As a long-time proponent of nonsectarianism, Jagad Guru has worked in union with other Vaishnava acharyas (teachers), including Puri Maharaj, Paramadvaiti Maharaj, B.B Tirtha Maharaj, and others to establish the World Vaishnava Association, an umbrella organization composed of more than 30 different Vaishnava missions around the world.
Vaishnavas recognize that despite the various ways and methods that different acharyas teach, the apex of perfect yoga, and the ultimate goal of the human form of life, is the achievement of pure bhakti, or spiritual love. Yoga can be simply compared to a ladder. The lowest rung is yoga asanas and the highest rung—the culmination and definition of yoga—is perfect spiritual love.
Chris Butler's Historical Spiritual Lineage
Siddhaswarupananda comes from the line of yoga spiritual masters known as the Brahma Madhva Gaudiya Sampradaya. This spiritual lineage includes the great sage Srila Vyasadeva, who compiled and wrote down the Vedas some 5000 years ago.
Another yoga luminary in this line was Madhvacharya (1238–1317 AD), who was famous for his opposition to and refutation of the advaitavada teachings of Shankaracharya (788-820 AD) as well as other impersonalist (Mayavadi) schools of thought.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486–1534 AD) is acknowledged as the foremost proponent of bhakti yoga in more recent history, both within the Brahma Madhva Gaudiya Sampradaya and within the subcontinent of India.
Sri Chaitanya, while profoundly humble, displayed an unparalleled intellect and was accepted as the greatest scholar of His time, gathering about Him a number of extraordinary and highly scholarly disciples. Among them were Sri Ramananda Raya, who was the governor of Madras, and the brothers Rupa Goswami and Sanatan Goswami, who were ministers of the Bengal government under the Muslim regime of Nawab Hussain Shah.
Under the direction of Sri Chaitanya, His followers have given mankind the priceless gift of an enormous library of extraordinary yoga spiritual literature unmatched in the history of the world. It is only within recent decades that these works on Gaudiya Vaishnava yoga by the followers of Sri Chaitanya have risen in prominence and appreciation by scholars in many academic institutions in Europe and America, including Oxford and Harvard.
In more recent times, a number of prominent spiritual teachers appeared within the Brahma Madhva Gaudiya Sampradaya. Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur (1838–1914), renowned as a great yogi, devotee and Vedic scholar, was a high court judge and assistant to the governor of Orissa province under the British Raj. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati (1874–1937) was one of the great Vedic scholars of modern India, and his most famous disciple, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad (1896–1977), propagated Vaishnavism widely in the Western world. Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda is the humble disciple of this greatest of scholars and devotee in modern times.
Continue Reading to Learn More about the Science of Identity Foundation's Founder
Jagad Guru Meets His Guru
Jagad Guru appeared in this world in 1948 as Chris Butler. His spiritual quest began in his teens, and he quickly realized the impersonal Brahman aspect of the Absolute Truth (nirvakalpa samadhi). He then dedicated himself to helping others achieve that same realization by founding the Haiku Meditation Center in Hawaii, U.S.A. By the time he was only 20 years old, he was widely recognized throughout the Hawaiian Islands and the West Coast of America as a self-realized yogi and master of the astanga and kundalini yoga systems.
Within a short time, Jagad Guru came in contact with A.C. Bhakivedanta Swami. Although Jagad Guru was already enlightened and a knower of the impersonal or “white light” feature of the Original Cause (Brahman realization), the teachings of Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami drew him beyond the “white light” to the personal aspect of the Original Cause. Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami accepted him as a disciple and gave him the name Siddhaswarupananda, which means “one’s spiritual form which is full of bliss.”
In 1970, Siddhaswarupananda offered himself and all his possessions at the feet of his guru, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. Exhibiting freedom from attachment, he voluntarily gave up his properties, wealth, and position as an honored teacher with hundreds of followers to become a humble servant of his spiritual master—doing everything from washing floors and washing the dishes of his fellow monks to sleeping on a cement floor.
Teaching on Behalf of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was the strongest proponent of bhakti yoga, and He wanted to distribute it to everyone. Five hundred years ago He gave the instruction, “By My command, be guru [spiritual teacher] and save the people from their suffering.” Thus, Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami passed on this instruction to all of his disciples, and Jagad Guru took this instruction as his life and soul. Jagad Guru traveled penniless to the Hawaiian island of Kauai, where by God’s grace he opened a yoga ashram in the countryside with no running water or electricity. He became a siksha (instructing) guru of many not only in Hawaii, but around the world. As a humble disciple, he always sent his disciples to Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami to be initiated. After the disappearance from this world of his Gurudev in 1977, Jagad Guru took the role of diksha (initiating) guru and began to initiate disciples. Today he has a worldwide following of tens of thousands of individuals who attempt to apply the teachings of yoga in their daily lives.
The literal translation of “Jagad Guru” is “universal teacher” or “teacher of the whole world,” as distinct from the teacher of a particular sect, religion, race, or nationality. “Guru” as a noun means “spiritual teacher.” Used as an adjective, it means “heavy” or “weighty,” as in “one who is heavy with spiritual knowledge and wisdom.” This title was given to him by perceptive students of the truth, who perceived him to be a very special teacher qualified to teach not just the followers of a particular group, but all mankind. Additionally, “guru” means servant; “guru” does not mean master. If someone is declared to be “Jagad Guru,” that means such a person is actually rendering service to all of humankind. Guru is not a position one can be promoted to, but rather is a consciousness of knowing one’s spiritual identity and fully acting on that truth.
Because Siddhaswarupananda presents ancient yoga and Vedic wisdom in a down to earth, scientific, and philosophical manner rather than dogmatically and fanatically, countless people who were previously skeptics now find a genuine spirituality that has real application in their modern lives. While uncompromising in his presentation of bona fide yoga teachings, Jagad Guru is also a master of innovation and thus deals with different people in different ways, according to time, place, and circumstance.
Jagad Guru has written several important books, such as Who Are You? Discovering Your Real Identity and Reincarnation Explained. He is also the author of Drugs, Suicide, and Divorce, which provides a comprehensive look at some of the major social problems plaguing the West. In addition, he has authored many booklets covering a wide variety of personal and social issues. His television series, Jagad Guru Speaks, aired internationally for many years.
Organization Founded by Jagad Guru
Perhaps one of the most difficult concepts for the Western mind to comprehend in relation to traditional yoga and Vedic thought is the question of spiritual authority. In the bona fide yoga tradition of Vaishnavism, as with all theology, spiritual authority lies with the Original Cause and is manifest in the world through shastra (yoga spiritual literature), sadhus (previous saintly gurus), and guru (the yoga spiritual master).
According to Veda and yoga, the perfection of life and of yoga is the achievement of pure bhakti (spiritual love). Yoga is not something one can join or quit, but is rather the eternal truth (sanatana dharma) of our identity. Yoga is an individual (rather than a team) pursuit or endeavor. While the association of like-minded seekers is encouraged, the concept of being “saved” by joining an institution or church is foreign (and alien to) the Vedic or yoga system.
The Science of Identity Foundation was established by Jagad Guru in 1977 to offer to the public ancient yoga wisdom and techniques that individuals can apply in their own lives to optimize their physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Many disciples and students of Jagad Guru around the world are doing their best to also make these teachings and practices available to others. To this end, many of them have also started yoga organizations and schools in different countries.