Yoga master Sudharman murdered; Suspect also threatened Andrew Cohen

NEW BERLIN — New Berlin Yoga Master Sudharman was murdered, the victim of multiple gunshots from a small-caliber weapon, and a suspect is now in custody, state police at Milton said this afternoon.

State police Trooper Matthew Burrows said Sudharman, also known as Joe Fenton, died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds. The cause of death was established during an autopsy today in Allentown.

The suspect, Joel R. Snider, 33, was arrested Wednesday morning in Baltimore County without incident, Burrows said.

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According to arrest papers, the suspect and the victim both had ties to Yogaville in Buckingham County, Virginia, and Snider had developted a “methodical plan” to carry out Sudharman’s murder.

– Source / Full Story: Yoga student arrested in murder of New Berlin master, Amanda O’Rourke, The Daily Item (Sunbury, PA), July 7, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Riveting court documents reveal Snider to be a disturbed individual who made no secret of his plans to “assassinate” both Sudharman and spiritual leader Andrew Cohen.

In the months leading up the Sudharman’s killing, Snider sent a series of three e-mails to Swami Karunananda. According to her Facebook page, Swami Karunananda serves as vice president of spiritual development at Yogaville, Buckingham, Va.

In Snider’s e-mails to Swami Karunananda, he intricately outlined his plans to assassinate Sudharman and Cohen, founder of EnlightenNext.

Sudharman was a founding member and graduate of Yogaville and learned under the direction of Swami Satchidananida, as did Snider. In his e-mails, Snider mentions that Sudharman attempted to recruit Snider to teach in the Integral Yoga Center of Pennsylvania at 428 Market St., New Berlin. This appears to be the link between Snider and Sudharman.

In an e-mail dated May 10, Snider allegedly wrote: “I am thinking that for both Andrew and Sudharman it would be best if they just disappeared. No bullet holes, no blood, no signs of forced entry or struggle. Both appear to be mysterious, eccentric spiritual guy, so it might be easily believable that they would just take off for a while, or maybe they had spontaneous enlightenment or something and they reached satori or went home to God or something. This way there is less chance for an investigation, less chance that it would be traced back to me. This will take a little more planning and could be risky to get close, but with God as my guide I am sure I will be just fine.”

– Source / Full Story: Yoga master murdered, Amanda O’Rourke, The Daily Item, July 8, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

BUCKINGHAM, Va. — A Valley woman who spent 10 days on a silent retreat at Yogaville less than a year ago said there is no way the man suspected of killing a New Berlin yoga master last week was a true student of yoga.

“Anyone who would equate Joel Snider’s behavior with the truth about Yogaville is misinformed,” said the woman, who did not want to be identified. “The truth about that organization is far, far, far from Joel Snider’s actions.”

Founded in 1980 by Indian spiritual leader Sri Swami Satchidananda, who was Sudharman’s guru, the Yogaville ashram is located in Buckingman, about four hours from Washington, D.C., amid the Blue Ridge Mountains of rural Virginia.

The word ashram is Sanskrit and refers to the residence of a guru that is used for religious retreat or instruction in Hinduism. Guru also is a Sanskrit word and refers to someone who is regarded as having great knowledge and wisdom. Put more simply, guru means teacher, as does rabbi in Hebrew.

At Yogaville, an orange arch with the words “Truth is one, paths are many” stands at the entrance.

“Every religion believes in a god but it’s so ironic that so many religions fight because of their differences,” the Valley woman said. “That’s what so beautiful about Integral Yoga, because it tries to integrate the best things about all religions.”

Though the Valley woman uses the word religion, Integral Yoga is not considered a religion. Swami Satchidananda described it as a philosophy, a system of practices and a way of life.

The goal of Integral Yoga, according to the writings of Swami Satchidananda, is to realize the spiritual unity behind all diversities and to live harmoniously as members of one universal family. This goal is achieved “by maintaining one’s natural condition of a body of optimum health and strength, senses under total control, a mind well-disciplined, clear and calm, an intellect as sharp as a razor, a will as strong and pliable as steel, a heart full of unconditional love and compassion, an ego as pure as a crystal, and a life filled with supreme peace and joy.”

Integral Yoga is a combination of the various branches of yoga, and on her retreat to Yogaville last summer, the Valley woman practiced hatha yoga, which focuses on the physical aspects through postures, breath control, a yogic diet and deep relaxation.

The Valley woman characterized Snider as a “kook,” an extremist who did not exemplify the ideals of yoga or Swami Karunananda, who has not returned repeated calls seeking comment.

“There is nothing about the crazy, extremist behavior that that man demonstrated that is yoga — nothing,” she said. “(Swami Karunananda) lives a life to serve and love and preserve and enrich and teach. She is not a person of violence.”

– Source / Full Story: Yogaville much like a convent, visitor says, Amanda O’Rourke, The Daily Item, July 11, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog


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Religion News Blog posted this on Sunday July 11, 2010.
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