Author: Stephen Publisher: The NEURAL SURFER Publication date: January 1997
E-mail David Christopher Lane directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
I want to go back to the home base now.
The self-proclaimed Supreme Master Ching Hai and I This is my personal account of how a cult organisation has effected my life. I will try to keep the story as simple and free from bias as possible. I have changed the names of the people involved to keep anonymity. However, if anybody wishes to contact me they can do so through this web page. I must point out that these are my views and my views only. I am writing this in the hope that it may help families who have lost relatives to cult organisations. I also hope that people who are already involved or are thinking about becoming involved in such organisations will read this with an open mind and seriously reconsider what they are doing or are about to do. Firstly, I wish to introduce myself. My name is Stephen and I am 31 yrs. I have a Ph.D in Chemistry and I am employed at university in UK. My nationality is English. I am not a religious nor a spiritual person. I believe that there is a force (some would call it God) far greater than we can imagine. I try to treat everyone with respect. I am open minded. I believe in living as good a life as possible. I believe that family is very important. I am not materialistic and believe that there are no easy answers to living in this tough world. In October 1995 my life changed. I first heard the name Supreme Master Ching Hai. I was on business in New York where I met a beautiful and talented young woman, called Katie. Katie was 25 years old, a Harvard graduate and an extremely talented musician. I am well travelled and have been to most parts of the world (China, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Korea, Europe, etc.). However, I had never before met anyone like her. I fell in love. I returned to UK but was unable to get Katie out of my head. We started writing to each other. In one letter she told me that she had found a guru, whom she believed offered her everything she was searching for in her life. During her childhood, Katie had two near death experiences. She believed that her quest in life was to attain enlightenment so that she could be in heaven. She believed that this guru could show her a path to heaven. She would be saved and would not need to be reincarnated. She would become a Master herself through following this guru and five generations of her family would be saved. The guru in question was The self-proclaimed Supreme Master Ching Hai. I thought this was all a bit strange, but if Katie was happy then so was I. I visited New York on a couple of occasions and found myself being hooked into Katies' beliefs- Maybe this was the way to live ones' life? I became a lacto-vegetarian. I gave up alcohol and other intoxicants. I started reading the writings of Ching Hai. I was trying to find out as much information about Suma Ching Hai and her International Meditation Society as possible. I wanted to understand what Katie was doing and I must admit I was, at first, impressed. Here was an organisation where "membership" was free, all of the initiates were very friendly, there appeared to be no pressure on anyone to follow the groups beliefs and generally everyone associated with the group seemed harmless. I later found out the group maintains control over its' members by using shaming and guilt techniques. I cannot comment on the free membership since Katie (as far as I knew) had not been asked directly for any money. However, initiates are "encouraged" to buy Ching Hai paraphernalia of which there is in abundance. Ching Hai certainly knows how to market herself - there are hundreds of different pictures and photographs, videos, tapes, cds, books, jewellery, etc. all at (if you can believe it) cost price. Initiates are also "encouraged" to donate money to causes which Ching Hai deems suitable through bank accounts set up in her name. I thought that it was a little strange that Ching Hai was completely adored by all - everyone would go around saying "do not thank me, thank Master" and "Master says this or that". I attended a centre once where they were playing videos of Ching Hai and her latest visit Initiates were just sitting in front of the televisions with glazed expressions. I am sorry but this is all a bit weird. The followers would wear pictures of Ching Hai as pendants or broaches. They would have photographs of her all around their houses. They would constantly read and re-read her teachings and absolutely believe in every word. And much more but you get the drift. It worried me that one person could have such a great effect on others. But, what harm was it doing? After all, Catholics follow the teachings of Jesus and they wear crucifixes, etc... However, now when I think of Ching Hai, I am reminded of the old saying..."power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely". For those of you unfamiliar with this group, when you join you practice what is called the convenient method. This entails a lacto-vegetarian diet and meditating for 30 minutes each day. I am not sure about how strict the convenient method is but one is "encouraged" to give up all intoxicants since they are meant to hinder any benefit which one may attain. After three months, convenient practitioners may be fully initiated into the Quan Yin method (light and sound meditation). This more serious. You must follow five precepts (which are basically the same five precepts most spiritual organisations follow), you should meditate two and a half hour a day; 30 minutes of which is done under a blanket in secret. If one has difficulty in doing this the other group members tell them that this is normal and that they should try harder and ask Master for help. The person is "encouraged" to believe that if they try harder they will be Master themselves and obtain all the associated benefits. So they keep on trying. Soon, the meditation becomes an addiction. It becomes the most important thing in their life. Katie was practicing the convenient method when I met her. I had previously had vegetarian partners and if she does not want to drink alcohol then it's up to her. And meditation is meant to be beneficial to many people. In March 1996, Katie was fully initiated by a Quan Yin messenger sent by Ching Hai herself. I was present at the centre but, since I was not a fellow initiate, I was not allowed to be in the same room as the initiation. During that day I was given the convenient method - it was the first time I had meditated. I spent the whole day waiting for Katie. I was given lots of Ching Hai literature to read. Initiates came and talked to me and told me how wonderful the group was and how compassionate their leader was. I was told that I would be very good at meditating and would be able to obtain great benefit from it. How did they know this? They had only just met me! I was offered free food and looked after very well. I look back on that day now with different eyes. Everyone was just too friendly - I was being recruited. The following week, Katie became very ill and had to be rushed to casualty. She had a fever and was feeling nauseous. However, the doctor could find nothing wrong with her. This worried me. What had happened during her secret initiation? Later that week her group contact person phoned to see if everything was all right. When Katie told him she was ill, his response was to say that this is normal after initiation and it is evil spirits causing the illness - apparently, these evil spirits do not like people being saved by Ching Hai and try their best to hold onto the person just initiated. And, apparently past life bad karma was also making her ill. I find all this hard to believe. Katie was never really the same again...... I returned to UK and continued practicing the convenient method. It was my way of being with Katie while we were so far apart. We continued to write and in the Easter of 1996 she came to England to meet my family. As you can imagine, when she started telling them about her guru they were very concerned. What is their son doing? Who is this girl? Who is this guru? I tried to reassure them that everything was fine. Katie and I were in love and we were going to marry. I had also changed. The more I meditated, the more and more I began to believe in Ching Hai. I used to read her writings think they were wonderful - If only everybody in the world followed this way of life? I now look back and think - "What a fool". If you study the Ching Hai literature you realise very quickly that the leader is very good at another standard cult technique - confusing doctrine. We planned to marry in May 1996. A week before we were married Katie came to England. During that week I discovered that I was only following Ching Hai as a way to be close to Katie. And now she was with me and we were going to marry, I did not need to meditate, etc...I wanted to go back to living a normal life. Katie was very upset. She could not believe that I was not happy following Ching Hai. Basically, all I got from meditating was a bad back and my strict vegetarian diet was making me feel cold and generally run down - I had no energy. Anyway, I agreed to try and remain alcohol free and a vegetarian because I loved her so much. We married in May 1996. The wedding day was very stressful. My family all thought that Katie and I would go off and disappear into the cult. My sister was so upset that she did not want to be present - She said to my mother "That's not my brother anymore". I have since heard the full story of how hurt and worried everyone in my family was. I regret that I put them through all that I have. However, they stood by me then and they have continued to stand by me since. So, Katie and I settled down to family life. Although I was not following Ching Hai, I did not mind the Ching Hai pictures and literature all around the house. I did not mind Katie meditating. I had taken her away from the influence of the group in New York - it was only a matter of time before she realised that she didn't need to follow this guru anymore - she had a caring husband who would look after her, keep her safe and provide a Home. Things were going fine. Katie would sometimes not meditate and she seemed less and less interested in Ching Hai. Then she got in touch with the group in UK because she started feeling guilty. There were a few initiates living in our area and we went to one of the initiates' houses one evening. Katie was very excited at meeting new "brothers and sisters". I was not but went along anyway. During the evening, they meditated together while I was left alone (since I was not one of them). Although, group meditation is very much encouraged by most spiritual groups, I was very worried by all the secrecy. However, I was naive enough to think that it cannot be doing any harm - Katie appeared happy but distant. Katie was "encouraged" to attend a group meditation each week and she felt extremely guilty on the rare occasions when she was unable to attend. I began to get a little irritated by this guru. At first, I was probably jealous. Here was a person who was taking my wife from me for two and a half hours meditation each day. I was putting Katie first and Katie was putting her guru first. Every aspect of our life together revolved around Ching Hai and the group. The situation was becoming unbearable. Everywhere I looked I saw a picture of Ching Hai - there was even one around my wifes' neck. All these pictures made me feel very uneasy. During one of our many arguments I threw all the pictures and magazines into a black bin liner. I had had enough. I started researching cults and with access to the internet I was able to find some negative and worrying information about this so called Supreme Master and her group. Katie, then attended a weekend retreat. Again, initiates are "encouraged" to attend. When she returned it was as if she had become a different person. I do not know exactly what they did to her but something happened. When I got in from work the house was cold, all the windows were open and a Ching Hai chanting tape was being played. This really worried me since Katie hated the cold. I looked into her eyes. I saw an emptiness. I asked her if everything was all right and how the weekend went. She said it was wonderful - all I had to do from now on was to send her to a retreat every month and everything would be OK. She said that it was OK for me to eat meat and drink alcohol since "I was not ready" and "still needed to play". I enquired further and asked what exactly had happened and why were all the windows open. She just said that she liked it like this and she was very happy. She also giggled a lot which was very unusual for her. Ching Hai encourages childlike behaviour. I decided that I had to take some drastic measures. I looked her closely in the eye and asked in a very calm, soft voice..."What's happened to you Katie, you seem different. Are you OK?. Please tell me why you are behaving like this. I'm worried about you." All I got was a blank look. I asked her again and Katie became very agitated. She would not look me in the eye. I could feel that she was chanting to herself. According to my knowledge of this group, when you feel threatened you should chant the holy names and initiates are not supposed to look others in the eye for fear of taking on their karma. Now why would Katie feel threatened by me if this group and its practices are innocent? Katies' initiation had been re-boosted. She had been re-brainwashed. I had to work fast, since I thought I would lose her if I did not. Later that evening I showed Katie the negative information I had found out about Ching Hai and how it appears that the group and its' leader are not exactly what they say they are. However, when I showed this information to Katie and highlighted the similarities between this and other mind control organisations she just said all this was lies. It was like talking to a brick wall. Again, my wife gave me the "blank" look. Katie said she was going to start waking up at 04.30 so she could meditate. The next morning, the telephone rang and woke me up at 07.00. When I answered, whoever was on the other end of the line hung up. Isn't it strange that the phone call happened 2.5 hours after 04.30? I believe that somebody was waking Katie out of her meditation trance. Something happened to her during the weekend retreat - some kind of hypnosis. I know for a fact that during the weekend Katie had been sleep deprived and totally bombarded with Ching Hai information. This is another cult tactic. Now, you can call me paranoid if you wish but this was all too much of a coincidence for my liking. I pleaded with Katie over the next few months to give up the group and her guru but to no avail. I watched her slowly go down hill and drift further from me emotionally and physically. My beautiful and brilliant Katie whom I had met in New York in 1995 was no longer. It was as if she had died. In December 1996, Katie returned to NewYork. She has chosen Ching Hai and her cult over me. My marriage lasted seven months. I truly believe that Ching Hai has stolen another innocent life. I am well aware of the mind control techniques which this group uses. Another family has been devastated. I look at it this way - If Ching Hai is the Supreme Master and, if following her is meant to bring to happiness to the world, why is it that she effects other people in such a negative way? Why is it that she has destroyed our marriage? I despise her. My family despise her for what she has done to Katie and myself. Ching Hai consistently misinterprets the Bible in her literature as a way of justifying her actions and here is one quote which Ching Hai and her followers use a lot: "As you sow so shall you reap" Ching Hai has certainly ploughed the field as far as me and my family is concerned. And to group members I would like to give you another quote to think about: "Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheeps' clothing for they may be just wolves in disguise..." Every night I pray that Katie will realise what she is actually involved in. It's too late to save my marriage but I have collected some useful literature on Ching Hai which may be of help to others. I am sure that my family is not the only one to have been effected by this group. Let me thank all of you for reading this. I would like to hear from anyone who has a similar story about the influence of Ching Hai on their life. You can contact me through this web site. Finally, I thank David Lane for publishing this article.
E-mail The Neural Surfer directly at email@example.com
I want to go back to the home base now.