Hello. I am writing to you in the hope that you might publish on your site some information about Swami Sitaramananda. She is the director of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center in Grass Valley, CA called the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Farm. A direct disciple of Swami Vishnu-devananda, she is the NOT most hardcore and abusive "swami" I have ever met, unfortunately, but for sure she is the least honest about what she is doing, and I think even from herself.
I have been watching this for about a year now, trying to work out why I was having difficulty here, and I have concluded that she is someone who simply doesn't believe that what she is doing is wrong. Researching this, I found that in cold reading, whether one knows one is doing it or not, there is a disparity in power, which produces a situation where the audience wants the person on stage to be right, and will do everything in their power to fit their experience to the words/music coming out of the mouth of the person on the stage or giving the talk. Once this position is established, then the person on the stage gets a reinforcement that their words/music are really having an effect on the audience, reinforced by feedback from the people who have listened.
Armed with this information, I began to see a pattern of Barnum statements being made during out satsangs, and could then clearly see the negative message she was and is propagating in the name of a pure teaching.
In this way, I have been able to separate the teachings (which I still believe to be very helpful and useful) from the teacher who is distorting them.
Whether she knows she is doing it or not, for me is not important. She is definitely doing these things, and getting away with it to a large measure due to the large respect many people have for this organization and the teachings. However, it's my belief that she, and other disciples of Swami Vishnu-devananda (but not all) are doing the same in other parts of the world. I think it's clear to many inside and outside the organization that the organization is dying a slow death as a result.
Swami Sita in particular is guilty of this in my view. What she teaches in satsang and what you learn from her or definitely not the same. Talking ABOUT peace and so on is not the same as teaching it. I have the crazy idea that a guru or a teacher should lead one to peace ad understanding, not away from it.
She is pushing, forcing and agressive in her mannerisms, speech and with the amount of work given to everyone. It's purely excessive, and often our work study students leave because it's nearly all work, everyone is stressed out, speaking badly to each other and guests, and on and on like this.
I read an article which sounded like a mild version of what I am talking about here: [www.barnard.edu
This talks about the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center in New York, run by a Swami who has switched from being a Swami to not back to a Swami and not now again. He's on the executive board for this organization! Even with another far more lax leader like Srinivasan (where I saw myself in satsang TTC students were giving each other back massages-!) there is this attitude in satsang which is VERY contrasting with, for example, staff life.
I am soon moving away from here myself, but I have lived here for more than 2 years. In this time, I have witnessed and been the target of much abusive behavior from Swami Sita (check swamisita.com or swamisita.org for more info on her). One of the foundational principles of Yoga is the principle Ghandhi was famous for- ahimsa- non-injury.
She places herself as an infallible leader, and all communications are just in one direction- she talks, you listen. No other kind of interaction is possible. She is the last and final word on every aspect of your life. Excessive control has been consistently exerted on me as I have begun to vocally question things and I am yelled at and put down like an errant child. In truth, this is her basic method- extreme work, extreme discipline, extreme controlling behavior, because all are regarded as children in her eyes.
Even when I have had once or twice a year back and forth exchanges with her in a reasonable manner, I am made to understand that I couldn't possible grasp the import or methods she is employing to teach me. Having been a coach of athletes for 20 years, this is a difficult thing to swallow as gospel, since her behavior isn't consistent with what she says.
This Swami has physical shoved me like a schoolyard bully during a meeting in full view of other staff, ostensibly to "teach" me
something, all the while saying that this is what *I was doing to her*. I have endured months and months of verbal abuse and controlling behavior also, usually in staff meetings. However, I am not the only one. We cannot keep any long term staff here as a result.
She has really begun to give an otherwise pretty clean organization a bad name, I feel. I have learned to separate the teacher from the teachings, so I can have some peace of mind for myself. Most of her disciples who have left are quite disabled by what they got from her, and I talked to a woman last night who went to therapy for sometime following being her personal assistant (I was also for a time) and her therapist concluded that Swami Sita was a downright dangerous person.
I will likely begin a support group after I leave here, so that these things can be known and more people can post their experiences and get help from sympathetic minds about the abuse suffered at the hands of Swami Sita.
The problem is, that many people who come here are fairly new to the spiritual path, and on these people Barnum statements and generic teachings work well- and worked well for me once also. I see the mentality which I used to have, and I also see that other new staff fall into it, and even fall for the so-called discipline of me and try to learn something from Swami Sita's consistent abuse of me and other long term staff in staff meetings.
I have a lot more to say on this subject, but I think this has covered my main points for now. Please let others know what is happening here.