Exoteric And Esoteric Yoga

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Rikhia is only a small village. Neglected and deprived tribal communities live in that region. About twenty-one years ago, our guru Swami Satyananda Saraswati came to live there to perform higher sadhanas. Since that time, the destiny of the land and villagers has changed. In Rikhia, Swami Satyananda lived in seclusion for many years, performing sadhanas described for paramahamsa sannyasins, which very few people in known history have done. Even the so-called illuminated people or the leaders in society have not gone through the same sadhana that our guru went through.

The birth of esoteric yoga

The experience in Rikhia is not different to yoga. However, yoga has to be seen in two different forms, external or exoteric and internal or esoteric. In society everyone is used to exoteric yoga, the physical, gross yoga - hatha yoga, asana, pranayama, postures and techniques. The whole idea of learning yoga is physical and external. However, in Rikhia we are also exposed to the esoteric, internal yoga, which is the yoga of mantras and yantras, of vibrations, creations and connections. Yajnas were not religious functions, but purely tantric and yogic events.

Only in the last year in Rikhia did Swami Satyananda announce that along with yoga classes, esoteric yoga would be introduced in the form of yajnas. The next level of learning has to come to society over the next couple of decades in order to make the experience and journey of yoga complete for everyone.

Swami Satyananda traveled for twenty-five years and I for twenty-seven years, but we both taught only exoteric yoga. During that time, Swami Satyananda never spoke on the subject of God, spirit or atma in any of his satsangs, lectures or informal meetings. Many people believed he was an atheist. People believe that Buddha was an atheist because he did not speak of God, but Buddha was not an atheist. He simply did not speak to people on the subject of God. Swami Satyananda focused totally on the development of exoteric yoga. He developed a system, a structure, and created a practical, academic and scientific understanding. The focus was on the development of yoga, establishing yoga as a way of life, a practice, a sequential system that one could understand, adopt and implement.


In 2008, Swami Satyananda said that after forty-seven years of teaching yoga, the time had come to start telling people about the esoteric aspects of yoga. Mantras represent esoteric yoga. The energy or power of chanting mantras and kirtan create a yantra. The pandits with their chanting create a mandala externally, while the aspirant creates it internally with the chanting. And that becomes the yajna. Yajna is externally the ritual of fire, but internally yajna has three meanings. Ya means production, ja means distribution and na means consumption. Production, distribution and consumption is the definition of yajna. What you have in abundance you share with others, be it shakti, power, energy or feeling. What other people lack, you give. The five components of yajna are giving, mantra, yantra and mandala and parikrama, perambulation, coming into the force field of the invoked energies. The yajnas create a change in the pattern of mind and consciousness.

The continuous repetition of mantra and the continuous act of service allows you to come out of your shell and connect with selflessness even for a short time. Ganga Darshan is not a selfless but a selfish place, because people come with expectations and for selfish reasons. People do not go to Rikhia for selfish reasons. They go to be selfless, because there is nothing to expect. In Rikhia, there is no learning, no asana, no pranayama, no satsang, nothing. People go and live without any expectation, and that changes the mind.

A question of mindset

In Rikhia, the mindset is different from the mindset with which people come to Ganga Darshan or go to any other ashram. When there are no walls or strings of expectation, then you are able to let go. When you connect for some time with selflessness, you feel happy. Although nothing happens, you are working from 5.30 in the morning till 8.30 at night, yet everyone likes it and the energy is high. With the same attitude, this will also happen in Ganga Darshan.

In Ganga Darshan you have more awareness of your mind and personal needs, in Rikhia you have more awareness of what to do next. This change of mental perception makes the difference, and when there are no strings or barriers, the mantras have a deeper access to your psyche. Although you may not understand the chants, you begin to move in the vibration and feeling until you become part of it. Esoteric yoga begins from that point onwards.

Swami Satyananda has always given the appropriate item at the right time to continue the development of the individual. The continuation of yoga is from exoteric to esoteric. Gradually, over a period of time, people globally will be introduced to this shift of perception, attitude and awareness.

This, as well as the austerities that Swami Satyananda performed, makes the difference in Rikhia. In Munger, he was working for yoga. He worked hard, managing the ashram, traveling nationally and internationally, coming back to sort out the difficulties and problems and leaving again to teach. In Rikhia, he stayed in one place because the purpose was isolation, seclusion and sadhana. He spent more time in Rikhia and did more traveling in Munger. When a person has the opportunity to stay for a long time in one place, it is possible to build something constructive and creative. We see the result in the form of the feminine energy which is vibrant in Rikhia.

Ganga Darshan, 23 December 2010