Serious allegations made about the personal conduct of Yogi Bhajan:
Such allegations are not new, the members area of the i-SKY website has always contained a download allegations.pdf which we have reviewed and updated occasionally (most recently in 2019). We have always encouraged students to be aware of what has been published and to take their own view. Yogi Bhajan passed away in 2004, the major documented allegations were from the 70’s and 80’s and were centred on the ashram community that grew up around Yogi Bhajan in the USA.
Out of court settlements were made in the various cases in the late 80’s.
i-SKY dates from 1995 and has not experienced cause for concern in those we have dealt with over 25 years – primarily KRI. Those who remained in the inner circle around Yogi Bhajan (at least those I spoke to) have always maintained that such allegations were without foundation. I read the publicly documented (USA court affidavits) in the 90’s and concluded that they were so outrageous that they could not have failed to attract widespread condemnation had they been substantially grounded in truth.
So, what has changed?
It seems more people have reached a time in their lives when they want to set the record straight and this age of communication means their words are available to all of us. Widespread condemnation is now a reality (as is the pushback against it); others will now speak out (or not) and a new truth will be established. After all, “we are the testing ground of truth”.
In “Premka: White Bird in a Golden Cage: My Live with Yogi Bhajan” Pamela Dyson does not appear to add factually to her affidavits from the 1980’s but the book reverberates with authenticity. I believe it to be an authentic account of her experience, beginning with her search for a guru to guide her and ending with her realisation that “My life was my spiritual path, and my life was teaching me.” It raises serious concerns about Yogi Bhajan’s personal conduct (detailing a comprehensive abuse of power at multiple levels) and also calls into question the people who colluded in covering it up. This alleged personal and collective hypocrisy takes place through the establishment of 3HO and the organisations (profit and non-profit) that grew up around Yogi Bhajan and must call into question their ethical integrity – at least at that time.
So, what happens now?
Were such allegations made against a living teacher s/he would be suspended pending an investigation through Ethics & Professional Standards epsweb.org and s/he would be held accountable to the Code of Excellence & Ethics and the 10 Rights of a Kundalini Yoga Student . I believe that 3HO must now initiate an independent enquiry to consider all historical complaints against Yogi Bhajan and his students up to the time of his death in 2004. I believe the processes of mediation and restorative justice currently in place through EPS are fit for purpose to address such issues arising in this century. I have and will continue to encourage KRI to push for such an enquiry.
What about those that are feeling let down?
Firstly we should listen and support. Secondly we should clarify where their concerns lie. Thirdly we should reflect upon our own stance and encourage appropriate organisational responses.
IKYTA and 3HO shared a sensible statement which read as follows:
Recently there have been allegations which have come forward concerning impropriety during the early years of 3HO. This has brought forward a great deal of dialogue and inner processing on many levels for Kundalini Yoga Teachers and students.
This is an issue we take very seriously and want to address with openness, compassion, and sensitivity. We are here to listen and offer a safe space for teachers and students to ask questions and dialogue. We are also here to assist you as teachers in answering questions that are arising for you or your students.
3HO is committed to upholding the values of conscious living. We are one of the only yoga organizations that has established an Ethics and Professional Standards Office to ensure that all students have the right to practice Kundalini Yoga in an environment that is free of personal, sexual, financial, religious or political pressure from a Teacher.
KRI shared some points for discussion with those affected which began with the following:
We support women speaking out at this time and we have no intention of judging or silencing the voice of any woman. There has been a lot of dialogue and processing at many levels and we all need time to digest and sort through the issues in order to find the right path forward. Ultimately, each of us will decide for ourselves what we believe, based on the power of our experience and intuition, and will set our own personal course of action.
What if you were, or are now feeling, abused/exploited/controlled/manipulated/duped/etc. ?
Legal redress has always been an option and perhaps a class action will be now mooted against some or all of the legacy organisations. However, I would advise anyone so affected to contact Ethics & Professional Standards epsweb.org and register a complaint/concern. I believe that each will be heard. I am calling for a “truth and reconciliation commission” which would offer restorative justice (including truth, apology, reparation and recommendations for changes in culture and practice).
What are the implications for teachers and students of Kundalini Yoga for the issues raised in Premka and also in Philip Deslippe’s 2012 paper “From Maharaj to Mahan Tantric” ?
Does it invalidate Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan?
No; it works. Yogi Bhajan was the “postman” but the technology works without him. The structure of KYatbYB remains a safe and effective means of delivering transformative Kundalini Yoga but I think it must be set in the broader context of Kundalini Yoga as not taught by Yogi Bhajan.
Where does it leave the organisations Yogi Bhajan created ?
That depends on them but this provides an opportunity for them to demonstrate a true aquarian nature and to move beyond a cult of personality. Our relationship is with KRI and I expect them to be driven by their membership. I would have the same expectation of IKYTA. This will have implications for the Legacy organisations created by Yogi Bhajan that they will have to work out – or not.
What about the Golden Chain/Link?
What about it? The link is not to Yogi Bhajan it is to the Source (named as you choose) through the enlightened beings who have gone before (Guru Ram Das / Christ Consciousness / etc) – predating Yogi Bhajan and the origins of the Sikh or other modern faith – including (arguably) Hinduism.
What about the lifestyle teachings of Yogi Bhajan?
Try them; if they work great, if they don’t keep looking. If you find something better use that.
What about gazing at a Yogi Bhajan Tratakam picture?
Probably not …….
What about White Tantric Yoga “facilitated through Yogi Bhajans subtle body”?
If you believe that – then possibly not; on the other hand if you don’t believe that explanation and have found value in the experience then it is your choice ….. I certainly would not require someone to attend WTY as a K1 certification requirement if they had reservations.
What about Deslippe’s assertion that Yogi Bhajan was simply rehashing yogic teachings offered by others in the Punjab?
If this was true, and Deslippe makes a sound case, then the fact remains that the teachings demonstrably work. The dispute of lineage between Sant Hazara Singh et al is less of an issue because of the Golden Chain. The Golden Chain is generally used to set KYatbYB in the House of Guru Ram Das but I believe the action of “channelling”, presumably introduced by Yogi Bhajan, places KYatbYB in a broader and older shamanic tradition. This is how I came to practice it in the first place. I have never felt a personal connection with Yogi Bhajan (just a respect for the structure he passed on) but my awareness as a healer and a Kundalini Yoga teacher is that the Infinite, or at least something greater than me, acts through me for the benefit of others (or possibly on us all as One) if I can get myself out of the way….
I believe this is how Yogi Bhajan taught so effectively. As a man he was flawed, seriously so it may now be appearing, but as a channel (postman) he was able to get himself out of the way and deliver.
Did Yogi Bhajan proselytise or otherwise offer offence to the Sikh faith?
This is not a matter for me to comment on. I remain concerned that teachers and practitioners of Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan should be informed and aware of the issues around cultural appropriation and practice with Kundalin Yoga atbYB with respect and understanding.
Is 3HO a cult?
By my definition what exists now is not a cult but 3HO developed around Yogi Bhajan in the 60’s & 70’s with a communal living cult community at its centre and elements of that personality cult have remained and now need to be redressed.
Darryl O’Keeffe i-SKY