Swami Who Split with Chetanananda Comes to California – Time to ask ‘What Went Wrong?’

Swami Khecaranatha was once known as Steve Ott. He was a baker at the Tao decades ago when Swami Chetanananada operated his ashram in Bloomington. And ran a free-labor bakery and restaurant.

Chetanananda used to be known as J. Michael Shoemaker. And Ott was under Shoemaker.

J Michael Shoemaker

Ott followed the Swami and came to live at the Movement Center in Portland, again under the leadership of J. Michael Shoemaker.

In time Ott became a swami and up to this day, he offers courses and retreats.

His next retreat is this month, from Oct. 27-30. The cost is $250.

Ott wrote: 

I am heading to California soon to teach and be with our community for a couple of weeks.

(Oct 14-Nov 1). I will be offering a retreat, Oct 27-30, (this is how I celebrate my birthday) on Kundalini Sadhana focusing on Shambhavopaya: The Path of Awareness, Oct 27-30.

East Bay California–In Person and Global live streaming. Registration now open so please register

I look forward to seeing you there, or over the airwaves.

Ott Left Shoemaker

Before the Swami called his ashram the Movement Center, he called it the Nityananda Institute and Rudrananda Ashram.

Ott left Shoemaker around the time the Leaving Nityananda Letter was written, around 2001.

The letter was an expression of what former students of Shoemaker felt when they escaped Shoemaker. They alleged that Chetanananda was abusing his students sexually and taking them for money and free labor.

A website was created and managed by former, unhappy students of the Swami who left him.

Leaving Nityananda Institute was an anonymous website, which remains online but has been inactive for years,

Swami Chetanananda did not respond well to their departure years ago.

He teaches that it is wrong to break connections with the guru. He denounced and threatened the students who left him and spoke openly about their experiences with him.

More than 70 members of the Institute severed their connections to Chetanananda between 1994 and 2000. This was estimated to be nearly half of the average active membership of the group.

The former members wrote,

We hope that Leaving Nityananda Institute will serve as a helpful resource to: all ex-Institute members and their families and friends; concerned relatives and friends of current Nityananda Institute members; spiritual seekers who are considering joining Nityananda Institute; and, current Institute members who are experiencing doubt about Swami Chetanananda and may want information from outside sources.

It was reported that disciples of the Swami had to get permission before reading the website.

The website also published the following:

“Leaving Nityananda Institute believes in the right of every person to worship freely as they choose. We also believe in free speech. We believe former members have the right to tell what Swami Chetanananda did to them without receiving threats from Swami Chetanananda and without being harassed by him and his current students.

The website was launched December 2000. It was last updated January 2008.

About time for another update??

According to his website, “Swami Khecaranatha (Nathaji), the spiritual leader of Heart of Consciousness, has been a master teacher for five decades. He is a carrier of the śakti transmission lineage of Bhagavan Nityananda and Swami Rudrananda (Rudi).

Swami Nityananda

“Nityananda, whose name means ‘bliss of the eternal,’ spent most of his years in Ganeshpuri, a village in southwest India. The resonance of his powerful presence continues to be felt worldwide, to this day.

Rudi, Khecaranatha’s immediate guru, met Nityananda in 1959 and, through that relationship, began teaching the eye-open classes we use in our practice. Rudi emphasized channeling the liberating power of energy, and his fierce presence was the embodiment of that force.

In reply to a question, the Swami or someone writing on his behalf answered what his affiliation is with Chetanananda.

The reply:

Swami Khecaranatha is NOT associated with Swami Chetanananda. Khecaranatha broke with him about 20 years ago. Although there may indeed be merit to the issues listed below, please understand that we do not condone any misuse of power, spiritual power or otherwise.

Steve Ott became Swami Khecaranatha and proceeded to omit Shoemaker from his “lineage.”

He does not call Chetanananda his guru, though at one time it seems he did consider him his superior.

He does not make any mention of being Chetanananda’s brother disciple, that is they both were disciples of Rudi.

In fact, he seems to imply that he and the Swami did not split amicably.

If you have questions about that split, you might be able to contact Swami Khecaranatha at the East Bay St. Gyuto Tibetan Center in Richmond California later this month.




About the author

Frank Parlato

0 0 votes
Article Rating

Please leave a comment: Your opinion is important to us!

Notify of

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 year ago

At most, Steve Ott met Rudi twice in person. I lived in the NY ashram with Rudi for the last months of his life. A few Indiana students visited us in NYC but not OTT.

1 year ago

…. just keep digging

Lana Hanna
Lana Hanna
1 year ago

Can I get some Swami teachings? But I got a tender neck.

1 year ago

The same things that went wrong with every other teacher, all but two of them. Swami Chetanananda is controlling. Ultimately it was a clash of egos that ended it. Look up Per Johansson. A long time student of Chetanananda’s. He also left on bad terms. Rudra Meditation in Europe somewhere, now goes by Premananda, I believe. All relationships with Chetanananda end up in the mulch pile. It is just a question of how long it takes. Narcissist and psychopath are just fancy descriptions for assholes

1 year ago
Reply to  Anonymous

uhhhh and he wanted his woman

1 year ago
Reply to  Anonymous

for Johansson, Shoemaker, Ott, Boster, and the others – the purpose of spiritual traditions is not as a tuition or merchandising (or worse) business opportunity for “teachers” to exploit their students financially or otherwise to support their lifestyle as they seem to be in america… using spiritual practices to monetize student interest goes against basic principles… sadly, teachers cancelling their lineage, focusing on their social media following and monetizing “universal” teachings seems to fit right in with all the other tawdry money making schemes on the internet and social media these days, oh well

1 year ago
Reply to  Anonymous

sounds more like spiritual multi level marketing – a great way to build your downline! the more teachers under you means they can bring in more students which then adds members to your downline, more teachers=more students=more $$$! isn’t capitalism great!

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.” Parlato was also credited in the Starz docuseries "Seduced" for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Additionally, Parlato’s coverage of the group OneTaste, starting in 2018, helped spark an FBI investigation, which led to indictments of two of its leaders in 2023.

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 premiered on May 22, 2022. Most recently, he consulted and appeared on Tubi's "Branded and Brainwashed: Inside NXIVM," which aired January, 2023.

IMDb — Frank Parlato

Contact Frank with tips or for help.
Phone / Text: (305) 783-7083
Email: frankreport76@gmail.com


Would love your thoughts, please comment.x