Category Archives: R. Hinduism and the West

Transcendental Meditation

Transcendental Meditation is a modern movement consisting of a particular style of meditation invented and practiced by Maharishi Yogi in the 1950s. Initially only practiced by a small group of Maharishi’s followers, after the Beatles took their well-known trip to India, over a hundred thousand people learned to practice Transcendental Meditation (Forem 15). In fact, Transcendental Meditation has gained many celebrity endorsements including Clint Eastwood, the Beach Boys and Merv Griffin (Lowe 60). Transcendental Meditation has origins in Tantric traditions, and is practiced by silently repeating a mantra given to a student by a registered teacher of TM based on the student’s age (Lowe 56). Transcendental Meditation is intentionally done with little effort (Balaji, Varne, and Ali). If the practitioner’s attention wanders off, it is allowed to roam until it naturally returns to repeating the mantra (Balaji, Varne, and Ali). Transcendental Meditation also has roots in Vedic traditions, with Maharishi Yogi embracing “the absolutist and ultra-orthodox interpretations of the Vedas” (Lowe 55). The purpose of TM is to enjoy the benefits of a state of relaxed alertness (Yunesian et al. 2). There are also many medical and health benefits of TM. It has been shown to be an efficient method for improving cardiovascular conditions and treating mental health issues such as anxiety, by way of improving an individual’s overall sense of clarity, happiness and life satisfaction. The Western world has many concepts of meditation, notably prayer, but also including Mindfulness meditation, Zen meditation and yoga (Films Media Group). Maharishi Yogi said that “TM has nothing to do with religion, and people of all religions practice TM” (Films Media Group). There is a course fee to learn to practice TM, which costs around $1000 (Films Media Group). Proponents of the movement argue that it is a health investment and it is hard to get anything for free nowadays; critics argue that there are many cheaper resources available, such as books and CDs (Films Media Group). To help share their ideas with the public, the TM Organization [TMO] still conducts studies on meditation, and presents both new and old findings from their research (Lowe 60).

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was born in Jabalpur, India in 1918, and he lived to the age of 91 (Films Media Group). He obtained a degree in Physics from Allahabad University, before starting his career with Transcendental Meditation (Lowe 56). According to Forem (2012), an individual who studied with Maharishi, he was “a happy man, serene, and at peace with himself” (Forem 13). Forem also refers to him as “brilliant, wise and compassionate,” and explains that the word rishi means ‘sage or seer,’ and that the word maha means great, a title only reserved for great sages who not only ‘see’, but are the embodiment of true knowledge and compassion (Forem 18-19). He started teaching his technique in 1957, defying the deeply ingrained rules in Hindu society. Because he was not born of the Brahmin varna or caste, he was therefore considered to be an illegitimate guru (Lowe 55). Although he borrowed methods of talking and writing like a guru, he never claimed to be a guru himself, even though that was how Westerners largely saw him (Lowe 56). In fact, he was a supporter of Hindu “hereditary caste-assigned occupations” (Lowe 57). Although Maharishi’s teachings were a departure from traditional, orthodox Hinduism, he drew much inspiration from the ultra-orthodox teachings of the Vedas (Lowe 55).

According to Lowe, Maharishi believed that Vedic teachings provided complete and total knowledge of everything in the universe (Lowe 54-55). He interpreted the Vedas as undoubtedly correct, and the “eternal source of all true knowledge about the universe” (Lowe 55). The movement also acknowledges that if one is able to interpret the Vedas, one can obtain all the knowledge that modern scientific investigation holds (Lowe 55). One important example of Transcendental Meditation’s Vedic origins is the concept of the mantra. Maharishi was clearly influenced by the mentioning of aum or om, the cosmological principle that the world is made of vibrations, and that the word is the source of said vibrations, found in the Rg Veda (Lowe 57). He applied the technique of repeating the mantra, and used words drawn from lists built in Indian Tantric traditions to form what is now known as Transcendental Meditation (Lowe 56). Maharishi invoked certain laws of nature synonymous with ancient Vedic deities or devas found in the Rg Veda when inventing TM (Lowe 57).

Another example of TM being built on Vedic foundations is Maharishi’s assertion that Vedic principles are more “complete and accurate” than modern science because “unlike scientific claims, they can not be falsified” (Lowe 57). Maharishi thought knowledge found in the Vedas was more trustworthy than modern science because it provided direct contact with devas rather than relying on empirical evidence (Lowe 58). He also claimed that Vedic texts are “scientific documents containing all knowledge” (Lowe 59). As TM spread around the world, Maharishi’s followers began to demand more empirical evidence of the effects of practicing Transcendental Meditation, and in response to such queries, studies were conducted by the TMO; these were the first studies to prove that any form of meditation has an effect (Lowe 59-60). It is worth noting that “evidence of the negative side effects of TM was not reported,” however, practitioners of TM were reporting improved sleep, stress reduction and better overall health (Lowe 60, 63).

A final example of the influence of the Vedas on Transcendental Meditation is the use of sidhis, a trademarked misspelling of the Sanskrit word siddhi, which refers to Patanjali’s description of powers obtained through meditation in the Yoga Sutras (Lowe 63). In 1976, Maharishi introduced the TM Sidhi Program, meant to teach advanced techniques of levitation, mind-reading and invisibility, among others (Lowe 63). The practice is highly controversial and often mocked for being “just people jumping around” (Films Media Group). Despite “warnings in classical texts”, it was decided that anyone who had been practicing TM for more than six months may spend several thousands of dollars to learn the abilities (Lowe 64). This is perhaps a major argument for critics of the movement. A final example of TM being influenced by information found in the Vedas is its inclusion of yajnas or sacrifices. Lowe illustrates that “Vedic astrology, architecture, medicine, music, fire sacrifices and gem stone theory are purported as science by the TMO” (Lowe 65). In TM, yajna is referred to as yagyas, and is meant to bring material blessings and ward away malevolent cosmological influences in an individual (Lowe 68). Members of the TMO still pay Brahmin priests to perform yagyas for them (Lowe 68).

When an individual practices TM over an extended period of time, they can expect to see many medical benefits. In Transcendental Meditation, Hocus Pocus or Healthy Practice, Films Media Group discusses the results of 146 different medical studies done on TM. They found that TM was twice as effective at reducing anxiety than other prescribed methods (Films Media Group). More specifically, Balaji, Varne and Ali (2012) found that the gray matter in the right orbito-frontal cortex, right thalamus and left temporal gyrus inside brains of individuals that practiced TM for a long period of time was significantly larger than individuals who did not meditate at all (Balaji, Varne and Ali). Another study, The Effects of Transcendental Meditation on Mental Health, confirms that in areas of mental health and anxiety, TM is an effective method to treat such disorders, and TM practisers see this effect independently of age, sex and marital status (Yunesian et al. 1,3). In that study they also found that meditation is an effective treatment for the four areas of mental health they assessed: anxiety, somastication, depression and social dysfunction (Yunesian et al. 2). Transcendental Meditation is also an effective treatment method for individuals with cardiovascular diseases. Dr. Ross Walker from Films Media Group states “TM’s effects on blood pressure are impressive, and Studies have shown there’s a significant reduction of blood pressure comparable to a blood pressure pill” (Films Media Group). They also mention that TM should not be used as a replacement for heart medications, but can have extraordinary benefits when used in conjunction to typical Western medicine (Films Media Group). Another study, Stress Reduction in the Secondary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease, confirms Dr. Ross Walker’s views. The study found a 48% risk reduction in the overall sample of subjects performing TM, and a 66% risk reduction in subjects who regularly practiced TM (Schneider et al. 755). The study concludes that TM may be a clinically useful behavioural intervention in preventing cardiovascular disease (Schneider et al. 756). Since the World Health Organization (2016) states that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the world, these findings show that TM can have enormous medical benefits for the general population (WHO, 2016).

Transcendental Meditation is an organization filled with history, drawing inspiration for much of its concepts from Vedic tradition and the personality and influence of Maharishi Yogi. Transcendental Meditation is also very controversial, but boasts numerous claims about impacting and improving the well-being of an individual who practices. Some of said claims are backed by western science and medicine while others are rooted in religious traditions, despite TM being a non-religious movement. For example, it is shown to improve mental well-being, improve cardiovascular health, sleep patterns and the general well-being of an individual.


Balaji, P., Smitha Varne and Syed Ali (2012) “Physiological effects of yogic practices and transcendental meditation in health and disease” North American Journal of Medical Sciences 4.10:442. Accessed February 5, 2017.

Films Media Group, Films for the Humanities & Sciences (Firm), and ABC International 2012. Transcendental meditation: Hocus-pocus or healthy practice?. New York, N.Y: Films Media Group.

Forem, Jack (2012) Transcendental Meditation: The Essential Teachings of Maharishi Yogi. Carlsbad, California: Hay House, Inc.

Lowe, Scott (2011) “Transcendental Meditation, Vedic Science and Science.” University of California Press (May) 54-76. Accessed February 1, 2017.

Schnieder, Robert H., Clarence E Grim, Maxwell V Rainforth, Theodore Kotchen., Nidich, Sanford L Nidich, Carolyn Gaylord-King, John W Salerno, Jane Morely Kotchen and Charles N Alexander (2012) “Stress Reduction in the Secondary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: Randomized, Controlled Trial of Transcendental Meditation and Health Education in Blacks” Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. 5:750-58. Accessed February 5, 2017. doi:10.1161/CIRCOUTCOMES.112.967406.

World Health Organization (2016) “Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs) Fact Sheet” (September). Accessed March 27, 2017.

Yunesian, Masud., Afshin Aslani, Javad Homayoun Vash and Abbas Bagheri Yazdi (2008) “Effects of transcendental meditation on mental health: a before-after study” Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health. 4.25:25. Accessed February 5, 2017. doi:10.1186/1745-0179-4-25.

Related Topics for Further Investigation







The Rg Veda



Noteworthy Websites Related to Topic

Article Written by: Grayden Cowan (February 2017) who is solely responsible for its content.

Transcendental Meditation

Meditation can be viewed for traditional Hindus as a vehicle to moksa. Additionally it has been taken up in the West for various psychological and physiological health benefits. There are many methods and techniques that promote this state of relaxed awareness, such as yoga and breath control. Meditation aims to achieve a relaxed alertness during a state of rest (Trotter 376). These forms of meditation have traditionally been associated with semi-religious means to obtain moksa (liberation) and Atman (self-realization) in Hindu society. Transcendental Meditation (TM) offers a simple approach to attaining these goals by using mantras (Trotter 377). It has been widely popularized because it requires no lifestyle alternations (Schmidt-Wilk, Alexander and Swanson 430). Transcendental Meditation offers a way to encourage stress management and wellness enhancement through the use of a simple technique (Schmidt-Wilk, Alexander and Swanson 434). This movement caters to changing values of demanding societies internationally and has stood the test of time to provide both spiritual and heath-based benefits to followers.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi founded the Transcendental Meditation Movement in 1957 (Lowe 55). He began teaching his form of mantra meditation following the death of his guru, Swami Brahmananda Saraswati (Lowe 55). Mahesh is considered radical because he identified as a spiritual teacher (guru) which violated his jati (caste) where he was designated to be a scribe (Lowe 55). His movement was equally as radical as his challenge to the Hindu status barrier. Maharishi believed that the Vedas contained all the knowledge that scientific investigation could reveal (Lowe 55). This connection between religion and scientific knowledge guided the TM Movement. The movement required him to challenge religious and western science barriers. Eventually, his movement in the form of Vedic Science carried out his visions in an accessible and negotiable way. His vision for world peace resulted in the expansion of the TM Movement throughout India and into Western cultures (Lowe 63). The interacting relation between tradition and science allowed his movement to prosper and adapt to vast cultural values.


The Transcendental Meditation Movement has three distinct phases through history. The first phase relates most closely to the Indian-based religious aspects that can be associated with meditation. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi started teaching and promoting his interpretations about the Vedas in 1957 (Lowe 55). Along with other Hindus, Maharishi viewed the Vedas as the source of all knowledge and, if interpreted properly, they could lead individuals to attaining moksa (liberation), which is one of the Four Goals that Hindus pursue (Lowe55). The early years of the TM movement are influenced by Vedic Science. The Vedas outlined the key components of Maharishi’s goals for the future, including, behavior, physical well-being, societal harmony and world peace through spiritual development (Lowe 58). Maharishi presented the importance of having a cognitive understanding of the Vedas in order to gain mystical insight into reality, leading to enlightenment and the revelation of Absolute Truth (Lowe 59). This religious perspective was not widely rendered outside of India. Maharishi recognized that most Western communities were less interested in moksa than other components of meditation, such as, relaxation (Lowe 59). The late 1960’s concluded the missionary phase of Maharishi’s TM Movement.

The second phase to the Transcendental Meditation Movement began in the 1970’s (Lowe 54). The movement focused on science based psychological and physiological aspects of mediation. TM practisers were typically counter-culture youth supporting a sociocultural phenomenon (Woodrum 93). In this phase, supporters began providing experimental scientific evidence. The scientific benefits of TM popularized the movement. In the mid-1970’s celebrity endorsement from the Beatles, The Beach Boys, and others promoted the movement’s growth in the West (Woodrum 94). Maharishi established a course called the Science of Creative Intelligence (SCI) which provided videotaped lectures for those looking for a deeper involvement in TM (Lowe 60). SCI was institutionalized in high schools in the United States of America; students were able to practice TM which focused on “creative intelligence” a secularized version of the Hindu concept of Brahman (Absolute Reality) (Lowe 60). The movement also included the founding of Maharishi International University. TM growth in the mid-1970’s also included TM Initiators that looked specifically at the physiological benefits of TM (Lowe 61). Maharishi emphasized the connection between modern Western science and the claims from the Upanishads in the second phase of the Transcendental Meditation Movement (Lowe 61). The connection to religion caused controversy regarding where TM could be studied (i.e., not in public schools) and was criticized by scientists because the studies done by the Transcendental Meditation Movement could not be replicated (Lowe 64). The “Maharishi Effect”, describes part of the TM-Sidhi program that was critiqued because this program claimed to the practicality of “yogic flying” which contradicts western science (Lowe 64). The relations between the TM organization, its counter-culture youth followers and scientific disproving caused a strain to the movement, causing a re-evaluation of the goals and audience it was aimed at.

The third phase of the Transcendental Meditation Movement emphasized the superiority of Vedic science (Lowe 64). Maharishi introduced a range of traditional Indian practices during this time and accentuated spiritual and scientific aspects of meditation. The practices engaged spiritual awareness that resulted in measurable change in the physical world (Lowe 65). The science of Vedic texts attributes the human body with the cosmos as revealing knowledge (Lowe 67). This period of the movement compromised the previous two phases to create a religious Vedic-science technique aimed at the individual level to gain spiritual and physiological well-being (Rehorick 355). Knowledge generation is based on the concept that scientific and objective means serve to legitimize the observer (Rehorick 345). This concept aids institutions to validate the portrayed importance of TM.


Transcendental Meditation is based on the principle of repeating bija or “seed” mantras, which are designated to the meditator by the TM instructor (Lowe 56). These mantras are originally found in Vedic knowledge and are specialized for the individual (Rosenthal 279). The technique requires the meditator to sit comfortably with closed eyes, repeating the mantra for 20 minutes, twice per day (Trotter 377). The mantra is supposed to be experienced freely without any particular concentration; other thoughts that enter the mind may be evaluated and discarded without being followed by any associations (Trotter 377). When attention is focused the experience and object coexist (Rosenthal 288). The mantra is used to bring self-awareness as other thoughts become primary. While the mantra takes a secondary role, the meditator finds them self (Rosenthal 288).The technique does not involve physical activity or cognitive control (Wallace 1752). The goal of TM is to experience pure consciousness or restful alertness (Schmidt-Wilk, Alexander and Swanson 431). Advance practices of TM have been referred to as “TM-Sidhi”, “flying-Sidhi”, or more generally, the “Maharishi Effect” which entails being filled with energy that the individual levitates off the ground (Rehorick 343).

Transcendental meditation has been recognized for its psychological and physiological effects. It has been reported that TM practisers have experienced improved sleep, stress reduction and better health (Lowe 63). Additionally, reports suggest that TM has a therapeutic value in relieving mental and physical tension, as well as, decreasing blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen consumption (Wallace 1754). Overall, the development of one’s consciousness through TM has shown to enhance concept learning, creativity, intelligence, moral reasoning, decreased neuroticism and increase brain efficiency (Schmidt-Wilk, Alexander and Swanson 431). These outcomes have been utilized in collective social settings, such as workplaces, to enhance dynamic qualities of employees and improve well-being and productivity (Schmidt-Wilk, Alexander and Swanson 437).

Current Configurations:

The TM movement has current international configurations. The movement maintains an arrangement of training programs, research, and schools through institutional TM organizations to cater to various groups. The Foundation for the Science of Creative Intelligence adapts programs to target business and professional audiences (Woodrum 95). The Maharishi International University, in addition to the Maharishi European Research University, trains TM representatives, develops curricular and publicity materials, and generates scientific research of TM (Woodrum 95). Additionally, The World Plan Executive Council aims to develop the full potential of the individual resulting in improved relationships and productivity). This outlook coincides with Maharishi’s world peace motive by incorporating TM practice into corporate organization through the influence of others (Lowe 54). Maharishi’s goal is pursued, utilizing a means that shift between the “spiritual” or religious aspects of the original ideology and scientific validity of the benefits (Rehorick 350). The interactive shift between these typically conflicting ideologies allowed Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation Movement to cater to, and encompass a broad range of people.

Maharishi’s lasting impression of world peace through Transcendental Meditation has been withheld internationally. The Transcendental Meditation Movement is a flexible and adaptable practice that is suitable for everyone. The TM Movement involves aspects of both traditional Vedic religion as well as Western science validity. Over time, these aspects of TM worked together in favor of Maharishi’s goal to develop world peace through individual reflection and wellness and the effects it has on others.



Lowe, Scott (2011) “Transcendental Meditation, Vedic Science and Science.” Nova religio:The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 14:54-76. Accessed January 31, 2017. doi: 10.1525/nr.2011.14.4.54.

Rehorick, David A. (1981) “Subjective Origins, Objective Reality: Knowledge Legitimation and the TM Movement.” Human Studies 4:339-57. Accessed January 31, 2017.

Rosenthal, Norman E. (2012) Transcendence: Healing and Transformation Through Transcendental Meditation. New York: Penguin.

Schmidt-Wilk, Jane, Alexander, Charles N., and Gerald C. Swanson (1996) “Developing Consciousness in Organizations: The Transcendental Meditation Program in Business.” Journal of Buisness and Psychology 10:429-44. Accessed February 15, 2017.

Trotter, Robert J. (1973) “Transcendental Meditation.” Science News 104:376-78. Accessed January31, 2017.

Wallace, Robert K. (1970) “Physiological Effects of Transcendental Meditation.” Science, New Series 167:1751-1754. Accessed January 31, 2017.

Woodrum, Eric (1982) “Religious Organizational Change: An Analysis Based on the TM Movement.” Review of Religious Research 24:89-103. Accessed January 31, 2017.


Related Topics for Further Investigations


Maharishi Mahesh Yogi


World Plan Executive Council



Maharishi Effect

Science of Creative Intelligence

Maharishi International University

The Maharishi International University


Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

Article written by: Tienna Chang (Spring 2017) who is solely responsible for its content.

Yogananda Paramahansa and the Self-Realization Fellowship

Yogananda’s Life

Born January 5, 1893 in Gorakhpur, India, Yogananda grew up with the name Mukunda Lal Ghosh (Yogananda 1971:4). He would later take upon the name of Yogananda as a result of his pledge to his spiritual teacher, Sri Yukteswar, to become a swami (teacher) in the philosophies of kriya yoga. Raised by his father, Bhagabati Charan Ghosh, who was a mathematician who worked for the Bengal – Nagpur Railway, and mother, Yogananda grew up in a ksatriya family (Yogananda 1971:4). As the son of disciples of a renounced religious figure, Lahiri Mahasaya, Mukunda was introduced to the traditionally demanding practice of kriya yoga at a young age as a student of Sri Yukteswar (Farge 51; Segady 189). According to his devotees and himself, Yogananda was able to recall many transcendent events that led him towards the pursuit of liberation or moksa at a young age. Below are summaries of these events found in his autobiography.

When he was a small child, Yogananda was overcome by Asiatic cholera. As reported in his autobiography, his mother being a disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya told Mukunda to pray to the Cosmic beloved and Lahiri Mahasaya for bettered health. He recounts remembering the physical weakness he felt during this time in which he could not “lift a trembling arm”. Instead he was tasked with bowing mentally to pray for a cure. With repetitive mental prayer Mukunda was cured from a usually terminal sickness (Yogananda 1971:10).

As a baby fresh from his mother’s womb, Yogananda was able to recall the troubles of being an infant he was quoted in his autobiography as saying: “I was resentfully conscious of being unable to walk and to express myself freely. Prayerful surges arose within me as I realized my bodily impotence. My strong emotional life was mentally expressed in words of many languages. Amid the inward confusion of tongues, I gradually became accustomed to hearing the Bengali syllables of my people. The beguiling scope of an infant’s mind! adultly considered to be limited to toys and toes” (Yogananda 1971:1).

Yogananda was educated in the traditional Indian school system while studying the philosophies of Sri Yukteswar (Farge 51). While studying under his guru (teacher), Sri Yukteswar, he pursued an A.B. degree at Serampore College, a branch of the University of Calcutta (Yogananda 1971:219). Yogananda was not as studious or dedicated in his pursuit of academic knowledge as he was in his pursuit for spiritual realization. According to his autobiography, throughout his education, Mukunda was a seen as the “Mad Monk” and was generally an outsider in the academic world (Yogananda 1971:223). He would apply religious ideas he learned from Sri Yukteswar to academic fields such as philosophy. In doing so Yogananda was not perceived as a “good” student by his professors and colleagues. According to Autobiography of a Yogi, during his final year of study he was set to fail his final examinations but for another transcendental event (Yogananda 1971:220). As exams approached, Mukunda was aware of his failing grades and he knew if they persisted he would not obtain his degree, to the disapproval of his father. Through the guidance of his guru, Mukunda approached his friend for help. Mukunda was able to pass all of his exams as every question he studied was on the exams he wrote (Yogananda 1971:221-226).

After obtaining his A.B. degree at Serampore College, Yogananda decided to set up his own organization with the purpose of educating students in a comprehensive format, both spiritually and intellectually (Yogananda 1971:254). Described in his autobiography, Yogananda was “averse” to the concept of traditional organizations as they distracted people from serving the “true organization” the Cosmic Beloved (Yogananda 1971:254). Originally set up in Ranchi, India in 1918, the Yogoda Satsanga Brahmacharya Vidyalaya has grown increasingly with the objective of providing students with an education in agriculture, business, industry and academics along with spiritual practices (Yogananda 1971:254). Run alongside his western organisation known as the Self-Realization Fellowship, or SRF, Yogananda prescribes that the school’s environment resembles an orthodox ashrama. According to orthodox Hindu philosophy, during the student stage of life, also known as brahmacarya [also defined as a stage of celibacy], children are tasked with the pursuit of proper dharma or knowledge. Yogananda developed a traditional ashram set in nature to allow students to properly pursue this life goal. It was at this campus that where Yogananda began to develop his yogoda techniques of meditation with the purpose to “recharge life’s battery” (Yogananda 1971:255). The guru took the originally rigorous demands of kriya yoga, taught by his predecessor Sri Yukteswar (Farge 51), and transformed them into a practice designed to move one from “self to Self” (Farge 55). Yogananda used postures or asanas to create a science for the attainment of moksa (liberation). Currently, the Yogoda Satsanga Brahmacharya Vidylaya supports four ashrams in Ranchi, Noida, Dwarahat and Dakshineswar. Today many of these sites are held in sacred regard for his devotees as Paramahansa Yogananda experienced the Divine there.

Once the setup of the Yogoda Satsanga Brahmacharya Vidylaya, or now known as the Yogoda Satsanga Society of India, was complete, Yogananda decided to travel to the United States of America as the delegate for Brahmacarya Ashram of Ranchi at the Congress of Religious Liberals (Segady 188; Farge 51). In August of 1920, he set off for America on the “City of Sparta.” Yogananda, having been raised and taught speaking Bengali, had troubles with lecturing in English to an English speaking audience. Recounted in his biography, his devotees believe Yogananda went through a transcendental experience at the beginning of his lecture on the ship where God granted him the ability to speak fluent English (Yogananda 1971:357).  His presentation of the “Science of Religion” to the Congress of Religious Leaders in Boston was met with great success and led to Yogananda staying in Boston and Philadelphia for several more years (Farge 51; Segady 188). In 1924, the Yogananda embarked on a transcontinental tour to promote the Yogoda philosophies. His presentations were attended by thousands, and by the end of 1925, he had set up the international headquarters for the Self-Realization Fellowship on Mount Washington in Los Angeles, California (Segady 189).

On August 22, 1935, Yogananda returned to India to check on the progression and affairs of the Yogoda Satsanga Society of India as well as confer with his guru, Sri Yukteswar. Upon his arrival he was met with great fanfare and applause (Yogananda 1971:377). When he did make it to Ranchi, he found his school in dire need of financial support as Sir Manindra Chandra Nundy, who had donated large amounts of money to the Yogoda Satsanga Society of India, had passed away. Once Yogananda had publicized his need for financial support, money came flowing in from his disciples in the West saving the original school (Yogananda 1971:381). Yogananda toured around the country visiting many temples and notable people. Before his guru, Sri Yukteswar, passed away, he bestowed on Yogananda the sacred title of Paramahansa (Yogananda 1971:401). In Sanskrit, the word Paramahansa can be broken down into the roots parama, meaning “highest” and hansa meaning “swan” (Yogananda 1971:401). It is the white swan that is said to be the mount of the Creator, Brahma (Yogananda 1971:401). By 1936, Paramahansa Yogananda had returned to the West to continue his mission of spreading the word of kriya yoga. On March 7, 1952 the freed Yogananda Paramahansa passed away after a presentation to his disciples in California. In Hinduism, it is said that a realized or freed being can voluntarily “exit” their body once their mission has been completed. Yogananda’s disciples believe that he had attained that state of liberation. It was on March 7, 1952 when Yogananda Paramahansa entered his mahasamadhi or last conscious exit (Yogananda 1971:498). Twenty days after Yogananda “exited” his body, the mortuary reported no signs of biological decay. This report was published throughout the popular world, and Yogananda’s devotees believe this affirms his connection with the divine (Yogananda 1971:498).


The Self-Realization Fellowship

After the first center for the Self-Realization Fellowship was set up in Waltham, Massachusetts in 1922, Yogananda began a transcontinental tour to further disseminate his teachings of kriya yoga. By 1925, he had finished his tour and set up an international headquarters for the Self-Realization Fellowship on Mount Washington in Los Angeles, California (Segady 190). At its creation and until the present the Self-Realization Fellowship has followed a specific set of ideals and aims, which according to their website, include: “To disseminate among the nations a knowledge of definite scientific techniques for attaining direct personal experience of God. To unite science and religion through realization of the unity of their underlying principles.”

Following these ideals, the SRF experienced substantial growth throughout the 1920s. By the mid-1930s, the Self-Realization Fellowship had grown into a nationwide organization built around Yogananda’s aims and practices (Segady 190). As a result of the popularity, the organization decided to publish their own magazine, East-West, in the West promoting Eastern philosophy. This publication further increased SRF’s popularity as it applied Eastern religious practices and to Western society (Segady 190). In 1935, the SRF had become an active member of the Parliament of World Religions and an official non-profit religious organization, the first eastern religious organization to do so, in the state California (Segady 190). By 2008, the SRF had grown to recognize 500 SRF or Yogoda Satsanga temples, centres or groups in 50 countries. Its members spanned over 178 countries staking its claim as a permanent global spiritual organization (Segady 190).

The SRF and Yogoda Satsanga Society both follow kriya yoga philosophies set up by Yogananda and his preceding gurus. The Sanskrit term kriya can be roughly translated to mean “action”. As described by Yogananda, the yoga-meditation techniques used by the SRF are a developed science used to reach Self-Realization (Farge 63). In Yogananda’s form of kriya yoga the goal is to combine bhakti (devotion), jnana (knowledge) and karma (action) within the meditations to help devotees realize samadhi or realization [for further reading see Yogananda (1986)] (Segady 191). Yogananda believed that once a person had perfected this art, then it was at this time the said person achieved moksa.

Yogananda further explain his teachings and the attainment of realization using the force called kundalini (Farge 62). According to Yogananda, kundalini can be described as a snake at the base of the spine (Farge 62). When a person is “clouded” in his or her realization the snake would be “asleep”, feeding on the person’s senses and pleasures. The snake’s venom would then dictate the feelings of lust the person would feel (Farge 62). Through asanas or posture and the practice of yoga, a person can awaken the snake and allow it to travel up the spine to the brain, where they would experience true realization. This awakening is known as vasuki (Farge 62).

As is a common occurrence in the works of Yogananda, he uses both science and religion to explain his philosophies. The ascent of consciousness can be described in turn with the spinal centers (Farge 62). Based on a person’s enlightenment, the force or kundalini will reside in one of the centers. The centers can be categorized by the level of self-realization. In an ordinary person, the kundalini will remain in the lumbar, coccygeal or sacral center (Farge 62). Whereas in an enlightened being, the kundalini has travelled up towards the cerebral center and exited through the ajna or the “single eyed passage” (Farge 62). In-between the top and bottom, the believers of the divine reside in the heart center, the calm yogi’s kundalini sits in the cervical center, where a yogi who understands the Cosmic Vibration is centered in the medullary center or Christ center (Farge 63). As stated previously, it is when the kundalini has travelled the entirety of the spine that one will achieve realization [for further reading on kundalini and the ascent of consciuousness see Yogananda (1995)].

Through the explanation of kundalini and the practice of kriya yoga, Yogananda developed his philosophy on the attainment of moksa, but he also used seven of Patanjali’s traditional steps to realization (Farge 64). As Patanjali noted in his Yoga Sutras, Yogananda also prescribes the steps to realization as: yama, the actions which not to take; niyama, the actions in which to take; asana, body stillness; pranayama, control of breath and body; pratyahara, the disunion of the mind and the senses; dhyana, concentration on the cosmic consciousness and samadhi, attainment of realization  (Farge 64).

Yogananda invoked the language of science in his techniques (Segady 194) and tolerance of all religions (Segady 191) to promote the Self-Realization Fellowship’s ideals and aims. One of SRF’s more unconventional features was comparison of orthodox Hinduism philosophies to Christian philosophies. In promoting the SRF, Yogananda claimed it to be a “Church for All Religions” (Segady 190). He enforced this by not forcing people to dismiss their original belief when joining the SRF. He believed the goal of all religions was the same and that was to realize and become one with God or the Creator (Segady 191). In one of his original works, The Second Coming of Christ, Yogananda Paramahansa compares the Hindu idea of the Cosmic Vibration to the Christ or the “Son” and the Cosmic Consciousness to the “father” or God [for further readings on Yogananda and Christianity see Yogananda (1982)] (Farge 58). It was these comparisons with popular culture in the West and the acceptance of all religions that aided Yogananda in the expansion of the SRF’s ideals (Segady 191).



Farge, Emile J. (2009). “Going East with Merton: Forty years later-and Coming West with Paramahansa Yogananda Today.” Cross Currents 59:49-68. Accessed on February 6, 2016. doi: 10.1111/j.1939-3881.2009.00049.x.

Segady, Thomas W. (2009) “Globalization, Syncretism, and Identity: The Growth and Success of Self-Realization-Fellowship.” Implicit Religion 12:187-199. Accessed on February 5, 2016. doi: 10.1558/imre.v12i2.187.

Yogananda, Paramahansa. (1995) God Talks with Arjuna – The Bhagavad Gita. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship.

Yogananda, Paramahansa. (1986) The Divine Romance. Dakshineswar: Yogoda Satsanga Society of India.

Yogananda, Paramahansa. (1982) Second Coming of Christ. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship.

Yogananda, Paramahansa. (1971) Autobiography of a Yogi. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship.


Related Topics for Further Investigation

Kriya Yoga


Lahiri Mahasaya


Sri Yukteswar



Notable Websites Related to the Topic

Self-Realization Fellowship website:

Yogoda Satsanga Society of India website:


Article written by: Sean Gaiesky (March 2016) who is solely responsible for its content.

Swami Muktananda

Swami Muktananda was a renowned religious leader in Hinduism; he is reputed to have achieved complete self-awareness, the highest level of awareness possible. He started out as a highly respected swami in India, and eventually gained followers/devotees across the world for his views on meditation, self-reflection, self-realization, and his teaching of Siddha Yoga.

Swami Muktananda was born in the early 20th century, there is some dispute as to his exact year of birth. May 16th, 1908 is a generally accepted date (Brooks et Al 26).  According to biographies written by his devotees, from whom a majority of this information is derived, Muktananda was born to a wealthy family near the town of Mangalore. Originally, his parents had longed for a son but had not been blessed with one. Then, one day they went to the temple of Manjunath Mahadev, where they visited a holy man. This holy man decided to give Muktananda’s parents a mantra to chant that would aid them in the birth of a son (Brooks et al 25).  When he was born his parents named him Krsna. Only after his initiation into the Sarasvati Order was he given the name Muktananda (Brooks et al 29); this will be discussed later in the paper. From a young age Muktananda felt that being a sage was his calling. When he was very young he had an encounter with a holy man named Nityananda that forever changed his life. Muktananda wanted to be more like Nityananda, so he  left home in his pursuit of God (Brooks et al 26). It is interesting that Nityananda was the Guru who influenced Muktananda at such a young age, seeing as Nityananda later became his Guru (Brooks et al 32-33).

After leaving home Muktananda’s first stop was the Ashram of Siddharudha Swami, he then studied under Muppinarya Swami after Siddharudha passed. During the years Muktananda spent under these Gurus he learned many things about himself and the way of the life of a disciple(Brooks et al 27-30). One of the most important things that happened to him in these years however, was his initiation into the Sarasvati Order as he officially became a monk. It is a part of this initiation for the participant to be given a name that reflects who they are.  After his initiation his name was changed from Krsna to Muktananda, meaning “bliss of spiritual liberation” (Brooks et. al 28-29).  After his initiation, Muktananda wandered India visiting saints and pilgrimage sites. The journey was not an easy one, he put himself through many trying situations. At points he would have to face extreme circumstances such as sleeping in uncovered places and drinking filtered mud water for sustenance(Brooks et. al 31).  But regardless of his trials Muktananda was still in search of God, in fact it was the only thing he was worried about. Later, Muktananda would say that he hardly noticed his hardships and what he was experiencing, because all he could focus on was his quest for God (Brooks et. al 31). During his travels he met many great teachers, but never the Guru he sought after, the Guru who would show him God. But, finally, he met Siddha Zippruanna, who sent him to Nityananda, for Nityananda was to be the Guru that showed him God (Brooks et. al 32).

Muktananda was lead to Nityananda and studied under him in his search for self-realization. Throughout his studies, other devotees claimed that Nityananda was very hard on him, and Muktananda reported that it made him respect Nityananda even more (Brooks et. al 34). Muktananda appeared to have adored his Guru, Nityananda, as they say all disciples should. His love was so great for his Guru that Muktananda claimed he constantly appeared in his meditations. Muktananda stated that even when he did not think of his Guru, he was still constantly in his mind (Muktananda 1978: 46). This shows how committed to his Guru Muktananda was, and how strong their bond was. In 1947, Muktananda was given Shaktipat initiation under Nityananda, which is the transmission of spiritual powers from Guru to disciple (Muktananda 1978: 284).  Sometime after this occurs, Nityananda claimed that Muktananda had achieved what he said was perfect brahma (Brooks et. al 41) because he had completely given up his human body. Even after Nityananda claimed he had reached perfect brahma, Muktananda still followed Nityananda, even though it was not necessary for him to do so. This shows how dharmic Muktananda was.  Because of his good actions, devotion, and perfect brahma; Nityananda passed the power of the siddha lineage to Muktananda when he took mahasamadhi (passed away). Muktananda stated it was a life changing event for him. He claimed that, “You experience perfection when you are already perfect, and you lose yourself in that perfection. It fills you completely. You experience your all-pervasiveness, and your individuality is destroyed” (Brooks et. al 47).

Muktananda then began his own mission. He appointed his own trustees to the Shri Gurudev ashram, later known as the Siddha Peeth. He devoted this ashram to Nityananda. What made this ashram so remarkable was the fact that it was open to all people, it belonged to everyone (Brooks et al 48-51), even westerners. This ashram was one of the few that believed everyone should be able to find God, no matter who they were, and regardless of religion. Muktananda believed that his duty was, “not to teach Hinduism, but the self; not to live in a cave wearing orange robes, but to see God in oneself as one is, and to see Him where one is, as a Christian, Jew, or Moslem, as a business man, a parent of a worker” (Muktananda 1987: vii). People from all over the world came to meet with Muktananda, and all reported that they had never experienced such radiance or love (Brooks et al 54-56). During this time  Muktananda developed and named his style of yoga as Siddha yoga. This was not a yoga that could be described by a type of movement, but rather a type of spiritual yoga that is taught by an accomplished yogi, and is passed down through these yogis as a lineage (Brooks et al xxv).

Muktananda talked about what it is like to truly meditate and what it is like to gain Shakti. From Muktananda’s point of view when you meditate consistently and love to meditate, eventually Shakti will awaken inside of you with the help of your Guru (Muktananda 1991:33). Muktananda states that Shakti created the outer universe, when it awakens within you it creates an inner universe of bliss and happiness (Muktananda 1991:33). When an individual’s meditation begins to deepen, they will eventually see what Muktananda calls a blue pearl. This blue pearl is where he claims God lives, where the form of the self is within us, and it contains the entire universe (Muktananda 1991: 35). This pearl allows us to feel love for ourselves and others. Eventually our individuality is no longer there. There is no longer any difference between things, and Muktananda believes that we come to this realization once we realize the whole universe dwells inside of us (Muktananda 1991: 36).  To him this a good thing, we are on our way to realizing that we and everything we see, are in fact God (Muktananda 1991: 37).

Despite the growing popularity of Siddha yoga and of Swami Muktananda, there were still a few critics of the Guru. Muktananda disliked materialism, as we can see from his works. He emphasized being free from attachments, which are the source of misery.  Muktananda wanted people to live free of desire and attachment, which you are not born into this world with (Muktananda 1980: 21).  He emphasized this over and over again, telling his disciples to wash away jealousy which causes filth, and to eat and live moderately (Muktananda 1980:29).  Through remaining free from attachment and enjoying things in moderation, only then he claims a person can begin to find happiness and self-realization. Muktananda’s continued stress on these things may be one reason that some westerners were not very fond of his teachings. Western culture puts emphasis on things such as material items and dedication to work, so you can afford even more material items. However, Muktananda believed that God and only God is what is truly important; he believed in continuous worship to God, and that we should immerse our minds in Him [God], because without God our mind would fail to function and think. Because of this, we should make God our one true focus (Muktananda 1980:33).  Some westerners may not like the thought of having to completely commit themselves and their minds to God, especially to such extremes as Muktananda does.

In 1970, when Muktananda was 62, he made his first trip to the west due to the many invitations from his devotees there (Brooks et al 74).  Many were uncertain how this trip would go, due to the fact that he could not speak English and only knew a couple dozen people in the west (Brooks et al 74).  However, even though he could not speak English, that did not stop him from connecting with people. The people he interacted with claimed that he connected with people through the heart (Brooks et al 75). Throughout this trip people learned a lot of new things about Muktananda. For instance people saw that Muktananda did not see himself as anything but an instrument for God and his own Guru, he never asked for help, and although he adapted to new environments easily he never changed his teachings (Brooks et al 74).  The first world tour of the Swami went extremely well and he went on his second tour in 1974. At this time Siddha yoga was becoming much more popular worldwide (Brooks et al 80). Muktananda stated his purpose of this tour was to start a revolution. The revolution he referred to was a meditation revolution. He sought for people to regain their prestige which he claimed had been tainted with evil. This thought of a meditation revolution became the foundation of the Siddha Yoga expansion (Brooks et al 82).  Throughout his second world tour there were over 150 new meditation centres and three ashrams founded around the world (Brooks et al 83).  In 1978 he took his third world tour, which lasted three years and is said to be the peak of his career. Around another twenty ashrams were formed and he had eight books published. It was also on this tour that dislike and the suspicion of cults arose (Brooks et al 109).

Some people believed that Muktananda was the leader of a cult, and that cult was Siddha yoga. Muktananda apparently called for conformity within his ashram, to some people this seemed like something a cult would do (White 315). People felt strongly compelled to be with and please Swami Muktananda. Not only that but many people longed to be exactly like Muktananda (White 316-317).  Unusually, many people have had similar experiences in Siddha yoga, both emotionally and physically. These people do things such as shriek, cry, writhe, and make strange movements. Not only this but they would hardly be able to remain conscious or carry our conversation without going into a trance,  being conscious was actually considered a hindrance to gaining self-realization (White 319).  To many people who were not familiar with the practices and aim of Siddha yoga, this seemed unnatural and made them feel very uncomfortable with the above mentioned happenings.  Muktananda addressed the talk of cults on his third tour when he landed in California. Challenging the people, he encouraged the government to visit every ashram and see what they could find, and he encouraged people to test their spiritual leaders and to watch for false Gurus who were appearing claiming to be like him (Brooks et al 110).

Swami Muktananda was a widely recognized leader, not only in India but all over the world. His followers emphasized his kindness, love, and warmth. While it appears that most people he came in contact with loved him, there were those few who doubted his teachings and were quite critical of him and his followers. Muktananda took mahasamadhi in 1982 (Brooks et al 124) leaving behind his legacy with his two successors, Swami Chidvilasananda and Swami Nityananda (Brooks et al 124).



Brooks, Douglas and S.P. Durgananda, et al. (2000) Meditation Revolution: A History and Theology of the Siddha Yoga Lineage. India: Muktabodha Indological Research Institute,

Muktananda (1991) Meditate. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Muktananda (1978) Play of Consciousness. New York: SYDYA Foundation South Fallsburg.

Muktananda (1980) Reflections of the Self. New York: SYDYA Foundation South Fallsburg.

White, Charles (1974) “Swāmi Muktānanda and the Enlightenment Through Śakti-pāt” History of Religions (1974) Vol. 13, No. 4,  p. 306-322.


Other Related Topics For Investigation



Influential Swamis

Spread of Hinduism


Sarasvati Order


Swami Nityananda

Swami Chidvilasananda



Article written by: Sonja Simmelink ( March 7, 2015) who is solely responsible for its content.

Annie Besant

Annie Besant was an English woman who would come to be an advocate for the Hindu religion and women’s educational rights in India. Born in 1847, Besant grew up in a home where her father valued science over religion and her mother was a devout Anglican. Her parents’ differing views on religion would come to impact Besant’s beliefs and work as she grew up. She came to associate England and India by gendered terms. England being male and paternal in its rationality and materialism, and India as female due to its spirituality and mysticism. Besant’s father died when she was only five years old, thus, she grew up mainly influenced by her mother’s Christian beliefs. She received a good education from a wealthy woman who agreed to privately tutor her because her mother could not afford public education. Besant married a clergyman, however, her marriage quickly became tumultuous as she began to denounce her Christian faith. Besant would refuse to take communion and unsurprisingly this angered her clergyman husband. This led to a fractious marriage and an eventual separation (Anderson 2002:28).

More and more Besant began to question the Christian faith. The illness of her young daughter Mabel was one such event which drew Besant towards an atheist mindset. She eventually joined the National Secular Society which was lead by Charles Bradlaugh. Besant and Bradlaugh formed a strong friendship and he helped foster her free-thinking ideas.  Besant also became acquainted with George Bernard Shaw at this time (Oppenheim 13). With her new secularist mindset, Besant did not deny the presence of God but rather attributed consequences to human action. Before, her Christian faith had led her to believe that the universe revolved around God as the one true deity. In contrast, secularism allowed humans to be accountable for evil and for the consequences, whether it be rewards or punishment (Oppenheim 14).

In the year 1874, Annie Besant went to London and there she became known as ‘Red Annie.’ She supported such issues as women’s suffrage, use of birth control, secularism and socialism. Besant made it very clear that she was against the imperialism of England. She became a rebel figure because she went against the Victorian ideals that existed at the time in England. A series of articles written by Besant in the 1870’s demonstrated her discontent over England’s control of India. At this time, Besant identified herself as an atheist socialist but in 1889 she turned to the religion of Theosophy (Anderson 1994: 565). This particular religion was new at the time Besant converted to it and was based on discovering the hidden meanings or mysteries behind divinity. It sought to explain the relationships or bonds between the universe, humans, and the divine. Her conversion to Theosophy was met with consternation from her fellow secularists and from Indian theosophists. She had been a woman who did not believe in God and wanted the separation of religion and the state, and now she was affiliating herself with a religion where “all major creeds are paths to God” (Anderson 2002:28). Oppenheim (1989) suggests that her conversion to Theosophy was not as surprising as many thought. She had been questioning the secularist and atheist thoughts for some time, and had found that they did not allow for brotherhoods to be formed, but rather pitted different groups against each other (15). Besant remained a follower of Theosophy for the rest of her life and based much of her work on its ideologies.

1907 was an important year for Besant as she became the president of the Theosophical Society.  By this time Besant had already become quite assimilated into Indian culture. The base for the Theosophical Society was in India and Besant tried to participate in Indian life as fully as possible. She moved to India permanently and wore a white sari, as widows do, because it demonstrated mourning over the wrongdoings Britain had committed in India (Anderson 2002:29). She explained her affinity for India by claiming that she felt she had been Indian in another lifetime [Ingalls (1965) mentions how Besant discovered that many of her incarnations took place in India]. Whilst in the Theosophical Society, Besant focussed much of her work on supporting the domesticity of Indian women. Besant believed that it was important that Indian customs be upheld and this included women carrying out their traditional roles in the home. She received some criticism for this viewpoint because she had been so against the Victorian idea of a private sphere for women in her native land of England. Indeed many ambiguities arose with Besant’s ideas. One such ambiguity or criticism Besant faced was her lack of political conviction. In the year 1885 the Indian National Congress, composed of British members, was attempting to include more Indians in the governance of India. Besant had long been known to be against the Imperial supremacy of Britain yet she did not seem to have any qualms with British involvement in India’s government. She was quoted once as saying that “an Indian does not resent being governed; for he thinks the duty of a ruler is to rule, but he does resent the insolence often shown by the very juvenile civilians” that Britain was sending to India (Anderson 2002:30). Rather, Besant chose to focus mainly on the spiritual nature of India as she believed that this was the most vital part of its essence. She was concerned that western ideologies were crippling to India’s traditional Hindu beliefs and practices.

Bust of Annie Besant in the Theosophical Society headquarters (Adyar, Tamil Nadu, India)
Bust of Annie Besant in the Theosophical Society headquarters (Adyar, Tamil Nadu, India)

In order to preserve India’s Hindu background, Besant turned her efforts towards education. She felt that it was important to educate the young males on the religion, and history of India in order that they may be proud citizens of India in the future. In this way, Besant was trying to ensure that the western ideals of the British did not permeate into India and eradicate its important history and spirituality. Besant tried to distance herself from social reforms, wanting to focus mainly on the preservation of India’s Hindu culture. However, in the early 1900s she did become involved in advocating against child marriages and the seclusion of women. It is important to note that her support of these issues in no way negated her belief that women should still be domestic. When she began a school for young girls, the goal was that their education would help them to be better wives, not to help them achieve independence (Anderson 2002: 31). Tradition held that the men dealt in public affairs outside of the home and that women were mothers and wives who concerned themselves with domestic affairs. It is clear that Besant did not believe Indian women to be suppressed because of this (Anderson 1994: 567). To her, they seemed quite content in their societal roles and thus no change needed to be made. In the Central Hindu School (Besant’s school for boys) and her school for girls, Besant ensured that Sanskrit was taught as vigorously as the English language. Just as in the schools run by the British, her schools also taught important morals. However, Besant had more success than the British run universities in India because she tailored her curriculums to Indian culture. Figures such as St. Paul would be replaced in a lesson with Sri Rama; King Alfred was replaced by Sivaji. Besant’s devotion to Hindu tradition and custom in the education of India’s youth won her over with her pupils and their parents (Ingalls 86).

The year 1913 was significant for Besant because it was then that she turned to political pursuits. Having been distant from involving herself in issues of a political nature, Besant was thrown into the realm of politics when she was taken to court by a man whose sons were under her guardianship.  Accusations about one of her colleagues were made and this cast a shadow on the Theosophical Society. As a result, Besant felt an increasing need, in her own words: “to enter more than I have hitherto done into the social life of Madras” (Stafford 62-63).  After her negative experience in court, she formed ‘The Brothers of India.’  This was a group committed to looking out for India’s best interests with a focus on Hinduism as the mode towards their means. The men in this group were from the Theosophical Society and they had seven guidelines, which they were to follow in order to serve India’s best interests. The first six guidelines reflected many of Besant’s early beliefs. For example, these men were to only have their daughters marry when they were seventeen years of age to promote the education of the masses and to not ostracize widows for remarrying. The seventh guideline was most significant which “committed all members to a combined programme of spiritual, educational, social and political reform, and the placing of the programme under the guidance and direction of the Indian National Congress” (Stafford 64). Before, there had been reforms for each of these areas individually, but Besant wanted to unite all of these areas and to place equal importance on all reforms together. The Indian National Congress was asked to take the programme under its direction but they felt that it was not their place to interfere in these reforms because they were focussed solely on political ventures. However, Annie Besant was not deterred. She sought to bring the different groups and movements into one strong voice.

Home Rule for India was brought forth by Besant. She believed that both India and Britain would be better off if India was permitted to be self-governing. Stafford (1983) suggests that Besant’s Irish background influenced her decision to have a Home Rule for India. Besant wrote many articles which stressed how India would be a much more valuable ally as a nation free from colonialism as opposed to being a colonial state. She discussed the many grievances that India had suffered under British rule. According to Besant, Britain continuously benefitted more from India than India did from itself. Britain prevented India’s capital from remaining within the nation. As well, in terms of education, missionaries wanted Indians to convert, and the British geared education towards their own means; the cultivation of more clerks and junior officials was often the British goal (Stafford 66-67).  With the approaching war (World War I), Besant asserted that it was important for India to recognize her own nationhood. In 1916 Besant was finally successful in achieving a Home Rule for India. A meeting between the Congress and the Moslem League occurred.  As Ingalls (1965) suggests, this was very significant because an agreement called the Lucknow Agreement determined that in the event of Indian self-government, “two-thirds majority of either religious community would hold a veto power” (87).  Unfortunately, the Congress did not honor this agreement. Being the strong-willed woman that she was, Besant continued to give speeches to gain support. She was then placed under house arrest by a governor of Madras [see Anderson (2002: 39) for more information on the Governor’s actions against Besant]. Much to the dismay of the Congress, Besant had many devout followers, and her house arrest only served to make her a martyr for her cause. Gandhi was amongst her supporters, as well as other male Indian nationalists. People were dismayed to hear of the treatment of Besant. She was called Mother Besant by many and had won over the hearts of the people with her passionate belief in Indian nationalism. Significantly, Besant’s internment brought forth many Indian women activists for women’s rights. Others who normally would not have supported an English woman as a nationalist leader also protested her internment. When she was released after three months, she became the President of the Indian National Congress in December of 1917 (Ingalls 87-88).

Now as president, Besant was able to induce change for women’s rights in India. As she had done in the past, Besant did not denounce the important role in the home of the women, but rather suggested that women had an ancient importance and that their emancipation was needed so that they could fulfill their ancient position. In this way, Besant appealed to the traditionalism of Indian women and men, while still implying that some changes needed to be made. In late 1917 Besant formed and presided over the first feminist organization in India. It was called the Women’s Indian Association (Anderson 2002:47). Many women looked up to Besant as someone who had defied the odds and demonstrated that women could have a voice and the power to affect change in a male-dominated world. After 1917, her influence began to decrease. Gandhi was at the forefront of India’s nationalism and many saw him as a more appropriate leader for the Indian cause because he was a swadeshi or home made nationalist. Besant disagreed with many of Gandhi’s ideas and she lost favor with many because of this. To many, it seemed that she had become pro-government despite her original Home Rule intentions for India, however, she had simply altered her views because the political climate of India had changed. Besant had once been deemed an incarnate goddess, but at this time she was being referred to as a demoness and some called her Putana [this is a demoness from the epic Ramayana. She is known to have put poison on her breasts and suckled the child Lord Krsna, thus killing him (Anderson 2002:50)]. Interestingly, Gandhi, though he had many qualms with Besant’s views, stood up for her against the harsh words she was receiving from those who once supported her.

The last years of Besant’s career were difficult times for her. She resigned from the Home Rule League she had founded and Gandhi took her place as president. Moreover, she also resigned from the Indian National Congress. Besant was embittered by the way in which she was disregarded, but she continued to persevere. She formed a new National Home Rule League and eventually rejoined the Indian National Congress, though not in a leading position. Besant died in the year 1933 at the age of eighty-six. Towards the end of her career she was marginalized, however, many still fondly remembered her as Mother Annie Besant. She was the English woman with the Indian soul who fought for a more free India (Anderson 2002:49-51).






Anderson, Nancy Fix (2002) “Mother Besant and Indian National Politics.” The Journal of        Imperial and Commonwealth History, Vol. 30, No. 3: p.27-54. London: Frank Cass


Anderson, Nancy Fix (1994) “Bridging Cross-cultural Feminisms: Annie Besant and women’s   rights in England and India, 1874-1933.” Women’s History Review, Vol. 3, No. 4: p.       563-580. New Orleans: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group.


Ingalls, Daniel H.H. (1965) “The Heritage of a Fallible Saint: Annie Besant’s Gifts to India.”         Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 109, No. 2: p. 85-88.     Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society.


Mortimer, Joanne Stafford (1983) “Annie Besant and India 1913-1917.” Journal of      

            Contemporary History, Vol. 18, No. 1: p. 61-78. London: Sage Publications, Ltd.


Oppenheim, Janet (1989) “The Odyssey of Annie Besant.” History Today, Vol. 39, No. 9: p.        12-18. Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company.



Related Topics for Further Investigation


Central Hindu School

Charles Bradlaugh

Commonweal (newspaper)

Home Rule League

Indian National Congress

Madame Blavatsky


nationalist movement (India)

National Reformer (newspaper)

New India (newspaper)

‘Red Annie’


‘The Brothers of India’

Theosophical Society


Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic


Article written by: Haley Kleckner (March 2015) who is solely responsible for its content.

Krishnamacharya and the Hatha Yoga Movement

Yoga has been practiced for centuries, with alternative meanings and health benefits as it has moved into modern day. The Vedas are the primary source of ancient Indian traditions and practices of worship that allow people to live life in a dharmic manner. These texts refer to the attainment of moksha (liberation) and yoga is one of the modes to attain this goal. Traditional Vedic yoga is connected with ideas that revolve around ritual sacrifices for the purpose of connecting the material world with the spiritual world (Feuerstein 5).  The successful yoga practices create focus for a long period of time as a way of transcending the limitations of the mind in order to reach spiritual reality (Feuerstein 5). The preclassical period of yoga was approximately 2,000 years until the second century C.E when it closely followed the sacrificial culture discussed in The Brahmanas and Aranyakas, which re genres of Sanskrit texts. It is the Upanishads, which teach the unity of all things, that ultimately expanded the practice of yoga (Feuerstein 6). Post classical yoga first demonstrates the shift of focus from contemplation with the result of developing a spiritual conscious, to practices that rejuvenate the body and influence a prolonged life. (Feuerstein 6).  Hatha yoga or “yoga of force” is a practice that utilizes posture (asana) and breath control (pranayama) as a way of transforming the body’s energy to influence spiritual transformation (Starbacker 105). The physical nature of hatha yoga is what influenced its appeal in the 19th century as calisthenics became popular in India and around the world.

Tirumalai Krishnamacharya is widely considered the father of modern yoga as he developed movement-orientated postural systems that have been presented internationally by his disciples (Starbacker 103). Krishnamacharya documents the purpose of yogabhyasa (the practice of yoga or abstract devotion) and why it is an important practice that influences the welling being of the mind and body in his book Yoga Makaranda, which is one of many of his publications. He explains that it is the philosophy of yoga to draw the minds focus inwards to reach deep concentration to develop a form of mental strength. The benefit of this process is comparable to how sleep rejuvenates the mind, in which sleep is of a tamasic nature. The mental strength that is developed through yogabhyasa is called yoga nidra, and it by far exceeds the amount of strength and concentration that sleep or meditation may offer (Krishnamacharya 7). The benefits of yogabhyasa are separated into eight parts: yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and Samadhi (Krishnamacharya 8). There are benefits at every stage of practice; it is not that there is a final stage that reveals all the benefits at the same time. Yama develops compassion towards other living beings, while niyama is a state of peace and tranquility with the environment and internally. Asana practice causes correct blood circulation and internal functions; pranayama develops strength in the bones and bone marrow, heart, brain, muscles and tendons. Pratyahara is to bring ones own indriyas (five senses) under control in order to have a focused mind. Dharana is to stop the mind and hold it in one place, while dhyana is to focus the mind in one direction and to attain whatever form is though about. Samadhi is to have stopped all external movements of the mind and have reached a state of happiness about the physical and spiritual world (Krishnamacharya 8-16).

Krishnamacharya was most influential during his residency at Jaganmohan Palace in Mysore from 1930-1950, when he developed a very physical and acrobatic system of asanas that are most similar to yoga today (Heerman 20). It remains unclear if Krishnamacharya stayed true to his teaching from his guru Rama Mohan Bramachari with the transition of his yoga teachings in India, and the conflicting western views that have greatly influenced the way yoga is received from his students (Heerman 20). Once Krishnamacharya completed his teachings, he set out to teach this spiritual system of yoga throughout India. The traditional system of yoga practices was becoming outdated and was not received well by most people. Because of his unsuccessful pursuit to make a living as a yoga teacher, Krishnamacharya traveled around India giving lectures and demonstrating siddhis (supernormal abilities of the yogic body) (Heerman 21). In order to gain attention and interest in yoga, he demonstrated suspending his pulse, lifting heavy objects with his teeth and performed difficult asanas (Heerman 21). Krishnamacharya was then recruited by the Maharaja of Mysore, Krishnarajendra Wodeyar to teach at the Jaganmohan Palace for young male royals (Heerman 21). The Maharaja was very committed to promoting cultural, political and technological innovations for Mysore, as well as encouraging physical education, which was known as the “Indian physical culture movement”, that was designed to created the strength necessary to reclaim India after so many years of colonial rule (Heerman 22). Krishnamacharya’s yoga teachings were greatly influenced to be aerobic and physical due to the Maharaja and the popularity of exercise. As a result, hatha yoga gained wide popularity compared to the traditional yoga practices, which ultimately led to the vast arrangement of yoga forms that are present in India and North America today.

Hatha yoga is mainly the methods of doing asanas (yoga postures). The circulation and strength of the body is only one of eight parts that contribute to the whole of yogabhyasa, while the mindfulness and focus of yoga has not maintained its aesthetic appeal. Krishnamacharya explains his distaste for the way practitioners of yogabhyasa ignore vinyasa krama and worries that the Vedas from which yoga practice has originated will be ruined (Krishnamacharya 26). The form, metre, syllables, and verses that form the entirety of the Vedas are comparable to the way in which yoga should be practiced. The combination of the eight elements of yogabhyasa is what provides the beneficial integrity of yoga practices. From the perspective of Krishnamacharya in Yoga Makaranda, yoga has a deep spiritual meaning and benefit that has deteriorated with the Westernization of hatha yoga. To Krishnamacharya, yoga is a form of Vedic ritual that develops more than toned muscles and flexibility. Although the Yoga Makaranda provides much information on the traditional Hindu practice of yoga with regards to the Vedas, Krishnamacharya is recognized as a figure who influenced the separation of religiosity of yoga from the growth of modern yoga. Other organizations, such as Christian yoga, argue that spiritual expression can still be reached without the Hindu dimensions of yogabhyasa. The interest in yoga in North America encouraged the streamlined approach of simplifying yogic concepts in a way that was acceptable to Western and Christian spiritual views (Heerman 13).

Bas-relief on a temple pillar depicting a yogic posture, utilized in ascetic practice (Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam, Tamil Nadu, India).
Bas-relief on a temple pillar depicting a yogic posture, utilized in ascetic practice (Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam, Tamil Nadu, India).

Christian opponents of yoga hold that Hindu traditions are in conflict with Christian doctrine (Jain 4). The contemporary Western view of modern yoga is as a mode physical fitness, separated from its historical origins. Similarly, Hindu opponents of this disconnect of yoga from its historical spiritual origins, believe that yoga has been corrupted by the profit driven popularization of contemporary yogis (Jain 4). Prior to Krishnamacharya, there where other yoga masters involved with the popularization of Hatha Yoga. Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) is widely known to have used a combination of existing yoga with modern ideas and practices (Jain 5). As postural yoga remains without a Hindu signature in modern western society, alternative spiritual connotations have been attached to it. For example, Christian Yoga emphasizes postures and breath control as a way of focusing on Christ (Jain 6). The differing opinions and techniques associated with yoga is what allows it to be appealing to many different groups, but also contribute to the opposition that both Christians and Hindus have towards modern postural yoga.

Krishnamacharya demonstrated exceptional strength and flexibility that encourages the appeal of yoga for its physical benefits, but his teachings in Yoga Makaranda, suggest that he taught with the intention of encouraging anyone to practice yoga. He has extensive teachings on the spiritual origins and the responsibility of the guru to teach a student in such a way that all aspects that contribute to yoga are recognized in order to receive the benefits of yoga. Yet, it can also be seen that Krishnamacharya did not maintain a traditional yoga system that is true to the teachings of his own guru as his career was greatly influenced by Maharaja of Mysore and popularity of physical exercise. The tendency that Krishnamacharya had for tailoring his instructions so that each of his students could maximize the physical benefits, also demonstrates the stray away from the traditional yoga system (Heerman 30).

Besides the conflicting viewpoint of modern yoga and Hindu traditions, Krishnamacharya designed a form of exercise that is unique and modifiable to anyone who wishes to participate. Hatha yoga can build strength, and cause an overall benefit to health as well as encouraging concentration and focus that can be interpreted as spiritual, self reflective, or religious depending on how the participant want to approach a yoga practice. Krishnamacharya may have influenced the separation of Hindu tradition from modern forms of yoga but made yoga accessible to everyone who wishes to participate.


Burley, Mikel (2014) ‘A Purification of Ones Own Humanity’ Nonattachment and Ethics in Yoga Traditions. The Journal of Religion. Vol. 94, No. 2, P. 204-228. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

Feuerstein, Georg (2006) “A Short History of Yoga”. The Yoga Tradition. P. 1-10. Hohm Press.

Heerman, Grace (2014) “Yoga in the Modern World: The Search for the ‘Authentic’ Practice.” Sociology and Anthropology Theses. Paper 5, P. 1-45, Tacoma Washington: University of Puget Sound.

Jain, Antrea R. (2012) “The Malleability of Yoga: A Response to Christian and Hindu Opponents of the Popularization of Yoga”. Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies: Vol. 25, Article 4. P. 1-8, Indianapolis, Indiana: Butler University.

Krishnamacharya, Sir T. (1934) Yoga Makaranda: The Essence of Yoga (Part One). Kannada Edition, Madurai C.M.V. Press. P. 1-159.

Starbacker, Stuart R. (2014) “Reclaiming the Spirit through the Body: The Nascent Spirituality of Modern Postural Yoga”. Entangled Religions; Oregon: Oregon State University, Article 3, P. 95-114.

Singleton, Mark (2007) “Yoga, Eugenics, and Spiritual Darwinism in the Early Twentieth Century”. International Journal of Hindu Studies; Vol. 11, No. 2, pp. 125-146. Springer.








Sattva guna











Swami Vivekananda

Vinyasa krama

Krishnarajendra Wodeyar






Article written by: Monica Johnson (March 2015) who is solely responsible for its content.


Inaugurated in 1968, the city of Auroville began with the goal to promote future unity and understanding among people of all backgrounds. At the time of its development, architecturally speaking, the city was modern and innovative. The founder, Mirra Alfassa, – better known as the Mother – had a vision for the basic concept of the city and chose architect Roger Anger to make this vision come true. This resulted in the “galaxy concept,” named for its appearance of having everything fanning out from the city center. At the center of Auroville is the Matrimandir, a ball shaped structure “representing the soul of the city” (Kundoo 51), as well as some surrounding gardens and waters. From there spirals the four zones: cultural, industrial, international, and residential. Each of these represent aspects of life the Mother deemed important to creating a universal city and are connected through a circular road called the Crown, which cuts through all the sections while housing the important buildings for each zone (Kundoo 51). Branching off of the Crown are twelve roads which provide accessibility for all residents to the city center. Finally, surrounding the city is an area of green space called the Green Belt, which holds the necessary settlements and land space for activities involving green work.

One of the most important structural components of Auroville is also one of the smallest. In 1968, young people representing 124 countries placed a handful of their native soil in an urn shaped like a lotus bud to represent the establishment of the city (Kapoor 633). Also placed inside the urn was the Auroville charter as prescribed by the Mother, which set out the four main goals for which the city will strive to achieve. [See Shinn 241 or Kapoor 633 for an English-translated version of the charter]. This urn remains in the center of the city, near the location of the Matrimandir, as a reminder of the message and objectives laid out for the citizens of this unique city.

While the Mother was the person who implemented Auroville and made it a reality, the following philosophies for which the concept was built upon came from the revolutionary Sri Aurobindo. His core contributions to the foundations of Auroville can be attributed to four insights, which relate and connect to one another. First, Aurobindo claimed the existence of a divine feminine energy at the core of reality to which he called a Shakti or The Mother. When Aurobindo met Mirra, he sensed that she was the incarnation of the Divine Mother which contributed to her title as “The Mother,” given to her when she developed Aurobindo’s ideas into a city. Second, Aurobindo believed that all beings were involved in a process leading them towards a transformed consciousness that will reflect their Shakti. His third insight was that for the evolution of humankind, there must be a joining of the physical and conscious worlds such that a transformation of both body and mind can occur together. As his fourth insight, Aurobindo proposed integral yoga as a way of quickening the evolution of humankind into its final and inevitable end of human transformation (Shinn 239-240).

From Aurobindo’s insights, it was up to the Mother to apply these to the planning and building of a community. In one of her writings from 1954, she described a dream she had of a utopia that is believed to have led to the creation of Auroville. [For a description of her dream, see Shinn 240]. She envisioned a place where money would be obsolete as citizens’ work would be considered a form of integral yoga, one of the insights Aurobindo believed would hasten the evolution of humans. Education would be voluntary for children in order to allow for individual growth. Social titles and positions would be based on the respect of others and the service of Shakti. Ultimately, every aspect about this dream city emphasized the goal of unity and transformation of humankind.

In 1966, the Sri Aurobindo Society was granted support from the United Nations to begin building the utopian society imagined by the Mother. A spot was chosen near Pondicherry in southern India and on February 28th, 1968, Auroville was established. The Mother constructed the Auroville Charter, which as previously mentioned, resides in the urn which holds handfuls of soil from multiple nations. While the ideal human transformation set out by Sri Aurobindo is the ultimate goal, the city was designed as a sort of experiment in developing a society that could eventually attain the goals set out by the Mother in the Charter. It was not expected that the city will immediately achieve perfect unity among peoples and nature, but that it would shape a process by which the individual and the collective can obtain perfection (Shinn 241).

Almost 50 years after its creation, Auroville is still thriving and progressing towards an enlightened future. As Sri Aurobindo claimed, the path to transformation involves both the physical and the conscious worlds, so the city has spent a lot of time focusing on improving the environment around them. Before the city was implemented, the land in that area was barren and covered in red laterite soil but has since been regenerated and stabilized. Over two million trees have been planted in the area and thanks to similar green works projects, the Green Belt is actually green and full of life. Preservation of the environment is very important to Aurovilians so constant progress is being made with water and soil conservation. A couple of Auroville centers that are involved with environmental work have been recognized as Medicinal Plant Conservation Parks and maintain botanical parks and plant gardens within the area (Kapoor 635). There has also been effort put into reestablishing the original ecosystem of the area by conserving natural species of vegetation and propagating them.

Renewable energy is also a main focus in Auroville. The first source of renewable energy was windmills used for pumping water, which came into the possession of Aurovilians after the Government of India discarded them following a failed project. As of 2004 over 200 residences in Auroville were using solar energy to power their homes and heat their water. One of the most impressive renewable energy projects developed for Auroville was the Solar Bowl. This spherical solar concentrator was installed at Auroville’s collective kitchen, the Solar Kitchen, and could generate enough steam to cook about 1200 meals on a clear day, and was built with two diesel heaters for the cloudy days (van den Akker 27). A solar power plant was built at the city center, and at the time of its installation, this power plant was one of the first of its kind in India and continues to provide clean energy for the Matrimandir and surrounding gardens. Any research and knowledge developed in Auroville is made accessible to the outside world in accordance with maintaining the city’s goal of progressing towards a better future for all humans. Many of the buildings in Auroville were constructed using environmentally friendly building technologies such as compressed mud bricks, recycled materials, or other natural substances (Kapoor 635).

Although it is often referred to as a city, the population of this utopian society is less than 3000 citizens. This is nowhere close to the 50000 person goal but the slow population increase allows for the settlement and adaption of the city for each new resident it welcomes. Anyone may become a citizen of Auroville as long as they are willing to participate in reaching the final goal of human unity as set out in the Charter. However, an entry group that regulates the acceptance of new residents will determine the final admission status based on spiritual inclinations and legal requirements (Kapoor 635). Most people visit Auroville first and once they have made the decision to join the community, they must get legal papers to apply for an entry visa. For the first year of their duration, an individual works and participates in the community but is considered a newcomer until their full citizenship is established. Newcomers and Aurovilians both contribute a monetary amount towards the maintenance of Auroville roads, services, facilities, and existing infrastructures. Also, newcomers are expected to provide financially for themselves and their accompanying persons for at least the first year of their residence. It is estimated that the basic cost of living is around 6000 Indian Rupees per person per month. [For more information on living requirements, see]. Once one has been granted the title of Aurovilian, it is very unlikely that this status will be withdrawn.

An Aurovilian may choose to work based on whatever they have an inclination for even if they do not have the formal training for the job. This socio-economic organization allows for individualism at the same time as considering the collective as a whole. It works towards balancing the work required for transforming oneself and reflecting one’s Shakti while providing for the needs of everyone in the community. Although never stated as such, the principles outlined by the Mother can be easily connected to communist ideals. The idea of abolishing money and private property as well as ensuring the fulfillment of every citizen’s needs falls in line with left-wing political systems. Auroville is supposed to be self-supporting but most of the production and commercial units responsible for providing funds do not produce enough profit. Instead, most funds for Auroville are provided through donations and grants received from people and organizations around the world.

As envisioned by the Mother, there is no compulsory schooling in Auroville. The Mother stated that “education would be given not for passing examinations or obtaining certificates and posts but to enrich existing faculties and bring forth new ones” (cited in Kapoor 637). This concept is difficult for a lot of new Aurovilians, as it differs so much from the mainstream school system evident in most of the world. There are still schools within the city but they are also open to children in the neighbouring villages. Most people living in these surrounding villages are Dalits and many are illiterate, and while the Auroville Village Action Group has worked towards providing programs for these people, it is difficult due to their socio-economic background (Kapoor 640).

For those wishing to visit Auroville, it is recommended to give oneself plenty of time to fully experience and participate in the lifestyle. There is no entrance fee to get into Auroville and to maintain the ideal of no money circulation, guests must purchase an Aurocard to which they can deposit money onto and later use in exchange for goods and services. Just like any other destination, it is recommended to book housing and transportation in advance. It is important that travelers abide by the cultural lifestyle present in Auroville, such as learning appropriate body language, dressing modestly, and behaving in a suitable manner. English is the most commonly spoken and written language in Auroville but many other languages may be spoken there as well so translation facilities exist if one requires assistance.

For a long time, the possibility of human unity was only a dream; however, through the leadership and foundations laid out by Sri Aurobindo and Mirra Alfassa this dream is closer to becoming a reality. “The City of Dawn,” as Auroville has often been referred to as, still has a long way to go before achieving unity and understanding among people of all backgrounds but as it develops innovative systems and faces new challenges, it progresses that much closer to becoming to the utopian society imagined by the Mother. Citizens of Auroville continue to uphold the same ideals prescribed in the Auroville Charter and as the city receives more support and more residents, it will hopefully allow for the final transformation of humankind into the enlightened being described by Sri Aurobindo.


References and Further Recommended Reading

Kapoor, Rakesh (2007) “Auroville: A Spiritual-Social Experiment in Human Unity and Evolution.” Futures Vol. 39, May: 632-643.

Kundoo, Anupama (2007)Auroville: An Architectural Laboratory.” Architecture Design Vol. 77, No. 6: 50-55.

Shinn, Larry D. (1984) “Auroville: Visionary Images and Social Consequences in a South Indian Utopian Community.” Religious Studies Vol. 20, No. 2: 239-253. Cambridge University Press.


van den Akker, Jos and Judith Lipp (2004) “The Power of Human Unity.” Refocus Vol. 5, No. 3: 26-29.


Related Topics for Further Investigation

Sri Aurobindo

Mirra Alfassa


Utopian Societies

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry

The Mother




Noteworthy Websites Related to Auroville


Article written by: Erin Hunter (April 2015) who is solely responsible for its content.

Swami Chidvilasananda

“Gurumayi’s striking beauty rivets attention wherever she goes…[H]er energy seems inexaustible. Her grace, delightful wit, and respectful regard for the needs of each devotee have expanded Siddha Yoga’s appeal beyond what even Muktananda achieved.” (Brooks 136)

 Swami Chidvilasananda, often referred to as Gurumayi Chidvilasananda or simply Gurumayi is the current leading guru of Siddha Yoga. Gurumayi is a female Guru, who was born in India, who now resides in the United States of America. After studying yoga under the leadership of her own guru Swami Muktananda, she became the head guru of Siddha Yoga when he passed on his title to her in a five day fire ceremony called a yajna; which was celebrated during the time of his birthday in 1982 [Swami Muktanananda passed away later in that same year]. (Caldwell 27) Siddha Yoga is a form of yoga that is very much about finding energy inside one’s soul and discovering personal inner peace through meditation and connection with their guru.

Siddha Yoga has become a major trend in North America, and the SYDA or Siddha Yoga Dham of America that was created by Swami Muktananda, and has been carried on by Swami Chidvilasananda, is a non profit organization that has dealt with a great deal of controversy (Harris 92). Siddha Yoga’s claim to fame is an extremely intense meditative state known as guru”shaktipat“. Shaktipat is described as a cosmic orgasm that one feels after they connect with their guru (Neimark 60). There has been a great deal of controversy surrounding the practice of Siddha Yoga, and the gurus that lead this spiritual activity. There is much controversy surrounding how much money the SYDA appears to have. The SYDA owns more than three hotels worldwide and has a variety of wealthy celebrity followers (Harris 92). Some have gone so far as to call it a cult; others have questioned the sexual integrity of the gurus; however there are valid arguments on both sides of the spectrum. Some criticize Swami Chidvilasananda of not living a truly pure and holy life; claiming that she, and other Siddha Yoga Gurus are simply concerned with money and fame, and others regard her as one of the most powerful and influential yogic gurus of her time.

Born in Mumbai India in 1955 under her given name Malti Shetty, Gurumayi experienced shaktipat at the age of fourteen and at age fifteen began studying under her guru Swami Muktananda. She moved to the ashram (a hermitage in which she studied religion and yoga) to study yoga seriously. Swami Chidvilasananda accompanied her Guru on many tours as his English translator, and in 1982, both Shetty and her brother, Subhash Shetty were appointed to be the successors of their guru; however in 1985 her brother stepped down, leaving Gurumayi to be the sole successor of Swami Muktanananda or Baba, as he was called by his students and devotees. [Baba meaning father.] Some have criticized Gurumayi for the “falling out” that she had with her brother, claiming that it is not spiritual or holy to have a relationship fall apart, and that it is just as it is in secular life; criticizing the way she dealt with the situation (Healey 12). Gurumayi is the current Guru of Siddha Yoga, which has two main ashrams for people to learn the practices in; one in India, and one in New York. There has been controversy surrounding the practice of Siddha Yoga, claiming that it has a likeliness to that of a cult-like religion, (Healey 5) however Gurumayi’s students seem to feel a deep appreciation for the fact that she not only lives her life purely, but truly tries to bring her teachings into every day-to-day life. She has many interactions with her students and spends a great deal of time with them to offer guidance and teachings (Brooks 159). Gurumayi is known for her kind heart, and her caring attitude towards all human beings. Her students respect her greatly and put her at the center of their spiritual lives. (Brooks 136). Siddha Yoga places emphasis on self-evaluation and tries to eliminate personal negativity, and negative tendencies within one’s life.

The practice of Siddha Yoga was first introduced to the West in 1970 by Swami Muktananda during his first excursion out of India. Siddha Yoga, the word Siddha meaning perfect master (Healey 6) is a practice of yoga in which its main purpose is to achieve shaktipat through the guidance, chants and presence of a Guru. Shaktipat is the ancient method of awakening the kundalini energy, which creates enlightenment at the base of the spine, and sends the body into an orgasm-like state, that causes the body to shake and pulsate upon achieving this sacred energy. When people experience shaktipat through the practice of Siddha Yoga they lose all control over their physical selves, often screaming, pulsating, or physically moving around the room. This energy can only be achieved through the presence and touch of the Guru; and through shaktipat it is said that one can truly achieve self-realization and Atman. Contrary to controversy about Siddha Yoga and its sexual nature; it is said that if one finds a true guru, one who is fully devoted to the art of Siddha Yoga, that it is not about sexual pleasure, but about losing touch between the inner and outer self, and experiencing a more divine power and ecstasy. Achieving shaktipat is said to be the feeling of “seeing the Divine in different forms” (Tymn 180). Gurumayi herself said that “When you experience it, you see light everywhere, you find joy in everything. You experience happiness in times of happiness, but you are also able to experience happiness in the midst of sorrow. This is the greatness of meditation.” (Chidvilasananda 46)

Another important aspect of Siddha yoga is the importance that its devotees place on grandiose ceremonies, such as yajnas. Yajnas are extremely important and have helped to characterize Siddha Yoga. Swami Chidvilasananda holds yajnas many times a year, that attract Siddha Yoga students and Brahmins from all around the globe. Brahmins travel from India to attend Swami Chidvalasananda’s yajnas, as months of hard work and preparation go into preparing for them. During these sacred fire ceremonies, Gurumayi sits and observes, while Brahmin priests adorn her with garlands and perform sacred rituals. Gurumayi holds herself with great dignity and always puts her position as great Guru first and foremost. (Brooks 135) In Gurumayi’s yajnas food and gifts are offered to the Gods and burned in a sacrificial fire. Yajnas and yoga are said to be alike in the sense that yoga offers sacrifices to the Gods as well; however the fire of the yajna; in yoga is an internal flame. Gurumayi has taught numerous courses in the ashram, which emphasize the importance of sacrifice in ones day-to-day life. She teaches that sacrifice is the secret to fulfilling a pure and whole life. (Brooks 136) Love, peace, patience and self awareness are very important aspects of Siddha Yoga, often taking a great deal of time and inner reflection to truly master.

Gurumayi places a great amount of importance on love, calmness, happiness, and inner peace. A young man that attended a retreat led by Gurumayi in Mexico said that “These two weeks were the happiest weeks of my whole life. They gave me a new vision of myself and the world we live in. Never in my life had I experienced so much love, nor did I know that so much love was possible. We just sat down to talk about the day and it was pure ecstasy. Or sometimes we just sat in silence looking at each other and we cried out of love” (Brooks 140). Siddha Yoga focuses on the simplicity of life and helps people to understand what happens within themselves to create pure ecstasy throughout any aspect of life. Another practice that is unique to Siddha Yoga is guruseva which helps a student to gain wisdom by working under the instruction of their guru. The idea of working to gain wisdom is important in Siddha Yoga. For example students of Gurumayi have volunteered to chop vegetables for hours at a time; while chanting throughout the whole process. The idea behind the work is that “unselfish action purifies the mind.” (Brooks 144) Guruseva can take form in any day to day activity; for example washing dishes, doing chores, creating art are all forms of Guruseva. The use of work to diminish ego and create a connection to the gods is extremely important to Siddha Yoga devotees, but only if the work is done with no thought or expectation of reward. The acts of Guruseva must be done selflessly in order to reap its rewards. Guruseva is comparable to the feeling of kundalini in that it creates a deep interior experience. Students who do guruseva experience realizations within themselves, and intense feelings of calmness and love (Brooks 144).

Much of Swami Chivalasananda’s time is spent traveling the globe, spreading the word of Siddha Yoga, through the use of chants, workshops and intensives. There are approximately three hundred Siddha Yoga meditation centers worldwide, located in Europe, North and South America, India and Australia to name a few (Brooks 143). Gurumayi is said to be such a powerful leader of Siddha Yoga, that her devotees do not have to be in her presence to feel her spirit and teachings. Many of her students have seen her through focused and intense meditation. Devotees have said that Gurumayi has appeared in meditation and in dreams where she has provided guidance to them. Many of Gurumayi’s students have felt her presence when she was not physically with them. For example a school teacher in Perth Australia was struggling with a young student’s behavior, when she saw Gurumayi walk through the door and smile lovingly at the boy, giving hope to the teacher (Brooks 147).

Regardless of where Gurumayi is in the world, her presence is honored by her devotees. When she appears at conferences, workshops or intensives often she is greeted with a great amount of emotion and joy from her students.   She works hard to prove that she is a strong leader, and tries to live her life in a way that shows example to her students of how to achieve peace and harmony with ones self. Gurumayi provides a realistic approach to her work in the fact that she also talks about inner turmoil. Siddha Yoga requires personal work and sacrifice to find oneself and she has displayed acts of sacrifice in her own life to teach her devotees.

“Where is heaven? Where is Hell? Within us. Each one can create a heaven, each one can create a hell…Look within. Meditate. It just happens. You find your own joy, you find your own inner peace.” (Chidvilasananda 49)
















Caldwell, Sarah (2001) “The Heart of the Secret: A Personal and Scholarly Encounter with Shakta Tantrism in Siddha Yoga” Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, Vol. 5, No.1:9-51

Haruni, Elisa Santos, Ferreira Dourado Rueda, Adriana Amelia Benedito-Silva, Ana Leite De Moraes Ornellas, Felipe Leite, Jose Roberto (2008) “Evaluation of Siddha Samadhi Yoga for Anxiety and Depression Symptoms: a Preliminary Study.” Psychological Reports, Vol. 103, No. 1: 271-274.

Healy, John Paul (2011) “Involvement in a New Religious Movement: From Discovery to Disenchantment.” Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health, Vol. 13, No. 1: 2-21

Harris, Lis (1998) “O guru, guru, guru.” New Yorker, Vol. 70, No. 37: 92

Neimark, Jill (1998) “Crimes of the soul.” Psychology Today, Vol. 31, No. 2: 55

Mutananda, Swami and Chidvilasananda, Gurumayi (1991) Meditate. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Durgananda, Swami Muller-Ortega, Paul E Mahony, William K Rhodes Bailly, Constantina Sabharathnam, S.P. (2000) Meditation Revolution: A History and Theology of Siddha Yoga Lineage. Muktabodha Indological Research Institute.

Tymn, Michael E. (2006) “Secrets of Shaktipat.” Journal of Spirituality & Paranomal Studies. Vol. 29, No. 3:179-180.

 Related Topics


Swami Muktananda/Controversy surrounding his practices

Siddha Yoga vs. other forms of Yoga

Gurumayi’s various projects

 Related Websites


Article written by Jaimee Jarvie (April 2013) who is solely responsible for its content.

ISKCON (The International Society for Krsna Consciousness)

The International Society for Krsna Consciousness was founded in the United States of America in 1966. It was started by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in New York City (Bryant and Ekstrand 2). Though Bhaktivedanta is the sole leader of this movement, he “does not ever make a direct claim to God, only to being His representative on earth”(Daner 19).  The mission of this movement is to bring western society the Vedic cult of Krsna worship (Daner 1). This society also seeks to accept the doctrine of bhakti yoga (Daner 6). The International Society for Krsna Consciousness is one of the most well known eastern religions in the Western hemisphere (Bryant and Ekstrand 1). Because this movement was started in America, it is mainly populated by so-called converts to Hinduism. As this is a fairly new movement in the Hindu tradition, their modes of worship and their beliefs are not well known to the rest of the world. Also, it is not fully understood by mainstream culture why this movement became so popular.

The International Society for Krnsa Consciousness, when it was first created, appealed mainly to the people who were disillusioned with American society (Daner 8). Larry D. Shin said that “…almost all had been in a state of crisis before they joined the movement. By ‘crisis’ I mean most often psychological crisis: a sense of identity confusion, not being quite sure where to place one’s values, search for meaning, religious crisis”(Gelberg 64). The people that joined the Hare Krsna movement were dissatisfied with the materialistic world, only because they had been so invested in it (Gelberg 65). Because the International Society for Krsna Consciousness was started in the sixties, most of the converts and followers were part of what became known as the counter culture. These people were mainly hippies (Daner 7). Because these people were dissatisfied with society, the fact that the International Society for Krsna Consciousness practices communal living is also enticing; it provides a way for them to have a sense of freedom from the society that they are so disenchanted with (Judah 174).  What enticed these people to this movement, and still does, is the ideas and of the Hare Krsna movement. The converts to the International Society for Krsna Consciousness like the philosophy and ideas of this movement because it does not focus on society; it instead focuses on worshipping a personal God, therefore making it an extremely personal experience. Judah states that “[t]his need for the expression of love in worshipping and serving a personal, living deity is probably a predominant factor uniting all devotees of Krishna” (Judah 173). The converts to the International Society for Krsna Consciousness were also drawn to the movement because they enjoyed the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra and the sense of community and togetherness that is found among the devotees to Krsna (Judah 165).

As stated above, one of the main enticing factors to this movement is its beliefs. The beliefs of this movement focus on the Hindu deity Krsna. One of the foremost beliefs of the International Society for Krsna Consciousness is that of “theistic intimacy”(Bryant and Ekstrand 14). Theistic intimacy is the belief that you can have a relationship of uttermost love with a deity or member of a godhead. In the case of the Hare Krsna movement, this intimate relationship is with the Hindu deity Krsna. The followers of the Hare Krsna movement also practice what is known as bhakti yoga. Bhakti yoga is the idea of conceding one’s self to the deity Krsna, and improving your relationship with him (Judah 87). The International Society for Krsna Consciousness believe that in order to achieve bhakti they must achieve the eight preliminary aspects of bhakti (Daner 35). These aspects are: Recognizing the deity Krsna as refuge; serving a guru; reading the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam; singing praises to Krsna; thinking solely of the deity Krsna; serving and worshipping the deities; performing rites and rituals taught by the guru; and kneeling before the deity and the spiritual guru (Daner 35).

The International Society for Krsna Consciousness has a variety of ways of worshipping and showing their devotion to the deity Krsna. Many of these ways of worshipping are manifested in how they live their lives. Through living communally, the followers of the Hare Krsna movement show their devotion to Krsna and their desire to gain an intimate relationship with the deity. Another way that the members of the Hare Krsna movement worship is through the act of chanting. The mantra of the International Society for Krsna Consciousness is called the mahamantra, and it means the great mantra (Bryant and Ekstrand 35).

The mantra, Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, is in public and in private, and is said to be the most important religious responsibility of the Hare Krsnas (Bryant and Ekstrand 35-36). Another way that the members of the Hare Krsna movement worship is through the aratrika ceremony in their temples. This ritual is a way in which Krsna is greeted, and it is performed six times daily (Daner 45). This ceremony begins with chanting, after which food is brought out on platters for the deities to eat. Next, incense is offered to the deities, followed by a lamp with five wicks. After that water in a conch shell is offered, then a handkerchief, and next a flower. After these a fan made out of peacock feathers is offered, and last a yak tail attached to a silver handle (Daner 46-47). Another way that members of the International Society for Krsna Consciousness worship and show their devotion is through festivals. One of the important festivals celebrated is Chaitanya’s birthday. Another important festival celebrated is the festival of Lord Jagannatha (Judah 96). There are many other festivals celebrated by the Hare Krsna movement, but these two are the most commonly celebrated.

The International Society for Krsna Consciousness is one of the most notable branches of the Hindu tradition. Because it originated in the United States of America in the 1960’s, it had a great impact on the generation that was a part of the counter culture.

References and Further Recommended Reading

Brooks, Charles R. (1989) The Hare Krishnas in India. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Bryant, Edwin F. And Ekstrand, Maria L. Ed (2004) The Hare Krishna Movement: The Postcharismatic Fate of a Religious Transplant. New York: Columbia University Press.

Daner, Francine Jeanne (1976) The American Children of KRSNA: A Study of the Hare KRSNA Movement. Dallas: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Gelberg, Steven J. Ed. (1983) Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna: Five Distinguished Scholars on the Krishna Movement in the West. New York: Grove Press, Inc.

Judah, J. Stillson (1974) Hare Krishna and the Counterculture. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Rochford, E. Burke Jr. (1995) Family Structure, Commitment, and Involvement in the Hare Krishna Movement. Oxford University Press.

Related Topics for Further Investigation


A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada




Lord Jagannatha

Aratrika ceremony




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Article written by Brittany Turner (Spring 2012), who is solely responsible for its content.

Swami Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada

Swami Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada (Founder of the Hare Krsnas)

Srila Prabhupada was born Abhay Charan De to parents Gour Mohan De, a cloth merchant, and mother Rajani on September 1st, 1896 (Gowami 1983: 5-6) His childhood home was located at 115 Harrison Road, situated in the northern Indian section of Calcutta, India. His father belonged to the aristocratic suvarna-vanik merchant caste, was pure Vaisnava, and raised his son to be just as Krsna conscious as he was. Young Abhay accompanied his father, mother or servant daily to the temple near their home to worship, showed his strong faith which was evident even in his childhood. This devotion was helped of course by Gour Mohan’s wishes for his son to achieve Vaisnava goals and become a  servant to Radha and Krsna. Employing a professional mrdana (a kind of drum) player to teach Abhay the rhythms for accompanying kirtana (a form of musical worship), Gour Mohan was determined to give his son all the teachings to enable him to reach the prescribed Vaisnava goals, even if this went against his wife’s wishes. Rajani was skeptical about the importance of her son learning to play the mrdana, and while she too was a devote follower of Krshna consciousness, she wanted Abhay to grow up and become a British lawyer. This however did not stop her from modeling her perfection of Vedic housewife duties, showcased through her attempts to keep her pet child, Abhay, safe from danger, disease and death. At age six it became clear which path Abhay favored, as he asked his father to bring home deities of his own to worship. Bringing home Radha-Krsna deities, Gour Mohan and Rajani watched their son from this day forward offering food first to these effigies, and putting them to rest at night in perfect imitation of his fathers own puja (Goswami 1983: 9-13).

While Abhay Charan De’s  religious beliefs and talents continued to grow, so did his intellect in school. However, even Abhay was subject to the tradition of arranged marriage and was wed to Radharani Datta. Living apart, Srila Prabhupada was to finish his college degree before taking on full responsibility of supporting his family. But, in his fourth year of college, Abhay began to feel reluctant about finishing his degree. This was due to the influences of Subhas Chandra Bose, who was a spirited nationalist and eventual leader of the Indian National Army. Bose charged the student population to align with the Indian independence movement and forsake their studies. This proclamation was also echoed by another notable figure, Mohandas K. Gandhi. Gandhi, who was a spiritual entity instead of a just a political one like Bose, had a profound impact on Abhay, who began listening to Gandhi and abiding to  his messages. When Gandhi said that the foreign run schools, like the one Abhay attended, did nothing more than instill a slave mentality, Abhay was left with a decision to make. Even though he finished his studies in 1920, after his fourth year, Abhay refused his diploma thus showing his devotion to Gandhi’s call to boycott the British rule of India (Goswami 1983: 14-15).

Inspired by Gandhi, Abhay continued to follow his lead and strengthen his own spirituality while working as a department manager at Bose Laboratory in his hometown of Calcutta, India. It was his religious quest however that led him to meet his spiritual master in 1922, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura (Rochford 10). Initially unimpressed by the work of Thakura, it was only through a friend’s encouragement that he visited him. Upon their first meeting, it was Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura who asked why, as an educated young man, Abhay did not travel the world spreading the message of Lord Caitanya. From this bold question Abhay went on to make many more insightful inquiries which left him so impressed at the end of their first meeting that he accepted Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura as his spiritual master in his heart. Until Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s death in December 1936, Abhay was a devote follower and friend, visiting him whenever time would allow as his family had moved to Allahabad in 1932 for business purposes. Abhay truly embraced Thakura’s ideal of spreading Krsna consciousness around the world and began to preach from his home. He wrote an essay and poem which were published in The Harmonist, gaining him the title of kavi, “learned poet” (Goswami 1983: 18). However, being a humble man, his most glorious moment was when this poem reached his master and gave him joy. The last conversation between himself and Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura was one that had the most profound impact on his life and how he chose to get his message out.  Thakura told him, “If you ever get money, print books” (Goswami 1983: 91) which is just what Abhay did (Goswami 1983: 15-20).

While still in India Abhay had to suffer through WWII. He not only had to attempt to get enough food to ensure his families survival, but also had to fight with the government for paper on which to print his journal, Back to Godhead. While his determination to spread the only real scarcity of Krsna consciousness intensified, his business and family affairs began to abate as his major focus shifted to preaching. A major breakthrough at this time in his life was being invited to lecture at the Gita Mandir, an invitation that he gladly accepted. It was in this place, of Jhansi, that Abhay formed his first center. Leaving behind his business affairs in Allahabad to his son, Abhay was now focused on creating a spiritual movement in Jhansi. He was 56 years old (Gotswami 1983: 20-24).

It was after this age that Abhay truly hit a turning point. Getting a note in Jhansi that his home had been burglarized, he returned to Calcutta as familial responsibilities outweighed his preaching desires. With bills to pay and unmarried children to look after, Abhay came back to his family but continued to talk of God and preach just as he had done before. This angered his family who could not understand his devotion. It was this misunderstanding that eventually led Abhay to break from his family and business all together, when he returned home one night and found that his wife has sold his copy of Srimad-Bhagavatam for money to buy tea biscuits. Angered and upset, this final straw led Abhay to finally leave and pursue his goal of preaching Krshna consciousness and printing books (Gotswami 1983: 24-25).

The 1950s saw Abhay facing hard time. Scraping together enough money to print Back to Godhead, he went without proper clothing for the winter to fulfill his mission. From showing such devotion, Abhay was pushed past his tipping point after he had a dream in which Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura appeared and urged him to become a sannyasa (Goswami 1983: 34). After careful deliberation, Abhay knew what he must do and became Abhay Caranaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami after his formal sannyasa ceremony. After this ceremony, his desire to spread Krsna consciousness intensified, leading Abhay to finally begin printing books. Struggling once more to raise funds and sell his volumes, Abhay was forced to become resourceful, sending copies of his works to noted officials and utilizing their positive reviews to advertise. Transforming himself from humble beginnings to notoriety, Abhay was gaining fame in India, but desired to spread his message West. With this desire in his heart, it was on August 13th, 1965 at the age of 69 that Abhay boarded the cargo ship Jaladuta to begin his journey to America (Goswami 1983: 25-38).

Reaching New York City on September 19th, 1965 he walked with little more than the clothing on his back to the bus terminal to find transit to Butler to stay with friends, the Agarwal’s. Taking up residence in the YMCA, Abhay began writing to people of religious interest in New York City to grow his network (Goswami 1983: 42). It was through such letter writing that Abhay was able to become financed by Dr. Mishra, whose yoga studios became the first site of meetings for followers of Abhay’s message (Goswami 1991: 1-14).

Abhay’s next move was out of the yoga studio and downstairs into his own place. However, far from being a temple, this move was rife with poverty. With his name on the door, anyone could find him, and despite his meager surroundings in Room 307, the meetings were becoming a new source of life for Abhay and for his followers. However, this move too proved temporary. Abhay was subject to a great number of moves following this until he finally came to find a suitable apartment to call his own. This place would allow him to grab his footing for the International Society for Krsna Consciousness (Knott 29-30)

From this point forward, Bhaktivedanta Swami spread his message. Getting a feature in the local New York press, The Village Voice was of particular importance, as it allowed Abhay to grow the number of members in his lecture groups (Knott 32). From this growing population of followers, Abhay drafted the Seven Purposes of the International Society for Krsna Consciousness, and the ISKCON really gained a hold. Circulating leaflets and invitations, the chanting of the Hare Krshna was touted as the drug of choice as it allowed one to stay high forever, because of their expanded consciousness. Thus the popular name for the ISKCON was born, and the Hare Krsna continued to thrive (Goswami 1983: 28-75).

On January 16th, 1967 Abhay left behind his devoted followers in New York and flew to spread his message in San Francisco. Awaiting his arrival this day was a group of about fifty flower bearing chanters, most of which knew the Swami only by reputation. Settling into an apartment at 518 Fredrick Street, this dwelling was now known as the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple, attracting numerous followers from the first days of Abhays arrival. From this place, Abhay preached and held lectures for his many followers. He wrote in his office, getting his messages out and attending to the needs and problems of his devotees (Goswami 1983: 75-130).

However, Abhay longed to return to India and he fulfilled this desire in the summer of 1967. He stayed until the winter months, when he once again returned to the United States and travelled around, spreading his messages and publications across the globe, even coming into contact with John Lennon and Yoko Ono when the Hare Krshna recorded chantings for their record (Knott 34-37). From such public relations, Prabhupada’s message was widely received and the ISKCON grew, setting up head quarters all over the world. This was up until Abhay’s death on November 14th, 1977 at 81 years old (Rochford 10-11).


Goswami, Satsvarupa Dasa (1983) Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta. Los Angeles: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.

Goswami, Satsvarupa Dasa (1983) Prabhupada: He Built a House in Which the Whole World Can Live.  Los Angeles: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.

Goswami, Tamal Krishna (1999) Servant of the Servant: A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada,  Founder-acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Dialogue & Alliance, 13(1), 5-17.

Knott, Kim (1986) My Sweet Lord: The Hare Krishna Movement. San Bernando: Borgo Press.

Rochford, E. Burke (1985) Hare Krishna in America. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.

Related Topics for Further Reading

The Hare Krshna

Caste System







Mohandas K. Ghandi

Subhas Chandra Bose

Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura



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Article written by Jaycene Mock (March 2012) who is solely responsible for its content.