The Eight Women

In a talk that Paramhansa Yogananda gave on Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945, he spoke scathingly about people who persecute others for their supposed moral weaknesses:

“When they wanted to stone the woman taken in adultery, Jesus cast out of her the spirit of evil, then he said, ‘Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,’ and they all slunk away. Those who love to talk about the sexuality of others, I ask them to tell about all the sexual errors in their own life. And these sanctimonious people who persecute others — they are the worst sexual cases themselves.” — Paramhansa Yogananda

Patanjali Class #21, Transmuting the Sex Force
Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945

Summary

A small group of anti-Ananda critics declare that Kriyananda abused women for years.

What is the truth?

Kriyananda was involved briefly with one woman in 1968.

More than a decade later, in 1981, he renounced his vow of celibacy to have what turned out to be a short-lived relationship with Kimberly Moore.

In the difficult year that followed the sudden end of that relationship, Kriyananda became involved briefly with three different women: Kamala Willey, Denise Petersen, and Deborah Donie-Seligson.

(For more information on the witnesses, see the articles under tab number 2 on the home page, Ananda Answers Charges of Sexual and Financial Misconduct.)

Kriyananda testified that these were fully consensual relationships, which the women initiated. At the time when they occurred there was no hint from any of the women that the relationships were anything but consensual. In fact, all of the women maintained friendly contact with Ananda and Kriyananda for years after.

Only when Anne-Marie Bertolucci filed her lawsuit did their stories change.

Why?

Seven anonymous declarations by women as part of the Bertolucci lawsuit

Seven women filed declarations under oath as part of the Bertolucci lawsuit, claiming to have had direct experience of Swami’s “abusive” sexuality. On the anti-Ananda website, these declarations are all posted anonymously. In fact, the women were well-known to Ananda. At the time of trial, their names were publicized, thus they are named here to give context to their accusations.

All of the main accusers have strong ties to SRF. When Bertolucci first filed her lawsuit in 1994, she already had the cooperation of these women.

For the next three years, Bertolucci’s attorneys, several of the declarants, and a handful of other of Ananda’s detractors expended great energy to try to find more women who would testify against Kriyananda.

Letters were mailed to the residents of many of the Ananda communities, uring them to come forward and promising that they would be “safe.”

Several women who planned to testify called women at Ananda who they mistakenly imagined would testify. One woman, when called, said, “I am outraged that you would assume I had any such relationship with Swamiji!” Bertolucci’s attorney, Michael Flynn, visited nearby Nevada City to hold a meeting for people who might testify against Ananda.

Having failed in these efforts to reach the people who lived in the Ananda “compound,” as they always called it, Flynn’s son, Michael Flynn, Jr., rented a small plane and flew it illegally low over Ananda Village, dropping anti-Ananda propaganda leaflets out the window.

The result: Bertolucci went to trial with the same handful of SRF supporters she started with. Ananda’s detractors claim that the women of Ananda are afraid to testify to what is “really” going on. In fact, there were no other women. In filing their lawsuit, the lawyers, both self-declared “cult-busters,” simply created a completely false caricature of Ananda in the image of the public’s worst nightmare of a cult. In particular, the picture painted by the detractors, of Ananda as a hotbed of abusive sexual activity with Kriyananda as the ringleader was a complete fabrication intended to fulfill SRF’s goal of portraying Ananda as morally corrupt.

Grueling deposition of Swami Kriyananda with an ax to grind

SRF/Bertolucci lawyer Mike Flynn questioned Swami Kriyananda for eight days prior to the trial, with a court reporter and a video camera recording every word. The deposition was conducted in an atmosphere of an inquisition.

Dr. Peter Van Houten, MD, director of a family clinic near Ananda Village, was present during Swami Kriyananda’s deposition as his personal physician. Kriyananda was recovering from open-heart surgery at the time, and Dr. Van Houten monitored his condition, called for breaks, and ended the day’s questioning, when he felt that Kriyananda’s health required.

Later, Dr. Van Houten wrote, “I’ve spent days watching Flynn in action as an attorney and it was an opportunity to observe him very closely. After watching him conduct several days of deposition, I remember thinking, ‘This man is one of the most verbally violent and consciously cruel people I’ve ever seen in my life. How could someone who so obviously enjoys hurting people be allowed to be a lawyer?’”

Flynn relentlessly asked Kriyananda questions about his personal sexual experiences from 1948 to the present. Swami Kriyananda answered calmly, never varying his testimony regardless how desperately Flynn rephrased the questions. If the charge was true, Kriyananda readily admitted it; if it was false, he calmly denied it. He answered the questions fully and honestly. He said that the relationships were consensual, and that he had never imposed his will on anyone, sexually or otherwise.

Dozens of long-time Ananda members who’d worked closely with Kriyananda testified about an unusual characteristic of his — he never imposes his will or ideas on others; it is simply not in his nature.

How accusations take on a life of their own

Flynn conducted Kriyananda’s deposition with an obvious eye on the propaganda value of the transcript he was creating.

Accusations were repeated again and again, as luridly as possible, and routinely overstated to increase the shock value. New, unsubstantiated charges were presented in the form of questions, as if Flynn had some factual basis for them.

It was during the deposition that Flynn announced that he had “thirty women willing to testify,” even though the “thirty women” never materialized. Flynn and Ananda’s critics adopted the tactic of telling the “Big Lie,” in hopes that some, at least, of what they said would stick. Thus, the use of cartoon-like cult rhetoric, with continual references to the Ananda Village “compound,” etc. In fact, the Village is completely open — neighbors shop there, thousands of visitors come and go from Ananda’s retreat, and the members are free to leave forever on a moment’s notice, as many have done in the natural course of any community’s normal life.

The transcript of Kriyananda’s deposition contains many pages of lurid accusations by Flynn, many of which have been posted on the Internet in hopes that the Big Lies will be believed on the face of the accusations.

The effect on all but the most astute reader/viewer is that Kriyananda is a perverse person who must be guilty of something! It is a sobering example of how easily the “Big Lie” can be created — as we know from Hitler’s lies about the Jews.

Years earlier Flynn had sued a group unrelated to Ananda. The lawsuit lasted years. Gradually, Flynn collected many clients, ex-members of the group, eventually obtaining a large settlement for all of them — and a fat fee for himself.

Clearly, Flynn hoped for another windfall from Ananda, but the facts did not support his arguments. There simply was no “years-long pattern and practice of sexual abuse” for Flynn to capitalize on.

Consensual relationships

In a letter that Swami Kriyananda mailed to the Ananda members around the world on September 24, 1995, he said of the declarations filed against him: “They are almost entirely false. And where there is truth in them, the facts are so greatly distorted as to be almost unrecognizable.”

Kriyananda admitted in his depositions and trial testimony that he had sexual relations with some of the women who filed declarations against him, but by no means in the way they described.

All of the incidents were consensual; in fact, the women remained in friendly correspondence and contact for years after the relationships ended.

Coercion was never even hinted at, until almost 15 years later, when the women, most of whom were now active in SRF, were invited to testify in the Bertolucci case.

For an in-depth view of the accusations, and a discussion of their truth, see The Bertolucci Lawsuit: A Complete Summary of the Case.

Decide for yourself

Swami Kriyananda’s life has been lived on the world stage. For more than 50 years, he has been a public figure. Thousands have met him, heard him speak, observed him in contact with others. Hundreds have worked closely with him for decades. This website offers many of their personal stories.

For an in-depth look at his life and work, we recommend the book Swami Kriyananda: As We Have Known Him, by Nayaswami Asha Praver, a close associate of his for many years. You can read a sample chapter here, and read many excerpts here.

Seeing is believing. Journalists know that there are always two sides of a story — and that the most credible evidence is that of our own eyes. Understanding Ananda with scientific objectivity requires direct experience, not the propaganda-laden words of those with an ax to grind. You can observe the living evidence of Swami Kriyananda’s life’s work in the Ananda communities and the places of worship he founded in fulfillment of the direct instruction of his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda. To learn more about Ananda, we suggest that you visit the website Ananda.org.

Every successful organization has critics. This has been eternally true throughout history, and especially in the present argumentative age. Spiritual organizations are a particularly attractive target, since they stand for the divine light — and there are always those who, possessed of the &lrdquo;carping spirit,&rquo; delight in dragging goodness from its pedestal, in the name of “being real.”

Great saints have had the most venomous critics. Does that make the good they accomplished less real? Honest people will make up their own minds, deciding for themselves if the teaching is honorable and true.

Come visit Ananda, feel the vibrations, meet the people who have been guided and inspired by Swami. Ask them any questions you like.

To understand Swami Kriyananda’s true character, we suggest that you watch his talks on video, sample his writings, and listen to his music.

You can also read his main book on communities, and enjoy interviews with people who live in the Ananda communities.

Swami Kriyananda now divides his time between India, America, and Europe. He currently lives near Pune, India, where he is helping establish centers for Yogananda”s teachings in his native land. In recent years he has recorded several hundred television shows that are watched by millions in India and Asia.

Perhaps the best “references” for Kriyananda’s high integrity and goodness are the people who consider themselves his friends. On this website you will find letters from many of them, describing their direct, personal experience of him.

Then weigh your own experience against the claims of the handful of people who won’t give you their names, while posting their criticisms anonymously on the Web.