Baba Muktananda's Living Legacy - An Exposition by Ishwari Cross

We have arrived at a magnificent anniversary: the 108th birthday of Baba Muktananda. On this occasion, we are celebrating the divine grace, the love, and the wisdom Baba imparted to his students and to the whole world.

In India’s scriptural tradition, the number 108 has a highly significant symbolic value: it represents completeness, the experience of perfect plenitude, like the full moon. These associations are close to the meaning of the word Siddha: “completed,” “perfected,” “accomplished.”

There are 108 beads on the traditional japa mala, the string of beads used by yogis when practicing mantra repetition. When we practice mantra japa we repeat, with each bead, the mantra that Baba and Gurumayi have given us: Om Namah Shivaya, which means “I offer salutations to Lord Shiva, the Self of all.” You may feel, as you move your fingers over the 108 beads of a japa mala on this anniversary, as though you are traveling through the years since Baba’s birth.

Baba taught us the inner meaning of the mantra—the essence of the most profound scriptures and spiritual traditions of India—which he learned from his Guru, Bhagavan Nityananda. Time after time Baba said: “Honor your Self, worship your Self, meditate on your Self, understand your Self. God dwells within you, as you.” And also: “See God in each other.” Baba never ceased to remind us of the unity of the individual self and the all‑pervasive Self, and encouraged us to attain that state of union.

Baba taught thousands of seekers about the great scriptural tradition of Kashmir Shaivism, which so well described his own experience of sadhana and realization. One of the great scriptures of Kashmir Shaivism, the Pratyabhijna-hrdayam, elaborates in detail how Consciousness, out of her free will, contracts herself to become everything in the universe and every human being. And it shows how, through the Guru’s grace and our own efforts in sadhana, we regain that state, recognizing divine Consciousness as our own true Self.

By the 1970s, the world had nearly forgotten this great mystic tradition. Thanks largely to Baba’s teachings, his books, and the talks he gave around the world, Kashmir Shaivism is now widely studied.

A few weeks before taking mahasamadhi, Baba traveled with Gurumayi to Kashmir. Baba wanted to honor the very place where, according to tradition, the Shiva Sutras appeared carved on a rock at Mahadeva Mountain. Baba, Gurumayi, and the Siddha Yogis accompanying them recited the twenty sutras of the Pratyabhijna-hrdayam as well as other Shaivite scriptures while seated on that same large slab of ancient rock.

The Muktabodha Indological Research Institute is an initiative of Gurumayi focused on saving the ancient scriptural texts of India. Not only has the Muktabodha Institute preserved important manuscripts that were disintegrating, but it is supporting the translation of fundamental scriptures into most Western languages. It seems that Baba’s blessings, which appear in the opening pages of several books on Kashmir Shaivism, have borne great fruit. Kashmir Shaivism is now informing the spiritual practices of seekers throughout the world.

Baba Muktananda’s teachings, however, were not confined to a single philosophic or mystic tradition. Baba had a vast knowledge of the scriptures, and in addition to Kashmir Shaivism, synthesized teachings from the Upanishads, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and Vedanta philosophy. Baba constantly quoted many poet-saints as well—poems and songs that touched one’s heart. Baba continually transmitted the knowledge of the Truth in every possible way. That Truth emanated from each one of his words and gestures, from his gaze, and from his silence.

Baba designed a structure for Siddha Yoga practice in 1967, which came to be known as the Ashram Daily Schedule. It is followed in Siddha Yoga Ashrams and retreats to this day as a way for seekers to experience and become established in the recognition of the Self within.

One of the practices that Baba emphasized over the years was svadhyaya, the recitation of sacred texts. In the early 1960s, Baba introduced the recitation of Shri Bhagavad Gita and Shri Vishnu Sahasranam in Gurudev Siddha Peeth. Later on, he also introduced the recitation of Shri Guru Gita, Shiva Mahimna Stotram, and Shri Rudram. In addition to svadhyaya, Baba also introduced Siddha Yogis to other forms of devotional chanting such as namasankirtana and bhajan.

The practice of chanting continues to be a cornerstone in the sadhana of Siddha Yoga students. Over the last thirty-four years, Gurumayi has given great care and attention to the development of Siddha Yoga music, introducing refinements to the way texts are recited and creating new and exquisite compositions. Baba and Gurumayi have infused these disciplines of svadhyaya and chanting with their sankalpa, making them a powerful means for spiritual growth.

Most of the central disciplines in Siddha Yoga sadhana reflect the forms of yoga that Lord Krishna talks about in the first chapters of Shri Bhagavad Gita. Seva, selfless service offered to the Siddha Yoga Guru, is a form of karma yoga, the yoga of righteous action. Study and contemplation, which support us to cultivate subtler discrimination and detachment, is jnana yoga, the yoga of knowledge. The yoga of meditation, dhyana yoga, is another indispensable pillar of Siddha Yoga sadhana. And devotion, love, and gratitude to the Guru—the driving forces which give meaning to all the practices—are an expression of bhakti yoga.

In addition to these yogas articulated in Shri Bhagavad Gita, Baba also brought the practice of hatha yoga to his students through various courses, having been himself an expert hatha yogi. And he taught mantra repetition, or japa, another powerful yogic discipline, and laya yoga, the subtle absorption in higher meditative states, such as the states Baba describes in his spiritual autobiography Play of Consciousness.

It was natural that Baba’s path would incorporate so many seemingly disparate traditions of yogic practice. In his book Kundalini: The Secret of Life, Baba says, “Kundalini contains all the different forms of yoga.”1 What Baba called the Siddha Yoga path comes forth from the grace of the Siddha Yoga Guru, from the inspiration of Kundalini Shakti.

Commenting on the Shiva Sutra, the sage Kshemaraja said that the Guru is the grace‑bestowing power of the supreme Goddess. This grace is what sustains the Siddha Yoga path, and it is the essential legacy of Baba: shaktipat initiation.

It is extremely rare to find a Guru who is able to impart shaktipat, the awakening of Kundalini Shakti. There are yogis who perform tremendous austerities for a very long time to achieve this awakening. Baba himself walked throughout India for decades before finding his Guru, Bhagavan Nityananda, who granted this initiation to him. Baba knew how exceptional and precious shaktipat was. Following his Guru’s command, Baba gave shaktipat generously and abundantly. We are all the beneficiaries of his generosity.

Today, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda continues to bestow shaktipat and guide the sadhana of countless Siddha Yogis and new seekers around the world.

Gurumayi’s Message for 2016 is:

Move with steadfastness
toward becoming
in Supreme Joy

In her Message, Gurumayi teaches seekers to have unwavering focus on the highest goal—the bliss of the Self, which is our nature and our birthright. Throughout this year, Gurumayi has given us many ways to study her Message and the teachings of Kashmir Shaivism that Baba loved. We can, for example, study the Commentaries on the Pratyabhijna-hrdyam and participate in Meditation Sessions 2016: Pathways to the Madhya, the Source of Bliss.

Baba’s legacy is not something that remains in the past. It is alive in each element of Siddha Yoga philosophy and culture. It is also alive within each of us who has received shaktipat, filling every moment of our lives with the grace of the Siddha Yoga lineage.


 1 Swami Muktananda, Kundalini: The Secret of Life, (South Fallsburg, NY: SYDA Foundation, 1994) p.25
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About Ishwari Elsa Cross

Ishwari Ela Cross Copyright SYDA FoundationIshwari Elsa Cross began following the Siddha Yoga path in 1976 at the Siddha Yoga Ashram in Mexico City. She serves as a Siddha Yoga meditation teacher and as a translator for Siddha Yoga publications, talks, courses, teaching and learning events, and the Siddha Yoga path website. She offered seva in Gurudev Siddha Peeth from 1982 to 1984.

Ishwari is a renowned poet, and, under the name Elsa Cross, her collected poems (1964-2012) were recently published in Mexico. She has won many awards for her work, including the Xavier Villaurrutia in Mexico and the Roger Caillois in France. Ishwari earned a PhD in philosophy from National Autonomous University of Mexico, where she is a professor of philosophy of religion. She has a son, Agastya, and lives in Cuernavaca, Mexico.