December 17, 2014 at 10:50 pm
Am quite shocked reading about all this. I remember going to a Gynecologist since i wanted to take up a long course at Bihar school. For the course we needed to be tested not HIV positive and as well not having any other STD. My gynaecologist warned me, that if a institution ask for such a test, and divides people in that manner under the umbrella of spiritual growth, i should be asking myself in the first place if i want to go there. He thought that was wrong.
December 16, 2014 at 11:51 pm
If there is a God, there is no need for any intermediary. This is just horseshit that was created by those like Satyananda and those of his and other “lineages” seeking to have their feet washed, asses wiped and dicks sucked (literally). I was very closely associated with this Ashram, met Satyananda, Niranjan, and it’s absolutely clear that these guys are PURE evil. They had me sold with their donations and “helping the poor.” But this is no different than Pharmaceutical Companies and Tobacco companies, which start non-profits, give money away, build schools, etc. to build their appearance of helping the masses, while they stash away billions. And, I can assure you Satyananda, Niranjan, are all billionaires.
December 17, 2014 at 10:02 am
BOYCOTT AND BEWARE OF AKHANDANDA BEING USED AS SCAPEGOAT (“FALL GUY”) BY NIRANJANANDA AND BIHAR SCHOOL OF YOGA TO PROTECT THEIR ASSsets and OTHER ABUSES CASES IN INDIA.
I think Matthew deserves to be thanked for his courage to propose this BoyCott. Most of us are still reeling after the wake this expose. Matthew’s strength in proposing this BOYCOTT is precisely what is needed. Words are cheap (very cheap and very profitable). That is the lesson, if any here: actions speak louder than words.
And, I’d like to say, that Akhandananda is just the tip of the iceberg. And, suddenly BSY distancing themselves from the Australian institution is just politics and further exemplifies the fact that NIRANJANANDA and BSY are no different than any money-making, industrial institution.
And, we in the Yoga community should go an AMAZON, FB, TWITTTER, etc and expose these guys and the so-called “bringing Yoga door to door” movement for what it is really about.
I know for a fact that there are many other abuse cases right at MUNGER and RIKHIA. In fact, one “swami” in Satyananda’s order had sex with a 15-year-old and got her pregnant. This is in Orissa, and he heads up the Orissa ashram of Satyananda. Any investigation will verify this fact.
This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Great work Matthew.
December 18, 2014 at 7:11 pm
It’s indeed a devastating scenario for any sincere seeker or practitioner.
However, while being fully aware of such discrepancies, I am reminded that human nature can be also depicted on a bipolar basis of light and shadow.
The gloomy reports which have been previously attributed to a wide range of well known Indian and Tibetan Gurus such as Muktananda,Trungpa, Rajneesh,Satchidananda,Amrit Desai,Da Free John,Sogyal and others through the 70’s and 80’s – as well as many ISKON Swamis and more recently Pattabhi,Kausthub,Bikram and some of his western students have shown us that the combination of influential power and deviant sexual behaviors do come together.
Despite of it all, we cannot deny the benefit of a large array of teachings propounded by these individual at a massive global scale.
I have myself lived and served in a traditional Ashram-Mission for a number of years.Though a few contradictions could be found here and there just as some Brahmacharis or Swamis would eventually drop their vows, nothing seriously abnormal was in game. Humans have their own flaws and cracks within what can be called “elevated aspirations”.
Your phrase below has caught my attention:
“If as a teacher you rely on the of any of these organizations or guru-legacies to enhance or secure your authority, it is clearly in the interest of your integrity and the health of the broader culture to be transparent about how you understand and position yourself in relation to their shadows. If you don’t, you really have no right to be taken seriously as someone who can provide care to others.”
Yoga is one compound-system as old as Mankind and has been evolving all along the process.Many Masters have stood the test of time and integrity in the past and also present. Yes,there are trustworthy voices.
See,I don’t believe (and was never taught so) in following someone out of authority/inferiority complexes…Just as in the same breath, I tend to feel that no one is “my student” in the deepest sense of a loving/respectful relationship to be established from both sides.
Ancient Yoga scriptures and modern teachers have extensively written on the very subject of “falling from the path” as one of the likely things to happen. But that doesn’t invalidate the teaching nor the teachers who propound the so many (beneficial) practices out there.
In my limited view,it is ok to (still) feel good about one’s chosen lineage despite of the bad oranges in the basket.
Demanding an immaculate behavior from those whom we may follow is unrealistic. Same if we try to apply that unto ourselves…
As far as providing care to someone else, that is totally up to a number of factors which cannot be summarized in a single sentence or solution.
To deal with circumstances (even in the extreme mentioned cases) is part of a learning process related to karmic intricacies way beyond our reach.
Of course, recovering from trauma requires time, therapy and much Love.
If this “Lineage Paranoia” gets wide-spread, we may be well left alone with a bunch of egotistic,intellectual new breed of “non-believers” who could,in the mid to long run,end up doing no much better than their prosecuted tyrants…
So let there be the books,methods,comments and imperfect masters…
Stone-throwing, boycotting and the like sound like juvenile rage against a mirrored effect of our own fears, after all there lies a psychotic schema within all of us.
May we all be free from these negative tendencies and potential dangers.
That much we can pray…
Certain things ought to be considered within the boundaries of a legal system, witnesses, trials and an abiding social law.
Transferring those over the Yoga community as an implacable jury can eventually do more harm than good, I’m afraid…
December 18, 2014 at 10:53 pm
Gopala — your nonsensical verbal diarrhea couched in a sense of intellectual humility is simply…. : BULLSHIT.. There is no need for gurus or lineage or intermediaries to truth — that is the truth of this entire set of events.
Stop being an apologist for the Indian “culture” of such gurus and lineage, which are frankly not Indian at all but Brahmanical bullshit and subjugation, and this is a “low caste” Indian telling you that.
Go listen to the testimonies of those who were abused and fucked with — it’s time to end the illusion.
December 19, 2014 at 8:27 am
Hey Matthew, firstly, great work in getting all these findings in one place. I can image the amount of hard work you must have put in!
The accounts of the victims are really shocking, especially when allegations are also made on Swami Satyananda. It is extremely hard to believe, but like they say, ‘there is no smoke without fire’.
Also, I wonder why there is not even a single complaint coming out of India (since the biggest Ashrams are located in Munger and Rikhia) against Swami Satyananda or for that matter Swami Niranjananda (who is the current Head of organization). All the complaints or blogs (eg. Janaki’s blog) are from people outside India.
Personally, having read books from Bihar School of Yoga, I can surely say they have immense knowledge and good practices one can follow in daily life, so boycotting books even before charges are actually proved in court is a bit immature at this stage. This is just my opinion and I respect opinion of people who may think otherwise.
BTW, I just wanted to check if you know why did Australian High Court overturned the decision on a technicality? Does this mean that earlier charges due to which Akhandanand was convicted, were proved incorrect?
Finally, I wish people learn to be their own Gurus or at least stop blindly following so called Guru’s. No harm in taking in positive teachings, but just don’t follow things blindly.
(Corboy: In India, police and politicians can be purchased by wealthy gurus. Anyone abused is easily terrorized into silence. Plus, they know where your family live and can terrorize your family. l
This may be why so many guru exposes are done outside of India by persons who
have grown up in materialistic democracies which do posit that the human individual has an inherent dignity. Amma and Muktananda and Amrit Desai and ISKON
and Rajneesh were exposed in America by their abused American disciples.
Sai Baba of Putthaparthi's pedophile abuses were exposed by his American, British, Australian and Western European disciples.)
December 20, 2014 at 12:59 am
good question Huz, on why India looks the other way, and no major media in India has said very little.
The reason is that the Brahmanical Caste Based system of India, where there is a virtual apartheid, of lower and upper caste, uses the Gurus and Yogis and Superstition to control the masses, and maintain the caste system.
In short, India needs its Gurus, and they will look the other way on abuse, because the whole society is sexually repressed. This is why there is so much rape and nearly 90% of woman in India have experienced incest.
BSY is accepted and condoned because they serve the interests of the Bourgeois of India. Niranjan is an actor — his teeth are fake, and his vibhuthi on his forehead is makeup.
Let’s stop deifying Yoga, its Gurus and go look at the real way to liberate and enlighten ourselves — boycott, and expose BSY is the first step to be a good citizen and enlightened soul.
February 24, 2015 at 3:49 am
I yesterday mailed to:’email@example.com’
I read your artical (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/12/09/australia-s-underage-yoga-sex-cult-the-survivors-speak-out.html) about the sex scandal regarding Satyananda Saraswati, Bihar school of yoga, Monghyr, India. As you undoubtedly know, it is one of many other sex scandals concerning this man:
(www.google.nl/search?newwindow=1&site=&source=hp&q=satyananda+saraswati+scandal&oq=satyananda+saraswati&gs_l=hp.1.3.0l4j0i22i30l6.14514.27021.0.295188.8.131.52.184.108.40.206.781.11j1.12.0.msedr…0…1c.1.62.hp..0.20.902.9-I4YgHEl3k). I was shocked that he might have abused young children up to the age of about three years old.
I hereby testify that around the year of 1970 I spoke with a Dutch girl who declared that she was sexualy abused by S.S. during a so called tantric ceremony. I saw her in her native country Holland where she heroically returned after her shocking nightmare in and escape from the ashram in India. It started in 1967, she then was 15 years old.
But let me begin in june 1967. I, 20 years old, participated in the first teacher training course of ‘the international yoga fellowship’ in the Bihar school of yoga, in Monghyr (Monger), together with some other students from Holland and all over the world. Among them were this 15 year old girl M.V. and her mother E.V. In the course of the yogatraining it became clear that S.S. put severe psychological pressure on at least one, but probably on more students. During this course the abuse by S.S. took place in about november 1967. The misleading aspect about this was that S.S. was very convincing in making one belief that the tantric ceremony was a honourful part of the course: extremely benificial for ones spiritual development, so the girl and her mother did not immediately realised the seriousness of the situation. All this took place of course in a cellar, away from to many eyes. As soon as I realised that there was severe suspicion of dirty tantric practices happening within the walls of the ashram I left the ashram in december 1967, together with two other students from Holland. After returning to Holland in 1986 we were astonished to read in a paper that S.S. was planning to visit Holland to establish a school of the ‘the international yoga fellowship’. We, another former student and I, were fortunate to inform the paper next day morning to tell about the dark background of S.S., though we did not know at that moment about the details I heard of M.V. in 1970. He suffered misfortune, but it apparantly did not make S.S. change his way of life. M.V. told me in 1970 that she was more or less being kept in prison in the ashram, because S.S. had taken the passports of her and other students. I realised I was fortunate enough to have left the ashram in time! How did M.V. escape nevertheless? Her passport had to be renewed! So that saved her.
In Holland I completed my yoga teacher training.
So far about my painful recollection about trauma’s by S.S. that ruined many lives.
February 24, 2015 at 4:08 am
Some more details, illustrating the madness of S.S.: During tea time conversations he told he was admiring Hitler, because of his talent to control and organise. I don’t know if scripts of the taperecordings of the tea discussions still are available, but they were distributed among the more than 20 / 30 students at that time.
"She suffered from asthma, jaundice, and other illnesses caused by malnutrition including acute anemia and a serious form of edema which Mum explained like this: 'It begins with your feet and when it reaches your heart, you die. With me, it was above the ankles when I was liberated.'"
A Los Angeles judge has issued a warrant for the arrest of the founder of hot yoga after he failed to pay more than $6m (£4.6m) to his former lawyer in a sexual harassment case.
US-based millionaire Bikram Choudhury, 70, is famous for the yoga method he began performing in a hot room in 2002.
Mr Choudhury fled California shortly after he was ordered to pay Minakshi Jafa-Bodden punitive damages.
He was served court papers in Mexico, where he is holding training classes.
The judge also set bail for him at $8m.
Ms Jafa-Bodden was head of legal and international affairs at Mr Choudhury's Los Angeles yoga school from 2011 until 2013.
She said she was abruptly sacked from her position for refusing to cover up an investigation into a rape allegation.
Rebranding NXIVM as a news outlet makes sense, but also seemed overly specific. But checking in with the cult’s dedicated watchdog shows that they have diversified into a number of specific audiences. The Source is designed to involve actors with this program, Exo/Eso is built around yoga, JNESS is a support group for women, and Society of Protectors is an analogous group of men defending the honor of men. God, they’re just terrible at names. It feels like they were always in a rush to get a new company out the door.
And that’s the cracked code. A cult knows that it can’t keep being a cult under the same name anymore, so it is quickly becoming too many different organizations to track, all built around getting people to spend a month in Albany. And maybe it doesn’t take a full-on detective to know that you shouldn’t keep considering any job where your boss can’t answer your questions about the job.
It’s a fake news site that is, itself, fake. It’s staffed by people that we could not prove existed in the first place, doing work behind a paywall that requires real money.
There’s nothing left to satirize. But if you have an account there, please let me know if they think this news is fake too.
Edit: The Knife of Aristotle took down most of its staff pages shortly after this story was published.
(Yoga practitioners) might be surprised to learn that many of the most well-known asanas and sequences they are used to performing - including "Downward Dog" and Surya Namaskar, or "Sun Salutation" - are not found in ancient texts.
Sun salutations are "now seen as integral to yoga practice" but are not found in any old texts and only started being taught around the 1930s, says Dr Jim Mallinson, a yoga history researcher and senior lecturer at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).
Popular yoga styles like Ashtanga, Iyengar and Vinyasa Flow are also modern incarnations. "We find elements of them in older texts and historical sources but also many parts of them are modern innovations in terms of yoga," he says.
Researchers believe Downward Dog actually corresponds with the Elephant Pose - references to which are first found in 18th Century texts. The posture was also traditionally used as an exercise by Indian wrestlers.
However similar postures can be found in popular physical exercise books that emerged at the beginning of the 20th Century.
Dr Mark Singleton, a senior researcher in the modern history of yoga at SOAS, says Swedish and Danish gymnastic drills were particularly influential on Indian yoga practices.
A widespread "preoccupation with natural fitness" at the turn of the 19th Century coincided with developments in photography, which allowed pictures of poses and exercises to easily spread between India and the West.
"This inevitably meant that European notions of gymnastics and bodybuilding got mixed up with Indian postures and poses along the way," he writes.
"And what many of us know today as yoga is partially a result of this mixing."
What's behind the five popular yoga poses loved by the world? - BBC Radio
Until the 19th century, yoga was almost exclusively the practice of ascetic Indian holy men aspiring to spiritual liberation through techniques such as meditation and sensory withdrawal.
But this changed in the early 20th century when a worldwide body fitness craze, fuelled by illustrated magazines, led to an unprecedented mash-up of European health and strength regimes with Indian physical culture traditions.
Scandinavian gymnastic keep fit drills were introduced in schools and military training throughout India. European bodybuilders commanded huge audiences when they toured the subcontinent and their techniques were enthusiastically adopted. During the 1920s and '30s, (a period of growing Indian nationalism) a new generation of Indian fitness enthusiasts began to re-invent yoga as a modern, homegrown system for health and strength which could be practised by ordinary people.
In the process, these yoga innovators adopted many physical postures and techniques that had previously not been part of traditional yoga practice. The modern styles of yoga that are so well known globally today such as Ashtanga, Bikram, and Iyengar all emerged from these tangled multicultural roots.
In the past decade the worldwide yoga industry has become a multi-billion-dollar business. Yet, ironically, the one country where yoga does not yet thrive commercially is the very place from which yoga is thought to originate: India. Why should this be?
This paradox emerges, in part, because the practice known as ‘yoga’ around the world is a modern invention of the globalised and capitalist 20th century. A brief look at the history of yoga may help to explain why this industry has not had a straightforward development in India.
Ironically, this new postural yoga was often most appealing to students coming from outside India. Training spaces were often populated by students from the Western counterculture who transmitted these practices back to Europe and America. Sensitive to this phenomenon, Indian tourist boards in the 21st century have explicitly marketed yoga to foreigners, with regions associated with yoga promoted as Destination Wellness.
In her memoir Yoga School Dropout
when Lucy Edge records conversations with Indians about yoga, her anecdotes are telling.
In contrast to the idealised body emphasised in many globalised commercial yoga studios, Edge’s Indian interlocutors tend to think of yoga as something undramatic they do at home, like having a glass of whiskey after a hard day’s work. Usually there is a focus on breath control or meditation rather than on poses. These practices are often done for free at home, rather than in an expensive studio.
1. Check the Teachers Thoroughly and Look for Their Reviews
When I say thoroughly, I mean dig the deepest hole on the Internet and find everything you can. If you can’t find any reviews there’s probably a reason.
If the only reviews you see are the ones on their own website or the reviews they gave each other on a yoga website (yes, that happened) there’s probably a reason. If they have 5 star reviews on Facebook – look at them. No comments just the 5 stars? Hmm, really, no one had anything to say about their amazing trainings and retreats?
I was impressed with what they had to say on their website but when I got there I was incredibly disappointed.
Do the teachers display positive or negative attitudes.
Does the schedule allow time for sleep, walks, chats with fellow students?
Is there a lot of chanting or breathing exercises that leave people feeling
ecstatic and disoriented? Are you pushed to make important decisions when in that state?
Does the teacher show courtesy toward other yoga lineages or is her yoga the ONLY legitimate method?
Is the terminology unique to this one school, overly jargon-ey or is the terminology shared with other yoga lineages?
Are the medical claims (if any) backed up by reputable research or unsubstantiated?
Do they welcome students with prior yoga experience? If not, that is something to worry about. A good yoga school should not aim to monopolize you.
In short, the person stated, "dig deep into Google, especially regarding the background of their leader."
Have you read Hell-Bent yet? Do.
Benjamin Lorr’s provocative but thoughtful book about both the seedy underbelly and the silver linings of the Bikram yoga world transfixed me from start to finish—twice. He blessed me with this interview, which I am so excited to share with you here on Recovering Yogi now.
Joslyn Hamilton "...I’m curious how you had the guts to present such a straightforward account of your time in the Bikram underworld without worrying about getting whacked by the yoga mafia. I get the feeling you don’t worry all that much about what people think of you. Is that true, or do you have a coping mechanism you’d like to divulge?
Haha. On the contrary! I am a hopeless suck-up. And spent a huge amount of time, when I should have been writing, rubbing my knuckles raw and worrying about how all the very nice people—sincere beyond belief, and yet financially and emotionally enmeshed in the net that is Bikram Choudhury—would react to the book. An outsized number of reviews focus on how “compassionate” the book is—and I’ll take that feather in the cap—but I think a real part of that compassion was just not wanting to get it wrong, not wanting to sell anyone’s experience short, honoring all these lives I was interacting with… in short, caring a lot more about what people would think than it is ever cool to admit.
The one aside I’ll make to this is that writing did require having a firm moral compass. I was approached by an always-growing number of teachers and students who urged me to “focus on the positives” and/or to “write about the yoga and ignore the man.” Justifications for intolerable behavior were passed around with the cheery conviction of political slogans (my personal vote for most loathsome being “think about all the good he has done”). There is a lot of pressure to conform. There is no strategy here, except maybe smiling and nodding at these people, and then mentally throwing up a big middle finger in their face, feeling secure that 99% of morally sentient human beings will have your back when the facts come out.
I taught high school dropouts in Bushwick Brooklyn for six years before writing Hell-Bent. There are a lot of reasons why an inner-city student drops out, but abusive situations are shockingly high on the list. And so I went into this book having seen firsthand the interpersonal destruction sexual manipulation can cause. That added a lot of moral clarity. At the end of the day, I couldn’t have looked myself in the mirror if I participated in the type of cowardice that allows a guru to become a predator. Silence is enabling.
Joslyn Hamilton Here’s something you said in a Washington Independent Review of Books interview that struck me: “There is a part of me that is still waiting for the other shoe to drop. It is a very fear-based community in many respects, and I guess I am still waiting for that fear to bite me.” What do you mean by fear-based community?
Benjamin Lorr “Fear-based community” speaks to exactly this inclination toward silence and cowardice in morally complex situations. It refers to the defensive crouch the Bikram community maintained. It refers to isolating people who voice dissention, ratting out others to get closer to the top because you are worried about your own position, or even feeling the need to exaggerate legitimate benefits of the yoga because you are afraid people won’t see them as satisfactory compared to the hype.
I don’t think most people in the Bikram Community knew all the details of what was going on—and unless subsequent lawsuits are filed, they still don’t (if my experience was accurate, Sarah B. is just the tip of an iceberg). But instead of speaking up when they saw something dubious, they felt pressure to conform. I don’t want to undervalue this pressure—it was based on huge financial ties, careers and bank loans, huge interpersonal ties, a supportive community and knowing firsthand how much the yoga could changed lives—but if that pressure defines your community, then the possibility for someone to abuse it is present.
Joslyn Hamilton Another quote from that interview: “The attitude that yoga is somehow exclusively virtuous, and therefore exclusively safe, might be the most dangerous idea of all.” Can you expand on this?
Benjamin Lorr I think people should always be wary of anything sold as “the answer.” That is a sign that you are being asked to check your critical thinking functions at the door. It makes people enormously vulnerable. And I think yoga—because it kind of waltzed into the West from India and was immediately romanticized—is very susceptible to this mentality.