To begin with, I think it’s important to keep in mind that studies and research have shown that sexual assault and abuse victims often behave in ways that may seem counter-intuitive, particularly in terms of having later contact with perpetrators, that make it hard for laymen (and even law enforcement, courts and juries) to properly evaluate their claims.
And in an unfamiliar culture like that of India, where what they call “godmen” like Nithyananda are as much of a fixture as, say, televangelists in the US, it may be particularly hard for us to make sense of, or evaluate, the relationship between someone who who may be viewed as the incarnation of a god, and a follower.
I think there’s even an argument to be made that in the cultural context of India, there is such a power imbalance in any such relationship, that it’s almost akin to statutory rape. That may well even be why there is a long mainstream tradition of such gurus remaining celibate, in order to put a check on something so prone to abuse.
In Nithyananda’s case, I think it is worth noting that the Indian media often compares him to – and it’s possible that he plagiarized from – the infamous late guru and cult leader Rajneesh, AKA Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and later Osho, who had a significant US-based following centered in Oregon that became notorious for bizarre activities including an attempted mass-poisoning, as was partly covered in the recent documentary Wild Wild Country. It’s also interesting that while Osho’s following in the US has dwindled to a few old diehards after his exile and death, in India he remains a popular figure with a large ashram and a significant following – and one of the NXIVM DOS loyalists, Sahajo Haertel, has some connection.
As far as evaluating Nithyananda’s claims and veracity, I think that if it can be shown that he has veered from sort of normal white lies and self-aggrandizement that are typical, to acting like a pathological liar.
Then he becomes discredited and it is legitimate to treat anything he says as questionable.
I’d say that making grandiose, undocumented and almost certainly false claims about miracles and cures, puts him in a category similar to “world’s third smartest man” Keith Raniere, or “war hero” (stolen valor, contradicted by military records) L. Ron Hubbard of Scientology (who was ruled a “virtual pathological liar,” almost habitually unable to tell the truth about things like his background, by a judge).
In cases like these, one even starts to wonder if these individuals aren’t suffering from a sort of delusion that makes it difficult for them to even know what is true, or real, themselves. That also gets to a sort of old paradox: what’s the difference between a guru and supposed seer who, say, claims he receives direction from or channels god/s (or can make animals talk), and an obviously mentally ill person standing on the sidewalk shouting about voices that are talking to him?
Also, since Nithyananda doesn’t even seem to be among India’s top 10 gurus, I doubt he has 20 million followers any more than does Scientology (which uses the same number, but by all reliable measures and reports is down to about 20,000 actual members, though they have accumulated outsized wealth, real estate and power).
And like Scientology, his organization lists somewhat upwards of 100 centers around the world – 144, but they all share about 3 dozen of the same contact names and phone numbers, with no physical addresses given, suggesting they can’t really be that large:
How do you trust an organization that can’t even be honest about something basic like its size – and probably misrepresents it by orders of magnitude?
p.s. Frank, a quick check shows that you might even be able to “investigate” them down in Florida; they have a much-touted “University” that appears to actually be little more than a small, mostly online, unaccredited degree mill; plus a couple of local groups without any actual sign of more than a small number of devotees.
See Frank Report stories on Nithyananda Swami.
Famed Indian Guru Nithyananda ‘Could Not Have Raped Woman – Has Testosterone Level of Newborn Baby,’ Disciple Says
Did Famed Indian Guru Nithyananda Swami Rape His Disciple Aarthi Rao?
Check out Loco Guano on Youtube for funny videos exposing Nithyananda and his nutty followers.
I knew of Nithyananda well before he became the content of some blog articles here. As a software engineer, I work with a number of educated Indians who made me aware of him because he is pretty much a running joke to them. They showed me some of his videos on YouTube and I understood why. It’s hard to believe how any moderately educated person could fall for his claptrap. If I remember correctly, in one of the videos Nithyananda “discusses” Einstein’s E=mc^2 scientific formula concomitantly with some pseudo-spiritual babble that amounts to nothing more than gobbledygook. In another, he discusses how he will eventually be able to get animals to speak like humans. I feel sorry for the uneducated and poor who are often the victims of such charlatans. And to those raised in the first world who fall for such absurdity, I can only shake my head in disbelief.
Thanks for that bit of perspective from some actual Indians.
From what I’ve found, Nithyananda’s outrageous claims seem to be the subject of quite a bit of derision in his homeland. Yet accounts also say he is attracting middle class followers; perhaps, like NXIVM’s demographic, they may tend to be more people in work like sales and marketing, than technical professions.
This was originally written as one or more comments, in this case regarding a rape allegation by a particular disciple – the first link in red at the end of the post – and as a post itself, is likely to get me in trouble with Nithyananda’s followers, one of whom recently wrote:
“You can see he writes seemingly reasonable and well researched posts, and he is aggressively putting forward a narrative against Nithyananda. Whoever is paying him is getting his money’s worth. Let’s not pretend he is in any way objective or uninterested.”
So now I’ve been accused of being an agent of at least 5 different conspiracies, for being critical and asking hard questions about various theories and their proponents, and, now, about a Swami. I think that just kind of makes my point that true believers of various types tend to engage in the same sorts of faulty reasoning and culty thinking, including virtually paranoid responses to challenges, and often resorting to conspiracy theorizing.
Anyway, I commented on this because I think Nithyananda is an interesting case and example, partly because some of it gets so obviously ridiculous – he’s even claimed Einstein is wrong about e=mc^2 – and in part because some of his true believer followers have shown up and engaged in fairly typical cult propagandizing and apologism, defending the Swami and his supposed miracles – something we have rarely really seen here (the posts supposedly by Clyne and a couple of others are more troll-like).
For anyone interested in more perspective on the Swami, I ran into this chilling video by a recently defected North American member, who starts out by saying that the supposed child “miracles” that his credulous followers like to cite, are produced by children who are beaten until they learn the tricks of convincing fakery. She also talks about typical cult tactics such as compartmentalization, discouraging members from going to outside authorities about abuses, and trying to discredit and attack members who leave and speak out. Apparently she has watched Leah Remini’s “Aftermath” series about Scientology, and relates some of what she experienced to things described in the series:
Brainwashed by Nithyananda; Now I’m Speaking Out About his DANGEROUS CULT!
Thanks Anonymaker, I was just about to join that group! LOL
And Scott, I had been just about to sign up as an Amway IBO before I ran across your wisdom! We owe each other deep debts of gratitude.
Wanna talk cognitive biases? I’d say that the Swami’s promises of miracles are more or less parallel to Amway’s promises of wealth, plus it’s interesting that from what I can tell, Amway seems to be making headway in India even as it’s faltering in the US.
There will be MANY more people sign up with Amway this month alone than ever signed up for NXIVM since the very beginning. A little birdie sent me this just a couple of days ago, “Financial Performance Summary
Sales were $7.7 billion through November, $409 million lower than Plan and a 2% decline vs 2018. While the China disruption is the largest contributor to our underperformance, six of our top 10 markets were behind Plan for the year through November. North America, Thailand, Taiwan and Russia are meeting or exceeding Plan. Excluding China, which was down 8% vs prior year, Enterprise sales were flat with 2018 and $137M behind Plan.
Projected annual sales are $8.4 billion. Sales are $437 million lower than Plan and 2% lower than 2018 from the external challenges in China and underperformance in Korea, India and Europe, as well as general softness in the non-direct selling aspect of the business. Both North America and Thailand continue their strong growth in 2019.” In other words, the exact opposite of what you could tell. LOL
Scott, thanks for those recent numbers.
Is it not true that the long-term trend that I was seeing, is US sales going down and foreign sales in places like India, and China, going up – even if there is year-to-year variance?
India could be third largest market for Amway in a decade
It depends on the number of years you want to consider for the “long-term.” There have been major issues in both India and China over the past few years. China stopped all MLMs from operating for a few years back in the 90s and earlier this year conducted an audit which caused a decrease. India put the head of Amway India in jail for a couple of months a few years ago and Amway, as well as many other MLMs, have been very controversial in India for years. Any increases in a given year are therefore very fragile. If there weren’t so many people in those countries, Amway probably wouldn’t bother with them.
Another note: Amway peaked at $11.8 B a few years ago, then declined down to $8.6 B over the course of about 4 years, before “recovering” to $8.8 B in 2018. Factoring in inflation, the “recovery” was probably less widgets being purchased, and the total product volume shrunk by well over 1/3 from the peak, again factoring in inflation. Amway tends to not report individual country numbers, unless the numbers go up. They used to report the North American numbers back when Quixtar (name change from Amway in North America) was started in 1999, but they haven’t reported those in well over a decade.