6 months before the Purulia Arms Drop I participated in an Ananda Marga debate about whether terrorism could ever be justified. Ananda Marga was a pacific revolutionary organization that denounced both the materialistic philosophies of capitalism as well as communism. The focus of the ideology was primarily on yoga and meditation but there was a lot of emphasis on social justice and activism as well. My friends in Ananda Marga were fans of the libertarian socialist ideas behind the Mexican Revolution of 1910, the Spanish revolution of the 30’s and most especially the Zapatista revolution in Mexico which was still occurring at the time of this debate. Nobody in the debate could really defend terrorism. We evaded the idea of terrorism and focused on the justification of using force against the state by violent revolution. However, the other side said our idea of revolution was not terrorism because it is a declared political and revolutionary military movement which does not target civilians like terrorist attacks. We were ideological rebels, but nobody was aggressive enough to really talk about terrorist attacks. I led our team in the debate and we could argue that the capitalist system is more terrorist than any terrorist organization, but when the opposing team asked me specifically if that gives us justification to use violent force against the system which would include attacking innocent civilians, we could not argue this position. We could not even pretend to and we clearly lost the debate. The leader of the other group was a Vietnam war veteran who was very well spoken and even though it was all a structured formality, his sincere non-violence stance made us somehow feel that we were in the wrong and did not want to be a part of the debate.
There were many brilliant people in Ananda Marga, especially in India and Anandamurti’s organization became the enemy of the state, both the national capitalist state as well as the local state of Bengal, which was governed by communists. Anandamurti infiltrated the state by creating an army of civil servant yogis who follow a strict definiton of morality, Yama and Niyama. Anandamurti worked for the Indian railways and many of his disciples worked in various levels of government. Having these leaders apply yogic principles in society would help establish a new order of non corruption. Spiritual people who perform their duties with honesty and noble character will be loved and trusted by others. These highly respected ethical leaders would be the vanguard of a new society and collective spiritual awakening. It was very clear that this is the type of spiritual revolution that Anandamurti wanted. He was not non-violent like Gandhi and thought that sometimes force is needed in a revolution, but his efforts were clearly focused on spiritual and social revolution. The organization he created was revolutionary and instead of battalions of soldiers he created battalions of social service workers who teach the ancient principles and practices of tantra yoga.
In the early days Indira Gandhi’s (Nehru’s daughter) regime wanted to incorporate Ananda Marga into the Indian state. When Anandamurti refused then the trouble started. This assault on Ananda Marga only helped the movement to expand beyond India. When I visited India just a few months after the debate, I went there in full confidence that I was in the company of peaceful rebels persecuted by the state but I never once thought that Ananda Marga would end up in the middle of an arms deal and a failed revolution which got me thrown into jail and an Indian Supreme Court trial for charges of terrorism.
After returning from India and being declared innocent in their Supreme Court I stayed at an Ananda Marga community in Missouri. Some black, unmarked helicopters began to appear periodically during the meditation retreat. I recalled the debate 6 months earlier and could hardly believe the absurd situation of the present. I saw the leader of the opposing debate team, the Vietnam Veteran, and he was frantic about the black, unmarked helicopters. He said they were sent by “them.” I thought he meant the CIA or the government, but he started speaking about reptilian beings. This person who read Chomsky and had very enlightened and clear political views now seemed to be possessed by Alex Jones. He began to drive around our community in a jeep with a trailer connected. The trailer had some long object covered by a plastic tarp. We were already so deep into the real life Theater Of The Absurd that we said it was probably a missile he had stock piled to shoot down one of them buzzards hovering overhead. All we could do was laugh at it all. Most people thought that we were being harassed by the government because of what had just happened in India. They wanted to make us nervous, that we were being watched. Their strategy was obviously working.
I had just returned from being under house arrest in India. It was the greatest blessing of my life, like Briar Rabbit being thrown into the briar patch. I was not allowed to leave the immediate area and all I could find time to do was meditate on the sacred grounds of Ananda Nagar, a place used by Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu tantrics for centuries to finish their spiritual practice. They said the rocks still held a great vibration which was absorbed by the environment during their great samadhis, or spiritual realizations. I got lost on those rocks. However, at the same time the ashram was surrounded by Indian military. We used to joke about how they had surplus World War II rifles. An Irish friend of mine who was also under house arrest with me jokingly called them “musket loaders.” They would sometimes raid the compound to scare people and we would make jokes saying “here come the muskets.” Returning to the present narrative, in the U.S., the military now surrounds us, but with very silent black helicopters. A few years later Ananda Marga was placed on the FBI’s top ten terrorist organization list. We were simply dumbfounded. A.M. was up there with the IRA and Al-Quaeda and Hamas, but what had A.M. ever really done as far as terrorist activity? Sure, they got in some scrapes in India when they tried to defend themselves from the government who violently attacked them but they were the ones who always got massacred and never massacred anybody else.
Anandamurti was a very mysterious person. He was first put under surveillance by Nehru before the Independence from the British Empire, while Nehru was leader of the Congress Party. Nehru liked the letters that the 17 year old student had sent to Congress and they were read aloud. People wanted to know who this youth was. He eventually initiated some revolutionary leaders in congress into tantric practice. By the time of the 70’s A.M. was infiltrated by the CIA. I know people who saw Anandamurti perform many “miracles” in front of many people in A.M. Many of these miracles involved healing but it was also known that Anandamurti knew all sorts of things. When my Vietnam veteran friend was planning on going to India he was very nervous because he was a secret chain smoker and he was afraid of getting a scolding from the guru. He had heard rumors that Anandamurti knew everything about his disciples and that he even scolded them for things far in their past of which nobody else knew. When he arrived he entered Anandamurti’s room with great apprehension. Anandamurti stared sternly at him and then smiled saying “smoking is just a bad habit, not a crime.”
I know so many people with so many similar encounters with Anandamurti. I even saw that some of the elder disciples also had some mystical knowledge and healing powers. There is no doubt that Big Brother knew about the mysterious powers of this great yogi. I truly believe that A.M. was infiltrated and disintegrated not because they were a terrorist organization but because they never wanted the world to know of the great man behind the great and humane revolutionary ideas that they were so frightened of.
As a liberal arts student that had just graduated the university, I went to an Ananda Marga ashram to do doctoral studies on tantra yoga when the arms drop occurred. Far from being an mere academic experience, I was becoming deeply immersed in the very high spiritual vibration at Ananda Nagar. It was clear that much spiritual work had been done in this environment. I felt that my meditation was 5 times as strong there! By just closing the eyes, one enters into deep, effortless meditation in such an environment. Despite all that has happened with Ananda Marga, those experiences always help me remember that the philosophy and spiritual practices of Ananda Marga have a very pure origin.
After a nice meditation one morning I hear there was an arms drop in a nearby village and then the military arrived. The arms drop was a typical botched-up Ananda Marga operation and the arms fell in the wrong place and it was reported to the local police and military. They discovered it just in time. The simple locals live like people from thousands of years ago. They discovered these unknown objects which had very nice boxes and canvas bags. At the time they were making cob houses and were just about to throw some sturdy hand grenades into the cob mixture.
I contemplate my memories of Ananda Nagar the weeks before this incident and remember how there was a humurous, supposedly ex-Marine with a USMC bull dog tatoo giving fitness training to illiterate tribal boys who were employed by Ananda Marga. At the time I really believed that Viirendra, the ex-Marine, was helping train official guards to protect the election boxes of the Indian state for the upcoming elections. It sounded rather odd that the Bengali government would trust its foe Ananda Marga with such a duty, but I didn’t criticize this inconsistency at the time because I was so distracted by the humorous environment of the “fitness training.” Virendra finally got to be in charge as a drill sargent. He had some sensitive yogi qualities but was really a jar-head at heart.
The trainees underwent rifle training one day with a b.b. gun. All 30 of them took turns with the one and only b.b. gun. It was just like the one I got on my 8th birthday. An old guard of the V.S.S. (the elite guard of Ananda Marga) took pride in being the leading official and decided to instruct the trainees himself. He instructed one boy to point the gun at a nun, who like us, was peering over the fence and snickering at these antics. “Okay, you hit the target, now point the gun at the nun, right between her eyes,” the guard said. The nun was laughing and screaming at the same time saying “no, no” while we were roaring with laughter at these Gomer Pyle antics. Viirendra grabbed the gun, invoking the archetypal drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket and screamed, “I’m gonna shove that gun up your ass, soldier.” That sweet nun and the Indian boy fortunately couldn’t understand these words. It was all too comic and absurd to accept as reality. This is ample proof that Ananda Marga is not essentially a terrorist organization. The system tried to impose it on them with infiltrators like Viirendra, but militant radicalism really wasn’t in the nature of the majority of the monks and nuns.
Viirendra disappeared the day before the arms drop and we simple observers were sent to jail. A few years after that I hear that there is a pentagonal meditation room in the Asheville, N.C., in an Ananda Marga community where Viirendra has settled. That is ironic because in my experience, people in Ananda Marga, especially in the U.S., put special spiritual significance in architecture, especially architecture for meditation rooms. Hexagons and hexagrams are more of their style, not pentagons. They chose the design and didn’t purchase the building as such.
Prior to this home, he lived in a recluse ranch in Colorado where a proud monk named Krsnananda would visit him. Krishnananda told me himself that Viirendra had to report to the people in the black helicopters that came to see him at his hidden ranch. Krishnananda also told me that his brother, who is also a monk, was in the airplane when the arms were dropped. As a cresciendo I also get news that Ananda Marga made it on the top 10 terrorist list of the FBI around the year 2000. This understanding turned my whole Ananda Marga experience upside down and inside out. All the while that I was lost in deep meditation at Ananda Nagar and beginning my studies at the research institute, these miscreants were planning an international conspiracy with the CIA against Ananda Marga.
The producer of the documentary cites another author that considers it is likely that Kim Peter, or Nirvananda, was aided and protected by the CIA. The producer leaves the question open for scrutiny. Some people in Ananda Marga were informants to the CIA and the senior members of the organization knew of this. Kim Peter worked in North America with a gang of Ananda Marga monks. He is still seen as a Robin Hood type of figure. In the beginning, they only smuggled electronics into India to raise money for orphanages and schools. However, they later moved on to greater ventures. Many members of this underground mafia extended into immoral and dangerous international mafia connections. Some were caught and forced to be informers to the FBI and the CIA. I knew who some of these people were and I think they were used as tools to help frame Ananda Marga as a terrorist organization. After the Purulia arms drop Ananda Marga was placed on the FBI’s top 10 global terrorist groups list for several years. Now, they are practically non-existent in North America.
The Moral Revolution
The article linked here is terrible news. I would think it were propaganda against the revolution if it were not for the fact that the accusations against the Zapatistas were written by Comandante German, the founder of the FLN, which later evolved into EZLN, or the Zapatista Army of National Liberation. His accusations go against the Zapatista leaders including Subcomandante Marcos, who in his very own words hailed Comandante Germán as as the one who sowed the first seed for the Zapatistas and that he personally owes Comandante Germán “more than life.” In the words of Marcos: “Good evening, before I start I want to invite here to come up with us a person who has been very important in the history of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, to him the EZLN owes the first seed, I personally owe him something more than life, having shown me the direction, the step and the destiny. Some of you know him as the architect Fernando Yáñez, the Zapatistas know him and recognize him as Commander Germán.”
I had heard rumors of this rift for some time. I heard of threats from Zapatista leaders against people who shared literature about the history of the FLN and how it evolved into EZLN. Supposedly, they did not want people to know their history before EZLN, although Comandante Germán was recognized as the father of both movements. Also, I had heard many reports of abuse from the Zapatista communities about the sexual misconduct of so many Zapatista commanders, including Marcos himself.
I have been close to two revolutionary movements and have seen very similar patterns of disintegration in both of them, Ananda Marga and EZLN. I was never a member of EZLN but I knew people inside the movement and visited their communities. Ananda Marga was not militant, or at least not apparently. It was a social-spiritual movement which challenged the Indian state for several decades. They were persecuted and banned yet they continued to grow and expand up until the death of the leader in 1989. Anandamurti kept a strict eye on his disciples. He saw that in order to lead society toward social, cultural, and spiritual revolution the leaders must be morally strong and have a strong spiritual foundation in tantra yoga. However, after his death the movement shattered to pieces when the monastic “Acharyas” assumed control of the movement. Hardly anything remains nowadays and when one hears something about them it is usually news of scandal or criminality.
The Zapatista movement appealed to me because it was a grass roots movement involved in a struggle for the survival of the indigenous communities of Mexico. The Ananda Marga movement had become a clown show and the monastics were mostly narcissists who fed off of their images of being disciples of Anandamurti, whom they hailed as the incarnation of god, although this was never an official doctrine of the movement. Most of them do not keep their monastic vows and one always hears of their sexual and criminal scandals. The Zapatistas seemed to me to be much more practical and humble, and with a natural form of spirituality. It was easy to identify with their cause because of their sincerity and their congruity with their ideology. Instead of being monastics puffed up with religious vanity and superiority, they were indigenous farmers fighting for their survival with the solidarity of the global humanist left. Still, to this day the majority of their communities are friendly and peaceful places. However, as time passed I began to hear so many reports about the sexual misconduct of the Comandantes. Like the “Acharya” monastics of Ananda Marga the Comandantes felt very privileged at being leaders and used their prestigious images to abuse others. I heard of too many cases in which the Comandantes justified impregnating and then abandoning young indigenous girls with the pretext of giving a child for the revolution. I began to see their narcissism as similar to the Acharyas of Ananda Marga. I would never mention this if they were just popular playboys with a lot of lovers, but they have also become a sexual harassers. Just as the monastic leaders of Ananda Marga fell into scandals and set the example for the junior monastics after the death of Anandamurti, so did the Zapatista leaders create a similar example for their Comandantes.
In both cases the egoism of the leaders becomes stronger than their ideology. They become rock stars instead of revolutionaries. They sell out their high ideals for prestige and to satisfy their base, egocentric desires. Just as Anandamurti saw strict adherence to the moral code of Yama and Niyama as necessary to guide the revolution, Comandante Germán warned back in the 60´s that the revolutionaries of the FLN should be very wary of vain exhibitionism. No revolution is conducted without strong leaders who have the confidence of their followers. Perhaps there are very few who attain the sublime ideal of the yogi revolutionary of Anandamurti but a social leader should at least be somebody who does not harm his or her own followers and abuse their power in the most flagrant ways. They should at least be honest and well-intended. A social revolutionary by definition fights for an ideal beyond one´s own ego. In the end the conduct of the revolutionaries ends up being little better than the enemy the fight against; the Indian state for Ananda Marga, and PRI for the Zapatistas. The key is in ideological congruence, in keeping the mental wavelength as straight as an arrow. The yogi meditates on the infinite wavelength of the Atman to sustain ideology. Transcendent spiritual and universal truth should be more powerful than whatever social image in the mind. Ideology alone is not sufficient and there must also be deep spiritual realization. As Anandamurti explained, “ideology” should be rooted in the fundamental idea of the infinite witness of the mind, the Atman, which gives truth and power to the mental construct of “ideology.” Until leaders with strong moral character and true ideology are evolved we can really expect no better political situation than what we already have.
I think it is clear that I am in favour of both movements, however, it is my opinion that the indigenous Mexican movement is stronger and more influential than Ananda Marga. It is because of this continued hope in their survival that it is necessary to speak about the dangers that threaten them, or else they will come to absolutely nothing.