I have been asked a lot lately, “What is going on at Mangrove (Ashram)?” , “How can you be living there given all that has happened?”, “What are your plans?” and the most frequent – “What is a guru? Who is Satyananda? and What type of Yoga do you teach?” /…
Phew – so many questions and until recently I haven’t wanted to answer any of them for fear of upsetting those who were still undergoing their ‘process’ of grief and not feeling a need to assert my position or defend my beloved Guru. I had been quietly going about my business, sharing my opinions with a select few when I felt it was timely or important to do so and seeking support from even fewer due to the unique and seemingly isolated position I have taken.
A WEEKEND THAT CHANGED IT ALL
I have never been shy about bearing all, disclosing, living transparently and openly regardless of the cost and as I have been a lone wolf – have never needed others to approve or disapprove of my being. However I surprisingly seem to have ‘sided’ with tradition, institution and loyalty over my previous solo self-interests.
Over the weekend at Mangrove Yoga (formerly known as Mangrove Yoga Ashram and before that Satyananda Yoga Ashram) there was a gathering of ‘visionaries’ who were invited to share their energy, ideas and skill in taking mangrove into the future – post Royal Commission. The repeated catchphrase was ‘Transparency’ and that this was the only thing that was needed during the weekend and would be upheld to move forward – THIS I CAN DO! It was demanded of India through a letter that was sent and responded to which was shared with the group and it was requested that all participants during the weekend share their positions with each other – NO PROBLEM!
Not surprising – it was a mixed group. There were old school Sannyasa (each of whom have spent from 20-40 years in India living the Yogic Lifestyle under direct instruction of a Guru) who uphold the cultural and traditional values of our lineage. There were those on the equal and opposite end of the spectrum who demanded the removal of tradition and stated that it was ‘impossible to continue’ a relationship with India given what has happened and everything along a sliding scale in between. It was clear how divergent and passionate people were about their positions and that the work of Yoga or unifying these polarities would take some real skill….if at all possible!
We were segmented into small groups and I found myself in a group where my position was hostilely challenged…that my opinion was said to be flawed, impossible, selfish and ignorant! I was hoping for transparency and respect however the second was sorely lacking in this exchange and many others I saw throughout the day. The facilitation was ‘led through a coloured lens’ and if a divergent position was offered, it was quickly redirected, diminished or rephrased to suit the agreed narrative by those behind the scenes. If anyone stated their opinion and if it fell in the minority or at the extreme end of the spectrum, there were rude outbursts of protest at the ‘ignorance, denial and outdated’ views offered. This was the very accusation laid at the feet of Guru and Tradition yet we were perpetuating the same cultural malaise in the name of change….?
As a lone wolf, I had never been involved or wanted to be involved in institutions or ‘traditions’ as they seemed fraught with egos, politics and the sticky substances of humanity that attract our worst friends to live by our sides! Swami Niranjanananda mentioned repeatedly about our ‘five friends’ who are our seductive yet greatest obstacles to leading a high quality life – they were Passion(KAAM), Greed(LOBH), Attachment(MOH), Anger(KRODTH) & Ego(MAD) which are ever present – especially on a spiritual path and within institutions in crisis.
This lone wolf however has finally been drawn into commenting, as when I put all my resistance about ‘organisations’ aside – what I do want to uphold and personally hold dear are the teachings and the amazing life of my Guru. The need to preserve them, share them and ensure they are accessible for all future generations. This knowledge was nearly lost to all of us and through my Guru – Satyananda – who (was a Vendantin…not a Yogi) applied his incredible mind to understanding the science of Yoga. He was able to offer appropriate practices along with personally demonstrate their transformational potential not just in his own exceptional life but also through the lives of his closest disciples…some of whom were present at this meeting and it showed.
THE PAST COLOURED FUTURE
I was a child and adult of sexual abuse and now I have a guru who has been accused of perpetrating sexual abuse of minors – the irony is not lost on me and I have had to do the real and hard work of finding a way to hold space for that gap…I have had to find union within myself – to LIVE YOGA/ UNION – not just talk about it.
I personally have no issue with my or any guru having sex with ‘of age’ women even if they are his students/ disciples. Let each and every adult make their own choices free from other people or societies judgments. Though, I did experience firsthand how this opinion is contentious by those that think I should condemn it, deplore it and demand it never happen again as it is illegal (as I was so clearly informed) , but my views are my views – right or wrong and I am happy to let others have theirs !
I never needed my Guru to be celibate and probably wouldn’t have connected with him had he not had a ‘sexual nature’ … though all of this is secondary to my position. I believe rampant sexual abuse of minors took place repeatedly, violently and horrifically within the ashram during the 1980s and there is no way to dispute that. However what I am able to do because I have been a victim, because I resolutely love my Guru (regardless of his actions – my love does not depend on him pleasing me or failing me) and because his message was bigger than either of our stories, is to encourage and remind us to LIVE YOGA!
THE WORK OF YOGA
To practice Yoga when we need it most – and we need it now!!!
I believe we need to seek union in polarised situations and believe it possible to find a point of genuine, authentic and transformational Yoga (union) which is a place of love, acceptance and healing for all involved. For Yoga not to be lip service or a lifestyle or even a connection to a ‘club of like-minded people’ but individuals stepping up in crisis, working hard (ashram), applying the practices, techniques, attitudes and inclusive belief that we can stitch together fragments, shards and threads of all our diverse lives into a masterpiece in the modern age… A demonstration on how Yoga can become the culture of tomorrow…and it is our JOB/DUTY as Yogis!
I abhor abuse, I love my Guru, I will practice and share the teachings and story of Satyananda Yoga always while personally living in the tradition of Sannyasa as demonstrated so beautifully by my beloved inspiring
This is my choice, This is my work and My goal is Yoga (UNION)
OM TAT SAT