•    Written for Austrian Bureau of Cult Affairs for their annual report

27/05/2012

 


It’s been one year since I've told friends and parents about the abuse I experienced by my spiritual yoga teacher and guru Swami ParamhansMaheshwarananda. 
In March 2011 I decided to tell my close friends, who were with me in the system, of the burden that has been lying on my soul  for the full length of 12 years. I have not trusted Swamiji anymore. I've always had a difficulty to turn a blind eye on the truth and I was no longer able to keep silent, since I got horrified of the idea that my own daughter could be at the same risk.

 

For 12 years, I preferred silence on the matter, but not entirely – I regularly discussed this matter with those whom I knew have had the same experience in last 12 years at each seminar and at every opportunity and I've always came to the same conclusion – that what we have been through with our spiritual master was not spirituality but his lust and abuse of his power and authority. I've always told each of these women that the experience was extremely traumatic and even like incestious for me. The first friend I told about the sexual abuse of Swamiji, was his loyal disciple of Swamiji, was so shocked that  for some time neededpsichiatricassistence and medication as a result of this information, but nevertheless, even if he learned from multiple sources that what I told him was true (as many other girls have had sexual intercourse with our guru), my trusted friend remained a faithful follower of the Master. After the initial shock, he decided to do the same thing with the girls himself, which for me was an additional burden and difficult experience. Therefore I thought it was better to keep quiet about things and not tell other people, since I was afraid of the way they could react. 


I talked with the women whom I knew were sleeping with Swamiji, but they all assured me that this was a great honor for them, or tantra. Because of these conversations I was even more confused and did not know if what I felt was real and right.

This thoughts undermined and tortured me constantly. I could not meditate in peace. During meditation, I became nervous and anxious as my suspicions and pictures from the events of abuse burst to the surface. At the same time fear always appeared
that such thinking would obstruct my spiritual growth.


My disbelief was putting me in despair and the feelings of guilt became unbearable.
Over the years I've talked about the abuse with some authorities in this association  (people whom I believed to be spiritually more mature and were in positions of authority); they knew of Swamiji’s sex games, but they decided to rather keep silent, on the grounds that it was Guru Lila – the master’s spiritual game, that frees you from ego and helps on the spiritual path. Because of their authority and by my personal uncertainty I persisted for so long in this organization, because I was convinced, despite my misgivings, that Swamiji was a real guru.


I was sexually abused by Swamiji for four times. 2 times in India, in his ashram in Jadan, and the other times in Vienna and in the Czech Republic. There were also other women who slept with Swamiji together with me. One of them is still a faithful disciple of his and lives in Vienna and the other - from Croatia - was a disciple before and left the organization years ago.

 

The last year was a nightmare for me. But it was also liberating, I finally gathered strength and courage to tell what really happened. I told the truth in public, to my friends outside yoga circles, to my relatives and separated from the cult. After I disclosed my experience in this cult organization, they threatened my family, my social status and position, my existential situation. Longtime friends gave up on me because of their faith in the teacher.  My longtime best friend that was also my marriage witness, became an activist in the association,  persuading people of my insanity. FollowingSwamiji's instructions she  wrote a report about me to prove my menthalilness and send it to all the members. The stories were spread about me, first of all that I was crazy,  that I'm a prostitute, stripper, pathological liar, that I have been abused by my family members, etc ... All these stories were and still are posted on the Internet, in Slovenian public forums, where people under anonymous names straightly indulge in defamation of my name and reproduce invented stories about me.
More than half a year the pressure was unbearable. I felt affected, wounded and endangered, because people shouted at me when we met on the street or in a shopping store.


None of the representatives of yoga in daily life Association ever called me to ask what was going on. On the contrary, without any conversation, they declared at the general meetings I was insane and that I was organizing some kind of campaign against Swamiji. They ordered people not to contact me and prohibited speeking on the topic. Most of the people were eager to obey and in Slovenia the majority remained in the system. Many people when meeting me on the street, they turn away, even if before for 10-15 years we regularly socialized and were good friends. They do not call me and ask for my opinion. They strongly wish that none of what I’ve told was true.
It is sad, however, that on behalf of the present legislation Swamiji cannot be stopped. He can easily continue with his abuses because there is no low to stop him. I'm not the only one that reported abuse, more women who had similar experiences with Swamiji came forward, but the law doesn’t allow the public prosecution of religious authority for the sexual abuse after 5 years from the abuse had happened. The younger victims, obviously do not dare to speak up or are afraid to expose themselves, since they witnessed what happened to those that came foward.


In Slovenia, yoga in daily life is quite widespread and Swamiji visited our country as guest of honor for several times. He kept lectures and yoga seminars. After a year away from Europe, (he moved away because of the outbreak of the scandal), he is back into action as if nothing had happened.Only a few yoga members resigned from the association when they learned about the scandalous affair. People prefer to believe I am leading a campaign against Swamiji, and that I'm a mentally disturbed personality.

 

Already the same week when I told to my friends about Swamiji’s abuse, I also made a report to the police. I reported the abuse to the White Ring of Slovenia, where I was told that the case is barred, and the abuse has not occurred in Slovenia. Again I approached the police with a request to take action and protect me in some way because I literally feared for my life - my sense of security has been completely destroyed because the violent reactions of the disciples. I did not really know what to expect from fanatics. From the police I was told that they would send an investigator to me, but he did not come.Half a year later a journalist from the Slovenian newspaper  "Primorske novice" called me and made an interview with me and some members who have resigned from the association on one side, and the Association President, on the other. Only when the news came out in the third newspaper, the investigators made a move.

 

It was hard for me, to retell the details of the story to an investigator – a complete stranger, who was kind and friendly, yes, but completely incompetent in these case. He did not know the psychology of abuse and he knew nothing of Eastern religious systems, or the role of a guru on a spiritual path. I think that such delicate matters of abuse should take special experts because the topic is very sensitive and the victims are very vulnerable. He sent my testimony at the court, and a couple of months ago, I was told that my case has been dealt with, but that it is out of date. How can abuse be out of date? How is it possible to keep a witness who talks about the abuse so unprotected? And those who are guilty of abuse remain free, and despite the testimony of many victims he can still go on as nothing happened? It took me a full length of 12 years to be able to identify my experience as abuse, speak up, and to be able to talk about it publicly.

 

When I saw that in Slovenia my hands were totally tied, I went to the White Ring of Austria (where I was sexually abused by Swamiji in 1999). From there, they referred me to the State office for the  Sects questions in Wienna. Only in this office  I found appropriate support and professional assistance by Ulrike Schisser, a psychologist. She was the first to take my case seriously, for which I thank her endlessly, because for me this was, and still is a psychologically very important point of reference. After a long and intense interview I have been assured that I am not crazy, and that meant a lot to me, and what happened to me was real abuse.  She explained to me the system and dynamics of cults, how they work and how they react when they are threatened. It was easier for me to understand why friends and people in a cult reacted like they did. At the same time the fact that a state institution stands for me, meant a lot, I was not alone and unprotected any more. Other abused women began to turn to this institution. This gave me hope that my experience and all this searching for help had a meaning and that it will be possible to do something about it.


Thank goodness I had a lot of support from my family and friends who have resigned from the association all around the world. I now finally could talk to women who did not have all this support, and who decided years ago to leave  Swamiji. Their stories are horrific, and are part of their past they would rather not remember.


The truth had to come out in the daylight in first place for my own healing and for the sake of my daughter andall those potential “bhaktas” (devoted disciples), to whom this could happen. I have in mind all other women who were in similar situations with their guru, and who are still silent and cannot find the ways out from  their traumas.

I am grateful to Ulrike Schisser for her support, as she was and still is the only public professional point of reference for me in this difficult situation.I still hope that other disciples will wake up, they have now information available that in all these years I had not had. My experience should be a warning to all those who seek solace in the spiritual authorities or the communities that require absolute devotion and loyalty form them in terms of denying themselves and their own feelings.



N.