"In one of my mandatory “sessions” with Robert, he flat out asked me for money. This was not the first time. It was becoming a common theme in our “sessions.” I refused. He became furious,"
I spent over 7 years with Sat Yoga...
At one time or another in our lives, our sight turns inward. We look to find deeper understanding and meaning to life on this beautiful planet. We ask ourselves “what is real, what is important, what does it all mean in the context of eternity, afterlife (or not), the nature of God (for lack of a better word)”, etc.
This journey began for me in Costa Rica. I was searching for a spiritual teacher, preferably one trained in Buddhism. This was difficult to find. My yoga teacher and friend told me about a small group meditation in Escazu, Costa Rica. She had attended a meeting and was impressed with the teacher. Unable to find a teacher in the Buddhist tradition, I thought, “when the student is ready, the teacher manifests.” And here was a group that taught meditation with a teacher who, during the “satsang” gave a discourse on a topic my yoga teacher and I had discussed earlier the same day. I thought this was an extraordinary coincidence and decided to contact the “Sat Yoga Institute” (SYI). The director of the was a man named Robert Shubow, but who referred to himself as Shunyamurti.
I called and spoke to Robert’s wife, Natasha, who went by the name Radha. I was told that in order to come to a meditation, I must first be interviewed by Robert. I agreed and met with Robert who was dressed in all white, his signature costume to reflect his “purity.” He was a tall, older appearing man, with grey hair, who I guessed was in his early 60’s. He had a deep voice he used in a manner consistent with his training in hypnotherapy. He invited me into his office that was supplied with two chairs facing each other and a couch that, I discovered, was used as a “therapist’s couch, where students and later disciples were required to use when they had mandatory “sessions” with him. I always chose to sit in the chair. The use of a therapist’s couch seemed inappropriate to me. I felt it was important to be able to face Robert and pick up visual cues as well as spoken ones.
Robert does have a practiced presence. He uses his voice in a hypnotic tone, using direct eye-to-eye contact. It is mesmerizing and I found myself falling into it. At one point, he asked me if I was prepared to become a “disciple.” And I replied, “Yes.” This surprised me. As I later reflected on it, I was prepared to become a student, not a blind follower. The blind, unquestioning follower is what Robert was looking for. I did not realize this until later when Robert became more transparent in his avarice, greed and extraordinary egoic need to be worshipped by his “disciples” in his new religious “order.”
I was curious and drawn to this bright, seemingly knowledgeable teacher of spiritual things. He had convinced me with his focus, intellect and charm, that he was just the spiritual guide I was looking for. Shortly after the interview, I started to attend the weekly group meditations.
You may ask, what qualifies Robert as a spiritual teacher other than what he tells you and what people are willing to believe? He was a long time member (10+ years) of the very controversial Brahma Kumaris, where he wrote and refined their propaganda, prior to creating SYI. From a BK website, former BKs who knew him said this: “Robert was one of the Brahma Kumaris story tellers who ghostwrote the very largely fictionalized biography of Lekhrai Kripalani, Called Adi Dev, The First Man.” It established the false narrative of the BK’s history in English and the other non-Hindi languages into which it was translated ever since and became the “official version of the history we all feel for.” A hagiography.” Robert is indeed an adept teller of fictionalized stories.
In his memorial tribute to Dadi Janki, the administrative head of the BK World Spiritual University, he states. “A time came when it became incumbent upon me ethically and spiritually to leave the BK University. For a number of years, I had been becoming more and more unsatisfied with the teachings, unable to reconcile them all with my own internal sense of the Real. I was also being asked by many other BK students for counseling and felt wrenchingly the limitations of my abilities. So I began to read again—after years of having abandoned my scholarly pursuits entirely for meditation and service—now focusing on science and psychology. I studied clinical hypnosis. Eventually, I went professional as a hypnotherapist, and then a past life regression therapist. Eventually I also added other titles to be able to deal with all the varieties of spiritual emergency that a California healer had to master: ghostbuster, curse remover, depossessionist (exorcist), and finally close encounter therapist. And of course, I had to study Jungian analysis and dreamwork, then went even deeper into psychoanalysis and discovered the writings and seminars of Jacques Lacan, which took me even further down the rabbit hole.” (Full text found here: https://www.moreaboutbrahmakumaris.org/445562116)
He does not discuss this part of his history. He does not reveal any formal training in psychological sciences. As noted above, he was a prodigious consumer of spiritual, psychological and metaphysical texts and regurgitated their contents as if they were his own thoughts. He apparently had a “healing” practice in San Rafael, California before moving to Costa Rica. Other than that, nothing qualified him. He was a licensed attorney in the states at one time.
In its early years, SYI was a small group numbering no more than 10-15 people who gathered weekly to meditate. These were sincere seekers of deeper truth who believed that Robert held the answers to their questions. The meditation was followed by a discussion of something Robert had just read and felt the need to pontificate upon. Robert insists that his teachings are so esoteric that they are meant only for those who are spiritually ready to hear/receive them. This makes the students feel that they are in some way “special,” because they are the chosen ones.
Robert is brilliant and charismatic, as are many spiritual cult leaders. He reads constantly and then makes various “expert” pronouncements on what he has read, when in fact, he is no expert. When reading Ramana Maharshi, several years after I had started attending meditation meetings, he actually started to slowly insinuate that he had direct spiritual contact with Ramana, even naming the “ashram” he had others buy for him, after Arunachala. He now states that Sri Ramana speaks through him because he is of direct spiritual lineage. This is patently untrue. He never met or studied with Ramana. Again, this evidences his egoic need to appear god-like.
Robert is also a great espouser of conspiracy theories and taught about things such as 9/11 being part of a huge governmental conspiracy, the “ashram” being prepared for SYI by beings from UFOs, to the current time where he teaches students that COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines are part of an international conspiracy which employs nanotechnology designed to kill off the unwitting population. He warns that residents of the “ashram” cannot be exposed to vaccinated people because they will be contaminated and die.
He uses the name Shunyamurti (a name he had the hubris to give himself after reading metaphysician Fritzhof Schuon’s, The Fullness of God; Fritzhof Schuon on Christianity.) Schuon stated that “…the name Shunyamurti (Manifestation of the Void) applied to a Buddha, is full of significance…” Shubow is no buddha. It should be noted, it is traditional for a teacher or guru, to bestow spiritual names on students/disciples. It is unusual for a self-proclaimed teacher/guru to give themselves such a name. It clearly demonstrates the extent of Robert’s arrogance that, in his benighted mentality, he gave himself, and eventually thought of himself, as a god-like figure, if not an actual mouthpiece of god. I have heard people ask Robert if he is enlightened, and he just smiles, permits people to refer to him as such and never denies it.
Robert bestowed upon his wife, Natasha, the name of Radha. Again, this is a reflection of the extraordinary pretensions of a man who solidly perceives himself as a god-like figure. Radha, is a Hindu goddess and a consort or wife of the god Krishna. She is worshipped as a goddess of love, tenderness, compassion and devotion, all characteristics not possessed by Natasha. Radha now goes by the moniker of Radha Ma, after Anandamayi Ma, an East Indian saint who maintained an altered state and is perceived to be self-realized or enlightened. SY reports that Natasha has also become “awakened” at which time the “Ma” was added to her name. A student related to me that her supposed awakening came after some heavy pot smoking. Being stoned can certainly alter one’s mental state, but to attribute such a state to becoming “awakened” is quite a stretch. Robert is an admitted user of entheogenic substances. You see a pattern here? Falsely attribute known saintly qualities/experiences (such as artificially induced altered states of mind due to drug ingestion) to non-saints, and all of a sudden, they are enlightened or “awakened.” This is an insidious strategy used to exert power and authority over others who are not tagged by the guru as being enlightened.
It is important to note that in a rigidly structured hierarchy, such as SYI, the ones who have the authority and the power are recognizable by the names they give themselves and others within the community. Robert and Natasha were named to send a message to their community that they possessed god-like qualities. This enabled them to control others by relying upon the supreme and unquestionable authority granted by the use of these specific “spiritual” names with which they enshrouded themselves. Really, who is one to question or argue with god after all?
When I first started attending meditations, I was a neophyte. I found meditation to be difficult to engage in at the beginning, but as time passed, I found great comfort, solace and peace in the practice itself. Learning to meditate with a group was a valuable experience and one which I still practice.
It was not until I had attended several meditations, I was told in order to continue I needed to attend “sessions” with Robert. These “sessions” were not free and each cost $100 or more. Natasha had informed me of this requirement and said I needed to go at least once a week or more. The purpose of these sessions was to help me delve into my “shadow self” in order to eventually gain mastery over my miserable, egoic self. Robert called these mandatory spill-your-guts-sessions “clinical atmanology.” First of all, there is no such thing. Secondly, this is a made-up term he used to describe a type of talk or “gaze-directly-at-you-for-an-hour-without-saying-a-word” type of therapy to help you at a “soul” level. In Hinduism, “atman” refers to the soul, indicating our true self or essence, that underlies our existence. It goes beyond individual identification (ego) or attachment to a sense of self as a person. Adding the word “clinical” gives a false impression of a legitimate practice.
Robert told his students he studied psychology based on a wide variety of principles developed by Jung, Freud, Lacan, among others. He expressed that he felt these principles had never been fully developed, and that he, Robert, had in fact developed a new field of “clinical soul psychology.” I want to point out that in my later background checks of Shubow, I could find no evidence he possessed a degree in psychology. He was never licensed to practice psychology or any type of psychotherapy in either the United States or Costa Rica. He did, however, talk about what he read, including unbelievably convoluted lectures on Lacan, which he and Natasha pretended to understand, and which were generally unintelligible.
One of Lacan’s claims to fame was his inconsistency in the meanings of the terminology he used, which left his students in a state of confusion. To perpetuate confusion, Robert would pepper his lectures with Lacanian terminology, including one of his favorite terms “jouissance,” which literally means enjoyment. But Lacan didn’t use it in that manner. Rather, his work indicated that the transgression of the pleasure principal is not more pleasure, but instead is pain, since the amount of pleasure one can bear is limited. This pain is what Lacan termed jouissance and Lacan linked it to the castration complex and to the aggression of the death drive.
Robert’s teachings are designed to make those who do not have advanced education or degrees, feel inferior. He derides and mocks those who ask him questions about what he has said or who seek further clarification. He does not tolerate questioning of his expertise or authority. He delights in obfuscation and a sense of intellectual superiority, which is interesting, because many of the students were extremely well educated, including many with advanced degrees. If a teacher is unable to communicate even the most complicated information with concise thoughts and simple language, then the teacher does not fully comprehend the information they are attempting (or in Robert’s case, not attempting) to convey. Robert uses obscure terminology he mines from whatever he is reading. This is done to make students feel “stupid.” It also places Robert in the position of being the only one who truly understands anything.
Natasha taught classes based on Robert’s teachings, using similar language, she clearly did not understand. She also gave “clinical atmanological sessions,” to students that weren’t quite as well-to-do, for a cheaper rate than Robert. A friend of mine who was required to see her in these sessions, said that Natasha required students to lay down on a couch while she sat behind the head of the couch in a very Freudian manner. The student was then required to talk and confess all of their sins and innermost secrets, while Natasha took copious notes, without saying a word. She has no training in psychology or license to practice it.
She is fairly bright and creative, but not on an intellectual par with her husband. Her claim to fame was being his wife and as such exercised almost equal authority and say over the running of the “sangha.” She took over teaching most of the evening classes and one year spent the entire time talking about the evil of sexual relationships. At one point, advanced students were to refrain from intimate relationships, even with their partners or spouses, because it was thought that such relations diminished the ability to be a spiritual being.
Unlike her husband, who has the ability to mask his emotional reactions most of the time, Natasha was emotionally labile, petty, jealous of students that took up too much of Robert’s attention. She has a deep need to be the queen bee and was threatened by strong, smart, successful, independent, talented women. Like her husband, though, she was all too eager to ask for money and things she wanted people to buy/give to her, etc. Both she and Robert expected the “sangha” to pay for their rather extravagant lifestyle, through what they called “love donations” which in fact were mandatory fees and a requirement if one was to participate in the activities of the Institute. This husband and wife pair coveted the resources of others and demanded money as payment for what they saw as their service to others. It’s a pretty sweet deal if you can swing it.
Many of the students were quite affluent personally or came from wealthy families who would support them. Robert and Natasha milked their vulnerabilities by indicating that if one was truly spiritual they should surrender to the guru and his designates, such as his wife. In other words, you were asked to gladly part with your worldly goods. Those worldly goods were meant to be heading directly into Robert’s pocket for his individual benefit. Robert and Natasha expected the “sangha” to support their desires to have an expensive home on several hundreds of acres of land in a remote part of Costa Rica where they could hide away their still small, but slightly growing cult. They have lived in such an opulent residence for years. Robert could be king and Natasha could be queen of their new kingdom.
Part of Robert’s modus operandi was to get women of a certain age or vulnerability to divorce their husbands. He counseled them to get as much money as they could out of a divorce and then to give all of the proceeds from their divorce to Robert, to support the community ashram. Robert wooed women in this way. He let them know that he and the “community” were the “real family” who would always take care of them. The only caveat, they had to surrender everything to him. They could pay to build a house at the ashram, but they could not own any title to the house and could be expelled at any time from the community for any reason.
Robert attempted this type of manipulation with me and was ultimately unsuccessful. It did, however, put a cruel and unnecessary strain on my marriage and caused my partner deep pain. It is the one thing I truly regret in my life, this causing of pain to someone I love dearly. Robert is adept at this type of manipulation, which is subtle at first. He begins by telling you that your unhappiness, suffering, etc., is rooted in your relationship with your partner. Then over a period of sessions, he finally recommends you consider divorce and moving to the “ashram” where your “real family” is waiting for you with open arms. This, of course, is all a lie presented to get you to part with whatever resources you have in your pocket or bank account.
Over the course of my time at SYI, I “donated” at least $70,000+. In one of my mandatory “sessions” with Robert, he flat out asked me for money. This was not the first time. It was becoming a common theme in our “sessions.” I refused. He became furious, and asked me “What am I going to do with my stuff if you don’t pay the rent!!” So much for being an enlightened being without any attachment to the material world. Robert was very attached to his “things” such as books, maintaining a certain “look,” living in a luxurious manner, having his students literally wait on him hand and foot, etc. He believes he merits such treatment by others as he is the “embodiment of the void.” He has no need to earn an income, except by demanding payment from his students for his very being.
SYI morphed as it moved away from the center of San Jose, Costa Rica, to a fairly remote part of the country. It became the Sat Yoga Foundation and styled itself as an ashram, a center of education, a place of healing. It is none of these things. Like putting on sack cloth and spreading ashes on one’s skin to say to the world how humble you are, and not achieving that message at all, Robert and Natasha adopted East Indian ashram customs such as wearing white kurtas and slacks, using prayer shawls, preferring women to wear dresses or salwar kameez, reciting yamas and niyamas, using a lot of Sanskrit based terminology, etc. It was an attempt to mirror some type of legitimacy as an “ashram” and declare to the world their humility and supposed genuine caring. Each student was given a Sanskrit name by Robert, which he said he was divinely inspired as a guru to give.
Robert established a hierarchy among the students. You were either higher or lower in the food chain. Those who were higher, were considered more spiritually advanced. They were given names that reflected lofty spiritual ideals or godly personages. Coincidentally, they were also the ones giving the most money to Robert and his wife. They were the ones who funded the purchase of land, the building of his large, opulent house, the maintaining of his expensive lifestyle and tastes. Robert characterizes those that “have” as being “enlightened beings” who must be obeyed without question by those who are lower in the pecking hierarchy. Coincidentally, most of these lower rung people (or their families) do not have resources, are required to do demanding, often back breaking, physical labor, live in dorm style housing, and even provide maid and housekeeping services to Robert and Natasha.
Money equates to how spiritually developed one is in this cult, or so-called, self-proclaimed, religious order. No money, no chance of reaching “enlightenment.” I know of students who had to ask family or friends for money to buy essential basics such as soap, shampoo, deodorant, and toothpaste while others living on the same land lack for nothing and refused to share their wealth to provide for these bare necessities. So much for community support and taking care of one another.
Robert teaches that he is the savior, not only of 20 or so students living at the “ashram,” but also of the world. He teaches that everyone and everything in the outside world is tainted, bad, and unholy. He traps students into this belief system and trains them to fear the world, their families and the people who genuinely care and love them. He insists on isolation and breaking away from any relationship to non-community members. He teaches that the “ashram” is the only safe place for them. He teaches by inculcating everything with fear – fear of destruction, fear of obliteration, fear of disease (although he discourages the use of western medicine, except for himself of course), fear of life, fear of God, fear of failure, fear of not feeling like you are a failure, fear of consequences if he is not obeyed without question. Fear is an effective way to keep vulnerable people in line and Robert is an adept fear monger. He weaves it carefully into the fabric of most of his teachings.
Robert demands that students take written loyalty oaths to him, that they must sign, and swear never to say anything negative about him or SY. For someone who proclaims he is beyond egoic needs or expression, this is certainly a conundrum!
The sad part is that Robert had the potential at one time to be a truly inspired teacher. He instead morphed into the warped image of who/what he perceives himself to be at this time. Such a waste of potential talent for doing good in the world. Instead, he has broken the spirit, minds and hearts of many. He has manipulated fears and vulnerabilities to destroy familial relationships. He has truly created a community of people who are “broken toys.”
SY is not a place for spiritual growth. It is a place where much can be learned, at a very high price –monetarily, mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. My experiences over several years did teach me certain things. I learned to meditate, which is a marvelous tool. I learned to discern that truth is not necessarily something taught by one who proclaims it. I learned how a “spiritual guru” who is actually a charlatan, operates. I learned by leaving SY that the world and the extraordinary souls who inhabit this magnificent planet are filled with more beauty, kindness, truth and compassion than anything SY could possibly teach or emulate. That type of understanding is beyond their ability to comprehend.
From my experiences, I have learned there is Light which exists in all that is manifest. I have learned we are meant to feel joy. I have learned that the true Source of Our Being is unconditional Love. These are the things one will not learn from SY.
Find your truth. You, and all of us, deserve nothing less.
The writer of this testimonial has indicated that they will be happy to answer any question about it. You can refer to them as "Anonymous 6"