Swami Muktananda: Biography & Abuse Allegations Of Siddha Yoga Founder

Last Updated:

*Disclaimer* There have been many sexual abuse allegations against Swami Muktananda. We stand with the victims and hope that our articles can shed light on the truth.

Swami Muktananda, also known as Baba, was a yoga guru and the founder of Siddha Yoga. He was an influential teacher in the twentieth century.

He wrote a number of books and established more than six hundred meditation centers and ashrams throughout the world.

While his reach was significant in the West he was also accused of sexual misconduct and rape within the community.

In this article we’ll take a look at:

  • The life of Swami Muktananda
  • What is Siddha Yoga?
  • Abuse allegations against Swami Muktananada

Sexual misconduct allegations

There are questions around the ethical conduct of Swami Muktananda who spoke of celibacy being important for the spiritual path. Some have pointed out that he “violated his own rules” and did not act according to the principles of yoga.

Religious scholar and yoga author Andrea Jain has written that Swami “ Muktananda engaged in secret sexual rituals with several of his young female disciples – some of whom were teenagers –  that were meant to transmit sakti to the tantric hero.”

An open letter was written by one of the Siddha Yoga swamis, Stan Trout accusing Muktananda of sexual relations with young girls. There were also anonymous reports from women who said they were raped by him.

It is said that he drew young women into sex with him under the guise of tantric rituals.

Like so many of the gurus who have entered the Western sphere, it appears that power and fame led to questionable boundaries and behaviors.

Swami Muktananda‘s Biography

Swami Muktananda‘s Early life

Born in 1908, Swami Muktananda was originally named Krishna Rai. He was born in Madras, British India, into a wealthy family.

Swami Muktananda‘s Studies

At the young age of fifteen he met Bhagawan Niyananda who led him towards the spiritual path.

He left his family home to pursue God, and he studied yoga, Vedanta and Sanskrit and was initiated into the Sarasvati order of the Dashanami Sampradaya. It was after his initiation that he was renamed Swami Muktananda.

On the death of his teacher Siddharudha, he studied under Muppinaraya before studying with many teachers along the way while walking through India.

Swami Muktananda‘s Spiritual initiation

In 1947 he received shaktipat (a type of spiritual initiation) from Bhagavan Nityananda and it was at this time that he said his true spiritual journey began. From here on in, he immersed himself in the practices of yoga.

Following his shaktipat he spent almost ten years meditating and writing in a hut in Yeola. It was important to him to have solitude while on the path of spirituality.

Swami Muktananda Establishes Siddha Yoga

In 1956 Bhagawan Nityananda made Swmai Muktananda the leader of an ashram near Bombay, and it was around this time that he began teaching Siddha Yoga which was based not on the bodily practices we know associated with yoga but with meditation.

Subsequently, he did three world tours where he established Siddha Yoga centers and ashrams throughout the globe.

In October 1982 Swami Muktananda died. He was buried in the samadhi shrine in Gurudev Siddha Peeth.

“God dwells within you as you”

– Swami Muktananda

God dwells within you was the essence of Swami Muktananda’s teachings and the practices of Siddha Yoga were about uncovering this.

It is said that Swami Muktananda was a “shaktipat guru” because so many experienced the awakening of kundalini while in his presence.

Shaktipat initiation was in the past only for those deeply committed to the spiritual path, but Swami Muktananda made shaktipat available to the many.

What is Siddha Yoga?

Siddha Yoga is a spiritual path based on the philosophies of the East.

Founded by Swami Muktananda, it draws on the teachings of Vedanta as well as Kashmir Shaivism, pre-modern hatha yoga, and the Bhagavad Gita. Gurumayi Chidvilasananda currently heads the organization.

Siddha Yoga is learned at ashrams of which there are many situated throughout the world. The two main sites are Gurudev Siddha Peeth in Ganeshpuri and Shree Muktananda Ahram in New York.

Siddha = perfect

Swami Muktananda called his approach Siddha Yoga or “perfect yoga” because in it he includes all four yogas which are seen as the path to enlightenment.

All Four Paths Of Yoga:

  • Jnana yoga – The path of knowledge of wisdom. The process of reason leads to enlightenment for the Jnana yogi, and it is through self-inquiry and techniques of logic that one is led to liberation.
  • Karma yoga – The yoga of action and selfless service. Karma yoga is known as “doing the right thing.” Karma yoga is the opposite of selfish tendencies and requires detachment from the fruits of one’s actions. There is no emphasis on personal gain and actions are done with a sense of oneness. An excellent example of a karma yogi is Mother Teressa.
  • Raja yoga – The royal path of yoga. To clear the mind of disturbances so the divine can shine through is Raja yoga. The mind is to be calmed through meditation in order to reveal our true essence. Raja yogis use Patanjali’s Eight Limbed Path to guide them.
  • Bhakti yoga – the yoga of devotion to the divine. This form of yoga relies on surrender to the divine, and chanting and puja are a big part of Bhakti yoga.
a woman meditating with a sun on her chers

Swami Muktananda was known for wanting to start a “meditation revolution,” and in order to achieve this, he founded the non-profit corporation SYDA Foundation (Siddha Yoga Dham Associates).

The foundation provided workshops to aid people with their spiritual development and the path of self-inquiry.

The practices of Siddha Yoga help each individual establish an experience of yoga and a sense of oneness with God. Ultimately like all paths of traditional yoga, it is concerned with liberation and enlightenment.

In 1974 in Colorado, Swami Muktananda offered the first Shaktipat intensive. All participants received initiation and support in order to develop their meditation practice.  Previously shaktipat had only been available to those who had an existing spiritual practice.

The Siddha Yoga ashram in Oakland, San Francisco was founded in 1975 and the Shree Muktananda ashram in South Fallsburg was opened the following year.

Swami Muktananda‘s Death

Before his death on October 2nd 1982 Swami Muktananda handed over the Siddha Yoga legacy and running’s to both Gurumayi and Subhash Shetty.

It was after Swami Muktananda’s death that many of the claims against him regarding sexual misconduct came to light.

a photo of hands doing a spiralled energy transmission

Swami Muktananda‘s Influence

Swami Muktananda had a significant influence on the West and was subsequently featured in both New York Magazine and Time magazine in 1976. He was considered a guru.

Swami Muktananda founded a Prison Project in 1979 to bring the path of Siddha Yoga to inmates.

What are the practices?

Siddha Yoga is predominantly based on meditation and the practice of pratyahara – turning the attention inwards and away from the sense organs. It also involves the use of mantras. The primary mantra used within Siddha Yoga is Om Namah Shivaya.

The practices of Siddha Yoga also include group chanting, talks, and meditations. Intensive offerings are available and were initiated by Swami Muktananda, and they continue to this day.

Another facet of the practice is seva. Also known as “selfless service” this spiritual practice often manifests as volunteer work at the ashrams and meditation centers. Acts of seva lead to the benefit and gain of all but the important thing to remember is that seva is not performed for individual gain or outcome.

Other practices are an important part of the Siddha Yoga tradition. These include Japa (mantra repetition) and contemplation.

a group of people meditating together on yoga mats

What Is Shaktipat?

Shaktipat is one of the main facets of Siddha Yoga. Shaktipat is where a guru awakens the kundalini within the student in order to further their journey towards self-realization.

Shaktipat or “initiation by descent of divine power” is an awakening of Kundalini (our dormant energy located at the base of the spine). The awakening of Kundalini is said to aid an individual’s path to attaining transformation.

What is kundalini?

Kundalini is believed to be divine feminine energy. It is also referred to as shakti and represents the energy of the universe. It is believed to lie dormant at the base of each of our spines and yoga practices and shaktipat are used to awaken and move this energy up the spine.

Kundalini (one of its meanings is snake), is often depicted as a coiled snake that lies at the base of the spine.

The Siddha foundation goes online

In the early 2010s, SYDA utilized online offerings and made its website the main hub for teaching and learning. This was initiated to make teachings more accessible but also meant that there were staff cuts.

SYDA was one of the first sites to offer livestream programs although this only fully took place during the 2020 pandemic.

Swami Muktananda roundup

Swami Muktananda was an influential guru and founder of Siddha Yoga. While his teachings are considered important, they are often overshadowed by his misconduct and sexual abuse within the yoga community.

Swami Muktananda founded Siddha Yoga which relies on shaktipat and the tools of meditation to further a student’s path to self-realization.

What next?

If you’re interested in learning more about influential teachers and gurus within the modern period, then why not check out B.K.S. Iyengar | Biography and teachings.

Photo of author
Sarah is a Brighton-based yoga teacher and teacher trainer with a passion for teaching self-inquiry and rest.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.