The virginal monk has weird sex (for the first time!), is asked to become the successor (master) of the ashram, and then realizes he’s just joined a cult… full of sexual abuse and dysfunction.
After over two months of non-stop physical contact, actual coitus was bound to take place at some point. It was under the pretext of my girlfriend being able to practice her yogic Kegels while having an object with which to squeeze via pulsating repetitions. According to her, and myself, this was not motivated out of a desire for sex but simply to practice certain mid-level tantric yoga drills for subtle genital muscle control.
Did you just feel that? I was just squeezing.
Yeah, you’re suctioning me.
Okay, now just you know sort of move in and out… not for pleasure but so I can practice squeezing you while you move. This is helping me in the development of the muscles necessary to raise my kundalini shakti in order to attain enlightenment.
My girlfriend was not wholly to blame for this mechanical and spiritual version of “I’ll just dip the tip in.” I was incapable of engaging in coitus unless under the pretense of spiritual practice, after a life spent in denial of my sexual urges. My spiritual identity had been completely formed around my sexual purity as a monk. Genuine straightforward sex would have forced me to confront the death of my former self. I was not ready to do this. This suited Psalm who was experiencing guilt for leaving her husband and early childhood sexual trauma.
After getting my lingam sticky for the first time an even greater drama began to unfold. An onslaught of emails from my family and former students started to pour into my inbox. These emails varied from threatening to concerned. For the most part my former students and family members were just hugely disappointed in my choice to leave the religious community. The biggest emotional hit was the stripping of my titles.
Being stripped of your religious titles is like losing your right to call yourself a PhD after spending eight years in grad school, writing and successfully defending your dissertation and then teaching at the university level for a dozen years, all because of writing a controversial mid-career paper. It was losing my spiritual titles and credits that drove me to seek ultimate solace from Guruji.
I found him giving a lecture in the seven-tiered temple filled with yoni statues. I walked right up to him and began crying. He petted my head and soothed me as if I were a hurt child.
What is wrong? My son what is wrong?
I’ve gotten emails from family and former students notifying me that I have been officially stripped of my honorifics and accreditation.
Then I will give them back to you. I confer all titles you once had back to you.
You and I will both go to hell together… people are always there to beat you with the stick of judgment. The world likes to beat people with the stick of judgment. There’s no need for you to beat yourself with one as well.
I laughed and felt like I had a father again. This friendship became very tender over the next couple weeks. I found myself opening up and coming to love this fat white-bearded man named Guruji
One day, Guruji told me he was getting old and that he wanted to retire but that there was no one to take on his work. He asked me if I would stay and live with him at Devipuram. He said—then you can become the master.
This astonished me. Stripped of my titles and position, I was unable to continue as a teacher in my former Hindu community, yet here was Guruji inviting me to succeed him. Even though I had rejected the idea of enlightenment I still clung to the idea of being a spiritual teacher—it was the only thing I knew how to do. Besides, back in California, I’d worked so hard to get the title of swami that I wasn’t ready to give it up just yet. Accepting Guruji’s offer is how I became a sexual messiah.
Guruji believed that the West was suffering spiritually due to having an unhealthy relationship with sexuality. He believed the rituals he taught healed these dysfunctions. Guruji pointed to how much I had healed under his guidance. According to him, I no longer judged and beat myself with guilt. I accepted myself as a human being who was both flawed and divine.
I admitted that I had experienced healing at his ashram.
Guruji then told me that I could help save the West. I could become a messiah who brings his message to the rest of the world. He hoped I could heal many thousands of people through lingam and yoni puja (fellatio and cunnilingus respectively) and therefore make the world a better place. I then asked him how the transactions for these rituals should be conducted.
Of course, you’ll do this for money, he said, otherwise it will cheapen the sacredness of the ritual. People must pay so they value the service and don’t feel any emotional obligation to you.
Guruji then ran a few days of workshops. A handful of other Westerners and I were initiated into the techniques of invoking divine energies within human body parts normally associated with shame. At first we touched these shameful areas of our own bodies as we chanted mantras and visualized spiritual lines of energy.
This was actually healing for me after having, metaphorically, tied my dick into a knot for over two decades as a monk. Then my girlfriend taught me how to perform the rituals of worshipping and pleasuring the genitals via oral stimulation. I soon mastered these techniques on her divine yoni.
I know this sounds strange but Guruji, at the time, had become a kind of surrogate father for me and provided a much-needed sense of home after my family had rejected me—and considered me a sexual deviant—for leaving my life as a monk and for striking up an affair with a married woman.
Guruji shared his own experiences of being rejected by the Hindu community and his attempt at being an authentic human being.
All of this somehow made sense to me at the time. I was a lost boy and a sex cult was the only place where I felt wanted and accepted, even if it required that I become a purveyor of holy cunnilingus.
Then came the moment that turned everything upside down for me. Guruji asked if I would like to give lessons to the girls who cleaned the temple.
Yes, Guruji, I’d love to help them. Would you like me to teach them English?
I’d like you and your girlfriend to teach them pujas.
The girls must serve some purpose here. They can provide a much-needed service to the visiting Westerners.
My conversation with Psalm, from a few weeks earlier, came flooding back and I finally allowed myself to confront what I already knew but had been avoiding. She was engaging in oral sex with that girl from the village who cleaned the temple. The realization was too much for me (or at least the admittance of the truth). Everything was crumbling all over again.
In panic, I climbed a hill that overlooked a large valley filled with steaming jungle. I sat on a rock and meditated for hours. This was not my country. This was not my language or my culture. In the end, I was an American whose parents adopted Eastern beliefs in the counter-cultural movement of the 1960s and I was not really a Hindu.
I had one more night at the ashram before I was to fly back to California. I began to reflect on my time there. Guruji had a habit of saying very nasty morally questionable things in such an incredibly sweet way you almost missed the comment. He made it all sound so normal and spiritual and kind.
It really was a mind fuck—the whole group had a talent for making you question moral and social boundaries. These discourses on what was right and wrong (and not judging people) seemed loving until you realized it meant sexually enslaving teens and selling them to European and American predators.
Guruji had a penchant for saying “man” in a really groovy way that made all the pretty Western girls giggle and swoon with devotion. He interpreted the symbol AUM as a literal representation of a vagina connected to a pair of breasts and a penis. He even meditated while watching hardcore pornography. How could I not have seen that this was the dark side of moral relativism? How had I fallen for outright perversion? How desperate had I become?
The next morning I packed and went to find Guruji. He was making an MP3 recording for a meditation practice. I came in right when he was saying, “If you practice oral sex let the man ejaculate and then smear the seminal fluid on the third eye of both partners.” This was the wisdom he had to share.
Still, I let him hug me goodbye and reinforce his offer to have me come back and be the “master.” I had no moment of boldness. I did not make a demonstration of righteous indignation. I was still too emotionally fragile to put up a fight for anything.
The truth about Guruji broke my heart. To stand up to him meant that I’d have to finally confront the truth about my real dad. The father who raised me in a fundamentalist religion and made me feel that the only shot I had at happiness was to reject life itself as a monk. Being a monk meant giving up on sex, relationships, human love, and any potential for intimacy. But my dad had died and I wasn’t ready to grieve him let alone confront the reality of who and what he was.
I wasn’t ready to become an adult.
All of my gods were dead. I had no moral righteousness to rely upon. At my core I just couldn’t hurt those girls or anybody else. And so I left without saying anything. I never became the sexual messiah that Guruji wanted me to be just as I never became the guru my Hindu community wanted me to be. I was just a really messed up and confused former monk and now failed sexual messiah trying to find his way.
On the plane flight back to America, Psalm and I broke up. Sadly, here too, I was not the strong one. She broke up with me, because she knew deep down that we were different. I was monogamous at my core, while she was prone to polyamory. We got back together a dozen times before I finally cut it off for good and realized that I would have to construct a guiding philosophy that was entirely my own.
She continues to work as a sexual messiah. She runs international workshops and teaches sex workers in India the arcane practices of tantric yoga—providing a spiritual context for their prostitution and thereby empowering these underprivileged Indian streetwalkers to be sexual messiahs themselves. She deeply believes that the greatest healing is found in oral sex, if performed with intention and mantra.
Guruji still lives at his ashram in Central India training future messiahs in the healing potential of genital discharges and ritualized sex with dairy products as lubricant. I know of at least half a dozen sexual messiahs (trained by Guruji) practicing in Europe and America.
The term “sexual messiah” is my own and reveals more about me than anything else. It is now a cliché to say that humor is often born from deep pain. My own psychological defenses are quite obvious in this narrative. Humor and sarcasm are often a way of avoiding pain, but they can also be ways of transfiguring it.
The Freudian implications of my early celibacy have a lot to do with my dad. I didn’t want to compete with him or be in conflict with him, so I strangled my own sexuality. I’ve made light of a lot of serious stuff, both to avoid the pain of talking about it earnestly and to transfigure it. It may all be a foolish attempt to delude myself that I now have power over it through storytelling. But the truth is if I can’t laugh at myself and my own delusions I might not be able to have sex ever again.
The burden of my past would cripple my penis.
And I really want to have sex, a lot of sex.
I missed out on human warmth and affection for too long as a monk. But in leaving monastic life I went in the opposite direction. Weirdly, it was Guruji who helped me find a middle ground between two extremes.
There is a reason why sex addicts are also capable of completely denying their emotional needs, much like celibate monks deny their own humanity. Guruji’s bad example gave me a reference point—as I left celibacy—by demonstrating to me the delusional trap of trying to rationalize sexual dysfunction through pseudo-spirituality and messianic pretensions.
It was an abrupt and radical awakening to my own fragmented and deformed sexuality. It would have been all too easy to continue rationalizing my own dysfunction through dishonest sex via tantra. Whether it was monasticism or tantric sex, both were disingenuous and ways for me to avoid having to confront uncomfortable truths about my own psyche. I could still disconnect from myself while engaging in ritualistic sex just as I had detached from my emotions and sexual urges in my life as a monk.
Seeing how completely fucked up Guruji was, I knew I did not want to be like him. More importantly, I didn’t want to continue lying to myself.
For the first time in my life, once I recovered from Guruji’s ashram, I just wanted to be human.
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Editor: Kate Bartolotta