Stephen Sturgess was born in London. His first experience of practising Yoga and meditation was when he was nineteen in 1970, when he met for the first time a Yoga teacher in SW London, named Laya Garady (now known as Swami Pragyamurti Saraswati), one of Britain’s first and dedicated disciples of Swami Satyananda Saraswati (1926-2009) of the Bihar School of Yoga, India. This beginning in authentic Yoga gave Stephen a thorough grounding in the Haṭha Yoga practices of the Shat kriyas,Yoga asanas, prāṇāyāma,Yoga Nidra, mantra japa, kirtan (devotional chanting), and meditation.
During the 1970’s Stephen studied Yoga in classes and retreats under some of These enlightened four disciples have now passed on leaving their inspiring and practical spiritual legacies to their followers.
In 1974 Stephen had his first experience of Yoga discipline and austerity living in a Yoga ashram by going on a Satyananda Ashram one month course in Belfast, Ireland under the teaching of Swami Atmananda Saraswati (1939-2003).
Then a few years later in 1979 at the Dublin Yoga Convention, Stephen was given Guru Diksha (Initiation) with the spiritual name, Shankara, and a personal mantra by Swami Satyananda Saraswati.
During the 1970’s it was a particularly inspiring time in London as authentic and spiritually inspiring gurus and swamis visited from India. Stephen was blessed to meet and study under many of them at their Yoga workshops and retreats, including: Swami Dr Gitananda (1906-1993) an expert on pranayama, who founded the Ananda ashram in Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu, India; and Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh (1883-1963) direct disciples: Swami Satyananda Saraswati (1923-2009), Swami Vishnudevananda (1927-1993), Swami Ventakesananda (1921-1982), and Swami Satchidananda (1914-2002).
During the years 1973 to 1976 Stephen followed the teachings of Krishna Consciousness founded by the guru, Swami Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada, and travelled with the Hare Krishna devotees in 1976 as a full devotee with them on their Lord Chaitanya Pilgrimage to Brindāvāna and Māyāpur (West Bengal) in India for one month. There he lived a very disciplined and austere life in their ashrams going to bed at 9pm and rising at 3am every day to practise Bhakti and Karma Yoga.
During this this time Stephen had read Paramhansa Yoganand’s classic Yoga book ‘Autobiography of A Yogi’, which had inspired him immensely. It had sown a spiritual seed in his heart, but it was not the right time to meet his true guru until later in the 1980’s. For 12 years Stephen studied and practised different Yogas: Hatha, Karma, Jñāna, Bhakti, Raja (Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga), Tantric, and Kundalini, under various teachers. This was to give him a good understanding of authentic Yoga and at the same time purification of his body and mind.
It was during the eighties, in 1981 at Brockwood, Hampshire in England, that Stephen met another enlightened and well known spiritual teacher named Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986), who was born in India. During his youth J.Krishnamurti met the well known Theosophists: Annie Besant and C.W.Leadbeater, who believed him to be the new spiritual World Teacher whose coming the Theosophists had predicted. They tried to groom him as a Messiah, but Krishnamurti renounced the role he was expected to play, and for the rest of his life travelled the world giving talks on the nature of mind, with meditation and self-inquiry. In private conversation with J. Krishnamurti at Brockwood, Stephen personally experienced this great soul’s deep spiritual awareness, spiritual insights, and aura of love and compassion.
In the summer of June, 1982 for the first time, Stephen had the fortunate blessing of meeting Swami Kriyananda (1926-2013, a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda and founder of the spiritual community, Ananda Village in Nevada, California) at the Mind-Body-Spirit Festival at Olympia in London. Kriyananda was doing a lecture tour of Europe and London was one of the countries he gave a Kriya yoga lecture titled ‘Divine Life’. In his own words of this experience Stephen says:
“After meeting Swami Kriyananda, I went home with great feelings of joy and happiness in my heart. My inspired thoughts were continually revolving around what swami had sung, said and shown to us. Throughout my life, I had been searching for something of great value, some intangible, ultimate blessing. And I had been given many wonderful gifts - in the beauty of nature, in family and friends, and other spiritual teachers and their paths. Yet these blessings are but a glimpse of the wonder and goodness of God. They are like the many layers that form a pearl and contribute to the depth of its beauty. My search for Truth had led me to this discovery: The precious pearl I was seeking is the Kingdom of God, and it is within me, here and now. All I ever need or want is part of that kingdom, the kingdom that holds the riches of life itself. Through Paramhansa Yogananda, and his direct disciple, Swami Kriyananda, I was introduced to and made aware of that inner Kingdom of God.
That night, after seeing Swami Kriyananda, I had an extraordinary dream experience. A superconscious dream, that to this day, is very vivid
in my memory. A dream that was important in giving me faith, purpose, and direction in life. I awoke the next morning with a great feeling of joy and exuberance! It was an overwhelming feeling and blessing that filled my heart - a life-changing realisation. In my superconscious dream both Paramhansa Yogananda and Swami Kriyananda had appeared to me. They came to affirm to me that Kriya Yoga was my spiritual path. I could see Yogananda’s radiant form very clearly as he stood in front of me and said, “Fear not, for I am, Paramhansa Yogananda, your true guru. This is your spiritual path, come follow me!”
Inspired by Yogananda’s words, that incredible feeling of joy and inspiration I experienced in his presence gave me great inner fulfilment, in knowing that at last I had found my true guru. I knew without doubt that Yogananda was my true guru. It was strange, but over the next two nights Yogananda and Kriyananda continued to appear to me in my dreams. I knew intuitively that this was a confirmation of what Yogananda had said to me. That he was my guru and I was to follow the path of Kriyā Yoga, guided by the wisdom of my spiritual teacher, Swami Kriyananda.
I met many spiritual teachers, swamis, and gurus on my spiritual journey through life, of whom I'm also grateful too, for sharing with me their teachings. But Paramhansa Yogananda stands clearly above the others as a perfected Spiritual Master. He is a true authentic Guru, like a faultless diamond, without any imperfections. His inspiring teachings are perfect.
I was first initiated into Kriya at my house in London in May 1984 by Swami Kriyananda, and later, also by the monks of the Self-Realization Fellowship and by Roy Eugene-Davis, who was initiated into Kriyā with blessings by Yogananda himself in August 1951.
In 2011 I was ordained as a Kriyācharya (Kriyā teacher) to teach and initiate others into Kriyā by Roy Eugene Davis to teach and initiate others into Kriyā Yoga.”
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