Donna Karan's favorite Swami

MSNBC/June 8, 1999
By Jeanette Walls

Is Donna Karan promoting a controversial cult? In an advertising insert earlier this year, Karan's DKNY listed "our favorite classes" and included among them Integral Yoga, a movement founded by an Indian guru named Sri Swami Satchidananda who has been involved in a number of serious controversies, according to cult fighter and deprogrammer Rick Ross.

A college student cut off contact from her family after attending one of the classes recommended by the DKNY ad.

Ross has outlined some of the allegations against the Swami on his Web site Among the most serious charges against the Swami was that "Many of his most devoted disciples left the guru amid a flurry of serious allegations of sexual misconduct," according to Ross. One case was reported in 1991 in the Montreal Mirror. Integral Yoga, however, has also received coverage from such reputable publications as the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, which wrote about its classes without discussing any alleged scandals. A spokeswoman for Integral Yoga didn't return calls, but in the past, the Swami has denied any wrong doing.

But Ross says he's received a number of recent complaints about the organization, and is currently working on a troubling case of a college student who became involved with the Swami's Yogaville and cut off contact from her family after attending one of the classes recommended by the DKNY ad.

"Omigod," said a Karan spokeswoman. She said that Karan has never taken the course, but beyond that, the company has no comment. "Basically, I think Donna Karan blew it," says Ross. "She's trying to ride a popular trend and show that Donna Karan knows what's in and what's hot&but she should have had her people do more research before steering her fans into such a controversial class."

Note: Despite statements made by Catherine Cheng (now called "Meenakshi" Gross), her husband Larry Gross (aka "Sundaram") and leaders at Yogaville, which claim Catherine and Larry are no longer associated with Yogaville--a letter posted March 2001 on the Yogaville Web site proved otherwise. Both "Meenakshi" and "Sundaram" were listed prominently amongst "20 Western devotees" who "came [to India] to pay respects to Sri Gurudev [aka Swami Satchidananda]...with offerings" at a celebration attended by Yogaville's supreme leader.


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