This is great too see. Indeed, it's time Sat Shree is exposed.
The following is copied from the facebook group you posted, [www.facebook.com
] it's long, but important to see:
This is the core substance of an email that was sent to those in the New Dharma community by Tom Bonoma, who was manipulated into "contributing" $900,000 to Sat Shree and New Dharma. It is Tom's courage and clarity that have called many others forth to share their experiences of trauma, abuse, and manipulation by Sat Shree. **
Dear Dharma Friends,
I feel the time has come to share why I left New Dharma suddenly last January, after having lived in the Washoe Valley community for nearly five years.
In doing so I am aware that some of you know me well, while others hardly know me, and that regardless of our connection, most of you have not heard from me in a year or more. Nonetheless, I feel it is important to speak the truth of my experience to many whose paths I crossed during my time in New Dharma.
Last January I was very badly run down, both physically and energetically. I had tried everything up until then to recover: resting, consulting with Western and Eastern doctors, working with a psychic Sat Shree refers people to for deep-seated issues, even taking a break of several weeks from the energy field of Washoe. Yet nothing really helped, and my symptoms only continued to worsen, to the point that it became difficult to participate in some of the weekly programs and meet my daily needs without the help of generous friends.
In a moment of desperation, I remembered a powerful spiritual being I had worked with years before I met Sat Shree and New Dharma, a healer of exceptional ability who embodied the same degree of integrity. In retrospect, I wonder why asking for his help did not occur to me sooner. It seemed to take my having exhausted all other options before the possibility of contacting him arose.
This man worked with me shortly after I reached out to him, and what he reflected to me shook my worldview and heralded the beginning of a major life shift.
He told me that many of the issues I was experiencing were due to unresolved conflicts in my relationship with Sat Shree, and that these, more than any physical imbalance, were the cause of the severity of my symptoms.
It was an astonishing diagnosis, the last thing I expected, and I received it in a state of shock. But I also saw how much better I felt following the session. For a period of days, I was freed up to go grocery shopping and even to start hiking again, things that previously had become very difficult.
In that first session, it felt like the thick callus that had been separating my subconscious from my conscious mind had been punctured, causing a torrent of suppressed emotion to flood my being. I began to meet the anger, resentment, hurt, and shame connected to my relationship with Sat Shree that I had buried inside me for years.
In the aftermath of that session, I started to experience the tearing away of a kind of membrane that held all the idealization and projection I had placed on Sat Shree for five years, the membrane that almost everyone close to him develops and strengthens until it becomes not just a worldview, but their reality. That worldview is the ideology of Sat Shree the great being, the enlightened guru, the living embodiment of Krishna, the one who has completed the spiritual journey and now guides others as they make their own crossing to the far shore of liberation.
In my case, it was an ideology I had been able to maintain for five years only with the help of a significant amount of suppression and denial. After all, I had been as close to Sat Shree as any person outside his family, and had been privy to both his good qualities and limitations in a way few others were: I lived in the same house for a period, I traveled with him on three continents supporting his teaching for months at a time, I worked to develop new programs on his behalf, and I collaborated with him in their unfolding.
Behind the scenes, I also became exceedingly close to Sat Shree as a major financial donor to his work. This was not a relationship I chose to initiate, however, but one in which Sat Shree exerted a great deal of manipulation and influence over me in establishing it. It was only later, in the process of leaving New Dharma, that I began to discover that the anger, pain, and duress around the way I had entered this relationship were some of the deepest causes of the severity of my physical symptoms.
After I left New Dharma, I went back and listened to the recordings of the meetings I had with Sat Shree in early 2018, soon after he learned that a large sum of family money had come to me. In doing so, I sought a deeper understanding of how I had gone from being so fully committed to his work to needing to leave it altogether in such a short period of time.
In those recordings I heard far more than I wanted to. I was first stunned, and then sickened, by how deeply I had allowed myself to be manipulated just a few years earlier. I recognized then what I had been unable to at the time of the actual meetings: that I had been deeply taken advantage of by Sat Shree, who had abused his power as a spiritual teacher to influence me unduly into becoming a major donor to New Dharma.
I experienced such a fiery core of anger and resentment after listening to those recordings – not to mention an almost inexpressible well of shame – that I held off approaching Sat Shree and New Dharma until January of this year, nearly one year to the day after I left Washoe. I knew I needed sufficient time to work through the depths of my own emotions before I could at last address the matter with the degree of balance required to bring it to resolution.
Shortly after Sat Shree learned of the family money in 2018, he requested a meeting with me, even though we had met just a few weeks prior and at the time were in the habit of doing so once every two or three months. In this meeting, he told me he had seen more clearly into the nature of the money, and that it carried “a chunk of ancestral karma” he did not know I had previously, but which needed to be transmuted. He warned of other dangers the money held as well, including the significant threat of my falling into temptation and using it to empower my own ego, succumbing to a “subtle power structure” he saw associated with it. He expressed concern about the possibility of this happening, saying that on my own I was liable to fall sway to the “corrupting influence” associated with a large amount of money and “the huge distorting perspective” that came with it, something he had seen happen before with another student.
Sat Shree declared that the Universe was testing me “big time” by bringing the money into my life then, at a time when he said I was in a critical transition spiritually. He told me I had already “tripped up” “my first real test” by not telling him about the money sooner, and questioned me as to why I had not done so. He stressed that in the future I must “have no secrets” from him, the way he believed I had in not disclosing my financial circumstances earlier. He said it was very important that I look deeply into my nature, to discover why I had kept such things hidden.
He asserted that I had also erred by investing a portion of the money already, as in his view I had done so only for my own ego, rather than devoting the money to support divine manifestation. In addition, Sat Shree told me that the strong anger I had felt towards him in the past – anger which he had previously labeled asuric, or demonic – had been the same negative force rising up in me to prevent me from donating to New Dharma of my own accord, as I confided to him I had held off on doing.
During the meeting Sat Shree stated, “The only time money comes up is when people offer it to me,” though he had requested the meeting to discuss my newfound wealth, and I certainly had not offered it to him. In fact, I had not asked for his guidance on it in any way. The only reason he knew about the money at all was because in our previous meeting he had asked me to travel with him in service of his work, and, when he inquired how I would support myself in order to do so, I inadvertently mentioned the money.
Once Sat Shree was aware of the money, however, he told me what he also told me at other times in my relationship with him, when he wished to exert manipulation and control over me: that I was in peril, that I was at a crucial juncture in my evolution on the spiritual path, and that it was by following his guidance that I could find my way through it.
After having described this peril, he proposed a solution: I would surrender all the money to his guidance, to be devoted to the manifestation of his spiritual work. As Sat Shree saw it, the instruction he proposed for the money – to “hand it over to my guidance, with no strings attached” – would help transmute the negative influences associated with it over time, diverting that influence in my consciousness. In doing so, I would ensure my continued spiritual progress while simultaneously empowering him in his role as a spiritual teacher, providing him with the means to create “a stable material base” for his work in the way he wanted.
In offering this instruction, Sat Shree relied heavily on his spiritual expertise and role as my guru to stress the importance of my following this course of action. He told me, “There is a price to be paid for going to God,” and, later in the meeting, clarified the exact nature of this price, saying, “God requires everything, everything. We have to be willing, at least, to give over everything. That’s the transition you’re in. Nothing can be left, held onto, no little secret treasure chest, no little secret.” He disclosed to me that at first I had been his devotee and later had become his disciple, but by following this instruction I had the opportunity to progress to an even closer stage yet in my relationship with him, becoming a partner with him in his work.
On January 15, 2022, a little less than a year after I came to see what had truly happened in that meeting with Sat Shree and the one that followed it, I wrote Sat Shree and the New Dharma Board a long letter. I shared my experience of the ways I had been manipulated into becoming a major donor to the organization, and the duress I had experienced in the process. In that letter I requested that all the money I had donated to New Dharma be returned to me, due to the abuse of power, undue influence, and psychological manipulation employed in the process of putting that relationship into place.
I knew at the time that there was no way Sat Shree would be able to hear what I shared as anything other than an attack on him by a disturbed individual. I also knew that the New Dharma Board was not structured in such a way as to have the autonomy necessary to make truly hard decisions that called into question Sat Shree’s conduct. This was especially true given that, for most of the Board members, Sat Shree was their guru. The only exceptions at the time I wrote my letter were Sat Shree’s wife, his daughter by marriage, and his business manager, none of whom possessed the necessary degree of distance personally or professionally to hold Sat Shree fully accountable when evidence of his misconduct was presented to them.
Knowing this, I still chose to address my letter to Sat Shree and the Board, because I wished to give them the opportunity to see the errors that had been committed, to have the chance to take accountability for them, and to rectify those wrongs, making New Dharma stronger in the process. I wanted to give them the opportunity to bring the conduct of Sat Shree and New Dharma to a greater level of integrity before I chose whether to share publicly about my experience.
After writing my letter, I learned from another former major donor to New Dharma that at the same time Sat Shree had met with me about the money in 2018, he had been about to enter mediation with this donor to resolve issues of ethical misconduct in his relationship with them. As it turned out, only a few weeks after the meeting Sat Shree requested with me, he sat down with this donor and an independent mediator, and came to a settlement that avoided the possibility of him and New Dharma being sued.
When I learned of the larger context unfolding at the time, the pressure and manipulation Sat Shree employed with me made far greater sense. He was in the process of losing what had been a major source of financial support for his organization, as a direct result of his own misconduct. Viewed from this vantagepoint, my newfound wealth represented an opportunity for Sat Shree and New Dharma to secure a level of support similar to the one they were then having to forfeit.
Discovering these additional revelations only further confirmed to me the depth of unconsciousness in Sat Shree, as well as in the leadership of New Dharma, which allowed such tendencies to remain in place in him at a time when they were causing significant harm both to New Dharma and this other donor.
Although my intention in writing my letter was always to give Sat Shree and New Dharma the chance to resolve the issue of the donations on their own, I was aware that a full resolution of the matter would very likely require sharing about the matter more widely. I knew that because a depth of unconsciousness existed at the leadership level of New Dharma, there was almost no chance of resolving the matter on that level alone. Rather, it was only by holding the issue in the light of a much greater consciousness – beginning with members of the New Dharma sangha, both present and past – that the unconsciousness of Sat Shree and New Dharma would have the possibility of transmuting into something truer.
The likelihood of my sharing my experience publicly was something that Sat Shree and the Board clearly anticipated, as twelve days after I sent them my letter they held a public talk entitled “Meeting the Peril.” In the talk, Sat Shree spoke of a great threat facing the organization: a manifestation of “darkness” that had arisen as a result of a number of people who had come forward with allegations of financial misconduct against him. He characterized these individuals as projecting their own unconsciousness onto him “from a disturbed place,” completely confident in their point of view, a confidence they “derived by bringing forward the dark powers.” He stated that the danger these individuals represented was catastrophic in nature, claiming that their intention was literally “to bring down” New Dharma.
In making these assertions and others like them to his community, Sat Shree employed the same strategy publicly that he had used privately with me in the past: he invoked a peril and the forces of darkness it brought with it to influence people’s minds in a particular direction, this time seeking to unite people with him in a just cause against a pernicious and irrational threat to his organization’s very existence.
In the aftermath of that broadcast, the New Dharma Board chose to conduct an investigation into the circumstances that led to my becoming a major donor. In doing so, however, they made a critical error of judgment, deciding to conduct an internal investigation rather than hiring an outside firm to audit their behavior. Perhaps they made this decision partly due to the fear of exposing themselves to the heightened level of scrutiny such an investigation would have entailed, or what it might have revealed.
In place of employing an outside firm, the Board chose two of its own members, each of whom had spoken after Sat Shree in that same public talk, “Meeting the Peril,” about their wish to preserve the opportunity New Dharma offered themselves and others. In addition to these two Board members, a third individual from outside New Dharma was added to the investigation committee, in at least a nod to the need for some degree of objectivity.
Before the internal investigation began, the Board turned to an outside consultant to provide direction for it. This consultant produced a set of guidelines for the investigation, which included exploring the questions, “Why does he [Tom] feel he was coerced into donating?” and “Why does Tom want his money back?” These questions were followed by an additional piece of guidance: “Here's an important note – you may think you know the answer to these questions already, but it doesn't matter, you ask anyway.”
Though these questions were integral to the Board’s investigation – and had been underscored in their guidelines – the investigation committee did not ask me them in the ninety-minute interview I submitted to as part of their process. In their place, I was asked questions about the kinds of roles I had performed in New Dharma and why I had moved to Washoe Valley. I was then asked specific questions about the donations I had made and why I had made them, entirely skipping over any examination of the manipulative ways Sat Shree influenced me into becoming a major donor in that first meeting about the money.
It was both deeply surprising – and, with greater reflection, not surprising at all – that I was not asked a single question about what transpired during that first meeting. After all, that meeting was where the great majority of Sat Shree’s manipulative behavior occurred. It seemed that it was almost too taboo a subject for the committee members to ask about, as doing so would have acknowledged the possibility of their guru’s misconduct. The closest they came was asking me whom I had spoken with about the meeting after it had occurred, as though the actual contents of the meeting were themselves forbidden to discuss.
During the interview, I told the committee I wished I had in fact spoken to someone about that first meeting after it had happened, as I had been too traumatized by the experience to reach out either to family or friends. I said that anyone hearing what took place in the meeting would have recognized “numerous red flags” of manipulation on Sat Shree’s part. Rather than examine what I meant and why I felt this way, my statement was met with a brief silence. Then the interviewer simply moved on to the next topic, as though what I said had not taken place, or at least could not be fully registered.
After the interview, I reflected on why the committee members would have been so reluctant to question me about the impact Sat Shree’s behavior had had on me. I saw that in spite of their intentions to hold an impartial investigation, their reluctance was most likely due to the devotion and loyalty they had to him, a manifestation of the very “bias principle” their investigation guidelines had warned them against falling into.
As the process of seeking resolution with New Dharma has unfolded, I have had to examine my own behavior much more deeply than that of the Board’s. I have had to come to an understanding of why I was so susceptible to the degree of manipulation I experienced with Sat Shree in the first place. In doing so, I have reflected on how I found a way not only to remain his student after these transgressions occurred, but to follow his instructions of putting all the money under his guidance.
What kept me most trapped in the bind of that situation – despite its painfulness and inherent tensions – was the depth of belief I held that Sat Shree was a great being who had completed the spiritual journey. It was this idealization that held me firmly in place, even after I experienced inappropriate behavior from him that seemed to directly challenge the legitimacy of that belief. After all, as I saw him, he was not just a fully realized being, but the only being who offered me the opportunity to become fully realized myself. As I believed it, he provided the possibility for me to complete the spiritual journey, and in doing so, to come to the end of the suffering that had propelled me onto the spiritual path in the first place.
In his teachings, Sat Shree claimed to be a liberated or enlightened being frequently, referring to himself in exalted terms as “what I am” and “what I have come to” and as a “living realized teacher.” He declared that this same state could be realized by those who remained with him as their teacher, and that it could be attained most quickly of all by those in closest proximity to him, who served and supported his work most deeply.
The possibility of realizing the liberated state was always the great enticement of being with Sat Shree, who often asserted that you needed to be with “a living realized teacher” in order “to complete the final stages of the spiritual journey.”
In my own case, I was so vulnerable to Sat Shree’s manipulations because I wholeheartedly embraced his repeated messaging as the truth it was presented to be. I absorbed his claims so deeply that I almost could not conceive what the spiritual path would be like without him as my teacher, even after that experience became incredibly challenging and painful.
Yet just as important – and every bit as necessary for me to fall under the sway of his influence to the extent that I did – was the fact that I also made myself wrong, lacking, and incomplete in relationship to him. As it turned out, I was just as deeply devoted to him in believing his claims of his greatness as I was in believing his assertions that I had acted in ways that were misguided and mistaken, actions which then needed to be rectified if I were to continue to progress on the spiritual path as his student.
If I had not made myself wrong when Sat Shree shamed me for not having told him about the money, he would not have been able to abuse his power with me to the extent that he did. Had I not first accepted his point of view that I had acted in error in the ways he told me I had – and that these errors carried the serious consequences for my spiritual development that he warned me of – I would not have been so easy to exploit. In the end, it was these tendencies in me – every bit as much as his own unmet issues around money and the power it carried to enhance his role as a spiritual teacher – that enabled him to act in ways that were completely inappropriate for such a teacher.
Someone with a different pattern of conditioning would have heard the things Sat Shree said to me and known right away that they were manipulations. Whereas I, with a pattern of past wounding involving powerful male authority figures that originated with my father, took what Sat Shree told me so seriously that I literally apologized for my behavior at the end of that first meeting about the money. Rather than point this tendency out to me, the way a truer teacher might have, Sat Shree used it to his benefit. Near the end of that meeting, when I confided to him that I felt “so dirty” in response to the things he had told me about myself, his response was, “It’s good to catch it before you become the dirt.”
Though I felt anger and resentment in response to being treated this way, and that my boundaries had been violated, in the end these emotions were overridden by the depth of the devotion and need I had for him. There was no way I was going to foreclose on the opportunity to complete the spiritual journey and become liberated, not at any cost, even that of my own autonomy. I could put up with the things that did not feel right in exchange for reaching that end, and I did so by pushing the anger, resentment, hurt, and shame that arose in response to them down so deeply inside myself that I did not have to deal with them at all, aside from the few occasions when they were triggered by outer circumstances.
Five days after that first meeting, I sent Sat Shree an email in a state of duress, in which I had more fully embraced the ways he had made me wrong and adopted them as my own. I spoke of having made “major mistakes” and of needing to right “the errors I have made.” I shared that in the twenty-four hours following the meeting, I had felt a strong urge “to destroy myself rather than surrender” to his guidance. In the email, I pathologized my emotions in a way similar to how he had done with me previously, in telling me that they were “asuric”: I confessed to him that there was something “wretched and fiend-like” in me that felt like “I was housing a demon.” Yet of Sat Shree himself, I wrote, “you’re the same as Jesus, the same as Christ.” Taken as a whole, the duress the situation had put me under was more than I could hold or continue to endure. Near the end of the email, I sought a way out, expressing “relief at turning myself in”: I stated that even though “this conflict still exists in me…I am declaring here that I place all the family money under your guidance.”
Instead of reflecting to me the depth of the distress I was in, and that I was clearly not resolved on the course of action I was declaring to take, Sat Shree’s reply began with a single word that evoked how he felt about my decision: “Excellent.” Later in his reply, he added simply, “go forward as you plan.”
Rereading this email – which I did only after I had written my letter to Sat Shree and the Board – was even more painful than listening to the recordings of the meetings had been. That email represented the turning point, the moment where I betrayed myself in order to follow my teacher’s distorted guidance.
I see now that the situation I had been placed in was simply too psychologically and emotionally painful for me to continue to experience it for any longer than the five days I already had. As a result, I made the decision to resolve the conflict that had arisen with my spiritual teacher in the one way I saw that would allow me to preserve the relationship. In doing so, I believed I was preserving the preciousness of the opportunity the relationship held for my own liberation as well.
In my interview with New Dharma’s investigation committee, I mentioned the existence of this email and its contents, as it would have been a key piece of evidence to evaluate in forming their conclusions. Yet despite doing so, the committee did not ask to see it. Later, at the end of its internal investigation, the Board assured me that it had been “very thorough and in-depth,” though it had avoided exploring directly with me both the manipulative behavior I experienced with Sat Shree in that first meeting, and the full extent of the duress that manipulation put me under after it.
At the start of the second conversation Sat Shree had with me about the money, he again began by characterizing it as a threat to my spiritual well-being, telling me he was “pissed off at the Universe” for having given me the money at what he considered to be “the worst time,” and that he had “just been looking” for how he could neutralize its negative influence. To that end, he presented me with two choices that, as he saw them, would take me “out of the big energy associated with that much money,” which he believed carried “too much distortion” for my ego.
First, he reiterated his previous invitation to partner with him in his work, elaborating upon it by saying that he would like me to set up a living trust on New Dharma’s behalf, to which all my family and personal money would be dedicated. Once he had done so, he shared the other alternative he felt could work in the face of the obstacles the money carried, which was to “unload the baggage” and “get rid of” the money “as quickly as possible,” giving it all away to charities.
In presenting these two choices, Sat Shree enumerated the far greater capacity his work had for effecting change, as the impact of his work was not limited solely to the material world, but extended to transforming the collective consciousness of humanity as well. In doing so, he revealed that the situation involving my family money – and the distortions and negative influences it carried – were now part of his collective work, as though my financial circumstances bore an energetic weight he then had to hold and attempt to transmute.
Considering these two options as if they were the only possible choices – and especially so, given that I had previously stated I would follow his guidance about the money – I said, “If I had to just unload the money, I’d give it to New Dharma.” In response, Sat Shree said, “Then there’s no question,” and began to give me instructions for setting up a living trust in support of New Dharma, specifying that all the money would go to it when I died.
He told me I would be able to draw a yearly stipend from the trust to cover my living expenses, but that I would not be allowed to make donations to New Dharma of my own accord. Rather, I would need to wait to be instructed by him as to how much to give and when to do so. Sat Shree said this condition had to be put into place to mitigate the negative influences of the money associated with power and control, structures that – if left unchecked – would only feed my own ego. Of course, these protective measures applied solely to me, and did nothing to restrain the same structures in the person putting them into place, who, as it turned out, was the one who truly needed them.
By the end of that second meeting, I had given away my power to Sat Shree so thoroughly that I was asking him if I could spend some of my money to have a room of my own on retreat. Rather than point this out and call me back to my authority, he considered the question seriously, and said that in most cases it would be fine, but that he might need to put me with someone at some point to test me. The deep irony was that earlier in the meeting he had spoken of his work in an ennobling way as “awakening people purposefully, to get in touch with their authority and their power,” just before establishing a set of restrictive conditions that served to limit these very capacities in me.
In my interview with the Board’s investigation committee, they did ask me what had taken place in this second meeting, something they had avoided doing about the first. I believe they did so due to the willingness I expressed to devote the money to New Dharma, which seemingly put them on firmer ground than had been the case in the first meeting. Yet here, too, they did not explore with me the mechanics and machinations that occurred during this second meeting that led me to express such a willingness. Rather, they chose to skip over examining the causes that contributed to my doing so and focused instead on the end result, as though in this case the end justified the means.
Reflecting on New Dharma’s leadership, I believe one of the greatest weaknesses of its Board is that many people who serve on it find themselves exposed to the depth of distortion at the organization’s core, and over time choose to leave as a result. New Dharma’s own business manager left both her job and her seat on the Board during this internal investigation, in part due to learning the details of my experience. She did so even though the decision cost her her source of livelihood, providing an indication of just how deeply entrenched the unconsciousness is at the leadership level of the organization, and the difficulty of reforming it from within.
In the six years since I first encountered New Dharma, I know of at least seven former Board members who have severed all ties with New Dharma and Sat Shree. For reference, following the departure of New Dharma’s former business manager, the current Board is comprised of only six members. An entire Board could be assembled from those who have seen the depths of distortion at the core of New Dharma and moved on.
The outcome of this attrition is that those with the greatest capacity to see what is going on, speak out against it, and create solutions that would make New Dharma stronger are the very ones who leave. In their stead, they tend to be replaced by those whose loyalty and devotion are known quantities. Because the turnover at the level of the Board is so high, little “institutional memory” of past wrongdoings is retained, enhancing Sat Shree’s ability to offer his own interpretation of them to a group that is highly devoted to him and over time only seems to become more so.
In giving the New Dharma Board the time it requested to conduct its internal investigation, I saw that one of the purposes in doing so – regardless of the outcome – was that their conclusions would serve as a reflection of the Board’s state of consciousness to others, enabling them to see its limitations for themselves. As that unconsciousness came to be held in the light of a greater awareness, the opportunity might arise for New Dharma’s leadership to evolve beyond its current limitations, in a way it has seemed unable to do on its own.
At the end of their internal investigation, the New Dharma Board concluded that no wrongdoing had occurred in the case of the first donation I made in 2018, just a few months after Sat Shree exerted significant psychological and spiritual manipulation over me to become a major donor.
In the case of the second donation, made in late 2020, the New Dharma Board found that “best practices” and “established policies” had not been adhered to on its part, and that as a result they did hold some degree of culpability. However, because the Board found no wrongdoing in the case of the first donation – and because they viewed the second donation as a continuation of an agreement previously entered in the case of the first – the Board could only accept partial responsibility for the second donation.
In response to the very brief findings New Dharma shared with me, I inquired as to what these best practices and established procedures were, and why – if they simply did not yet exist in 2018 – New Dharma would not be held responsible for such a lack of good governance on its part. The answer I received is that the findings of the investigation were confidential and no further information could be disclosed.
In this same response, the Board offered to have a conversation with me in which I would have the opportunity to speak honestly and openly about my concerns with New Dharma, as though I had not fully articulated them already. After having such a conversation, the Board proposed that we enter mediation to reach a financial settlement that was agreeable to both parties concerning the second donation.
What they omitted from their proposal was that it is a near certainty that any settlement they were willing to offer would require me to sign a non-disclosure agreement with no date of expiration. New Dharma employed this same strategy with the former major donor with whom they settled previously. One of the most unfortunate results of the confidentiality agreement New Dharma required that donor to sign is that it allowed unethical behavior and shadow tendencies to continue to exist in both Sat Shree and New Dharma, without any recourse for the donor to share about them publicly.
Something is deeply out of alignment when a spiritual teacher, who gave himself the Sanskrit name meaning “Truth Manifest,” would require that the objective facts of such a settlement remain hidden and confidential. As it turned out in retrospect, at the very time in 2018 that Sat Shree told me I “must have no secrets,” he was about to put into place an agreement that would keep his past misconduct secret from nearly all his students.
For myself, the ability to speak the Truth is worth more than any amount of money New Dharma may have been willing to offer me to keep silent. After all, I have been unwittingly responsible for supporting a teacher who possesses a depth of unconsciousness that – despite my being directly exposed to it – I still found ways to compartmentalize, suppress, and deny the existence of even to myself, all because of my desperate need to attain a greater state of freedom.
It is deeply important to me to share my experience, because I know the depth of denial I have experienced is not limited to me, but affects many of those closest to Sat Shree, even if it takes a less severe form in them than it did in me.
As an example of this, I remember a meeting led by Mariana Caplan in mid-2019 that involved Sat Shree, his wife Satyamayi, and the group of students closest to him that he calls his trainers. In that meeting Mariana Caplan, an outside consultant and psychologist brought in to help clean up some of the blindspots in both Sat Shree’s and New Dharma’s conduct at the time, read an email from the prominent interviewer Rick Archer, who had previously interviewed Sat Shree on his spiritual podcast, Buddha at the Gas Pump.
Mariana had written to Rick prior to the meeting, inquiring why he had taken down Sat Shree’s interview, one of the very few Rick has felt compelled to remove over the years. As a point of reference, at present there are currently 645 other interviews Rick has conducted and left up on his site.
I still remember Mariana reading Rick’s email to the group, in which he shared that he had taken down the interview because he had received several complaints about Sat Shree’s behavior. These complaints consisted of Sat Shree asking people for large sums of money, giving them specific advice about breaking up or staying in relationships, and offering them guidance about working at jobs beneath their capacity. Rick’s conclusion was that, though Sat Shree likely had some very real spiritual attainment, at present he was “punching above his weight” in the extent to which he interfered in people’s lives through the pointed guidance he gave them.
The response in the room when this email was read was one of laughter and disbelief. People were dismissive enough of Rick’s point of view that Mariana questioned the group’s response, asking if these were not serious allegations. Yet there we were, the ones closest to the fully realized teacher, laughing at Rick’s misperceptions of Sat Shree and the sometimes-harsh expressions of Truth that came through him towards others. After all, we were “in the boat,” to use Sat Shree’s term, wholly aligned with him, on the path to “God and Truth” and our own liberation.
Even though Sat Shree engaged with me several times in the exact kind of behavior that led Rick to take down his interview, it still took me a long time after that meeting to see that, for myself, Rick Archer was right about him. Clearly there is a degree of spiritual attainment in Sat Shree, or people would not be drawn to him or stay with him for years. But alongside that attainment there remains a depth of distortion and unconsciousness in him as well, and the leadership of New Dharma is set up in such a way as not to challenge and confront that unconsciousness head on, but rather to enable and empower it to continue to exist.
In my own experience, it turned out that Sat Shree was one more spiritual teacher, who – in a phrase coined by Mariana Caplan – got “halfway up the mountain” of enlightenment and stopped there, convinced that he was complete, not realizing the spiritual work he had yet to do within himself to dissolve his own ego. Reflecting on him now, it seems that the extraordinary spiritual experiences and meditation states Sat Shree speaks of often in his teaching – as well as the role he performs as guru to a group of loyal students he calls his devotees – have only served to strengthen his ego further, rather than working to dismantle it as one would expect of a true spiritual master.
In Sat Shree’s case, having already assumed the very public position of presenting himself as a fully realized being, it seems there is little incentive in him to admit his wrongdoing and limitations when they occur, or to act from a place of greater humility and compassion in response to them. To do so might be viewed as a kind of diminishment of his own claims of what he has attained, an admission of the ways in which the spiritual journey might not yet be fully completed after all.
When a teacher is convinced of the completeness of their realization, but has not yet fully purified their mind of its unwholesome tendencies around issues like money and power, it is very difficult for them not to engage in some form of misconduct over time, or to do so repeatedly as these unresolved tendencies continue to play out with their students. Sat Shree touched upon this truth in his own way in that same public talk entitled “Meeting the Peril.” He said, “Although many, many teachers have fallen, it doesn’t mean their realization wasn’t true…But they were unaware, they were immature, they were undeveloped in parts of themselves.” As was true with many of these teachers, Sat Shree has been unable or unwilling to recognize the depth of his own unconsciousness and the harm it has caused, even after it has been pointed out to him several times by several individuals over a period of years. In Sat Shree’s own case, at least, there remains the opportunity for him to do so even now, possibly even sparing him, in the end, from becoming one more fallen teacher.
In my experience with New Dharma, my deepest regret is not that I have had to endure immense difficulties as a result of having followed, and then having chosen to continue to follow, such a teacher, although my having done so is painful. My deepest regret is that, in putting my full support behind him in every way that was available to me, I unintentionally caused suffering to many others who also view him as an enlightened being, and who are still caught in the same web I was so entangled in for so long. That is the true harm I have caused, the harm I have had to suffer greatly for, and the harm I now seek to heal through offering my experience to those who may be ready to hear it.
I am aware that the harm I have caused extends to Sat Shree as well. When, due to my own unconsciousness, I found a way to follow his distorted guidance in the hopes of finding a greater freedom, I unwittingly empowered the unconsciousness in him that this guidance came from. Though I have held him accountable for his unconsciousness in this letter and will continue to do so, my part in contributing to it still pains me.
My hope is that in time the New Dharma Board may come to see the ways in which it, too, may not be serving Sat Shree’s truest interests as a spiritual being, by continuing to employ strategies that distance him from the effects of his own actions. As difficult and painful as it would be, my wish is that Sat Shree may yet come to see the heavy karma he creates for himself and New Dharma when he abuses the sanctity of his role as a spiritual teacher, so that further suffering may be avoided for all, including for him.
Thankfully, I know that most people in New Dharma are not directly exposed to the depths of distortion I have had to meet. In my experience, it is only those who come the closest – and who either have something of great value that is highly desired, or else criticize and challenge the limitations they see in the organization – that experience the brunt of the unconsciousness existing in Sat Shree and New Dharma. Many people remain at a comfortable remove from this sort of experience altogether, leaving them to experience the positive benefits of being part of the sangha, hopefully without having any exposure to such unwholesome influences.
Lastly, even though I am one individual with one experience, there are others who have had painful experiences with Sat Shree and New Dharma, and have needed to leave the organization as a result. Many do so in silence, due to the lack of listening they perceive in those who remain. For some who leave, their negative experiences have also taken a financial form, while for others they have been primarily psychological and emotional. I share this because it is far easier for an authority figure to denounce one individual as being run by “dark powers,” deluded, or “disturbed.” It is much harder to drown out a chorus of voices, should they choose to rise up. And it is much more compelling for an authority figure and those in positions of power to have to listen when they do.
The opportunity I offered Sat Shree and his Board of Directors back in January – to make New Dharma a stronger and more integrous organization – continues to exist. Only now that opportunity is held in the hands of many rather than just a few.