Ex-Morninglanders

About

The purpose of the Ex-Morninglanders website is to honor and share the experiences of the Morningland Community’s former members. Morningland is also sometimes referred to as The Urban Monastery or The Monastery. All content on this website reflects the experiences and opinions of Morningland’s former members and does not reflect the Morningland leaders’ and current members’ views and opinions.

THE PLACE WE’RE TALKING ABOUT

The Morningland Community located at 2600 E 7th St in Long Beach, CA, was founded in September 1973. It is also referred to as The Monastery, The Urban Monastery. They have four incorporated names: The Brotherhood of Peace and Tranquility (1971), The Church of the Brotherhood (1974), Morningland (1974), The Church of the Ascended Christ (1976). Morningland also has a retreat cottage in San Bernardino mountains.

THE TEACHERS IN MORNINGLAND

  • “Master Donato”
    • Daniel Sperato, the founder of Morningland. He passed away in 1976
  • Sri Donato / Sri Patricia
    • Sperato’s widow and co-founder, Patricia Sperato called Sri Patricia (later Sri Donato) ran Morningland after his passing (read allegations against her here and here)
  • Order of Kamazi
    • Kamazi X5 (Terry) is the male leader, trained by Sri Donato, and is subordinate to the Gopis
    • Two male monks, Shiva Khan and Running Deer (not the same person with the same name who was in ML in the 70s)
  • Order of Gopi
    • Gopi is a job title
    • 1970s, 80s – various women (up to 11), some of whom are mentioned in Our Stories but are no longer associated with Morningland.
    • 1990s and on:
    • Gopi Saravati (Margaret) & Gopi Chokru (Mary) – after Sri Donato’s passing in 2003, the leadership was passed to her two successors. As of 2020, Gopi Saravati is listed as CEO of Morningland (source).
    • Gopi Ona-Ali (Lara Ona) – trained by Sri Donato and the two Gopis to eventually take over the leadership. She has created an image for herself as a Yoga teacher outside of Morningland, also goes by Lara Ona.

THIS WEBSITE

The original Ex-Morninglanders website was created in 1997 by Ishwara Das, also known as Al, who sadly left this plane in 2013. Al contracted a rare form of melanoma and passed away on May 25, 2013, at his home in Santa Monica. He remains in spirit with all of us who knew him, and his joy, humor, and goodness continue to light the world. His website (now linked in the footer below) helped connect many who left or were traumatized and excommunicated by Sri Patricia in the 70s and 80s (please see Our Stories).

In 2023, the website got a new look and management, continuing the long legacy of Morningland’s former members. Upon leaving Morningland, many of us regardless of the decade of our exit feared speaking to other former members, thinking we somehow failed God’s plan. There was confusion, pain, and even trauma. Upon leaving, some individuals developed complex PTSD, and at least one former member committed suicide. The internalized Morningland ideology, where the fault always falls on the disciple, required time, sharing, and education to free our minds.

If you were in Morningland, you probably heard that there is no greater spiritual crime than coming between the guru and their follower. In other words, if you tell anyone about Morningland that could result in them having doubts and leaving the guru, you will have committed the greatest spiritual crime! Fortunately, Dalai Lama addressed this dogma that prevents open discussion of personal experiences and leaves former disciples in fear and silence. Borrowing his words when addressing his communities:

A teacher who behaves unethically or asks students to do so can be judged as lacking in ultimate insight. Even though one’s realization may be higher than the high beings, one’s behavior should conform to the human way of life. When teachers break the precepts, behaving in ways that are clearly damaging to themselves and others, students must face the situation, even though this can be challenging. Criticize openly. That’s the only way. If there is incontrovertible evidence of wrongdoing, teachers should be confronted with it. They should be allowed to admit their wrongs, make amends, and undergo a rehabilitation process. If a teacher won’t respond, students should publish the situation in a newspaper, not omitting the teacher’s name. The fact that the teacher may have done many other good things should not keep us silent.” (Yoga Journal, Mar-Apr 1994, p.36)

Physical, sexual, and psychological abuse are not teaching tools. In these circumstances, it is not a breach of samaya to bring painful information to light. Naming destructive behaviors is a necessary step to protect those who are being harmed or who are in danger of being harmed in the future, and to safeguard the health of the community (Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche).

It is spiritual, moral, ethical, just, and right to bring our experiences to light. Speak your truth, what you saw, felt, heard, and experienced in Morningland even if you were told to keep your mouth shut or fear retribution from some invisible forces – speak without the constraints of the self-imprisoning ideology. In Al’s own words, “Ultimately, I allowed the whole Morningland way of thinking to crumble in on itself. I guess that was bound to happen eventually. How can a path toward spiritual liberation live in fear of its adherents being mangled by some dark force outside the temple? What good is a path that lives in fear of losing its way?” Well said.

Welcome to the website of Morningland’s former members sharing our experiences and opinions since 1997!