Muktananda (16 May 1908 – 2 October 1982) is the monastic name of the Siddha Yoga guru who was the founder of the Siddha Yoga spiritual path. Muktananda was a disciple and the successor of Bhagavan Nityananda. He wrote a number of books on the subjects of Kundalini Shakti, Vedanta, and Kashmir Shaivism, including a spiritual autobiography entitled The Play of Consciousness.
Muktananda was born in 1908 near Mangalore in Karnataka State, India, into a well-off family. His birth name was Krishna Rau. At 15 he encountered Bhagavan Nityananda, a wandering avadhoot who profoundly changed his life. After this encounter, Krishna left home and began his search for the experience of God. He studied under Siddharudha Swami at Hubli, where he learned Sanskrit, Vedanta and all branches of yoga, and took the initiation of sannyasa in the Sarasvati order of the Dashanami Sampradaya, taking the name of Swami Muktananda. After Siddharudha's death, Muktananda began wandering India on foot, studying with many different saints and gurus.
After more than 20 years of searching through the subcontinent of India, in 1947 Muktananda went to Ganeshpuri to receive the darshan of Bhagavan Nityananda, the renowned saint who had originally inspired Muktananda's search for God. He received shaktipat initiation from him in the early morning of 15 August of that year. Muktananda often said that his spiritual journey didn't truly begin until he received shaktipat from the holy man Bhagavan Nityananda. According to his description, it was a profound and sublime experience.
August 15, 1947 Nityananda stood facing me directly. He looked into my eyes again. Watching carefully, I saw a ray of light entering me from his pupils. It felt hot like burning fever. Its light was dazzling, like that of a high-powered bulb. As that ray emanating from Bhagavan Nityananda's pupils penetrated mine, I was thrilled with amazement, joy, and fear. I was beholding its color and chanting Guru Om. It was a full unbroken beam of divine radiance. Its color kept changing from molten gold to saffron to a shade deeper than the blue of a shining star. I stood utterly transfixed. He sat down and said in his aphoristic fashion, "All mantras... one. Each... from Om. Om Namah Shivaya Om... should think, Shivo'ham, I am Shiva... Shiva-Shiva...Shivo'ham...should be internal repetition. Internal...superior to external".
Muktananda spent the next nine years living and meditating in a little hut in Yeola. He wrote about his sadhana and kundalini-related meditation experiences, in his autobiography published in 1970 as GURU, by Harper & Row, and as Play of Consciousness, in India in 1971. In 1956, Bhagawan Nityananda acknowledged the culmination of Muktananda's spiritual journey, and gave him a small piece of land at Ganeshpuri, near Bombay, instructing Muktananda to create an ashram there.
Between 1956 and 1982, when he died, Muktananda taught the path he founded and named: the Siddha Yoga path. Central to his teachings were:
"See God in each other."—Swami Muktananda
"Honor your Self. Worship your Self. Meditate on your Self. God dwells within you as you."—Swami Muktananda Muktananda often gave a shorter version of this teaching: "God dwells within you as you."
From 27 to 30 August 1974, Muktananda led the first Shaktipat Intensive in Aspen, Colorado. Through Shaktipat Intensives, created by Muktananda, participants are said to receive shaktipat initiation (the awakening of Kundalini Shakti that is said to reside within a person) and to deepen their practice of Siddha Yoga meditation. Muktananda was known as a "shaktipat guru because kundalini awakening occurred so readily in his presence". Historically, Shaktipat initiation had been reserved for the few who had done many years of spiritual service and practices; Muktananda offered this initiation to newcomers and yogis alike. Making shaktipat much more widely available has been variously described as "Swami Muktananda's innovative transmission of shaktipat" and "an unprecedented and significant historical shift."
Between 1970 and 1981, Muktananda went on three world tours, establishing Siddha Yoga ashrams and meditation centers in many countries. In 1975, he founded the Siddha Yoga Ashram in Oakland, in the California Bay area, and in 1979 he established Shree Nityananda Ashram (now Shree Muktananda Ashram) in the Catskills Mountains, northwest of New York City.
Muktananda established Gurudev Siddha Peeth as a public trust in India to administer the work there, and founded the SYDA Foundation in the United States to administer the global work of Siddha Yoga meditation. He wrote many books; sixteen are still kept in print by the SYDA Foundation.
In May 1982, Muktananda appointed two successors as joint leaders of the Siddha Yoga path, Swami Chidvilasananda and her younger brother, Swami Nityananda who later resigned and formed his own group. Muktananda died in October 1982 and is buried at Ganeshpuri, where the Gurudev Siddha Peeth ashram houses his samādhi shrine.