This text is written in 2009 after I had left the Open Sky House in Germany. It is meant to inform you about the things that John David, formerly Premananda, and his pupils do not tell you. It might make you reconsider the value of Premananda as a spiritual teacher. The text may be old, occasionally I hear about him and nothing much seems to have changed.
I was impressed by the energy in the Open Sky House, the community that he founded. I have lived in the community for three months, after having been a volunteer on and off for six months.
I am publishing this text because the community is quite sectarian. Premananda is this nice, wise guy. Did you know that they have a protocol of lies, in order to hide what they are doing?
got to the Open Sky House
The first time I came to the Open Sky House, I was on a bicycle trip to Albania. I was stressed and I wanted to chill out in a quiet place, which is what I thought this community would be. A friend had recommended the place. The next day Premananda and many of the residents came back from India, where they stay every year for a few months. The very first thing I witnessed of Premananda is that he was giving out on a resident. In a way that was a pleasant surprise, since I do not like so much this ‘spiritual’ sweet and soft atmosphere. During the first satsang I also was pleasantly surprised since Premananda stated that a depression and desperation are great starting positions for a shift to happen. I always had the idea that 'bad' is not bad.
I easily fell in love with the community. There was a bright, crispy energy. I had always been looking for a group of people like this.
The plan was to stay there as a volunteer for one or two weeks, but my first stay lasted five weeks. I attended the Easter retreat, which at times was powerful. One day Premananda asked me to go with him to Cologne. I asked if he wanted to hear feedback on the retreat. He said that was happy to hear something. I told him that during the first day, I liked the silence in the silent retreat and that from the second day the silence was gone, since he introduced all kinds of complicated theories. I could not see the retreat as a silent retreat anymore.
Later that day there was a satsang, in which he said that he had gone to Cologne today with a friend. He said the words 'with a friend' slowly, with a lot of emphasis. I was surprised, since he said before that he does not consider the community members as friends, so why would he consider me as a friend? It is one of his tricks to make you feel special with him. top
recruiting new residents
It became more and more obvious that Premananda is constantly looking for community members, since the community is always short on them. Right now he is recruiting people from Russia. He did a lot of tricks and manipulations on me and other volunteers to get us. For example there is a policy that residents are not allowed to be intimate volunteers: sex is not allowed. I had sex with a two women and he knew all about that, but he did not mind, violating his own rule. Why would that have been?
After five weeks I had to either stay or leave. I was tempted to stay, but anyhow first I wanted to continue to Albania. Around the summer I was twice back in the community and I asked about the conditions for living there. Rather than saying it is 1700 Euros for entering, of which 500 can be in material (washing machine, furniture etc.), they came with a fuzzy story about rental deposit that will not be returned. If it is clear in advance that it will not be returned, it is no deposit, I’d say. top
financial situation of
Since I had my doubts about many things, I asked about the financial situation of the residents. Some cases I knew, like musicians making money with their music, a gardener working as a freelance. If you don't have an income, you have to have money for the first year. After that first year, the community will start paying for all the work the residents do. So they gave me the impression that actually no one has severe financial troubles.
No one is allowed to spend more than three days making money outside of the community. No one actually is allowed to stay outside of the community for private reasons, except for short family visits. You have to be available for community jobs and activities all the time. People work actually seven days a week from 9.00 am to 10 or 11 pm. During intense projects (like building activities, book publishing, Christmas markets) it can be even a lot longer. I participated intensely in the production of a film (Blueprints for awakening) and it happened a few times that we worked all night long. top
to sectarian character of the Open Sky House
The idea is to create a high pressure cooking pot: to work our ass off and then gradually your ego will fall off. It is an interesting concept, but applied in a closed community with one guru, it easily becomes sectarian. That is why I paid special attention by informing about the financial situation of the members and the organization. I had the same question when I got involved in a community some years before. Mahima – Premananda’s spokeswoman – did not answer this question honestly, since I later found out that an older woman left the Open Sky House, having built debts during her residency of 10.000 Euros.
I also asked (to another resident) whether Premananda has sex with community members. As an answer I got a plain lie: "No, he does not have sex with residents."
Lying is a great part of the culture in the Open Sky House. Many of these lies come from the fear that they will be forced to move away from their location. This is what happened in their first settlement, in a village in the south of Germany. The village forced them to leave since they thought it was a not OK community. Their reaction was to hide and lie in the new location in Hitdorf. We were not supposed to talk about what was going on in the community to villagers. The community uses post offices in several other villages for sending mail in order to hide the business activities from the community. During openings of exhibitions in the art gallery of the Open Sky House, we were instructed to lie about the situation: three families were living there, and some individuals. All nonsense. At a community meeting I told them that it was not smart and not necessary to lie about this. Just tell that this is a group of artists, living and working together, which for most of us actually applied. The reaction was like: “Sure, good solution!” But that did not change their attitude of lying.
When I was with Shakti and Premananda on a promotion tour in the south of Germany, she went to a bookshop and had a question about a detail that I do not remember. However, hard to forget is Premananda's answer: "Just lie, lie like hell."
This culture of lying is what drags the community down. Many people from
outside feel something is not OK. They don't know what, but there is something.
I'd say this is the main reason why the community does not grow, in spite of
the overwhelming energy it radiates.
There are some more significant examples of their lying, like they are running a tantra massage business. The problem is that you will only be informed about these things after entering the community. So if you consider becoming a resident, ask them about those things. In the meantime I was lied to about it that much, that it was obvious that people were lying about something collectively. In the same community meeting I suggested a version that would explain the situation, without needing to tell lies. They also found this a good idea..., but again, I don’t have the illusion it changed their culture of lying. top
The first small money issue was like this. I made wonderful pictures of the life in the community and Premananda wanted to have an exhibition of those photographs and they would take care of all the costs. I thought that was OK. When I came back to the community after Albania, there was this splendid offer: I could make an exhibition of the pictures in the community, I only needed to pay the ink and the paper, about 150 Euros. Excuses me???
how not to get
caught into this lying culture?
Premananda likes to exaggerate. Just before one of his first Satsang TV broadcasts, we had a problem with the sewage. Some urine smelling water was leaking into the basement. Premananda said during the broadcast that the Rhine was flooding and that the water level in the basement was until the knees, which both was complete nonsense: the floor was a little wet at places. I went for a satsang talk with him and he introduced me as one of those who had wet feet in the basement. I was knodding and I was wondering: “Why am I knodding?” Later I could see how residents became caught up in the web of little and bigger lies.
I wonder why Premananda is using lying and manipulation that much. During one of his satsangs that I saw online (before I knew him), he was talking like how great it would be if we would not have any secrets, if we would always be honest. Why is he that dishonest himself? top
community and children
During my residency there were a few children living in the community. Since the community did not want strangers in the house, it was a rare thing to see those children having friend visiting them. It was just ‘safer’ to keep them out… top
Only two residents had a critical attitude, a young woman and me. This woman had lived in the community for two years. When she left, her belongings were brought to her, but a few things were missing. For several months she was not allowed to check the attic for those things. Part of the reason was because she was still in contact with me (I left a few days after her). After she broke contact with me, she was welcome in the community as a guest, under the condition that she would not have critical talks with members. It was hard for her: she did not want to live in the community anymore, yet she was missing its loving energy.
She very much missed a quality of compassion in Premananda, which I fully agree on. top
If you are not pro Premananda, you are con. That is how Premananda obviously thinks. There are many examples. There was a girl who came to his satsang in Munich. She was young and attractive, which means that P had special attention for her. In the break he said to me what a nice girls she was. She left during that break and told me that that this satsang was not her cup of tea. Premananda asked me why she left and I passed on her words. What a mindy, silly girl she all of a sudden was! Isn't this the reaction of a child, or someone with a huge ego?
Likewise he would give out on a woman during a satsang since she was critical towards him.
I am not talking about an incident, this reaction was quite common when
people had a critical attitude. Somehow he just cannot stand that. On the other
hand he is completely insensitive for not to be liked.
Also he would not allow you to have other gurus next to him. top
Premananda's ego is a typical example of a spiritual ego. He is right about everything. It is not so strange that Premananda’s ego grew huge. For many years he did not have any no from his direct environment. He created obedience around him. One has to be quite strong to be able to bear that luxury.
Also he seems to have lost touch with the outside world quite often. Somehow he is still living in India, this is how residents explain his strange behavior. When I was with him in South Germany, he would put an empty milkshake cup just on the street. I said that he could not do that, that he should throw it into a bin. He replied that he must have been in India too long, and left the cup on the street. That is easy! He also tried to decrease the energy consumption of the community, which indeed was quite high. But he himself lives in his highly heated rooms with as little clothes as possible, easily taking two hot baths a day. top
A true master does not project, that is what Premananda says. In that sense Premananda is not a great master. He projects his ideas about relations on everybody, especially the community members. Couples are taboo. However, in the community there were mostly couples. In one community meeting, Premananda threatened to stop the community if this would continue. A big disadvantage of couples in the community for him is that women are not available for him anymore.
A quite disgusting thing happened in satsang during a tantra workshop. One of the women he had sex with, is a young German woman, who was not living in the community. I had nice contact with that woman and she explained me that one of the things she learned during the workshop is to say no. Not from fear, not from resistance, just from choice. She said this in this satsang to Premananda, meaning she did not want to have sex with him anymore and he became quite fanatic in persuading her that she should say yes. It had a nasty taste and even residents were interrupting him in his pushiness. How low can you go?
I mean, I don't see a guru as a saint with impeccable behavior, but Premananda always goes over the edge, often way over, stating he is not projecting and meanwhile judging other teachers for being false teachers since they project and are not disattached. top
He claims to have an individual approach for all the different pupils. I never saw that. He has a ‘Hammering, grinding and polishing institute’ (this is how he calls his community) and everyone regularly gets a portion of hammering. In fact he is telling when people are in their vasanas (mental tendencies or structures) and how wrong it is to be there. He applies the old fashioned approach to hammer away these structures that make us unfree. You can find this approach (not the hammering, but the concept) on the internet at http://conscious-websites.com/blueprints/good/popup/satchidananda/satchidananda7.html . By the way, this is the teacher who gave Premananda his name. It is in my eyes a primitive approach: how to become free from our vasanas? The more interesting approach is how to become free with vasanas. Other masters are clear in this: it’s not about getting rid of your vasanas.
It needs an individual approach. Radha Ma pointed out - in the beginning of the film Blueprints for awakening - that there are no blueprints for awakening. It is a good example of Premananda 's stubbornness that he still called his book and film Blueprints for Awakening.
And let’s not be modest, Premananda actually is the blueprint for awakening. What works for him, will work for others. Is that projecting or what? Since he is one of the very few people doing this, you can be o so lucky to have met him!! On his satsang TV you can sometimes hear his pupils, sounding like little Premanandas.
In the film Blueprints for awakening, Premananda asks a question to what Radha: 'How to recognize a true guru?' Everything she says points out that Premananda is not a true guru. See http://conscious-websites.com/blueprints/good/popup/radhama/radhama9.html.
Premananda often says how great he is: “What Samarpan (a satsang teacher, living in Germany) can do with you in two years, I can do in two months.” “A place like the Open Sky House is more effective than any other place.” Stuff like that he is eager to tell. top
with ego, mind and vasanas
Premananda is obsessed by the ego and the mind. His life looks like a crusade against them. Exactly this approach is what I do not believe in. Fighting against something just consolidates that thing. What you resist, persists.
Spiritual seekers have a tendency to want to destroy the bad ego, burn the horrible mind. That is what some seekers like about Premananda: he can take their ego away. He can help their dreadful vasanas to kill. And you know what: those vasanas seem to gradually go. Just probably they will come back.
Do you want to be free from your vasanas of free with your vasanas? top
In spite of the great energy he can create, Premananda is just an extension of the old pattern. Once you know his trick, he is immensely predictable, not only in his teachings, also in his behavior. top
and being present
What also is quite remarkable, is that he does not know his pupils very well. A male resident, who left the community during my stay, “hardly came to the morning meditations,” Premananda said in a community meeting after this man had left. We told him that he was one of the most regular attendees. "O, really?"
To me, he asked three times (!) over the nine month that he knew me: "Do you speak German?" Very often I spoke a language in his presence that he does not understand, with community members and also with the three German children. What language would that be? Icelandic? top
more Premananda projecting
John David alias Premananda has always been an ambitious man. He was successful from an early age. In his twenties he was employed in one of the most prestigious architect offices in England. He refused an even better job, since his longing for ‘something’ was bigger, his hunger for truth. Then he went a thousand percent for awakening, and it happened, so he claims. Indeed he is a masterpiece of audacious playing, of passionate energizing, of fearless living.
Question is: is he a good master?
I was worried about my finances in case I would enter the community. He said that he had been all over the world and that he always had money, and if he could, I also could, anyone could. I’d say that is a projection, and also a lie, since apparently the woman with 10.000 Euros debts could not.
Can he see that all people are different? Can he see that a great love relationship is a ‘better’ guide than a lousy guru?
He does make a difference in how he works with people, but again in a nasty and predictable way. People who have vasanas like being a workaholic: he tells them they do need to be dependent on working hard so much, with a sweet smile on his face. However people who are lazy: he shouts and screams at them. He has even beaten up a male resident, to an extent that other residents started screaming that they would call the police if he would not stop.
He justifies the anger attacks by saying that Ramana also had anger attacks.
Premananda and judging
A true master has no judgment, all right? So why is he complaining that much? It is a standard way of expressing himself, when there is no tv camera pointed at him. Then he rather speaks about how beautiful his life is.
I called him the grumpy guru because of this constant complaining.
His lack of compassion is aligned with his judging attitude. top
Premananda purchases t-shirts - a 100 Euros each - in fancy Japanese boutiques. He bought himself an expensive diamond ring, following some inner message (funny enough when the economic crisis started). He buys art for thousands of Euros, not to mention all his gadgets, including a ship for cruising the Rhine. He never pays taxes, apart from his publishing company in England.
He encourages people not to be in health insurance in order to save money. In Germany you have to have a health insurance and if you are caught not to have one, there is a high fine to pay. Premananda avoids paying taxes to the extreme, he lives already for seven years illegally in Germany, hiding from all officials.
Mostly the cheapest of the cheapest is used for most daily thing in the community. However, PC is unwanted: Mac is more fancy! He uses an expensive video camera for his Satsang TV, whereas no one has the time to read the manual, so the images a more crappy than when taken with a well operated cheap camera. But of course an expensive camera is more impressive.
The businesses in the community are as black as possible. When they can avoid the normal rules, they do so. I am not saying that everything should legally be as clean as possible, but his way is extreme. He often says that the community is a role model for how he sees the future...
The guesthouse, one of their main income, is divided into two parts in order to avoid demands from the official side regarding hygiene, safety etc. This division is only on paper. When the guesthouses are fully booked, and there is a concert or a festival, the amount of people in the building easily gets to over a hundred. In that case, fire precautions are no luxury, especially since the old building contains a lot of wood, is like a labyrinth, has often lots of tea lights burning and in summer even a bonfire in the courtyard. Irresponsible in a high degree.
But somehow these are just details. The general thing is that he thinks that we what applied to him, will apply to all people on the spiritual path. He is the Blueprint for Awakening, so go to him and you will be ‘saved’. That is the invitation he constantly spread.
Even though I like many people in the community, they sound like
parrots, talking in the way Premananda speaks.
Premananda is serious, “a 1000% serious”, that is what he claims within the community. On the outside that does not looks so good, so he is telling jokes at the beginning of his TV satsangs.
Exactly this being serious is what makes me think he is not a true master. top
and manipulating LOL
I gave some examples of how Premananda manipulates. This is a funny one. We had an adorable man in the house, living there already for some years. Many girls fell in love with him. Also a Finnish girl who visited the community. She was so much in love that Premananda must have thought that she would become a resident. Now, what Premananda did was giving the adorable young man a flight ticket to Finland, as a present. However, there had been another Finnish young woman in the community as a visitor, considering residency, but she was not quite interested in Premananda with all his projections and assumptions. The adorable man was strictly forbidden to have sex with this other Finish woman. The adorable man told me later that he had kind of forgotten about the other woman. Then he all of a sudden thought: “Wow, actually that is a really nice girl, I go and see her.” Soon after he moved out and started a relationship with the second woman. So Premananda did not catch the Finnish girl and lost the adorable man, all as a result of his manipulations. top
Premananda is quite sex orientated. Great, just I am not so sure about a guru offering sex to seekers. If this would be clear on the outside it would be better, I guess. To women I suggest: feel special, but not because Premananda is interested in you.
One day three girls came as volunteers. Within an hour he visited them and offered sex. He said he was quite liberated in that.
A very questionable example: he offered sex to a young resident, who had an issue with sex and intimacy. His version of egoless sex could mend her... top
Only one (!) person of all the former residents was interested in him as a satsang teacher. This is a woman who had to leave from an illness, that made it impossible to stay. I only saw her once during a satsang, in which Premananda revealed that she was the only one who ever came back to him.
The reason for this is that “people do not stay long enough with their teacher”, this is how Premananda explains it. Of course it is not his lack of quality. More hammering, more grinding and more polishing would be needed.
The fault is always with the others, never with him. top
giving up my residency
During the months of my residency I had more and more doubts about Premananda and his approach. All the things that I described came together as: this is not an OK place to stay any longer. One of the strong impulses for this was how he was describing the Christmas retreat: “We can be so happy to be here [in the retreat], whereas all those poor family addicted people are having fights around the Christmas tree.” That is such an easy, cheap, cheesy way of creating community: them and us. top
last words to me
Now you can read about Premananda‘s reaction on my doubts. The climax was during our last conversation (on the phone). He tried to keep me as a resident by giving me two guarantees. If I would stay, he guaranteed me that I would have dropped the tendencies that make me unhappy within two years. Also he guaranteed that if I would not stay, my depression would get worse and the older I got, the worse it would be. Note: this was our goodbye conversation! Later I heard from other memebers who left heard similar things. top
Later I saw how much of those promises were phony. He promised me to help setting up a photo business. Soon after I became a resident (September 2008), he told me that the photo business only could get attention after the India retreat (end of March 2009). By then, there would be a new book to be produced, so there would be no time for other things. A few month later I would have been out of money and nothing in terms of setting up a photo business would have happened. top
greedy guru: financial troubles
After I told that I want to move out, the financial problems started. He would not give back the money that I paid for the upcoming India retreat. This became a long quarrel that actually still is not finished. He said that they have terms and conditions and that those terms and conditions tell that cancelation with full refund is only possible one month before. I have never seen these terms and conditions, they never showed them to me, so legally that do not apply. Besides, why would you want to have money from me, whereas
On top of that: it’s not that I paid the money, they just took it from the money I borrowed them some time before. Of course it was pretty stupid of me to borrow money to them…
I am not the only one who is having financial troubles with Premananda. He is infamous for that.
It took many complicated emails and even a meeting to get this sorted and I have not been the most elegant party to deal with (after having been treated like a nasty mosquito who had to piss off), and still we are not settled.
In that meeting I told that they never showed me the terms and conditions. Mahima was silent for a while, then started talking again: “But you know that it is normal ... etc etc.” Normal? How funny to use the word normal where it comes to The Open Sky House! Normally it is normal that I get paid to do a job, here I have to pay to do their job!
They also acknowledged that this was the first time that it happened that a resident was moving out shortly for the India retreat. So there was no procedure for my case, except for the standard Premananda procedure: grab whatever can be grabbed.
A subtle detail: from the moment I cancelled my participation in the India retreat, they had plenty opportunity to inform me that there would be no refund, but they only did this after I said I would leave the community.
During a meeting with Mahima and her assistant, I said that I also did not like that an older woman from abroad had debts because of her residency in the Open Sky House. I did not know about the amount at that stage. Mahima said in an emotion that this woman has 10.000 Euros debts. “Premananda had told her over and over again that she should do something about her financial situation,” she added. Well, that’s easy again! Also Mahima said about herself that she never had debts, living in the community.
I was shocked by this and opened a new claim: half of the 1700 Euros that I paid to enter the community. This is because they did not mention that people had severe debts because of living in the Open Sly House, whereas I explicitly asked about the financial situation of the residents.
This poor woman worked her ass off in the community, mainly doing cooking and household jobs, serving Premananda’s breakfast and lunch every single day. She had a vasana not easily saying no. Mahima is the executive person of the community, young and attractive. Without her, the community would easily collapse. How come she never made debts, even having to support her two children?!?
It is a bit shocking to see how Mahima and her assistant are in this conflict. They completely take the side of Premananda. All the emails are signed by them, whereas Premananda obviously dictates what to write. He prefers to sit high in his tower. They could have said to Premananda: “Clean up your own mess.” But they wouldn’t. top
I had made the mistake to accept 300 Euros in a complicated deal, knowing I wanted back the full 600 of the India retreat. I considered the 300 as a first step, they thought it was a completion. It would have been more clear and elegant to not accept the 300 Euros, and I apologized for this.
At a certain stage I started threatening to inform the German tax
officers about Premananda’s situation. Was that ugly
to do? It is definitely something I would not easily do again. It was an
extreme thing from me to threaten him. Also I had moments that I was taken over
by thoughts of hate. But what to do?
In the end I would never have turned him in because that would have had severe consequences for many community members. top
and German mentality
Once Premananda said that this community was only possible in Germany, where people are used to follow orders. Maybe it was not so clever to manipulate me into the community, Premananda, me, a Dutch guy, in spite of your need for a well paying resident. Maybe it was not so smart from my side to go and live in the community, even though I have no regrets at all.
Premananda loves contracts, pushing people, manipulating. His ‘Outer sanga group’ is a mild version of the ‘Hammering, grinding and polishing’ institute and people are obliged to sign a contract for a year.
Also he offered me a contract in the process of our financial troubles, in which he offered me the 1000 Euros I was asking for, but I has to sign also for this: “Erik van den Boom agrees to refrain to put anything up on the internet about Premananda / the Open Sky House community such as reviews, opinions, forum postings etc.” He never paid me anyways. top
Erik van den Boom.