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A Hindu-based religious lineage claiming descent from Bhagawan Nityananda, a guru from Ganeshpuri, India who died in 1961. His successor was Baba Muktananda, who brought Siddha Yoga to the United States in 1970, and founded an ashram in South Fallsburg, New York in 1976. When Baba died in 1982, he instated two of his disciples, brother and sister, as co-heirs to the lineage. "Guruji" Nityananda left Siddha Yoga three years later, under a cloud of suspicion; vague explanations for this abound within the organization, but it seems likely that he was ousted. Following his departure, devotees were told to burn his pictures and not to repeat his name. He currently runs a small center in the Catskills, to which some of his devotees from his Siddha Yoga days have followed him. His sister, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, is currently the spiritual leader of Siddha Yoga, which has ashrams and meditation centers all over the world in addition to the two largest ones in Ganeshpuri and South Fallsburg. "Charismatic" is far too weak and bland a word for this woman. One look at her is enough to bring diehard atheists weeping to their knees.

At the core of Siddha Yoga is the Hindu concept of Guru worship. The Guru is a Siddha, an enlightened being, here on earth to nudge the rest of us along. The essential practices of Siddha Yoga are chanting, meditation, and seva, or selfless service to the Guru. The idea of annihilating the ego and bowing down before another human being, so alien to the Western mind, is basically taken for granted within Siddha Yoga.

For upwards of twenty years, Siddha Yoga has been plagued with scandal of one sort or another. Lis Harris (a non-devotee) has written a terrific article about the trials and tribulations of Siddha Yoga in the New Yorker (November 14, 1994). It's a bitter pill for anyone involved in SY to swallow, but worth the read.

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