I was introduced to Siddha Yoga in 1983 and got involved in the activities right away. At the time I was very depressed, angry and disappointed with life. Even though I attended most of the programs, I didn't interact with the people much, and I would never do seva. I found the chanting and meditation relaxing and fulfilling. Early in the game I took my first intensive and received a spiritual name from Nityananda, Jr.
I was disappointed when Nityananda stepped down because at the time I felt he was my Guru and Gurumayi was window dressing. After he left I felt, "Now I'm stuck with her."
Over the years I grew to really love Gurumayi. I thought she was honest, caring, straightforward, down-to-earth and had a good sense of humor. I really believe that, in spite of the dark side of Siddha Yoga (which at that time I was not aware of) there was still a balance and that's why so much could be kept hidden. At that time the main focus was on the practices not on materialism. I can't imagine what it is that draws people to Siddha Yoga now, it's so obviously out of whack.
When Nityananda was reinstated and began having programs again, I heard on the periphery that some disgruntled devotees were harassing him and his followers. By then I had pretty much forgotten about him for the most part and felt dedicated to Gurumayi. I would never have believed at that time that Gurumayi was behind the harassment or that it was still going on up until he was initiated as Mahamandaleshwar.
I became aware of the dark side of Siddha Yoga quite by accident. In 1994 I had written a thesis on What Is An Ashram? which was an assignment given by Gurumayi to any devotee who wanted to participate. My paper focused on the history of ashrams and gurukulas as founded by Shankaracharya, the relationship of the mahamandaleshwar to the ashram, and the positive experiences of devotees of Siddha Yoga as well as my own experiences of the practices and my shaktipat experience. For the experiences part of the paper I created a questionnaire which was filled out anonymously by various devotees. Coincidentally, I wrote this paper around the time that the O Guru Guru Guru article was about to come out, which was also around the time that Nityananda was slated to become Mahamandaleshwar. I had no knowledge of these events at that time.
In the way that only someone who has experienced this can understand, aspects of this paper began to be incorporated into the Siddha Yoga programs, courses and intensives. I started getting treated very special. At this point I had been a center leader for about eight years, so I was already part of the 'outer' inner circle. Now I was being drawn into the inner circle.
Simultaneously, just prior to this time Gurumayi had been having singles dances and matching people up to get married. She decided I should marry the mama's boy of one of the inner inner devotees. A real old timer's son. I wrote a letter to Gurumayi stating in no uncertain terms that I was not interested in marrying anyone especially the chosen person. If she had picked a man instead of some little boy I might have felt differently. He on the other hand decided I couldn't live without him and began treating me as if I was chasing him. Nothing could have been further from the truth and if he had stopped running long enough to listen I would have told him that.
Well, this was when I got to see what Siddha Yoga was really about. Around Labor Day 1993 Gurumayi decided to test my devotion by having the chosen one and his family harass me every time I came to the ashram, I guess to see how I would react. It didn't matter that eventually the chosen one married someone else or that during the two years that this harassment took place I didn't say one word to this family or interact with them at all. They, on the other hand, had to go out of their way to do the harassing because without their input there would have been no input. That's not my style. Still I didn't think Gurumayi was behind these actions, I just thought they were a bunch of fools and decided I wasn't going to stoop to their level. I knew why I was practicing Siddha Yoga and it had nothing to do with what they were doing.
On a personal level, during this same period, my father became very ill and was in and out of the hospital and in late 1994, he passed away. Also, I lost many friends, and two co-workers. Thirteen deaths within a eighteen month period. Emotionally I was going through a very difficult period and I let Gurumayi know this thinking she would understand. Instead, the pressure on me was intensified. So instead of being able to go to the ashram as I had in the past for solace, I was being harassed for nothing while going through the most emotionally difficult period of my life to date. Still, I didn't think for a moment that Gurumayi was behind this and kept thinking that when she found out what was going on she would take care of it. I didn't want to accrue any bad karma.
My relationship with my father for most of my life was awful at best and the singles dances brought up all those buried feelings. His death really brought them home. Emotionally, I was raw. By the time I dealt with the last death during that period I was emotionally spent and could not hold up any longer.
Back to the ashram paper. Gurumayi was very pleased with this paper and with me for writing it. As I said earlier it was being incorporated in various ways to offset the bad press Siddha Yoga began to get at that time, I found out later. She decided to reward me by showering me with gifts and using me as an example of a true devotee. It was around this time that I began to get a whiff of what was really going on. The first indication was something that Gurumayi said to the chosen one that let me know that not only was she aware of what I was going through, but she had set me up. In essence she told him that even though he and his family had not been able to break me down, he wouldn't have to pay for his "failure". That was the straw that broke the camel's back for me. I had only been able to hold it together that long because I felt Gurumayi was with me all the way. I was devastated and just fell apart.
Other things bothered me too. The phony friendliness of people who under normal circumstances would not have paid me any attention both lay people and swamis. It was too much attention and it wasn't sincere. They were like the Stepford wives. I felt like the rat in a scientific experiment and my instinct kept telling me something was off. One day Gurumayi was in the lobby of Muktananda Mandir giving out prasad, and the way people went after that candy, pushing and shoving as if their lives depended on it, and these were adults. There is no way to really explain it, but that was when I decided to back off.
I made the mistake of writing an honest letter to Gurumayi in the tone of my emotional state at the time thinking that this was what she wanted. In my mind I was offering these lower emotions to her to be purified. I gave the letter to her during darshan on her birthday 1995. It was my way of saying I was willing to give up the lowest of the low to be with her. Well that letter changed everything. First of all, her interpretation was that after all she had given me I had cursed her out and on her birthday! I was an ungrateful demon who had no place in an ashram. I had been practicing Siddha Yoga for twelve years and not once had I done anything to be perceived in this manner. If anything I was one of the die hards who actually did the practices everyday and sincerely wanted to attain the goal.
I knew I didn't deserve to be treated the way she treated me from this point forward. I tried to talk to the same swamis who couldn't get close enough to me before I wrote that letter to explain what I meant by it. That was when I got to see how the insiders function in that ashram. Gurumayi chooses certain people to be treated certain ways. Everyone else plays along. If anything goes "wrong" the insiders, swamis' included, go into instant denial. I like to call it denial-on-a-dime. They don't what you're talking about and they take no responsibility for it. One swami I tried to speak to retorted "Don't blame it on Gurumayi." The teachings are used and hidden behind. And I mean used in the lowest sense of the word. Siddha Yoga is a mockery of the very teachings it espouses. Dharma and karma apply only to the people who visit the ashram not to the Guru and not to her entourage and staff. In other words, the insiders feel they can do anything to anyone, regardless if it would be considered wrong by society's standards as long as Gurumayi okays it and when it backfires, the blame is placed on the victim and the perpetrators are rewarded. In my case, the chosen one was rewarded for his great "courage" while hiding behind his mother. It's a sick and subtle game and the only way you can see it is if it happens to you personally which is why I can understand people who will argue that the stories on this site can't possibly be true. And of course if you can see it, then that is your own negative perception.
So that is my experience of The Farce formerly known as Siddha Yoga. On the up side, because I was so emotionally distraught at that time, and backed up against a wall, I was forced to face my own darkest emotions. Things I had buried long ago that were keeping me stuck. One of the greatest things I learned through facing these emotions was that I had been stuck in grief for a long time and had never decided if I wanted to live or die. I was basically in limbo just existing. I sat down and went through the pain of getting in touch with those feelings and of taking responsibility for my life choices up to that point and learning to forgive myself for my own ignorance. After dealing with the ashram vultures, I was motivated to own my whole self because if I didn't someone else would be more than happy to. I learned that I was afraid of owning my own power. It felt foreign to me. I was more comfortable in the role of unworthy, helpless victim. Now I am in touch with my values and live from a place that resonates with what is really important to me. I feel whole, powerful, healthy and centered for the first time in a very long time. I am in touch with the God force within myself and that is what I meditate on.
One last note, please do not judge the entire Indian spiritual community by the negative experiences of Siddha Yoga. There are some genuine shaktipat gurus out there who value the integrity of their path and live by very high principles. The scriptural teachings, the meditation, the chanting and the Shakti are not exclusive to Siddha Yoga as we knew it. Those are timeless and those are pure. That is why Siddha Yoga as presented by Gurumayi can exist. The ashram may deceive people while hiding behind the practices, but the practices and the energy behind them cannot be corrupted.
Thank you for creating this web site. I was accused and condemned for being one for the "handful of dissatisfied ex-devotees saying negative things about Siddha Yoga on the Internet" before I knew it existed. I figured if I was going to be condemned for something, I may as well read it and find out what exactly I was being accused of. This site helped me heal quickly because I realized not only was I not crazy, but my negative experiences of Siddha Yoga weren't even unique.