Visitor Comments  

"For no good reason, I thought of Catherine Cheng today. She was so cool. She was quite pretty, and I had some fun hanging with her in high school. Or rather, trying to hang with her, she was never around, or with her boyfriend a lot. I should have asked her to prom (except, of course, for that whole boyfriend situation), and tried in vain to get her to crash it. I felt bad inviting her to my going away picnic, as she was the only one there not in my tight social circle (she spent a lot of time alone at the far end of the picnic blanket). We had some great emails during college, always trying to get her to ask out her crush-of-the-month. She was so cool: living off campus with cooler guys in Montreal (McGill college), while I still schlepped it out at the dorm (of all god-forsaken places). I looked so forward to meeting up with her again when I came back to New York after all these years (and no, I am not still carrying a torch for her. She's just damn cool). And then I got word she had joined a cult. And that things had gotten worse. And then I got a little sick in the stomach, because she had been so cool. At the very least her family's story will stay up for all to see. Damn you Swami Satchidananda! And to hell with Yogaville too!"

"I was just about to go to Yogaville as part of a longer trip to that area. I am glad that I came upon the story of the Cheng family first. I will not be going to Yogaville. My thanks to those poor people for sharing this horrific story with the public. Please pass along to them my deepest gratitude for this selfless gesture and my sorrow for the tragic loss of a daughter. It is unspeakably sad. The image of these people in Yogaville on cranes pouring 'holy water' on a big ugly pink dome just brings home the preposterous snake oil, flim flam and the voodoo often done in the name of religion."

"I see that the information about Satchidananda's sexual exploits is still on the Internet after all these years. Obviously Yogaville's threats about lawsuits were bogus. I'm glad you are exposing them. It is particularly distasteful that he never came forward to apologize, as I know of two instances where people were asked to leave his ashram because they engaged in sexual relationships. Satchidananda still had women massaging him up until a couple of years ago. Maybe the women he abused will get some peace of mind now that the hypocrite is dead."

"I want to thank you for posting information about the Integral Yoga Institute. These people have brainwashed my wife and caused the complete breakdown of my marriage. The parallels in the story that you have posted about the father and daughter to my own life are very eye-opening. My wife has immersed herself in this community and it has destroyed my marriage and I'm afraid that it will also destroy her. I tried to accept her and went to yoga classes and events with her. But I see a closed group of people that worship the swami, which is quite disturbing. I went to a dinner/auction, where the swami's personal effects were auctioned off and people paid hundreds of dollars for things like a foot bath, that he may or may not have used. These yoga groupies bow down and kiss Satchidananda's feet and completely defer to him. As soon as he walks into the room, the entire group goes silent. It is extremely odd. They seem to be users and manipulators who profess peace and harmony, but have created disharmony in my home and are principally responsible for destroying my relationship with my wife."

"An interesting story, not unlike many others I have heard. Most people enter 'cults' with their eyes wide open, believing they've found something that answers their spiritual longings. Their personal autonomy is willingly surrendered in pursuit of what appears to be a noble path to enlightenment. However, [there is great] power that ego obsessed leaders can exert over a person's mind. While people join such groups voluntarily soon the leadership begins to become the conscience of the convert. Independent thinking is undermined, discouraged [and often] even punished."

"I most certainly will never refer students to any so-called Integral Yoga Center and will continue to work to the best of my ability with integrity and honor in a discipline which I have found to be as vast as human diversity. Surely you recognize that your experience with one group of people has nothing to do with the science of Yoga worldwide. Best wishes to you, and may your daughter find the strength to break free from what has happened and come back to her friends and family."

"Satchidananda did go back to India a number of times for visits. In 1970 I was with him in India, Delhi, Madras, then on to Ceylon. We visited the ashram where he used to teach. Not much more than a small shack in the jungle with only a few students. No wonder he never went back to Ceylon or India in any permanent sense."

"I was a student of Swami Satchidananda in 1970 at the Ananda Ashram in Monroe, New York. While attending a yoga camp with him in Ceylon in late 1970 he bragged to me that he could sleep with two women at the same time without touching either of them. He also lectured that women should remain virgin until marriage because 'no man would want an apple that someone else had already taken a bite out of'. Later on the wife of one of Satchidananda's top disciples publicly accused him of having a secret affair with her and there was a revolution at the New York City headquarters of Integral Yoga. All those poor guys who were celibate or trying to be celibate felt betrayed by a man who taught one thing and practiced another."

"I want to give you my absolute condolences regarding what has happened to your daughter. She was a good friend of mine and I miss her very much and I think of her often. I can only imagine your concern and worry for her in light of these terrible events. I have attempted to contact her to no avail. Although I know that life in law school and her personal relationship with her boyfriend were not 'picture perfect', I cannot imagine that these reasons were sufficient enough for her to drive away her friends and family permanently as she has done."

"I am a yoga teacher/student for over thirty years and appreciate greatly the struggle your family is going through. One must attempt to remember that though people have spiritual practices, they are still human and egos can often create problems and stress for others. I would like to say simply that I will put you all, which includes IYI staff and Swamiji in my prayers. I hope you are able to resolve your issues in the very near future."

"Thank you for sharing your story and concern about IYI. It sounds like you have been through a real nightmare. I pray that you and Catherine are reunited. I can assure you that this situation is MOST atypical for IYI. Neither Satchidananda nor his teachings endorse loss of contact with loved ones, loss of decision-making powers, nor the violent and rebellious acts you have witnessed. In fact, all of those behaviors/attitudes are specifically contradictory to the teachings of yoga and Satchidananda. It seems that the emotions and behaviors of Catherine, Mr. Gross, and some of the other IYI staff you've had contact with are a misrepresentation of the foundation of the ashram and its founder. I agree that it sounds like Catherine and Mr. Gross both have serious problems and hopefully you will be successful in at least getting her the help she needs. But truthfully, there are MANY thousands of 'normal' individuals who practice yoga, learn from the teachings, and continue to function leading totally healthy and independent lives. Yours is far from the typical scenario."

"Thanks for your story. We're long aware of the problems of cults and gurus. We advise reading the seminal book, 'Guru Papers' to help in understanding the problems."

"Thank you very much for informing me of this most gripping, tragic event that has befallen your daughter and family. I am deeply moved and saddened by it. It is a shame that such conduct occurs under the banner of yoga as true yoga quite clearly espouses the opposite--independent thinking. Even those who choose to join ashrams and 'renounce their previous lives' usually do so upon very long conscious reflection and often maintain very cordial relationships with their friends and relatives. It makes it very hard for us yoga teachers to overcome the fear generated by such cult-like behavior passing as yoga, and it is important for us to fight against the sort of thing that happened to your daughter. I have no knowledge of the Integral Yoga International Organization, but I will pass your story on to others."

"My heart goes out to you all regarding the situation with your daughter. At one time I showed an interest in some [IYI] programs. However, after reading some of the materials I was sent, I felt uneasy--like something wasn't 'right.' This organization has also reached its tentacles here in California and they had a series of introductory sessions in the Los Angeles area. Any group that causes the pain and agony, the kind of which your family is experiencing is in my opinion evil. I will do what I can to pass along your story to others and to warn them of dangers of these cult-type groups. I do hope relations with your daughter will improve and that a real dialogue can occur, safe from the clutches of wicked individuals like Mr. Gross and the so-called 'Swami'".

"I was deeply disturbed to read about the plight of your daughter. I feel very bad for you that your daughter has been manipulated in such a fashion that she is not herself and unable to use her own faculty to make the important decisions in life. I wish you all the best and will include you in my prayers--to free her from this suppression and be able to lead a normal life without interference from others."

"Many of us here [at CUNY Law School] are very concerned about Catherine. I had been in contact with Catherine by email till my computer crashed. Our thoughts are with you at these difficult times."

"I have been a practitioner of Yoga for almost 20 years. It did not take me from my life. It gave me a lifeline to my life. I can only say please do not judge Yoga by the people that are not living its principles of respect for all beings."

"It hurts me to hear of this attitude. Please know that at our institute is also called IYI, but none of this kind of behavior is accepted or tolerated. Our written rules of teaching ethics are posted at the schools and any member of the public is free at any time to talk to our staff and/or any student attending our school. Our schools across the world are called "Iyengar Yoga Institute," and can sometimes be confused with this other IYI [Integral Yoga International]."

"I am not shocked by what you have written--as this is a most typical behavior of [groups called] 'cults [sic].' I am saddened to see these [people are] giving Hinduism a bad name. I am a Roman Catholic from India and have a deep respect for Hinduism primarily for it's tolerance and acceptance of other religions. I wish you all success in your endeavors and hope that you can manage to attract everyone's attention to this [group]."

"I read your [reports] on the 'Integral Yoga' of Swami Satchidananda and the apparently cultish behavior associated with the organization. You are probably aware that the swami appropriated the name 'Integral Yoga' and registered it as a 'service mark'--even though 60 years earlier Sri Aurobindo had started to call his yoga by that name. When years ago Swami Satchidananda was contacted by members of the Sri Aurobindo Association (which I do not represent) and asked how he could have copyrighted a designation that had been famously used by an important neo-Hindu teacher--he just shrugged his shoulders. Basically, when a 'master' starts copyrighting names, (Sanskrit) terms, etc., it [can be seen as] a tip off that the yoga is [perhaps] more commercial than progressive."

"I was astounded at the things you and the Cheng family are having to go through to get their daughter Catherine back. After listening to the recordings that Catherine's brother made of their meeting--I'm with the rest of the world in being convinced that she has been seriously brainwashed. My heart goes out to the Cheng family as I write this. It disturbs me that someone so obviously brilliant as Catherine could be in that mess. After reading everything on your site and logging on to is enough to make me want to pray continuously until they succeed in getting their daughter home."

"My understanding is that it is already known...that Yogaville is extremely corrupt. Frankly, it should be shut down. I wish you all the best in your efforts!"

"My cousin got hooked up with a cult in the mid 1970s and is still a part of it today. After many years, the cult finally let her come home to visit once a year for a couple of weeks. She is thin as a rail and has dark sunken in eyes from lack of sleep. She is only allowed to sleep 4 hours a night and has to chant and meditate several times a day. She works as a servant to the very wealthy cult members. My aunt tried several times to get her out of the cult, but had no luck. It's too bad there are so many manipulative people out there that take advantage of others."

"Please don't allow one scam artist or religious cult ruin the good name of Yoga as a practice or discredit Hinduism, which is not a cult, but older and just as respected and valid to many people as Christianity."

Copyright © Rick Ross

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