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Why do false Gurus exist? It is our own fault. We choose our Gurus just as we choose our politicians. The false Guru market is growing because the false disciple market is growing. Because of his blind selfishness, a false Guru drowns people, and because of his blind selfishness and wrong understanding, a false disciple gets trapped. A true disciple would never be trapped by a false Guru (Muktananda, 1981; italics added).
I had a private darshan ... with Swami Muktananda in India three days before he died, and I thought he was a magnificent man, an incredibly loving man (Anthony Robbins, in [Hamilton, 1999]).

BORN IN 1908 IN MANGALORE, India, Swami Muktananda, like Neem Karoli Baba, was a disciple of the respected guru Bhagawan Nityananda, whom he met in 1947.

Not coincidentally, in 1970 Ram Dass introduced Muktananda to America.

To aid his world mission in furthering the practice of kundalini yoga, Muktananda in 1974 established the SYDA (Siddha Yoga) Foundation, with headquarters in South Fallsburg, NY.

SYDA admirers have included Jerry Brown, Carly Simon, James Taylor, Diana Ross and Isabella Rossellini. Also, Rosanna Arquette, Meg Ryan, The Cosby Show’s Phylicia Rashad, Miami Vice’s Don Johnson and his wife Melanie Griffith, and Marsha Mason (Neil Simon’s ex-wife). Plus, singer Mandy Patinkin, celebrated songwriter Jimmy Webb—composer of both “MacArthur Park” and “Up, Up and Away (With My Beautiful, My Beautiful Guru....)”—and astronaut Edgar Mitchell.

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Whoever has attained spiritual perfection has done so through his Guru. The Guru grants a life full of grace, complete freedom, and liberation of the Self. The Guru’s favor is absolutely necessary for lasting attainment. Without a Guru man is unhappy; with a Guru he is full of joy. So surrender yourself completely to the Guru (Muktananda, 1978; italics added).
The Guru should possess every virtue.... He cannot be a true Guru if he ... indulges in sense pleasures....
Without the Guru, it is not possible for a person to understand the Truth (Muktananda, 1999).

Muktananda’s specific view toward conjugal relations, further, reportedly took the following form:

Muktananda advised his devotees to refrain from sex.... “For meditation,” he told a South Fallsburg audience in 1972, “what you need is ... seminal vigor. Therefore I insist on total celibacy as long as you are staying in the ashram” (Harris, 1994).

But then, those rules are obviously there only for the benefit of the disciples, not for the guru who no longer needs them.

At his Ganeshpuri, India, ashram, “he had a secret passageway from his house to the young girls’ dormitory,” one [ex-follower] reported. “Whoever he was carrying on with, he had switched to that dorm. [He] had girls marching in and out of his bedroom all night long” (Rae, 1991).

One of the girls thus allegedly marching—“Jennifer”—claimed to have been raped by the great guru in early 1978.

Muktananda had intercourse with Jennifer for an hour, she said, and was quite proud of the fact. “He kept saying, ‘Sixty minutes,’” she said (Rodarmor, 1983).

“An incredibly loving man.”

The “celibate” guru’s reported tolerance for sex, however, apparently did not extend to sexual tolerance:

“A Guru would never be flirting with mistresses or hobnobbing with homosexuals,” a 1976 Muktananda missive reads. “Homosexuals are considered to be eunuchs—disgusting, impure, and inauspicious” (Chew, 1998).
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If Shiva is angry, the Guru can protect you, but if the Guru becomes angry, no one can save you (in Muktananda, 1999).

Unfortunately for his disciples, then:

“Muktananda had a ferocious temper,” said [Richard] Grimes, “and would scream or yell at someone for no seeming reason.” He [claims that he] saw the guru beating people on many occasions (Rodarmor, 1983).

Indeed, Noni Patel, the guru’s valet, reportedly once sought treatment for an odd wound in his side.

“At first, he wouldn’t say how he had gotten it,” Grimes’ wife Lotte recalled. “Later it came out that [Muktananda] had stabbed him with a fork” (Rodarmor, 1983).

A clear breach of etiquette, that.

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Former journalist Sally Kempton, a.k.a. Swami Durgananda, began following Muktananda in 1974. After decades in the ashrams of the “fully enlightened” Muktananda and his successor, she returned to the secular world in 2002, to teach. She has since found work as a columnist for Yoga Journal, and been interviewed on Ken Wilber’s Integral Naked forum (

Lis Harris’ (1994) article on SYDA, however, contains numerous segments involving Durgananda and her denials of Muktananda’s alleged behaviors, all of them very much worth reading.

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Of Muktananda’s own sagely guru, Nityananda (who died in 1960), the following information is extant:

He was a born siddha [“perfected being”], living his entire life in the highest state of consciousness (Muktananda, 1999).
He was an omniscient being; still he appeared as if he didn’t know much....
Only occasionally would he speak; however, you could not understand him (Muktananda, 1996).

“He was the best of gurus; he was the worst of gurus,” etc.

[W]hen in his twenties, he would hide behind trees, patiently waiting for a cow to come his way. The moment the animal stood to drop a cowpat, he would rush forward, scoop up the dropping in midair, and then swallow it (Feuerstein, 1992).

Yum. Nor did such feasting exhaust the yogi’s interest in cows and their rectal output:

He would at times be seen in the middle of the road (there was hardly any motor traffic in those days), catching the dropping from a cow before it fell to the ground, putting it on his head, and then whistling just like a railway engine and chugging away, as children often do (Hatengdi, 1984).

“Woo-woo! Next stop, Looney Station.”

[Nityananda] would speak quite frequently about devotees who had the mentality of a crow. A crow, even in heaven, said Baba, insists on eating shit, because that is what he has been accustomed to. And this is exactly how these faultfinding devotees behave (Muktananda, 1996).

Cows, crows, choo-choos ... and more:

On another occasion, he besmeared himself from head to toe [i.e., including his lips] with [human] excrement. He sat near the lavatories, with large heaps of excrement piled in front of him. Each time a devotee passed him, he would call out, “Bombay halwa [sweets]—very tasty—want to eat? Can weigh and give you some” (Feuerstein, 1992).

South Park Yoga.

* * *

By the time of Muktananda’s death in 1982, his SYDA Foundation operated eleven ashrams and hundreds of meditation centers worldwide. He was initially co-succeeded by his disciple Gurumayi (1955 – present) and her younger brother. Following an alleged power struggle in the mid-1980s in which that latter sibling left the organization under disputed circumstances, however, Gurumayi rules alone (Harris, 1994).

Allegations of abuses and harassment by SYDA can be found at, as well as in Harris (1994).

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