Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Board

I no longer remember why I did it.

I suppose it was boredom or, perhaps, my natural inclination to put off the inevitable -- I had an entire day ahead of me devoted to studying constitutional law, property rights, contracts, or whatever subject was on tap for my upcoming law school finals. The first exam was three days away and I was having trouble getting started that morning.

It was December 2001. With finals complete, I'd be exactly halfway through law school. For whatever reason, though, I logged out of my email account that morning and instead of getting up and walking out of the computer lab to start studying in the library, I Googled the term "Sri Chinmoy Ex-Disciple." From there, it took me just a few seconds to find the Board.

The "Board" is a Yahoo Groups message board, which had been set up by a disgruntled former disciple and which had quickly gained attention both inside and outside the Center for some of the salacious allegations posted there. I had heard, through the grapevine, that the Board existed, but had never taken a look myself.

Why hadn't I waited until after finals to look at it?

I have no good answer to that question, but I didn't. With three days to study for my first exam, I instead spent the next day and a half reading the nearly 1,000 messages on the Board and digesting the shocking allegations made there. Most of the posts were rants by people who, when identifiable, I didn't have a high opinion of, even when they had been in the Center. There were, however, two or three allegations by women who claimed that Guru had engaged in sexual misconduct with them when they had been disciples.

My head was spinning. I was so shocked by the allegations that I left the computer lab after reading all the messages, went to my bike, and rode home. There was no way that I could study; I couldn't concentrate on anything other than processing all of the information I had just taken in. That meant that I had to work quickly -- I couldn't blow my law school exams. That was not an option.

On my bike ride home, I quickly decided to focus my attention only upon the allegations of sexual misconduct, and not on the more numerous -- and in my view, less serious -- complaints of Guru's harshness or unfairness. That some ex-disciples were upset about the treatment they received from Guru was not surprising to me. The allegations that Guru was having sex was.

My next analytic decision was to consider only those posts on the Board that could be construed as direct evidence. Direct evidence in this case would be only those allegations made by people with direct knowledge (e.g., people who saw acts done or words spoken). In other words, I wasn't interested in the opinions and emotional outrage of others. I was just interested in the testimonials of the women allegedly involved.

To simplify matters further, I made one final decision: I would only consider what I deemed to be the most devastating of allegations. If I could come to grips with the worst allegation made against Guru, then I figured I wouldn't have to parse the others.

That allegation was made by Sevika.

The picture above is looking west along the San Diego River bike path, which I took home each day from school. Photo credit here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I had a similar experience. In February 2008 I was a fairly devoted disciple but I decided to just once go to "the site" and check out the "ridiculous claims". I went there, somehow found Sevika´s story among the many thousands (There is a section with "selected" messages) and I never looked back. I immediately believed what I read, and within hours or days I decided to leave the centre. I was deeply involved in the centre on many levels after decades of disciple-life, so decided to leave 11 months later. I lived with, worked with, and owned an enterprise with disciples. Step by step and in a surprisingly harmonious way I left the group. I ended up leaving 8 or 9 months after the decision was made.