Buckingham -- Some former followers of a world-renowned swami say he used his influence to persuade some of his female students to have sex with him. Swami Satchidananda, founder of Yogaville in Buckingham County, has denied the allegations. They know it is all false,' he said Wednesday. 'I don't know why they are saying these things. My life is an open book. There is nothing for me to hide.'
Susan Cohen, a Connecticut mental health therapist, said Satchidananda took advantage of her when she was a student from 1969 to 1977.
'It would be very healing for everyone if Swami Satchidananda would address the issue publicly and stop denying it,' she said. Satchidananda, 76, is a Hindu monk who teaches that the world's religions are paths to the same God. In 1979, he started Yogaville in Buckingham County. Also known as the Satchidananda Ashram , it is known for the Light of Truth Universal Shrine, which is devoted to the world's religions.
In addition to Yogaville , Satchidananda has followers at Integral Yoga institutes in New York and San Francisco, and 50 smaller nationwide teaching centers. Nearly 200 of Satchidananda's followers live on or near the ashram at Yogaville.
Sylvia Shapiro was a 19-year-old student in California in 1971 when the swami asked her to accompany him on a worldwide trip. 'He was my guru and it was very exciting to be chosen for this,' said Ms. Shapiro, now a New York lawyer who is married and has two children. On the trip, Ms. Shapiro was taught to wait on Satchidananda. She learned to cook Indian food, to photograph his public appearances and to give him his twice-a-day massages.
'In Manila, he turned it from a massage into oral sex,' Ms. Shapiro said. 'I was very upset. He didn't want to talk about it. He said he knew best and I shouldn't worry about it.'
She said the guru taught his unmarried followers to remain celibate. Ms. Shapiro said the relationship continued for about a year until she married another follower. Satchidananda later denied the relationship.