Swami Nithyananda sex scandal- Insights and Church angle

My Impressions of Swami Nithyananda Prior to this Scandal chapter 4
I was  introduced to Swami Nithyananda a couple of years ago, by a prominent Hindu  leader based in California.  This man was so impressed by the young swami that he frequently called me to  speak about him in glowing terms. I told him that I had a guru already, and  that my present interest in interacting with gurus was mainly as a part of my research  for my book on global gurus. He arranged a private meeting for me with Swami  Nithyanana which I used mostly to explain the civilization threats facing  Hinduism, citing numerous examples, and questioned him on his position in this  regard. I found him to be very sharp, a great listener, and in agreement that  we must engage social issues rather than pursuing the “world negating” or  “escapist” paths that are typical of many gurus today.

Later  on, I attended a weekend course in USA where he taught the Patanjali  Yoga Sutras. I have read several translations of this great classical work, but  I had never before seen it taught experientially. Swami Nithyananda gave  the attendees their own personal inner experience of every one of the eight  limbs of Patanjali’s system, right up to and including samadhi. This was quite  an achievement in two days.

Overall,  my interactions with him remained centered largely on the geopolitics of  religions. I saw him as a prominent swami who was not running away from  troubling issues, such as Christian conversions and the Dravidianization of  Tamil identity. Given that I have been writing a book on this very issue in  Tamil Nadu for three years (now in the editing stage), I was especially  impressed by his experimental program of a Hindu temple on wheels traveling  from village to village. In each village this mobile temple stops and offers  chanting, a talk by one of the leaders, food, medicines, etc. So it combines  religion with social service and thus competes directly against Christian  evangelism. Rather than building a temple in every village and needing a  purohit in each of the thousands of villages across Tamil Nadu, the strategy  was to bring to each village this “temple on wheels.” What I discovered by my  own independent fact finding was that wherever this temple on wheels went, the  missionaries were upset because it blunted their conversion efforts.

I  attended his 21-day meditation program in December 2009. The various techniques  in it are very deep and transformative. The best evaluation of this can be done  by the hundreds of attendees, who were divided roughly equally between Indians  and whites from North America.

In  several side conversations with him as well in the public forum, I pursued the point  that I already have a guru since 1994, so I was not looking for a new guru. Since  my guru had left the body a few years ago, I wanted to continue learning new  techniques for my practice. I explained to him that I had previously learned  and practiced meditation techniques from multiple sources for over 30 years,  including: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Yogi Amrit Desai (who  certified me as a teacher), Deepak Chopra, Vipasana, and more. Additionally, I  had practiced numerous bhakti traditions, as well as formal Vedanta education  from Swami Chinmayananda and Ramakrishna Mission. I went through a serious  study of the writings by Sri Aurobindo, various Madhyamika Buddhist systems,  Kashmir Shaivism, Ramana Maharshi, etc. So I was not seeking a new guru like  most others who took his courses.

I have  to say that he never pressured me to adopt him as my new guru, and even said  that one must remain loyal to one’s guru. To be classified as a  devotee/disciple of his, there are two criteria, neither of which applies to me.  First, there is an optional program one can sign up for, to do “paada puja” at  the guru’s feet, in order to develop a special link with him. The second is  that one can ask to be given an initiation with a new name, in which case his  policy is that the person must legally change his/her name, and use this new  name publicly. I did not do either of these steps. So my relationship is not as  a devotee or disciple, but more arms-length.

It was  a two-way street. While he taught me meditation, I brought to him my understanding  of the geopolitical positioning of Hinduism which I feel the gurus know only  superficially. They do not adequately know things like: Western philosophy,  neither religious nor secular; or Western history; or Western institutions that  have been set up explicitly to spread its civilization; or various global  campaigns under way to invade Indian civilization through conversions,  education, media, political policymaking and more.

He  requested that I should present him my findings on such matters so that he and  his senior acharyas could learn. I told him that most gurus have little time to  listen attentively to a layperson like me, because the gurus like to do all the  talking. He replied that he would sit and listen to me seriously. I made it clear  that I was disinterested in giving a short talk of a few minutes, because my  findings required considerable time to be examined seriously. I told him that I  would need two full days of undivided attention, so that I could present 300  Powerpoint slides.

Swami  Nithyananda sent me an invitation when I was in Delhi to visit his ashram and present my  research. I was delighted to have such an important audience. I was very  impressed by the fact that he sat through two long days of my talks, about 12  hours per day. He asked his 40 top acharyas and various thought leaders in his  ashram to sit and listen to me for both the days. The interactions were intense,  and I shared my insight / learning’s. After my two days of talks were over, he  asked me to help him incorporate my core ideas into his curriculum, so as to  make sure that his teachings helped position the Vedic civilization properly.

No  other guru that I know has invested so much time to try and learn these global issues  so deeply. Most gurus tend to either be dismissive by resorting to spiritual loftiness,  or imagine that they already know whatever there is worth knowing. Thus, my  primary interest in Swami Nithyananda was as a vehicle to spread greater  awareness of the kinds of issues that I have been researching. (Not said with a  feeling of Ahankara or blowing my own trumpet).

  I must  balance this praise with criticism. In my 2-day talks, I had explicitly  discussed that many gurus were falling prey to sex scandals, often with women  planted as part of sting operations, or women in the inner circle who got too  close and let things get out of control. Despite these warnings, it seems that  nothing concrete was done to prevent or at least anticipate the crisis that was  to follow.

My Approach to this Investigation
When  the scandal broke out I was in Delhi.  I called the Bangalore  ashram management and found them confident but confused. Probably they felt that  the matter would soon get forgotten if left alone. But exactly the opposite  happened, as each day brought fresh allegations and sensational media coverage.  After several days had passed I was invited to go to Bangalore to study the situation for myself. At  that time I had no clue about his Tantra practice with any women. Whatever I  knew was based on what his followers told me, because he was personally  inaccessible for several days even after I reached Bangalore. I spent many hours daily with some  of his ashram’s top team.

What I  wrote earlier in this article actually comes later in the chronology of my investigation.  But I presented it up front because most readers are obsessed with getting my  answer to only one single question: did he or did he not have sex? Nothing else  seems to matter to them, whereas my investigation’s emphasis has been about  issues broader and more consequential than any one man’s morality.

Until  I concluded my fact-finding 2-week period recently, I was unable to discuss the  sexual acts shown in the videotapes. I had to respect the policies of his people  as part of the trust being placed in me to gain access. They also needed legal  clearance on what can and cannot be said by them. Their policy on the sex tapes  was that Swami Nithyananda would directly explain his acts. The Tamil actress’  lawyer was also in contact with them and her sensitivities had to be respected.  The sensitivities of the 140-strong ashramites had to be protected also. Given  this set of circumstances facing me, I feel that it was unfair to demand that I  should hound him with the one critical question. People have assumed that it  was up to me to decide what would be within the scope of each interview. As I  have mentioned earlier, even after certain interviews were recorded by me, the  ashram leadership used its discretion not to air them.

In  response to my critics on how I conducted my interviews, I would also like to  explain why I chose to focus on the criminal charges being made against Swami  Nithyananda. Besides the sex-tape being off limits as mentioned in the  foregoing paragraph, the criminal charges became my focus for two reasons.  These charges could be ascertained with objectivity – such as asking for  documents on the land ownership, the medical reports on the death of one  meditation participant 2 years ago, and so forth. The evidence was more  clear-cut than the evidence on what exactly happened in the videotapes between  two persons none of whom were willing to talk with me about it. Secondly, the  consequences of criminality would be far more severe than mere moral  fallibility. While immoral conduct is a big concern for the devotees, it is not  enough grounds by itself for the state to confiscate the entire property that  runs into very large sums of money. Also, as a matter of principle, regardless  of whether or not he is guilty of the morality charge, I felt opposed to  spurious criminal charges being piled up by the irresponsible media just to  create sensationalism. (See Editor comment).

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