Here are the two letters that were sent out to the Shiva Yoga community mailing list.
Dear Ashram community member, The Management Committee of the Ashram has become aware that Swami Shankarananda has had secret sexual relations with a number of women from the Ashram community over time. Swamiji has now fully informed the Committee of what has taken place. It is well-known that our lineage is a Tantric path, involving worship of the Goddess with strict disciplines.
Swamiji has never claimed to be a sexual renunciant nor demanded celibacy from any of his students, and until now Swamiji has kept aspects of the teaching and his personal activities secret in line with age-old Hindu Tantric scriptures. However, Swamiji now accepts that this is not appropriate, and that he must be transparent both personally and in the teachings. As he explains in his accompanying letter to the community, Swamiji is sincerely apologetic and deeply regretful if his practices have caused hurt or confusion, and for this reason undertakes not to engage in this practice in the future. Instead, he will give public teaching on this topic.
The Committee has legal advice that based on the information known there is no basis for any criminal complaint. Nonetheless, the Committee is aware that the activities in question raise a number of potential ethical issues, and is urgently implementing the following internal processes to address any grievances as a result of past actions and the perceived risk of any future misconduct:
- Swamiji’s role at the ashram: Swamiji’s role as Spiritual Director of the Shiva Ashram will continue and programs will continue as normal, subject to the Committee being satisfied that the practices of concern are no longer occurring,
- Dharma committee: we have established a subcommittee to recommend a set of rules that establish a code of conduct required of all people employed by or representing the Ashram including Swami Shankarananda; and
- Counselling: we will provide confidential counselling at no charge for anyone who needs assistance.
To conclude, we are aware that this is an incredibly difficult time for everyone in the Shiva Yoga community. Many people are hurt, angry and confused. The Committee is taking this situation very seriously and is dedicated to resolving the issue with honesty, transparency and compassion. Swamiji has asked us on his behalf to reiterate his message for the year of holding the feeling – that is, stay away from enmity, and keep returning to love. We would like to ask people to please give us your support and patience while we implement the above, and if you require further information or counselling or would like to provide feedback or assistance, please contact R_____i on 04________ or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you know of anyone who may be interested to be updated but might not have received this email, please forward it to them. Sincerely, Stephen & Vani on behalf of the Management Committee, Shiva Yoga Inc.
My dear ones, I feel a lot of anguish. I want to make a sincere apology to the community and to anyone who has been hurt by my actions, or even by hearing of my actions. I had a carrot in my ear. Truly. When contemplating Baba’s life, I was most engaged by the dramas of the succession. I profoundly underestimated the impact of his tantric sexual activities. And my own.
I recognise at last their disastrous effect. I vow to stop this behaviour. Indeed, it has been stopped already. I want to make amends to those who have been hurt. I want this all to be done in an atmosphere of love and generosity of spirit, not vilification on either side. It breaks my heart that our beautiful Satsang has been shaken and split by anger and confusion. I take responsibility for that.
I know people are disappointed and upset. I apologise to them and ask their forgiveness. I want to meet you all and make appropriate amends if you will let me. I am open to talking about a way through, back to love. If you have been my disciple and you no longer think of me as your guru, I understand. If you still think of me as your guru, I am there for you. Obviously there has been a lot of good done here over more than twenty years. Thousands have received Shaktipat and grown spiritually. It has been magical. My tantric activities have been the only blemish.
As I have said, I have stopped them. When peace returns, perhaps I will speak and write about what is to be learned. Meanwhile, I want to serve those who have been hurt. I seek their forgiveness. Beyond that, I want to help restore our lineage by dealing with this and making amends. I am open to a dialogue about the role of the guru and sannyasa in the modern West and also the place of sexuality in spritual life – and other matters. We are pioneers, after all, and getting it all right isn’t easy. I don’t know how I could have been this stupid … but I was. I beg your forgiveness.