Atma Jyoti Ashram: Sannyasis or Snake Oil Salesmen? – Swami Devananda Saraswati

This article was originally published in June 2009 on Vijayvaani with the title “Atma Jyoti Ashram: In sheep’s clothing” and Vigil-On-Line with the title “Atma Jyoti ‘Ashram’: Christian priests or swindlers?”. Since that date it has appeared on various websites under various titles including (now defunct) with the title “Atma Jyoti Ashram: Christian Priests Uncloaked!”. We have updated the article here, adding relevant photos and links and a subtitle that reads “Including a critique of the Sri Ramanasramam journal Mountain Path and its editors”. This present version is a complete reference and, we hope, a better reference than the original feature. — SDS

GB & AJA Brothers

Fr. George Burke (large man), head of Atma Jyoti Ashram, and his Catholic priests and brothers in religion. This photo was taken at a California Kali Temple some years ago. Fr. George and his gang have now reverted to their original Christian vocations—do cheats and impersonators have vocations?—and call their current hideout in Cedar Crest, New Mexico, as Light of the Spirit Monastery. Here, in secret, they practice “original” Christianity—without the little boys we hope—and “original” Yoga—or should that be Bhoga? Fr. George and his gang are ardent purveyors of the Jesus in India fable and have added their own bits and pieces to the story. It is a real money-spinner among the credulous!

Now it is not good / For the Christian’s health / To hustle the Aryan brown, / For the Christian riles / And the Aryan smiles / And he wearth the Christian down; / And the end of the fight / Is tombstone white / With the name of the late deceased, / And the epitaph drear, / “A fool lies here / Who tried to hustle the East.” – From The Naulahka by Rudyard Kipling

Sita Ram Goel

The Missionary Agenda

In Catholic Ashrams: Sannyasins or Swindlers?, Sita Ram Goel describes the Christian missionary strategists’ plan to infiltrate Hindu society and gain the confidence of the people:

“Christianity has to drop its alien attire and get clothed in Hindu cultural forms. Christianity has to be presented as an indigenous faith. Christian theology has to be conveyed through categories of Hindu philosophy; Christian worship has to be conducted in the manner and with the materials of Hindu puja. Christian sacraments have to sound like Hindu samskaras; Christian churches have to copy the architecture of Hindu temples; Christian hymns have to be set to Hindu music; Christian themes and personalities have to be presented in styles of Hindu painting; Christian missionaries have to dress and live like Hindu sannyasins; Christian mission stations have to look like Hindu ashramas. And so on, the literature of Indigenization goes into all aspects of Christian thought, organization and activity and tries to discover how far and in what way they can be disguised in Hindu forms.”

Sita Ram Goel wrote this in 1988, and he would not be surprised to learn that Christian priests and monks in America have adopted the same tactics to attract a whole generation of American youth interested in Hindu spirituality, back to Christianity. The leader in this movement today is Abbot George Burke of Atma Jyoti Ashram in Cedar Crest, New Mexico. He is better known on the Internet as Swami Nirmalananda Giri.

Fr. George BurkeFr. George BurkeIsha Jyoti to Atma Jyoti to Light of the Spirit Monastery

Atma Jyoti Ashram was originally called Sri Isha (Jesus) Jyoti Sannyas Ashram and was located at Borrego Springs, California. It has since moved to Cedar Crest, New Mexico and is called Light of the Spirit Monastery—a retreat to Christian roots after being rebuffed by Indian Pagans. Fr. George Burke is a Gnostic Orthodox Christian priest, and if reports are correct, most or all of the community of brothers attached to him are Christian priests.

On a visit to India, Fr. George met the Bengali saint Anandamayi Ma. She is said to have instructed him to remain in the Christian religion and continue his Christian practices. This is the usual advice given to foreign seekers by Hindu gurus. In spite of their spiritual enlightenment, most gurus are grossly ignorant of Christianity’s ideology and militant prayers for triumph over the Indian heathen. They advise their foreign disciples to remain in the religion of their forefathers without realizing the consequences of their thoughtless, irresponsible words.

Christianity is a personality cult based on a false doctrine of vicarious salvation. It is imperialistic and seeks world domination by any means. There is nothing in Hindu scripture or the ancient Rishi tradition remotely similar to this asuric creed. And there is nothing in the ancient guru-shishya tradition to support the ill-conceived advice handed out to foreign seekers by Hindu gurus who do not want to take spiritual responsibility for their Western charges.

RKM Swamis & AJA PriestsAnandamayi’s alleged instruction to Fr. George and his followers suited them to perfection. They would quote her later as their authority to don the ochre robes of Hindu sannyasis and adopt the Sanskrit names and titles of Smarta Dashanami monks. The fact that Anandamayi Ma was not a Dashanami sannyasi herself and had no authority to give them ochre robes or Dashanami titles did not deter them in their calculated impersonation drama.

They continued to perform the blood-stained sacrifice of the Christian Mass in secret, even as they presented themselves in public as simple, unaffiliated Hindu monks. It was the old fraud of Robert de Nobili and Henri Le Saux being repeated on an unsuspecting public, only this time it was an American and not an Indian public being duped by these sweet talking, persuasive snake oil salesmen from California.

AJA priests with RamananandaOm on Cross

At one point in their career, while still the Sri Isha (Jesus) Jyoti Sannyas community in Borrego Springs, they were caught out in their charade by the Shaiva Siddhanta Church in Hawaii. These American Hindu converts already had experience of Christian priests posing as Hindu sannyasis. The Jesus Jyoti priests and brothers were not a new phenomenon.  They did carpentry for a living, being followers of the Galilean Carpenter, and one of the items they produced for sale was a Roman cross with the sacred Hindu word-symbol Om nailed to its cross bars. They sent a sample to Hinduism Today with the hope of attracting sales. They got instead a negative response and a return of the obscene object. Hindus, even modern American Hindu converts, are deeply offended by this kind of syncretism and do not understand the appeal it has for New Agers and gay Christian priests who flaunt it on their cassock fronts as a sign of their liberal religion and radical universalism.

Om-on-CrossThe Catholic lay leader Victor J. F. Kulanday (Swami Kulandaiswami) has said vis-a-vis Fr. Bede Griffiths and his bastardised Om-on-Cross iconography:

“Rituals, rites, [and] ceremonies in Hinduism have not been changed to suit the whims of modern innovators. [Fr. Bede Griffiths of Shanti Vanam], by superimposing the sacred word Om on a Cross, imagines he has created a new spiritual phenomenon. On the contrary, he confuses and insults both Hinduism and Christianity. He fails to realize that by such acts he is neither enriching Christianity nor honouring Hinduism. One has to respect the unique rites and rituals of each religion, which placed in another context, will be meaningless and confusing.”

In a later debate published in the letter’s column of the Indian Express, Chennai, in 1989, the Hindu correspondent S. Venkatachalam wrote:

Abhishiktananda in a cave on Arunachala Hill“It is highly outrageous and objectionable to compare … Hindu leaders and religious heads with the Christian missionary experimentalists like Bede Griffiths, Hans Staffner [and the] Christian missionary Fr. Henri Le Saux, the so-called Abhishiktananda…. Swami Vivekananda, Gandhiji, Ramana Maharshi and Paramacharya of Kanchi never resorted to such experimentation of a cocktail religion or masala and kichidi religion by mixing religious symbols, donning the dress of [a Christian] father or [Muslim] mullah, building church-like or mosque-like temples, fabricating Bible- or Quran-like Hindu slokas, or asserting that Rama or Krishna or Shiva is the only God and by accepting Him alone one can get salvation.”

The Sri Isha (Jesus) Jyoti Sannyas Ashram brothers did not succeed in pedalling their original hand-crafted Om-on-Cross artifacts to the Hindus of Hawaii then, but in their new incarnation as sadhus of Atma Jyoti Ashram they have succeeded in getting advertising space in Hinduism Today (this has been queried to to the magazine’s editor without result) and the sponsorship of Sri Ramanasramam in Tiruvannamalai. Yet they remain, so far as we know, Christian priests in orange robes with false Sanskrit names and titles, the usual New Age bells and beads added. They are quite a success in Christian duplicity, if not in Hindu spirituality.

SRA entrance gateAshram renounces Hindu identity

The sponsorship of an Atma Jyoti father by Sri Ramanasramam and the publication of the Atma Jyoti Ashram brothers’ articles under assumed Hindu names in the Sri Ramanasramam journal Mountain Path is not really surprising. Sri Ramanasramam is a family business administered by a hereditary trustee that has had a long association with foreign devotees. The current president is the retired engineer and Vedanta paralogist V. S. Ramanan. Under his father and then ashram president T. N. Venkataraman[1], the ashram was declared a protected non-Hindu institution in 1961 by a court order on the specious ground that Sri Ramana Maharshi was his—Venkataraman’s—paternal uncle and the ashram was therefore a private family burial ground.

RKM logoThis set a precedent for leading Hindu institutions in independent India, and Sri Aurobindio Ashram would follow suit and argue before the Supreme Court that it was a separate religious denomination different from Hinduism because Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy was a synthesis of different Hindu philosophies – another example of specious reasoning if ever there was one! Later, the Ramakrishna Mission would also renounce its Hindu identity under pressure from its Christian members, declare itself a “cosmopolitan” and distinct religious denomination called Ramakrishnaism, and claim that it was entitled to protection under Article 26 of the Indian Constitution. Later the Supreme Court would deny the Ramakrishna Mission leaders their wish for a unique identity and declare that the Ramakrishna Mission was and had always been a Hindu institution.[2][3]

Christopher QuilkeyMichael Highburger, OSBTheosophists and Benedictines

Though V. S. Ramanan is the official editor of Mountain Path as required by law, the real editor is the Australian theosophist Christopher Quilkey, a disciple of the anti-modernist French Sufi Rene Guenon. Quilkey is assisted in his editorial work by the American Catholic Benedictine monk Brother Michael Highburger. Brother Michael is a disciple of the notorious inculturation missionary Fr. Bede Griffiths and divides his time between Griffiths’ Camaldolese Benedictine hermitage Sachidananda Ashram, or Shanti Vanam as it is better known, at Kulithalai near Tiruchirappalli and Sri Ramanasramam in Tiruvannamalai. He is a Catholic priest and will say Mass whenever and wherever the militant Catholic spirit moves him, including Sri Ramanasramam and other sacred places of Hindu pilgrimage. His other duty is to vet articles sent to Mountain Path and forward them to Christopher Quilkey in Kodaikanal for acceptance and publication. Ramanan appears to take little or no interest in the articles selected for publication, and though the ashram follows Vedic Brahminical traditions and can afford to employ a professional, it is not interested in finding a responsible and dedicated Hindu editor for its journal.[4][5]

VSRPresident Ramanan in Cloud Cuckoo Land

From our private correspondence with Ramanan, we can say categorically that he is in a state of denial regarding the Christian residents in his ashram and missionaries in general. He writes:

“There is no doubt that Christianity has, over centuries been a proselytizing religion and some of the preachers had indulged in scurrilous propaganda against Hindu beliefs and mores. But there is nothing to worry. The worst is over and the Vedantic Truth is eternal and imperishable. I know a number of Christian priests who revere Hinduism and Vedanta. It is well known that Westerners are increasingly being drawn to Yoga and Vedanta which Swami Vivekananda called the ‘Religion of the Future’”.

What are we to say to this mindless, uncomprehending attitude in a famous ashram’s administrator? Either Ramanan is a fool who lives in Cloud Cuckoo Land or he is in league with the Christian priests who edit and publish in the ashram journal.

SadasivanandaThe first articles to appear in Mountain Path by an Atma Jyoti Ashram member were by an American Catholic priest who resided in Tiruvannamalai and called himself Swami Sadasivananda Giri. The articles were inoffensive enough, but because it was known to a number of sadhus and Sri Ramana Maharshi’s devotees that the author was in fact a Christian priest masquerading as a Hindu sannyasi, the matter was brought to the Sri Ramanasramam president’s attention with the request that Sadasivananda be identified by his real Christian name and titles to Mountain Path readers.[6]

The request was ignored, and when the April-June 2009 issue of Mountain Path appeared, it was discovered that not only did Swami Sadasivananda’s article appear without proper identification, but an article by Fr. George Burke, Greek Orthodox abbot of Atma Jyoti Ashram, New Mexico, was also included under the name Swami Nirmalananda Giri.

The request to identify Christian contributors to the journal was not only denied by the Sri Ramanasramam president Ramanan, but a strong message of contempt and scorn for Hindu sannyas traditions was given out by the Mountain Path editor and his dubious, uncommitted foreign assistants.[7][8]

Fr. Robert de Nobili SJInfiltration by impersonation

The problem of Christian priests and missionaries masquerading as Hindu sannyasis is an old one in India. The impersonation charade was first carried out by Robert de Nobili in Madurai in the 17th century. It was continued and made notorious by Fr. Bede Griffiths (aka Swami Dayananda) in the 20th century, though his collaborator, the French Benedictine monk Fr. Henri Le Saux, was without doubt the most successful Hindu sadhu impersonator of all time. He is known to this day by his assumed Sanskrit name Swami Abhishiktananda, and had none other than the late Neo-Vedantin Swami Chidananda Saraswati of Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh as a patron. A cult has grown up around him and his obsessive man-love, Marc Chaduc (aka Swami Ajatananda Saraswati), who allegedly committed suicide in the Ganga at Rishikesh.

The new twist in this criminal impersonation of Hindu sadhus is that Christian priests in the US are adopting Hindu names and dress in order to deceive and entrap America seekers who have already rejected the false doctrines and superstitions of Christianity, in the hope of bringing them back to Jesus and the Church.

Mother India Missionary activity in India has peaked under the benevolent gaze of the Christian-Congress UPA-2 regime of Sonia Gandhi. Andhra Pradesh is now said to be 30% Christian and growing, with Dravidian-ruled Tamil Nadu following closely behind. Both states will soon rival Kerala with their Christian populations.

But the real problem is not missionaries flashing dollars or dressing up as sadhus in order to “harvest” the souls of unsuspecting villagers for Christ. Christians in India are only doing what Christians have always done throughout history: they are subverting and subsuming the non-Christian culture and society that they live in and are not able to conquer by force.

GFCHThe real problem is with Hindu leaders—political, social, cultural, and religious leaders. They are first of all in a state of denial, unwilling or unable to admit the Christian threat and the grave implications it has for Hindu civilization and society. Then, they are engaged in fruitless inter-religious dialogues with Christian leaders who flatter their egos, pay their expenses, and get them to sign declarations that are patently against the Hindu community’s interests. Or, like the editor of the Sri Ramanasramam journal Mountain Path, they take the out-dated, irresponsible, and non-Vedic theosophical view that all religions are the same, so what does it matter if a few million ignorant villagers become dollar Christians and are alienated from their native society and ancient culture.

Or, and this is especially true of Hindu religious leaders, they recognize the Christian threat, but are not sufficiently equipped or knowledgeable to counter it. Unlike Christian priests who study Hindu scriptures and philosophy in-depth for years in order to critique them, Hindu religious leaders have never read the Bible or studied the imperialist Christian ideologies formulated out of the Gospel story. They are helpless, and they are made even more helpless by their own superficially understood, and often secularized, doctrines of an impersonal, universal, and abstract Brahman godhead.

Every popular religious teacher in India today espouses some form of Vedantic philosophy. Even the popular pro-Christian newspaper Deccan Chronicle has carried a weekly “spiritual” column of secularized Neo-Vedantic commentary called “Vedanta Rocks!” This de-mythologised Vedanta with its abstract terminology and concept of absolute Oneness, is the great love of the modern Indian secular sophist and Jesuit-trained Christian casuist. They can turn these Hindu concepts and ideals any which way they like and use them for any unethical purpose when they are taken out of their original Hindu religious context.

Chidananda SaraswatiDeconstructing Advaita Vedanta

Most modern Indian religious teachers do take Advaita Vedanta out of its original Vedic religious context, and in so doing give a potent weapon to the enemy with which to attack Hindu religion and undermine Hindu society and culture. Sita Ram Goel, in Catholic Ashrams, writes:

“[T]he literature of Indigenisation provides ample proof that several Hindu philosophies are being actively considered by the mission strategists as conveyors of Christianity. The Advaita of Shankaracharya has been the hottest favourite so far. The Vishistadvaita of Ramanuja, the Bhakti of the Alvar saints and Vaishnava Acharyas, the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Vichara of Ramana Maharshi are not far behind.”

The medieval Acharyas and more recent teachers of Vedic spirituality like Sri Ramana Maharshi were able to know without difficulty the religious identity and affiliations of their disciples. They did not have to search out and verify their students’ political and religious backgrounds. This is not true today. Hindu society has become secularised in the cities and teachers are faced with multicultural audiences from different countries and traditions. They do not know who is sitting in front of them. It is therefore incumbent on all Hindu gurus in India and abroad to put their philosophical teaching into its original religious context, so that it cannot be abused and distorted by Hinduism’s scholarly Marxist and Christian enemies.

PaulApostle Paul and the Early Church Fathers conquered ancient Greece by forcibly secularising Greek society. They divided the unity of Greek religion and mythology from Greek philosophy and philosophic terminology. They then secularised and appropriated Greek philosophic terminology and took the Greek religious concept of an Unknown God for themselves. The religious vacuum that followed this secularization of Greek society was filled in with the Jesus cult and other Christian superstitions. Indian bishops are perpetrating the same apostolic fraud on Hindu society today when they claim that the pre-Christian Tamil weaver saint Tiruvalluvar was a disciple of the legendary St. Thomas! They add to their cultural crime by appropriating his “secular” ethical treatise Tirukkural as their own and declaring it a sectarian Christian book.

This is how ancient Greece became a Christian country, and how modern India is fast becoming a christianised Hindu country. The difference is that in modern India, ill-informed Hindu spiritual teachers and ashram administrators are assisting the Christian predators in the downfall and obliteration of their own prized Hindu religion and culture.

Light of the Spirit Monatery (Atma Jyoti Ashram), Cedar Crest, New Mexico.Is it all a mistake?

Perhaps we are mistaken about Atma Jyoti Ashram and its queer inmates; perhaps we have been misinformed about Fr. Abbot George Burke and his Christian agenda. Perhaps he and his disciples have converted to Hinduism and gone through Vedic samskaras of purification and name change under the guidance of a Hindu priest.

If that is the case, then let them produce their certificates of de-baptism and apostasy from the Christian religion (which can be obtained from the local bishop). And as they claim to be Smarta Dashanami sannyasins and have the Giri title added to their names, let them produce their certificates of sannyasa from a recognised Dashanami mahamandaleshwar and math. They can post these documents of religion on their popular website. We will then give them the benefit of the doubt and our blessing, for having chosen true religion over personality cult, and we will hold our peace.

Om/Cross opp SRA


The Sri Ramanasramam administration continues its eclectic approach to religion as it attracts large foreign donations and gifts of land. The president and his family members are regarded as holy family by ashram devotees and servants, and though it is true that the ashram is well-managed, this does not constitute holiness in the administrators per se. Christopher Quilkey remains in his job as de facto Mountain Path editor, a journal that had been started by his father-in-law Arthur Osborne in 1964. As the ashram is a family-administered property, so the ashram journal is a family-edited property. Nepotism—literally “nephew-ism”—is the guiding principle in ashram appointments. The ashram family also will be aware that Quilkey administers valuable Osborne properties that may come their way one day.

Fr. Meath ConlanThe fake swami Sadasivananda has run away, reportedly reprimanded by Ramanan for telling lies and presenting the ashram with a false identity. He has a small presence on the Internet. Brother Michael Highburger, OSB has not been seen for months. Perhaps he has found a new diversion among the village boys of Shantivanam at Kulithalai like his friend and brother in religion Fr. Meath Conlan (photo).

We remain ever reverent of Sri Ramana Maharshi. His devotion and surrender to Sri Arunachaleshwar are an inspiration and example to follow, though some of his “non­actions” are not easily understood by this writer. His silence, with its implied consent, allowed his brother – and later his brother’s family – to take over the ashram administration in their own interest. But we must leave this subject for another time: we have been sternly warned not to question the behaviour of a jnani who is recognised the world over as a personification of the non­dual state of aparokshaanubhuti. Om Namah Shivaya! 卐 卐 卐


Venkataraman1. T. N. Venkataraman was exposed as a thief  when he retired as ashram president.  He and the then bookshop manager, a “sadhu” with two wives which he kept in different towns, allegedly had been embezzling money from the ashram book shop for years and dividing the proceeds between themselves. Nevertheless, Venkataranam was buried near his father, the first president of Sri Ramanasramam and the man who created the private trust in the face of great opposition from other devotees, in front of Sri Ramana’s samadhi shrine and gets the usual prescribed puja due to past ashram presidents.

The Ramakrishna Mission follows 'Ramakrishnaism' not Hinduism.2.  The Supreme Court denied the Ramakrishna Mission its claim to a unique religious identity by quoting Sri Ramakrishna as recorded in The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna: “… various creeds you hear about nowadays have come into existence through the will of God and will disappear again through his will.” In a different article in the Weekend Observer called “Ramakrishna Mission is Hindu again”‘, Ram Swarup observes: “Similarly, Vivekananda who preached Vedanta, used it not to entertain all religions equally but used it to oppose religious ideologies which made exclusive claims to truth, which lacked yoga, inferiority and universality of the spirit, which were based not on principles but on personalities, which went by voices and visions of some one who claimed to be a mediator between God and his followers.” However, Ram Swarup adds this observation in an article by Koenraad Elst called “Are Hindu Reformists Hindus?“: “But the Supreme Court verdict was only a battle won, and the war continues…. Though it took shape under particular circumstances, the RK Mission now has an articulated philosophy of being non-Hindu, a veritable manifesto of separation. (…) Now that it is forcefully articulated, the case for separation could exert a continuing influence on the minds of RK Mission authorities. (…) Pseudo-secularism is abroad, and under its auspices Hinduism is a dirty word, and disowning Hinduism is deemed both prestigious and profitable. Those ideological conditions still obtain, and no court can change them. (…) In trying to prove that it was non-Hindu, [the Mission] spoke quite negatively of Hinduism (…) Can the RK Mission outlive this manifesto of separation?”

› See the letter from the Ramakrishna Mission Secretary to Prof. G. C. Asnani below ↓

Indian Secularists3. Since this article was published in June 2009, we have learned that many Hindu ashrams and religious institutions have been registered as non-religious, i.e. secular, educational institutions. This is done because of the extreme hostility to Hindu institutions by anti-brahmin secular state governments and district officials. However, it also points to cowardice and disunity among Hindus who are not willing to put up a legal fight for their religious and cultural institutions. The protection and independence of religious institutions is guaranteed for all Indian citizens by the Indian Constitution regardless of religious affiliation.

Arthur Osborne4.  Arthur Osborne started the Mountain Path journal in 1964. He was a professor and liberal Christian who held the then fashionable theosophical opinion that all spiritual paths led to the top of the same mountain and are united there. At that time the journal reflected his own views on religion and spirituality. Today, similar views are stated on the title page thus: “The Mountain Path is a quarterly journal founded in 1964 by Arthur Osborne and published by Sri Ramanasramam. The aim of this journal is to set forth the wisdom of all religions and all ages, especially as testified to by their saints and mystics, and to clarify the paths available to seekers in the conditions of our modern world. The Mountain Path is dedicated to Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.”

After Osborne’s death the journal was edited by his wife and after her death by various ashram functionaries or residents including David Godman. As it is published by the ashram president who is also its official editor, it is assumed that Mountain Path represents the ashram’s ideals and religious point of view. This is why the journal, for the most part an innocuous entity that is rather too twee, must be taken seriously and why this critique of its editors is a valid indictment of the magazine’s management.

VG5. The journal has had something of a checkered history depending on who was editor. Under the editorship of V. Ganesan, the holiest brother in the “holy family” of ashram administrators, it was christianised and for years published the most curious articles on Catholic saints. In one issue a photo of the great chain that allegedly bound an imprisoned St. Peter was published by Ganesan after his pilgrimage to Rome. This chain is quite notorious. It is the most famous of the faked relics the Catholic Church produced in the Middle Ages, and popes used to sell the filings of it to the kings of Europe for large sums of money. How Ganesan rationalised the inclusion of it in a journal dedicated to Sri Ramana Maharshi is a question yet to be answered—though discrimination and rationality are not strong characteristics of Neo-Vedantins and radical universalists. In another issue he allowed his mistress to publish a diatribe against Yogi Ramsuratkumar who had allegedly insulted her, though Yogiji loved Ganesan dearly and always gave him special treatment.

VM6. Sadasivananda’s identity and activities were brought to the attention of the ashram  secretary, V. S. Mani, the youngest brother in the administration’s family, by this writer long before his articles began to appear in Mountain Path. The information was ignored. So it is not as if the ashram did not know about Sadasivananda’s real identity or mischief-making on the Internet. But the ashram administration’s attitude towards those who would warn it of trouble ahead is shoot the messenger and ignore the message!

Danda & Kamandalu7. The ashram has always shown contempt for and refused assistance to sadhus and sannyasis. This writer has witnessed this unwelcoming and uncharitable conduct a number of times. It is also true that sannyasis are opposed to nepotism in principle, and especially its practice in ashrams associated with jnanis and saints. It is not an ideal to follow in religious institutions according to Hindu Dharma. The inappropriate application and abuse of the process of heredity has been shown to be one of the causes of the ethical downfall and degeneration of Hindu society today.

A fund to assist sadhus in need, set up by an ashram devotee and administered by the ashram president, has existed for years but has never been utilized as far as this writer knows. No sadhu seems to qualify for its benefits. The rice bhiksha given at noon by the ashram to all sadhus who want it was set up by Sri Ramana Maharshi himself. The ashram management attempted to discontinue the service some years ago but were forced to continue it when devotees reminded the management that it was Sri Ramana’s wish that sadhus living around the hill be fed before the ashram inmates and visitors took their own meal.

Sri Ramana Maharshi was a bhikhari sadhu who lived on alms his whole life and the ashram from its inception till today has depended on public donations for it existence. It was once very poor but in the past couple of decades has become immensely wealthy due to gifts, land acquisitions (some of them contested in court), book publishing and sales, good  investments and the excellent management of its funds. These funds, it should be remembered, originate with devotees and other visitors to the ashram, not from the ashram administrators. They are and have always been public funds and for this reason both the ashram management and the ashram monies are a legitimate subject for public scrutiny.

No doubt it is extremely difficult for a Brahmin family to manage an ashram in today’s racist Dravidian-ruled Tamil Nadu state. But in this instance the family makes things harder for themselves by their own provincial petty-mindedness and quickness to judge devotees who do not immediately recognise their special position as descendants of a great Rishi’s elder brother—the Rishi himself did not have any descendants or known successors. The plain truth is that the ashram management is judgmental and defensive, and the administrators are not welcoming to visitors who do not bring with them wealth or social standing.

JJ8. Sri Ramanasramam, like many globalised ashrams today, is an ideal place to contact girls. For this reason it has always attracted dubious characters of one kind or another. Often the problem devotees are deracinated, randy Indian men who do not know how to behave in a holy place. The ashram librarian, J. Jayaraman, is one such man. He allegedly uses his room in the ashram to entertain his foreign girl friends at night. He is remembered here for famously declaring: “Ramana Maharshi was the biggest fraud of the 20th century!” Jayaraman’s former assistant in the library, now deceased,  spent his time writing letters to newspaper editors using the pseudonym R. R. Sami. He defended the “right” of painter M. F.  Husain to make obscene pictures of Hindu deities, and, of course, got the letters published in India’s anti-Hindu mainstream media.

Note on letter below

The letter below was written by a former General Secretary of the Ramakrishna Mission in Belur Math and sent to Prof. G. C. Asnani in Pune on 28 May 1986. It concerns the claim the Ramakrishna Mission had made that it was not Hindu but a separate religion called “Ramakrishnaism“. See Note 2 above and the references in the article above under the subtitle “Ashram renounces Hindu identity”.

Ramakrishna Mission secretary's letter to Prof. Asnani.


1.   Atma Jyoti Ashram and their Jesus-in-India propaganda with Swami Devananda’s comments at   /02/jesus-in-india-pure-unadulterated.html

2.   Hinduism Today: “Catholic Ashrams: Adopting and Adapting Hindu Dharma” at

3.   Catholic Ashrams in Wikipedia at

4.   Catholic Ashrams: Sannyasins or Swindlers by Sita Ram Goel, Voice of India, New Delhi, 1994 at

5.   Inculturation: Fooling the Hindu Masses by Nithin Sridhar at

6.   Christian Aggression: “Catholic Ashrams: Sachidananda Ashram gets a woman Acharya” at

7.   History of Hindu-Christian Encounters: 304 AD to 1996 by Sita Ram Goel, Voice of India, New Delhi, 1996 at

8.   Radical Universalism: Does Hinduism teach that all religions are the same? by Frank Morales at

9.   Weekend Observer: “Ramakrishna Mission is Hindu Again” by Ram Swarup at

10.   Hinduism Today: “Supreme Court to RK Mission: ‘You’re Hindus'” at

11.   Video: The Advaita Trap by Nondualxtra at

11 Responses

  1. Were any of his followers, as pictured in the photo at the top of the page, conventional, ordained Christian priests?


  2. Burke was never a canonical Orthodox or Roman Catholc cleric.He began his church-religion jumping career with the St.Hilarion Center in Austin Texas in the late sixties.The Center was affiliated with the Liberal Catholic Church and was excommunicated by them for various moral reasons.The Austin group then affiliated with the Order of Christ the King headed by a california based Bishop Kirby who was a chiropractor and occultist and one time radio host on metaphysics.He consecrated the defrocked priest who in turn ordained Burke he later became a bishop.For a while he ran St.Margarets Chapel and began donning catholic monastic habits,together with the Austin group they began to style themselves as Benedictine monastics.After several failed attempts to be integrated into the Old Catholic Church their monastery Holy Protection in Oklahoma became independent and dabbled in liturgies and a very weak form of orthodox spirituality.Visitors who were able to penetrate the cloister were shocked to find a Hindu shrine to their guru.Of course with the facts exposed,needless to say he was never a real or valid Christian cleric nor his followers regardless of their costumes or literature.


  3. Yes, donations to Sri Ramanashramam are exempt from tax. But I do not know if that applies to their book sales which are a major source of ashram income.


  4. Now things fall into place. When I had been to Ramanashram in 2009, and bought books worth about Rs. 2000, I was given a receipt for a donation worth that value. I found that to be very funny because i expected a receipt for the books. I wasn’t making any donation. This may be a way for them to avoid tax.


  5. If you are interested in contacting Brother Michael, send a message to the Sri Ramana Ashram secretary Mr. Mani at .


  6. Has anyone seen or heard of the missing Monk Michael Highburger? I read where was missing and thought to be in a village.

    Just a friend worried


  7. Catch this–they’ve changed back again to being openly Christian:


  8. Indeed, this is the same Abbot [George Burke]. I stayed in their garage guest room while I waited, and waited, and waited to be trained in their Magnetic Therapy technique. My friend’s child had a head injury from an auto accident and we each tried every therapy possible to assist the little girl who had hemispherical brain damage.

    I had come across his book on Magnetic Therapy and was impressed enough to fly to Oklahoma in the heat of the summer to receive training. Instead, I was ushered into many services and worship of various icons, and went with him and his devotees to a psychic faire in Norman where they read Tarot in their red-embroidered black robes. Not quite orthodox.

    Anyone leaving the grounds had to touch the ground before him, and he would bless their heads – possibly protection from the bad neighborhood we lived in. I was warned about going outside but it was too hot to bother anyway.

    Having never been trained, he managed to keep me at the last service until I was too late to catch my plane to NYC to meet with the Mother of the child. Perhaps he thought I would return but the plane itself was delayed, so I managed to go on to New York as planned.

    His various incarnations in several religions is fine, but his story of the origin of his Orthodox Monastery was totally bogus, as I was able to learn later. He also could not locate his source materials at the monastery which he claimed had inspired his book that brought me there. I asked many times and there were many excuses.

    A total fraud.


  9. Australian national Christopher Quilkey is the de facto editor of Sri Ramanasramam’s journal Mountain Path.

    Christopher Quilkey


  10. For more information on the background of Fr. George Burke aka Nirmalananda, go to

    Fr. George Burke as a Gnostic Orthodox Christian priest.


  11. Fr. George Burke aka Nirmalananda, head of Atma Jyoti Ashram, was allegedly the abbot of the Greek Orthodox Holy Protection Monastery of the Theodokos in Pennsylvania, USA.

    St. Mary


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