Children living in a NSW yoga centre in the 1970s and ’80s were separated from their parents and had a ‘cult-like dependence’ on their leader’s partner, a royal commission has found.
The child sexual abuse royal commission on Wednesday delivered its report on the Satyananda Yoga Ashram at Mangrove Mountain, two years after public hearings examined a culture of physical abuse at the ashram.
The commission heard many parents signed over legal guardianship of their children to yoga master Swami Akhandananda and his partner Shishy.
‘The devotion to the guru-disciple relationship that was required in the practice of Satyananda yoga at the Mangrove ashram ultimately culminated in a complete and unquestioning trust by both adults and children alike in the erratic and irrational actions and directions of Akhandananda,’ the report concluded.
‘Significant power was vested in Akhandananda and (then ashram global leader) Satyananda, whom members of the Mangrove ashram community considered to be spiritually enlightened.’
Shishy, who had begun a relationship with Akhandananda as a teenager, had told the royal commission she, too, had suffered at his hands.
She told the commission Akhandananda had sexually assaulted her with a double-barrelled shotgun, slashed her vagina with nail scissors and used a penknife to dig out moles on her body.
At the time, she said, she believed what was inflicted on her and the children was carried out in pursuit of spiritual growth.
But Wednesday’s report concluded Shishy was aware Akhandananda’s conduct was criminal, and she did not report the conduct to authorities in a timely way to protect children from further abuse.
Akhandananda died from the effects of alcohol abuse in 1998.