Siddha Yoga: experiences

 

My Siddha Yoga experience spans the years from 1976 until Baba’s death in 1982. I met Muktananda in 1976 in South Fallsburg. It was an extraordinary experience. I had attended the Ann Arbor ashram for several months prior to my visit">

Siddha Yoga: experiences

 

My Siddha Yoga experience spans the years from 1976 until Baba’s death in 1982. I met Muktananda in 1976 in South Fallsburg. It was an extraordinary experience. I had attended the Ann Arbor ashram for several months prior to my visit, and that first stay with Baba exceeded all my expectations. I was in love, and my life was changed forever.

Eventually, during the summer of 1979, I joined the tour in South Fallsburg. Baba married me and my husband that summer, and we took up residence for the long haul. He worked outside, and I worked full time in the ashram. Eventually I was put in charge of a major ashram department on tour. I learned to dress stylishly in silks, to wear my hair in a properly sophisticated manner, and to cultivate the appearance of a refined, beautiful young ashram woman. This was highly encouraged, and I took lessons from the younger women around me who seemed to have the look down to a science.

I felt happy to be part of the "in" crowd, but somewhere inside I knew I was not really a part of that group. I wasn’t invited to private functions with Malti, I didn’t (at least early on) get invites to Baba’s chambers for the bestowing of gifts. I longed to be fully accepted, but there was always that core group that had been around longer than me, and from time to time I was reminded that I was not one of the "old timers." It hurt.

At the same time, I began to look more closely at the young women around me, the ones who were on tour and seemed to be accepted in those inner realms I so coveted. I saw them come to the ashram as typical teenagers, fresh faced, na´ve, and full of fun. Often they were sent to my department to work for me, because we had public exposure every day. What disturbed and unsettled me was the change I would inevitably see in these young women over a period of time at the ashram.

There was one young girl who joined my department in Santa Monica. Before Baba arrived, she was a sweet young girl in jeans and t shirts, friendly, enthusiastic, and simple. A short time after Baba’s arrival, things began to change for her. Where before she had dressed simply like a typical teenager of her time, she suddenly came to work dressed in expensive silk garments. She began to tie her hair back in a sophisticated fashion. She also began to sport incredible jewelry: pearl earrings, pearl necklaces, gold bracelets and rings. I wondered how she could afford these expensive items, until she told me that Baba had given them all to her. She talked about him in an intimate fashion, like personal discussions with him were an everyday occurrence.

More disconcerting was the change in her behavior. Where before she had been friendly, even self effacing, and innocent, she began to change into someone I recognized only in conjunction with the snobbish young women I had met on tour. Her behavior toward me took on a demeaning quality, like I was somehow beneath her on the ashram social scale, and she merely tolerated my presence because she had to. She would speak about the private gatherings she attended with Baba and the inner core group. She seemed to view the "outsiders" around her as simpletons to be politely scorned. She was in with the in crowd, and she knew it. I was dripping with jealousy.

I retained my integrity and innocence on tour. I diligently studied all the Siddha Yoga dogma, took the classes, gave my experience talk, and loved my guru. It is a sad reflection of the drama within which we lived at the time that I would be jealous of the experiences of a self centered, snobbish little girl. I knew nothing of what was really going on with her and countless other young women whose transformations I silently witnessed. If the clues were there at the time, I missed them. Perhaps I was living in comfortable denial. Later, this young woman came forth with her story of having sex with the guru, and subsequently with the young Nityananda. At that point, I was not surprised. It did, after all, explain a lot of things.

It wasn’t until after the famous exposure incident in the summer of 1982 in Ganeshpuri that I began to ask questions. I was lied to by my friends and even my husband. It wasn’t until years later that he told me that one of the young girls on tour had come to him one day in South Fallsburg, very upset and shaken. She told him that Baba had entered her bedroom, exposed himself, and made it clear that he wanted sex. She had told him no. She was a teenage virgin at the time, an innocent who was shocked and deeply disturbed by this incident. Another friend in Ganeshpuri, who later admitted to the author of the New Yorker article that she had had sex with Baba, sat in my bedroom before I left tour and categorically denied that the rumors of sexual misconduct were true.

It made me sick to watch what happened in Ganeshpuri after an ashramite came forth with the information that he had seen Baba engage in a sex act with one of the Indian women. Damage control roared into high gear. The actions of the overzealous cover up team that jumped in to save the day would have been almost humorous if the subject matter hadn’t been so serious. Old timer swamis told other old timers that they had known of this behavior for years and had kept it quiet. People were sent over to talk with the ashramite and smooth things over. Some people were in complete denial, others began to claim that Baba was actually a tantric master, although this was the first I had ever heard of that assertion. The poor ashramite got up before a group of people and declared that he really didn’t see what he thought he had seen. Saddest of all to me was the change in the way Baba treated the ashramite’s family. Whereas before the incident the family had been on the ignore list, being as they were nobody important, just simple, loyal ashramites, suddenly when the wife and baby girl went up for darshan Baba couldn’t do enough for them. He gave them gifts and paid enormous attention to them. I felt sick inside watching this shallow display. What had I become, living with such manipulative people? I feared for my integrity and my very sanity.

I never considered following the "successors to the family fortune," as Prakashananda called them, after Baba died. While some people looked at Malti and saw a Siddha guru, I preferred to quote a line from a movie with Marlon Brando, One Eyed Jack; a line first appropriated by my dear friend Joe Don Looney when he described her: "She’s a one eyed jack. I’ve seen the other side of her face." Many, many of us know a different Malti from the persona she seeks to project to the faithful masses. We have seen the other side of her face. However, thinking back to my observations on the changes endured by young women on tour, I have to say that she was perhaps the first to be tainted among the young elite. When I met Baba in 1976, I remember Malti as a sweet faced, innocent, kind young women. I later watched her develop into a beautiful, snobbish, emotionally cold woman.

In conclusion, Baba did not practice tantra with these young women. That very notion besmears the reputation of an ancient, well established spiritual tradition. People who suggest this know absolutely nothing of the subject. The actions of the guru bespeak those of someone who uses and abuses women, nothing more. Not a new subject in cults, or for that matter in many areas of life, I am sorry to say.

I am writing this because I want to speak out against abuse of women. My heart goes out to all the young girls on tour who were forever changed by the actions of the Supreme Guru, as we believed Muktananda to be. I am so sorry I did not do anything. I am sorry I lived in ignorance, perhaps denial. I do not wish to cooperate further in past abuses by my silence. To my younger sisters, I apologize. To men everywhere, I urge you to stand forth against such abuses of power and sexuality if you see them around you. What defense does a teenage girl have against an old man who everyone worships as the greatest of the gurus? I also mourn for the young girl Malti, and for whatever changed her into the emotionally cold woman she has become. My heart truly goes out to her. And finally, I still suffer from my own inner conflict. How could I have loved someone so very much, indeed worshiped him, and still care about him, when I am aware of the abuses he perpetrated and the harm that he did to others? Perhaps in time I will be able to understand this. I intend to try.

July 1998

 

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