Sunday, March 4, 2012

Friend With Benefits

As some of you may know, John Friend, founder of Anusara yoga and once a regular hatha yoga fixture at Shree Muktananda ashram, stepped down this past week due to sexual impropriety with students. I'm reproducing the New York Times article in this post below, as it details Baba Muktananda's sexual scandals as evidence of the prevalence of this kind of abuse by gurus and yogic teachers. Friend is not the first Siddha Yoga affiliated figure to follow Baba's lead, of course, we first had to suffer through the extremely oily dealings of George Afif, and subsequently, Ram Butler.

I'll keep posting news of the Friend scandal as it unfolds.

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Yoga and Sex Scandals: No Surprise Here



The wholesome image of yoga took a hit in the past few weeks as a rising star of the discipline came tumbling back to earth. After accusations of sexual impropriety with female students, John Friend, the founder of Anusara, one of the world’s fastest-growing styles, told followers that he was stepping down for an indefinite period of “self-reflection, therapy and personal retreat.”
Mr. Friend preached a gospel of gentle poses mixed with openness aimed at fostering love and happiness. But Elena Brower, a former confidante, has said that insiders knew of his “penchant for women” and his love of “partying and fun.” 

Few had any idea about his sexual indiscretions, she added. The apparent hypocrisy has upset many followers. 

“Those folks are devastated,” Ms. Brower wrote in The Huffington Post. “They’re understandably disappointed to hear that he cheated on his girlfriends repeatedly” and “lied to so many.”
But this is hardly the first time that yoga’s enlightened facade has been cracked by sexual scandal. Why does yoga produce so many philanderers? And why do the resulting uproars leave so many people shocked and distraught? 

One factor is ignorance. Yoga teachers and how-to books seldom mention that the discipline began as a sex cult — an omission that leaves many practitioners open to libidinal surprise.
Hatha yoga — the parent of the styles now practiced around the globe — began as a branch of Tantra. In medieval India, Tantra devotees sought to fuse the male and female aspects of the cosmos into a blissful state of consciousness. 

The rites of Tantric cults, while often steeped in symbolism, could also include group and individual sex. One text advised devotees to revere the female sex organ and enjoy vigorous intercourse. Candidates for worship included actresses and prostitutes, as well as the sisters of practitioners.
Hatha originated as a way to speed the Tantric agenda. It used poses, deep breathing and stimulating acts — including intercourse — to hasten rapturous bliss. In time, Tantra and Hatha developed bad reputations. The main charge was that practitioners indulged in sexual debauchery under the pretext of spirituality. 

Early in the 20th century, the founders of modern yoga worked hard to remove the Tantric stain. They devised a sanitized discipline that played down the old eroticism for a new emphasis on health and fitness. 

B. K. S. Iyengar, the author of “Light on Yoga,” published in 1965, exemplified the change. His book made no mention of Hatha’s Tantric roots and praised the discipline as a panacea that could cure nearly 100 ailments and diseases. And so modern practitioners have embraced a whitewashed simulacrum of Hatha. 

But over the decades, many have discovered from personal experience that the practice can fan the sexual flames. Pelvic regions can feel more sensitive and orgasms more intense.
Science has begun to clarify the inner mechanisms. In Russia and India, scientists have measured sharp rises in testosterone — a main hormone of sexual arousal in both men and women. Czech scientists working with electroencephalographs have shown how poses can result in bursts of brainwaves indistinguishable from those of lovers. More recently, scientists at the University of British Columbia have documented how fast breathing — done in many yoga classes — can increase blood flow through the genitals. The effect was found to be strong enough to promote sexual arousal not only in healthy individuals but among those with diminished libidos.
In India, recent clinical studies have shown that men and women who take up yoga report wide improvements in their sex lives, including enhanced feelings of pleasure and satisfaction as well as emotional closeness with partners. 

At Rutgers University, scientists are investigating how yoga and related practices can foster autoerotic bliss. It turns out that some individuals can think themselves into states of sexual ecstasy — a phenomenon known clinically as spontaneous orgasm and popularly as “thinking off.”
The Rutgers scientists use brain scanners to measure the levels of excitement in women and compare their responses with readings from manual stimulation of the genitals. The results demonstrate that both practices light up the brain in characteristic ways and produce significant rises in blood pressure, heart rate and tolerance for pain — what turns out to be a signature of orgasm.
Since the baby boomers discovered yoga, the arousal, sweating, heavy breathing and states of undress that characterize yoga classes have led to predictable results. In 1995, sex between students and teachers became so prevalent that the California Yoga Teachers Association deplored it as immoral and called for high standards. 

“We wrote the code,” Judith Lasater, the group’s president, told a reporter, “because there were so many violations going on.” 

If yoga can arouse everyday practitioners, it apparently has similar, if not greater, effects on gurus — often charming extroverts in excellent physical condition, some enthusiastic for veneration.
The misanthropes among them offer a bittersweet tribute to yoga’s revitalizing powers. A surprising number, it turns out, were in their 60s and 70s. 

Swami Muktananda (1908-82) was an Indian man of great charisma who favored dark glasses and gaudy robes. At the height of his fame, around 1980, he attracted many thousands of devotees — including movie stars and political celebrities — and succeeded in setting up a network of hundreds of ashrams and meditation centers around the globe. He kept his main shrines in California and New York.
In late 1981, when a senior aide charged that the venerated yogi was in fact a serial philanderer and sexual hypocrite who used threats of violence to hide his duplicity, Mr. Muktananda defended himself as a persecuted saint, and soon died of heart failure

Joan Bridges was one of his lovers. At the time, she was 26 and he was 73. Like many other devotees, Ms. Bridges had a difficult time finding fault with a man she regarded as a virtual god beyond law and morality. 

“I was both thrilled and confused,” she said of their first intimacy in a Web posting. “He told us to be celibate, so how could this be sexual? I had no answers.” 

To denounce the philanderers would be to admit years of empty study and devotion. So many women ended up blaming themselves. Sorting out the realities took years and sometimes decades of pain and reflection, counseling and psychotherapy. In time, the victims began to fight back. 

Swami Satchidananda (1914-2002) was a superstar of yoga who gave the invocation at Woodstock. In 1991, protesters waving placards (“Stop the Abuse,” “End the Cover Up”) marched outside a Virginia hotel where he was addressing a symposium. “How can you call yourself a spiritual instructor,” a former devotee shouted from the audience, “when you have molested me and other women?”
Another case involved Swami Rama (1925-96), a tall man with a strikingly handsome face. In 1994, one of his victims filed a lawsuit charging that he had initiated abuse at his Pennsylvania ashram when she was 19. In 1997, shortly after his death, a jury awarded the woman nearly $2 million in compensatory and punitive damages. 

So, too, former devotees at Kripalu, a Berkshires ashram, won more than $2.5 million after its longtime guru — a man who gave impassioned talks on the spiritual value of chastity — confessed to multiple affairs. 

The drama with Mr. Friend is still unfolding. So far, at least 50 Anusara teachers have resigned, and the fate of his enterprise remains unclear. In his letter to followers, he promised to make “a full public statement that will transparently address the entirety of this situation.”The angst of former Anusara teachers is palpable. “I can no longer support a teacher whose actions have caused irreparable damage to our beloved community,” Sarah Faircloth, a North Carolina instructor, wrote on her Web site.
But perhaps — if students and teachers knew more about what Hatha can do, and what it was designed to do — they would find themselves less prone to surprise and unyogalike distress.
.

43 comments:

Anonymous said...

Glad the NYT is covering this scandal, but claiming that hatha yoga began as a sex cult is, um, quite a stretch. The implication that all tantra includes a sexual aspect is very misleading as well. And the claim that practicing yoga increases people's libidos.....that's probably true of most forms of physical exercise. It's a very skewed piece, which is a shame.

older but wiser

SeekHer said...

I agree; found the slant of the piece disturbingly prurient. But then, I've not expected much of the Times for some years. They've decimated their reporting staff and all but eliminated fact checking (one recent piece in the Times that covered its own paywall was followed up the very next day with seven factual corrections; when you can't get your own business straight...)

Anonymous said...

RE: NYT, and specifically, the "Why does yoga produce so many philanderers?" question. To imply that this is somehow "yoga's fault" is silly. We all know dogs are dogs – whether downward facing or not.

RE: Friend: the shakti hits the fan, once again. Guess those bad apples are still falling perilously close to their trees.)

Apparently he'd just opened a splashy new center in Encinitas and was on the first leg of a year-long world tour to promote his multi-million dollar "practice". Opps.

I only encountered him once, in a class he led in Fallsburg in 1996. My memory is it was a great class and that he was a refreshingly non-corporate SY type. A nice, easy-going guy who made no lasting impression. Haven't thought or heard about him since. Saw the big article in the NYT mag a few years ago but only skimmed.

The juicy Huff Po, et al, headlines last month, however caught my interest. Though I suppose all news gets covered everywhere these days. (There is, I also discovered a few clicks in, some nastiness about him in comments posted nearly a year ago below some of his youtube videos – or maybe not nastiness but just someone pissed off about his sex, drug$$ and rock-and-behavior which has now come to light – so none of this could really have been news, at least not to those on the inside.)

Anyway, reading these articles and sifting through some of the collateral for his online brand I have to wonder if he hasn't been footing the electricity bill at Fallsburg. At least up until last week.

Anonymous said...

Let's move away from the distracting spin on the NYT yoga sex and go back to the heart of the matter: getting the shaft from so called leaders of the yoga community.

Devoteesince79 said...

I agree with Anon....9:51.....
The question is: Where is Gurumayi?!!!
Is she dead? If not...has anyone seen or taken photos of her? Why not?
The world is not that big & if 'famous people' can be followed ..... why not the guru?
That letter dated Dec. 4, 2011, was NOT written by her. That is FRAUD! SYDA should be brought up on charges of attempting to defraud the public!

Anonymous said...

Where's Waldo, you mean, Devoteesince 79? I think you might just as well let go of that one. And this blog is thankfully about a lot more than searching for the lost lady.

It's going on 8 years now, time to let go, let go, let go....for your own peace of mind.

older but wiser

Anonymous said...

Part of what’s provoked for me by all this is another stark reminder of what a different media world we live in now, vs. 1994 when the Lis Harris New Yorker hit. Now vs. the pre-web world.

The day after someone emailed me last week’s NYT article, I googled John Friend and discovered that the NYT piece had been more of a sidebar on a story that had been brewing for some time and broken first on a yoga-world “wikileaks” type of site, then the yogadork blog, then the Huffington Post. Pieces of the story, and ensuing comments, are now scattered in a broken strands across the blogshpere, including of course RoD.

Point being that in 1994 this type of depth-charge, game changer could still, to some extent be contained. Back then you could still burn copies of magazines. Futile as such attempts may have ultimately been.

Why do I get the feeling as I read these latest headlines on Friend & Co. that is someone sitting around in Fallsburg feeling validated? Thinking to themselves: See, it was so good we pulled out when we did, before this kind of blow up was possible. Just speculation or maybe a weird trick of timing, but it has always struck me as ironic that SY got outta the game just before the age of social media and hand-held everything hit, an age in which, had they hung on, they would have been brought down hard and swift – just as Friend was last month. For him, in a matter of days, it was all over but the ramifications of the New Yorker article came in waves, rippled out over many years – and in some cases that article was the deal breaker for devotees who didn’t discover it until over a decade after it had been published.

We didn’t live in a virtual/viral world then and as a result SY survived, with many of us entrenched in it, a good decade + + longer than it ever should have. But here we are now, living in 2012, where in one fell swoop Anusara just got turned on its head and had all the fool’s gold dumped from its pockets.

Also feeling/thinking about the difference between now and 1994 in terms of the impact on the two communities – SY and AS.

Is disenchantment and dissolution all relative?

Are there people in the Anusara community careening down from their mountain poses over this news, devastated? Or is it less of a blow because Friend was not “a guru” and didn’t hold their salvation in his hands?

Regardless, it’s never a welcome discovery that what you believe, or were led to believe, about someone you hold in high regard is in fact the complete opposite of reality.

birch said...

Hello Seeker,
I am always eager to read a new post here and I admit, it is because I am hoping someday that someone will post an actual fact about seeing GM or a recent picture or any first-hand knowledge. Is she alive? Is there anyone here who knows anyone who has physically seen GM in the past 3 years?

I have let go of all of the betrayal, etc. I am now simply curious - how does someone like her just disappear?

Anyone have any information?

Thanks,
Birch

Anonymous said...

Hi Birch,

GM was in Fallsburg last August for a gathering to celebrate BB. A link to pictures of the celebration was emailed to those still on the mailing list and also posted up at the website, though only for a few days. GM could be seen in those pictures, at what looked like a fairly small gathering of people frozen in time.

I believe several comments were made here at RoD about those pictures that could be easily found if you look at the posts around mid-August 2011.


Thank you for posing the question about her whereabouts, it was after all the question that original prompted this blog, and seeing it today makes me realize the answer truly does not matter to me anymore. I couldn't have said that a few years ago. It comes without effort now. Finally.

Also, as it relates back to Friend, really grateful to no longer be in the kind of situation that would leave me vulnerable and reeling from such a thing. Hopefully, as everything is moving so much faster, any impact from this blow will be a short sharp pain that doesn't drag on the way the end of SY did for so many of us . . .

Best to you and all.

Anonymous said...

Muk + Nit + Afif + Butler + Friend.

The unbroken lineage continues.

Anonymous said...

Part I
Dear Seekher,

Thank you for getting us clued into the Anusara controversy! I was hoping I could discuss this with people who are interested in the similarities to SY which I think are blatant and eerie. IMO, it is very relevant for anyone who has made the journey out of SY. There are some gems here, tuning into the AS community handles this.

I myself just left SY very suddenly, 11 months ago, after coming across all the info online. It was quite a blow to my universe, after 15 years of being totally devoted to it! So researching the AS discussion has helped me deal with my own transition.

I agree with the last post from 3/6 - there is an unbroken lineage here, of rampant power abuse like in SY! A well-documented article in the NY Times from 2010 already points to the signs on the wall. www.nytimes.com/2010/07/25/magazine/25Yoga-t.html?pagewanted=all "From the leader of the Ganeshpuri ashram, Gurumayi {...} — no stranger herself to American celebrity — Friend learned how to give intimate, inspirational talks to crowds of thousands. "

Re: Anonymous' question from 3/5:
"Are there people in the Anusara community careening down from their mountain poses over this news, devastated? Or is it less of a blow because Friend was not “a guru” and didn’t hold their salvation in his hands?"

--> From what I've read, on websites of Certified AS teachers and the comment sections after articles, there is a huge group of people affected by this scandal! AS is said to have about 200,000 students worldwide, teachers & dedicated AS practitioners. They now all have to reconsider their affiliation with their previously unimpeachable leader. Many AS teachers built their livelihood on the brand, & spent at least $10,000 and many many hours to become a Certified AS Teacher. Check out this blog bernadettebirney.com/2012/02/friends-weigh-in.html with some good links to relevant articles. Her other posts on that blog also give good insights into how much the AS community is reeling from this.

In many ways, Ansura Inc. is like a sister corporation to SY (even though until 10 days ago, it always looked much more worldly & harmless to me): It grew out of SY, Gurumayi helped John Friend become famous. One ex-SY blogger mentions that they both profited from each other: John Friend helped grow the Hatha Yoga department and attracted other Hatha Yoga teachers to SMA. And in return, many of his AS students came from the ranks of Siddha Yogis.

"Anusara' means "Flowing with Grace". From Wikipedia:
"The Anusara Invocation" is a sanskrit mantra, beginning with Om Namah Shivaya, which Friend states he received from Gurumayi Chidvilasananda.[5] All Anusara Yoga classes begin with three chants of om, followed by three rounds of the Invocation, and concluding with one final om. The mantra's lyrics are:
"Om Namah Shivaya Gurave (Hail to Shiva, the Teacher)
Sacchidananda-Murtaye (Whose Form is Truth, Consciousness and Bliss)
Nishprapanchaya Shantaya (The Singular One, the Peaceful One)
Niralambaya Tejase''(The Self-supported One, the Lustrous One)
The same mantra is known as the "Siddha Yoga mantra" {...}
I tried talking to several of my long-time AS teacher friends whom I've know from our local SY center. I didn't get very far with it - but it was a good exercise for me. The subject of the close parallels between the fall of Anusara's leader and SY is too dangerous a topic, it seems. An Inconvenient Truth, like Al Gore's movie, and a messy subject that they would rather not get into. I can't blame them, having just made the transition myself. It is a rocky journey, as you probably all know. I've had countless dreams, with my unconscious trying to come to terms with the shadow side of SYDA.

Anonymous said...

Part II

Appearing on John Friend's stage, we can see many of the same characters that we knew from SY. Sally Kempton is one of the teachers he would recommend and quote. Douglas Brooks is a close friend of Friend's. Many of the AS students mention Brooks as their teacher for sanskrit scriptures of sorts. Another relationship of shared benefit... since they met Brooks through Friend's referral. In this article here, you can read Brooks' argument for Friend to completely leave Anusara behind. http://www.yogadork.com/news/douglas-brooks-anusara-inc-must-cease-to-exist-to-avoid-further-irreparable-harm%E2%80%9D/

It is curious to see his role in all of these debates... He seems to have reformed himself and talks quite a bit against the dangerous role of the guru which is inherently prone to abuse. But nowhere does he mention his own personal history with such a guru, including his lying on behalf of SYDA, defending the "edited" Meditation Revolution tome! I have not found any clear statement of his, on his facebook page or website, renouncing SY. He just mentions his new teacher left and right, who seems to be a somewhat obscure unknown Indian teacher, made known in the West mostly by Brooks himself, as far as I can tell.

There are also many hopeful voices - stating that this is a great time for yoga, since everyone is doing quite a bit of self-inquiry right now. People are looking into the deep issues of why John Friend got away with his power trips for so many years. Why did the senior teachers not stand up sooner? Those who tried, like Doug Keller (whom some of you may know from teaching Hatha Yoga at SMA) describe their struggles to get through to him, getting only anger and denial. Doug left around 2003, good for him! It is a sign of his integrity, and it's been nice to hear from him in this way.

AS had the same climate of enforced conformity that SY used to silence its devotees. You can read all about that in Amy Ippoliti's statement on why she left AS. She was a senior teacher, with AS from the beginning, and many of her experiences bring up memories of the punishments administered when one was not in the good graces of the omnipotent leader: http://www.elephantjournal.com/?s=amy+ippoliti+letter+to+the+

Another insightful article is "Grounding Anusara 2: a brief ayurvedic follow-up" by Matthew Remski, on www.elephantjournal.com. (You can only read one article per day for free in their online magazine, after that you pay $1 per month).

Now that name Anusara has taken on a whole other connotation. Just as the name of SY became more and more tainted, the Anusara brand is quite trashed. Hopefully, this will be the wake-up call for many individuals, to be careful with giving our power away!

Thank you all for your many helpful contributions on this blog! It has been a life saver for me in many ways during my tumultuous transition.

Cheers,
Free At Last

Anonymous said...

"John always – ALWAYS – honors his lineage, his teachers. He remains super respectful of Mr. Iyengar, and his puja in honor of Gurumayi is where he goes to connect and do his own heart-work. He is not in this for the money, as those close to him know; he lives simply, and carefully. He is in this for the act and delight of helping, of lighting the path, of true service."

-- Anusaran Elena Brower
in response to the NYT July 2010 article, The Yoga Mogul

http://www.yogadork.com/news/john-friends-official-response-to-nytimes-yoga-mogul-article-rebuttal-of-falsehoods/

Anonymous said...

Did JF find SY, or did SY find JF?

What year did he first appear on the SY scene and when did he start to phase out?

Did SY "employ" him and, in effect, launch his career?

Was he "inner circle"?

If the above is excerpt is true -- that in 2010 he still had a puja in place for GM (even if symbolic, or nostalgic) -- that would indicate SY still had some hold over him. And that in and of itself should have been more than enough cause for his students to seriously question his ethics and integrity.

I could see having respect for a yoga teacher who'd lived and learned from their SY experience, then moved on to create a whole new thing as a way to salvage and rebuild. But it just doesn't make sense to me that anyone with Internet access would be investing their money in the guy's classes if they knew he still had strong ties to SY.

But maybe that's just one more repeated parallel in this story. Maybe JF was also a bit of revisionist when it came to his own history.

Anonymous said...

To help answer the question how Friend came to SY, there is an interview still currently posted on teh official www.anusara.com:
http://www.anusara.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=155:an-interview-with-john-friend&catid=56:talksinterviews&Itemid=179

Friend doesn't hide his association with SY, at the same time he usually also mentions his other teachers. My husband told me he read another very recent interview with Friend. In it he mentions that he still feels that GM is his guru, even though he doesn't know where she is these days or what she is up to.

Half way into the above interview you'll find this question:
"How did you connect with your teacher, Gurumayi Chidvilasanada?"

--> Friend gives a long share about his first stay in Ganeshpuri. It sounds beautiful & spontaneous, just like the many experience shares of SY that we have all heard over the years & probably experienced ourselves...

Too bad that there is another side to GM's power, that held us down, made people lie for her, asked sevites to throw rocks at her brother, & help cover up Afif's rape, etc. etc.

Friend: "In October 1989, I went to India to study with Iyengar in Pune. Then I traveled around the country and got sick. I happened to be in Goa, and I really needed Western food, because my stomach couldn't handle the Indian spices any more. I had heard of an ashram in Ganeshpuri, north of Bombay, which supposedly had very good Western food. I decided to go there, rest for a couple of weeks, and eat some good food. [...}

I put the mic down and stood on the stage. I put my hands in namaste, closed my eyes, and said a prayer. "Gurumayi, I need some serious help. If you are who they say you are, I need all of that." I bent over into Uttanasana, put my hands on the stage, and started pressing up both legs into a handstand. It was like someone took a blanket, wrapped it around me, and lifted me up. I was upside down looking at my hands on the uneven carpeted stage. I stuck the handstand. I wasn't even trying. I opened my legs up and threw them into Padmasana in a handstand. Perfect. For fifteen minutes, I flowed through this routine. I did poses I hadn't even planned to do. I felt so totally supported. It was magic. I was detached, seeing this thing happen as if it was somebody else's body. I stopped, put my hands in namaste, and the crowd gave me a standing ovation. It was an incredible moment.

Spontaneously, I jumped off the stage and went over to Gurumayi and pranamed. I knew that was the first tangible grace I had ever experienced. I had read about grace in books for years and thought I understood the concept, but I believed grace was something someone might not experience in their lifetime. I experienced it there. It was very tangible. From then on I felt connected to her."

So there you have it! As usual, the good & the dark are closely mixed together. One AS friend of mine, who also has been in SY since forever, said to me: "John was an amazing channel. He WAS Gurumayi." She meant that as a compliment! But to me it sounded like a unintended double-entendre, one more explanation of how Friend managed to abuse his power & charisma for years on end. He learned from GM how to mesmerize crowds & he took advantage of it, for the sake, and because, of his sociopath narcissistic ego.

Maybe it started out in the light, but then it went South quickly...

Free At Last

Anonymous said...

In answer to Anonymous from March 7, 2012 10:25 PM:

Thank you for quoting Elena Brower. In July 2010, the NY Times article http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/25/magazine/25Yoga-t.html?pagewanted=all made waves in Anu-land by exposing some of the shadow side of the "Yoga Mogul" John Friend. His senior teacher Elena Brower ran to his rescue and passionately defended him. She has been called "his female counterpart" for many years, and her fame rose with his. Just 3 weeks ago, on Feb 20, 2012, that same Elena Brower explains in the Huffington Post why she resigned from AS. She apologizes for having stayed for so long and for having lied on behalf of Friend. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elena-brower/john-friend-controversy_b_1285538.html?utm_source=Alert-blogger&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Email+Notifications

I appreciate her being so open about her role as an enabler, one of those who covered up the power abuses of the leader in the center of the whole mess. We know so well from SY what being part of the "inner circle" can do to people's integrity.

Elena: "Even for us, the ones who knew some (but none of us really knew all of it), it felt terrible to see, from both sides: How could he? But then we realized, how could we? We were oftentimes complicit -- some of us enabled the liar to lie by lying for him ourselves. There were these strangely uncomfortable, spooky moments in the past few years, to be sure; I was asked to help cover up one big personal lie for John, which ultimately needed to be cleaned up on my end. [...]

I stayed because of the history, the quality of my education, and most of all, my fear about losing my standing in the yoga world. The night I called John to resign, back in October 2011, my first apology was for letting that fear rule my world, for staying for the wrong reasons, when true integrity would have had me leave long before.

John seemed threatened, sad, unsure and at times, unsteady. Several of us tried to talk to him about it, only to be met with denial and even sometimes anger, which in many cases drove us, in our own personal ways, into old patterns of wanting to please our "parents": backtracking, questioning ourselves, adding to the mounting pile of lies, assuaging him so we could stay in his good graces, feel safe, and keep our lives in order. That part might be the saddest part, and the part about which I'm personally most sorry, this repeating of family patterns in this professional context."

This is a very clear account of the fear-mentality that rules cults and makes people slide down the slippery slope of self-denial, self-doubt and dishonesty. The same blue print as in SY - to stay in the good graces of the leader, you had to bend over backward and forget about your previous code of ethics.

Free at Last

SeekHer said...

Birch:

I have no information on the whereabouts of Gurumayi. It's certainly possible she resurfaced last August for a celebration: I haven't seen the photos but I wouldn't be surprised to learn she dons the saffron for an appearance every few years when big-ticket donors need a peacock brushing to keep the purse-strings open. Also-there would be too many legal and financial ramifications on the SYDA end for her to disappear altogether. As I've written elsewhere, Siddha Yoga may be dead but SYDA is very much alive, at least as an iron-clad legal fiction.

The thing you have to ask yourself is, if GM is indeed still playing an active role and teaching a handful of hand-picked devotees "privately" as some maintain, why is there is never any official confirmation of this? The best and I think only answer is because silence engenders the sort of whispered rumors about GM that keep people feeling they are "in the know" and therefore on the hook. When devotees in Fallsburg whisper that GM is in Ganeshpuri, and devotees in Ganeshpuri hear that she wintered in Hawaii and those in Hawaii know that she just left Oakland, well, the Guru can at last truly be said to be omnipresent.

SY always operated this way, even when GM was very much around. There were wheels within wheels and inner circles within inner circles and everyone got to feel they were privy to information that others didn't have (remember all the hints you might hear from higher-ups in seva about the 'divine inspiration' they received regarding how the department was to be run?) In reality, almost no one knew what was really going on and everyone was being conned by someone they believed to be closer to the guru.

As others have said, it's best to just let it go at this point. GM ain't coming back in any way that you will ever be a part of, unless you are a wealthy patron. There are SY students I know who still practice, having made peace with the fact that the inner Guru is the only one they will ever have access to going forward. There is a certain beauty in such faithful resignation--even if from the other side of disenchantment it seems terribly misplaced. But waiting around for the past to come back (as if GM herself was just waiting for everyone to leave save the most faithful of her faithful remnant disciples before reappearing) is just a recipe for perpetual unhappiness.


PS Glad to see so many adding so much background on the Anasura scandal, particularly from their personal perspective.

March 8, 2012 3:06 PM

Anonymous said...

SeekHer, you said:
"when big-ticket donors need a peacock brushing to keep the purse-strings open."

Suggested re-phrasing:
"A peacock STROKING..."

Anonymous said...

SeekHer wrote: "As others have said, it's best to just let it go at this point. GM ain't coming back in any way that you will ever be a part of, unless you are a wealthy patron."

I agree with you, re: the "inner circles within the inner circles" & the constant rumors that have everyone hooked. I myself am certain that I don't want to be a part of the guru-disciple psycho drama anymore!! I am currently much more interested in what can be learned from the Anusara contemplations. I feel that in that arena, there is more of a chance for some outer justice & clear repercussions for the leader, something that we didn't get much of in SY. I guess I am still longing for justice, trying to clarify to myself what that could mean...

However, since Seekher started this blog in 2007 wondering about GM's whereabouts, I just want to add my 2 cents. My info mostly comes from friends at my local center who have recently been in SMA. (I guess our center is one of the few that hasn’t closed down yet, and that still has decent attendance. Partially, that is because some old timers seem to move here to be part of the center life.) I don't think that just wealthy patrons are invited - even though I'm sure that must help, especially if you don't want to commit to much seva, or are highly qualified for some important seva.

I think if someone still really wanted to check out GM & current ashram life, they could apply for one of the open seva positions on staff, for some months at a time. Once you have gone through the lengthy application process & have an in with one department, department heads can request for you to come back, even just for a weekend or a week. That is how it was explained to me by a young drummer who used to go to SMA regularly for seva weekends in the AV department. Granted, he was young & had always been favored by GM, having grown up in SMA… But I've heard similar stories from friends in their 50ies & 60ies as well.

For instance, on Jan 7, '12, I received an email share from a young fellow whom I knew from our local center. He had applied to do seva in Ganeshpuri, where he was since June '10. (Ironically, I was one of the people asked to fill out his reference form, just as I was starting my sudden exit from SY). Apparently, he had gone on from GSP to be on staff in SMA. He wrote about seeing GM for the first time in the hall in Atmanidhi, where the chants take place since some years (former Yellow Room, as I understand it).

Nobody goes to Anugraha, unless you are super-special & live there. Sadhana Kutir was sold a long, long time ago. My friend’s email described a meeting with GM & the ashram managers, going over open seva position & organizational structures of the ashram. He had never seen GM before, & was beside himself with excitement. He said he has seen her several times since then during "Noon Satsang Events".
So the game is still being played, just on a smaller scale…

More to follow -

Free At Last

Anonymous said...

Continuing my last post:

Another center friend of mine went to SMA for 2 weeks over GM's birthday in June ‘10. She had been in touch with a long-time friend of ours who had been on staff for 2 years or so. That friend’s request helped speed up the application process. So the two did seva together in her department. Out of the blue, my friend was invited to come to the temple for a flute concert given to GM. Very few people were present. GM had them share afterwards about their experience with the concert. My friend was too shy to speak, being still stunned that she was there in the first place.

On the other hand, the long-time friend who was on staff reported that she had hardly seen GM in the 2-3 years that she spent offering full-time seva at SMA. So there is no guarantee & GM has not made herself very available in person.

My local friend went back last summer, in July ‘11, for 2 weeks, for more seva in the same department. Apparently, she saw GM quite a few times during her stay. She shared at our center about GM talking in staff meetings, scolding people that they weren’t welcoming enough. She had them do role plays, working on being more welcoming. My friend said she got a lot out of it… I was already out of SY & didn’t really want to listen to too much of that guru talk.


Then there are two old-timers at my local (ex-)center who had been former darshan girls & always have done seva close to GM (like, literally in her house...) since forever. They have both been going regularly to SMA over the last 5 years, that I was aware of, working on different seva projects. One friend is a healer of sorts & mainly goes to teach her skills to the staff.

They were not supposed to talk about their seva, not even to their husband (one of them is married), so I could never get much detail from them. (Reminds me of this joke that sums it all up: “Do you know the latest Ashram joke? - No.- I can’t tell you, it’s confidential!!”) Sometimes they would share a few breadcrumbs. While I was still a devotee, it was soothing for me to hear that GM was alive & having meetings with people, even though not with me.

So I personally haven't doubted that GM is still around, doing pretty much the same thing for the few people who happen to be there. I am just so glad that I am not longing to be one of them anymore!

Free At Last

Anonymous said...

Hey Seekers,
It is awesome to give voice to feelings, opinions, and events that take place in our lives. Personally, I love Gurumayi and am grateful to her. The life I was living before meeting her was no life at all. I am not wealthy now nor have I ever been wealthy, yet she taught me to love myself and seek within. I also experienced pure witness consciousness in her presence which is manifested today simply by closing my eyes for a few minutes. I love those that love her, and I love those that hate her. Lovers, haters, champions, activists, gossips, philosophers, we are all seeking to become better human beings. With respect to you all, please remember to keep breathing through feelings of stress, betrayal, anger, abandonment, or whatever else may be going on. I have nothing but love for all who read these words. Personally, I didn't go looking for a Guru so I could tell her what to do or make demands of my own. Accepting the feelings of frustration, attachment, and everything else is essential for those who continue on the path of Siddha Yoga, and for those who have moved on. And if you have moved on, don't punish yourself by getting stuck in the past. And if remembering the wonderful aspects of Siddha Yoga that kept you involved for years gives you feelings of gratitude, savor them! Personally, having not been at an ashram or center for many, many years, I have had to go within when intense feelings have come up. With no more retreats, Intensives with Gurumayi, Amrit, active ashram community, celebrations, bookstore drooling, I have actually been forced to sit down and MEDITATE. And CHANT. The grace is there, and these timeless practices actually work beautifully. I don't walk in Gurumayi's shoes, and I don't judge. I don't throw stones at John Friend because I have made huge mistakes in my life and been forgiven. Did he ever claim to be a saint? I don't think so. I think he only ever claimed to be an accomplished Hatha Yoga teacher who loves life. We are all just people here. Human beings on our journeys. Please accept my love and respect, and please take care and try to be gentle with yourselves. I'm sure some who read these words will be angry just because I am not jumping on the bandwagon to bash human beings who have given me so much. Gurumayi taught me to chant, meditate, do japa, eat well, and honor myself. She awakened inner experiences that continue in my life even today. A woman once journeyed through a jungle to get to Bhagawan Nityananda and when she arrived he threw a piece of fruit at her head. That was the only time she ever saw him, and reported many years later that after that event and the processing of the accompanying anger, she fell into bliss on a daily basis for the rest of her life. A saint or an abusive exhibitionist? Isn't it all in our perceptions? I love you all and want you to be happy. I moved on from my childhood religion with anger at first, but it was Siddha Yoga that encouraged me to be grateful for what it gave me and not hang on to the toxic anger. Many friends and family members still practice the religion of my childhood, and I celebrate their path. I am delighted that people I love find peace and joy in a spiritual path whether or not I feel the same about it as they. I was angry about my childhood religion for many years, but finally realized the anger was making me physically, emotionally, and spiritually ill. I could have chosen to stay in anger, but didn't. You may feel you need to take actions to right what you feel has been wronged. As you do what you need to do, say what you need to say, express what you need to express, and make right however you feel wronged, please remember to love YOU. You are the one who matters. YOU are the being of light you are seeking. YOU are the hero of your own life. And while you are expressing feelings of anger, please be careful. Gurumayi's body is not being affected by them. Your body is. I love you.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

OMG!!!

SeekHer, did you just punk us?

;)

SeekHer said...

Dear March 8th 10:46 Anon:

Yup, you will likely hear from others here about your comment. I don't take offense at anything you've said, even while not agreeing with all of it. For me, your most interesting remark was that, having found yourself without the social supports of Siddha Yoga, e.g. amrit and celebrations and feasts and the like, that you finally turned to the practices in earnest. I lived not far from Shree Muktananda ashram and had a lively local center, so for many years my practice was probably 80% social/seva/satsang and 20% private devotions. I meditated regularly, but never consistently every day. I did chant a lot, in groups and the GG alone, although I can't imagine doing the latter now. I wonder what it would have been like if, during the time that GM went missing, I had chosen the inner-guru path--but I'll never know as I chose instead to initiate the maha-act of self-inquiry that is this blog and which led me to question too much of what happened and what I had been taught about the guru-disciple relationship to find refuge in the inner-guru.

Still, I'm fascinated by the experience of people who have chosen to walk that path. I'm both attracted to and very wary of the see-god-within-you optimism your comment brims with. The attraction lies in the realization that one of the fall-outs of disenchantment is that it is very hard to give oneself whole-heartedly to any spiritual endeavor again. At least I find that to be so, and life without a spiritual dimension has always seemed terribly anemic to me. There are things I learned in SY that seem to me to be good and useful antidotes to some of the more pernicious aspects of our tech-driven society. Perhaps I'll write more about that on this blog; haven't made my mind up yet.

FREE AT LAST-- thank you for sharing these 'sightings'. I'm actually truly surprised by them, but I don't know why that would be so. It does sadden me, though, because so many write here looking for just this sort of information --just a glimpse to know GM is still around--and it's clear that they are not getting such reassurances from SYDA or their local center leadership. What a strange, truncated path this has become; one that strands many many sincere seekers by the wayside and keeps them in a kind of limbo while a chosen few who are willing to commit months of their time in full-time seva are--perhaps--able to spend a few moments in GM's presence (although, as your comment makes clear, even that is not a sure thing.)

SeekHer said...

OH and no! no punking I swear! And comments that appear as deleted are duplicates posted by people who haven't figured out posting system--so no conspiracy theories about anyone's voice being censored.

Anonymous said...

“I put the mic down and stood on the stage. I put my hands in namaste, closed my eyes, and said a prayer. ‘Gurumayi, I need some serious help. If you are who they say you are, I need all of that.’ I bent over into Uttanasana, put my hands on the stage, and started pressing up both legs into a handstand. It was like someone took a blanket, wrapped it around me, and lifted me up. I was upside down looking at my hands on the uneven carpeted stage. I stuck the handstand. I wasn't even trying. I opened my legs up and threw them into Padmasana in a handstand. Perfect . . .

I jumped off the stage and went over to Gurumayi and pranamed. I knew that was the first tangible grace I had ever experienced. I had read about grace in books for years and thought I understood the concept, but I believed grace was something someone might not experience in their lifetime. I experienced it there. It was very tangible. From then on I felt connected to her.”

Thank you, Free at Last, for posting the above from John Friend.

The excerpt reminds me that so much of what I believed was “prayer” back when I was devotee was actually just juvenile wishes and finger crossing, driven by my then child-like desire to “believe.” And, for whatever reasons, GM did seem to have the ability to grant wishes. There was often a fairly tangible instant reaction to taking a hit of her magic wish pipe, or so it seemed. And those instant hits fed, and fed off of, our deep need to believe she was real.

Looking back – and this has nothing to do with Friend; reflecting on my own experience here, his just happens to trigger memoires of my nearly-forgotten devotee mindset – the notion that you would internally beg another human being to, for example, help you do a handstand in front of an audience, says so much.

Today it strikes me as naïve, and sad.

What good came to the world as a result of all that begging and wish granting? What good came from all that magical thinking?

In my own life the only thing I can say for sure is that my participation in SY bought me a little time and helped me postpone facing myself and my life.

Once I finally started facing myself, I was also able to start facing SY -- for what it really was.

Once I was no longer hiding from who I was, the truth about SY became glaringly apparent. It hurt, for sure. But there was no way to avoid facing up forever, at least not for me.

Best to all,
Lucid


Oh yeah, and p.s., since I've been chiming in a bit more regularly as of late I spose it's time I put my handle back in. Just trying to help keep things straight. ;)

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous from March 8, 2012 10:46 PM

There is a lot that could be said about your post - it reminds me of a few previous discussions (on this blog & the Salon.com blog after Eat, Pray, Love). It seems that sometimes people chime in to say something like "Don't feel so angry, get over it" & to give a whole lot of advice on acceptance, gratitude and so forth. I think in John Friend's case, it is too soon to forgive and forget everything, for sure. He hasn't even admitted to most of it, and is back to covering things up.

So for many reasons, your post doesn't sit very well with me, even though you say you only wish us love. I don't think anybody here is stuck in anger and needs to move on. I think we are all exactly where we need to be right now to process things. At some times in life, anger is a important tool to get yourself moved out of a situation that is harmful to you. I have appreciated people here calling a spade a spade.

You said:

"I don't walk in Gurumayi's shoes, and I don't judge. I don't throw stones at John Friend because I have made huge mistakes in my life and been forgiven. Did he ever claim to be a saint? I don't think so. I think he only ever claimed to be an accomplished Hatha Yoga teacher who loves life. We are all just people here."

Well, in GM's case, of course, we were clearly told to see her as a saint, and God-incarnate which made it so hard to see the dark underside of her behavior. That was the whole point of having a "living guru" as we were chanting it in the Guru Gita.

I also strongly disagree that John Friend only saw himself as a Hatha Yoga teacher. In reality, as all the confessions show that are coming out now, he was the dictator orchestrating a reign of terror on anyone who dared to disagree with him. It was pretty Orwellian, as in 1984, spying on people online, canceling their workshops if they didn't "cooperate", as Amy Ippoliti reported, a zillion other things that all point in the same direction: He saw himself as the undisputed king of his self-created universe, and he had accumulated a lot of power to enforce his wishes and whims.

John Friend’s transgressions are not limited to craving sex “in his private life” as some people have said. He was a public figure and took advantage of all the power that came with it. So when some of the teachers & commenters ask to protect his privacy and not to judge him for what he did in his "private life", it sounds very misguided to me. We need full accountability here!!!
I also think for many of the women who were intimately involved with him, in whatever way, it will be very hard to come out into the open. They will fear getting blamed, and they probably feel embarrassed or ashamed already for having gone along with Friend’s power play in this way. Even if it was grown women, and supposedly consential activity, the power balance here was obviously heavily tilted in the direction of the boss.

More to come in the next post -

Free at Last

Anonymous said...

Dear Seekher & Lucid,

This is so fun for me to hear your voices & be in an active online group with you! This is actually the first time for me to speak up on a blog like this - after devouring every word on them for some months.

It has only been 11 months since my departure from SY, so it is all still pretty fresh for me. In the period when I was really making up my mind, I read many of Lucid's contributions here and on other sites. They rang a bell & resonated much more with me than the voices who seemed to be so desperately determined to defend SY at all costs.

It helped me get out of the fog & leave behind the "devotee mindset" as you call it.

It has been important for me to read all your contemplations, to create the vocabulary to thrive post-SY, after having jumped over, onto the other side of the fence.

Free At Last

PS: I like it out here, on the wild side...

Anonymous said...

Free At Last & SeekHer,

Much to say to you both.

Please give me time.

Best,
Lucid

Anonymous said...

John Friend succumbing to money power and sex is juicy news, but not surprising. I could see it in the little twerps eyes back when. Just waiting his big chance. Nobody calling themselves yogi or yogini, I'm looking at you Naomi, holier than anyone else. Get over yourselves! Yoga is no big deal. Sitting with an elderly relative would do you much more good! A U M

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say I appreciated everybody sharing their thoughts on this site. I was at the outer periphery of Anusara, steadily drawing in to the cultish mentality as my yoga teacher started making stronger connections with members of the Anusara inner circle.

I witnessed a change. I saw my teacher develop some of the same controlling behaviors and arbitrary favoritism that keeps underlings desperate for approval.

I am quite grateful Anusara imploded when it did. I would like to think I would have had the self respect to leave an unhealthy situation, but I don't really know.

Reading your stories has started to clarify for me what was happening.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

So it would seem that Anusara yoga in fact turned out to be just one more apple that fell right next to the roots of the SY tree.

How different might life have been had SY and anything like it been avoided altogether 30+ years ago.

Anonymous said...

I hear you Anon at 2:14. Siddha Yoga and it's spawn Anusara yoga are not organic paths. They are vehicles to make money! And wow John Friend you raked it in.

Here's a clue to figure out a false path. If the leader insists everything is all "love snd light" RUN! Only the naive believe such things. Life is also sour and bitter. Attempting a diet of all sweet will distort you, incapacitate you for reality. Wake up! Walk out. You do not need thse charlatans! Anusara are a big bunch of phonies. Wanna get fit? Try a gym. Wanna be a better person? Practice being kind to your own families.

When did these Anusara teachers decide they were qualified to preach ancient wisdom? They don't know shit!

Anonymous said...

The EST/Landmark leader brought Muktananda to the US. Large Awareness Training pyramid scheme is the acorn to this tree.

Anonymous said...

The week before the Anusara scandal hit the headlines I had just finished the Dalai Lama’s latest, “Beyond Religion.” I haven’t been much one for “spiritual books” or leaders in recent years – post-SY it’s taken a long time to redevelop the stomach for it. But the timing felt right and the title intrigued me, especially given the author, and I was pleasantly surprised to find BR refreshing, and relevant. The Dalai Lama is nearly 80 and still re-thinking all this stuff – in what to me feels like progressive ways that evolve the conversation. His impish humor and grounded voice struck me as coming from someone very much in “the world” – that place in which we all, like it or not, reside, that place that was so often chided by you know who.

The over-arching message of BR is that we’ve reached a point in time where the world is so big and old that ethical behavior is now far more important than spiritual practice or religious belief. That struck me as a gutsy, exciting point for someone in the Dalai Lama's position to make. And geesh, the John Friend headlines certainly drive that point home!


This review snippet from the LA Times captures it better:

As he steps down as leader of Tibet, the perpetually smiling monk in saffron and burgundy robes makes in "Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World" what some may regard as a heretical pronouncement: You don't need religion to lead a happy and ethical life.

Amid the clash of global, multicultural societies and religious values today, he argues in his new book that what is more important is "an approach to ethics which makes no recourse to religion and can be equally accessible to those with faith and those without; a secular ethics."

A metaphor the Dalai Lama likes to use goes like this: The difference between ethics and religion is like the difference between water and tea. Ethics without religious content is water, a critical requirement for health and survival. Ethics grounded in religion is tea, a nutritious and aromatic blend of water, tea leaves, spices, sugar and, in Tibet, a pinch of salt.

"But however the tea is prepared, the primary ingredient is always water," he says. "While we can live without tea, we can't live without water. Likewise, we are born free of religion, but we are not born free of the need for compassion."

This is anything but a book denouncing faith. But some readers, particularly those with strong religious beliefs, are bound to find the Dalai Lama's argument troubling. Even the power of prayer has dissipated in his eyes. "In fact, I consider prayer to be of immense psychological benefit," he says. "But we must accept that its tangible results are often hard to see. When it comes to obtaining certain, direct results, it is clear that prayer cannot match the achievements of, for instance, modern science."

http://articles.latimes.com/2011/dec/21/entertainment/la-et-book-20111221

Anonymous said...

Free At Last,

It always takes me by surprise to be made aware that someone has spent time reading, let alone connecting with, anything I’ve written here. I don’t know why that is so, given that I read and connect with others all the time. That’s what compels me to write in the first place!

The direct recognition that someone else is actually “listening” is an intimate reminder that it is indeed possible to feel resonance here, despite the screens and relative anonymity walling us all off from each other. As someone, I believe Sadhvi, once said, the connections felt on this blog are stronger than any I ever felt as part of the “SY community” – if only we’d known each other then! ;)

FAL, your note is a welcome, touching reminder that forums like this – and Hats off to you, SeekHer, for keeping your foot on the gas – while less and less active over time, still continue to allow many of us to connect the dots for each other, in ways we’re often not even aware of.

For me, as someone with an often too-tender-antennae, writing is a very healing and safe form of expression. If I can see my thoughts written out in front of me – and those of others too – I can understand and deal with what I’m feeling so much better. I have been moved, reassured, intrigued, fired up and yes even enlightened on many occasions by what I’ve read here here, so I want to thank you, FAL, for speaking up, your contributions above and those to come.

You said Hello so I just wanted to say Hello, too. More to come . . .

In the meantime, Welcome to the Wild Side.

Best,
Lucid

Anonymous said...

Part I - looks like through some glitch it didn't make it onto the blog

Thank you for getting us clued into the Anusara John Friend controversy! I was hoping I could discuss this with people who are interested in the similarities to SY which I personally think are blatant and eerie. I think it is very relevant for anyone who has made the journey out of SY. There are some gems here, tuning into the Anusara community handles this.

I just left SY less than a year ago, after coming across all the information online. It was quite a blow to my universe, after 15 years of being totally devoted to it! So researching the AY discussion has helped me deal with my own transition into freedom.

I agree with the last post from March 6 - there is an unbroken lineage here, of rampant power abuse like in SY! A long, well-documented article in the New York Times from 2010 already points to all the signs on the wall. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/25/magazine/25Yoga-t.html?pagewanted=all " From the leader of the Ganeshpuri ashram, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda — no stranger herself to American celebrity — Friend learned how to give intimate, inspirational talks to crowds of thousands. "

Re: Anonymous' question from March 5:
"Are there people in the Anusara community careening down from their mountain poses over this news, devastated? Or is it less of a blow because Friend was not “a guru” and didn’t hold their salvation in his hands?"

--> From everything I have been reading, on the websites of Certified AS teachers and the comment sections after articles, there is a huge group of people affected by this scandal! AY is said to have about 200,000 students worldwide, teachers & dedicated AY practitioners. They now all have to reconsider their affiliation with their previously unimpeachable leader. Many AS teachers built their livelihood on the brand, & spent at least $10,000 and many many hours to become a Certified AS Teacher. Check out Bernadette's blog http://bernadettebirney.com/2012/02/friends-weigh-in.html with some good links to relevant articles. Her other posts on that blog also give good insights into how much the AY community is reeling from this.

In many ways, Ansura Inc. is like a sister corporation to SY (even though until 10 days ago, it always looked much more worldly & harmless to me): It grew out of SY, Gurumayi helped John Friend become famous. One ex-SY blogger mentions that they both profited from each other: John Friend helped grow the Hatha Yoga department and attracted other Hatha Yoga teachers to SMA in the 90ies. And in return, many of his AY students came from the ranks of Siddha Yogis.

"Anusara' means "Flowing with Grace". From Wikipedia:
"The Anusara Invocation" is a sanskrit mantra, beginning with Om Namah Shivaya, which Friend states he received from Gurumayi Chidvilasananda.[5] All Anusara Yoga classes begin with three chants of om, followed by three rounds of the Invocation, and concluding with one final om. The mantra's lyrics are:
"Om Namah Shivaya Gurave (Hail to Shiva, the Teacher)
Sacchidananda-Murtaye (Whose Form is Truth, Consciousness and Bliss)
Nishprapanchaya Shantaya (The Singular One, the Peaceful One)
Niralambaya Tejase''(The Self-supported One, the Lustrous One)
The same mantra is known as the "Siddha Yoga mantra" {...}

I tried talking to several of my long-time AS teacher friends whom I've know from our local SY center. I didn't get very far with it - but it was a good exercise for me. The subject of the close parallels between the fall of Anusara's leader and SY is too dangerous a topic, it seems. An Inconvenient Truth, like Al Gore's movie, and a messy subject that they would rather not get into. I can't blame them, having just made the transition myself. It is a rocky journey, as you probably all know. I've had countless dreams, with my unconscious trying to come to terms with the shadow side of SYDA.

Free At Last

Anonymous said...

Hey helpers and friends, the long road out of Siddha Yoga was given serious and very real support by our host and writers here. I thank you so much. Newbies arriving, space is safe port for your solitary musings shared. Thank you Seekher for keeping this that kind of place.

Just catching up to unfolding Friend story. Jaw droppingly classic! So much to say! Poor Chidvilas cannot get a break. One of her success stories too.

I don't want to get too involved, because I have better things going on tyvm than thnking about Yoga Moguls! but Anusara and John friend's metoric rise is sure one helluva exanmple of The Long Tail phenomena. Jeepurs yes. $$$$$$$$$$$!

However this imho this story will get suppressed. BIG investors involved. Yoga for the 1%
1% Yoga
this story is a total lmfao.

Sorry this situation calls for vulgarity! ha, its mind bogglingly so typical. What an sss John Friend turned out to be! God damn!

Yeah real spiritual man. Holy hell you turn out to be a total JERK! HAHAHAHA!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Lucid, for the warm welcome to the online support universe! When I first started journeying into this world beyond SY, it was curious to realize how important those written shares were to me. All of a sudden, those were the people that I loved listening to & that were beacons of light for me.

The things that seemed so vitally important to illuminate, I couldn't freely discuss them with any of my long-time center friends who had been my main community for 12 years +. The local center had been my focus in many ways, socially & spiritually & for seva, since I had moved out of SMA in 1998.

I was re-reading some of the earlier entries & recognized "older but wiser", a pen name from many other posts I had read. Good name, certainly... I agree with you that "this blog is thankfully about a lot more than searching for the lost lady."!

Thank to Anon from 3/12, 2012 8:25 PM - great to hear the Dalai Lama's thoughts on this, & his emphasis on ethics versus religion. As you said, it sounds like he is still cutting edge. I can relate to "I haven’t been much one for “spiritual books” or leaders in recent years – post-SY it’s taken a long time to redevelop the stomach for it." It is great to see that Dalai Lama feels free to speak his mind on those topics, without mincing words. Maybe I'll even be up for checking it out myself ...

Anonymous said...

FAL et al,

re: "The things that seemed so vitally important to illuminate, I couldn't freely discuss them with any of my long-time center friends who had been my main community for 12 years +."

I have some thoughts on that, vis a vis a letter I sent to a friend who was stationed in Fallsburg during the celebrations held there last August, but not sure if anyone's still tuning into this stream? If so, I'll add here. If not I ‘spose I'll have to carefully tuck them in somewhere under JF's glorious gams.

Let me know, either way. I have my anti-bacterial wipes handy.

- Lucid

Anonymous said...

Go to the gams, Lucid. People do not know to look here as much. Inquiring mind wishes to know.

Anonymous said...

I think anyone interested in this would tune in to all 3 JF threads (well,I hope). I would guess that it fits in fine right here - it feels like a big part of this whole issue is the "us versus them" mentality inside a cult, and our attempts to communicate beyond the boundaries of ideology, be it AY or SY.

That is what the AY community is facing now, after so many assumptions were shattered for them, and the central control from Anusara Inc. headquarters has become very questionable.

Free At Last

Om Shanti, Blue said...

I have learned from experience that unethical sexual realtionships are, in my perspective, really abuses of power. When a man of power has an intimate relationship with a woman without as much power, there really is no "consensual" sex because of the layers and depth of deceit. This abuse of power is particularly damaging when the person of power is a spiritual teacher because the relationship is most often hidden, involves the core and height of a person, and is based on lies. IMHO.

I'm interested in this discussion because I don't want to experience that pain and, now that I have power, I don't want to cause pain. In that my intent is to be truthful, open, trustworthy and empathic. You know, self-aware!

Of course unethical behavior is not over represented in the spiritual community. A cobra is a cobra on the road and in the bush. The article is skewed for material gain and is based on a book recently published about such things. That's what additional I have to say in this blog stream with bloggers who share a unique common experience with me.

Om Shant, Blue