Ananda members talk, March & April, 1996: Part 3

“I Can No Longer Tolerate…..”
Cathy Parojinog

Sunday, March 24, 296 Dwapara [1996]

Dear Ananda Family,

After reading R…’s and F…’s letters to us, I stopped to ponder for some time what they were expressing. I felt their sadness and confusion over the energy that they, and everyone else, has been feeling in the interplay of open letters in the community. F… expressed a sense of loss of tolerance, compassion and courtesy in our community.

In F…’s letter, the word “tolerance” in particular jumped out at me (perhaps I’d already been sensitized by D…’s use of this word). To be sure that I understood what that means, I looked it up in the dictionary. In my version of Webster’s there were three primary meanings listed: 1) “sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own”; 2) “the act of allowing something”; and 3) “a relative capacity to endure or adapt physiologically to an unfavorable environmental factor.”

In further reflection on this, it came to me that the current flurry of self-expression in the community may need to be put in a larger context to make sense. I found the following perspective helpful to my own understanding.

Ananda is at war. It started in July 1990 when SRF filed suit against us for changing our corporate name to include “Self-realization.” For the first four years, this war was fought primarilyy offshore of either “country”—in the somewhat neutral waters of the Federal court system. Both SRF and Ananda enlisted military forces (our attorneys and legal support personnel) who were guided by the “government” of our respective countries (the SRF board of directors, and Swami and Ananda’s leadership). We members of Ananda and the followers of SRF (the “citizenry” of our two countries) were affected relatively little by this war, though Ananda’s citizens were taxed to support our country’s efforts.

However, in the fall of 1994, after SRF had lost many significant battles (the loss of their trademarks and service marks in “Self-realization” and “Paramahansa Yogananda”) and much territory they never thought could be touched (copyrights in Master’s writings and photos), a new theater of operations was opened. The SRF propaganda machinery was put into full swing. The first salvo in this new battle was Eric Estep’s letter in September, urging the Ananda citizenry to revolt against its leadership and abandon the war effort, stating that SRF’s position is superior to our own (they have Master on their side) and that we can therefore never win.

Shortly after that, in November 1994, an Ananda expatriate (Anne-Marie Bertolucci) formed an alliance with certain other expatriates, now turned SRF citizens (Eric and Naomi Estep, Steve and Cheryl Scott, and Don Price). These individuals, claiming to be independent of SRF, but using weapons and ammunition of the same manufacture as SRF’s (lawsuits and mercenary attorneys), launched another attack at Ananda. However, this attack included new strategies of guerrilla warfare and encouragement of a “5th column” inside Ananda.

This guerrilla warfare has brought the frontlines of the war into our country, into our home. We have been strafed repeatedly by “bullets” of anonymous letters and newspaper articles denouncing our leadership and way of life, and “bombed” by the packages of lurid allegations against Swami. While these bombs and bullets don’t threaten us with physical harm, they are aimed at killing our faith, trust and self-confidence. They attack our faith and trust in Swami and other Ananda leaders and, ultimately, in our own intuition and inner guidance, thus undermining our self-confidence.

The propaganda machine of our attackers has urged us to believe in allegations beyond our actual experience. They attempt to create doubt in our minds and hearts about Ananda, its purpose and legitimacy, by trying to convince us that it is not they who are our enemies (they actually claim to be our friends who are only trying to educate us as to what is really happening in our own home); but that our true enemy lies within our own camp—in Swami and our leaders.

In addition, we have seen some of our fellow citizens adopt the unproved allegations leveled against Swami as truth. We have seen these dear ones fall to the bullets and bombs of our attackers, losing their faith and trust in Swami, in our leadership, and in Ananda. There are those who have gone so far as to themselves promulgate this propaganda, giving aid and comfort to our attackers.

So, what, you may be asking, does this have to do with tolerance? Please take a look back at the first page of this letter, at the dictionary definitions. I’d say that, even while under a great deal of stress, we have demonstrated our belief in free speech and the principle of respect for the individual. Particularly over the last six years, we’ve been subjected to, and listened to, a lot of discussion of different beliefs and practices from SRF followers who have tried to convince us of the error of our ways. There has also been frank discussion amongst ourselves regarding our concerns about being at war. While support for Ananda’s defense has been asked of everyone, those who have not offered that support have still been accepted and loved (every war has its conscientious objectors).

It’s when we get to the second and third definitions that I think it is fair to say that some of us may have lost our tolerance. Since I can’t speak for all of Ananda, and shouldn’t affect to do so, I will speak only for myself: I am no longer willing to allow the undermining of the faith and trust of Ananda members in Swami and Ananda. Instead of quietly sitting by as our members struggle valiantly with the negative and destructive energy leveled at them personally through these declarations, court papers, and letters, I want to offer them support by giving them positive, helpful information to counter what they are receiving from our attackers.

And, yes, as the letters we have been writing each other have shown, some of us are speaking out against our attackers, and their sympathizers within our own ranks. Perhaps some of us have lost our “relative capacity to endure or adapt physiologically [or psychologically] to an unfavorable environmental factor.” I am personally no longer able to accept as OK the characterization of unproved (and heartily denied) allegations as facts. I am no longer able to accept as reasonable suggestions that our leadership is “unwell” and should therefore be removed. I am no longer able to accept without protest unfounded insinuations of an Ananda leadership cover-up of evils supposedly lurking below the surface. In short, I have lost my tolerance for the behavior of those who infect others with their doubts and confusion; I’ve lost my tolerance for the actions of those who have gone beyond sincere inquiry and personal evaluation to the encouragement of unrest in others with an aim of schism.

As one who has spent six long years on the frontlines of each battle of this war, I would like to give my personal testimony regarding what I have seen: This is ONE war, perpetrated by a single enemy. Swami is not creating a smokescreen to cover his own alleged iniquities, nor is he exaggerating SRF’s ruthlessness. SRF is single-minded in its purpose of securing “Self- realization” and Master for SRF alone, even if they have to destroy Swami and Ananda in the process. Since they have thus far lost, using every legal weapon money can buy, their fallback strategy is to try to convince the public, the courts, and us that Swami is an evil man who has used his power to hypnotize, intimidate, and even physically force Ananda members into a cult environment solely for his own benefit. If they can somehow manage this, and convince the court that—as they claim—Ananda’s use of “Self-realization” and Master’s name, photo, etc. confuses the public as to its relationship with SRF, they will create an argument of “tarnishment.” As I understand it, this means they will claim being associated with such an unsavory organization as Ananda damages their public image, and that therefore we should not have the right to use “Self- realization” or publicly hold ourselves out as disciples of Master through use of his name, photograph, writings. etc.

The war is a fact; the danger to Ananda, our work and our way of life, is real. But, it’s all also a dream. As Swami said in his letter, what counts for each of us is our personal thoughts and actions. How we fight our battles, how we behave in the face of victory or defeat, those are the things that matter.

I believe that, through Swami’s leadership and guidance, Ananda has fought dharmically and with honor. Unfortunately, in every war there are casualties and it would be foolish to say that no one here has been hurt. I don’t believe this means we have failed as a “world brotherhood colony” or as a community. Rather we are a community of representatives of a ray of Master’s light fighting for our survival. In the midst of that struggle, in which unity and singleness of purpose are essential for victory, I have still seen here love and compassion beyond measure for those who are yet unresolved about their relationship with Swami and Ananda. I have also seen, especially from our leadership, courtesy and love shown even to those who are fomenting rebellion from within. For those who have felt unheard, ignored, or mistreated, please bear your wounds bravely and look past them to Master’s grace and blessing hand. And when you are healed, if you care to, please join us in our sincere efforts in his name.

With love in Master,
Cathy Parojinog