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Geoffrey Falk
Registered User
(12/8/01 7:37 pm)
HV Horrors/Science of the Soul
Just discovered this discussion board, and have been amazed to see how the experiences and conclusions posted here are so similar to what led to my own disillusionment with SRF.

I spent nine months as a resident volunteer at Hidden Valley--long enough that, two and a half years later, I still haven't recovered from the intense abuse and oppressive negativity of the neophyte monastic who headed up the computer department there.

An analysis of the poor behaviors I observed from him and others at HV forms part (Chapter XIV, pages 640-748) of my (unpublished) book, "The Science of the Soul: On Consciousness and the Structure of Reality." It can be downloaded for free, in MS Word format, from www.angelfire.com/trek/geoffreyfalk/books/scienceofsoul.html, if anyone's interested. A shorter version listing only the "dirty secrets" I witnessed at HV, without the full analysis, is at www.angelfire.com/trek/geoffreyfalk/about/hVHorrors.html

The remainder of the book is in the "physics and consciousness" genre, but addressing the real meaning of "As above, so below" in a non-reductionistic way: that the macrocosm of the universe is mirrored in the microcosm of the human body, and that the archetypal patterns of structure on the causal and astral levels of reality have their lower reflections on the physical level of being. That separates it drastically from the many "classic" books in the same field, by authors such as Goswami, Capra, Zukav, etc.

Raja Begum
Unregistered User
(12/8/01 10:58 pm)
Welcome Mr. Falk
Dear Geoffrey,

As a former Hidden Valley resident and long-time member, I fully endorse your statement as an accurate snapshot not only of the horrors of HV but also the inexcuseable breaches of integrity the entire SRF organization is guilty of. And man! do I sympathize with the abuse you've experienced. Kriya is fantastic!! SRF -- the organization (meaning all those stupid people who run it) -- sucks the big one. I mean, one might as well put one's head in a guillotine and pull the rope. In SRF to think and be creative -- yeah right!!!

Bra. Lee is indeed a first class idiot in my opinion. He incessantly ridiculed me for my communication talents and rolled his eyes in disdain with another monk when he saw me writing a poem after work hours.

These people dwell in a crack one centimeter wide. How they ever got put in charge of telling us how to expand our consciousness I'll never guess.

Welcome to the Walrus! The storm clouds have been seeded!

Registered User
(12/8/01 11:56 pm)
How they ever got put in charge of telling us how to expand our consciousness I'll never guess.

They have no one else. Think about it. The good people are chased away because they threaten the status quo. What remains? This is not to say that everyone in a management position is a culprit...

Registered User
(12/9/01 12:04 am)
Re: HV Horrors
I read your website. I found it both funny and sad. Although I did not agree with everything you wrote, I do agree with what you experienced. Even today, there are several people still writing MC concerning Br. Lee and Mr. Page. Years after they've left HV. Still waiting for a response. I think they will sooner enter the breathless state.

Geoffrey Falk
Registered User
(10/13/02 4:05 pm)
Re: hate email
Hey, has anyone else gotten hate email yet from posting on this site? My inbox just got deliberately clogged with 118 copies of the following:

"I've been seriously itched by your gossipy statements about Hidden Valley I've spend more than 3 years there and it's been the best time of my life so far!You're an ungrateful piece of @#%$, highly unethical and disturbed.And for your info I've been in SRF 2 times as long as you."
"Feel the Guru's love," huh?

The return address was for HiddenValleyLover@FirstReaction.com; First Reaction is a metallurgical company in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire.

Edited by: Geoffrey Falk at: 10/14/02 11:45:33 am
Registered User
(10/13/02 5:34 pm)
Re: hate email
I am sorry you have received email like that. I have not but I have not left my email address open. Concerning HV I only stayed there for very short periods, usually long weekends. I was by myself and not an employee there so I was not deep into the politics. However I always enjoyed my stay.

I think getting closer inside SRF is commonly the point where we experience problems with them. The core is rotten and it shows in everything they do. We read the AY and expect, and therefore see, a wonderful place like we read about. We want to believe. To bad it isn't really like the stories in the AY.

Geoffrey Falk
Registered User
(10/14/02 10:50 am)
Re: more hate email
Ah, and now 348 of these, from the same misled individual:

"If you want to be able to keep using your email adress,remove the worthless crap about SRF and Hidden Valley(all of it) from your excuse for a website"

Edited by: Geoffrey Falk at: 10/14/02 11:44:12 am
Geoffrey Falk
Registered User
(10/14/02 11:33 am)
(This message was left blank)

Edited by: Geoffrey Falk at: 10/14/02 11:41:40 am
Geoffrey Falk
Registered User
(10/14/02 11:40 am)
Re: more hate email

And if you haven't been to my "excuse for a website," this is the truthful account that is vexing "Hidden Valley Lover" so deeply:

I spent nine months as a resident volunteer at the men-only SRF Hidden Valley ashram outside Escondido, from October of 1997 to July of 1998, having been a loyal member of SRF for close to a decade at that time. To the best of my memory and knowledge, the following points are all true:

  1. Before being officially accepted to live at Hidden Valley (HV) as a resident volunteer, one is required to sign a pledge affirming that he will regard his supervisors at the ashram as vehicles of God and Guru, and obey their instructions accordingly. That boils down to being an interesting way for the monks in supervisory positions there to allow themselves to feel that their actions are divinely inspired, and that anyone who disputes that is being a "bad disciple," whose insubordination they will undoubtedly publicly quietly tolerate, but privately discuss and disdain. One is also required to disclose his sexual orientation, and whether or not he has ever had any homosexual experiences.

  2. Yogananda claimed to be the reincarnation of William the Conqueror—reputed to be able to heal scrofula with a mere "king's touch"—and of William Shakespeare.
    "In this one incarnation I can sleep and dream that I am born in England as a powerful king. Then I die and dream I am born a devout man. And then I die again and am born as a successful lawyer. Again I die and am reborn as Yogananda."
    —Paramahansa Yogananda, The Divine Romance

  3. The late Dr. M. W. Lewis—Yogananda's first American disciple—is believed to have been the reincarnation of Sir Francis Bacon. (These questions regarding previous incarnations are not openly touted by SRF, but they are well known behind the scenes, and never directly denied by SRF ministers.)

  4. The late Tara Mata (editor of Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi) is alleged to have been the reincarnation of Leonardo da Vinci. (Source: Brahmachari Lee Dickens, the "head monk" at Hidden Valley.) Her own published writings, however—printed in old SRF magazines, and sometimes available in photocopy to lucky devotees "behind the scenes"—show none of da Vinci's genius, instead bristling with biting and petty condemnations of anyone who failed to agree with her yogic point of view. In particular, of H. G. Wells and others who endorsed the standard view of evolution and the overall arc of human cultural development being monotonically-increasing phenomena. The "logical force" of her arguments comes down to nothing more than a repetitive mongering of the fact that such a view is opposed to the Hindu idea of a cyclic view of spiritual development on the planet, and is therefore "wrong." Somewhat oddly, since she was reputed to have been able to remember her own previous incarnations in those very same previous "world cycles" aeons ago, and thus should have been in a unique position to bolster her arguments via that direct remembered experience.

  5. In one satsanga (weekly "fellowship with truth" question-and-answer sessions), Brother Dharmananda—the Hidden Valley Ashram Administrator—"guaranteed" that an unspecified number of the members of SRF's Board of Directors will have been rulers/pharoahs in ancient Egypt.

  6. When Hidden Valley wanted to buy a fax machine, it took them three years of asking permission for that from the Mother Center, before Uma Mata on the Board of Directors acquiesced. Brahmachari Lee's unsolicited analysis, given to me, of that dynamic, was that it arose simply from those aging women being uncomfortable with technology in general.

  7. Already back in 1999, according to Dharmananda in a satsanga, SRF had hired an "image consultant." The relayed recommendation of that consultant was that SRF work toward becoming known as "the spiritual organization which lives up to its ideals more than any other." In light of SRF's behavior in the attempted Mount Washington expansion (see the CANDER website), the irony there cannot be missed.

  8. In a Voluntary League (financial) Appeal newsletter to their members around 1990, SRF disclosed that the city of Los Angeles had been considering a public transit plan which would have disrupted their Hollywood Temple, but had been persuaded to not proceed with it in part because of SRF's protests that the site was considered a holy place of pilgrimage by their devotees around the world. Amazingly, however, in 1966 SRF had filed a plan with the city calling for tearing down their Mount Washington Hotel headquarters—a building considered by devotees to be more holy than the Hollywood Temple, as Yogananda lived for an extended time in the former historic building. Evidently, then, the holiness of a place depends upon who exactly is planning on tearing it down.


  1. Midway through my stay at Hidden Valley, a fellow devotee left the ashram to join the Peace Corps. Hardly coincidentally, within a few weeks of that departure, and with Brahmachari Lee leading a satsanga, we were told that anyone who leaves the ashram to work for world peace would have been serving their guru better if he had stayed and done "Gurudeva's work" at the monastery.

  2. In related matters, Dharmananda—who himself reads at a Junior High level, testimony to his Engineering background—once opined in a satsanga that "scientists who use their intelligence to 'get famous,' rather than for seeking God, are misusing that intelligence." Brother Achalananda similarly asserted that "Einstein's intuition failed him in his later years," in that the great scientist allegedly "wasn't able to see" that the accepted indeterministic quantum theory was right. Achalananda's certainty in that regard presumably stemmed from the purported correspondences between indeterministic quantum theory and Eastern religion/meditation, espoused only since the mid-70s by authors such as Fritjof Capra and Amit Goswami, and quoted approvingly in some of SRF's publications. (Goswami in turn once wrote a complimentary letter to SRF praising Yogananda's writings.) In reality, however, having thoroughly researched those "correspondences" for my own book on the unity of science and religion, it's clear that they are at best fortuitous, and can more reasonably be regarded as wishful-thinking nonsense. In any case, how does one best use one's intelligence "for God"? By entering the ashrams, and willingly doing what one is told to do by one's spiritual superiors, of course.

  3. At a "monks only" gathering at the SRF headquarters around Christmas of 1997, one of the maternal members of the Board of Directors (Mrinalini Mata) was said to have favored those assembled with a joke: "What is an atheist? A member of a non-prophet religion." The clever riddle was proudly retold in the ashram at a satsanga, as a "Christmas gift" from those holy, wise and "spiritually advanced" mother-figures. And all gathered there dutifully laughed, not realizing that the line itself is simply a bastardization of a classic George Carlin observation, i.e., that "Atheism is a non-prophet organization."

  4. One evening, Brother Mitrananda—who runs the SRF Postulant ashram in Encinitas—graced HV as a guest speaker. One of the points that he brought up, from his unique perspective as head of the Postulant ashram, was that "the people most likely to leave the ashram after taking some degree of monastic vows are those who are the most independent." While that's undoubtedly true, the clear implication was that independence and the ability to think for oneself are bad things, when in reality they are the only way of doing anything original in this world. Worse, cult-like attitudes such as that allergy to independence turn the unthinking following of other people's blind guesses and bad/incompetent advice into an "ego-killing" virtue, and paint the inability to so blindly follow, against one's own better judgment, what one knows to be wrong, as being a sin.

  5. James J. Lynn, personally chosen by Yogananda to be SRF's second President, was a married man. That is, married before, during and after Yogananda gave him the monastic title of Rajasi Janakananda. As to why Mrs. Lynn does not show up in any of SRF's published pictures showing Mr. Lynn at banquets, etc., one can only assume that those have been judiciously cropped to make Mrs. Lynn "non-existent" in SRF's edited view of reality. After all, the existence of a married monk certainly could not help the image of the organization. When this anomaly was brought up by one of the HV residents in a satsanga period, the justification which Dharhamanda provided for that deceit was simply that "that's the way the Board of Directors and Daya Mata want it done." (The Board of Directors are widely regarded as being composed of "perfected beings"—siddhas, ostensibly beyond the possibility of error—by devoted members of SRF.)
    "The people running [SRF] are supposedly enlightened siddhas, which makes it even more confusing, because how dare lay devotees question, or worse, challenge, what they have done? But then how can we swallow what's being done (radical editing, photo alteration, and the rest of it)?"
    —an SRF devotee, posting on the Kriya Yoga Discussion Board

    The extent to which one is expected to "respect one’s elders" as a good and obedient devotee of SRF was underscored by the following (real) exchange, quoted during a sermon at Hidden Valley:

    Elder: "How are you?"
    Youthful Inferior: "I’m fine. How are you?"
    Elder (disgusted at the impudence): "Are you a doctor?"

    Further, the extent to which questioning is discouraged in the ashrams is demonstrated by the following example: early in my stay at Hidden Valley, just following our Thanksgiving meal centered on Tofurkey (a tofu-based turkey substitute), one resident pointed out in a written satsanga question that that food was loaded with MSG, which many people are allergic to, or develop headaches from. He also pointed out that non-MSG turkey substitutes are readily available, and requested that the ashram use those instead in the future. Dharmananda’s response to that was to relate the story of how, in the early days of SRF, the nuns used to work "all night" (in shifts) manually preparing gluten-based meat substitutes for their festive occasions. He concluded by saying that he didn’t want the kitchen at HV to have to work all night in similar preparations (not that they would have had to, but anyway), and thus the ashram would continue serving the MSG-laced products.

    And all assembled smiled knowingly, that anyone would so foolishly try to improve the ashram, and "resist what God and Guru had given us" there.

    At other times, Dharmananda (by now, a hobbled diabetic) related his own experiences of entering the ashrams (along with Achalananda) in the 1950s as a "health nut," and of the two of them being concerned with the poor food being served there. Upon bringing this up with a senior monk, the latter’s response was simply “What Master gives, you take.” Which sounds relatively fine, until one considers that over Easter (in 1996, when I first spent a month at HV), "Master/God gave us"—a group of steadfast vegetarians—a box of donuts containing lard.

    Amazingly, although Yogananda very explicitly taught that the consumption of white flour and white sugar was unhealthy, both of those are staples in the ashram diet—with sugar even being added to freshly-squeezed orange juice, and whole wheat flour being all but entirely absent. The explanation which Dharmananda gave regarding that discrepancy was that Yogananda's advice on diet was allegedly meant to apply only to the specific group of people he had been speaking to at each particular time. Personally, I think that's nonsense: Yogananda regularly encouraged his followers to eat only "unsulphured" fruit, for example—which today would equate to it being certified organic—and yet one will find no examples of that in the Hidden Valley cafeteria (other than the produce that they grow themselves, which is close to being organic). SRF's menu, inconsistent with Yogananda's teachings, is just the product of a cultural lowest common denominator among their kitchen staff—it ain't "what Master gives them," nor did Yogananda's dietary advice apply only to "meat and potatoes" people fifty years ago.

  6. SRF's respected Brother Anandamoy will typically put up to eighty hours of rehearsal into a Convocation speech—even to the point of practicing facial expressions and hand gestures, according to the head monk at Hidden Valley, Brahmachari Lee. There is nothing wrong with such preparedness, of course; except that the majority of the audience at those events undoubtedly assumes that those lectures are given "from intuition," with little or no preparation—on the basis of the monk's fifty-plus years of meditation—as Yogananda explicitly taught and practiced; a perception which SRF's deceptive billing (in their Convocation literature and tapes) of them as "informal talks," when in reality they are highly scripted, certainly encourages.

  7. Anandamoy also (according to Dharmananda's satsanga re-telling) praised the devotional "absorptive listening" of audiences in India, in contrast to the "intellectual weighing" and analysis which Western audiences give to the words of saints and sages. Of course, that intellectual attempt to understand and "separate the wheat from the chaff" is absolutely necessary if one is to retain any ability to think for oneself. SRF, however, presents it as an "evil," which allegedly interferes with one's spiritual progress (i.e., in introducing doubts, etc.).

  8. Yogananda and his followers emphasize the nature of God as Bliss, above all other divine aspects: "To contact [the] Self in deep meditation is Bliss, and is also the source of all truth. To contact it intuitionally gives inspiration, wisdom, genius. Self-realization means all of these things"—Sri Gyanamata, God Alone. Unfortunately, not only is that relating of the Self to Bliss highly questionable—other spiritual paths place the Self at a higher level—but the equating of bliss with truth, and the associating of it with wisdom, genius and intuition, means that any blissed-out meditator can consider himself to be "guided by God" in his actions, from which it follows that anyone resisting his orders must be influenced by maya, i.e., Satan.

  9. Yogananda founded separate uniformed schools for boys and girls in India; Dharmananda once publicly voiced the opinion that Yogananda would definitely have wanted the same setup implemented in America as well, had he founded schools here.

  10. SRF's emphasis on the "conservation and transmutation of sexual energy" as a means toward effecting spiritual (kundalini) awakenings leads readily to a guilt-ridden attitude toward sex on the part of its devout members. For, if the choice is between sex and spiritual advancement—i.e., if sexual activity leads one away from God—how could one not feel guilty about indulging in it?

    Notwithstanding that, in response to a satsanga question, Dharmananda once explicitly recommended that anyone who decides against entering a monastic Order for life should get married, so that his/her ego won't be strengthened by "being able to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants." (As if the "real world" is so lenient and flexible to one's desires! and as if there were a stupider reason to "fall in love.") This leads to the obvious conclusion that, unless one is going to become part of the official monastic "in-group," he shouldn't even try to live a hermitic lifestyle, lest he be guilty of being "egoic and selfish."

  11. Each one of the SRF line of leaders/Gurus—their "Popes"—from Daya Mata back to Krishna, are regarded by obedient SRF devotees as being infallible, and simply "working in mysterious ways" when it comes to any seemingly-questionable actions on their parts. I, too, once foolishly regarded them thusly.

  12. In a seasonal letter bulk mailed to SRF members several years ago, Daya Mata lamented "sexual immorality" as being the foremost cause of the world's problems. Where, in the SRF view, any sexual relations outside of marriage would constitute such "immorality." Indeed, Dharmananda once asserted in a satsanga that SRF members shouldn't even "live together" before marriage, as it would "set a bad example" for other people's perceptions of persons on the spiritual path. As to how a piece of paper called a marriage license makes cohabitation more acceptable in the eyes of God, well, that was never really explained.

    Interestingly, some Clint Eastwood "Spaghetti Western" movies are pre-approved for HV ashram viewing by monks and residents on their monthly "movie nights"; while The Sound of Music, in contrast, is banned. The reason? In the latter, Julie Andrews’ character is contemplating life as a monastic, but then finds "the man of her dreams," and "lives happily ever after." And such an idealization of romantic love might "put ideas into the heads" of the people living there. Guns, however, are evidently relatively okay.

  13. Around February or March of 1998, one of the projects at Hidden Valley involved paving the median path in their substantial greenhouse—that path being a ten-foot-wide strip, approximately the length of a football field. That ended up working well, with the cement truck utilizing a long hose to force the concrete along that length. However, a reliable resident volunteer there informed me that the original plan—before someone informed Br. Lee about a better way of doing things—had been to have devotees work in turns, transporting wheelbarrows full of cement along the length of that path. Taking that report as true, had they followed their original plan, one can only imagine how many of those workers would have dropped from sunstroke, in pushing themselves, throughout the day in that heat, "for God and Guru." Or what the headlines would have read.

  14. A resident volunteer at HV once remarked within my range of hearing that "everything you do at Hidden Valley gets talked about behind your back." From my own experiences there—including being critiqued by the neurotic Computer Systems Department supervisor there on the length of my hair, the shabbiness of my clothes, and that I shouldn't "work so hard" on ashram projects—and from hearing that same supervisor criticize Dharmananda behind his back as being "long-winded," and offer endless critiques of the ashram food on our monthly trips in to the San Diego Visual Basic Users Group meetings, I know too well that that observation is valid. This, among a group of people supposedly concerned with their own self-improvement, but who in practice inadvertently make a strong case for defining a yogi as "a person intent on killing everyone's ego except his own."

    Indeed, Dharmananda once stated his view on positive thinking, being that "failure flattens one's ego," and is thus a good thing. Aside from the problem that Yogananda taught nothing like that, the obvious converse of that idea is that to "succeed too much" would interfere with the "killing of one's ego" that ostensibly constitutes spiritual progress. Thus, implicitly, even if one is successful, he should not feel too good about those successes. It does not take an advanced understanding of human psychology to predict that, in the face of those taboos, the easy way to make oneself feel good is by "cutting off the heads of others"—albeit behind their backs, for to do it to their faces would make one a "bad disciple."

  15. Through my work in assisting with Hidden Valley's attempt to set up a software programming shop during my stay there, I was promised full-time computer programming work at $30 U.S. per hour, after having "paid my dues" at HV. That whole programming project was managed by an SRF member who had formerly lived in the SRF ashrams, and was now highly placed in QA at a major American defense contractor...and who believed that HV's software venture was destined to succeed, owing to the "blueprints" for it that the spiritually-enlightened (i.e., kundalini-raised) Dharmananda was "visualizing in the ether." Those visualizations, however, were unfortunately not enough to prevent the collapse of the company upon which the venture depended as the source of contracts for software customizations; resulting in my receiving precisely zero hours of work in the two months following my departure from Hidden Valley.

    That individual himself planned to learn to program computers at a professional level in several months of his spare time—having never done any programming at all before—and yet gladly informed me that I was "impatient" and possessed a "big head," simply for getting things done faster than he (and God) wanted them done! He further explicitly informed me, at the time of our "job interview," that when I had meditated more and become more spiritually advanced—i.e., as advanced as he was—I wouldn't feel the need to be creative in writing books and music. That is, that I would just "serve Master's work" by donating money/labor to it, without presuming to do anything original or truly creative in life.

    Eighteen months after that debacle, I submitted the following posting based on it to the Dilbert Zone List of the Day, in response to the topic "Biggest Promises Broken By Your Boss":

    TRUE: Full-time work, six-figure [Cdn.] salary telecommuting. REALITY: No work in first 2 months, ended up $1000 away from living on the street.
    —The Artist Formerly Known As Bert

    It finished in the top five.

  16. In connection with that programming, prior to my leaving the ashram Brahmachari Lee made a very explicit—albeit not authorized or disclosed at that time to Dharmananda—offer to me, to be allowed to continue to live at Hidden Valley indefinitely as a non-monastic, and be employed in their software shop, for the good that my presence would have had in the attempts at computer programming of the others there. Since I was not in a position to legally work in the United States at that point, however, we specifically and explicitly agreed that the pay would have to be given "under the table." All for the glory of God and Guru, right, so why not break a few rules?

    That same head monk—who felt the need to explain to me that "monks aren't perfect," in relating the story of how another monk at HV had taken a favorite chair from the Mother Center without permission (i.e., had stolen that office furniture) when being transferred to Hidden Valley—freely admitted to me that he was used to having his "head cut off" by his own superiors (as he said, "it always grows back on") for doing things without proper permission from the SRF Board of Directors. (The particular example he gave was in having agreed to have HV do soil analysis programming work for Kinsey Agricultural Services in Missouri without appropriate approval, to "fast-track" it and not miss out on that financial opportunity.) When I indicated that I had never assumed that "monks were perfect," he proferred that I'd "be surprised how many people come to the ashrams thinking that the monks there were perfected beings." I can well believe that that's true; at least, one of the other men doing computer programming there arrived at HV believing, on the basis of ideas in Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi, that Dharmananda could read his every thought.

    One day, the head of the Systems Department was summoned by Br. Lee to fix a problem with the latter's computer: "My computer's not working." Turned out, Lee had simply encountered a "confirm password" prompt, and couldn't understand why it wouldn't let him continue, as he had already entered his password once! And thus had to call "Help Desk" for assistance in solving that problem. "Perfected beings," indeed. Unable to follow the simplest instructions—a problem which came up as well in terms of a documented file backup utility I had written for Br. Lee, which he ended up using completely incorrectly, in spite of having written instructions for its use—and yet "perfect."

  17. I left Hidden Valley just after the original exposé (Return of the Swami) of SRF and Ananda (which I also briefly belonged to in the late 1980s) was published in The New Times Los Angeles, in early July of 1999. That timing was just coincidental, but it did allow me to witness the "sagely" analysis of the story given, unsolicited, by Dharmananda; that being simply via his mention in that context of several monks he had known having "fallen" due to the temptation of women, without mention of the horrible abuse of power on the part of Arjunananda, or of the despicable response to that on the part of the "compassionate, saintly, God-realized" leaders there.

    The same aforementioned "sage" referred to the newsmagazine in which the above information regarding SRF was printed (i.e., The New Times) as being a "smut paper," and regarded the article in question as being simply an attempt to "dig up dirt" on SRF, as a means of thwarting their planned expansion. That is, as being, in his words, "garbage" (or "trash"), not worth sticking one's nose into, particularly when one has been warned of its nature by someone ostensibly in a position to truthfully judge.

    The Environmental Impact Report required for the physical expansion of the Mount Washington headquarters was similarly and explicitly viewed by that administrator as being simply a community stalling tactic. I don't recall whether or not Dharmananda explicitly advanced the connection of that overall resistance being contradictory to God's will, and thus a product of maya/Satan—I think his words were more or less that "people will find a reason to oppose SRF," as if there were no other reason for that EIR to be done!—but that analysis would certainly be in line with SRF teachings in general. For example, with regard to one of the relatively recent SRF publications—I believe it's their version of Omar Khayyam's Rubaiyat—it was noted that one of the artists and SRF members working on the illustrations experienced relevant health problems as the publication date drew near, and chalked those down to Satan trying to thwart the spread of truth through SRF. Given that, it would be inconsistent for SRF not to have viewed any opposition to the Mount Washington expansion as being literally Devil-inspired.

    SRF explicitly prides itself on being a spiritual organization "run according to business principles." Nevertheless, although Hidden Valley receives the vast majority of its labor freely from volunteers, and provides no extravagances in food or shelter for them, they were barely breaking even financially, during the time that I spent with them. (As I understand it, the monastic part of HV is actually financially supported by SRF, but HV is expected to make their own way financially in terms of their other activities, including those involving resident volunteers such as myself.) All the while professing "intuitive" guidance in their managerial decisions, and equating obedience to the leaders of the organization with obedience to God and Guru.

    Indeed, things were so tight financially toward the end of my stay in the ashram that Brahmachari Lee and my immediate supervisor there (the head of the Systems Department) discussed, without my input, having me spend my own money to provide a second computer for myself to work on—I had already provided one (for $1,000 U.S.) prior to that—in the programming that I was doing for the ashram in attempting to set up a money-earning software shop there. Learning of that, I informed that oppressively negative, short-tempered and neurotic immediate supervisor—whose favorite expression, in the midst of Yogananda's "positive thinking" teachings, was "Life sucks, and then you die," and in whose presence of Undreamed-Of-Negativity it was not safe to voice even guarded optimism—that I wasn't in a financial position to absorb that expense. I further suggested to him that if money was that tight at the ashram, then the three of us should get together and talk about the possibility of me loaning the ashram several hundred dollars from my own meager savings, to be repaid when I left. Amazingly, the same abusive supervisor stopped me later that day, to inform me that he and Br. Lee had discussed the situation—again without me, of course!—and might just ask me to provide a computer monitor instead! (Which I would then take back to Canada when I left, according to their plans.) That, after I was already providing 60 hours a week of professional-level programming, in return for only a $30 U.S. per month allowance.

    Although I regularly skipped the "mandatory" group meditations, Brahmachari Lee explicitly invited me, before I left, to come back to Hidden Valley whenever I wanted to—I did not leave "on bad terms" with the organization. It was only after decompressing for several months from the oppressive weight of that experience, and comparing in detail the nonsense I observed there with the relatively benign "evil ways of the real world," that I came to the conclusion that I had never met a complete fool in my life, outside of that setting.

    Several months after leaving HV, I informed SRF (i.e., Daya Mata, Brother Mitrananda, Dharmananda and Brahmachari Lee) of my many dismal experiences with the oppressively negative head of their Systems Department, via a 19-page letter of complaint; but predictably received no response from them. Sadly for me, not a day has gone by in the past three years without my dealing with significant mental and physical pain from the after-effects of that supervisor's stressful psychological abuse. Oddly, asking each of the recipients of that letter of complaint to pray for me, and submitting my name for a Prayer Request via the SRF Internet site, hasn't repaired the severe damage they have done to my life. Go figure.

    Personally, I would regard even promiscuous consensual sex or pornography as far less "evil" than either deliberately contributing to others' suffering—particularly when they have naïvely turned to one for help—or oppressing others with the cult-like idea that independence and thinking for oneself are spiritually detrimental attributes. After all, if one had to choose between living in a world filled with power-hungry, respect-craving conformist celibates, male and female, concerned more with their own bliss and exercise of authority than with easing the pain of others, versus one rife with "sexual immorality"—i.e., sex outside of a piece of paper called a marriage!—but where no one ever turned his back on another person in a time of need, it is easy to see that the latter would be by far the more preferable environment. As would "smut"—i.e., the frank discussion of sexual fetishes and creativities, which to the perverted monastic mind constitute "smut"—when compared to deliberate deceit perpetrated "in the Name of God and Guru"...utilizing "Satan's favorite tool" to further the spread of a favored version of truth. Likewise, if one had to choose between individuals drunk on alcohol, versus those drunk with power, or hungry for food versus hungry for blind respect, one would wisely choose the former.

    In any case, although I went to Hidden Valley contemplating remaining there permanently as a monastic, I no longer have anything to do with SRF (other than still being on their members' mailing list, simply for not having made the effort to get the hell off of it). Yogananda may well still be everything that his followers (which I am no longer one of) believe him to be; but the people currently running SRF clearly bear no closer resemblance to his probable level of integrity than Judas, Doubting Thomas and Denying Peter did to Jesus. And whatever Yogananda's spiritual attainment may be, he clearly isn't keeping too close of a watch over the activities throughout SRF, as they drift with godspeed toward becoming "another Roman Catholic Church."

X Insider
Registered User
(10/14/02 8:26 pm)
Re: more hate email
Hey, bro.
Thanks for letting us in on experience. Hoped it helped to share all this. On the plus side -- you're out!!

Registered User
(10/26/02 2:31 pm)
Re: HV Horrors/Science of the Soul

Edited by: Rosemarie7 at: 10/27/02 10:00:24 pm
Registered User
(10/27/02 10:06 pm)
Re: HV Horrors/Science of the Soul
Surprising how the same place and set of people can evoke quite different reactions in different people. I've visited Hidden Valley several times a year for 20 years and have been a resident there for several months. I also know the various personalities described on this board, as well as recognizing most of the problems and personality defects which have been mentioned. There is nothing on this board which truely surprises me. Indeed, I could probably add to the list of defects.

However, I have always found HV to be a tremendously healing place--despite it's many flaws and eccentricities. My brief stay in Ananda around 1970 was also powerful in helping my meditative practice, even though I found Kriyananda to narcissistic and the spiritual focus of Ananda rather scattered. Maybe all this proves that it matters as much how you REACT to your environment as matters, objectively, what the environment IS. In fact, I would argue that your environment is defined, at least in some ways, by your own needs at the time, your particular life-stage, your preoccupations at a particular moment.

This does not excuse venality, egotism, abuse, or anything of the sort. And it does not rule out criticism. But maybe it does shed a slightly different light and help frame the debate which is unfolding here.

I'm reminded a little bit of the predicament of St. Francis, growing up in a Catholic church which had become lax, materialistic, corrupt, and which had lost its way. How did St. Francis react? And why did St. Francis become an icon to the rest of the world? An interesting question, which I have often thought about. I leave it as food for thought.

One final comment. I strongly support the idea of "transparency" at SRF--something which has been lacking. I think the lack of this quality has led SRF into its current quandry. But I disagree with many of the more judgmental comments here, especially the more sweeping generalizations. This is not, hopefully, a simply Pollyanna or naive viewpoint. As a licensed clinical psychologist, I have an inkling of what darkness can exist in human beings and the capacity for self-deceit.

Registered User
(10/28/02 8:55 am)
Re: HV Horrors/Science of the Soul
<<Although I regularly skipped the "mandatory" group meditations, Brahmachari Lee explicitly invited me, before I left, to come back to Hidden Valley whenever I wanted to<<

A further comment on the lengthy list of complaints regarding HV:

I honestly wonder why Mr. Falk entered the ashram in the first place, given that he did not participate in the mandatory meditations--the very reason for the existence of HV and the whole point of monastic life? I also wonder if he understood that he had literally the cushiest job in the entire ashram, with (as I recall) air conditioned office and few physical demands.

For individuals who have not been to HV and do not know it's history, it's worth mentioning that many people work 8 hours per day in greenhouses where the temperature can be around 100 degrees with 100% humidity, generally without complaint. Earlier in HV's history individuals worked 6 days per week in this environment; many of these same people have returned repeatedly to HV as a place which provided something which they needed in their lives, even after getting on with their lives, going to school, becoming doctors, lawyers, and other professionals.

In light of the above--Mr. Falk's lack of participation in meditation, the complaints about not being well paid, the interpersonal dramas--perhaps it's not surprising that Mr. Falk had quite a different reaction than many other people. FWIW I think his expectations were both unrealistic and perhaps even inappropriate and "entitled".

Again, I 100% agree that many changes are needed at SRF, especially regarding transparency. I think some of the people at HV can be both emotionally overbearing and are interpersonally "tone-deaf". But I strongly disagree that SRF and HV are the "toxic cult" described here. What you experience, to some extent, reflects what baggage you yourself bring to the situation. "If you wear shoes, the whole earth is covered in leather. The interpersonal dramas, the organizational inefficiencies, and power struggles are not very different from what you would encounter in any large organization or corporation or business. If you were expecting the millenium or an island in the sky, get over it. There is no such place. These are all real people, with real problems and real personalities, most of them sincere in trying to achieve some degree of realization, as best they understand it. Consequently, you will find all types of people within HV, within SRF, and any religious organization. My suggestion is to work for constructive change. SRF and HV are worth the effort IMHO.

Last comment. Somewhere on this board, there was a discussion about the psychological nuances of Melanie Klein's theory of projective identification and related issues. The context was a condemnation of cults and SRF. The irony is that the tendency to idealize, to see the world in black-and-white terms, to have wildly unrealistic (and unreasonable) expectations of other people is the root of many complaints I've seen on this board. Yes, we should condemn acts of real abuse, especially those involving sexual, psychological exploitative, or demeaning. By all means. For this reason, I'm very glad this BB exists and that the lid is being opened and real, honest discussions are happening--this is SRF's great failing IMHO. But there is a line which should be drawn between genuinely abusive, systemic problems which need to be fixed, and a playing out of one's particular dramas. Such dramas virtually define "delusion" and are the entire reason for meditative practice.

Registered User
(10/28/02 3:02 pm)
To: psychdev
You deceive yourself

Registered User
(10/28/02 4:34 pm)
Re: To: psychdev

Everybody is entitled to their own opinion. Just because psychdev's view does not entirely mesh with your own does not mean that he is deceiving himself. Everybody's experiences are different. I personally lived at HV for over a year in addition to working at various other SRF ashrams and my experiences, like psychdev's, were on the whole positive. This is not to say that I think all is well with SRF. However, I think psychdev's experience (plus his professional knowledge) is at least as valid as the experience of other posters who are so eagarly cheered on by others when they post their so-called "horror" stories.

Registered User
(10/29/02 3:34 am)

Please consider something...

I will stop short of calling your experiences, so-called positive experiences

Please consider not trashing horror stories in a similar way.

Your feelings about horror stories are interesting.

The day to day operations of srf as i understand are directed by the new leader vishnuananda

In '96, after an hour plus conversation in the library of mother center with satyananda and vishnuananda, my feelings were decided left with the clear message that mother center was not my spiritual home. That i wasn't welcome.

After sending many many many new devotees 400 miles south, encouraging them in northern california to visit their "spiritual home," it was a horror to me to see that if the monastics are treated as equals, instead of superiors, the rug may be pulled out from under the feet of one such as me....a follower for 26 years, heavily serving and contributing. In my case it was done in the blink of an eye.

[Perhaps some guests on this board have never been to california....mother center is serene and often visitors are shown around by young exemplary monks or angelic nuns, in the process, being told, come as often as you wish, "this is your spiritual home."]

Perhaps never did such an enthusiastic, perhaps never a more welcoming to new people follower (again me, again a 26 year devotee as of '96) get shot down so unmistakenly.

Monastics can suffer from this too, from the hands of the chosen and the powerful

I went to prison in '70 as a pacifist, i get along with people, with all the love in my heart i will resist the cult of the chosen,
and i challenge you not to make light of the concerns and horrors.

You there Ringbearer?

Even the most intimate almost lifelong, right hand of rajasi and yogananda, durga ma, was shunned for decades

You know Ringbearer, your experiences are leading you somewhat blindly, as long as you don't acknowledge that for every person srf brings to the experience of direct personal experience, they turn another away with the bitterest taste of disappointment, most likely they turn several away for every one like you who basks in a positive experience.


Edited by: soulcircle at: 10/29/02 3:38:50 am
Registered User
(10/29/02 4:00 am)
Re: Ringbearer
I'd like to address a couple specific quotes from soulcircle's posting, then take a bigger look at this discussion.

1) <<You know Ringbearer, your experiences are leading you somewhat blindly, >>

I see that you strongly disagree with Ringbearer.

But disagreeing doesn't automatically mean that Ringbearer is being led "blindly". Ramakrishna was fond of saying, "Everybody thinks their OWN watch keeps the correct time". Does Ringbearer have to have exactly the same experiences of HV and SRF as you do? Does he, for example, have to experience Visnuananda or Satyananda the same way. That's not reasonable. And I don't think he is "making light" of your own bad experiences with MC.

<<Please consider not trashing horror stories in a similar way..>

This one REALLY confuses me. As I understand Ringbearers statement, he saying exactly the opposite--namely, that different people can (usually do) experience the same environment in different ways. I don't think Ringbearer trashes other's horror stories at all. He simply saying he experienced it differently.

2) <<...as long as you don't acknowledge that for every person srf brings to the experience of direct personal experience, they turn another away with the bitterest taste of disappointment>>

Again, this really confuses me. Ringbearer and I are BOTH saying this: People experience HV/SRF quite differently. Some people turn away from SRF feeling bitter, angry, and turned off. Obviously. That's clear--your posting is an example.

Now the bigger issue. I surely have as long a history with SRF as yourself, soulcircle, along with a fairly strong grounding and training in clinical psychology, and a pretty successful professional and personal life. I assume that we are both reasonable, sincere people. Like you, I've had a lot of life experience, with a lot of different people in a lot of different places and organizations. Yet we see SRF quite differently!

Isn't that interesting? That alone should fascinate you (as it does me) and pique your curiousity--make you want to find out more about "our different craziness", as Master called it. I hope you will not simply retreat into the cave of dogmatism, shut the door, close the windows, and simply deny the reality of someone else's experience. REASONABLE PEOPLE CAN DIFFER IN THEIR EXPERIENCE OF THE SAME PEOPLE/PLACE.

I think one needs to have a certain humility in evaluating the experience of others--even if other's experience is violently inconsistent (and much more positive) than your own. Be curious. Ask questions. Entertain doubts about the absoluteness of your own knowledge. Most important, do not dismiss others' experience as "blindness"--without ANY real basis or personal knowledge of that person or the depth/quality of his or her insight or the reasonableness of their outlook. Surely that's self-defeating. It protects you against ever questioning your own position. It keeps you (and me) locked in that cave of desires, expectations, sensitivities, fears, hopes, habits... All of which make my reality different from your reality. Until we all meet at the top of mountain in meditative peace.

Edited by: psychdev at: 10/29/02 9:16:19 am
Registered User
(10/29/02 9:35 am)
agreeing to disagree?
Interesting discussion here...but I'm not clear on the point...but perhaps there doesn't have to be a "point" to every discussion.

I never was to HV, so I can't make any comments about the place. I did work at Mt. Washington for a couple years, both in the nun's office and the kitchen. I never had a "bad" experience there...I felt the environment was a little too stifling for me, but then again I've never been attracted to entering monastic life. There was something about the place (and eventually I came to that conclusion regarding SRF in general) that was not genuine for *me.*

Obviously a lot of people feel hurt by their experiences in SRF, as monastics or lay members. Others have not felt this hurt. Like everyone seems to agree, people experience things differently. No one can "change" anyone else's feelings...we feel what we feel. I think care is needed in the general tone of referring to other people's feelings. Just because one experiences hurt, doesn't mean they are less strong or less inclined to progress spiritually, or are missing out on some opportunity. Perhaps they just have something different to learn than those that don't experience the same thing in a similar situation. And perhaps what they have to learn is that SRF is not a place that is most conducive to *their* individual, spiritual evolvement. That is neither good nor bad. By the same token, those that have good experiences in a place that has been damaging for others are not necessarily blind, they just have a different make-up and their journey keeps them going along in this particular direction.

Perhaps when blindness or self-deception become an issue, is when someone directly sees another being hurt or abused, is hurt or abused themselves, and takes no action in addressing the abuse. Not unlike, I suppose, a battered woman who stays with her abusive partner because it's too threatening to do what she needs to do to save herself. The strong feelings that are being voiced here have seen or experienced that abuse, perhaps (sorry for all the "perhaps" but these are just my opinions...as are just about all our posts our opinions) and that is why they can't understand why others don't see it. The level of tolerance will be different for everyone, as well.

So, can someone tell me what the point of this thread is, if there is one? Geoffrey Falk gave a very detailed run down of his experience at HV. So? Some sympathized, empathized with him. Psychdev and Ringbearer, said their experiences were different. Psychdev has asked that everyone examine their experiences and why they experience what they do (I'm not saying that very well, maybe you could make it more clear for me Psychdev). But what is the point (I seem to have some doggone *need* for a point...perhaps I should try to understand why...just kidding)? Psychdev, what do you think might happen if people took your advice? What do you anticipate? I'm not being caddy or anything, I really am trying to understand this. So many of these discussions seem to go round and round...I think you know what I mean.

IMHO, people who have had experiences where they have felt damaged by SRF, will continue to look at SRF in a very critical light. I think that just about everyone who has taken the SRF lessons probably remembers the saying about everything being neutral and only our attitude making things what they are. But, on the other hand, I think it's important to acknowledge one's feelings and get to an environment where one feels safe and nurtured, if the current environment seems toxic (to THAT individual). We all are where we are, there is not definite right or wrong place.

Registered User
(10/29/02 11:12 am)
Re: agreeing to disagree?
GARDENDIVA: I agree with much of what you wrote. There certainly is such a thing as abuse, and it comes in many forms.
And there is NEVER any question of "tolerance" for sexual abuse, violence, or clear predation (where there is a clear disparity in power and responsibility.) There is no question of looking away or tolerating abuse.

<<Perhaps when blindness or self-deception become an issue, is when someone directly sees another being hurt or abused, is hurt or abused themselves, and takes no action in addressing the abuse. >>

Unfortunately, abuse (like any other powerful, emotive term) can be used by different people to mean quite different things. It can be used as an epithet or expression of vulnerability, rather than an objective description of predation.

For example, if I am extremely sensitive to a controlling supervisor because I have a history of severe physical and sexual abuse as a child, is that supervisor "abusive"? I may indeed experience him/her as terribly abusive, have flashbacks, break out in a cold sweat, become depressed, dissociate and have all the hallmarks of PTSD. But it would certainly be a stretch to call the supervisor "abusive" when we actually mean "controlling"--even though the suffering individual uses that word and FEELS profoundedly abused. In fact, other individuals in the same situation may not be affected or offended, much less feeling "abused". Abuse is not a black and white term. And it depends tremendously on the context and person. It cannot be defined absolutely.

Even so with a myriad of experiences. The sensitivites, expectations, vulnerabilities, awareness, sophistication, life-experiences we bring to a situation often causes us to experience a situation as "abusive" when it is not abusive for other people, and is not reasonable to label an individual's particular behavior as abusive. It all depends. (Obviously, molestation, elder abuse, and sexual abuse by a "guru" of psychologically dependent individuals are unambiguously abusive because of the disparity in power and responsibility).

A second point I was trying to make is that the discussion here had been quite one-sided and unbalanced IMHO. There was no allowance for contrary opinions or the possibly other people might have *validly* different, more positive opinions. It's been a chorus of condemnation which, I suspect, has been quite intimidating to people with different (positive) views.

Clearly you (and others) have negative feelings about SRF and feel that (in some sense) SRF or specific SRF monks/nuns are "abusive". OK. But other people have had quite different experiences. And these may be just as valid. If you want to discuss "abuse" (or horror stories), then it's best to frankly describe one's own expectations and assumptions, and how these interact with specific situations. It may turn out that you were genuinely abuse. Or it may be that one's expectations and assumptions were not very reasonable. Or that the 100% black 0% white picture actually has shades of gray. Or that the abuse by several individuals is not intrinsic/typical of the organization. That's the beginning of a profitable discussion. Not labels. Not epithets.

I have already noted my own own beef with SRF. I believe passionately that they have not been transparent and this has caused many, many problems and much damage. Too much information has been bottled up because it was felt to be "damaging", and some information has been fudged to the point of being misleading or false. But I think SRF (and HV) are very much worth saving (if that is the right word), and I will do my best to contribute to improving these organizations.

A final (hopefully provocative) question, raised earlier. Hopefully not too abstract. Maybe it can serve as a basis for discussion.

Should St. Francisco have left the Catholic church because it was corrupt, because priests kept concubines and lived in palaces, because the message of Christ was no longer taught? Is it possible for us to follow his example in respect to SRF? Is there any lesson in his life for our current discussion. (I've just returned from a several week pilgrimage to Assisi and India, so this is a very hot question for me.)

Edited by: psychdev at: 10/29/02 11:50:13 am
Registered User
(10/29/02 11:29 am)
Re: agreeing to disagree?
<<Just because one experiences hurt, doesn't mean they are less strong or less inclined to progress spiritually>>

Of course. I suggest only that personal vulnerability, unmet needs can indeed be the cause of hurt. We've ALL been there; we've all been deluded at one time or another; we've all overreacted. That doesn't make us less spiritually inclined or weak. It just makes us (for the moment) deluded or overreactive. And it does not make light of other's deep sense of abuse or devaluation . As you say, people feel what they feel.

Edited by: psychdev at: 10/29/02 11:36:51 am
Registered User
(10/29/02 12:06 pm)
Re: agreeing to disagree?

You make sound points and ask reasonable questions. I understand what you are trying to say.

That being said, I will clarify that I don't feel that I have ever been "hurt" by SRF. I make the effort to remain neutral to it. The teachings simply lacked something for me personally, for my own sadhana. For that reason I've moved on to something else, something that seems to suit me better. If you look back at some of my older posts, I mentioned that I was young and lacked a certain amount of discretion and self-knowledge when I first began to get the lessons. I'm older now, possibly more wise (always a relative term) and am more honest with myself. It's given me the opportunity to "move on," although I wouldn't recommend it to anyone that didn't feel it was the right for them.

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