I thought I was done writing about Yogi Bhajan, but I am not.
I don’t know if many people know the term ‘iconoclasm,’ but in Dutch, we have this word “beeldenstorm.”
It roughly means “image storm” or “statue storm” in English.
The Black Lives Matter movement tears down the statues of slavers still revered as heroes. #Metoo takes down the reputation of powerful abusers. In yoga studios everywhere, the picture of Yogi Bhajan is quietly removed.
All of this is part of a movement towards, one would hope, a better future.
Still not sure what to make of it all.
But what I do see is that in Kundalini Yoga, many are getting back to business as usual.
Look at Bikram yoga, where the founder has also crossed the lines of propriety. They are not only back in business, but thriving.
And why should it not? Why should studio owners that have not themselves been behaving badly, be punished for the faults of the founder?
Yet it is precisely the action that KRI took a few years ago against us when my then teacher’s own transgressions came to light.
I stuck with him then out of compassion and solidarity. But agree? No.
We sat out the storm as we were prohibited from teaching in KRI events and yoga festivals. And our student’s KRI qualification was taken from them. KRI tried to burn the people that were around the treacherous teacher.
When we had our level 1 summer week, we could not take our students to his land because they ‘should not come in his energy field.’
That was a couple of years ago, and it bled us dry financially.
But KRI does not hold the ones that still endorse Yogi Bhajan to those same standards. The hypocrisy is staggering. To say nothing of the irony.
Are these people now, not like us, then? We were seen as silent enablers of an abuser.
We were anything but. We were processing. Like many now. Seeking answers for questions not quickly addressed.
I know people, who after hearing the bad news about Yogi Bhajan, dropped the whole teaching. They no longer want anything to do with him.
There were people within our school who reacted in the same way when news broke about my then teacher. They fled into the arms of KRI. Many of them are awfully quiet now.
And for understandable reasons. It is not so simple.
Just a few days ago, after years of being prohibited from teaching at KRI events (well, except in Russia, which is not very KRI minded), I got an invitation in my mail to teach at the Dutch yoga festival.
The last time I was only allowed to play music but not teach, lest I corrupt the impressionable young minds in attendance.
I am not sure if I will go, I really don’t know today.
I want to see how organizations and individuals deal with this.
Are they committed to healing, or will they go through the cursory phase of having a few processing groups at the next yoga festival and call it a day?
I agree with the demystification of Yogi Bhajan, much as I agree with the demystification of my former teacher.
But is it enough to simply take his picture out of the room?
I don’t think so. I think a teacher needs to look at his or her own abusive/manipulative tendencies and be accountable. It is too easy to say that it has nothing to do with you, especially in a setting of spiritual teaching.
I have reflected deeply on the violence in teaching. My conclusion is: violence in teaching is inherent.
But it can be tempered, and it can be brought into awareness. That is why we founded Heart First Yoga. The key is in the name. I don’t say that to pat myself on the back. The heart comes first, always.
I have seen so much blatant disregard for the student’s boundaries over the last few years; it was like a friggin’ trauma factory.
Some people have said that teachers’ bad behavior is primarily a result of the screwed up situation that comes into existence when an Eastern guru meets a gullible western mind. But this is not the case.
Several popular teachers from the Buddhist and Shaivite traditions did the same, and they were of American descent.
It’s men in power. Ain’t that just the truth. Men in power, creating power scandals, sex scandals, and money scandals.
Sex scandals ruin a man’s legacy in no time.
As the joke goes:
A man can build a thousand bridges and suck one cock. But do you think that at the end of his life he’ll be known as a bridge-builder?
And should we no longer walk over this man’s bridges if we disagree with his sexual behavior?
There are so many forces that are driving us apart. There is so much separation created.
Kundalini Yoga teachers huddled together on a rock. People who feel affiliated with the victims huddled together in a Facebook group.
Everybody denies they are a cult. One persons sat nam is another’s spiritual bypassing.
Sometimes I wish I would have grown up in a sex cult. The stories I would tell.
And you know what? Another thing. I think it’s bizarre to still do yoga festivals like nothing happened, like the other day in Germany. It just feels really strange. The turbans, the whiteness of it all. Maybe my perspective has changed.
I also don’t know how to solve it, but it can’t just be business as usual.
These cracks are appearing for us to mend. To reach across the divide and sense the essential humanness in the other.
Friends have become enemies in these last few months, and love has turned to hate.
The divisiveness is extreme. But we cannot be in separation from one another.
The time is now to become spiritually mature.
What do you think?
Should Kundalini Yogis go back to business as usual?
Should we kill the Yogi Bhajan statues and erase his name from history?
Should we disregard his lectures, but keep his kriyas and meditations?
Should we change the teachings now that we know the kind of man they came from?
Let me know in the comments.