Swami Chetanananda is a tantric master in the Shaiva-Shakta tradition. He is a teacher in the lineage of Bhagavan Nityanananda of Ganeshpuri, India, and Swami Rudrananda (Rudi), of New York City. He is the founder and abbot of The Movement Center, a nonprofit organization and spiritual community based in Portland, Oregon.
Born in Kentucky in 1948 and raised in the Midwest, Swamiji met his guru, Rudi, during a trip to New York City in 1971. The impact of that encounter changed the course of his life. After spending several months with Rudi, he returned to Bloomington, Indiana, to set up an ashram–the community that has become The Movement Center. He began teaching Rudi’s eyes-open meditation practice and very quickly gathered a core group of students around him. Swamiji continued to study with Rudi until Rudi’s death in 1973, when he took on the responsibility for continuing Rudi’s work and directing the numerous ashrams Rudi had established.
“The essence of Rudi’s teaching could be summarized by saying that to open our hearts and love unifies all experience and reveals the underling truth. Negativity and criticism fragment experience and bind us ever more strongly to delusion.”
Following Rudi’s death, Swamiji turned to Swami Muktananda to continue his study. He took sannyas with Swami Muktananda in I978 in India. He began to explore the teachings of tantric Shaivism, a nondualistic system.
Shortly after taking sannyas in 1978, while teaching open-eyes kundalini meditation class in Bloomington, Indiana, Swami Chetanananda had a profound visionary experience of the Goddess Tripurasundarī, during which the Goddess transmitted to him her essence mantra. Swamiji reported this experience to Swami Muktanananda, who directed him to study with the Brahmin priests at Mookambika Devi Temple, in Karnataka, India. This launched Swamiji’s 40-year study and practice of the Goddess through the teachings of Śakta Śaivism in the Śrī Vidyā lineage and the Śrī Chakra sadhana.
Swamiji has studied with the temple priests at the important Śrī Vidyā śaktipīths (places of power) of Mookambika Devi Temple in Karnataka and at the seat of the Shankaracharya, the Adi Kamakshi Amman Devi Temple, in Kanchipuram. Since 2007, Swamiji has practiced the tantric version of the Śrī Chakra sadhana with tantrikas and priests in periodic retreats at the great śaktipīth at Kamakhya Temple, in Assam, in northern India.
One of Swamiji’s greatest gifts is his ability to integrate teachings of the various traditions he has studied and extract their essence. He can explain esoteric concepts in terms that make them readily accessible to contemporary practitioners.Swamiji also holds lineages in the Shije tradition of Padampa Sangye, the Chod of Machig Labdron and the Longchen Nyingthig tradition of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. He received those transmissions from Lama Tsering Wangdu Rinpoche, head of Pal Gyi Tingri Langkor Jangsem Kunga Ling, a monastery in Kathmandu. He met Rinpoche in 1998 and brought him to the United States for the first time in 1999.