I have decided to post my story because I think it will help people. I look back and cannot believe I ever got into the Sri Chinmoy Centre. At the time I was a premed student at Stony Brook, towards the end of the free-wheeling free-loving 60's and 70's, well-educated, down to earth and intelligent. But somehow, my curiosity got the better of me, and I signed on so I could study meditation seriously. Little did I know what lay in store. Bit by bit, subtly at first and then less subtly, the group drew me in till I found myself cut off from all the other people who had been in my life. Once an active museum-goer, reader, music-appreciator and political activist, I found my focus of activities narrowed into an increasingly rigid and controlled culture of Hindu-lite, sparsely disguising a strongly orchestrated clique of so-called "high consciousness" people (it seems now the criteria for this category don't exactly have to do with "consciousness") who used the rest as virtual slaves. I became an avid long distance runner, an addiction in itself, so the years went by before I became aware of how unhappy my life had actually become.
It seems that the pattern is consistent: once you have been cut off from the artistic, intellectual, emotional and personal ties that comprised your life, you become weaker. The usual brainwashing techniques take away your normal defenses and invade your personality. I began to see how ghose has assiduously studied how to get his students to project onto him anything that was ever beautiful and spiritual inside of themselves, and to project onto themselves, or onto the current scapegoat, all the troubling complexities of the personality which might contradict the one-dimensional definition of spirituality which becomes a social norm for the group. This one-dimensional definition of spirituality has elements of Jewish guilt, but mostly a Puritanical zeal for "purity" which requires complete celibacy, and a total repression of all emotional and interpersonal content. The way ghose spends a lot of time haranguing his disciples about all their impurities and "disobedience" which he claims constantly attack him and make his saintly life painful, I later learned was a technique of Pol Pot, Stalin and others. I spent many many hours doing "selfless service"--supplying free labor to his cash cows--so I was virtually working two full time jobs. I complied with all the rules, which meant that I was applying my own strong will against myself, suppressing not only my need for human contact, but my love of the arts, of literature, of self-expression and of self-fulfillment through a meaningful career. Gradually, I lost so much of my own defenses and my own sense of self that I became visibly weak. Then I became an appointed scapegoat. I was ostracized constantly during the last years in the Centre, and the butt of many lies for years and years. At one point Alo started asking me about all these lies which were going on among the "very closest disciples", which confirmed to me the reality of this incessant and blatantly untrue gossip. A close Cambodian friend of mine at the UN told me that disciples spreading around the lie, after my mother died, that I had invented her death just to get off work. Can you imagine how painful that is for someone who has just lost their mother? I was made the subject of all sorts of sexual gossip, even though I was completely celibate and, according to the foregoing testimonials, those gossiping had been engaged in sexual activities with their saintly guru for years. But the culture of the SCC is such that people never talk about what goes on in the inner circle, because it is too "sacred" to name for what it really is. This is typical of any family abuse too.
I am extremely sensitive to the boundaries between reality and lies, and I also happen to have an extremely acute memory though I wish I could forget the many, many things which happened to me while I was in the Centre. I suffered unbelievably for my "beliefs" and for maintaining my spiritual discipline, and because I persisted in trying to stand by my own integrity even as members of the Centre constructed a completely different persona for me from the one I had been holding fast to all those years. At the time I had been so demoralized and stripped of any dignity that I was basically suffering a major breakdown which lasted for years. I can recognize this in retrospect now that I have regained my dignity and happiness.
What I really needed was deep, genuine love and somehow that was what I did finally find two years after I left. I have been with this man, who has remarkable and profound integrity, for the past 8 years. He was compelled by the pain in my eyes when he first met me, and has listened to me and watched me reawaken into a full self. He offered to pay for a PhD and began flying me to Europe where he was working, and where I reacquainted myself with the great art of the world. So finally I have been, in a way, two different people: the completely beaten-down version I left behind in Jamaica, Queens, and the emotionally, intellectually and culturally fulfilled and alive version, not sadder but wiser, that I am today. I would also like to add the next chapter to this story, for those disciples who don't know what awaits them on the other side. I, for one, took more than a year to leave the Centre even after I realized that the Centre was lowering my consciousness instead of raising it. I couldn't let go because I thought there might be nothing on the other side, but that turned out to be the opposite of the truth. From living in a psychic prison that drained my health, happiness and spirituality, I have found in the larger world an endless chain of opportunities. Even as I suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder through the process of leaving such an acutely painful and demoralizing situation, I became engaged in an ever-enlarging life. I acquired two graduate degrees including a PhD, taught arts-based curricula to students ranging from the homeless and juvenile delinquents to graduate students, published scholarly articles and presented at conferences, have read voraciously through history, philosophy and the arts, spent years exploring the great art of the world in major museums, dabbled in performance art, worked with all kinds of professional groups as I explored careers, and rediscovered my family, a pretty interesting bunch. This is my path--though everyone has a different path--the path of the humanist, the Western individualized search for spirituality. I study the world in depth with my partner, and I bring my understanding to students from diverse backgrounds. Once I finally let go of the Centre, I became truly blessed.