Sahaja Yoga

Sahaja Yoga

Yogaschool|name=Sahaja Yoga
religious_origins=Shaktism, Yoga, Hinduism
regional_origins=Mumbai, India
founding_guru=Nirmala Srivastava (aka Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi)
popularity=Growing from the late 20th century, present in "nearly 100 countries"
practice_emphases=Kundalini Awakening, Puja, surrender, Self-realization [ Experience Your Self Realization] ]
other_topics= Meditation, Dharma, New Religious Movements

Sahaja Yoga is a new religious movement founded by Nirmala Srivastava, more widely known as 'Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi' and affectionately as 'Mother' by her followers (Sahaja Yogis). The movement says that Sahaja Yoga uses a process of Kundalini awakening to produce Self Realization, experienced as a cool breeze and thoughtless awareness. a unique living process]

Sahaja Yoga started in India and England (where Nirmala Srivastava moved in 1974) and there are now Sahaja Yoga centers in almost 100 countries worldwide. [ - The Hindu] "A message for one and all... " Monday, Apr 07, 2003 viewed 6 November 2006] The Sahaja Yoga organization is known as Vishwa Nirmala Dharma (Universal Pure Religion) [ [ WIPO Domain Name Decision: D2001-0467 ] ] or Sahaja Yoga International.

The term

The word 'Sahaja' in Sanskrit has two components: saha meaning 'with' and ja meaning 'born'. [ Information about Sahaja Yoga] published by [ INFORM] ] Sahaja means "natural", "simple" or "innate" [ [ Buddhism Dictionary (Oxford University Press) definition of 'Sahaja'] ] and Yoga means "union" or "yoking" and refers to a spiritual path or a state of spiritual absorption.

The term 'Sahaja Yoga' goes back at least to the 15th Century Indian mystic Kabir. [ [ The Concept of "Sahaj" in Guru Nanak’s Theology] ] and has been used to refer to Surat Shabd Yoga. [Singh, S. S., & Johnson, J. P. (Translators). (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". Beas, India: Radha Soami Satsang Beas.] The term is also used to describe the basic meditation practice of Ananda Marga. [ [ Início | Ananda Marga Portugal - Centro de Yoga e Meditação ] ] Rajneesh (aka Osho) described 'Sahaja Yoga' as the most difficult of yogas because it involves no effort and is natural and spontaneous. [Osho, [ "In Search of the Miraculous" Vol 1] "Sahaja yoga is the most difficult of the yogas, because there is nothing more difficult than to be sahaja -- effortless, natural and spontaneous. What is the meaning of sahaja? Sahaja means: let whatever happens happen, don't resist it. Of course, it is the best, but it is also very difficult. Because nothing is more difficult for man than to be natural..." [ch 8, 5 May 1970 pm] ]

In 2000 the term 'Sahaja Yoga' was trademarked in the United States by Vishwa Nirmala Dharma. ['G & S: educational services, namely, conducting classes, workshops and seminars in the field of techniques of meditation, relaxation and self-improvement. FIRST USE: 19700000. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19730000" Filing Date: March 2, 1999, (REGISTRANT) Dharma, Vishwa Nirmala NONPROFIT RELIGIOUS CORPORATION CALIFORNIA 15445 VENTURA BLVD., #900 SHERMAN OAKS CALIFORNIA 91403 [] ] In 2001 a complaint by Vishwa Nirmala Dharma to the World Intellectual Property Organization regarding the use of the term was rejected (despite the dissenting opinion of the presiding panelist), in part due to the determination that the words 'Sahaja' and 'Yoga' are descriptive Sanskrit words heard in Buddhism, used by Kabir and also referred to by Guru Nanak in Sikhism. [ [ WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center] 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]


It is suggested that Sahaja Yoga beliefs, seen as re-discovered ancient knowledge, [ [ Sahaja Yoga in Europe] ] should be treated respectfully, like a hypothesis [ [ The subtle system of Sahaja Yoga] ] and if found by experiments as truth, should be accepted. [ [ Sahaja Yoga in Detail] ] The individually verifiable achievement of self realization is held to be the single most important point of difference between Sahaja Yoga meditation and other forms of yoga/meditation. At a doctors' conference in 1993 Nirmala Srivastava stated that Sahaja Yoga as a meta science is already researched and does not require years of further work. [Nirmala Srivastava, Doctor's Conference, 7 August 1993, Moscow "I call Sahaja Yoga as meta science because the method of science is not employed in Sahaja Yoga, e. g. in the medical science when we want to search something then we take a hypothesis. We think possibly this might be the solution of a particular disease... Unless we know what are we made of and what is our inner being, and how these diseases are caused, we will not be able to do some thing accurately. Specially allopathic medicines are very heat creating. So we have to take something to neutralise the heat that is also another blind alley, Sahaja Yoga is a meta science. Here you do not have to research anything. It is already researched and we do not have to go working hard for it for years"]

Students are encouraged to experience and test the meditation for themselves rather than proceeding blindly or learning from a book. [ [] ] Advanced concepts are not generally taught until a beginner is understood to have gained enough knowledge of their own subtle system through actual experience. Without direct experience of the meditation, some people have reported difficulties understanding or proceeding to the more advanced material. Sociologist, Judith Coney, for example, reported facing a challenge in getting behind what she called "the public facade".Judith Coney, "Sahaja Yoga: Socializing Processes in a South Asian New Religious Movement" (1999) p214 "Finally, throughout the study I faced the challenge of getting Sahaja Yogis to let me get behind the public facade. This was achieved with varying degrees of success. On one fortunate occasion, for instance, I attended a national puja, after which there was an extremely frank and revealing discussion of why Sahaja Yoga had been seen as a cult in a particular press article and of the level of secrecy in the group. There I listened to a number of speakers talk about the ways in which they disguised some of their beliefs when in contact with non-members."]

Coney wrote that because "established devotees are usually prepared to discuss their more 'advanced' beliefs only with people who have followed the practices laid out by Sri Mataji for some time, Sahaja Yogis at different stages of membership have recourse to different amounts of information." [Judith Coney, "Sahaja Yoga: Socializing Processes in a South Asian New Religious Movement" (1999) p43] She described Sahaja Yogis as adopting a low profile to avoid unnecessary conflict.Judith Coney, "Children in New Religions Susan J. Palmer, Charlotte Hardman, Rutgers University Press (July 1999)]

Chakras and nadis

Sahaja Yoga, like many Eastern and New Age systems, believes that in addition to our physical body there is a subtle body comprised of nadis (channels) and chakras (energy centers). Psychoanalyst, Sudhir Kakar writes that Nirmala Srivastava's additions to this widespread traditional 'tantric' model include giving it a scientific, neurological veneer, an elaboration of the health aspects and an introduction of notions of traditional Christian morality. [Kakar, Sudhir (1984) "Shamans, Mystics and Doctors: A Psychological Inquiry into India and Its Healing Traditions", ISBN 0-226-42279-8 p196 "Essentially, Mataji's model of the human psyche is comprised of the traditional tantric and hatha yoga notions of the subtle body, with its 'nerves' and 'centers,' and fueled by a pervasive 'subtle energy' that courses through both the human and the divine, through the body and the cosmos. Mataji's contributions to this ancient model are not strikingly original: as a former medical student she has sought to give it a scientific, neurological veneer; as a former faith healer, she has elaborated upon those aspects of the model that are concerned with sickness and health; as someone born into an Indian Christian family she has tried to introduce notions of traditional Christian morality into an otherwise amoral Hindu view of the psyche."] Nirmala Srivastava 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. Kakar writes that this follows the theories of Vasant Rele. [Kakar, Sudhir (1984) "Shamans, Mystics and Doctors: A Psychological Inquiry into India and Its Healing Traditions", ISBN 0-226-42279-8 p197]

Sahaja Yoga teaches that there are seven main chakras [ [ Subtle System] ] and that each chakra possesses different qualities and looks after different aspects of our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. [ [ "Chakras and the Channels of Energy"] ] Disease is said to occur when the subtle qualities of the chakras are neglected or denied. [ The Instrument] ] Each chakra has a presiding deity who may become deactivated in extreme cases causing disease.

Kundalini, Self-Realization and vibratory awareness

Sahaja Yoga teaches that the chakras can be balanced by awakening the Kundalini in the sacrum bone, which is conceived of as a normally dormant 'mother' energy. Nirmala Srivastava has said that the Kundalini is the reflection within us of the Holy Ghost or Adi (Primordial) Shakti. Nirmala Srivastava has said that Kundalini "is the desire of God.... and the desire of God is the Shakti" [] and that yoga is impossible without kundalini awakening. [] As the Kundalini rises through these centres, the qualities of the chakras are said to begin manifesting spontaneously. Most illnesses are said to result of damage to the chakras and Kundalini is said to repair them. []

Sahaja Yoga teaches that when the sahasrara (topmost) chakra is pierced by the Kundalini, a person will feel a cool breeze on top of their head and/or on their hands. [] These sensations (referred to as 'vibrations') are interpreted in Sahaja Yoga as indicating Self-Realization or an "encounter with Reality." [ [ Sahaja Yoga - Self Realization ] ] The vibrations sensed are believed to be an objective divine energy that can even be caught on camera. [ [ Shri Mataji Radiates A Divine Energy] ]

If there is a feeling of warmth or heat, it is interpreted as the Kundalini working to achieve this state. [] Sensations in the hands, head and/or body are also used to diagnose imbalances in the different chakras and nadis. [ [ Sahaja Yoga Australia] ] [ [ Sahaja Yoga Canada] ]

Upon Self-Realization, the practitioner may also experience thoughtless awareness (Nirvichar Samadhi).


Reporting on Sahaja Yoga, Sudhir Kakar writes that mental and physical disease can be caused by "clogged chakras" or an overactivity of the left and right channels. If the chakras are not linked together by the flow of (kundalini) energy, there is no integrated personality. [Kakar, Sudhir (1984) "Shamans, Mystics and Doctors: A Psychological Inquiry into India and Its Healing Traditions", ISBN 0-226-42279-8 p204 "In summary, besides the overactivity of the left and right channels, which creates mental tension, gives rise to psychopathological conditions and may connect an individual to the world of dead souls, upset or clogged chakras are held to be a second root cause of mental and physical disease. If the chakras are not linked together by the flow of energy, there is no "integrated" personality, while a "catch" on a chakra prevents its presiding god from sending out his particular "virtue" into the body-mind system."] Sahaja Yoga claims that it has cured patients of high blood pressure, asthma, epilepsy, diabetes, cancer [ [ Sahaja Yoga ] ] and can prevent many other ailments. [ [ Sahaja Yoga - Health Benefits ] ] In an interview, Nirmala Srivastava stated Sahaja Yoga has cured people with AIDS. [ [ VOA ITV Interview with Shri Mataji - 1/8/2003 p14] "Shri Mataji: And now you see also so many diseases we have cured - cancer, everything. Except for AIDS and this Alzheimer’s. Not that we cannot cure, we have cured. But they’re extremely rude people, specially these Alzheimer’s people are. They abuse you, say all kinds of things. And the other ones think they’re martyrs. AIDS people think they’re martyrs."] She has also said that Sahaja Yoga can cure mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. Kakar has written that followers of Nirmala Srivastava consider faith in her divinity to be a precondition for being cured. [Kakar, Sudhir (1984) "Shamans, Mystics and Doctors: A Psychological Inquiry into India and Its Healing Traditions", ISBN 0-226-42279-8 p206 "The cult members of course consider such temporary cures as showing a lack of faith in Mataji and her divinity. Given their premise that faith in Mataji can permanently cure the most intractable disease, a patient's persisting symptoms "prove" that he lacks faith, which in turn "proves" the correctness of the premise. As Paul Watzlawick and Leon Festinger, among others, have pointed out, once a tentative explanation has taken hold of our minds, information to the contrary may produce not corrections but elaborations of the explanation."]

Nirmala Srivastava

Nirmala Srivastava is said to have made the unique discovery of a way to grant Self-Realization en masse [] on May 5, 1970. She visited different religious people [] including Rajneesh [Coney, Judith (1999) "Sahaja Yoga: Socializing Processes in a South Asian New Religious Movement", (London: Curzon Press) ISBN 0-7007-1061-2 p 220] and said that she found them to be greedy and promiscuous rather than spiritual. She said she found the situation hopeless and began searching inside herself for a solution. Director/Writer: Carolin Dassel, "Nirmala Devi: Freedom and Liberation - Ein Leben für die Freiheit", A film by Carolin Dassel / produced by devifilm GbR / Carolin Dassel, Joseph Reidinger / Co-Production with University of Munich Television and Film and Bayerischer Rundfunk Claudia Gladziejewski, 2006 "Then I started going to different people supposed to be preaching about spirituality, talking about spirituality. But what I found they themselves were not spiritual. Very greedy, trying to want everything, running after women... I said what sort of things these are? If they are like this, what are they going to teach me? So I gave up hopes. Then I started searching myself, within myself. And one day in a forest I was with lots of people who were seeking and I went near the big sea and there I was sitting. And suddenly a light came into me and I saw it clearly that I am a satisfied soul. I don't need anything, I don't want anything. And that is the time when I saw a few things happening."]

Nirmala Srivastava, who claims to reside in the Sahasrara chakra [] , is said to have opened the primordial Sahasrara and thereby cleared the path for the Kundalini to rise effortlessly in all who desire Self-Realization. [] The ability to grant en-masse Self-Realization is held to be proof that Nirmala Srivastava is the 'Avatara of our times'. [] Nirmala Srivastava has claimed to be the complete [ [ ::Sahaja Yoga-Tamil:: Adi Sakthi By Thirumoolar ] ] incarnation of the Holy Ghost or Adi (Primordial) Shakti. [Srivastava, Nirmala (1983, 21 March) Birthday Puja, Sydney, Australia "I am the Holy Ghost. I am the Adi Shakti. I am the One who has come on this Earth for the first time in this Form to do this tremendous task. The more you understand this the better it would be. You will change tremendously. I knew I'll have to say that openly one day and we have said it. But now it is you people who have to prove it that I'm that."] The incarnation of the Adi (Primordial) Shakti was prophesied in the Markandeya Purana and the Nadi Grantha 2000 years ago. [N B Salkune (2002) [ "Raising Kundalini With Sahaj Yog"] The Times of India. Editorial 1 Mar "Shri Markandeya Purana has prophesied the incarnation of the Adi Shakti for the salvation of human beings... Indian Jyotisha Acharya Kaka Bhujandar Tatvacharya noted in his renowned Nadi Grantha, some 2,000 years ago, that a great yogi will appear on the earth and this yogi will have all the powers (shaktis) of the Adi Shakti."]


According to followers, the practice of Sahaja Yoga results in spontaneous Self-realization [] which, according to the official Sahaja Yoga website, can even be obtained online as one sits in front of one's computer, [ [ Experience It Now - Self Realization (Kundalini Awakening) through Sahaja Yoga ] ] although it is usually experienced at a Sahaja Yoga program.

Apart from those practices listed below, there are other practices such as prayer, [ [ Sahaja Yoga Meditation Tutorial Guide : Shri Mataji's Invitation ] ] [ [ The Agnya Chakra] Australian Sahaja Yoga website] havan [] raising one's Kundalini using one's hands and attention [ [ Sahaja Yoga Meditation Tutorial Guide : Shri Mataji's Invitation ] ] and putting on 'bandhan'. [ [ Sahaja Yoga Meditation Tutorial Guide : Shri Mataji's Invitation ] ]

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 and voluntary dakshina. [ [ "Puja/Dakshina Costs"] ] In the US, the dakshina has only been collected separately from the costs since 2005, when the customary dakshina was $121 per adult. []


Sahaja Yoga meditation was developed during the 1970s [] by Nirmala Srivastava, and is followed and promoted among and by the Sahaja Yoga movement. It aims to enter a state of "thoughtless awareness" – where the practitioner 'purifies' his/her attention, achieving clarity of mind. [ [ Sahaja Yoga meditation in Scotland, kundalini awakening & self realisation as taught by Sri Mataji Nirmala Devi ] ]

It is suggested a candle or oil lamp is lit in front of a photograph of Shri Mataji, which is believed to emit a constant stream of "positive, cool vibrations (energy)".] The practitioner sits comfortably, breathes normally and holds the hands out, palm upwards, as if receiving something precious. [ ::Sahaja Yoga-Tamil Nadu:: Meditation ] ] During meditation, the attention is focused on the Sahasrara chakra. Sahaja Yoga meditation can be practiced while listening to music or in silence. [ [ Sahaja Yoga Meditation Tutorial Guide : Shri Mataji's Invitation ] ]

Nirmala Srivastava has stated that meditation is not thinking "about your problems at all, whatever chakras you have, anything", rather it "means exposing yourself to God’s grace." [ What Is Sahaja Yoga Meditation?] ] She has described meditation as "an individual journey towards God."

The practice has been taught to prisoners in Italy and the United States, such as at Rikers Island to "help the prisoners' social, psychological and spiritual recovery". [ [ An Unlikely Source for Meditative Study] - Queen's tribune online] [ Rome prison (Italy) will begin offering meditation and yoga to inmates] ] Nirmala Srivastava has said that the younger children practice meditation the better.

Medical studies

Some studies have suggested that Sahaja Yoga meditation may have some effect in addressing some medical ailments. One study reports results with asthma patients.Manocha R, Marks G.B., Kenchington P., Peters D., Salome C.M. "Sahaja yoga in the management of moderate to severe asthma: a randomized controlled trial"," Thorax" 2003;57:110-115. URL: [] ] Sahaja Yoga practitioners were asked to assist in the trials and one of the researchers was a practising Sahaja Yogi. [Manocha, R. "Sahaja yoga in asthma", Thorax 2003;58:825-826. URL: [] "The authors sincerely regret any misunderstanding ... They sincerely and gratefully acknowledge the important and crucial role played by HH Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi and the Sahaja yoga practitioners of Australia in the execution of this study, and sincerely regret not having made more appropriate acknowledgements in the original article."] Short-term effects on asthma were noticed, by both objective and subjective measures. According to an article in the "Medical Observer Weekly", Sahaja Yoga meditation was found to be "significantly more effective than a generic form of meditation in reducing stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms". [ "Making sense of meditation"] , August 13, 2004, "Medical Observer Weekly"]

A pilot study (N = 14, no control group) on the effect of Sahaja Yoga meditation conducted by Dr Ramesh Manocha of the Royal Hospital for Women in Sydney, Dr. Barbara Semmar of the department of Psychology at [ Bond University] and Dr. Deborah Black of the Faculty of Medicine at the School of Community Medicine of the University of New South Wales on menopausal symptoms showed that "Changes in vasomotor symptoms, especially hot flashes, were most prominent as a significant decrease of 67% at post-treatment and 57% at follow-up". [ [ "A Pilot Study of a Mental Silence Form of Meditation for Women in Perimenopause"] Clinical Psychology in Medical settings viewed 15 November 2007.] Dr. Ramesh Manocha was thanked by Nirmala Srivastava's husband for assisting in his wife's medical team in Australia in 2006. []

A news report on a preliminary study suggested that Sahaja Yoga meditation "may be the most effective form of treatment for occupational stress". ["The preliminary study by the Royal Hospital for Women's (RHW) Natural Therapies unit trialled the Sahaja Yoga technique of meditation which is based on 'thoughtless awareness'." "NSW: Meditation found to relieve occupational stress" AAP News Australia June 15 2001 "A meditation technique may be the most effective form of treatment for occupational stress, a new study to be unveiled in Sydney tomorrow has shown. The preliminary study by the Royal Hospital for Women's (RHW) Natural Therapies unit trialled the Sahaja Yoga technique of meditation based on "thoughtless awareness".]

A case study showed that test subjects who were practising Sahaja Yoga meditation had "significant improvement in VCS (Visual Contrast Sensitivity)", and that meditation appeared to bring about changes in some of the electrophysiological responses studied in epileptic patients. [Panjwani U., Selvamurthy W., Singh S.H., Gupta H.L., Mukhopadhyay S., Thakur L. "Effect of Sahaja yoga meditation on auditory evoked potentials (AEP) and visual contrast sensitivity (VCS) in epileptics", "Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback" 2000;25(1):1-12

"Sahaja Yoga meditation appears to bring about changes in some of the electrophysiological responses studied in epileptic patients"
] Another study indicated that Sahaja Yoga meditation results in fewer and less acute epileptic seizures Panjwani U, Selvamurthy W, Singh SH, Gupta HL, Thakur L, Rai UC. "Effect of sahaja yoga practice on seizure control & EEG changes in patients of epilepsy." "Indian J Med Res" 1996;103: 165-72. [ISI] [Medline] ] citequote|date=November 2007 A review of the studies determined that there was insufficient evidence to draw conclusions about the efficacy of Sahaja Yoga meditation in treating epilepsy [ [ Ramaratnam S, Sridharan K. Yoga for epilepsy. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 1999, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD001524. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001524] ] and that further studies were needed. One of the authors of this study, Dr U.C Rai, former head of the Physiology Department of Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, Pondicherry, and professor in various medical colleges in Delhi, was appointed by Nirmala Srivastava as the first director of the International SahajaYoga Research and Health Center in 1996. []

Mishra reported that Sahaja Yoga meditation resulted in a "significant increase" in beta-endorphins between control and meditating subjects. [Ram Mishra, (a.k.a., Prof. Ram K. Mishra [] ), Cia Barlas, A. Pradhan), "Effect of meditation on plasma beta-endorphins in humans", 1993, (publication details unknown). Mishra's study abstract [ no. 257] was web-posted at U. of Arizona Center for Consciousness Studies, Department of Psychology, abstracts page, for speakers on Friday, April 7, (2006?) (server page last modified 2006-03-29). Quote: "The present study was undertaken to evaluate the effectiveness of the meditative practice of Sahaja yoga on plasma β-endorphin levels. .... There was a significant increase (p<0.01) between control and meditating subjects when controlled for age and gender. Female subjects, however, displayed less increase in the β-endorphins as compared to male subjects. ...." ] The endogeneous opiates, b-endorphins, are known to have a role in body homeostasis. They strengthen the immune system, and are involved in the maintenance of a healthy psychological functioning. They can even combat cancer cells, which could explain so-called 'miraculous cures' in cancer patients after the practice of Yoga meditation. [ [ "Alterations in physiological parameters during Sahaja Yoga meditation", reference-commentary (9)] ]


Puja is a traditional Hindu ceremony. In Sahaja Yoga, Sahaja Yogis express their devotion to particular deities. [ Invitation to Shri Adi Shakti Puja 2005] ] In some pujas, followers worship Srivastava as the Adi Shakti. This may include ghee, honey, yoghurt, milk, sugar and water being poured on Nirmala Srivastava's feet and then drunk. Nirmala Srivastava has said that Puja is necessary to achieve a state of "Shiva Tattwa". [cite speech
title = Mahashivaratri puja
author = Srivastava, Nirmala
first = Nirmala
last = Srivastava
authorlink =
location = Belapur, India

Cquotetxt|Puja is one of the things by which you can excite the forms into formless. Now your centers are the centers of energies, but they too have a guiding deity sitting on all these chakras. They are also the formless made into forms. And when you do the puja, the forms melt into formless energies. And these formless energies start flowing, and then blows the wind. And that is how these misidentifications, these superimpositions on the Spirit are removed.|Nirmala Srivastava| ["cite speech
title = Importance of Puja and Havana
author = Srivastava, Nirmala
first = Nirmala
last = Srivastava
authorlink =
location = Paris, France

According to a Canadian Sahaja Yoga website, puja is defined as:"the act of showing reverence to a God, or another aspect of the Divine through invocations, prayers and songs" and notes that a Sahaja Yoga puja involves "the same kind of ceremony as practised thousands of years ago in the East when mankind had a much closer relationship with God". [ [ Sahaja Yoga Turya Course session seven] "The authentic format of the ceremony has changed very little over the years, except that in the case of Sahaja Yoga the whole focus of the program is to move closer to the Divine and experience a Spiritual communication which goes much further than simply singing a few songs. The vibrational impact of a Puja can be simply astonishing".]

Pujas are recommended for realized souls (people who have received their Self-Realization – knowledge of Self) for them to gain from these pujas. [cite speech
title = Puja in Brisbane
author = Srivastava, Nirmala
first = Nirmala
last = Srivastava
authorlink =
location = Brisbane, Australia

"All the gain that you have from Puja is only possible when you are a realised soul otherwise it is useless to do any Puja, any worship, people go to church, sing few hymns and come back, they are just the same and afterwards go to the pub because they think pub is the only place where they can get some joy."

Cleansing techniques

Some cleansing techniques involve the natural elements in the form of candle flame, camphor flame, the earth and salt water. Others techniques involve ice, lemons, chillies [] , coconuts, ajwain, affirmations, mantras and "shoe-beating". [ [ elements in SY - viewed 25 November 2007] ] [ [ Sahaja Yoga treatments - viewed 25 November 2007] ]

Nirmala Srivastava has developed a liver diet to promote better health. White cane sugar, white rice, yogurt, ginger, fruits and vegetables promote the "cooling" of the liver. Alcohol, fried foods, red meat, fish, cream and chocolate are among the foods that are "heating" and thus may be harmful if taken in excess. [ [ Sahaja Yoga: Liver Diet] ]

Water can be spiritually vibrated, according to Sahaja Yoga, changing the characteristics of the water, and resulting in purification. [ [ Research on the effect of vibrations on water] ]


During Nirmala Srivastava's active years, Sahaja Yogis would generally consult her before marrying. Sahaja Yoga hosts a voluntary arranged marriage system. Those interested and their leaders have to fill out a form concerning the candidate's qualities and involvement in Sahaja Yoga, [ [ Sahaja Yoga Marriage Ceremony, Christmas Puja 2005] Viewed 25 November 2007] detailing their backgrounds and involvement in Sahaja Yoga. The official Sahaja Yoga website still states that the matching is performed by Nirmala Srivastava, [ Sahaja Yoga and marriages] ] although the matching may be done by a Sahaja Yogi, e.g. a leader. The official site also states that Sahaja Yogis believe in the sanctity of marriage and have mostly been married by this means. 'Mass marriage ceremonies' [ [ International Sahaja Yoga Seminar at Ganapatipule, Dec. 2003] Viewed 13 December 2007] are sometimes held at puja events. [ [ Invitation for Shri Ganesha Puja, Weddings and Navratri Puja] Viewed 13 December 2007] Judith Coney has written that marriages arranged by Shri Mataji are not always successful.Judith Coney, "Children in New Religions Susan J. Palmer, Charlotte Hardman, Rutgers University Press (July 1999)]


Sahaja Yogis have accepted Nirmala Srivastava's advice when it comes to divorce. There is a tolerant approach towards partners who are not members, although, according to an Inform pamphlet, members have in the past been encouraged to separate from non practicing partners.


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 many countries such as Columbia, [] the United States of America, [ [ List of ECOSOC/Beijing and New Accredited NGOs that attended the special session of the General Assembly en ] ] France, [ [ Association Vishwa Nirmala Dharma: Sahaja Yoga [Site Officiel ] ] and Austria. [ [] ] It is registered as a religion in Spain. [ [ Vishwa Nirmala Dharma - Religion in Spain] ]

The organization is governed by the World Council for the Advancement of Sahaja Yoga and, in addition to directly promoting Sahaja Yoga, promotes Sahaja culture, runs schools, a health center, a youth movement, and a project for the rehabilitation of "destitute women and orphaned children". [ [ Project description] [ interview with Director] ]

World Council for the Advancement of Sahaja Yoga

The World Council for the Advancement of Sahaja Yoga (WCASY, also known as the "Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi Sahaja Yoga World Foundation") is the highest authority in Sahaja Yoga. [ Historic video affirming the role of World Council for the Advancement of Sahaja Yoga] It was proposed in December 2003 and formed the following year. [ [ Message to all the Sahaja Yogis of the world from Arneau, Coordinator of the World Council] ] [ [ A productive second session of the WCASY at Guru Puja in New Jersey] ] [ [ The World Council for Advancement of Sahaja Yoga ] ] In July 2005 the role of the WCASY was affirmed by C. P. Srivastava Hon KCMG speaking on behalf of his wife, Nirmala Srivastava. [ Historic video affirming the role of The World Council Of Sahaja Yoga]

The WCASY has 31 members, "World Leaders", who represent Sahaja Yoga collectives from across the world. Among the latest additions to the WCASY is a Dr. Bohdan Shehovych, Gagan Ahluwalia, Paul Ellis, Alan Wherry, and Alan Pereira in 2005. [ [ SWAN - Update on The World Council of Sahaja Yoga [Saturday, June 26, 2004 ] ] According to an official Sahaja Yoga website, Guido Lanza, a World Leader, was suspended from all activities in Sahaja Yoga in 2005, for disrupting a havan ritual and threatening members. An Italian ashram was "temporarily closed". [ [ SWAN ] ] The same website announced that a Russian World Leader, [ [ SWAN - Updated List Of The World Council Members [Friday, May 20, 2005 ] ] Sergey Perezhogin, resigned his position in 2005. [ [ SWAN - Announcement of a New Collective Leadership in Russia [Sunday, August 07, 2005 ] ]


*The International Sahaja Public School in Dharamsala was founded in 1990, teaches around 250 international students annually and has accepted children from the age of 4.Coney, Judith (1999) "Sahaja Yoga: Socializing Processes in a South Asian New Religious Movement", (London: Curzon Press) ISBN 0-7007-1061-2 p159]
*The Shri P.K.Salve Kala Pratishthan is an Indian Classical Music and Fine Arts academy that was founded in Vaitarna, India, in 2003. []
*The Cabella Primary School in Italy will open in September 2008, with the children attending the local village school in Rocchetta Ligure. [ [ Cabella Primary School Enrollments] ]
*An international kindergarten was opened in Borotin, Czech Republic. [ [ Growing Sahaja Kindergarten In Borotin] via web archive.]
*A small kindergarten and primary boarding school was opened in Canajoharie, New York in 2004 [ [ The Opening of Canajoharie Sahaja School] ] . As of 2006 it had an enrollment of fourteen students from pre-kindergarten through grade 3. [ [ Teachers and Aunties Needed for International Sahaja School at Canajoharie] ]
*There has been a Sahaja Yoga school in Rome [] that, according to Judith Coney, has accepted boarding infants from the age of 2.

Health center

The organization runs the [ "International Sahaja Yoga Health and Research Centre"] in Mumbai, India, which uses Sahaja Yoga methods. Daily activities at the center include meditation, clearing techniques, listening to Nirmala Srivastava's lectures and bhajan singing. [] This health center claims to have been successful in curing incurable diseases such as (refractory) high blood pressure, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis. [ [ Medical research literature on Sahaja Yoga meditation] ] The center's website states: "What really counts in this Health Centre is that Our Holy Mother Shri Mataji has Her Divine Attention here and it is evident that She effects all cures." []

On 9 May 2007 a conference called Towards Sustainable Global Health was held. The conference was organised by the United Nations, UNESCO-UNEVOC and the University of Bonn. Sahaja Yoga was presented at a conference symposium by doctors from the Sahaja Yoga Research and Health Centre, Mumbai, India, Prof Katya Rubia, King’s College, London and others. []


Sahaja Yoga's youth movement is called "Yuvashakti" (also "Nirmal Shakti Yuva Sangha"), from the Sanskrit words Yuva (Youth) and Shakti (Power).

As well as helping organize Sahaja Yoga events such as Realize America tour, [ [ » Home ] ] The European realization tour, [ [ Sahaja Yoga Europe ] ] and Realize Australia, [ [ Sahaja Yoga Meditation - Realise Australia 2007 » • 2007 Tour Home Page ] ] Yuvashakti is active in forums such as the World Youth Conference [] and TakingITGlobal which aim at discussing global issues, and ways of solving them.

An example of this is the participation in the 2000 "Civil Society & Governance Project" in which Yuvashakti were "instrumental in reaching out to women from the poor communities and providing them with work".Fact|date=January 2008

ahaja Yoga culture

Because of the diversity of cultures practicing Sahaja Yoga, a range of different projects focusing on the similarities and differences between cultures was born, including the formation of theater company called [ the Theater of Eternal Values] (TEV) and musical groups playing fusion of different genres, such as [ Nirmal Bhakti] , Sahaj Unlimited and Indialucia including Flamenco, Qawwali and Indian classical music. [ [ Music and Sahaja Yoga ] ] [ [ Turiya Group - Turiya Group _uacct = "UA-2230351-1"; urchinTracker() ] ] As [ Academy of Indian Classical Music and Fine Arts] state: music is Divine Inspiration to become the spirit. []

Vishwa Nirmal Prem ashram

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". [ [ "A New Childhood"] Arshiya Khanna Times of India 16 Nov 2006, viewed 4 November 2007] In 2005, 21 girls were housed, most of them full orphans, aged between 5 and 12 years, and a "reasonable number of destitute women" [] . [ [ "Interview with the Ashram Executive Director"] ]

Other projects

The World Council supports the creation of an 108-room Ashram complex in Chhindwara, near the birthplace of its founder. [ [ Shri Mataji’s Holy Birthplace: Chhindwara Project] ] Another project is the transfer of her audio and video tapes, many in delicate condition, to digital media. [ [ Safeguarding the Original Audio and Video Tapes of Shri Mataji] ] [ [ An Appeal: Safeguarding The Original Audio and Video Tapes Of Shri Mataji] ] The founder is said to have given several of her homes to the trust run by the World Council [ [ Gift of Cabella Properties to the World Sahaj Collective] ] to be used in future projects by the organization. The [ International Sahaja Yoga Book Project] aims to publish 10 or 11 books by Nirmala Srivastava. Sahaja Yoga also broadcasts radio programs. [ [ Sahaja Yoga Radio Programs] ] [ [ Sahaja Yoga ] ]


A leaflet produced by [ INFORM] says that, although the initial emphasis is on free involvement, Sahaja Yoga's emphasis on complete devotion to Nirmala Srivastava has led to a number of problems and controversies. Sahaja Yogis are expected to accept Nirmala Srivastava's view that the more you give, in time and money, the better you will feel. This can lead to Sahaja Yogis cutting themselves off from relatives and former friends and accepting only Nirmala Srivastava's advice about child rearing, whom to marry or when to divorce. Some of those who deviate may be told they are possessed by evil spirits or may be said to be mentallyabnormal and risk being expelled from Sahaja Yoga. This may bring problems for those who still believe in thepower of Nirmala Srivastava and fear 'losing vibrations' and the possibility of a form of demonic possession. INFORM is an independent charity, based at the London School of Economics, that was founded in 1988 by Professor Eileen Barker with the help of British Home Office funding and the support of the mainstream Churches. [ [ INFORM] ]

As of 2001, according to the author David V. Barrett, the movement had been criticized because of encouragement of its members to make donations to pay for Mataji's trips and "expensive properties."Barrett, David V. "The New Believers" (Cassell 2001) ISBN 0-304-35592-5 pages 297-298 “Sahaja Yoga, like many other new religious movements, is involved in charitable social work, including a hospital and a cancer research centre – both using Sahaja Yoga methods for healing – a classical musical school, and a shelter for the poor in Delhi. Sahaja Yoga makes a big point of its teaching being free: - Amazingly, without any financial support from any person, Shri Mataji neither charges for Her lectures nor for Her ability to give Self Realization, nor does one have to become a member of this organization. She insists that you cannot pay for enlightenment and to-date she continues to denounce the false self-proclaimed ‘gurus’ who are more interested in the seekers’ purse than their spiritual ascent. - But in fact this is one of the major criticisms of the movement, that the often middle-class members are encouraged to make regular donations to pay for Shri Mataji’s trips around the world, and to buy her expensive properties, such as Shudy Camps Park House near Cambridge, England, in 1986 and an Italian castle in 1991. (...) Devoted member refer to her as the Divine Mother, and she has called herself Adi Shakh, Primal Mother of All; many take her advice on child-rearing, and some ask her to choose their marriage partners. This amount of influence over her followers’ lives has caused concern in several countries. Some former have said that they were expelled from the movement because they resisted Shri Maraji’s influence over their lives.” ] John Crace writing for The Evening Standard in 2001 also reported that ex-members claim that Sahaja Yoga has extensive assets and makes large profits. [ "Monday night with the divine mother."] , "The Evening Standard", London, England, July 18, 2001, John Crace]

Sahaja Yoga leaders deny this, pointing out that their group is a recognised religion in both the US and Russia, that all members are free to come and go as they please. They admit that members are asked for voluntary contributions to events and projects, but that the money does not go to the founder herself. A current member of 25 years said: "All the organisation owns is a few properties in various countries. If we were into making money, that would be a pretty feeble return."

Barrett also wrote that some former members say that they were expelled from the movement because they "resisted influence that Mataji had over their lives." According to Barrett, the movement's founder's degree of control over members' lives has given rise to concerns. The Austrian Ministry for Environment, Youth and Family has advised that Nirmala Srivastava "is regarded as an authority who cannot be questioned". [] .

In 2001, Australia's "AAP" reported that a general practitioner named Dr Bohdan Shehovych had been fined after grabbing a Sahaja Yoga critic "round the head and dragged him over a backyard fence""Qld: Doctor fined over yoga dispute", "AAP General News", Australia, November 12, 2001.
Brisbane's District Court has been told a GP grabbed a man round the head and dragged him over a backyard fence -- accusing him of befouling members of an Indian cult. The court was told Dr BOHDAN MYRON SHEHOVYCH was among a group delivering a letter to the man from the founder of the meditation religion, Sahaja Yoga. The 52-year-old doctor from the New South Wales central coast today pleaded guilty to entering a house at Mount Ommaney in Brisbane' west and assaulting TERENCE RICHARD BLACKLEY on March 3 this year. The court heard the group was delivering a letter to BLACKLEY from spiritual leader SHRI MATAJI NIRMALA DEVI, alleging spiritual and criminal wrongdoings. Judge KERRY O'BRIEN today told the doctor that someone of his intelligence should have known better than to behave in that manner. He's fined Dr SHEHOVYCH $1,500 but did not record a conviction.] The physician had been part of a group delivering a letter to the critic from Nirmala Srivastava. In 2004 an Australian medical practitioner [] called Dr Bohdan Shehovych was made a World Leader in Sahaja Yoga and appointed to the World Council for the Advancement of Sahaja Yoga. []

There has been a Sahaja Yoga school in Rome [ [ A Wonderful Evening with Shri Mataji] ] that, according to Judith Coney, has accepted boarding infants from the age of 2. A 1988 Italian television program surreptitiously filmed children sleeping 6 to a bed and there has been negative press coverage in "Le Figaro," 16/5/91; "Paris Match," 30/1/91 and "Marie France", February 1992 [Coney, Judith (1999) "Sahaja Yoga: Socializing Processes in a South Asian New Religious Movement", (London: Curzon Press) ISBN 0-7007-1061-2 p243] . Coney also reported the allegation that "when Swiss parents protested to Sri Mataji about their children going away from the age of three, thinking that the command to send their offspring came from the national leader rather than her, she personally reinforced his orders and, moreover, ordered them to have no contact with their children for at least a year."

"Cult" allegations

A 2008 court case in Brussels has ruled that Sahaja Yoga had been wrongly labeled as a cult by a Belgian state authority and awarded the group compensation. [ See section "Acts of defamation against religious groups and communities of belief by Belgian federal and federated agencies" and under that "1. Case of Sahaja Yoga v. the Belgian State"] A French National assembly report has also referred to Sahaja Yoga as a 'cult' [ [ French National assembly report on cults] ]

France and Belgium have been repeatedly criticized at the U.N. and at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for fostering religious intolerance and discrimination through state entities and state-funded private entities. Willy Fautré, the Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers writes that "up to now, the negative image of Sahaja Yoga has been mainly conveyed by 'antisect' organizations and 'state sect observatories' without any serious control of the rumors concerning this movement as the Belgian court decisions clearly show". [ Belgium 2008 ] ]

Some newspaper articles have reported on "cult" allegations directed at the movement. In 2001, "The Independent" reported that certain ex-members say "that Sahaja Yoga is a cult which aims to control the minds of its members" [ [ "Shri who must be obeyed"] , "The Independent", London, England, Mary Braid, Beatrice Newbery, July 13, 2001] . In 2005, "The Record" reported that some critics who feel that the group is a cult have started their own websites. [ [ "Hundreds fill weekend with devotion, bliss"] , "The Record", John Chadwick, July 24, 2005, Bergen County, New Jersey. (Local Section)] 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".

In 2001, the Sahaja Yoga Association published a response to the online allegations of ex-practitioners who were described as "dissatisfied" and having had been previously asked to leave the movement. [ [ Facts about Sahaja Yoga ] ]

Eileen Barker from Inform advises that the media is the most influential source of information about New Religious Movements and that the majority of that information is of a negative nature. The media have an interest in attracting and keeping readers, most of whom are likely to be attracted by sensational stories. Suppliers of information may well have an agenda that leads them to adjust their product to meet a perceived demand. [The New Religious Question: State Regulation or State Interference? Edited by Pauline Cotee and Jeremy Gunn, Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2006: 374-375.] Nevertheless, Sahaja Yoga practitioners are concerned with how their beliefs are represented in the media. In response to one press article in which cult allegations were made, a meeting was held after a national puja to discuss the level of secrecy within the group. In an effort to be transparent, a researching sociologist, Judith Coney was allowed to attend this meeting. Sahaja yogis discussed the ways in which some of their beliefs were disguised when in contact with non-members. Coney described this discussion as frank and revealing.

John Crace from "the Evening Standard" 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.

ahaja Yoga not a cult - Court of First Instance, Brussels

In 2008 the Belgian newspapers De Morgen [De Morgan newspaper article, 22 July 2008, "Sahaja Yoga is not a cult" [] ] , De Standaard [De Standaard newspaper article "Sahaja Yoga is not a cult" [] ] and The Evening (Le Soir) reported that the Court of First Instance of Brussels ordered the Belgian state to pay 1,500 Euros compensation to Sahaja Yoga for wrongly labeling the movement as a sect (cult). The Centre of Information and Opinion on Harmful Sectarian Organizations (CIAOSN/IACSSO) had given an unfavourable report on the meditation movement which was found to be unobjective and had resulted in the movement being defamed. The state appealed. [ [ 7s7: Belgique - "Sahaja Yoga n'est pas une secte" (255299) ] ]

ee also

* International Sahaja Public School
* Kundalini Yoga


Further reading

* Coney, Judith (1999) "Sahaja Yoga: Socializing Processes in a South Asian New Religious Movement", (London: Curzon Press) ISBN 0-7007-1061-2
* Srivastava, Nirmala (1997) "Meta Modern Era", (Vishwa Nirmala Dharma) ISBN 8186650059
* Pullar, Philippa (1984) "The Shortest Journey", ISBN 0-04-291018-8
* Kakar, Sudhir (1984) "Shamans, Mystics and Doctors: A Psychological Inquiry into India and Its Healing Traditions", ISBN 0-226-42279-8
* Coney, Judith (1995) “‘Belonging to a Global Religion’: The Sociological Dimensions of International Elements in Sahaja Yoga.” "Sociological Analysis" 10(2):109-20.
* Rai, Umesh (1993) "Medical science enlightened: new insight into vibratory awareness for holistic health care" (New Delhi: Life Eternal Trust) ISBN 81-900325-0-X
* Descieux, Flore (1995) "The Light of the Koran: Knowledge through Sahaja Yoga" (Paris: La Pensee Universelle, 1995; English translation: New Delhi: Ritana Books, 1998) ISBN 8185250026
* Apte, Arun (1997) "Music and Sahaja Yoga" (Pune: NITL)
* de Kalbermatten, Gregoire (2003) "The Third Advent" (New York: daisyamerica, 2003; Melbourne: Penguin Australia, 2004; Delhi: Penguin India, 2004) ISBN 1-932406-07-7
* Powell, Nigel (2004) "Sahaja Yoga Meditation" (Corvalis Publishing) ISBN 0-954-85190-0
* [ List] of research papers, conferences and publications relating to the Sahaja Yoga research and health center.

External links

;Official Sites
* [ Sahaja Yoga - official website]
* [ Official Response from Sahaja Yoga International to False Allegations]
* [ International Sahaja Yoga Research and Health Centre, Navi Mumbai, India]
* [ Yuvashakti International website]
* [ Video extracts of Sahaja Yoga talks by Shri Mataji]
* [ Audio extracts of Sahaja Yoga talks by Shri Mataji]

;Research Sites
* [ Research into Sahaja Yoga Meditation]
* [ Sahaja Yoga Meditation Research]
* [ Other Sahaja Yoga meditation research]

;Critical sites * [ Second Coming? or Mother of all Cults?]

;Neutral or mixed sites
* [ Leaflet on Sahaja Yoga] published by [ INFORM] . c2000
* [ Woman's Hour] September 12, 2001 BBC radio program, with questions and answers by Nirmala Srivastava and two ex-members.
* [ Sahaja Yoga] at the Religious Movements Homepage at the University of Virginia. Updated 2001.
* [ "Shri who must be obeyed"] "The Independent", July 13 2001

;Puja related
* [ Video of Shivaratri puja] 2006.
* [ Video about] a Sahaja Yoga puja and the various activities that surround it.

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