Spouses and Lovers; The Grace Course
Many people think spiritual teachers should follow the example of employers and keep their spouses and lovers out of positions of authority. I agree. Govindan has allowed his wife to take over a very large share of the teaching work he used to do himself. I think she is out of her league and owes her new authority to the mere fact that she is married to Govindan. Indeed, people would assume such things even if she were--contrary to fact--competent to do all the teaching he has assigned to her. To avoid the appearance of corruption, therefore, a person in Govindans position would be wise to choose someone other than his wife to share the many duties and responsibilities of the organization. There are, in fact, other assistant teachers in the organization who are much better qualified to teach.
He also let her put out a correspondence course called THE GRACE COURSE for $108. It is pathetic. It is one of the worst pieces of writing I have ever had the misfortune to read. I could have written a better course myself when I was 15. It is full of miserably unclear writing, unsupported statements, and self-contradictions. I found that Govindans wife had no interest in improving the course. In fact, she seemed to think that people who did not love her course ought not to be studying with Govindan. I think Govindan may share that view...he has many of his wifes deficiencies. Neither Govindan nor his wife seem to realize that a good student is not one who always agrees with everything the teacher says, but rather one who seriously considers and thinks about what his teacher says (as well as putting into practice those teachings which are useful to the student).
Govindans wife, in her "course," also used material from other sources without attributing them properly. When I mentioned this to her, she said she had no interest in such matters. Thus, she is a "writer" who is either guilty of deliberate plagiarism or who is so ignorant about ethics as not to know that when you use the material of other writers without ginving them credit, you are stealing their work.
I also found that Govindans wife had engaged in fraud. She stated that she would answer questions about the course...thus, you were supposedly not purchasing simply a ridiculously overpriced piece of shoddy writing, but a real course. In fact, she quickly gave up after answering four or five questions, for no valid reason. (I think she was just lazy.) If I had known she would do that, I would never have wasted $108 on the course.
My experience with this course was typical of my experiences with Govindan. I found that he has no real intention to help students but only to collect large donations from them. If you have tons of money which you love to give away, and never disagree with anything Govindan says, and never ask any questions, Im sure youll get along just fine with Govindan. Otherwise, you should probably look elsewhere for a teacher. Govindan and his wife just want students who plunk their money down, shut up, and stay away.
Nonexistent causes, rigidity, donations.
My experience with the Grace Course (see above) reminded me of Govindans appeals for money for nonexistent causes, e.g., an "ashram" in Sri Lanka which never existed. There was some friend of Govindans in Sri Lanka, who may have needed money, but no ashram. Govindan ought to have just said there was this guy in Sri Lanka who needed money, instead of saying "our ashram in Sri Lanka" needed money. Govindan also talked about a nonexistent ashram he supposedly had in Germany. When you wrote to their email address, you learned that there was no ashram there, just some yoga student. Its similar with regard to his list of "contact people" on his website. Three quarters of the U.S. email addresses, and half the foreign ones listed are not contact people, but are just bogus email addresses intended to give the false impression that Govindans organization is much bigger than it actually is.
Another of Govindans numerous defects is his ridiculous rigidity. For example, people who have taken the first two initiations are supposed to take only 16 pranayamic breaths. Only those who have taken the third initiation are allowed to take 48 breaths. I personally didnt get much out of pranayama until I started doing a lot more than 16 breaths. Govindan ought to have advised me years before I took the third initiation to start doing more than 16 breaths, but he couldnt, because he adheres rigidly to rules even when they are ineffective or flawed in particular cases such as my own.
Also, consider that a person might meditate for ten years without taking the third initiation, and that person would be doing only a minimal amount of sadhana (16 pranayamic breaths) during all that long period. In contrast, a person who takes the third initiation a year after the first will very quickly be doing much more pranayama than the first person, even though the first person has had much more experience--that first person should probably have been advised years earlier to start doing more pranayama. A good teacher would know how to apply the teachings and "rules" in an appropriate and flexible manner.
The truth is, Govindan does not care about how the students sadhana is progressing. He only cares about the size of their donations.
The thing about operating on a donation basis (which Govindan adopts for some things but not for others) is that one just has to accept whatever has been donated. It is wrong to say that a student can donate what he likes and then get mad at the student for not donating enough. Govindan doesnt understand this. My opinion is that people like Govindan (who are very interested in building up an organizations treasury) should never operate on a donation basis.
It is interesting that many Buddhist groups (e.g., Goenkas vipassana and other Burmese vipassana groups) operate successfully on a donation basis, while very few yoga groups do. My analysis of this is that yoga teachers are in general (though of course there are exceptions) more interested in making money than Buddhist teachers.
I also think Govindan has overextended himself. Many people have complained that he doesnt reply to emails in a reasonable amount of time. Once a Malaysian was trying to organize an initiation in Malaysia, but he gave up because it took Govindan one month to reply to each email sent to him about setting up the initiation classes.
I personally think that a fraud like Govindan should be put out of business, and information like this on the internet may help serve that purpose. While one is still a paying customer, Govindan is all warmth and friendliness, and he does his best to make you feel like a part of the "family." The minute it appears you will not be making more donations in the near future (or taking more courses), he will make it clear that he never wants to see your face again. Govindan is simply a salesman, selling expensive yoga courses. A real SPIRITUAL teacher teaches whether or not the student is rich enough to pay $1000 per year. A SPIRITUAL teacher is something entirely different from, say, a PIANO teacher or a SPANISH teacher. I hate to see spirituality corrupted by money.