Just thought you'd like to know I'm out of SYDA.
It's interesting to read the replies to my comments. I always thought that we were encouraged to use our discrimination - at least in Baba's day, that's the way I remember it. It seemed like Baba said "Question, question, test, test" several times, but that was a long time ago and memory is a funny thing. However, I have always felt a fierce independence from the hydran grip of SYDA Foundation, and I have never made any bones about it. Everyone at the Portland Center knew that I had no interest in doing anything remotely related to SYDA politics [center leading, speaker "training"(a.k.a. "Learning to Speak like Guru Pod People"), etc]. That said, I have to confess I did a lot of small-time "support" of SYDA and GM by buying books, tapes, photos, etc., and attending Intensives. I also supported the Portland Center by attending once in a while, playing drum about as often, and maintaining the voicemail system. I answered messages left on the voicemail from seekers who requested information on Siddha Yoga, and often I was blunt about the "dirty little secrets" I knew about - Baba's sexual activity, the problems between GM and her brother, etc. (I didn't know about some of the other things I've read here at the time, or I may have left SYDA sooner.) Sometimes people decided Siddha Yoga was not for them, others thought they would check it out, but ALL were grateful for my honesty.
I see the latter as service to the Center, not service to SYDA. Perhaps I am naive, but to me there was a definite difference.
I have decided, through the information in your website and through the kind words of Stuart Resnick, that I just can't support any of it anymore. I think what pushed me over the edge were the rumors of sexual abuse by George Afif perpetrated on Ashramites, and SYDA's land-use troubles with South Fallsburg and Sullivan County. (I didn't know of these things 'til I saw them on your site.) For some reason, all of a sudden the whole culti-ness of GM and SYDA made my skin crawl big time.
Time to leave. Life without SYDA and GM is a lot like life with them, which tells you, again, that it was time to leave. I'm not feeling a lot of grief or separation anxiety or mourning or any of that other stuff people seem to go through, but I do miss the ability to go the Center to chant and meditate. Oh, well. . .
I do see Siddha Yoga as something completely separate from the personality or the physical body of the Guru. Evidently, I am in the extreme minority. It's strange - I truly believe a lot of the stuff I hear about GM, because I was acquainted with a close friend of hers early on at Ann Arbor ashram - I believe she certainly can be manipulative, pushy, bitchy, possessive, vain, etc. I have read about goon squads and hidden microphones and believe every word of it. But what has that got to do with MY meditation, MY chanting, MY contemplation of the deep teachings of the classics of Kashmir Shaivism (and I don't mean that doggerel that GM wrote in "Ashes at My Guru's Feet" either - brrr-rr!)? I never really got into "worshipping" GM, yet I feel like I have been an active part of the Portland Center and Siddha Yoga. What am I missing here?
Yes, I *absolutely* feel like Siddha Yoga would survive without SYDA Foundation or GM at the reins. "Siddha Yoga" lives in the hearts of people who do the practices and strive for right understanding, discrimination, and right action. To paraphrase Stuart Resnick, it is the best of what is accessible through "literally hundreds" of spiritual paths. It has nothing to do with who is currently calling themselves a "siddha" and demanding worship.
I would certainly encourage others who are seeking a spiritual path to avoid SYDA and GM. To those who remain linked to those two entities in whatever way, I encourage you to listen to the nagging doubts reading the contents of this website may have raised. You alone must evaluate your attachment to this path, and whether or not it is fatally flawed. But you MUST question, you MUST test, and you MUST be able to rest in your heart with your decision. When we become yogis we do not give our brains and our intuition away - it is a yogi's duty to evaluate his/her doubts and remain focused upon, and supportive of, only the Highest.
1) I am shocked and horrified by the allegations against George Afif, and I cannot believe that people may still be using their standing in SYDA to sexually abuse people. I have encountered this type of problem since I moved into the Ann Arbor ashram in 1980, when the director of that location had at least one devotee "boyfriend" while ostensibly being celibate (and married to a swami, who had left the ashram to join Baba just before I moved in), and later after actually getting divorced and taking sannyasa. (She lost her status after the "brother" scandal for having a "boyfriend" at a different ashram, and the last I knew was just an "ordinary" devotee who perhaps had learned her lessons.) These allegations, combined with my anger over the land-use issues, served to finally knock me out of my complacency and denial. I have to hand it to you and your site for bringing all the secrets out into the light of day.
2) Life is NOT the same as it was before leaving SYDA - actually, it is MUCH BETTER! I never realized how much energy I was using just to keep up my complacency and denial. It is exhausting to deny the cry of the "still small voice", and I find myself exploding with creativity and energy since I decided to no longer support SYDA and GM. It is my profound wish that anyone who is considering doing the same "try on" the attitude for a little while, and see if it doesn't provide profound relief!! (If it doesn't, you can always switch back!)
E-mail me if I can help - I promise to lend a compassionate ear. Reach me at "email@example.com".