The following FAQ answers some of the most frequently asked questions about the Bertolucci lawsuit, which Ananda was involved in from 1994 to 1998. Ananda has long since put this case behind it, but questions about it still arise from time to time, often because of false or distorted accounts of what the case actually involved and the final outcome.
This FAQ is Ananda’s attempt to present the facts simply and directly, uncolored by its point of view. Included are links to other statements that can be found on this or other websites, written from a variety of perspectives, which provide additional information on the complex history of this lawsuit.
Who is posting anti-Ananda information on the web?
Accusations About Sexual Misconduct and Abuse of Power
What is Ananda?
Who is posting anti-Ananda information on the web?
The short answer is-no, they are not true. Why then, you might ask, would anyone say such shocking things? The complete story is long and complex. Here, we’ll briefly share the main facts and provide website links to more detailed discussions. Most of the facts are a matter of public record and differ dramatically from what is presented on the anti-Ananda website.
In the end, however, it is impossible to answer every conceivable question in this format. If you would like more information, we encourage you to contact us. Your questions, even on what may seem to be sensitive issues, will be well-received and fully answered. We also encourage you to visit Ananda Village or one of the Ananda colonies. Your own personal experience of Ananda and its people is the best way to know for certain what’s true and what isn’t.
As far as we know, it is being posted by people who are members of Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), the organization founded by Paramhansa Yogananda (1893 – 1952) in 1925. Ananda’s founder, Swami Kriyananda, was a high-ranking member of SRF until his ouster in 1962. It was after that, in 1968, that Kriyananda founded Ananda. Both SRF and Ananda members consider Yogananda their spiritual teacher or guru.
History is full of examples of conflicts between religious organizations. Often, the ones that are most alike seem to have the most difficulty getting along. In this case, SRF’s position is that it should have exclusive control over Yogananda’s mission-a monopoly, in other words. SRF advocates this position openly in its publications and in discussions and talks with its members and followers. For some SRF members, being critical of Ananda is an important aspect of being loyal to SRF.
In 1990, SRF initiated a lawsuit in federal court against Ananda to obtain court support for its view that SRF had exclusive rights to Yogananda’s teachings, name, likeness, voice, and to the term “Self-realization.”
Although SRF’s lawsuit dealt mainly with trademark and copyright issues, it was, in essence, an attempt to destroy or seriously cripple Ananda-either by defeating Ananda in court and severely limiting its ability to spread Yogananda’s teachings, or by bankrupting Ananda with the costs of aggressive litigation. Early in the case, the federal court judge commented that if SRF prevailed on its claims, the likely effect would be to put Ananda out of business.
SRF’s position went against a millennia-long tradition in India of disciples freely sharing their guru’s teachings with others. It also went against Yogananda’s direct request to Kriyananda, that he devote his life to teaching and writing in service to his guru.
The lawsuit finally ended in 2002. After 12 years of litigation, two appeals by SRF, including one to the U.S. Supreme Court, and a month-long trial, Ananda prevailed, winning more than 95 percent of the lawsuit.
The court rulings:
SRF’s trademark in the phrase “Self-realization” was ruled invalid. “Self-realization” is a commonly used phrase to describe the goal of religious practice in the Hindu-Yoga tradition. Ananda presented statements from 35 Hindu-Yoga organizations in America, thousands of pages of documents showing generic use of “Self-realization,” and expert testimony.
SRF’s trademark in “Paramahansa* Yogananda” was ruled invalid. Although Ananda’s lawyers made religious freedom arguments, the court’s ruling was based on trademark law.
SRF does not own Yogananda’s “publicity rights.” This claim was based on a California law that gives heirs of celebrities control over their name, likeness, voice, and signature. It was another attempt by SRF to prevent Ananda (or any other organization) from identifying itself publicly as a Yogananda organization.
SRF’s claims of unfair competition and trademark tarnishment were dismissed.
Yogananda’s magazine articles and lessons published before 1943 were declared in the public domain. Students and devotees now have access to the original versions, which are noticeably different from the versions edited by SRF after Yogananda’s passing.
All books by Yogananda published before his passing in 1952 are in the public domain. SRF has made many changes to the editions published after Yogananda’s death.
The original edition of Yogananda’s spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi, is in the public domain. There have been thousands of changes to this book in the editions published by SRF after Yogananda’s death.
SRF’s copyrights in numerous photos of Yogananda were declared invalid. These photos are now in the public domain.
Jury verdict that Ananda’s reproduction of certain of Yogananda’s writings for religious and educational purposes was a “fair use.” This was in essence a finding that Ananda was “not guilty” of copyright violations.
Jury verdict requiring Ananda to pay $29,000 to compensate SRF for loss of sales on several audiotapes of Yogananda’s voice. Compared to the 30 million dollars in damages that SRF had asked the jury to award, this was only a nominal victory for SRF.
For more information about the SRF lawsuit, see www.YoganandaRediscovered.org.
For the appeals court decisions, see Self-Realization Fellowship Church v. Ananda Church of Self-Realization, 59 F.3d 902 (9th Cir. 1995) and Self-Realization Fellowship Church v. Ananda Church of Self-Realization, 206 F.3d 1322 (9th Cir. 2000).
Swami Kriyananda became a disciple of Yogananda in 1948 and lived with Yogananda until his death in 1952. Kriyananda served in SRF for 14 years as head of the monks, director of SRF center activities, senior minister, and SRF’s principal lecturer. He traveled extensively, sharing Yogananda’s message with SRF students worldwide. In 1960 he was appointed to SRF’s Board of Directors and made Vice President of the Board. In 1962, Kriyananda was abruptly dismissed from SRF in what he describes as one of the most painful experiences of his life. Kriyananda discusses these events A Place Called Ananda, chapters 14: The Reaction and 13: The Delhi Project.
I’ve heard something about a lawsuit by eight women, accusing Ananda and Swami Kriyananda of sexual misconduct. Are their accusations true?
No, they are not true.
There was never a lawsuit against Kriyananda or Ananda by eight women. There was a single lawsuit filed by a former Ananda member, Anne-Marie Bertolucci, disgruntled over the failure of her love affair with a married Ananda member.
Initially, Bertolucci accused Kriyananda only of having sexual “designs” on her. She cited a brief (consensual) neck massage incident and the viewing of a movie. Although Kriyananda was married, Bertolucci also accused him of “fraudulently” holding himself out to be celibate by his continued use of the title, “swami.”
Bertolucci’s allegations of sexual misconduct against Kriyananda enabled her to introduce accusations against Kriyananda by others from the distant past as supporting evidence for her case. Standing alone, these allegations were too old to be the basis of a separate lawsuit.
Kriyananda responded immediately in writing to the accusations, and later published his response in a national magazine. He categorically denied the allegations:
I have never harassed anyone, sexually or in any other way. It would be contrary to my most basic instincts and principles to go against another person’s free will, which it is my practice to support even at great cost to myself.
[Our] adversaries have raised the general subject of my status as a celibate, claiming that I have misrepresented myself publicly in order to deceive people. I welcome this charge as an important opportunity to clear the air not for only myself, but for many other spiritual teachers in America who have faced similar charges in recent years.
For Kriyananda’s complete statement, see Gurus, Celibacy and Spiritual Authority.
Kriyananda later stated under oath that he had been involved in a few sexual relationships in the early ’80s, prior to his marriage in 1985, but these relationships had been fully consensual. After these relationships ended, the women involved remained friendly with Kriyananda, never suggesting they had felt “coerced.” Their stories became very different years later, after they had become involved with SRF. See more information on the eight women.
Unfortunately, at the trial, as a result of a highly irregular ruling by the judge, Kriyananda’s attorneys were not allowed to cross-examine any of his accusers on the sexual allegations.
Anne-Marie Bertolucci was a single woman living at Ananda Village, who in 1993 had a consensual affair with a senior minister (no longer living at Ananda), a married man with a young daughter. Both worked in Ananda’s publishing department.
When Bertolucci and the minister, who believed they were in love, sought counseling from Swami Kriyananda about their relationship, he urged them to end the relationship. The minister, however, was undecided as to whether he wanted to remain with his wife. He later decided that he definitely wanted to stay with his wife and child, and he so informed Bertolucci and Kriyananda.
When Bertolucci nonetheless continued to pursue the relationship, Kriyananda told her she would have to move to another Ananda community. She decided to move to the Palo Alto community, where she had previously lived.
Though initially angry with Kriyananda, Bertolucci later apologized. In Palo Alto, she participated in community life and seemed to be adjusting.
While Bertolucci was living in the Palo Alto community, Eric Estep circulated a letter, highly critical of Kriyananda, to residents of Ananda colonies. Eric and his wife, Naomi, had lived at Ananda Village a decade earlier, but were now staunch SRF members and vocally anti-Ananda. While living at Ananda Village, Estep had refused to pay rent, a requirement for all members, and had decided to leave rather than pay.
Estep’s letter defended SRF’s position in its lawsuit against Ananda, and criticized Kriyananda for presuming to represent Yogananda. He urged Ananda members not to support Kriyananda and to follow instead the leadership of SRF’s president, Daya Mata. After receiving the letter, Bertolucci contacted Estep.
Shortly afterwards, Bertolucci began attending services at the Richmond SRF temple, accompanied by the Esteps. There she was introduced to Don Price, one of the “founders” of the anti-Ananda website. Bertolucci moved out of the Palo Alto community in August 1994.
Estep later persuaded Ford Greene, an “anti-cult” attorney, to be Bertolucci’s attorney in a lawsuit against Ananda. Shortly before filing her lawsuit, escorted by the Esteps, Bertolucci flew to SRF headquarters in southern California, and to the SRF Retreat in Encinitas. There she met with SRF board members and senior monastics, including SRF president, Daya Mata.
On November 28, 1994, Bertolucci filed a lawsuit against the minister, Ananda, and Swami Kriyananda. Her main claims were: 1) wrongful termination; 2) fraud; 3) intentional infliction of emotional distress; 4) breach of fiduciary duty; 5) negligence; 6) negligent supervision; and 7) alter ego liability.
Her consensual love affair had now become “sexual harassment,” made possible, she claimed, by the cult-like “brainwashing” she had been subjected to by Ananda. She named both devotional chanting and Yogananda’s meditation techniques as key elements in the brainwashing process.
She also claimed that Ananda fostered an inhospitable environment for women, and encouraged ministers to seek out young women for sex. She specifically accused Kriyananda, who had been publicly married to Rosanna Golia between1985 and 1994, of fraudulently holding himself out to be a celibate swami, and of sexually abusing various women in the past.
Bertolucci’s initial complaint included no claim of any specific sexual misconduct toward her by Kriyananda. The complaint stated only that Bertolucci now believed that the minister and Kriyananda planned to pass her back and forth sexually.
Beyond that, she said only that Kriyananda had adjusted and massaged her neck with her permission, and invited her to watch what she described as a ‘”pornographic” movie, but in fact was the award winning comedy, “Ruthless People,” starring Bette Midler and Danny DeVito.
In 1995, after Bertolucci’s attorney, Ford Green, lost a key motion in court, two new lawyers, Michael Flynn and Philip Stillman, took charge of her case. Ananda later learned that Flynn and Stillman were SRF members with close ties to the SRF leadership. These same lawyers later entered the SRF lawsuit against Ananda as SRF’s attorneys.
Later, at Ananda’s deposition of Bertolucci, Flynn and Greene called a recess and took Bertolucci out of the room just before she was to be questioned about the neck-massage incident with Kriyananda. When Bertolucci’s deposition resumed, she claimed for the first time that there had been sexual contact by Kriyananda. She said that when Kriyananda massaged her neck, her face was in his lap and he rubbed her face against his penis. This new allegation appeared for the first time in the Second Amended Complaint, dated January 19, 1996.
These new allegations, which Kriyananda categorically denied, virtually ensured that the accusations against Kriyananda dating back to the late ’70s and early ’80s would remain in the case. They had become “relevant” because of Bertolucci’s new allegations against Kriyananda.
Under Flynn’s direction, the case, which formerly had focused on the minister, shifted to Swami Kriyananda and Ananda as a whole. Flynn repeatedly accused Kriyananda of masquerading as a “celibate swami.”
The trial in the Bertolucci case began September 1997. Ananda’s evidence showed that between 1985 and 1994 Kriyananda was married, and that this fact was publicly known and written about in the press. He was not “masquerading as a celibate swami” as Bertolucci claimed. Kriyananda admitted to a handful of consensual sexual relationships in the early 1980s, before his marriage to Rosanna Golia, but denied sexually harassing anyone, including Bertolucci.
In a highly irregular ruling, the trial court refused to allow Kriyananda’s lawyers to cross-examine his accusers, or to impeach their credibility through the testimony of other witnesses. The judge also refused to allow Kriyananda’s lawyers to tell the jury why they weren’t cross-examining these women, or introducing other impeachment evidence.
The testimony of Kriyananda’s accusers thus stood unchallenged and unexplained. The jurors could draw only one conclusion: that their testimony was true.
The court order prohibiting cross-examination was imposed as a discovery sanction. Ananda had hired a private investigator to obtain information relating to SRF’s sponsorship of the Bertolucci suit. Despite Ananda’s clear instructions to the investigator that all information was to be obtained legally, the sub-agent of the investigator’s agent apparently reached into a fenced outdoor trash area to obtain the trash from the Flynn Sheridan and Tabb law firm, (now Flynn and Stillman), instead of waiting until the trash had been placed on the nearby street.
The documents obtained from the trash were worthless and outdated, and were not used by Ananda. Set aside and forgotten, they were not included in later document productions. This oversight in not producing copies of the documents in discovery provided the basis for the sanctions.
The Jury Verdict
Count one: Both the Ananda Church and Walters were found liable on the charge of “constructive fraud.”
Count two: Ananda Church, Walters, and the former Ananda minister were found liable for “intentional infliction of emotional distress.”
Count three: Ananda Church was found liable for “negligent supervision”; the Church had a duty to control Walters’ behavior, and failed to do so.
Awards for Compensatory Damages
$595,000 in compensatory damages against Swami Kriyananda and the Ananda church
$30,000 in compensatory damages against the former Ananda minister
Awards for Punitive Damages
$1,000,000 (one million dollars) against Kriyananda, which was later lowered to $400,000.
Alter Ego Claim
The court rejected Bertolucci’s claim that Ananda existed primarily for Kriyananda’s financial enrichment. This claim was tried by the judge without the jury, and there were no restrictions on Ananda’s ability to cross-examine witnesses.
The judge found that Kriyananda did not have a dominant role in the handling of Ananda’s financial affairs:
“[Bertolucci's]claim rests upon two dominant themes: that there was a commingling of corporate assets funds to Defendant Walters’ control and benefit and his actual control over corporate affairs was sufficiently dominant that the two must be viewed as one and the same for purposes of alter ego liability… [The evidence shows that] [C]hurch officers and directors (not Walters) played the dominant role in the exercise of control over such matters.”
Immediately following the verdict, Bertolucci and Flynn filed a new lawsuit against Kriyananda and Ananda, based on the trash incident and “malicious prosecution.” Bertolucci claimed that in light of the jury verdict in her favor, Ananda’s cross-complaint for defamation was “malicious prosecution.” They sought millions of dollars in damages.
Thereafter, Bertolucci and her attorneys threatened to seize the property at Ananda Village and the Ananda Meditation Retreat, and also the copyrights to Kriyananda’s books.
Although there were many grounds for an appeal, including First Amendment religious freedom violations, the large Bertolucci judgment, the new lawsuit, and Ananda’s precarious financial position forced Ananda to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Under court supervision, Ananda settled the Bertolucci judgment and new lawsuit by agreeing to pay $1.8 million dollars to Bertolucci and her attorneys. The bankruptcy court approved the plan, and with considerable belt-tightening, Ananda managed to pay the full amount by 2001. For more on the Chapter 11, see Ananda through the Years, www.ananda.org/throughtheyears.
More complete information about the Bertolucci case is available at www.anandaanswers.com.
We believe so. As of 1994, SRF had suffered loss after loss in its lawsuit against Ananda. Among SRF’s remaining claims, its claim of “tarnishment” provided a possible avenue for regaining its cancelled trademarks in “Self-realization” and “Paramahansa Yogananda.”
Citing the tarnishment claim, SRF asked the judge to consider whether SRF was being “tarnished” by association with Ananda. The Bertolucci lawsuit had been filed, SRF said, and was being reported in the newspapers.
Ananda responded by accusing SRF of having “unclean hands” in the matter. SRF could not both create the tarnishment and then benefit from it. Ananda demanded to take the deposition of Daya Mata to explore SRF’s involvement in the Bertolucci lawsuit. Ananda based its case on the following facts:
Just weeks before she filed her lawsuit, Bertolucci was escorted by long-time SRF members to SRF headquarters, where she met with Daya Mata and other SRF board members.
SRF members helped instigate the lawsuit by supporting and encouraging Bertolucci, and helping her find an attorney to take her case.
Nearly all of the women making accusations against Swami Kriyananda were associated with SRF, either as members or followers.
Michael Flynn brought Paul Friedman, a successful businessman and major SRF donor with close ties to Daya Mata, to Kriyananda’s sealed deposition, under the pretense that Friedman was a paralegal at Flynn’s firm.
Shortly after Kriyananda’s deposition, SRF transferred to Paul Friedman an apparently valuable piece of land for $1 and “other consideration.”
Friedman boasted to a new Ananda member that he had attended Kriyananda’s deposition, and that even though most SRF members did not know anything about the Bertolucci lawsuit, Friedman did because he was so well-connected with people at the higher levels of SRF, and knew Daya Mata well.
Despite the court order, Daya Mata refused to appear for her deposition, forcing Ananda to file a second motion to enforce the deposition order. At this point, Daya Mata accepted Kriyananda’s suggestion that both sides sit down together and try to settle the SRF case.
One of the first concessions SRF requested was that Ananda not take Daya Mata’s deposition. As a gesture of goodwill, Ananda agreed. A few months later, settlement discussions broke down. In the meantime, SRF decided not to pursue its tarnishment claim. Had it done so, the issue of unclean hands could have been revisited.
Ananda provides a supportive environment for disciples of Yogananda to live in community with like-minded people. Ananda has specialized in creating world brotherhood colonies, the ideal lifestyle Yogananda recommended for householder devotees. Members practice Kriya Yoga as taught by Yogananda, and devote themselves to service to others. People work and live very much like people everywhere, but with God at the center of their daily activities-whether it be work, play, raising families, or worship.
Ananda was founded by Swami Kriyananda in 1968. Today some 1000 people live in Ananda communities and many more attend Ananda places of worship in: Seattle, WA; Portland, OR; Sacramento, CA; Palo Alto, CA; Nevada City, CA; Rhode Island; Assisi, Italy; and New Delhi, India.
Ananda offers the teachings of Yogananda, including many original teachings and books for free at this web site. Ananda activities include two publishing companies, three yoga and meditation retreats, three metaphysical bookstores, and several Education for Life schools for children based on Yogananda’s teachings.
No. One of the central tenets of Yogananda’s teachings is respect for individual freedom. Spiritual growth takes great inner strength; it cannot be imposed from outside. People who choose to affiliate with Ananda do so of their own choice, and the affiliation is primarily an inner one. If anything, Ananda is rather less organized than people expect; independent minded people appreciate the freedom it offers.
Finances are private, not communal. People are free to attend worship services or group meditations as they wish, or to never attend. Members of the community have telephones, internet, televisions, cars, and complete freedom to come and go as they please, and to live as they choose. Read what people not affiliated with Ananda say about Ananda in Ananda Through the Years.
Individuals take personal responsibility for their needs, finding suitable work and housing, and paying their bills. Individual finances are private, not communal. Donations are voluntary. Employment is sometimes available through an Ananda-owned business, though many members work in their own businesses or in businesses near an Ananda community. Salaries at Ananda businesses are modest, but enough to meet basic needs. Individuals can earn as much as they wish through their private enterprise; personal finances are confidential.
People closest to the situation at hand usually make decisions. Good leadership is recognized as supportive leadership, with managers focused on serving the needs of their staff. Decisions are made by consensus when possible. If someone feels strongly not to go forward with a suggestion, the group will generally defer. Meetings are generally harmonious. When there is a strong disagreement and the parties are unable to work it out, difficulties can be brought to a manager or to a minister who will help to resolve the issue.
Women occupy management and leadership positions at Ananda in proportions higher than most American workplaces. More than half of the principal lecturers and ministers are women. Married couples direct each of the Ananda communities and jointly share the responsibilities for teaching, counseling, finances, and overall decision-making. Women earn as much as men in every position. Coercion or sexual harassment of any kind is not tolerated in any Ananda community or job.
Swami Kriyananda is a close, direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda. He has devoted his life to carrying out Yogananda’s instructions to him, “to edit, write and lecture.” He is the author of over 80 books, including many hundreds of sayings and teachings of Yogananda not available through SRF. (See especially The New Path, Conversations with Yogananda, and The Essence of Self-Realization.) For over 56 years, since 1948, Swami Kriyananda has lectured to thousands of people throughout the world on Yogananda’s teachings.
Swami Kriyananda is regarded as the father of the intentional communities movement. He founded Ananda Village near Nevada City, CA in 1968, and inspired the creation of urban Ananda communities in the 1980s in Seattle, Sacramento, Portland, and Palo Alto. He was invited to live near the Ananda Assisi community in the mid-1990s and spent the next few years writing numerous books, touring Europe, and giving talks at the Ananda Assisi retreat.
Despite frail health, at the age of 77, Kriyananda received inner guidance to take Yogananda’s teachings back to his homeland of India. (Yogananda spent nearly all his adult life teaching in America.) Today, with a group of Ananda members from around the world, Kriyananda is establishing an Ananda community and teaching center in India.
Swami Kriyananda has never been involved in the daily management of Ananda communities. He sometimes offers suggestions on directions or policy, but his style of management is to suggest, and then allow others closer to the situation to decide what is best. In the early years of Ananda, he encouraged many Ananda members to take on leadership and management roles to guide the community on a day-to-day basis. Many of these same people serve in that capacity today.
Kriyananda served as the spiritual director of Ananda from 1967 to 1998, when he retired from that position. In that role, he provided inspiration and vision for the spiritual life. He steadfastly refused to allow anyone to call him a “guru,” pointing always to Yogananda as the guru. His activities today are very much like those of the last 56 years, limited only by his health. He continues to write and to lecture when health allows. He hopes by his presence in India to inspire Indians to a new understanding and appreciation of their native son, Yogananda, and a renewal of interest in Yogananda’s teachings there.
Swami Kriyananda receives no income except what individuals offer in donations. He has dedicated his life to the service of God. In the tradition of his Indian guru, he has deliberately chosen to live with few possessions and depend upon the grace of God for his support. Many of his books are now available for free here on the Ananda website.
- Read what people have said about Swami Kriyananda.
- Stories About Swami Kriyananda
- For more information about Ananda communities and activities worldwide, go to Retreats and Classes.
- Talks by Swami Kriyananda in streaming video.
- For more information about the Bertolucci lawsuit, and detailed answers to criticisms of Ananda posted by SRF members on the web, see http://www.anandaanswers.com
- For more information about SRF’s changes to Yogananda’s teachings since his passing: http://www.YoganandaRediscovered.org