Swami Chetanananda ("Swamiji") is an American spiritual teacher who has spent his life assimilating the great tantric teaching traditions into a new non-dual model of spiritual understanding. In the process, he has developed a practical approach for modern lives that is accessible by anyone.
Drawing from his study and practice of kundalini yoga, Śakta Śaivism, Śrī Vidyā, Vajrayana tantrism, osteopathy, quantum physics and neuroscience, Swamiji articulates a new model of universal consciousness. Swamiji teaches that consciousness is in eternal union with respiratory process, which he terms the Breath of Life, and can be accessed by anyone through contact, alignment and flow with the creative energy. He presents the view that everything is the Breath of God, alive, divine and permeated by beauty. Fiercely dedicated to unearthing the most authentic source teachings in each tradition and mining their essence, Swamiji teaches practical techniques for working with creative energy to help students unfold their deepest, highest potential, their “unimaginable possibility.”
Born and raised in the Midwest, Swamiji began studying and teaching asana practice in 1969, long before yoga became a household word. In 1971, Swamiji established the first American yoga-based intentional community in Bloomington, Indiana. In the same year, he met his heart guru, Swami Rudrananda (Rudi) of New York City, and began to study with him. Rudi was a disciple of the Siddha Yoga lineage, founded by Bhagavan Nityananda of Ganeshpuri. After Rudi’s passing in 1973, Swamiji became his successor, and founded the Nityananda Institute for the development and promotion of kundalini yoga related studies. For 45 years, he ran The Movement Center ashrams with centers in Portland, Oregon; Santa Monica, California; Boston; Seattle; and New York City.
Carrying forward the eyes-open kundalini meditation technique taught by Rudi, Swamiji has developed his own teaching of kundalini yoga based on contact with creative energy, alignment through releasing tensions and blockages, and flow to extend the individual energy into the vast field of universal awareness. Swamiji personally knew the most influential yoga teachers of our time: Iyengar, Satchitananda, and Desikachar. Currently, he works to support Linda Lack (founder of the Thinking Body, Feeling Mind™ technique) in her work to create a safer and more conscious practice and understanding of the essentials of movement in the development of ourselves as conscious beings.
Kashmir Śaivism and Śakta Śaivism
Swamiji studied with Swami Muktananda from 1973 to 1982 and took sannyas from him in 1978, when he received the name “Chetanananda,” meaning “the joy of consciousness.” In the course of his studies with Muktananda, Swamiji began a lifetime of in-depth study of the non-dual system of Kashmir Śaivism, recognizing in the ancient texts a description of his own inner experiences. From 1982 to 1986, he was closely associated with Swami Lakshmanjoo in Srinagar, who was the last living lineage holder of the tradition of Abhinavagupta, the foremost proponent of Kashmir Śaivism.
Swamiji has since sponsored numerous scholars to help bring forth new manuscripts and translations in the field, including the first English translation of the Tantrasāra of Abhinavagupta. For the last 30 years, Swamiji has collaborated with Professor Alexis Sanderson, the most accomplished scholar in the field, and currently acts as the chairman of the board of the Institute for Śaiva and Tantric Studies, which was established to support the translation of key Sanskrit sources of the tantric tradition.
Swamiji’s teachings on Kashmir Śaivism convey the essence of this elegant philosophical system in direct and non-technical terms, making them relevant to modern Western lives. In 1989, he wrote the first English commentary on the Śiva Sutras in his two-volume book, Dynamic Stillness. He has since also presented commentaries on the Pratyabhijñāhṛdaya, the Spandakārikā, and the Mālinīvijayottara Tantra. Currently, he is in process of writing a commentary and exegesis on quantum language and mantra based upon Abhinavagupta’s Tantrāloka.
Śrī Vidyā and the Śrī Chakra Practice
In 1978, while teaching open-eyes kundalini meditation class in Bloomington, Indiana, Swami Chetanananda had a profound direct visionary experience of the Goddess Tripurasundarī, during which the Goddess transmitted to him her essence mantra. He reported this experience to Swami Muktanananda, who directed him to study with the Brahmin priests at Mookambika Devi Temple, in Karnataka, India. This launched Swamiji’s study of the teachings of Śakta Śaivism in the Śrī Vidyā lineage and practice of the worship of the Goddess through the Śrī Chakra sadhana.
Swamiji also studied at the seat of the Shankaracharya, the Adi Kamakshi Amman Devi Temple, in Kanchipuram. He received initiation and a Śrī Chakra from the Shankaracharya, which still sits on his altar today. In 2007, Swamiji began practicing the Śrī Chakra sadhana at the great śaktipitha, Kamakhya Temple in Assam, in northern India. He received instruction in the kaula tantric form of the sadhana from Ram Dayal Shastri, a powerful Bihari tantric who received his training in Varanasi. Swamiji still regularly goes into retreat at Kamakhya and worships at the havan yoni kund with the temple priests.
In December 2013, Swamiji began a formal transmission to students of his understanding of Śrī Vidyā and the Śrī Chakra practice developed from his 40 years of study. His teachings are offered in an online program that includes comprehensive study materials for anyone interested in pursuing this practice.
VAJRAYANA AND THE PACIFICATION OF SUFFERING LINEAGE
In 1974, while traveling in India to gather stories for a book on the life of Nityananda, Swamiji met Kangyur Rinpoche (Longchen Yeshe Dorje), a great master and tertön from Riwoche Monastery in Kham, East Tibet. Swamiji felt a profound and deep heart connection with Kangyur Rinpoche and sought his early advice. This was his first close association with the outstanding Tibetan Vajrayana and Dzogchen teachers of our time. These teachers included: His Eminence Kyabjé Chatral Rinpoche, from whom he received advice on the practice of Vajrakilaya; the Taktser Rinpoche, Thubten Jigme Norbu, the Dalai Lama’s brother, who sat on the board of directors of Swamiji’s ashram in Bloomington, Indiana; His Holiness Ngawang Tenzin Rinpoche of Bhutan; Abbot Khenpo Dondrup Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche of Gemang Dzogchen Monastery in Kham, Tibet; and Kenpo Pema Wangyal, the great Dzogchen master of Kham, who transmitted to Swamiji the essence Dzogchen teachings of Longchenpa.
In 1997, Swamiji met Lama Tsering Wangdu Rinpoche, a highly accomplished practitioner of Chöd and the Shije (Pacification of Suffering) teachings of Padampa Sangye. Swamiji understood that Padampa Sangye’s Chöd teachings and Śaivism shared a common origin, and he began to study with Rinpoche. Over the next years, Wangdu Rinpoche transmitted to Swamiji the highest teachings of the Nyingma tradition, including the Longchen Nyingthig, Dudjom Rinpoche’s Vajrakilaya teachings of Pudri Rekpung (spu gri reg phung), and the entire Padampa Sangye Shije practice canon. In December 2005, Tsering Wangdu Rinpoche conferred upon Swamiji the title of lineage holder of the Padampa Sangye Pacification of Suffering lineage and gave him the Dharma name of Ösel Dorje Shonnui Tsal.
Swami Chetanananda has supported Wangdu Rinpoche’s residency in the United States, sustained an active practice and teaching program of the Padampa and Chöd lineage teachings, and funded the translations of the key lineage texts including, Padampa Sangye’s Mahāmudra, published by Snow Lion Publications as The Lion of Siddhas in 2008.
For 45 years, Swami Chetanananda has continued to study the tantric tradition in all its forms, from the plains of North India to Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley and the steppes of Tibet. He has sought out adepts who preserve powerful lineages and assimilated the essence understanding of their practices into a deep understanding of energy and making contact with the ultimate reality. Swamiji spent significant time with the great Indian teachers of his generation, including Anandamayi Ma, Sathya Sai Baba, Dadaji of Calcutta, and Gopinath Kaviraj. He has supported the study of the Kubjika tradition and the Kamacharya family of Kathmandu, who are the last living holders of the royal tradition. Swamiji is also initiated into the lineage of Tyaga Nath Aghori from Pashupatinath in Kathmandu.
OSTEOPATHY, HOMEOPATHY, QIGONG
Swami Chetanananda’s understanding of the Breath of Life has been influenced by his study of a range of energetic healing systems and methodologies. For eighteen years, Swamiji studied with Dr. Rollin Becker, a gifted cranial osteopath, who was Dr. William Garner Sutherland’s assistant in the development of cranial osteopathy and the founder of the Sutherland Cranial Teaching Foundation. Dr. Becker's work had great impact on Swamiji's understanding of the three-phased respiratory process as it relates to our human physiology. Swamiji has a working knowledge of homeopathy and has supported the work of Dr. Sujit Chatterjee, Nancy Herrick and Roger Morrison. In addition, he studied Qigong with Master Dr. Baolin Wu in Santa Monica, California. Qigong and hatha yoga are today still part of Swamiji’s daily practices.
Swamiji is the author of several books on spirituality published by Rudra Press, including Dynamic Stillness, Vols. I & II ; The Breath of God; Open Heart, Open Mind; The Logic of Love; Choose to Be Happy; Will I Be the Hero of My Own Life? and There Is Only One. He has traveled extensively in Asia and has a deep appreciation for music and Asian art.