Correcting Information in The December Project

By Netanel Miles-Yépez

Some time ago, Shams Kairys, a senior student of Pir Vilayat Khan, brought the following quote in the hardcover edition of The December Project (by Sara Davidson)to my attention: "Most people wanted me to stay in the saddle as long as I could breathe, but I'd seen what happens when spiritual leaders remain in the driver's seat too long. People like Swami Muktananda and Pir Vilayat Khan—they were like kings, and when they died, there was a struggle for the throne, and their movements splintered." (p.145) This statement is inaccurate. Though there are reports of disagreements between his successors, upon the death of Baba Muktananda, Swamini Chidvilasananda and her brother, Swami Nityananda, became joint heads of the Siddha Yoga lineage. Three years later, they decided to part ways, with Swami Niyananda eventually founding a separate organization. Reb Zalman may have been referring to these reports and eventual separation in this statement. However, his mention of Pir Vilayat in this example, is in my opinion, merely misspeaking. I can verify that Reb Zalman was well-aware that the transition from Pir Vilayat to his son and successor, Pir Zia Inayat-Khan, was well-planned, publicly announced years in advance, and graceful in every respect. Moreover, Reb Zalman fully endorsed Pir Vilayat's choice of successor and held Pir Zia in great affection and esteem, having known him from childhood. Thus, this appears to be a simple mistake while speaking off-hand in an interview.