Letters from Ananda members, Part 40

A Noble & High-Minded Man
Nirmala Schuppe

I have known Swami Kriyananda for 25 years. I worked with him directly in his photography work in the early 80s for several years. And in 1994 through the present time I’ve been working with him closely designing book covers and album covers for his books and music.

In addition, I have worked quite extensively with his music, acting as a choir director for a tour he led to the Holy Land in 1985, for example, and helping him with innumerable other concerts and projects through the years.

I have worked with and for a variety of people in a number of different fields in my career, and I can say unequivocally that my association with him professionally has been the highlight of my working life.

Kriyananda has been accused of being a dictator—nothing could be farther from the truth! The fact is that he encourages creativity and delights in innovative and expansive ideas—intellectually, my association with him has been my greatest joy. He brings out the best in the people who work with him. Sometimes people are threatened by creativity, but he is never like that. He is secure and centered in himself, so he helps others to explore their creative potential in a way that shows rare and exemplary leadership.

He is such a gifted leader, in fact, that it doesn’t surprise me that people would accuse him of being a dictator. Most people can’t begin to imagine how he could have accomplished so much in his life—they assume he did it with force! The truth is, he accomplished it through inspiration.

As a woman who has worked with him closely for years under many different circumstances, spending countless hours alone with him, I can attest that he has always been respectful and self-controlled in all his interactions with me. From this knowledge of him I want to address the Bertolucci trial in which he was slandered so ruthlessly.

First of all, the timing of the trial seems far from coincidental. It came after SRF had harangued Ananda with lawsuits for 8 years, and had lost nearly everything they were fighting for. They appealed their case to no avail, but were still determined to have their way. Even the judge said to them that it looks as though you are trying to put Ananda out of business.

Even though SRF couldn’t bend the law to their will, they were determined to destroy us. Unfortunately, they opted for a common worldly tactic: if you can’t win in a fair fight, then hit below the belt. They hoped to ruin Swami’s and Ananda’s reputation so that they could win back a monopoly on the name “Self-Realization” by proving “tarnishment.” If they made us look despicable, they could say that our using the term “Self-Realization” reflected badly on them. SRF made this claim in court, citing the Bertolucci case

Historically, when disaffected people have left Ananda for whatever reason, they have found a sympathetic ear in SRF, which has continually denounced Swami and Ananda to anyone who would listen. The pathetic truth is that SRF’s guilt over their ruthless expulsion of Swami from their organization has led them to create to a web of rationalization about HIS behavior in order to excuse their own.

Swami, on the other hand, has always openly and calmly encouraged people to visit SRF and see for themselves what SRF is like, and to decide for themselves. This contrast alone speaks volumes as to where the truth and integrity is between Ananda and SRF.

Bertolucci left Ananda in a huff because we could not condone her affair with a married man. Soon after her departure, she met with Daya Mata for lunch. Soon after that we had the Bertolucci lawsuit on our hands. SRF related lawyers, was it also SRF financial backing?

SRF fanned into flame the pitiable laments of several other women—also SRF members—who claimed sexual harassment and unfair treatment while they lived at Ananda 15 years before!

So, suddenly, after all else fails in court, these women are dragged out of the woodwork after 15 years, with their declarations all sounding sadly similar, as though phrased by the same lawyers. The circumstances for this are TOO coincidental.

To attempt to destroy people’s faith for political gain truly IS despicable, and to exploit the emotional confusion of women to aid in that destruction is doubly contemptible.

Who can begin to unravel the convoluted workings of the human heart? One thing that I can well imagine, though, is that after Swami’s heart-wrenching ouster from SRF, he must have longed for the human comfort of friendship—who wouldn’t? The emotional pain he endured at their hands is staggering.

Swami has never claimed to be “perfect”, but perfection is not something we have a right to expect in anyone! To paraphrase Sri Yukteswar, “If we were perfect, we’d be adorning some other world…”

Besides, whose definition of perfection is the real one? Surely, only God’s.

Who then can judge perfection except Him.

Swami has never claimed to be a saint, to be celibate, to be infallible, or to be a fully realized being. He has humbly offered his friendship, and asked us to consider him our brother on the path. He is sincere in his devotion to God, and has handled the trials in his life with faith. He has inspired thousands of people to grow in their devotion to God—who among his detractors can say they have achieved as much?

Knowing some of the women who testified at the Bertolucci trial, I can also conjecture that what often happens in the world might well have happened to them: Some women want to play the game of going after what they can’t have.

In my life I’ve seen women falling in love with priests, or gays, or married men. Perhaps the taboo elements make the game more exciting, or perhaps the unattainable is safer…

How rare, indeed, is someone like Swami who wants to love God alone—someone trying to be celibate might well have seemed more attractive; and since he had no monastery to protect him, he must have seemed fair game.

What a pathetic ploy to drag out this confusion of wounded feelings for political gain! How hurtful for these women to be reinforced in their misplaced “victim consciousness”! How sad to be so filled with fear and malice that a noble and high-minded person like Kriyananda is a threat to the calcified organization of SRF.

But, “in God we trust.” Truth always wins in the end. Underhanded ploys eventually backfire. Swami Kriyananda and the disciples of Yogananda at Ananda have strived throughout this ordeal to live by truth, and to be guided by their faith in God and love for Him. Because of this Ananda has grown ever stronger. As the Indian scriptures say, “Where there is right action, there is victory.”


Nirmala lives at Ananda Village and works as a graphic artist for Crystal Clarity Publishers.

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