Author Archives: Swami Nirmalananda

About Swami Nirmalananda

Serving as the Master Teacher, Swamiji is a teacher of the highest integrity for over 35 years. Formerly known as Rama Berch, she is the originator of Svaroopa® yoga as well as the Founder of Master Yoga and of Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram. In 2009 she was honored with initiation into the ancient order of Saraswati monks. Now wearing the traditional orange, she has openly dedicated her life to serving others. Usually called Swamiji, she makes the highest teachings easily accessible, guiding seekers to the knowledge and experience of their own Divine Essence.

A Deeper Knowing Awakened

By Judy (Jagruti) Goodkin

Interviewed by Lissa (Yogyananda) Fountain, Yogaratna

Hearing Gurudevi Nirmalananda’s teachings on Swami Sundays is like getting a booster shot of the Self.  Recently, Gurudevi said she’d received Shaktipat from her Baba over 200 times.  And if he were still in his body, she’d still be getting Shaktipat from him.  Hearing this filled me with an ongoing inspiration.  If Gurudevi would still get Shaktipat, why wouldn’t I?

It had been a year since my last Shaktipat Retreat in 2021.  My sadhana (personal practice) was neither moving forward nor moving me deeper within.  Yet I knew Shaktipat could get me through whatever was keeping me blocked.  Also, I felt a strong need to be in Gurudevi’s presence.  So I signed up right away for the On-Site program last May. 

Being surrounded by many deep yogis and swamis was so supportive.  After I received Shaktipat, the swamis’ talks helped me understand the experiences I was having.  For instance, in meditation, my thoughts can feel heavy.  They are just words.  But when I attach a story to them, they get me in the mud!  But they are just words.

I also have a new appreciation for how Kundalini (meditative energy) works on my emotions.  While in meditation, if an emotion comes up, I can sit with it and feel it.  It has a purpose: Kundalini is burning through it.  Since Shaktipat, I don’t have to pursue my emotions or thoughts in meditation.  They no longer draw me out.  Now experiencing them can draw me in deeper.

Swami Nirmalananda giving Shaktipat

Receiving Shaktipat has had a profound effect on my everyday life.  I used to think enlightenment happened with a  “boom” all at once!  Now I see it is a process.  I’m becoming more aware of a gradually deepening inner knowing.  Gurudevi explains:

After Shaktipat, even when your mind returns to its familiar pattern, the deeper knowing is awakened and is always there.

Recently, I attended a street fair with my family.  For some reason, I was getting more and more frustrated, annoyed and judgmental.  I sat down on the curb and acknowledged my feelings.  I began repeating mantra to myself.  I could see what was happening as separate from my usual kneejerk reactions.  I was able to stop my small-s self emotions.  They couldn’t pull me where I didn’t want to go.  Mantra shifted my state immediately.  When I’m in capital-S Self, I can soften.  I notice my relationships softening as well. 

At the end of my Shaktipat Retreat, our assignment was to increase our meditation time.  This felt challenging, as asana is always easier for me.  Yet I am gradually working up to an hour.  Now I really like meditation.  I look forward to it every day.  But it is my journaling that has changed the most.  After meditation, Gurudevi always says, “Now is a good time to journal.”  I used to stare at the blank page not knowing what to say after meditations.  Now, the words just flow out of me!  As Gurudevi promises, and through her Grace, I am still experiencing profound changes.  They are ongoing, getting deeper and deeper, and better and better!


By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

Having grown up in America, freedom was an ideal that inspired me.  As a kindergartener, I made pilgrim hats out of black construction paper, representing the Pilgrims who were seeking religious freedom.  I was heartened by the preamble to the Constitution which I learned in third grade.  It cites goals of union, justice, liberty and peace.  Thus I was ready when I found yoga and learned that the goal is freedom.  I felt an immediate resonance with it. 

I didn’t understand what freedom was.  As a teenager, I wanted a superficial freedom:  an escape from my parents (seemingly) unreasonable demands and expectations.  Once I started managing my own life, I wanted freedom to do what I wanted, as well as the freedom to do nothing at all if I chose.  None of these are the freedom that yoga promises. 

As important as freedom and social justice are, neither of these is yoga’s focus. Individual yogis may choose to focus there, as did Mahatma Gandhi in India 100 years ago.  He successfully used yogic ideals as a launching pad for political goals.  His work also inspired Rev. Martin Luther King in his world-changing mission.

Yogic freedom is an inner experience, not something you project into the world or ask of it.  It is also called liberation.  Consider this:  if the goal is liberation, it means you are currently in bondage.

Your bondage is internal.  It’s about who you think you are compared to who you really are.  These two fundamental principles of yoga are clearly summarized in the primary text of Kashmiri Shaivism.


Consciousness-Itself is your own Self.

J~naanam bandha.h

The not-knowing (of your Self) is bondage.

— Shiva Sutras 1.1-2

translation by Gurudevi Nirmalananda

These sutras define the mystical quest.  Sutra 1 divulges the secret of your inherent Divinity.  Sutra 2 explains that you don’t know your inherent Divinity.  It’s a conundrum.  It’s the cosmic game of hide and seek: you are hiding while you are also the one seeking your own Self.  Like a dog chasing its tail, you go round and round for lifetimes.

This text guides you through a process that begins with Shaktipat, the initiation that activates the arising of Consciousness within you.  After that, how long it takes for you to get enlightened is up to you.  Your own blossoming forth is assured, just like daffodils that will bloom in the spring, but you don’t know when spring will come.  The text gives you ways to push it along.

Meeting Your Guru

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

The movie script says that you walk into the room where the Guru is sitting. The Guru stops mid-sentence and looks directly at you and says, “I’ve been waiting for you.”  You sit at the master’s feet.  He leans over, whispers one word in your right ear and instantly you are absorbed deep within.  After a long time, you open your eyes.  The Guru is there, waiting and watching.  He sees your exalted state and nods.  You bow.

No, it didn’t happen that way for me either.  I didn’t know I was looking for a Guru.  Well, my heart knew but my mind didn’t have the word to conjure up, no way to name what I was looking for. I was in the bittersweet pain of the yearning, but I didn’t know what to call it (other than pain). 

In 1975 an image haunted me, coming up again and again from different sources.  I’d find it in a book, then someone would bring it to me.  It was a card from the Tarot deck – the Hermit.

The Hermit doesn’t hide from people… He beckons you to turn your view inward and allow yourself the time and space to think, feel, and meditate on what it is that you truly want in and from your life. By doing this you will be able to unlock your true desires and find complete happiness.  The Hermit looks to be standing on his own surrounded by nothing and holding only a lamp… His lantern is not to guide his own way, for he’s already where he wants to be. It is there to guide you to him or to his location.

The next year, I found Baba.  All by coincidence, of course.  It was later that I found out what coincidence really is — God being anonymous.  Yes, it was all Divine Intervention.  And I truly needed the help.

Once you meet the Guru, everything changes.  This is particularly true when you encounter a Shaktipat Guru, for the Shaktipat Guru’s job is to give you an inner opening to your own Self.  That experience changes you…

This is an excerpt from Gurudevi’s new Telecourse, debuting today — Enlightenment: Stages & Steps.

FREE Intro Video

Pay It Forward

kristineBy Dhairyavati (Kristine) Freeman

My first yoga teacher was Ronna Sanchez. I will be forever grateful for the years of training and personal practice she had done before I ever walked through her classroom door. She offered the Svaroopaâ Yoga Gentle class that my physical therapist recommended, and which I reluctantly agreed to try.

Despite the strangeness of all those blankets, the music (tamboura) and the words (Sanskrit), I was hooked. Lying in that final Shavasana, I thought, “I don’t know what this is, but my body really likes it.” “It” was the flow of Grace — I just didn’t know that yet. “It” was the upwelling of my Self. “It” would heal years of chronic pain and unwind the mental and emotional patterns beneath that pain. Such a gift!

Have you received such wisdom and blessings from your Svaroopaâ yoga practice? If so, you can credit not only your teacher, but your teacher’s teacher — Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati. And you can also credit her teachers, the lineage of Gurus who came before her, including Baba Muktananda and Bhagavan Nityananda.

muktananda nityananda After returning from a recent Shaktipat, I added photos of Muktananda and Nityananda to my home puja. For years Swami Nirmalananda’s photo alone had been the focus of my devotion. It was as if I had compartmentalized her Grace. Then I realized that without her Guru, and her Guru’s Guru, she would not be here to serve us today. And with that I was able to expand my gratitude back through the lineage in a whole new way.

While the teachings are elevated and mystical, the Ashram, Swami, Svaroopaâ yoga teachers and Svaroopaâ Vidya meditation teachers are grounded in the real world. That means there are real world necessities to make the teachings available. And they require financial support.

When you provide financial support to the Ashram, you are supporting the people who support your yogic process: the teachers. Please pay it forward. Join me in making a donation to our Inspiring the Next Generation campaign.  Thank you.SV1714_Lineage Fundraiser logo_v1

Standing on the Shoulders -by Swami Nirmalananda

The end of the year, a time to review what has been so far…  We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us.  Today I am melting in gratitude to the yogic hearts that built Master Yoga for over 20 years, so many yogis doing so many poses and giving so much of their love and support.  It’s uncountable!

stand on shoulders gratitudehabitat-comThe work of the current Board members is just the tip of the iceberg, the part that shows, but they stand on the shoulders of the Board members who worked hard on Svaroopis’ behalf for many years.  I count myself in that group, though they tackled big chunks of the work without me in recent years.  But even those Board members were standing on the shoulders of those who worked on the community’s behalf – that’s what a not-for-profit organization does:  provide benefit to others!

While the Board members stand in the spotlight, the staff members that do all the behind-scenes work are to be honored and thanked.  And the teachers – without whom we would have nothing; how can you begin to thank your own teacher.

Swami hands

Which brings me full circle to my teacher, of course.  For me, it’s all about Baba.  What i bring you is what He gave me.  It is my honor and my duty to share.  So i thank all who support the continuing process – the consolidated process, even as we look ahead.  The Desmond awaits, our new home for consolidated programs, with housing, meals and classes all wonderfully consolidated into one location.  We begin on Friday!  The first program of the new year.  Thus one year ends and a new one begins.  With love for all that has passed, and all who contributed to its process.  With love to all that will come and all who will make it be what it will be.

Thank you, Baba.

OM svaroopa svasvabhava.h namo nama.h

Luxuriating in the Gratitude, by Swamiji


On the day after the orgy of gratitude that is our national holiday, I am grateful for the Thanksgiving holiday itself.  I am deeply grateful to see and feel the world slow down a bit. Even in their rush to go see loved ones, there’s another motivator under the hurry.  Even in the early morning lines for Black Thursday, the gratitude they formally celebrated the day before still leaves an imprint on their heart – a perfect introduction to the holiday spirit that infects the airwaves and even people’s hearts. 

These are sweet times every year, the shortening of the days, the cuddle-into-your-covers nights, the choosing to slow down a bit.  That’s one of the reasons I left southern California:  there are no snow days.  They don’t know how to turn the switch off.  That took me a long time to learn, too.

It snowed.  The afternoon before Thanksgiving, it came drifting down outside my window for a couple of hours.  Two miles away, at Downingtown Yoga it was wet and rainy, but this hillside home got big puffy flakes.  It melted on contact, making it all rather easy — beauty without the hassle.  Another thing to be grateful for.

Today I’m still luxuriating in the gratitude.  Now that I think about it, that’s every day for me, for I revel always in what my Guru gave me – a gift beyond comparison, the gift of Self.  It was the only thing I ever wanted.  And now he lets me serve Him by serving you.  Thank you for wanting the only thing I ever wanted.  It gives us a starting point, a common cause, something you’ve said matters to you too. It’s really easy to make progress — just do more yoga!


Thank you to the many of you who sent me birthday gifts, over $1,500 in donations to honor the day I was born into this world.  I must say I enjoyed this birthday more than any in the last few decades – the bliss is growing!

Our Thanksgiving fundraiser has already achieved $15,330 in financial offerings, but we only have one more week to go – Click here to send your gift, or to send your heart photo for our slide show and poster.

With love and blessings, Swami Nirmalananda