My SY Story
It's only fair I share my story with all of you, since you have been so forthcoming with your own sagas, great advice, serious insights and warm welcomes.
Raised Catholic, and educated by some terrific nuns, I had devotion and even the rare spiritual experience which confirmed my faith; so much so that I toyed with the idea of becoming a nun. I don't want readers to get the idea that I had a sanctimonious youth - my activities were eclectic. My favorite book at that time was a biography of Green Bay Packer's quarterback, Jerry Kramer; I played rhythm guitar in an all girls rock band in junior high and desperately wanted a boy to kiss me. The idea of joining an order, as well as my religious practices, easily passed with the advent of high school and university. While an under-grad (1971), I read some of the mystics but was mostly interested in avoiding classroom boredom and how to get my boyfriend out of the draft.
It seemed that everyone else knew how I was suppose to spend my life - but I didn't - I was lost at sea. At 20, I married my high school sweetheart, (I was still too Catholic to move in with him) and we floundered together. Over a two year period, we visited various temples, churches, and yoga centers hoping to find a path. From Zen to Vedanta to organic communes, we sought a spiritual base. My husband was much more enthusiastic about this search for meaning than I was, and dragged me along kicking and whining. I had a very difficult time sitting still for more than fifteen minutes and found the new age approach irrelevant to my life.
However, one cold, rainy, miserable weekend, I found myself at a retreat lead by Muktananda. I thought him, distracted, authoritarian, arrogant, and as unhappy as I being at a mud-caked camp in the woods. The meditation sessions were too long and painfully uncomfortable, the living quarters frigid and cramped, the chanting repetitive and boring, and the food horrid. I felt like a prisoner, but since there was no way of escaping I let go of my negativity and the "experiences" started happening. I certainly hadn't expected them; didn't even know what they were until I described them to someone; but once they started I wanted more. What attracted me to SM was his detachment.
For the next six years, my husband and I tried to see SM as often as possible, traveling to California, New York...taking intensives when we could afford it, buying the malas, incense, devouring the books, tapes... We were barely getting by, but saved every penny we could in order to see SM on our vacations. I didn't feel SM was my guru, but that was all right - my husband did and since I felt it must be good for me, I went along on his journey, pretending it was my own. As with all marriages, ours went through some rough patches, but rather work them out through dialog, my husband would say, "You are unhappy because you don't meditate enough. If you had more devotion to the guru you wouldn't be unhappy. You just aren't holy enough. Baba says. . . , Baba says . . ., Baba says . . . " So as my spiritual self-esteem lowered, I tried harder to become what my husband wanted, a good siddha devotee.
As time went on I grew to respect SM as a great teacher, and much of what I learned during the next years laid the foundation for who I am today. I looked forward to seeing SM in the darshan line, excited when the shakti reared its head, but loathed the rest of it. I was never part of the inner circle, not even the outer circle, but I Believed. I believed that this guru was God on earth. I believed that I could achieve the same state if I followed him and worked hard enough. I transferred my faith in God, and myself, to faith in this guru and all he taught. But I was confused by the other devotees - the good devotees - their zealotry, their rudeness, their anger, their controlling attitudes, their mocking of other teachers, etc. I chalked all that up to the burning away of their karma, since they were in such proximity to God on earth. And I explained away my having to deal with them, as the burning up of my own bad karma. But even as I accepted behaviors I never would have put up with on the outside, I wondered why simple human kindness was in short supply when I was in the ashram. I knew something wasn't right, but couldn't express what was wrong. Besides, I was of the Peace Generation so any negative thought made me feel treasonous to the goal of realization. I only knew that I couldn't Surrender to SM, which was the catchword most often used during my visits, and that left me feeling spiritually inadequate.
As my husband became more and more like the "good devotees" our marriage started failing. He went to India and upon his return I asked for a divorce. I spent the 80's making my way in the world without formal SY influence. I didn't do formal spiritual practice during this time but the mantra never left me, meditation became an interesting struggle, (as well as a reminder I wasn't "holy enough"), sent interested friends to SY, and visited South Fallsburg and other centers around the country on numerous occasions. But my spiritual life took a back seat to other pursuits.
When Baba died I was deeply saddened, and then became afraid I had lost my guru. I thought, perhaps because I was so blinded by my husbands zealotry, I hadn't realized Baba was my guru after all and now it was too late to delight in his physical darshan. I felt something I call spiritual guilt. I re-contacted my husband and he expounded on the glory of Gurumayi. I went to SF and local events to seek her darshan. I thought I had to make up for lost time.
I tried, I truly tried, but in her presence I felt nothing, except envy at her beautiful clothes, and alarm at the fascist attitudes of devotees, the superior tone of my ex, and buyer's remorse as I watched money slipping out of my hands. During this time, I knew nothing of SM's sexual transgressions, Nityananda's usurpation, the Afif scandal . . . none of it. When other non-SY seekers would ask me what I knew in regard to the scandals at SY, I asked my ex, who is to this day a devoted follower of GM, and he would take my query and so expertly twist it into a personal attack on his guru that I felt guilty for days afterward. "Besides," he would say, "the ways of a siddha are mysterious. We must never questions their motives." I stopped asking questions. Since I knew nothing, and my ex was so certain the allegations were nothing, I assumed they were nothing. I stopped listening to my own doubts and let the questions slide. When my worldly obligations demanded more of my attention, I let everything about SY slide. But I dreamed of a time in the future when I would get back to it, and that was a comfort. I knew my spiritual path, although overgrown with weeds, would begin again one day and it would begin with SY because, although my journey took root in Catholicism it took shape and form in SY. Besides, I thought, I can always go home again.
The summer of 1996 I lost a dear friend to death - an old friend who was a swami in another yoga tradition. His passing put me back on the spiritual quest. I reawakened my SY practice with daily meditation, japa, tapes, books, chanting, visits to the local center and was planning to re-immerse myself in SY through intensives the summer of 1998. Who knows, I thought, maybe my ex and I will find each other again. Maybe I'll be ready to surrender.
Two months ago (Nov. '97) I joined cyberspace. The first place I wanted to visit was the SY web site. During my search, quite by accident (or so I thought) I found the Leaving Siddha Yoga site. At first, what I discovered there shocked, scared, angered and pained me. But upon reflection, it made sense to me. The acceptance of the information put me into a state of spiritual loss, grief, and despair unlike anything I have ever experienced. As I worked through every entry on every site and news group, I ached - for the huge loss of a piece of my past and plan for my future.
I have no horror stories to tell about my time in SY, no specific incidents of personal physical abuse, but do feel spiritually betrayed. I will not take responsibility for that betrayal, but do take full responsibility for my lack of discernment. I believe that people were (are) exploited in SY for financial gain. Their reasoning for allowing this to happen to themselves? "the spiritual end justifies the means". I think this is harmful reasoning; reasoning passed on to the devotees through the example of the guru. I believe people were (are) covering up corruption within the organization by spiritually blackmailing devotees. And so insidious is this blackmail that the victim freely gives because taking responsibility for their own life would be unbearable. But in fact, taking on that responsibility, and the truths that come with that responsibility is not only is it bearable, it is spiritually liberating. SY has broken a vow of trust, and by doing so does not deserve my fidelity.
By reading the struggles, questions and realizations of other posters, I have never felt more "on the path." It is an exciting time for me now. I have discovered that the World is the path and I cannot escape the spiritual challenges it offers me. I've learned that my heart and my mind are the best tools for discovering my truths. I've learned that God is not outside us, it's not even within in us, It Is. I am starting over, once again, without looking to the past, or to the future. I am simply trying to be here now with discrimination and compassion.