Conversations with Ex-Siddha Yoga Swami X
In June, an ex-siddha yoga swami contacted this site. This person has requested that their identity be kept confidential due to possible repercussions from Siddha Yoga. This person is in agreement with having our conversations published here. "I don't mind if you print my comments, it is after all a debate, and fair enough." - 3 Sep 97
Below is a chronology of those conversations:
3 Sep 97
June 30, 1997
When I first read all the information on this site, I was relieved, as I had lived so many years with information being suppressed, and felt that people needed to have exposure to all information and make an informed decision. I am an ex-swami, and lived with Baba for 12 years up until his death. I left syda at the time of the coup in l986. I had been a close personal attendant to Gurumayi since she was a young woman and had known her since she was l4 and Nityananda since he was 7 years old. I was not comfortable with aspects of her personality and the way she dominated people and after Baba's death I stayed closer to Nityananda as I as comfortable with his simple humanity and humility..
The reason that I am sending this is that I understand that it is important to provide people with information, but I have concern about the focus. I found for myself when I left that I had to go inward and decide for myself what was real about my experience. For me, I had lived with Baba for 12 years, he made all the major decisions in my life and had profound effect on the development of my personality, humanity and spirituality. I was angry and shocked when I began to realize his actions with women, because I felt he had put those of us who were responsible for the public interaction with people in a difficult position. He did have us read a lot of texts by Abhinavagupta and other Kashmir Shaivism texts that helped us to understand the place of sexual interaction in the transmission of energy from teacher to student. When I personally confronted him about his behaviour with women he said two things to me: "Could I give shaktipat if those stories were true?" My thoughts about that were that if he did not direct his sexual fluid upwards constantly through his practices, he would not be effective in transmission, as it is the upward rising of the Ojas that becomes transmuted into the will to give intentional or spontaneous shaktipat. Another thing he said was " A snake charmer is not afraid of the snake" I took that to mean that he was a master of kundalini and was able to use it in whatever way was useful for the student involved. My personal experience, and ultimately that is all that I can really assess was that he performed the role of guru in my life with compassion, concern for my welfare and fulfillment that I could never refute or decry. In my final assessment I am eternally grateful and constantly feel the arising of his energy in my heart, soul and life.
And I was very angry at him for leaving things in such a mess. I can live with those conflicting responses because the personal relationship with him was so long and important. In terms of coming to terms with his behaviour at the end of his life, it has been a quandry for all of us who were with him for a long time, we have discussed it endlessly trying to understand. I cannot dismiss him as a pedophile or abuser of children because I observed for years the benefit he brought into peoples lives.One would have to determine what was his motivation in his actions. I have had to expand my understanding of sexual interaction to be able to come to terms with it, and still have not. When you have a religion and culture that worships lingams and yonis, and whose deities are Krishna (with his sexual dialliances with the gopis), I think one has to have a broader intepretation of sexual interaction. It can have the full range of intention and motivation from rape to divine transmission. I have discussed with many of the girls who were Baba's companions and they found their interactions with him to be joyful, loving and filled with the same grace that others felt in the meditation rooms with the peacock feathers. I don't deny that there were others who did not feel that way, but I have not had the opportunity to talk with them.
To come to terms with what I personally received from Baba I can only do that in the depths of my heart and personal experience. My life was destroyed by Gurumayi's actions against her brother, and my being forced to leave due to loyalty to him. I observed close friends - swamis, simply choose to blind their vision in order to maintain their comfortable lifestyle. As one swami said to me, "Where else will I get such a good gig?" Each of us had to respond to the situation in a way that was consistent with our ethics.
Mine was to leave, I felt there was no choice. All I had served and given for l7 years was lost, and it was very difficult to restore my life and trust, yet in my heart I had a fountain of grace that keeps arising. And I could not be involved with the organisation as it exists today. I do not understand why people would be attracted to being with a teacher with whom you cannot have personal contact., as for me it is all from the personal interaction that one learns the humanity and letting go of negative traits that allow the heart to grow and discrimination to shine forth. Truly it all exist in the nature eof the personal relationship. People should endeavour to find a teacher with whom they can interact and learn from. I do not want this published as I have fear still of reprisal, and I want to live my life in peace, certainly free from the violence I have been exposed to by SYDA fanatics. I am interested to maintain a dialogue for the time being in private.
July 8, 1997
Thank you for your thoughtful email. Your correspondence will be kept confidential as you request. You raise many points and I assume are interested in discussing them. While you seem to take issue with some of what is on the web site, especially as it pertains to Muktananda, your desire to keep the information between us does prohibit others from reading what you have to say. Perhaps we can discuss how we might be able to protect your identity and at the same time let others have access to your opinions.
I am glad you found the web site. The goal is to make the information public that SY goes to great lengths to deny and hide. I also feel it s important to challenge some of the people who still believe SY or part of it, is good and without blemish.
A little about myself. I also was in SY for 17 years. I knew Muktananda, lived in one of his ashrams for a couple of years and went to Ganeshpuri. I remained in SY long after I could no longer justify it. I "sided" with GM because it was clear that Nity Jr. was not realized. So, then also began the question about her. If SY, Chid and Nity all conspired to present themselves as realized, when they were not, what could I believe? It was based on lies. I even took GM off the throne in my heart as a perfected Guru but related to her as a teacher. That did not work and I left. It was relatively easy to dismiss Nity and Chid (I say this with great difficulty and a great deal of irony) as perfected Guru's given the clear evidence around them that they were subject to human faults just like the rest of us. The irony was that I did have some really powerful spiritual experiences around both of them as well as Muktananda.
It was not until I began to accept Chid and Nity as human that I also began to take the allegations about Muktananda more seriously. It became clearer that the closer I looked at the situation the more obvious was that Muktananda had sex with devotees. So far there are 4 ex-swamis who are on record about his sexual activities: yourself, Vivekananda (now known as Master Chuck), Abhayananda (Stan Trout) and another, with whom I am conversing with (who has chosen to remain off the record for now). So we know he has having sex with devotees.
This has been very difficult for me to accept. Muktananda was very influential in my life as well even though I spent less relative time with him. For so long I simply could not believe that someone so powerful would be sexual at all. After all, he told us that he was not. So I then ask myself why did he lie? Why did SYDA lie and continue to this day deny this part of him? I really do not want to hear it was for our own good that he kept it from us! We've had enough paternalistic crap in western religions, we don t need it anywhere else.
I used to compare him to Rasneesh and think Muktananda was beyond sex and Rasneesh was a false guru. Well, as it turns out, at least Rasneesh was honest about it all. (Did you know that Muktananda and Rasneesh knew each other in India? Check out the book "Karma Cola"). I don t think Muktananda kept his sex life a secret because to protect us, I think he kept it a secret to protect himself. I think Muktananda was very calculating in keeping it a secret to protect the following and money that came to him. It would not have looked good in the main stream society, including the main stream devotees, to see that he was just another false guru, saying one thing and doing another.
So what about his spiritual powers? Could he have them and be sexual at the same time? Sure, why not? I meet a person several years ago who was a spiritual healer. She channeled an incredible about of energy and made it clear to us that she was human like the rest of us and for us not to put her on a pedestal.
Also, let's assume that Muktananda did not ejaculate as it is alleged. First, this has no less impact on the victims (more about this later). Second, this has no less impact on the amount of pleasure he received and Third, this is in Oriental and Indian traditions considered to be good for one s health. Given his age and health problems he may have rationalized that his actions while being good for the devotees were also good for himself. I have heard old-times rationalize his sexual activities with this last one in mind.
As far as the victims go, I do believe they were victims regardless of any "spiritual experience" they received. The fact is they were abused by the difference in power that he held as he was the head of the organization; much like a therapist having sex with a client.
And what about the pleasure? Tantric sex can be very pleasurable AND borders on spiritual by those who have experienced it. And there is no ejaculation. This is no secret. Isn t it possible that he was using this form of sex to give himself pleasure AND to keep his shakti up? Given that the sexual energy IS the spiritual energy ~ Muktananda is having tantric sex and the energy has to go somewhere.
What I find so sexist about it is that it always seems to be the MALE guru giving initiation to the female student! And what about the male student? Is it his bad karma to be a male so that he can t experience the wonder of sexual initiation? (We know of course that Muktananda didn't like gays as well).
Muktananda was in poor health. The Chinese in particular as well as the Indians believe in Tantric sex for keeping ones health. Who's to say if this was part of his motivation or not. In any event, none of these reasons justify his misuse of his role and the abuse of the women.
If he was into tantric sex, then he should have simply taught that so everyone would have known clearly that is what he was selling. The very fact he choose to keep it a secret, putting many of you in such a bad position, simply reinforces the sick aspect of what he was doing.
If he was such a powerful guru, why did he need to use sex to give initiation? Why didn't he simply give the touch to all the men and women?
Not being able to see the reality as it really is a sign of a dysfunctional relationship. Many victims of domestic violence continue to justify the abuse they receive so that they do not have to face leaving. Many victims are terrified to leave because of the threats made to them. Is not Muktananda like this as well? Is it possible that you do not want to see the dysfunction of his relationship because of what that would say about you?
I certainly feel embarrassed at times when I think of how long I stayed in SY. I simply try to have some compassion for myself and move on.
Don't we also have to look at the other controlling and abusive behavior of Muktananda? The Rodamor article is full of examples of his need to control anyone who might speak against him. Perhaps the fear you feel today, from the current powers that be, is similar to the fear others felt when they left during Muktananda s time.
You mention that you were angry and shocked when you came to believe that Muktananda was being sexual. Obviously you must have come to some level of denial to continue to remain with him. After all, as you say, you had given him total control of your life. Perhaps there is a need to remain in this denial?
I think it is possible to have had wonderful and incredible spiritual experiences with Muktananda. I do believe he was abusing people at the same time. The test then becomes being able to hold these two very divergent behaviors in the same space.
I am interested in your reactions to this email and would encourage you to share more of the problems (little or big) that you encountered in SY.
May I ask what your swami name was?
July 21, 1997
My sannyas name was swami X. I want to respond to several points you have made: all of us who were affected by learning of Baba's deception have tried to understand his motivation - believe me we have spent long hours discussing it trying to understand ourselves. He had the swamis read many books on tantric initiation, in the tradition of kashmir shaivism, and from that I became more comfortable with his interactions with women, particularly after I discussed it with many who had been his consorts. Why he chose that sort of initiation with them seemed in the cases I observed to be their own need for that kind of intimate interaction. He was their krishna and primary lover, without that kind of relationship I doubt that they would have been inspired to do any sadhana. For all of us, we have to weigh all of his actions, great and small, and observe them without attachment and aversion: personally I think most people have reacted out of the same propelling force against Baba as they had for him : caught in raga dwesha, rather than being able to hold the balance of extremes and observe 1) their own inner experience with him, 2) the overall impact of his teachings on peoples lives, 3) an understanding of their own capacity for projection. This last one is particularly important and requires alot of maturity on the part of the student. After years of psychotherapy following my leaving sannyas, and then becoming a psychotherapist and counsellor for others who were leaving various spiritual groups for similar reasons, I have found that the tendency to project is the most important to understand: how we first of all project our own goodness, love and wholeness onto the guru, and then in turn we project all our failings smallness and pettiness on to him/her as well.
Somewhere in between is the equal state of mind, called yoga where we see ourselves with compassion and forgiveness and see the guru both in his/her humanity with failings and the way in which they live their lives, treat people and handle lives situations. AS I lived closely with Baba for 12 years, I observed his interactions with thousands of people: I used to sit in darshans, private and public and observe his behaviour with people, and observed enormous compassion and genuine caring for their welfare. I also saw how people lives were changed for the better, and against all of that I weight the fact that against his own word he did have sexual relations with women. As he didn't have with me, it really came down to the fact that in terms of his responsibility to me, as the guru, was flawless. I examine with care and clarity how I was before I met him the framework of my psychology and heart and how I was after his death, in spite of all of the trauma of the succession. I went through years of psychotherapy , studying with buddhis teachers and continuing with my sadhana. And still arises in my heart, of no volition of my own, a sense of grace for the a wakening of my heart and spirituality I received from Baba. If I sit and contemplate that with loving gratitude it arises more strongly and I feel my inner life filled with grace, while I assure you my outer life has been filled with difficulties and travails. If lose myself in any kind of bitterness or criticism of Baba, Siddha Yoga, then my heart contracts and I am left with bitterness and an empty heart. I personally have chosen over the years to nurture the gratitude, and it has grown within me and filled my heart with fullness.
This is the point that I wish to make to your particular position on the site: Regardless of the failings of the guru, who is as we have come to see in fact human, can we find an inner experience, even a tiny spark and take that with gratitude to enrich our spiritual journey? If so, then we can take something of precious value out of the whole debacle and make it useful. For me, I can only speak as to my own experience, while I was witness to the experience of thousands of people at the same time. WE can only know our own experience and from that take something of value. I was more interested in Baba's humanity, and as I lived closely with him I was able to observe that and grow from it. I feel the same way about Swami Nityananda, I have observed him since age 7 and seen that he handles life with humility, integrity, graciousness, and enormous courage in light of what he has been subjected to by his sister. I lived closely with her for many years and cannot say I have the same regard for her humanity.
Personally I feel that it is from the humanity: compassion, kindness of heart, sincerity, integrity and courage that spiritual greatness grows. There is an excellent article by David Frawley in the April;/May Issue of Yoga Journal called Gurus great and small. I think it would be a valuable addition to your resources, and has a very balanced point of view. In order to take something from the whole experience and move on, we need to have a mature, balanced view, free from attraction or aversion, to see things as they are.
August 3, 1997
I have read your response several times. It appears to me that you avoided responding to many of the points I made. I have to wonder if you would rather continue your memory of Muktananda in a way that is comfortable for you, keeping the image of someone who also hurt people who trusted him, in a sanitized way.
Your writings also remind me of the way SY teaches people to ignore the negative and focus on the positive. The problem with this way of living life should be obvious, it is easily abused and helps to control people. Life is a blend of 'negative' and 'positive'. To ignore either, in my opinion, is a mistake. I have nothing against spiritual practices as long as they are not used to keep you out of your feelings, especially the feelings that cause us to question and stand up for what is right.
Your first email seemed to be more critical of him. When I responded, challenging your points further, it appears in your second email you have become more protective of him - more protective of your memory of him.
I do read, in both emails that you consider him to be human and open to flaws, like the rest of us. It seems however that you are unable to see those flaws, for what they are. You defend him despite your admission that he put you and the others in a very awkward position. You had to lie for him. Since we all know that he was not perfect, you can not rationalize his actions with the line that as the guru he knew what was best for us. Rather you have to treat all his actions as degrees of good and degrees of bad (bad in the sense of his ability, like all of us, to take advantage of others, to hurt others, etc. either consciously or unconsciously). He was fallible and history has shown that to be so.
Even if he hurt just one person, don't you have to let that into your mind? Can you really continue to ignore the 'negative' sides of his behavior in order to justify your memory of him? And to justify all those years you spent with him? I have to wonder if you ever saw him treat someone harshly and translated that as divine action. Thereby covering up the actual abuse that happened. I can't tell you how many times I have seen victims blame themselves for not understanding something the abuser has done to them. In the same way, does not the devotee struggle to reinterpret the guru's divine action in such a way as to accept it as the word or action of God? Even if that word or action is harmful.
Perhaps you, as a swami, struggled to advance your understanding, with Muktananda's help of course, to see his sexual activities as divine. To see those actives as sexual would have shattered your trust and belief in him. So, you changed your understanding, rationalizing his behavior, so you could stay on. Having taken, what you thought at the time, were lifetime vows, of service to the guru, you would have done everything, I think, to keep your self in that mindset. I know I did, and I was not a swami.
As a therapist, I would hope you would see the inherent problem with Muktananda in a position of power being involved sexually / romantically with his followers. The guru is not beyond the rules of humanity. Although in this case, Muktananda did place himself beyond the rules of humanity (Indian or Western for that matter) and those around him, helped to keep him there.
It seems clear from your statements that many of the swami's stayed did so because as they wanted, as you said, a "comfortable lifestyle". Is it not also possible that your staying in memory of Muktananda is doing the same thing, on an emotional level?
I have to wonder, what would it mean to you if you admitted that he was abusing devotees who put their trust in him. He abused all of our trust by lying to us. He abused others by being sexual with them. Please re-read the Rodamor article (http://www.cyberpass.net/truth/secret.htm). It clearly shows abuse, not only sexual, but with money and power and control.
What do you think of all the other swami's and teachers who have left Muktananda's side? What of Gopalananda, Tejoananda, and Abhayananda? It seems they had the courage to leave when it was much harder.
How ironic, that both of Muktananda's successors were accused of sexual liaisons; Chid with George and Nity Jr. with several other women. (Again, I don't remember you specifically from my time in SY, were you by chance one of the women Nity Jr slept with?).
I agree that there are lessons to be learned from our time with Muktananda or any person in our lives. I do believe though that until we see Muktananda as he was, a person who helped and harmed others, we are using our minds to keep an image or fantasy of what we thought he was. The most important question then becomes why do we need to do that?
I wonder if you could draw up a list of the strengths and weakness of Muktananda? Can you tell me what his faults were? Can you see them? To the degree you can do this I think is to the degree that I could believe anything you would have to say about him.
As a therapist myself, and having worked for many years with dysfunctional relationships, I can see many similar characteristics here, in yours, and others, description of Muktananda.
These are all signs of dysfunctional and abusive relationships.
As an ex-swami I believe you do hold culpability as someone who reinforced Muktananda's position in the community. Whether you gave talks, counseled others to put aside their doubts, or wrote articles praising the 'glory of the guru' I do not know. I don't remember you from those years. However, you did not speak out and tell us the truth! Your silence continued the lie and the abuse. Don't you have any feelings about that? Any guilt or sorrow?
You continue to maintain your silence and yet you write to me. I have to wonder though. You say you would like the site to present a more reasonable view of Muktananda. I assume you have read my writings and can see that I have very strong opinions about this. Is it perhaps also true that you write to us because part of you wants to hear what we have to say?
August 21, 1997
I was initially relieved to see that you are providing a forum for discussion of personal experiences relevant to Siddha Yoga. In contacting you I wanted to present my position, as one to be considered. I am not interested in entering into a debate with you.
You indicated that you do not know who I am , yet were very quick to make pejorative statements, offensive innuendoes and judgements which have nothing to do with me, and thus can only reflect back on your own character. I do not choose to enter into discussion when you clearly indicated your preference to judge and project your opinions onto me. Clearly no fruitful dialogue is possible. That tyrranical tone is simply too similar to those I heard by the fanatical members of SYDA who assumed the roles of harassing Nityananda and others of us and generally violating people's rights to have their own opinions and to trust the integrity of their own inner experience.
I ignored your questions precisely because they are your questions not mine. I would appreciate your publishing the following statement without my name or email number.