by Anandi Cornell
January 15, 2001
Recently I’ve received two letters from people who read the website created by a group that denounces Swami Kriyananda. Both asked me about the testimony by Janice Moreno, which reads like a reliable person’s scathing analysis of Swami. These people wrote to me because she mentions my name as someone she knew at Ananda. I want to share my experiences with Janice Moreno, so people understand that she is far from a reliable source.
In the mid-1990s my husband Bharat became extremely ill with a rare, little understood autoimmune disease. (He did recover completely after 3 years.) The illness was a time of pain, isolation, and confusion for both of us.
During this time Ananda was in the long SRF lawsuit. Also at this time Ananda received several letters from women accusing Swami Kriyananda of sexual abuse.
Interestingly, at this same time Janice Moreno began to become a “presence” at Ananda. Janice lived in the Bay Area. As a young girl she spent a few years in the SRF monastery after Yogananda’s passing. Swami had been a senior monastic during those same years. They never met, because the monks and nuns lived very separately, but they knew of each other. Because Janice had shared his experience of the people in SRF, Swami enjoyed talking with her. She understood his feelings about SRF as none of Swami’s friends at Ananda could, since we had little personal experience with the people there.
Because of Bharat’s illness, someone told Janice about us, since her husband was reputed to be a healer. Then Janice began to send us little gifts and encouraging words, and also called us on the phone. She was very loving and motherly, always supporting us, even when we shared some of our errors in judgment. For that reason, she was easy to talk to. I could share my stupidest mistakes or personal doubts, and Janice was always on my side, telling me that not only was I okay, but profoundly spiritual and right in all that I did. Though I didn’t truly believe her words, they were nonetheless comforting.
Master once gave a spiritual correction to a monk in SRF. A woman in the congregation sympathized with this monk. Afterwards Master said to the monk, “She who loves you more than your mother is a witch! Am I not your mother?” My relationship with Janice reminded me of this story. A striking example comes to mind: During this period Bharat and I went to Jyotish for spiritual guidance. Jyotish gave Bharat some strong and accurate guidance, which was, I thought, not easy to hear. Yet Bharat genuinely appreciated his words and found them helpful. I was proud of Bharat for his response to guidance which could have been taken as a blow to the ego.
Later when I shared the experience with Janice, she immediately jumped in to defend Bharat against Jyotish. This was a typical experience with her. She tried to position herself on the side of whomever she was talking with and against their other friends at Ananda. She was also speaking regularly with several others at Ananda. Her aim seemed to be to create the feeling, which began to work on me: “I am your only real friend. No one else at Ananda really appreciates you.”
In addition to her talent for creating divisive energy at Ananda, Janice had another peculiar trait: her grasp on reality was not very good. Often what she said sounded like science fiction. Many examples come to mind, but here are two. She went on at great length about the miracle of some link on a silver necklace turning to gold, when it seemed clear to me that the silver had worn off revealing the brass beneath. And another: She felt that the strange behavior of the board of directors at SRF was due to the fact that Mount Washington had lead pipes, and that they were suffering from lead poisoning, which affected their minds. Few conversations went by without some such preposterous statement.
Although some of what she said was hard to believe or bizarre, other things sounded like outright lies. Yet I was so taken in by Janice that when she’d say these things, I would just dismiss them with the loving thought, “Oh that’s just Janice. She has a hard time telling truth from fiction.”
It is odd to look back on this. Truth is profoundly important to me. No only have I devoted my life to searching for it, but I’m careful that what I say or do reflects what I know to be true. For that matter, everyone I know at Ananda behaves similarly. Yet here was someone who was just the opposite, and I was willing to view this serious flaw as a little “quirk” of Janice’s.
Someone recently told me they’d read two testimonies by Janice in different places on the Web. The first was garbled and unintelligible, reminiscent of the two nutty statements I shared above. He then read the testimony that I mentioned at the beginning of this letter. His assessment was that there was no way the person who wrote the first statement could have written the second one, which reads clear and strong. He felt someone else must have written it for her.
Months after I tuned in to Janice’s duplicitous nature, I was interviewed by the investigator helping our attorney prepare our case for the Bertolucci trial. This man was both kind and clear-thinking. He liked the people he met at Ananda, but he was dumbfounded at the relationships we’d formed with Janice Moreno. He said something like “That woman is so crazy. How could you all have trusted her?” I could only respond personally, and with chagrin, that she flattered my ego.
In looking back at this situation with Janice Moreno, I find it extremely odd that she barely knew Swami in the 1960s, but as the SRF case was going on and just before the Bertolucci trial, Janice was suddenly at the hub of Ananda. I suspect that her sudden appearance on the Ananda scene was planned to try to divide Ananda and gather destructive information. Janice loved drama. I think she came into the community in the garb of the kindest of friends only to do her best to help those trying to destroy Ananda.
Janice Moreno is not a person to be believed or trusted. I know this from personal experience.
Anandi lives at Ananda Village and works on the staff at the Expanding Light retreat.