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தேரான் தெளிவும் தெளிந்தான்கண் ஐயுறவும்

தீரா இடும்பைத் தரும். - Thirukkural.

 

“The assumed clarity by a person who does not have a clue of a situation and the perpetual doubt of a person who attained sufficient clarity of the situation, render unlimited misery.”

 

The question is - To whom does this render misery? I think it is to himself or herself first and then to everyone they interface in life.

With this introduction, I want to start writing my first blog. I love writing. I postponed writing a blog and sharing with the world, except for occasional expressions on my facebook page. My reason for the delay is that my writing is not of sufficient quality.

Thanks to a challenging situation, I made it a necessity to take up this daunting project, and here I am.

 

Fishes of Poongulam

 

The fishes of the “Poongulam - பூங்குளம்” - still water pond, decorated by beautiful flowers, mostly lotus, only know water. They are content generally and believe there is a world outside of the water, and it is their next evolution.

 

The man is clever; perhaps he steps out of boundaries, any, that most people have. He not only designs tasty, addictive, and nutritious baits but also regularly lets many fishes get away with the bait. And some of them always get away. The reward for letting go of some of the fishes is far greater than catching every fish that bites the bait. The fishes that ran with the bait bring more fishes to him every day. They believe their friends are lucky to evolve to their next level when they don’t see them again. They do not know what happens to the fishes that were caught. The ones that get away are content with the food and hope they will also evolve out of the water, to the next level, someday.

 

Some fishes find the truth, and they see the bait as poison. Perhaps, they got a glimpse of the man's sight and his surroundings, flipped off and turned back in the water, luckily. Their words are not believable by the ones that always get to eat the bait but not caught by the man.

The fishes that recognized the bait as seductive poison vow not to touch it again. They also got over their addiction. They initially struggled with their pledge, as they felt grateful to the man for the bait seeing it only as food. Then they differentiated food and life support offered by many things - living and non-living, from the bait, which has a different motive.

 

The others never find out, see the bait as good food and maintain their relationship to the man, and with each other, through the bait. The relationships with each other go beyond the bait, however. And they have not seen the man; Some do not know his existence at all. The ones that saw the bait as good food ignored all news contrary and believed that the fishes that went closer to the man have better rewards. They turned deaf ears to the awakened ones.

The man moves off the shore, by death or other consequences in life. His intelligent and cunning consciousness never dies. So does the innocent and goodness of the fishes. Another man comes to the shore; other fishes come to life and the bait; the story continues, time after time.

Well, I am not writing this in support of vegetarianism; also not claiming this above story as logical as I do not know how fishes think and act. This imagined perspective of fishes helped me unravel a real-life experience, a difficult one for many of my friends and me.

 

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“News: On June 19, 2019, Keith Raniere was convicted of federal crimes including sex trafficking, conspiracy, and conspiracy, to commit forced labor, all related to DOS. Source: Wikipedia”

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There are two memorable events in connection with this life experience.

 

Event 1: It was a sunny afternoon, probably, in the year 2015. I was in Albany, New York. A good old friend suggested to me in his kindest voice, as he always has, “Kamaraj! I think you have a great tradition in India, your roots, that you could bring forth to this world, but I see you do not embrace your culture as much.” The way he said made the idea sink very deep in my heart. I intensified my practice of meditation, the study of India and also increased my trips to India every year. I have been doing some research since my five years of age when my aunt introduced me to Buddha’s life story. But never in my life, I picked up intensity, as I did after this event.

 

Event 2: It was a busy Bangalore day, January 2006. I met this towering figure, an excellent spiritual guide from South India, and he gave me a meditation session on my request. The spiritual practice embraces all beliefs, religions and encourages people to follow their faith while learning and practicing meditation.

 

Minutes after, metaphorically speaking, I transitioned from being disfigured as a spineless man to the one who gained vigor and a pearl of new wisdom, with help from Gandalf. Reference: Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers. https://youtu.be/m_mPE9gcQJo

 

What I understand is rational. What I do not understand is mystical. Fortunately, I did not and do not wish to develop an arrogance to denounce one for the other. The above two rational and mystical incidents, along with countless many shape my worldly character and also bring me here to write this blog.

 

I came to the United States in Aug 2000 through an IT services firm from India, for a beginner job in software services at a wall street firm. On the first day, I felt stunned at the towering buildings of New York City; a feeling that continued for hours, days, and weeks.

New York City is the first city that I visited outside India. Almost all of my life until then, was oriented on a village tradition. I belonged to a lower-middle-class family in the south of India. Since my childhood, we all in our family would need to walk a few kilometers for necessities such as fetching water for household use and also for open toilets in nature’s alleys. We could not have toilets at home, as most of the land on which we built our homes was hard rock. Besides, it was an expense that most of us could not afford. We could use that money for many other things.

 

However, I was more fortunate than most kids in India, in that I have a loving family that stretched their financial limits to afford me a good education. Also, I am fortunate to have a spiritual orientation since age 5. My aunt and grandmother laid a foundation by regularly taking me to classes with Theosophical society found by Annie Besant and poetry/meditation with Vallalar Sabhai.

 

Work at Wall Street was ever challenging and stressful. As I slogged and lived frugally, I was able to fulfill the specific goals I had for my family in a relatively shorter time than I hoped. In 2002, I also resumed a disciplined practice of meditation under a system created by an excellent guide from India. I have been doing some form of meditation/prayer since age five, and the disciplined practice in 2002 was graduation.

 

What I thought as my fundamental commitments with family were fulfilled; I decided to pursue an MBA program to do what I like the most, work in the movie industry. I managed to get an admission in a university in Canada for an MBA in Entertainment Management, in 2004. In this process of preparation, a friend suggested that I take courses with Executive Success Programs. He explained how it would help me improve my intelligence and thus, my GMAT score. It did appeal to me, and I started taking courses in the fashion of gym membership in New York City, in late 2003.

 

At first, I could see many parallels in the course, with what I have learned in India. In one specific 2 hour session, I found a section in the supplied written material, almost word for word, a concept from the works of an Indian guide. The presentation was brilliant, and information was broken down in such a way that I could understand things that I did not earlier. And I did a 16-day intensive program in 2004.

 

The most significant gift I felt at that time, was the access to different emotions that I had as a kid, which I lost progressively, in the adult professional life. With this discovery and the release of thoughts on various possibilities, I concluded I would venture as an entrepreneur, in the Information Technology business as opposed to Entertainment Management. I thought the first step in entrepreneurship was to do sales and business development in IT and obtained a job that would pave the way for the future goal. Soon after that shift, my work visa in the USA was running out, and I returned to India in 2005.

I struggled in this transition and experienced a heavy toll on my wellbeing. I did not even look my usual self. My family was worried. At this juncture, Event 2 happened, in India. I sought out help. Nature, in its’ utmost grace, assisted me in the form of this guide from South India. He was a towering figure who helped me overcome my unknown impediment. I started rebuilding my life.

 

I rejoined the first firm I worked with earlier and was grateful for the re-entry and worked to make the most of the opportunity. At the same time, I developed a gratitude for Keith Raniere, who created the courses in Executive Success Programs. I concluded I was spoiling his reputation by not living up to the potential of the classes.

 

I felt I owed the group and him, although one of the stated vital missions of the group was to help rid of obligation, guilt, and coercion in society. I did not realize this depth of feeling owed until very late. In 2004, a female friend mentioned, “Keith never lets people know when he helps them. It might create an obligation in them inadvertently”. I did not realize then how continuous campaigns by praises such as the above deepened the sense of indebtedness. At worse, one begins to think all the good that happens to them is because of Keith Raniere. I did think that way.

From 2005 to 2009, in my time outside of the USA, I worked hard and grew to the position of a successful presenter and an implementer of large scale IT programs. After my colleague and I constructed a large scale IT program and pitched to a financial institution, in 2008, my role as an executive manager was up on the rise. My direct manager informed me that the financial institution would award the contract if I would commit four years to work with them. I agreed. Collaborating with another colleague, we built an excellent team of 400 people. Thus, I quickly made up for the time lost when I left the company and rejoined, in terms of growing up in my career.

 

I was led to believe by a mentor that earning the rank of a professional in Executive Success Programs would help build my ethics, character, and business. So when I came back to the States in late 2009, I restarted taking courses and training as an apprentice coach.

 

In 2013 I set up an event management company, and also started consulting on business and technology strategy. The stated mission of NXIVM, the parent company of Executive Success Programs, to help humans be noble and build a magnificent civilization was inline with my purpose. I eventually got to a place where I/my company could be paid for running events for them - from mid-2015. However, I still was an apprentice and remained an apprentice with them until my exit in 2018.

 

The work experience through them but for earnings, and my other projects on technology and business strategy for other clients were very enriching. I cherished my work with business leaders, professionals from different walks of life, building event management teams, and gaining depth to my humanity.I did not like to stay in Albany, thanks to an unexplainable and uncomfortable gut feeling! And thus most of my experiences working with people from different parts of the world were outside Albany. I could not put the finger on the cause of the way I felt that way. I concluded then I was reacting to feedback from them about my personality.

In that experience, I saw real changes in many participants; I went through a great deal of refinement in my expression and became tender and tender at heart. The most credit of this would go to the caring people around me - a circle of friends. The people - participants, apprentices, and professionals alike constituted a community of people, within which we could interact and share life advice inside and outside of the training. As in any other community, one forms friendships with some caring people who have a genuine interest in each other and not with everyone.Such groups form many sub-communities. These are not formal but are real friendships where people care about each other. We truly valued learning and growth, along with our camaraderie.

 

The techniques played an insignificant role in comparison to the nature of caring interactions by us. To illustrate this point, I would bring an example. Two different doctors of opposite caring attitudes could write the same prescription. The caring nature of a doctor makes the medicine work for the patient while the uncaring other does not improve the patient. Unfortunately, we did not have clarity that these nameless sub-communities or friendships are not the broader NXIVM community. We also did not make distinctions on how our dedicated nature played a role in shaping the techniques found by Keith Raniere, work. I did not think of a possibility that any decent method available in the world, could have worked with such care and dedication in application. I do now. Besides, only a very few of us became certified in using the techniques, and the rest of us applied what we know and as good per our conscience. I never managed to become certified.

 

I had no clue that behind those interactions and in the larger entity, the NXIVM community, was a shadow society where women went through collateral damages. I hardly assessed my damages, to name a few, loss of time with family and not pursuing what I most wanted to do.

Some of us always wondered why the group is still in training and a “perpetual getting ready mode,” but never in action, in the world. During this time, Keith Raniere introduced some projects. The notions of a couple of low-cost projects appealed to me because they offered possibilities of education and community activities to the grass-root players and weaker sections of the society. "A portion of the money earned by these projects would eventually be spent to build an infrastructure to help the masses." This prospect inspired us. There were a few instances where we extended help, again not as an organizational prerogative, but as friendships who cared about others’ lives and their difficulties. I also received affirming accounts of a project some of the friends in Mexico were doing where they stayed in a slum for a year and helped people.

 

Meanwhile, not everything was rosy. A few friends and I had a concern about the not so professional administration, leaders not walking the talk, and some inconsistent promotions that demonstrated favoritism, in our view. We received a convincing explanation. “The objective of NXIVM was to build ethics and grow people/humanity as opposed to following established rules and choosing people who were successful in traditional establishments to lead initiatives.” “Even people in leadership roles were allowed to fail and learn and were not chosen for their external success but chosen for their humanity - to develop and transform into successful, business savvy humanitarians.”

I believed these statements. Hey! After all, in all corporates I worked, I have seen some issues! I thought I have a long way to go to be kinder and more humane and accepted those verdicts.

 

The founder, Keith Raniere had many negative news articles written about him from different media. I did not pay heed to them as that was not my minimal direct experience of him, nor of the friendships I formed. I wish I did. And somehow I did not come across myself or through any friends a series of informative articles by Times Union in 2012 on Keith. I'd consider it as a play of fate. I only learned about them much later, almost 6 years.

 

The education model appeared compelling, and the founder did mention he derived the essence from sources that existed and from what he gathered about what the participants wanted for their lives. But, no source was given proper credit and many sources were omitted. The education just acknowledged that they borrowed some concepts from NLP and Sociology. It was not a note of thanks, but was merely an admission, to the best recollection of my memories. In parallel, contrary to the developments in becoming tender, a sense of indebtedness was steadily growing in me. And, I could not make sense out of the approach to giving credit, and the seemingly unwarranted criticisms prevailed in the company.

Ultimately the culture of growing a sense of indebtedness deep within oneself would be the killer of all benefits. It is complex to explain how it came to be that way! Numerous interactions, talks, and positioning of people produced that effect in addition to my feelings.Additionally, I noticed whenever I did not interface with the company, I did well in my savings, and when I did, I did not do well. I was able to relax, meditate, and focus better in my life without interruption when I was away, but not when I was interfacing with the group in entirety.

 

The consistent things in this period were

 

1. Despite some views, mostly around sexuality and on the emphasis on specific issues or priority of problems that we face as a race, the education material was intellectually challenging and engaging. Some of my trusted friends told me that my conservative Indian indoctrination is responsible for my reactions to those views.

 

2. The maintenance of the positive image of the founder Raniere by his inner circle and many others - generating a certain sympathy to what I perceived as his struggle was, in the world.

 

Thus, never did I trace any concerns I have had, to him.

 

In spring 2017, when I learned he was going to be a father, I was shocked and surprised. I was under the impression he was a celibate man. At this juncture, two dear friends Mark Vicente and Bonnie Piesse, the whistleblowers left the company. Bonnie made subtle attempts to connect with me which I did not get. And Mark was not communicating with me, until Raniere’s arrest in March 2018 and for good reasons which I learned, when I eventually connected with them in June 2019. By this time, I also learned enough details to know the risks that they carried in, going against Keith Raniere, through my research. My knowledge that he most likely has more body interest/desires started wearing down his image in my mind slowly and consistently.

 

Around May-June 2017, several articles hit the internet through, with surprising levels of details of the sexual conduct, lies, and manipulations of Keith Raniere. Such items inspired many questions and doubts in me. Unfortunately, when I saw things that were untrue about a few of my friends and me, I stopped following them. I understand the origins and emotional basis of such information from perhaps, other friends.

 

Such information in internet I was upset about in 2017, also formed the basis for me to not interact with Mark and Bonnie when they attempted to connect with me on March 2018. I was upset with them mistakenly believing them to be the originators of all the media information and misinformation about people who are their friends.

 

I learned from someone that, in an army, it is not patriotism but the camaraderie between the small groups of soldiers on a mission that binds them together. It is not any different in society, family, or a company. And such loving friends’ affection resulted in postponing my exit from interfacing with the non-existing company, until August 2018. What existed for me was real friendships that continue anyways! The company, the stated mission are always ghosts. The few and genuine friendships are real, which we extrapolated and applied to the company, mistakenly, thus giving life to an entity that would otherwise be just a ghost or lifeless.

 

I also learned that the media did inspire the authorities to investigate Keith Raniere. However, most of the media sources engaging in salacious writing, impeded people like me having a more profound impact on the injustice until we got hold of the trial transcripts.

 

I did sympathize with Keith Raniere who I saw him as a man who was misunderstood and was probably let down by people closer to him who carried out his instructions wrongly and brought him the disaster. I was even vocal about this view while being emotionally challenged about this whole situation.

 

Then I started a study of many facts, and I exited my relationship with NXIVM in Sep 2018. Added to the difficulty was the death of my grandpa, a father figure who raised me from age three and an illness to a family member. Thankfully, an essential foundation, my family unit, even in their illnesses and losses, paved the way for me to question my decisions and life forward. And I understood deeply I looked for that father figure in people and imagined them to be so, whether they are or not.

 

When I learned about how NXIVM misused the legal system to punish a friend I know, I concluded that Keith Raniere is not the father figuref thought he was.I also felt the devastating consequences of the continuous campaigns on his behalf. Thus, from November 2018, my suspicions on the character and conduct of Keith Raniere grew. Luckily I have a dear friend with whom I could bounce thoughts and examine; a friend who does not condemn or block information. We studied and talked for hours and hours and almost every day at one point.

The trial started on May 2019. And not a day went by where I struggled to sleep after the darkest revelations. A friend facilitated obtaining the actual trial transcripts. I read almost all of the 5500 pages by committing to the study every day. I was truly horrified. As I struggled to sleep, I also realized the people who were affected by Raniere’s abusive acts directly suffered far worse consequences. How many countless sleepless nights they would have had!

 

And a question - what is my responsibility even at this stage, where he is already convicted? The conclusion I arrived at is - at the minimum - I should share my opinion publicly.

 

Why?

Approximately, 17,000 participants have attended the courses, and more than 95% of participants have indeed given positive feedback. But, our viewing Keith Raniere through the lens of how we feel about the benefits from his courses would be an unjust act against all those who struggled, for decades.

 

Would it be fair to be indecisive, while now knowing that all 17,000 of us have empowered someone who violated humanity for decades, by our fees and efforts?

 

We would not have empowered him had we known about his other side. Sure! Now that we know we do, what are we going to do about that?

 

How much am I aware of damages to me? And does my desire to see me as a responsible person bury my pain and losses?

 

We have not examined the scenario on how we might have overlooked certain content of the courses because of our focus on the central idea and central mission to help people.

 

Would it not be prudent to shut everything down until qualified experts evaluate and curate the education if found necessary to keep them? One would not refer back to any course material or refrain using the methods/language of the courses as a personal discipline.

We could conclude that the issues that were pointed out in human character and thinking may be correct. But I think there was a disproportionate emphasis on the issues and conduct in the companies which resulted in seeing people as never-ending defects, and also discrediting women. When people see each other as defects or through the lens of weaknesses that they need to improve, how much openness could be possible in listening to others, the injustices they experienced? What has this view done to our scope to shine in the world?

 

“All participants are brainwashed; all people who have been associated with NXIVM are all bad; all people who trained in the methods are all harmful to society,“ Such opinions circulated in some of the media are ridiculous.

My opinion is that Keith Raniere is far more intelligent than an average person, certainly more knowledgeable than me. In my view, he had a way of listening and bringing people what they wanted to hear and what they craved to do in the world. His unfailing image and the courses masked what was going on under the hood.

 

The principles mentioned to be those of NXIVM are as old as mountains and oceans. And almost all of us chose the courses based on what we value to do in the world. Then came Keith, who offered a broken down, simplified understanding of the subjects and enhanced our thinking while influencing it as well. If we do not voice who we are and our views, would we not perpetually agonize over any untruth and slander about us?

 

Finally, I believe people have taken many things from India for several centuries. The worst theft is taking a philosophy or method that qualified people - yogis and teachers toiled for years and created, put one’s spin on it and sell to the world as one’s own. When people who do not have the same rigor of discipline and purity, attempt to make such a sale, whether they are from India or the rest of the world, they inflict great harm to their audience and themselves. At the very least, people with good intentions should permanently consult with the real experts of the sources of ancient wisdom. It would be better for people who are Indians and of Indian origin to inherit the treasures of India as one’s own through committed work and help others to decipher fakes from reals, whether the cheats are Indian or western. The western world guides India in many ways, and India / Indians have accepted that guidance. And I trust the world of the west would be open if people of Indian origin offer such advice. At the same time, just being Indian origin does not give the authority to do what we see fit, but only to take part actively. If we want to do something educational with our experience, we should consult professionals, and qualified people on how to do so - get the education and ourselves certified.

 

Now, a final question. What would I do with all the participant materials I gathered from many courses created by Keith Raniere?

With pain but with a resolute mind, I “burnt the books.” One could argue that we do not know what kind of miseries were buried under many of the discoveries, inventions of humanity. Sure, we do not. But, what would it mean if I refer back to a source, knowing in my heart that, it’s creator violated humans?

 

Still, some of my friends, question what if the intent of Keith Raniere is positive and what if his ways of contributing to society is just unconventional. When I experienced the innocence, trusting nature and openness of a daughter who is 16 years old, such what-ifs were burned away. She is not the one I gave birth to, but one of many of my friends' and family's, that I vowed to look after. I am a father in my heart to many such; I am a brother to my dearest sister. I am a son to my mom, an uncle to many nieces. Right now, in context, to me, all perceived potential positive intent does not carry any weight against the damaging effects orchestrated by Keith Raniere and proven in our system of justice. The hypothetical “what ifs” are born out of a fugitive way of living only in the thoughts. I hope those of my friends consider this viewpoint and evaluate their position seriously.

I thank all people, that includes many friends, government officials, and the press who were bent on exposing the truth through the trial. I thank the prosecution for not conceding to the final plea deal - a substantial number of years in prison for Raniere, offered by the defense attorneys just before the trial.

 

The grace of the Guru I described in Event 2, above, continues to be my guiding light. It stands as an anchor that there are genuine master-disciple relationships, and humanity is an ocean where we can continue to have faith despite a few faltering drops. The light gradually nurtures my heart to embrace the faltering drops, as the ocean does not reject any. The light slowly allows me to be grateful for the drops for having added to my life's experience, well and ill.

From the ashes of the past arises a new life. Rise it must, for the welfare of myself and others.

I thank my past and my new life. I mourn this specific episode of my history, where many of my friends and I did not see the truth soon enough. I sincerely feel for those who are affected in this abuse. And I will never forget this grief, an integral part of my vigilant foundation, in focusing on my immediate actions that build my future. On this foundation, I stand and look out for friends, family, and the world as one large family and community, to the best of my abilities.

 

Sincerely,

Kamraj Sundram

aka Kamaraj Kalyanasundaram

24 Sep 2019