Sahaja Yoga

A spiritual movement emphasizing meditation and self-realization.

Religion: Hinduism
Denomination: Sahaja Yoga
Founder: Nirmala Srivastava (Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi)
Founded: 1970s
Location: Global (with significant presence in India and Western countries)
Other Names: Sahaja Yoga Meditation, Sahaja Yoga International

Founded in 1970 by Nirmala Srivastava, also known as Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, Sahaja Yoga is a unique form of meditation that aims to bring about self-realization through the awakening of Kundalini energy. This practice is based on ancient spiritual traditions and emphasizes the development of thoughtless awareness and a state of inner peace and balance. Sahaja Yoga distinguishes itself by offering a simple, spontaneous method for attaining self-realization, making it accessible to individuals of all ages and backgrounds without the need for rigorous physical exercises or chanting mantras commonly found in other yoga practices.

Central to Sahaja Yoga is the concept of the subtle body, which consists of energy centers (chakras) and channels (nadis) that govern our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Practitioners learn to awaken their Kundalini, a dormant spiritual energy at the base of the spine, which rises through the chakras, leading to a state of enlightenment and connection with the universal consciousness. This process is intended to enhance mental, emotional, and physical balance, offering benefits such as stress reduction, improved memory and focus, emotional intelligence, and better management of emotions.

The teachings of Sahaja Yoga are built on the principle that true meditation leads to a state of thoughtless awareness where one can experience the absolute truth directly. This is achieved through a natural and effortless awakening of the Kundalini energy, enabling practitioners to become their own spiritual guides and achieve a balanced and harmonious state of being.

Despite its spiritual and transformative goals, Sahaja Yoga has faced scrutiny from scholars and critics. Judith Coney, a religious sociologist, observed that the movement presents a variety of world views and levels of commitment, with some followers choosing to remain on the periphery. Her research highlighted challenges in understanding the internal dynamics of the group, as well as specific concerns regarding gender roles, with the movement prescribing traditional roles and views on femininity and masculinity that could be seen as limiting. Additionally, apostasy within Sahaja Yoga is not described negatively by all former members, though some report concerns about arranged marriages and discrepancies between expectations and reality.

The global organization behind Sahaja Yoga, Vishwa Nirmala Dharma, known as Sahaja Yoga International, is active in over 140 countries and offers its teachings free of charge, aligning with Shri Mataji’s belief that enlightenment cannot be commercialized. Despite this, the organization has mechanisms in place for funding activities, including charges for attending international events to cover costs.

Sahaja Yoga’s approach to meditation and spiritual growth continues to attract followers worldwide, drawn by its promise of peace, self-improvement, and a deeper connection with the universal consciousness​​​​​​.

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