(Warning: this post is heavy)
I am very moved that my friend Celia (Suchatula) is allowing me to post her testimony here. This is a very powerful testimony about Chinmoy's sexual abuse.
I did not know much Celia when we were in the Centre. We were supposed to avoid unnecessary contact with the opposite sex. But if my memory is correct we talked a few times over the years.
Celia left the Centre a few months after me. She published a first version of her testimony. I read it and sent her a Facebook message I have just now found again in my Facebook history. I'm a bit shocked by what I wrote to her at this time.
I was still much caught in the "Sri Chinmoy is a great spiritual master" thing. I told her that I still had love and admiration for Chinmoy, but that I believed her story and that the way the people in charge of the Centre treated her was unacceptable (Chinmoy had died by then). I cannot believe today how nicely she reacted to my message, even though I told her I still had love and admiration for her abuser! She gave me such a sweet and nice answer, respecting my beliefs. I am not proud of the answer I gave her at this time. But many of us exs took quite some time to be ready to face the truth. Many people left years ago but still wouldn't accept the truth.
In July 2011, Celia was traveling in Paris with her boyfriend James who I knew quite well as he helped me with the construction of the restaurant. They came to my restaurant. We then had a beer in a bar (It may sound silly but it always feels good to go to a bar with exs as those places were forbidden to us when we were in the centre).
She told me her story again, in quite some detail. That's when I finally opened my eyes about Chinmoy's manipulations and abusive nature. I am so grateful to Celia for having been so patient with me and opening my eyes.
Here is her testimony:
I have tried many times over the past 5 years to write about my experiences in the Centre (aka Sri Chinmoy Centre), what happened to shatter my faith in CKG (aka Chinmoy Kumar Ghose or Sri Chinmoy) and why I finally left but I always got stuck on all the details. Here is my attempt at telling you my story.
I joined the Centre in December 1986. I was friends with Nirbachita and Jeevan, who are the sister and brother of Yogaloy. In August 1986, Liz went to New York for August Celebrations to see what her brothers were doing. She heard about CKG and the Centre from them and thought she'd check it out for herself. Liz came back to California and told me all about CKG, the Centre and all the cool people she had met. Right from the start I believed everything she told me about CKG. She gave me a Transcendental Picture and a few books to introduce me to his teaching. We started to attend the meditation classes in Cupertino, where Giribar was the Centre leader. For the first year I was not sure if that was the direction I wanted to go with my life. I was only 18 years old and I had just finished high school and started my first year of college. The perfect time for Centre recruitment! In October 1987, I asked if I could move to San Francisco to join the Centre there because I wanted to take my "spiritual life" seriously. For the next 20 years my life belonged to Sri Chinmoy, Master of the Universe, Avatar of the Era.
My life in the Centre was a good one. I was happy. I went through my struggles like everyone else, but for the most part I was happy. I got in "trouble" a few times. Once, when I was 20 years old, for growing fond of a member of the opposite sex. Oh boy! CKG called me and gave me the ultimatum. Either I take my spiritual life seriously or I leave the Centre. He said that I still had my looks and that I would have no problem getting a boyfriend. I asked to stay because I felt that I was really blowing a great opportunity to be a disciple of this great master.
Sometime after I was put into the "Children Singers" group so that CKG could keep an eye on me. By that point, I was feeling so guilty for being weak and letting my vital get me into trouble with "God." Being in that singing group was an entire story of its own. Basically, we were supposed to be the excellent disciples, to set an example for others to follow. We were scolded often for "liking" boys, wanting a boyfriend, some for cutting their hair, or anything else that displeased him. I felt that we were constantly getting tossed back and forth between "you are a good girl" and "you are breaking my heart." I did not really notice the manipulation until after I had left the Centre. We were all so eager to please him ALL THE TIME that we did not think we were being manipulated. Many of the members of the singing group were in the Centre since they were very little children. They grew up in the Centre, hence the name Children Singers (aka "Paree's Group").
Things changed over the years. As the world opened up and the Eastern Block came into play with tons of new Centres opening around the world, CKG started to tighten up the ship. At the time, however, I did not know it was because of the stories starting to come out on the Internet. CKG got very strict with us.
On the Christmas trips, we were to stay near by the hotel function rooms so that if he wanted to dictate poems or songs we would be there to write them down. In my personal experience, if I wanted to do anything, then I had to ask his permission. In New York, we would have to be at the court to sing while he played tennis. When there was no longer a tennis court he would ride his little carts in circles and we would stand along the fence singing. It was the same with the weight lifting.
Anyway, you get the idea, plus most of you were there and saw how it was over the years. We were the lucky ones. The privileged singers who got to spend loads of time in the presence of our great Master. I truly loved my life in the Centre, I loved my Master, who I trusted with my life, and I loved my friends, who were my real family. I could have happily lived my life in the Centre if only...
Turns out CKG was just prepping his next generation of sex slaves. He had already had his way with the women of the generation before us and now it was our turn to receive his "Special Blessings."
In December 2006, the Centre Christmas trip was in Turkey and Bulgaria. I was excited to go because I was about to celebrate my 20-year anniversary in the Centre. I remember on the flight over I was thinking how it had been such a long journey. I had gone through so much personal growth and I felt very happy with the progress that I had made in my 20 years on the path. I was 38 years old, I was confident and I felt that I had finally quieted my vital and no longer had any desire for a physical relationship. I had felt I no longer needed that experience in my life. I could happily live my life as a celibate "nun." I had made my prasad offering of 20 items and I carried it all the way to Antalya, Turkey.
The afternoon that I was to celebrate my anniversary, I was in my hotel room and I heard a knock on my door. I opened it and it was a prominent disciple from the Ottawa Centre asking me where I had been. She looked nervous and anxious. I said I was in my room and asked what was going on? She said Guru was looking for me and I should go with her to her room so he could call me. Soon after we were in her room, Guru called and started asking me questions about my life. When he first asked me if I was ready to surrender I was nervous and afraid. He said if I was afraid then I was not ready to surrender. He got angry and hung up.
The next day I had to go to the same person’s room so CKG could call me again. He asked how many boyfriends I had before I joined the Centre and with how many did I have sex. Did they "penetrate" me? When he asked that question, it made my heart start to race. Again I got nervous. I thought he was going to ask me to marry someone and have kids, but he said he would never ask me to do that. I had heard many years before that Guru had given Govinda – one of the other young singers -- a great opportunity by asking her to tell him about her past boyfriends and he would take away all her impurities. So, I thought that this was what was now happening to me. I thought it would be foolish to blow this opportunity out of fear of the unknown. I told him I was ready to surrender.
Sri Chinmoy asked me to go up to his hotel room. I do not remember what time it was, but it was late. I took my shoes off outside his door and knocked. He answered the door wearing short-shorts and a white singlet. He said come in, come in. I followed him into his hotel suite. There was a bedroom and a living room. The phone rang and he told me to remain very quiet. It was Shikha, another disciple of his, and he did not want anyone knowing that I was there with him alone in his room.
Again CKG began to ask me questions. He asked me what I thought about him, how did I see him? I told him that I saw him as my father, as my friend and as my Supreme. He asked me to embrace him and to touch his feet, then he asked me to place my head on his feet. He was sitting on the couch in the living room. I was nervous because I had never touched him before. He had blessed me on the head once or twice, but I never touched him. I did not know what to expect. I guess I thought I would have an amazing experience but I did not feel anything. He asked me if I felt anything. I told him that I had always wanted to do that and he just chuckled. He asked me how many years I had been on the path. I told him 20. He said that because I had been on the path for 20 years, the Supreme had very special love for me and that this opportunity the Supreme did not give to everyone.
Sri Chinmoy told me that he wanted me to have sex with a woman.
It was the woman from Ottawa who had come to get me from my room earlier. He said it was not a "lesbian" thing. I was shocked and pretty damn freaked out. My body started to shake and my mind started to swirl. I was so nervous and afraid. I did not know what to do. I was not expecting those words to come out of his mouth. Woman or man it did not matter. We were supposed to be a celibate group. How could he ask me to have sex with anyone?
I said, I do not know how to have sex with a woman, hoping that was going to get me out of this situation. He said she would show me what to do. He called her up to his room and asked us both to remove our clothes. We were standing in front of him while he sat on the couch watching us. He told us to embrace. Then he had us get on the floor. She started to do "stuff" to me and she would say, "He likes it when we do this." Clearly, she was "experienced" in doing what he liked to see.
CKG then instructed me to go down on her. I was hesitant and he got mad at me and sternly said, "Do it!" I might as well have been stoned because my body was shaking so much and my head was spinning. I felt like I was on something. When your body takes on that much stress from your mind it puts you in a numb state. I started to kiss her stomach and I couldn't do it. I said, "This is not working for me." He said you do not like it? I said no, I do not like it. He told us to both go wash our hands and get dressed. CKG then asked the Canadian woman to leave.
Once she was gone, he concentrated on me and told me that my mind was so strong. He said that this was a special opportunity that the Supreme was giving me. At that point, I was so shocked and crushed, I did not want or need any "special opportunities" in my life.
After leaving his room, I just wanted to die. This was not happening. How could this be happening? I trusted him with my life.
I had to stop by the Canadian woman's room to pick up some things I had left there earlier. She wanted me to go in and talk. I was so pissed at her. I told her to give me my things. She told me that she did not like it either, but you just do it. I said, No! If you do not like it then you do not do it! I took my belongings and went back to my room and jumped in the shower. I desperately needed to wash her smell off of me.
The next morning she called me and again wanted to talk. I told her to never call me again. Right after I hung up, CKG called. He asked if I thought my guru was a bad man?
How could I answer that? After being in the Centre for so long and trusting him, I did not know what to think? I did not want to think. I put on my running shoes and went out the door. I had no money of my own and I was in foreign country. What the hell was I supposed to do? So many thoughts go through your mind. Luckily, I ran into Aruna. She was the one person who I was happy to see. Aruna was one of my dearest friends. I met her when she was 11 years old. I saw her grow up in the Centre. She was a baby when her parents joined. She never knew life without Guru. She had utter faith in him. I did not even think of telling her what happened. My life was turned upside down. How could I do the same to her? Plus CKG told me to never tell anyone what happened, especially Palash or one other person. What would happen to me if I started telling people what happened? Would I conveniently disappear? Would I accidentally end up falling over a balcony? I feared for my life.
Over the next few days my mind quieted down and I started to think that maybe I could do what he wanted me to do. It still made no sense, but I did not want to blow this opportunity if that was what it truly was. I started to think how could CKG be wrong? After so many years in the Centre, I figured I must be wrong and he must be right. I started to doubt myself. The next time CKG asked me into a private meeting, it was with him in his little room outside of the function hall. He said that my soul was so sad because the supreme was giving me this opportunity and I did not want it. He was talking in his quiet and sad voice. I told him that my mind had quieted and I was ready to try again. He said he will let me know when and I had to be ready.
The next time I was approached by the same woman, we were in Bulgaria. I went back to her room two different times to do what he wanted us to do. Afterwards, he would call and ask us if we liked it or if we felt anything. Oh brother!
Bithika was my roommate on that part of the trip. She arrived a few days later. One day I had gone into the room and she was crying. The night before she had been out late. When she returned, she went straight into the shower. I figured CKG had asked her to do the same thing he had me do. I got super pissed off.
I was so mad that the next time he saw me he summoned me to his private room next to the function room and asked me what happened. He said he was frightened when he saw my face. My mind came back stronger than ever and I could not shake the feeling that what he was asking us to do was wrong. He had me kneel in front of him and again he concentrated on me. He said that I belonged to him. He touched my head and said, this belongs to me. Then he touched my heart and said, this belongs to me. And then with the back of his hand he touched the side of my breast and said, this belongs to me. I could only think to myself, “No, it does not,” but I did not dare say that out loud. I was afraid of him.
Later that day I "won" the prize for having the best meditation. It was a grape (see the photo above). What a revelation! I now understood why people were winning the best meditation. It was all about damage control! He knew I was not happy and he needed to fix things fast.
After our part of that trip was over, I went with Bihagee to Sofia, Bulgaria to visit her parents. I never spoke to either Bihagee or Bithika during that trip about what was going on. I had no idea that Bihagee was also having the same "experience" that I had, only with another person.
Finally I came back to San Francisco and tried to get on with my life. I was messed up! CKG had given me his personal numbers and asked me to call him at certain times while he was still traveling. He asked me how I was feeling. When I told him that I felt like my vital door had been blown open, he laughed.
As the months went, by I grew more and more angry. By July 2007, I could take it no more. I told Palash how I was not doing well in the Centre and I did not know what to do. I never told her what happened because he told me not to tell her. She gave me the best advice, write guru a letter and tell him what's going on. I did but it was not what she was thinking. I told him that I did not feel at all spiritual and that I felt like I was deceiving my friends, my family and myself. I told him that I did not want to have sex with anyone but if I did have to have sex then I wanted it to be with a man but not with him and not with a woman. I was hoping to get thrown out of the Centre but instead he called me. He asked me for forgiveness. He asked, “Can you not forgive me as I have forgiven you so many times?” He said he would never ask me to do anything like that again.
August Celebrations came and he was completely on damage control. I was invited to the house every night, but he would never talk to me. I sometimes caught him looking at me though squinted eyes. I think he did not know what to do with me.
On October 11, 2007 he died.
I was in San Francisco and we got a call. CKG had died. Guru died. It took some time for the reality to sink in. We flew out to New York for the memorial. All the time I was there I could only feel relief. I was finally free. So many people came for the funeral. I tried to feel something more but he had already killed all the love that I had for him. I loved my friends and I was sad that they were suffering, but I was glad he was gone. I played my part and went through the motions but I was like a zombie. Nothing inside. I stayed in the Centre for another year and a few months. I did not want to leave the life that I had known for over 22 years. I loved my friends. They were my family. We grew up together. They saw me struggle over the years.
By December 2008, I knew I needed to make a big change. I decided to go to Germany to stay with Aruna and her parents, Projjwal and Karali. We were all very close and I felt like if I was to make an attempt at saving my spiritual life, then staying with them was my best option. I booked my flight for Germany for February 14, 2009.
In January 2009, a disciple I knew named James was living in Norway. He started emailing a few of us from the SF Centre. He was bored in Oslo and wanted to see how we were all doing. I emailed him back and soon we were emailing each other daily. He was a refreshing change to my life. I enjoyed reading his emails and started to think that he was much more interesting than I ever knew.
One day he asked me if I had ever read Sevika's story. Strangely enough, I immediately got defensive and said you cannot believe what you read on the Internet. Then I stopped myself and thought, “What the hell am I saying???” I had never read anything on the Internet to do with anything against CKG. I decided to read her story.
Oh man! As I was reading, I knew it was all true. There were things that she said that were so similar to what he asked of me. I could not deny the truth. I sent James a message and said we need to talk right now! I called him and he did not know what to expect. I told him that I believed Sevika's story and I told him what happened to me. James was so shocked and he completely believed me. He said he was going to leave the Centre and that I had to leave too. I knew he was right. By telling him, I had crossed the point of no return. I let everyone believe that I was going to Germany. I packed up my room to rent it out. When the day came for me to go, all my roommates went to the Centre meditation. My mother came to SF and picked me and all my belongings up and drove me to my brother’s house.
I was free! I was a major mess, but I was free!!!
Within a week I got a job and a car. I wanted to move on with my life ASAP. However, I got really sick. My life went through a traumatic experience. I no longer believed in anything and I could not see the point of living. Nothing made sense anymore. Luckily, James believed me and it was only his friendship that got me trough the most difficult time of my life. I honestly do not know what would have come of me if it were not for him sticking by me and believing in me. Although he was in Norway, we kept each other going by chatting on Skype almost everyday. He went through his own melt down. He also got very sick. Something happens deep inside when your faith in the person you trusted most turns out to be a fraud. The way your body shuts down is not in your control.
Finally, after months on our own thinking we would never see or hear from anyone in the Centre ever again, things started to change. Nirbachita, now out of the Centre herself, contacted me. After some serious patience on her part, I opened up to her and told her my story. By Nirbachita and Yogaloy knowing me, believing me and trusting me, so much has changed. Without them I am not sure if my story would have been told. I owe many thanks to them both.
It has been over five and a half years now since I walked away from the Centre. My life is very much worth living. I do not regret having been in the Centre because I met some of you wonderful people in the Centre. I am most thankful for meeting James. We would not have met if we were not in the Centre. I love him dearly.
All that said, nothing will ever excuse Sri Chinmoy for his behavior. As the many stories come out, we see more and more how he was manipulative, deceitful, and utterly self-satisfying. He preached the "Truth" but in the end he was the biggest liar. Those who know the truth about him and still support his lie are just as guilty as CKG himself. He was truly a sociopath in every sense of the term. I will never forgive him. I will give him no credit for my spirituality. I have struggled all these years with faith, trust and God. I figured, if that was God's way then I do not need God. I do not believe in "God" nor do I feel the need to believe in God. I believe in myself and those I love. I believe in goodness and honestly. I trust my heart. It did not let me fall prey to CKG's deception after the fact. It gave me the strength to stand up for myself and tell him, No! It took me years after leaving to truly know that I was right and he was wrong. My only regret is that he died before he could be held accountable for his actions.