“Contribution of the Satyananda Tradition to Yoga
Sri Swamiji and the Satyananda tradition have made a major contribution to yoga and sannyasa. In order to systematize the practices of yoga it was necessary to create a sequential progression in the structure of yoga, and that is what Sri Swamiji has achieved. To Sri Swamiji goes the credit for the combinations of techniques and presentation of the pawanmuktasana series, parts one (anti-rheumatic), two (anti-gastric) and three (shakti bandhas). He also incorporated components of tantric nyasa into the yogic system in the form of yoga nidra. The sequence in which the practices of pranayama are taught today by the majority of yogic schools was propagated from Munger. The reasons for the practice of mudras and the physiological and psychological effects of the bandhas are other different aspects of the yogic practices which were systematized so that they could be understood, practised and experienced.
In the course of time Sri Swamiji also brought forth the practices of kriya yoga from the recesses of the yoga and tantra shastras which, as taught by the Satyananda system, are one of only two forms of kriya recognized the world over, the other being that of Paramahamsa Yogananda, of the Mahavatar Babaji tradition.
Another contribution has been the discovery of tantric nyasa concentration and meditation techniques, which were presented in their basic form in the book Meditations from the Tantras. Then came classification of the dharana techniques and the pratyahara techniques, as well as bringing to light the subject of yoga as viewed in the different vedic and upanishadic texts.
The practice of yoga nidra has had a major impact on the world of yoga. Yoga nidra is a pratyahara technique in which the distractions of the mind are contained and the mind is allowed to relax. The two main thrusts of yoga nidra are visualizing and experiencing what is in the deeper mind. This practice has definitely had a transformative effect on practitioners. It has also been possible for people to be trained and educated through the practice of yoga nidra. In my early childhood I had the pleasure of being guided through yoga nidra by Sri Swamiji and it is only now that I am becoming aware of the depth of the instruction and training I received.
Another technique of pratyahara is antar mouna which deals with the activities of the conscious mind. In antar mouna there is awareness of the thoughts, creating, transforming and finally gaining control of the thought process. The pratyahara techniques have different levels and stages of practice, which have been clarified and explained by the Satyananda tradition.
The Satyananda yoga tradition has also contributed in giving a different dimension to the concept of sannyasa. Swami Sivananda was one of the first to initiate women into sannyasa. There was a lot of opposition but he began the process and made sannyasa initiation for women socially acceptable. After Swami Sivananda, it was Swami Satyananda who took it a stage beyond and made sannyasa for women internationally acceptable. He gave sannyasa initiation not only to women but also to spiritual aspirants from overseas. For the first time foreigners were accepted into sannyasa by Sri Swamiji himself, and later on by his tradition. Today it has become established and there are no bars or opposition.
In the sannyasa tradition Sri Swamiji also encouraged the building up of the idea of sannyasa in the lives of householders by giving initiation into karma sannyasa. This has rejuvenated the sannyasa tradition immensely. Previously the idea had been confined to only the few who were inclined to follow the sannyasa aim in life. The rest of the world saw sannyasa as a means of escaping from worldly involvement. Sri Swamiji initiated householders into karma sannyasa to live a family life, not only as husband and wife, but also to learn how to live like sannyasins, as guru brothers and sisters. As a continuation, initiation into jignasu sannyasa was incorporated into the system. Rishi sannyasa has also been given to committed and dedicated sannyasins who want to live together as husband and wife and who have been able to maintain their balance, harmony and clear vision.
In this way there has been wide social acceptance of sannyasa as an alternative way of life, in which one learns to balance the material with the spiritual. Today sannyasa is seen more as a responsibility one takes upon oneself to cherish and to fulfil those ideals in one’s life. It is not seen as escapism but as dynamic participation. These have been some of the contributions of Satyananda yoga to the sannyasa tradition.
In order to provide a clear vision of the yogic, tantric and vedic traditions, Sri Swamiji touched upon and brought together all three structures. He brought to light concepts from the tantric and vedic traditions which aid in human growth and evolution and presented them along with the yogic lifestyle.
The tantric tradition believes there is a swabhava, a nature, within everyone, which can evolve by following certain disciplines. The tantric disciplines also focus on health, physical purity and balance in lifestyle, interactions and behaviour, and on a proper investigative approach to finding out methods by which yoga could be adopted to meet various social, physical and therapeutic needs. Tantra also teaches aspects of shuddhi, purification of body, mind and emotions, and awakening of the dormant shakti which is seen by many as the primordial force, or as kundalini.
Tantra believes in following a pattern of life in which there is integration of the faculties of intellect and heart. The faculties of intellect are discrimination and concentration. The faculties of the heart are seeing the unseen, having glimpses of the transcendental or cosmic consciousness beyond the non-material. Sri Swamiji adopted the meditative techniques of tantra and incorporated them into the body of yoga so that both can supplement each other.
From the vedic tradition has come the sannyasa lifestyle devoted to study of the eternal principles governing life. The sannyasa lifestyle does not mean belonging to a particular denomination or sect, but preserving those human values through which it is possible to experience transformations leading to greater equilibrium and harmony.
The approach of the vedic tradition towards education has focused more on providing the right samskaras. Everyone is free to follow their own vocation in life but with a constructive samskara in which there is no self-denial. From the yogic point of view this samskara will lead to transformation of the mind, the intellect, and the inner self.
In the field of transformation, mind management is an ability which is acquired through the practices of yoga. How perfect one’s yoga is can be seen by how the mental personality is handled, how the thoughts are managed, what the train of thought is, how one observes and becomes watchful of the subtle interactions of ego, desires, passions and needs. One goes through a transformative experience, or in yogic terminology one experiences the fusion of prana with mahaprana.
In Sri Swamiji’s life we have observed that the focus of his teachings and lifestyle has always been on the development of the inner personality, the inner nature, leading to ananda, bliss, fulfilment, contentment.”