Transparency – Life in Morningland in the 2000s

Transparency builds trust and encourages accountability. Those who use secrecy or deception to build trust know very well that if they revealed their workings, very few people would join or even trust them.

If Morningland were transparent, we would have learned about their core beliefs and basic lifestyle as a disciple from day one. Instead, we learned about their tenets slowly over a longer period of time. Some tenets were disclosed to us only after sufficient indoctrination when the Gopis believed we would be receptive to that information, or more willing to make favorable choices. Other tenets were not disclosed but woven into the culture and lived on the periphery of our conscious awareness. They were not fully processed until after we left the group. Below are those tenets from a few former members who were disciples in the 2000s. They are listed without the ideological justifications. The list will be updated as needed to better reflect our experience.


  • The founder, Master Donato was seen as Christ, the Avatar for the Aquarian Age, the second coming of Christ Consciousness, and possibly the last such incarnation, or at least the last one in a very long time (we did not hear that until at least a year or so).
  • After he died, which they called Maha Samadhi or ascension, his widow Sri Patricia aka Sri Donato claimed to be telepathically connected with him and continued “the divine mission.” She was also considered enlightened – any good deed was magnified, and an unethical behavior was denied or justified.
  • Sri Donato trained Gopi Chokru and Saravati for decades to take her place after her passing. The two Gopis also claim to continue to have telepathic connection with the deceased and continue in the same leadership style
  • The two Gopis trained Gopi Ona-Ali who will likely succeed the leadership. She has also created a new image for herself as a Yoga teacher outside of Morningland, which will likely change Morningland in the future (if there is one)

CORE IDEOLOGY (many tenets below started forming in the 1980s by Sri Patricia)

  • The world was seen as a spiritually dark, dangerous place while Morningland was seen as light, a safe place, heaven on earth, the 5th dimension, the Holy Father’s place.
  • The Gopis, and the imagined (deceased) Sri Donato, and Master Donato were seen as the central figures of worship, devotion, loyalty, and obedience and direct links to the higher dimension.
  • “Healing” or Shaktipat (key tenet)
    • The Gopis placed their hands over our heads and torsos without touching and claimed two things – “samadhi” (alleged union with one’s divine self) and “healing” of pretty much any malady (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, etc.
    • They credited the energies to the deceased Sri, and Donato working through the two Gopis.
    • Disciples were under strong pressure to identify physical healing.
    • The “healing” was seen as spiritual debt that cannot be repaid
    • Anything good happening in our lives was accredited to the “healing.” Anything bad was considered our bad karma or ignorance.
  • “Communion” (important)
    • During some Sunday services, Gopi Chokru or Saravati raised a loaf of bread in the air facing the altar and offered it to the spiritual hierarchy as they saw it. The bread was then considered to have divine (magical) properties.
    • Small groups of disciples (wearing silver triangle pendant), members (no pendant) and guests (newbies) came to the altar to receive a tiny peace of that bread dipped in wine. This was kind of like the Catholic Sacrament
    • Standing on that altar, that Gopi looked into each person’s eyes. and they said in unison, “We are all one” or “We are all one with Donato.” But when only disciples were at the altar, they whispered so that guests and members in the crowd behind them did not hear, “.. with Donato the Christ.”
  • “Blessed food”
    • Any food the Gopis touched was considered blessed and infused with divine energy. Some disciples (not all) have gone so far as to encourage others to eat spoiled food, claiming it still had “healing” properties!
    • Strong pressure in the community to proclaim the superb taste of food from Morningland “Isn’t this the best apple ever!” We felt pressured to comply.
    • Blessing your own food before you eat was considered to purify it of toxins.
  • “Manifestations”
    • Kind of like Jesus turning water into wine, in Morningland it is believed that Sri Donato, through the Gopis, multiplied food.
    • As disciples we were told that food multiplied during each meal. It was our responsibility to “catch it” and report it to the leaders.
  • The spiritual belief system
    • Eclectic patchwork taken from numerous spiritual sources: Buddhism, Hinduism, Christian mysticism, Native American traditions, Celtic, Lao Tzu, etc., mixed with UFOs, Angels, auras, etc. as it was popular in the 70s and 80s (see Similar Groups).
    • They started us with meditations, chants, yoga, and in time and slow drips we were able to digest the rest.
  • Vasectomies
    • It was justified as a spiritually necessary step, following in the footsteps of the founding guru Master Donato, to “preserve spiritual energy”. We were not ordered to do it but it was strongly suggested as “the next step” in our spiritual journey.
  • More Outlandish beliefs
    • The Gopis (likely repeating Sri Donato’s words) claimed that Master Donato stopped the Vietnam war, brought vasectomies to men (eeer they predated him by many decades)
    • They claimed that Morningland was the center of the world and anything going on in Morningland will have ripple effects in the world.
    • They claimed Sri Donato’s prophecies were 1000% accurate without providing any evidence (those we read were far from accurate).
    • Some of us heard Chokru’s story of two peacocks “materializing” on the compound, allegedly from “Heaven.” That was their magical thinking. In reality – two peacocks used to live in the neighborhood for a while and many neighbors saw them as they flew across fences and just – hung out.


  • The disciples’ primary relationship was with the Gopis (not with our spouses, partners, friends, family, etc), who were seen as supremely good and compassionate. This relationship took years to build starting when we were just curious visitors and dedicated members.
  • Once devotees developed unfettered trust in the Gopis and chose to become disciples, the Gopis demanded obedience and loyalty.
  • Strong emphasis was on praising the Gopis, outlining everything they do as outstanding. Noticing their “superior” intelligence and abilities was seen as a sign of our growing intelligence. We learned to shrink ourselves to accommodate their “greatness.”
  • Identity went from self to the group; from “I” to “we.”
  • Codependency – “Codependency in a relationship is when each person involved is mentally, emotionally, physically, and/or spiritually reliant on the other” The relationship was one sided on multiple levels, including the leader knowing everything about disciples but disciples know very little to nothing about the leaders.
  • Sri Donato and the Gopis claimed to be spiritually 100% correct –
    • Disciples sought the Gopis’ approval for all major life decisions, including obtaining approval for their partner, where to live, what job to have, whether to have children, pointing at the dependent nature of the relationship and strong submission to the leaders.
  • The Gopis claimed to have mastered their emotions –
    • When a disciple witnessed a display of negative emotions, the Gopis justified the display saying they used emotions to teach disciples, or cleared the energy of others’ emotions in the air (with this justification, anyone can claim to be free from their emotions by simply projecting them onto others).
  • The Gopis’ opinion of disciples was taken as truth coming from “on-high.” To doubt a Gopi went against the norm and was considered nonspiritual.


  • Recruitment was the most important “spiritual job” of a disciple – the ongoing pressure to bring more people in. The Gopis explained this is how disciples say “thank you” to the guru. It was also woven into the ideology, claiming that as the Morningland membership increases, the “Upstairs” will match the energy 10 fold (something like that) and enable group ascension.
  • Many disciples organized their meditation, yoga, dance, or conversation groups outside of Morningland to help screen and recruit promising individuals and introduce them to the Morningland leaders

LIFE AS DISCIPLES (details vary throughout the decades as Morningland rebranded and changed some of their basic lifestyle requirements for disciples)

  • Disciples wear silver medallions around their necks—every day.
  • The requirement for discipleship was not explicit and changed throughout the decades. Many in the 2000s became disciples because we accepted their ideology, and lifestyle, proclaimed physical healing, and attended all classes and services without fail. Most of us have brought several new guests, potential recruits and demonstrated awe about the Gopis and Morningland in general.
  • The requirement was to spend at least 10 hours a week on the compound and to attend daily evening meditations and classes.
  • The approved conversations among disciples were topics related to how amazing the Gopis were and how to recruit more people. We were discouraged from talking about unrelated topics of personal nature.
  • The ideal jobs for disciples were those that enabled us to spend as much time on the compound as possible. Weekends and vacations were spent on the compound doing free labor (karma yoga – paying off bad karma by working for free).
  • Disciples were largely, to various degrees, isolated from former friends and family.
  • Critical thinking and doubt were discouraged and suppressed.
  • Everyone was on the need to know basis: knowledge of the organization’s full past was limited and suppressed.
  • Exclusivity
    • Disciples who seemed to spend more time with the Gopis and stayed after hours were discouraged from speaking about it. Typically those were band members and those who assisted the Gopis with guests on a regular basis.
    • These were young, intelligent, obedient, and with a skill that the leaders needed were taken further “in” – they spent more time with the Gopis, and received deeper indoctrination. In return, these disciples helped lead guest programs, cook, create music, and work on recruitment. These individuals were also more socially isolated from other disciples and heavily bonded with one of the leaders.
    • Very select few (one or two) with a skill the leaders needed/wanted and who were also very obedient and loyal, were pressured to give their time and skills for a insanely small compensation and were discouraged from having a career. The agreement appeared to be voluntary but there was the pressure to comply and to have no self interest. Many consider this to be highly exploitative.


  • The relationship with and loyalty towards a Gopi preceded the relationship and loyalty towards one’s partner. This was the basis of the guru-disciple relationship.
  • The Gopis said that no one should come between a couple, and the culture supported that, except when it came to the Gopis – they enjoyed full trust from their disciples and have abused it when they manipulated couples and attempted to influence relationships.


  • Sri Donato – There are allegations of Sri Donato’s child abuse (ML in the News – controlling minors in Escondido, separating children from family, grooming in the late 70s, 80s).
  • The Gopis (Chokru, Saravati, Ona-Ali) did not appear to follow in Sri’s footsteps and since the 1990s there have been no new allegations of such nature. We did not witness or hear of any child abuse in Morningland (2000s)
  • Strong encouragement in ML not to have children as they would take energy and time away from Morningland and spiritual practice. As a result, the only children in Morningland we saw were from couples who had them before they became disciples.
  • After years of indoctrination, male disciples were encouraged to have vasectomy, which says a lot about “freedom” to have children in the community or “freedom” to possibly change their mind in the future.


  • Many aspects of the culture were implicit, picked up along the way. If all aspects of the culture were verbalized they would not all sound reasonable and may not have been accepted.
  • When it came to daily logistics (where to leave food donations, how to correctly clean wood, etc), the Gopis favored short, concise, direct and clear communication.
  • When it came to managing others’ behavior, the Gopis often used indirect, passive aggressive, and manipulative tactics, including eye rolling, looking down, walking away, triangulating themselves into relationships to influence others instead of using direct communication.
  • Keeping disciples uncomfortable was a part of their “spiritual” training. Some tools used for that purpose can be considered psychological manipulation or abuse: gaslighting (doubting your own senses and perception when it went against the leaders’) and occasional humiliation to keep the disciples’ egos in sufficient submission. Abusive behavior was presented as compassion (let that sink in).


  • It is easy to leave the group physically but not mentally or emotionally. It can be and it was very traumatic for most of us – leaving one’s perceived connection to God was not something one could do easily unless it was absolutely necessary.
  • Those who left Morningland were “erased” from the community. Their music, artwork, any footprints they left behind were no longer used or viewed and those disciples were no longer spoken of again. It was as if that person was never there. That way, Morningland did not have to showcase its skeletons from the past.
  • Those who left Morningland were not to be trusted as their words could “pollute” the disciples’ minds and take them away from the guru and God. They were shunned. The disciples’ focus was on protecting their core relationship with the guru or a Gopi, which was their perceived link to the Holy Father/Mother God.
  • The person who left was simply thought of as someone who had a grudge, failed spiritually, or some other justification that kept the leaders blameless.

Mantika August 2023