By Asia Samachar Team | UNITED STATES |
Yogi Bhajan, the famed US-based yoga master and self-styled Sikh leader of the Western hemisphere, was a sexual predator who had raped some of his followers.
In a damning investigative report released this week, the yoga teacher who died in 2004 was found ‘more likely than not’ to have ‘engaged in sexual battery, other sexual abuse specifically, exposing minors to pornography, sexual harassment, and unethical behavior’.
“After weighing all of the relevant information available to us, we have sufficient evidence to conclude it is more likely than not that Yogi Bhajan raped three women and that he directed one woman to have anal sex with a young man,” reads one of its multiple conclusions to a barrage of allegations levied against the teacher whose real name is Harbhajan Singh Puri.
In a wrap-up to one set of allegations, the report said: “After weighing all of the relevant information available to us, we have sufficient evidence to conclude it is more likely than not that Yogi Bhajan directed six Reporters to shave their pubic hair.”
The 72-page report, dated 10 Aug 2020, was undertaken by independent investigation organisation called An Olive Branch Associates LLC. It makes difficult reading, with graphic accounts of the sexual exploits of Yogi Bhajan who held himself up as a yoga master and a Sikh leader.
The report was commissioned by the Siri Singh Sahib Corporation (SSSC), the umbrella organisation for 3HO which promotes Kundalini Yoga, a yoga brand popularised by Yogi Bhajan. 3HO, which stands for the Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization, represents the ‘global Kundalini Yoga (as taught by Yogi Bhajan) community’, as stated today on its website.
For Sikhs globally, the closest image of 3HO is that if its followers, usually draped in flowing white Sikh dresses, with most of their women also donning turbans. Some famous names coming from this community are kirtan singer Snatam Kaur and long-time office bearer Shanti Kaur Khalsa who has conducted yoga and Sikh camps around the world.
“We share the report here unedited and in its entirety….The report is a difficult document to read,” says SSSC in a letter addressed to the Sikh Dharma, 3HO and KRI communities in the opening pages of the report.
It warned that the report contains graphic descriptions of sexual misconduct and strong language that may trigger readers.
Indeed, it does contain disturbing recollections of what transpired in the Yogi Bhajan fiefdom headquartered at Espanola in New Mexico, US. Below are just two of the lesser graphic accounts:
82: He [Yogi Bhajan] was rough. He bit my tongue, bit my nipples, left marks on my face from sucking, and pinched me. It was not fun.
77: Yogi Bhajan and I had regular sexual relations. It was painful — he bit my tongue and my lips were bruised. I tried to cover the bruises on my face with makeup. When it first happened to me, there was no conversation; just the act itself. Except that he told me to ’Just relax.’ At no time did he ask me if I wanted to have sex with him. I left Yogi Bhajan’s duty with my nervous system shattered.
The investigation, which commenced on 9 March, focused on “the alleged sexual misconduct by Yogi Bhajan and other related behaviours asserted to have created the circumstances that led to the alleged sexual misconduct”. They involved 299 individuals.
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. The book prompted other followers to voice their ‘me-too’ moments, as well.
When first announced, some quarters had questioned if the report will see the daylight, and if it would go deep enough to uncover the truth. To its credit, the SSSC has made it public, as promised.
The report concluded that it was ‘more likely than not’ that Yogi Bhajan had:
- engaged in touching of intimate parts (their breasts or his genitals) with nine Reporters without their consent.
- two women, who were under the age of 18, watch pornography with him and that he showed pornography to one other who was not a minor.
- used sexually offensive language with 17 Reporters.
- directed six Reporters to shave their pubic hair.
- propositioned and/or coached four Reporters
- asked three Reporters to tell him about their sexual experiences with others and that they experienced these requests as inappropriate.
- recurring sexual relationships with 12 Reporters 7 relationships that continued over the period from 1969 to close to his death in 2004.
- seven women engage sexually with him simultaneously with other women
- directed 11 women to have sex with other women
- instituted practices that created an environment that was harmful to Reporters and that these practices facilitated his sexual misconduct and unethical behavior
- employed a variety of methods to control his students including compartmentalization, quid pro quo, promises, threats, slander, phone calls, guarding, and/or telling women they were his wife
However, the organisation left behind by Yogi Bhajan is clearly divided on the issue, by its own admission in the report.
“Just as these allegations have created strong differences of opinion within the community, they also have created those same differences within the SSSC Board. Not every board member views An Olive Branch’s process or report the same way,” SSSC said in the same letter.
The report rebuked the Yogi Bhajan legacy organisation on suppressing voices of dissent over the years.
“We offer a few additional questions for consideration: How could the voices of multiple women who allege sexual misconduct and abuse of power at the hands of Yogi Bhajan go unheeded for such a long time in a community rooted in compassion?
“Is such secrecy beneficial to the overall goals of 3HO/Sikh Dharma? Going forward, can the community rally around Yogi Bhajan’s own advice to ’Follow the teachings, not the teacher?’”, it said.
The heightened attention on Yogi Bhajan’s alleged sexual exploits has already impacted the Kundalini Yoga community globally, with some severing ties with SSSC or purging links to the founder. In the past, Yogi Bhajan’s photos would be prominently displayed and even used in some of their meditations.
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.
Yogi Bhajan investigation: What are they telling us (Asia Samachar, 23 March 2020)
“Rape is always invited. It never happens.” Say what? (Asia Samachar, 24 March 2020)
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)