(Author note: When I began the hellish task of writing, Sex, Lies, and Two Hindu Gurus, my memoir about my years in the organization of two India gurus, I was motivated to relive the nightmare and put it all down on paper by that quintessential motivator: “If I can help just one person, it will be worth it.” I’m happy to report that I personally know several people who my book has helped. What’s more, I have been told by several others that I’ve helped many people. This fact really does make my tortured journey to tell how I was conned by two fake gurus, discovered their rampant secret sex abuse, and helped victims fight for justice. Christine is one of the people who shared her personal cultic experience with me — and let me know that my book was a Godsend to her exactly at the moment in her life that she needed it.)
Like thousands of Americans, Christine wanted to go to an Indian ashram, live in the presence of a guru, do a lot of yoga, and eat an ayurvedic diet. In the fall of 2016 she paid a lot of money to do just that — a whopping $13,000. (She later learned there was a much lower price for the Indian attendees.) In early December she flew around the world to Bengaluru Adheenam, India, to attend a 21-day retreat at the ashram of Paramahamsa Nithyananda. She hadn’t done any research before choosing her venue (much like many Americas who head to India to meet “gurus,” I assume).
Almost immediately, she was second-guessing her impulsive decision. Within several days of arriving she realized she’d made a big mistake. By the second week, she was determined to leave, but faced significant resistance from the people running the ashram. One day at her hotel she decided to finally research the guru. That’s when she learned the truth about the so-called holy man, including a long history of alleged sexual assault of children and adults, an arrest, and an upcoming trial.
“I knew I was in the wrong place IMMEDIATELY, but had paid a ghastly amount to be there, so I tried to make the best of it at first. Also, a friend of mine was there and seemed to be enjoying it. So, I wanted to stay with him.”
“We were kept at the ashram sometimes 18 hours a day. It was a one-hour bus trip each way to get to the hotel. We got almost no sleep.”
“If we had to go to the bathroom during sessions we were shamed by the staff. I was sick on day three thru eight. There was no medical help available, so I drank tons of water. They would block me from leaving to use the bathroom, saying things like ‘Swamiji is coming.’ I had to force my way thru them.”
“We were told there would be a lot of yoga, but really there was hardly any. Mostly long hours of concentrating on blindfold reading (wearing blindfolds while trying to read). The blindfolds they gave us have a picture of his eyes and his red dot. I think it looks like a reptile. We were supposed to wear it in order to use our third eye to read. I cheated. So did most of the people. Six hours of that a day, all while I was waiting for the YOGA.”
“The swami really likes his music. He has really good music done for him and plays it. He wants everyone to dance for hours before he finally speaks. If you slow down you can be sure someone will give you a hard time about it just like an old-fashioned Catholic nun.
“Many people were enticed to spend tons extra than the course fee during this trip. To get an enhanced experience they will gladly take one to two thousand dollars to allow you closer contact with Nithyananda. Or you can pay a few thousand to get a name change or some other crazy thing.”
The people who worked there seemed to know who to watch out for and I was one of them. They know who is not falling for it.”
“The most horrible part was the lack of any alternate transportation to and from the hotel. They only want people to travel via their controlled buses. You either stayed the entire time or did not go. The area had no currency available and the taxis only take cash. The money machines at the ashram never had money. They would announce they had it, but they never did.”
“A couple of days I stayed at the hotel rather than endure a full day there. One of those times I decided to search online. The reason I looked is because the ashram staff kept referring to the ‘dark times and the ‘rumors,’ and the swami kept making remarks about how he has been medically tested and was shown to have no sex hormone. So ridiculous! I knew something was up. In fact, he had sex with bunch of kids, both boys and girls, plus sexual contact with adult women and men for ‘tantric encounters.’ Yet, he claims to be an AVATAR!”
The Great Escape
Finally, 17 days into the 21-day program, Christine had had enough and decided she was definitely getting out of there — come hell or high water. This was easier said than done though. The group apparently didn’t appreciate people abruptly leaving their highly controlled, cloistered environment in which the participants were shuttled in ashram-controlled buses from hotels to the ashram. When she left, four of the group’s goons tried to stop her by physically attacking her. What they didn’t count on was a very determined videshi (foreigner).
“I walked out of the gate when someone open for a moment in the middle of the day. Four men pursued me over a three-mile trek to the main road: one on a motorcycle, two in a little vehicle cart, and one boy running after me. They kept trying to grab my necklace with my ID badge. They were also filming me with cell phones.”
I would get away from them, then they would reappear. They seemed to be in phone or radio contact with the staff, likely being told to continue pursuing me.”
“Fortunately for me I had some defensive moves and got myself free. I pushed the boy down and grabbed the throttle of the guy’s motorbike. I finally got someone I did not think worked for them to give me a ride to the main road.”
“We had been given SIM chips for our phones, which totally messed up our security. As soon as I left, someone set up a Facebook page in my name. It had my same profile photos and everything. Then people from the ashram went there and left disgusting comments and lies about me. “
On the 24-hour journey back to the U.S., Christine tried to take her mind off of the nightmare she’d just endured by reading. She read a book she had with her on her flight from India to Hong Kong. But she needed something else to read from Hong Kong to California. She stopped by a bookstore in the airport. She had a particular book in mind. But at the entrance of the store, a red book sitting alone on a shelf caught her attention. She picked it up and saw that it was written by a woman who had escaped from living in an Indian guru’s ashram in the U.S. where sex abuse had occurred. She decided on the spot that she needed to read this very book. The book was the Indian version of Sex, Lies, and Two Hindu Gurus. She messaged me on Facebook shortly after she arrived back home.
“I bought your book on the flight home from some fake guru in India and it was the best medicine EVER. I read it cover-to-cover in one sitting on the 12-hour flight. It was exactly what I needed to read and learn at that time, because my experience with Nithyanada and his cult follow the details of your experience so closely.”
“When I got to the airport I was looking for another book and your book jumped off the shelf at me in the few short minutes it took to find the other book.”
“My copy was not with other copies of your book. Or perhaps I was just searching for truth so desperately that I spotted it with ease. It was just sitting there alone. Just WOW!”
I felt so wonderful while reading your story knowing of your sweet honest soul. I love honesty and the personal stories spiced up the reality for me. Many times I thought: ‘She really said that??’ Bravo!”
“I was so down on myself for recklessly going off to this place. The other people were groomed and prepared. I just jumped into it with no research at all. I think I was reeling from the election energy and everyone suddenly was interrupting my life. I feel like a total idiot for having paid that much money for nothing. I can’t even figure out WHAT in the bloody hell made me do it. Once they start soliciting you to go, they know how to get you.
“My deepest respects for your writing and what you did to help those young girls accomplish. You just don’t know how valuable and timely I found your book on the way home from a cult that is so insane.”
If Sex, Lies, and Two Hindu Gurus could help Christine recover from the trauma of Nithyananda’s cult, perhaps it could help you or someone you know who has succumbed to the crazy-making lure of a wicked, twisted cult.
Note: Christine’s response to this story: “Girl, you took my breath away! I am so happy with what you wrote. You nailed it. It does my insides good to read it as well. The experience is now capsulated instead of bleeding seeping into my ‘today.’ So, thank you for the goosebumps. It also makes me happy to see my own words throughout your article. I forget sometimes that my thoughts are pretty clear.”
Order Sex, Lies and Two Hindu Gurus in India here.
Order Sex, Lies, and Two Hindu Gurus everywhere else here.
Postscript: Learn more about Paramahamsa Nithyananda’s sex crimes here.