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A Swami celebrity
At the Connecticut Ashram
"Integral Yoga" it said, was a relatively recent system of physical and philosophical teachings formulated by the esteemed Indian-born, New York based yoga master Swami Satchidananda, who had attracted a large and far flung following since he was airlifted in to bless the Woodstock festival back in 1969. He was widely considered one of the "class acts" among the many Indian and Asian yoga teachers now instructing an estimated two or three million American students.
A man with a gigantic white beard and flowing black and white hair longer than Harry’s sat on a stage in a throne like chair. His long fingers curled gently over the arms of the huge chair as he spoke in heavily accented English with a lilting meter that seemed strangely ancient to Harry and soothed him. Harry listened, and he had the feeling that the evening’s talk, on various conceptions of human happiness, was directed right at him. It was as if this Indian guy somehow knew that there was something sorely lacking in the life of Harry Hughes.
Yogiraj Sri Swami Satchidananda was born in Southern India in 1914 to privileged and observant Hindu parents who named their son Ramaswamy. Like other children from religious families, young Ramaswamy loved to play Guru and Disciple with his friends. When he grew up, he was anything but a holy man. A strikingly handsome, chain-smoking manager at India’s National Electric Works, he fell in love, married, and settled down to raise a family. But as with so many other worldly things, he would say that he never felt wholely "attached" during his five years as a "householder" or as the father of two sons by the time his wife died a few years later.
After his wife’s death, Ramaswamy left his children with his mother and went off on a spiritual quest that took him to mountaintops and deep into jungles and forests. For years, Ramaswamy searched out men revered as sages and saints, and spiritual masters said to be 160 years old.
In 1949, having finally found his own spiritual master in the Himalayas, Satchidananda (meaning "Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute") was initiated as a swami. Within a few years, he was well known in Indian yoga circles though he didn’t achieve an international reputation until young spiritual prospectors from the United States discovered his teachings in the mid-1960s. Wealthy patrons in New York and Paris were soon importing spiritual tutors by the month.
The Americans who went to study with Satchidananda abroad warned him that he wouldn’t like the United States, a "crazy place", but the guru planned a two day visit to see for himself. He came to New York in 1966 as a guest of the artist Peter Max.
Satchidananda said he was intrigued by America and Americans, rude and disrespectful though he found them, and he decided to stay a while. By 1967 he had distinguished himself from the many other swamis in New York City by serving the unruly and often heavily medicated flower children that’d offended him when he first arrived. Satchidananda argued to less tolerant spiritual masters that "the kids" were simply frustrated because their homes and religions and schools had failed them. "Where do you go if your institutions don’t offer you anything?" he’d ask. "To a tepee in Vermont, that’s where…They are all searching for the necklace that’s around their necks. Eventually they’ll look in the mirror and see it". Satchidananda claimed that Integral Yoga was a way to exit the drug culture. "The problem with drugs is that while they elevate you, they immediately drop you back down again. Yoga, he said memorably, gave you a "natural high".
Word circulated on the nascent spiritual grapevine that Satchidananda had cured a disciple’s kidney ailment by blessing a glass of water. More than half of his serious students were Jewish. Seven months before he went to Woodstock, he sold out an evening at Carnegie Hall. By the beginning of the 1970s, there were thousands of Integral Yoga devotees - doctors and stockbrokers among them - studying at fifteen centers around the country. As Satchidananda told a writer for the Wall Street Journal, yoga had come to American and "gone public".
Always a hit on the television talk show circuit, Swami Satchidananda -- as of Bicentennial February a naturalized citizen of the "crazy country" his acolytes assured him he’d loathe -- now occupied time slots usually reserved for more secular gurus of diet and beauty. The swami sat in on shows such as "Midday Live" in New York City, replacing Euell Gibbons, who before his recent death at the age of 64 had convinced millions of Americans not only to find that verdant picnic spot in the woods but to eat it too. Satchidananda was asked to consult with corporations and speak to medical groups about nutrition.
page 435 Sri Swami Satchidananda shuttled from airport to airport, an inner peacemaker never in greater demand: out to a holistic health conference in San Diego; back to New York for his annual "Swami and the Rabbi" dialogue with Joseph Gelberman, a hip, yoga-practicing Manhattan rabbi; off immediately to speak at Rutgers University before leaving for Los Angeles. Logging first class air miles like a CEO or a rock star, the swami jetted off on a spiritual tour of Hawaii, Fiji, and New Zealand, where a large crowd of upstanding Wellington Anglicans came to listen to him speak of universal consciousness. Back home, executives of the Pillsbury Corporation heard Satchidananda’s views on nutrition. "Food not only makes the body, " he explained to the dehydrators of Hungry Jack potato flakes. "It makes the mind…Restlessness of the mind is caused by the diet." Everywhere people were searching for answers, so the "Apostle of Peace" as he was called, was always on the road.
page 585 At 75, Sri Swami Satchidananda could still glide gracefully across a room in his flowing robes. His long white hair rose from a spot farther back on his brow than before, though the change only enhanced his leonine aspect. His long beard was cottony white. He carried reading glasses for fine print.
Satchidananda had recently been featured in a magazine because of his obsession with personal computers. He had one for business and another for his own use. He enjoyed using advanced AutoCAD engineering programs to create 3 dimensional design images for Yogaville buildings of the future. One structure in the planning stages was the guru’s huge mausoleum. Another was a life-sized statue of the guru… Talk of his computers or his mausoleum caused Swamiji’s eyes to light up, whereas the endless predicaments of his followers made him look like a weary parent at the end of his rope.
The natural human state, Swami Satchidananda explained, was in essence peaceful and happy, but we tended to seek happiness outside ourselves. "Look at the people who run entire countries and have garnered great wealth" Satchidananda suggested Had they found happiness in power and possessions? Just as a scale has to register zero in order to accurately do its work, judgement must derive from a neutral vision of all things . This is the gift of yoga, a science of the mind, a grandsire of Western approaches to the mind." All you had to lose by practicing yoga was the ego that tormented you. Suffering, Satchidananda said, is nothing more than the burning up of your ego.
Karma-lessons you’d failed to learn returning in the form of experience (what some people call good and bad luck) encompassed a vision of a morally resonant past in which you’d played a role. Karma was truth stored like seeds "in the granary of your mind", as Satchidananda put it.
Yoga also addressed issues of health and seemed to offer an avenue to understanding and controlling your actions.
One of the central tenets of Integral Yoga was contained in the statement "Truth is one, paths are many". Yoga’s`promise of better health also appealed to [many].
Satchidananda’s speaking voice was like a warm breeze, like music, sensuous and soothing. It [could make your] eyes blur. He’d break into a little song, then quote from Hindu scripture, then from a Christian text. Sometimes he’d offer an aphorism in his native Tamil. He ended many sentences with a parental, slightly mocking Hmm? That always drew an appreciative laugh from the crowd.
The guru clearly enjoyed playing word games with his second language. "You might be after a diamond- you are mad after it, dying for it. That is why it is called a die-mond".
More wants, less pleasure, less joy, he’d chant like a beat poet reading from his works.
"Yoga means taking it easy" he said smiling as if he’d told a joke. "It means leaving dis-ease for ease". He seemed a living embodiment of the peace she had always desired. "The purpose of yoga is to be everywhere at home, to go anywhere at all and still be at home". He had the kind of eyes that could just swallow you up.
Integral Yoga [had a] ashram in rural Pomfret, Connecticut, where [initiates] donned white robes. Others were there wearing saffron-colored garments. These were the sannyasin, disciples willing to renounce family, worldly goods, and a long list of physical and sensory experiences in order to be swamis. The light reddish color of their robes represented the fire to which they symbolically consigned body, mind and "all that could be called one’s own" in order to become true "instruments of the Divine".
"Gurudev" as only Satchidananda’s disciples and "devotees" (who usually retained a role in the external world) were supposed to call him, said that the new yoga names and private mantras he would bestow upon the initiates were like yogurt. His new followers would be the culture from which much would grow. Satchidananda seemed to glide slowly among the initiates, leaning down and whispering.
page 439 For several years, Swami Satchidananda had mused openly about his dream of finding a spot in the countryside to build a model community based on yogic principles. The place would be dominated architecturally by a gigantic flower-shaped "Light of Truth Universal Shrine" or LOTUS, an ecumenical temple for people of all religious backgrounds. Swamiji imagined a room inside with a single central light that would shine on the ceiling and divide there into rays illuminating a symbol of each of the world’s great religions. Where to build the shrine was the only remaining question.
In late 1978 Satchidananda’s devotee Karuna King-well known outside yoga ranks as pop singer and composer Carole King-had presented her guru with three hundred acres of prime real estate in western Connecticut. A small Integral Yoga community immediately assembled on the hilltop Carole King called Music Mountain, but Satchidananda and his advisors preferred another property, a hundred-acre wooded tract in Dayville, much closer to the current ashram in Pomfret. Early in 1979, the clearing of a site for LOTUS began in Dayville, but by then the swami could be heard expressing doubts about the wisdom of gathering his followers in a place that got as cold as northern Connecticut had during the winter of 1978-79. The cost of heating the Pomfret buildings was almost six thousand dollars a month, and price hikes in the energy sector indicated that winter fuel bills would rise higher. So, like thousands of discouraged back-to-the-landers before him, Satchidananda announced his preference for a warmer locale with a longer growing season for the organic garden and a climate a bit more like…India’s, for instance. Carole King’s Music Mountain estate was sold in a booming exurban real estate market, and the profits were applied to the purchase of 650 beautiful acres bordering the James River in a primitive reach of Buckingham County in central Virginia. Those acolytes who were ready could now move south to build a community on which the guru had bestowed the all-American name Yogaville.
Many Integral Yoga followers had by now moved south to be close to the long-promised Satchidananda Ashram. Often they settled first in Charlottesville or Richmond, because the rural isolation of Yogaville offered few employment opportunities. But everyone came out on weekends to pitch in, raising barns and watching bulldozers mark out the future position of ashram buildings.
A few months earlier, the guru had stood on a rise above the James River and smashed a coconut representing the hard shell of human ego on the bucket of an earthmover. "Satguru Maharaj Ki" he yelled. Victory to the Divine! Then Satchidananda gathered up his robes, climbed into the driver’s seat, and expertly began to dig a man-made lake that would eventually reflect his LOTUS shrine.
"Yogaville" would be "a little piece of heaven".
page 466 Swami Satchidananda’s travels would soon require a Yogaville airstrip and a twin engine plane. Satchidananda believed that people would see the moral path only when they were ready. (no grinning acolytes promoted Integral Yoga in airports).
page 501 During lunch that first day of Sam and Eve’s visit, he inspected the interior of Siviananda Hall, a multi-use auditorium and cafeteria, well enough constructed and currently filling up with a lot of hungry suspects, each of whom, to the man, woman, and whispering child, gave Sam a jangling case of the heebie-jeebies. The ashram dwellers waited to pass in front of a table offering rice, yogurt, wheat germ, a curry concoction, and a stainless steel vat of what looked to be stewed kelp. Then most of them went to kneel at one of several long tables with legs no more than two feet high. They hunkered devoutly over their bowls, obviously satisfied, Sam thought, by something that had nothing at all to do with the food. He had to force himself to stop staring at all their pious, apple-cheeked faces.
Over the doorway leading out of Siviananda Hall into a lobby where you were allowed to talk, Sam saw a huge photograph depicting the aging swami on top of a mountain, eyeballing a nearby cloud. The walls were lined with hyper-real portraits of Jesus and Buddha and various modern spiritual dignitaries. On a large stage at one end of the hall loomed a life-sized full-color cardboard cutout of Lorraine’s guru, cross-legged in his saffron robes. On the other side of the stage sat a throne, an honest to God wooden throne. Citizens of Buckingham County who came to check out what "the Hindus" of Yogaville were up to always went away talking about the throne.
But Sam couldn’t stop looking at the faces on the ashram regulars, each a mask stretched tight around something utterly pathetic. Or dangerous- Sam wasn’t quite sure which. These were loser faces of long standing. These were people who’d fallen off their horses a long, long time ago and would never manage to remount. They’d come to a riverbank haven "unchanged since the Pilgrims" Sam said because here the world stood still and all you had to do to fit in was stay calm.
"That smile" Sam whispered to Eve. "Check out that smile". Eve cocked her head and mimicked the smile expertly.
By the end of the day, Eve was furious. She resented deeply that the goal of "yoga shit" was to run as far as possible from the "real shit" everyone else had to wade through.
page 503 The many mobile homes that full-time ashramites lived in were flimsy dwellings.
The ashram was located in one of the poorest parts of the country. The unemployment rate in Buckingham County is perennially twice the Virginia state average. One fifth of the three thousand or so people in the forested hills and valleys of the geographically immense county lived in poverty.
While Satchidananda had many prosperous devotees (the guru noted with pleasure that "where there had once been hippies" there were now doctors, lawyers, administrators, and other professionals in his flock, a significant proportion of the several hundred members who lived on the grounds of the Yogaville ashram, among them "householders" who were expected to pay their own way, unlike the resident renunciants trained to be swamis, had to scrounge for money.
The young swamis of the sannyas order had taken the seemingly contradictory vows of "detachment and devotion" (detachment from cars, houses, and trust funds often liquidated for the sake of "devotion"). The ritual abnegations of the sannyasin included a pledge to "dedicate my entire life and renounce all the things which I call mine at the feet of Sri Gurudev. This includes my body, mind, emotions, intellect, and all the material goods in my possession." Though they weren’t expected to pay for basics like food and lodging, they were relegated to rickety trailers sometimes infested with mice or lice.
By 1984, alternative lifestyles like the one in evidence at Yogaville were widely regarded as marginal. Several Integral Yoga schools had closed down. Yogaville and an ashram in California (as well as a two thousand acre sister community in Australia were now the swami’s mainstay.
page 505 - "You know what really gets me about the ashram?" Eve said as they headed north. "It’s that they all believe they can change things simply by running away to someplace new"
Page 516 Less than a month after he found Buckingham County, Bill ventured down the road to help the "toe suckers" at the ashram put up a new building at the Integral Yoga school. He was excited to see Yogaville, in part because he had an old road buddy who’d gone yogi and moved there some months earlier, and also because he was intrigued by the idea of a self-sufficient community connected by faith, loyalty, and mutual respect. But as soon as he strolled across the gravel parking lot next to Siviananda Hall, Bill noticed ashram residents stopping in mid-stride to stare at him. Bill stopped and stared back. Each face was less friendly, healthy, or well fed than the last. Everyone he saw in Yogaville resembled a ravaged victim of something - cancer or famine.
The Light of Truth Universal Shrine was almost done. The fifteen-acre lake was dug and filled with water. The long reflecting pond in front of LOTUS duly mirrored the cotton candy colored mosaic tiles on the gigantic architectural flower petals. The petals were closed against a large baby-blue mammary dome from whose top rose a gold cupola reminiscent of a minaret, a "cosmic antenna" that Swamiji himself had directed into place while sitting beside the crane operator. LOTUS, Swamiji told the excited residents of Yogaville, would help people "learn to love the whole world as their family".
The celebration marking the close of six years of LOTUS building served to distract ashram habitant from the tensions and murmurings so evident in Yogaville these days. The community had been rocked by revelation of the untimely pregnancy of a sixteen-year-old householder, and residents were stunned once again when they learned that the man involved was a Yogaville husband and father of longstanding.
page 403 -"Sometimes people understand and think yoga advocates no sex" Satchidananda said, "This is not so. Yoga teaches the middle path. Yoga is not for the person who never sleeps or always sleeps, nor for the one who always fasts or always feasts."
The scandal came in the wake of considerable concern in senior ashram circles over the dire national publicity generated by reports of multimillion dollar counterfeit product scams, kidnappings, beatings, and even murder at the Hare Krishna outpost in rural Martinsburg, West Virginia (the leader of the sect, Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada, would later receive a thirty year sentence for mail fraud and racketeering, a charge that included authorizing the violence perpetrated by his devotees.) Outside churches and ballfields in Buckingham County there was now talk of the crimes of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, an Indian guru who had purchased a significant portion of a rural Oregon county and was deported for immigration fraud amid rumors concerning a long list of his personal depravities. The departed Bhagwan used to drive around in a different Rolls Royce every day. By the time he was run out of town, he had around 85 of them, including 13 that were "artistically" painted over with images of flying cranes and lightning bolts. Life at the Bhagwan’s ashram, according to defectors, was not morally pure.
page 386 - A true yogi is able to draw energy up from the lower and lesser chakra of the loins and achieve cosmic orgasms of the mind, releases so complete and perfect that the flawed atavism of sexual intercourse would simply stop mattering so much.
[Note: Swami Satchidananda faced allegations of sexual abuse]
From the perspective of those close to Satchidananda, Yogaville was under siege. A "crass" external culture was at the gate, and just as in hundreds of other American communities of a more secular cast, the ashram leaders responded with a call for the protection of the family, better care of the children, and a return to the authority and traditions basic to a decent yoga life.
On the ashram, where alcohol and drugs had long been strictly controlled, dozens of onetime children of rock ‘n’ roll sat down to make lists of "offensive " songs and television shows to be banned within Yogaville’s borders. Soon after, dating between ashram children was banned through the end of high school. Then all children attending the ashram school were asked to sign a document pledging that they would not date, have sexual contact, listen to restricted music, or watch restricted television shows.
Satchidananda never came forth to comment formally on the new restrictions, but residents understood that the rules carried his implied imprimatur. The guru often decried the breakdown of the extended family in the United States. Without grandparents to raise them, children were now being robbed of their mothers too. Satchidananda referred to baby-sitters and day care employees as "money sitters" who worked for gain instead of love. He said he would rather see a Yogaville mother "in rags" than have her leave her children behind to go to work.
Satchidananda was asked if the postwar experience of Americans who had moved to suburbs they thought would be safer and better for their children, only to watch those children grow up and rebel, was cause for concern about the future of a protected community like Yogaville. "Rebelliousness" the swami replied "comes not when you force children to do something. It comes from them not knowing why you are asking them to do it. If you explain and convince them, then they accept rules as their own ideas. Then it becomes easy for them to follow. Then there is no need to rebel".
When one group of ashramites reported another for listening to a Bruce Springsteen album, [one member] was incensed. "So what are we saying here?" she asked during a subsequent committee debate, sounding like a Lorraine out of mothballs, a woman the friends of "Leela" had never met before. "Are we saying, maybe, that truth is one, paths are many, but step off my path, come around my daughter, and you’d better watch out?"
"Lets look at what’s really happening here…A lot of cheap labor was needed to get this ashram going. Now that phase is ending. This is the single most class-conscious place I’ve ever seen. Your guru has a fancy house and lots of cars and his people don’t provide work for you or take care of you at all. Yogaville is designed for the rich yogis who come on retreats or the people who want to retire here. People like you are no longer welcome".
In the meetings…meat, tobacco, certain books, and the fraternization of adolescents of the opposite sex outside of school were added to the long list of proscriptions, and written vows were required.
Shortly after arriving in the poverty stricken county of Buckingham, Bill had noted the irony that it was contiguous with Albemarle County, home to the highest concentration of millionaires on a per capita basis in the state or the nation.
One of the drivers who had the honor of transporting Satchidananda to and from New York area airports was the veteran Integral Yoga disciple Hara Hughes. Swamiji knew that Harry had once driven a cab. "Faster" Satchidananda would roar from the back seat of the air-conditioned car Harry often borrowed from Sam. "Go faster! Now!" One time he "busted" Harry -- the term for the guru’s tongue-lashings in Integral Yoga circles- because Harry arrived at the airport in a T-shirt. "This is the way you’d go to see your girl!" said Satchidananda, clearly outraged. As a former student of psychology, Harry couldn’t help pondering the gender implications of the remark. But he’d been busted nonetheless and he figured he must have deserved it on some karmic level he hadn’t yet discovered.
Satchidananda smiled in his photographs and in person, but unless he was playing with children, his was the half smile of a radiant and knowing inner peace. And the smile was far from constant, for as the most prominent of all the "paternal" yoga masters, Swamiji expected a great deal of his devotees and even more of his full-time disciples. This guru called them as he saw them, so almost every follower of Integral Yoga had been busted at one time or another, an experience they all described as if such extreme disapproval were a great honor.
In private, Swami Satchidananda said he was well aware that many members of his flock sought his love and approbation with all the urgency of very young children. He encouraged his followers to call him "Father" or "Papa" ("though others" he noted, "consider me more like a mother or even a child".) He regarded these familial forms of address and the feelings they represented as somewhat akin to the psychoanalytic doctrine of transference. "If fear of losing my love helps these young people change their lives for the better, then I will allow it." Satchidananda would never really stop loving any of them, he said - no matter what they did -but he was prepared to wield the doubt and fear engendered by the possibility as tools of his trade. The swami was a "God-realized" being. He resided in the world in human form only to serve the spiritual needs of others. His anger, followers believed, was "fake", simply one of several pedagogical styles. Besides, as he often pointed out, nobody ever said becoming enlightened was easy.
On one occasion Harry and Lorraine took their diminutive eighty-one-year-old Indian music teacher, Swami Nadabrahmananda, up to Satchidananda’s ashram in Connecticut. By now, they’d completely forsworn rock and blues in favor of the exotic Indian rhythms and motifs he taught them to chant and play on the harmonium and the tabla, an Indian drum. At the ashram, Lorraine, Harry, and Nadabrahmananda gave an impromptu concert. As soon as they finished, one of Satchidananda’s retinue of assistants informed Lorraine and Harry that the guru was livid. They’d presumed to bring another teacher to his ashram without permission, and they were expected to apologize.
After hours of sitting in traffic jams observing his spiritual master in the rearview mirror, Harry had decided that Sri Swami Satchidananda was not only far from serene, he was a bilious and unforgivingly cranky old man. Not once had Harry felt his spiritual bond with Satchidananda enhanced by all the carping, however edifyingly paternal it was meant to be. Worse yet, Harry was sure that his guru didn’t really care for him, especially lately. It was almost as if Satchidananda somehow knew that Harry’s devotion was failing. But Harry continued to suffer his bustings, riddled with the guilty feelings of a naughty child.
Lorraine-Leela, as she now introduced herself-felt her love for her stern spiritual father growing deeper by the week. She felt entirely unworthy before her master, and she still wasn’t quite sure exactly how she was supposed to navigate the specific spiritual path that would win her this great man’s respect, but from the moment she woke up she dedicated each day to trying. Lorraine avowed to Harry and her brother and sisters that she stood ready "to die for his love".
For all her devotion and rigid adherence to the purest yogic habits and diet, Lorraine now wheezed heavily with each breath.
Lorraine consulted the Integral Yoga Institute’s doctors and healers about her agoraphobia, and eventually she wrote to Gurudev asking what she should do. He replied immediately, "Know that these are just thought waves, aspects of the mind…through the regular practice of pranayoga and meditation, this will fall away, little by little. Don’t hate yourself for having fears, just recognizing them is the first step toward getting them to go away."
Not long after Lorraine played the Virgin Mary to Ram’s (she now called Gabe by his yogic middle name) baby Jesus in the big Integral Yoga Christmas pageant of 1978 (Satchidananda came as Santa Claus), she began to sense that something was seriously wrong with Harry. She was certain he was betraying her- based on his torrid affair with a secretary at SSA, a wholesale violation of their somewhat contradictory vows of celibacy and marriage.
Devastated, but remembering Satchidananda’s quick response to her agoraphobia, she gathered her nerve and called her guru on the telephone. Through his personal secretary, she communicated the tragic marital news. Satchidananda came to the phone and listened patiently. Lorraine waited for his wise advice.
"Well," he said, sounding irritated, "I don’t know what you expect? After all, you weren’t giving him any at home". Lorraine gasped. "But Gurudev, he’s not interested in me". "I’m sure you know how to make him interested. Goodbye."
page 457 Lorraine had broken out in terrible welts all over her neck and stomach and had stopped eating altogether when it became clear that reconciliation with Harry was a lost cause. Swami Satchidananda, who was critical of marital separation, went so far as to claim that only the children born of a marriage should be allowed to sanction its dissolution, his theory being that once they were old enough to render such a judgement, they would also be able to absorb the shock of divorce to less damaging effect.
Lorraine had a one-night stand and became pregnant. She drove 5 hours to see her guru, who was still in Pomfret at the time. When she finally arrived, she told Satchidananda’s secretary that she was pregnant and unable to decide what to do. "He won’t see you" the secretary said when she returned. "He says that you know what to do".
At subsequent satsangs (the free form lectures and question and answer sessions the guru conducted in Pomfret and New York City), Lorraine thought Satchidananda was avoiding her plaintive gaze. When he moved into the crowd, he’d bow to speak softly to others, hug them with the hug she craved, and offer them bits of food, but he wouldn’t even look at Lorraine. "What should I do? What does he want of me?" she’d plead to members of his inner circle. "Gurudev says you already know".
page 464 - "I’m aware that you and everyone else in the family think I’ve gotten weird", Lorraine wrote, "But I must continue to explore. I must continue to look for my real self"
Lorraine felt that she had betrayed the guru and his teachings. Satchidananda believed that a little spirit was bubbling up toward life within Lorraine, or so she surmised from his Delphic response to her. Sometimes Eve thought Lorraine was going to float away. She named her child for a Hindu god.
page 404 - "A mango seed becomes only a mango tree, not an apple tree". Parents were little more than gardeners were, Satchidananda taught. The idea that parenthood meant a mother and father bequeathed something of themselves to a child….was an illusion, a dangerous myth perpetuated by vanity and ego. The child came with "past memory" and a physical form that Satchidananda likened to a horse, just a powerful frame ridden hard by spirits from the cosmos.
page 489 Lorraine- now Mrs. Curt "Mohan" Wenzel of Yogaville, Virginia- who had turned up with Ram and Shiva and was pregnant again. Lorraine got married and moved to live in the ashram.
Mohan, the groom, was a 50-year-old former policeman and Broadway dancer. The flourishing Yogaville community included six of Mohan’s children by two previous marriages. Four of them were teenage boys, which made the trailer home Lorraine managed for the new family of ten a bit cramped.
And then Lorraine showed up pregnant and unhappy with her new marriage. Mohan and the boys had no respect for women. She was tired of the trailer, tired of shopping for ravenous males on a meager budget, and tired of being treated like a slave.
page 526 "Give me back my son" Lorraine said to her onetime friend, the social worker.
Gopal had been placed in the woman’s custody by internal Yogaville decree until the hearing. As soon as Lorraine found out where he was she’d rushed over.
"This is nothing but a vendetta. This is because of Bill, and you know it."
"Leela, Mohan is a better parent", the woman said, "He lives the yogic life you’ve repudiated. Gopal would be better off with his father. This is not about you. It’s for your son".
At this, Lorraine scooped Gopal into her arms and started to leave, but the woman - one of the few Yogaville residents possessed of substantial girth- forcibly restrained her. Lorraine felt something pure and wild overtake her as she fought back, For all her spiritual discipline, she was suddenly aware that if she had a bit more strength she would be capable of murder when it came to protecting her kids.
Before the preliminary court hearing, Ram and Shiva were kicked out of the ashram school for refusing to take the new vows.. Meanwhile, the Yogaville Girl Scout troop was purged of those who were not abiding by the moral rules.
page 527 Lorraine felt like a good American the day she left Yogaville….She was leaving the ashram, a place she loved, as a matter of principle.
page 585 As far as Swami Satchidananda was concerned, a devotee like Leela, who’d come hammering on his door in search of forgiveness, had failed to "follow me one hundred percent", as he put it. Lorraine always said she loved him, he knew that, of course, but then she was always going off to experiment on her own. "This is natural. My food is not the only good food.", the guru acknowledged, "Maybe it gets stale after a time". But Lorraine, "she tries to do things for my approval, just for my approval".
Never once during all of Lorraine’s more than 15 years of devotion had her guru sat down to chat with her, but he was nonetheless quite sure that Lorraine’s was a life filled with lessons as yet unlearned.
Gurudev’s personal secretary showed her inside the house and asked her business. She left and returned almost immediately. "I’m sorry, Leela. Gurudev can not see you".
Lorraine drove over to LOTUS and climbed the stairs leading into the dimness of the central dome’s interior. When Lorraine had LOTUS to herself like this, she was sure she could feel vibrations. She knelt down on one of the soft pads on the floor inside the dome and fell into the gentle night of meditation. When she opened her eyes, she felt protected. She knew she was finally back home.
page 610 As she got stronger, Lorraine finally began to take a close, hard look at the Satchidananda Ashram. She saw…a community as profoundly divided between poor and rich- between the trailer dwellers who lived an hour’s drive from a day’s wages and the followers who built woody, burled homes and could afford luxuries and gifts of automobiles for the swami…
Lorraine watched from the doorway of LOTUS one morning as Satchidananda ushered Lauren Hutton into the shrine. The guru smiled at Hutton and told her funny little stories. Lorraine was standing beside one of his Cadillacs (he had an antique pink one now, and a cherry red Rolls Royce) when the beautiful model and the guru came out and climbed inside. Satchidananda did not acknowledge Lorraine’s presence except to glare at her and bark in his irritated father voice, "Don’t slam the door".
Not long after, Lorraine decided that she had "given too much power to the guru" for too long. When her family asked why she had left the ashram, she said, "I’ve just outgrown it". …She saw now that Satchidananda was just a man, not the angry father she might somehow please, and certainly not a god.
The word "cult" would not acquire its darkest connotations until late 1978, with the mass suicides in Guyana of nearly a thousand American followers of Jim Jones and his People’s Temple. But by 1976 the term had become a popular pejorative used to describe various groups from which some American parents felt compelled to retrieve their children by methods that included kidnapping. "Deprogrammers" who specialized in reclaiming "brainwashed" youths (brainwashing was as much in the news lately as it had been during the Korean War and the earliest days of rock ‘n’ roll, in part because in early spring it had been the pillar of Patricia Hearst’s much publicized courtroom defense of her revolutionary activities) were under indictment in several cities for violating the rights of children past their majority. "I’ve never seen one of these young people who didn’t have some kind of serious failure in family life," said Dr. Herbert Hendin, a Columbia University psychiatrist quoted by US News and World Report on the large numbers of children slipping away into the spiritual underground.
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