After 14 years of revering someone as "perfected"
and "god-realised", I finally owned up to myself that
it all seems a sham to me. Someone may have some good ideas, and
espouse some wholesome practices, but that doesnt make them
Mistress of the Universe. This story was written in a neutral,
sometimes tongue-in-cheek and sometimes self-mocking tone. If it
sounds bitter and cynical, all I can say is that Im not
bitter anymore, but I wouldnt change anything.
Why did I start practicing Siddha Yoga Ô
in the first place? Well, the chanting was nice, and everyone
seemed friendly enough - I felt "at home". Sure, I
could have had the same experience joining a choir, and maybe
learnt to sing something a bit more interesting, and had more
nights with my family, but the thing that really got me hooked
was my experience of what in Siddha Yoga is called shaktipat Ô . Basically for me it was like an
orgasm only louder, and on the basis of that single experience, I
put all my faith and trust in Baba Muktananda, as he had been
credited as the source for this great experience.
Strangely enough, I wasnt searching for "a
path" or anything, but still I felt I had "found
something", or - more importantly from Siddha Yogas
point of view - had received something. I soon realised
that that made me "special", an owner of a great
secret, a renegade to the humdrum oh-so-ordinary life that
everyone else was obviously experiencing. Of course, anyone
joining any group has similar feelings of belonging, but
this was different, this was it, the Divinity Club.
One thing that I was never told up front by Siddha Yoga was
that that one orgasmic or cosmic experience brought along with it
the culture of indebtedness, which I was expected to try and fill
for the rest of my days. The use of "if you dont feel
gratitude for this great gift then you must be selfish and
soulless" is really just manipulation. Sometimes, when
people were fence-sitting about whether to take an intensive or
not, normally because of the $400 price tag, there would be a
"talk" labelling this as
"poverty-consciousness" and equating it with
"poverty of spirit".
Its different for everybody, but there are several
factors I think that pull people into Siddha Yoga.
- The charisma of the guru. Everybody loves someone who can
be witty, who tells them they are great, and who looks so
obviously radiant and glowing. (Cant
you tell that this is someone special?) All the
videos tell us how holy the guru is, and how this special
lineage from the dawn of time (for some reason, ancient
wisdom seems to be touted as superior to modern wisdom)
was put here on the planet to help us off the
karmic wheel. But dont get confused that the
lineage stops two generations back, because that
one was born great, the stream just went
underground for the previous generation, and ...well...
arent all great people mysterious? Thats part
of what makes them great, isnt it? (Humans are full
of contradictions, maybe having such a big contradiction
as lineage vs self-born greatness is an indication of super-humanity).
- The chanting puts many people off, but for some of us it
was often the only thing that kept us there. Letting
yourself sing with great abandonment along with a crowd
of other like-minded people. Goodness, there were only a
few words, the one monotonous tune (an A part, a B part),
and no harmonies. It was very easy to put your mind in
neutral and let rip! And singing with a group is very
powerful, as any choir member or soccer-fan will attest.
- Shaktipat, that great gift, guaranteed to you so
long as you take the intensive. Once you have received shaktipat,
your life will be better in some great and
mysterious manner. And of course, we all have so much
gratitude for this great gift (which you got,
whether you noticed or not, cos you took the
intensive, right?) that we happily spend the rest of our
lives paying it back to the guru. I heard so many people
who hadnt even seen gurumayi or baba saying
"thank-you, thank-you for saving my life".
What is really going on there? Cant people take
responsibility for their own lives? Do we need a miracle
from a superbeing to rescue us? I agree that at times we
all need a jolt. Maybe ascribing magic to it makes it
more special. Maybe feeling saved feels better
than not believing we needed saving.
- The statement that Siddha Yoga is not a religion (and
thus open to all people), that somehow it is free
of all the trappings, taints and dogma of religion. My
feeling now is: of course its not a
religion, its a cult, and it has all the trappings,
taints and dogma of a cult.
- The "I feel good when Im there"
factor. I also feel good playing the piano. Sadly, pianos
were never introduced into the satsang format.
- It is exotic and different, and thus a way of expressing
our freedom from our own culture. This was a good thing
for me, though it gave my parents the willies.
- It truly does have some nice phrases to say, some nice
practices to practice, and some nice thinks to think. And
there are some very sincere and hard working people
practicing siddha yoga who were nice to know.
- As the Monkees said, "Then I saw her face, Now
Im a Believer.
Im out of my mind.
Im in love, hmmm. Yeah Im a Believer, I
couldnt leave her if I tried".
Why did I leave? Two reasons. Firstly, and quite simply,
Siddha Yoga is not for me. Im sorry it took me fourteen
years to work that out.
- I found meditation at best peaceful, but not magical or
transcendental. Maybe I should have held my breath
Im not convinced that being thought-free
is the ultimate state.
- Though I tried, I could never believe gurumayi was
self-realised (neither did Muktananda he commented
that both she and Nityananda were "entering
the university, but its up to them to pass the
test"). At best, she was trying hard. But I think
the fawning adoration of devotees really went to her
head. We empowered them, we made them
godlike in our eyes. And they never prevented us. I
remember at the end of an intensive, everyone was
chanting babas name with her, "Baa baa, baa
baa". If ever we showed her how much of a flock we
were, it was then. I could have puked. I was stunned when
some people said to me later "Wasnt that
- The amount of nonsense I had to ignore became
overwhelming. Fitting in is very important to people, and
I think we arrested a lot of our critical thinking so
that we could keep fitting in. I did for a long time, but
couldnt any longer.
- Chidvilasanandas and Muktanandas public
behaviour seem more like that of popstars, as did the
opulence of these supposed renunciants. Of course, we
were supposed to never question their behaviour, because
they were godlike beings, not bound to the laws of men.
The huge amount of law-bending in ashrams attests to
- The amount of subtle and overt manipulation of the masses
of people (Swamis whom everyone was expected to
respect - saying with a sneer "if you dont
take this course then you may as well give up yoga")
was dreadful, as was the public humiliation of
individuals in the Fire course and No-Ego course.
- The insistence that true devotees should read only the
words of Baba or gurumayi really sounded like dogmatic
extremism more than pastoral concern. The encouragement
of extremism (as subtly as quoting the behaviour of
legendary yogic heroes or as overt as the practices in
the Month Long Course) as a demonstration of faith and
devotion was also dangerous, as was the encouragement of
self-censure of any dissenting ideas as a demonstration
of mental self-control. All doubts were to be overcome,
through whichever practice worked, or through
consultation with someone who was doubt-free. As Bergen
Evans said (no it wasnt baba or gm)
there is no freedom of thought without
- The use of the statement "you will never find your
inner truth in relationships (except with the guru)"
made many people very isolated, especially ashram
dwellers, who had very little outside contact. The other
anti-feeling statement, "thoughts and emotions are
mere distractions" also conspires to make us distant
from each other. My months spent in the ashrams were the
loneliest times in my life. I think the self-centred
ethos of sy can make many sy-ites cold and without
empathy for their fellow human beings and, strangely, it
seemed that the "closer" to gurumayi they got,
the colder and harder they became.
- We happily, and in great faith, donated many thousands of
dollars to a construction fund for a new ashram, only to
find later that the scheme had been scrapped. Not only
was the money not refunded, but we were not even directly
informed of the outcome. By then though, we had been so
mesmerised with the concept of dakshina (freely giving),
that it didnt even occur to us to question what had
happened with our donations. The Devotee giveth, and the
Foundation taketh away.
- Add all that to the increasing "school-mam"ness
of the foundation and its continued preoccupation with
glitz, to say nothing of their grievous scarring of the
New York lakeside forest that they own, or the serious
allegations made by several people fairly involved in the
foundation, and its no wonder I left. Its a
wonder I stayed so long.
Second reason for leaving: the allegations that had been made
- even if only 10% true - give sy a very tarnished record, and
one I simply dont want to associate with. Some comments on
some of "the allegations":
- That Baba performed some sort of sexual interference on
many girls and woman in the Ganeshpuri ashram. As a
friend pointed out, many people had many different and
quite weird experiences there, from being chased by
spiders to dissolving into blue light etc. etc. Could the
claims of these women be put in the same category? I
think youd really have to ask them, but note the
following. They were prepared to publish and be damned,
and sys only response was to buy as many copies of
the New Yorker magazine around the South Fallsburg ashram
as they could to stop ashramites from seeing it. Very
different approach to - say - the Catholic Church, who
have acknowledged the misdeeds of some trusted people and
offered counselling etc to the victims. Interestingly,
when I spoke to an ashram heavy about these allegations,
she closed her eyes, put her hand on her heart and said
"I KNOW inside that this cant be true." I
could only think to myself, "I hope you are never
called for jury duty". I think it was the closing
her eyes that did it.
- That Swami Nityanandas philanderings were covered
up with white lies for as long as possible. Obviously.
Well, the world is full of that, and sy is not above it.
A point worth remembering next time we are asked to
swallow another maha-vakya.
- That Swami Chidvilasananda actively encouraged the
hounding and abuse of her brother, ex-Swami Nityananda.
That seems very sad but true.
Having poured all that out, I still think Baba Muktananda was
an extraordinary being, in that he brought about revolution in
many people including me and gave many of us a jolt
which began a huge and continuing growth in
ourselves. But these feelings are tempered with acceptance of his
humanity. If these allegations of sexual impropriety are true, he
is great and flawed, like the rest of us. Thats
understandable, just dont expect me to revere him as a god
or saint, nor the successors to his throne.
To quote another pop-song, this time Fairytale, by the Pointer
Sisters from the album Thats A Plenty,
"Ive been lost in a dream pretending that
And now Ive opened up my eyes and realised
its all been a great big fairytale
Move on, got to move on.
Move on, Ive got to move on."