Following their exposé on Osho in the amazing series Wild Wild Country, Netflix recently released another documentary about Bikram. They are doing a great job of exposing these fake gurus and the methods they use to disempower and sexually abuse young women. The pattern is always the same; foster a “parent-child” relationship with the target (under the guise of “student-teacher” or “devotee-guru”) and then begin to slowly groom them for sex using every form of emotional manipulation in the narcissist’s arsenal.
It’s also amazing how many of these guru-abusers have a female accomplice (usually the wife or partner) or as was the case at the Mount Eliza Ashram, a whole team of enablers in the form of the Management Committee.
Maybe we can get Netflix to come to Mount Eliza – there is a story therejust waitingto be told that is every bit as creepy and disturbing.
The resources page has been updated to add a new support group that an ex-member recommended. It is worth noting that many of the women who were abused by Kruckman at The Sri Nityananda Ashram in Mount Eliza are still in therapy four years after leaving. The remaining senior members of the ashram continue to refuse to acknowledge that anything happened and prefer to lie to new recruits, claiming that they are the victims of a conspiracy.
More of the same from the Saraswati Lineage along with the predictable attempts by Agama Yoga to salvage the situation by using carefully crafted softening language in their “open letter to the community”. Compare the experiences as described by “Kelly Anne” in the article above to Agama Yoga’s letter available here. They are also claiming to be the victims of a “media war” (read smear campaign) exactly like the claims made by The Sri Nityananda Ashramin Mount Eliza.
Agama Yoga was apparently trying to keep a lid on the situation by framing it as an “internal investigation” but their attempt failed; the women went public because they were dissatisfied with the Soma being offered to them in the form of “healing” or “guidance”. Agama’s letter aims to cast doubt on the validity of the testimony of the women, which was the same strategy used by the Management Committee at The Sri Nityananda Ashram from the outset.
Yoga communities that are based around the worship of an allegedly “enlightened” charismatic leader are incapable of conducting any kind of impartial internal investigation because the abuse will be as hierarchical as the group itself. Hence the victims are expected to trust that the often narcissistic abusers and their committed zealots will now conduct an honest investigation into their own abusive culture and sociopathic behaviour. FYI, not very likely.
In our experience at the Sri Nityananda Ashram in Mount Eliza, it wasn’t the community that allowed the abuses to occur (because for the most part people were unaware of what was going on), but rather the people who were responsible for providing a Duty of Care towards the community, namely the Management Commitee. Furthermore, they didn’t just passively allow it to occour; in the case of some indiviuals they were actively involved in enabling it.
As Australian yoga teacher and author Alice Williams wrote on her blog, “match a charismatic teacher with eager and often vulnerable students, add a touch of human ego and just enough mysticism that students won’t question any dodgy practices too closely. Wait a few years, then watch the whole thing end up in court cases and recriminations.”
A long-serving devotee of Swami Shankarananda Saraswati (a.k.a Russel Kruckman) of the Sri Nityananda Ashram in Mount Eliza recently decided to leave the community and share her story on her blog.
As usual the ashram’s policy and that of the few remaining hardcore devotees is to vilify and threaten the victim:
“They stick by him and deny he has done anything wrong even though they have heard many stories like mine .. “I don’t believe he abuses women and that’s an allegation you should be very careful about making” said one of the other women high in his circle after I told her my story .
Having spoken to many people who have left, it appears to be a common theme that one of the most difficult things to come to terms with is this complete dismissal and lack of concern for the impact of the abuse demonstrated by the people who choose to stay.
We are glad that this woman eventually found her way out of the Sri Nityananda Ashram in Mount Eliza and commend her bravery for speaking out.
The following is an interesting article about how a Buddhist community in New York dealt with the issue of sexual misconduct by one of their senior Lamas (the Buddhist equivalent of a Swami). Of particular interest to ex-members of the Sri Nityandanda Ashram in Mount Eliza are the details of how their management committee handled the issue:
“KTC secured the services of An Olive Branch, a non-profit organization that facilitates restoration of organizational health to a variety of clients, especially around issues of clergy misconduct.
Our board of trustees hired external consultants to prepare for and lead a disclosure meeting to our community. During that meeting we invited input from the sangha about how best to move forward, and we have distilled those suggestions into a strategic plan that emphasizes more communal decision-making, better communication, and increased transparency in our organization.
Our goal is to acknowledge what happened, adopt ethical standards of behavior to prevent reoccurrence and to heal our community.”
If the Sri Nityananda Ashram (at the time called The Shiva Ashram) had also had a management committee worthy of the name rather than simply a gang of Kruckman’s most hardcore devotees, then our Satsang might also have engaged in a similar ethical and transparent process of inquiry into what had actually occurred and the community may have even come out better for it.
Instead, they decided to white wash the issue, acting like it never happened, and engaging in character assassination of the female victims and other long serving ex-members. They are still sticking to this program to the present day, more brazenly than ever.
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.
Naturally there’s no mention of the on-going legal case against the ashram / Kruckman or any hint of an apology or responsibility for the many people harmed by this abusive group. Their method, as always, is to act like it never happened.