1997: SRF Tries to Prevent Daya Mata’s Deposition and Recover Its Losses in Court

A very pregnant Sitabai leads the Ananda mothers in a 4th of July parade at Ananda Village, early 1990s. Click to enlarge.

Now that he was in the mood to make existing works better, Swamiji started revising Education for Life, which was about to be reprinted. “I’d been uncomfortable with this book, not for what I’d said, but for what I’d like to add.” It turned into a major rewrite which he finished in February.

Then he revisited The Artist as A Channel. Once again, a complete rewrite: Art as a Hidden Message: A Guide to Self-Realization finally expressed, to his satisfaction, the revelation Swamiji had when he was eighteen years old. It was his seventh attempt, counting two that were never published: the college essay that got a flunking grade; and one written in 1962, when he was living with his parents.

Then his attention went to music. He wrote Secrets of Love, which included what became his favorite song, Love is a Magician. Swamiji never connected the two, but Secrets of Love could be the “melody” for his book Expansive Marriage. The different tracks are a guidebook for couples: Love is Ever-New Discovery, Love is the Perfection of Friendship, Love Bids Adieu to Uncertainty, to name a few.

In February, the house arrived from Sweden. A crew of builders, and willing non-builders, came over from America to help the carpenters in Assisi put it together. In March, it was ready for Swamiji to move in. He called it Seva Kutir—kutir is a small dwelling, seva is selfless service to God.

Swamiji was invited to be the keynote speaker for a major yoga conference in Australia. Two couples from Ananda had recently moved there in the hope of starting an Ananda work. They arranged a month-long tour for him, beginning in April. When that was done, he went to Ananda Village for his birthday in May, with a return ticket to Assisi for the end of June. Swamiji had been away from the Village for nine months.

After his birthday celebration, he came to Palo Alto to hear, for the first time, the new version of the Oratorio. The first half of the program was other pieces, starting with instrumentals from the Egyptian Suite.

Then came one of Swamiji’s newer compositions, a song based on the poem by Robert Burns, John Anderson, My Jo. It is a love song an old woman sings to her lifelong companion about the storms they had weathered, the sweetness of their friendship, their love and loyalty till death and beyond. It ends:

John Anderson, my sweetheart,

We climbed the hill together,

And many a lively day, John,

We’ve had with one another;

Now we must totter down, John,

And hand in hand we’ll go.

And sleep together at the foot,

John Anderson, my own.

Swamiji often said that it is the music that holds Ananda together, as a community and as devotees. These had been grim years, and the test was far from over. The love between John Anderson and his wife was our own story. We had met young—in years and experience—and all this time later, we were still together.

It was sung by a well-known Irish singer, who was also a friend. It was good that she sang it. Most of the Ananda singers, including Swamiji, couldn’t get through the song without crying. Then Swamiji himself sang Love is a Magician. Here are the last verses:

Too long I did stray,

Flung lifetimes away—

Imagined You did not care!

I know now Your smile

Was mine all the while:

I listened, and Love was there.

I can’t breathe for love!

All the stars above

Call to me, “Come home!

Life’s waves all end in foam.”

Only Love can heal

All the pain I feel.

What a fool was I

To turn away!


Jon and Naidhruva were both brilliant attorneys, but for the Bertolucci trial, Jon said we needed someone who specialized in litigation. While Swamiji was in Europe, we hired “T”, a defense attorney with years of experience. The trial date kept getting postponed, so by the time Swamiji arrived in May, we had already devoted many hours and thousands of dollars to bringing T up to speed.

He wasn’t a warm person; T would never be a friend, like Jon. But he was cordial, and treated us with respect, so we were shocked, after his first meeting with Swamiji, to hear how badly it had gone. T was used to dealing with criminals—usually guilty, despite their protestations of innocence. His way was to bully them into doing what he thought was in their best interests. He put Swamiji in the same category, and started right away, whipping him into shape.

Swamiji behaved graciously, but afterward said, “I felt like I was dealing with Bertolucci’s lawyer, not one of our own. He may be a good lawyer, but he is the wrong lawyer for us. He has no respect for me. He doesn’t believe in our innocence. He is incapable of tuning into who we are, and therefore will not be able to defend us properly.”

After we hired T, we had met another experienced trial lawyer, Rob Christopher. He felt like one of us. We called him to see if he could take our case. A big lawsuit Rob was working on had just settled on the eve of trial, so yes, he had time now; he could help us.

We were told that sometimes the court won’t let you fire your lawyer. If we tried and failed, it would only make a bad situation worse; and already, so much time and money had been invested in T. Still, Swamiji tried to persuade us to fire him and hire Rob—but his words fell on deaf ears.

One of the charges against Swamiji was that he was a ruthless dictator who would have his way no matter what. In fact, he never imposed his will. Even in a matter of such extreme importance as this, when he saw that we weren’t receptive to his point of view, he fell silent. Inwardly he prayed, “Divine Mother, if this is what you want, I accept it with gratitude.”


In federal court, six months of determined effort had not resulted in a deposition with Daya Mata. She refused to agree to any date we proposed. Finally the judge ordered her to appear; she would be in contempt of court if she didn’t. Furthermore, Judge Garcia sternly suggested that “all parties should practice their own teachings,” and settle the few remaining issues in a case, he said, “that should never have been filed in the first place.”

At the end of May, Swamiji wrote to the SRF Board of Directors: “We greatly prefer long-term harmony over fleeting victory, and want, if possible, to reach an agreement with you. I earnestly suggest that we leave behind us the entire legal process, and meet as fellow disciples of our great Guru, without the presence of our lawyers.” In a few weeks, he was going back to Assisi, return date unknown. Now was the time to meet.

SRF responded immediately, suggesting we meet in Pasadena in early June. Pasadena was their home turf; we would be coming from out of town. To our astonishment, they offered to meet us at the airport and take us to our hotel, where the meeting would also be held. When we got off the plane, the same four monastics with whom we had exchanged polite words at court hearings and depositions, now welcomed us like old friends! They put us and our luggage into their vans, and chatted amiably all the way to the hotel.

The next day at the meeting, they continued in the same manner. Did we sleep well? Were the beds comfortable? Did we enjoy the cookies the hotel puts out every evening? In addition to the four monastics, most of the Board of Directors was there: Daya Mata, Ananda Mata, Mrinalini Mata, and Brother Anandamoy. But no lawyers, just as Swamiji had suggested.

Daya Mata prayed, and we meditated for about ten minutes; then she started the meeting by declaring with great fervor: “No more lawsuits!” After that, it was a lovefest. The war was over; we could all be friends. Somewhere in all that bonhomie, Daya Mata said that now that we are all on the same side, there was no reason to take her deposition about the Bertolucci case. Of course, we agreed. She wasn’t happy with A Place Called Ananda, either. Swamiji said he would think about it.

The Matas and Anandamoy took Swamiji to another room for some private discussion. They were old friends, with many years of estrangement to resolve. There Daya Mata told Swamiji that Master had appeared to her and said: “Settle!”—which, of course, changed everything.

We had brought an album of photographs of the Village. When Swamiji and the others left the room, we opened the book, and the monastics showed great interest in the pictures, asking questions about life at Ananda. We chatted about subjects of mutual interest, like meditation, Kriya, helping others on the spiritual path. It was all perfectly natural, the way disciples of the same Guru behave when they are together.

We parted on the best of terms. Because there was a lawsuit to resolve, we couldn’t just shake hands and call it over. Certain legal requirements had to be met, which meant bringing the lawyers back in. But that shouldn’t be so hard. We’d draw up a simple agreement and that would be that.

But it wasn’t. Even after several months and multiple meetings, it was far from settled.

We were willing to make concessions, even give up things that were important to us; but no matter how much we offered, SRF demanded more—and offered nothing in return. They behaved as if they had won, not us.

Finally, we refused to negotiate anymore. We would rather go to trial on the remaining issues then give in to SRF’s demands.

The negotiations, however, had dragged on long enough for the window of opportunity to close on taking Daya Mata’s deposition. Had the whole thing been a sham from the start?

SRF never mentioned tarnishment again. They wanted to appeal the copyright decisions, but couldn’t do that until the whole case was over. They knew they couldn’t win with Judge Garcia, so at the end of September, they dropped their few remaining claims. Of course, there was still the appeal, which meant more time and more money from us. But Judge Garcia had been very careful, and we expected the appeal to fail.

The timing was good. The SRF lawsuit receded into the background just as the Bertolucci trial was about to begin.

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