August 21, 2020, marks an historic event on the Siddha Yoga path: the 50th anniversary of Baba Muktananda’s First World Tour. This was the first of three world tours during which Baba conveyed the Siddha Yoga teachings and practices to seekers around the world and awakened thousands upon thousands of people to their own divinity through shaktipat initiation. How the First World Tour came into being and how it unfolded is a story filled with divine grace, Baba’s love, and the goodwill of many great-hearted people.
On the morning of May 12, 1970, in Gurudev Siddha Peeth, Baba joyfully announced to the group of Siddha Yogis in the Ashram that in the early morning hours he had received darshan of his Guru, Bhagavan Nityananda, who had taken mahasamadhi nine years before. Baba shared that he’d had a vision of Bhagavan Nityananda dancing ecstatically in Guru Chowk, the Ashram courtyard, and had received the inner command from Bade Baba to travel abroad and share the Siddha Yoga teachings with the world.
And so, three months later, on August 21, 1970, Baba set out from Mumbai International Airport with a group of five devotees on a three-month journey that would become known as Baba’s First World Tour.
Over the next 101 days, Baba traveled and gave 90 public lectures throughout the West—in Italy, Switzerland, England, France, the United States, Australia, and Singapore. Those who accompanied him said that Baba used every waking moment holding satsangs and question-and-answer sessions, giving talks, teaching people to chant and meditate, meeting devotees, visiting homes, and holding two- to three-day spiritual retreats. Through all these activities, Baba was continually bestowing his grace, giving his darshan, and guiding people to turn within and come to know the divinity of their own inner Self.
Prior to this journey to the West, Baba had traveled extensively throughout India, imparting the Siddha Yoga teachings and bestowing his grace to thousands. As seekers from the West began to make their way to India in the mid and late 1960s in search of a true Guru, many found Baba’s Ashram, having heard of his greatness and his power to bestow shaktipat.
During their stays in Gurudev Siddha Peeth, these seekers immersed themselves fully in the Ashram Daily Schedule, received spiritual awakening through Baba’s grace, and experienced profound transformation. Upon their departure from the Ashram, many invited Baba to visit their countries, as they wished to introduce their families and friends to a true spiritual master and to share with them what they had received from Baba. Therefore, when word spread that Baba would be traveling to the West, a number of these same devotees stepped forward to support Baba’s visit to their country.
One of the memorable qualities of the First World Tour was its organic and spontaneous nature. Whatever situation might arise, Baba turned it into an occasion to teach and bestow grace. One of the people present during Baba’s stay in Rome describes the atmosphere on this first stop of the Tour:
It was incredibly intimate. We felt like a family, showing Baba around the churches and the big buildings. Satsangs were spontaneous—Baba would just sit and speak and chant, and then he would meet the people. We never knew what was going to happen from one day to the next. Someone would meet Baba and then invite him somewhere. And he would go.
Wherever Baba went, he took the time to meet and be with people personally. Whether he was giving darshan, at the conclusion of a satsang or in a more informal setting, Baba welcomed each person with love and expressed his delight in meeting them. And Baba encouraged everyone to turn within and experience the greatness of their own inner Self.
Even after only one meeting with Baba, people would leave with a new awareness of themselves and a new interest in meditation, and they would tell their friends about the extraordinary experiences and insights they’d had from being with Baba. In this way, person to person, heart to heart, by word of mouth, people were called to satsang with Baba throughout the tour.
On many stops, Baba held satsangs at universities, churches, or other educational institutions. These satsangs were attended by priests, ministers, rabbis, leaders from various yoga and spiritual communities, professors of Eastern philosophy, and students of all ages—all of whom were eager to hear about the mysteries of yoga directly from a realized Master.
In each satsang, Baba’s immense shakti would fill the hall, creating an atmosphere of great sweetness and connecting people to their own hearts. In Boston, for example, Baba spoke to an audience of a thousand professors and students from nine universities. He led them in chanting, gave his lecture, and guided everyone into meditation. As the event of several hours came to its scheduled conclusion, people didn’t want to leave. Someone present at the satsang shared later that everyone stayed in their seats, absorbed in the love and energy welling up inside. Baba compassionately stayed in the hall and led those gathered into another chant. Still they did not want to leave. Finally, Baba began to sing bhajans—and in that way the satsang concluded in an ocean of sweet love.
The core teaching Baba brought to the West and imparted in all of his talks was
Honor your Self.
Worship your Self.
Meditate on your Self.
God dwells within you as you.
Baba, moreover, had the rare ability to transmit a direct experience of this teaching. During a satsang in Manhattan, one man had the vision of Baba becoming a radiant blue flame from which flowed forth rays of light that then entered the heart of everyone present. As Baba’s light entered this man’s heart, he felt his awareness being drawn deep inside, where it dissolved to an experience of supreme bliss. This man, like many people who came to satsang with Baba, had experienced shaktipat initiation, the awakening of Kundalini Shakti through the Guru’s grace.
Before Baba traveled to the West, very few people there had heard of shaktipat initiation. The science of Kundalini awakening had been held in secret throughout the ages in India and made available to only a small number of yogis who had done arduous tapasya. By the time Baba returned to India, on November 29, 1970, shaktipat and Kundalini awakening had, through his grace, been experienced by many seekers in the West. This was one of many great accomplishments of Baba’s First World Tour.
After Baba returned to Gurudev Siddha Peeth, many in the West who had received his grace and darshan and participated in satsang with him began to arrive; they visited Gurudev Siddha Peeth to deepen their experience of the Siddha Yoga teachings. Many people began to practice Siddha Yoga meditation in their own homes or in small groups. In time many of them would open, with Baba’s blessings, Siddha Yoga meditation centers, where people could participate in satsang together and new seekers could learn about the Siddha Yoga path.
Looking back now, in 2020, we can see the importance of this first tour in establishing the Siddha Yoga path as a global spiritual path, a path available to seekers around the world. Thus, on the occasion of the golden anniversary of Baba’s First World Tour, we celebrate the blessings that continue to flow from those one hundred and one grace-filled days in 1970.