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Sahaja Yoga
Religious origins: Shaktism
Regional origins: Pune, India
Founding Guru: Nirmala Srivastava (Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi)
Mainstream popularity: Growing from the late 20th century, present in "nearly 100 countries"[1]
Practice emphases: Kundalini
Derivative forms:
Related schools
Vishwa Nirmala Dharma
Other topics
  1. REDIRECT Template:Contains Indic text

Sahaja Yoga (Sahaja in this case meaning born with and Yoga meaning union) is a form of meditation, created by Nirmala Srivastava, more widely known as "Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi" or "Mother" by followers, who believe she is an incarnation of the Adi Shakti, the primordial divine power. The term Sahaja Yoga is also used to refer to the Sahaja Yoga International (Vishwa Nirmala Dharma) organization, a 'new religious movement' which she founded in 1970 in Nargol, India.[2]

The practice and associated organization grew from India and spread internationally, and there are now meditation centers around the world [1]. The methods for practicing Sahaja Yoga are made available free of charge to those interested, and the organization claims the practice of Sahaja Yoga results in rapid, even instant Self-realization and Kundalini awakening [3].

The practice has also notably been taught to prisoners in Italy and the United States, such as at Rikers Island to "help the prisoners' social, psychological and spiritual recovery"[4][5]

The organization has been criticized by writer Sudhir Kakar who describes the organization as a cult. [6].

Sahaja Yoga meditation


Main article: Kundalini

Sahaja Yoga teaches that there are seven main energy points, or chakras, on the subtle body [6] that can be balanced by awakening the Kundalini, a normally dormant energy which exists in every human being. When self-realization is achieved, a person will feel a cool breeze on top of their head.[7] If there is a feeling of warmth or heat, then the body has not achieved such balance.[8] Sahaja Yoga claims to provide an easier method, (Kakar describes it as "instant"[6]) of attaining this state than other traditional methods such as Hatha Yoga, which rely on physical postures and breathing exercises to attain self-realisation.[9]


Sahaja Yoga teaches that in addition to our physical body there is a spiritual one, a 'Subtle system' comprised of channels (Nadis) and energy centers or plexuses (chakras), which affect our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well being[7].

Each chakra possesses different qualities, some of which may remain hidden. Once the Kundalini is awoken and rises through these centres, the qualities begin manifesting spontaneously.

Chakra[8][9] Associated color Associated qualities Associated Element Symbol
sahasrāra, सहस्रार White or Multicolored Self Realization, Meditation, Yoga, Joy, Collective Consciousness, Integration, Recognition, Knowledge - Sahasrarasimple.png

Ajñā, आज्ञा (or Agnya)
White Thoughtless Awareness, Forgiveness of others and self, Morality Light Agnyasimple.png
Viśuddha, विशुद्ध (Vishuddhi) Blue Collectivity, Collective Communication, Self Respect/Confidence, Responsibility, Diplomacy, Witness Power, Freedom Ether 75px
Anāhata, अनाहत Red Security, Confidence, Immunity, Mariyadas, Love, Joy, Benevolence, Father/Husband/Brother Relationships, Sankoch, Sincerity, Protection, Respect Air 75px
maṇipūra, मणिपूर
Green Center of seeking, Satisfaction, Grace, Balance, Dignity, Generosity, Justice, Peace, Wealth, Household qualities, Respect for others. Water 75px
svādhiṣṭhāna, स्वाधिष्ठान
Yellow Pure Knowledge, Creativity, Aesthetics, Intellectual Perception, Pure Attention Fire 75px
Mūlādhāra, मूलाधार (Also Mooladhara) Red (indian red or coral red) Innocence, Purity, Wisdom, Auspiciousness, Magnetism, Spontaneity (Sahaj), Power to raise the Kundalini Earth, Carbon 75px

Position on head and hands

200px 200px
7 Sahasrara
6 Agnya
5 Vishuddhi
4 Anahat/heart
3 Nabhi/Manipura
2 Swadhistana
1 Muladhara

([10], [11])


  • Ida Nadi or the Left Sympathetic Nervous System
  • Pingala Nadi or Right Sympathetic Nervous System
  • Sushumna Nadi or the Parasympathetic Nervous System


Some Sahaja Yogis meditate on the photo of the founder, as this is believed to help in focusing the attention needed to aid in the rise of the Kundalini.[10] Soaking the feet in a bath of warm salt water, or walking in the sea, one of several techniques utilizing nature in conjunction with Sahaj methods, is said to help balance the meditator.[11]

Sahaja Yoga in medicine

Sahaja Yoga meditation has proven effective in addressing various medical ailments, including asthma[12][13], epilepsy[14], and ADHD[15]. Some of these claims have been scientifically confirmed. For example, some case studies have shown that test subjects who were practicing Sahaja Yoga meditation had "significant improvement in VCS (Visual Contrast Sensitivity)", and that meditation appeared to bring about changes in some of the electrophysiological responses studied in epileptic patients.[16] Other studies showed that Sahaja Yoga meditation results in fewer and less acute epileptic seizures [17] According to the Medical Observer Weekly, Sahaja Yoga was found to be more effective than other generic forms of meditation in the reduction of stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms.[18]

Short-term effects on asthma have also been noticed, by both objective and subjective measures.[13]

Sahaja Yoga claims that it has cured patients of "high blood pressure, asthma, epilepsy, diabetes, cancer, etc."[19][20] SY's commentary on a study by Mishra [RK], et al., 1993, suggests that an observed increase in beta-endorphins for meditating males could explain "so-called miraculous cures"[21]. Mishra reported that Sahaja Yoga meditation resulted in a "significant increase" in beta-endorphins between control and meditating subjects. [22]

The organization runs an international hospital in Mumbai, India, the Sahaja Yoga International Health and Research Centre, which uses Sahaja Yoga methods. This hospital claims to have been successful in curing incurable diseases such as (refractory) high blood pressure, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis.[18][23]

Shri Nirmala Srivastava has developed a liver diet to promote better health. White cane sugar, white rice, yogurt, ginger, fruits and vegetables promote the "cooling" of the liver. Alcohol, fried foods, red meat, fish, cream and chocolate are among the foods that are "heating" and thus may be harmful if taken in excess. [24]

Water vibrated spiritually can, according to the organization, change the characteristics of water, reulting in purification.[25]


The Sahaja Yoga organisation is overseen by the 31-member World Council for the Advancement of Sahaja Yoga (WCASY) (also known as the "Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi Sahaja Yoga World Foundation") that was proposed December 2003 and formed the following year. [26][27][28] In July 2005 the role of the WCASY was affirmed by Sir C. P. Srivastava speaking on behalf of Shri Mataji. [29]

Sahaja Yoga International (Vishwa Nirmala Dharma)


Vishwa Nirmala Dharma Logo

Sahaja Yoga International (also known as Vishwa Nirmala Dharma) is the organizational part of the movement. Founded in 1970 it has centers in almost 100 countries worldwide.[30][31]

Sahaja Yoga/Vishwa Nirmala Dharma is a registered Organisation in many countries such as Columbia[12], the United States of America[13], France[14] (has an "" website domain reserved for organisations)[15], and Austria[16]. It is registered as a religion in Spain.[32]

The organization runs meditation, cultural, and charity-related facilities and activities, including

  • Radio programs[33][34]
  • A hospital (described in the above section)
  • As of 2003, the Vishwa Nirmal Prem Ashram, Delhi, a project for the rehabilitation of "destitute women and orphaned children"[35].
  • The "Shri P. K. Salve Kala Pratishthan," an academy of Indian Classical Music and Fine Arts, in the Vaitarna region, in the state of Maharashtra near Bombay[36].

Vishwa Nirmal Prem ashram


A view of the main building

The Vishwa Nirmala Prem Ashram is a not-for profit project by the NGO Vishwa Nirmala Dharma (Sahaja Yoga International) located in Noida, Delhi, India, opened on December 27, 2003.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

It aims at:

  • Providing for basic needs and facilities of the destitute women and children
  • Giving them training and enable them to attain economic independence
  • Assist them in getting appropriate jobs
  • The members of the ashram would also be given spiritual guidance so that after going from the ashram, they would be able to face the difficulties of life in a better way and get appropriate livelihoods to gain self-reliance


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

As well as helping organize Sahaja Yoga events such as Realize America tour[17], The European realization tour[18], and Realize Australia[19], Yuvashakti is active in forums such as the World Youth Conference[20]and TakingITGlobal which aim at discussing global issues, and ways of solving them.

An example of this is the participation in the 2000 "Civil Society & Governance Project"[37] in which Yuvashakti were "instrumental in reaching out to women from the poor communities and providing them with work".

Sahaja Yoga culture


The Nirmal Bhakti Bhajan group

Because of the diversity of cultures practicing Sahaja Yoga, a range of different projects focusing on the similarities and differences between cultures was born, including the formation of musical groups playing fusion of different genres, such as Nirmal Bhakti[21] and Indialucia[22] including Rock and roll, Flamenco, Hip Hop, Qawwali and Indian classical music.[23]

Other projects

The World Council supports the creation of an 108-room Ashram complex in Chhindwara, near the birthplace of its founder.[38] Another project is the transfer of her audio and video tapes, many in delicate condition, to digital media. [39][40] The founder has given her intellectual property and several of her homes to the trust run by the World Council [41] to be used in future projects by the organization.


As of 2001, according to the author David V. Barrett, the movement had been criticized because of encouragement of its members to make donations to pay for Mataji's trips and "expensive properties."[42] Barrett further wrote that some former members say that they were expelled from the movement because they "resisted influence that Mataji had over their lives."[42] According to Barrett, Mataji's degree of control over members' lives has given raise to concerns. [42]

"Cult" allegations

Author Sudhir Kakar describes the organization as a cult in his 1982 book: Shamans, Mystics and Doctors[6].

Some sources in the press have reported on "cult" allegations surrounding the movement. In, 2001, The Independent reported that certain ex-members allege: "Sahaja Yoga is a cult which aims to control the minds of its members"[43]. The Evening Standard reported that Sahaja Yoga has been "described as a dangerous cult"[44], and "has a dissident website created by former members listing alleged abuses"[44].

Also in 2001, Australia's AAP reported that a general practitioner had been fined after grabbing a Sahaja Yoga critic "round the head and dragged him over a backyard fence"[45] - the AAP referred to Sahaja Yoga in their report as an "Indian cult"[45]. The physician had been part of a group delivering a letter to the critic from Nirmala Srivastava[45].

In 2005, The Record reported that some critics who feel that the group is a cult "have started Internet sites to detail their accusations.."[46].

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 The Hindu Monday, Apr 07, 2003 viewed 6 November 2006]
  2. Coney, Judith (1999) Sahaja Yoga: Socializing Processes in a South Asian New Religious Movement, (London: Curzon Press) ISBN 0-7007-1061-2
  4. An Unlikely Source for Meditative Study - Queen's tribune online
  5. Rome prison (Italy) will begin offering meditation and yoga to inmates Mirror of an article appearing in Ansa
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Sudhir Kakar, Shamans, Mystics and Doctors: A Psychological Inquiry into India and its Healing Traditions, 1982 University of Chicago Press
  7. Chakras and the Channels of Energy
  10. [1]
  11. Meditation Guide
  12. Manocha, R. "Sahaja yoga in asthma", Thorax 2003;58:825-826. URL: [2]
  13. 13.0 13.1 Manocha R, Marks G.B., Kenchington P., Peters D., Salome C.M. "Sahaja yoga in the management of moderate to severe asthma: a randomized controlled trial", Thorax 2003;57:110-115. URL: [3]
  14. Ramaratnam S., Sridharan K. "Yoga for epilepsy", Cochrane Database Syst Review 2000;(3):CD001524
  15. Harrison, L.J., Manocha R., Rubia, K. "Sahaja Yoga Meditation as a Family Treatment Programme for Children with Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder", Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry 2004;9(4):479-497. URL: [4]
  16. Panjwani U., Selvamurthy W., Singh S.H., Gupta H.L., Mukhopadhyay S., Thakur L. "Effect of Sahaja yoga meditation on auditory evoked potentials (AEP) and visual contrast sensitivity (VCS) in epileptics", Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback 2000;25(1):1-12
  17. Panjwani U, Selvamurthy W, Singh SH, Gupta HL, Thakur L, Rai UC. "Effect of sahaja yoga practice on seizure control & EEG changes in patients of epilepsy." Indian J Med Res 1996;103: 165-72.[ISI][Medline]
  18. 18.0 18.1 "Making sense of meditation", August 13, 2004, Medical Observer Weekly
  21. "Alterations in physiological parameters during Sahaja Yoga meditation", reference-commentary (9)
  22. Ram Mishra, (a.k.a., Prof. Ram K. Mishra[5]), Cia Barlas, A. Pradhan), "Effect of meditation on plasma beta-endorphins in humans", 1993, (publication details unknown). Mishra's study abstract no. 257 was web-posted at U. of Arizona Center for Consciousness Studies, Department of Psychology, abstracts page, for speakers on Friday, April 7, (2006?) (server page last modified 2006-03-29). Quote: "The present study was undertaken to evaluate the effectiveness of the meditative practice of Sahaja yoga on plasma ß-endorphin levels. .... There was a significant increase (p<0.01) between control and meditating subjects when controlled for age and gender. Female subjects, however, displayed less increase in the ß-endorphins as compared to male subjects. ...."
  23. Medical research literature on Sahaja Yoga meditation
  24. Sahaja Yoga: Liver Diet
  25. Research on the effect of vibrations on water
  26. Message to all the Sahaja Yogis of the world from Arneau de Kalbermatten, Coordinator of the World Council
  27. [ A productive second session of the WCASY at Guru Puja in New Jersey
  29. Historic video affirming the role of The World Council Of Sahaja Yoga
  30. "A message for one and all", April 7, 2003, The Hindu
  31. List of Sahaja Yoga centers
  32. Vishwa Nirmala Dharma - Religion in Spain
  33. Sahaja Yoga Radio Programs
  35. Project description
  37. Case Study Civil Society & Governance Project, February 2000 Vinita Tatke Viewed 6 November 2006
  38. Shri Mataji’s Holy Birthplace: Chhindwara Project
  39. Safeguarding the Original Audio and Video Tapes of Shri Mataji
  40. An Appeal: Safeguarding The Original Audio and Video Tapes Of Shri Mataji
  41. Gift of Cabella Properties to the World Sahaj Collective
  42. 42.0 42.1 42.2 Barrett, David V. The New Believers (Cassell 2001) ISBN 0-304-35592-5 pages 297-298
  43. "Shri who must be obeyed; She's been hailed as a saint: a selfless distributor of goodness and light. But, on the eve of her appearance at the Royal Albert Hall, Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi is under attack.", The Independent, London, England, Mary Braid, Beatrice Newbery, July 13, 2001
  44. 44.0 44.1 "Monday night with the divine mother.", The Evening Standard, London, England, July 18, 2001, John Crace
    Word has got round that a journalist is asking questions outside Holland Park Comprehensive, where Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi will shortly be addressing her Sahaja Yoga devotees. A smart young man approaches me purposefully. "Do please come inside and listen," he says pleasantly. "Feel free to talk to whomever you want." Access to all areas is not the sort of invite one expects from a group that was last week described as a dangerous cult, has a dissident website created by former members listing alleged abuses and about which the respected Cult...
  45. 45.0 45.1 45.2 "Qld: Doctor fined over yoga dispute", AAP General News, Australia, November 12, 2001.
    Brisbane's District Court has been told a GP grabbed a man round the head and dragged him over a backyard fence -- accusing him of befouling members of an Indian cult. The court was told Dr BOHDAN MYRON SHEHOVYCH was among a group delivering a letter to the man from the founder of the meditation religion, Sahaja Yoga. The 52-year-old doctor from the New South Wales central coast today pleaded guilty to entering a house at Mount Ommaney in Brisbane' west and assaulting TERENCE RICHARD BLACKLEY on March 3 this year. The court heard the group was delivering a letter to BLACKLEY from spiritual leader SHRI MATAJI NIRMALA DEVI, alleging spiritual and criminal wrongdoings. Judge KERRY O'BRIEN today told the doctor that someone of his intelligence should have known better than to behave in that manner. He's fined Dr SHEHOVYCH $1,500 but did not record a conviction.
  46. "Hundreds fill weekend with devotion, bliss", The Record, John Chadwick, July 24, 2005, Bergen County, New Jersey. (Local Section)
    The movement has its share of critics, some of whom describe it as a cult and have started Internet sites to detail their accusations. One site portrayed Mataji as a manipulative leader who exercised a high degree of control over members' lives, including arranging and breaking up marriages. "I have witnessed Mataji order loving couples to divorce," one former member said on a Web site.

Further reading

  • Pullar, Philippa (1984) The Shortest Journey, ISBN 0-04-291018-8
  • Kakar, Sudhir (1984) Shamans, Mystics and Doctors: A Psychological Inquiry into India and Its Healing Traditions, ISBN 0-226-42279-8
  • Rai, Umesh (1993) Medical science enlightened: new insight into vibratory awareness for holistic health care (New Delhi: Life Eternal Trust) ISBN 81-900325-0-X
  • Descieux, Flore (1995) The Light of the Koran: Knowledge through Sahaja Yoga (Paris: La Pensee Universelle, 1995; English translation: New Delhi: Ritana Books, 1998) ISBN 8185250026
  • Apte, Arun (1997) Music and Sahaja Yoga (Pune: NITL)
  • Coney, Judith (1999) Sahaja Yoga: Socializing Processes in a South Asian New Religious Movement, (London: Curzon Press) ISBN 0-7007-1061-2
  • de Kalbermatten, Gregoire (2003) The Third Advent (New York: Daisy America, 2003; Melbourne: Penguin Australia, 2004; Delhi: Penguin India, 2004) ISBN 1-932406-07-7

External links

Sahaja Yoga International

Sahaja Yoga meditation


Sahaja Yoga in art and music

Other sites

Critical sites

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