Yogi Bhajan investigation: What are they telling us

Updates from Collaborative Response Team into Yogi Bhajan sexual abuse investigation

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L-R: Sahaj Singh Khalsa (SSSC), Nirvair Singh Khalsa (KRI), Gurujot Kaur Khalsa (SDI, SSSC), Pritpal Kaur Khalsa (3HO) and Shanti Kaur Khalsa
By Asia Samachar Team | UNITED STATES |

The investigation into the allegations that Yogi Bhajan had sexually abused his followers is expected to be made public in June.

“This investigation is specific to determining whether and to what extent Yogi Bhajan engaged in sexual and other misconduct,” according to a dedicated website set-up by the legacy organisations of the Kundalini Yoga proponent who died in 2004.

Under its FAQ, the website, which went live sometime in February, states: “Multiple allegations concerning sexual and other forms of misconduct by Yogi Bhajan have come forward in recent weeks.”

“An Olive Branch will prepare a report of their findings, which will be published in a manner that protects the anonymity of any reporter of harm or witness who wishes to remain anonymous,” it added.

Despite years of hushed discussion on the alleged abuses, it is believed that the Yogi Bhajan’s legacy organisations were pushed over the top to initiate the investigation by the release of ‘Premka: White Bird in a Golden Cage (My Life with Yogi Bhajan)’, an explosive book by his former long-time staffer Pamela Sarah Dyson.

Among others, Pamela, who was then known as Premka Kaur Khalsa, alleges that Yogi Bhajan coerced her and other staff members into sex.

Internally, Siri Singh Sahib Corporation (SSSC) had resolved on 12 Feb 2020 to form a so-called Collaborative Response Team (CRT) to look into the allegations.

SSSC is the member of each of the non-profit organisations and the shareholder of KIIT, which is the holding company for the US and Indian for-profit companies and of KIT Holding BV (KIT BV). KIT BV is the holding company for the European for-profit companies. As the member and shareholder, SSSC is the legal owner of these entities, according to information at its website.

Among its for-profit entities are Yogi Tea, contract security provider Akal Security, KIIT Renewable Energy LLC (KRE) and Kundalini Yoga class provider Yoga West operated by Raj Yog Takht, LLC.

On the non-profit side, it includes 3HO Foundation, 3HO Europe (dedicated to spreading Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan in Europe), Kundalini Research Institute (KRI), Legacy of Yogiji ( LYF) Foundation, Amritsar-based international boarding school Miri Piri Academy, Sikh preaching vehicle Sikh Dharma International (SDI) and media portal Sikhnet.

LYF Foundation looks after Yogi Bhajan’s ‘heritage properties’ – Guru Ram Das Ashram in Los Angeles, Guru Ram Das Puri in New Mexico (venue for summer solstice, children’s camp and ladies camp) and Yogiji’s Espanola.

Asia Samachar will update below new statements as they emerge on the investigation.

Website cover page of Collective Response Team of Yogi Bhajan linked organisation towards the sexual allegations against the late yoga master

Statements from Our Response Team

 

March 12, 2020

Sat Nam Dear Members of our 3HO, Sikh Dharma and KRI Community,

There has been a lot of discussion, especially online, about the allegations regarding Yogi Bhajan and our response to the situation. We understand the need for people to share their thoughts and perspectives about this sensitive issue. We support women speaking out about their experiences, and we have no intention of judging or silencing the voice of anyone.

Please be aware that a few individuals making public statements may appear to be speaking for our organizations. They do not, in fact, represent them. The Collaborative Response Team is the only official representative of SSSC, KRI, 3HO, SDI and our other nonprofit organizations in this matter. Our regular updates and statements about the situation will continue to be posted at ssscresponseteam.org.

We have recently expanded the FAQ section addressing many of your questions and concerns. We urge you to check our website often and share it with others for accurate and timely information as we seek the truth and move on a path toward healing and restoration.

Sat Nam,

Collaborative Response Team

 

March 9, 2020

Sat Nam Dear Members of our 3HO, Sikh Dharma and KRI Community,

The dedicated email address for communicating with An Olive Branch is now active. This will be a fully confidential method of communication. You can reach them at yb.investigation@an-olive-branch.org until April 30, 2020.

We take the allegations that have been brought forth regarding Yogi Bhajan very seriously and encourage anyone with relevant experiences or information to speak with An Olive Branch. Interviews are private and confidential between the individual and the investigator.

An Olive Branch is conducting an independent third-party investigation. The sole purpose of this investigation is to seek the truth, and the investigation will not be influenced in any way by the CRT or the SSSC.

Due to the sensitive nature of its work, An Olive Branch is unable to share their specific work experience publicly. We realize that this level of confidentiality has prompted questions within the community about the organization’s capability to conduct a thorough investigation. During the course of our due diligence, we found An Olive Branch fully met the critical requirements to be entrusted with completing this important task, including:

  • Extensive experience in investigating claims of sexual misconduct with thoroughness and compassion.

  • Significant experience conducting investigations for and understanding the issues unique to spiritual or religious-based organizations.

  • Demonstrated ability to relate well to those reporting harm as well as others providing information.

  • Ability to instill confidence that all individuals in the matter will be treated with sensitivity and care.

As members of a spiritual community, we place a high value on righteous action and truthful living. We are committed to upholding these principles, in practice and policy, at all levels of our organizations and to strengthen our organization to meet these commitments. Our goal is to seek the truth and move toward healing. We open our hearts and prayers for justice and healing of all people.

 

March 4, 2020 

Sat Nam Dear Members of our 3HO, Sikh Dharma and KRI Community,

After careful due diligence, we have selected the organization, An Olive Branch (https://www.an-olive-branch.org/), to conduct the independent investigation of the allegations regarding Yogi Bhajan. An Olive Branch was chosen because of their extensive experience in performing thorough and compassionate investigations of allegations of this nature for spiritual communities worldwide. They are gathering background information and expect to begin speaking with individuals on Wednesday, March 11.

In order to seek the truth and move toward healing, the investigators will attempt to speak with any individuals reporting harm as well as potential witnesses with information supporting or contradicting the claims of sexual misconduct. We encourage people to speak with An Olive Branch confidentially about their experiences, and we have no intention of silencing anyone. They are establishing a dedicated email address for this purpose which will remain active until Thursday, April 30. We will share this address with you on Wednesday, March 11, when it is live.

Once the investigation is complete, An Olive Branch will prepare a report of their findings, taking care to maintain the confidentiality of personal or sensitive information out of respect for participants’ privacy. The report is expected to be made public this June.

The Collaborative Response Team is the only official response body representing SSSC, KRI, 3HO, SDI and our other nonprofit organizations. We strive to be transparent as we respond to these allegations, and we will continue to keep the community informed during the process through updates posted on ssscresponseteam.org. We all stand united against abuse of power, sexual abuse, any form of exploitation, and any use of sexuality as a vehicle for causing harm. If anyone has concerns or complaints unrelated to this investigation, we encourage them to contact the Office of Ethics and Professional Standards at eps@epsweb.org. We will respond to the matter with kindness and respect.

 

February 25, 2020

Dear 3HO, Sikh Dharma, and KRI Community,

As a community inspired by the teachings of Yogi Bhajan, we are currently facing a significant challenge. Following the publication of Pamela Dyson’s book, we received additional allegations from multiple women.

As previously announced, we are commissioning an independent investigation of all allegations. We are in the process of conducting due-diligence to identify the right independent investigator to conduct this important task – fairly and without prejudice or bias. We expect the investigation process may take several months to complete and ask that everyone be patient as this process moves forward.

We have established a website with official updates of the investigation and our path forward.

Please visit our website for updates – ssscresponseteam.org.

This very sensitive issue is bringing a great deal of pain and emotion, and we are moving forward with dignity and respect for all parties. During this time, we call upon all members of our community to unite in prayer and meditation. Let us stand with integrity and grace, letting the voice of Truth guide us now and into the future.

February 18, 2020

Dear 3HO, Sikh Dharma, and KRI Community,

Credible allegations concerning sexual misconduct by Yogi Bhajan have come forward. Our organizations take these allegations very seriously. We stand united against abuse of power, sexual abuse, any form of exploitation, and any use of sexuality as a vehicle for causing harm.

Our teachings guide us to look to the Truth and to seek the Truth with courage and commitment. The undersigned are the members of the Collaborative Response Team that has been formed to officially represent our community organizations in this situation. We are commissioning a third-party independent investigation to seek the truth and the extent of the allegations so that our members can feel secure and safe.

Future communications will explain the independent investigation process and provide our community with ways to participate.

We open our hearts and prayer for justice and healing of all people. As the organizations of 3HO, Sikh Dharma and KRI, we are committed to upholding the dignity of all humans and the highest ethics of this path of consciousness. We pledge to act with clarity and listen to all concerns. We will treat everyone with respect and will support the truth and the best outcome for all parties.

“Truth is high, but higher still is truthful living.” Guru Nanak Dev ji

Sat Nam,

  • SS Sahaj Singh Khalsa – Siri Singh Sahib Corporation
  • MSS Nirvair Singh Khalsa – Kundalini Research Institute
  • SS Gurujot Kaur Khalsa – Sikh Dharma International, Siri Singh Sahib Corporation
  • SS Pritpal Kaur Khalsa – 3HO Foundation International
  • SS Shanti Kaur Khalsa – Dharmic Office of Public Affairs

Who is the Siri Singh Sahib Corp?

SSSC is a religious non-profit corporation and is the sole member of KRI and 3HO, both of which are non-profit public benefit corporations. Learn more at www.ssscorp.org.

Who is on the Collaborative Response Team?

The Collaborative Response Team (CRT) is a group of people representing the nonprofit and for-profit entities, empowered by the SSSC in a resolution dated February 12, 2020. The CRT has been formed by the SSSC with the duty to respond effectively and responsibly to the allegations about Yogi Bhajan’s conduct. The CRT will act and communicate based on established best practices, transparency, respect and concern for all involved, and the goal of seeking the truth in all areas of this urgent situation.

The members of the CRT include:

  • SS Sahaj Singh Khalsa – Siri Singh Sahib Corporation
  • MSS Nirvair Singh Khalsa – Kundalini Research Institute
  • SS Gurujot Kaur Khalsa – Sikh Dharma International, Siri Singh Sahib Corporation
  • SS Pritpal Kaur Khalsa – 3HO Foundation International
  • SS Shanti Kaur Khalsa – Dharmic Office of Public Affairs
  • MSS Daya Singh Khalsa – KIIT Company

The CRT is the only official response body representing SSSC, KRI, 3HO, SDI and our other nonprofit organizations.

​​What are the allegations? How did this investigation come about?

Multiple allegations concerning sexual and other forms of misconduct by Yogi Bhajan have come forward in recent weeks. Our organizations take these allegations very seriously. We stand united against abuse of power, sexual abuse, any form of abuse or exploitation, and any use of sexuality as a vehicle for causing harm.

What is the purpose of the investigation?

An Olive Branch is conducting an independent examination of Yogi Bhajan’s behavior in response to the allegations that have been made against him. The purpose is to determine whether and to what extent Yogi Bhajan engaged in sexual and other misconduct. This process will allow the CRT to put into place policies and procedures for supporting reporters of harm, preventing abuse from happening within its organizations, and determining how the organizations should move forward. The CRT is following accepted practices that have been created, validated and established by experts in spiritual, religious, government and private organizations all over the world for responding to allegations of this nature.

Who is An Olive Branch?  / Who is conducting the investigation?

The CRT has chosen an independent organization, An Olive Branch (www.an-olive-branch.org), to complete this important task. They have extensive experience in performing thorough and compassionate investigations of allegations of this nature for spiritual communities worldwide. They will be completing an independent investigation, free from the direction of or control by the CRT or anyone associated with the SSSC.

Why was An Olive Branch chosen to investigate these allegations?

An Olive Branch has a staff of experienced and highly respected investigators. However, due to the sensitive nature of their work, they are unable to share the specifics of their investigative experience. During the course of our due diligence, we found An Olive Branch met the critical requirements to be entrusted with completing this important task, including:

  • Extensive experience in investigating claims of sexual misconduct with thoroughness and compassion.

  • Significant experience conducting investigations for and understanding the issues unique to spiritual or religious-based organizations.

  • Demonstrated relatability to reporters of harm as well as witnesses.

  • Ability to instill confidence that all individuals in the matter will be treated with sensitivity and care.

  • Service as an impartial, third-party investigator unconnected with the SSSC organizations.

What is the scope of the investigation?

This investigation is specific to determining whether and to what extent Yogi Bhajan engaged in sexual and other misconduct. An Olive Branch will attempt to speak with any individuals reporting harm as well as potential witnesses with information supporting or contradicting the claims of misconduct. We encourage anyone with relevant experiences to speak with An Olive Branch.

If anyone has concerns or complaints unrelated to this investigation, we encourage them to contact the Office of Ethics and Professional Standards (eps@epsweb.org). We will respond to the matter with kindness and respect.

How do I contact the investigator/An Olive Branch?

An Olive Branch has established a dedicated email address, yb.investigation@an-olive-branch.org, for individuals to share relevant experiences in a confidential setting. This email address will remain active through April 30, 2020. Interviews are private and confidential between the individual and An Olive Branch. They are committed to offering a safe place for all witnesses and reporters of harm to share their experiences and be heard.

Will participation in the investigation impact the current or future legal rights of allegers or reporters of harm? 

No. Any information shared with An Olive Branch by reporters of harm or witnesses will not be used against them or impact their legal rights.

What are the steps in the investigation? 

An Olive Branch will attempt to speak with any individuals reporting harm as well as potential witnesses with information supporting or contradicting the claims of misconduct. Once the investigation phase is complete, An Olive Branch will prepare a report of their findings. They will take care to maintain the confidentiality of personal or sensitive information out of respect for participants’ privacy. Witnesses or those who report harm will remain anonymous unless an individual asks to be identified. The report is expected to be made public in June 2020.

How long will the investigation take?

To ensure a thorough investigation, An Olive Branch expects that it will take 14 to 16 weeks to conduct and complete interviews, compile the findings and publish a full report. The interviews began March 9, 2020, and a report is expected to be made public in June 2020.

Will you share the results of the investigation publicly?

Yes, An Olive Branch will prepare a report of their findings, which will be published in a manner that protects the anonymity of any reporter of harm or witness who wishes to remain anonymous. The report is expected to be made public in June 2020. The investigation and the report will not be influenced in any way by the CRT or the SSSC.

Will the investigator/An Olive Branch report accounts of abuse to the legal authorities?

Members of An Olive Branch’s staff are mandatory reporters of child and elder abuse. They will report accounts of abuse to the authorities as required by law.

How does the investigator/An Olive Branch ensure anonymity?

The only people who have access to An Olive Branch’s interview notes are the three co-directors of An Olive Branch, two of whom are working on the investigation. Files are not accessible to outsiders or to anyone in or associated with the SSSC.

Will the investigator/An Olive Branch have any communication with the SSSC or its related organziations during the investigation process?

An Olive Branch will only be communicating with the CRT in order to obtain the information necessary to conduct the investigation. Persons associated with the SSSC and its related organizations may be witnesses during the investigation.

What are you doing to help those who have reported harm?

We extend our deepest sympathies to those who have reported harm. We are offering wellness supports in the form of confidential counseling. We are engaging a third party to perform confidential intake and refer individuals to one of their recommended and trusted local counselors. The services will be free for up to a year and entirely confidential. No information regarding who accesses these services will be shared by the referral agency or the counselors. We are in the process of setting up these services and will share details on how to access them within the coming weeks.

Why are counseling services being offered to reporters of harm before the investigation is complete?

Several people are describing serious psychological challenges connected to the harm they are reporting. While the independent investigation examines the evidence around these allegations of harm, we are providing compassionate assistance to these reporters by giving financial support for their professional counseling needs. This is a best practice that reflects our commitment to seek the truth and create a supportive environment in which reporters feel safe to share their experiences.

How often will the CRT communicate updates?

We strive to be transparent as we respond to and investigate the allegations. We will continue to post updates on our website as they become available: www.ssscresponseteam.org.

What if I wish to report a concern or complaint unrelated to this investigation?

If anyone has concerns or complaints unrelated to this investigation, we encourage them to contact the Office of Ethics and Professional Standards (eps@epsweb.org). We will respond to the matter with kindness and respect.

(Taken from the sscresponseteam.org website on 23 March 2020)

 

RELATED STORY:

Yogi Bhajan sexual allegations rock Kundalini Yoga world (Asia Samachar, 18 March 2020)

Yogi Bhajan’s sexual exploits under investigation (Asia Samachar, 7 March 2020)

 

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