A spiritual community in Virginia, surrounded by controversy and allegations against its founder.
Yogaville, also known as Satchidananda Ashram, is a spiritual community and the headquarters of the teachings of Swami Satchidananda, located in Buckingham County, Virginia. It was founded in 1980 by Swami Satchidananda, known for opening the Woodstock festival.
Ashram and Facilities
The ashram serves as the international organizational headquarters for Swami Satchidananda’s teachings. It is situated on a property along the James River and was identified for the community as Swami Satchidananda flew over the area, looking for land in the southern United States. The property, acquired in 1979, originally comprised 600 acres and has since grown to 750 acres. The ashram maintains various facilities, including a large kitchen, dining room, educational facilities, and the LOTUS (Light Of Truth Universal Shrine).
LOTUS and Interfaith Focus
The LOTUS shrine, inaugurated in 1986, is the centerpiece of Yogaville. Costing $2 million and financed through donations and tithes, the structure is shaped like a lotus flower, features a gold-leaf dome, and houses 12 altars representing various world religions. The primary goal of Swami Satchidananda was interfaith understanding as a vehicle to world peace.
Controversies and Allegations
Despite its spiritual objectives, Yogaville has been surrounded by controversy, particularly regarding the conduct of its founder, Swami Satchidananda. There have been allegations of sexual misconduct against him. Former disciples have accused him of engaging in secret sexual affairs, exploiting his role as a spiritual mentor. These accusations came to light in the 1990s, leading to a significant number of devotees leaving the organization. The controversy has raised questions about the practices and governance within Yogaville.
Yogaville continues to operate and offers various programs and retreats focused on yoga and spirituality. The community reportedly had around 200 residents as of 2015. However, the legacy of its founder and the allegations against him have left a complex and controversial history that continues to affect perceptions of the community.