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 legal case is still ongoing.
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.
Article linked below:
Kagyu Thubten Choling addresses sangha about Lama Norlha Rinpoche’s sexual misconduct with students
The world seems to be waking up to these false gurus and how they exploit their devotees.
The legal case against Shankarananda / Shiva Yoga (The Sri Nityananda Ashram) is still ongoing.
Out now on Netflix:
If you can actually stomach this film until the end, the underlying similarities to what happened at the Shiva Yoga ashram in Mount Eliza (now calling itself The Sri Nityananda Ashram) are uncanny.
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.
The Shiva Ashram (now calling itself the Sri Nityananda Ashram in Mount Eliza) has started marketing itself on the internet again with no less than 3 new websites seen here:
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.
The Mount Eliza Ashram has rebranded itself yet again in an attempt to make itself sound legitimate by using the name “Sri Nityananda Ashram.”
Kruckman is still very much in charge and as their latest newsletter shows he is still selling himself as a God-Man to anybody willing to listen : “Swamiji emphasised that the ‘Guru is an opportunity’. He went on to say that even though the Guru is a human being, he or she is more than just a person.”
Many people are still in therapy and counselling a full year after leaving this abusive group.
The property the Shiva Yoga community used to call Kailas Nivas now stands empty and ready to go under the hammer this month as the liquidation process forges ahead.
You can view the pictures of the empty property here:
The full article that featured in Australian Yoga Life Magazine has been re-printed on the Elephant Journal website. For those that missed it, you can read it here:
“The list of gurus accused of sexual misconduct is like a roll call of the who’s who of the yoga community…”
How, we ask, in yoga communities built on the tenets of non-violence (Ahimsa), truthfulness (Satya) and sexual ethics (Bramacharya), can abuse still occur, let alone remain hidden for decades?
You can now subscribe to this website (bottom right) and receive future updates and news via email.