Expulsion of Swami Shivashankarananda… ex Swami registered new body to maintain controlExecutive Members of the Guyana Sevashram Sangha have explained their recent decision to expel Swami Shivashankarananda, previously known as Suraj Singh, the administrator of the Cove and John Ashram.Expelled Swami Shivashankarananda, previously known as Suraj SinghOn Friday, the executive body announced via an advertisement in a local newspaper the expulsion of the Swami (monk), upon instruction by the board of directors of the parent Bharat Sevashram Sangha, based in India. The Sangha founded in 1917 has many ashrams around the world including Guyana.In accordance with the Sampradaya principle of Hinduism, authority in the organisation is based on the guru-shishya (mentor-student) tradition in which senior monks train individuals called Bramacharyas who are then invested with authority as Swamis or monks at some appropriate time. The authority always flows downward from the most senior monks of the Sangha at the Indian Main Ashram.Speaking with Guyana Times on Saturday, long-serving member and Advisor to the local executive board governing the Guyana Sevashram Sangha, Nawrang Persaud, explained that even though the Singh was relieved of his “Swami” title and asked to leave the Cove and John Ashram premises, former Swami Shivashankarananda has refused to accept a decision transmitted by two senior swamis who were appointed by the India-based Head Office to take over the management of the Guyana Sangha.It is understood that there is a group of individuals who are behind the ex-Swami to seize control of the Ashram which has vast holdings of land and property. They have registered an organisation at the Deeds Registry under the Miscellaneous Deed process, whereas the Ashram, under its present trustees and board, is properly and legally registered under the Friendly Society Act.Persaud related that following the death of his predecessor, Swami Vidyanandaji Maharaj, (former Head of the Cove and John Ashram) in October last year, former Swami Shivashankarananda was appointed administrator of Guyana Chapter, in accordance with the authority structure flowing from India.However, Persaud noted that while he was there for a number of years as a Brahmachari he was elevated to the position of swami somewhat as a matter of expediency.“He assumed head of this organisation without the full background and training and skills, and so on… But from the time he came on, the organisation started going downhill because he did not have the leadership skills, he did not have sufficient knowledge of Hinduism or the Sangha organisation,” Persaud said.He went on to highlight that former Swami Shivashankarananda’s shortcomings became obvious as time progressed but he was not amendable to advice from elders at the helm of the local Sangha as is customary.It was noted that complaints by the public and members against the now ex-swami for violations of the rules, to the Senior Swamis of the Order began even before his appointment as head of the Ashram.“He was thrust into a position of authority but he did not have the capacity to handle that length of responsibility so a number of things went wrong, including two instances that have come to light about his personal life not being in synced with the behaviour of someone who is a religious leader… so all these things became known to the Head Office of this organisation,” the advisor stated.Out of grave concern for his behaviour, the Head Office summoned him to India for a face-to-face meeting as an “attempt to rehabilitate” him from his conduct, but he refused to make the visit by the April 27, 2016 deadline.Following this, a second attempt was made at his rehabilitation in May when the India-based Head Office ordered his transfer from the Guyana Sevashram to the Los Angeles Sevashram Sangha in the United States, where he would have been under the direct supervision of Swami Purnatmananda-ji Maharaj, Secretary of all Western Branches of the Bharat Sevashram Sangha. In that environment he would have been trained for tasks that he could not perform henceforth, within the guru-shishya tradition.However, he again refused to be relocated and instead, accused senior Swamis Bhajanananda of Canada and Shiveshwarananda of USA, who were directly deputed by the Head Office to manage the affairs of the Guyana Chapter, of not having the authority of the Bharat Sevashram Sangha.This forced the Head Office to send one of its more senior monks, Swami Atmajnanananda, the Secretary of the Dehli Branch, to personally deliver the letter (dated June 7) of his expulsion.However, Persaud explained that before the letter was handed to him, Purnatmananda-ji Maharaj who also accompanied Swami Atmajnananda, earlier this week met with the former monk and pleaded with him to travel to Los Angeles to redeem himself.“Swami-ji was telling him that even though you have this expulsion letter, we can still appeal for you to go to Los Angeles but he was abusive to Swami-ji, who was begging him with folded hands, pleading for him to go back with him… He refused to acknowledge the need to improve himself and to become a better leader. He didn’t accept it.” Persaud added.The member told this newspaper that the decision was not an off-the-cuff one but was reluctantly taken after all other measures failed. In one of the correspondences from the Head Office to the former swami, which was seen by Guyana Times, several concrete instances of improper actions were cited.Speaking to several prominent members of the local Hindu Community, both lay and ordained, Guyana Times was told that outsiders cannot overrule the authority of a Monastic Order such as the Bharatiya Sevashrama Sangh even through legal manipulations and technicalities.Such an approach is antithetical to the fundamental tenets of Hinduism, which makes decisions based on the senior monks reaching consensus through discussion on issues.The local officials of the Ashram emphasised that the avenue for the expelled swami to be rehabilitated and returned to the fold is still open once the guru-shishya tradition is followed.