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Satyananda and His Lineage

Education . . . is a means of developing a fully integrated personality and enabling one to grow effectively [and] training in the art of living. – Satyananda However, yoga does not end with the development of the personality. – Satyananda, in Kundalini Tantra.
Bombycilla garrulus with pretty wing feathers, Sidensvans
Far-travelling birds' art of living at times includes flocking on wintry maple branches

Guru Line

Sivananda. Satyananda was a disciple of Swami Sivananda MD (1887-1963). Sivananda was initiated into the Sannyasa Tradition of Shankara in 1924 by Swami Vishwananda. In the book, Early Teachings of Swami Satyananda, Satyananda tells that Sivananda learnt kriya yoga from Babaji in the mid-1920s (Satyananda 1988, 89).

Swami Sivananda toured throughout India, inspiring people to practise yoga and founded the Divine Life Society at Rishikesh in 1936, the Sivananda Ayurvedic Pharmacy in 1945, the Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy in 1948 and the Sivananda Eye Hospital in 1957. During his lifetime Swami Sivananda guided thousands of disciples and aspirants and authored 296 books. And he said, "An ounce of practice is better than tons of theory. Practice yoga, religion and philosophy in daily life and attain Self-realization."

Sivananda's work has helped in making yogas mainstream in the West and East.

Satyananda (1923-2009) was initiated by Sivananda in 1943. He served to bring yoga to Australia and the West, inspiring millions. He travelled the world for over twenty years sharing the inspiration of yoga through methodical explanations that also have been used as textbooks later. During the times of travels to some thirty countries he wrote over 80 books on yoga, tantra and spirituality.

Satyananda founded the Bihar School of Yoga (BSY) in 1963 in order to carry out a mission given to him by his guru to spread the message of yoga from door to door and from shore to shore. He propagated yoga for people of all ages from all countries, races, religions and cultures. Under his guidance, the ancient science of yoga was taught on a scientific basis with clarity and vision.

Satyananda founded the International Yoga Fellowship Movement in 1956. He also founded Sivananda Math, a social and charitable institution to help the weaker, underprivileged sections of society in 1984 and the Yoga Research Foundation, a scientific research oriented yoga organisation, in 1984.

He retired from public life in 1988 and settled in Rikhia, a village in Jharkhand, in 1989. He remained secluded from the public for most part until he died in 2009.

Good news and bad news. Results of fair and fit investigations are good news, according to "truth let out" or something like that. The same results may be "bad news" for some who do not sense that truth let out might be in their own interests.

To persons who like meditation and yoga, results of investigations that seem to "lessen the lustre" of gurus may thus be partly gladdening by truths coming to light, partly saddening by the facts that may rise to shame certain yoga villages, gurus and meditation methods. But people are different, gurus are different, and meditation methods are not alike either. Now for good-bad news from Sidney:

Former child resident Bhakti Manning at the Satyananda Yoga Ashram at Mangrove Mountain in Australia told a royal commision about sexual abuse committed by the movement's influential founder, Swami Satyananda Saraswati, at the Munger ashram in India. The commission also heard she had a sexual relationship with Satyananda's successor, Swami Niranjan, according to the Sidney Morning Herald (1). Swami Satyananda surrounded himself with women and girls.

And there is more: In December 2014 the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia investigated the responses of the Satyananda Yoga Ashram at Mangrove Mountain, Australia as to complaints from the mid- to late-1980s. These complaints of sexual abuse had been made against Akhandananda Saraswati, at the time the spiritual leader of that Satyananda Yoga ashram. In 1989 Akhandananda was convicted of molesting four girls at the ashram, but his conviction was overturned by the High Court in 1991. He died in 1997.

The Commission heard evidence from former child residents that a Shishy, a female, former senior member of the ashram, allegedly subjected the children to fierce beatings and summoned teenage girls for sex with Akhandananda. Shishy herself told the Commission she was expected to have sex with Satyananda when he was visiting Australia, describing it as "on a continuum between bland and quite perverse".

Before these investigations the allegations had not been proven and Swami Satyananda Saraswati was never convicted during his life.

And by the way, should we measure the Roman Catholic Church by the sexual activities of Catholic prelates in the Vatican and other places? Do they amount to show how great the God of Christians can be who can bear up with all that?

(WP, "Satyananda Saraswati" > 'Notes')

Niranjanananda. Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati (1960-) is the successor of Satyananda, who passed on the worldwide coordination of Satyananda Yoga to Swami Niranjanananda in 1988. Niranjanananda began his training at Bihar School of Yoga in India when he was four. From 1971, he toured Europe, America and Australia extensively. In 1983 he returned to India and was appointed the Head of Bihar School of Yoga.

For the next eleven years he spearheaded research and development activities at such as the Yoga Research Foundation.

In 1993 he was chosen as the successor of Paramahamsa Satyananda. In 1994, he established Bihar Yoga Bharati as a centre for higher studies in the field of Yoga.

Niranjanananda's breadth of mind spans both the Western culture and the mystical wisdom of the East. At present he is the supreme teacher of Bihar Yoga Bharati (a yoga institute) in Munger, Bihar. He has appointed Swami Surya Prakash as his successor, while he himself remains as the spiritual guide.

Bihar School of Yoga has become a teaching institution of very high standard. Techniques developed there are a synthesis of many approaches to personal development, based on traditional vedantic, tantric and yogic teachings in conjunction with contemporary physical and mental health sciences. Bihar School of Yoga also guides yoga projects and medical research.

Through their Yoga Publications Trust, the Bihar school publishes books by the preceptors of Bihar Yoga. The main authors are Satyananda and his disciple Niranjanananda. Internationally, the Bihar yoga school is called Satyananda Yoga.

◦Yoga Magazine is the magazine of such as the Bihar School of Yoga and the Yoga Research Foundation. It has been published for over forty years.

Satyananda Yoga

At present, yoga is passing through growth and expansion with rapid integration into modern society, where some parts of it have become mainstream. Yoga efforts should serve this on broad terms and in the long run: creating a better future.

Satyananda's teachings emphasize Integral Yoga (a synthesis of various yogas) with a strong emphasis on Tantra. It incorporates the whole person, not just the body. There is an emphasis on awareness.

Satyananda Yoga is a systematic, step-by-step approach to yoga, a yoga system that is grounded in tradition and adapted to our times. It aims at integration, and includes Hatha, Raja, Karma, Jnana, Mantra and Bhakti Yogas and more, and presents them in a unified package.

Satyananda Yoga does not postulate any political or religious beliefs. It provides tools for health, perhaps a broader, more delicate awareness in calmness, and furthers good health in inner strength.

Satyananda Yoga may be learnt in classes or by self-help books by Satyananda himself. A yoga class is to have a non-competitive atmosphere, and is often about one hour long. It consists of asanas (postures) pranayama (breathing), meditation and deep relaxation called yoga nidra.

Breath work is the second major deal of a class. Pranayama training begins with natural breath awareness and progresses to a variety of practices. Satyananda Yoga stands for using pranayama as a part of daily yoga sadhana. The book Prana and Pranayama by Niranjanananda offers a comprehensive summary of main pranayama methods. They are explained in detail in the practical section of the book. As forthe pranayama method called ujjayi, Niranjanananda mentions such as:

Ujjayi is one of the most important, yet one of the simplest pranayamas ... [It] may be practised in any position — standing, sitting or prone. Ujjayi is also known as the psychic breath, as it induces a meditative state and leads to very subtle states of mind. It is an indispensable part of many meditative techniques such as ... kriya yoga. (Niranjanananda 2009, 251)

Yogic relaxation (Yoga Nidra) is done lying down while the awareness remains active. What is referred to by this term is a meditative technique of aware sleeping: "Nidra" means "sleep" in Sanskrit. Satyananda Yoga Nidra is a pratyahara ("mind-withdrawal") technique in which the distractions of the mind are contained and the mind is allowed to relax. True relaxation is an experience beyond a cup of tea.

Meditation expands finely attuned awareness. It helps the understanding by enhancing good focus ("concentration"). Satyananda's favoured meditation techniques are presented as a course of sessions. Three of the common meditation techniques are:

  1. Antar Mouna, which deals with getting proficient awareness and at last better control of thoughts and other mind facets.
  2. Ajapa Jap(a) is a mantra repetition practice with breath awareness. The mantra may be the "breath mantra" Hang Sau.
  3. Tratak involves gazing at one point so as to induce relaxation and concentration of mind.


Yoga Paths, Kriya Yoga, and Yoga Nidra

Different Yoga Paths

It should help to meditate and live your life. In the yoga systems there are additions to simple, deep meditation, and some could benefit you. However, there are snags to some of them. This being so, there are possible gains and future losses involved in some yoga paths. It depends in part on attitudes, and more on skills, for example skills in handling the yoga paths, margas, and getting your facts straight.

For example, in early Hinduism there was no glorified bhakti-yoga path, but yoga and meditation was there, as seen in the Upanishads, and "a sacred fire which leads to heaven". Death finds it fit to explain: "That fire ... is the means of attaining the ... worlds, and is also their foundation ... hidden in the sacred place of the heart." Death also speaks of the path of joy, the path of wisdom, and that not many reach God beyond the senses. "He cannot be reached by much thinking ... He is ... above all thought", and yet Self and Spirit. (Mascaró 1965, 57, 58, 59; Katha Upanishad, part 2, in Mascaró 1965, 56)

As may be seen from the Katha Upanishad on the pages referred to above, what is valuable is foresight for the sake of choosing beneficient life endeavours, paths that are capable of giving good fruits, at least to some. The path of devotion, bhakti yoga, is not there at all. The truth is that bhakti yoga is quite a late-comer in Hindiusm (Wikipedia, s.v. "Hinduism"), and there is reason to look on its long-run effects with suspicion, considering what it is capable of doing to you:

Bhakti yoga is a path of training and baring the feelings. One is trained to channel emotional energy; to open the heart and feel into human qualities in daily life. Sects and cults tend to slowly evolve from bhakti, from emotional, passionate devotion, after all is said and done. This may be easily noted by retrospect surveys, for example over Hinduism. So unless you desire to turn into some sectarian follower, such a devotee, tone down the feeling sides in doing yoga, and not forcing yourself into anything. Relaxing well may do you more good. I think that is fair counsel and that it should be stressed too. (Cf. Wikipedia, s.v. "Hinduism" and "Bhakti movement" and Encyclopedia Britannica for such surveys)

Hatha yoga consist in part in assuming yoga postures. Asanas work on both the body and the mind. The higher techniques of hatha yoga are for elevating us. Hatha Yoga is described in yoga classics, notably Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Simple postures carefully and modestly done offer help, whereas contorting, jerky, and demanding ones may do you harm. You need to be alert to principles of training the body without many risks, for example.

Wisdom yoga (Jnana yoga) allows the meditative state – for in the context of yoga it means the process of meditative awareness which leads to illuminative wisdom in deep self-realisation. Jnana Yoga stands for (a) not believing but realising; (b) awareness leading to self-analysis; (b) firmer personal nature; and further. Some of the old Upanishads cover aspects of Jnana yoga. There is reason to stress that unless you realise things, merely repeating them may serve you just like a toup´┐Ż. It is not "growing out of your head" as good ideas tend to do. Well, think about it.

Karma yoga is a tricky subject. It helps to become aware of desires and personality problems so as to get to a dynamic, creative and constructive expression in life. In Satyananda's yoga the karma discipline is a means to become truly human and graced, and so on. Among the pro's could be disinterest in many forms and results of "that twin couple", ambition and greed. Much in the world today has deteriorated out of short-sight, corporate greed, and multiple abuses. Maybe karma yoga may keep some greed in check - maybe greed and blunt ambition find vicarious channels. It is hard to say.

A downside to karma yoga as it is often preached in public, is that it teaches you to give up good karma you have earned - good karma or merits that you have deserved, and may need to counterbalance evils in times to come, for example. Buddha advocates you to go for building good karma and not giving up the noble practice.

The Bhagavad Gita, however, teaches a bit differently, it says you do well to give up the fruits (effects) of your doings through a faith (2:47, 48, 51). And yet you are free to adjust to another piece of advice in it: this side to a "kingly secret": "Whatever you do, do it as an offering to me! (9:27)" In the light of this, if your doing is to wisely hold on to your good karma as a pious offering in full faith, there is Gita backup for it! Hence, not all yoga paths are formalised, and somehow a bit of this yoga path and a bit of that yoga path goes into a more confluent life-style anyhow. That is also a good yogic teaching, and a common one. For example, the Gita says: "Children ... speak of knowledge and the Yoga of action or the performance of action as though they are distinct and different; he who is truly established in one obtains the fruits of both (5:4)."

As with so many scriptures, many teachings derive from what a teacher or guru extracts and focuses on in them. The Bhagavad Gita lends itself to a series of views, and some are given in formal commentaries in Hinduism.

Traditionally the commentators belong to spiritual traditions or schools (sampradaya) and Guru lineages (parampara), which claim to preserve teaching stemming either directly from Krishna himself or from other sources, each claiming to be faithful to the original message. In the words of Hiriyanna, "[The Gita] is one of the hardest books to interpret, which accounts for the numerous commentaries on it - each differing from the rest in an essential point or the other.

Different translators and commentators have widely differing views on what multi-layered Sanskrit words and passages signify. (Wikipedia, s.v. "Bhagavad Gita: Commentaries and translations")

However, in the passage above the Gita speaks for fruits, and not of giving them up. In other passages it stands out that meditators reap good fruits in future lives too, by how there are reborn. That would not be giving away fruits of one's doings, would it? (6:40-45). And so on. A handsome piece of advice: "When in doubt, win the trick (Edmund Hoyle)." How? It could do well to adjust tactfully to Buddha's general counsel in the Kalama Sutta far and wide.

For what if some faith or another is a bringer of sordid future fares? My stand: Beware with forethought rather than getting sorry in the long run. Some trust in written words, others in hailed gurus, and still others in written words ascribed to hailed gurus. Buddha teaches differently - and better far and wide.

Raja yoga usually refers to the system of yoga that is described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. In this ancient text Sage Patanjali describes eight stages of yoga. These are its three great strides:

  1. Vitality through asanas (postures) and pranayamas (pranic breathing techniques);
  2. Management of awareness and concentration through pratyahara (sensory withdrawal) and dharana (concentration);
  3. Training of awareness through dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (absorption in the universal identity).

The good thing is not overdoing any part of it. For one thing, consider how your time is spent. Is it well spent? Could it be better spent? I would say so. Many "yoga paths", margas, take time away from deep meditation, that can be easily reached by TM, and may somehow "fetter you" to things that come along in a total package too - rules and regulations to adhere to, and so on. Maybe you do not want that.

The good thing is to bulwark against downsides to yoga and its many forms and variants, and if not bulwarking them full well, then preventing them, and if not preventing them, than set in with an attempted cure as soon as possible, and if not that either, a quite deranged life may result from errings that were not prevented. The antidote is to blossom well at least. Many follow up by bearing good fruits also.

The art of living is in part to maximise the good sides to a thing and minimize its tricks and dangers. Yoga offers health-benefits and help for development in just that perspective.

Kriya yoga

Swami Sivananda taught kriya yoga to Satyananda, the Bihar School of Yoga informs. Satyananda writes in Early Teachings of Swami Satyananda (Satyananda 1988), that Sivananda had learnt kriya yoga from Babaji in the mid-1920s, and that Sivananda one day in 1956 taught it to him in twenty-five minutes. "Swami Sivananda received initiation into kriya yoga from Babaji, but he did not teach these techniques to anyone himself. At the time I was leaving the ashram, however, he taught me all the techniques in not more than twenty five minutes (Satyananda 1988, 89)."

After Sivananda died in 1963, Satyananda started teaching kriya. Some of the kriya practices that Satyananda teach, were never taught by Sivananda, but culled by Satyananda from other sources. Today this kriya system is made public through books one may buy (from, for example) or borrow in a public library, if they can supply it.

The kriya yoga system of Satyananda is presented as resting on secret teachings described in tantric texts called shastras ("works"). Satyananda's full form of kriya yoga contains over 70 kriyas. Only 20 or so of them are commonly known otherwise. An authoritative work on kriya yoga is A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya by Satyananda. This bulky repository work consists of 36 structured lessons (957 pages) compiled from the teachings of Swami Satyananda and could work well for both yoga teachers and beginners. The emphasis is on practice, theory and application in day to day life. It may be daunting for beginners, though. Here is what an Amazon reader tells:

"A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya" will take you step-by-step through all prepratory stages AND ALL ACTUAL PRACTICES OF THE ENTIRE SERIES OF KRIYA.

Contrast the publicly available kriya yoga of Satyananda Yoga with Self-Realization Fellowship's modified, simplified kriya yoga. The last guru to modify it was Paramahansa Yogananda, writes Sailendra Dasgupta in his biography on Yogananda (Dasgupta 2006) - [Comparison]. A problem with the kriya yoga of Self-Realization Fellowship's kriya teachings is the removal of essential human rights along with the initiation into that kriya, in that you have to trade away some of them in the hope of gaining from "kriya yoga, Yogananda style". You might get slavish - a danger if bhakti (devotion) is a focus - and more than a bit Yogananda-indoctrinated for a life-time too. [More].

The sequel to Satyananda's lesson course in the large book (above) is called Kundalini Yoga. In it, he tells the purpose of kriya is to create awakening, that kriya is quite riskfree, and that a combination of twenty kriyas are powerful. The first nine of them are to be done with the eyes open, and eleven more practices are to be done with the eyes closed. There should be the readiness to practice kriya before learning it. (93-94, 97, 100). This sequel book presents these twenty kriya practices that in part blend with hatha-yoga. The practices are explained in detail. Some of the things to do are out of reach for a common Westerner, such as bending the tongue back so well that it goes into the nasal cavity (kechari mudra, yogic tongue lifting). (284 ff). Such tongue-lifting was one of the parts of original kriya yoga that Yogananda found it best to remove from his simplified system of four kriyas in all.

Kriya practices should help advancing concentration. (314). Effects of the kriya of Satyananda have been studied at the Copenhagen University. [Link]

Yoga Nidra

For a while, Satyananda's book Yoga Nidra may work better for beginners than his massive course and its sequel book. The book presents sides to a simple method of deep relaxation in stress management and therapy too. The information covers both practise and research on the subject. The aim of Yoga Nidra is to harmonise. He writes:

Our problem [is] how to emerge from the unconscious yet still remain on the bosom of it? [Answer:] One has to have a symbol . . . You can choose any object, but . . . the best and easiest of all symbols is the . . . light of the Self [which means] transcendental awareness] . . . Therefore . . . in the beginning we use the symbol. (Satyananda 2001b, 63)

But "what is the greatest knowledge available to mankind"? Transcendental Meditation (TM) is recommended, also from current meditation research and studies. [◦Link]

Excerpts from the Yoga Nidra book

Satyananda's book has these parts after the Introduction: Theory, Practices, Scientific Investigations, and Appendices.

In the introduction Yoga nidra is explained as systematic training in deep relaxation. During the practice one appears to be asleep, but is conscious inwardly, as a result of turning inwards while resting deeply. (p 1)

In the theory part a key concept is sankalpa [intent]. While lying at rest, form a brief mental statement. This works like sowing a seed in the bed of your mind. "You have the mind and you have an idea. If you prepare the mind and sow the [idea] seed properly, then it will grow in your life.". Just think it in deep relaxation. Then "everything you do in life becomes successful." Ask yourself: "Everything?" I hardly think so, but good ideas can sprout in time – absolutely. So, you have the deep relaxation practice and also things to focus your mind on when in that state. Try and see if you like. (p 21 ff)

In the eight-limbed yoga system of Patanjali yoga nidra bypasses the first four levels, and relates to relaxing so well that sensory inputs get weaker, much as when falling asleep. If the awareness is withdrawn totally from the senses, there is a fine shift, and the awareness is inward-made without sleeping. The shift is called pratyahara. The swami states that self-hypnosis is not involved. There is no other, such as a therapist, to influence and try to direct your mind. You do it yourself, resting well. Visualisation is done with very little effort in yoga nidra, and such visualisation allows for progress too. In deep rest the image tends to become very clear. (p 22-52, passim)

In essence, then, rest well and either affirm or visualise or both while in that state. Subconscous levels of the mind may get activated and directed in such ways, allowing for better progress within certain limits. It is documented in other connections too that visualisations help progress.

Part 3 shows how to use yoga nidra stepwise. After getting to a restful state, one may focus on various parts of the body, the breath, visualise and affirm to one's liking. Yoga nidra may also be adapted for use as short relaxation at the workplace and as a prelude to sleep. (p 81-87). The book offers detailed schemes for doing it. Some publishers also offer guided yoga nidra sessions on tape. And yoga nidra may be adapted even to small children. The practice can be expanded upon. ((p 159 ff).

The fourth part covers scientific investigations into the states of the mind. Different states are accompanied by different brain wave patterns, which are measured by EEG (electroenchephalograms) and more lately, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Yoga nidra functions somewhere between waking and sleeping – in the so-called hypnagogic state between waking consciousness and sleep, and arrives at heightened awareness, called turiya, at best. (p 170 ff)

Yoga nidra is fit for self-education without external rewards and punishments. In this state, the left and right hemisphere of the brain are integrated better, and one may learn better (p 179-85)

Further, yoga nidra counteracts stress very well by going against the stress response. Yoga nidra is prescribed by many medical doctors for that reason. It is a tool for imagination, and may help deeper understanding of oneself. (186-190)

Yoga nidra may improve the lives of those who suffer from several chronic diseases, and has found by researchers at the University of California Medical Centre at Davis (p 198) to be applicable for bedridden and afflicted patiients of all degree. They say:

  • Yoga nidra may relieve insomnia and sleep disturbances.
  • Partially relieve feelings of despair and depression.
  • Decrease the requirements for analgesis and sedative drugs.

Yoga relaxation helps elderly people overcome many psychological difficulties related to old age, such as lowered self-esteem, boredom, loneliness, and fear, according to a study in a French geriatric hospital. (p 200-01)

"Doctors estimate that emotional stress plays an important role in more than half of all medical problems." (Smith et al 2003, 505). An effective relaxation method helps to relieve stress, and may thus bulwark against some diseases, reduce the effects of others, and so on. Yoga nidra has been found effective in reducing dependency on medical drugs, also for asthmatic patients. (p 203-04).

It has been shown in several studies that yoga nidra helps against too high blood pressure, and the practice is widely prescribed for it (p 212-13)

The appendices furnish further details, including color pictures from PET scannings of the brains of persons who do yoga nidra.

More on yoga nidra: [Link].


The literature in Satyananda Yoga is noted for authenticity, clarity and depth.

Satyananda Saraswati and kriya yoga, Literature  

Dasgupta, Sailendra. 2006. Paramhansa Swami Yogananda: Life-portrait and Reminiscences. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse.

Mascaró, Juan, tr. 1965. The Upanishads. London: Penguin Books.

Niranjanananda, Swami. 2009. Prana and Pranayama. Munger, Bihar: Yoga Publications Trust.

Roth, Robert. 1996. Transcendental Meditation Revised And Updated. New York: Dutton/Penguin.

Satyananda Saraswati, Swami. 1981. A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya. Munger: Yoga Publications Trust.

⸻. 1988. Early Teachings of Swami Satyananda Saraswati. Paperback ed. Bihar School Of Yoga, Munger, Bihar, India.

⸻. 2001. Kundalini Tantra. 8th ed. Munger: Yoga Publications Trust.

⸻. 2001b. Yoga Nidra. 6th ed. Munger: Yoga Publications Trust.

⸻. 2008. Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha. 4th ed. Munger, Bihar: Yoga Publications Trust.

Smith, Carolyn D., ed, et al. 2003. Hilgard's Introduction to Psychology. 14th ed. Belmont: Thomson Wadsworth.

Yoga Publications Trust. 2007. Information on the Satyananda Yoga Tradition. (Booklet) Munger, Bihar: Yoga Publications Trust.


  1. Browne, Rachel. "Ashram children starved, drugged, tortured, royal commission hears". The Sidney Morning Herald: New South Wales, December 3, 2014. [◦More]

Symbols, brackets, signs and text icons explained: (1) Text markers(2) Digesting

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