Mary Garden's pursuit of the divine began in 1973 when a poster in an Auckland
health food shop prompted her to attend a talk by a visiting Hindu at a yoga
Soon, she would leave her university Master's studies and go to India: 'I had found what I had been looking for all my life.'
Seven years and 200 pages later, barely escaping sexual assault on the way to Delhi airport, she wondered, 'Is this is how you are going to farewell me, Mother India? I don't want your heaven any more because I can't bear the hell that goes with it. Now I just want to be one of those ordinary people of the world that your gurus seem to despise so much.'
Along with the challenges of Indian travel, Garden's disillusionment can be attributed to two men - hence the scathing reference to 'gurus'.
Satya Sai Baba was an afro-haired huckster whose acolytes, Indian and foreign, flocked to his southern ashram.
'I was sure I detected a soft glow and there seemed to be a luminous aura circling his mound of black kinky hair. As I had never seen such a phenomenon before, I wondered whether some psychic facility had recently developed within me - he was God in human form.'
Devastated by stories that the 'celibate' guru had sex with male followers, she moved to the Himalayan foothills and into the clutches of Swami Balyogi Premvarni whose preferred yoga asanas were conducted in private with a chosen female foreigner.
'Suddenly he reached over and pulled me down on the cot and began kissing me. His tongue began to push his saliva into my mouth. Stunned, I just lay there rigid like a corpse, and before I knew it he had pulled up my robe, manoeuvred his penis between my legs and was inside me.
'Seconds later I looked down to see he was mopping himself with his scarf, which he then handed to me. "Dry yourself. Just raising your kundalini (serpent-power energy). Now go".'
Garden explored other traditions, including Vipassana meditation and the Rajneesh sect, more open about their sexual desires, before reconciling with 'Swamiji' and falling pregnant to him.
Cast aside to have a horrendous late-term abortion, she left the ashram and, soon, India, seeing the Swami for 'what he really was - a dangerous and violent megalomaniac.'
A courageous memoir and a salutary warning to all shoppers in the spiritual supermarket.
* Thanks to Book Warehouse, Keen Street, Lismore for supporting this column.
The Serpent Rising is a journey of spiritual seduction is based on my experiences in India during the 70's. It is essentially a memoir. Read more about “The Serpent Rising”