An Open Letter  

By Joy Zuckerman, a former resident/member of Yogaville

Dear Friend,

This letter is an update of the events that have taken place since our January letter, which first made public allegations against Swami Satchidananda that he sexually abused women members of the Integral Yoga Institute. The January letter included testimonials from three women who courageously came forward with claims that SS, presenting himself as a celibate monk, used his authority as a spiritual leader to physically and sexually abuse these female devotees. Through details of my own experience, this letter also addressed the issue of the "other victim," disciples who have accepted the truth about SS and are dealing with the disillusion of their trust in him as their guru.

Since the January letter eight more women have come forth with their own stories of abuse from SS. Though exact figures are not yet available, nearly 100 former disciples have disassociated themselves from the IYI organization, citing SS's questionable response to the above-mentioned reports as a major reason for their leaving. Two swamis have left the order, 25 teachers are no longer teaching for IYI, and 12 board members from various branches have resigned. We are glad to report that most of those who have abandoned their affiliation with Swami Satchidananda say they are continuing the spiritual and physical practices of Yoga.

Since January, SS has cancelled two public speaking engagements, one scheduled to be held in June in San Francisco and the annual "Swami and the Rabbi" in New York. We believe, these schedule changes took place because IYI officials were aware of demonstrations and information campaigns from our increasingly active network.

This activism is designed with the following objectives: to see SS deal openly with the above accusations; to see that the people who have made statements be treated with yogic compassion; and to continue to inform the public about these allegations of sexual abuse.

What follows is a breakdown of meetings and other related events that have taken place since January in the major IYI centers throughout the United States:

CANTON CENTER, CONNECTICUT IYTC CLOSES. The members of the Canton Center IYTC met and were considering disassociating from the Virginia Ashram. Out of that meeting the idea for the attached petition and resolutions was formed. The response of the Virginia Ashram to their request for an open investigation was to inform them that they could no longer function as an Integral Yoga Teaching Center. Three of their members ar selling property that they had purchased at the Ashram.

DETROIT INTEGRAL YOGA TEACHING CENTER CLOSES: At the meeting in January, in a unanimous vote, members resolved to remove all photos of SS and to no longer hold videotaped satsangs of SS. Though shifting focus away from SS, members decided to continue to have kirtan (chanting), meditations and support group meetings. After requesting an open investigation of SS's misconduct, the Virginia Ashram officials informed them that they could no longer function as a teaching center.

The overwhelming response among members of the Detroit community was "I amnot surprised." They recalled how SS had only female secretaries and how they had questioned it at the time. They also wondered why the tithes and donations went to SS's private account (Satchidananda Charity Fund) and were used at his discretion only; why there were never any financial reports sent to individuals or satellite centers (as is customary for other spiritual groups); and, people asked why, if he were a monk, did he need to have an extremely pampered lifestyle and many luxury cars. Several people who planned to move down to the Ashram are changing their minds.

MONTREAL IYI LOSES TEACHERS AND LONGTIME STUDENTS. In Montreal it was proposed, and by majority vote agreed, to take the necessary legal steps to become autonomous and separate from the Virginia Ashram. There were proposals to continue as an independent group under a new name. Their Dissolution Clause now reads, "If ever the General Assembly decides to dissolve the IYI Canada, the assets, property and profits will go to another non-profit Yoga organization than IYI. All but one person at the meeting said that they believed the contents of the January letter. Some questioned if there could be any legal action taken against him. Many people said that the lavish living of SS had bothered them as well as the adulation that was encouraged. One of the strongest causes of the Montreal members' disenchantment with Satchidananda resulted during a visit when he became enraged because the event was not organized to his satisfaction. People said that it didn't look like he was "just taking anger out of his pocket" but rather that he was an "angry old man." He stayed in lavish hotels rather than at the IYI, and members were told that the small car they supplied for his use was not suitable. He required a larger, more luxurious car. After the meeting it was decided: to remove all of his photos and most of his books (as well as those from the Himalayan Institute); not to chant his name; tell students their center is not longer an IYI.

The Montreal sangha are strong in their support. There was a protest at SS's last speaking engagement on May 17th. Members carried placards and signs and dispersed information. The demonstration was successful and subsequently, the attached article appeared in the Montreal Mirror. Montreal members continue to offer large amounts of moral and financial support to help bring the truth to light.

NEW YORK IYI LOSES TEACHERS after learning about SS's misconduct and subsequent cover-up. Fifty concerned teachers, and present and past Integral Yoga Institute (IYI) members came together to share information, offer support and hear Susan Cohen's testimony of her sexual relations with SS while she was Swami Atmananda. Out of this meeting a monthly support group and the Healing Through the Truth Network was formed.

Many of the teachers have chosen not to continue teaching at the IYI. Pujas (worship services) are not done to the light instead of to Swami Satchidananda; the vows of obeisance and submission to SS are not repeated at morning meditation; many individuals have taken his pictures off the walls in their homes. Many members would like to see the IYI continue to bring yoga to the NY community, yet not at the expense of truth.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA IYI LOSES TEACHERS AND BOARD MEMBERS. In a recent teachers meeting, several individuals resolved to formally request an inquiry. Two board members have decided to resign and a growing number of teachers no longer teach at the IYI. One of the board members explained her reasons for resigning: "I was very disappointed in the Ashram's lack of response to the members' concerns. They originally promised to issue a formal statement but never did."

VIRGINIA DEMONSTRATION GETS TELEVISON COVERAGE: Supporters of the Healing Through the Truth Network demonstrated with placards before the Omni Hotel in Charlottesville on August 2nd, where SS was the keynote speaker at the PSY Symposium. Local Virginia news stations, channel 29 and 12, covered the protest, interviewing our members as well as Ashram representatives. The Daily Progress, the Richmond Dispatch, the Associated Press, and UPI sent reporters and photographers. Two of the articles are enclosed herewith. The Daily Progress is continuing an investigative report of the IYI scandal. Encouraged by this media attention, several more women are considering coming out with statements of their similar experiences. As a result of the positive news coverage and community support, the Virginia Support Group has gained confidence and members.

To date the IYI has refused to investigate these charges and SS has refused all invitations to openly discuss these accusations. Enclosed is a copy of a petition requesting an investigation that invites you to participate in our effort to "Bring the Truth to Light."

In the on-air news coverage of the PSI Symposium protest SS deflected the demonstration by accusing me of insincere motives. SS claims that I have organized this effort solely for financial gain. He refers to the fact that when I renounced my vows I requested that the IYI return to me the $20,000 donation I made in 1979, believing now that the donation was made under false pretenses. My reasons for being committed to this cause--bringing to the surface these long concealed secrets--is inspired by a desire to see justice done, not just for me but for all of those who have suffered financially and emotionally from his fraud. SS's attacks on me, my credibility and my motives, resemble his efforts to discredit the emotional and psychological stability of the women who have confronted him with his sexual misconduct.

His efforts to obscure the focus of our goals are transparent. Healing Through the Truth Network advocates an investigation of Satchidananda, in order to make the truth known and allow people the option of deciding what they believe and how they want to pursue their association with IYI. I've made every effort to communicate the information surrounding this painful discovery as honestly and accurately as possible and above all with empathy for all of us who have been deceived.

If you would like to communicate any information that might offer support to the Healing Through the Truth Network, or if you would like to receive more information or a copy of the January letter, please notify:

Joy Zuckerman




1. Acknowledge the truth that Swami Satchidananda misrepresented himself to be a celibate monk and imposed his authority as a spiritual leader on female devotees, to seduce them into sexual relations.

2. Strive to stay true to the Yogic teachings when confronting our frustration and disappointment in Swami Satchidananda. Our goal is not to condemn him, but to still love him, no longer as our guru in some cases, but as a man who deserves our compassion.

3. Make an effort to comfort and heal those who have been hurt by Swami Satchidananda, both the direct victims of sexual abuse and all who have suffered from disillusionment and the devastating loss of trust.

4. Call for a meeting of IYI members and establish a committee to conduct an open investigation and to communicate their findings to the entire Integral Yoga International community.

I, the undersigned, agree with these resolutions and petition IYI to conduct the afore mentioned investigation.


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