Thursday, December 25, 2014
Thirty-four years ago, I became a disciple of the late Sri Chinmoy. My discipleship lasted nine years and they were some of the best years of my life and, without a doubt, the most significant.
This memoir is about that journey and the enduring effects it had on me as a man.
It's also about a number of troubling revelations of sexual misconduct by Sri Chinmoy, which have been made by an increasing number of his female disciples, and how those revelations have affected my understanding of my guru.
It's not all doom and gloom, and I'd argue none of it is. I've met some truly unique and special individuals during the course of my spiritual development. I hope to introduce you to some of them.
Most importantly, I want to give you a glimpse of my experience. I hope it will inspire other current and former disciples to write their own memoirs.
Together, I'd like to think that someday our collective stories will make up a mosaic that will give future seekers a complete and diverse picture of what it was actually like to be a disciple of Sri Chinmoy.
Below, you'll find a table of contents or you can always use the links on the left.
Thank you for reading.
Please don't hesitate to write me with questions, comments, criticisms or corrections at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to hear from you all.
1. A New Beginning.
2. A New York Goodbye.
3. Guru's Death.
II. Growing Up.
4. David Moretti.
5. Three Muskateers.
6. The Book.
7. Camp de Mar.
8. Shame as a Driving Force.
9. On to High School.
III. Searching for More.
10. The Seed Begins to Sprout.
12. The Last Straw.
IV. Early Days on the Path.
16. First Steps on the Path.
17. School Days.
18. A New York Dream.
20. New York at Last.
22. Tightening the Screws.
24. A New Leader.
25. Alo Devi.
26. Making the Grade.
27. April '83.
28. "Outer" Graduation.
V. Coming Into My Own.
31. Made Man.
32. God's Banner.
33. Back Home.
34. December 1983.
36. A New Year.
37. The Summer Games.
VI. Closer to New York.
40. The Gospel.
42. Rick Gets His Name.
43. My Worst Quality.
44. I Don't Get My Name.
45. I Get My Name.
46. I Become a New Yorker.
VII. Finally with the Master.
47. A Day in the Park.
48. Personal Mythology.
49. The 200 Pound Lift.
50. The 200 Mile Race.
51. Slowing Down for Context.
52. At the Gates of Trance.
54. The Call.
VIII. Reaching My Limits.
55. August Drama.
56. Doubting Thomas.
57. The Gates Open.
58. The Limits of Power.
59. Full Moon, New Moon.
60. The Year Ends.
IX. Cracks in the Armor.
62. The Saint.
63. Birthday Blessing.
65. Fight on the Block.
66. Peace Run '87.
67. Weight and Lifting.
68. Polishing the Rough Diamond.
X. Beginning of the End.
69. The Flame is Gone.
71. Lonely Winter.
72. Breaking Down.
74. New Ventures.
75. The Nurse.
XI. Running Away.
76. A New Goal Forms.
77. The Note.
78. Five-Year Reunion.
79. Planning (Part Deux).
82. Called Back.
83. The Sit Down.
XII. The Old College Try.
85. Shambhu's Offer.
86. Runnin' on Empty.
88. The Run Concludes.
89. Happy Birthday Mom!
90. Sport's Day '89.
91. Gaining Perspective.
XIII. Last Days.
92. Settling Back In.
93. La Petit Mort.
94. The Palladium, The Prostitute & The Palanquin.
95. Preparing to Leave for Good.
96. The Last Supper.
97. Bhima & Tejiyan.
XIV. Starting Over.
99. Starting Over.
100. Meeting My Better Half.
102. A Visit to New York.
103. A Plan Develops.
104. Delayed Entry Program.
XV. Joining the Navy.
107. In the Navy.
108. Navy Intelligence.
109. The Games Begin.
110. Class 187.
112. Life Begins Anew.
113. Looking Back.
114. My New Home.
115. Navy Chow.
116. Mail Call.
117. Alone at Sea.
118. Call from the Big House.
119. Home from Sea.
120. The End in Sight.
121. One Year!
XVI. Getting Schooled.
123. Into Balance.
125. Growing Family.
126. My Guru and His Disciple.
127. Lines of Communication.
XVII. The Last Test.
129. One L.
130. The Blue Lotus.
131. The Board.
132. In Memory: Sudhir.
133. The Truth.
134. Night Terrors.
135. Bryon Granmo.
137. Last Words.
138. Sudhir's Call.
140. My Hopes for the Center.
I. Taking Another Look.
141. More to Discuss.
142. The Golden Boy.
143. Zero Sum Game.
144. Cartwheels in a Sari (Part One).
145. Cartwheels in a Sari (Part Two).
146. Cartwheels in a Sari (Part Three).
149. Gaining Influence.
II. A Seeming Paradox.
153. Things Have Changed.
155. The Ethical Case.
156. Metaphysical Assumptions.
157. Sanyassa & Tyaga.
158. The Tantra.
159. Circling Back.
161. Neuroanatomy & Yoga.
162. Crying Wolf?
163. Soliciting Topics.
164. Unconditional Acceptance.
III. New Revelations.
165. Organizational Cancer.
166. Beauty -- A Guest Post by Sundari.
167. Bihagee - A Guest Post.
170. A Quick Link.
171. Outing, Part Deux.
172. Hear Me Roar.
173. Karen Armstrong on Compassion.
174. "Even enemies can show respect."
IV. Grateful Nevertheless.
175. Organizational Chemo.
176. An Instructive Example.
177. Living Without Magic.
178. The Anvil.
179. Bithika -- A Guest Post.
180. Suchatula -- Guest Post.
181. A Break with the Past.
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
I have tried many times over the past 5 years to write about my experiences in the Centre (aka Sri Chinmoy Centre), what happened to shatter my faith in CKG (aka Chinmoy Kumar Ghose or Sri Chinmoy) and why I finally left but I always got stuck on all the details. Here is my attempt at telling you my story.
I joined the Centre in December 1986. I was friends with Nirbachita and Jeevan, who are the sister and brother of Yogaloy. In August 1986, Liz went to New York for an August Celebrations to see what her brothers were doing. She heard about CKG and the Centre from them and thought she'd check it out for herself. Liz came back to California and told me all about CKG, the Centre and all the cool people she had met. Right from the start I believed everything she told me about CKG. She gave me a Transcendental Picture and a few books to introduce me to his teaching. We started to attend the meditation classes in Cupertino, where Giribar was the Centre leader. For the first year I was not sure if that was the direction I wanted to go with my life. I was only 18 years old and I had just finished high school and started my first year of college. The perfect time for Centre recruitment! In October 1987, I asked if I could move to San Francisco to join the Centre there because I wanted to take my "spiritual life" seriously. For the next 20 years my life belonged to Sri Chinmoy, Master of the Universe, Avatar of the Era.
My life in the Centre was a good one. I was happy. I went through my struggles like everyone else, but for the most part I was happy. I got in "trouble" a few times. Once, when I was 20 years old, for growing fond of a member of the opposite sex. Oh boy! CKG called me and gave me the ultimatum. Either I take my spiritual life seriously or I leave the Centre. He said that I still had my looks and that I would have no problem getting a boyfriend. I asked to stay because I felt that I was really blowing a great opportunity to be a disciple of this great master.
Sometime after I was put into the "Children Singers" group so that CKG could keep an eye on me. By that point, I was feeling so guilty for being weak and letting my vital get me into trouble with "God." Being in that singing group was an entire story of its own. Basically, we were supposed to be the excellent disciples, to set an example for others to follow. We were scolded often for "liking" boys, wanting a boyfriend, some for cutting their hair, or anything else that displeased him. I felt that we were constantly getting tossed back and forth between "you are a good girl" and "you are breaking my heart." I did not really notice the manipulation until after I had left the Centre. We were all so eager to please him ALL THE TIME that we did not think we were being manipulated. Many of the members of the singing group were in the Centre since they were very little children. They grew up in the Centre, hence the name Children Singers (aka "Paree's Group").
Things changed over the years. As the world opened up and the Eastern Block came into play with tons of new Centres opening around the world, CKG started to tighten up the ship. At the time, however, I did not know it was because of the stories starting to come out on the Internet. CKG got very strict with us.
On the Christmas trips, we were to stay near by the hotel function rooms so that if he wanted to dictate poems or songs we would be there to write them down. In my personal experience, if I wanted to do anything, then I had to ask his permission. In New York, we would have to be at the court to sing while he played tennis. When there was no longer a tennis court he would ride his little carts in circles and we would stand along the fence singing. It was the same with the weight lifting.
Anyway, you get the idea, plus most of you were there and saw how it was over the years. We were the lucky ones. The privileged singers who got to spend loads of time in the presence of our great Master. I truly loved my life in the Centre, I loved my Master, who I trusted with my life, and I loved my friends, who were my real family. I could have happily lived my life in the Centre if only...
Turns out CKG was just prepping his next generation of sex slaves. He had already had his way with the women of the generation before us and now it was our turn to receive his "Special Blessings."
In December 2006, the Centre Christmas trip was in Turkey and Bulgaria. I was excited to go because I was about to celebrate my 20-year anniversary in the Centre. I remember on the flight over I was thinking how it had been such a long journey. I had gone through so much personal growth and I felt very happy with the progress that I had made in my 20 years on the path. I was 38 years old, I was confident and I felt that I had finally quieted my vital and no longer had any desire for a physical relationship. I had felt I no longer needed that experience in my life. I could happily live my life as a celibate "nun." I had made my prasad offering of 20 items and I carried it all the way to Antalya, Turkey.
The afternoon that I was to celebrate my anniversary, I was in my hotel room and I heard a knock on my door. I opened it and it was a prominent disciple from the Ottawa Centre asking me where I had been. She looked nervous and anxious. I said I was in my room and asked what was going on? She said Guru was looking for me and I should go with her to her room so he could call me. Soon after we were in her room, Guru called and started asking me questions about my life. When he first asked me if I was ready to surrender I was nervous and afraid. He said if I was afraid then I was not ready to surrender. He got angry and hung up.
The next day I had to go to the same person’s room so CKG could call me again. He asked how many boyfriends I had before I joined the Centre and with how many did I have sex. Did they "penetrate" me? When he asked that question, it made my heart start to race. Again I got nervous. I thought he was going to ask me to marry someone and have kids, but he said he would never ask me to do that. I had heard many years before that Guru had given Govinda – one of the other young singers -- a great opportunity by asking her to tell him about her past boyfriends and he would take away all her impurities. So, I thought that this was what was now happening to me. I thought it would be foolish to blow this opportunity out of fear of the unknown. I told him I was ready to surrender.
Sri Chinmoy asked me to go up to his hotel room. I do not remember what time it was, but it was late. I took my shoes off outside his door and knocked. He answered the door wearing short-shorts and a white singlet. He said come in, come in. I followed him into his hotel suite. There was a bedroom and a living room. The phone rang and he told me to remain very quiet. It was Shikha, another disciple of his, and he did not want anyone knowing that I was there with him alone in his room.
Again CKG began to ask me questions. He asked me what I thought about him, how did I see him? I told him that I saw him as my father, as my friend and as my Supreme. He asked me to embrace him and to touch his feet, then he asked me to place my head on his feet. He was sitting on the couch in the living room. I was nervous because I had never touched him before. He had blessed me on the head once or twice, but I never touched him. I did not know what to expect. I guess I thought I would have an amazing experience but I did not feel anything. He asked me if I felt anything. I told him that I had always wanted to do that and he just chuckled. He asked me how many years I had been on the path. I told him 20. He said that because I had been on the path for 20 years, the Supreme had very special love for me and that this opportunity the Supreme did not give to everyone.
Sri Chinmoy told me that he wanted me to have sex with a woman.
It was the woman from Ottawa who had come to get me from my room earlier. He said it was not a "lesbian" thing. I was shocked and pretty damn freaked out. My body started to shake and my mind started to swirl. I was so nervous and afraid. I did not know what to do. I was not expecting those words to come out of his mouth. Woman or man it did not matter. We were supposed to be a celibate group. How could he ask me to have sex with anyone?
I said, I do not know how to have sex with a woman, hoping that was going to get me out of this situation. He said she would show me what to do. He called her up to his room and asked us both to remove our clothes. We were standing in front of him while he sat on the couch watching us. He told us to embrace. Then he had us get on the floor. She started to do "stuff" to me and she would say, "He likes it when we do this." Clearly, she was "experienced" in doing what he liked to see.
CKG then instructed me to go down on her. I was hesitant and he got mad at me and sternly said, "Do it!" I might as well have been stoned because my body was shaking so much and my head was spinning. I felt like I was on something. When your body takes on that much stress from your mind it puts you in a numb state. I started to kiss her stomach and I couldn't do it. I said, "This is not working for me." He said you do not like it? I said no, I do not like it. He told us to both go wash our hands and get dressed. CKG then asked the Canadian woman to leave.
Once she was gone, he concentrated on me and told me that my mind was so strong. He said that this was a special opportunity that the Supreme was giving me. At that point, I was so shocked and crushed, I did not want or need any "special opportunities" in my life.
After leaving his room, I just wanted to die. This was not happening. How could this be happening? I trusted him with my life.
I had to stop by the Canadian woman's room to pick up some things I had left there earlier. She wanted me to go in and talk. I was so pissed at her. I told her to give me my things. She told me that she did not like it either, but you just do it. I said, No! If you do not like it then you do not do it! I took my belongings and went back to my room and jumped in the shower. I desperately needed to wash her smell off of me.
The next morning she called me and again wanted to talk. I told her to never call me again. Right after I hung up, CKG called. He asked if I thought my guru was a bad man?
How could I answer that? After being in the Centre for so long and trusting him, I did not know what to think? I did not want to think. I put on my running shoes and went out the door. I had no money of my own and I was in foreign country. What the hell was I supposed to do? So many thoughts go through your mind. Luckily, I ran into Aruna. She was the one person who I was happy to see. Aruna was one of my dearest friends. I met her when she was 11 years old. I saw her grow up in the Centre. She was a baby when her parents joined. She never knew life without Guru. She had utter faith in him. I did not even think of telling her what happened. My life was turned upside down. How could I do the same to her? Plus CKG told me to never tell anyone what happened, especially Palash or one other person. What would happen to me if I started telling people what happened? Would I conveniently disappear? Would I accidentally end up falling over a balcony? I feared for my life.
Over the next few days my mind quieted down and I started to think that maybe I could do what he wanted me to do. It still made no sense, but I did not want to blow this opportunity if that was what it truly was. I started to think how could CKG be wrong? After so many years in the Centre, I figured I must be wrong and he must be right. I started to doubt myself. The next time CKG asked me into a private meeting, it was with him in his little room outside of the function hall. He said that my soul was so sad because the supreme was giving me this opportunity and I did not want it. He was talking in his quiet and sad voice. I told him that my mind had quieted and I was ready to try again. He said he will let me know when and I had to be ready.
The next time I was approached by the same woman, we were in Bulgaria. I went back to her room two different times to do what he wanted us to do. Afterwards, he would call and ask us if we liked it or if we felt anything. Oh brother!
Bithika was my roommate on that part of the trip. She arrived a few days later. One day I had gone into the room and she was crying. The night before she had been out late. When she returned, she went straight into the shower. I figured CKG had asked her to do the same thing he had me do. I got super pissed off.
I was so mad that the next time he saw me he summoned me to his private room next to the function room and asked me what happened. He said he was frightened when he saw my face. My mind came back stronger than ever and I could not shake the feeling that what he was asking us to do was wrong. He had me kneel in front of him and again he concentrated on me. He said that I belonged to him. He touched my head and said, this belongs to me. Then he touched my heart and said, this belongs to me. And then with the back of his hand he touched the side of my breast and said, this belong longs to me. I could only think to myself, “no, it does not,” but I did not dare say that out loud. I was afraid of him.
Later that day I "won" the prize for having the best meditation. It was a grape (see the photo above). What a revelation! I now understood why people were winning the best meditation. It was all about damage control! He knew I was not happy and he needed to fix things fast.
After our part of that trip was over, I went with Bihagee to Sofia, Bulgaria to visit her parents. I never spoke to either Bihagee or Bithika during that trip about what was going on. I had no idea that Bihagee was also having the same "experience" that I had, only with another person.
Finally I came back to San Francisco and tried to get on with my life. I was messed up! CKG had given me his personal numbers and asked me to call him at certain times while he was still traveling. He asked me how I was feeling. When I told him that I felt like my vital door had been blown open, he laughed.
As the months went, by I grew more and more angry. By July 2007, I could take it no more. I told Palash how I was not doing well in the Centre and I did not know what to do. I never told her what happened because he told me not to tell her. She gave me the best advice, write guru a letter and tell him what's going on. I did but it was not what she was thinking. I told him that I did not feel at all spiritual and that I felt like I was deceiving my friends, my family and myself. I told him that I did not want to have sex with anyone but if I did have to have sex then I wanted it to be with a man but not with him and not with a woman. I was hoping to get thrown out of the Centre but instead he called me. He asked me for forgiveness. He asked, “Can you not forgive me as I have forgiven you so many times?” He said he would never ask me to do anything like that again.
August Celebrations came and he was completely on damage control. I was invited to the house every night, but he would never talk to me. I sometimes caught him looking at me though squinted eyes. I think he did not know what to do with me.
I was in San Francisco and we got a call. CKG had died. Guru died. It took some time for the reality to sink in. We flew out to New York for the memorial. All the time I was there I could only feel relief. I was finally free. So many people came for the funeral. I tried to feel something more but he had already killed all the love that I had for him. I loved my friends and I was sad that they were suffering, but I was glad he was gone. I played my part and went through the motions but I was like a zombie. Nothing inside. I stayed in the Centre for another year and a few months. I did not want to leave the life that I had known for over 22 years. I loved my friends. They were my family. We grew up together. They saw me struggle over the years.
By December 2008, I knew I needed to make a big change. I decided to go to Germany to stay with Aruna and her parents, Projjwal and Karali. We were all very close and I felt like if I was to make an attempt at saving my spiritual life, then staying with them was my best option. I booked my flight for Germany for February 14, 2009.
In January 2009, a disciple I knew named James was living in Norway. He started emailing a few of us from the SF Centre. He was bored in Oslo and wanted to see how we were all doing. I emailed him back and soon we were emailing each other daily. He was a refreshing change to my life. I enjoyed reading his emails and started to think that he was much more interesting than I ever knew.
One day he asked me if I had ever read Sevika's story. Strangely enough, I immediately got defensive and said you cannot believe what you read on the Internet. Then I stopped myself and thought, “What the hell am I saying???” I had never read anything on the Internet to do with anything against CKG. I decided to read her story.
Oh man! As I was reading, I knew it was all true. There were things that she said that were so similar to what he asked of me. I could not deny the truth. I sent James a message and said we need to talk right now! I called him and he did not know what to expect. I told him that I believed Sevika's story and I told him what happened to me. James was so shocked and he completely believed me. He said he was going to leave the Centre and that I had to leave too. I knew he was right. By telling him, I had crossed the point of no return. I let everyone believe that I was going to Germany. I packed up my room to rent it out. When the day came for me to go, all my roommates went to the Centre meditation. My mother came to SF and picked me and all my belongings up and drove me to my brother’s house.
I was free! I was a major mess, but I was free!!!
Within a week I got a job and a car. I wanted to move on with my life ASAP. However, I got really sick. My life went through a traumatic experience. I no longer believed in anything and I could not see the point of living. Nothing made sense anymore. Luckily, James believed me and it was only his friendship that got me trough the most difficult time of my life. I honestly do not know what would have come of me if it were not for him sticking by me and believing in me. Although he was in Norway, we kept each other going by chatting on Skype almost everyday. He went through his own melt down. He also got very sick. Something happens deep inside when your faith in the person you trusted most turns out to be a fraud. The way your body shuts down is not in your control.
Finally, after months on our own thinking we would never see or hear from anyone in the Centre ever again, things started to change. Nirbachita, now out of the Centre herself, contacted me. After some serious patience on her part, I opened up to her and told her my story. By Nirbachita and Yogaloy knowing me, believing me and trusting me, so much has changed. Without them I am not sure if my story would have been told. I owe many thanks to them both.
It has been over five and a half years now since I walked away from the Centre. My life is very much worth living. I do not regret having been in the Centre because I met some of you wonderful people in the Centre. I am most thankful for meeting James. We would not have met if we were not in the Centre. I love him dearly.
Sunday, July 13, 2014
A Year On
I joined the Sri Chinmoy Centre in 1979 with my parents and my newly born younger brother. It was just before my sixth birthday. I’m now 41. Last year I left the SCC after 34 years inside.
My exit would be quiet and dignified, noble. I planned it to cause the minimum disruption to both myself and the community I was leaving behind – something along the lines of the hara-kiri that I knew they believed I was enacting, but muted – I didn’t want a fuss, just a clean slate. I prepared myself to lose 80% of my address book with one slice and visualised for many months how I would stand up and walk on without ever looking back. I knew the drill and would just get on with it. I had a job and a home, I had arranged for study funded by my employer and I had made contact with my family again after many years of enforced separation. I knew I was exceptionally lucky and with all these opportunities I just needed to grab the rope and swing out into the unknown before it was too late.
I had an incredibly kind team at work and – even though they knew nothing of my circumstances – spending time with them each day gave me strength and enough companionship to keep me ticking along. I reconnected with a dear childhood friend who had already departed the SCC and had one authentic school relationship dating in whom I could confide safely – enough to convince myself that I wasn’t totally denying my experiences even though I didn’t really want to discuss them.
I kept reading about the experiences on the internet blogs from other ‘departed’ and wanted to be part of the conversation. But I could find nothing to say. No idea what I really thought. Nothing would come out. Belief structures inside were fragmented – jagged corners, broken. No emotion was there. No energy to express anything. No anger, no bitterness, no comfortable opinion, just lots of random facts and thoughts in a pile in my heart. I would go over the facts again and again on Saturday afternoons in the hope of suddenly finding out what I truly believed about it all. I then sought a wider internal space within which it would be possible to place all the extreme polar opposites, all the inexplicable koans – something that could contain them which I could still comfortably call Truth. Truth is not a simple thing, but a complex creature with many levels – all things to all people – I told myself. If you treat it with respect, give it a big enough house and leave it be, you can control it. It will be your choice what to call Truth. The energy to maintain this huge Truth container was becoming very expensive. Inside was something with a life of its own that I was struggling to control even though I smiled and got on with it. I was ignorant of this.
I noticed stairs were becoming difficult. I increasingly needed to sit down on platforms while commuting to work. But there were benches on each platform so that was alright. Then 100m seemed like a long way and I’d have to walk slowly. I only had three more weeks of term – of attending lectures at night and working in the day and essays at the weekend. I was nearly there. I was OK. My heart got tighter and tighter. I was waking up in the night very afraid of the palpitations. I couldn’t let go. I knew what I thought surrender looked like after so many years of being force-fed and it was very painful, so I clung on to my work and my daily rituals and tried to alter my diet and be smarter than my body’s weakness.
On the way to A&E I was thinking about the essay I was writing on stress – it’s not the circumstances but primarily the individual’s ability to cope that determines the outcome. Just had to have the right attitude and I could surmount everything. Be strong. The ECG didn’t find anything, the lung x-ray was clear. I was worried that the whole experience was some strange panic attack. Then the blood test came back and the doctor said “I have an answer for you, but it’s not what you think – you’re blood levels are so low that you must have been bleeding from somewhere internally for some time.” I saw my hands rise to my face. I knew it was time to let go of this fight.
Everything has stopped – work, university work, movement. I’m at home. It’s been a few days of winding down to nothing, the shock’s past, the dull pain in my heart area more settled. A neighbour invited me and I find myself sitting in her peaceful flat looking over London. In silence. She, it turns out, is a religious sister. A counsellor, a spiritual director to many over decades, living in the community. I don’t really know what I’m doing here. She invited me, and despite my present position on organised religion, or anything like it, I wanted to come, inexplicably. She knows how to sit in silence and listen to it. I can feel it. It’s the real deal. I look out the window. Tears roll down my face. After 10 mins she puts a box of tissues next to me and walks out of the room. She comes back. I find a few words. My childhood, my sincere spiritual search, the spiritual discipline, the rules we lived by. I know she understands, she started in her order out of school. She’s travelled the world teaching maths. She’s transitioned out of the habit and into the community, she’s retrained as a spiritual counsellor – services for all, denominationless. She listens. I find silence again. I continue to look out the window – seeing, but not really seeing anything. I get to the bit about the things he asked me to do. I don’t understand why. I can’t bear to look at his face, I don’t know who to pray to, I’m bleeding from somewhere and can’t control it. Now the tears are rolling. It’s been years. I marvel at them. The room is so peaceful, she is there, yet she is not there.
Can I tell a nun about sex with a spiritual figure? I keep thinking about the pain in the Catholic church and I feel impolite. So I talk about how you don’t want to say because you think it will bring the whole community into disrepute. All those reasons why every community has stayed silent for centuries. You’ve spent your whole life defending the community. You’ve proselytised and recruited and defended over and over and now you are cutting off a portion of your own self in the telling. If you say. But then I remember what it is to be a voice silenced and it feels time to say. I look at her to see if she can take it. She has a vast and wise peace and sits in it in silence, maybe looking at me, maybe not, I can’t tell with my tears. I remember what it felt like when he shoved himself into my mouth. My shock. Followed in split second by my pride. The gagging. I swallowed again and again. I can’t tell her, I am too ashamed. I just leave it to inference, that he asked me to do ‘things’. I can’t tell her about the lesbian oral sex that he wanted performance of again and again, all the partners, in all the cities, hotel rooms across the world, in his house, in other houses. I can’t say. My shaky legs, the fear and the envelopes of money that I so desperately needed but which eroded my inner landscape. With the birds on, his signature touch – the emblem of peace and freedom. I can’t say. How he was furious because I wouldn’t tell him that I loved it. How he sent us out of the room to contemplate our failings before the next performance and how she begged me to just lie to him like she does for an easy life and say that I loved it in some kind of faux sexy voice to ‘please him in his own way’ … I couldn’t say then. I can’t say now. Isn’t spirituality about Truth? I never lied to him, why would this ever be the right thing to do? The tears are really flowing now. I am sweating. It feels like the vice around my heart has shifted imperceptibly. I see him chopping the back of his neck as he did to warn us not to speak. Ever.
Finally she spoke. An offering only, she said. I should draw a bath. In it I should put a fragrant liquid. I should get inside and curl up in an embryonic position and say to my body “I am here for you now. I will never ask of you anything that you do not want again.” My arms crossed around my chest, I start to say it inside, still on the sofa. Am I letting go or taking charge – a child or an adult? Cells in my body are crying out for this. For my own love. To have the ability to promise myself that surrender doesn’t mean just allowing violation.
I tell her that I honestly don’t know if this was a higher truth or not. If I have epically failed to reach a level of consciousness where this is divine. He wrote a poem that I had to recite in front of an auditorium of 1,000 people “God was simply shocked to see that I am completely incapable of knowing what true surrender is.” I didn’t want to fail.
All I can say is that I need to find a way to stem the hurt. People want a stand. To tell the world that this happened because they have found solace doing it and we will be a stronger voice together against the steely wall of establishment denial. I don’t know if it was bad. What is bad enough nowadays amongst the rape, killing, genocide? They certainly don’t think it was bad. The SCC Committee know the facts. Of course they have had to allow for the collateral damage inflicted by those that ‘cannot surrender’. It’s an inconvenient truth whose moral value is irrelevant because ‘spirituality goes far above morality’ – or at least that’s what he repeatedly told me, that I was ‘born to show’. All I know is I cannot emotionally and cognitively withstand it any longer. I don’t have the strength to comprehend or even tolerate the experience and it’s breaking me. I don’t understand when people talk about Truth because my moral compass was smashed. But I know I’m bleeding. Help me.
Is there a god like the giant truth space I constructed to save myself from inner conflict? A higher court to which you can take appeals? Even if it had condoned Ghose, surely there was a way that I could appeal and say Ghose isn’t for everyone, I’m grateful you are sending envoys but this one was too brutal, please. This universe is not one-size-fits-all. We are all different. Please give me another chance, another way. Or maybe Ghose was a renegade, he went native when he went to earth and his actions were being quietly disowned upstairs? Maybe I’d be OK after all if we could just find evidence that this was so, I’d be heard.
I know half the debate out there is whether he did/didn’t do these things. That’s not my debate. I know how much he did these things, over decades. I know he used the first generation of girls – when they became too old for his taste – to get the second generation into his grasp. It was the darkest side of the whole thing. Sister upon sister, pimped, controlled, reported on, crushed – all with a sugary smile. My debate is about whether this was God-condoned. I’m not naïve enough to believe that God’s a nice entity in the conventional sense. God encompasses death and destruction as well as all the good stuff – life is a brutal experience for many, God is the author, whatever they say. Did s/he condone this? Or is it my journey to find the strength to fight my fear and stand up and say ‘Enough! We can’t fit it in the Truth-box, no matter how much we chop it up!’
It’s too complicated to explain. I have only limited energy. We are in silence again. She offers another thought eventually. She describes a ritual, says that we don’t use ritual enough. Describes driving through Richmond Park, to Ham Gate and out … at the lights you take a right and then you come to the river Thames. There’s a place to park. On the paper you will have a codeword for him if you don’t want to use his name. May be there will be something you want to say to him. Or not. But you will make a simple boat out of the paper – it represents everything about him – and give it to the river. The river will take it away.
I think of the Arthurian water burial of warriors – pushing the boat out, with lighted torches, weapons, flowers, out into the water. I visualise again as I sit on the sofa. I don’t know what code word I would use for him. My bank account still asks me the security question “Who is your guru” and I still type “Sri Chinmoy” to get at my account. Who is Sri Chinmoy? This man that came all over me again and again – my stomach, my mouth, fingering my breasts. Did I give consent? I was 27 at the start, so not under-age. I never said no, but I never knew what was going on in advance either – ‘wait and see’ he would say ‘think of it as an adventure’.
I think of the affectionate ‘rascal’ term used on the mythical Krishna stealing the girls’ clothes and making love with them – one of the original ‘lads’. Did he mould himself on that? Think it was his birth right to an equivalent? No, I do not feel affection. Nor did I feel sexual in any way. I felt dominated by a very intense machine-like power. Calculated to a fine point. Taking, using, degrading and discarding at his will – ‘in his own way’. When all is said and done, I feel it has been destructive to me in its action. This is enough truth for me right now. I need to be happy with not trying to contain the rest – not trying to square the circle or balance up the spiritual ecstasy, the ‘good stuff’, the music, the good people involved. I’ve tried for a year, there are no answers, it doesn’t fit in the box.
To those inside that say I just wasn’t up to playing with the Divine, and I have blown the opportunity … well maybe that is so. You, the Committee, know perfectly well that the facts are true and you have no interest in the collateral damage. For me, from now on I am choosing to believe that this is not a useful experiment in human evolution. I am more than an expendable resource in one man’s experiment in human consciousness. We each have a choice, it’s our last precious possession. I am now placing my boat on the Thames and asking that great ancient river to use its power to wash all this away and give me back my strength.
A year and three weeks on
I wrote this piece three weeks ago in the middle of a temporary healthcare crisis which forced me to open my ‘truth-box’ and examine the contents once again. I shared it with close friends who I had been unable to voice my deepest thoughts to up until then, by way of owning these experiences and starting to heal. Many were incensed and labelled him an ‘evil man’, saying I should tell the world about him and help others get free from the clutches of the group. A number said that I should wait until I was strong again before posting it as they feared for my health and safety if the entire might of the SCC would start to attack me. Another said that I should be prepared to be branded as mentally unstable and was I sure that this was something I’d actually like to open myself to? They would attack me at work, hack my account, I’d get calls, texts, law suits and all kinds of abuse if past experience was anything to go by.
I shared it with one dear friend who is still inside. After 35 years of friendship, I figured I would at least honour them by giving them a chance to take a different position. Being on two sides of a divisive ideology and still trying to hold on to our humanity is very tricky, but I wanted to try. They came round to talk to me immediately. The conversation was about Judas, their fears for my terrible karma and what would happen to me if I facilitated anyone reading what should be private. Also, how many good people were inside on chemotherapy and how I would ruin their last few months of life by destroying their faith. They talked about all the good stuff the SCC is doing – teaching people to meditate, hosting running races etc. Why didn’t I mention it? Why was my account not mentioning the good stuff? Why did I want to sound like such a ‘victim’? I wasn’t a victim. It was consenting sex between two adults, for which I had made my own choices and now had to stand by them. I had been privileged and even though it was inexplicable to our earthly understanding, it was all divine. There was no question. The girls must have all been Akbar’s wives in a harem — Ghose claimed to have been Akbar in a previous life — and he was just continuing the important karmic relationship with them in this life. They had read some book on tantric sex which had convinced them that as long as the man is ‘on top’ and controlling the woman representing ‘nature’, then all of this is very spiritually above board. So many amazing meditations, how could I deny it? I had left and there is just only so much a soul can take, that was why I was ill. Couldn’t I see it?
There is no doubt that this fear is a very real experience. I looked into their eyes. I started to feel it in my own body again. Can any of us afford to take the chance that our loved ones will die if we step out of line? Ghose said to so many that they would die, go blind, deaf, ‘drown in the ocean of ignorance’, whatever else. It’s easier to walk away silently and not risk the chance. I felt so sad for my friend. A real courageous person with such a big heart and so much love to give – in any other situation they would be the first person into danger to save and protect. They were starting to sound like Ghose, the same delusion, entitlement and ability to use others for a ‘higher purpose’. The betrayal, I knew, one day would eat them. I could easily have been there. The person that was unable to support a friend in need. Easily. I knew how it would eat away at me if I was them. I forgave them instantly. I couldn’t bear to have them feel that pain, somehow, wanted to protect them. They didn’t deserve to be made a fool of after having served honestly for so many years. They begged me not to tell that they knew anything.
Sometimes enough is enough. Enough lies, cover ups, threats, manipulations and fear. Enough creating hundreds of duplicate sites to clog up Google so no one can read the honest accounts. Enough constructing elaborate and often untrue stories on the inside of why people have left to keep questions at bay. Enough perpetuating the fear by telling people they will get sick (there are many sick people on the inside too). Enough of branding people ‘hostile forces’. Enough of this ridiculous war of ‘in’ and ‘out’, denying what most at the centre of the group know is plainly just a statement of fact. Fact that can only be justified by a narrative composed of past lives, supernatural forces and ancient myths and reinforced by blind obedience, conscious blinkering and fear.
Something that everyone agrees on is that there are some of the best people they ever met in the SCC. These are human beings whose love is so strong that they were inspired to sacrifice all that they are to serve humanity. That doesn’t change if you leave the group. You are not a ‘hostile force’, you are a person who then has to stand on your own two feet and make the difficult journey to find truth inside yourself without any crutches and despite the fear. We are one in our search for Truth. All that divides us are the actions of one man. What was good about his approach is as old as the human race: what was bad, none of us should be afraid of if we can support each other through this. We haven’t lost our spirituality because it is in our own goodness, not in his activities.
(PHOTO CREDIT: DAVID ILIFF -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/River_Thames#mediaviewer/File:London_Thames_Sunset_panorama_-_Feb_2008.jpg.)