The Goodness of a Cult Comes from Those it Abuses

That ideal façade is often built by people trying to survive

Matthew Remski
10 min readJul 5, 2021
Julie Salter (left) attends Kuttan Nair (using wheelchair), early 1990’s. Courtesy Julie Salter.

When I report on institutional abuse in yoga and Buddhism I always discover that survivors were stripped of time, security, money, earning potential, educational opportunities, social status, family bonds, bodily autonomy and inner dignity. I hear stories of endless hours of unpaid labour, undertaken with the promise of salvation. I hear from members who were raped by leaders who told them it was for their spiritual good. They describe being silenced by enablers.

These details constitute the cultic crime scene. An organization has exploited its members, and left human wreckage. Their stories can be told, corroborated, fact-checked, and published. Innocent and earnest members of the organization will hope that accountability is possible, so that what they remember being good and wholesome about the organization can be salvaged.

But a bitter irony curdles this desire. So much of what an earnest group member will be nostalgic for — the beautiful singing, the communal meals, the tidy accommodations and lovely gardens — came from the organization’s encouragement and exploitation of the skills of those it abused.