Lawsuits against Ananda
Ananda was sued twice in the ’90s, first by Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), and later by Anne-Marie Bertolucci, a disgruntled former member. (These lawsuits are discussed in more detail below.)
Lawsuits force people into adversarial modes, even when they themselves dont feel adversarial towards anyone. In both lawsuits Ananda had little choice but to defend itself. Ananda tried, unsuccessfully, to resolve SRFs concerns without litigation, but ultimately was forced to subordinate its desire for harmony to the deeper need for truth.
These two lawsuits tested Anandas commitment to its ideals to the utmost. Repeatedly during the 12 years of litigation, Ananda resisted the temptation to place any temporary gain ahead of principle. The community emerged from this period greatly strengthened, its priorities and values clarified and reaffirmed.
On a practical level, Ananda raised more money than it had ever thought possible. And it was during this time that some of its main colonies got underway, as well as new Ananda centers and meditation groups. Quite a few people left Ananda, but new people came, seemingly attracted by Anandas increased clarity and strength.
SRF is the organization that Paramhansa Yogananda founded before his death in 1952. It is larger and much wealthier than Ananda. Swami Kriyananda was part of SRF from 1948 until 1962, when he was dismissed.
SRFs lawsuit, which dealt mainly with trademark and copyright issues, was an attempt to put Ananda out of business-either by defeating Ananda in court and severely limiting its ability to spread Yoganandas teachings, or by bankrupting Ananda with the costs of aggressive litigation. After 12 years of litigation and two SRF appeals, including one to the U.S. Supreme Court, Ananda prevailed, winning more than 95 percent of the lawsuit.
In 1994, Anne-Marie Bertolucci, a former member angry over Anandas disapproval of her failed love affair with a married Ananda member, sued Ananda, alleging sexual harassment and other charges. Mrs. Bertolucci also made accusations against Kriyananda, who had refused to allow the affair. These accusations enabled her to introduce into her lawsuit sexual harassment allegations against Kriyananda by women involved with Ananda in the 1970s and early 1980s.
Kriyananda denied sexually harassing anyone, including Mrs. Bertolucci, but admitted to a handful of consensual sexual relationships in the early 1980s, before his marriage.
The trial court, however, refused to allow Kriyanandas lawyers to cross-examine his accusers, a sanction imposed for Anandas unintentional failure to produce certain documents in discovery. Nor would the judge allow Kriyanandas lawyers to tell the jury why they werent cross-examining his accusers. The testimony of Kriyanandas accusers thus stood unchallenged and unexplained. The jurors could draw only one conclusion: that the testimony of his accusers was true.
The verdict reflected this conclusion. The claims Ananda lost were based primarily on oral testimony that was never subjected to cross-examination.
Bertolucci also made allegations of financial irregularities at Ananda-irregularities so serious that Ananda might have been forced to dismantle had it lost. Ananda defeated these claims resoundingly. In this instance, there were no restrictions on Anandas ability to cross-examine witnesses.
There are many untrue and greatly distorted accounts of the nature and outcome of the Bertolucci lawsuit. For a thorough discussion of all aspects of the case, and Anandas response to the false and distorted accounts, see Frequently Asked Questions About the Bertolucci Lawsuit.
In the press and other pubic forums, Kriyananda had many opportunities to discredit his accusers, but he remained charitable, saying only the minimum. Many people strike out defensively when faced with such accusations. Kriyananda did not. After the trial, he wrote a friendly, one-page letter of spiritual advice to one of his chief accusers, simply because he wanted to help her.
Kriyananda demonstrated his faithfulness to the highest of all principles-unconditional love and forgiveness. Partly because of the way he comported himself during the trial, many people are much more solidly behind Kriyananda since the Bertolucci lawsuit.
Much more could be said about Ananda, but the above examples give a fairly complete picture. The best way to learn more is to spend time at Ananda Village or one of the other colonies. Ananda enjoys sharing its way life with others and the doors are always open.
By Nayaswami Naidhruva
Many Hands Make a Miracle: A History of Ananda, 1968 – 1976 by Sadhana Devi Helin