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.