I, like the Cheng family, also lost a family member to Yogaville/IYI, my mother.
Like Catherine Cheng, my mother gave up her career, name, responsibilities and many other ties to her former life in order to lead what she called a "life of service," based upon the "teachings" of Swami Satchidanada.
When I was 17-years-old, my mother moved to Yogaville, finalizing a process of brainwashing. She first got involved with IYI, like everyone else by simply by taking Yoga classes, I was 12 then.
When my mother moved to the ashram I was living with her, my parents had divorced and I was finishing high school.
Mother announced that she would be moving to Yogaville, in two months' time.
Her decision to move to Virginia left me without a home or many choices. I could either go to the ashram with my mother, or live on my own.
On the day before my 18th birthday, I moved into my own apartment, putting off college for several years in order to work full-time to support myself.
Over the years, quite a few of my vacations were spent at the ashram.
Since my mother was a "full-time worker" at the ashram, she received a "salary" of $20 a month. She didn't leave the ashram much during her first few years there.
I made the effort to visit her and paid my own travel expenses to Virginia, in order to keep up contact.
My older brother was much more embittered about our mother's new lifestyle. He was much more willing than I to risk alienating her by being critical and didn't go to Virginia for years for a visit.
Significantly, in a stereotypical example of IYI's pattern of justifications regarding their members' irresponsible behavior and isolation within the ashram, my brother was blamed for the deteriorating family relationship, by our mother and her fellow "yogis." It was all due to his lack of open-mindedness and spirituality.
As Matthew Cheng's story suggests, most IYI members do indeed push the idea that family members and friends who are critical of their loved ones' involvement with IYI are not "open" to yogic philosophy. IYI members argue, that their critics are not on the "path of spiritual enlightenment," so they cannot comprehend the importance of putting one's faith entirely in the hands, or at the feet, of a "spiritual master."
However, "non-yogis" can't help having suspicions, which are of course always labeled as "unfounded." Unbelievers supposedly "need to be given time to come around," to realize the ways in which they allegedly damaged their loved ones by being so controlling or narrow-minded.
I heard all these lines over and over again, about my brother, about other members' families, about Prem Anjali's parents.
Reading the Cheng's account, I could easily remember the very same faces and voices that I dealt with once myself, such as Prem Anjali and Asokananda, using the very same explanations to placate worried or angry people who were concerned about their relatives' involvement in IYI. I can hear my mother's voice, and imagine what she would say recounting an IYI version of the Cheng story.
When I was 16, I was just as skeptical as my brother about my mother's involvement with IYI. I have a journal entry, recorded some years ago, that details an argument that I had one night with my mother. In this entry, a dialogue between us is recounted. I told her angrily that she had been brainwashed by Integral Yoga.
She replies, "Isn't everyone brainwashed about something or other?"
What seems amazing and frightening about that reply is the fact she didn't deny that she was brainwashed.
Instead, she offers a rationalization predicated upon an admission, that to a certain degree, she has experienced some level of brainwashing by IYI.
Of course, such an admission only shows that as far as she is concerned, everyone in society is "brainwashed," therefore she is no different from everyone else.
Her "brainwashing" is different though, because it is supposedly more "enlightened." However, it seems to me that my mother was brainwashed by Integral Yoga and Swami Satchidananda.
But when I was 17, frightened by my mother's decision to move to Yogaville and worried that I would lose her for good, I pushed my skepticism of IYI and Satchidananda aside.
The power of my mother's commitment to IYI was such, that I knew that if I didn't "open myself up" to the ashram, I would lose her completely. The only way to preserve our relationship was to go along with her new name, new life and new marriage to a man more than twenty years younger and only a few years older than me.
My stepfather was a young man who, like Catherine Cheng, went to the ashram for a visit and didn't come home again for more than eight years.
For more than a decade I watched the deeper inner workings of IYI, the ashram Yogaville, its devotees and their behavior. I accepted my mother's part in their world, but never fully lost my critical view. And the more deeply inside I looked, the more critical my perspective became.
Several years ago I started seeing a therapist to deal with the many difficulties caused by having a parent so intensely attached to a cult.
My last visit to Yogaville was a long time ago and I have not spoken with my mother for years.
Over the years, witnessing the parasitic lifestyle of ashram members, my skepticism seems justified, but unsurprisingly I have hit a solid wall.
Talking to my mother about my problems with her lifestyle always evoked an evangelistic barrage of spiritual pamphlets and repetition of the IYI party line. Every conversation inevitably turned to yogic philosophy and what Swami Satchidananda said.
More than ten years after my mother moved into the ashram, I finally admitted that I had lost her as a parent. The independent, free thinking, independent woman I once knew is gone, since her involvement with IYI.
Seeing all the information about the IYI on your website has both validated my view that IYI is indeed a cult and reminds me that, as sad and difficult as it has been to let my mother go, I made the right choice in staying as far away from IYI and Yogaville as possible.
It seems to me that their brainwashing techniques are overt as well as covert.
This website helps to alert concerned family members and/or friends that their instincts are right.
Despite their message of peace, joy, love and light, IYI and Yogaville are very dangerous traps.