The question marks that hung over Swami Nityananda, 34, head of the Bangalore-based meditation centre Dhyanapeetham, after a sleazy sex video surfaced two years ago, momentarily disappeared when he was named the 293rd pontiff of south India’s oldest Shaivite math, the Madurai Adheenam, in April. But old allegations are back to haunt the controversial godman again, following a spill-all TV interview by a former lady devotee, Arati Rao. Jailed for assaulting a journalist and released on bail, he spoke to Deepak Thimaya in Madurai. Excerpts:
Have you let your devotees down and put them in a shameful position?
No. The devotees who have experienced the spiritual transformational benefits from me are very clear that it is an attack on us. It is persecution of me and my devotees. All spiritual leaders have gone through such problems some time or the other.
You very specifically said that different spiritual movements have gone through persecution at different times. Agreed, but never persecution based on the spiritual leader’s personal conduct, personal character or personality itself. In most cases the persecution was related to the ideological differences.
No. I can give thousands of examples where the personality was attacked. See, if it is only ideology, it is very easy. Attack on ideology is always the beginning. But in course it is always the personality that is attacked. Ideology is nothing but the expansion and the extension of the personality. Whether the Buddha, means the master, or the Dhamma, his message, or the Sangha his organization – all these three are ultimately the expansion or the extension of the same source. So, I feel all attack was always on all three for all masters.
One of your disciples, Arati Rao, has gone on record to say that in 2009 she had heard people talking about things not being right in the ashram.
Whatever she says is a lie. I am not accepting even one word of what she said. There may be so many vested interests. Somebody maybe using her, to defame me. If you listen to Arati Rao’s words two to three times, you can make out clearly that she is lying.
Who are these vested interests?
There are many people who are fighting with our organisation. There are some civil suits and some attempts to grab the ashram’s property, they maybe using her.
Some of your supporters say that among many reasons for targeting you, the few are that you are from Tamilnadu living making a living in Karnataka, you a non-brahmin swamy, you are a threat to other people’s interests. What are the reasons you identify?
I can say I have been targeted for various reasons. Some target me for being non-brahmin. If I mention names, they are too powerful people and once before I took some names and you know what I landed in. Just for the sake for satisfying an interview, I will not be able to mention names now.
To tell honestly, I never felt that in Karnataka I am a linguistic minority. I was always welcomed, respected and revered by Kannadigas. Even recently when there were problems the local people in Bidadi did not do anything against me. The trouble mongers were hired and brought. I have never gone against the interests of Karnataka at any time. I always worked for bring peace and understanding between Kannadigas and Tamilians.
How does it feel to be called Sex Swamy?
It is a complete lie, I don’t bother about it.
Nithyananda's supporters protest
"There are attempts to grab the ashram’s property...a part of it can be a Christian conspiracy too." In 2010 when the sex scandal broke you said that it was a mixture of conspiracy, video graphics…
Four experts who give witness using methodologies of the highest standard in the US said the video was morphed, manipulated and misrepresented. I can give all the four reports to you. They are ready to come to court in any country and present the result of their analysis.
But isn’t the video with you and actress Ranjitha in it beyond any doubt genuine even for a layman?
A simple man can understand it is morphed, can’t you understand? It is very clear the scene that never happened was created. People who created it have confessed to the Tamil Nadu CID, that they created it.
There are many swamis who get physically intimate with their devotees. Could something like that have happened?
No. I have not done anything like that. Nothing like that has happened.
Is there any possibility?
No. I have a healing stick and when people come to get healed I touch their heads with it.
Is it possible that in some cases you have touched people a little harder with your healing stick?
No, no. (laughs)
It is said that Arati Rao was named Nityananda Premeshwari, means the person who has the right to Nityananda’s love? Was she a sanyasi?
I don’t change devotees’ names. People are named according to their mental set up. A group of devotees select the names. Only for the sanyasis I choose the name. She was not a sanyasi and her name was not given by me. You must ask the group which gave that name.
Is it possible that the group saw something that made them think that name was suitable?
See there are many people who are given names. There isn’t any special significance.
When Arati Rao made the allegations this June, why did you flee the ashram?
It was not an escape. People who came into the ashram were not interested in law and order. They started beating my ashram inmates in the presence of the police. Some of the ashramites suffered big wounds and the police did not do anything. There are eye witnesses.
Aren’t you playing to the gallery, sometimes even dressing up for role-playing?
In Hinduism there is something called bhaavaa. When you enter into the bhaavaa, an altered state of consciousness, you just express that energy. It just feels very nice. When you meditate on Shiva it is nice to wear the rudraksha, when you meditate on Devi it is nice to wear kumkum on your forehead.
You have been talking about yourself being beyond gender.
I can say about my personal experience about me is beyond all three orientations. Physically I am in the male body but physiologically and psychologically a mutation has happened in my system.
You said you were ready to subject yourself to tests. What kind of tests?
Whatever is needed when the right agency asks me to go through.
You said that if such a test were to take place, it would be proven that you are a person who could not take part in an alleged act like that. What does it mean?
Whether this body is capable of indulging in a sexual act or not.
Arousal, erection and ejaculation?
Yes. That, my body is not capable of all those things.
Why would it not be capable if it is a complete male body.
It is a male body, but some particular spiritual experiences have happened at the age of 22 which have effected such a mutation.
Is it possible that you may have got one of your devotees to test you?
Till now I have not got any of my devotees to test me.
Is it something that you would not like to tell us?
I have not told any of my devotees to test me about this.
From spiritual beings to sages to ordinary people everyone has libido. Are you saying that you never had libido?
Because of my spiritual experience this libido has completely disappeared. I never had, and if I had I would have married.
Have you ever felt some kind of sexual inadequacy?
In my case I have been trained by my guru through some special yogas and lifestyle and this is the way my body has flowered. I am happy about it.
What do you feel when people constantly call you a rapist, a molester, a sex maniac?
That is the reason the day they arrested me, I requested them to do a medical test on me and present the report. I don’t know why they did not do it at that time.
Has anyone shown physical interest in you? Have you ever been approached by a woman to get physically intimate with you?
No, no, no, no…. I have already made a statement to the public that I am living in a space where it is beyond the body.
A shorter, edited version of this interview appears in print. The protest photo was changed online, after publication. You can read the full, unexpurgated text of the interview here.
This is regarding an erroneous group photo of us accompanying the interview with Swami Nithyananda (Jul 2). The original picture shows us, the women disciples of Paramahamsa Nithyananda, holding a peaceful protest in Chennai on July 30, 2010, against the religious persecution of our master and our organisation. This picture was downloaded from our official website, morphed with abusive content on the hand-boards we’re holding, and put up in an anti-Nithyananda blog for some vested interests. Unfortunately, both Outlook and its online edition picked the morphed picture and published it in haste, causing us shock and much concern. However, as soon as the error was communicated to them, the Outlook editorial team immediately replaced the picture and caption in the online edition.
I appreciate Outlook’s efforts in conducting the interview with Swami Nityananda (‘I am not capable of...acts, Jul 2), thus allowing him to speak for himself, instead of going with unsubstantiated, cooked-up media reports. The media need not come out in support of swamiji, just telling the truth would be more than enough.
Sri Nithya Sri Priyan, Bangalore
Now we are certain that Swami Nityananda is a good story-teller. If he isn’t capable of the sexual act, why did he not agree to a medical test for this long? If what he says is true, his name would have been cleared conclusively. Bandying about ‘American experts reports’ does not matter; he should just take a test at a government hospital. Their report can be presented in Indian courts.
Rajeev Hegde, Bangalore
I would like to draw attention to Nityananda’s last sentence: “How I behave proves my dignity”. He is correct. To respond calmly to all these baseless charges, to be thrown in jail when innocent of the charges of rape, and not being angry is amazing and divine. And let’s put it to common sense: how many women would not throw themselves at the tall, handsome and brilliant sadhu? So, to begin with, he really doesn’t need to commit rape.
Alixandra Vanderzon, Washington, DC
The justice system and the media in India reflect our general social decay. Swami Nityananda is its hapless victim, tried by the media and the kangaroo court it presides over.
Meena Joshi, Washington, DC
This is a good interview opportunity missed. The interviewer has not done any research on spirituality, or advanced yoga, which is what swamiji refers to in some of his answers. The interview, or the introduction to it, should have mentioned Nityananda’s contributions to society—his charitable works, his books, recuperative techniques for a variety of health conditions, his own schooling system, his tireless commitment to the revival of the Vedic tradition, and his insightful commentaries on the Jain Sutras, Shiva Sutras and the Gita, indicating his erudition. His programmes have also transformed a number of lives.
I remember how once, when the courts summoned Shirdi Sai Baba, he also answered their questions in the same, calm, nonchalant manner. It really comes when you’re living on a higher plane, a different level of consciousness.
There are many unanswered questions in the whole affair. For example, what legal rights does Suvarna TV have to run hours of programmes that speak against the swami when there is an injunction order obtained from the courts against any such shows? The rape charge against the swami was filed in March 2010, and he was in judicial custody from Jun-Aug ’10. But during this time there was no victim named in the case. Arati Rao’s name was included only in Oct ’10. How can you accuse someone without knowing who the victim is? Again, under what provision of law did Suvarna channel air the woman’s interview when the case was pending in court? Most egregiously, why is there a huge gap (of facts) between the legal proceedings in the case and a completely irrelevant, parallel track of character assassination and trial running in the media?
Rajagopal, Arlington, US
Anyone dumb enough to follow these ‘godmen’ deserves a good poke on their behinds with a healing stick.
Hot questions. Cool answers. I don’t think anyone else could have answered these questions so intelligently, or so simply.
Selvamani N., Mumbai
Nityananda has come out very cleanly in this interview. The reason behind the vilification campaign against him was obvious—envy and mischief.
Ajit Mishra, Nagpur
I don’t really blame the swami for having a nice time with a woman follower. It was clearly between consenting adults. As long as we have imbeciles who fall for the well-worn ‘charms’ of godmen, there would be more like Nityananda who would make a success of his venture and have a great time.
All miracle-performing gurus are crooks. Full Stop. let them stand a scrutiny by science. Then we shall see.
Pankaj Hedaoo, Kuala Lumpur
Notwithstanding the justifications given by the swami, he should see a doctor straight away and get his lack of libido fixed. Or maybe he should get a sex change operation done.
Shyamal Barua, Calcutta
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
Not even few of the answers given by Nithy represent the truth. So many blatant lies. It is a simple matter - Nithy has sexually exploited women and some men. Many women other than Aarthi have made the statement to CID and they are willing to testify. There is no conspiracy. Media is trying its best to alert the public that what Nithy is running is not an ashram but something else - no hidden agenda like increasing TRP etc.
If outlook goes and interviews a criminal - will he accept he is a criminal? Even Charles Shobraj, Dawood Ibrahim etc. will keep a smile on their face and give polite answers as though they are goody goody.
A hilarious book on India's godmen and godwomen. To add perspective to all esoteric debates here books.google.co.in/books .
I do not blame the Media or even the EX-CEO of Sun TV who is languishing in jail , or lenin only for all this. Its the , proud and self hypnotically educated western bred people of our country that are responsible. Its the sheepish people who are after mob frenzy that are responsible. Thats why instead of teaching a media a lesson or culprits a lesson, they are drowning themselves and now blaming us. We are humble students of life, no one has forced us to act on their behalf. NO ANY nithyanada ashram residents or people belonging has asked me to write this. I am writing this because i have found truth in this. I havbe benifitted immensely from teachings of Swamiji.
Most of the people here commenting against Nithyaanada are like general people commenting against top nuclear scientist. as neuclear physics is specialized subject, so is physics. IN face its called meta-physics. People who are basically athiests are commenting negatively against swamiji. thats why i have no comments for them.
My commnets are those hwo have open heart, who have a learning atitude, who have doubts, who are ready to face truth behind the masks.
I do not blame the "swamy" who is lecherous and wants generally to have a good time. And it was between consenting adults. But as long as we have imbeciles, idiots and duck like lunatic people who are prepared to be his followers there will be more people like him who are successful and have a good time because of the gullibility of the IDIOT DEVOTEES. My God how can people be SO FOOLISH AND IDIOTIC as to be followers of this charlatan. Good luck to him as long as idiots and complete imbeciles are around. I think he should take all their money and leave them with nothing as punishment for being so mentally retarded.
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