Sri Mataji's Sahaja Yoga by Simon M.

Note: The following material is posted by permission of the author who writes on the basis of first-hand knowledge of the movement. He provides an informal report that reflects his individual understanding and experience. Such a report may serve as data for academic studies of the movement about which he writes. Hence its presence here.

Part One

I just want to pass on some things that may not be generally known. There may be people who know much more than me, I was only involved for 6 years or so.

'Her Holiness Sri Mataji Nirmala Devi' [trans: Honourable, Respected Mother, Pure, Goddess] is called Mrs N Srivastava - I shall refer to her as that from here on. She is one of the many 'mega-gurus' that have come out of India in recent decades.

The central belief of Sahaja Yoga is that Mrs N Srivastava is the incarnation of the supreme Goddess or Primordial Power (Adi Shakti). Basically she is seen as God in the feminine form. All of the previous divine incarnations recognised by Sahaja Yoga (Jesus, Virgin Mary, Mohammed, Fatima, Ali, Buddha, Krishna, Rama, Mahavira, Guru Nanak, Socrates, Sai Baba of Shirdi, etc, etc) are supposed to be included in her all embracing divinity. Thus when any of these are worshipped, they are not actually worshipped, rather Mrs Srivastava is worshipped. As the Supreme Goddess she is also supposed to be able to grant 'kundalini awakening' - a kind of instantaneous enlightenment. Even her photograph is supposed to have this power.

However, things were not always so. When Srivastava first set up Sahaja Yoga in 1970 there was none of this. This group would meet together and practise a vipassana-type meditation where they observed their thoughts - and Srivastava would lecture them on leading moral lives. Later she 'discovered' the Sahaja Yoga method of raising people's Kundalini (although why the Supreme Goddess would be ignorant of this beforehand is a little tricky). When Srivastava introduced her British followers (she went to live there in '72) to 'puja' (the Hindu ceremony of worship) they originally worshipped images on a puja tray. The first puja to Srivastava was done to her as guru rather than goddess. Only later did she reveal that she was the supreme goddess and all worship was directed to her.

Incidentally, this same gradual process is applied to 'new people' in Sahaja Yoga. They are not told the real beliefs for fear that they would run a mile - these are only introduced gradually when the neophyte is felt to be ready (this is not a formal procedure).

For now let me give you a little bit of history on Mrs Srivastava:

Mrs N Srivastava was a follower of 'Bhagwan Rajneesh' ('Osho' - hereafter called Bogwash) before setting up Sahaja Yoga. My friend has looked into this and has heard it from 7 independent sources including Bogwash's writings and an early follower of Bogwash. She herself has spoken of the time before Sahaja Yoga when she went around India exposing the Mega-Gurus as demons (all these Gurus, according to Mrs Srivastava, are the reincarnations of demons [asuras] that she defeated in her previous 'divine' incarnations) and included a story of her meeting with Bogwash. At least one of the early British Sahaja Yogis was aware that this association lasted at least a few months. The early Indian Sahaja Yogis may actually have been followers of Bogwash who broke away with Srivastava - the official story is that they followed a Maharashtrian guru who rode on a tiger and recognised Srivastava as the Goddess (a la John the Baptist) but did not join Sahaja Yoga.

I think that all of the earliest Indian Sahaja Yogis have either died, left or been thrown out of Sahaja Yoga. Even if some have come back they may not be willing to divulge the truth on this matter. According to Bogwash's written words, Srivastava was a close disciple of his who broke away from him after they had visited Mega-Guru Muktananda together. Apparently she said to him, "If that stupid fellow can be a guru then anyone can." Soon after she set up Sahaja Yoga. The fact that Bogwash refers to her being in his car with him indicates her high position among his following as any follower of a mega-guru will know.

Nothing shocking here the non-Sahaja Yogi reader may be thinking - but for Sahaja yogis this piece of history is a massive heresy and could never possibly be true. Srivastava condemns all the mega-gurus as demons who are out to capture the souls of their followers, but she reserves special condemnation for Bogwash. Check out ex-Sahaja Yogini Phillipa Pullar's (sp?) book "The Shortest Journey" that has some information on this (Bogwash is the guru whose name is not mentioned of whom Srivastava wrote a condemnation for an ex-Bogwash follower to sign) and other aspects of Sahaja Yoga that you don't see so much today (eg Srivastava personally exorcising TM followers of malevolent spirits implanted by means of mantras).

Part Two

I've recently looked at all the Sahaja Yoga stuff on the web. There's not that much really but a lot more than there was the first time I looked about 18 months ago. You would expect any group to give a one-sided account of their activities. I feel impelled to give another point of view. I would like to focus today on the only criticism on the Web of Sahaja Yoga.

It is merely an upload of cult information presented in the Observer newspaper, a British quality Sunday broadsheet.

No cult likes to be called a cult, but the term is particularly offensive
to the middle class and professional followers of Sahaja Yoga.

Mataji doesn't like it therefore they don't like it. She is keen on having 'middle class and professional followers' and openly says to her follower that she wants them recruited rather than the drop-outs she got so many of in the past.

Nevertheless, stories of split families, children sent away at
five to Sahaja boarding schools, plus the size of donations made by
followers to their guru Mataji, continue to tar this movement's image.

Split families: If one spouse becomes a Sahaja Yogi [= SY] it will inevitable lead to conflict with the other spouse because the SY will change so much. Also if the couple are both SYs and one leaves or gets chucked out by Mataji then conflict is also likely. When it comes to fighting for custody of kids in court it becomes important to convince all that SY is not a cult.

I didn't know there were so many boarding schools, things grow I suppose. Yes, kids (even younger than 5 I suspect) get sent there to 'clear out'. One prominent Sahaja Yogini advised that if they misbehaved the kids should be struck on the chakra where they were possessed.

Big donations are made to the Movement and I'm pretty sure that Mataji receives some money personally although I'm sure most SYs would vehemently deny this. Money is also raised by other means (eg surcharges on SY events like puja and India tours) which are far from transparent. Certainly I saw money given to her in envelopes which she put in her handbag, this was supposedly 'money for projects in India'. There have also been cases of leaders in SY embezzling money. However, Mataji comes from a wealthy background and I don't think she's set up Sahaja Yoga just for the money.

Disciples meditate in front of pictures of Mataji, who has cryptically
referred to herself as the Holy Ghost, Christ, Adi Shakti, the wife of
Krishna, and the Virgin Mary.

Basically she's seen as the Supreme Goddess, all the rest are merely aspects of her divinity.

They are also encouraged to watch videos of Mataji
and to make pilgrimages to her palace near Poona in India

I wouldn't quite describe it as a palace but it's a damn big house. I suspect that the money of Sahaja Yogis was used to build it. Certainly many went and worked for free to build it. Perhaps this was one of the 'projects in India'.

where she sometimes conducts mass weddings.

Every year mass weddings are conducted on the India tour. Mass weddings may also be held in other places too. These weddings are usually arranged by Mataji, if not then at least the weddings will have received her approval. In earlier times Mataji may have actually selected the partners in all cases. Now this will usually be left to her deputies and she will just approve their choices (probably merely glancing at the photos on the marriage application forms). I think that many Sahaja Yogis may not know this and rather believe that Mataji is still making all the matches. Often people are married to others who do not even share a common language. I heard of one lady who ran out of her marriage on the wedding night because her 'divinely chosen' spouse produced a schoolgirl gym-slip and asked her to put it on. Inevitably many of these marriages fall apart. The real damage occurs when children have already been conceived.

She is the wife of a wealthy Indian UN envoy.

Mr C P Srivastava was Secretary General to the United Nations International Maritime Organisation in London. I believe that previously he was a personal secretary or something to Indian PM Shastri. Maybe when Mrs Gandhi came into power he got sent abroad to a politically neutral post. Mataji certainly doesn't like Mrs Gandhi. I wonder how far she is driven by an unconscious desire to seek revenge by becoming an 'International Spiritual Mrs Gandhi'. Naturally, Mr Srivastava did not take kindly to journalists phoning him at work about his wife's activities.

though neither he nor her children are members of the movement.

A bit difficult to treat your wife as the Goddess, especially when you are a Muslim. I believe that at least one of the granddaughters is/was a believer (so Mataji said anyway).

There has been speculation among Sahaja Yogis whether Mr Srivastava is actually a deity, perhaps even Sadashiva - God Almighty Himself. One Sahaja Yogi dismissed the idea because he knew that Mr S beats Mataji which he didn't think a deity would do.

In 1986, British devotees paid 300,000
in order that the movement might buy a mansion near Cambridge.

And a whole lot more money went into renovating it. Also many Sahaja Yogis went to work there for free - of course signing on the dole at the same time.

(Five years later an Italian castle was added to Mataji's impressive property portfolio.)
Sahaja Yoga involves the bodily awakening of 'Kundalini', which moves
through the body's seven 'chakras'.
Shoe-beating, lemons and chillies are used to combat energy-sucking demons.

Some of the more crazy practices. I think the lemons and chillies is not original though and it's a folk belief in India.

Reason to join: Even if it doesn't work you'll get fit.

Nonsense. Exercise is not really encouraged. You'll probably put on weight. Mataji's recommendation that many people consume more white sugar won't help.

Reason not to join: You want no part of shoe-beating.

Also you want to be able to hold your own beliefs rather than have them dictated to you on every subject under the sun.

Bottom line: 'We're not out to change people or recruit people.

This is quite simply a lie.

We believe that Sahaja is out and out enjoyment.

That's the theory maybe. Not the reality for most I am sure.

We encourage the family circle and think that being happy is the most wonderful
thing in the world.'
- Leader of the Worcester Sahaja group,
in response to a local newspaper front page story about the Sahaja movement.

Actually the highest aim is to be an obedient child of Mataji.

* Be warned that people who mishandle their Kundalini will, "when
confronted with Sahaja Yoga start trembling and shaking like lunatics".

This does happen although we need not accept the Sahaja Yoga explanation for this phenomenon.
From: toby patterson
Subject: sahaja yoga
To: Observer Web
Date: Thu, 15 Jun 95 21:2
Ridiculous, you should research your material in greater depth.

At least they had got behind the public facade although the journalistic style was a little flippant. It is true that one might expect better from the Observer, usually a good quality Sunday paper. However, this was probably one of their more light-hearted sections. Personally I cannot condemn the use of ridicule in reporting Sahaja Yoga.

The integrity and standing of the person discussed is well known by many
international figures. She is very highly respected in many countries.

Mataji is very well connected. Her father was also a politician. Political, economic and spiritual influence is a formala that has payed off for many of India's mega-gurus.

Should you have any real interest in S.Y. you should interview the nearest center.

A good way to get more of the PR spiel.

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