Ananda members talk, March & April, 1996: Part 14

I Had to Do It My Way

March 21, 1996

Dear Friends,

I want to share with you my “journey” with the court case. When I was working as a magazine editor in the early l970s, Divine Mother showed me that when controversies occurred, I could never assume I had all the facts until I had talked to all of the parties involved. Several times I made mistakes in this regard, printing articles that were very convincing in their arguments, only to find later that the articles represented only one side of the truth. I had not talked to both sides, and I was extremely embarrassed and humiliated later when I discovered how easily I had been “taken in.”

The stakes are much higher when it comes to Bertolucci vs. Ananda. When I was confronted with Kamala Wiley’s declaration on the Internet, for example, I faced an important crisis. What if it were false? What if it were true? More important, what if it were true, and Master still wanted me to remain at Ananda and find my inspiration through this channel of his work?

How would I work that out for myself? How could I work it out? I didn’t know. The only thing I did know was that, in every case, when one of Divine Mother’s children errs, Her heart, even while scolding, is saturated with compassion. I could not hold my head up, or feel that I was in possession of the deep truth, unless I could feel Her compassion behind my judgments.

I had anger. I had rage. I told Jyotish I would never let my thoughts on the court case be edited by anyone, nor would I ever follow a party line. Jyotish responded in the finest traditions of Ananda, allowing me complete freedom to think as I liked, trusting me to hold to truth, to follow God and Master, and to be loyal.

Because, right or wrong, I considered myself part of this family of Master’s disciples. And, right or wrong, families stick together — that is, families that are worth anything. Brother Joe may be a drunk, a rapist, a murderer, but we owe him at least our compassion.

Perhaps my experiences as a writer gave me perspective. I could feel that I didn’t have the whole truth. There was a lot of material being distributed by Anne-Marie’s supporters that really set me off. But there was a feeling of an emptiness, of something missing, of a hole in my understanding. I prayed long and intensely to Master, and received the simple guidance, just once. I heard Paramhansa Yogananda’s voice, clear as day, tell me: “Your job is to live as expansively and joyfully as possible. I will take care of these larger concerns.” I was consoled, but I was still impatient to find my own understanding.

I knew I had to be completely ruthless in my search for truth. Why? Because compassion that’s based on namby-pamby attitudes of wanting to please some authority, or one’s neighbors, or one’s own ease-seeking soft heart, is worthless. One puff of negativity, and that kind of “compassion” gets blown away.

So, I waited. I was fortunate while waiting to have one dear friend in particular. (I don’t think she’d want me to mention her name.) With her big, compassionate heart, and with her long experience of raising children, she viewed the court case in a way that appealed to me, because it was compassionate. “Whatever Swami might have done, I know what I have gained here at Ananda, and I know what it feels like to be here now. I would never have been able to arrive at such joy, on my own.”

I knew that compassion and loyalty begin in the heart, but find their completion in the soul. So I waited and gathered impressions. I responded to many negative notes about Ananda on the Internet, vigorously defending our community against certain individuals’ attempts to demonize us as a cult. This was healthy for me, because it focused my mind (in indignant outrage) on the utter goodness of the people here, of all the people here.

How could such a community be deluded, duped, led by God and Guru down a delusive, monstrous path? It just didn’t compute. But my heart still needed convincing—it still had scars that were sore. I held on with a kind of puzzled faith.

One thing I noticed clearly: that whenever I was in my mind, I suffered, and when I was in my heart, I was at peace. It was as if the whole court case was a test of attunement. “Will you listen to Me? Or when I deprive you of mind-support, and tempt you with reasonable-sounding arguments, will you turn away from Me, proud and self-righteous in your understanding?” I hung on.

Then I was asked to come to Palo Alto to work in our legal office and run errands for Keshava and Sheila. I thought: “Me? I’m one of the biggest doubters!” But I went, feeling that Divine Mother must know what She was doing, and sure that She had heard me when I said I only wanted to do what would please Her.

You have no idea how much paper the court cases, SRF and Bertolucci, have generated. Naturally, I’ve only read a tiny bit of the publicly available papers, in spare moments when I’m not Xeroxing or running down to Office Depot or FedEx.

I was shocked. Not by anything salacious, but by the wealth of material that represents spirituality at its highest. And by the holy strength of our cause. I had always wondered: if Ananda were in the wrong, how could Divine Mother be defending Ananda through such noble and pure-minded souls as Sheila, Keshava, Jon, David and Asha? I began to understand why.

Some time ago, a packet of case materials was offered for Ananda members to come and read in the church office. Only a handful took advantage of this offer. I was not among them. I wish I had been, because I would have come to dharma much more quickly. As it was, all I’ve had to go on was Cathy’s succinct court case updates, and a few letters from Jyotish and Devi and Swami. Plus, of course, the worst that the opposition could dish up. And I’ve been learning something about the opposition recently, by reading the publicly available papers filed in court.

Just today, I read one of the motions filed by Bertolucci’s attorneys. And immediately afterward, I read Sheila and Jon’s formal response. It was like this: being in the ring for seven rounds with the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and then entering the Cathedral at Chartres. On one hand, incredible, outrageous statements made without regard for the facts of the matter. A ferocious, cunning effort to sway the judge by creating an atmosphere of histrionics, danger, fear and urgency, to convince him that Ananda is cult in which the members are subjected to mind control and kept as slaves in a “compound.”

That’s where those little notes that appear in your mailbox from the “Ananda Awareness Network,” and “Dharma Satsanga” etc. are coming from. These people are ruthlessly intent on destroying Ananda by dividing our loyalties. Make no mistake about it, SRF and its members are directing the effort to publicize Bertolucci, and we all know why. Because they view Swami as an Anti-Christ (actual statement by an SRF minister), and Ananda as a dangerous, rival organization (because very successful).

On the other hand, we have Jon, Sheila, and Swami. If you haven’t read the papers that are available to the public, I suggest you do so, because it is inspiring. Their demeanor is always respectful, centered, in tune with truth. On one side, adharma. On the other, dharma. The other side tries to sway you emotionally; why not give yourself a chance to be swayed with sweet reason and a vibration of truth?

Well, I haven’t addressed the question that really has troubled many people’s minds: “Did he do it?” Did Swami abuse those women who have written declarations for Bertolucci? Swami has never denied that he has had sexual experiences. But if you believe that in some secret, dark side of himself, he is capable of breaking loose and acting like a devil when he feels he’s outside the public eye—I don’t think you really understand what human nature is like.

There never was, and never will be, a case where someone can hide evil so perfectly as the other side is trying to persuade us to believe that Swami has done. Many of you in fact know all about holistic healing, and how the body and emotions and mind are connected through neuropeptide chains. And now, suddenly, some of us are believing in the grand exception—that people can compartmentalize their reactions, acting like saints 99.9% of the time, and like demons the other 1%. And we are believing it on the most pathetically one-sided grounds.

Yes, when someone tells us about sexual abuse, our hearts are aroused. But have you truly listened to the other side of the story (i.e., ours)? And, what is our side of the story? It is our experience of Swami for perhaps 5, 10, 15, or 20 years. Has he ever let slip the slightest hint of the evil of which he is being accused? Evil of that degree simply could not remain hidden, completely, for so long. And have you read Swami’s declaration? Have you judged its vibration?

What about those closest to Swami? Are they people who in some secret place in their hearts, are duped, lack integrity, are occultly corrupt?

“Well,” you might say, “there have been cases where ministers, doctors, and counselors have abused their children, their patients, and members of their congregations.” But in perhaps none of those cases did they lead such public lives as Swami, or were they known by as many people, as intimately. For over 25 years, hundreds of us have had close contact with Swami. Swami has traveled and met thousands of people whom he remembers by name. And the ones who’ve known him the closest are people of unquestioned integrity, as well as his most loyal defenders: Asha, Seva, Vidura and Durga, Terry and Padma, Peter and Catherine…the list goes on and on.

Still and all, yes, perhaps a person could keep 1% of his life and character “under wraps.” But they could not keep others from feeling their essential vibration. When women work in offices with abusive men, even when the men try their hardest to hide those tendencies, all the women somehow “know.” When matters eventually come to a head and the truth comes out, they say, “Oh, yeah, I always felt there was something like that in him. I never felt completely comfortable being in a room with him alone.”

In the Bertolucci case, we filed declarations from over 70 Ananda women, each of whom said she had never felt the slightest bit uncomfortable in Swami’s presence, or experienced the slightest improper attention from him. These women included some who had worked with him for years, being frequently with him alone.

The thing about being a writer is that you gradually begin to understand how very much things may look one way, and yet be incredibly different. I believe that in Swami’s case, this is what has happened. You may have read some of the declarations against Swami and found them very believable. But there are currents of meaning running through this case which we may not
fully understand for quite a while. I suggest you take the time right now to understand Swami, to feel the spirit of divine love that is coming from him in the midst of this turmoil. Then ask yourself: would God choose such a channel—could God use such a channel—if it were closed down with narrow self-seeking?

My understanding is growing, and I welcome the growth still to come, because even now I feel stronger in faith, in light, in goodness—not, as I’m sure Bertolucci and Company would hope, cast down in depression, divided from my brothers and sisters at Ananda, sighing over the wasting of all my life’s spiritual aspirations. Because I am seeing the evidence in the case from a very different perspective.

But then, I held out. I waited. I suspended judgment until I had the facts and the experiences that have brought me that growing inner conviction. I insisted that I must have that certainty before I rested. God tested my patience, my faith, and my loyalty, which at times were stretched very thin. But I was rewarded, and I can tell you the rewards have been great. God is strengthening us to face greater tests, and the reward of that strength is joy.

I feel I know Swami and Ananda now in a way that has deepened my love, my respect, my devotion. I can’t give you that experience. All I can do is say, “Pray your little butts off to Master. He will guide you.” If you won’ t do the work, you can’t expect the miracle.

Joy to you.

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