Who Is Swami Satyananda Saraswati ?

Who Is Swami Satyananda Saraswati ?
 
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Swami Satyananda Saraswati was a prominent figure in modern Tantra, Kundalini, and yogic teachings.

“Yoga is not an ancient myth buried in oblivion. It is the most valuable inheritance of the present. It is the essential need of today and the culture of tomorrow.” – Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Before delving into his life and teachings, it's essential to note that Swami Satyananda Saraswati faced serious accusations of child sex abuse by some of his followers.

Swami Satyananda Saraswati's life was marked by significant spiritual achievements from a young age, ultimately leaving a global legacy in yoga. He is also said to have attained self-realization.

His guru, Swami Sivananda, remarked on Satyananda's profound detachment: “Few would exhibit such intense vairagya at such an early age. Swami Satyananda is full of Nachiketa vairagya.”

Vairagya means dispassion, detachment, or renunciation.

In this article, we will explore:

  • His Life and Background
  • His Teachings
  • Controversy & Allegations

Life and Background

Early Life
landscape in almora india
Born in Almora, India in 1923, Swami Satyananda Saraswati hailed from a family with a military background, including his father. He received a classical education, delving deeply into Sanskrit, Vedic literature, and the Upanishads.

Spiritual Experiences
From an early age, Satyananda demonstrated a strong spiritual inclination. At just six years old, he began having out-of-body experiences where his awareness observed his motionless body lying on the floor. Local sadhus assured his parents that he had heightened spiritual awareness. Awareness of death or the body's motionlessness has a history in Eastern philosophy as a path to enlightenment or self-realization. Notable figures like Sri Ramana Maharshi and the Buddha discussed similar concepts.

Leaving Home in Search of Spirituality
old image of a tantric yogini
These experiences persisted into his teenage years. At 19, he met a tantric bhairavi, Sukhman Giri, who initiated him into secret tantric rituals over six months. She directed him to find a guru to stabilize his spiritual experiences.

“One day I met a mahātma, a great saint, who was passing by my birthplace…So he told me I should find a guru.” – Swami Satyananda Saraswati in his early text ‘Yoga From Shore To Shore’

Reaching Rishikesh
rishikesh in india
His search led him to Rishikesh, where he studied under the renowned Swami Sivananda, who initiated him into the Saraswati order. Satyananda formally renounced worldly desires and spent the next 12 years with Sivananda, learning about spiritual life and becoming an authority on Tantra, Vedanta, and Kundalini yoga.

During this period, Satyananda earned several titles:

  1. Swami: A renunciate on the path to divine union with the self (swa).
  2. Paramahamsa: Meaning “supreme swan,” a title indicating one who is awakened in all realms.
  3. Satyananda: Meaning “supreme bliss,” attained through divine quality.
  4. Saraswati: Reflecting the wisdom of nature attained in the previous title.

Wandering India
Swami Satyananda Saraswati
After 12 years, Satyananda left the ashram to travel throughout India, Afghanistan, Nepal, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka as a wandering sannyasin. In the early 60s, he founded the International Yoga Fellowship Movement, uniting yoga practitioners worldwide.

Bihar School of Yoga
In 1964, Satyananda established The Bihar School of Yoga in Munger, which became an internationally recognized center for yoga training.

International Lecturing
For two decades, Satyananda lectured and taught yoga philosophy worldwide, establishing yoga centers globally. In 1988, he handed over his ashram's leadership to his disciple Niranjanananda Saraswati and entered meditative seclusion in Rikhia, Jharkhand.

Establishment of Rikhiapeeth
yogi in meditation with hands in anjali mudra
Despite renouncing his earlier work, Satyananda continued giving spiritual instruction in his final years. He established Rikhiapeeth, an ashram dedicated to yoga training, spiritual awareness, and local prosperity.

Mahasamadhi
group of yogis in savasana on sand
In 2009, Swami Satyananda Saraswati entered mahasamadhi, a state of deep meditation leading to death, a practice performed by many spiritual masters.

Teachings and Impact

Satyananda System of Yoga
Swami Satyananda Saraswati developed a holistic form of yoga that is gentle and less physically demanding than other styles like Iyengar yoga. Satyananda Yoga emphasizes the following practices:

  • Asana sequences
  • Pranayama
  • Meditation
  • Tantric practices
  • Cleansing practices
  • Pratyahara
    group of yogis in tree pose

Satyananda modernized ancient practices such as karma, bhakti, and jnana yoga, creating a popular path practiced globally.

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