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.

Love

Gurprakash

3 Comments

  1. Sat Purkh Kaur Khalsa on June 24, 2020 at 11:54 pm

    Enjoying your posts about KY and YB. I’m a trainer in this Tradition and I’ve taken a big step back to assess whether I want to continue in this path professionally or not.

    Here’s something I’ve put together about what I want to carry with me. Curious to know your thoughts:

    More on Culture

    This is a continuation of yesterday’s post. All together I’ve identified 11 principals within our culture that I’m grateful to be a part of. This is not a comprehensive list, of course, but it is a beginning. As I review what to keep, what to let go of, and what still needs to be built, I feel good about this as my starting point.

    Happiness is your birthright. In Buddha Dharma they speak of joy naturally arising when all the occlusions of right perception are removed. In the same way, we affirm our innate nature as joy, happiness, a quality of self that always rises, no matter hardship or challenge, and finds the inner victory, even in defeat.

    Innocence: We affirm the original self, the unbroken, unstained, unblemished Sat Naam. Not with the brittleness of perfection but with the fullness of soul and self. We approach our practice with innocence, and through our practice we return to our innocence.

    Don’t add anything. This simple aphorism I heard in my very first class reminds me that life is challenging enough. I don’t need to add my thinking, fantasy, catastrophic mind to anything that the drama of life unfolds. Instead, I simply reside in my awareness and this state of relaxation allows my intuition to work for me, not against me.

    The Navel Point & the Unknown. The understanding of our navel point has a profound impact on how we move through the world as well as how we make decisions. Are we supported, aligned and ready to receive the grace? Because in this Yoga of Awareness we know we can only generate so much on our own, the rest is fulfilled by the Unknown.

    Shakti & Bhakti: the personal power we experience through this practice requires a counterbalance. That counterbalance is our devotion, not to any one person, place, or thing, but rather a deep understanding of the role of longing within the journey of a Yogi, the longing to merge with the One. This love lights the way.

    Kundalini Yoga takes care of itself. Humility, kindness to yourself and others, radiance, service, and an open heart are the hallmarks of a Yogi on this path. If you’re here to accumulate wealth, fame, or power, good luck because this energy takes care of itself.

    And I affirm once again, whatever unfolds, I’ve already decided to love you.

    The original five
    The Adi Mantra: every time we sit down to teach, we tune into the teacher within, to wisdom, to the mystery. And we learn to trust that space and we teach our students to trust it as well, in their own practices.

    Ape Guru Chela: the teacher and the student are the same. Our students are our greatest teachers! When we take the time to listen, the wisdom that each and every one of us contains is so poignant and powerful. We are immediately humbled by this reality.

    Personal practice: we teach our students to no longer need us. They cultivate their home practice and no longer need to show up to every class, and we encourage that! It keeps the practice of teaching in the realm of service so we can drop the hustle.

    Allow: Space and Grace. We give students the tools for their own liberation and we hold space for the change.
    We don’t make anything happen. We allow. And we mirror to the student the opportunity to self initiate, to say yes, or no, to their soul. We are not attached to the outcome.

    Blessed Be: whether you believe in Divine beings incarnated here on earth or you’re just a simple athiest like me, we learn in this practice to understand the power of blessing. Blessing ourselves and others. In a world of negativity and gossip and pain, we learn the potency of the well-chosen word. Be blessed and blessed be.

  2. Har Anand on June 25, 2020 at 12:14 am

    Finaly… i was thinking about same way. One: i feel commited to THE TEACHINGS, THE SPIRITS not to the teacherperson. If the teacher manipulated the teachings, what every teacher did allways we just need to understand what was comming from his higher self, his inner teacher and what from that abusive person … so we can learn a lot about how to understand the teachings and staying open and how to clean it from personal things … Which means a YES to kundalini yoga and BYBY to ´as tought by YB´ but with gratitude and compassion to him, because he did his best he could do because otherwice he would have done diferent. And BYBY to the so called and invented golden chain which excludes many the roots of Kundalini Yoga, they just exist (check it … ).
    Which means a yes to kundalini yoga and to open up for all the spirits/teachings they come along while you go through your processes … to understand there is just one source.
    And finaly forget about the sikh dharma in combination with kundalini yoga which was to be causally related or was made as an identity which was allways crazy and paradox to the teachings for me (by the way: i like to wear a turban in all collours because of its physically and energetically benefit in yoga and martial art for me :::))))
    And since i saw and experienced the shit storm on karta singh, our common former teacher… and how I experienced the KRI and 3HO loyalists in their ignorance and mendacity to take us into clan custody and at the same time hide the fact that the fish started to stink on the head as always, in other words that Karta did what he had learned from YB and what he himself (YB) did as well as many other direct students and ‘great’ teachers of YB, who are still not being prosecuted, which was known allready… mamamia, I don’t want to have anything to do with this lying sanghat.
    And not forget: i am standing as a spiritual warrior for love, compassion, for ´the truth´which is never personal, to respect and to know, we are all in mistakes anyway… as i said, we do all our best …. AKAAAAAAAAL

  3. Paola on June 25, 2020 at 5:02 pm

    Love the technology, it is life changing I will keep them. Forget the man that doesn’t deserve respect, kundalini yoga existed before him and will exist after him. I always felt it was too much reverence to YB, the higher you built the altar the harder the crash coming down.

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