Cult figurehead

Deceiving is a very timely RDP today. I have to blog this out before I explode from a whole weekend of contemplation and trying to understand what is going on. 2020 is already confusing as it is. Yet, another bombshell dropped my way on Friday, as I read the investigations report into the sexual misconduct of the founder of the yoga I used to practice. You can read about the findings here – very graphic testimonies, but really important to know how perverse and unethical this very (previously) respected person was.

It came as a huge shock to me, because this is a very widely practiced form of yoga, and I have probably blogged about how useful and helpful it was for me finding my “centre” or place of neutrality. And how powerful it was for me to be able to stay present in the now moment.

BUT. I really don’t know now. So many questions filling me up, as I googled for answers which led to a further flood of questions.

It is creepy. Just a week ago, my friend and I were just talking about how women should protect one another – like how she saw a gym instructor being too touchy, and another instructor quietly told the trainee that “it is not okay that he is touching you like that”. As we would confront anyone who is secretly taking pictures and it is not okay. I did not realise this is going to hit so close to home. The above example is just an instructor, who could well be any person on the street.

It is of different tangent and magnitude when it is the founder of a spiritual organization widespread around the world. He died sixteen years ago, and committed those deeds since more than fifty years ago. It might seem like “hey, it’s so long ago” or “it does not affect you first hand”, but there are so many things in this story that angers me big time. I shall just list my whole tirade of questions here, in random order of my anger points, and see how many I can work through today.

  • Two generations of his inner circle going through years of sexual abuse. How is it that no one knows? Or rather, how is it that it was never addressed?
  • If he is the founder who has brought this form of yoga practice to the west, and hence allowing the “secret teachings of the east” to reach all these people (me included) who would otherwise not have access to this sacred ancient practice, how do we trust which parts of his teachings are true and which are not?
  • I guess everyone is still in a state of confusion, but isn’t there a disconnect to still embrace the teachings (brought to you through this cult figurehead) and still pick out elements of the practice (“chant xxxx” or ” chant yyyy”)? How sure are these people that they are learning from the sacred tradition? How would you know that what you are learning has not already been culturally (mis)appropriated?
  • You cannot just detach the teacher from the teachings in this context, because all these abuse were pretty much from the early days. How would you know that he did not teach whatever he is teaching with the ends in mind (maybe to purposefully develop a cult following to set the stage for his abuse of power, money, sex etc)?

Maybe I think too much. But until the day I figure out which aspects of these teachings are for real from its original traditional lineage, how do I just chant the mantras that make me feel better? How would we know what is true to what we are chanting?

In a way, I am pretty glad that organization is stepping up address this whole issue, to acknowledge the abuse that had taken place, to bring the abused at least a step closer in the long journey of healing and towards closure. Although my question still remains, “how could they not have known earlier”, I suppose in a way the #MeToo movement has wrangled these stories to the surface.

Thus, most of my questions above are inclined towards the people who seem to have conveniently brushed aside the more fundamental questions, and picked out the elements that serves them and keeps them in their comfort zone, rather than deal with the more difficult questions. Then again, maybe they are way more enlightened than me, and are able to suss out the authenticity of the teachings they were taught and the teachings they are teaching.

Shrugs. I really don’t know. Guess we still have 138days of this crazy year of 2020. Not sure what else will unravel.

Someone wrote (vis-a-vis some totally unrelated topic of similar weirdness), ” No please 2020 is full come back later “. Somewhere in my heart, I feel that there is still room for some positivity to enter. It can’t be all this dark this year.

13 Comments Add yours

  1. We have a plethora of godmen and their cults. Sadly, some are just a front to amass money and sexually exploit women. I stay away from all.


    1. leapingtoes says:

      Sigh, it’s so sad!! While I was looking up this topic, I discovered that there are so many yoga movements (exported to the “west”) that face the same problem! It really casts a very very dark shadow on what we have access to …

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is. It is not just the yoga movements that are exported to west that are into these nefarious deeds, back home most do this.


      2. I know…our population is uneducated and these godmen promise quick fixes to their problems. Sigh…bad, really bad.


      3. leapingtoes says:

        Nods… sigh. It’s bad …. Guess it addresses different people’s need (and weaknesses). 😥
        Sigh, and we find it exotic and hence open to understanding it (but turns out .. sighhhhh) oh my. Just gotta be careful I suppose, there’s learning at every curve.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Let me assure you not all gurus are bad! Some have done yeoman’s service in unlocking Indian culture to the west.
        Yes, be careful and vigilant. Predators are everywhere. We can’t let our guard down.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. leapingtoes says:

        Next pondering point would be “how does the guru system work then?” and/or “maybe guru system not suitable anymore”.
        I don’t follow gurus, but I see so many who do, it’s worrying.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. It used to work beautifully earlier. But looking at the gullibility of their followers, some became greedy.
        Blind faith never does one good.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. anne leueen says:

    This is so disturbing. I once had a friend who was involved in a cult situation in a Tai Chi group. She had to get help to get over it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. leapingtoes says:

      Oh dear, was it a Falungong group? Sorry to hear about it. It must be very hurtful and confusing for her…

      I feel bad inferring yogi bhajan’s tribe as a cult, and i find it (emotionally) hard to call it so. But the description of it matches and fits, and .. i don’t know. Maybe this is why and how people get trapped in there. I am very thankful that my travelling schedule put an end to me attending kundalini yoga practice some years back, otherwise I wouldn’t know if I would still be able to so objectively write about it in this manner. For some people it has been their way of life since their lives started, and even their livelihoods. With this extent of being invested in it, I find it somewhat understandable that they remain intertwined and probably finding their own way of rationalizing to not leave the circle. Although I still find it “irresponsible” to perpetuate it (the organization, even without the sexual exploits).

      I watched this documentary on Netflix last night – “Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator” (another yoga group). What confuses me more is why people are still willing to attend his classes even now … For the people who are not even invested in any way, why are they still choosing to enter that circle.. ? This one would probably be a perpetuation of the sexual exploits…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think it’s simply easy for people in power to allow themselves to be corrupted by that power. I also think that people who are looking for something in their lives are frequently in vulnerable positions. Combine the two and you have everything from corporate managers exploiting women (or men) trying to work their up the business hierarchy to those Catholic priests serial-abusing children for decades, or even the occasional abusively authoritarian cult. That said, it might be worthwhile to separate the practice from the person… the business or even beliefs might still have something to offer, just not through those people. The cult… maybe not so much. Regardless, there’s always an aspect of personal judgment. People shouldn’t be afraid to admit to themselves, or to others, that something just doesn’t feel right. And if you can’t express such a sentiment without encountering hostility or pressure to conform, that’s probably a good signal to look for the door.

    I also agree with the idea that women should help each other out when they see something. Men too. I’ve had at least one instance where I was warned about a man in a corporate environment by another man. It encouraged me to make myself quite clear about a boundary when I was eventually approached, and in that case the assertiveness seemed to do the trick. No one should have to go it alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. leapingtoes says:

      I forgot to reply you! Must have been too deep in thoughts with alot of things.

      I like what you said about people looking for something are frequently in vulnerable positions… it dawned on me at an abstract level that that could be why the present moment is so powerful – because when we are looking for something (material or immaterial), we end up being subjected to whatever-happens-to-what-we-are-seeking-that-is-at-stake. Our existence (or the quality of it) becomes dependent on something-else/whatever-else.

      There are so many lines (boundary lines) everywhere … and so many ways of reading them, so many ways of crossing them and also so many ways of maintaining them. Society as a whole – we are like rugby players advancing … no one should have to go at it alone and we also have to be careful not to be the one leaving gaps.
      And yes, men too, sometimes it is even more reassuring when it is another man to say “that is not okay” because it shows that it is not a gender-specific viewpoint / overthinking / overworrying.


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