Comments & Responses - February 1997

We are trying a new format to help follow any threads that develop. Let me know if this helps or if you have any other suggestions. The date indicates the day it was received. Subject lines with no date are responses from yours truly.

Each row in the table will hold one thread.

This was received 28 Feb 97:

You may be interested to know that there is one former swami who has been quite well known for over a decade and has recently released his autobiography, which reveals much about his relationship to Muktananda and his experience in the ashram during the 70's.

He was known at the time as Vivekananda. He was an American and very close to Muktananda for many years, perhaps his closest Western disciple. It is likely that people who are newer to SY may never have heard of him in that context. It seems almost all records of his participation in SY have been obliterated, yet the book contains numerous anecdotes, as well as photos, which demonstrate that he was very much present. Vivekananda served as Muktananda's personal secretary and, as a founding Board Member of SY Foundation, had extensive knowledge of the organization. He also represented Muktananda and SY as an ambassador in a variety of public formats.

Vivekananda is now known as Master Charles. He left SY shortly after Baba's death in 1982 and remained in seclusion in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia until late 1984, when he publicly introduced Synchronicity Contemporary High-Tech Meditation, which he originated. Since then, people from all over the world have found their way to the Synchronicity Sanctuary, where he periodically holds High-Tech Meditation retreats.

In your previous discussion of the subject, someone stated that they felt that "these people (the former swamis) owe the public... some statement of truth." This book, which is titled "The Bliss of Freedom: A Contemporary Mystic's Enlightening Journey" is the statement of Master Charles' truth. It may not be what some people want to hear, but it is his truth nonetheless. There has been much talk over the years that Muktananda failed to pass on his power. This book, and the experience of Master Charles himself, provide the evidence that he did... right under everyone's noses.

Thanks!

Karen

Response:

Karen,

Thanks for the note. I'm sending him an email (press here) to see if he wishes to comment on the responsibility of past teachers / swamis of SY. His web site makes no mention of his prior contact with SY or Muktananda. It would appear that he has distanced himself from those connections. I wonder why? We will see.

Have you read the book? I have not been able to find it local bookshops as of yet.

Are you a follower of Master Charles or of SY? You seem to hint that Master Charles is the real McCoy and thereby imply that Muktananda was too. Is this what you are trying to say?

Pendragon

Ps for those interested, Charles may be found at: Synchronicity High-Tech Meditation (by no means is this to be taken as a referral).

This was received 28 Feb 97:

Wow ! I feel some what better now . seem some , or so many have difficult or similar experiences. I have been going to SY since 1986, kept in the back ground for a long time. experienced GM tour in 1991 to Sydney Australia,watched all the CRAZY power hungry devotees go about their seva, but overlooked it! then when doing my seva on music a few years later. it hit me , the entire ashram hatred. for what ?? still trying to work it out two years later.They are mostly Mad.sadly "they" was once me also.I expressed my displeasure in the ashram with a so called close friend ( no longer a close friend) your right they seem to use Psychologists willy nilly in the ashram, they seem to have the POWER. I've not been able to go the the ashram except the odd occasion (re experiencing great pain) for over a year now . G M tour is soon to be happening . I feel like standing up in Q& A at Darling harbour convention centre and asking a few questions ( even before I read this section on the net) Waiting for the right time when they have 3000 or so potential new comers asking questions about meditation. .... I know of many in Sydney alone who have left SY for similar reasons, they were very devoted indeed and did a lot more seva than I. Why ???? I m glad your here. listening. all of you. I don't feel so alone now. I'm Still detoxifying.

E

Response,

E.

Thank you for your note. It is good to see when people "wake up" and see SY for what it is. Congratulations. You talk about the process of letting go of the group. It takes time to heal from the years of being involved with a dysfunctional group and there are many good resources for that. Most of all, it takes time as well.

One of the things that has helped me, and others, was to write my story of how I became involved and how I eventually left SY. It takes a fair amount of time and thought, but it was very helpful. If you would like to put it on the web, someone else may relate to it and in return you are helping others take a clearer look at what is going on.

There seems to be a lot of reaction in Australia right now to SY. Maybe because the tour is on and it brings everything to a head.

Look forward to hearing more from you.

Sincerely,

Pendragon

This was received 23 Feb 97:

In 1978 I met Swami Muktananda. He has been my lifeboat ever since. His morality was unquestionable. He was celibate and encouraged others to retain their sexual fluids - which was their life energy. When I saw him joy leaped in my heart!!! We all know that the prices at the were and are still astronomical. I myself often wonder why we don't try to feed the poor or something. The Oakland Ashram is in a very poor area and could be of service to that community. This is how I have understood it. The wealthy Devotees who got the special attention, made it possible for the Ashram to exist. Through their generous contributions those of us who had no means of travelling to India were privileged to meet Baba. I was and am still grateful. If Baba was not the genuine article, then I don't know who is. Baba was the only child in a wealthy family. He didn't have to become a Swami to aquire wealth. He had travelled all over India meeting many enlightened beings. His words have brought spiritual understanding to my life. I am sorry if the things written here happened. If this is true I know it is hard for people to come forward and say these things. Still no one was ever imprisoned at the Ashram. We can come and go as we choose. I don't think SYDA is a cult. I do think these articles have serious charges that need to be examined. As someone who was never blessed to be in a position close to the Guru, this is shocking to hear. Still, I don't understand the ways of man, how can I understand the ways of God.

D.

Response:

D,

Since you can not PROVE that Muktananda was celibate you have to assume that it is possible that he was not, especially given testimony to the contrary. The fact is his morality has been in question for years, both from within SY and without! I know many active sy devotee's who actually believe that he had sex with teens and adults and simply don't care or think he was a pervert and because he's not around anymore. Just because you had great experiences with him, doesn't mean he was not without stain.

Why are you defending Muktananda? Because "joy leaped in my heart"? Because you felt good when you saw him means that you believe what they told you: that he is God? that he is without desire for money? You sound like the wife who has been battered by her husband...the evidence is hitting you in the face but you can not admit it. You are so afraid of losing the fantasy of something that was never real in the first place. What would it mean to you if you admitted that what you believed in was based on a series of lies? Could you face that?

Many women and teens came forward to accuse Muktananda of sexual abuse, both for the 1983 article, "The Secret Life of Swami Muktananda" and for the 1994 article, "O Guru, Guru, Guru". Nityananda Jr. carried on his teachers misuse of power by his own sexual misconduct. Chidvilasananda is alleged to have been sexually abused by Muktananda and later sexually involved with George Afif.

Here are quotes from the "The Secret Life of Swami Muktananda by William Rodarmor":
bullet"Michael Dinga was a foundation trustee, and used to cosign for deposits to the ashram’s Swiss bank accounts, but the amounts on the papers were always left blank. In 1977, however, he got a hint. Ron Friedland, the president of the foundation, told Dinga that Muktananda had 1.3 million dollars in Switzerland. Three years later, Muktananda told Chandra it was more like five million. "And then he laughed, and said, ‘There’s more than that.’"
bullet"Chidvilasananda also denied that there was a bank account in Switzerland. When asked about the ashram's finances, she said that all income was put back into facilities. "We are a break-even proposition," the new leader said."
bullet"On the subject of money, foundation chief Ed Oliver conceded in an October 1, l983, interview with the Los Angeles Times that there is a Swiss account with 1.5 million dollars in it."

Special consideration for those with money began in Muktananda's time and carried on today. If you give large amounts of money SYDA and the guru will pay you special attention. By the way, it doesn't take millions to travel the states or the world.

You say that "I do think these articles have serious charges that need to be examined." Does it bother you just a little that these allegations may be true? I hope so. Some compassion for the victims of the abuse would be nice don't you think?

You say that "Still no one was ever imprisoned at the Ashram. We can come and go as we choose." That may be true for the adults, but what about the children who didn't have a choice?

You say that "Still, I don't understand the ways of man, how can I understand the ways of God." If you don't understand human behavior you have no business accepting the word of another person that he or she is God! What need in you is pushing you to do this? Why do you ignore the abuse so you can have a nice fantasy to believe in? You have followed one of the prime examples of SY controls the followers. You stop using your mind to critically analyze a persons behavior because they say they are beyond human judgement. How many religious leaders have used the same rationalization to justify their actions? It is not what people say, it is what they do, that must be evaluated.

You seem to have some doubt. That is good, it is the beginning of looking at who you really are and what you have really gotten yourself involved with for all these years. There will be a loss that you will face, if you have the courage. The real question is, do you want to know the truth?

Sincerely,

Pendragon

This was received 20 Feb 97:

Here is an interesting book to read: Meeting the Shadow, The Hidden Power of the Dark Side of Human Nature, edited by Connie Zwieg and Jeremiah Abrams. Part 6 is called : Meeting Darkness on the Path: The Hidden Sides of Religion and Spirituality.

There is an essay called, A Heretic in a New Age Community, (sound familiar?) by W. Brugh Joy. The author writes about the Findhorn community which reminded me very much of my own siddha yoga experience.

Initially the author writes about giving a talk to the Findhorn community, that was well received and loved. Five years later he was invited back to give another talk. The author writes:

"I talked about the consequences of feeling "special" and how doing battle against the "evils of the world" not only creates the "enemy," but is actually a projection of the darker aspects of the community onto the world screen. Needless to say, the talk was not popular and I was fast falling into the "unwelcome guest" category. I would soon be seen as whatever was unresolved in the community at the unconscious level. In other words, I would be viewed as carrying the shadow side of the community, and I knew it!

When we attempt to deny what is, to deny such things as the natural cycles of time and space, enormous energy is required. That energy is then not available as a resource for other activities. In this case, the denial by the vast majority of the members of the community of anything that threatened their external values and beliefs was evident. The wisdom of recognizing both expansion and contraction was not part of the general belief system of the Findhorn community, as it is not part of the New Age thought process in general. Despite assertions by most partisans of the New Age that they are promoting such virtues as selfless service to the world, New Age beliefs in the specialness and innocence of the New Age are, in my opinion, regressive...toward the infantile, if not the fetal. Such ideation tends to be self-centered...concentrating, for example, on images that ignore the contribution of the destructive."

The author goes on to describe how he was publicly ridiculed by the community poet at a program later the same evening. While looking at the author, the poet read a poem that was "powerful and afire with wrathful righteousness" and "unleashed the dark feelings and destructive forces of the community."

The author writes, "While the poet continued his volcanic outpouring of dark emotions, the community as a whole was displaying a wide range of reactivity."

The author continues:

"I had never been involved in a public attack of that magnitude. My resources for centering and becoming transparent to the assailing forces - for being able to find that place in consciousness where there is no need to defend from the content of the attack - were nearly depleted. Becoming transparent to accusations does not mean parts of oneself do not feel hurt, humiliated, angry, and defensive. It means realizing what is actually transpiring, and not going unconscious or falling victim to one’s own disowned material! I knew the shadow of the community was erupting and I was the mirror. I also recognized that those forces and qualities which were being attacked were parts of myself as well. For me, this was a huge leap in maturation. I was being initiated into those collective arenas of consciousness where one handles the unconscious projections not just of one individual or a few individuals but of a large collective, in this case an entire community."

I found this book very helpful in understanding the shadow side of siddha yoga. Those who are kicked out of siddha yoga, or in some way attacked by siddha yoga are simply the receptacles for the projections of the siddha yoga shadow upon the devotee who tells the truth. It takes strength to withstand it, but understanding the process can be very empowering.

There are other great essays such as "New Age Fundamentalism", by John Babbs.

I hope it's all useful to readers.

C.

Response,

This is an excellent book with many short pieces about the "shadow" parts of ones lives. We will posting sections from the chapter referred to here,"Meeting darkness on the path: The Hidden sides of religion and spiritually". Thanks for the tip.

Pendragon

This was received 19 Feb 97:

I just discovered your web site and am quite glad that I did. I almost became involved with Siddha Yoga back when I was in college in the late 80s. A friend of a minister friend of mine got involved back in the 70s. I went with him to several local group meetings. While they were enjoyable for the most part, I never understood why everything in Siddha Yoga cost so much. If shaktipat is supposed to be a divine awakening, what about people who cannot afford $400? I never did take the intensive because the price was so high. Also, I became increasingly concerned about my Siddha Yoga friend. One couldn't have a conversation with him without hearing at least several times, "Gurumayi says ...." And it seemed awfully suspicious that Gurumayi seemed to be telling people how to run all areas of their lives.

Eventually, my friend and I had kind of a falling out, so I never did get involved in Siddha Yoga. I have two questions which I hope you can answer:

1. Why did Joseph Chilton Pearce drop out of the organization? At one time, he was a big evangelist for Gurumayi, extolling her virtues on numerous talk shows.

2. Do you feel that there are any authentic teachers who are giving shaktipat today--meaning they do not charge $400 and do not try to control their students' lives?

Thanks,

K

Response:

Thank you for your note. You seem to have seen the warning signs that many of us have missed. The high cost of SY is a major warning. While any organization needs to pay the bills, having millions in Swiss Bank accounts is another matter all together. SY's special treatment of those with money simply shows what their real priorities are.

RE Joe Pierce. Yes he has left SY. As in similar cases, SY wishes for these items to be swept under the carpet and do no advertise when one of it's top teachers or swamis leaves. It raises too many embarrassing questions. I am not aware of who Joe Pierce is with today. Frankly, I would not consider him to be a reliable source. After all, how long did he stay with SY? And since he has never come forward to acknowledge his role in this organization, I would continue to suspect of anything he says or does, until he does.

You are not the first to ask for a referral for other teachers. Below is a brief statement I have written about this. You raise a very important question that deserves discussion. Please press HERE to read that statement: Where do I go from here?

Pendragon

This was received 18 Feb 97:

thanks pendragon for all your seva - you please some gurus somewhere - i know.

anyway i want to find the syda old ethics debate folder 1 thru 6 where are they?

thanks

Response:

You are quite welcome. May I inquire as to your comings and goings from SY?

To find the aol debates click here or go to Resources, button on the map to the left, and then click on the: Ongoing Discussion Areas Usenet and AOL.

Warm Regards,

Pendragon

This was received 18 Feb 97:

Just wanted to say thank you for your informative web site. I first heard of people leaving Siddha Yoga on AOL. I learned enough to realize that my husband was right all along; this is a cult. On consulting the Cult Awareness Network I learned that I was involved in a destructive cult. I packed up two large boxes of all the books, photos, correspondence course material, CD's and cassettes that I had accumulated over the years and mailed it off to the Cult Awareness Network for reference material. It cost me over $30 to ship everything.

I could have sold my tapes and CD's, but I didn't want to perpetuate the lie. I would really like to correspond to some of the people that told their story. Of course many would like to remain anonymous. I was very touched by the young woman's story who was banned from the ashrams and centers. At one point she was going to a center in someone's home in Columbia, Maryland. If there is a way for me to send her an E-mail please let me know. Perhaps she would be willing to contact me. Thank you again for your web site. If I hadn't read the stories I found here I would probably still be involved with Siddha Yoga.

Response:

Thanks for your note. Perhaps you might want to add to the wealth here by submitting your own story, in more detail. Often people don't believe they have anything to offer. But for whatever reason you left, there are likely others out there, just like you asking the same questions, having the same doubts. We all come to our decision in a different manner.

How long were you *in*? When did you leave? How has it been for you since you have left?

The person you have inquired about has just posted her email to her updated story, so you can contact her directly.

Warm regards,

Pendragon

PS For those that may not know, Cult Awareness Network (CAN) has went bankrupt as a result of being sued by a group of Scientologist. CAN has been sold. It was bought by a Scientologst.

This was received 17 Feb 97:

I met gm in 1988 in LA. I liked the meditation and chanting a lot. Hated the organization right away but put up with it and didn't get too involved. When I did have a seva I usually didn't stay in it long. Went to GSP in 1990. Stayed 4 months. Worked in the Clinic doing bodywork. Loved it and hated it. Escaped to village whenever possible to hang out with the Babas who lived across the river and went to Nit. Sr. temple a lot. I enjoyed that part of it a lot. Wrote a journal everyday which traces my ups and downs as far as gm & sy. After returning did the gg a lot. Which I loved doing, actually, and miss these days. Not for the content but for the discipline and the pranayama of it. Was increasingly disillusioned with the LA Center and the politics so I didn't get involved in it. Went to SF a few times and got a bit of the glow but always resented the money part. I never really experienced any of the abuse and brainwashing that people are describing but I always knew I didn't want to get too involved in the ashram life. They all seemed so fucking weird or subclinically pathological. So now I don't bother with the whole thing except to read this board and watch the cracks grow in the icons. I learned a lot from SY, including the need to seek out lots of teachers, and to be my own teacher sometimes. I'm leaning towards a more zen-like quality in my life today, which mirrors my own progress from India to a very strong interest in China to the simplicity and beauty of the Japanese. This ol' wasp must have had many lives!

Thanks for all your efforts in putting this board together. That's truly selfless service!

Response:

Thank you for letting us know your story. I, like yourself, liked some aspects (chanting and meditating) of SY and simultaneously disliked many others. That, in part, helped kept me tied to the group. I can also see how SY used those aspects to keep me involved. Let's chant and zone out to ignore those nasty feelings and thoughts you're having about whatever. The truth is, all the chanting and meditating in the world will NOT change the fact that I believe Muktananda sexually abused teens and women under his care. I don't have anything against chanting and meditating per se, but I do have a problem when these "spiritual practices" are used to cover up and ignore the other problems that exist.

I myself have continued, cautiously, to explore Hindu teachers in addition to the simplicity and compassion of Zen. This may not be for everyone and that is the refreshing change from SY. We can pick what and whom we wish to explore without SY trying to control us not by telling us NOT to see other teachers. And if we don't want to explore anything, that's fine too. What's most important, it to be truthful with ourselves why we choose any particular path. What does it do for us? What does it help us to avoid? What does it help us come to terms with?

Thanks for your support.

Warm regards,

Pendragon

This was received 15 Feb 97:

Dear Friends,

I became involved in Siddha Yoga approximately 10 years ago. I left one year ago.

I learned a great deal about myself, the world, and most of all about LOVE. Although the fanaticism and the control Gurumayi's devotees exert over people was always present, I did not want to see it. Until it happened to me and people I know.

After work, my friend was not let in the ashram to pick up his girlfriend who was waiting for him to go home. He looked dirty and not sophisticated enough.

While working in the bookstore, Ashram residents criticized others, and often used the teachings to manipulate others.

MOST OF ALL I FEEL VERY UNCOMFORTABLE ABOUT GURUMAYI'S "YOGIC DETACHMENT" My question relates to the high expensive prices to take a class or intensive. I've often talked to people about this. Their response is always about karma. Does this mean that Gurumayi's karma is to live in OPULENCE?

The true Dharma has NO NAME or FACE. To me, Gurumayi is the Perfect Marketing Tool for the west.

Thanks.

Response:

Your story is familiar. Until we are personally affected by the problems, we want and we need to believe they do not exist. We hope that it is all a mistake. That perhaps just a few misguided souls needed to have their egos worked on!

YOGIC DETACHMENT? I don't know. Maybe it's the result of years of abuse by her own teacher Muktananda. It's alleged that she was a victim of his sexual abuse as well as the others. Her parents, gave her and her brother to Muktananda as children. (I've always wondered what that was all about. You know that Muktananda tried to give the lineage to another person several times, but he turned it down. More about this in an upcoming "History of SY; the one they don't want you to read". You know that Muktananda lived in the Shetty household for a time in Bombay. And now she has nothing to do with them. A bit cold wouldn't you say? Is it "yogic detachment" or an inability to be close to people?).

I don't think you need karma or dharma to realize what is going on. Simply put, Chidvilasananda charges lots of money for things. Since they will never dare open the books, we can only assume that she likes the money. We know from reading The Secret Life of Swami Muktananda, that money was an issue for Muktananda as well, with millions put away. Why should that change now?

Regards,

Pendragon

This was received 15 Feb 97:

I left SY about shortly after the New Yorker article came out, although I was lessening my involvement for some time beforehand. I also moved away from my town near the same time, to a place with no local center. I've been pretty quiet about why I'm not around SF in the summer, and have attributed it to a new job mostly. I have friends on the inside who I don't want to hurt, or at least that's what I've been telling myself. I really have been licking my wounds in isolation until lately, when I've started reading the "Leaving SY" web site and this board. I'm thinking about cutting ties more formally/publicly, but I want to try to deal with some of my personal friends, first. I am motivated by the courage of many of you, and I think it's time for me to stop lying to my friends. I feel strongly about joining the voices saying "I believe you" to those that have spoken out about abuse. It's hard, because although I recognize that I've really already lost my friends, I don't want to bow to the inevitable, to the fact that it's really impossible for a "zombie" to be truly friends with an "ex." Like everyone, I lost a lot in leaving, and don't want to lose more. So as you see, I'm struggling.

Response:

Leaving our "friends" behind is a very painful part of leaving the cult. We've had instant community for some years. While it has been a false community, based on lies and pressure, it is still a loss none the less. You see, the "friends" are not really friends as they can not tolerate your beliefs, just as with time, you will likely not be able to tolerate their beliefs. The deeper they are *in* the harder it will be. It is good that you have found us, you are not alone.

Warm regards,

Pendragon

This was received 13 Feb 97:

Howdy once again. Reading the February "Comments" on the Leaving Siddha Yoga page, I see one writer saying that Swami Radhananda had stepped forward & talked to the media about SYDA. I knew nothing about this, but it makes me particularly happy -- I spent years working with & hanging out with her as a worker in Amrit; I was also friendly with her son & daughter (this *is* the Radhananda that always cooked, right?). So I'm curious as to when she came forward & what she said. Do you have any further info?

Also, interesting what you say about the "Watchers." It's quite mind-blowing to think that some of my old (sincerely) dear friends from my Siddha Yoga days may be reading my contribution to your site.

Response:

If anyone has any further information about how Radhananda has spoken out, please drop a line.

Pendragon

This was received 13 Feb 97:

Some of the posts on aol have indicated that the ashram is telling devotees that all the negative stuff on the internet is written by 2 or 3 disgruntled devotees. So I have decided to add some information about myself that will hopefully help devotees struggling with the truth about siddha yoga, to believe in the credibility of the stories on the web.

Please append the following to my website story regarding abuse by Umeshananda:

************************

The first center I attended was the Washington, DC center which at that time was in the house of an area psychologist. Later, I was well liked by devotees in the Columbia, Maryland center, the last center I attended when Umeshananda told me to leave Siddha Yoga. My sevas were usually hall monitor, hall manager and amrit, and guru gita manager. I also played harmonium. I frequently attended the Baltimore center. I am definitely a real person!

*************************

Response:

Thanks for the update, I'll put this up in comments as well as amend your story. Thanks for your courage.

Yes, I've heard that SY has written this off by saying it's just a few people. Well SY has to minimize the damage somehow. Let's see, at last count there were 14 stories and you can see the variety of comments. You know, it doesn't matter if it's one, two or a hundred people writing to this site. What matters, in just a months time there has been almost 1900 visitors (actually it is more like 2000 given the way AOL gets the web site once for several people at once). The articles here also reflect more than just a few peoples problems.

The word is getting out, fallsburg and ganeshpuri devotees alike are reading the stories that are here. When people stop coming, it will be time to take it down, until then, on it goes.

Pendragon

This was received 11 Feb 97:

Thanks for putting all this information on the net> There is no way of getting at it at the ashram- information is tightly controlled. I'm quite confused by such sinister allegations, I' don't know whether its true or not, and have no way of Knowing for sure. I've been in Siddha Yoga for 6 years , and it has been a really good experience for me on the whole- but I'm very interested in reading about people's negative experiences, because in Siddha Yoga, all you hear are the Peaches and Cream stories - and I just know that there is more to it than that. Well, I'll read all the stuff in this site. Thanks again.

Response:

Thank you for your note. SY is very invested in their image and will go to great lengths at damage control. When the O Guru article was published people were sent out from the ashram in S. Fallsburg to buy and burn as many copies as they could find! Much pressure was put on the author and the New Yorker NOT to publish the article. Have you read it? If you need a copy, please email me and I will forward it to you. What is very interesting is that SY never sued the New Yorker. The reason is that the magazine was prepared to go to court as well as the people that were interviewed. The same happened when the CoEvolutionary Article was published in 1983, no legal actions.

Their need to control information is a sign of a dysfunctional organization. A healthy organization would openly discuss the problems. They don't even openly acknowledge that Nity Jr was a SY guru, for a time. How long were you *in* SY before you knew he even existed? They will rewrite or just ignore history to suit their needs.

The real problem is that Muktananda and Chidvilasananda have hidden many of their actions because the public would simply not stand for it! Whether they are "enlightened" or not is NOT the issue. The issue is what they have done and lied about for years. Many people would say that since they are true gurus we can't understand what they do and have to accept anything they do. I for one, will not accept sexual and emotional abuse from anyone! And frankly, I don't think that is what enlightenment is about. Many many people as well have not accepted what they have done and left. Many of the swamis have left. Excerpts from a recent interview (The Emperor's Tantric Robes - An Interview with June Campbell on Codes of Secrecy and Silence) with June Campbell is on the web and addresses this issue and is worth reading.

I would be curious to hear what you think after you read the articles and stories that are here.

BTW, the word is getting out, devotees who are in the ashram in S. Fallsburg are reading the web site and a hard copy has been sent to devotees in Ganehspuri.

This is not an easy task that you are undertaking but it is a necessary one. No one wants to find out that the revered one is less than perfect. No one comes to SY looking for problems. But when problems of this magnitude are rumored, it is each persons duty to investigate. In the end, you will only be accountable to yourself. There really isn't any choice left but to look at the truth.

Also, the problems you read here may never have happened to you directly. But if they happened at all and are then covered up, that for me is not acceptable.

Regards,

Pendragon

This was received 10 Feb 97:

Hi Pendragon,

My affiliation with Siddha Yoga is pretty insignificant, but I know several people who have freely given a large percentage of their lives to the practices and devotion expected of them in exchange for the peace of mind they receive.

As skeptical as I am about the underlying motives of any organized religious groups - particularly those which ask for and attract people with so much money, I found a few of the stories people have sent in to you hard to swallow. I believe there must be some pretty shady things which are covered up in any place where so much power is at stake, but how can so many people be willingly so blind in the face of abuse which is so opposed to the very ideals they are striving for? I suppose worse things have happened in the name of power and in the name of God (eg thousands of years of murder, rape, and mass destruction).

I found your web site, having just participated in a program in Melbourne whose underlying purpose seemed to be to recruit more devotees, and to unify those who already follow the great Gurumayi. Despite the very peaceful meditation I experienced, the whole event was far too Hollywood for me, and the touchy-feely atmosphere was a little too floaty for my rather earthy perspectives to bend to. Still, the letters I read afterwards were disappointing to read, as I perceived the organization to be fairly benign, if a little airy.

Perhaps it's part of the law of opposites that where there is bliss and peace, the shadow of these are also present - Yin and Yang explain this well. That people should suffer as a result of spiritual questing is despicable and tragic, but I can't understand why actions such as sexual abuse haven't been taken to a court of law. Then again I suppose the power in numbers and the the financial backing Siddha Yoga enjoy would make such a task extremely difficult, especially in the USA.

There's my bit for today.

Response:

Thank you for your email. Yes, the paradox abounds! On the surface, SY may appear benign. If you ignore the high costs and constant pressure to give money, it's not so bad. If you ignore the history of SY: that Muktananda molested many teens, (see the articles: The Secret Life of Swami Muktananda article by William Rodarmor, The CoEvolution Quarterly; Winter 1983. and O Guru, Guru, Guru article by Lis Harris, New Yorker; November 14, 1994.) it's not so bad. If you ignore that George Affif, a child molester, held a position of significant power in SYDA for years, up until the New Yorker article was published and he became too big of a PR liability, it's not so bad.

What is also interesting is that while there was such a big deal about the passage of the "lineage" from Muktananda to Chidvilasananda, there were ceremonies with Brahmin priests and all, (oh, let's not forget about Nity jr, he was in there for a while too) there has NEVER been any official verification of the passage of the lineage from Nityananda of Ganeshpuri to Muktananda from either Nityananda himself or from the current day trust (NOT SYDA) that is responsible for Nityananda's Samadhi shrine. In fact, what SY does not tell you is that there are others who claim the lineage as well. Hmmm.

For your information, the Hollywood show is only new since Chidvilasananda took power. But don't worry, since she is "enlightened" she doesn't need any of it.

Regarding your thoughts about the lack of legal prosecution about the sexual molestation. Please read "The Dynamics of Child Sexual Abuse: Betrayal by the Parental Figure" that I wrote. It might help you understand the reasons why a sexual abuse victim might not want to come public. It would not surprise me if SY has settled out of court to avoid potential legal action. They would of course demand a no tell clause. You see, public image is *Everything* to SY, because that is all they have.

It's important to trust your sense of what you felt while you were there.

Regards,

Pendragon

This was received 9 Feb 97:

Hello. I have just discovered this site and want to thank you very much for providing this much needed service. I left SY about two years ago, but haven't had much in the way of support from like-minded people. I was wondering if you could address this question: how closely is this site "monitored" by SY people. If I post identifying info, am I likely to get calls/visits/harassment from local center people? Do you know anything about some upcoming programs at local centers that are supposed to be addressing why so many people have left SY? I've been invited to such a program. I'll write more later after I've explored this site in more depth. Thanks again.

Response:

Yes, the web site is monitored by SY. I have labeled these people as the Watchers for lack of a better name. Press HERE to read my special welcome to them. You should assume that anything read here is noted by SY. My guess is that if they can identify the people writing here, they will NOT allow them into the ashram or the centers. You can choose to be as public or anonymous as you desire, it will be respected here. I would be surprised if SY would harass you in anyway, not after the disaster that was noted in the O Guru article of their sending people after Nityananda Jr. And if they did, tell them to stop by putting it writing to them. If they do not stop or if they make threats, contact the police and your local newspaper and television station.

I am aware of the damage control parties that are currently going on around the world. Please be advised, you do not have to go. If you do choose to go, you do not have to go alone. You can leave at any time. Be prepared though because they are using individual sessions to meet with people. This can be more persuasive. Press HERE to read more about this.

It is very helpful to be able to talk or write about the process of leaving a destructive organization. Please feel free to do so.

Warm Regards,

Pendragon

This was received 15 Feb 97:

You posted a question for me on the web page recently; I was asking about a meeting (for people who have left) to which I was invited. In your reply you warned that individual sessions are being used along with the public damage control sessions. And guess what? A few days later I was "offered" an individual meeting. I said no thanks, that I thought the big meeting would be fine. I'm going to the meeting mainly because it's important to some of the friends I mentioned above. I'm taking along a friend who's never been in SY and is very strong and cynical. My plan is to sit silent during the meeting. I'm hoping to use it as a "chip"... I came to that meeting, now, will you please read some of these stories and this article?

Response:

I have to ask, why is Chidvilasananda so bloody concerned about people leaving? Why are they going to such extraordinary means? Are the numbers down again? If Chidvilasananda is really enlightened, she wouldn't be attached to who comes and who goes. SY has for years made a big deal about the fact that SY is not for everyone. That individuals may have different paths, different gurus and so on. So why put the effort into trying to bring back those who left?

Good Luck,

Pendragon

This was received 15 Feb 97:

I value the fact that people now have a vehicle through which to share their stories and help heal themselves. However, I had a problem with your latest update to SY Watchers. You mention Nityananda Jr. several times, implying by your comments that he was a good guy, unlike Chidvilasananda.

I was in India when he 'stepped down' and heard first hand from a female swami whom I knew very well and with whom I had roomed in New York before she took sanyas, that Nityananda had invited her to have sex with him, which she did. According to her, she was not the only swami who obliged him. When I spoke with her, she was in a pretty severe depression over the whole incident. After all, he was the guru at that time, so how could he do anything wrong. Her depression came as a result of realizing her delusion. She told me that Chidvilasananda arranged for all the devotees who had had sex with her brother to attend a group meeting, to get things out in the open. At the meeting, they all shared their experiences with Nityananda.

The moral of my story is that we should be careful not to create more delusional polarities for the sake of building our case. If we do, then we only undermine it.

Response:

Thank you for your comments and this opportunity to be perfectly clear. In no way do I think Nityananda Jr is without liability in SY's history. (I attended the panels in S. Fallsburg the summer after he "left".) The truth is, I don't think of him as an active part of SY anymore. It's clear that he misused his position of guru by having sex with the women that he did. The one thing I will give him credit for is that he, when asked by Lis Harris, did admit to his abuse of power, a small but important step. Although this was relatively insignificant given all the public evidence against him. Since he has never come forward to discuss all the other problems in SY, including the abuse by Muktananda this makes him an accomplish. He has as much to lose as Chidvilasananda. If Muktananda is seen for what he really is, a child molester, than what does that say about the sacred lineage that both he and his sister lay claim to? Since Nityananda Jr has restarted his own ashram, under the title of Shanti Mandir, he, is as invested as she, in keeping Muktananda's secret.

Pendragon

This was received 7 Feb 97:

Hi - I'm writing to you from over at the Siddha Yoga folder on the Ethics Message Boards of America Online. There are about a dozen or so of us here engaged in a long-term, ongoing discussion about our experiences in and out of SYDA.

I wanted to bring your attention to an immensely important article I read in the Buddhist journal "Tricycle", the December 1996 issue. It's called "The Emperor's Tantric Robes - An Interview with June Campbell on Codes of Secrecy and Silence."

As a young woman, she became the disciple of the late Kalu Rimpoche, one of the Tibetan masters. For years, she secretly engaged in sexual practices with him, while he maintained his claim to celibacy. Now as an older woman who has both studied Tibetan Buddhism and herself very intensively, she writes of the misogyny, the sexism and classism, and the exploitation and abuse built into the Tibetan Buddhist system as it exists today.

This article pertains very much to SYDA, where sexual abuse of young girls has been rampant at least since the 1970's, not just by Muktananda, but by his successor, Nityananda, and his unofficial and secret successor, George Afif. The article also pertains to your article about sexual abuse by religious leaders, and why women don't necessarily step forward.

In this article (and she has also written a book on the subject, entitled "Traveler in Space"), Campbell details how it took her many years to realize that she had not been given "prasad" through being used sexually by her spiritual teacher, but rather that she had been deceived, exploited and abused.

This is a must read for anyone still working on understanding their SYDA experience.

Thanks -

Dan Shaw

Shawdan@aol.com

Response:

Thanks for the article. I've put part of it on the site. Press HERE for some excerpts. There are some very powerful similarities between SY and the Tibetan Buddhist system.

Pendragon

This was received 7 Feb 97:

Hi. Joel Kramer (author of 'The Passionate Mind') and Diana Alstad wrote an excellent book entitled 'The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power' published 1993 by North Atlantic Books/Frog Ltd., Berkeley, CA. Very powerful and in-depth study of the guru/disciple relationship as covert authoritarianism. ISBN 1-883319-00-5.

This Poem was received 6 Feb 97: Press HERE.

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

This was received 4 Feb 97: (Response that follows is from Pendragon)

AN OPEN LETTER TO GURUMAYI

Dear Gurumayi,

Though i doubt you personally read these boards, i'm certain that some of the people around you do read them. This is a 'last-ditch' effort to see if you might NOT be behind my being banned from the ashram. When it first happened, over a year ago, I felt certain that you could not possibly be aware of the 'whole story' of what was happening. I have been a devotee for more than a decade, and you know me by face and name. If someone had told me I could be prevented from seeing you, by your staff, for absolutely no good reason, and without a 'hearing' with you or perhaps with one of your secretaries, i would not have believed it possible. I had total faith in you...I would have said, "no way, there is NO WAY that Gurumayi would allow anyone,especially someone who has been her devotee for so long, be kept away from her without gurumayi even looking into BOTH sides of the matter. I do NOT believe that you, Gurumayi, really don't care what happens to me, or to others who have loved and served you. I DO NOT WANT TO BELIEVE IT... Right now, it is certainly looking as though you really don't care.

I have tried, unsuccessfully, to contact you about this situation--because I did not want to believe that you wanted this to happen to me...but I could not get through the layers of managers to be able to ask you if you knew what, and WHY, this was happening in your ashram, and in your name.

When I first came to you,12 years ago, I told you in darshan, point blank, that i did not believe in God, but that i wanted to believe in God; so what should i do? You told me to take the intensive, and to read,"'where are you going". In the intensive I experienced what I thought to be God, and my relationship with you gave me faith. Now that it appears that you either don't know what is going on in your name, or you don't care about me, your devotee, I have lost the faith in God that I maintained through my relationship to you. I believed you when you said " the Guru/disciple relationship is the Perfect Relationship ".My faith in you was the most important thing in my life. If I hear nothing from you in the next few days, I will be totally forced to admit that you don't care about your devotees and my faith in you was, in fact, misplaced. If I have no reason to re-kindle the faith I had in you, then mine will become another story on the Leaving Siddha Yoga website---and it will be a sad story indeed.

Gurumayi, the truth is, I want to believe in you. I always have.

You can reach me at this e-mail address: W15608@aol.com.

Response:

I have read your letter and was a bit surprised that you choose this web site to put your letter to GM. It appears, please correct me if I'm wrong, that you consider yourself as a devotee of GM and through some uncontrollable and mistaken circumstances, you have been kept from the ashram and from her.

It appears that your desperation has taken you to extreme circumstances in an attempt to reach her. You mentioned that you sent this letter to the pro sy web site  To date, they have not put it up.

I would suggest several reasons as to why you may not have been heard from her to date and will likely never hear from her.

As you did not mention what reason you have been given for your exile, I shall speculate. It appears that you have done, or not done, something severe to be banned. SY is generally pretty patient, they do want your participation and money as long as it fits into their idea of what a devotee should be.

It takes quite a bit to get tossed. You may or may not fit into one of these categories, but here goes: you challenged sy in a way that they couldn't accept, too many questions, maybe in private or public or on aol; or maybe they found that they couldn't tolerate your personality (this may or may not be a reflection on you).

Regardless of the reason you have been abandoned, why would you want to go back, if GM won't take the time to hear you? I thought she was a perfected siddha and knew all that was happening to all of her devotees. If this is true, then she already knows what you think about this and chooses to let her staff deal with you. So since you believe that her staff are keeping you from her, and she doesn't know what you need to tell her, you don't believe in her siddhahood, do you?

So, if she isn't perfect, then again, why would you want to go back? If she's just like you and I, as I believe she is, then why would you want to have a teacher that won't listen to you directly.

Maybe you are not listening.

After 10 years, there must be a great deal of disappointment and disillusionment. This can be very painful to face. Your trying to reach her may be an attempt to avoid the inevitable and the pain that will follow.

You also say: "i wonder if publicly challenging gm to answer will elicit a response...if only to cut their 'PR' losses??". Frankly, I don't think you (or most devotees) are that important to GM to get a public response. If you were important to her, she would have addressed you long ago.

Wishing you well,

Pendragon

dear Pendragon,

thanks for your letter. you've made some excellent points. however, i have considered those points for quite awhile, (several months now). i'd like you to post the letter here,despite,even because of, the points you raised. it seems to me like a win/win situation: if there is no sy response (which is where i'd bet my money), then people who visit the site will have the opportunity to see for themselves what some, maybe many, people go through in sy from the perspective of the letter-maybe at a later date your response to me could be added to it...if there is a response from sy, (not likely--but still possible) , then maybe, just maybe, there could actually be some renovating done in the communication situation in sy.... either way, there are advantages to posting it.

yours,

w15608

This was received 4 Feb 97:

I just want to comment on something I read in the Comments and Responses. Someone was questioning why the swamis who leave have not come forward and spoken to the media (other than Radananda.)

I would like to say that for a swami (who gave their life to the guru, who took vows that they believed in completely) to leave the guru must be the hardest thing in the world. It was hard for me and I never took vows. They are forced to reevaluate everything they chose in life - most of them are doing it in their 40's, having given their youth to the guru. Furthermore, they have already lived a public life in the ashram - being a swami is a public life in siddha yoga. And in their own healing, they don't need to be hounded by a lot of ex-devotees or devotees in denial. Anyone with a compassionate heart should not need to ask why they drop from sight.

I am not surprised that any of the swamis who leave would want to disappear, pick up the pieces and build their lives. I don't know that it matters why they left specifically - probably they left for the same reasons as everyone else. But I am sure the reason for leaving was not because they thought gurumayi was a perfect master.

Response:

I couldn't agree with you more. The swamis or anyone else for that matter, have every right to their privacy and the opportunity to rebuild their lives. I also think there is another issue that needs to be addressed. In the end, each departing swami will have to live with themselves as to how they conducted their lives while in SY and upon their departure.

The swamis took vows and became members of SYDA, teaching, providing counsel and spiritual direction to thousands of people. They spoke the words for the gurus. They put into action the policies of the gurus. I have to wonder, for those that left, just how long did they stay in, knowing about the problems that existed. I and I think most others, stayed in SY past a point of knowing that it was no longer for me. Knowing about the problems but hoping that they weren't true and getting the courage to strike out on my own were two obstacles that I needed to overcome. So, I think it reasonable, that a swami, would clearly take their time in coming to such a life important decision.

So, as a leader and teacher, and as a person who has supported the teachings of SY, I believe that these people owe the public at large or at the very least, the devotees, past and present, some statement of truth. Now some swamis have come forward. Stan Trout, formerly Swami Abhayananda, of course is the most known. He is included in Rodarmor's article, The Secret Life of Swami Muktananda, which included allegations of Muktananda's sexual abuse.

Many, many swamis have left. There is a partial list in the story Leaving Siddha Yoga.

Then, there may another explanation as to why they have not come forward. While this has not been verified, it has been heard that at least one recent departing swami (Nikilananda) signed a document indicating that he would not speak out. In return for what? One possible explanation might be that after all those years in SY, a departing swami would need some financial support to start a new life. It would be so damaging to SY for a swami to speak out against them now, especially after the O GURU article. And besides, one of the first questions might read like this: Swami so and so, why did YOU wait so long to come forward with these allegations?

Pendragon

Pendragon,

I see your point, about the swamis owing something to the public after their years of teaching. They are in a really difficult position. In a way, they were like the guru, in the sense of being leaders that devotees looked up to and trusted. So they have a lot to live with in regards to how they misled devotees. I really see your point there.

Also, I didn't know that Nikilananda signed something saying he would not speak. That's so clever of SYDA...I've been hoping he'd come out with a book or show up someday unexpectedly telling his story. Now SYDA can sue him if he does! How clever.

And as to why the swamis waited so long to leave, I think this website helps provide that information to the public. Somewhere I read that some devotees in the ashram are reading some of these pages and it's having an effect on them. So maybe the next swami or teacher who leaves will speak.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Chelsea

Response:

Just a word of caution, I did say that it was NOT verified that Nikilananda did sign something prior to leaving SY. That is the trouble with this whole business, the secrets and cover ups; most of which we will really never know the whole picture, just parts of the picture.

Pendragon

This was received 11 Feb 97:

Some thoughts about this discussion on the SY swami's responsibility to speak out:

What about those who weren't swamis, but were in teaching positions? Don't you think some of them share that responsibility? I'm thinking of Richard Mann, who was a University of Michigan professor, and taught a college course called Psychology and Religion. He was very involved in SY from early in the Baa-baa days, and many, many college students became involved in SY through exposure during his courses. When I lived in Ann Arbor, he was always bringing students to the center there. He spoke at programs and taught courses at the ashram. I've heard he's left SY, and for all I know, he may in fact already be speaking out. I heard he was planning to write a book, but I haven't heard anything since. I think people such as Dick, who used positions of influence and power to recruit for SY may have a special responsibility to try to "undo" some of the damage done to those who came to SY as a result. I don't think they are uniquely culpable or responsible--I myself am trying to sort out my responsibility to friends I brought to SY. But those who used a position of power, whether it be swami-hood, the professorial role, or all those therapists who brought in their clients--I think they should really examine whether there's more they can do. For those considering leaving, having some of these powerful and influential persons speak out publicly may really make a difference. I think we all need to consider whether to use our real names, though, not just those I mentioned above. I just accessed the AOL discussion for the first time, and they are discussing this issue there.

Another comment:

More about therapists in SY: In another comment I suggested that therapists who brought clients to SY might have some responsibility to try to help them leave. That got me to thinking about SY psychotherapists in general. There are many therapists in SY with absolutely no adherence to professional ethics and boundaries. I've seen therapists who bring clients to SY programs, or accept clients who are already involved in SY. Then they proceed to act in ways that are antithetical to the client-therapist relationship. Sometimes they are their clients seva supervisor, and may ask them to do unhealthy things like lose time from paid employment to work (excuse me, serve selflessly) very long hours for the center or ashram. Or as center leaders, they will pressure their clients to take Intensives that they cannot afford, or to make donations beyond their means. Or they just behave as if, since they're fellow devotees, they can be friends, and don't observe the personal distance and boundaries essential to a good therapeutic relationship. None of this is surprising, because no one in SY cares about professional standards and ethics if they run counter to the needs and whims of GM and the cult. But I'm sure that those standards and ethics are codified, and that discipline by professional bodies if not actual legal proceedings would be in order if the violations were reported.

A.

Response:

A,

Thank you for your thoughts. I believe that anyone who brought people into SY also holds the responsibility to bring them the same information that helped them to leave. The people can then decide for their own. And I think this applies to everyone, whether they had a position of responsibility or not. So, you and I are just as accountable as the swamis and the teachers.

I am forwarding your comments (anonymously) to Richard Mann. Let's see what he thinks about all this.

You are absolutely correct about the problem with therapists (you can include just about any other service worker here as well). The lack of professional boundaries is amazing. Co sevites one minute and therapist and client the next. I have know of many situations where the two were blurred. But you see SY encourages this sort of thing. While they may have an official policy against it, it still goes on.

I know that the health care workers who worked in Ganeshpuri were expected to tell the management about their patients problems. Very professional indeed.

All of this is really not surprising when you think about it. SY is built on a lack of boundaries beginning with Muktananda's sexual abuse of female devotees (those of legal age as well as teens). This abuse of power has set the tone and carries into today's settings. You must remember that Chidvilasananda was raised by Muktananda. Did he abuse her? I have heard that he did and in fact people were very happy to see her get involved with George as George was not as old as Muktananda. Is it a surprise then that George, a child molester himself, held a great deal of power for many years.

When the teacher is corrupt, what can you realistically expect from the student?

Regards,

Pendragon

This was received 1 Feb 97:

I am an ex-devotee of GM who was always wary of the Organization and the Foundation, but set her apart from that. I was never in very deeply in that respect. Now I am very concerned about a sibling who is very wrapped up in the whole scene and who is nearly unrecognizable to me.

Family ties are almost completely severed, emotions and any sense of humor have been replaced by self-righteousness. I could go on. What is your advice for dealing with loved ones still "inside"? I don't want to be alienated, but should I hold my tongue? I am very upset and am having trouble expressing myself clearly, but I would greatly appreciate your insight into this as I haven't found anything related to this subject in your excellent website. Many thanks.

Response:

You raise a very difficult question. On one hand you are likely tired of listening to the syda speakese and want to confront it where ever you can AND on the other hand, you are afraid of saying something that will completely turn your sister against you and risk not seeing her again. I wonder what your sister thinks of your leaving? If it's recent, and there has been discussion between you and her about your "doubts" that could be an opening.

It really comes down to how much of the syda stuff you can tolerate. If you confront her, you may likely risk losing touch with her altogether. If you can stay close to her, not supporting her and not criticizing her or syda, you may be able to stay in an open position so that if she does develop doubts or sees problems she can talk to you about them. Think about how you got out. Often, one sees problems on a local level but believes GM and SYDA are beyond them. Then one may see the problems in the organization but keeps GM separate from that (of course she is the organization and runs it all). Eventually, over time, when you feel strong enough, you see that GM is not taking care of the obvious problems and you begin to ask the obvious questions and come to the obvious questions.

The other question is what was your relationship with your sister like before syda? Can you relate with her now, about things prior to sy? that may help build the bridge. Remember, the deeper your sister is in, the more afraid she can become to leave.

There are some excellent books about cults, you may wish to check the Books section on the site. They may help you understand just how stuck your sister is and how fortunate you are. You are not alone with this. Many of us, in our oblivion, worked hard to get friends and family in....and now we're trying to get them out. Hmmm.

I wish you luck.

Warm regards,

Pendragon

This was received 5 Feb 97:

Howdy. I stopped by the web page to check out the February Comments & Responses (nice feature!) & have a couple comments about the first (currently only) letter there. First, it's important to remember that you can never tell if & when good advice will have an effect. I know that in my own life, I've sometimes been given advice that I thought was bullshit at the time, but it turned out that it helped me years later. So just try to speak simply & honestly to your sibling in the ashram, without worrying too much if he seems to reject what you say at the moment.

Also, if you have a family member inside the ashram, I don't think you should avoid visiting him there. Perhaps even on a tit-for-tat basis ("Let's do the Guru Gita together at the ashram, then we can do such-&-such together outside the ashram"). You don't even need to criticize anything (after all, I think that most of the practices themselves are fine). By letting your family member see that you can come to the ashram, follow the forms, & still walk away without getting stuck by it, I think you're giving good teaching.

Stuart

sresnick@slip.net

http://www.slip.net/~sresnick/mypage.shtml

 

www.LeavingSiddhaYoga.org

 

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