Sahajiya a religious cult. Its followers believe in the sahaja or simple way to feel the sahaja or innate reality that is present in every animate or inanimate object. According to Sahajiya philosophy, along with an external form, every object also has an internal form. This internal form is the eternal, otherwise known as sahaja. To feel the sahaja is to feel the internal eternity in one's self. The whole range of animate and inanimate objects can be felt by experiencing this internal form. The followers of this cult think that a simple, direct way is the best means to experience this feeling.

What goes in favour of human nature is the sahaja (simple) and what goes counter to it is vakra (crooked). The attainment of the self through that which is in accordance with human nature is the objective of Sahajiya philosophy. The Sahajiya believe that the object of worship is knowledge, and this knowledge resides within the self, not outside it. They believe that this knowledge cannot be acquired through study and books, but only apprehended through the advice of preceptors and the indoctrination of sahajasadhana.

The Sahajiya emphasise the importance of the body. They believe that the body embodies the universe and attainment of the self can only be made through bodily love. Literature based on Sahajiya philosophy is classified as Sahajiya literature.

Buddhist Sahajiya Bengal faced internal disturbances after the death of King Shashanka in 635 AD approximately. During the Pala dynasty, around the eighth century, Buddhist Sahajiya emerged as a religious doctrine. To understand the nature of living beings and the phenomenal world through the realisation of the eternal nature of the inner-self constitutes the inherent truth of the religious doctrine of the Buddhist Sahajiya. However, this doctrine also teaches one to renounce worldly ties. Initiates to the Sahajiya doctrine were known as Siddhacharya. Famous Siddhacharya include Luipa, Bhusukupa, kahnapa, Sarahpa, Shantipa, and Shavarpa, who composed the Buddhist songs and doha (distiches) of the charyapada. Most of these composers were inhabitants of Bengal, Mithila, Orissa and Kamrup and hence the life style of eastern India predominated in their religious practice. Bhusukupa and Kahnapa were among the Churashisiddha or Dharmaguru (religious teacher) included in the Nathdharma or Tantric Buddhism. They were followers of Tantric Buddhism or Sahajiya Buddhism but they concealed their own creed and caste and adopted nicknames.

The Charyapada describes the Sahajiya philosophy through various similes and metaphors, in what is known as sandhya bhasa. mahayana as a religious doctrine of Buddhism was later subdivided into vajrayana, Kalachakrayana, Mantrayana, etc. While these different sects differ in matters of religious practices, they agree on the concept of Nirvana. The objective of the religious practice of Sahajiya is to attain Nirvana through transcending age, disease, death, and reincarnation. Those who are committed to or initiated in the religious doctrine of Sahajiya believe that they can reach their desired goal through a number of tantric rituals and practices. The Buddhist songs and doha of the Charyapada have been composed on the basis of these practices.

The poets of the Charyapada emphasised the purification of the soul. According to the Siddhacharya the explanation of the doctrine is this: 'In order to purify one's soul it is necessary to reduce one's desire for material things and to concentrate on shunyatavodha or the sense of the void'. The salvation of the soul is attained through the divine grace resulting in contentment and absolute happiness attained through Nirvana. This absolute happiness is the objective of life in the world.

The Buddhist emphasised Buddhist philosophy through the use of such terminology as shunya, trisharana, vodhi, jinaratna, dashavala, nirvana, etc. and associated these words with different doctrines. That is why the influence of tantrashastra or the theory of tantra is felt in the Buddhist songs. Moreover, guruvada, the belief in the importance of the guru, is also greatly emphasised. The Sahajiyas believe that Sahajiya meditation can not be acquired through books or scholarship. It can be learned only through the instructions of the guru or religious teacher. Hence the meditation to attain the Supreme or Absolute needs to be conducted in an easy way. The Sahajiya also believe that the key to such meditation lies in the innermost soul. It is useless to look for the Absolute outside the soul. He exists within us: 'Arupa Buddha rupe'. As the poet Kaknapa says: 'Guru vova shisya kala [The disciple even if he is deaf can understand whatever the guru intends through hints and suggestions.] More precisely, the guru by virtue of his own power directs the disciple in the right way.

However, the meditation of the Sahajiyas is not easy. As the Sahajiyas say, 'Make the frog dance in the mouth of snake'. In other words they suggest that great restraint must be practised by the followers of this cult, who like the snake must resist devouring the frog though it is dancing in the snake's mouth. [Azharul Islam]

Vaisnava sahajiya The fourteenth-century poet baru chandidas is believed to be the deviser and preacher of this creed, which he divined after coming in contact with a washerwoman named Rami. Later in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the creed, based on the Buddhist Sahajiya doctrine, started gaining ground. The followers of this doctrine believe themselves to be sahaja rasika (versed in sahaja) or travellers of the sahaja patha (simple path). The phrase sahaja patha here means love, which is human nature. The ultimate goal of a human being is to attain the self through love; and the Vaisvava sahajiya consider the body to be the best means for this. The ideals of the Vaisnava sahajiya are beauty, love and enjoyment.

The philosophical doctrines and practices of the Vaisnava sahajiyas are different from those of the Gaudian Vaisnavas. The Gaudian Vaisnavas believe that all philosophy lies in the human body and they take the philosophy of love allegorically, not literally unlike the Sahajiya.

The Vaisnava sajahiya instituted a diversified form of philosophy of love by mixing vaisnavism and the doctrines of radha and krishna in the name of Nimai and Nitaichand. Their philosophy incorporated the spiritual and the physical. According to Sahajiya philosophy, each man and woman has an inner and outer form. Thus a man has the outer form of a man, but his inner self is Krishna. Similarly, a woman has the outer form of a woman but her inner self is Radha. When the external forms unite physically, the inner selves attain the highest enjoyment. This is mahabhava or the enjoyment of sahaja. Deification of man is the basic principle of the Sahajiya doctrine.

The Gaudian Vaisnavas look down on the Vaisnava sahajiyas because to the latter the philosophy of love or the worship of body is of great importance. This has distanced one sect from the other and has lowered the social dignity of the Sahajiyas. Even Chandidas himself was excommunicated from the Brahmin society. Despite this fact, the philosophy gained ground and became widespread. This is now recognised as an alternative means of worshipping God.

A large part of medieval bangla literature is based on the Sahajiya creed. Among the people who wrote on this philosophy, Baru Chandidas is considered the best. His srikrishnakirtan depicts the basic principles of Sahajiya in a lucid manner. Many poets including Chandidas, who believed in the Sahajiya doctrine, composed verses on practices of the attainment of the self in an enigmatic language, known as ragatmika pada (verses that consider pure love to be the attainment).

Vaisnava sahajiya literature is of two kinds: one, based on padavali (lyrics), the other, based on nivandha (composition). Poets like vidyapati and rupa goswami are proponents of the padavali literature while Baru Chandidas and krishnadasa kaviraja are proponents of nibandha literature. The prefatory parts of many pieces by less famous figures impute the works to famous names such as Vidyapati, Chandidas, Narahari Sarkar, Raghunath Das, Krsnadas Kaviraja, Narottam Das, Rupa Goswami, Sanatan Goswami, Vrindavan Das, Lochandas, and Chaitanyadas. Some noted books of Sahajiya literature are Vivartavilasa (Akinchan Das), Anandabhairava, Amrtarasavali, Agamagrantha, Premavilasa (Yugalkishore Das), Radha-Rasa-Karika, Deha-Kadcha (Narottam Das), Sahaja-Upasana-Tattva (Taruni Raman), Siddhanta-Chandrodaya, Rativilasa-Paddhati, Ragamayikana, and Ratnasara. [Azharul Islam and Sambaru Chandra Mohanta]