1
  • Beliefs 2
    • The Subtle System – Chakras, Nadis and Void 2.1
    • Kundalini, Self-Realization and vibratory awareness 2.2
  • Organization 3
    • Schools 3.1
    • Yuvashakti 3.2
    • Vishwa Nirmal Prem ashram 3.3
    • Funding 3.4
  • Cult allegations and refutations 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9


Sahaja Yoga started in India and England (where Nirmala Srivastava moved in 1974) and there are now Sahaja Yoga centres in almost 100 countries world-wide.[6] Srivastava charged no money, insisting that her lesson was a birthright which should be freely available to all. "There can be no peace in the world until there is peace within," she said.[7]

The word 'Sahaja' in Sanskrit has two components: saha meaning 'with' and ja meaning 'born'.[8] A Dictionary of Buddhism gives the literal translation of Sahaja as "innate" and defines it as "denoting the natural presence of enlightenment (bodhi) or purity."[9] and Yoga means union or yoking and refers to a spiritual path or a state of spiritual absorption. According to a book published by the movement, Sahaja Yoga means spontaneous and born with you meaning that the kundalini is born within us and can be awakened spontaneously, without effort.[3]

The term 'Sahaja Yoga' goes back at least to the 15th Century Indian mystic Kabir.[10] and has also been used to refer to Surat Shabd Yoga.[11]

In 2000, the term 'Sahaja Yoga' was trademarked in the United States by Vishwa Nirmala Dharma.[12]


Sahaja Yoga beliefs are seen by the organisation as a re-discovered ancient knowledge[13] that should be treated respectfully and scientifically, like an hypothesis[14] and if found by experiments as truth, should be accepted.[15]

Advanced concepts are not generally taught until a beginner is understood to have gained enough knowledge of their own subtle system through actual experience. Without direct experience of the meditation, some people have reported difficulties understanding or proceeding to the more advanced material. Sociologist, Judith Coney, for example, reported facing a challenge in getting behind what she called "the public facade".[n 1] She described Sahaja yogis as adopting a low profile with uncommitted individuals to avoid unnecessary conflict.[17]

Sahaja Yoga also states that spreading Sahaja Yoga techniques should be free for everyone.[18]

Judith Coney observed that the movement tolerates a variety of world views and levels of commitment with some practitioners choosing to remain on the periphery.[19]

The Subtle System – Chakras, Nadis and Void

Chakra Kundalini Diagram

Sahaja Yoga believes that in addition to our physical body there is a subtle body composed of nadis (channels) and chakras (energy centres). There is no biomedical evidence of chakras.[20] Psychoanalyst Sudhir Kakar writes that Nirmala Srivastava's additions to this widespread traditional 'tantric' model include giving it a scientific, neurological veneer, an elaboration of the health aspects and an introduction of notions of traditional Christian morality.[n 2] Nirmala Srivastava equates the Sushumna nadi with the parasympathetic nervous system, the Ida nadi with the left and the Pingala nadi with the right sides of the sympathetic nervous system.

Kundalini, Self-Realization and vibratory awareness

Sahaja Yoga believes that the chakras can be balanced by awakening the kundalini in the sacrum bone, which is conceived of as a normally dormant 'mother' energy. Nirmala Srivastava has said that the kundalini is the reflection within us of the Holy Spirit or Adi (Primordial) Shakti. She has said that kundalini "is the desire of God.... and the desire of God is the Shakti"[22] and that yoga is impossible without kundalini awakening.[23] As the kundalini rises through these centres, the qualities of the chakras are said to begin manifesting spontaneously. Most illnesses are said to be a result of damage to the chakras, and kundalini is said to repair them.[22]

According to Sahaja Yoga, once the sahasrara (topmost) chakra is pierced by the kundalini, a person will feel a cool breeze on top of their head and/or on their hands.[24] The chakras and nadis are believed by Sahaja Yoga to have associated places on the hands. Sensations of heat or coolness in the hands, head and/or body are used to make purported diagnoses of imbalances in the different chakras and nadis.[25][26][27] These sensations (referred to as 'vibrations') are interpreted in Sahaja Yoga as indicating Self-Realization or an "encounter with Reality."[28] The vibrations sensed are believed to be an objective divine energy that can even be caught on camera.[29]

A Sahaja Yoga belief is that upon self-realization, the practitioner may also experience thoughtless awareness (Nirvichar Samādhi).[4]


Vishwa Nirmala Dharma (trans: Universal Pure Religion, also known as Sahaja Yoga International) is the organizational part of the movement. It is a registered organisation in countries such as Colombia,[30] the United States of America,[31] and Austria.[32] It is registered as a religion in Spain.[33]

The organisation is governed by the World Council for the Advancement of Sahaja Yoga (WCASY), proposed in 2003 and formed the following year.[34][35]

In addition to directly promoting Sahaja Yoga, the council promotes Sahaja culture, runs schools, a health centre, a youth movement, and a project for the rehabilitation of "destitute women and orphaned children".


  • The International Sahaja Public School in Dharamsala founded in 1990, teaches around 250 international students annually and has accepted children from the age of 6.[36] India is said to be free from harmful Western influences, and children benefit from what is considered to be a more favourable environment.[8]
  • The Shri P.K.Salve Kala Pratishthan is an Indian Classical Music and Fine Arts academy that was founded in Vaitarna, India, in 2003.[37]
  • The Cabella Primary School in Italy will open in September 2008, with the children attending the local village school in Rocchetta Ligure.[38]
  • An international kindergarten was opened in Borotin, Czech Republic.[39]
  • A small kindergarten and primary boarding school was opened in Canajoharie, New York in 2004.[40] As of 2006 it had an enrolment of fourteen students from pre-kindergarten through grade 3.[41]
  • There has been a Sahaja Yoga school in Rome.[42]


Sahaja Yoga's youth movement is called "Yuvashakti" (also "Nirmal Shakti Yuva Sangha"), from the Sanskrit words Yuva (Youth) and Shakti (Power).

The movement is active in forums such as the World Youth Conference[43] and TakingITGlobal which aim at discussing global issues, and ways of solving them.

The Yuvashakti participated in the 2000 "Civil Society & Governance Project"[44] in which they were "instrumental in reaching out to women from the poor communities and providing them with work".

Vishwa Nirmal Prem ashram

The Vishwa Nirmala Prem Ashram is a not-for profit project by the NGO Vishwa Nirmala Dharma (Sahaja Yoga International) located in Noida, Delhi, India, opened in 2003. The ashram is a "facility where women and girls are rehabilitated by being taught meditation and other skills that help them overcome trauma".[45][46]


The methods for practising Sahaja Yoga are made available free of charge to those interested. According to the official Sahaja Yoga website there is a fee for attending international pujas to cover costs and voluntary dakshina.[47]

According to author [48]

Cult allegations and refutations

Judith Coney found that most people who leave the movement voluntarily, still had positive things to say about it, and described a discussion she attended regarding the level of secrecy within the group in which Sahaja yogis discussed the ways in which some of their beliefs were disguised when in contact with non-members as "frank and revealing".[n 1][49] A smaller group of ex-members have made complaints against the movement which have been reported in the press. In 2001, The Independent reported that certain ex-members say "that Sahaja Yoga is a cult which aims to control the minds of its members".[50] In 2005, The Record reported that some critics who feel that the group is a cult have started their own websites.[51]

A 2008 court case in Brussels ruled that Sahaja Yoga had been wrongly labelled as a cult by a Belgian state authority and awarded the group compensation.[52][53][54]

In 2013, Scientology and The Muslim Brotherhood.[55]

In 2001, The Evening Standard reported that Sahaja Yoga has been "described as a dangerous cult" and "has a dissident website created by former members". The reporter, John Crace, wrote about an event he attended and noted that a Sahaja Yoga representative asked him to feel free to talk to whomever he wanted. He remarked, "Either their openness is a PR charm offensive, or they genuinely have nothing to hide." He proposed that "one of the key definitions of a cult is the rigour with which it strives to recruit new members" and concluded that there was no aggressive recruitment squeeze.[56]

A 2001 INFORM leaflet says that the emphasis on complete devotion has led to problems and controversy. There is a culture amongst a minority of Sahaja yogis to believe that those who deviate in particular ways may be possessed by 'negativity' or may be said to be mentally abnormal. Those who fight the pressure to follow the Guru's suggestions and radically change their lifestyle risk being expelled. It is claimed that this may bring problems for those who still believe in the power of the Guru and fear 'losing vibrations'.[8] This expulsion is not enforced but is something understood socially and other yogis are not expected to change the way they react to those who have been expelled. It is also not a permanent expulsion; there have been cases of returning Sahaja yogis following brief periods 'out'.

David V. Barrett wrote that some former members say that they were expelled from the movement because they "resisted influence that Mataji had over their lives". According to Barrett, the movement's founder's degree of control over members' lives has given rise to concerns.[48] The Austrian Ministry for Environment, Youth and Family states that "Sahaja Yoga" regards Nirmala Srivastava as an authority who cannot be questioned.[57]

See also


  1. ^ a b Judith Coney wrote in her book Sahaja Yoga: Socializing Processes in a South Asian New Religious Movement, "Finally, throughout the study I faced the challenge of getting Sahaja yogis to let me get behind the public facade. This was achieved with varying degrees of success. On one fortunate occasion, for instance, I attended a national puja, after which there was an extremely frank and revealing discussion of why Sahaja Yoga had been seen as a cult in a particular press article and of the level of secrecy in the group. There I listened to a number of speakers talk about the ways in which they disguised some of their beliefs when in contact with non-members."[16]
  2. ^ Sudhir Kakar wrote in his book Shamans, Mystics and Doctors, "Essentially, Mataji's model of the human psyche is comprised of the traditional tantric and hatha yoga notions of the subtle body, with its 'nerves' and 'centers,' and fuelled by a pervasive 'subtle energy' that courses through both the human and the divine, through the body and the cosmos. Mataji's contributions to this ancient model are not strikingly original: as a former medical student she has sought to give it a scientific, neurological veneer; as a former faith healer, she has elaborated upon those aspects of the model that are concerned with sickness and health; as someone born into an Indian Christian family she has tried to introduce notions of traditional Christian morality into an otherwise amoral Hindu view of the psyche."[21]


  1. ^ "Experience Your Self Realization". Vishwa Nirmala Dharma. 12 June 2006. Retrieved 2011-11-26. 
  2. ^ Coney, Judith (2013) [1999]. Sahaja Yoga. Routledge. p. 24.  
  3. ^ a b  
  4. ^ a b "What Is Sahaja Yoga". 
  5. ^ "Administrative Panel Decision 'Vishwa Nirmala Dharma a.k.a. Sahaja Yoga v. Sahaja Yoga Ex-Members Network and SD Montford' Case No. D 2001-0467".  
  6. ^ "A message for one and all...".  
  7. ^ Posner, Michael (11 March 2011). "Spiritual leader founded Sahaja yoga movement".  
  8. ^ a b c "Information about Sahaja Yoga" (PDF).  
  9. ^ "Sahaja". A Dictionary of Buddhism. Oxford University Press. 2004.  
  10. ^ Ray, Nihar Ranjan (October 2000). "The concept of 'Sahaj' in Guru Nanak’s theology". The Sikh Review 48 (562). Retrieved 2011-11-26. 
  11. ^  
  12. ^ "Sahaja Yoga".  
  13. ^ "Home Page". Retrieved 2011-11-26. 
  14. ^ "The subtle system of Sahaja Yoga". 5 December 2007. Retrieved 2011-11-26. 
  15. ^ "Sahaja Yoga in Detail". The Life Eternal Trust. Archived from the original on 2009-12-31. 
  16. ^ Coney 1999, p. 214.
  17. ^ Coney, Judith (1999). Palmer, Susan J.; Hardman, Charlotte, eds. Children in New Religions.  
  18. ^ "Sahaja Yoga Meditation". Life Eternal Trust. Retrieved 2011-03-19. 
  19. ^ Coney 1999.
  20. ^  
  21. ^ Kakar, Sudhir (1984). Shamans, Mystics and Doctors: A Psychological Inquiry into India and Its Healing Traditions.  
  22. ^ a b "Ch. 3: The Instrument". Sahaja Yoga Intro Book. Retrieved 2011-03-19. 
  23. ^ "Sahaja Yoga-Tamil Nadu: Meditation". Retrieved 2011-03-19. 
  24. ^ "Kundalini And Self Realization". Vishwa Nirmala Dharma. Retrieved 2011-03-19. 
  25. ^ "Ch. 2: The Experience". Sahaja Yoga Intro Book. Retrieved 2011-03-19. 
  26. ^ "Ch. 4: The Nadis". Sahaja Yoga Intro Book. Archived from the original on 2011-09-30. 
  27. ^ "Subtle System". Retrieved 2011-11-26. 
  28. ^ "Sahaja Yoga – Self Realization". Retrieved 2011-11-26. 
  29. ^ "Shri Mataji Radiates A Divine Energy". Vishwa Nirmala Dharma. Retrieved 2011-11-26. 
  30. ^ "Registro Publico Entidades Religiosas 30-06-2004" [Public Registry of Religious Entities].  
  31. ^ "List of ECOSOC/Beijing and New Accredited NGOs that attended the special session of the General Assembly".  
  32. ^ "2006 Report on International Religious Freedom".  
  33. ^ "Religion in Spain". Sahaja Worldwide News and Announcements (SWAN). Vishwa Nirmala Dharma. 19 July 2006. Retrieved 2011-11-26. 
  34. ^ "Historic video affirming the role of World Council for the Advancement of Sahaja Yoga". Sahaja Worldwide Announcements and News (SWAN). Vishwa Nirmala Dharma. Retrieved 2011-11-26. 
  35. ^ "Message to all the Sahaja Yogis of the world from Arneau, Coordinator of the World Council". Retrieved 2011-11-26. 
  36. ^ Coney 1999, p. 159.
  37. ^ "About the academy". The Life Eternal Trust. Archived from the original on 2011-07-15. 
  38. ^ "Cabella Primary School Enrolments". Sahaja Worldwide Announcements and News (SWAN). Vishwa Nirmala Dharma. 
  39. ^ "Growing Sahaja Kindergarten In Borotin". Sahaja Worldwide Announcements and News (SWAN). Vishwa Nirmala Dharma. Archived from the original on 2006-09-26. 
  40. ^ "The Opening of Canajoharie Sahaja School". Sahaja Worldwide Announcements and News (SWAN). Vishwa Nirmala Dharma. 28 July 2004. Retrieved 2011-11-26. 
  41. ^ "Teachers and Aunties Needed for International Sahaja School at Canajoharie". Sahaja Worldwide Announcements and News (SWAN). Vishwa Nirmala Dharma. 2 December 2006. Retrieved 2011-11-26. 
  42. ^ "A Wonderful Evening with Shri Mataji". Sahaja Worldwide Announcements and News (SWAN). Vishwa Nirmala Dharma. 10 July 2005. Retrieved 2011-03-19. 
  43. ^ Wittkamper, Jonah, ed. (2002). "Guide to the Global Youth Movement" (PDF). Global Youth Action Network. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2005-12-22. 
  44. ^ Tatke, Vinita (February 2000). "Case Study Civil Society & Governance Project". Archived from the original on 2004-01-03. Retrieved 6 November 2006. 
  45. ^ Khanna, Arshiya (16 Nov 2006). "A New Childhood".  
  46. ^ "An interview with Gisela Matzer" (PDF). Blossom Times 1 (3). 31 August 2007. p. 3. 
  47. ^ "Puja/Dakshina Costs". Sahaja Worldwide Announcements and News (SWAN). Vishwa Nirmala Dharma. 20 July 2005. Retrieved 2011-11-26. 
  48. ^ a b  
  49. ^ Coney 1999, p. 184.
  50. ^ Braid, Mary; Newbery, Beatrice (13 July 2001). "Shri who must be obeyed".  
  51. ^ Chadwick, John (24 July 2005). "Hundreds fill weekend with devotion, bliss".  
  52. ^ Fautré, Willy;  
  53. ^ "Sahaja Yoga is geen sekte" [Sahaja Yoga is not a cult].  
  54. ^ Auteur: jav (19 June 2006). "Sahaja Yoga is geen sekte" [Sahaja Yoga is not a cult].  
  55. ^ Martin, Buxant; Samyn, Steven (2 February 2013). "Staatsveiligheid houdt Wetstraat in de gaten" [State keeps an eye Wetstraat].  
  56. ^ Crace, John (18 July 2001). "Monday night with the divine mother".  
  57. ^ Ministry for Environment, Youth and Family:  

Further reading

  • Srivastava, Nirmala (1997) Meta Modern Era, (Vishwa Nirmala Dharma) ISBN 81-86650-05-9
  • Pullar, Philippa (1984) The Shortest Journey, ISBN 0-04-291018-8
  • Coney, Judith (1995). "'Belonging to a Global Religion': The Sociological Dimensions of International Elements in Sahaja Yoga". Sociological Analysis 10 (2): 109–20.  
  • Rai, Umesh (1993) Medical science enlightened: new insight into vibratory awareness for holistic health care (New Delhi: Life Eternal Trust) ISBN 81-900325-0-X
  • Descieux, Flore (1995) The Light of the Koran: Knowledge through Sahaja Yoga (Paris: La Pensee Universelle, 1995; English translation: New Delhi: Ritana Books, 1998)
  • Apte, Arun (1997) Music and Sahaja Yoga (Pune: NITL)
  • de Kalbermatten, Gregoire (2003) The Third Advent (New York: daisyamerica, 2003; Melbourne: Penguin Australia, 2004; Delhi: Penguin India, 2004) ISBN 1-932406-07-7
  • Powell, Nigel (2004) Meditation: The Joy of Spiritual Self Knowledge Through Sahaja Yoga Meditation (Corvalis Publishing) ISBN 0-9548519-0-0
  • List of research papers, conferences and publications relating to the Sahaja Yoga research and health center.

External links

  • Sahaja Yoga – official website
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