Sat Nam, soul family,
As you may or may not have heard, there’s a book out this month by a woman called Premka that describes her time as a part of Yogi Bhajan’s inner circle. (Yogi Bhajan is the man who brought the teachings of Kundalini Yoga from India to the US).
In the book, Premka reportedly describes incidents of Yogi Bhajan being sexually exploitive and manipulative of the women in his inner circle, among other abuses of power. Since the publication there are reports of other women coming forward. These allegations are the topic of many conversations within the Kundalini community right now, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts just so you know where we stand (Ramtin and I are on the same page) and because our process may help you process.
But first, if you’re a survivor of sexual assault and are triggered by these conversations, the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 can provide support (even if your assault occurred a long time ago).
While this is the clearest and most direct accusation of abuse of power, rumors about Yogi Bhajan being sexually exploitive have been around for a long time. When I first heard them several years ago- probably 2 years after I finished Teacher Training – I was disappointed and it made me question my relationship to Yogi Bhajan and to the teachings of Kundalini Yoga. Over time, I came to see that my initial response was one of duality (i.e., was Yogi Bhajan good, or bad), and now that I have had time to sit with it I am now better able to hold both dualities at once: that the same man who was a Yoga Master and am so grateful to for sharing the teachings that have so transformed my life, also likely engaged in despicable behaviors with the women in his inner circles.
While I always respected Yogi Bhajan as a teacher, and am grateful to him for bringing these teachings to US, I was always uncomfortable with the idolization and near-worship of him that can happen in our community. I also never met him in person, so I have empathy for those in our community who looked up to him and practiced directly with them. I understand they may have a harder time accepting that Yogi Bhajan could have engaged in these behaviors, and for those who are inclined to leave the practice due to feeling betrayed.
I’m personally grateful to Premka for writing her book and coming forward, and for any others who have or may come forward, because this has been an elephant in the room for Kundalini Yoga community for a long time. It’s about time we clear the air, these women receive validation, and as a community we find a way to move forward with more transparency and in reverence of the teachings instead of a human being – it is the Aquarian way. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to have a man you felt abused you be revered by so many; it must have been a daunting decision to make to tell her story.
And on that note, I’m happily surprised by the response I have seen within the community so far, most of which has been to support the woman who has come forward and a calling for support of any other women who want to come forward. (Specifically the responses by Sukha, Jai Jagdeesh, and Gurunam Singh). This makes me proud to be a part of this community, and is how I know Kundalini Yoga will thrive even with this more complicated legacy of Yogi Bhajan.
Everyone has a right to process, integrate and respond to this information in their own way, but Ramtin and I will continue to practice and teach Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan. We have come to the conclusion that his behavior does not negate the power and impact the teachings have had on our lives and those of our students, and we won’t let it derail our practice that we love so much. (Though I may create a disclaimer stating that when I quote him, I’m not putting him on a pedestal, but that he is the vessel through which these teachings reached the US, and they are so valuable I think they are still worth sharing).
I have heard that the Kundalini Research Institute (the governing body of most of Kundalini Yoga teachers) is commissioning a 3rd party investigation into the allegations, and I’m curious to see how that process unfolds. I also find myself wondering how Yogi Bhajan would would have responded if he were alive. Would he have denied the allegations and cast blame? Would he have taken responsibility and apologized? We’ll never know.
These are my thoughts on it this morning, but keep in mind this is a few years in the making because when I heard the rumors a few years ago, I assumed there was some truth to them because in these instances when there is smoke there is usually fire. I never spoke about it publicly before because all I had heard were they vague rumors without names or specific incidents, so I wasn’t comfortable repeating what I had heard. If you’re in a different place with this, or have no idea who Yogi Bhajan is and don’t care, that’s okay! We all get to process it in our own way.
With Abundant Love,
Jen & Ramtin