|"I feel connected to my 'true Guru' now more than
ever and I trust the inner guidance that I have gotten to leave Siddha Yoga"
It's been a few months since I first read the other stories on this site. At the time I was agonizing over the fact that I felt so much anger towards Siddha Yoga. I was afraid that if I expressed myself that I might lose everything: my marriage, my social life and my spiritual life. I had a lot of fear and I realized that I had had a lot of fear for the past few years. The warnings in the Guru Gita against disagreeing with the Guru were very real to me. All of my criticisms seemed to be directed towards "the organization," George Afif, the Lake project, the prices of Intensives, the public relations and spin control about everything relating to Siddha Yoga, the change in 'darshan' policy, the "lineage" which seemed to me to only reach back to Bhagawan Nityananda, the constant selling of courses and Intensives, and most of all I was angry about the way Siddha Yoga seemed to be constantly rewriting its own history.For years I pushed my feelings down about what was happening around me. I somehow lived with the bitterness of having a "George" seemingly running SY. I complained when the South Fallsburg leadership and swamis held meetings, telephone conferences and satsangs in which we were told how to feel about various events. I became quite cynical and bitter about the constant pleas for money and the high pressure "urgings" to take this course or that workshop. I continued to believe in the good intentions of Gurumayi. I somehow told myself that Gurumayi was 'pure' but SYDA was deluded. I couldn't imagine leaving the path while my spouse was still so devoted. I took Intensives for the sake of what I imagined to be family harmony. In recent months I found that I couldn't contain my feelings anymore.
I had taken part in demonstrations against Gurumayi's brother here in Southern California soon after my wife and I moved here from New York. We had met at the Manhattan Ashram in 1980. We went to India on the chartered Jumbo Jet with Baba in 1981. We spent much of our vacation time, evenings and weekends involved in seva at both the Manhattan Ashram and at the ashram in South Fallsburg. I was friendly with people at the Manhattan Ashram who went on to become full-time sevites in South Fallsburg. N H and I often ran into each other on the Broadway bus at 4:30 or 5 in the morning on our way to the 86th Street ashram to meditate and recite the Guru Gita. I was the Buyer for a time. I went out into Manhattan traffic every day to buy food and run errands for the ashram. I remember buying okra for Baba: I had to find the smallest ones and I went to at least three markets to pick through the bins and collect the best, individual tiny okras. I remember eighteen years of that kind of commitment to the Gurus and to my sadhana. I brought every member of my family to the Guru. I offered my child to the Guru. I felt blessed to have the Guru as the focal point of my life. I am still grateful for the experiences I had in meditation in proximity to the Guru. My quest for God was inspired by my relationship with the Guru.
There is a difference between appreciating my "experiences" in Siddha Yoga and blindly following the Guru. I heard a story of a child who was trapped in a well. When she was finally rescued she said that she had known that she would be rescued. When asked how she knew, she replied that Winnie The Pooh had appeared to her and told her that she would be O.K. My point is that God will appear to us in whatever form we ask Him/Her to. Friends of mine in Siddha Yoga have told me that it doesn't matter to them what people say about things that Baba and Gurumayi may have done. It's their "experiences" of these Gurus which these people choose to focus on. "I don't choose to believe those allegations against Baba which are on the Leaving Siddha Yoga website," a Steering committee member of the L.A. Center told me the other day. I both recognize and acknowledge my God experiences and my meditation experiences that I had with Baba and Gurumayi. I take responsibility for them though, They were my experiences. Whatever powers these Gurus have (had) does not make them "perfected beings." I don't believe that they are perfect. I don't believe that they ever were perfect. I believe that they are human beings who are inherently flawed by definition of being humans. Humans are not "perfected beings:" To me, God alone is perfect and it is God whom I reach in my meditations. Somehow these Gurus and their organization got in on my relationship with God and they succeeded in crossing over and taking credit for my God experiences. The original message was a beautiful one: "God Dwells Within You As You." I believe this message but why should I have given myself over to these "people" and have let them have dominion in my life? I ask myself this and other questions now. How could I, a freedom-loving American, a child of the "Beat Generation," the "Hippies" and the anti-war, anti-establishment movement, how could I devote myself, give myself over to a totalitarian dictator: the Guru?
A friend whom we had taken part in introducing to Siddha Yoga, handed me a magazine at the Manhattan Ashram sometime in the early Eighties. It was THE COEVOLUTION QUARTERLY and the article was about Swami Muktananda and his alleged molestations of young women in the ashram. My wife and I read this article and also the Swami Abhayananda "Letter of Resignation" to Swami Muktananda. We were confused but we immediately discounted its veracity. This was the seed which remained with me for all of the next fifteen or so years. This was the sub-text which ran on in my mind in my years of Siddha Yoga. This was the secret which no one in Siddha Yoga dared to discuss openly. In fact I believed this story about Baba but somehow didn't care enough to allow myself to change my relationship to the organization. I didn't want to have to give up what had become so important to me in my life. I had friends, one in particular, who were on the Tour with Gurumayi and were sure that the allegations about Baba's misconduct were true. The issue of "mysterious, tantric initiations" had been openly discussed in the courtyard in Gurudev Siddha Peeth in the early Eighties. People were told by Amma and others that we couldn't understand Baba's ways and that there were secrets which we were not equipped to comprehend. I believed that Baba was a sexual predator and that he was a hypocrite for preaching celibacy and making me feel wrong for my natural, human desires. I believed all of this and yet I continued to attend my SY center, go to the South Fallsburg ashram and follow Gurumayi around like a groupie. All the while I was very careful to keep my feelings to myself. I didn't want to be seen as being "negative."
Once my wife and I were at a dinner party in upstate New York. N and his soon-to-be wife U were there too. Everyone got to talking and I, probably loosened-up by a glass of wine, ventured to bring up the subject of whether Baba had done "it" or not. Well, all hell seemed to break loose. N and U were putting their coats on and leaving in a huff. It seems that I had personally offended them to their very cores. "Next you'll be saying that Gurumayi and George are lovers," U shouted. "How could you go to the ashram and even consider the possibility that Baba could have ever done such things?" she said. I had never thought that Gurumayi and George were lovers. I looked at my "friends" and realized that I had offended not only N and U but the host and hostess of the dinner. I was suitably contrite, apologized to each and every one and the dinner continued. N and U put their coats back in the closet and we all relaxed again. Later that same evening, N told us that he had gone to Venkateshwar's ashram (Shanti Mandir) to write down the names of any Siddha Yoga devotees who appeared for the satsang. He said that Gurumayi had sent him and that the people whose names appeared on the list were given an ultimatum: They had to choose Gurumayi or her brother. If they wanted to be able to come to the South Fallsburg ashram again, they had to promise to never visit the brother's place again. Many people were black-balled from Siddha Yoga after that. I learned at that dinner that I had to speak and act very carefully in Siddha Yoga or I could find myself alone and cut off from "the grace of the Guru."
Gurumayi came out to Palm Springs last year and told us to "have courage" and be divinely content. Someone at the South Fallsburg ashram asked me to write something about how the Guru has helped me to "have courage." I didn't think that that would be too difficult. I felt that I had shown courage in the way I led my life; that I had experienced having courage and that somehow the guru had inspired this courage. I kept the thought in the back of my mind as I lived through the following few months. I couldn't find an example of how the Guru had inspired courage in me. I couldn't find an example of how Gurumayi had ever shown any courage herself either. The thought came to me that if Gurumayi had had a modicum of courage that she would confront the 'secrets' of Siddha Yoga. I thought that if Gurumayi had any courage at all that she would talk about Baba and the mistakes that he might have made. I thought that she might talk about George Afif and that she might tell us why she had kept him so close to her for so many years; years in which he was involved in preying on darshan girls, years in which he was caught having sex with a child, years when it was common knowledge that he had been convicted of statutory rape. This abusive man was for years the instrument of Gurumayi's will. He was her Chief of Staff, he was her consort. I wondered where Gurumayi had exhibited courage in relation to her brother and in her relationship to her family? I wanted to find instances of "courage" in Siddha Yoga. I wanted to find instances of "courage" in myself. I had believed that some day Gurumayi would confront the issues which I believe are killing Siddha Yoga. I believed that we would all face the truth together; that Gurumayi would show us her courage by meeting the challenge head-on and salvaging what was good about Baba and admitting his faults. I hoped that she would talk about her own mistakes. I knew that I could forgive anyone who genuinely could admit where he/she had been in error. I found no courage in Siddha Yoga, from the top down to my own self.
I talked to a friend at a party a few months ago at a devotee's house. We had to whisper because this friend I had heard, had left Siddha Yoga. He was reluctant to talk about his feelings at the time because he didn't want to become a pariah among his Siddha Yoga friends. We spoke on the phone after that and he e-mailed me the Leaving Siddha Yoga website address. This friend had met Baba in 1979 as I had and had been an active sevite. It occurred to me that his act of leaving Siddha Yoga seemed to be the most courageous thing that anyone "in" Siddha Yoga could do.
I had written to our steering committee before I read the LSY stories. I told them that I felt that SYDA was being run more like a profit making corporation than an "organization committed to spirituality and Truth." I never did get a reply. I started the letter with a declaration that I in no way meant my words to be construed as being critical of my Guru. I am not pulling my punches any longer: I am being critical of Gurumayi but I believe that now I am following my true Guru. For years I was hiding my true feelings and ideas about the rumors of misbehavior in the past and present.
I had a lot of fear when I decided that I had to break away from my local center. I was still careful not to offend the Guru with my real feelings and thoughts until I realized that it was my inner Guru which was guiding me away. This 'inner Guru' is the one which one should always listen to. Call it following your heart or your instincts, this is the 'Guru' that one shouldn't cross. This is the Guru that I would have offended if I continued to associate with Siddha Yoga and Gurumayi. This is the Guru that the Guru Gita warns about not listening to or not offending. It's one's own inner nature; one's inner guide - not Ms. Shetty from Bombay who doesn't speak to her family anymore. Not Malti who dislikes herself so much that she allegedly had to have her looks surgically altered. I feel connected to my 'true Guru' now more than ever and I trust the inner guidance that I have gotten to leave Siddha Yoga. At the same time I acknowledge that there is value to my years of association with the teachings which are a part of Siddha Yoga. The fact that these teachings were available to me independent of Siddha Yoga doesn't change the fact that it was through Siddha Yoga that they came to me.
When I knew that I could no longer contain the anger that I felt towards Siddha Yoga, I asked my wife to read the stories on the LSY site. We read them to each other. Our hearts went out to them when we read about how Baba had treated Chandra and Michael Dinga for speaking openly about what they believed was the truth. We were ashamed of our fellow devotees and the way they apparently followed Baba's instructions to hound and threaten anyone who dared to stand up and object to his immoral behavior. I saw the vindictiveness of Gurumayi when I followed her instructions and picketed her brother in Santa Monica. I was disturbed by the apparent glee with which many members of the community carried out her wishes. We were 'safe' we thought because we were doing our Guru's bidding. We took no responsibility for our actions because we saw it as an opportunity to show our commitment to our Guru. This is the way it must have been for the people who did Baba's bidding: For Joe Don Looney and Baba's other "enforcers," the people who went out to Oakland to threaten the Dingas; N H, writing the names of seekers who dared to go to a satsang in the Catskills that Gurumayi didn't approve of; D, A and C F who reportedly carried out Gurumayi's orders to break up meetings in Ann Arbor. We praised Swami Abhayananda for the courage he demonstrated by standing up for what he believed was right.
In conclusion I want to encourage anyone on the fence who is reading this story to listen to his/her inner guidance. When you think of "The Guru" consider Him/Her to be your own inner guide. Listen to your inner wisdom and not to Siddha Yoga propaganda. I have experienced a lot of fear in the past few months and many people on the AOL Ethics Board have been very helpful and supportive to me. Don't be afraid - you have a direct connection to God within you. This is the teaching which Siddha Yoga impressed me with at the start. Somehow I got caught up in the double talk and forgot to just take the good and leave the nonsense behind.
Thank you for letting me share my thoughts with you about this. People who know me will recognize me through this story. I don't wish to subject myself or my family to unnecessary pain or criticism. I don't see any advantage in posting my real name in this public forum. I welcome your e-mail.