Our Statement on the Allegations Report of Yogi Bhajan, and its implications.

Uncategorized Sep 22, 2020

Our initial statement on the Yogi Bhajan allegations was on March 6. 

We took time after each class over a two week period to make sure our community was aware of the allegations, and to open the door for discussion, both in a group setting and privately. 

Needless to say, our members were disappointed to learn of yet another betrayal from a trusted leader, and in an industry dedicated to love, healing, truth, compassion, and right action. 

The 76 page report issued by An Olive Branch, who investigated the allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse of power, is incredibly disturbing. 

We believe the report. 

We believe Premka. 

At minimum, Yogi Bhajan was a man who succumbed to the temptations of power and access - the very thing he taught students not to do -- in words anyway. He stole dreams, innocence, and relationships. He took advantage of the love, trust, vulnerability, and dedication of others. He made others complicit through his influence. He leveraged his "handsome looks," charisma, and ability to read people for his own base compulsions. In all his brilliance, he chose to use his power to do despicable things.

Globally, these allegations prompted many kundalini yogis to question whether or not they could separate the practice from the man who delivered it. 

At Urban Yoga Chicago (now also HealedLovedFed), we had not put much emphasis on Yogi Bhajan. We took to heart his message that this practice wasn't about him; that he was just a messenger. We took to this practice, not just for its effectiveness, but also because it emphasizes self-initiation. On becoming teachers, not followers. On cultivating Self-Authority. 

We - the co-founders - are ultra sensitive to posturing, and we’re fortunate to trust in our inner voice. 

Which is what Kundalini Yoga teaches. Teachers and trainers teach us to connect to the “Golden Chain” of all the teachers that have come before us.  

It’s worth mentioning that there are teachers out there who don't trust that they can deliver that connection to their students, which then begs the question of their own connection to themselves. They cast doubt on those who strive to listen to their inner guide by pointing to the ‘rules’. In doing so, they turn tentative students into seekers of external affirmation. We’ve seen dedicated students get hurt and leave the practice.   

This technology serves us. We don't serve this technology. Teachers serve us. We don't serve teachers. 

Perhaps we were lucky that neither of us had ever met Yogi Bhajan in person, and that we had a stronger bond to the practice over the man. 

Perhaps we were lucky that neither of us had ever gone to Summer or Winter Solstice to draw us emotionally closer to such a bond. 

Perhaps we were lucky that our earlier experiences with leadership around us felt offensive enough for us to take a step back. To reconcile how to move forward in a practice that served us so well despite their affronts, and to create a space for holding a community built around trust and authenticity. 

The experience - though painful -  strengthened our sense of purpose and identity. 

We sought partnerships with wayshowers who guide Souls with fierce trust rather than control with rigid rules. 

As students, we learn to guide our ego to serve our Soul. Our personalities are an asset that offers diversity and uniqueness in teaching so that we may each become accessible and touch a diverse and unique range of people in the world. 

Some teachers don't seem to give students room to trust in their own Spirits as guides to the technology, led by the Universe. There’s a fine line between teaching the technology and allowing each student to receive it. Yes, it takes discipline to differentiate between head and heart. But that’s the Soul’s journey.  Trust that the journey always delivers. Don’t meddle. When that trust isn’t extended, we fail as teachers. And students lose an ally. 

For many years, we strived to figure out how to create the integrous balance between love and respect for the deliverers and love and respect for the deliverings. In our search, we found amazing teachers who seemed to have sorted that out, and whom we still work with or consider to be our mentors and dear friends. On one blessed day, one of them said to us, 

 

there are no rules. 

 

These 4 simple words strung together in that order freed us from the tyrannies of institutionalism and gave us permission to honor the God within. 

This is what informs how we work at Urban Yoga Chicago (now also HealedLovedFed). 

Your most important guide, teacher, guru, is the one inside you. It supersedes any other teacher. Every time. The Soul doesn't do wrong. The Soul does Truth. We don’t let another person’s ego - including (or perhaps especially) those more “senior” than us - steer us away from our own voice. 

Trust what you know. This is why wayshowers will tell you to question what they say. Nay showers, on the other hand, will tell you to do what they say. 

How each teacher has responded to the Yogi Bhajan allegations has not been surprising. We mention all this about teachers and trainers because the abuse doesn’t stop with Yogi Bhajan. Some of it is plain to see, and some are much more subtle yet pervasive. It’s not always sexual, but it is always contractive, always damaging. This is to say that these allegations help make sense of some of the experiences out there years after Yogi Bhajan’s death. This is also to say that this serves as a reflection point on our relationship with leadership, masters, and gurus. It is said that the next Guru won’t be an individual, but a community. 

Yogi Bhajan, the “mailman” (as he himself put it), was also a predator. 

Yes, it’s undeniable the transformation of these teachings for so many of us. It’s undeniable he had a gift. 

It is equally undeniable the damage he's caused to so many lives -  and by having casted an enormous shadow within his legacy - which includes control and manipulation as a way to lead - the damage continues through those who follow it dogmatically and may have less ability to transform these teachings into their own Truth. 

These teachings didn't start with him. They existed before him. He might have codified it with his own structure, but he didn't make up the language. He didn't make up the use of meridians and pressure points. He didn't create the body systems. He didn't create the discipline. He was a task master, and yes, he was inspirational. Just as any teacher prepares a curriculum, he prepared his. 

Therein lies each of our Soul's journey and management of all the material learned. Of all the experiences had. We get to decide how to honor our own experiences. We get to learn that there is no Guru but our own inner Guru. We get to see that we look to others for answers at our own peril. 

Yes, we get to learn from others. And we are lucky to have so many around us to be inspired by. But we must command our own lives. Follow that Guru within. And we get to see that if we can't see God in all, we can't see God at all -  and this means that God is also in the devil himself. 

Our actions:

  • We’ve taken down Yogi Bhajan’s image in our studio and on our website. 
  • The Yogi Bhajan allegations symbolize yet another chapter in The Fall of the Patriarchy through the #metoo movement and its abuses of power. Taking down his photo caused us to look at another image on our wall - the one of Guru Ram Das. What came up was, where were the narratives of the powerful, impactful, spiritual women in history? We know they exist. In this light, we’ve taken down Guru Ram Das’s image as well to leave the space open to recognize female or non-binary archetypes from the past, present, and future as exemplars, saints, and disruptors, who would have historically been dismissed as witches and other names. 
  • We don’t believe it’s realistic to teach Kundalini Yoga, particularly in a training course, without his mention. To reconcile this, we are adding a section in our Training called “Lessons Learned” to take a serious look at Yogi Bhajan and our relationship with that archetype. 
  • We’ve discontinued giving Gurudakshina (tithing, donations) to the Kundalini Research Institute (KRI) and paying membership fees with KRI/IKYTA (International Kundalini Yoga Teachers Association) indefinitely. While we understand that many in leadership are hurting - and have perhaps been victims to his abuse of power, the courage to proactively acknowledge and make reparations was a necessary right action to have made - akin to this country’s need to formally acknowledge, apologize, and make reparations for injustice to Black Lives. While we acknowledge that KRI and SSSC are staying in constant communications with the public now, to learn that this very community - 3HO - had continued to shame, blame, and dismiss (long after YB’s death) those who had found the strength to walk away from the abuse is a big factor for our discontinuation. This is about a massive rebuilding of trust. We’re watching intently to see how the leadership ultimately takes responsibility. We realize this will take time for them, and that we at the local level may arguably have greater luxury to share our points of view. For now, we at Urban Yoga Chicago / HealedLovedFed view the Listening Tours as necessary but performative until they are boldly acted upon.  
  • We stay in communications with our teacher training partners to understand where they are in their own process as well as to stay updated on how other parts of the world are responding to this. 
  • Our Lead Trainer, Gurudass, has poured her time and dedication into re-writing the Conscious Communication course for us, and we’re now talking about what the next training course will look like. 
  • We welcome serious inquiry, comments, and discussions to work through this difficult matter.  

With Immense Love for our community,

Savitree & Jodh

Co-Founders of Urban Yoga Chicago and HealedLovedFed

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