The following is a testimony extracted from an email exchange with former member “Kate” during the 2010s, reproduced with permission. It has been slightly edited for grammar and clarity. Victims’ names have been changed, details and dates have been redacted to protect their identities.
Ah, good that you have seen the [Cult Education Institute] forum, so many comments there resonate with what me and “Rachel” experienced.
In early 201? [date redacted] I made the mistake to place my trust in Loday (Marcus) and PY and believe that place was a safe environment to send Rachel for a short length of time for some respite. Instead of respite she was slowly indoctrinated and abused over a ten-month period, right up until our escape on [date redacted].
I best not go into too much detail into what she endured without her permission, but she might be able to tell you herself in time, she is still somewhat fragile from the ordeal, but she has made a remarkable recovery over the last two years.
Personally, I can tell you I visited Rachel in February, just for a few days. The next time I saw her was in July at the start of the Summer “retreat” — and I noticed there was a huge change in her, that I couldn’t quite put my finger on; she didn’t look well, but you, Christine made her smile and her mood lifted in your presence.
I had planned to stay for one week, however, Loday insisted I stay longer and emotionally blackmailed me with the threat of demons if I left. I wanted to leave but I wanted Rachel to come with me.
As I attended the “teachings” it slowly dawned on me that most of what was being said was disturbing. I also slowly figured out I was being lied to, spied on, under some sort of surveillance, blackmailed, expected to obey instructions/orders against my will, and so on.
One lunchtime in August/Sept I went to the library (in secret — remember library & books/reading were banned!) and I happened to bump into the recently “disrobed ani” who PY had thrown out. It was so very sad, she looked so different dressed in plain clothes with her hair grown out, her eyes were red raw and swollen — through crying. She was in a state, but did not disclose any info or confide in me. I did not let on I had seen and spoken to her — I only told Rachel. But I was thinking What The Blazes is going on here?!
To cut another long story short, just before that Summer “retreat” I had managed to secure a new rented home [details redacted] in [location redacted]. [Something serious occurred and] I was instructed not to return to my home to sort things out. So inevitably I was promptly served eviction notice from my landlord [details redacted]. Eventually, end of Sept, and without PY or Loday’s permission, I left Newcastle to go home only to find I was indeed homeless and everything was a mess.
Back home, I packed the boxes up and sorted out what needed to be done. I then returned to Newcastle to get Rachel out. Upon my return Loday was off hand with me, and I think he was told not to speak to me. The fact Loday had interfered in my life to such a degree to contributing making me homeless jolted Rachel into the stark reality of how dangerous, abusive and controlling these people were. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Loday told Rachel that me being made homeless was not a problem — it was karma, nothing to worry about! Loday continued to lie, break promises, snitch/report back to PY all information he could gather etc. As I’ve said before, I realise Loday is a victim and he was obeying PY’s orders with all he was saying and doing. Personally, I didn’t witness any actions of a real Buddhist. Loday was living in an unrealistic fantasy toxic bubble! But like everyone there, he was brainwashed.
Shortly after this, in October a weekend teaching took place and PY called me names (i.e. garbage), verbally abused me, humiliated me and berated me the whole day in front of everyone [details redacted] and threw a heavy stick at my head that slammed against the wall behind me. [Details redacted]
I phoned a friend of mine in [location redacted] to ask for a £25 loan for diesel for my car so that we could secretly pack my car up and quietly escape. I needed the loan for diesel to drive us to [location redacted], because ALL our money had been taken by them — their financial abuse. We had almost completed the task of packing my car up, and one of the Ani’s smelled a rat, and discovered we were preparing to leave. She tried to coerce Rachel to stay, telling her to sit down and wait for PY to return from his trip abroad, she said it was “important to at least listen to PY or ask permission to leave with his blessing”. Yeah, can you believe that! Anyhow, I was in a rush to go, so I bundled the last things in the car and then I ushered Rachel into my car and off we went.
When we reached [location redacted], Rachel found a safe place with the help of an ex-student, and I had to live in the back of my car for seven months over the freezing cold winter, (due to their financial abuse we were so broke it took a while to get on my feet) BUT freezing and starving to death in my car was better than being with that bunch of perpetrators. Eventually, after 7 months of my car, I secured new housing.
Soon after moving to [location redacted], an ex-student told us of their dreadful experiences with PY. We also got in touch with INFORM who were helpful, they were familiar with PY and others had given statements to them about what they had endured.
It was a series of events to realise this was a sham, and that criminal offences were taking place, and that we were victims of PY and his brainwashed followers.
As I have said, what I have written here is the tip of the iceberg, there is SO MUCH more, it is the simple short version, and I have mentioned the episodes that triggered my survival instincts that we had to get safe, we were being brainwashed, manipulated, and relentlessly abused etc.
I hope this has helped you grasp some understanding of why we escaped.
Update: Added comments and analysis by anon27:
Wonderful to hear about Kate and Rachel’s escape.
Karmicwind has very correctly identified common methods of abuse at Pathgate in bold.
An interesting theme that comes across is that PY’s victims are brainwashed into believing that when bad things happen in life, they are not to be addressed or thought about in any grown-up, intelligent or realistic way.
This is part of PY’s very clever trap:
PY’s victim-students begin to live unhappy lives because they are following PY’s corrupt teachings.
When they notice their lives are getting worse, they get told not to worry, it’s actually good because this is “bad karma” coming out.
They get told their lives are getting worse because PY is helping them release bad karma from their “mindstreams”, gathered from “many lifetimes”.
The lie here is particularly extraordinary, a hallmark of PY’s capacity for abuse:
The reality is their lives are getting worse because of PY … not because he is “healing them from past karma” somehow, but because he is actually, simply, making their lives worse!
PY abuses them into living in a degrading and degraded manner, and tells them it’s good for them.
This is why his long-term victim-students are so dangerous to others.
They have fully bought into the idea that being unhappy and having a crap life is a sign of progress.
As per Kate’s testimony, they do their utmost to convince others of this lie, and the main reason is so they don’t have to face the reality of the toxic fantasy bubble they live in.
All of them, PY and his victims, are in fact highly motivated to draw others into their unrealistic fantasy toxic bubble.
When their lives are getting really bad, and their friends and family are starting to really notice, PY’s student-victims are told that this is the moment to double-down, pay more money, and engage in more “magical” actions (which boils down to worshipping PY).
If they don’t do (and pay for) “more magic”, exactly as per Kate’s testimony, they are told things will get even worse for them: demons will get them!
PY and his victims always revert to “magic” (karma, demons etc.) to explain normal life events, and preach magic solutions to all of life’s challenges.
This is plain stupidity, and needless to say, not Buddhist.
Looking objectively at PY’s life, and those of his victim-students, we clearly see the effects of their magical thinking.
It’s super sad for all of us who had people we counted as friends there.
Moving beyond magical thinking is a big deprogramming challenge to escapees from this particular cult, as is evidenced by several testimonies on this thread, in different ways.
Science, Buddhism, every major religion, wisdom school, psychological school, and every person with a bit of intelligence and knowledge of the world also happens to agree that magical thinking is, to sum it up, total bullshit.
Magical thinking is psychologically infantile, which also perfectly fits with PY’s abuse of his victim-students into childish dependency, and PY’s own arrested development.
The old stories speak many times of authentic Buddhists having to win battles against “users of magic”.
Symbolically what they are talking about is that Buddhism represents the evolution of “being human” through the application of educated, thoughtful, caring, morally boundaried, discriminating intelligence.
Buddhism needs to evolve, and doesn’t have all the answers, but it has always been very clearly against magical thinking.
This is one of the reasons many scientists find Buddhism to be a credible system of thought. They may not agree with it, but they recognise the drive towards being realistic (working from the data) at the heart of Buddhism.
If you require information and/or support with regards to recovery from cults, here are several organisations you can contact.
Cult Information Centre
Cult Consulting Australia