Category Archives: Letters Received

The Ashram’s version

We recently received a forwarded email thread that contained a dialogue between the Mount Eliza Ashram (now calling itself the Sri Nityananda Ashram) and a member of the public that concluded with the following response to their enquiry :

“Perhaps you have received some misinformation about Mahamandaleshwar Swami Shankarananda.

Swamiji and his community were the victims of a vicious smear campaign last year. Many people became very confused and hurt in the process. Thankfully, Swamiji and his ashram have survived and his spiritual community is thriving.

Please let me know if you need any more information.”

To be telling members of the public that what happened at the Mount Eliza Ashram was the result of a “vicious smear campaign” is dishonest and deceptive. If this were the case, then how do they account for their two “letters to the community” seen here, in which Kruckman laments the “disastrous effects” of his “tantric activities” (a dishonest claim in itself which we discuss in-depth here)? How do they account for the many support groups offered by Integrative Psychology in Melbourne specifically for ex-members? The extensive involvement of CASA (Centre Against Sexual Assault) and the police investigation that ensued, or the legal case currently ongoing?

Their own mismanagement of the situation resulted in the loss of many long-term members of the community, garnered the interest of the national and international media and ultimately resulted in the liquidation of Shiva Yoga Inc. Obviously their policy remains unchanged; they continue to whitewash and lie to the uninformed, as evidenced by the email above.

Hindu Scholar disputes Tantric Practices claim

Hindu scholar having direct lineage to the late Bhagavan Nityananda, Harendra Kottyam, wrote in this week to offer his objections to Shiva Yoga’s “Tantric practices” claim relating to the sex scandal at the Mount Eliza Ashram. Email shared below at his request:

Dear Leaving Shiva Yoga members, my greetings and respects to you.

My name is Harendra Kottyam and I am the author of the book Sayings of Lord Siva. This is regarding ALLEGATIONS of sexual impropriety which have shaken the usual calm surrounding the Shiva School of Meditation and Yoga at Mt Eliza. Whatever Swami Shankarananda may have done is not for me to judge, however he seems to imply that this is due to his Tantric activities, which he is implying is part of the Tantric Doctrine.

His management committee has stated:

“It is well-known that our lineage is a Tantric path, involving worship of the Goddess with strict disciplines.”

Tantra and Hinduism have a strict guru-shishya tradition, teacher disciple relationship dating back several thousand years and nowhere is sexual impropriety behaviour between them acceptable. Similarly the Goddess referred to by the management of Swami Shankarananda is Goddess Parvarti or Goddess Maa Kali, which is also the wrong example as the worship of Goddess Parvarti or Goddess Maa Kali does not accept any sexual impropriety behaviour between the Guru and his student/students.

In fact the Goddess Parvarti or Goddess Maa Kali is the best example of the dedication and loyalty she has for her husband Lord Shiva and her children and she is worshiped because of this by millions of her devotees worldwide.

Thanking you,

Harendra Kottyam.

Other objections to the “Tantric Practices” claim that were raised by the community were compiled on this page: the-claim-of-tantric-practices

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.

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.


Letter received: “The men of Shiva Yoga”

This letter was received today and the person asked us to post it on their behalf:

I am just writing in to raise another point not yet mentioned on the site, and that is the effect of all this on the men of Shiva Yoga.

I was involved with the ashram for well over a decade and I saw Swamiji as a kind of ultimate father figure, the ideal spiritual man, and I trusted him absolutely.

But the sad reality is that nearly all the male devotees of Shiva Yoga were treated like dogs. I have been pondering the fact that in all those years, I don’t think I earned a full hour of his time. If I wanted to seek his advice on my most pressing spiritual problems, I would have to make an appointment sometimes a week or more in advance and get less than five minutes during which he would brush aside my question, patronise me and then send me packing with a new Seva project to work on.

I was permanently mystified by the fact that the women seemed to be able to walk in and out of his room at will without even knocking and demand his attention for hours on end about the most ridiculous trivia.

The position of the men at Shiva Yoga can now be seen for what it was, that of the Useful Idiot.

Shankarananda has sown a virus of deception into so many relationships, causing them to become dysfunctional and in many cases break apart. The women of Shiva Yoga were educated to believe that it was perfectly acceptable (and even a “secret spiritual practice”) to lie to the face of her partner, and the pressure was on her to maintain an illusion of normality in her relationship.

I have to live with the fact that I have sat in Shankarananda’s room asking him for help and advice because there is something “wrong” with my relationship, and meanwhile he was having sex with my partner. I feel traumatised and like a rape victim might.

I am now expected to hold my head up high and just move on with my life and perhaps seek counselling for myself; thankfully I have the example of my other male friends from Shiva Yoga who are in the same boat, and I am blown away by the dignity, compassion and understanding they have shown in the face of this disgusting betrayal.