Dumped On For Defending A Devi
File under: The Siddhi of PR
You'd have thought we'd stuffed a piñata full of live kittens and then smacked it with a landmine-tipped baseball bat right in the middle of a PETA convention for all the flack we've been getting for our recent Gurumayi article. The gal has got quite the cadre of anti- people out there, all seemingly set on resetting our opinion about the lady.
The fact is that we've always known about the "horror" stories that have circulated in the exSYDA community. Another fact is that there have been plenty of very creepy people who are still regarded as God walking the Earth, so a somewhat bitchy devi (to at least some people, [Ed.note: But nonetheless still quite the hottie!]) is no big deal in our book.
But while we remain excited by the prospect that Gurumayi is pulling back because she's seen the damage the living devi delusion can do, we have over-estimated the extent of her org's reorganization. A former SYDA higher-up has set us straight at the Guruphiliac Yahoo! group. First, about the contention that Gurumayi has decentralized the org:
Centers have always been financially independent. Centers have never received financial support from the foundation. I ran a center for five years, and the only revenue flow was towards the foundation. Money people offer in the basket in the front of the hall at programs in centers goes directly to the foundation. Many people make offerings there thinking they are supporting the local center, but the money goes on. Centers in rented space that have expenses (as opposed to those in devotee homes) have to develop a pledging system for their expenses. If they have some kind of offering box, it needs to be less prominent than the one for donations that go to the foundation. Many devotees are not aware that the money they offer when they go to the guru's symbolic seat does not stay in the community. The local leaders are allowed to mention that occasionally in programs, but it is frowned upon to mention it too much, because it might create "a sense of separation."Our former insider then riffs on our analysis of Gurumayi's motives for pulling the plug:
As above. Centers have always been self-supporting entities. Some are even incorporated separately. And if they offer paid programs such as recorded talks from swamis, courses, intensives with lay teachers, the proceeds go to the foundation. Center expenses for putting on such events are only partly reimbursed, as well. There is a list of what can or can't be reimbursed--printing of flyers, yes, flowers, no, etc. If a swami comes for a visit (a highly desired event), the center pays for accommodation and food (usually special food, not just what ordinary mortals eat). If a center has a good pledge base and not many expenses, and develops a cash reserve, if it goes over a certain amount the remainder has to be sent to the foundation--for safekeeping, or some such explanation. Getting that money back when times are tougher is just about impossible.
This has been the way things have operated since I was first involved, in 1984, until I left in 2004. And to my knowledge, it is still the same. What has changed is that now the organization is regional--there are separate entities in each time zone of the U.S, and in each country outside the U.S., which are administrative and deal with issues of "correct teaching" and the rest. But those all answer directly to the foundation in South Fallsburg, and all decisionmaking there involves Gurumayi. She is intimately involved in the financial planning of the org as well as such details as matters of vocabulary to be used, what hand gestures are approved, etc--I kid you not. The decentralization has resulted in fewer expenses for the foundation itself (because events are now scheduled at smaller, self-supporting ashrams such as Boston or Oakland, or at centers, thus eliminating foundation overhead entirely) and more expenses for local entities. Check out the prices of "retreats" at local centers or small ashrams--and know that the bulk of the proceeds go right into the foundation's coffers. It is turning into a lean machine, and the goal is wealth accumulation, not dissemination of the teachings. Since the locus of events has moved from the South Fallsburg ashram to these other (self-supporting) places, the cost of the events to participants has doubled in some cases. No way to justify that on the basis of increased cost to the foundation, because the local center or ashram absorbs the bulk of the expenses, the foundation has none (except perhaps plane fare for a swami, but even that is usually "offered" by the local center or ashram), and the foundation rakes in the proceeds.
I agree it's good news, for the reason you mention and for many others. I wish her the best, hope she finds true love and gets to live the life she wants. But the thing is, she is in no way a guru, and the fact that most people in siddha yoga still think she is Shiva incarnate and that all that is good in life depends on her grace is not an accident. The teachings of sy have always told devotees to look within, but the culture of the yoga has given the opposite message, that it all depends on her. It's classic cult manipulation, tell them one thing but make it really obvious that the only "correct" way to be is another. Gurumayi's words have ALWAYS discouraged worship of her, but her actions and the actions of those closest to her have always given exactly the opposite message. Now that she is withdrawing, the disjunction is creating a lot of mental tension in people, which is a good thing. But the message from the foundation and from regional leaders (always verbal, never written! This is very important if you are a leader in SY, never put anything sensitive in writing) is that she is still the heart and soul, that people should pray to her for guidance.That's the kind of ex-devotee we like; one who's in a good position to appraise the situation without being blinded by their resentment and hatred.
My perception of the situation is that yes, the whole thing is slowly shrinking itself to death, and that it is a deliberate process, but that the fact of that will be withheld from the devotees as long as possible, to assure a continuing stream of dakshina. The theme for the month in siddha yoga for july is dakshina. There is some quote from gm about giving used to encourage people to open their wallets. In sy, all the giving is in one direction.
But now that we're catching the glint of all the axes that continue to be ground against Gurumayi, we may as well be bashing another kitten-filled piñata, because we kinda doubt this minor concession to their point of view will be deemed at all satisfactory.
So let the calls for Gurumayi's (and the Guruphiliac's) head continue...