Mark Whitwell on the Siddha Yoga Tradition

Mark Whitwell | Yoga Teacher at Heart of Yoga

17 min readOct 27, 2022


How to respond to the ancient Vedic spiritual transmission from the ancient reality realizers with an actual Yoga, with actual life positive sexuality, and without any power structure that creates the delusion of superiority or inferiority in any way to any body or anything.

Spirituality after the 14th century became in India and Tibet an instrument of authoritarian control, of public control and manipulation. It was already the case in Europe.

The model of the perfect person implies that everyone else is not perfect. The struggle to change therefore begins in the arbitrary practices of self improvement that culture imposes.

In recent times popular styles or brands of Yoga have been established with systems of seeking using arbitrary methodologies taken from the traditions, a potpourri. of charming practices given brand names of important powerful words also from the traditions such as Siddha or Kundalini.

Such words are deep & ancient words in generic use over thousands of years appropriated for modern day commodity use. They are words like. God or Shakti for sacred public use. Not for inappropriate copyright.

Or names of the celebrity founders presumed to be perfect knowers. are used as brands claiming authority or reliability.

The eternal reality, truth (known by many cultures as the divine, or God) is obviously always here, always what IS. How can there be anything happening without eternity already happening?

What is not immortal, the body and mind, is arising presently in and as this eternity. Therefore by the searchless anciently given Yogas of participation in Reality as the body and mind and all its relatedness to the natural world, eternity (the body mind’s most pure essence, its deep true reality) is enjoined, enjoyed and realized.

No manipulation of the body. or mind in the search that spiritual culture has imposed on us neither works, nor is necessary.

The search is the problem itself that creates the presumption of separation in the body and mind (known as ego). The search reinforces ego. The Yogas of participation is all you can do (as they were evolved in the ancient cultures of Reality realization).

Reality, which is eternal is already pressed up on you from all quarters, in you as you.

Yoga rightly and serchlessly practiced ends the presumption of separation.

For spiritual life not to be deluding, to be real, and useful there needs. to be actual Yoga practice given according to the needs of each individual. It is primarily about intimacy with life as it actually is, especially as participation in the union of all natural opposites. This includes naturally a life of sexual embrace of life. Until now the public have been deprived of such these natural practices.

Most pertinently the social dynamic of disempowerment must be understood and dissolved.

For millennia all over India, men and women who are in the Natural State have been found living in the jungle, on the beaches and in regular village life. These people, who are unobstructed in body and mind from the Power of the Cosmos, were known as Siddhas. Siddha means power.

They are the unobstructed power of the cosmos. These humble, Christ-like individuals would roam the planet, not owning anything because they were everything, abiding in infinity and blessing everything and everyone they met.

Their lives were devoted to Life as it actually is, or capital R Reality of the cosmos. In ancient Vedic religious language they were also known as rishis or seers, saints or saviors, avatars and gurus. They were worshiped as the divine, embodying the identity attributes of the gods and goddesses of Vedic culture.

In 2019, we made the journey to Kerala to visit the source of the very ancient Yoga Siddha tradition and the birthplace of Bhagavan Nityananda, a man regarded as one of the last known Siddha gurus.

He was from a time in human culture when the Siddha function was understood as the “mother’s milk” of spiritual life. In the temples and villages of Kerala we found evidence of at least eight people in ancient times before him who lived in a similar state of freedom.

Simply by (upasana) sitting close with a Siddha, a flow of powerful energy ignites in the recipient, a form of yogic transmission known in the traditions as shaktipat and well documented through the ages in Kashmir Shaivism and other religious cultures.

This transmission was considered the necessary initiating spark of an individual’s devotional conversion to the power of the cosmos, or Goddess Kundalini Shakti, the manifestation of all Life, the Mother of all. All in the “All”.

Nityananda himself said, “You must have an initiating guru in spiritual life.” When a person is ready to take on the guru function another initiation takes place. The guru acknowledges that the guru function has come alive in his or her devotee. This is called sivapat.

We were glad to visit the site of Nityananda’s birth and to see the murtis ( likenesses or image, photograph or sculpture felt to embody the essence or spirit personality) all around Kerala that spoke to different periods in his life.

In Ganeshpuri, it was said that local kids would run up just to be with him when he went on his daily walks. He was famous for his fiery personality and once hurled rocks at Prime Minister Nehru after he had chosen to visit him with an armed guard. Saying “no one brings a gun to the guru”.

It is hard for us to understand today but in wisdom culture the Siddha function did not mean that these people were in a social dynamic of hierarchy over others.

They had no role or position in society that was different to anybody else and had no agenda to attain fame or identity. They were the function of Mother Nature’s nurturing in local community, useful for Yoga transmission and to help ordinary people release obstructions in their life.

The teacher is not any kind of social identity or personal identity, an ego I. The teacher is life only, life as it actually is. Reality itself and that is all. That is All. The guru was no more than a friend and no less than a friend.

The guru was not an identity of any kind and when the purpose of the guru was attained, that is the moksha or liberation of the student, the guru function then simply and naturally dissolved.

In the West considerable wealth has gone into Nityananda’s murtis and sacred buildings. However in his places of origin, the buildings are very humble and dilapidated, yet there the Yoga transmission is powerful and complete.

We see in this small example how spiritual transmission is turned into wealth creation, and power mechanism. It was never so in Nityananda’s time.

My teacher Desikachar said that the Siddhas of South India were ordinary, humble people who were not necessarily educated in the full tradition of Yoga. These men and women simply found themselves to be spontaneously in the natural state with no apparent cause.

And so their sublime presence was given to the world divorced from the cultural context of actual Yoga understanding and practice. To make use of their presence and influence was therefore a hit or miss affair, with no cultural understanding of what to do with such a person. It is still the same today.

It was Krishnamacharya’s emphatic view of his scholarship however that if you are in a relationship with a Siddha like Nityananda then you must have a Yoga practice. That yoga is what you do “as esponse to the Guru’s grace”.

Asana, pranayama, and intimacy are the vital and practical means to conduct the nurturing power of life that is transmitted in such relationships. His scholarship of the Veda had revealed that Yoga and sexual wisdom practice was woven intrinsically into the culture of rishi and avataric realization.

Krishnamacharya would say that without an actual Yoga practice it is better to not be inspired by a guru such as Nityananda in the first place.

Without the practical means to respond, conduct and pass on the energy that you receive, your life is made worse. A painful gap forms between the sublime experiences felt in the company of one’s guru and the usual life of limiting patterns droning on.

By the time I met Krishnamacharya and Desikachar in Madras in 1973, I had spent several months with some extraordinary Siddhas in Northern India whose lives were the sublime beauty that is the human potential.

When I learnt and felt the Yoga that Krishnamacharya taught I was amazed to see how perfectly it allowed the energy of Life that was transmitted from the ancient lineages of Siddhas to be smoothly and naturally conducted in one’s system.

Desikachar showed me that Yoga is an entirely complete devotional practice to the One who lives us, the perfect means to imbibe and relate to the nurturing force of life, the Mother force of all.

It is each person’s direct participation in the descending and ascending currents of the male-female intrinsic union, the Siva-Sakti union, the harmony that is the nurturing form and force of all life.

Our asana and pranayama is our embrace of this union within and human intimacy (including sexuality) is our embrace of this union without. This is made possible and sublime only when intimacy with Life is practiced as the whole body embrace of what life actually is… the union of opposites, inhalation with exhalation, strength that is ascending that utterly receptive of the descending feminine flow of Life.

The two opposites are already in union as one. Participation in the opposites reveals the one life that is all. There is the end duality. There is God realization. The heart or whole is revealed to the mind as it’s source and very function.

And so, I recognized that Yoga, an entirely positive sexuality and the Siddha tradition all belong together.

They must be there for you to be able to respond in a healthy way to a human treasures like Nityananda and to be able to absorb the wonderful gifts that they have to offer the world, without becoming dependent upon them as if they are exclusive agency of the Divine in your life.

In fact Krishnamacharya’s scholarship implied that the entire wisdom and religious tradition of humanity required yoga as the practical means to actualize the cultural ideals of them all.

Otherwise you have the beautiful ideals of attainment as ideas or ideals only that you feel dissociated from. The usual life of difference continues in the presumption of separation from the ideal with no practical means to join the two to become one.

For this reason, Desikachar and his father Krishnamacharya (the founder of modern Yoga) were dedicated to bringing Yoga to all the spiritual traditions of India and the world.

After he died many individuals who had been influenced by Nityananda established meditation cults, proclaiming that they too were in an exulted spiritual state.

They turned the Siddha function into the notion of spiritual and social authority and began to control others emotionally, financially and sexually. These groups were not educated in the Yogas of intimacy and sexuality that are a requirement for a life of response to grace.

Within these communities sexual exaggeration or prudish celibacy are both played out: two sides of the same sleazy coin.

We emphasize that this modern time appropriation of the Siddha tradition has not been helpful and very harmful to the tradition. This ancient wisdom did not manifest as anything like their modern forms that use the ancient name Siddha.

These groups were an aberration of the tradition merely mimicking patriarchal religious hierarchies that have been the norm and social patterning since the 14th C. It has been a distortion of the Siddhas.

I found also that groups had no interest in absorbing the scholarly principles of Vedic education of Yoga rather settling for the fixed patterns of their teachers’ arbitrary methods. Usually they were meditation practices dissociated from its context and cause.. a suitable Yoga for each person.

If there was Yoga it was made up not founded on an actual education. Even modern academics who were otherwise fascinated on history, texts and philosophy had no concept of researching the physical wisdom practices with academic accuracy.

In sexuality celibacy was usually glamorized as some kind of deluded attainment. Outbursts of exaggerated aberration and illness was the inevitable outcome of this suppression. Or conversely seeking with sexual exaggeration of the neo Tantra seeking caused its own problems and another patriarchy of abuse.

The ancient Siddhas had no interest in seniority, possessions or manipulation of others. They were simply free people who never considered themselves to be different from anyone or anything else.

For a thousand years from the fifth century non-hierarchical, egalitarian spiritual community flourished. Nityananda appeared as a late time and pure manifestation of this and passed it on into us to hold dearly and pass it on in tact. Not toxified by non yogic hierarchy but placed in intelligent social context of Yoga education, sexual wisdom and a human response.

It is almost impossible to see these days that a spiritually free person does not imply social hierarchy. It is so engrained in our social structure and patterns. It is the problem itself. In fact no one is second to an imaginary other and no one is superior to anyone.

It was the U.G. Krishnamurti who said that humanity is doomed within the model of the perfect person because it implies automatically that everybody else is not perfect.

The heads of many spiritual groups may say that “All are perfect” or “I am not a guru” and yet they keep up authoritarian behavior and social positioning of being special or superior. Special clothes, special chairs, special privileges, special houses.

It is the social dynamic of disempowerment and must be seen and understood, dissolved for spiritual life to begin. It is the teacher’s ( otherwise the power holder) responsibility to dissolve this, the hidden hierarchy, the unrecognized automatic structure and presumption of society. Nobody knows it’s there. There is no other framework given. Students in pain cannot see it as they seek for help. In the mass denial of our actual life condition, beauty, intelligence and intrinsic harmony the seeking is the denial. The looking implies the absence. The looking is the problem therefore. So the teacher to be an actual teacher must deconstruct the social dynamic of disempowerment for their students. Not exploit the gullible public with shoddy spiritual goods in the market place, which create the social axiom, the presumption of life as a problem to be solved with their arbitrary solutions, of trying to be something that you are not. If there is any power in the universe it is in you and no where else. That is you are not the person looking for reality. You are reality.

In the 1970s, when the Siddha tradition arrived in the west through the travels of Nityananda’s devotee Muktananda it thrived and spread for decades only to fall to its knees by his aberrant sexual behavior in late life. When he was seventy years old, he suffered a stroke and significant brain damage.

After an entire life spent within the spiritual psychology of suppressing sex, the brain damage resulted in an outburst of repressed energy and exaggerated sexual abstraction. The public legitimately confused and lost interest in the tradition and Muktananda’s actions are a burden on this group.

He appeared in orthodox Hindu society, a most sexually suppressed and misogynistic world, yet he was devoted to the Shakti traditions, to embody the nurturing power of the cosmos. He absorbed that force as a devotee of Nityananda.

It obviously put him in psychological conflict, not being able to understand and practice the natural Yogas of sexual intimacy and embrace of the feminine during a life time.

After very successfully facilitating a world wide spiritual enterprise it was very odd that late in his life his behaviors became so erratic that they destroyed the beautiful sangha he had formed.

It is not enough to protect our elderly from aberrant social behaviors that burst out after lives of suppression and false restraint. No there must be sexual wisdom and intimacy with the natural state taught and given throughout lives so that aberration does not occur when mental faculties fail as they do, and can no longer suppress of deny sex.

Muktananda was an impeccable devotee of his guru for many decades. He sat quietly at the back of the room for twenty years with his guru Nityananda absorbing the living love transmission.

Muktananda went on to do a great work to bring the attention of the West to the phenomena of the siddha and Vedic teaching of the ancient world to modern times.

He followed that tradition where the sages of this world often come in pairs, like Ramakrishna and Vivikananda, like Jiddu Krishnamurthi and UG Krishnamurtu, like Sri Aurobindo. and the mother, like John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. One initiates and the other delivers.

Regrettably this transmission of love and Yoga came in the cultural insanity of denying sex, denying the feminine, in fact denying Mother Earth in the obsession with personal inwardness and renunciation.

In all of this the quieter voices. of the Yogis, the ones who practiced intimacy with all tangible conditions, body breath and relationship in that order, were ignored by power structures that built spiritual authorities, hierarchies and empires on the God or enlightenment ideas.

In the context of such cultural patterns it’s a kind of love that makes you sick, dissociated from reality and behaviors in the cults created the normative patterns in the usual life.

Unfortunately the fixation around “point of view” the belief systems of the teacher, the teachings and the faithful there are seeming impenetrable walls. Patterned presumptions are not usually available to intervention.

The patterns of the “cult of the normal” are as difficult to influence as the cults of cultism. We must build the education process for our people. The secular must serve the sacred.

The world wide patterning of glamorizing celibacy as spiritual attainment is clearly a pathology that does great damage to mental health of individuals and the public.

Equally a pathology abounds of fearful individuals setting themselves up as teachers as a social protective strategy to control their social circumstance and to manipulate others. The “world” is an endless repetition, duplication of deranged patterns, thought created dissociation from our natural state.

Without understanding the Yogas of participation and right life sexual intimacy as the very basis of a sane life, let alone a spiritual life, there is no hope. The unique beauty, the power and intelligence of each life is ignored.

The way forward is to make sense of what has gone before in ways that are fitted appropriately to our modern time. The main points to reckon with the cause of the corruption within spiritual/ religious authorities and institutions, a corruption whose logic is no different from the Catholic Church, Buddhism, Yoga cults etc.

The absence of a Yoga education, the repression of an honest sexuality and institutions built upon an authoritarian, hierarchical model of the ‘perfect person’. We see that the sexual aberrant patterns within spiritual hierarchy in fact have became the normative behaviors throughout societies.

The Siddha tradition, which stretches back into the mists of time, is a beautiful human treasure.

We need not throw out the powers and the beauty that our ancestors enjoyed in their personal lives even as it has been disturbed by the naivety of modern guruism, power structures and the naivety of students within such systems who did not have access to personally empowering Yoga and sexuality. Let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water.

We can understand how the Siddha functioned in wisdom culture where nobody and no thing is denied. Where the guru was no more than a friend and no less. Where everybody is already the One, in the Natural State.

There is no argument here. No point of view. No speculation. It is just how it is. Please stop arguing with the cults of the normal. The world is a vast cult filled with sub cults hostile to one another. There is no need to dissociate or be in conflict with the world. Rather cooperate participate for your own sanity and survival just as the cells in your own body naturally cooperate with each other to optimize each other.

Yet eternity, reality, beauty, unity IS our state. Let’s face it the whole of humanity is traumatized by sex and hierarchy. Stop arguing with this now and engage the practice of participation in the Given Reality, where intimacy with body & breath serve & allow sexual love to be true. Intimacy with Body breath & sex is the embrace of the eternal.

Such realizers as Christ & Nityananda delivered this message with no hierarchy. It is time. The Yogas of participation will correct the cultural fault that haunts humanity.

Let’s face it the whole of the human species is traumatized around sex and factional hostility. The lives of Muktananda and many others of religious and secular power structures who use futile authority to inappropriately try to access what they and everyone else is deprived of, puts a spotlight of truth on the dysfunction.

Our lives are here to fully address it, clear it up move on to a completely life positive sex positive human life… this life time. We can do this even while the checkerboard of insanity patterning that denies life and sex continues.

This is just common sense. It is just how it is. The cults of belief and hierarchy would do well now to take this on to actualize their beautiful ideals. Yoga, the practical response to grace. Yoga, the practical means to actualize sacred text. The academics should understand the physical wisdom practices of the wisdom cultures they so passionately study. To understand there is a technical precision in spiritual practices that need to be understood with the same exacting academic discernment that is brought to any academic investigation. To understand that Yoga is easily learned and may be practiced be anyone, yet quite exacting in its application and adaptation to individual needs, age, health and cultural background.

Intimacy with body breath and relationship including sexual embrace is a necessity for spiritual life or any kind of life. Let’s get on with it and get the job done. Truth / Reality / God is not a point of view or belief.

Truth is what is the most deep of you. Participation in Truth is straight forward and very easy. Yet must be practiced. There must be discernment of what is true, what is true love and what is a waste of time. If we stop looking for “higher” realities there is a chance then that we will perceive this Reality that is here, the great power of the cosmos, that is the body, it’s pure intelligence, unspeakable beauty and intrinsic harmony that is happening as everything all in the All.



Mark Whitwell

Mark Whitwell has worked as a Yoga teacher around the world for the last 45 years and is the author of 4 books on Yoga. He lives in Fiji with his wife Rosalind.