Sahaja Yoga

Sahaja Yoga was founded in 1970 by Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi (1923 – 2011).[2] 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.[3][4]

Sahaja Yoga
FounderNirmala Srivastava (aka Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi)
Established5 May 1970
Practice emphases
kundalini, meditation, self-realization[1]

During meditation, seekers of truth experience a state of self-realization produced by kundalini awakening, and this is accompanied by the experience of thoughtless awareness or mental silence.[5]

Shri Mataji described Sahaja Yoga as the pure, universal religion integrating all other religions.[3]

Meaning of the nameEdit

The word 'Sahaja' in Sanskrit has two components: 'Saha' is 'with' and 'ja' is 'born'.[6] 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."[7] 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.[5]

The term 'Sahaja Yoga' goes back at least to the 15th Century Indian mystic Kabir[8] and has also been used to refer to Surat Shabd Yoga.[9]


Before starting Sahaja Yoga, Shri Mataji earned a reputation as a spiritual healer.[10]: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.[11] 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.[12] By 2006, Sahaja Yoga had centers in at least 16 countries.[13]

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.[5] 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.[10][3] There are however important elements of Christian origin, such as the eternal battle between good and evil.[10][3] References to a variety of other religious, spiritual, mystical as well as modern scientific frameworks are also interwoven in Sahajayoga's teachings.[10][3]


Within the Indian mystic tradition, kundalini awakening has long been a much sought-after goal that was thought rare and hard to attain.[10] Sahaja Yoga is distinctive in offering a quick and easy path to such an awakening.[10]


Meditation is one of the foundational practices within Sahaja Yoga.[3]:71 The technique taught emphasises the state of "thoughtless-awareness" that is said to be achieved.[14]

The Subtle System – Chakras and NadisEdit

Chakra Kundalini Diagram

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.[15]


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,[16] the United States of America,[17] and Austria.[18] It is registered as a religion in Spain.[19]

Membership statisticsEdit

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.[6] 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.[20] 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.[4]

International Sahaja Public SchoolEdit

The International Sahaja Public School in Dharamsala founded in 1990, teaches around 250 international students annually as of 1999, and has accepted children from the age of 6.[3]:159


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[21] and TakingITGlobal which aim at discussing global issues, and ways of solving them.

The Yuvashakti participated in the 2000 "Civil Society & Governance Project"[22] 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".[23][24]


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[25]

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".[26]

Cult allegationsEdit

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.[27][28][29]

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.[30]

The Austrian Ministry for Environment, Youth and Family states that "Sahaja Yoga" regards Nirmala Srivastava as an authority who cannot be questioned.[31]


  1. ^ "Experience Your Self Realization". Vishwa Nirmala Dharma. 12 June 2006. Archived from the original on 19 November 2011. Retrieved 26 November 2011.
  2. ^ Jones, Lindsey, ed. (2005). Encyclopedia of Religion (2nd ed.). Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA [Imprint]. ISBN 978-0-02-865997-8.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Coney, Judith (1999). Sahaja Yoga: Socializing Processes in a South Asian New Movement. Richmond: Curzon Press. ISBN 0-7007-1061-2.
  4. ^ a b "Sahaja Yoga founder Nirmala Devi is dead". The Indian Express. Express News Service. 25 February 2011. Archived from the original on 5 May 2017.
  5. ^ a b c Srivastava, Nirmala (1989). Sahaja Yoga Book One (2nd ed.). Australia: Nirmala Yoga.[non-primary source needed][page needed]
  6. ^ a b INFORM staff. "Meditation and Mindfulness". INFORM – the information network on religious movements. Archived from the original on 4 July 2017. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  7. ^ "Sahaja". A Dictionary of Buddhism. Oxford University Press. 2004. ISBN 978-0-19-172653-8. Archived from the original on 28 May 2014. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  8. ^ Ray, Nihar Ranjan (October 2000). "The concept of 'Sahaj' in Guru Nanak's theology". The Sikh Review. 48 (562). Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 26 November 2011.
  9. ^ Soami Ji Maharaj (1934). Sar Bachan: An Abstract of the Teachings of Soami Ji Maharaj, the Founder of the Radha Soami System of Philosophy and Spiritual Science: The Yoga of the Sound Current. Translated by Sardar Sewa Singh and Julian P. Johnson. Beas, India: Radha Soami Satsang Beas.[page needed]
  10. ^ a b c d e f Sudhir Kakar (1991). Shamans, Mystics and Doctors: A Psychological Inquiry into India and its Healing Traditions. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226422798.:191
  11. ^ Melton, J. Gordon (2009). Encyclopedia of American religions (8th ed.). Detroit: Gale. p. 1005. ISBN 978-0-7876-6384-1.
  12. ^ Posner, Michael (11 March 2011). "Spiritual leader founded Sahaja yoga movement". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 19 March 2011.
  13. ^ "Sahaja Yoga Worldwide Contacts – Locate Sahaja Yoga Near You". Archived from the original on 27 October 2006. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
  14. ^ "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". WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center. 16 June 2001.
  15. ^ Shermer, Michael, ed. (2002). The Skeptic Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience. 1. ABC-CLIO. p. 538. ISBN 978-1-57607-653-8.
  16. ^ "Registro Publico Entidades Religiosas 30-06-2004" [Public Registry of Religious Entities]. Ministry of the Interior and Justice: Republic of Colombia. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007.
  17. ^ "List of ECOSOC/Beijing and New Accredited NGOs that attended the special session of the General Assembly". United Nations. Archived from the original on 12 September 2016. Retrieved 26 November 2011.
  18. ^ "Austria – 2006 Report on International Religious Freedom". Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor: US Dept. of State. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  19. ^ "Religion in Spain". Sahaja Worldwide News and Announcements (SWAN). Vishwa Nirmala Dharma. 19 July 2006. Archived from the original on 10 September 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2011.
  20. ^ Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi Sahaja Yoga World Foundation (7 May 2017). "From Nimala Srivastava to Shri Mataji". Shri Mataji: A Life Dedicated to Humanity. Archived from the original on 28 May 2017. Retrieved 4 May 2017.
  21. ^ Wittkamper, Jonah, ed. (2002). "Guide to the Global Youth Movement" (PDF). Global Youth Action Network. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 December 2005.
  22. ^ Tatke, Vinita (February 2000). "Case Study Civil Society & Governance Project". Archived from the original on 3 January 2004. Retrieved 6 November 2006.
  23. ^ Khanna, Arshiya (16 November 2006). "A New Childhood". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 18 October 2012. Retrieved 4 November 2007.
  24. ^ "An interview with Gisela Matzer" (PDF). Blossom Times. 1 (3). 31 August 2007. p. 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 September 2007.
  25. ^ "Puja/Dakshina Costs". Sahaja Worldwide Announcements and News (SWAN). Vishwa Nirmala Dharma. 20 July 2005. Archived from the original on 15 September 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2011.
  26. ^ Barrett, David V. (2001). The New Believers. Cassell. pp. 297–8. ISBN 0-304-35592-5.
  27. ^ Fautré, Willy; Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF) (6 October 2008). Religious intolerance in the OSCE space. OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting: Working Session 10: Tolerance and Non-discrimination. Warsaw: Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Archived from the original on 19 April 2014. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
  28. ^ "Sahaja Yoga is geen sekte" [Sahaja Yoga is not a cult]. De Morgen (in Dutch). 22 July 2008. Archived from the original on 21 January 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2011.
  29. ^ Auteur: jav (19 June 2006). "Sahaja Yoga is geen sekte" [Sahaja Yoga is not a cult]. De Standaard (in Dutch). Archived from the original on 21 January 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2011.
  30. ^ Crace, John (18 July 2001). "Monday night with the divine mother". London Evening Standard.
  31. ^ Ministry for Environment, Youth and Family: Austria (1999). Sekten! Wissen schützt [Sects! Knowledge Protects]. Translated by (2nd ed.). Vienna: Druckerei Berger. Archived from the original on 21 June 2008. Retrieved 17 April 2014.

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