Swami Satyadharma is an acharya, a master teacher, who spent more than 35 years with Swami Satyananda and Swami Niranjan at the yoga ashram in Munger, Bihar, India. She now resides at Mangrove Yoga in Mangrove Mountain, NSW.
Swami Satyadharma grew up on the east coast of the United States in the 1960s, a time of turbulence, questioning and a national awakening that felt to many like the dawn of a new age.
As she took her questioning further, Satyadharma devoured books on eastern philosophy, spirituality and religion. But she wanted more than what she could learn through books; she was seeking a teacher.
At the age of 18 she set out to find her teacher and over the next 10 years she travelled the world with just enough money to get from place to place. “I was searching for answers, so wherever I heard there was a good teacher, I would go,” she says.
Like a wandering ascetic Satyadharma travelled through Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India, Japan and Indonesia. Every time she found a teacher she would stay nearby and absorb what she could until she felt compelled to move on.
During the period of her travel Satyadharma spent four years in India and met a number of teachers. At that time was drawn to the Buddhist faith and was inducted into the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Later, she travelled to Indonesia, where she had experiences that changed her path forever.
“In Indonesia, I had a calling that Swami Satyananda would be my guru and I should go back to India, so I did,” she says. “And when I arrived he said, ‘Now you have come, and you won’t be travelling anymore. You will stay here now and only travel when I tell you to.’ And that did happen. I stayed there for over 35 years.”
As she lived in the ashram in Munger with her guru, Satyadharma said the practices she had learned on her travels that had once been useful somehow lost importance in the light of his teachings.
“All of those practices fell away,” she said. “Just being in his presence your whole world was transformed. Just to be in his life was another way of life.”
It was in his presence that Satyadharma found the awakening she had been seeking. “When you have that little bit of realisation then your life changes and you start to really walk the inner path, and not just the external path in the world,” she says.
Meanwhile on the material level her life was simple. Satyadharma lived a life of service and became involved in the writing and compiling of yogic texts for the Bihar School of Yoga in India. She continues that work from her home at Mangrove Yoga Ashram today.
Satyadharma made her first visit to Australia in 1994 to tour and to give seminars. Her guru had been visiting Australia since the 1970s and established Mangrove Yoga Ashram in 1974 and Manly Yoga in 1975. Her coming to Australia was in a way the completion of what her guru had begun 20 years earlier.
“He had a soft spot for Australia,” she said of the guru she affectionately calls Swamijii. “He said Australia would be first in yoga and the very best yoga teachers would come from Australia, so he wanted Australians to have a place where they could come and learn to live yoga,” she said of Mangrove Yoga Ashram.
In 2000 Satyadharma helped develop the Satyananda Yoga Academy in Australia, including the Yogic Studies program, in conjunction with the Bihar School of Yoga in India. In 2009 she moved to Mangrove Mountain to develop her practice and serve as a mentor for students and yoga teachers.
Her work also includes compiling the teachings of Swami Satyananda and his guru Swami Sivananda into volumes on the different branches of yoga. Together with a team of Australian aspirants, she has completed the compilations of Karma Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Raja Yoga. Now she is working on Mantra Yoga and Gnana Yoga. Her commentary on the Yoga Chudamani Upanishad: A Treatise on Kundalini Yoga, has been published and she is currently working on a commentary of Yoga Tattwa Upanishad.
“When I teach I need to have experienced what it is I am teaching very deeply and I also experience it even when I teach,” she says. “This way I can convey it and it really can be received by students from inside themselves and become an inner experience for them too”
By Megan Reynolds