March 23, 1986
To All Siddha Yoga Devotees:
On November 9, 1985, in Ganeshpuri, India, Swami Nityananda met with the Board of Trustees of SYDA Foundation and expressed his desire to retire as one of the spiritual heads of the ashram and one of the Gurus of Siddha Yoga. Subsequently, on November 10, Nityananda appeared at a public ceremony and participated in scriptural rites which released him from the role of Guru and his vows of monkhood, and was given the name Venkateshwar Rao.
Recently, the SYDA Foundation received a letter from a lawyer claiming to represent Venkateshwar stating that his client's retirement was involuntary and advising the Foundation of Venkateshwar's intention to reclaim the seat. At the same time, Venkateshwar and his brother-in-law made allegations in the Indian press suggesting that he was drugged, brainwashed, and forced to retire.
These recent actions by Venkateshwar have left us with no choice but to disclose the facts surrounding his retirement. To this end I have enclosed:
We ask that you please read this information.
A STATEMENT FROM THE TRUSTEES TO ALL THE DEVOTEES OF SIDDHA YOGA
"We bow to the Siddha Lineage"
We have received a letter from a lawyer on behalf of Venkateshwar Rao (the former Swami Nityananda) claiming he was coerced into retiring.
We were present during the days before and after he retired. Before he announced his decision we had a long meeting with him. We had extensive discussions about the reason for his decision and about his future plans. He appeared confident, alert and happy about being relieved of the burdens he felt in performing his functions as Gurudev Nityananda.
None of us witnessed anything that could have coerced his decision nor that indicated he felt coerced. Nevertheless, the Trustees have a legal obligation to respond to his charges in a responsible way. Therefore we have instructed the Foundation lawyer to interview all persons who may have information proving or disproving his charges. We hope Venkateshwar will come out of hiding to be interviewed and recommend other persons to be interviewed, so that all evidence on which he bases his charges can be presented to the Board.
Although the Trustees are reserving their decision until Venkateshwar has had an opportunity to participate, the initial interviews indicate it was his immoral and unethical behavior which motivated his voluntary decision to retire. When the Board makes a final decision, it will be communicated to you in a responsible manner. In the meantime you should know that SYDA Foundation recognizes Gurumayi Chidvilasananda as the sole spiritual leader of Siddha Yoga.
SADGURUNATH MAHARAJ KI JAY
A STATEMENT FROM THE SWAMIS OF SIDDHA YOGA
A swami's duty is to attain Self-knowledge and to teach that same Truth. Once he dens his saffron robes, his life is not his own, but God's. This path is not an easy one -- it's like a razor's edge. Because a swami is so visible, his actions must be spotless and beyond reproach.
This is not the case with Swami Nityananda, now known as Venkateshwar Rao. Having publicly renounced the world, he privately embraced it. Ignoring his duties and the spiritual needs of his devotees, he pursued sense pleasures, misled seekers, and broke his vows of chastity and obedience time and time again. In short, he abused his position as a spiritual teacher, betraying the love and trust of thousands of devotees.
Siddha Yoga has had its share of swamis who put on orange robes and later put them off. A few of them continue to practice Siddha Yoga and are welcome in our satsangs. They were honest seekers who found the rigors of swamihood beyond their strength.
Those swamis who have remained as swamis have found this strength does not come from any human agency, but from the Shakti of the Guru's grace. When one upholds the dharma of sannyasa and the teachings of the Siddhas, this grace supports you in everything you do. Conversely, when you violate this dharma, the dharma destroys you. This is the greatness of Siddha Yoga. The power of the lineage is so real it even expels a Guru who does not abide by his Guru's commands. This is what has happened to Venkateshwar Rao, formerly Swami Nityananda.
Significantly, since then, swamis in Siddha Yoga, including some of those who were on Venkateshwar's staff, have recognized Gurumayi Chidvilasananda as the true Guru of the Siddha lineage and the sole legitimate spiritual head of Siddha Yoga. We stand behind her and support her every action.
//OM GURU OM//
A MESSAGE FROM GURUMAYI TO ALL THE DEVOTEES OF SIDDHA YOGA
Ever since creation there has been a constant struggle between the human will and the Divine will. It seems that life is full of conflict and passion. Outwardly, some appear to lead a life of luxury and others a life of poverty. Some appear to live in intellectual glory and others in the dungeon of ignorance. Some appear to be open and free while others are closed off from society. Much can be said and written about how
life was, is, and can be. Yet, deep within, it is nothing but a struggle between the human will and the Divine will.
Human will is commonly defined as free will; whereas, the Divine will is called destiny. People want to know the purpose of life: What is the goal? What is one's duty? What is the right way of living? On and on it goes. No single life has satisfied all minds, all intellects, and all egos, For one, the goal of life is to amass great wealth. Yet, having obtained it, the person feels guilty for living a luxurious life. For another, the goal is to take life as it comes and not to think of the future. Still, there is no contentment. There is constant worry: "What is going to happen?"
Human will seeks constant change. It thinks that change will bring happiness and freedom. The child thinks, "When I'm a teenager, I will have a lot more wisdom and happiness." The teenager thinks, "When I'm an adult, I will have more freedom." The adult thinks, "As I grow older, Ill gain more experience in life. I'll know what life is." An elderly person either yearns for death or wishes he could return to his childhood days.
Although there is constant change in nature, its aim is not to find the goal of life or freedom. Nature constantly changes for its own joy. Water becomes ice, and ice becomes water. The wind blows and then becomes still. The ocean roars and later becomes serene. Fire displays its ferocious wings and then enfolds them within itself. The earth holds the treasures of the world, yet remains silent. The ether observes all, yet maintains its purity. At times, there are drought and famine and at other times excessive rain. All this is for nature's own greatness, for its own revelations. Knowing itself, nature is in constant ecstasy with its ever-changing moods.
This is the Divine will. Everything that happens is for its own excellent being. There is no question of rising or falling. From where do the waves rise, and where do they fall? There is no question of hidden or apparent. Where do the flames originate, and where do they return?
So the Divine will continues, with its tumultuous act of endless change. In every movement there is a smile. In every drop there is a universe. In every breath of wind there is another creation. The Divine will is the foundation of all existence. When one battles against this foundation, one's very life is in jeopardy. Questioning one's existence is valid, but denying it creates ever-increasing turmoil.
Men of knowledge, knowers of the Truth, have been fascinated by the Divine will and have called it karma. In his song the great being Surdas said:
Although yearning for that attainment is absolutely essential, only the Divine will can grant it. Surdas says that although he wants to meet God, it still has not become a reality. A man of knowledge recognizes that it is necessary to call upon the Divine and to accept the Divine will.
Modern geologists realize that there are unseen forces which are shaping and fashioning the planet Earth. Even though they are putting forth tremendous effort to detect and measure these great forces, they are too powerful to come within the grasp of man-made technology. Trying to capture these subtle forces through machines is like running after a mirage with a bucket.
This very force is within all of us as well. It is finer than the finest, yet mightier than the mightiest. As an individual penetrates to the deeper levels of his own being, he contacts that unseen force which is called the Divine will. The only way to know the Divine will is for the human will to unite with it through the grace of the Divine.
In Siddha Yoga the Divine will is called the Guru principle. The literal meaning of the word Guru is 'heavy." Here, heavy means great, but not the in the sense of being better than something or someone else. It is the beginning, middle, and end. It is the all-pervasive force within and without. Kashmir Shaivism uses the terms vishvatmaka (immanent) and vishvateeta (transcendent).
When this force or principle is fully awakened within someone through grace, such a being is worthy of the name Guru. Therefore, the Guru is not the physical body but the core of his or her being -- the fully awakened force or Shakti.
The Guru is the focal point of Siddha Yoga. People sometimes wonder to what extent they should follow their own inclinations and to what extent they should do what the Guru asks of them. They tend to forget that the realized Guru lives in the state of sthita prajna, or steady wisdom. There is complete serenity from the surface to the depths of such a being.
As the Yoga Vasishtha says: "When the mind is at peace, pure, tranquil, free from delusion, untangled, and free from cravings, it does not long for anything, neither does it reject anything."
A true Guru is not a toy of his feelings, emotions, or bodily actions. He exists solely for the upliftment of mankind. One becomes a true Guru as the result of the accumulated merits and the sadhana of hundreds of lifetimes. He continues to function as a Guru by fulfilling his Guru's command within and without. The Guru does not give a command for his own selfish reasons. It is the Divine will that is at play. It is very difficult for people to accept this because they are generally bound by their own limited vision of life.
Another vital factor of Siddha Yoga is the relationship between the Guru and the disciple. This is the most sublime relationship one can ever have. My own feelings are expressed by Rumi: "I closed my eyes to creation when I beheld the Guru's beauty; I became intoxicated with his beauty and gave him my soul."
When the disciple says, karishye vachanam tava -- "I will do Thy bidding," then the Guru makes the disciple like himself, It is a long journey to reach this kind of surrender. Without this surrender and inner attainment, however, worldly name and fame amount to nothing.
The will of a Siddha Guru is not different from the Divine will. Baba was no longer a mere man; he was the embodiment of the Shakti itself. He carried out his Guru's work and then passed -it on by appointing two successors. There is a story which will shed some light on Baba's intention in doing so:
The Lama of the South asked the Great Lama of the North to send a wise and holy monk to teach the devotees. To everyone's surprise, he sent not one monk but five. When people asked him why he had done this, he replied, "We will be lucky if one of them reaches the Lama."
After the five monks had been on the road for some days, a messenger came running up to them saying, "The priest of our village has died, and we need someone to replace him."
The village was pleasant and the priest's salary was sizable. One of the monks thought, "I would not be a good Buddhist if I refused to serve these people." So he dropped out.
A few days later they reached the royal palace. The king took a liking to one of the monks and told him, "Stay here, and I will give you my daughter in marriage. And when I die, you will inherit the kingdom." The monk thought, "What better way is there to influence people than to be king? I would not be a good Buddhist if I didn't take this opportunity to spread, religion." He also dropped out,
One night, as they were crossing a range of mountains, they came upon a small hut of a beautiful young woman who put them up for the night. Her parents had been killed by bandits, and she was all alone and frightened. The next day, one of the monks said, ''I'm going to stay on here. I would not be a good Buddhist if I didn't take compassion on this girl."
The remaining two monks reached a village and discovered that the inhabitants had abandoned Buddhism under the influence of a Hindu scholar. One of the monks said, "I would not be a good Buddhist if I didn't stay here to win these people back to the faith."
The fifth monk eventually reached the Lama of the South.
As you read this story, the question may arise, "What really happened to Swami Nityananda, who is now Venkateshwar?" Whose task is it to analyze and judge the stepping-down of a monk who did not fulfill the requirements of the seat? Only the monk
himself can do so. And who but oneself can obey the wishes of one's own Guru?
A Siddha Guru, out of his unfathomable compassion, gives people the opportunity to elevate themselves. He wishes the best, the greatest, and the highest for everybody. Within he has one thought, one feeling, which is nothing but the Divine, He infuses this force into everything he comes across because his being is charged with the power of Divinity.
In Rumis words:
Wherever you set your foot, O Beloved,
tulip and violet and jasmine spring up.
You breathe upon a piece of clay,
and it becomes either a dove or an eagle.
You wash your hands in a dish,
and from the water of your hand,
the dish becomes of gold.
Your hem strikes against a thorn, and its clutch
becomes a strumming lute.
This is the glory of a Siddha Guru. If a successor does not imbibe the grace and the divinity of the Guru, it shows that he has much more sadhana to do. This is the plain truth.
If some individuals drop out, it is not the fault of the Guru, but of the individuals' lack of merit and misuse of the Shakti. How does one lose merit? There are many ways; however, in Siddha Yoga it is by failing to fulfill the will of the Guru.
Did Swami Nityananda not fulfill his Guru's will and the needs of the seat? That is exactly what happened. Baba Muktananda gave him specific instructions, but Swami Nityananda did not fulfill them. In fact, if you remember some of his talks, he has openly stated how he lied to Baba. Though Baba put him on the seat, his way of speaking about his Guru was condescending and nonchalant. There are times when words do not matter. However, when the teaching is being imparted, they do.
It has been my fervent intention to give him one opportunity after another. Nevertheless, this is a hard task when the person has not recognized his own inner divinity. At one point, Nityananda said, "I don't believe in God either." If no enlightenment has taken place, how can the bodily senses know and experience Consciousness every second of the day without falling prey to sense pleasures?
I specifically chose not to speak about his actions, and I also insisted that no one else speak about his actions because I wanted him to be able to maintain his dignity in the eyes of the world, However, due to his subsequent actions, it has now become necessary to do so.
Just before Baba's samadhi celebration in 1985, Swami Nityananda was asked to change his ways back to those of a true and perfect Guru by following Baba's teachings and by living up to Baba's wishes. It seems that he was too far gone to do so. During the samadhi saptah, a few swamis and other devotees confronted him with his actions, since my talking to him was no longer of any use. This triggered a reaction in him, not for the best but for the worst. He denied all the information regarding his improper behavior, such as not being a celibate, indulging in sense pleasures, not respecting spiritual practices, and so on. He said, "If I'm telling lies, may God punish me."
Lo and behold! Little did he realize what a statement he had made. Be was sitting on Baba's chair, one on which Baba had sat for many long years in the Ganeshpuri Ashram. This was the second time he had said this. The first time was in Oakland in 1983. During his talk he made a similar statement while denying rumors about himself.
Also, back in 1983 in South Fallsburg he said, "I was reading a magazine in which they said they didn't like the way a particular spiritual master lived his life, so they dethroned him. They told him to get out. The board of directors took over the place, brought in psychotherapists, communication analysts, and all these different people, so that everything in the center would go very well. And I told Eddie, 'Why don't you do that to me also? I'd be very glad to do that.' But he said, 'No, no.' Then he added, I don't want to be in your position. I'm still waiting to find that perfect being who will one day dethrone me, and Ill be so happy."
Swami Nityananda became restless and realized it was Baba's will that he now leave the role of Guru. Not knowing how to face the masses, he decided to disappear early in the morning of October 24. That morning the yajna was to begin. He called me and said he was going to flee and get lost because the swamis did not believe that he was a true Guru. When asked how he felt as a Guru, he said he was helpless -- he really did not know what to do. I asked him to think about it, and he called me again in half an hour, saying that he had made up his mind to run away in the morning.
I said, "You must understand this is a public trust. If you want to give up your role, you will have to present it to the trustees of Gurudev Siddha Peeth." He agreed and, at my request, said he would certainly come and say good-bye to me at 7:00 in the morning.
I sat for meditation early the next morning, and I experienced very dramatically that if he were to leave that night, he would be leaving Baba for good and harm would befall him and others. At 5:30 I went to the Guru Gita chant, which was held in the cave because the saptah was going on. After the Guru Gita had ended, I called Venkappa, told him the situation, and asked him to lock all the gates. He replied that Swami Nityananda already had duplicate keys to all the gates. So I told him, "In that case, we'll have to do something more drastic; we'll have to slash the tires."
At 7:00 Swami Nityananda came down from his house, went to the samadhi shrine, and then to Baba's house.
I asked him, "What are you planning to do?"
He replied, "I have decided to leave after the ceremonies are over." In the meantime, they had slashed the tires of the cars to prevent him from leaving, since they had not received the information that he had once again changed his mind.
Because I had told him that he would have to inform the trustees, at 2:00 a.m. he had called the secretary of Gurudev Siddha Peeth, who advised him to leave after the Punyatithi celebrations were over, since thousands of devotees had come from all over India and the West.
At 7:30 that morning, I had to go give cloth to the brahmans who were going to begin the yajna that morning, I asked Swami Nityananda to go upstairs, saying that I would be with him shortly. Some of the swamis and devotees wanted to know what he was going to do, so they had come to ask him. His state was muddled, for he was unable to call on the divine help from within. After talking for some time, he made it very clear that he did not have either the willingness or Baba's Shakti to continue as a Guru. When it was suggested that he accept Swami Chidvilasananda as his spiritual advisor, he immediately agreed. However, just as he was unable to be Baba's disciple, he was unable to fulfill this also. The possibility of dethroning him was never discussed; that was not in anyone's mind.
He himself did not want to return to his apartment for the time being. He was afraid that if he was around his disciples he would fall into the same delusion of Guruhood, when he could no longer function as a Guru. I said it would be all right for him to stay in Baba's study room and to contemplate what he lacked and why he had lost what he thought he had had.
This is how it all began. When he still could not come to any final conclusions about what he should do, on the final day of Baba's samadhi celebrations at the Yajna Mandap he announced that he would observe silence for a year.
The crux of the matter is that it was obviously impossible for him to fulfill the role of a Sadguru in spite of the fact that he was in that position. In 1983 when he was in Paris and I was in Australia, he told me on the phone, "I resign from Guruhood. I don't want to be a Guru."
I replied, "Watch what you say. The Shakti is ever alive. I don't want to hear that again because Baba's action is impeccable."
He moaned and groaned and that was that for the time being.
Many, many times the fact arose that he was struggling with being a Guru. He talked about taking a year off and living in solitude in Hawaii (not a bad place) or just keeping to himself.
After his Australian tour in 1984, he could no longer teach Siddha Yoga in its purity, so he decided to stay in Ganeshpuri and work on himself. Of course, what he did was to work on having a huge house built for himself. Even during that time, when people were breaking their backs building his house, he went to Jaipur for five days and to Germany for two weeks to relax.
At this time I was in Los Angeles in April 1985. When he called me on the phone, I asked him, "How hard have you worked so that you feel the need to relax for two weeks?" When asked, "What do you do all day long?" he replied, "I drive around." (Not a bad life for this Guru!)
The final stroke occurred when he came to South Fallsburg in mid-June 1985. I was in Montreal at the time. Over the telephone he said, "Gurumayi, I'm having problems with my Guruhood. I need to talk to you. I don't think I can go on like this."
It was 12:30 a.m., and I had just come back from the program. I asked him to go ahead and speak about it but he said, no, he would wait until I came to Fallsburg. When I arrived, it was becoming crystal clear that he had gone off the deep end. He confessed that he did not understand the mind and death, and he talked for two hours about his situation. My heart ached for him.
I sincerely prayed to Baba and to God to bestow their infinite compassion on this fellow that Baba had chosen to continue his work. Although it seemed there was a lot of grace, Swami Nityananda had become impervious to it. I understood that his sins were too numerous, and unless he burned them off, his life was going to be very difficult. All that can be said is that even though Baba infused the Shakti into a golden vessel, due to the abuse of that Shakti, the vessel no longer remained pure gold.
Nevertheless, he did not apply himself to washing away all the rust he had accumulated, so by the time he went to India he could hardly stay in Gurudev Siddha Peeth. He went away to Lonawala to relax and have a good time while everyone else was busy preparing for Baba's upcoming samadhi celebrations.
During this period when he was to observe silence, his restlessness only increased. I told him that if he confessed all his actions, perhaps he would get them off his chest and could think clearly again. Because it was very difficult for him to open up and reveal everything to me, once again the help of the swamis and devotees was taken to enable him to bring out all the things he had done and to see them clearly. During that time, it became quite obvious that he would not be able to sit on the throne again. He himself kept repeating that he would rather not be in that role. At his request, with the approval of the swamis and devotees and with my permission, on November 3 he announced his retirement. It was made at the end of the Hindi Intensive as well as the English Intensive. Of course, the announcement came as a heavy blow.
Since nothing in Siddha Yoga happens without Baba's will, Swami Nityananda also felt that it was totally Baba's will that he retire. In fact, throughout his period of solitude in Baba's house, he repeated that he knew one day this would happen to him. In the back of his mind there was always the apprehension that he would have to give up the throne, and he knew that women in particular would be his downfall.
Swami Nityananda wanted to step down as smoothly as possible, and it was also my strong feeling that it should be done quite honorably. The Mahamandaleshwar was invited to come and Swami Nityananda spoke with him for quite a long time. Swami Nityananda basically said that he felt it was Baba's will that he step down after three years. He insisted on renouncing his orange clothes of sannyasa so that in the future people would not identify him with the role of Guru that he had played. His thinking was quite proper in this respect. The Mahamandaleshwar gave him a letter stating that he had absolved him of all the sannyasa vows, and then he went through religious ceremonies performed by Bhau Shastri, the Ashram priest. He did not want to go back to his old name Subhash. He wanted to start a new life, so he was given the name Venkateshwar Rao.
Finally, on November 10 he gave his official declaration. Although some people have claimed that his declaration was written by someone else, we have kept his handwritten papers on which he wrote, scratched out, and rewrote his message.
Afterwards, he returned to his room in Nityeshwar, where he was no longer in solitude. Be walked around the gardens, met people, and went to Amrit. People also went to his room, and he came outside and sat among swamis during darshan.
During this whole period, he was still thinking about what he was going to do. Be tossed various ideas back and forth. He wanted to become a businessman, and he had several projects in his mind. He also thought about just staying in Ganeshpuri for awhile, or studying Sanskrit for six years. He had so many ideas, but none really appealed to him.
In the meantime, he did not stop seeing women. When the different women with whom he had had physical relationships began to compare notes, they became angry. Finally, on the night of November 24, two weeks after he retired, I picked up what Baba used to call his "Chota Guru." It is a small walking stick he used to slap people who would otherwise not wake up from the delusion torturing them. In my presence, he received a few slaps with it from the women he had abused. He offered no resistance
because he knew this was not a punishment; but was rather to wake him up from his fantasy world. Nevertheless, it was obvious that none of it really entered him; even a few slaps from me did not make him budge. In fact, he himself said that nothing was making a dent in him. It was quite disappointing. One of the swamis became frustrated and had to be restrained by George Afif.
In Ganeshpuri, Baba once said, "Sins are sins, but among sins there is one called the thunderbolt sin, which sticks to you and is very hard to get rid of. What is that sin?"
People gave various answers, listing all the different things that we ordinarily classify as sins. Baba replied, "These sins are very ordinary. Sins that are committed in other places are washed away in an ashram or a holy place, but sins which are committed in a holy place stick to you like a thunderbolt."
Venkateshwar and I talked again on the night of November 25. When I went to his room, he was reading Time Magazine and, to my surprise, showed no trace of repentance whatsoever. As we just casually talked, he spoke about how he was not in touch with his feelings. We talked about how perhaps he would need a little break before launching into a household life.
On the telephone I asked him to be smart, get on the Diane, and come back to Hawaii to talk about what he was running away from and what he wanted to do. After that I told him that both of us should go to India to clear up this mess that his family and brother-in-law Santosh had created. First he would agree; then he would call back and say he was afraid and that he had decided not to go. I continually made it clear that I was always available for him to come and talk to me at any time.
Later on I went to Oakland, Mexico, and then to Miami. It was in Miami that I came to learn that he wanted to get back on the throne and become a Guru again. He had gone to India for six days and had given an interview to the Illustrated Weekly. When I read it, I was amazed at the delusion one's mind can continually concoct.
I am certain that there are people who still love and miss the form of Swami Nityananda. The problem is that t~his devotion is not going to be liberating. The time has come for each one to re-evaluate his or her own dharma in this world. Without this self-inquiry, one will be swept away by the allegations of the media.
I pray that Venkateshwar Rao may somehow stop being influenced by whoever is around him, that he can find the courage within himself to lead a dharmic life, and that he may do something which will remove the embarrassment which he has inflicted on spiritual seekers and Siddha Yoga devotees.
I do not know what is impelling him now to sacrifice his forthcoming marriage, claiming it was just a rumor, and to attempt a comeback as a Guru, saying that he was abducted and coerced. God forbid! He was neither drugged, kidnapped, nor coerced. When he was confronted with his actions, the Shakti did its work.
Siddha Yoga has undergone many changes in recent years: Baba took samadhi, and then Swami Nityananda stepped down. This is and can only be the Divine will. It is another amazing transformation.
The life of a Guru is a solitary path. When the Guru receives praises and glory from people, he simultaneously has to re-offer them to his own Guru, who has merged into God.
You must have compassion on yourself and other seekers. In Siddha Yoga it is important to respect the fact that when you do not live by the will of the Divine, of the Shakti, you are automatically put in another position in which to do your sadhana. The power of the seat is such that if it is abused in any way, it will not allow a person to continue sitting on it.
Nature does not panic when it undergoes change. It does not wonder, "What will the billions of people on this earth say if I create a raging storm? What will they say if there is a deluge? What will they say if fires blaze or if the earth quakes violently?"
A Siddha Guru sacrifices his entire being to the Divine will. For him, there is no other goal than the Divine, there is no other life than the Divine, and there is no other death than merging into the divine.
Baba was perfect, is perfect, and will always be perfect. His will is the will of the Truth. Anything other than the Truth will ultimately be uprooted. It seems that for one person's actions, somebody else must pay. This is how it appears. Nevertheless, when the human will is united with the Divine will, no matter how many ups-and-downs and heartrending incidents take place, only light, love, and the truth can remain.