CULT HIT BY SEX ABUSE CLAIMS; EX-MEMBERS SLAM GLOBAL SELF-HELP GROUP SPECIAL REPORT.
ITS motto is: "Transform the world by giving people the tools to transform themselves."
The Life Foundation, which has a base in Bilston, Wolverhampton, runs yoga sessions, stress management classes and offers holistic therapies.
Leader, Dr Mansukh Patel, claims to be a supporter of world peace and the company manages humanitarian projects across the world, including in India and Nepal.
The master guru, dubbed the 'Young Gandhi' by followers, has made presentations to such dignitaries as the late Pope John Paul II and even Tony Blair.
But the Life Foundation has faced criticism from former members who have reportedly made claims about sexual abuse, intimidation and financial improprieties.
The organisation, which has its HQ in Wales and boasts it has 40,000 members worldwide, strongly denies the allegations which, it says, are part of a long-running smear campaign.
North Wales Police has confirmed that it has investigated complaints about the Life Foundation but, due to lack of evidence, no action was taken.
Sue Turner, from Sutton Coldfield, is one critic of the group which she joined in the mid-1980s.
She began simply by attending yoga sessions but soon started helping as a volunteer.
Sue persuaded her ex-husband Gordon to join, and the couple and their three young children later moved into a Life Foundation-owned house, known as an ashram, in Bilston, Wolverhampton.
The couple claimed they donated pounds 30,000 to the organisation and said that they knew members who claimed to have been sexually abused.
"As we got more drawn in, we stopped seeing all our old friends because we got the impression this would help demonstrate our commitment to the organisation," she said.
"Once you become live-in members, visiting family or friends is frowned upon. The Bilston ashram contained a 'shrine room' full of Hindu symbols, and up to seven people to each bedroom.
"However much you did for the organisation, there was always a feeling you should be doing more.
"Gordon and I donated pounds 30,000 but the only response was disappointment that it wasn't more. Many members handed over their entire life savings.
"Members were also expected to move around from centre to centre, wherever the elders decided to send you.
"One day Gordon was suddenly moved to the north Wales centre to do the accounts, without any consultation with me, which split us up as a family.
"If you really wanted to get involved with the Foundation, you were told to rid yourself of all ego, which meant following what Mansukh or the elders ordered you to do without question.
"If you did well, you began the initiation process into the inner circle.
"First you received a white shawl, then a white robe, then a yellow robe and finally, at the very top, a red robe. I advanced only as far as a white robe.
"I later discovered that for women, receiving a yellow robe made you eligible to sleep with the guru."
Sue is not the only person to have spoken out against the organisation.
Another former child member has alleged that she was sexually abused as a youngster while living at a Life Foundation home.
And Sue's former husband Gordon, who worked as company secretary for the organisation, has previously claimed Life Foundation cash was siphoned off for private purposes.
A Dutch newspaper Trouw has also reported on criticism from 17 former followers.
In Holland, Patel is a minor celebrity. Princess Irene, a member of the royal family, is among his many admirers.
Ian Howarth, from the UK-based Cult Information Centre, said he had received several complaints about the Life Foundation.
"We have concerns about the family and friends of current members, and ex-members, who are coming to us for advice. I would equate this group with the Moonies or Scientology."
But a spokeswoman for the Life Foundation denied all the claims.
"There is no truth in any of the allegations made, whether regarding administrative practices or personal behaviour," she said.
"The objective of the Life Foundation is to help people fulfil their ambitions and to develop their personal skills and talents in order to get the most out of their life.
"From what we have been able to find out, there are about a dozen people behind this campaign, who at some time were associated with us. At least one left more than 10 years ago. Their intention is to distort information and to use rumour and innuendo to convince others.
"We are very saddened that such claims come from people to whom we offered support at a transitional point in their lives.
"This is part of a campaign which has now been continuing for more than 10 years and which has included threats and damage to property, as well as rumours and innuendo. We have been in contact with the police over these matters."
She added that the group does not believe that Gordon Turner has made allegations about financial improprieties at the company and that they are actively seeking him.
"Our accounts are on the pubic record," she said.
BASE: the Life Foundation in Bilston, Wolverhampton' ACCUSED: Dr Mansukh Patel, (left) and Sue Turner
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Publication:||Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)|
|Date:||Jul 9, 2006|
|Previous Article:||I had to get away from Hod - Colin.|
|Next Article:||Football: FOUR-STAR DJ WOWS BRUCE; FRIENDLY: BURTON ALB 1 BLUES 5 Campbell's crackers lift Blues in romp.|