Swami Denies Having Sex with Followers  

The Roanoke Times/August 3, 1991

Buckingham -- Swami Satchidananda has denied allegations by his former followers that he used his influence to persuade some of his female students to have sex with him.

"They know it is all false," said Satchidananda, founder of a Buckingham County religious retreat called Yogaville. "I don't know why they are saying these things. My life is an open book. There is nothing for me to hide."

Susan Cohen, a Connecticut mental health therapist, said Satchidananda took advantage of her when she was a student between 1969-77.

"It would be very healing for everyone if Swami Satchidananda would address the issue publicly and stop denying it," she said.

Satchidananda, 76, is a Hindu monk who teaches that the world's religions are paths to the same God. In 1979, he started Yogaville. Also known as the Satchidananda Ashram, it is known for the Light of Truth International Shrine, which is devoted to the world's religions.

In addition to Yogaville, Satchidananda has followers at Integral Yoga institutes in New York and San Francisco, and 50 smaller nationwide teaching centers.

Nearly 200 of Satchidananda's followers live on or near the ashram at Yogaville.

Sylvia Shapiro was a 19-year-old student in California in 1971 when the swami asked her to accompany him on a worldwide trip.

"He was my guru and it was very exciting to be chosen for this," said Shapiro, now a New York lawyer who is married and has two children.

On the trip, Shapiro was taught to wait on Satchidananda. She learned to cook Indian food, to photograph his public appearances and to give him his twice-a-day massages.

"In Manila, he turned it from a massage into oral sex," Shapiro said. "I was very upset. He didn't want to talk about it. He said he knew best and I shouldn't worry about it."

She said the guru taught his unmarried followers to remain celibate.

Shapiro said the relationship continued for about a year until she married another follower. Satchidananda later denied the relationship.

Joy Zuckerman, an ex-follower who left Yogaville in December, said a friend told her the swami had made sexual advances toward her. After leaving Yogaville, Zuckerman started an organization for former followers of the swami called the Healing in the Truth.

Satchidananda supporters have charged that Zuckerman has a vendetta against the swami.

"Of course I'm angry," she said. "I feel betrayed. His teachings are great. I just don't want him to take advantage of anyone else."


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