Sunday, October 27, 2019

Ashtanga Teacher Statements

Getting senior teachers to make meaningful statements has been like pulling teeth. We can count on one hand the number of teachers certified by KPJ who have publicly acknowledged that he was guilty of sexual assault.

Although there has been some acknowledgement, the statements generally fall way short of any meaningful attempt to attenuate the harm that has been done, and more often than not, these statements have actually deepened the pain of those who have been hurt.

I can see that there are various reasons why representatives of the ashtanga community have resisted making meaningful public statements. Unfortunately none of these reasons can give us confidence that the individuals concerned have evolved on a true path of yoga.

Reasons why speaking out is particularly difficult for KPJ's students: 1. Identification of personal practice with KPJ and a method intrinsically connected to his authority. Nearly all students who continued to practice with KPJ became teachers. As a result they promised to teach exactly what and how they learned - so their teaching has also become totally identified with KPJ - with the implication that (2.) their authority (power) rests on his. This has implications for (3.) economic prosperity, (4.) personal integrity and (5.) peer respect.

Calling teachers out by name for their hypocrisy (un-yogic behavior - ie failing to observe satya and ahimsa) and culpability in cultivating and sustaining the guru myth has been partially effective - and it could result in more acknowledgements of KPJ's abuse and potentially more meaningful actions towards healing, however, we have to question whether this type of approach will really lead to sincere apologies and desire for healing.

My personal motivation to become active in this field has been two-fold: on the one hand I recognized my role (in publishing the Guruji book) of eulogizing KPJ with the resulting effect of minimizing and undermining the testimonies of those that he abused, on the other hand, I have recognized for years before now that the system of Ashtanga as promoted by KPJ was flawed (although it contains many good parts) and has required a thorough reassessment.

Although calling teachers out has been partially effective, I am not really sure about the appropriate way to move forward in terms of healing and acknowledgement. My instinct is that naming and shaming will not produce the desired result.

KPJ's culpability has been established as a fact, although there are a few deluded individuals who are in denial. I am not sure that there is really such a thing as, or the possibility of, justice for his victims (I believe we are all victims in one way or another), or that those involved in utilizing KPJ's system while bypassing and excusing this fact will ever consider reforming their ideas. Perhaps this can only happen if we are able to develop a meaningful understanding of the role of asana practice in the context of Patanjali yoga - this could give teachers the confidence to relinquish the need for rigid attachment to the system KPJ developed and hence also to his name and authority.

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