The Satyananda Yoga Ashram on the NSW Central Coast promised its members an idealistic life in an idyllic setting. A meaningful existence away from the harried modern world.
This couldn’t have been further from the truth. Savage beatings and sexual abuse of teen girls became common and family relationships were severed.
Eleven former members of the ashram gave evidence to the Child Abuse Royal Commission in 2015.
One former member described the Mangrove Mountain commune as being like “Lord of the Flies” for children.
The Ashram Royal Commission hearing was investigating sexual abuse allegations against spiritual leaders, Swami Akhandananda Saraswati and Guru Swami Satyananda Saraswati, and how Swami Niranjananda Saraswati dealt with the claims of abuse.
The first members moved into the Satyananda Yoga Ashram in 1976. The commune was based in Mangrove Mountain on the NSW Central Coast. Within a decade of its establishment, the Ashram had grown into a wealthy organisation, with centres all over Australia.
It also investigated the role of Shishy, the former partner of Swami Akhandananda Saraswati, who seemed to serve the dual role of mother figure to the children and enabler of abuse. Shishy asked the Commission to consider her case with compassion, as she too had been subjected to abuse.
Shishy, a name given to the woman at the ashram, told the Royal Commission that she had reported the abuse to the movement’s leader in India, but she’d subsequently had her life threatened.