To the generous
contributors of this page,
First and foremost, let me say that reading the personal stories of all of you has been a great form of inspiration and therapy for me. Thank you so much for your wonderful openness, and most of all for the courage to take a very bad situation in which your trust was taken advantage of, and make the most of it. My mom, Diane, was one of the less fortunate ones who was not able to leave. She suffered a great deal as a result of her involvement with SY and itís time for me to tell her story.
My mom was involved
in SY during a stretch in her life when she was battling with a debilitating
depression, which escalated during the 1970s through 2001. She had tried to
alleviate her pain with many holistic and western remedies, but the guru was
her main form of medication. Like an addict, she needed her daily regimen of
the guru not so much to elevate her up high, but to get her back to zero. When
the guru finally gave my mom nothing, that's exactly how much progress she made.
"One of the
sweetest, most generous and pure-hearted souls you would ever meet" is
what those who knew my mother best described her as. It was not unlike her to
utter phrases such as, "Hitler wasn't a bad person, he just had bad
behavior!" Her kindness was almost not of this world...
She would make
several long trips to the South Fallsburg, NY Ashram per year, accompanied my
aunt who was also a long-time devotee, my big sister, as well as myself. While most kids were off living normal suburban lives, I was spending my
school vacations in the daycare system of the Ashram at Sadhana Kutir and Atma
Nidhi. As an infant, I was given the spiritual name "Krishna" by
Gurumayi, and that is what I was known as during the on-and-off trips we would
make to South Fallsburg from 1985 through 1997, at which time I was aged 0
through 12. My father, a headstrong self-made type of guy who is just as in
touch with his own spirituality as my mom was, but nonetheless a realist,
always had a healthy skepticism of the Ashram and especially of Gurumayi. He
tagged along once or twice out of respect for my mom, but seldom participated.
I always knew how
kind-hearted and devoted of a person my mother was. But I also knew she was
very weak and suffering from depression. At times this was frustrating for me
being an energetic young kid who wanted to run around and explore. Even though
my mom had a beautiful home with a loving family, it was as though there was a
deep hole in her soul that was looking to be filled. Something about the Ashram
kept calling her back. Back away from her family obligations. Back to the
promise of a happy mind. Back to the love and protection of a Guru whose heart
seemed so pure on the surface.
"I release my daughter. I release my son. I release my husband"
This is one of the final journal entries from my mom's spiritual journal, which she wrote in over the course of the many years of her practice. Through reading these journals many years later as a young adult, it became obvious to me that she gave 100% of her power up to the Guru, and there simply wasn't any juice left in her tank for anyone else, not even for her own family or herself. Oftentimes my mom would remain in bed for days on end, wearing diapers, unable to move. Gradually, the icy grip of depression had taken a strong hold on her, further frozen over by a thick layer of coldness from Gurumayi, the one person in the world who she trusted.
As I looked back
through these many journal entries, some of them were thankful to the Guru, but
others were questioning of the Guru. The common theme throughout the journal
entries was that they were all laden with expressions of love and devotion to
Gurumayi, with the exception of one. Her final journal entry was very brief.† Only a single sentence was written: "My
guru has forsaken me.Ē
...Later that day,
on May 8th, 2001, my mom was found by the police with a self-inflicted knife
wound in her chest. In the driver's seat of a totaled car, which had impacted
into the side of an abandoned building off the shoulder of a highway. There was
a brief suicide note in her pocket. It didn't say anything hurtful. Just a
simple "I love you. Please forgive me. I know I've done the very best I
I don't hate Siddha Yoga. I think itís done wonderful things for some people. I'm just a guy who misses his mom and needs to understand why her life had to end the way it did. Why would a guru demand such an unconditional level of blind devotion to allow people to reach this point? Didnít she understand that many of these people were weak and sick? ÖDidnít she feel some remorse?
Like yourselves, I
am fortunate to have left SY and have found meaning in other areas of life. By
the time I was in my mid-teens, I was playing sports, singing in bands, hanging
out with friends from my own town, getting into mischief like any normal
suburban teenager. But I was always haunted by those memories from the Ashram
which was a culprit in the brainwashing and murder of my poor mother. All that
beauty and pureness I experienced as a young kid at the Ashram, juxtaposed with
tragic ending of my mothers life, has left me with questions that I am still
conflicted over to this day. What was the true nature of this place? I was only
a child when I was exposed to the teachings of SY and the guru(s). In
hindsight, I got a pretty good deal. I learned to meditate, I was surrounded by
a warm community, I got to experience the beauty of the ashram and the natural
beauty of the Catskill mountains. What's more, I made a few adult role models
along the way who were "seekers" and helped me get in touch with my
spiritual side. Even though I didn't know I needed it at the time, planting
that spiritual seed laid the foundations for the person I am today and are
helping me to overcome the very conflicts it helped to create. (Itís funny how
sometimes a riddle answers itself.) But perhaps most pivotally, I was exposed
to all these positive things without having to put a veil over my eyes
and sacrifice my personal power to Gurumayi as so many others had.
I never understood
why my mom needed meditation until I got out of college, and realized how crazy
the real world can make a person. Since then I've taken up yoga and meditation
and have only just begun to discover their health benefits. Despite this, every
time I sit down to practice meditation a little voice in my head says
"Psssst. Be careful. Remember what happened to mom." It hurts to have
such a strong defense mechanism against my own spirituality. This voice will
never leave. But if anything, harnessing my ability to reduce the voice to a
whisper without drowning it out further validates my practice. It helps to
remember: All spirituality is not SY! SY is only one tainted drop of water in a
great rolling river of spirituality which has been flowing for millennia.
Reading my mom's
spiritual journals many years after her fatal crash has helped me to understand
that her decision to end her life wasn't the fault of the practice of
spirituality, but the fault of the crippling disease of depression, combined
with a naÔve and selfish guru who misguided. Whether or not Gurumayi knowingly
misguided, I am not sure. But one thing is for sure: If everybody told
me I was a great architect, I would not
go building a skyscraper and invite people to come inside unless I truly
believed it for myself. Perhaps the action of Gurumayi leaving her devotees is
an implied admittance of guilt. But it's not enough. The next step should be a
public apology from Gurumayi. On some level, this woman must know she was in
over her head and did not have the wisdom necessary to send weak, vulnerable
people on the blind, destination-less path that she did. Let me join you in
chorus: A PUBLIC APOLOGY from Malti Shetty, or the woman known as Gurumayi,
regarding the psychological abuse of those devotees who were mentally ill and
for other wrongdoings that the leadership of the Siddha Yoga community engaged
in over the years under her supervision, is far past overdue and it owed to the
devotees and their family members.
If anyone can offer further insight into what my mom may have meant by "My Guru has forsaken me," my family and I have been looking for some closure on this matter for some time. We believe there may have been a singular incident on Gurumayiís part which provoked my mom to write this as her final journal entry before taking her own life. But then again, maybe not. Either way, any insight is appreciated. The journal entry was dated May 8th, 2001. (The same day she passed.)
I'd like to end my note to tell you that I'm grateful. Through the years, I've made attempts to vent the sadness of my mother's suicide to therapists, family and girlfriends, many of them great listeners, but there's only so much understanding someone who wasnít directly affiliated with SY can offer. Hearing your stories offers a deeper level of compassion that can only come from someone who has traveled along that same path. I have not met any of you, but I feel as though we are on a journey together, a journey back to discovering that inner light for ourselves. I owe that journey to my mom. I wish all of you all love and light. May you continue to focus on the best in yourselves as you look not only inward, but forward.
If there are other
children of Siddha Yoga who would like to share their stories, please speak
out. I'd be very keen on hearing them.
With warmth and gratitude,
†† †††††† †††††The Former Siddha Yoga Kid, all grown up