Chetanananda Was a Chip Off His Old Pervert Guru Muktananda

Painting of Muktananda

Swami Muktananda “authorized” J. Michael Shoemaker to say Muktananda made him a swami.

He called it initiation.

Of course, it was only bargain and sale. We do not know how much Shoemaker paid to become Swami Chetanananda, but it was likely substantial.

Neither of these two flim-flam artists were ever monks.

They both used the orange robes to become wealthy, spout bullshit, and enjoy adulation for it.

And, of course, seduce women.

Anyone can put on an orange robe, but Shoemaker felt he needed the imprimatur of a famous swami. This way, he could claim the wisdom of the guru and pass that on to other suckers.

We have heard stories from some of the women who Chetanananda abused. Here is a slightly edited and abbreviated story from a woman who was a disciple of Muktananda.

By Joan Radha Bridges

I was on Swami Muktananda’s staff for eight years, beginning in 1974. I was 21 years old when I joined the tour. The events I will recount occurred after about 5 years on tour with Baba. So I was around 26; Muktananda was around 73.

The tour stopped in Miami, where I went in advance to set up the bookstore. I was surprised to find that I was put in a room on the top floor near Muktananda’s penthouse quarters.

All the young girls were in the rooms closest to Muktananda, and the older girls were further away. We would meditate in our rooms every morning and listen to Muktananda walking up and down the hall. I personally witnessed young girls coming and going from Muktananda’s quarters.

A few months into our stay, I was alone in my room when Muktananda came in, closed the door, grabbed me, and gave me a big kiss on the mouth. I was both thrilled and confused – I didn’t know what to think.

Shortly after, Malti invited me to the Boston Ashram with a small entourage. This was a privilege – I was thrilled to be included.

Baba would roam the halls at night in Boston. I would run into him in the dark on the way to the bathroom. He continued to hug and kiss me. I didn’t understand, but told myself that Baba was God, so it must be very special; it must be a good thing.

On returning to South Fallsburg, I was back at my usual bookstore seva without special privileges or contact with Muktananda.

Then one evening, I returned from the bookstore with my cash box. That day, I had prayed to Muktananda to help me understand my true path – whether I was meant to have children or become a Swami.

Muktananda appeared in the lobby and pulled me behind a long curtain in front of his house door. The curtain ran the length of the lobby and had holes in it that people said were made at Muktananda’s request. The holes allowed Muktananda to watch people without them knowing.

When he got me back there, he began to speak to me, mainly in Hindi, with some short English phrases, “Chota, chota” which means something like “little ones,” as he pointed to my stomach.

I was happy with this direction.

Then he shocked and startled me: he grabbed my breasts and twisted them tightly, reached under my dress, and felt my vagina. I didn’t know what to think or do – I was stunned.

He sent me away with my head spinning about how to explain to myself the Guru’s actions. After all, this was the Guru, the same as God, so why was he doing this? He told us to be celibate, so how could this be sexual? I had no answers.

The following night again, he appeared and motioned me to come.

I again did not question his directions, since I was surrendered to Muktananda as my Guru.

Surrender to the Guru was a principal part of the Siddha Yoga chants and teachings I ascribed to.

Muktananda took me back to his quarters and had me lay down on a large ottoman. This time he inspected my vagina. He said, “Good yoni.”

Muktananda brought me to his quarters again the next night. All the while, he told me, “Don’t tell anyone” and “Don’t tell your husband.”

Muktananda put me on a high table, pulled my legs back to expose my vagina, and pulled out his flaccid penis. Then, he placed his penis as far inside me as possible, and remained in that position for a long time.

During this time, he said phrases such as “Baba urevetta” (semen goes upward); “Baba Yogi.”

He kept repeating, “No sex, tantra,” “No sex, tantra,” and “long time.” (“He seemed to tell me he did this tantra a long time, although I wondered what was so special about just standing there a long time)

I felt he was trying to convince and coerce me to believe this was not sex. I felt doubt and distress that I have buried for many years. I had to keep telling myself that Baba is doing the right thing. He is God. I must be very special and important. I decided to be loyal to Baba.

And so, for all these years, I have kept this secret. I have stayed quiet, confused, and silent.

Now I am 50 years old and ready to face and share the truth of my experience with Muktananda. I want to be finally released from these events, so that I can move forward with my life without the burden of them.

In 1986, I tried to talk about my experience with people I thought might help me understand it. One woman and I acknowledged our mutual experience, but she could not fully talk about it…

Swami Muktananda gave Michael Shoemaker the title of swami, and Shoemaker used it well. He may have surpassed his guru Muktananda in women he had sex with. Though Muktananda’s record for having sex with teen girls will likely never be broken.

In 1994, long after Muktananda died, I shared my experience with a close friend who had guessed the truth.

Shortly after I did that, an old friend with whom I did seva, now Gurumayi’s assistant, called me at my home in Atlanta. She interrogated me on what I said to my friend about the experience, and had me give her a detailed account.

This was embarrassing, but I felt I was finally going to talk about it with someone close to Gurumayi. When I finished, she scolded me, saying, “Didn’t Baba always tell you ‘top secret?'” That was the end of the conversation – no help, no explanation, just the strong message to keep quiet.

Finally, at age 50, through my own exploration, experience, and insight, I can no longer deny that what happened to me with Baba was wrong.

This understanding was heightened through my therapy with a gifted professional who is profoundly spiritual both in practice and training. I finally got the courage to share what had happened to me with her. After I described all of Baba’s actions, she asked me whether, knowing what I had been through, I would take my daughter by the hand and send her through the door to experience the same thing. The answer was emphatically no – absolutely not. At that moment, I clearly understood Baba had sexually abused me…

Because of fear, no one before has put a name to their story of sexual abuse by Swami Muktananda. But I will so that it can no longer be said these are made-up stories.

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  • ORS 163.275 Coercion. [What is a coercion charge.]

    (1) A person commits the crime of coercion when the person compels or induces another person to engage in conduct from which the other person has a legal right to abstain, or to abstain from engaging in conduct in which the other person has a legal right to engage, by means of instilling in the other person a fear that, if the other person refrains from the conduct compelled or induced or engages in conduct contrary to the compulsion or inducement, the actor or another will:

    (a) Unlawfully cause physical injury to some person;
    (b) Unlawfully cause physical injury to some animal;
    (c) Unlawfully cause damage to property;
    (d) Engage in conduct constituting a crime;
    (e) Falsely accuse some person of a crime or cause criminal charges to be instituted against the person;
    (f) Cause or continue a strike, boycott or other collective action injurious to some person’s business, except that such a threat is not deemed coercive when the act or omission compelled is for the benefit of the group in whose interest the actor purports to act;
    (g) Testify falsely or provide false information or withhold testimony or information with respect to another’s legal claim or defense; or
    (h) Unlawfully use or abuse the person’s position as a public servant by performing some act within or related to official duties, or by failing or refusing to perform an official duty, in such manner as to affect some person adversely.

    (2) Coercion is a Class C felony. [1971 c.743 §102; 1983 c.546 §4; 1985 c.338 §1; 2007 c.71 §45; 2015 c.751 §1]
    ORS 163.285 Defense to coercion.

    In any prosecution for coercion committed by instilling in the victim a fear that the victim or another person would be charged with a crime, it is a defense that the defendant reasonably believed the threatened charge to be true and that the sole purpose of the defendant was to compel or induce the victim to take reasonable action to make good the wrong which was the subject of the threatened charge. [1971 c.743 §103

    What is the penalty for coercion?

    Coercion is a Class C felony in Oregon. Often the sentence would be probation with some jail time; however, it is possible to be sent to prison for a coercion conviction.

    About the Author:

    David Lesh is a Portland attorney emphasizing the defense of serious criminal charges. He has been a member of the Oregon State Bar since 1990. Mr. Lesh is a former Multnomah County prosecutor (5 years) and lawyer to the Portland Police Bureau (3 years). He was named an Oregon Super Lawyer in 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022. His law practice has an A+ BBB rating.
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  • An amended Oregon law that takes effect Jan. 1, 2019 will increase the crime of strangulation during domestic violence to a felony. The crime of strangulation is generally a misdemeanor in Oregon and is only a felony under specific circumstances.

    Clackamas County’s leaders, lawmakers and advocates see this change as long overdue.

    “Domestic violence involving strangulation is always life-threatening and when a victim survives forever life-altering,” said Clackamas County Commissioner Sonya Fischer. “This important law change elevates strangulation to dangerous assault against those whose physical and emotional health are forever affected by someone they live with and once trusted.”

  • Rudi’s and, in turn Swami’s practice of this olympic, gold medal style of spiritual practice has one big missing piece: emotional and psychological issues are always going to be there to come up and “bite us”. The concept of rising above all tensions, issues, psychology and transcending it all, is very possible: short term. Longer term, not attended to, that stuff resurfaces. This is the experience of many. Look at Chetanananda, who never dealt with his psychological and emotional issues. And, stand back and view the results. The guy is a walking, talking disaster area. The damage that he has inflicted upon people is being uncovered as we speak. So, as much respect as I have for Rudi and his work, I think he did not account enough for the fact that as human beings, emotional issues are real. More so than he and Swami recognized. Am I wrong? Name three students out of the thousands who have tried who will become fully realized in this lifetime, and NOT at the same time cause massive destruction. Name ’em. You won’t be able to. I am right, and YOU are wrong.

  • 95% of the ashram members who attended Sanderson’s stalks had no idea what he was talking about. Most showed up to support Swami. The discussion of the ancient texts held no more interest for me than the Bible. Which brings me to my next point: the concept of liberation in one lifetime, which, while philosophically different than the Judeo-Christian model, is no different that Christians talking about dying and going to heaven. In other words: its a fantasy, and about just as plausible. Disagree with me? Name three students in the past 50 years of Ashram history who are going to make it in terms of liberation in one lifetime. Got any names for us? I doubt it. Maybe Swami is headed there, but not without creating untold amounts of collateral damage here on earth in the meantime. Has anyone, or will anyone achieve liberation in one lifetime, without causing major disasterous results in their personal lives? Oh, but wait, as long as one is aligned with the Goddess, none of that worldy stuff matters, does it. There is no such thing as sin, we were taught. Nice license for bad behavior, and irresponsibility.

  • All the Prophets and Gurus are false. All. Some know they are false, but no matter, they are all false. Nobody, but nobody, can help you to find the true meaning of your life.

    Follow yourself.

    Work it out yourself.

  • do all sects of Swamis take a vow of celibacy? My understanding is that tantric(householders) swamis do not. Which is what Swami Muktananda was and I thought that Swami Chetanananda is.

  • There is a saying amongst certain folks who have left this community. It is: “all the strong people left”. This is, of course an exaggeration. But–a long list of very good people have left, all with bad feelings. Who has stayed? Well, it can be divided up amongst broad categories. They are as follows: Know nothings. This is group of people who do not know the truth about Swami’s abusive and manipulative ways. If they did, most of this group would leave. 2) Head in the sanders. This group wants to “hear no evil, speak no evil ,see no evil”. They only want to believe what suits them, and have no interest in hearing anything that goes against that. 3) Ashram barnacles. This group comprises most of whom moved to Gold Beach with Swami. Most are in it because they are in it, and can’t imagine themselves doing anything else, nor do they have the strength or creativity to do anything else. This group should know that what they are engaging in is a lifestyle choice, and does not represent growth of any sort. 4) Spiritual opportunists. This group knows that Swami has pulled a lot of shenanigans with lots of people, primarily young women, but rationalizes that because it didn’t happen to them, and they are getting something wonderful, that that is all they care about. This group represents the worst of so called spiritual students, as their primary motive is spiritual greed. What kind of so called spiritual student only cares about themselves, knowing full well, that others are being hurt by this Swami? A shit bag person that is who. Of those who stayed, what category are you, you losers?

  • Alexis Sanderson left with bad feelings, as does everyone who leaves this cult. Swami Chetananda was seeking his acknowledgment and endorsement. Which, he never actually gave. Even though Swami acted like he did. The quote given from Sanderson seen in the comment below is from twenty plus years ago. I imagine he has changed his mind since things ended with The Movement Center. It is always the same pattern with this Swami. Love someone, give them (unsustainable attention), and generosity, the people take it personally, and begin to expect it, then he pulls the rug out from under them and they get pissed off. I have seen this pattern play out hundreds of times. Then, Swami says he was betrayed, yada yada yada, and look at all I have done for this person. He can’t see it from anyone else’s perspective, because guess why? He is a narcissist, that is why. I am certain that whatever expectations there were of Sanderson, in return for his “deal” with the community were poorly communicated, if communicated at all. So, no wonder it got garbled. Everything with Swami is always handled in the worst possible ways.

  • I went to dinner with Sanderson and actually we talked shit about politics and he talked about how wild he was about his wife and her family. I’m not sure he would write any endorsements of him now. While respectful he definitely voiced disappointed sadness to see many people he was fond of being left behind and no provisions being made for any new center to carry on the ACTUAL spiritual practice this was all supposed to be about. He was there translating some ancient text that SC had in his possession. No he didn’t “buy” him a house. There was one provided to him while he was doing his work. I really dug him and he was incredibly gracious about sharing his wisdom and wit and no I never observed him asking for anything improper in return. If you have something of significance on Prof Sanderson we are all ears, but all I hear you accusing him of is defending SC publicly (which most every victim has at some point) and grossly assuming that a pretty woman couldn’t possibly hold her own in a meaningful conversation with an Oxford professor. Pretty sure I know who wrote this and madam you don’t help this cause a bit with your weak ass assumptions.

  • “They both used the orange robes to become wealthy, spout bullshit, and enjoy adulation for it.”

    Just like every priest, minister, and holy man in the history of the world. The only thing different is the color of the robes.

    Religion was invented when the first liar met the first fool.

  • Alexis Sanderson, a professor of Eastern religions and ethics at Oxford
    University in England who has lectured at Chetanananda’s ashram, says the
    swami is a “generous-hearted and pleasant individual” who leads an open and
    tolerant group. “Accusations of sexual malpractice are the standard way of
    attacking religious practitioners,” Sanderson says.

    Taken from Richard Read’s article, In the Grip of the Guru, Part 1 (and there are five parts to this series!)

    I have heard that Shoemaker bought a house for Sanderson or for his institute in Portland. Sanderson was a fixture at the Movement Center for many years. I wonder how he feels about the information that is being published in the Frank Report? Sure does not match what he told Read.

    There are great photos of Sanderson at the Movement with various members of Shoemaker’s cult on the public Facebook pages. I know Sanderson invited the younger women out for nice dinners in Portland. No doubt they discussed his scholarly work.

    Can we hear from those in the know about Dr. Sanderson and his association with Shoemaker. Does he still consider Shoemaker a generous-hearted and pleasant individual?

    • I would visit the Portland ashram and was privileged to be there during a few of Sanderson’s teaching sessions. He is brilliant, a little pompous, but comes by it honestly. I think he was doing his best to relate to commoners who were not academics. It’s my understanding that the organization (hence students & donors) paid for Sanderson’s house rental, generous salary and healthcare benefits. He also had access to Chet’s key attorney, Sharon, for any legal or business needs he had. In the earlier days Sanderson would come to the ashram with his wife and son. He divorced and remarried a women from Japan. I believe she was one of his students, but I’m not sure. I never got to meet her, but heard Chet married them and that she’s a good person.

      I don’t believe Sanderson participated in womanizing the female students, but seemed content turning a blind eye to Chet’s behavior.

      When Chet left Portland, he packed up his toys and said sayonara. I hear he screwed Sanderson, as well. I’m sure Sanderson is angry and disappointed but too much of a gentleman with little financial leverage to do anything.

      Chet had everything to gain from the connection and Sanderson had everything to lose, and he did.

      • In the earlier days Sanderson would come to the ashram with his wife and son. He divorced and remarried a women from Japan. I believe she was one of his students,

        I don’t believe Sanderson participated in womanizing the female students, but seemed content turning a blind eye to Chet’s behavior.

      • That’s my understanding as well. Shoemaker used Sanderson to gain credibility. That’s all.

        Total act by shoemaker. Uses and abused everyone in his path. Discards when no longer necessary. True sociopath.

    • Sanderson was Spalding Professor of Religions at Oxford, a theologian. I quote Richard Dawkins on the “study” of theology:

      “ insofar as theology studies the nature of the divine, it will earn the right to be taken seriously when it provides the slightest, smallest smidgen of a reason for believing in the existence of the divine. Meanwhile, we should devote as much time to studying serious theology as we devote to studying serious fairies and serious unicorns.”

      Expecting a theologian to detect a fraud is expecting the impossible.

  • Thank you for putting your name to your story.

    Stepping forward and exposing the truth is the only hope of preventing further abuse.

    It also helps all of us be more aware… less likely to blindly trust. We often can’t imagine such evil in the world, but sadly, it’s everywhere.

    Thank you for being brave.

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” In addition, he was credited in the Starz docuseries 'Seduced' for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premieres on May 22, 2022.

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