Svengali or Cowboy: Extreme, Inconsistent and Self-Serving Advice
When it comes to giving personal advice about the things of life (relationships, jobs, finances, and living circumstances), Sat Shree is best described as a manipulative Svengali (if you’ve got something he wants) or a cowboy shooting from the hip (if he’s less interested).. Sometimes he seems to really understand a person and their situation, and other times he isn’t even close. And, when you get lousy advice from your guru, who doesn’t see you at all, it can be both confusing and damaging. He is also inconsistent. One student who became quite close reports: “He would say one thing and then the next time I saw him he would completely contradict himself.”
His advice is often extreme. One participant recounts being drawn to Sat Shree but being stunned by his sometimes harsh, unloving way of speaking. The breaking point came when he told the group at a retreat that they needed to be willing “to eat their own children and rip out the eyes of their father” in pursuit of full realization.
Professional Assessments of Sat Shree’s Capacity for a Teaching Relationship
One therapist and spiritual mentor who came and left New Dharma very quickly had this to say: “The relationship between a spiritual teacher/counselor and a student is a sacred contract and must be treated with the utmost respect. Sat Shree sets himself up as someone who is infallible, who believes that everything that comes out of his mouth is Truth. Only the ego would believe such nonsense. He was both arrogant and unskillful.” Another wise and skilled counselor shared: “Sat Shree does not have the spiritual maturity, nor moral integrity to inform a healthy human relationship, teacher to student. His issues of fear, desire to be a great guru, need for control, ego inflation, love of power, insecurity, his underlying animosity towards women, as well as an unconscious projection of his own problems outward onto his students act as a distorting influence which inevitably overshadows any beneficial spiritual understanding he may have.”
Another telling assessment of his advice-giving: “Although he claims to “be the Truth” he does not understand what it means to tell the truth, to be true to your word, to be in responsibility to another human being. He views his title as “Guru” to give him carte blanche to say whatever he wishes in any given moment with no repercussions as to the impact of his communications. When questioned, he claims to have no recall or responsibility for what he has said. He is expert in discovering each student’s weakness and using it to manipulate them into doing what he desires. One of the major ways he does this is through the use of fear, or alternatively, when he meets someone whose tendency is towards pride, he inflates their ego, hoping they will become attached to praise, like he is. His general mode is to plant seeds of fear into his students around their complete dependence on him, imploring them to “never get off the boat” (leave him as a teacher), and warning them regularly that if they do decide to leave, they will become “fallen yogis,” which is just another way of saying they will have missed their one and only chance for enlightenment. It is humbling to admit that one has fallen prey to such archaic practices.”
Get a Hit, Blurt it Out
Sat Shree described his “process” of giving advice by saying that he listened to someone talk and “just got a hit” about something to say. He would say it, and “usually it was right”. He went on to say that having come to his realization, he knew that everything he said would be in service of dharma. Even more concerning, he told students whom he had asked to provide mentoring to other students the same thing. One such student was concerned about providing counseling/mentoring to another student who had experienced great trauma because they had no psychological or counseling training whatsoever. Sat Shree said not to worry, that they, too, had come to a state where everything they said would be right. Sadly, wrong.
Sat Shree has always shown great interest in the lives of students who had money or talent that he could exploit for his “world mission.” Many have recounted how quickly he asked for large donations (once, famously, the first time he met with an elderly widow), and how readily he would declare that someone should leave their spouse, children, job, or pets and devote themselves to “finding Truth with him”.
When he says that you have “to give up everything for Truth”, his first interest in some students has been in having them “donate” their money. He convinces them that their money is a real problem karmically, and they need to give him the money to stop its negative impact on their spiritual lives. Fascinating, because of course as he feigns concern for his student’s attachment to money, he is actively manipulating him or her to satisfy his own desire for more money.
One observer has written: “I was amazed as it seemed Sat Shree was becoming more and more a megalomaniac over the years. He was announcing himself as the world savior. That shift was promptly followed by a giving campaign that included a statement of “give ‘til it hurts”. This was while he was recruiting funds for his self-aggrandizing temple. And—of course—he was using people’s unmet structures around money to make this happen.
The Man Giving Advice
Sat Shree has a poor track record when it comes to intimate relationships. His first wife left and took their son. He routinely denounced and ridiculed his second wife, Janice (Satyamayi—also New Dharma’s Executive Director until mid-2022) in private conversations, his satsangs, and retreat talks. Sat Shree seemed to enjoy sharing about how he had acquiesced to Janice’s proposal of marriage telling her “okay, but you’ll come third in my life after my work and my model airplanes”. Once on retreat he denigrated almost the entire relationship, concluding that “at least the sex was good”. His incessantly recounted “awakening” experience was precipitated by grief over his failure to make any time to spend with family that had traveled to visit with him and then intensified by remembering his last life as a Nazi soldier hurling Jews onto a train bound for the concentration camp. No doubt Sat Shree had a difficult childhood; he started leaving home while still a toddler and his mother responded by putting a sign with his address around his neck, so people might return him home. He turned to drugs and spent time as an addict living with addicts before he moved on. He seemed to have no sense of right and wrong when he almost beat his dog to death, only to be stopped by a neighbor.
This is the man giving advice to students—advice that has been described as deceitful, manipulative and cruel. He would entice couples to come close to him, saying it would bring them closer to each other, and then pressure them to separate. He has said “forget your family as if they do not exist” in a circumstance where family relations were loving and healthy, not because he was advising someone to leave an abusive situation. He often advised cult-like isolation from family and loved ones. Another account reports: “Sat Shree told my husband to never think of his family again, to permanently change his address, his license and car registration, and turn over all control of his finances to Sat Shree and live with him indefinitely at his home in Nevada.” Another former student observed: “I came to realize that he merely projects his own pathological marriage and relationship issues onto his students. In fact, projection seems to be the dominant pattern that runs through most of his interactions with students. He outright lied to me and slandered others on several occasions. Essentially, he uses the authority as an “enlightened” teacher to say whatever he wants without recrimination and he abuses the sacred bond between teacher and student for his own pathological needs.”
An Egregious Example of Sat Shree’s Lack of Integrity and Harmful Advice
We’ll conclude this discussion of “Bad Advice” with a case study. One sincere seeker experienced a cascade of trauma and breach of trust following Sat Shree’s “invitation” to join the community in the Washoe Valley. As reported:
“After meeting Sat Shree and attending several retreats I was feeling needy because of my difficult kundalini rising. Sat Shree told me with certainty he could help stabilize that. Somehow, I believed him. Time proved me wrong. At Sat Shree’s urging I gave away most of my possessions and moved to Washoe. This included some heartbreaking decisions about rehoming by two cats and a parrot I’d had for over 20 years. Sat Shree thought that animals were a needless ego attachment. In conversations with others there, as well as being witness to his comments in satsang, he also seemed to think the same about spouses, children and other family members.
My first day at Washoe I was informed that my agreed upon “fee” was revised to a higher amount. I had the original agreement in writing but was told that didn’t matter. I felt the first of what I’d feel throughout my short time there – trapped without recourse. The following day came another surprise. I found out that all my email conversations with Sat Shree had been shared with people in the name of “teacher training”. This gave me great pause for a number of reasons, not the least being that this included conversations about finances and medical information just prior to my moving there. As I objected to these being shared without my consent I was informed, “We have no secrets here.” Interesting that the fact those emails were shared in the first place was kept secret, eh? There were obviously two sets of rules. One for us, the other for the New Dharma organization.
As it turned out, this lack of confidentiality had started to leak out into the community about everyone’s emails being shared, and the revelation was upsetting to many. It was during that time that things took a turn at Washoe and big changes were announced. Sat Shree announced he’d been “too soft” on us and that he was now going to get out “the big hammer”. We were told that our access to Sat Shree would be limited and we’d be assigned “mentors”. I recall thinking, “I didn’t come here to talk with a peer, I came to work with Sat Shree.” A day or so later I was in my first meeting with my mentor (who was also a Board Member at the time). I tried to discuss what was coming up for me around the confidentiality breach. I’d worked most of my life in corporate Human Resources and told her that “confidentiality is king” and was told: “We aren’t a corporation.” I reminded her that they were indeed a non-profit corporation in the state of Nevada so the same rules applied. To that she responded that I “could talk about this all day but it wasn’t going to get me anywhere” and “let’s look at what’s in you that makes you feel so strongly about it”. (Ahh, classic spiritual deflection/gaslighting at work!) It was then that I felt the squeeze of the cult-like behavior. Let’s just say the rest of that meeting didn’t go well at all.
At this point I was walking on eggshells. I was in total confusion as to what was happening and also wondering if the “big hammer” would come for me. Toward the end of July we went to a retreat at Asilomar. The venue was far too large for a group of our size, but Janice/Satyamayi was apparently idolizing Adyashanti at the time as a model of “how to build a bigger sangha” and was renting spaces in all the places he used.
During that retreat, in a group meeting, Sat Shree said something to me about “feeling pressure building up in me.” Well, he was right, but not in the way he thought he was. It was rage about the whole mess I found myself in. That surfaced shortly after I returned to Washoe and it wasn’t pretty. I left Washoe that day and stayed in a hotel. I never corresponded with Sat Shree again, nor did he ever reach out to me. I have never regretted leaving.
Seeing him intimidate people around money because that’s his blind spot is sickening. Sex. Money. It doesn’t matter what the issue. The result is the same. The gathering of power over another human being. Shaming them into believing that by relieving themselves of something, that teacher could make them purer. Shaming them for keeping something secret. It’s an age-old ploy from those in power, leaders of cults, and many half-baked “spiritual” teachers.”
There are many who have been needlessly traumatized by Sat Shree’s manipulative, irresponsible, slap-dash, uninformed and unenlightened “advice”. On this website, please read Brian’s “Letters to the Board of Directors.” Additional accounts are available at the Sat Shree & New Dharma Revealed Discussion Group on Facebook.