Sunday, November 15, 2009

Outing

Have you heard of Oliver Sipple?

Oliver Sipple was a United States Marine and a decorated combat veteran of the Vietnam War. On September 22, 1975, he joined a large group of people gathered outside of a hotel in San Francisco waiting for then-President Gerald R. Ford, who was inside the hotel, to emerge.

As President Ford exited the hotel and headed for his limousine, Oliver Sipple noticed the woman standing next to him pull out a gun and point it towards the President. "The bitch has a gun," he screamed and instinctively grabbed the woman's arm as the shot rang out.

The shot went wide, wounding a bystander, and Oliver Sipple was feted as a hero. (His Wikipedia entry is here.)

Oliver Sipple also happened to be gay.

Thinking -- probably correctly -- that it would do the public some good to know that the man who had courageously saved the President's life was gay, pioneering gay activist (and later San Francisco Supervisor) Harvey Milk leaked Oliver Sipple's sexual orientation to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Although he had been active within San Francisco's gay community, Oliver Sipple was not "out" to his parents. The resulting newspaper article and media frenzy changed that. Oliver Sipple had been "outed."

While Harvey Milk's decision to out Oliver Sipple may have made sense in the abstract strategic sense as a way to advance the gay rights movement, it exacted a heavy personal toll on Mr. Sipple. He was estranged from his parents for years afterward and was exposed to stress and pressures that without doubt contributed to his early death at age 47.

As we -- the current and former disciples of Sri Chinmoy -- consider how to move forward in the coming weeks, months, and years, I hope we remember the story of Oliver Sipple. Ultimately, I'm not concerned with the Center as an organization.

I'm concerned with individuals.

I now know the names of more than a half dozen female disciples -- some of who move within the leadership of the Sri Chinmoy Center -- who were active participants in Guru's sex ring.

I have no intention of outing these women.

They've done nothing wrong. These women are victims, just like our other spiritual sisters Phulela, Sevika, Rupavati, Suchatula, Sundari, and Bihagee. They may not think of themselves as victims and may not want or need our help. But we should, nevertheless, stand ready to offer our collective hand of support should they ever ask.

We can't make such an offer in good faith, however, if in our zeal to make some larger point trample upon the very women we claim to support.

It's imperative that we create a safe and supportive environment. If we violate their privacy now -- if we out them preemptively -- we'll be creating anything but a safe and supportive environment for them. From our cloistered sisters' point of view, we'll be living up to the negative stereotype Guru long ago painted of former disciples as "hostile forces."

It's been tempting for me over the last few weeks to think that I know better.

Sitting on explosive information like the stories of Sundari and Bihagee -- revelation of which I thought would benefit the truth in the abstract and help others who are privately suffering similar pains -- was difficult and try as I might, I overstepped my bounds with Sundari and Bihagee a little, adding stress to their lives at a time when they least needed it.

All has worked out now, with their brave public disclosures, but the process has given me pause.

Let's remember, together, that the path of self-development is ultimately an individual one. We can't force our sister disciples to do more than they themselves are willing to do.

If this blog is going to morph into something other than my own memoir -- as it has apparently already -- then it must be about facilitating the further development of each one of us through dialog, understanding and sympathy.

It will do no good to expose the truth for truth's sake if in the process we destroy the well being of those we claim to support.

In this regard, let's remember Oliver Sipple and always strive to temper our zeal for the truth with sympathy for our brothers and sisters still in the Center, many of who are struggling with these issues for the very first time.

Let's not trample upon their opportunity to stand up for themselves in the name of some abstract principle.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

The wilder the allegations the more implausible they become. It,s like a conspiracy. One friend rings up another. and like brainless sheep they fall into lockstep.
The accusations dont match the man, his manifestation and his ever transcending consciouness.
I was in the centre for years, i would,nt put anything anything disciples..
The more extreme the accusations the more ridiculous they seem.

Y. said...

How exactly does that work, mate?

Suchatula: Hi, Sundari? No, wait, don't hang up. I know I you're not supposed to talk to ex-disciples, but I have this great idea!

Sundari: Really! What is it? Because I've been in the Center for 37 years, I have great friends, a job I love ... what's your idea!?!

Suchatula: Well, I was thinking you should secretly tell your center leader that you were having sex with Guru for more than a decade and see what happens!

Sundari: ZOMG!! That's an excellent idea!

Bihagee: Hey Sundari, who are you talking to?

Sundari: Your old BFF, Suchatula...

Bihagee: But she's an ex-disciple, we're not supposed to talk to her!!

Sundari: I know, but she has a really good idea, let me tell you about it......

Niklas said...

Yogalog, you are the voice of reason incarnate. You are right. Your posting said it so eloquently. If your (our) aim is to get to some truth about what has happened then we need to keep this space as safe as possible, so that others would willingly want to share their stories. The truth itself wants to be told and understood and felt. Why? Because when the truth is told there's power and authenticity, and it simply feels good to let it be known however scary or threatening the truth might seem to someone.

Buddy, you are a lawyer's lawyer. Hat's off. Let's not descend into what I see coming at us from many of the "Anonymous" posters. Reason will prevail, the truth will be known, feelings will be felt.

The truth will be known. It yearns for recognition.

Love and Peace to all,

Niklas aka Nimagna
Seattle/San Jose/Santa Cruz
nandersson@sbcglobal.net

PS Could any injured parties sue the SC Church?
What are your thoughts on this?

Anonymous said...

Or, "Gee, let's see. I've been a loyal and loving disciple for 20 or 30 years, but now I'm getting really tired of all these functions and Joy Days. Yeah, frankly, I'm BORED out of my skull.
What to do? Hmmmmm, let's see.
I got it!! I'll try to destroy Guru's totally wonderful World Wide Mission and grass roots effort to feed starving humnanity by saying that I had sex with him, and just to make the story even MORE damaging, I think I'll throw in a leetle bit about Guru asking me to have sex in front of him with another "good girl" disciple and say that Guru says it's not sex, but rather, entertainment.

Yeah, what the H*ll. I've got nothing better to do after all.
And besides, Guru hadn't been paying all that much attention to me before he decided to take that last minute "mahasamadhi" of his.
"

Er, I dun thin sew, Loosie!!

Sri Sri Desi Arnaz aka Deano ('70-'80)

Anonymous said...

A book on Spiritual Healing written by a respected master states that if one acquires the power of healing through grace or aspiration, then one's motives must remain completely selfless and pure regarding that power. He states that if selfishness enters into it, in the form of a desire for notoriety, power or material gain, then the power will, by divine law dissipate or be lost completely,

If this is true about the power of spiritual healing, then how much more must it be so for God-realization and spiritual unfoldment in general.

If you believe these girls' testimonies, as I do, then it boggles the imagination to believe that somehow Sri Chinmoy could have been a God-realized master and at the same time carry on such massive deception, such grossly, unimagineably selfish activities, at the huge expense of others.

While I don't deny that Sri Chinmoy had some type of real, almost tangeable powers, especially earlier on in his manifestation, I personally felt a waning of these siddhis, or whatever one calls them throughout the 90s and after.

It is downright sad to me that if one believes that these secret activities took place, the same person could still hold on to the belief that CKG was a God-realized master.

Y. said...

@ Nick: Thanks for the kind words and for your contribution; it adds a lot to the discussion.

Permit me to hold off on the legal question you raise. I think it deserves something more than an off hand comment and I'll try to address some of these issues in a forthcoming post.

In the meantime, perhaps we can goad "Legal Eagle" into another comment. I liked his/her last one and hope to address the issues he/she raised, too.

@ Anonymous 7:49: Thanks for reading and for the post.

Viddyut said...

Right on point Yogaloy. Its a fine line between revealing the truth and destroying the lives of many. How to tread that path is hard to know. Let us all be guided with wisdom.

And I agree with what you say, 'Ultimately, I'm not concerned with the Center as an organization. I'm concerned with individuals.'

And disciples have to learn to see themselves as individuals as well. Not just as a collective.

Celia said...

True to both Y & V.
I feel the centre has dealt poorly with all that has come forward. Instead of trying to deal with it rationally it has retaliated with an attack on those of us who have come out. Now anyone who says anything in our favor is considered hostile and is given an ultimatum. On hearing that two of the SF disciples started a campaign against us and that Bihagee received a call as a direct result of that telling her that I am a hostile force and that she should not talk to me, made me incredibly angry. So angry to the point that Yes, as they said I began to get hostile. I wanted to out everyone involved. When I first spoke out. It was not my intention to hurt anyone. I just wanted to tell what happened to me. I should have been ready for an attack against me but I was not speaking out in anger and did not expect anyone to attack me. Dealing with the centre and trying to have them deal back with us in a civil manor and not getting that from them had pushed me farther than I ever intended to go.
I do not think it is right to "out" anyone. I feel many of the girl that are or were involved have suffer at some point along the way. Many have been in the centre so long that they know no other way. It took me two painful years to extricate myself from the hold ckg held on me and to make the sad and painful choice to walk away from all the people I grew up with and loved dearly. I do not want to fight against the centre or to try to convince anyone that I am right and they are wrong. Ckg made us all believe that to be a good disciple means to stand by your master no matter what, no questioning him, just complete faith. His way of dealing with the truth was to stop anyone from talking by cutting them off from the centre completely. That is all the centre knows. They have been taught well.
I do not think they realise that by doing that they are only hurting themselves. By attacking the abused and trying to turn us into the culprits they have only made everything infinitely worse than it should have or could have been. It just gets more and more painful. They should not continue to hurt us after we have already suffered so much.
I also believe that we need a safe haven for those to come to if they wish to come out on their own.
The truth is out that is all that I ever wanted.
Thank You Joe (Yoagloy) and everyone who has and is supporting us. It is a painful rocky road and we could not do it without all of you.

Ian (Syandan) said...

This latest message of yours is an inspiration Yogaloy. It is all I have ever been interested in - giving support to the abused and being here for any other disciples who recognise the truth and request assistance in dealing with the trauma of leaving the group. Celia, there have been many, many ex-disciples who have given support to the first 3 women who revealed their truths in 2001 and who were mercilessly harassed by members of the centre as a result. I am one of them. The Yahoo Sri Chinmoy Information forum was a huge thorn in Guru's side and he orchestrated some quite vicious attempts to have it shut down. I got some much needed help from a "legal eagle" in America who drafted the legal letter I sent to Guru and the disciples who were leading these attacks. Guru had broken two laws in Queensland and could have been prosecuted - those laws relate to intimidation and attempted blackmail. However, the tone and content of your message Yogaloy, gives me hope that down the track, it may in fact be possible for all of us to become a family again. If the Sri Chinmoy Centre can find a way to deal appropriately with the situation and become an all-embracing spiritual refuge, not separating itself into an enclave of fear and defensiveness, allowing open communication between disciples and ex-disciples, in a spirit of kindness, it could be a wonderful world.

My deepest love and support for the latest victims to "come out". I knew Sundari well. She and Sevika were the first disciples I met when a group of the first Australian disciples went to America in 1974.

Ian (formerly Syandan)

sunirmalya said...

i believe that being right is an attitude of the ego and being loving an attitude of God.

Who is right will never be ascertained to the satisfaction of everyone because every single one of us thinks we are right even though most of us have differing views.

Our ego wants everyone to come to our view but it is not what this is all about.

Gore Vidal said it beautifully when he said we could all have world peace tomorrow if everyone would just listen to me.

The real measure of us is how many souls (rocks, plants, animals, humans etc) we divinely love with the fewest conditions. Our anger or hate obviously diminishes that capacity.

i think we will judge ourselves not by whether we were right, but how we loved through all this.

Just as Y and V have said, i personally dont care whether the centre stays or goes, and if the disciples are happy staying than that's great. I personally think that when the time is right for them they will find their own ways out if they need to, but if they are loving and having a great time in the centre and are oblivious to these events than i dont believe we should force them to know.

Yogaloy, your Oliver Sipple story is perfect in this regard. i made the mistake already of telling some ex-disciples what i thought they knew and completely freaked them out to the point where they now see me as hostile.

So it's all fun. But you are so wise Y - just let the universe line these things up in its own time.

sunirmalya said...

Sorry Syandan, i missed your comment, lots of love and peace dear brother (get on facebook)

Anonymous said...

When reading the blog of someone who writes on spiritual subjects, I found the link to this blog. Coincidentally, I have a loose connection to a topic that is being discussed here.

Basically, my family had a close friend who was an investigative journalist with a prestigious newspaper that I prefer not to name. He was negatively inclined towards spiritual groups in general and it was once or twice a dinner table conversation when he was over for dinner.

He commented once that his paper had spent much time investigating Sri Chinmoy (and two other church leaders) on the charges being discussed here with the intention of writing an expose. He told us that in the case of Sri Chinmoy they simply found the charges to be false: the findings on two of the women who had made charges against Sri Chinmoy in particular, was that their reliability was highly questionable.

I have no vested interest in this issue per se and am only reporting what I was told. I have always wondered why if the charges are true, legal cases were never pursued - after all, it can be lucrative.

What I really look for when visiting sites such as this with a promising name: Abode of Yoga, is inspiration and encouragement in my own spiritual pursuits.

I am somewhat sad that this site seems to be the opposite of Abode of Yoga and seems instead to be an abode of hearsay and gossip or worse. Perhaps the site could be renamed to more accurately depict what it seems to be focusing on and it's not Yoga.

Y. said...

"Hearsay and gossip," you say, as you anonymously pass on the second hand statements of an anonymous investigative journalist with an unnamed paper.

Ironic.

I'm sorry you're sad, but remember the saying of Sri Aurobindo that accompanies this blog: "All life is Yoga." All life. Not just the happy times. Yoga is not rainbows and unicorns.

Y. said...

Here's an interesting article on the topic of outing in Washington Post regarding closeted gay priests who speak out against homosexuality.