Swami Abhayananda
Stan Trout

 

The first article published that exposed Muktananda's abuse was called The Secret Life of Swami Muktananda article by William Rodarmor">

Swami Abhayananda
Stan Trout

 

The first article published that exposed Muktananda's abuse was called The Secret Life of Swami Muktananda article by William Rodarmor, The CoEvolution Quarterly; Winter 1983. Swami Abhayananda AKA Stan Trout is quoted there. Here is what he has to say 16 years later.

 

Dear Pendragon,

Thank you for the friendly reply.  I had just about determined I would not speak with you, as you seemed a bit too suspicious and combative, but now I feel a little more comfortable with speaking with you, and I will try to answer most of your questions.   First, I have never thought of myself as a "former-Swami," as I was described by the editors of the 1983 Rodarmor article in  the Co-Evolution Quarterly.   In 1984, I published my first book, The Supreme Self, under the name "S. Abhayananda," and have continued to use that name as author in all subsequent books.   The term "Swami" had taken on such negative connotations for so many by then that I felt it would be best to simply use "S." in my name rather than "Swami."  In that first book, and in several subsequent books, I made no mention of Muktananda; I was concerned to speak of my own spiritual experience and my own knowledge, and felt that no good would be served by my bringing up a lot of sordid details which would only confuse people and serve to obfuscate my message.  I continued over the years to avoid mention of Muktananda--partly because I am not interested in gossip or criticism, but am dedicated to sharing my spiritual knowledge in order to truly benefit others.  I wished to put that tragic period of my life  behind me, and to continue to do as I had originally set out to do.  There  was also the fact that I was committed to protecting the identity of those  who had made clear to me that they did not wish to be identified.   Eventually, however, due to questions that repeatedly came up, I included in  my bio in the back of my books the information that I had been a disciple of  Muktananda's and had left his organization when, "unwilling to condone what I  saw as abuses of power, I left his organization in 1981."

Aside from my "Open Letter" and my contribution to Rodarmor's '83 article,   that's as much as I have said publicly up to this time.  It's been 18 years   since I walked out on Muktananda, and I am now an old man of sixty-one.  I   still feel no great need to talk about the past--in fact, it's of very little   interest to me; but so long as there are questions, I'm willing to answer   them.  I feel that enough time has passed that no one will be harmed by my   speaking out at this time.  So, here's a little rundown on what happened way   back then: 

Prior to meeting Baba, I had spent 5 years in a little isolated cabin in the   forested mountains of Santa Cruz, California, seeking to know God.  It was   there that I experienced Unity.  One night in November of 1966, I entered a   deep stillness and knew my eternal Self.  This experience was the highlight   of my life, and influenced everything that followed.  At that time, I vowed   to give my life to the praise of God.  I would become a Swami; but I knew I   needed to learn a great deal, and so I gave myself 12 years to become worthy of teaching what I had come to know.  I was not looking for a guru, but one  night in 1970 I met Muktananda when he spoke at the University of California  at Santa Cruz.  I was mesmerized by him, and when he came off the stage and  down the aisle, I stood in front of him holding out my hands for him to touch  me.  He took my hand, and I followed him out to where his car was awaiting  him.  We waved goodbye to each other, and I was in an excited state of bliss.   Later, when I read his book, Guru  (which was later published as Chitshakti  Vilas), I decided to go to him in India.  I felt that he could help me to  retain the state I had experienced in my cabin.  I wrote to him, asking if I  could come, and he said, "Come to India."  I had no money, but through some   miraculous circumstances, I managed to get to Ganeshpuri in 1972.

I was not disappointed.  I loved the ashram, and I worshipped Baba.  I was  utterly convinced that he was God incarnate.   Malti (Chidvilasananda) was  only seventeen, and seemed an extraordinarily pure and beautiful soul.    Baba's translator was Professor Jain, a young Indian man who would later fall   in love and marry in the U.S.  There were young men and women from many countries: France, Italy, Spain, Australia, as well as the U.S.; and of course a   number of Indian devotees.  At that time, there were only 50 or 60 Westerners staying there:  these were the young men and women who were later to become the Swamis and administrators of SYDA.  We worked in the garden, and made quilts during the monsoon; we chanted and meditated, and stood before Baba on  his courtyard perch like angels before the throne of God, absorbing the beauty of his radiance, drawn into the stillness of his peace. 

I spent two very happy years in Ganeshpuri, and then returned to the U.S. to help with Muktananda's  2nd World Tour.  In Piedmont, California we had  prepared a house for him, and shortly after his arrival there, while he was  leading a chant, I was filled with emotion and tears were running down my face.  When the chanting was over, he called me upstairs to his room and gave me the sandals off his feet.  He told me to go to Indianapolis (my home-town), and prepare for him to visit there.  I went and prepared a place for him there, and when he came, he held an intensive and darshan for a large group of people.  But there was some petty jealousy from one of Baba's staff  who made it impossible for me to establish a permanent center there.   I was baffled by what I thought was Baba's withdrawal of support, but was unable to communicate with Baba, due to the intercession of that staff-member; and, seeing no other choice, I returned to Oakland, Calif., where Baba was to end his Tour.  At the time, Baba seemed to know nothing of the enmity that had been aimed at me, for later, when he discovered it, he banned that staff-member from any connection with SYDA.

 In Oakland, I helped with the renovation of the old whorehouse which became the Oakland ashram.  And I remained there, living in the ashram, serving as a the pujari, food-buyer, and librarian for several years.  In 1978, I wrote to Baba, who had returned to India, and told him my twelve years were up, and it was time for me to become a Swami.  He replied, "Come to India and take initiation."  So, in May of 1978, I returned to India and took sannyas along with a small group of others.   Thereafter, Baba sent me to the New York ashram on 86th street to train as a teacher under Swami Paramananda.  Like many of the other Swamis, I experienced a great increase of Shakti as a result of Baba's grace.  I began to become an instrument of his energy; pulses of blue energy would dart from my eyes into whoever was receptive, and if someone touched me, I would feel the energy flow from me into that person.

The increased energy made me a magnetic attraction for the opposite sex, and on at least one occasion I foolishly encouraged that attraction and acted on it.   Baba did not rebuke me openly, but he made me know his displeasure, and I learned to restrain my affections, though I felt them often, and continued to remain celibate throughout the time I was associated with Siddha Yoga.

After my apprenticeship in New York, Baba sent me to run the Philadelphia ashram,   but I was regarded as an interloper by those already established in authority there, and did not have an especially happy time there.  My manager, Jim McMahan (who later became a Swami also) and I were continually at odds; and on one occasion, I slugged him.  I apologized, and insisted that I should call Baba and confess this outrageous behavior; but Jim implored me not to, and it was not reported.  (Much later, he himself would inform Baba that I struck him, for which offence Baba would instruct one of his henchmen, Sripati, to give me a beating. )  At about this time, the South Fallsburg ashram was being bought and refurbished, and much of my time was spent there helping with the clean-up and readying of the ashram.  One incident during this period that stands out in my mind was when I came down with a case of Shingles.   Large red blisters developed on my coccix region and I was in great pain.   Excusing myself from the ashram programs, I remained in my room. One evening Baba came into my room--which I shared with Swami Vivekananda (now Master Charles)--and Baba was carrying a thick walking-stick with which to give me a beating.  My Hindi was almost non-existent, and so Vivekananda translated to Baba that I really was afflicted.   Brandishing his walking stick, Baba made me pull down my shorts to show him the blisters, and satisfied, he left.  It was an experience that made me doubt the guru's omniscience as well as his understanding of me.  When the time came for me to go back to Philadelphia, I told Baba I would not return there. He then sent me to Chicago to run the ashram there.

I was in Chicago during all of 1980, and I loved my time there.  The ashram was always full, and the people with whom I worked were excellent.  I had a very loving and compatible relationship with the ashramites there--especially with Gargi, who served as the manager, and the atmosphere in the ashram reflected that harmony.  However, during that time, Baba would make phone calls to me regarding a woman devotee from Australia named Ma Yoga Shakti (Anne Hamilton-Byrne) who had begun spreading rumors about Baba's indiscretions with some of the young girls of Siddha Yoga.  As he knew I was a friend of her and her family, he sought to gain information about her from me, and instructed me to give her not-so-subtle warnings that he was all-seeing and all-powerful, and that she should watch what she said.  He would shout furiously over the phone, seeming like a madman, causing me much confusion and stirring in my subconscious a doubt about his benevolence.  I had heard from Ma Yoga Shakti of a young Indian girl who had come to her for advice, telling of how Muktananda had fondled her and inserted his finger into her vagina, ostensibly to check "her nadis."  I had been somewhat shocked, but was so mentally programmed to reject any criticism of the guru that I dismissed it as something I just did not have the ability to understand.  And so what if the guru found some pleasure in touching girls!  Who was I to find fault with him?  But his fanatic, almost despotic, anger and threats eroded the unassailability of my trust and slowly undermined my love for him.

At the beginning of 1981, Muktananda called me in Chicago to tell me that  "they want you in Oklahoma City."  The Chicago ashram was thriving, and I  could not understand his pulling me out of there to send me to a city where  there was no ashram.  But, of course, I went, only to find myself living in a  sparsely furnished apartment with two working girls who had had no part in  asking for a Swami or even a Meditation Center.  To this day, I don't really know what was his real motive for sending me there.  Baba had visited Oklahoma City several times, and the person he had set up as the leader of his Meditation Center had gone off on his own, rejecting Baba, and Baba told me he wanted me to take away this man's devotees and draw them back to Siddha Yoga.  There was also an Indian chief there who was a rival guru whom I was instructed to intimidate and undermine.  I was flabbergasted, but made the most of an impossible situation.  We rented a large house and established an ashram, and I met with these rival gurus in an attempt to infiltrate their organizations.  By this time I was feeling a little lost.  I remember thinking that I'd like to maybe work in an ice-cream store or something simple like that.  Nonetheless, the ashram work went on and prospered in a modest way. 

Then, one Sunday afternoon, a man and wife in their fifties, who had hosted Baba in that city in the early days came to me and told me some shocking news:  Several of Baba's closest long-time devotees had left the organization  and had disclosed to them some disconcerting tales of Baba's sexual dalliances with a number of young females.  They would not tell me who these people were who had left SYDA, but I asked to speak with them on the phone to determine for myself the truth of these accusations.  But even as they told me these things about Baba, I knew in my heart that they were true.  So much of what I had seen for myself and had sensed intuitively in Baba's words and behavior had now been brought to the surface of my conscious mind, and I knew that what they said was true.  A phone call was arranged, and I spoke with the people who had made these accusations and had withdrawn from Baba's service.  They were people whom I had known and with whom I had lived for a long time:  Chandra and Michael Dinga; Chandra's friend, Leela, and Rick and Lotte Grimes.  These were people who had been extremely close to the center of Baba's organization and had held highly responsible positions in the organization.  They were also in a position to know what went on in the girl's quarters and among the highly segregated female population of SYDA.  I was told names and dates, and all the sordid details of Muktananda's long-time sexcapades dating back to the time I first met him.  My heart sank; many curious circumstances over the years now became clear, and I realized that my devotion had veiled my mind from acknowledging what had been right before my eyes all along.

But still I was not satisfied that I had been deluded for these many years; I was determined to return to South Fallsburg and confront Baba with what I had learned, and hear what he had to say.  But, as I waited with my packed suitcase outside the bus station for the bus, I recalled in my mind how Baba consistently treated any hint of criticism; how he made his critics the butt of ridicule, and obfuscated all rationality; how he invoked his Siddhahood when challenged in any way, and how from his bully-pulpit reduced his adversaries to mush before his assembly of devotees.    And so I decided instead to go to California where these "apostates" were living, and to satisfy myself in their presence as to the truth of their accusations.  And that's what I did.  I went to Oakland and stayed with Rick and Lotte, and with Michael and Chandra, and listened to what they had to say.   They had recently been visited by two of Baba's henchmen: Shripati and Joe Don Looney, and had been harassed and threatened with bodily harm if they continued to repeat their stories.  They had been visited on their jobs, and repeatedly threatened with disfigurement and even death.  They had filed a suit with the District Attorney, who had issued a restraining order against Muktananda and his people.  Michael kept a loaded shotgun in his home, and carried a .357 magnum revolver with him whenever he went out--even to take out the garbage.  They were clearly terrified of these men who followed unquestioningly whatever orders were given to them by their guru.

During those days that I stayed with them, I heard about another Baba than the one I had thought him to be.  I was told about many of the girls who, over the years, had simply disappeared overnight, and about whom I had wondered.  They had been enlisted for sex, and, freaking out, had left in the middle of the night.  Many were Baba's cooks--the girls he had picked to be lose to his quarters; but others were naive girls of thirteen and fourteen who had surrendered themselves to him and would do whatever he asked.  Both Chandra and Lotte affirmed that this had been going on since the earliest times in Ganeshpuri, but had escalated in recent times.  In Ganeshpuri he had a mattress under his bed which he would pull out for sex so as not dirty his bed.   At first, the girls told me, he didn't even know how to do it, and frequently sought help from his doctors for his "floppiness."  But these were, of course, pre-Viagra times, and there was nothing they could do for him.  At South Fallsburg, it was a nightly occurrence--with a different girl each time, and sometimes two together.  It was not all hearsay; I heard the first-hand description from one girl of her own sexual exploitation by Baba, and found her story to be clearly and undeniably true.

I was angry at the cowardice of the many girls who had been exploited over the years and failed to speak out.  But, of course, they were frightened and confused, and simply wished to put it behind them.  Still, they had perpetuated this abuse by their silence, and put other girls in jeopardy.  I felt impelled to speak about it to those still under delusion, and to do what I could to warn other young women about the danger--many of whom I had been responsible for leading to Baba.  We Swamis had unknowingly been his pimps; and I knew I had to speak out.  In September of 1981,   I wrote the "Open Letter"which you have subsequently published on your website, and sent it to all the SYDA Meditation Centers on their published list.  In May of 1982, I did another mailing of the letter, with this additional note appended at the end:

"Since that letter was written, I have talked with many people and have learned a great deal more of Muktananda's secret activities over the past years.  Sad to say, he has been deceiving the sincere aspirants who believed in his holiness for many years.   It seems to have begun at least as far back as 1976, and today he scarcely bothers to conceal the fact that he is having sex with many of his female devotees--most of whom are mere children in their early teens.

"It is a bitter revelation indeed to those who trusted him as a spiritual guide; and it is as much a sorrow for me to tell you these things as it is  for you to hear them.  Nevertheless, I feel I must warn you of what's coming,  so that you can begin to rebuild your bridges back to sanity.  SYDA is going  to collapse; the papers and magazines are going to have a field-day with  stories of the atrocities this man is committing; young girls are going to  sue in court, and we will all begin to wonder how on earth we could have been  involved with such a madman.  It will be best if you can get out quietly and  begin to regain your lives.  And one other warning:  do not be naive; do not underestimate this man's perfidy.  He is inhumanly treacherous.  He is capable of anything.  I would like to tell you many details, but naturally I  must protect the names of those whom he has violated.   But talk with your friends; you will discover much for yourselves.

"I sincerely regret that I must be the bearer of this news, and wish like you that it could all be proven false.  I have learned, and I think you will too, that although they are hard, these sad tidings are the key to a future of freedom.  And though it's a frightening and lonely vista at first, the initial anger at having been deceived for so long will subside, and you will realize that life is still great, God is still kind, and you have become somehow stronger and more trusting in the innate goodness of yourself.   You will suffer, as I have, the lingering ghosts of a nightmare from which you've awakened, and, like me, you will feel very bad for some time; but every transition in this life is ordained by God's will, and at every turning He is still there, leading us infallibly to greatness.

"I send you my love and sincere regrets;

                                                        Your devoted friend,
                                                         Stan Trout"
 
A couple of weeks later, Baba issued a printed Bulletin, dated June 4, 1982, which stated:

MESSAGE FROM BABA

"The devotees should know the truth by their own experience, not by the letters they receive.

"Still, this is nothing new.  It is a part of the lineage that I belong to. Mansur Mastana was hanged, Jesus was crucified, and all of Tukaram's books were thrown into the river.  The lineage of people who did these things to these great beings is still with us.  Just as I am established in my lineage, these people are established in their lineage.  So what is the big deal?  This is just the way of the world.   You should be happy that I am still alive and healthy and that they haven't tried to hang me.

"... However, the thing that surprises me the most is that you have suddenly forgotten all the experiences that you have had.  You must have heard me refer to the great saint, Kabir, very often.  He said, 'The elephant strides at his own gait, but the dogs do trail behind and bark.  ... People write on white paper with black ink.   Let them write.  Kabir says, if someone wants to eat hellish things, let them do so.  But you should always stay established in the Lord.

                Your own,
                Swami Muktananda"

He was very slick, and most of his people were mollified by this evasive and manipulative style of his.  He was identified with the Christ's of the world, and those who spoke against him were "dogs."

In the winter of 1981, Anne Hamilton-Byrne (Ma Yoga Shakti), who had bought an old resort property near the South Fallsburg ashram to be near Baba, generously offered it to me as a hideout.  I had grown a beard, and learned to dodge recognized ashramites in grocery stores and department stores; and, though it was less than a mile from the ashram, I managed to live in that place undiscovered until after Baba's death, when I revealed my presence to some ashramites walking past the house.  Chidvilasananda then sent several women to investigate, but I convinced them that I was harmless and was no threat to SYDA, and they left me alone.  I remained in that place for the next seven years, minding the property, and walking the roads trying to understand how it was possible for someone to be both a saint and a devil at the same time, and trying to comprehend why God had perpetrated this apparent "trick" on me, first leading me to this man, and then destroying everything I had sought attain in His name.  I never found an answer to the first of these questions.  Muktananda remains an enigma to me.  He was without doubt an extraordinarily advanced soul, with incredible powers; but he was also a demon in his abuse of that power.  How is this possible? I don't know.

This period was a very unhappy one for me; but I revived, and came to realize that, however difficult, the trials God puts before us are all for our own growth;  and though they lead us down roads we would not have chosen, they lead us to the fulfillment of potentials which we would not even have dreamed possible.  At this time, I began writing and publishing my books, in order to share my own vision.  First was The Supreme Self, which told of my early experiences in my solitary cabin in Santa Cruz, and my present understanding.

Next came History of Mysticism, a monumental study of the lives and teachings of the mystics of various Eastern and Western traditions.  I believed strongly in the necessity of understanding the history of mystical thought in all its expressions in order to see with the widest possible vision the unanymity of their message.  All, regardless of religious affiliation, had experienced the same eternal Self; and the weight of their combined testimony was overwhelming.  I had researched this book at the library of the SUNY at New Paltz, a 30-mile ride from South Fallsburg, and also found there the books which helped me write the biography of Jnaneshvar which I appended to the translations I had earlier done of some of his written works.  This was published as Jnaneshvar: The Life and Works of The Celebrated Thirteenth Century Indian Mystic-Poet.

Eventually I determined to forge for myself a new life, and, in 1988, I moved to Naples, Florida.  Along with a woman I met there, I founded "The Vedanta Temple," and held regular services and lectures as Swami Abhayananda.  I also enjoyed a rich life, combing the beaches, frolicking in the surf, and enjoying the sun.  There I published a book called, The Wisdom of Vedanta, a collection of thirty-five of my best lectures delivered over the years.  And, in 1991, I left Florida and journeyed to Washington state at the furthest diagonal point of the continent.  There, I re-established "The Vedanta Temple," and published a few more books:   Dattatreya: The Song of The Avadhut, which consisted of a translation from the Sanskrit text of The Avadhut Gita, which I had done back in Oakland in 1977; Thomas Kempis: On The Love of God,  a revised edition of a 15th century English translation of The Imitation of Christ; and later, a revised edition of History of Mysticism, which became a selection in the Book-of-the-Month Club, and has become a textbook in half-a-dozen University graduate courses around the country.  My most recent book is a celebration of Plotinus, the 3rd century Roman mystic-sage, entitled, The Origin of Western Mysticism.   In addition to my publishing enterprise, I support myself by caring for elderly patients in their homes.  I live a quiet existence in a lakeside cabin surrounded by pines, where I read, write, and continue to endeavor to unite my soul with God.  I invite anyone interested in learning more about my books to check out my website at:  www.atmabooks.com, or to send an enquiry to me by email at: atmabks@aol.com or abhayanand@aol.com

Thank you for the opportunity to tell my story.

                                                        Yours sincerely,
                                                        Swami Abhayananda

7 Oct 99

www.LeavingSiddhaYoga.net

 

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