1977 or 1978: Paramahamsa Nithyananda (birth name Arunachalam Rajasekaran) was born in Tiruvannamalai, India.
2003: Nithyananda established his ashram, which he named Dhyanapeetam, in Bidadi, Banglore.
2006: Nithyananda established the Life Bliss Foundation near Los Angeles, in Monclair, California.
2010: One of Nithyananda’s devotees alleged that she has been in an intimate relationship with Nithyananda, which included rape, for five years.
2010 (March 2): The Tamil television channel Sun TV broadcasted a video that allegedly showed Nithyananda with popular Tamil film actress Ranjita in a hotel room in sexually “compromising positions.”
2010 (March 30): Nithyananda resigned as head of his ashram and its trusts.
2010 (April 30); Nithyananda announced that Life Bliss foundation in the U.S. would be closed to the public.
2010 (June): A reopening celebration of the Life Bliss Foundation was announced.
2012: Nithyananda was named as 100 Most Spiritually Influential Living people by Watkins’ Mind Body Spirit Magazine.
2012: Nithyananda was appointed 293rd pontiff of Madurai Aadheenam, one of the oldest mutts in the Saivite tradition, by Sri Arunagirinathar, the 292nd head of Madurai Adheenam,.
2012: Nithyananda was removed from his position as junior pontiff of Madurai Aadheenam after opposition from the state government, other Hindu mutts, and mutt disciples.
2013 (February): Nithnayanda received the title of Mahamandaleshwar.
2013 (December): Indian film actress Ranjitha took vows to become a sanyasin at Nithyanada’s ashram in Bidadi.
2019: Police in Gujarat raided one of his Nithyananda’s ashrams and took custody of three minor children who allegedly had been abused.
2019 (November): Nithynanada departed India rather than attending court hearings at which legal charges against him were being presented.
2022: A critical docu-series, My Daughter Joined a Cult was released.
2022: Nithyananada reportedly sought medical treatment for a serious condition in Sri Lanka.
There is some controversy about Paramahamsa Nithyananda’s (birth name Arunachalam Rajasekaran) birthdate. [Image at right] He was born in either 1977 or 1978 in Tiruvannamalai, India to Arunachalam and Lokanayaki Rajasekaran (Nandy 2010). He has two brothers. Nithyananda reportedly exhibited spiritual qualities from a young age. A local religious leader, Yogiraj Yogananda Puri, took note of him at the age of three; he has reported that a genetic mutation in his body took place when he was twelve; and he had an enlightenment experience when he was twenty-two that prompted his realization that he was “not a normal human being (Verma 2012). As a youth, he wandered for eight years, and when he was seventeen he settled in Bangalore. Mahavatar Babaji (the guru who revived the Kriya Yoga tradition) gave him the name Nithyananda. He began his public mission when he was twenty-four, and he established his ashram, which he named Dhyanapeetam, in Bidadi, Banglore in 2003. Subsequently, he created over a dozen ashrams across India. In 2006, Nithyananda established the Life Bliss Foundation near Los Angeles, in Monclair, California.
Nithyananda initially enjoyed considerable career success. He established organizations in a number of nations, including the
U.S. and India. He became a prolific author, with several hundred books in numerous languages under his name in the first decade of the 2000s. [Image at right]. In 2012, he was named on the list of the 100 Most Spiritually Influential Living people (he was #88) by Watkins’ Mind Body Spirit Magazine (2012). That same year Nithyananda was appointed 293rd pontiff of Madurai Aadheenam, one of the oldest mutts in the Saivite tradition, by Sri Arunagirinathar, the 292nd head of Madurai Adheenam. In February 2013 the title of Mahamandaleshwar (head of the Sri Pancayati Akhada Mahanirvani) was conferred on Nithyananda in a closed ceremony by the Panchayati Mahanirvani Akhara (Kailasa 2019).
However, opposition to Nithyananda also began to mount on March 2, 2010 when a leaked video was played on the Tamil television channel Sun TV that purported to show Tamil actress Ranjita in a hotel room with Nithyananda in “compromising positions.” The video and faux copies soon followed on YouTube, despite protestations from both Nithyananda and Ranjita. Whether or not the original video showed what was alleged (Copeman and Ikegame 2012), in the aftermath of the video release one of Nithyananda’s ashrams was forcibly entered and vandalized. Nithyananda was arrested and detained for a short period in early April 2010 before being released in June (Press Trust of India 2011; Verma 2012). In response to the turmoil, Nithyananda resigned temporarily as head of his ashram and its trusts at the end of March 2010 until June of that year (“Swami Nityananda Quits” 2010). A month later Nithyananda announced that Life Bliss foundation in the U.S. would be closed to the public (Sohrabji 2010). A reopening celebration was announced at the end of June (Staff Reporter 2010).
Nithnayanda’s appointment as a junior pontiff of the Madurai Adheenam mutt also collapsed almost immediately as opposition arose from the state government, other Hindu mutts, and mutt disciples. In October, Nithyananda was removed from that position (“Mutt heads join hands” 2012; “Controversial guru Nithyananda sacked” 2012). These controversies notwithstanding, in 2013 Ranjitha took vows to become a sanyasin at Nithyanada’s ashram in Bidadi.
Further legal problems arose beginning in 2018, and in 2019 Nithynanada departed India rather than attending court hearings at which legal charges against him were being presented. It was at this juncture that Nithyananda transformed his movement. He announced the independent Hindu nation of Kailasa, rumored to be an island off the coast of Ecuador. [See, Issues/Challenges] Nithyananda’s personal whereabouts have remained unknown. In 2022, there were been scattered but uncorroborated reports that Nithyananda was ill and had required sophisticated medical treatment in Sri Lanka (“Nithayanda Swamy” 2022; Mishra 2022).
Nithyananda’s teachings have centered on unlocking the unlimited potential of each individual. He states that
There is an extraordinary potential hidden inside every human being. If it is awakened it will take you to a much higher plane of consciousness – beyond the limitations of the human body-mind. Experience this superconsciousness, actualize your ultimate potential. This is the only aim of human life – to enjoy the ultimate luxury of living enlightenment (Nithyananda 2009).
Every individual is understood to be an expression of Existence. The key to enlightened existence is to allow the expression of Existence through you, which leads to realization of one’s infinite potential.
Understand, Existence is trying to express itself through you. What you call your potential is nothing but the expression of Existence through you. When you freely allow this, you will start realizing your infinite potential. When you start becoming the fulfillment of Existence, you become flowing energy, which is what I call Living Enlightenment. Living Enlightenment is living with the flowing energy of Existence, in synchronicity with its miraculous happenings.
When you live this way, you will find there is no personal barrier, no emotional baggage, nothing that holds you back in life. Life flows continuously like a river, carrying bliss and fulfillment every moment (Nithyananda 2009).
Individuals who reach this level are then able to experience Shakti, Yukti, Bhakti, and Mukti (Nithyananda 2009).
Shakti, the Energy to understand and change whatever you need to change in lifeBuddhi, the Intelligence to understand and accept whatever you don’t need to change inlife
Yukti, the Clarity to understand and realize that however much you change, whatever you see as reality is itself a continuously changing dream
Bhakti, the Devotion, the feeling of deep connection to That which is unchanging, Eternal and Ultimate, and
Mukti, the ultimate Liberation into Living Enlightenment when all these four are integrated
The spiritual regimen announced by Nithyananda teaches a spiritual routine that involves fasting (vratha) meditation, chanting (the sacred sound of Mahavakya), and a 28-day diet regimen (Pacchai Pattini Vratham). Some specific practices, fire walking and lemon piercing (passing a needle through a lemon so that the juice penetrates the skin to awaken Kundalini) have been prescribed for combating corona virus (Nithyananda 2006).
Nithyananda has claimed a variety of powers for himself, and sometimes for followers, that include esp, materialization, and remote viewing. He has also claimed extraordinary personal powers such as delaying the sunrise, teaching animals to speak human languages, third-eye awakening (which unleashes super-human powers)
It has also been reported that Nithyananda incorporated Tantric based sexual rituals into his spiritual regimen, but this has not been raised as an issue in the legal charges brought against him (Bhattacharya 2017).
Beginning with his establishment of his own ashram, Dhyanapeetam, in 2003 in Bidadi, Banglore and his founding of the Life Bliss Foundation outside of Los Angeles, California in 2006, Nithyananda began building an international organization network. In addition to his ashrams in India, this network claims over 1,000 spiritual centers in forty nations.
A major organizational reorientation took place after Nithyananda left India. He then announced the founding of Kailasa, an “E-nation.” Once Nithyananda established Kailasa, that mission constituted his objective at an organizational level (Kailasa website 2023):
KAILASA is reviving ancient treatise that accounted to the goodness and success of ancient times – treatise that ensure no one is left hungry, no child is left without education, no one is left in poverty and without the best holistic medical care, no one struggles with mental illness, no one is homeless, treatise that ensure women are respected, empowered and placed in leadership positions, treatise that ensure that all are given equal opportunities, and treatise that ensure all are treated as God Himself – with reverence and respect.
The physical location of Kailasa has been the subject of widespread media coverage but remains an unsolved mystery. Most sources report that he purchased a small island off the coast of Ecuador, a purchase that was funded by wealthy supporters. The government of Ecuador has denied any involvement in either offering him safe refuge or selling him government controlled property (Ellis-Petersen 2019).
As an E-nation Kailasa describes itself as “a nation without borders created by dispossessed Hindus from around the world who lost the right to practice Hinduism authentically in their own countries.” On this basis, it claims a population of 100,000,000 “Adi Shaivites and two billion practicing Hindus,” although only practicing Hindus are eligible for citizenship. The Kailasa website (2023) proclaims its mission in the following way:
The Vedic civilization that has stood for over 10,000 years as an enlightened civilization, a global beacon of spiritual and temporal wisdom, technology and culture now stands on the very edge of annihilation. Centuries of invasion, looting, genocide and colonial oppression and modern day persecution have reduced what was once a continent-spanning civilization made of up 56 independent Hindu kingdoms to a virtual political orphan without a national home. At present there is no declared Hindu nation on the planet. Without the protection of political legitimacy, there is imminent danger that the great tenets, scriptures and science of creating an enlightened civilization will be forever lost to humanity. The nation of KAILASA represents nothing short of a systematic attempt to revive authentic Hinduism and usher in a global renaissance of Vedc enlightened civilization.
The nation of KAILASA stands as the world’s sole beacon of genuine Hindu self-governance and autonomy. Though the formation of the nation is spearheaded by members of the Hindu Adi Shaivite minority community, it offers a safe haven to all the world’s practicing, aspiring or persecuted Hindus, irrespective of race, gender, sect, caste, or creed, where they can peacefully live and express their spirituality, arts, and culture free from denigration, interference and violence.
In 2020, Nithyananda projected that he was planning “for at least 100,000 people settling in Kailasa in next 5 years” (Web Desk 2020). Citizenship in Kailasa was to be available only to practicing Hindus and only after a donation to Kailasa (Ellis-Petersen 2019). Since actual residence on Kailasa has yet to be permitted, Nithyananda has communicated with his followers through his numerous books and live YouTube broadcasts.
Kailasa has announced a set of government departments (homeland security, commerce, treasury, housing, technology and “enlightened civilisation”), its own constitution and flag (Image at right), and a Hindu Investment and Reserve Bank. The nation has promised universal healthcare, free food distribution, free education and “revival of a temple-based lifestyle.” The nation has pledged to operate on the basis of a dharmic economy and to accept cryptocurrency (Ellis-Petersen 2019).
Nithyananda has claimed preeminent status as a religious leader on many occasions. For example, in connection with his teachings on Living Enlightenment, his website has announced that “This experience is Living Enlightenment. This experience is Nithyananda” (Nithyananda 2009). He depicts Kailasa as “The place where Paramashiva resides and rules the whole Cosmos and KAILASA” (Kailasa website 2023). Beyond his personal status, Nithyananda also asserts authority as a symbolic leader of Hindus around the globe. The Kailasa website introduces Nithyananda as an advocate for “persecuted” Hindus around the globe.
Supreme Pontiff of Hinduism Sri Nithyananda Paramashivam which speaks on behalf of 2 billion practicing Hindus around the world who do not have a voice representing them in these International Forums”(Kailasa website 2021).
He compares his own quest to that of the Dalai Lama in “Spiritual Giants of our Times: The Dalai Lama and Guru Maha Sannidhaanam Sri Nithyananda Paramashivam – Parallels Between the Lives of Two Spiritual Giants, Persecuted for their Beliefs, Yet Standing Tall for Humanity” (Kailasa website 2019).
Nithyananda asserts his impact in the following way (Nithyananda 2011):
Nithyananda is committed to bringing about a true inner awakening for all beings on our planet. A spiritual genius with an enlightened insight into everything from management to meditation, from relationships to religion, and from success to sannyas, Nithyananda brings to us a wealth of practical wisdom, meditation techniques and tools for lasting inner transformation. A powerful spiritual healer, Nithyananda has helped thousands of people fight back from diseases ranging from depression to cancer, often with a single touch. Nithyananda is currently ranked the No.1 spiritual guru on youtube, and the author of over 200 books in 28 global languages.
Nithyananda enjoyed early success in his spiritual career, beginning in his childhood. Once he had established his first ashram in 2003, he went on develop an impressive network of organizations internationally. The period of success began to unravel in 2010. In that year the Ranjita scandal broke, which created considerable negative publicity and opposition to him, although the evidence of impropriety was disputed and Ranjita remained his devotee (Copeman and Ikegame 2012).
In 2010 a female devotee, Aarti Rao, who had been a follower of Nithyananda since 2004, accused him of raping her over a five-year period and filed a complaint both in the U.S. and India. She also alleged there were other victims (“Nithyananda’s Former Disciple” 2015). That case was opened and closed several times. However, in June 2018 a new complaint was registered and “non-bailable warrant” was issued in 2022.
In 2019, a contested case of family loyalties emerged. Nithyananda was accused of separating two young sisters, Lopamudra Sharma (21) and Nandhitha Sharma (18), from their family by their father. Allegedly, they were “illegally confined” in one of Nithyananda’s ashrams by their father, who obtained a writ of habeus corpus. For their part, the sisters declared that the threat to their safety was their father and proposed to answer the writ by video (“Sisters Missing” 2019). The Gujarat police raided his ashram and charged Nithyananda with abduction. In 2022, a A docu-series, My Daughter Joined a Cult, was released in several languages that described one family’s encounter with Nithyananda’s movement. (Deodhar 2022; PTI 2022).
Faced with this ongoing set of legal charges and negative publicity, Nithyananda left India at some point in 2019, He then began developing a new operational and power base by internationalizing his movement. At the center of this project was an effort to define Hinduism as an endangered and persecuted tradition (Web Desk 2020):
Nithyananda claimed, “Just like Jews made a nation for them to keep the Judaism alive, their religion alive, Hindus need Kailasa to keep Hinduism alive for the future. Kailasa is the seed bank for Hinduism. We need a seed bank to keep Hinduism alive.”
“See all over the world, Jews, wherever they are, how they feel the need for Israel; same way, Hindus need to first realise the need for Kailasa to keep Hinduism alive, to keep the Hindu narrative alive, legitimate,” Nithyananda said.
As part of the internationalization strategy he announced “bilateral agreements.” [Image at right] For example, on January 11, 2023 the Kailasa website announced an agreement titled ”The United States of America signs bilateral agreement with the United States of KAILASA.” The agreement, which actually was with Camden, New Jersey (which has the second largest Hindu population in the U.S.), touts this historical importance of Kailasa and its presence across the United States (Kailasa website 2023):
The United States of KAILASA is the revival of the ancient enlightened Hindu civilizational nation with its own sovereign territory also. It is the First Sovereign Nation for all the two billion born and practicing Hindu diaspora worldwide.
In the United States, KAILASA has its presence in almost all the 50 states. The Supreme Pontiff of Hinduism visited the United States multiple times since 2003 and personally established and inaugurated KAILASA ecosystems across the United States of America, including in New Jersey and New York in 2004. Since then, The SPH Bhagavan Nithyananda Paramashivam has positively transformed the lives of millions.
The agreement also highlights Nityananda’s personal importance in this restoration project (Kailasa website 2023):
The Supreme Pontiff of Hinduism is the Head of 21 ancient indigenous Kingdoms of Hinduism, and He has successfully revived Hinduism to its full glory in the United States of KAILASA, which stands for human rights and religious freedom for all Hindus worldwide, protecting Hindus worldwide from persecution and which is building bridges and relations with all nations and peoples across the world.
The Camden agreement was one of many with municipalities across the U.S. Kailasa also has claimed agreements with several small nations. These agreements have no legal standing, and a number of jurisdictions, like Newark, New Jersey, have withdrawn from the agreement when officials explored the status of Kailasa and Nithyananda (Bauman 2023; Medeiros 2023).
Another component of the internationalization strategy has been to forge a relationship with the United Nations. Over the last several years Kailasa has presented and the UN Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has published a number of briefings and statements. For example, in December 2021 in Geneva, Switzerland, Nithyananda, who presents himself as the Supreme Pontiff of Hinduism, opened his UN briefing in a way that conjoined the missions of the UN and Kailasa, the global persecution of Hindus and other minorities, and Nithyananda’s status as a Hindu spiritual leader (Kailasa website 2021):
On behalf of all 2 billion Hindus, the KAILASA Nation presented to the United Nations about the persecution of Hindu Sampradayas in India during the 14th Session of the OHCRC’s Forum on Minority Issues, Geneva, 2 and 3, December 2021. The United Nations accepted the KAILASA Nation and allowed KAILSA to present its case after the presentation from the Permanent Mission from India to the UN which focused on how Islamic and Christian minorities are safeguarded by the Indian Government.
For the past 10 years the KAILASA Nation and SPH Sri Nithyananda Paramashivam, have been attacked and silenced in India as a religious minority and a linguistic minority and because extremist elements are opposed to KAILASA’s stance when it comes to the rights of women, including otherwise marginalized Dalit women, and the rights of members of the LGBTQ+ and transgendered communities.
Nithyananda’s efforts to link his own pre-eminent status, persecution of Hindus and Hinduism, and Kailasa as a haven from attacks on him and Hinduism through United Nations documents have become even more detailed, direct and assertive (Kailasa 2023).
There has been some pushback from the United Nations to Kailasa’s efforts to promote the movement through participation in UN programs and events. The Kailasa ambassador was in attendance at two UN meetings in Geneva in 2023. One meeting was on discrimination against women, and the other discussed sustainable development. A UN representative announced that comments offered by the Kailasa representative would not be included in the final reports as they were either “irrelevant” or “tangential” (Sebastian 2023)
At this time, the future of Nithyananada’s movement and Kailasa remains opaque. He continues to be vulnerable to Indian legal authorities, his connection to followers is almost exclusively internet based, and there is no convincing evidence that Kailasa is more than a symbolic presence.
Image #1: Nithyananda.
Image #2: Book cover of Living Enlightenment: An Introduction.
Image #3: The flag of Kailasa.
Image #4: A “bilateral agreement” with the city of Richmond, Virginia.
10 May 2023