Sahaja Yoga Center
(est. 1970s)
   Sahaja Yoga was founded by Sri Mataji Nirmala Devi (b. March 21, 1923), an Indian girl born to a Christian family in Chindawara, India. Her parents, Prasad and Cornelia Salve, were direct descendants of a royal household in India. She is said to have been born with complete self-real-ization and to have known from childhood that she had a spiritual mission to help humankind. Early in her life, she displayed great wisdom, intelligence, and an understanding of the human nervous system and it energetic components.
   Her parents were active in the Indian inde-pendence movement. Her father was a renowned scholar, a close associate of MOHANDAS KARAM-CHAND GANDHI, who served on the Assembly of Free India; he helped to draft India’s Constitu-tion. As a child, Nirmala lived with her parents in Gandhi’s ashram and served as a youth leader in the independence movement. Gandhi rec-ognized her spiritual gifts and often engaged with her in conversation about the principle of Sahaja Yoga (the union with the divine innate in all people). Both agreed that fundamental-ism and religious competition were obstacles to SELF-REALIZATION.
   Nirmala studied medicine and psychology at the Christian Medical College in Lahore, Pakistan. In the late 1940s she married C. P. Srivastava, a member of the Indian Civil Service and later a diplomat. They had two daughters.
   In May 1970, Nirmala had a transformative experience. She felt an opening in the crown CHAKRA at the top of her head. The KUNDALINI energy coiled at the base of the spine began to uncoil and to open the other energy centers along the spine. Empowered with this spiritual energy, she decided to assume the role of GURU and teach others how to experience this divine energy. She is believed to be a direct channel for divine power and energy, which flow directly through her. In her teaching she offers self-realization as a beginning process of spiritual or yogic practices. She is said to cause the rising of kundalini in her students when they are in her presence, triggering the awakening of the kundalini spiritual power in masses of individuals simultaneously. The goal of her personal appearances is to guide the indi-vidual practitioner to immediate and spontaneous enlightenment.
   Since 1970, Nirmala has traveled the world to teach the techniques of Sahaja Yoga meditation. She does not charge fees for her lectures or for the experiences that students have in her presence.
   The Sahaja Yoga Center has locations in the United States, Canada, India, and England and issues a periodical, Nirmala Yoga. Nirmala has cre-ated a number of nongovernmental organizations, including an international hospital in Bombay (Mumbai), an international cancer research center there, an international music school in Nagpur, and a charity house for the poor in Delhi.
   Further reading: Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, Meta Mod-ern Era (Delhi: Nirmala Yoga, 1992); ———, Sahaja Yoga (Delhi: Nirmala Yoga, 1992); “The Russians’ Love for Yoga: Nirmala Devi Shares Her Adventure,” Hindu-ism Today 12, no. 10 (October 1990): 1, 7.

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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