I have been asked a few times by peers what my thoughts and feelings are on the Yogi Bhajan sexual abuse scandal that rocked the Kundalini Yoga community in 2019 with the release of the book Premka but I haven’t publicly shared my views until now. As I continue to share Kundalini Yoga and introduce more people to the beauty, madness and magic of Kundalini yoga and meditation and they start to research and practice this technology more deeply I know they will soon stumble across the sexual abuse scandal, so do I have a duty to forewarn them or is it up to them to discover it on their own? I have put myself in the position of somebody new to Kundalini yoga and wondered if I would appreciate the forewarning and the opportunity to have the discussion, and possibly “yes”. So, with the possibility of a new student wishing they would be made aware of it and having the opportunity to discuss it up front I am sharing my views.
I earned my certification as a Kundalini Yoga teacher in 2018 after I began practicing it in 2014. I fell deeply in love with the technology as soon as I started practicing it and experienced real results fast. I knew of Yogi Bhajan, that he had introduced the teachings to the west from India in the late 1960’s and that he had died in 2004. Over the years I read quotes and lectures, watched videos of him and some of the material touched me and I thought some of it brilliant, some of the lectures difficult to follow and videos of him obese and rude, mumbling incoherently baffled me. Soon I heard stories of sexual abuse and misconduct but it never influenced my personal practice or my experience of Kundalini Yoga. I never revered him, he was a human being and what I know about human beings is they will be human, flawed, in all their realness.
I was never personally heart broken, crippled or devastated to learn of the sexual abuse though I condemn abuse and misuse of power. I love a two and half hour daily practice but I don’t practice the Aquarian Sadhana with the Japji Sahib; the Japji Sahib is a beautiful text and there are certain Pauris that have deeply touched me, but I am not Sikh. I wear mostly white and cover my head because I benefit from the feeling. I chant mantra because I love generating the sound current and the essence of the mantra infiltrating my aura and my psyche. I have taken from the practice what serves me and teach the kriyas and meditations as prescribed, to honour them, to experience them and deliver their essence.
Yogi Bhajan became very powerful, very rich and created an empire after introducing the teachings to the West. America in the 70’s was a different time – when he arrived in Los Angeles he apparently saw people searching for meaning and a leader, practicing free love, free sex, a rampant drug culture and many suffering from drug addiction, he quickly gained a following, established ashrams, converted followers to Sikhism and trained teachers to share the lifestyle and teachings. It was the Piscean Age and the patriarchal society was entrenched with various hedonistic, narcissistic leaders.
Yogi Bhajan prepared us for the Aquarian Age by sharing the Kundalini technology as a tool for us to navigate and integrate this incredible shift which began 11/11/2011 when hierarchies began crumbling, society started to shift, the digital age brought knowledge to our finger tips, made the world a smaller, more connected yet disconnected place and we have had to accept this age of self-mastery, fortify ourselves against new threats, specifically to our nervous systems and immune systems. Some people consider 2020 as the real dawn of the Aquarian Age and I wonder how people are going to survive without a proper tool kit for the Aquarian Age!
How do I feel about Yogi Bhajan? I am grateful to him every day for introducing Kundalini Yoga to the West. I love this technology and I will never stop practicing it and as long as there are students who step onto their mats and look to me as the bridge between the teachings and them I will continue to teach. I teach from my own experience and my own deep love and respect for the technology, it has changed my life, it has made me a stronger, calmer, healthier, happier, more abundant person. I adore the yoga, the meditations, the chanting and the gongs. It is a privilege to witness students practice Kundalini yoga, to chant with the community and to serve in this way. I never intended to teach Kundalini yoga once I completed the teacher training and yet I have found teaching to be rewarding, moving and it has taught me so much.
In class when I teach I will still tune in and tune out the traditional way because I think it’s a valuable, beneficial and beautiful way to create a sacred space for the practice and to create a harmonic alliance and shared experience in the class. As a student if the teacher chooses not to tune in or out, wear coloured clothing, wear their hair out, quote Yogi Bhajan, etc I don’t really mind, I am there to experience the Kundalini yoga and meditation with the yoga community.
The community losing respect for Yogi Bhajan, deleting his images and quotations, putting White Tantric Festivals on hold, rewriting text books, and even stopping their practice of Kundalini Yoga is all to be expected and I respect each individual’s decision in the wake of the scandal. The hardest hit folks who appear to have been most devastated by the scandal seemed to me to have idolized and worshipped Yogi Bhajan which in my opinion was a mistake, he was a human being after all and idols fall.
I read the book Premka and loved it, I watched the movie Mandev made in which Harijiwan, one of Yogi Bhajan's best friends and closest confidantes spoke at length about what he witnessed between Yogi Bhajan and Premka and am inclined to agree with Harijiwan that it was a tragic love story.
Initially my question was, “Did he make it up?” That bothered me for a short time until during my practice one morning I thought, “Well if he did make up Kundalini Yoga I take my turban off to him because he did a bloody great job!”. I don’t actually think he did, he was a great channel and an exceptional teacher and the practice is rooted in yoga, tradition, Sikhism, Dharma, nature, science, sound healing, prayer, devotion and community and that is exactly my experience.
For those who have come forward in the Kundalini community in recent years and shared their experiences of abuse I am deeply sorry, I have deep compassion for them and I hope they will be heard and their feelings validated. Yogi Bhajan is dead but they can still be heard and validated, I wish them all love, all healing and may the pure light within them guide their way on.