Letter to the Editor of BODY MIND SPIRIT Magazine
Regarding interview with Phylicia Rashad and the PRASAD Project.
The February - March 1997 issue (Vol. 16 # 1) has an in-depth interview with Phylicia Rashad and the PRASAD Project. Readers are invited to contact PRASAD. Interestingly, there is NO mention of Siddha Yoga anywhere in the article. Why is that? Is this a new way to 'advertise' itself? Why are the avoiding the connection?
The letter that follows was sent to the editor 5 Jun 97: BMSinfo@aol.com
5 June 1997
Body Mind Spirit
I am writing regarding the interview with Phylicia Rashad in the February March 1997 issue (Volume 16 Number 1). The article "The Capacity To Give Is Wealth Untold: A Conversation with Phylicia Rashad" appears to be a wonderful celebration of charitable acts in India and the US. It speaks of the joy one receives in giving of oneself, selflessly. With this I have no objection and support any charitable act.
Unfortunately, your readers will not know the rest of the story. The PRASAD Project is the charitable arm of the SYDA Foundation (commonly known as Siddha Yoga) a Hindu based group that started in the 70s with ties to Indian philosophy. Ram Dass brought Swami Muktananda to the US in about 1970. The organization, under Muktananda grew to a worldwide organization. Shortly after Muktananda died, an article, The Secret Life of Swami Muktananda (see attached) was written by William Rodamor in 1983, describing a lineage of sex abuse by Muktananda (teen and adult women), physical abuse to those who were raising questions and issues about financial greed.
I am sure that you would want your readers to know the whole truth about any organization in order that they can make an informed decision before giving of their time and money. What I found so mysterious, is that any references to SYDA were glaringly absent from the interview. It would seem that it was decided to present the PRASAD project, as an entity of its own. In fact, PRASAD is a rather small focus of SYDA and while they do provide a needed service, there has always been a question regarding whether it was used to provide legitimacy to an organization that has been berated with controversy from its beginning.
After Muktanandas death, a brother and sister team took over. Muktananda had appointed Swami Chidvilasananda and Swami Nityananda before his death. Many people left at the time when they saw that neither of them had the power so displayed by Muktananda. About the same time the Rodamor article brought to light the sexual abuse by Muktananda. Soon thereafter a power struggle between Chidvilasananda her alleged lover and child rapist (he took a plea bargain in California for child rape) George Afif and Nityananda ensued. Nityananda had admitted to sleeping with several women. He was out, Chidvilasananda and George were in.
In 1994, the New Yorker magazine, published an article called O Guru, Guru, Guru discussing the information brought forward from the Rodamor article as well as current abuses in SYDA. This included sending people to harass and assault Nityananda as he tried to rebuild a spiritual path, separate from SYDA. See attached. SYDA bought as many of the magazines as it could find around the main S. Fallsburg ashram and burned them. (Afif was seen as a liability with the upcoming O Guru article and was sent away just before it was published).
The PRASAD project itself has not been without controversy. Katharine Parrish, one of the directors of the project came from Werner Erhards organization EST. She was in charge of raising money for the Hunger Project. While some money went to the Hunger Project, it was later discovered that some of the money did not go where it was intended. Several years ago an earthquake occurred in India causing a world response. Many of us in Siddha Yoga began to give money to the PRASAD project, as they are currently set up in India to minister to the poor. We were soon told to give our money to SYDA Foundation directly, as they could better manage the funds. Many of us were skeptical. We knew that by giving money to the Foundation meant it could be used for anything. We would never know how these contributions would be used.
There is a web site called Leaving Siddha Yoga; Searching for the Truth that deals with the problems in Siddha Yoga, past and present. http://www.cyberpass.net/truth/. There are many stories from individuals who have left the group. A copy of this letter and any responses from you will be placed there.
We hope you have the courage to let people have the other side of the story so they can make up their own minds.