Children as young as three were repeatedly molested at Australia’s oldest ashram by its Indian head and threatened with death if they complained, a public hearing into the sexual abuse case was informed today.
Late Swami Akhandananda Saraswati, head of Satyananda Yoga Ashram located on Mangrove Mountain in New South Wales, allegedly sexually abused the children during the 1970s and 1980s, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has heard.
The commission inquiry into the ashram and its leader Saraswati heard that 11 children were abused while living at the ashram, Sydney Morning Herald reported today.
Though sexual activity was discouraged in the ashram, its founder Saraswati and his disciple Akhandananda molested teenaged girls, Counsel assisting the commission Peggy Dwyer said.
The commission heard that Akhandananda Saraswati began a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl after he moved to Australia from India in 1974.
He told his victims that “engaging in sexual activity with him was for their own spiritual growth, “ the report said.
He told children they would be killed, beaten or cast out if they disclosed the abuse.
A former resident told the commission she felt “like a slave, like a piece of meat” when Akhandananda Saraswati, raped her as a 16-year-old.
Over 25 witnesses are expected to give evidence over a two-week period.
Akhandananda Saraswati was charged in 1987 after one of his victims went to the police. He was convicted in 1989 and served jail time but the conviction was overturned on a legal technicality in 1991. He died in Cairns in 1997.
In a statement read before the royal commission, the ashram’s lawyer Aaron Kernaghan apologised on behalf of the organisation.