- International Yoga Fellowship
- (est. 1980s)The International Yoga Fellowship has grown out of the work of Swami Satyananda Saraswati (b. 1923), a former disciple of Swami Shivananda Saraswati (1887–1963).Satyananda took the vows of the renounced life (sannyas) in 1943 and subsequently spent 12 years at Shivananda’s Divine Life Society based in Rishikish, India. He then spent nine years wandering India in pursuit of divinity. In 1964, the year after Shivananda’s death, Satyanananda founded the Bihar School of Yoga, and to honor his guru and his teachings, established the Shiva-nanda Ashram on the shores of the GANGES. Here, Satyananda continued to pursue his guru’s ideas that everyone should have access to YOGA and spirituality, despite caste, marital status, or other challenges. He also explored the possibilities of a tantric path to God (see TANTRISM).As did his guru, Satyanananda believed in outreach programs to share their teachings. His missionary focus took him far and wide, first throughout India, then to other destinations. During the 1970s, he founded 10 ashrams in India. However, his more significant missionary activity occurred outside India. The develop-ment of the ashrams abroad had begun after his 1968 world tour to disseminate his teachings. Leaving India he encouraged missionary activ-ity in Ireland, England, Greece, France, Sweden, Colombia, Australia, and Indonesia. Encouraged by the response, he founded the International Yoga Fellowship.Satyananda’s work entered the United States prior to his world tour. First, Llewellyn Publica-tions in St. Paul, Minnesota, published a major work by Swami Anandakapila (aka John Mum-ford), who had been a major supporter and stu-dent of Satyananda in Australia. The publication of Sexual Occultism became the springboard of Mumford’s 1976 tour to teach tantra and pro-mote its study. Not long afterward, a New York publisher released Yoga, Tantra and Meditation by Janakananda Saraswati, a teacher of Satyananda’s work in Scandinavia.Meanwhile, in 1965, students and disciples of Satyananda began to migrate to the United States, taking their teachings with them from India. The new immigrants formed small gatherings. In the 1980s, Swami Niranjannan Saraswati (b. 1960) began to organize ASHRAMS for the International Yoga Fellowship in the United States. On October 28, 1980, he formed Satyanandan Ashrams USA as an affiliate of the mother organization in India. Niranjananda stayed in America to help build the work. In the summer of 1982, the American group was visited by Swami Amritananda, a major female leader in the fellowship. Her trip was fol-lowed not long afterward by Satyananda’s first tour of North America.By the time of Satyananda’s American tour, he had long since developed his idea to include a complete system of tantric yoga, which begins with awakening of the KUNDALINI energy and includes sexual intercourse as a means of blending the male and female energies. Bliss is the ultimate reward for successful disciples of the so-called left-hand path.The International Yoga Fellowship is reported to be one of the largest organizations teaching yoga. It is not always easy to find practitioners in the West, as most members live quietly in ethnic communities, but there may be tens of thousands of people affiliated in North America. Interna-tional headquarters remain at the Bihar School of Yoga in Bihar, India, where the fellowship’s jour-nal, Yoga, is published.Further reading: John Mumford, (Swami Ananda-kapila), Sexual Occultism (St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn, 1975); Swami Janakananda Saraswati, Yoga, Tantra and Meditation (New York: Ballantine Books, 1975); Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Sure Ways to Self-Realization (Mungyar: Bihar School of Yoga, 1982); ———, Teach-ings of Swami Satyananda Saraswati (Mungyar, Bihar: Bihar School of Yoga, 1981).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.