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Dead Americans were here on a spiritual quest

By George Joseph in New York
November 29, 2008 00:40 IST
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Alan Scherr and his 13-year-old daughter Naomi, the two Americans who were killed at the attack at a Mumbai cafe, traveled to India with a team of 25 people to visit holy sites and interact with spiritual gurus, a spokesperson for the Synchronicity Foundation based in Virginia said.

Four others from the team, including two women, were wounded and have undergone surgery, she said. The injured are Helen Connolly of Toronto, who was grazed by a bullet; Rudrani Devi and Linda Ragsdale, both of Nashville, who both underwent surgery for bullet wounds; and Michael Rudder of Montreal, who remains in intensive care after being shot three times.

Master Charles Cannon, founder of the Synchronicity Foundation, a 450 acre ashram that promotes meditation based on the teachings of Swami Muktananada, led the group. He is safe. The name of the foundation grew out of Master Charles's understanding that meditation is an experience that synchronises the activity of the two halves of the brain.

The US State Department confirmed the deaths. Scherr's wife Kia and her two sons did not travel with them to India. Prior to joining Synchronicity in 1996, Scherr, 58, was affiliated with the Transcendental Meditation organisation for 25 years as a practitioner, teacher, and programme facilitator. He was also a university faculty member in the art departments of the University of Maryland and Loyola College.

He served as president and administrative council member of the Synchronicity Foundation.

Master Charles, a native of New York, met Swami Muktananada, founder of Siddha Yoga in the 1960s and lived with him in India with the assumed name of Arjuna.

Before his passing in 1982, Swami Muktananda instructed Arjuna to return to the West and create a form of the teachings not bound in an Indian cultural format. Thus, in 1982, Arjuna changed his name to Brother Charles and settled in rural Virginia. He began to attract a few disciples, and as his following grew he founded the Synchronicity Foundation.

'Alan and his wife Kia have been integral members of the Synchronicity community for more than a decade since moving to Faber with their young daughter Naomi. Alan committed most of his adult life to meditation, spirituality and conscious living. He was a passionate Vedic astrologer and meditation teacher who inspired many people to begin a journey of self awareness and meditation,' a statement from Synchronicity said. 'He was committed to making a positive difference in the world and devoted himself to the community he lived in. Naomi was a bright and lively young woman who loved spending time with people and living life to the fullest. She was passionate, if not a little mischievous, and will be fondly remembered by many of us for colourful hair styles and radiant energy,' it said.

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George Joseph in New York