This is the story of how I finally escaped Cult Sahaja Yoga.
At this point, my husband & I had been in Sahaja Yoga for about 9 years. Our family had doubled in one day, and we were feeling a bit cramped in our small house. With 3 cribs crowded into one tiny bedroom, our older daughter occupying another bedroom and us in the 3rd, we thought about selling our house. Also, our neighborhood had become crime-ridden. A man had died in the house across the street from us. The new owners were drug dealers, and a second death occurred in that house when one of the owners was shot in the head.
We knew we had to get out. The year was 1993. The housing market in Massachusetts was in a terrible state. It was a buyer’s market. Our house was worth considerably less than what we had paid for it. Still, we wanted out of that neighborhood. We felt trapped. Eventually we reached an agreement with the bank to do what is known as a “short sale.” We sold our house at a loss and the bank took the small amount they could get for it. We were, essentially, starting over. But we were luckier than most. My husband was working hard and making enough money for us to move to a nice townhouse in another state, closer to where most of his consulting work was coming from.
I continued to stay at home, caring for our 4 children. It wasn’t easy, but it was important to us to try to give our kids a rich and loving home atmosphere in their early years.
At this time in our lives things were moving quickly. We were house hunting, looking for a place we could purchase that would suit our family and be close enough to a major city (like New York). We found that place and, after 10 months of renting the townhouse, we moved to our current house. During that time of changing diapers, taking the oldest child to school, keeping house and rearing children we began, gradually, to drift out of Sahaja Yoga.
It was subtle at first. We went to fewer and fewer pujas. The ones we did attend seemed to consist mostly of me scrambling to keep my children quiet and content while trying not to feel guilty that I was unable to enjoy the puja and help out more with the activities that surrounded it.
We also needed to watch our spending. With 4 kids, the money goes fast. Yet we were constantly bombarded with requests to donate more and more money to things like: “projects in India.” We were rarely given even the tiniest of details as to how the money would be spent. We were made to feel like lesser yogis if we expressed any reluctance to contribute. We were told our “nabi” chakras would get caught up if we did not contribute.
Independent of each other and with little-to-no discussion, my husband and I opted to put the care of our young children before the funding of the cult.
After approximately 10 years inside Sahaja Yoga, we had seen and heard enough alarming things to realize that this was not the way we wanted to spend the rest of our lives. Furthermore, we did not want to raise our children in this freakish manner.
I had never been comfortable with the idea of sending young children off to the school in Rome and later to India. I had always dreamed of having children of my own and when I finally had them, I took pleasure in raising them myself (along with my husband). It pained me to watch other young mothers say goodbye to their children as they shipped them off to Rome or India, unable to see them again for months on end. I knew in my heart I could never do this to my children. And I knew it was no longer a matter of being “detached.” It was a matter of doing the right thing. And so I began to plan my escape from Cult Sahaj.
As it turned out it, was not nearly as difficult as I imagined it would be. Although I was worried that, upon my exit from the cult, I might come down with one of the terrible diseases that Nirmala often threatened would overtake any wayward Sahaja Yogi, I felt the time had come for me to take my leave. I tried not to think of all the dire consequences that might result in this daring action: financial ruin, disease, death….and I composed a letter to a yogini friend—the woman who had lived in our first, tiny home. I explained to her that I needed to take some time to sort out some concerns I was having about Sahaja Yoga. I half-expected to hear from her immediately or at least get some kind of response down the line. There was nothing. And so we were, officially, out!
That was some 8 or 9 years ago.
Today we are a typical American family. Our children are flourishing at their schools. I have gone back to work at a newspaper of a size similar to the one in Boston. I love my work and enjoy the people I work with (mostly artists). My husband does consulting and plays guitar whenever he can. We have new friends (but sometimes miss the ones we made in Sahaja Yoga) and have re-united with our families. Our health has been excellent, perhaps better than ever. But, for me, the thing I love most about being out of the cult is the freedom! I can’t believe what I denied myself all those years! I love being able to think what I want, do what I want and follow my heart to those previously forbidden places out there in the world beyond the confines of Cult Sahaja Yoga.