Guru sex scandal disrupts zen at Victorian yoga retreat

Ninesman, Australia/January 21, 2015

By Chloe Ross

llegations a 72-year-old yoga guru bedded up to 40 women, many of whom have sought counselling, have rocked a sleepy Victorian ashram.

Fairfax Media reports Shiva School of Medication and Yoga's Swami Shankarananda, also known as Russell Kruckman, will stand down as director following the revelation he had "secret sexual relations" with dozens of female students seeking enlightenment, as some residents scramble to find alternative lodgings.

In a letter to its members, the Mt Martha residential ashram acknowledged the claims made by former students, but maintained American-born Mr Kruckman never claimed to be sexually renunciant or demanded celibacy from his disciples.

"It is well known that our lineage is a tantric path, involving worship of the Goddess with strict disciplines," the statement read "… until now Swamiji has kept aspects of the teaching and his personal activities secret in line with age-old Hindi tantric scriptures."

"Swamiji now accepts that this is not appropriate, and he must be transparent both personally and in the teachings."

Despite there being no basis for criminal complaint one longtime member took aim at the director describing his actions as an abuse of power from someone who held "huge sway" over a number of "impressionable" people.

"He's very charismatic, he's like a big teddy bear. Everyone loved this guy but he's just a master at this," they said. They claimed that women were told that sex with the swami represented a path to "enlightenment".

In an accompanying apology penned to his followers, Kruckman, 72, said he had a "carrot in his ear", an apparent reference to his 2004 book Carrot in My Ear, and vowed to make amends.

"My dear ones, I feel a lot of anguish ... l had a carrot in my ear. Truly. When contemplating Baba's life, I was most engaged by the dramas of succession. I profoundly underestimated the impact of his tantric sexual activities. And my own. I recognise at last their disastrous effect.

"I am open to a dialogue about the role of the guru and the sannyasa in the modern West and also the place of sexuality in spiritual life ... we are pioneers, after all, and getting it all right isn't easy."

There is no current Victoria Police investigation and ninemsn is not implying that there is any evidence of sexual abuse.

The ashram, which was established in 1992 by Mr Kruckman, has hired a mediator to investigate the claims and has offered free counselling to its students.

Mr Kruckman will step down from the Shiva school's management committee but will continue to act as spiritual advisor.

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