Monthly Archives: March 2015

Two more news articles

Shiva Yoga continues to be in the papers this week in these articles as the reporters start digging into the ashrams financial situation:

http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/ashram-could-wind-up-amid-sex-abuse-allegations-20150328-1m97ox.html

http://mpnews.com.au/2015/03/30/signs-of-closure-at-ashram/

Meanwhile someone in the community (not necessarily an ex-Shiva Yoga member) chose to show their support for those affected by hanging a banner from the bridge over the Nepean Highway.

ashram-sign

Yoga Australia suspends Shiva Yoga’s Registered Teacher Training Course

Yoga Australia today announced that pending the results of the Police investigation into the accusations made towards Swami Shankarananda they have suspended the registered teacher training course at the ashram, and also reiterate that they have a code of ethics regarding what is appropriate behavior for yoga teachers. You can read their statement here:

https://www.yogaaustralia.org.au/post/551203de8fb4dc03000dd867

Their code of ethics can be found here:

https://www.yogaaustralia.org.au/files/others/CodeOfProfessionalConduct.pdf

We would like to direct readers attention to clause 1.5.4 of this document.

The Herald Sun / Leader covered this story here:

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/south-east/ashrams-licence-suspended-by-yoga-australia-amid-investigation-into-claims-of-sexual-abuse-against-mt-eliza-swami/story-fngnvmhm-1227279356723

 

Resources Page updated

We’ve updated our resources page with a few extra things for people that are leaving the Shiva School of Meditation & Yoga. Many people have been writing in to ask what other yoga schools or meditation centres they could attend, and we will try find time to compile a list of possible places that others in the community are recommending in the coming days.

http://www.leavingshivayoga.guru/leaving-resources/

Shiva Yoga Inc. in liquidation?

Although no official statement appears to have been released to the community at this time, it seems to be common knowledge to community members that Shiva Yoga Inc. is planning to hold a meeting next week to discuss the process of liquidating it’s assets next week with a view to closing down.

If an official statement becomes available that confirms this we will share it here.

 

Shankarananda “retires”

Yesterday Shiva Yoga made the following public announcement which was forwarded to us by a member who received it:


Shiva Yoga public announcement

In light of the criminal investigation that is being conducted into Swami Shankarananda, the Management Committee has asked Swamiji to retire from Shiva Yoga. Shiva Yoga will now consider its options for the future and we will let you know as soon as we have more information. Devi Ma will be giving Satsang tonight and we will be publically making this same announcement.

With love,
Shiva Yoga Management Committee


Whilst this is seen by many as a positive step, others have expressed concern that this doesn’t yet address what possible involvement that senior staff members and the management committee had in this whole affair. Are they now attempting to distance themselves from Swami Shankarananda?

Documents exist that suggest that the management committee had been “challenged” to come clean about their knowledge of what was going on as far back as December 19th 2014 and even many months before, so what level of accountability do they have?

These are just a few of the issues that have been raised by the community in recent days and show the complexity of the case.

 

The Feedback

Shiva Yoga is back in the media again as the anger at what has happened continues to snowball. Today we have:

The Age: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/police-investigate-sex-abuse-claims-at-shiva-school-of-meditation-and-yoga-20150316-1m0bsw.html

The Age: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/alleged-victims-of–shiva-school-of-meditation-and-yoga-were-previously-sexually-assaulted-20150317-1m1c3a.html

Channel 9: http://www.9news.com.au/national/2015/03/17/15/18/victorian-yoga-ashram-investigated

MP News: http://mpnews.com.au/2015/03/15/hearts-breaking-at-the-ashram/

There is also a petition that has been started by ex-members demanding that Shankarananda step down: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/979/733/056/swami-shankarananda-must-stand-down-pending-police-investigation-into-sexual-abuse-allegations/

And Swami Shantananda Sarasvatī’s excellent article on the Noxious Guru: http://www.swamishantananda.com.au/?p=1585#more-1585

 

Letter received: “Message from the former Treasurer”

This letter was received today from the Ashram’s former treasurer and posted at his request:


My name is Dan, aka Suresh, I was an ashramite for 11 & a half years. My position was Treasurer (on the committee) and my roles included looking after the finances, building projects, general property management stuff and all the other diverse bits and pieces that go with living at the ashram.

I moved out (and resigned from the committee) upon hearing first-hand accounts of women who had prolonged distressing experiences, that in my opinion highlighted an abuse of a position of power and a predatory nature to the sexual activity of Russell. These accounts reduced me to tears.

It disturbs me that the committee has not divulged any details to the ‘Satsang’ following receiving the mediation report. The committee has a duty of care to the community. I am not surprised by the silence however, because having been on the committee it’s my understanding that Russell and Valerie are the ones that call the shots. I think this was the reason too, that Stephen Stanford announced to a Satsang that Russell would be standing down only to be followed by Russell assuming his position the following day.

As a previous committee member I deliberated on my capacity to be a positive influence on the committee, but clearly saw that I would be inept. I also felt not only compromised as an ashramite and devotee, but also scared shitless at the knowledge of how whistle-blowers and dissenting voices were treated.

The committee’s decision (and that of Russell and Valerie) to bypass an independent investigation and the ongoing whitewashing of the issue did not surprise me either, because having heard what I’d heard I felt that the truth would be ‘game over’ for them, at least in their positions at Shiva Yoga.

It pains me at the moment to think that the ashram is intending to forge ahead as if nothing has happened. My main concern is that I don’t believe Russell’s behaviour will change, which means that there are future women and partners of women who may find themselves in harmful situations similar to the stories I’ve heard. I’ve been told that Russell has made promises in the past that he would stop, but he did not. An alarming phenomena I’ve noticed in all of this is Russell’s capacity to say whatever he thinks will annul an individual’s concerns or will in some way appease them. You could say its playing the man rather than the facts. You could also say its a form of manipulation. Moreover, I’m not sure Russell has the capacity to change, as the general picture I get is that he’s in denial and or delusional about all this.

I’d like information to be out there, so that some people attending and possible future attendees can at the least keep their wits about them. It’s amazing that this has all been happening for such a long time in secrecy, but a lot of that has been because individuals have believed their experience was isolated, have been manipulated in such a way to be completely confused and/or they have been silenced in various ways.

I, like many others, have had beautiful spiritual experiences at the ashram and it was not my intention to leave something I was so committed to. But I could not stay and passively condone this behaviour, knowing that it’s likely to continue. I repeat, I can’t passively condone this behaviour. Secondly, I couldn’t continue knowing that all of this scandal, this amazingly shrewd double act and cover up, lay embedded in the motivation of the organisation’s leader, while inevitably it must have been flowing through the culture of the organisation in ways I’ll never completely understand.

I personally never attributed my spiritual experiences to Russell. I always believed that it was between me and the shakti. I do still believe that the beautiful intention of the community was a tremendous thing that filled the place with love. I love the community, always will. To me this is about Russell’s behaviour and his lack of accountability.

There is a long list of people who have left the Shiva Yoga community and I want to encourage everyone to post something of their experience and reason for leaving on this website. I think it’s necessary because truth is important (and perhaps particularly so for a yogic community).

I encourage people to post. Strength and change come from supporting each other by speaking up. It’s the multitude of individual stories that really puts this stuff in a clear perspective.

Letter Received: “Compensation Claims against Satyananda Ashram”

This letter was received today and the writer asked that we share it. We were particularly struck by this statement in the article linked below:

Peter O’Brien, legal representative for the six victims seeking damages, questioned the effectiveness of the response. “People chanting around a fire was never, ever going to go anywhere near a healing process for these people,” he said.


The “Leaving Shiva Yoga” web site has certainly helped with my healing and so does being a member of the Facebook group.

I have dealt with legal proceedings for abuse in the past. The women and men who have been traumatized by actions of Shiva Yoga management/leadership may decide that subsequent legal action may be beneficial to their healing. It certainly helped with my healing in a past abuse situation when the perpetrators were forced by their own liability insurance companies to settle with me.

Here is the article about abuse at another Ashram where the victims are suing for damages.

http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/satyananda-ashram-sex-abuse-victims-want-1-million-in-compensation-20141210-123zz2.html

I know the situation is not identical to the Shiva Yoga situation, but it does include the name of their attorney who might be a resource to the Shiva Yoga former Ashramites. There are several similarities to the present Shiva Yoga situation which are obvious.

The lawsuit mentioned in the article is very recent, December 2014. It appears that the lawsuit has helped force the Ashram management to publicly admit the truth about the lack of appropriate support of the victim, and lack of appropriate recognition of the effects/existence of the abuse.

I hope this is helpful to the victims on their healing paths. I honor, love and am keeping the welfare of all of the victims of the Shiva Yoga situation in the forefront of my consciousness.

Anon