Transcendent in America: Hindu-Inspired Meditation Movements as New Religion

By Lola Williamson | Go to book overview

5

Siddha Yoga

“Be with Baba!” the large bold headlines of a newspaper-style encyclical read. Below the caption, a large picture of a bearded man with sunglasses and an orange ski cap smiled at me. I read every article, most of them testimonies about the power of shaktipat. Apparently, “Baba” (an endearing term that people used for Muktananda that means “Father”) could, by simply touching people, catapult them into another realm of consciousness. One person wrote that he could literally see through other people—their veins and arteries and internal organs were all visible. Someone else was reportedly able to see through a wall, others had inner visions. Most experienced “bliss,” a term used often by followers of HIMMs that refers to the most profound happiness and peace imaginable. Whatever shaktipat was, it piqued my interest, and it wasn’t long before I was headed for South Fallsburg, a small town in upstate New York, home of the main ashram for Siddha Yoga in the United States, to see Muktananda in person and experience shaktipat myself.

When I entered the hall where Muktananda was leading an “Intensive,” a weekend event in which he gave shaktipat, I immediately felt a strong energy difficult to describe, although I later learned to call it shakti. People were singing a slow dirgelike mantra, om namah shivaya, “I bow to Shiva.” We all sat close together on the floor facing Muktananda, who sat in the front. He gave talks about kundalini and the guru-disciple relationship, while an elegant young woman translated. I remember she was dressed in a turquoise formfitting silk suit with a long skirt. She was beautiful with large, dark eyes and shining, black hair. However, it wasn’t her outward appearance that struck me as much as her inner poise. I was mesmerized by her gracefulness. This was Malti Shetty, whom Muktananda later named as one of his successors.

The talks were interspersed with periods of chanting and hour-long meditations. One of the chants was called the Kundalini Stavah, (Hymn to Kund- alini), which was sung to invoke the goddess Kundalini, the powerful goddess worshipped by Shakta Tantrics. This hymn praises her with many epithets,

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Transcendent in America: Hindu-Inspired Meditation Movements as New Religion
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • A Note on Transliteration vii
  • Preface ix
  • I - Background 1
  • 1: What Are Hindu-Inspired Meditation Movements? 3
  • 2: Laying the Foundation for American-Style Hinduism 26
  • II - Three Hindu-Inspired Meditation Movements 53
  • 3: Self-Realization Fellowship 55
  • 4: Transcendental Meditation 80
  • 5: Siddha Yoga 106
  • III - In Their Own Words 133
  • 6: The Guru-Disciple Relationship 135
  • 7: Mystical Experiences 161
  • 8: Worldview 186
  • Conclusion 215
  • Notes 235
  • Bibliography 243
  • Index 251
  • About the Author 261
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