Paradise lost: Satyananda Yoga Ashram is the subject of royal commission hearing

Sydney Morning Herald

November 29, 2014

Rachel Browne
Social Affairs Reporter

When Sanatan Saraswati first arrived at the Satyananda Yoga Ashram more than three decades ago he thought he had found paradise.

Set at the foot of Mangrove Mountain in the lush NSW Central Coast hinterland, the retreat was a place of serenity and spirituality.

Then in his early 30s and disillusioned with mainstream society, he was looking for something more and thought he had finally discovered it among the small community of yoga devotees led by a charismatic director, Swami Akhandananda Saraswati.

“It was something almost magical,” he recalled from his home on Queensland’s Gold Coast. “It was so far removed from the rest of society and a lot of really good things happened there. It’s just that on the inside, at the core, something really rotten happened.”

The exact nature of what happened in those rolling green hills is the subject of a public hearing by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, starting on Tuesday.

The hearing will examine the Satyananda Yoga Ashram, which changed its name to Mangrove Yoga Ashram in 2012, and its founding director Swami Akhandananda Saraswati, who established the centre in 1974 and was later charged with more than 35 sex offences against four teenage girls.

Found guilty on lesser charges of indecency, he was jailed in 1989 but his conviction was overturned six years before his death in 1997.

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.