Siddha Yoga

Doctrines Siddha Yoga is based on the shaktipat or grace of the guru. This constitutes the source of authority, and is bestowed by the preceding guru upon his or her successor, who is thus empowered to inherit the predecessor's following and act with the full powers of a siddha master to awaken the light in the disciple's being. Spiritual growth takes place through the guru's grace and guidance combined with the seeker's own efforts, especially through meditation which is seen as stronger than external ritual. The guru can awaken the disciple's kundalini (spiritual powers or energies), through which deeper states of meditation, joy and wisdom may be entered, leading eventually to permanent integration and transformation of the personality. Recently there has been more emphasis on the importance of service in self-realization, and a range of social work projects have been undertaken.
History The lineage of Siddha Yoga is traced back to Bhagawan Nityananda (d. 1961), a well known Indian saint and guru in the early decades of the twentieth century. He appointed Swami Muktananda (1908-1982) as his successor, known to his disciples as Baba, who gave this path the name Siddha Yoga. In the 1970s Westerners were drawn to his ashram near Bombay in Maharashtra, India, which has now become a shrine where his body is buried. Disciples were attracted partly by the drama of Muktananda's technique, which focused on the development of psychic powers, such as seeing inner light. Upon his death he appointed a brother and sister as his successors, leading to power struggles out of which the sister emerged victorious while the brother is no longer officially connected with the movement. Swami Chidvilasananda, known as Gurumayi, continues to teach within the same tradition as Muktananda, travelling throughout the world but spending regular periods at the American ashram. There have been allegations of abuse of power by Muktananda and Gurumayi, as a result of which some of the leaders have left.

Symbols As with many Indian gurus, shaktipat is transmitted primarily through darshan, which may be an intimate gathering but can also take place on a grand scale, as with Gurumayi's recent visit to London where she presided over a conference centre holding 5000 people. Chanting is central, particularly the repetition of Muktananda's name but also other traditional Hindu chants. There is some Westernization, but on the whole the language and ritual are traditionally Hindu. The guru sits on a platform leading the chanting and dispensing shaktipat, which is conceived as the supreme initiation. The larger gatherings are known as 'intensives' in which the energy is poured out over the whole world. The individual disciple's capacity to receive this gift needs to be strengthened through regular meditation. A variety of simple Hindu-based meditations are provided in programmes of courses offered by the movement's centres. Muktananda's approach is non-intellectual so the symbolism is not formalized, but some of his and Gurumayi's teachings are collected in books.

Adherents No official figures available, but probably around 10,000.

Main centres
 Gurudev Siddha Peeth, Maharashtra, India.
Shree Muktananda Ashram, 371 Brickman Road, Box 600, South Fallsburg, NY 12779-0600, USA.
Siddha Yoga Meditation Centre, Conford Park House, Conford, Liphook, Hampshire GU30 7QP, UK.