Revelations of Daya Mata’s Former Secretary

The following is a chapter from Asha Nayaswami’s book, Swami Kriyananda: Lightbearer. The “X” referred to was a Southern California attorney who played a prominent role in SRF’s lawsuit against Ananda.

Shortly after Swamiji left for Assisi, the director of Crystal Clarity at the Village was talking on the phone to a woman named Heidi Hall, the publicist for another book company. Gradually it came out that Heidi was a former SRF nun, known then as Sister Savitri. We knew her well. She was on the Board of Directors, had been one of SRF’s main representatives during the lawsuit, and for twenty years served as Daya Mata’s personal secretary.

Over the next few months, Heidi talked at length with several Ananda people and visited the Village and the community in Palo Alto. She was amazed that we welcomed her so warmly, given the role she had played in the lawsuit against us.

“You’ve come as a friend; we welcome you in the same spirit,” I said. “The lawsuit forced us into an adversarial role, but it was about principles. We opposed the position you took. It was never personal.”

Heidi laughed, and said, “With SRF it was always personal.”

Swamiji was in Europe, then India, so they didn’t meet until later, but they exchanged many emails. Heidi told him, “We share the unique distinction of being the only two people in the world who have been to Ananda and served on the Board of Directors of SRF.” Heidi was fair-minded and kind, but also truthful.

The myth of Ananda, accepted as true by SRF, she said, is that we aren’t disciples of Master, don’t follow his teachings, that “Kriyananda is the only Guru,” and the whole thing is failing anyway—”Just a handful of hippies living in primitive conditions.”

As a young nun, when she first came to SRF, Heidi said she draped some scarves over the altar in her room at Mount Washington, to make it prettier to her eye. Someone reported her and in an open meeting with all the nuns, the Mata in charge said, “Someone—you know who you are—has created a canopy over the altar in her room. This was not Master’s way.” Heidi took down the scarves, and for the next twenty-five years in SRF never did anything creative. She molded her personality, she said, to match what was expected of her and, as a consequence, rose fast in the organization. She always kept a certain independence inside, though, which enabled her finally to leave.

Year after year, she said, the atmosphere of repression increased. As the lawsuits progressed, and SRF continued to lose, a bunker mentality set in. The day the court declared the original Autobiography of a Yogi to be in the public domain was, she said, “A black day at SRF, plunging everyone into a state of near despair. ‘How could God have allowed this to happen?’ was their anguished cry. They never imagined they could lose.” Shaking her head in disbelief, Heidi said, “But it didn’t lead to any introspection.”

During the lawsuit, Heidi read through the entire K File. “I am a peacemaker. I always try to see both sides,” she said. But she found it hard to understand SRF’s point of view. “No one should treat another human being the way Swamiji was treated,” she said.

The last assignment Heidi worked on for Daya Mata was to go through Master’s writings and find all the directions and guidelines he gave for running SRF. In his own handwriting, Heidi found these words, “I hate rules. Lead with a light hand.”

She made a list with two columns, one with Master’s words, the other what SRF was doing—often diametrically opposed to what Master said. Naively, she thought if she presented it to the Board, things would change. But she left before she could do that.

Heidi was a great believer in communication as the solution to all problems, and had a reputation in SRF as a sympathetic ear on the Board of Directors. Eventually Daya Mata called her in and said, “We have heard…” That was the phrase they always used, Heidi said; everyone reported on everyone else. Daya Mata had heard that Heidi allowed people to complain to her about the way things were done. She advised Heidi to take a retreat to think things over—which meant get in line. Heidi decided it was time to leave.

On her last night at Mount Washington, one of the senior Matas called her, at Daya Mata’s request. “If you stay here, you’ll realize God,” the Mata said. “If you leave, you’ll go to hell.” Heidi left the next morning. Daya Mata never said goodbye; nor in the three years since she left had Heidi heard from her—even though twice during those years Heidi had cancer, and Daya Mata knew about it.

Swamiji asked Heidi, “Why did SRF hire a man like X?”

“Daya Mata was upset because SRF kept losing in court,” she said. “She never considered that they were losing because they didn’t have a case. She blamed the lawyers. Shoot the messenger is how SRF operates.”

X was a long-time member of SRF, Heidi said. Daya Mata and many others on the Board of Directors knew him well. SRF was losing their own lawsuit; the lawyer handling the Bertolucci case was not doing a good job. X came to Daya Mata and said, “I can win.” The leaders of SRF wanted to destroy Kriyananda; X said he could do it. Daya Mata knew he was not a good person, but winning was more important.

“She suffers from what Sri Yukteswar called pride of pedigree,” Heidi said. “Not about her birth, but her role, with a few others, of knowing Master’s will and being in control of his work.”

Swamiji called it, “Institutional ego.”

Heidi was at the Pasadena meeting in 1997, when Daya Mata declared, “No more lawsuits!” and said Master had come in a vision and told her, “Settle!” We left that meeting believing a new era had dawned, one of respect and cooperation between SRF and Ananda.

Heidi rode home in the same car with Daya Mata. As they were driving away, Daya Mata scornfully declared her relief that the unpleasant encounter was over, and that she would “never have to speak to Kriyananda again!”

When settlement broke down—but too late for us to take Daya Mata’s deposition about the Bertolucci lawsuit—we wondered if the whole thing had been a sham from the start. Heidi said, “Yes, that is exactly what it was.”

Every charge, suspicion, or intuition Swamiji had ever expressed about SRF, the lawsuit, Daya Mata, her leadership, and the consciousness of the organization, Heidi confirmed.

We invited her to live at Ananda, but after twenty-five years in a monastery, she wanted another kind of life, which she made very nicely for herself. Nine years later, though, cancer returned for the third time, and took her life.

 

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