Sahaja Yoga

Doctrines Sahaja means spontaneity, and the basis of Sahaja Yoga is spontaneous union with the divine. This is accomplished through kundalini yoga, which is claimed to awaken a powerful spiritual energy located at the base of the spine. With Mataji's help, kundalini can be awakened in anyone. When it happens, practitioners are said to feel a cool breeze on the palms of their hands and above their heads. The experience also produces deep peace and happiness, and leads to enlightenment when it reaches the top cakra. As they develop 'vibratory awareness', devotees can tell from feelings of coolness and heat and from discomfort in their own cakras (energy centres on the central nervous system) where their own people's cakras are blocked and learn to heal themselves and others. They believe in deities who personify the qualities of the cakras. The ultimate aim, as with most yoga-based teachings, is self-realization.

History Sahaja yoga was founded in 1970 by Sri Mataji Devi (b. 1923), known simply as Mataji or the Divine Mother. She was born into a Protestant family in central India, and her husband is a high ranking official in the United Nations, but Sahaja Yoga is in many ways a traditional Hindu path. She was originally a disciple of Osho but fell out with him and set up her own movement. Mataji teaches mainly in Britain and India, but also has disciples worldwide and travels extensively.
Sahaj Yoga is unusual among NRMs and indeed all religions in being founded and led by a woman, but the movement is not feminist or not matriarchal, and women are encouraged to be meek, submissive and 'feminine' in imitation of traditional Indian wives. Leadership positions are held almost exclusively by men. There appears to be a fairly high turnover among the membership which is not growing, but there have been no public scandals. However, there is some concern at the high level of commitment demanded by Mataji. There is also concern about the separation of children from their parents at the movement's school in India and the strictness of the discipline, although it is not compulsory for children to be educated there.

Symbols Traditional imagery of the divine drawn from Hindu and Tantric sacred texts is important in Sahaja Yoga, particularly the shakti or original feminine principle of which Mataji herself claims to be an incarnation. As Lakshmi, the wife of the God Vishnu, she is the model of the ideal wife upon which female disciples are expected to model themselves, and which Mataji herself is seen as exemplifying perfectly. As an enlightened guru and the Adi Shakti she also represents the divine feminine. Photographs of Mataji are also used as symbols in meditation. Devotion may also be expressed through the ancient Hindu ritual of pouring a 'nectar' of honey, ghee, etc over Mataji's feet, which is kept and drunk. As discussed, the symbolism of kundalini yoga is also central.

Adherents The movement claims approximately 20,000 members worldwide, half in India, with another 100,000 loosely associated (INFORM leaflet on Sahaj Yoga).

Main Centre
 44 Chelsham Road, London SW4, UK.
17301 S. Maria, Cerritos, Ca 90701, USA.