Critics and former followers: Books



Bryant, Edwin F. & Ekstrand, Maria L. (Eds.) 2004. The Hare Krishna Movement: The Postcharismatic Fate of a Religious Transplant. New York: Columbia University Press.

– Includes personal accounts by former followers, but also by current followers as well as contributions by scholars.

Falk, Geoffrey D. 2009. Stripping the Gurus: Sex, Violence, Abuse and Enlightenment. Million Monkeys Press.

– Also free on author’s website for online reading or as pdf download.

Storr, Anthony. 1997 [1996]. Feet of Clay: Saints, Sinners, and Madmen – A Study of Gurus. New York: Free Press.


Brandis, Gabriel. 2004. Servant of the Lotus Feet: A Hare Krishna Odyssey. New York: iUniverse, Inc.

Garden, Mary. 2003 [1988]. The Serpent Rising: A Journey of Spiritual Seduction. Melbourne: Sid Harta Publishers, revised edition.

– Chiefly deals with her experiences as disciple of Balyogi Premvarni, but also mentions Sathya Sai Baba and Rajneesh/Osho. Excerpts and reviews on author’s website: “The Serpent Rising”.

Guest, Tim. 2004. My Life in Orange: Growing Up with the Guru. Orlando: Harcourt.

– Telling the story of a lost, nomadic childhood in the Rajneesh/Osho movement; his mother having been one of the guru’s devoted sannyasins.

Muster, Nori J. 1997. Betrayal of the Spirit: My Life behind the Headlines of the Hare Krishna Movement. Urbana & Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

– Book excerpt on author’s website: “Who’s Watching the Children?”.

Stork, Jane. 2009. Breaking the Spell: My Life as Rajneeshee, and the Long Journey Back to Freedom. Syney: Pan Macmillan.

– The story of a former inner circle devotee of Osho/Rajneesh who served a prison sentence for attempted murder. Author’s website. Review article: “Escaping the Bhagwan”.

Szabo, Marta. 2009. The Guru Looked Good. Tinker Street Press.

– The story of a former disciple of Gurumayi and Siddha Yoga. Book excerpt on author’s website: “On the Defense”.

Tamm, Jayanti. 2009. Cartwheels in a Sari: A Memoir of Growing Up Cult. New York: Three Rivers Press.

– On growing up as disciple of Chinmoy. Book excerpt on author’s website: “The Myth Begins”.



Tan, Twan Eng. 2007. The Gift of Rain. Newcastle upon Tyne: Myrmidon. (Author’s website:

– Beautiful, sad and sensitive portrayal of love, betrayal and guilt in a
complex master-disciple relationship set against the backdrop of the build-up
to, reality and aftermath of the Japanese occupation of the island Penang (then
a British colony) during World War II. See here for my review/interpretation of the novel.

Updike, John. 1988. S.: A Novel. London: André Deutsch Limited.

– Fictional, but roughly modelled on the controversial Rajneesh/Osho ashram in Oregon in the 1970s. Updike managed a skilful and humorous portrayal of the kind of inner dissonance often characterising devotees of charismatic gurus – i.e. maintaining feelings of blissful devotional surrender under conditions of great physical and emotional strain. In this case, however, the newly arrived devotee protagonist – an upper middleclass socialite/frustrated housewife with a pragmatic and self-serving streak of her own – is not completely duped. Her mix of devotional idealism and clever manoeuvring makes for a many smile. For former devotees the irony may be somewhat bittersweet and the ending sad, but it’s a worthwhile read – perceptive and amusing.

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