Best Book About Yogi Bhajan on the Market, January 3, 2013 Review by Scott Free - This review is from: Confessions of an American Sikh: Locked up in India, corrupt cops & my escape from a "New Age" tantric yoga cult! (Kindle only 0.99 cents) [www.amazon.com]
Write Gursant Singh at Gurusant@hotmail.com for a free pdf copy.
Gursant Singh's recounting of his passage to India and out of a corrupt yoga empire is as enjoyable as it is compelling. This is a story of exploitation -- Gursant's victimization by his fraudulent master, Yogi Bhajan, and his own demoralizing work running scams to prop up the yogi's luxurious lifestyle. It's a quick-paced adventure that describes the ersatz Sikh lifestyle dumped on a clutch of white Americans and the peculiar dangers of the Indian bride trade.
The book revolves around Gursant's quest for a Punjabi marriage partner. His desire to acquire a subservient wife echoes Yogi Bhajan's tantric babble about men and women. If you've endured a Yogi Bhajan "teaching" on sexuality, you'll be dismayed, but not surprised, by his longtime student's view of women. Gursant's role as Bhajan's aide and bodyguard revealed the man his followers refuse to see -- a womanizer and a brute. Yogi Bhajan's round-the-clock use of a dozen female assistants is well-known. Those who question why the self-proclaimed leader of the Sikhs of the Western world required not just a personal harem but an armed security detail will find answers here. Gursant lays out his time among the sleazy operators and criminal hustlers swirling through Yogi Bhajan's Healthy Happy Holy Organization/3HO in some depth -- not enough intricacy for some of us, but doubtless far too much for the old charlatan's remaining devotees.
Fortunately, the book doesn't devolve into a personal Mea Culpa nor does it read like the diary of a starry-eyed seeker. The bizarre mishmash of Eastern aphorisms and yoga postures that Yogi Bhajan concocted made his Sikh Dharma group appealing to a small, lost tribe of the counterculture. Mercifully, Gursant was no hippie and he doesn't write like one. Yet his "Confessions of An American Sikh" makes the case for Sikh Dharma's inclusion as a footnote to '60s experimental spirituality. More importantly, this book is a fascinating look at the seamy side of the Indian marriage business and a frank exploration of life in a destructive, authoritarian group.
Gursant's tone is appealing whether he is describing the filthy interior of a lock-up in Amritsar or his posh daily luncheons with Yogi Bhajan on Rodeo Drive. His growing disillusionment with Bhajan's bogus spin on the Sikh religion comes to a climax while Gursant is trapped in India. He finds himself trying to emerge from two forms of imprisonment -- one physical and the other spiritual. Through it all, Gursant maintains his sense of humor and his innate faith.
This is an absorbing story for any reader. And it's a must-read for those caught up in Yogi Bhajan's 3HO/Sikh Dharma --ex-followers, Second Generation casualties, family members, law enforcement, cult researchers -- and for every Kundalini yoga student or Yogi Tea drinker, past or present. [www.amazon.com]
Experts in philosophy have long since shown that relativism is either incoherent and nonsensical or else masks a kind of nihilism (since all views can be equally valid only if they are all equally false, leading us to the conclusion that nothing is really true). The popular (though not thought-out) American commitment to relativism has bolstered distrust of expert opinion, because after all, if everyone’s opinion is equally valid, why would you need experts?
Both anti-intellectualism and relativism are abundantly on display in the modern yoga scene. Students of mine have reported to me the scorn of their fellow practitioners at the yoga studio; comments like, “Why do you need to study so much? Why don’t you just experience it? Don’t you know yoga is all about the experience? Get out of your head!” Yet this opinion is at odds with the strong intellectual culture of premodern India, the birthplace of yoga. If the texts that have survived are anything to go by, many practitioners of days gone by thought very deeply about what they were doing, why they were doing it, and what views of reality were logically compatible with the spiritual experiences they were having. They didn’t think intellectual cultivation was at odds with spiritual practice, probably because they understood that the former is necessary for a mature faculty of discernment. As a scholar-practitioner, I sometimes despair about how wide the gap is between scholarly reflection on these issues and popular lack of the same.
The issues I have outlined perhaps shed some light on why modern American yogis often don’t see the value of critical articles like this one, and even regard them as mean-spirited.
Too often in American yoga, only positive language is approved, and critical discourse is frowned upon, in part because of the hippie/relativist ethic that “everyone should be allowed to do or think what they like,” with criticism being seen as interference with this sacrosanct principle. But in reality, carefully considered critical opinion usually arises from love and care and the desire to strengthen and benefit whatever is being criticized. This is certainly true in the present case.
"First I was a member for a few months in 2001, but then quit. I left with a pretty good impression and felt like it was just a good yoga class. When I returned later in 2003 though, it was much different. After receiving my 'energy check up' a master there said that I had blockages in my chest and arms and that she could help me. My boyfriend and I were greeted with warm smiles, ushered into the small room and persuaded to sign us up for a year. There was constant nagging about how we should go to 'healer's school' and other activities that cost anywhere from $250 to $8,000. They did something called 'brain respiration," which had a fee attached. Dahn Hak took up so much of our time. We passed out flyers for the group on the weekends. They said we needed to 'awaken' and 'help' people and that the earth was not going to last much longer. I asked about doing community volunteer work, like working at a battered women's shelter. But they coolly responded that they needed to get more people in their program first. My headmaster told me that I was a powerful being, one of the chosen few and that I might be able to go to Korea and teach English for free. I slowly began to see through Dahn Hak. Grand master Lee said in his books that he wanted to have a 'cultural Olympics with people of different cultures joining together to celebrate diversity. He also spoke about healing the earth, but Dahn Hak doesn't cooperate with environmental organizations. Lee says everyone is equal, but we called our instructors 'masters' and were told not to question what they told us. Why does Dahn Hak charge so much money? Does this mean poor people don't have the right to become 'enlightened'? When did we pass out flyers within the most expensive neighborhoods? There are so many unanswered questions. I stopped going to Dahn Hak."
"Dahnhak teachers say this site may be harmful to your spiritual health. But Dahnhak is a multinational business, where some devotees provide 20-60 hours of free labor a week, all in the hope of finding 'enlightenment.' Dahnhak has Brain Respiration Schools where kids are blind folded and told they can read pieces of paper held before their eyes. They also sell a medical amulet that supposedly can alleviate headaches for $2,998.00 plus shipping and handling. It's a gold turtle slightly larger than a Susan B. Anthony dollar. After all, making money is important, Dahnhak's founder and leader Seung Heun Lee (Il Chi Lee) has several homes to maintain."
"At the 'self discovery' weekend people were being emotionally battered and were hysterical, all under the guise of connecting with their inner soul. After such emotional abuse, everyone was expected to feel whole again by spreading love, joy, and hugs all around, and sharing their deepest, most personal thoughts and emotions. I tried to leave twice and was manipulated into coming back. I feel disgusting and like a total fool. I can't believe I thought this was a yoga center."