I don’t want to write this blog, but I have put it off long enough.
I found out a few years ago now that our lineage of spiritual teachers was tainted. That my teacher’s teacher’s teacher, Muktananda, had apparently behaved badly. I didn’t know exactly what he had done but there was an abuse of power and I remember being disappointed. Here was someone in the name of yoga giving it a bad name.
Of course he wasn’t the first, and the list of male yoga teachers who have been exposed as having taken advantage of their powerful situations with women is getting longer all the time.
Somehow at that time I found a way to accept that this man was human, had made an error, but still had many gifts and great shakti (energy). He was now dead (that made it easier to accept somehow) and I have felt that Shakti myself at this Samadhi shrine in Ganeshpuri. (Unlike my experience of the sweet energy at the Nityananda temple, I have felt uncomfortable at each visit to the Muktananda Samadhi shrine actually).
But recent allegations that my teacher’s teacher, Swami Shankaranada of the Shiva ashram in Mt Eliza, has abused his power and had sex with ‘over 40 women’, how am I meant to deal with that? Apparently his abuse of power, and as I am learning from the testimonials, manipulation and controlling behaviour too, has been going on for some time but only became known due to a recent complaint. Do I put that down to ‘he’s only human, he made a mistake’?
This is the same man, while never being my principle teacher, whose amazing Mahamandeleshwar celebrations I attended in Ganeshpuri just over 4 years ago. You had to be there to feel the energy. And I’ve been to many satsangs at Mt Eliza over the years too.
Not even sorry!
His printed apology didn’t seem sincere or even very apologetic. I heard that he refused to step down, refused to see and own what he had done as wrong. Not surprisingly, lots of people have left the ashram and stopped attending programs.
In the last few days some of the men and women from the Shiva ashram have bravely made public testimonials and more and more about his narcissistic behaviour is being revealed.
What am I to do?
What are my choices in being a part of this lineage?
Patanjali’s yoga sutras teach us to practice truth and non-harm (amongst many other things) as a way of uncovering the Union of small individual self with the one big whole, a way of experiencing Yoga.
If I ‘disown’ the history, the lineage and just teach yoga and meditation, where is the truth in that?
I have to find a place in my heart for all that history. Recognise the difference between the teachings and any individual person.
The truth is, there is so much I have gained from this lineage, although I do realise when I analyse it more closely it is really from my teacher Mataji (Swami Shantananda) and Nityananada. Mataji has helped me to see things differently. My experience of life is different now, and in a great way. (I have blogged about this before.) And in India I have spent many hours sitting at Nityananda’s feet feeling his amazing sweet energy and feeling my heart expand. (I know, weird heh? Feeling the energy of a dead man. Really this energy is what is inside us all, it is none other than who we are. But this is how I can describe it.)
Mataji in no way condones the behaviour of those 2. She sets an exemplary standard when it comes to the teachings of yoga. She recognises her guru’s role in helping her to see something that she couldn’t see before too, just as she has done for me. (Not that I’m putting myself up there with her). She can also see that his personality is his issue, his karma, and while feeling ashamed of his behaviour can somehow separate the ‘teachings’ from the ‘man’.
My heart goes out to everyone who has been affected by the behaviour. Such an abuse of power and trust. And I feel for the women, the husbands and partners of many of these women whose trust has been violated, and indeed for the whole community. At the moment there are a great many people who have chosen to leave and there are still some sitting as his feet. I’m pretty sure all are feeling pain, as I am.
Our little community here at Waverley Yoga Studio is alive and well, as is the Classical Yoga community. I guess I’m lucky. I can be aware of the history, use what I have learnt, but no longer endorse or have anything to do with Swami Shankarananda and his programs.
It still hurts, but that is what feels right at present.