Satyananda Saraswati

Satyananda Saraswati (25 December 1923 – 5 December 2009), was a sannyasin, yoga teacher and guru in both his native India and the West. He was a student of Sivananda Saraswati, the founder of the Divine Life Society, and founded the Bihar School of Yoga in 1964.[1] He wrote over 80 books, including his popular 1969 manual Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha.

Satyananda Saraswati
Born(1923-12-25)25 December 1923
Died5 December 2009(2009-12-05) (aged 85)
Senior posting
GuruSivananda Saraswati


Early lifeEdit

Satyananda Saraswati was born 1923 at Almora, Uttaranchal,[2] into a family of farmers and zamindars.[citation needed]

As a youth he was classically educated and studied Sanskrit, the Vedas and the Upanishads. He says that he began to have spiritual experiences at the age of six, when his awareness spontaneously left the body and he saw himself lying motionless on the floor. Many saints and sadhus blessed him and reassured his parents that he had a very developed awareness. This experience of disembodied awareness continued, which led him to many saints of that time such as Anandamayi Ma. He also met a tantric bhairavi, Sukhman Giri, who gave him shaktipat and directed him to find a guru to stabilise his spiritual experiences.[3][page needed] However, in one of his early publications, Yoga from Shore to Shore, he says he would become unconscious during meditation and that "One day I met a mahatma, a great saint, who was passing by my birthplace...So he told me I should find a guru."[4]

At age eighteen, he left his home to seek a spiritual master. In 1943 at the age of twenty, he met his guru Sivananda Saraswati and went to live at Sivananda's ashram in Rishikesh.[1] Sivananda initiated him into the Dashnam Order of Sannyasa on 12 September 1947 on the banks of the Ganges and gave him the name of Swami Satyananda Saraswati. He stayed with Sivananda for a further nine years but received little formal instruction from him.[2]

Bihar School of YogaEdit

In 1956, Sivananda sent Satyananda away to spread his teachings. Basing himself in Munger, Bihar, he wandered as a mendicant travelling through India, Afghanistan, Nepal, Burma and Ceylon for the next seven years (although on several occasions he said he travelled only through India[5]), extending his knowledge of spiritual practices and spending some time in seclusion.[2]

In 1962 Satyananda established the International Yoga Fellowship Movement (IYFM) in Rajnandgaon.[2][6] IYFM inspired the establishment of ashrams and yoga centers spiritually guided by Swami Satyananda in India and all over the world.[7][1][8]

In 1964, he founded the Bihar School of Yoga (BSY) at Munger,[1][9] with the intention that it would act as a centre of training for future teachers of yoga as well as offer courses on yoga.[7]

Among those who attended courses at BSY were students from abroad and students who subsequently emigrated from India. Some of these people in turn invited Satyananda to teach in their own countries. He lectured and taught for the next twenty years, including a tour of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, North America between April and October 1968. The foreign and expatriate students also established new centres of teaching in their respective countries.[citation needed]


In 1988 Satyananda handed over the active work of his ashram and organisation to his spiritual successor, Niranjanananda Saraswati, and left Munger.[10]

From September 1989 he was in Rikhia, Deoghar, Jharkhand.[11] [12] There he lived as a paramahamsa sannyasin and performed vedic sadhanas including panchagni, an intensive sadhana for peace, abundance and well-being for all, performed before five blazing fires outdoors from Makar Sankranti (mid- January) to Karka Sankranti (mid-July).[13] It was during the Panchagni sadhana that he received the (divine) mandate “Take care of your neighbours as I have taken care of you” [14]

There he conducted a 12-year Rajasooya Yajna which began in 1995 with the first Sat Chandi Maha Yajna, invoking the Cosmic Mother through a tantric ceremony. During this event, Satyananda passed on his spiritual and sannyasa sankalpa to Niranjanananda.[15]

During his stay in Rikhia, he undertook the task of constructing homes for the homeless and established Rikhiapeeth ashram.[16] Its activities are based on the three cardinal teachings of Sri Swami Sivananda - serve, love and give through the activities of Sivananda Math, which provides free medical care and basic amenities to the people of Rikhia and the neighboring villages and supplies methods for the villagers to develop their own means of livelihood, thus enabling the development of a self-sustained society.[14]

In 2009, he entered into Mahasamadhi on the midnight of 5th December. [17]


Satyananda's teachings emphasise an "Integral Yoga" with a strong emphasis on Raja Yoga, known as the "Bihar Yoga" system or "Satyananda Yoga". This system addresses the qualities of head, heart and hands – intellect, emotion and action – and attempts to integrate the physical, psychological and spiritual dimensions of yoga into each practice.[18] His system of yoga involves the practice of:

Kundalini YogaEdit

In the tradition following Sivananda's explanation. Kundalini Yoga is the yoga of the evolutionary energy of the universe.

Kriya YogaEdit

One of the hallmarks of the system of yoga developed by Swami Satyananda, is a series of 20 Kundalini Kriya techniques. The word "Kriya" means activity which refers to specific movements of consciousness which is one of the key components of the Kriya yoga system [19]. It is an advanced system of yoga to access the psychic or spiritual dimension of human existence [20] [21].

On a practical level it aims at the awakening of the dormant kundalini energy, thus allowing a sadhaka (practitioner) to access his complete human potential [22]. In most of the classical yoga systems, the mind is willfully brought under control. In Kriya yoga however, the practitioner is not asked to counteract the disturbances of the mind. He is given specific, subtle inner movements that systematically refine his consciousness and release energy [20].

It can be stated, that at present, there are two main streams of Kriya yoga. That of Paramahamsa Yogananda and that of Swami Satyananda. Previously Kriya yoga was handed down from teacher to disciple by word of mouth (oral tradition) and non of the classical scriptures describes the techniques in detail, so the ordinary practitioner could understand how to apply them [21].

Swami Satyananda opened up the science of Kriya Yoga and presented it to the broder public [23]. Originally there are more than 76 kriyas mentioned in the scriptures, Swami Satyananda choose 20 of them [24]. He described them in detail and systematized them in a clear structure to be learnt over a period of 3 years [25], to make this ancient science available for the practitioner in the present age.

The Kriya yoga techniques as devised by Swami Satyananda consist of a combination of asana (body posture), pranayama (breathing techniques), mudra (gestures), bandha (inner locks), mantra (subtle sounds), chakra (energy centers) awareness, psychic passage awareness and visualization. He divided them in 3 sections: pratyahara kriyas, dharana kriyas and dhyana kriyas, thus enabling the practitioner to sequentially progress through the related meditative states of mind and consciousness [24].

He also initiated a 3 years correspondence course in Kriya yoga which resulted in the book: A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga & Kriya [26]. Connected to the development of the Kriya yoga system, Swami Satyananda conducted an extensive research in the field of Kundalini energy [27] and chakras[28]. This resulted in the book Kundalini Tantra [29], one of the most elaborate presentations on this subject available today.

Laya yogaEdit

The practice of a state of absorption on an object of meditation.

The four advanced stages of the Eight Limbs of YogaEdit

As codified by Patanjali Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.

Satyananda classified and expounded the techniques given in the Yoga as a series of different stages and levels of pratyahara, such as antar mouna, and different stages of meditation.[30] He invented a technique of yoga-nidra, now known worldwide as Satyananda Yoga Nidra, and defined and codified the different stages of the technique.[31]


Satyananda wrote over 80 books, including his popular 1969 manual Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha.[32][33] Satyananda's writings have been published by the Bihar School of Yoga and, since 2000, by the Yoga Publications Trust established by his disciple Niranjanananda to promote his teachings.[34]

Australian Royal Commission Case Study 21: Satyananda Yoga Ashram [35]Edit

Testimony given to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse from 2014 in various ways implicates Swami Satyananda and his successors.[36] According to reports of the Commission, Swami Satyananda was a violent sexual abuser.[37] The testimony before the Royal Commission involved child abuse, rape, gang rape, coercion and physical abuse such as beatings, and the knife cutting of a young girl by Swami Akhandananda. They involve Swamis deploying spiritual "teachings" to manipulate young people into having sex with each other and with adults. The testimony points toward a pattern of psychological, physical and sexual abuse, carried out by numerous Swamis against numerous children and young adults.[38][39][40]


  1. ^ a b c d Melton (2010), p. 1483.
  2. ^ a b c d Aveling (1994), p. 60.
  3. ^ Saraswati (2004).
  4. ^ Saraswati (1974), p. 8.
  5. ^ Saraswati (1974), p. 10, 72.
  6. ^ Saraswati (2011), p. 159.
  7. ^ a b Aveling (1994), p. 61.
  8. ^ "International Yoga Fellowship Movement". Bihar School of Yoga. November 1964. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  9. ^ Saraswati (2011), p. 188.
  10. ^ Pidgeon (2014), p. 15.
  11. ^ Pidgeon (2014), p. 60,125.
  12. ^ "Paramhamsa Swami Satyananda, the Sadhana of a Sage". Archived from the original on 18 July 2011.
  13. ^ Saraswati, Satyasangananda. "Panchagni – the Bath of Fire".
  14. ^ a b Saraswati (2012).
  15. ^ Past, Present and Future: consolidated history of Bihar School of Yoga, Swami Yogakanti, Swami Yogawandana (eds.), 2009, Yoga Publications Trust
  16. ^ Pidgeon (2014), p. 56-67.
  17. ^ Pidgeon (2014), p. 124-129.
  18. ^ Saraswati, Niranjanananda. "The Growth of Satyananda Yoga or Bihar Yoga". Retrieved 9 December 2009.
  19. ^ Saraswati (2017), p. 10.
  20. ^ a b Saraswati (2015), p. 125.
  21. ^ a b Saraswati (2017), p. 1-2.
  22. ^ Saraswati (2015), p. 87.
  23. ^ Saraswati (2015), p. 121.
  24. ^ a b Saraswati (2015), p. 122.
  25. ^ Saraswati (2017), p. 3.
  26. ^ Saraswati (2007).
  27. ^ Saraswati (2007b), p. 1-92.
  28. ^ Saraswati (2007b), p. 113-193.
  29. ^ Saraswati (2007b).
  30. ^ Meditations From the Yoga, Satyananda Saraswati, Yoga Publications Trust
  31. ^ Yoga Nidra, Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Yoga Publications Trust
  32. ^ Saraswati 1969.
  33. ^ "100 Best Asana Books of All Time". BookAuthority. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  34. ^ "Yoga Publications Trust". Satyananda Yoga. Archived from the original on 27 December 2014. Retrieved 27 December 2014.
  35. ^ Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (December 2014). "Case Study 21".
  36. ^ Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. "Case Study 21".
  37. ^ "Yoga Guru Violent Sexual Abuser". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  38. ^ "Yoga Ashram didn't Consider Sexual Abuse as a Crime". The Guardian. 4 December 2014.
  39. ^ Pankhania, Josna; Hargreaves, Jacqueline (December 2017). "Culture of Silence".
  40. ^ Browne, Rachel (28 November 2014). "Satyananda Yoga Ashram is the subject of royal commission hearing". The Sydney Morning Herald.


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