Friday, June 17, 2016

Lavanya - A Guest Post


This is the story of a few pivotal experiences of my 31 years in the Sri Chinmoy Centre. Telling it makes me feel sad, mad, ashamed, and foolish for staying and serving for so many years after I knew things were not as they should be, starting with our divine leader. Still, when I finally left the Centre, I swore to myself that I would never tell what I knew about him, and until recently I thought I never would. But when I left the Centre, I thought I knew what was true about Chinmoy, when actually I knew almost nothing. Now, as the real Chinmoy is gradually being revealed by piecing together all of our experiences with him, it seems I can’t keep my own story tamped down any longer. It needs to be told. 

It’s not a good story, not a happy story, and I am not a heroine – on the contrary. But life is telling me it’s time to speak up. I probably should have spoken long ago. I definitely COULD have spoken about 40 years ago. Maybe I would have spared a lot of people a lot of pain. But probably not. Even now, people don’t listen to what they don’t want to hear, myself included. From what we hear and read, it seems all the gurus are bad gurus, pretty much. You pick one, and you get what you get, because you are who you are. Things have to run their course. The things you need to learn, sometimes you need to learn them the hard way.

They say a liar thinks everyone is lying. Maybe an honest person thinks everyone else is honest. I was honest, and that was how I approached life and the world: I believed other people were pretty much like me, basically honest. But there were other traits that also made me who I was. I was not curious about other people’s lives. I was not nosey. I was not suspicious. I was not a philosopher or a deep thinker by nature. I didn’t get any satisfaction from speculating about things that I didn’t know and couldn’t know. I didn’t question authority. I didn’t think for myself. I didn’t even listen to myself. I was quiet and obedient. I was seen and not heard. I was book smart, but utterly foolish. I took Chinmoy’s word as law, and I literally tried to do exactly what he said we should, and do it cheerfully. I was innocent. 

Worse – I was ignorant. Not consciously deliberately ignorant, but I saw things I wasn’t meant to see, and I somehow let them pass. Such as: Chinmoy embracing “S” on the second floor of his house. I was stunned! Then I was jealous. He used to tell me I was his favorite child, but he didn’t embrace ME!! Did he see my shocked face over her shoulder before I retreated, or was she the one who saw me come up the stairs? I don’t remember for sure, but I think it was him. 

But why did I retreat? Why was I not bold enough to walk right up to them and put them on the spot? I don’t know. I was not a courageous person. I didn’t know how to speak up or speak out. If I had opinions, I didn’t have any confidence in them. I didn’t know how to stand up for myself or for what I thought. I wasn’t sure of myself. Still, why did seeing this not put me on my guard? Maybe I just wanted so much to believe in him. This was my guru, my lord, my God! Surely he could not be doing something wrong?

So I completely bought his explanation for the embrace: he said he was consoling her for problems with her husband. And then, not that much later, when she left the path, apparently in great anger, I didn’t think, I didn’t wonder, I didn’t ask questions. Once again, I accepted his explanation: she was jealous of me and “R.” Perhaps I was subtly flattered, and therefore didn’t consider: “Is it likely that someone would leave their guru because they were jealous of others?” Nobody does that. You stay and fight! You prove that YOU are worthy of his love. 

And after S left, in spite of what I had seen, which he KNEW I had seen, Chinmoy was still able to use her as a weapon against me. I was that weak! I had switched to part-time after my first two years in college, but it wasn’t the kind of school where you could just slide by. So my time was not 100% at the service of the master, and as a result, I was left out of many activities, especially short trips. I was insecure, jealous, depressed, and whenever I admitted having these emotions, or manifested them too overtly, he would scold me and threaten me, saying that the forces that had taken S away were entering into me and would take me, too, if I didn’t conquer them. 

So I tried really hard, and very sincerely, to conquer them. No insecurity, no impurity, no jealousy, no depression, no competition, no attachment, no possessiveness! Just love, devotion, surrender, surrender, surrender, unconditional surrender! How was my surrender? Was it unconditional? Was he my father-god? 

You can see where this is going… And yes, that’s where it went. I was initiated with the most special blessing of having sexual contact with the perfected being who I believed would take my soul to the Highest Absolute Supreme. All those who have wondered how I managed to avoid being abused, here is your answer: I didn’t manage to avoid it. I didn’t try to avoid it. I accepted it in the same way that I accepted everything he offered: as the truth, as a blessing, a lesson, an opportunity to make the fastest progress. In this case, a unique privilege, because I was so special; I was the only one, and I must never tell anyone else. Oh yes! This self-educated man from a third-world country was clever enough to know how to use both my strengths and my weaknesses to control me completely.

And somehow, somehow, I convinced myself for a few years that this was indeed a great and rare spiritual blessing. I know that most of the guys, especially, are completely misunderstanding this, so please put your imaginations on hold, and let me try to explain why so many smart women believed that sex with the master was not sex; it was a purification ritual, an opportunity to make spiritual progress, a way to overcome our resistance, a way to practice and prove our surrender to our master. Wasn’t it our goal to have no will but his will? To lose our sense of self, and be nothing other than his divine instruments?

Chinmoy didn’t behave like a “normal” male when he was with me. He didn’t show any kind of eagerness, and he didn’t appear to be aroused by me. Maybe he was just not that into me, but I also didn’t get a sexual vibe from him. Short-shorts and sleeveless undershirts notwithstanding, he always seemed quite unconscious of how his body might be perceived by women (even later, when he started weightlifting and showing it off deliberately). He struck me as basically asexual. His behavior when he was with me was kind of clinical and detached, like he was observing an experiment, not like he was personally participating in an intimate or pleasurable act. 

Maybe that’s what it was at the beginning -- like the divine marriages -- an experiment of some kind. Or maybe that was just the way his particular sexuality manifested itself. There was never what I would call affection, appreciation, or satisfaction expressed. “All right, good girl, you can go,” or words to that effect signaled the end of each encounter once he stopped bothering to meditate with me afterwards. Chinmoy was affectionate in other (fatherly or avuncular) ways, but at other times. 

When it came to these “special blessing” encounters, he was all business, and quite detached – often with eyes almost closed, like he was meditating. I’m not saying he WAS meditating, but he looked like he was, and that’s all that mattered at the time. There were no caresses, no kisses, no foreplay; it was just business. “Make me strong,” he would say at the beginning of our encounters, and that wasn’t easy; it was yet another chore, like vacuuming the carpet or doing the laundry. So try to stop imagining something fun, please. It was not fun in any way. It was just another obligation on the list, and not a pleasant one. If he had appeared to be enjoying the process, I might have been suspicious. 

But one fine afternoon, I went upstairs to perform one of my daily household chores – making up the master’s bed – only to find him in it with another. Both of them were sound asleep, along with all his countless inner beings, who for the second time had sadly failed to warn him of my imminent arrival. What they had been doing before sleep overtook them was obvious even to me. So I was NOT the only one, as he had repeatedly told me. That was a shocker; much worse than the embrace I had witnessed a few years earlier. 

So what did I do? We all have our weaknesses. Cowardice is one of mine. I should have, but I COULD NOT, wake them up and make a huge scene. In my early 20s, I didn’t have the kind of self-confidence that would allow me to confront my guru and a prominent sister disciple. Not both of them together, and probably not separately either. I was too polite, too respectful, too afraid. It was simply impossible for me to ever deliberately put someone else in such an embarrassing position, even if they deserved it. I retreated back down the stairs and left the house quietly. 

And I never told him, or her, or anyone else, what I had seen. It was burned into my memory, but somehow I never really made that memory part of my own story. I knew from that moment that my guru was a liar, and that his inner beings did not always protect him, as he often claimed they did. I never used what I saw against him. I never thought the obvious thought: “If he’s doing this with her and with me, isn’t it likely there are others?” I didn’t think worse of her or of him (except for the liar part). I barely ever thought of it at all, not even as the logical explanation when she began to dominate him (and me, of course). What level of cognitive dissonance was required in order for me to carry on as normal after seeing this?

We’ve been talking on FB about the phenomenon of not wanting to know the truth, and of knowing but not adjusting your life to reflect that knowledge. Call me the poster child for that strange psychology. Seeing his deception with my own eyes, experiencing his lack of omniscience in my own life, didn’t lead me to any logical next step, not even to wondering what else he might be lying about or getting up to. Was that because my sense of who I was depended so much on believing in who he was? 

At one point many years later, I heard from Chinmoy himself that Sevika was “making allegations” against him, which he swore were not true. How could I have believed him? But I did, sort of. I was alerted about them by Chirantan, too, and by another friend, but I assured them both that these claims weren’t likely to be true. I guess I couldn’t admit that they probably WERE true, because I wasn’t ready to change my life. I wasn’t brave enough to face the truth. (“You can’t handle the truth!” That was me.)

All the same, my dissatisfaction with the path and its leader was already strong at that time, and growing stronger. For many years I could see that he was not perfect, that he was not all-seeing and all-knowing, and without a doubt he was not as divine as he claimed to be. Again and again I was disappointed, angered, and embarrassed by his general behavior and by his treatment of me and others. But still I remained a hard-working contributor to his mission, and possibly an unwitting enabler of his worst activities. 

The last few years of my disciple life, when he pushed me away more and more, when I could see no future role for myself within the SCC, when he appeared to give in to all of R’s demands, I thought she must be blackmailing him in some way; there seemed to be no other logical explanation. I thought it, but despite all, not really. Who could dare to blackmail the guru and live to tell the tale? I never even imagined the seriousness of the threat she probably held over him. Why not? All I can say by way of explanation is: see paragraph 3.

So after all, I was just another one of the guru’s girls. Not the first fool; nothing special, just one of the crowd. Occasionally I wonder how I would have responded if I had known that there were many other women involved, or if he had tried to engage me in any of the group activities that came later. I’ll never know; I can only hope that my response would have been more appropriate. What I do know is that he had ways of beating down my resistance. How does a good disciple say no to the guru, to the god-man whose songs you sing, whose writings you read, whose poems you memorize, whose voice sounds like music, whose photo you meditate on, whose face looks at you from every wall and surface in your house? 

It took until somewhere in my late 30s for my fury and frustration to give me the courage to say, “I won’t; don’t ever ask me again!” to my Lord and Master. Although he shunned me brutally for weeks, and later tried several times to lure me back into his bedroom, somehow I held my ground. I was still responsible for cleaning the room, making the bed, picking his clothes up off the floor, and putting them away after they were washed and folded, but I would not pass the doorway if he was in the room. It’s little enough to be grateful for. And yet I stayed for another 10 to 15 frustrating, unhappy years, serving him in many other ways, out of habit, fear, love, hope, fear, friendship, sense of responsibility, fear, poverty, lack of confidence, and did I mention fear? Fear on so many levels – so subtle, so pervasive, so paralyzing, the fear of making a terrible spiritual mistake.

I couldn’t extricate myself from the life I had built around him and immersed myself in since I turned 18. I was bored, frustrated, overworked, unsatisfied, and depressed by my daily routines. And I was furious at Chinmoy for giving precedence to R when I was the one who actually worked hard for him, or so it seemed to me. I kept casting around for things that would give me some joy, and at the same time annoy the master. I cut my hair short. I wore earrings, nail polish, a black coat. I got a perm. He told me I should swim the Channel, so I jumped at the opportunity to join a gym with a pool “so I could practice.” I got in the pool exactly once; instead, I started weight-training, took aerobics and step classes, and discovered the pleasure of exercise-induced endorphins, which I never experienced from running. He didn’t like any of it, but he managed to tolerate it all. 

And every time I thought things couldn’t get any worse with Chinmoy, they did get worse. So I got worse too. When my women-only gym closed for renovations, I started working out and taking classes at Gold’s. I got a personal trainer (a guy!), and loved being pushed hard and seeing muscles in my arms. I leased a commercial embroidery machine and went for a week-long course in how to use it. I went to a 3-day convention for aerobics teachers in Nashville (with Nidrahara). On one Christmas trip I got a tattoo. I was doing my best to get myself invited to leave, but my instinct for self-preservation was strong. I didn’t actually want to destroy myself; I just wanted out.

Finally, I signed up for ballroom dance lessons. Oh my god, they were SO much fun, and of course Chinmoy HATED them, which was my goal, after all. But even this he tolerated for a couple of years, as long as I was discreet. Eventually one girl saw me on TV, sitting in the audience at the Ohio Star Ball. (Why was she watching a ballroom dance competition on TV, bad girl?) But I developed a pinched nerve in one foot, and I went to Nishtha & Pranika’s podiatrist to get orthotics for my dance shoes, naively trusting in the theory of doctor-patient confidentiality. Next time Nishtha went to him herself, I was busted, and this time I had pushed the master to his limit. (No doubt, Nishtha led a blameless life.) Chinmoy told me to give up the dance lessons or leave his path. I had to think about it; can you believe that? He offered me the thing I most desired and I actually did a Pros and Cons list! Fortunately, the dancing won. Or probably I should say that the path lost, because there was not much on the Pro side of that list; it was mostly Cons. 

Ironically, I had to give up the dance lessons right away anyhow, because of course I couldn’t afford them, once I was no longer being handed wads of cash. (Cash that I was very much aware had been earned and lovingly offered – not to me – by my hardworking, and often impoverished, sisters and brothers.) But I didn’t mind. I was free. Every evening after work, my time was my own. Every weekend, I could do whatever I wanted. I never had to sit through another esraj concert or Peace Concert. I never had to learn another song. I never had to wait patiently for the divine Miss R to appear. I never had to stay awake beyond human endurance for no good reason. I never had to listen to another endless scolding, or be snubbed and ignored for unknown reasons, or told what to do or wear or think, who to talk to, where to go and what to do or not do. 

I was free, more or less. Except for those pesky residual habits: dressing like a nun on holiday, being afraid of bad karma and hostile forces, feeling guilty about this and that. I was free, sort of, but I was also completely alone. All my friends and my customary support systems vanished at the moment of my departure. It was January 2000, and when my plumbing froze, I couldn’t call Achyuta to fix it. When my car broke down, I couldn’t call Vinaya. When I lost a filling, I had to find a dentist and pay him myself. I had no health insurance, no work history, no job, and no income. 

Fortunately, I had a brother who was not a fan of Chinmoy, and he offered me a loan to get me through the first few months. My friend “P” got me a short-term job editing a book for the United Nations (the first book ever to have my name in the credits!), and then Gayatri and Gangadhar got permission from Chinmoy to hire me to work at their divine enterprise. It took me about a year to get on my feet and figure out how to live within my suddenly modest means, and I was grateful for the help I got from anyone who offered it.

Gayatri once told me that some of the boys in the Centre were convinced that Chinmoy still spoke to me every day, even after I left. Not so. The last words he ever spoke to me were the ultimatum about giving up the dance lessons. He sent me a drawing of a lot of birds on my 50th birthday, along with a kind message and 50 roses, but I was most definitely not invited to return, or even to attend any events. In fact, the one time I finally worked up the nerve to invite myself to the tennis court on August 27, I was hurriedly intercepted by Ashrita, who insisted that I wait outside until he could ask whether I might have permission to enter. “Otherwise,” said he, “it could cause problems.” 

Several years after leaving the Centre, when I finally manned up enough to read Sevika’s testimony, I knew immediately that it was true, because I had experienced it myself, exactly as she described it. Did I feel like a fool? Of course, but not much more than I already did when I thought it was just me (and the other woman I had seen in his bed) who had been deceived by a guru who was much less divine than he claimed to be. But I felt angry and disgusted with him, and horribly responsible for bringing Sevika into his orbit. 

And despite all that, despite the fact that I dedicated so many years and gave up so many opportunities to spend my youth serving him, I’m still somehow grateful for what I received during those years – if not actually from him, at least through his auspices. I somehow can’t forget the image I had of him as divine and perfect, when he was young and still sweet-natured, beautiful, and inspiring. Even though it was just my illusion, carefully encouraged and nurtured by him, it was so convincing that it still lives on somewhere deep inside me.

Now, when I’m not feeling outraged at his hypocrisy and disgusted by his unspeakable treatment of so many women and young girls, I’m just deeply, deeply disappointed. We were trying our hardest to live up to his impossible demands, and he wasn’t even trying to be a decent human being. I still can’t wrap my mind around how he could behave so badly while at the same time continually berating us for falling short of his expectations. At least WE were trying!! I guess that’s how it is when you are dealing with a sociopath. Anyone on the “normal” spectrum can’t quite comprehend it.

Today it’s almost 17 years later. It sounds like a long time, but it feels like a moment. I am so grateful to be out of the Centre and mostly free of him, and to have gained some wisdom and perspective. A lot of that came from my sister and brothers at arms: you have been so loving and generous in sharing your time, your experiences, your pain, your resilience, your humor, your wit, and your own wisdom and perspective. Thank you all from the depth of my heart.


Bithika O'Dwyer said...

Lavanya, thank you for this truth. More, thank you for the inner poise, goodness and humanity that you have held fast to in order to take on the fear. Speaking against the fear is no mean feat. The self-reflection that accompanies writing about the past is a path that so many of us walk in our journey to make sense of the last 30+ years. How could the light - that seemed so all-consuming and blinding for periods - be accompanied by so many abuses of power? All the free labour and money to feed his constant hunger for fame and recognition. And all the sex - purely as an instrument of that need for power over people, to control his universe, to be Master of it! It was crushing and so confusing. It took years and years to make sense of it all because - as you say - it was so wrapped in your own spiritual identity. To denounce one was to denounce your own sense of self, so heavily invested by the years of practice. The first task for me was to take on the fear and walk through it, having faith in truth itself and its power to heal. Ready to discover that I was wrong, and learn from it, if need be ...

I believe that walking away from something that you have realised to be limiting and untrue, into a world that you have been conditioned to feel is 'all darkness' is in itself a truly spiritual experience. Leaving comfort and constraint, twisted privilege, the feeling of being a big fish in a small pond, for the complete unknown, for anonymity, for hardship, for potentially feeling alone for the rest of your life – you are absolutely at the most vulnerable point of existence. But you get to understand where the spirituality inside your own existence really is! And most beautifully, after a time, you can then experience true connection to others. Ah, the joy of that! The truth of that! To find my brothers and sisters of the SCC Alumni and have the kinds of true spiritual conversations where there is no taboo or secrecy but only our searching hearts to answer to, our kindness, our love, our support of each other.

I too have to be grateful for everything I experienced in the centre. It's part of my identity. I understand all those who just cannot conceive that these things happened, I was there until it happened to me! As for those that have known all along and feel that this knowledge is some kind of spiritual task, some zen test laid out by the master for the student to walk through, well, I took it that way myself for some years and managed to keep my sanity, and learned a few great things about myself along the way. But my ultimate learning was that sometimes you have to realise that the exhortation to 'obedience' and 'surrender' made spiritual idiots of us. The growth can be in having the courage to throw this off and seek a higher truth for the next level of learning. Something you truly know for yourself, with your whole self, not something imposed from the outside that you are hoping will stick but feels wrong.
So, thank you. Thank you in one way for being the noble and authentic soul that you are and feeling that silence was the only dignified course you could choose as you digested your experiences. But a bigger thank you for then knowing that there is a time for speaking out also – to relieve suffering and to serve a greater group "progress". Thank you for what must have been a conscious parking of the silent dignity for a moment, to tell an uncomfortable, messy truth. It shines through your words in a new way, for me. A sweet, self-reflecting and humble goodness.
To all those inside, we love you and think about you and talk about you and care that your futures are bright and beautiful! We are all one – inside and out. All our choices are sacred and bring ultimate truth in ways unique to us. Love and peace to all!

Gregor Leskovšek said...

Dear Lavanya, I feel Your story is sincere, but You should know the rule: "Love Your Guru as much as You want, BUT! think for Yourself." I believe me and many others have fallen for this. The case is it is nothing wrong with Sri Chinmoy's meditation, but with His personality.
The moment we came idle or lazy and give our control to someone "superior" He will take this just as a gift/an opportunity/something that He should use for His extra pleasure. But then we are damned.
Dear Lavanya, I wish You a quick and complete healing recovery of Your trauma-s and memories. I love You and hope You forget the past.
My father was suffocating me eight times when I was very young and after it gave other absurd punishments and set unpredictable limits.
I found out I won't be able to forgive myself completely until I forgive him too and let him go his path (astray).
So I wish You would forgive Yourself, Your brothers and sisters who had similar experiences (or not) and finally Guru.
Once I loved Him more than God. Not that is not the case anymore and I want to die single and leave my appartment to SCC Ljubljana so I will forgive myself I actually felt something beautiful when He discarded me and in later Life I will find another Path, whatever heart, vital, mind or simply Hare Krishna!
Lavanya I love You and I wish You a new Divine Plan and God's healing and all the best as Ashrita used to say, Grega Leskovšek,

dukeofdharma said...

Thanks Lavanya. I know this took a lot of courage to finally go public with your story. Love courage. Love integrity. Love authenticity. Love keeping it really real. Love you.

Anne Carlton said...

Dear Lavanya, Your story is so real and poignant. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing it. I know you will benefit greatly from taking this step, freeing yourself and owning yourself. We believed and our decisions were founded in that belief. Many others are still bound. I do think that, at some level, deep within, they also want freedom, normalcy and to own their own light. You are showing us that what we all need is simple honesty to heal and move forward in our inner and outer lives. During the 20 years I was on the path, your poise and devotion were an inspiration to me and many others. You are still an inspiration and beacon of hope. My hope is that the XD community will grow and we will be nurtured and inspired by each other to have richer, fuller and more complete lives in every way. This is not about bitterness but about real love for those who were part of our lives.

Anonymous said...

Because of my blind trust, my child was sexually abused

CosmicObserver said...

All the stories leading up to this stunning and courageous admission, gives your story Lavanya, much greater truth, even more than simple truth can hold. It is eye-opening at its least, and mind blowing at its height. Whoever thought that this kind of behavior was never possible from someone deemed so holy can now see that maybe, by some slim chance, they were wrong. It's not surprising. We see it more than not these days. So, you believers out there, face it, this is what your guru was about. If you believe it and still hold true to your devotion, well, more power to you. It you have any doubts now, maybe it's better to come out of the darkness and play in the light.

sjineug said...

We never know the power of our words and the effect they have on others. A simple story that confirms our own story can be healing beyond measure. A story such as yours Lavanya is in another category altogether. The position you held, coupled with the story you have told has the power to liberate many from the horrible fantasy that is the SCC. There are many who will find their way to these pages. Thank You !

S. nz said...

Lavanya, I am so sorry that you are still suffering after all these years. On behalf of many people, thank you so much for telling your story. Much love to you and all the best in your present and future healing and happiness.

Anonymous said...

Lavanya, Sincere thanks for having the courage to share your experiences. It helps all of us process our experience on the path. Hugs!

agraves said...

While this is an interesting story it is nonetheless a soap opera! Not a word of spiritual development, higher consciousness or any thing of the sort. This is representative of many westerners failing to test the guru or observe his behavior before committing to him. It also tells the tale of many gurus:TM, Nityanda, Adi Da, years and years and not one person achieving Enlightenment, not one. As my guides tell me: beware, this is all fairy tales. Alex

CosmicObserver said...

It seems that you are fighting your own battle of belief. Perhaps you have been affected by some belief system you have engaged with and are coming to terms with your loss of that belief. Soap operas are made for tv entertainment. This is indeed real life and has as much authenticity than any of your life dramas may have. Until you walk in these particular shoes your only intelligent response is to reflect. Unless, like I have said, you are still recovering from your own desperate drama. In that case, I empathize with your experience and hope that you will come to the balance of understanding, and in doing so will find the empathy to exact a smile and a tear. Just maybe, you were finishing your second glass of Pinot Noir when your guides spoke up. Cheers!

agraves said...

Cosmic, is that it? You observe the cosmos? You are steeped in the new age confusion of psychology masquerading as spirituality. Belief systems, loss of belief, desperate drama, balance of understanding: straight out of the new age book. Along with the desire to be the white knight for the damsel in distress, willing to vanquish this evil sayer. Find some objectivity and distance from your closely held beliefs. You will notice I did not attack this woman personally, no deep analysis of her problems like you have attempted to put on me. You must also be a highly trained analyst to be able to explain away my comments (doubtful) another feature of people who think they know more than they do.

Gregor Leskovšek said...

Let's not argue about the past and focus on the things we can still change. Let's forgive each other and Guru and we will carry a smaller burden. It is pointless proving a point if that thing is not beneficial to at least one person on the long run. Lavanya and others I love You all and I wish You Divine Blessings, Peace and Mental, Emotional and Spiritual Poise in a form of Heavenly shelter and inner progress. Gregor Leskovšek from Peace refuge.

Stefan Bright said...

The conversation is a sharing of experiences. Yes, it is not to argue or criticize. Even the slightest judgement makes for unbalance, and this is not pleasant or constructive. Apologies, forgiveness, thanks, gratitude and love. The rest will take care of itself.

Unknown said...

Thank you for your story. It is amazing that now, ten years after his death, the center is still recruiting and there are many living in ignorance. Thank fully, your story shines as a beacon of truth to illuminate the dark waves of ignorance.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lavanya--what a courageous testimony. I have to admit that I was suspicious of all the allegations until I read yours yesterday. In my case, the chief problem was always trying to align the testimonies with what I witnessed and felt as a discipline.

I guess I needed a link to someone who I knew of in the centre. One of my friends and mentors--one of the first disciples in the centre--held you in such high regard. I remember seeing you when I was a new disciple when the Guru was passing by at the New York City Marathon. You were appeared to be very reverent. How much of this reverence was a mixture of fear and devotion, given all that you had known? How did you live with all of that? Did you just shove it aside?

I have to say that as I read you testimony yesterday, some of my final doubts about the prior testimonies cleared. Something snapped within me. As a discipline, I always felt that if I broke that link with the Guru, I would be adrift in the world. I hope that you will write a memoir so we can get a clearer sense of what was going on in the centre. I'm certain that it would help many people to reconcile with that time in their lives.

I also hope that people will explore what the Guru was. That is, if so many of us had experiences, were those real? Did the Guru have the capability of transmitting such experiences? I still think it would be lie to say that he didn't.

I feel that it would be odd for such intelligent and brilliant people to join and stay so long if the Guru didn't have some ability to transmit experiences. I also recollect how these experiences were ethereal and transient--in part because I was so closed off to everything below the heart.

Is it possible to be "realized" and also immature as a human being? What then was his "status"? As a human being, one can certainly say he was a hypocritical. This is what was most offensive: he taught celibacy but failed to practice it.

Spiritual experiences do not fundamentally amount to change. But I can say that there are experiences that were defining, shaping everything that came after. I am quite that sure that others would concur.

As I hear about the lives of those students who have moved on, I reflect on how much they have learned about their experiences: how many reached a dead-end. Was this not indicative of a maturity-- a stripping away of experience.

For myself, 2-3 "experiences" stand the test of time are are like arteries to what is lasting. Are those experiences--which are not mere memories--attributable to the Guru? How to reconcile these and the image of him as sexual predator/tantrika/manipulative human? In my case, it was an experience of losing the centre of "I" while riding a bike a chanting gratitude. Something like a veil descended from above and everything I saw was filled with joy. When I attempted to locate a source of the self, there was no one home--only sheer bewilderment that the bike was moving at all. This lasted for an hour until I got in argument with my supervisor at the divine enterprise where I worked. The experience came back many times unexpected after I left as well. I remember the last time standing in front of the Guru, inwardly explaining to him that I was leaving his path, the same sense that no one was home. There was no one home in him or in myself. It wasn't a detached feeling, but real, lasting. This, and few moments of true gratitude when he died, were all I took with me. The rest is baggage that snapped within me as I read your narrative.

I don't want to co-opt this thread, but to simply thank you Lavanya, for telling your story. I hope that you continue to write.

Kindest Regards,