Things Turn Ugly — 1995–1997

Despite Greene’s credentials he was not getting the job done, and more expe­rienced muscle was needed. Kriyananda had to be humbled, brought down using any means available. SRF now developed a new approach to the litigation that por­trayed Kriyananda as some self-indulgent Svengali, with Ananda his befuddled fol­lowing. If SRF could silence his voice, his following would fall away, coincidentally creating new customers for SRF’s Yogananda-branded Self-realization.

Fads influence everything, including the law. Sexual allegations against spiri­tual leaders became vogue in the early 1990s. Kriyananda had been around long enough, through the wild 1960s and 70s, that there had to be something out there. SRF already knew about Kriyananda’s earlier “spiritual marriage,” an actual mar­riage to Rosanna Golia in 1985, and Ananda’s attempts at a monastic lifestyle. Lo­cal SRF contacts comforted those who left the community, staying in touch with any who remained unhappy. The situation now required SRF finding, and throw­ing, some dirt.

The Ladies | April 1995

The case took a troubling turn in April 1995, when declarations started appear­ing in the mailboxes of residents at the Village. The declarations looked like legal documents prepared for filing in the Bertolucci case, but they were unsigned, and the declarants’ identities reduced to initials. The seven declarations all described some interaction the declarant had with Kriyananda during the previous thirty years. A few declarations seemed harmless, involving things like Kriyananda skin­ny-dipping in the late 1960s. Others, however, described in salacious detail a pass­ing sexual relationship with Kriyananda many years before.

The declarations were written by lawyers, and we had learned from the McK­ean declaration that a declarant had to be questioned before her real story could be known. But these facts were so detailed, and the identities of some people so transparent, that I thought there must be some truth behind the ranting. Were these encounters between fellow pilgrims on the path, or had Kriyananda abused a position of spiritual leader, and forced himself on followers? It may or may not be relevant to the employment lawsuit, but it mattered to me. And, as intended, the allegations themselves sowed discord in those ranks upon which the community and the litigation depended. This tactic of creating dummy declarations attacking Kriyananda and distributing them surreptitiously, surpassed anything we had seen so far from Greene. It attempted to poison the well of public opinion. Plaintiff’s game had become subtly sinister, and that worried me as much as the declarations. I wondered more than once whether the declarations were true at all, or made up simply to shock and awe.

By this time I had worked closely with Kriyananda for several years, and had seen him in good times and bad. I had never seen a sign of impropriety. Positions in the church and at the Village were staffed with many women who I knew held their own opinions and did not hesitate to express them. I saw no sign at Ananda of any disrespect or impropriety toward women. Moreover, the people I met at the Village were vibrant, active types, not brainwashed automatons. I never saw Kri­yananda telling people what to do, and had come to some understanding why peo­ple respected him. Erudite and disaffecting, he is always a witty conversationalist. A scholar and a gentleman, he lectured internationally and composed music, poetry, and plays. The declarations of these ladies did not reflect the man I knew, and their aging claims needed both clarification and proof. Whatever had happened, the Kri­yananda I knew was not the villain portrayed in the declarations. But what had hap­pened back then? And what was going on now?

And how had Greene found all these women, and then persuaded them to give statements? Most appeared to be already associated with SRF in some way, and maybe there would be merit badges awarded later. But why would an attendee at an Ananda retreat thirty years ago remember some passing incident, and now come forward to share it? How do you go about finding a woman like that after so many years? Someone had to be combing through SRF databases. And the ladies seemed eager to help, reaching deep for those details that can make all the difference in a story’s telling. What was their motivation? Was this the venting of long-pent emo­tions, the chance to take center stage, or just more of SRF reinventing the past? Most of the ladies had no apparent reason to lie, and I assumed their story reflected some memory of what had happened back then. A couple of the ladies clearly had an agenda, and one was none other than Kimberly Moore, who long-time residents remembered as Kriyananda’s former “spiritual wife.”

As I read the troubling declarations more carefully, some concerned me less. Kimberly Moore, for example, had been introduced to a stunned Ananda Village in 1981 as “Parameshwari,” Kriyananda’s soul mate. They had met while he was vaca­tioning in Hawaii and apparently shared an immediate attraction. For months she served as a kind of First Lady to the Village, and presided ceremoniously at many community events. They exchanged vows at a beach, and lived together at the Vil­lage, holding themselves out as having a committed relationship. They toured Eu­rope together, and at the time some members were concerned whether Kriyananda would return to the Village. The relationship between Kriyananda and Paramesh­wari was apparently all very spiritual and elevated, but I doubt anyone at Ananda could have thought their relationship platonic.

Parameshwari‘s declaration now claimed that she had been raped as soon as she arrived at the Village. What? During her months there she had acted like a person happy in her role of spiritual mother. She left and returned to the Village at will. Had she really been raped, I thought, she would have complained, sought assis­tance, left the Village and not returned, or at least frowned more. At a minimum she would not have said the nice things about Kriyananda and the Ananda com­munity that she did. This declaration, at an absolute minimum, looked seriously suspect.

Another declarant had been in a group that traveled with Kriyananda in 1969, the year he moved up to the land. Those days, to save money, they all shared ac­commodations while traveling, and this lady spent the night with Kriyananda in one of the bedrooms of a shared hotel suite. All was immediately known to the oth­ers in the group, of course, and upon their return the story spread through the com­munity. When someone would ask Kriyananda whether it was true or not, he did not deny it. He did not equivocate or explain. He said he would not talk about that. Even when the incident was generally known and someone would press him for a word on the matter, he declined to talk about it. In those early days Kriyananda was not the guide and figurehead of an organized religious community that he is today. He was a co-owner of the land and catalyst of the community, which numbered maybe a hundred souls in the autumn of 1969. Many of the people in those early days were there for the lifestyle rather than the religion, and conjugality was not against the rules. There were monastics at Ananda, but the community included “householders” as well: typically married couples, some with children. I saw the eve­ning’s dalliance as no big deal.

Two declarations described massages that turned sexual, involving women who lived at Ananda in 1984. It appeared these incidents had happened, but not the way stated in the declarations. There was no compulsion, expressed or implied, and the ladies had teamed up to actively seek out Kriyananda’s attention. Regardless of the reality of the relationship, it had ended in tears and thus must be Kriyananda’s fault. The person who wrote these declarations for the ladies knew what he was do­ing, and I doubted it was Greene.

And maybe Kriyananda had stumbled along the way. Yogananda often com­mented that a saint was a sinner who did not give up. Whatever Kriyananda’s posi­tion in the Ananda community in the early 1980s, if mistakes were made it was time to move on. These events from years before might tell of a pilgrim’s progress, but they were receding history. The declarations seemed more a public relations issue than a legal one. And one that could be handled. The ladies would have to testify at trial, and through cross-examination we could place their testimony in the proper context and flesh out the omitted facts.

When I approached Kriyananda about the declarations he was open and forth­coming, until I came to the details about his physical contact with the women. He would not talk about it. Not even about Kimberly Moore, his declared soul mate, with whom he had a public and open relationship. What was going on here? Why would Kriyananda not talk about these events, even in a private confidential set­ting? When I pressed him, I discovered the larger issues in play. Yogananda had warned Kriyananda about the draw of sexual energy. If we are each given a cross to bear in life, this was Kriyananda’s. He was to struggle in silence, and share this burden with no one. And he had failed. Twice he had shared his thoughts in breach of his guru’s instructions. After Daya Mata became president in 1955, Kriyananda had confessed all to her. And he thought he had a confidential, almost confessional, relationship with a former SRF nun named Janice Moreno. Both had now turned on him, divulging those shared secrets. He feared to compound the error by dis­cussing these things more, even if by doing so he might avoid legal liability.

I respected his decision, but it did not help the case. Without a clear statement from Kriyananda concerning what parts of the declarations were true and what parts false, and without additional facts to put these times and actions in context, the world would think the worst. Many urged Kriyananda to provide some simple, true statement to calm the waters. For months that felt like years, Kriyananda held his peace. At the time I kept thinking about that line from Isaiah, “He was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter.” I did not want any clients sacrificed on my watch.

When Kriyananda ultimately gave his deposition in the case, he explained exactly what had happened and why, under oath. He testified during his deposi­tion because, given his duty to do so in the lawsuit, continued silence would place Ananda’s future at risk. Once the facts were out, however, Kriyananda issued pub­lic statements and open letters that expanded on what had happened, and its sig­nificance. Over a hundred letters of support came in from women who had known Kriyananda for years. As the facts became clearer the hyperbole in the declarations became more apparent.

When we took the ladies’ depositions, a fuller, more nuanced, story emerged. We obtained statements from people who had discussed these events with the de­clarants at the time they occurred, and who provided additional perspectives on the events. These incidents, whatever their moral timbre, were past history, and because the ladies’ stories were all so very different from Bertolucci’s, they were ir­relevant. We thought, therefore, that we should be able to exclude both the declara­tions and the ladies’ tales from trial. If they testified at all, we could cross-examine them, and put their stories in a clearer context.

Flynn Joins Team Bertolucci | September 1995

In September 1995, as Bertolucci’s depositions were wrapping up and Kri­yananda’s about to begin, Bertolucci added some lawyers to her team. Michael J. Flynn of Flynn, Sheridan and Tabb in Boston had come on board, together with a varying cast of lawyers from the firm’s Southern California branch office. I met Mr. Flynn when we introduced ourselves just before the start of Anne-Marie’s last deposition. He pretended to know nothing about SRF, or whether this “Daya per­son” was a man or a woman. He talked about fighting the Scientologists on the East Coast, and the Rolls Royce-driving Bhagwan up in Oregon, and held himself out to be just another cult-buster. The way Flynn talked you would never have guessed he was SRF’s attorney and a close advisor to Daya Mata. He denigrated monastic orders of the Hindu-Yoga tradition, complained about their strict obedience, and claimed they used chanting, meditation, and long hours of work to strip members of their individuality. With no visible sense of incongruity he incorrectly criticized Ananda for the very practices that SRF performed every day.

I remember vividly that first encounter before the deposition. The deposition was being taken in a conference room and Bertolucci and Ford were out in the hall­way, leaving Sheila, myself, and some legal team members alone at the far end of the room. Flynn came into the room at the other end, introduced himself, put his satchel on the end of the table by the door, and left, closing the door behind him. Thirty seconds later we were still standing at the far end of the table when the door burst open and Flynn lurched in without saying a word. His hand still on the door­knob, he looked at his bag, looked up at us, and darted back out closing the door be­hind him. Apparently he had left his satchel as bait, waited a bit for the hook to set, and then had sprung in, hoping to find us rooting through his bag. I had not seen a performance like it, and have not since. It should have told us more about the man than we took away at the time. Only later we learned that Flynn in fact knew who Daya Mata was, because he was her trusted advisor, and knew her well enough to call her “Ma.” He wore an armband that Yogananda’s followers call a “bangle,” and appeared to be a card-carrying member of the SRF club. He began his involvement in the case by lying to us, and I doubt he ever stopped.

Flynn was not a member of the California State Bar, and to be attorney of re­cord in the Bertolucci case he had to obtain the court’s permission to appear “pro hac vice.” Among the requirements for pro hac vice status is that the applicant be a member of the bar of another state, not a California resident, and not maintain an office in state. California residents must take and pass the California bar, and can­not use this case-by-case privilege to avoid becoming a dues-paying member of the bar. In his application to appear, Flynn swore under oath that he was a resident of Massachusetts and maintained his office at a specific Boston address.

The application seemed in order and we did not oppose it. Years later, however, we uncovered evidence showing that when he submitted this application Flynn was actually a resident of California, not Massachusetts, and was listed as the presi­dent of his homeowners’ association in Southern California. He had a California driver’s license and a California pilot’s license. He maintained an office in Rancho Santa Fe and regularly appeared in California cases with high profile California cli­ents. For example, Flynn was active in several California cases on behalf of former Beach Boy Mike Love, against the group’s troubled founder Brian Wilson. He also represented New Age author Deepak Chopra in a number of cases. After battling Scientology for years, in 1982 Flynn filed suit in California on behalf of Ronald De­Wolf, the estranged son of Scientology founder, L. Ron Hubbard. Hubbard ran his church’s empire offshore, wherever his yacht anchored, and had not been seen by outsiders for years. DeWolf feared (or hoped) him deceased, and had filed suit to preserve the estate, estimated at $500,000,000, from plunder by the Church, whose leaders Flynn publicly likened to “Nazis.”

We found this out only after he had been permitted to appear in the Bertolucci case. After the Bertolucci case was over Flynn would apply to Judge Garcia to be permitted to represent SRF pro hac vice in the federal suit as well. But then we were ready with a complete record to put before the court. Flynn always seemed to be butting heads with judges whose rulings he didn’t like. During one of the Chopra cases, Flynn took out an ad in the San Diego papers offering “REWARDS” of $100,000 for “information leading to the arrest and conviction of any judicial of­ficers, and or lawyers, including retired judges and or referees who have received money, gifts, or other inducements” concerning the supposed wiretapping or bur­glary of Chopra, Flynn, or their firms. Flynn pushed the Chopra cases ruthlessly, and his firm made four judges so exasperated and flustered that they each had an­other judge take over handling the case. One of these judges was quoted complain­ing that, “In more than 30 years as a trial lawyer and Superior Court judge, I have never witnessed such misleading, manipulative, distorted, deceptive, vitriolic action by any lawyer or law firm.” Flynn was making a name for himself.

Garcia had taken Flynn’s declaration at face value and signed the requested or­der before we could respond. When we brought these additional facts to Garcia’s attention he revoked his prior order and refused to let Flynn appear as an attorney in the case. He could still advise SRF, but he would not be recognized by the court as an “attorney of record.” So Flynn remained active on Team Bertolucci, a grey eminence just behind the throne. This twilight world seemed to work for Flynn. Because he never joined the California State Bar, he could float from case to case untouched by the Bar’s professional rules or its disciplinary system. As long as he got results, people like Chopra didn’t appear to care about the legal niceties. No one blew the whistle.

But when we first met Flynn back in September 1995, we had no idea who we were dealing with. Kriyananda’s first deposition in the Bertolucci case taught us something. Parties and their counsel have a right to attend every deposition. Sev­eral members of Ananda’s litigation team would attend major depositions on be­half of the church, and it was common for ten or more bodies to assemble for a significant deposition. At Kriyananda’s San Francisco deposition on September 11, 1995, plaintiff’s group included someone Flynn introduced as Mr. Paul Fried­man, a “paralegal in my office.” Mr. Friedman sat through that day’s entire deposi­tion, dutifully taking notes. We thought little of it at the time. Later, looking into SRF’s sale of some agricultural property called The Herb Farm, we discovered the company was being represented in San Diego federal court by none other than the Flynn firm. Flynn personally appeared in court on behalf of its owner, defendant Paul Friedman. We then learned that Paul Friedman was a major donor to SRF and claimed to be close to Daya Mata. He had facilitated the recent spin off of The Herb Farm property from its prior owner—SRF. In this way we learned that Mr. Friedman was not Flynn’s paralegal, but rather his client in a federal criminal prosecution, and an SRF insider. We obtained the transcript of Flynn’s appearance before U.S. District Court Judge Judith Keep in San Diego on October 27, 1995, the month after Kriyananda’s deposition. During that hearing, when the judge chided Flynn for his overbearing manner, Flynn acknowledged showing “a little bit of intensity because in this particular case Mr. Friedman I know very well . . . and I’m familiar with [his] religious beliefs.” So it seems Flynn gave Friedman a “back stage pass” to Kriyananda’s deposition as a reward for being a client and loyal SRF supporter. Or perhaps it was so that Friedman could report back directly to “Ma” at Mother Center on how Kriyananda had handled himself. Flynn’s shenanigans worked. It would not be the last time.

Daya Mata became the third president of SRF through a process of elimination. Rajarshi’s short tenure and early demise left the presidential succession uncertain. Yo­gananda designated Rajarshi to succeed him as president, but had not laid out plans beyond that first transition. Rajarshi spent much of his presidency in either samadhi or a sick bed, with Sister Daya in charge of running the office. From transcribing Yoga­nanda’s lectures to handling his copyrights, and then running the business side of Mt. Washington, Sister Daya had gradually come to control the organizational side of the mission. Dr. Lewis, Yogananda’s “first American kriyaban,” had been ruled out of the running as the next president because he was married, and everyone now agreed that Yogananda had wanted future presidents to be unmarried. Sister Durga Ma was offered the presidency but turned it down. Sister Daya was the next best, albeit third, choice, and on March 7, 1955, more than two weeks after Rajarshi’s passing, and on the third anniversary of her Master’s mahasamadhi, she was elected president.

Unlike Rajarshi, who gave many inspiring talks before his presidency, Daya was not known for her grasp of the teachings. She never spoke on behalf of the organization and did not ride the lecture circuit, attending only a few Southern California talks in the early years as Yogananda’s secretary. When the Board sent out its March 7, 1955 letter announcing Daya’s election, it incorrectly stated that she had joined the organiza­tion in 1930, although it was no secret she had met Yogananda in October 1931 in Salt Lake City. The letter further stated that in electing Sister Daya “the Board of Directors has followed the wish of Paramhansa Yoganandaji.” The letter omitted to explain, however, that Yogananda’s “wish” was that presidents after Rajarshi should not be married. To those in the know, the letter really explained why Dr. Lewis had not been elected president, rather than why Daya had been.

Yogananda’s last letters to Rajarshi, written between November 8 and 27, 1951, and to be opened only after his death, displayed his concern. He lamented that “Poor Faye” was unable to take the pressure. “Faye through my incapacity does not know to do things any way as I did, money or no money she has none to guide her as a result the work has started going back.” He concluded that “Everyone in the work is terrified about the work’s future.” Yogananda once predicted that if he returned fifty years after passing, he would not recognize SRF. He was seldom more prophetic.

Kriyananda probably should not have sat for any of his depositions in late 1995. He had just undergone open heart surgery, and the doctors were advising delay. Had Kriyananda wanted to put things off he certainly could have. But things were now playing out at several levels. He did not want it to appear like he was avoiding testify­ing, and Flynn is the type of person who is best to get behind you. It was touch and go at times, but Kriyananda testified fully and truthfully, in the face of a bitter and sarcastic examination. And Kriyananda hung in there. We wanted to get his depo­sition done with, but as the litigation progressed, Kriyananda gave his deposition throughout, the last session in September 2002, a couple weeks before the final trial.

What’s in a Name | September 1995-1997

Team Bertolucci liked playing games with words, especially kicking around the term “swami.” They argued that the title by definition meant a celibate renunci­ate—one who had given up all possessions and desires. Because people around Kriyananda called him “Swami,” the argument went, these people must think him celibate. And if they knew he was not celibate yet continued to call him “Swami,” then they were deliberately trying to mislead others into believing him celibate. They claimed that when Kriyananda let them call him Swami, he was validating the misnomer, and impliedly adopting their “representations” of celibacy. Under this perverse analysis, every utterance of “swami” by anyone at Ananda became part of a conspiracy to mislead the membership. It was nonsense, but nonetheless dangerous if the jury believed it.

Bertolucci’s position ignored the actual definition of “swami” and overlooked the publicly known facts concerning Kriyananda and the Ananda community. The term “swami” indicates someone on the path of renunciation of all worldly and ego­ic desires or attachments. While sex may be a significant distraction, it is far from the only one, and perhaps not the most insidious. A “swami” seeks every day to re­ject the multifold temptations of this world, including his own ego, and realize his oneness with God. It is a journey, a quest that hopefully encourages and educates others, to be judged in terms of effort, direction, and progress. Bertolucci’s lawyers did not explore the extent to which Kriyananda had advanced on the path, or what he had struggled with and overcome. They seized on one supposed aspect of the term “swami” and turned it into their litmus paper test. And they were wrong.

The term “swami” does not require or indicate celibacy. On this point we re­lied on Yogananda himself, who had explained in the Yogoda advertising pamphlets used from 1923 to 1933, that his own title of Swami meant simply “‘Master,’ or one who seeks understanding.” Moreover, in Yogananda’s line, Yogananda’s guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, was married, as was Sri Yukteswar’s guru, Lahiri Mahasaya. We are told it was none other than the great avatar Babaji who gave Sri Yukteswar the title of “swami” while married, and Yogananda bestowed on a married Saint Lynn the “swami-like” renunciate title of Rajarshi Janakananda. There was simply no requirement that a “swami” be celibate.

And people at Ananda in the 1990s would not have thought Kriyananda celi­bate. Kriyananda had publicly renounced celibacy years earlier in the January/Feb­ruary 1982 issue of Yoga Journal when he announced his spiritual marriage to a woman named Parameshwari. In September 1985 Kriyananda had legally married a sweet and spiritual woman named Rosanna Golia. While people could put differ­ent constructions on his earlier relationship with Parameshwari, by 1985 Kriyanan­da had taken legally binding vows of matrimony and was a married man. During the nine years of their marriage, no one could legitimately claim they believed Kri­yananda celibate. Kriyananda was still married when Anne-Marie became associ­ated with Ananda, and his divorce in 1994 was discussed openly and often in the community.

It is hard to know whether Bertolucci’s swami-means-celibate argument reso­nated with the jury and tipped them toward their verdict. But it was all made up out of whole cloth, and only showed that Flynn, with the necessary approval of Daya Mata, would twist religious principles to wring some legal advantage.

The Bertolucci Worm Turns | September 1995-1997

When Flynn came on board, he immediately set about repackaging the lawsuit. The storyline became more dramatic: less lawsuit and more exposé. Bertolucci was now portrayed a confused waif who had been pursued, seduced, and abandoned by both Kriyananda and Ananda, who in the process somehow “tarnished” Yoganan­da’s good name. I was not particularly impressed with Anne-Marie’s heartbreak af­ter seducing a married minister at the Village, especially with Danny’s young child at home. Her pain may have been subjectively real and engulfing, but it did not ap­pear to be Ananda’s fault. And Kriyananda was just trying to help a minister save his marriage. The whole thing did not hold water, even with the histrionics about chanting and meditation, brainwashing, and implied celibacy.

Flynn took the case to a new, and lower, level. One afternoon a small single en­gine airplane flew over Ananda Village dropping leaflets. We later learned the pilot was Flynn’s son, who had been hired to buzz the Village and litter the entire com­munity with broadsides calling for the masses to arise and overthrow Kriyananda. What really upset the residents was the tactless and gratuitous statements made in the flyers, calculated to fall into children’s hands. It was a stupid stunt, and as far as I could tell had no effect other than some passing upset and disgust. Perhaps that is all Flynn had wanted, like a passing poke in the eye. It may have violated the California Rules of Professional Conduct governing lawyers, but Flynn was not a member of the California Bar, and I doubt he had ever read the Rules.

Anne-Marie’s complaint included an assertion that Kriyananda had behaved inappropriately toward her in some uncertain but sexual way. In May 1997, San Mateo Superior Court Judge Judith Kozloski threw out that sexual battery claim as well the first two employment claims. We were making headway and starting to look good for trial, but the case was now demanding our full attention. In August 1997, therefore, Ananda and Kriyananda brought in additional counsel, Robert Christopher, a partner at Coudert Brothers, assisted by Richard Jones, to manage the federal case and its expected appeal. They would work with us on the federal case over the next five years.

In the months leading up to the Bertolucci trial the case looked challenging, but under control. Parts of the case had already been dismissed, and we thought we stood a good chance of excluding the ladies from testifying at trial. Maybe the case would play out at the jilted-lover level we thought appropriate, and in any event Anne-Marie’s actual damages were insignificant. Flynn may or may not have been the embodiment of evil as some opined, but a greater force was steering the wheel of Kriyananda’s destiny, and Ananda’s with him.