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Sally Kempton, Rising Star Journalist Turned Swami, Dies at 80

Sally Kempton, who was as soon as a rising star within the New York journalism world and a fierce exponent of radical feminism, however who later pivoted to a lifetime of Japanese asceticism and non secular observe, died on Monday at her residence in Carmel, Calif. She was 80.

Her brother David Kempton mentioned the trigger was coronary heart failure, including that she had suffered from a persistent lung situation.

Ms. Kempton’s literary pedigree was impeccable. Her father was Murray Kempton, the erudite and acerbic newspaper columnist and a lion of New York journalism, the ranks of which she joined within the late Nineteen Sixties as a workers author for The Village Voice and a contributor to The New York Occasions. She was a pointy and gifted reporter — though she typically felt she hadn’t correctly earned her place as a journalist and owed it largely to her father’s repute.

She wrote arch items about New Age fads like astrology: “One believes in marijuana and Bob Dylan,” she famous in The Occasions in 1969, and “astrology is a part of an environment which incorporates these items and others; it is likely one of the methods we converse to our buddies.” She profiled rock stars like Frank Zappa and reviewed books for The Occasions.

She and a buddy, the creator Susan Brownmiller, joined a bunch known as the New York Radical Feminists, and within the spring of 1970 they participated in a sit-in on the places of work of Women’ House Journal to protest its editorial content material, which they mentioned was demeaning to girls. That very same month, she and Ms. Brownmiller have been invited on “The Dick Cavett Present” to signify what was then known as the ladies’s liberation motion; the 2 had a set-to with Hugh Hefner, the writer of Playboy journal, who was additionally a visitor, as was the rock singer Grace Slick (who didn’t appear completely on board with the feminist agenda).

However what made Ms. Kempton well-known, for a New York minute, was a blistering essay within the July 1970 difficulty of Esquire journal known as “Chopping Free,” wherein she took goal at her father, her husband and her personal complicity within the regressive gender roles of the period.

The essential level of the essay was that she had been groomed to be a sure form of vibrant however compliant helpmeet, and he or she was spitting mad at herself for succeeding. Her father, she wrote, thought-about girls to be incapable of great thought and was expert within the artwork of placing girls down; their very own relationship, she mentioned, was like that of an 18th-century depend and his precocious daughter, “wherein she grows as much as be the right female companion, parroting him with such subtlety that it’s unattainable to inform her ideas and emotions, so coincident along with his, usually are not authentic.”

She described her husband, the film producer Harrison Starr, who was 13 years her senior, as “a male supremacist within the type of Norman Mailer” who infantilized her and provoked in her such frustration that she fantasized about bashing him within the head with a frying pan.

“It’s exhausting to combat an enemy,” she concluded, “who has outposts in your head.”

The piece landed like a cluster bomb. Her marriage didn’t survive. Her relationship along with her father suffered. Ladies devoured it, recognizing themselves in her livid prose. To a sure era, it’s nonetheless a touchstone of feminist exposition. Years later, Susan Cheever, writing in The Occasions, known as it “a scream of marital rage.”

4 years after the Esquire piece was printed, Ms. Kempton primarily vanished, to observe an Indian mystic named Swami Muktananda, in any other case often known as Baba, a proponent of a non secular observe often known as Siddha Yoga. Baba was touring America within the Seventies and accruing devotees from the chattering lessons by the lots of after which the hundreds — together with, at one level, seemingly half of Hollywood.

By 1982, Ms. Kempton had taken a vow of chastity and poverty to reside as a monk in Baba’s ashrams, first in India after which in a former borscht belt hotel within the Catskills. He gave her the identify Swami Durgananda, and he or she donned the standard orange robes of a Hindu monk.

After she was ordained, as she instructed the author Sara Davidson, who profiled Ms. Kempton in 2001, she ran right into a Sarah Lawrence classmate, who then wrote within the alumni publication, “Noticed Sally Kempton, ’64, who’s now married to an Indian man and is Mrs. Durgananda.”

As The Oakland Tribune reported in 1983, “The Sally Kempton who had written about sexual rage in Esquire not existed.”

Sally Kempton was born on Jan. 15, 1943, in Manhattan and grew up in Princeton, N.J., the eldest of 5 youngsters. Her mom, Mina (Bluethenthal) Kempton, was a social employee; she and Mr. Kempton divorced when Sally was in faculty.

She attended Sarah Lawrence as an alternative of Barnard, she wrote in her Esquire essay, as a result of her boyfriend on the time thought it was a extra “female” establishment. There, she co-edited {a magazine} parody known as The Institution. She was employed by The Village Voice proper after commencement and started writing items, as she put it, about “medication and hippies” that she mentioned have been largely made up as a result of she had no thought what she was doing. (Her writing belied that assertion.)

She had her first ecstatic expertise, she later recalled, in her residence within the West Village, whereas taking psychedelics with a boyfriend and listening to the Grateful Lifeless music “Ripple.”

“All of the complexities and the struggling and the ache and the psychological stuff I used to be involved with as a downtown New York journalist simply dissolved, and all I might see was love,” she mentioned in a video on her web site. When she described her new perception to her boyfriend, she mentioned, he responded by asking, “Haven’t you ever taken acid earlier than?”

However Ms. Kempton had had a transformative expertise, and he or she continued to have them as she started investigating non secular practices like yoga and Tibetan Buddhism. She went to see Baba out of curiosity — everybody was doing it — and, as she wrote in 1976 in New York journal, when you’re going to get your self a guru, why not get one?

She was immediately pulled in, she wrote, charmed by his matter-of-fact persona in addition to one thing stronger, if exhausting to outline. Earlier than lengthy she had joined his entourage. It felt, she mentioned, like working away with the circus.

Her buddies have been appalled. “However you have been at all times so bold,” one mentioned. “I’m nonetheless bold,” she mentioned. “There’s simply been a slight shift in course.”

Ms. Kempton spent almost 30 years with Baba’s group, often known as the SYDA Basis, for 20 years of which she was a swami. Baba died in 1982, following accusations that he had sexually abused younger girls in his ashrams; since his demise, the inspiration has been run by his successor, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda. In 1994, when Lis Harris, a author for The New Yorker, investigated the inspiration and wrote an article that famous the accusations in opposition to Baba and questions on his succession, she quoted Ms. Kempton as saying that the accusations have been “ridiculous.” Ms. Kempton by no means spoke publicly concerning the difficulty.

In 2002, she put away her robes and left the ashram, transferring to Carmel, the place she turned a well-respected instructor of meditation and non secular philosophy. She was the creator of numerous books on non secular practices, together with “Meditation for the Love of It: Having fun with Your Personal Deepest Expertise” (2011), which has an introduction by Elizabeth Gilbert of “Eat, Pray Love” fame.

Along with her brother David, Ms. Kempton is survived by two different brothers, Arthur and Christopher. One other brother, James Murray Kempton Jr., often known as Mike, was killed in a automobile crash along with his spouse, Jean Goldschmidt Kempton, a school buddy of Sally’s, in 1971.

Ms. Kempton’s father, after his preliminary shock, was supportive of her new life. He was a non secular man himself, a training Episcopalian, however humble about it. “I simply go for the music,” he favored to inform individuals.

Murray Kempton, who died in 1997, visited the ashram and met with Baba numerous instances, David Kempton mentioned, and was respectful of the order’s ethos and historical past. He instructed The Oakland Tribune that if his daughter had needed to be a druid he might need frightened.

“I assume she is aware of one thing that I don’t know,” he mentioned. “I respect her alternative. In actual fact, I like the selection Sally made. In spite of everything, she is a swami, isn’t she?”

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