The representation in visual° below is undoubtedly incomplete and not fully correct. Still, it gives an idea about the complexity and broad reach that Yogi Bhajan had. Structures, organizations, and responsibilities constantly changed and remained elusive and unclear to outsiders.
Most atrocities occurred in the "Inner Circle" and isolated parts like the boarding schools in India where 3HO kids were sent to.
The further out from the center, the less visible and tangible the consequences of the dark practices were. Some of YB’s followers, whom he put in leadership positions, copied his behavior. He was the only example they had. His lieutenants, who were involved in the family's criminal activities, were sentenced and imprisoned.
° Inspired by the visuals cult expert Dr. Alexandra Stein uses in her book Terror, Love& Brainwashing to explain the structure of a totalist system.
Tej Steiner led the Toronto ashram
in Canada from 1970-1988.
On Nov 24, 2020 GuruNishan
Tej explains how people in the early seventies longed for connection and community, something YB had in offer ...
* SSSC, the Siri Singh Sahib Cooperation created by Yogi Bhajan is the umbrella organisation overlooking the profits (Yogi Tea, Akal Security, ...) and non-profits (3HO, KRI, Sikh Dharma, ...). At least that was the case till beginning 2021 (chart below). On the new SSSC website (where the picture of a meditating Yogi Bhajan was finally removed in March 2021), the profit organisations are not mentioned anymore. www.sssccorp.org
Below an organisation chart as shared by Philip Tanzer in his Medium article of Aug 27, 2018 - Questions about Akal Security - Should a non-profit, tax-exempt church oversee a for-profit security contractor tasked with enforcing ICE-policies? - Link
Harbhajan Singh Puri was born in 1929 in the part of the Punjab that belongs today to Pakistan. Before he travelled to the West in 1969 he was a custom's officer at Dehli airport. When he arrived in Canada he started to teach yoga. He moved to the States and became a popular spiritual leader known as Yogi Bhajan. He soon started to send out his followers to set up ashrams (yogic communities) all over the US and in Europe. He took on the title of Siri Singh Sahib and Mahan Tantric and started expanding his networks and businesses.
Yogi Bhajan promoted a lifestyle he called Humanology. (He supposedly obtained a PhD in it, only the university that awarded him that diploma does not exist.) He created 3HO, the Healthy, Happy and Holy Organisation, the Kundalini Yoga Research Institute and launched his own brand of Sikhism (which led to much controversy within the Indian Sikh community). Next to his yogic and religious activities he was a businessman. Yogi Tea and Akal Security were his most successful companies. He met with many important political and religious leaders.
In 1986 the first law-suites of KarthaPurkh and Pamela Dyson appeared in which he was accused of sexual and power abuse. People close to him went to jail for business fraud, drug and arms smuggling.
In 2004 Yogi Bhajan died at the age of 75. He was diabetic and had multiple heart attacks.
Meanwhile Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan became more and more popular and continued to spread fast over the globe.
With the release of Pamela Dyson's book 'White Bird in a Golden Cage' beginning of 2020 the foundations of the organisation were shaken to the core. Encouraged by the testimony on sexual and power abuse by the former number one secretary of Yogi Bhajan, the number of allegations against Yogi Bhajan exploded. Not only first generations but also second and third generation members of the community came into the open with stories of power, sexual and financial abuse and slander directly caused by Yogi Bhajan, his teachers or in the schools in India.
Th leadership of the organisation ordered an independent investigation of the allegations of sexual violence by Yogi Bhajan with An Olive Branch, a Buddhist inspired organisation. Their conclusion after a few months of talking to people involved was that the allegations 'more likely than not' are true.
All men have animal approach,
all men have their instinct and to rape a woman and rape a woman is a natural man's instinct. It's not unusual, unnatural.
Yogi Bhajan 7-8-79
YB was a charismatic and authoritarian leader who built a mythology around himself by telling different life stories at different times and to different people.
It is a challenging task to piece together his true history.
Depending on who you talk to, he was a narcissistic psychopath or a saint. He had a great need to control others and used every possible means to do so: lying, cheating, abusing, slapping, slandering, cursing, ripping off, exhausting, exploiting, flattering, seducing, terrorizing, punishing, bullying, ... He was a masterful manipulator and could read the mental states of his devotees. He said, "I read your aura. I know your karma." That scared people.
He never wanted to be left alone. At least one of his secretaries had to stay with him day and night. The highest good for his followers was to get their spiritual leader's attention and to serve his physical, emotional, sexual, financial, and material needs.
Uncritical obedience was the norm certainly. Personal needs were neglected in order to serve the master.
As a shell around his inner circle of 'slaves', there was an ornamental layer of loyal followers. They had a bit more freedom and were allowed to contact more with the outside world, but the primary focus was always to serve and contribute to the system set up by the 'Siri Singh Sahib', a title that he took on while it was just one time used as a joke by someone.
'A yogi's requiem' Link
appeared in the Los Angeles Times
two weeks after he died from a heart attack at the age of 75.
It includes the stories told on the eve of his memorial:
... Women so adored him, it became an honor just to wash his feet. Men longed for his approval. They trusted him to arrange their marriages and select their careers...
It mentions that in 2004 there were about 300 yoga centers and 4,000 instructors, more than a dozen corporations and $1 billion in government contracts for security. How he achieved remarkable recognition from governors, legislators, heads of state, and other religious leaders.
And it mentions also that:
Bhajan’s legacy wasn’t immune to controversy. While many see him as a tireless missionary whose only goal was to serve humanity, others considered him a brilliant cult leader and masterful con man who lived the life of a rock star by exploiting his followers.
Bhajan’s devotees worked hard for their guru’s approval. He demanded they rise before dawn for cold showers and hours of chanting, and routinely fast. He could be a screamer, they said, who ignored some and lavished others with gifts and praise.
About his political connections it says:
Over the years, Bhajan became a generous political donor to both parties and established strong ties to the New Mexico governorship. Richardson considered him a trusted advisor and loyal ally.
“Besides his wonderful spiritual side,” Richardson says, “there was a very pragmatic political operator who was always protective of his Sikh community.”
To Bhajan’s followers he was a tireless giver, prescient sage and bon vivant who loved a good joke, fine jewels, song and dance. They quote him constantly and consider his teachings sacred. But critics note there were serious charges leveled at Bhajan in the 1980s, accusations his followers dismiss as fabrications, but that raise doubt concerning the yogi’s intentions.
“People basically deferred their critical thinking to Yogi Bhajan and leaders of the group,” says cult expert Rick Ross, who has counseled former Bhajan devotees and has posted lawsuits filed against the yogi on his website. “The litany of complaints that have surrounded the group regarding abuse go back to the ‘70s: sexual, financial exploitation and allegations of child abuse. This is a group that has a deeply troubled history.”
Guru Jot Singh Khalsa, who managed Bhajan’s Virginia ashram, and Guru Jot’s son-in-law Albert Ellis, were convicted for importing tons of marijuana into the U.S. from Thailand during the 1980s. Guru Jot entered an Alford plea, which meant he admitted no guilt, but acknowledged the prosecution could likely prove its case.
Mark Baker, once the director of training for Bhajan’s Akal Security -- which guards airports, federal courts and military installations -- sued the yogi for intentionally misleading government officials to keep Baker from becoming a New Mexico state trooper when he suspected the drug trafficking. His case was settled out of court.
And Bhajan’s longtime personal assistant Pamela Dyson and another devotee, Katherine Felt, sued him in federal court, claiming Bhajan forced them to be his concubines and that they were beaten, starved, brainwashed and tricked out of thousands of dollars. Their cases were ultimately dropped. “We never paid a penny to them,” Kirtan Singh says.
Today we know that this is not true.
It is within Swami Dhirendra’s unique teachings that the defining characteristics of Yogi Bhajan’s Kundalini Yoga can be found. The most significant of the numerous similarities between the two include the use of the rapid diaphragmatic breath through the nose … (renamed as Breath of Fire by Yogi Bhajan) while holding postures …
Philip Deslippe - 2013
Today we know that Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan quite different is from Kundalini Yoga as described in the Tantra's.
Sir John Woodruff was the first Westerner who did an in-depth study of the ancient Kundalini Yoga. His book 'The Serpent Power' was first released in 1919. It still is a prime document for people who want to study Kundalini Yoga as described in the ancient scriptures.
Over the years Yogi Bhajan has changed the story about the origin of his teachings. He claimed that he was a master of Kundalini Yoga at the age of 16. Today we know that this is not true. Over time he changed the names of his teachers and there are serious doubts about the different titles that he bestowed on himself.
In 2013 already historian Philip Deslippe published 'From Maharaj to Mahan Tantric'. He researched the different sources that Yogi Bhajan used to create 'his' form of yoga. It seems he used elements from different forms of yoga and sound current techniques.
In his Uncomfortable Conversation with GuruNischan, Dr Ron Alexander talks about how Yogi Bhajan himself admitted that he made it all up.
The 3HO Foundation website page on Kundalini Yoga does not mention all this.
Nor does the History Research page of KRI (Kundalini Research Institute).
Both websites continue to call this yoga the 'Yoga of Awareness' while for so many years the tons of abuses that happened in its context were not 'seen' by the people who were very close to the perpetrators involved.
Recently 3HO and KRI leave the quotation 'as taught by Yogi Bhajan' behind. They just mention Kundalini Yoga. This only adds to the confusion.
Why not call this yoga Bhajan Yoga? Because that is what it is, right?
Guru Dev Singh (°1947) was a student of Yogi Bhajan. Little is known about his background, except for the fact he is also a shaman of Mexican tradition.
He was called master of Sat Nam Rasayan, a healing technique that uses the techniques of Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan.
GuruDev Singh was the leader of the Sat Nam Rasayan organisation that was independent of the Kundalini Yoga organisations. Therefore, they also do not adhere to the Code of Ethics and Professional Standards that exist in the Kundalini Yoga environment and are managed by EPS.
Guru Dev Singh died on April 5, 2021 shortly after Marina Rondelli and Olivia Taglioli brought their stories of sexual abuse by him were brought into the open.
Also, in 2013 they were informed about sexual abuse happening during a Sat Nam Rasayan training in Belgium by one of their teachers. That story is also included on this site. Link.
As far as we know, the Sat Nam Rasayan organisation has not yet officially reacted or taken any stance related to the stories of abuse.
For many Level I students in Teacher Training Programs, the link between Kundalini yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan and the Sikh religion is difficult to grasp.
The mesmerizing effect of the Sikh mantras helps most students to quickly overcome their scepticism.
The special flavour of Sikhism that Yogi Bhajan introduced in the West and the weird titles like 'Siri Singh Sahib' and 'Mahan Tantric' with which he adorned himself puzzled many Indian Sikhs.
One of them is Trilochan Singh who wrote the book 'Sikhism and Tantric Yoga. A Critical Evaluation of Yogi Bhajan's Tantric Yoga in the Light of Sikh Mystical Experiences and Doctrines.' Link to a free downloadable version.
This book from 1977 should be a mandatory read for all Kundalini Yoga teachers in training.
The author is a renowned Sikh writer. He met YB a number of times and was very unhappy with the way Yogi Bhajan intertwined yoga and Sikhism. In his book he gives details about the historical visit of YB with 84 American students to India in 1970. After that trip, 80 students dropped out, he says.
What we know also from the research of historian Philippe Deslippe is that during that visit Yogi Bhajan broke with his former teachers.
After that trip YB changed the story he told about the origin of his knowledge.
The book of Trilochan is complementary to the story of Premka and gives a good impression on the atmosphere in the early years of the organisation.
Tej Steiner led the Toronto ashram
in Canada from 1970-1988.
On Nov 24, 2020 GuruNishan interviewed him.
Tej talks about YB and his wife BibiJi who visited the Punjab Sikh community in Toronto
on a regular basis.
Not all Punjabi Sikhs were happy with
the way YB introduced Sikhism in the West.
They liked even less the fact that YB's followers touched his feet.
In the autumn of 2020, SSSC hired 'Just Outcomes' to guide a process of Restorative Justice and Compassionate Reconciliation.
Confronting the Truth is a 2018 documentary
on the Truth and Reconciliation efforts
in South-Afrika, Peru, East-Timor and Morocco.
Even if each context is specific, they have a lot in common.
And we should not refrain from learning from them.
In May 2022, the SSSC launched the IHRP
Independent Healing and Reparation Program
Anyone harmed by Yogi Bhajan or any leader in the community, or at any of the schools in India could file a claim for financial reparations.
By now the registration period is closed.
This program was triggered by 2nd Gens working with JLC
(see also News page of August 2022)
A survivor tells one of the SSSC leaders how she feels about the Reparations Program.
Be aware that these are only fragments of the truth.
Many more stories are out there, told and untold.
Telling these stories is needed. It is a prerequisite for justice and reconciliation.
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