Sahaja Yoga was founded in 1970 by Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi (1923 – 2011). Shri Nirmala Srivastava is more widely known as Her Holiness Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi or as "Mother" by her followers, who are called Sahaja yogis.
|Founder||Nirmala Srivastava (aka Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi)|
|Established||5 May 1970|
|kundalini, meditation, self-realization|
Shri Mataji described Sahaja Yoga as the pure, universal religion integrating all other religions.
Meaning of the nameEdit
The word 'Sahaja' in Sanskrit has two components: 'Saha' is 'with' and 'ja' is 'born'. 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." and Yoga means union with the divine and refers to a spiritual path or a state of spiritual absorption. According to a book published by Sahaja Yogis, Sahaja Yoga means spontaneous and born with you meaning that the kundalini is born within us and can be awakened spontaneously, without effort.
Before starting Sahaja Yoga, Shri Mataji earned a reputation as a spiritual healer.:211–212 With a small group of devotees around her, she began spreading her message of Sahaja Yoga in India in the year 1970. As she moved with her husband to London, UK, she continued her work there, and year by year the movement grew and spread throughout Europe, by the mid-80's reaching North America. In 1989, Shree Mataji made her first trip to Russia and Eastern Europe. She 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. By 2006, Sahaja Yoga had centers in at least 16 countries.
Beliefs and practicesEdit
Sahaja Yoga begins with self realization through kundalini awakening rather than as a result of performing kriya techniques or asanas. This spontaneous awakening is said to be made possible by the presence of Shree Mataji herself, or even her photo. The hypothesis is that the experience of self realization can be individually verified. The teachings, practices and beliefs of Sahaja Yoga are based on the main religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity, Islam and the teachings of ancient gurus such as Confucius, Lao Tse, Kabir, Zarathustra among others. There are however important elements of Christian origin, such as the eternal battle between good and evil. References to a variety of other religious, spiritual, mystical as well as modern scientific frameworks are also interwoven in Sahajayoga's teachings.
Within the Indian mystic tradition, kundalini awakening has long been a much sought-after goal that was thought rare and hard to attain. Sahaja Yoga is distinctive in offering a quick and easy path to such an awakening.
The Subtle System – Chakras and NadisEdit
According to Sahaja Yoga, in addition to our physical body there is a subtle body composed of nadis (channels) and chakras (energy centres). Sahaja Yoga 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.
Chakras are a symbolic representation of the branching network of vessels or nerves in the human body called plexus.
Vishwa Nirmala Dharma (trans: Universal Pure Religion, also known as Sahaja Yoga International) is the organizational part of the movement. It is a registered organization in countries such as Colombia, the United States of America, and Austria. It is registered as a religion in Spain.
There are no available statistical data about Sahaja Yoga membership. In 2001, the number of core members worldwide were estimated to 10,000, in addition to which around 100,000 practitioners more or less in the periphery were estimated to be found. There are varying reports about the movement's distribution worldwide. According to the Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi Sahaja Yoga World Foundation, Sahaja Yoga centers are established in over 95 countries. In a news article in Indian Express published on the occasion of Mataji's death in 2011, however, Sahaja Yoga centers were told to be found in over 140 countries.
International Sahaja Public SchoolEdit
Sahaja Yoga's youth movement is called "Yuvashakti" (also "Nirmal Shakti Yuva Sangha"), from the Sanskrit words Yuva (Youth) and Shakti (Power).
The Yuvashakti participated in the 2000 "Civil Society & Governance Project" in which they were "instrumental in reaching out to women from the poor communities and providing them with work".
Vishwa Nirmal Prem AshramEdit
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".
The methods for practicing 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
According to author David V. Barrett, "Shri Mataji neither charged for her lectures nor for her ability to give Self Realization, nor does one have to become a member of this organization. She insisted that one cannot pay for enlightenment and she continued to denounce the false self-proclaimed 'gurus' who are more interested in the seekers' purse than their spiritual ascent".
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.
The Austrian Ministry for Environment, Youth and Family states that "Sahaja Yoga" regards Nirmala Srivastava as an authority who cannot be questioned.
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