17 Marzo 2015
Police investigate sex abuse claims at Shiva School of Meditation and Yoga
Jane Lee, Steve Lillebuen
An ashram that teaches meditation and yoga is being investigated over allegations of sexual abuse.
Police confirmed they are investigating the Shiva School of Meditation and Yoga at Mount Eliza, with a number of victims alleging in recent days that they had been sexually abused.
Detectives from the Mornington Peninsula’s sexual offences and child abuse investigation team have interviewed several people about their experiences at the ashram.
One of the women, who preferred not to be named, told Fairfax Media that she had been pressured into a sexual relationship after being promised her healing and enlightenment in return: “I think it was definitely a complete abuse of power,” she said.
While she allowed the man to grope and kiss her, she said it was not consensual, because followers believed that “the highest value … is to surrender to the guru because that’s the path to god”.
A sign at the ashram read: “Surrender is doing it when you don’t want to,” she said.
“I had this idea he had divine love for me but now I’m struggling to realise that it was an illusion, that he didn’t have my best interests at heart. It was what he wanted to get from me.”
Another former member said: “It’s a huge betrayal of trust. You go there to learn to meditate but it seems there is another personal program [there] to groom women for sex.”
More women, including former followers of the spiritual centre, are expected to be interviewed.
One former follower said a police interview on Saturday is expected to take between four and seven hours.
The Shiva School did not return calls. Its lawyer, David Galbally, QC, declined to comment but confirmed that it had sought his legal advice regarding the police investigation.
Fairfax reported in January that Swami Shankarananda, 73 – also known as Russell Kruckman – resigned as director but remained the spiritual head of the school after it was revealed he had had sexual relationships with up to 40 women there. The ashram then said it was aware the swami had “secret sexual relations” with a number of women but that he had never claimed to renounce sex.
The swami is understood to be separately represented by lawyer Paul Galbally, who also declined to comment.
The school’s website says it was established in 1991 and was “a unique place for those seeking spiritual wisdom and inner solutions to life problems”. A group of residents lived and worked at the ashram, “devoting themselves to spirituality and helping to run the organisation and our courses”.
Police would not confirm how many alleged victims and offenders were involved or how far back abuse is alleged to have taken place.
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