Guru Terath Singh Khalsa served as the Chancellor for Sikh Dharma, for over 30 years. These are his words about the controversy surrounding allegations of sexual misconduct by Yogi Bhajan, shared on February 28, 2020.
If this is the first time you have engaged with these allegations, it is a gut-wrenching experience. There is a deep desire to want to believe a woman – or women – who say they were sexually abused and assaulted by a powerful man. And, for those of us – including me –who spent decades assimilating the SSS’s (Siri Singh Sahib aka Yogi Bhajan) teachings and personally interacting with him on an ongoing, regular basis regarding important matters, it seems inconceivable that he would have committed these monstrous and evil acts. But it has happened – Bernie Madoff and Elijah Mohammad are prominent examples. In his recent book, Malcolm Gladwell refers to these people as mismatched personalities.
This is the 3rd time that I have been confronted with these allegations. The 1st time was 40 years ago in the 1970s when Time Magazine notified us that they wanted to give us an opportunity to respond to a story about YB (Yogi Bhajan) and 3HO (3HO Foundation) they were going to publish. The article stated that what YB was teaching was not Sikhism, that yoga had no place in a Sikh’s life, that he was sexually promiscuous and many other things generally describing him as “a charlatan and a heretic.” The SSS had me as Chancellor conduct an internal investigation and contact and have numerous meetings with the Time reporters, giving them documentation that there was no basis for many of the allegations. It didn’t matter. Except for misquoting me, the story went out as originally drafted, and life went on.
As a New Mexico State Prosecutor for 25 years, I was involved in thousands of investigations regarding whether the State should take action against the licenses of health care professionals – doctors, dentists, psychologists, as well as CPAs, real estate agents, etc. I was also a Judge for the State Public Education Dept. for 20 years in cases whether charges were brought against licensed teachers and administrators. The stakes were very high. There was the need to protect the public from offenders and there was the possibility of stripping innocent people of their livelihoods after years of education, training and practice. They had to be done fairly and right. In the typical “he said-she said” sex cases where both people could be believed, investigations would look at other things and interview other people regarding what the parties did, said and wrote in the context of the sex claim to try to determine who was credible.
The 2nd time I was confronted with these allegations was 30 years ago when Premka (author of “Premka: White Bird in a Golden Cage”) and Kate filed lawsuits against the SSS alleging that they were helpless, brainwashed victims of his treachery. I had worked with Premka for over 10 years on a regular basis as we and so many others were laying the foundation for all that exists today – the beginning of the Khalsa Council, development of the local and international Sikh Dharma, 3HO and KRI organizations, the purchase of Ram Das Puri, the beginning of the India school program, relationships with the India Sikh bureaucracy, the beginning of the businesses, etc. I knew her.
For me Premka’s case was easy. She alleged in the lawsuit that the (kundalini) yoga that YB taught subjected her to a “thought reform (brainwashing) program.” She claimed that while many creative publications went out under her name (“Peace Lagoon, “Beads of Truth,” etc.), she “exercised no independent thought,” that “she was not the creator of the thoughts,”, that in most cases “she had no independent knowledge of the facts, ideas or feelings she related when she wrote,” that she was nothing more than a “robot” and a “scribe,” and that ”she performed no in depth analysis.” She hired “experts” who would testify about the brainwashing effects of doing kundalini yoga that deprived her and others of the ability to exercise independent judgment. Many of these “experts” were associated with deprogramming kidnappings that occurred in the 1970s and 80s.
Now apparently “many” women are saying that they were victims of similar assaults.
How does any conscious person respond to these allegations?
Fortunately, societies have been confronted with these problems since time eternal. When done with dispassionate analysis, they have been done successfully. The ”Boston Massacre” case is an example. When done with preconceived beliefs regardless of the facts, there have been horrific results (the Salem Witchcraft Trials). To examine and understand this phenomenon, read “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds,” describing some of the most widespread and accepted delusions in human history.
There is a most basic approach that has been used. Before jumping to conclusions and aligning with others of similar beliefs, find out what did or did not happen. There have been all kinds of uninformed, emotional responses – it happened! It didn’t happen! All of these good faith reactions have been published to the world before even one thorough investigation of these claims has been completed. Not one. The result is that some of the Siblings of Destiny are beginning to form a circular firing squad, and that is dangerous.
And yet, without an in depth attempt to get to the bottom of this, the first “official” communication that went out to the world was: ”Credible allegations concerning sexual misconduct…” While the allegations are clearly serious, no one – no one – knows if they are credible without a thorough investigation.
It is time to step back, take a breath and before making one of the most important decisions of your life, wait until you receive the results of what is hoped to be a professional, competent and unbiased investigation of the claims. Anything less is a disservice to you, your family, your students and each other.