Swami Kriyananda Answers Charges of Sexual Misconduct and Abuse of Power: The Bertolucci Lawsuit

The Bertolucci lawsuit was filed on November 21, 1994. Some say that Swami Kriyananda never communicated about the accusations.

This is not true. Swami Kriyananda wrote his first letter about the Bertolucci suit on November 25, 1994. And from that time until it ended a few years later, he spoke often about it in public and private gatherings, wrote letters on the subject which went out to Ananda members worldwide. He also wrote several thoughtful articles about the underlying issues the case raised

He was restrained and dignified, as is his habit, but also quite open and willing to accept responsibility insofar as he felt it was appropriate, which is also his habitual way of responding.

SRF’s hope

Our detractors, all long-time SRF members, saw things differently. They hoped that Ananda members would turn against Swami and drive him out.

There was some dissension within Ananda, and yes, some people did leave because of the negative accusations. But most people applied themselves to the task of understanding the charges and reviewing the evidence. It was an unexpectedly strengthening time for many, who found a sense of renewed loyalty and friendship with Swami through the challenge of the lawsuit. The people who remained—the majority of Ananda members—stayed not out of ignorance or fear, as the Ananda Awareness Network suggests, but based on review of the facts of the matter, and their own personal experience of Swami Kriyananda.

Draw your own conclusions

This, too, is the purpose of this website—so you may read more about the issues and come to your own conclusions. Below are the letters Swami Kriyananda wrote about the Bertolucci case in chronological order.

More than anything else available on this site, Swami Kriyananda’s letters tell the complete story of Anne-Marie Bertolucci affair, and the facts leading up to the filing of her lawsuit against Ananda—a story very different than the one you have heard, if your only source has been the internet (Ananda Awareness Network).

Letters from Swami Kriyananda about the Bertolucci Lawsuit
(in date order)

Something Has Come Up That Must Be Faced
From Swami Kriyananda
November 25, 1994
“For myself, I must say that the opinions of my fellow disciples [SRF] are important to me. I would be rash to insist that I know better than they: I, all alone, against what they claim, at least, to be all of them? Looked at from a standpoint of church authority I stand on dangerous ground indeed. But what shall I do, when my own understanding simply does not endorse their position? Shall I allow myself to be ruled by fear?”

Gurus, Spiritual Authority, and Renunciation
By Swami Kriyananda
December 2, 1994
“I would like to discuss several important points that are becoming, I think, of fundamental concern to the yoga community in America, as well as to religious and spiritual organizations in general.”

Avatar for the New Age
From Swami Kriyananda
December 23, 1994
“Last Sunday night in the hospital I became aware of an actual force trying to bring Yogananda’s work downward: to confine it in the pettiness of definitions and formal organization. And I felt a mighty force combating this pettiness, to open up his teachings and mission to be a doorway to the New Age of Dwapara. I prayed deeply until well after 1 a.m., trying to attune myself more deeply to this expansive power. And I felt that that expansiveness will win, must win.”

A Saint Is a Sinner Who Never Gave Up
From Swami Kriyananda
April 18, 1995
“I have often asked for your opinions, I have never courted your support. For myself, I may say that I have sincerely done my best to live a good life, and with honor. I do not claim always to have done as well as I wanted to, but with God’s grace I have not done badly. And I am at peace with myself.”

The Bertolucci Case: Its Meaning—Letter #1
From Swami Kriyananda
September 23, 1995
“This is not to say that these depositions have been easy. They have been traumatic. I cannot laugh them off as trivial and unimportant. This episode in my life is too great not to be karmic; it is too great not to indicate the presence of God’s will behind it, even in the actions of enemies who haven’t the slightest interest in serving His will. Our enemies have to have been acting as instruments of the divine. If our destruction is not God’s will for us, then something else most certainly is His will expressing itself through this experience. I cannot doubt that Master has some very important message to convey to us. The question, then, is: What is that message?”

The Bertolucci Case: Its Meaning—Letter #2
From Swami Kriyananda
September 24, 1995
“In thinking and praying deeply over what Divine Mother wants from me through the humiliation of the present lawsuit, and the condemnation I have received for so many years, the question has come to me, “Does She want me to give up?” Why should She want that? I’ve done my very best. I am proud of the way I’ve lived my life! But—am I proud of my weaknesses? No, never! I am not proud of the fact that I have not been able always to live by all of my ideals. Nor am I happy in the fact that this lack of ability has given you a lesser model of spiritual perfection.”

Community meeting at Ananda Village
Talk by Swami Kriyananda
September 24, 1995
“I’ve tried to ride with your strengths, the goodness that I see in you. I think that’s one of the main secrets of Ananda’s greatness today-the goodness that I see in all of you. As Master did, so have I done: I have looked for the good and the God in you, not the devil and not the ego. I have given you faith in your own goodness. I think if I’ve done nothing else in life, that action has been right. And I apply it to myself.”

The Bertolucci Case: Its Meaning—Letter #3
From Swami Kriyananda
September 30, 1995
“Something else Master said to Daya Mata, however, indicates that his basic concern for the future of his organization regarded not so much changes in its outer form as in its inner spirit. What he told Daya Mata also was, ‘When I am gone, only love can take my place.’”

As Seen Through My Eyes: The Bertolucci Trial
From Swami Kriyananda (J. Donald Walters)
September, 1997
“Bertolucci’s lawyers have crowed, ‘Soon it won’t be Ananda Village any longer: It will be Bertolucci Village.’ Well, it’s Yogananda’s Village, not mine, and not Ananda’s. Anything that Yogananda and God want is fine by me. I’m smiling as I write these words, because I really want nothing but God’s will. Not once during the course of this lawsuit have I prayed, ‘Lord, please save Ananda!’ or, ‘Please help me!’ I can cheerfully face any outcome. Ananda’s present members share my dedication. Many of them have told me, ‘Even if we lose everything, we’ll simply start again from the beginning.’”

Kindness and Support vs: Judgement and Punishment
From Swami Kriyananda (J. Donald Walters)
December 13, 1997
“Many years ago, the leader of a fundamentalist Christian sect was accused of straying sexually. The resulting commotion all but destroyed the church, and greatly undermined her subsequent ability to serve within it. At that time, Paramhansa Yogananda wrote and published an article pleading with people to look at the good that minister had done, rather than condemn her for one sin, whether real or imaginary. It was his way always to urge people to look at their own and other people’s potentials, instead of defining anyone in terms of his weaknesses and mistakes. ‘God doesn’t mind your faults,’ he used to say. ‘He minds your indifference to Him.’”

A Personal Statement After the Trial
From Swami Kriyananda (J. Donald Walters)
February 25, 1998
“I couldn’t even remotely imagine that we’d lose this case. I thought we’d have all the jurors on our side. Even now, after three months with them, I think of them as our friends. Anne Marie Bertolucci attacked me because I had held firm to my resolve that she move to another Ananda community rather than remain at Ananda Village and break up Danny and Karin’s marriage, as she had told me she was determined to do. My, and Ananda’s, cause was just. Hers was false. Theatrics, not reason, were what won this case. But I believe in a higher law. In countless episodes of my life I have found it unfailingly beneficent. If it seems to have failed me now, I know it can only be for some higher good.”

A Song of Gratitude
From Swami Kriyananda
June 4, 1998
“God has given us countless marks of His love for us. He has given us tests also, and for these we should be just as grateful. For only when we are shaken to our foundations can we know inner peace and love for Him as truly our own.”

What belittles the ego, expands the soul
From Swami Kriyananda
June, 2001
“Can anyone defend himself against this kind of attack? I doubt it. I don’t say I was immune to sexual desire, though I am grateful to that lawsuit for at least one thing: It created in me an utter repugnance for human sexuality – especially in any connection with me, personally. Sexual desire was never deep in me in the first place; Master himself told me so. It took only this harsh experience to uproot it from my heart altogether. Since that time, I no longer even embrace others in greeting. It seems to me too shallow a way of demonstrating friendship, which I feel should be between soul and soul. As I say to people, ‘My love for you is increased, not diminished, by my preference not to grasp you to me!’”

Also of interest by Swami Kriyananda

The community meeting where this talk was given, happened years before Bertolucci came to Ananda. It gives insight into how Swami Kriyananda thinks about himself and his role.

How to Relate to a Spiritual Teacher: An Individual Perspective
By Swami Kriyananda
Summer 1983
“What I seek always to do is let my teaching, and my requests of you, convince you by their own merit, and by the power of truth, I do not hold over you personal emblems of authority—my position, my greater experience, my years with Master. In this way I stand apart, mentally, from whatever I say to you. I let the words speak for themselves. I, meanwhile, am simply your friend.”