Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Organizational Chemo

Have you ever heard of the Alipore bomb case?

On April 30, 1908, two Indian revolutionaries tried to kill a British magistrate known for handing down harsh sentences against other freedom fighters. They missed their target. The bomb they threw landed in the wrong carriage, killing the wife and daughter of an English barrister.

Within just a couple of days, the British arrested 33 suspects, including the suspected ring leader, Aurobindo Ghosh. Aurobindo, who was educated at King's College, Cambridge University, retained the pro bono services of the hitherto unknown defense lawyer Chittaranjan Das.

C.R. Das, pictured, faced an uphill battle. The trial lasted a year, included more than 200 witnesses, and more than 5,000 exhibits. On top of it all, he had a client who was his intellectual equal.

You might think that having a smart client would be an asset to the trial lawyer. Oftentimes, however, the client thinks he knows best and can't resist being a backseat driver at the trial -- scribbling notes to the lawyer, dictating trial tactics.

During the Alipore bomb case trial, Sri Aurobindo had trouble fighting the urge to feed notes to C.R. Das and to suggest strategy. Then he received a "command from within" telling him to, in essence, let his lawyer do his job.

In the end, 17 of 36 defendants were acquitted, including Sri Aurobindo. (Sri Aurobindo's younger brother, Barindra, was one of two found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. Their sentences were later commuted to life, and in 1920 they both received amnesty.)

C.R. Das went on to become a leading figure in the independence movement of India. But before we leave his story, let me suggest that C.R. Das was the best kind of lawyer. He wasn't a tool for his client's whim.

He didn't restrict his advice to good news. He wasn't a yes man.

I think it's safe to say that C.R. Das told his clients what they needed to hear, not what they wanted to hear. That's what a good lawyer does.

The client never likes to hear bad news, but it's often the only medicine that will help.

So it is with the Center.

The Center as an organization faces a threat to its existence that is not of its making. It is suffering from a late stage organizational cancer that can only be cured by radical action -- action that I fear the Center's leadership would rather not hear about, much less consider.

The outlines of this action have already been put forth in this excellent comment by reader "Legal Eagle." I don't know who "Legal Eagle" is, but at the heart of his or her advice is this: the need for an independent investigation.

Like it or not, that's the only course of action that can save the Center as an organization.

To be precise, it's the only voluntary action the leadership of the Center can take. There are, of course, involuntary possibilities.

It is, I suspect, only a matter of time before a major media outlet takes an interest in this story. Imagine, for example, if any of these individuals take an interest in the sordid events that have been revealed over the last few weeks. Although indirect, the ensuing publicity nightmare would force unpredictable changes upon the Center.

Likewise -- though I have no knowledge of any concrete plans by anyone in this regard -- I'd assess the likelihood of legal action over the near to mid-term as high. What a misfortune that would be for all involved. In this regard, let me make one thing clear to my friends in the Center.

Though I've been asked, I've advised nobody about litigation against the Center. Nor shall I do so. Though it's my profession, litigation is -- by its very nature -- a destructive path. It should be avoided at all costs.

I won't be a part of such an action.

I don't think I'm giving away any secret, however, when I say that despite its destructive nature, litigation is good at solving some types of problems, one of which is a corporate board of directors that doesn't follow formalities, that doesn't investigate reported wrongdoing, and that revokes the membership rights of its members without due process.

Nevertheless, the leadership of the Center should take heed. Voluntary reform is cheaper, it provides certainty, and it affords some measure of control. These are things that I expect the Center's corporate counsel already knows. In this case, corporate counsel's challenge is to convince the rest of the Center's board members of this.

Like all corporate counsel, however, it should never be forgotten that the duty of an organization's lawyer is always to the organization. Where the organization's interests diverge from the interests of the corporate counsel's fellow board members, the lawyer's duty is to the organization.

In this case, the Center is sick and only a neutral, independent quest for the truth will save it.


JEEVAN said...

Seems to me that a the center should move prudently to put their ducks in order in case this does get media attention. I understand the Disciple out look; that this is just a big dance of hostile forces and one should just look away. When I was in the center I would go to the library and read the anti-cult news letters. I was told that their darkness would infect me but I wanted to see how the enemy was thinking. No one would be happier than me to see Guru vindicated from all these accusations but if I was still in the Center I would surely want to know if Guru was guilty of these actions. An impartial 3rd party employed by the center leaders it seems is the way as Yogaloy has mentioned. People say bad things about Asrita and Ranjana and the other leaders but these are good people, amazing people who are not perfect, who are now finding themselves in a hell of a position. Cut them just a bit of slack.

sunirmalya said...

i agree with Yogaloy (as usual) and Jeevan, these are very good people, very, very good people. (Ashrita and Ranjana and all the rest)

The problem has arisen though, i am afraid, from telling what started as white lies, starting at the very top. There is a culture of hiding the truth from the disciples and it is seen as ok because that is what Guru has done from the start, from his relationship with Alo (we were all encouraged to lie) to where we are now.

This is the definition of a cult in my opinion, when the masters voice (or now, the board) has more power than the individuals conscience. It is also where fundamentalism starts and where the centre is going. Where truth is deliberately hidden for the apparent 'good' of the followers.

The culture is so embedded that really good people are lying as a part of the living of their spiritual lives. A court case is not the answer, but it is time that something so fundamental to spirituality, truth, is valued first.

I am flabbergasted and disgusted that some of my very best friends, some of my brothers, have not displayed the kahunas to leave. Sure, for most of them all of their respect, their self-worth, their finances, their entire past is built around maintaining the lies, but where is spirituality if there is no truth and only fear.

Anonymous said...


I don't really think it's going to blow like that. These allegations have been around since 2001. The media was given access and only the NY Post really picked-up on it. Nevertheless, their article comes up on internet searches. I think the cte is just trying to keep things as they were.

CKG dealt with the crisis then and now that he's dead the story has become yesterday's news. Of course disciples will continue to grow more aware of the injustice, harrassment and manipulation, not just by the Center but by CKG himself.

Because no one has as much faith in any members of the Cte. as they did in CKG, this will cause a slow degeneration of the group. It will just end-up in decay, not ending in a big bang.

It's a very sad story and I also wish that it wasn't true. Still I think it's better to be grounded in reality while trying to maintain a faith that goes beyond mere human failings.

Should the women be subjected to some kind of investigation? I disagree. It took courage to come out to talk about legal things which occured behind closed doors between consenting adults in the small hours of the morning. So it would always be he-said/she-said. Now that CKG is gone what right does anyone else have to dispute it? Enough women have come forward. Why should we harass the victims?


Anonymous said...

It's tough isn't it when you observe the ends justifying the means in an organisation? Sometimes a 'white' lie can protect people from hurt. And it is common for parents to filter the truth their children are given, in order to give them the best upbringing.

But surely those on a spiritual path wish to increasingly remove the filters through which they perceive life, in order to see things the way they actually are.

It must be hard for the SCC committee to formulate a strategy which simultaneously cares for members, doesn't run the risk of totally losing respect for CKG, yet is truthful.

Facing up to the truth - though difficult - causes something miraculous to happen. The ability to face the truth is one of the finest fruits of faith. One has to trust that something good will come of it.


Lynn said...

Jeevan, Chinmoy was able to sexually abuse because he had groomed some of the people closest to him to enable him (please read the testimonials on the sri_chinmoy_information site) One woman procured young women for Chinmoy and pressured them into participating in Chinmoy's sex games. Scooter, what happened to those women was not as you describe "legal things which occured behind closed doors between consenting adults" psychologically these women were in a situation of extreme power inequality, where they had been 'brainwashed' (I don't think that is too strong a word) to believe that obedience to Chinmoy was their duty. Ranjana and Ashrita enabled Chinmoy to carry out his abuse, and have treated these women cruelly with slander and lies. And complying with Joe's Coffee Shop Rules I have got in both of their faces over twenty years ago, once when Ashrita was particularly cruel to a friend of mine I stormed into the health food store and told him I didn't care who he thought he was working for, he had no right to treat people so cruelly.
If we continue to white wash what happened then you are allowing the cancer to remain and to grow once the whole scandal dies down. How can a spiritual group move forward when it has such darkness at its core. Lynn

Anonymous said...

I am not, nor have I ever been, a disciple. My interest here lies because my closest friend in the SCC. "J" has been on the Path for about 20 years. When I started to read up on the SCC recently, I just wanted to understand a little bit of what grabbed my very intelligent friend with such passion and devotion.

Imagine my surprise at what I've found. At the start, I was concerned for J because I was concerned J was involved in a cult, but J's answers reassured me that there was no tithing and no extraordinary financial demands. Indeed, J works at a full time job and has some outside interests aside from the Centre.

I have mentioned, in passing, some of what has been happening here to her. J has heard rumors, of course, but is very adamant that they do not want to know details and does not believe anyone whose made accusations. And this after one of J's closest friends was expelled by Ashrita after "coming out" and my friend cut off all conact. I dearly wish I could help J to accept what's happened

I'm no expert, but I believe J feels that CKG is a father figure for her (a relationship that has not changed since his passing). With all due respect, what he's done strikes me as taking advantage of a paternal relationship - very close to incest.

I wonder how long J can ignore the truth (or at least continue to deny it). My only hope is that, when the time inevitably comes and J must reconcile the reality, that J is strong enough to get through it, and that I can be here to help them.

It may sound strange coming from someone who was never on the Path, but I can understand the difficulty involved in accepting CKG as an imperfect, faulted avatar.

Thank you, Yogaloy, for providing this blog. You seem to me to be striving to provide a safe, evenhanded picture of what has gone on, and I have found it invaluable in following the procession of what's gone on.

J bases a great deal of their self image and self esteem with the Center, and I have no doubt that this revelation (if/when it happens) will come close to destroying her sense of self.

Thank you for all of the disciples and ex-pats who have chosen to share information. I, for one, find it invaluable. I dearly hope you will continue to do so.

Happy holidays and all wishes for a joyous, safe and happy New Year.

Go in peace and love.

Y. said...

Thanks for those very kind words and wishes. I appreciate them very much.

I truly hope that one day in the not to distant future your friend will come to realize just what a good friend she has in you.



Anonymous said...

Funny, you write, "C.R. Das told his clients what they needed to hear, not what they wanted to hear."
And that's almost exactly what a big Swiss bank for which I did some translation work until recently was saying. Something like "your wealth manager tells you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear", meaning the Bank tells the truth to the clients. Then that same bank was involved in the latest financial scandal, and now they don't communicate anymore, and, so far, I lost the job!!!

Anonymous said...

Come on, let's face it, the Centre leadership CANNOT acknowledge CKG's sexual involvement with several (at least) of his spiritual daughters because Chinmoy himself has written and spoken VERY CLEARLY on the fact (according to him at least) that one CANNOT become God-Realized unless he or she is absolutely celibate.

It seems the the World's Greatest Avatar (for "the next 500,000 years at least" according to CKG himself, and I was there in his living room when he made this claim) has put the Centre leadership between a rock and hard place and what choice do they have NOW but to continue to stonewall and DENY the all too obvious facts of Chinmoy's "lower vital activity."

Not good, not good.

For Chinmoy and the Centre leadership, that is, that's for SURE.

Swadhin Gary aka Deano

Anonymous said...

Isn't it ironical that those who are OUT of the Centre now know more than those who are INSIDE and who naturally believe that the truth is THEIRS?

Anonymous said...


Unfortunately the issue can't be reduced to the simplistic angle of Ranjana and Ashrita being "good" people. They may believe that they are doing good works by shielding CKG's behavioral patterns from the rest of us, and from history.

One poster at the other site testified years ago that she was fairly sure that R knew about CKG's sexual affairs, because she had overheard a hushed conversation between R and the head of the SF centre. Ashrita has been repeatedly heavy handed in carrying out the orders of his master.

Good people can do bad things when they believe it is right.

The brother of K**lash just wrote that K has known about everything, but has decided not to make any waves about it. I'm sure he's a good person too. This whole affair, with all the hurt people, the deceptions, the secrecy, involves many shades of gray. It's most definitely not a black and white reality.

Anonymous said...

Somehow folks i dont think all those decades of awesome manifestation is just going to suddenly blow away...Ckg,s manifestation effort was too massive and will withstand, i think, the potholes in the road that the centre car may encounter on its journey..

Y. said...

Lots of good comments and to all: Happy Thanksgiving (even if you're not in the U.S. and don't celebrate the holiday).

I'm thankful for all of you!

A number of commenters have suggested that the Center will not perish or implode, and will not follow the unsolicited advice in the post above.

The post wasn't meant to be necessarily predictive -- who knows what will happen. But all "those decades of awesome manifestation" are sitting on a rotten foundation. Anyone seriously interested in Sri Chinmoy's path in the future will, in all likelihood, come upon his Wikipedia page.

I know that, I for one, wouldn't have joined the path had I read of any controversy beforehand (and, I wouldn't have ever met any of you!).

So, the rot must be dealt with.

That said, I agree. The chances the Center will take the right path are slim. I just want to maximize the chances; I don't want to ever hear the leadership say they weren't told or had no clue.

@ Jeevan (and those reacting to him): I think there's general agreement: these are good people caught in a bad situation. And as we've learned from the video by Prof. Zimbardo, in bad situations most people cave -- very few stand up.

I don't think that explanation should excuse the behavior, but it should give us some pause, some humility, and some sympathy when thinking about our brothers and sisters in the Center.

@ Gary: Your comment reminded me of something and I ask everyone else if they remember the same thing.

I seem to remember reading -- maybe in Astrology, the Supernatural, and the Beyond or maybe in Kundalini: The Mother Power -- that some individuals aspire so powerfully that despite living "the worst type of vital life" they still realized God.

Does anyone else remember this? The point being that Guru certainly hedged his bets in this regard. Makes me think now that it was almost a wink to the camera of sorts.

@ Patricia: Yes, rare is the professional that is willing to tell their clients the bad news, and rarer still is the client that will accept and embrace it.

The common result of truth telling is unemployment!

Peace all.

Markus said...

I must say that for myself the question of legal action or anything along these lines does not seem that relevant or important. It is based on an idea of judgement and punishment that I believe--and truly hope--will soon (in a few hundred or thousand years?) belong to the past. (That's how I understand the new world described in posted by Stefan, and also described in one way or another by so many others in this time)
I really liked the comment of one poster that "SC does not need us to defend him" and I would add along these lines: "God (or the Truth) does not need us to judge SC"--or anyone else--the Truth will tend to itself.
Can we apply a consciousness here that Christ seemed to have during his capture, torturing and death? It seems he simply saw no need whatsoever to judge, punish or otherwise mistreat his captors--even in his mind. Isn't that a--admittedly completely different and probably extremely hard to obtain--consciousness worth striving for? Isn't this part of what we were ultimately striving for (in and out of the center?) Can we be completely serious about that?
It's easy to kind of put that to the side, in a case like Christ, by simply telling ourselves that he was (the only?!) son of God and therefore simply not bothered by these human considerations. But what if (at least part of him) was fully human? It seems to me that the story of the night previous to his capture where he prayed "father, let this cup pass" indicates as much. Imagine what strength and consciousnes it must have taken to then resist the temptation of judgment?!

So I think a different and even more difficult question is: Can we imagine a way how the essence of what SC and the disciples and the center represented can be carried out into the world without any denial of what was going on? How would you talk to an outsider about this? Also, and maybe this is the more important first step, can we (the ones outside and the ones INSIDE the center) recapture our brotherhood and sisterhood in a way that expresses our oneness, care and love for each other, and accepts the truth, pain and difficulty that each of us holds in her/his own way?
Is it possible that "the committee"--whatever that actually is, will eventually think about all of it in this way? Will they allow themselves to open up?
My feeling is that this is what is required: I see it more from an "inner" perspective. The light of the center is held tightly within these people and it is protected by this psychological wall of defense. This wall will need to break and come down; first, so that the light can spread out, second, because if it keeps being imprisoned in this way, it will eventually die!

Y. said...

For Guru's own retelling of the C.R. Das story check here.