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
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
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
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
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
"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;
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
"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.
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 á
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for the opportunity to tell my story.
7 Oct 99