Rebuttals Not Included in the Report

The report says that people were invited to provide specific first hand evidence to refute the claims, BUT IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE TO DO, because there was no representative of Yogi Bhajan who was told what the allegations were, much less who, when, where – so it was impossible to refute information no one knew.

Many people did their best to determine what the accusations were and by whom, so if they had any helpful information to share with AOB, they could do so.   In the end, numerous people who knew both the accusers who made public statements and the accused very well, contacted AOB to call into question the veracity of the complaints (at least the ones they knew about).  Their “testimonies” represent hours and hours of interview time.

AOB should have concluded that at least 2 of the accusers’ stories were not credible, just based on medical information given to them about Yogi Bhajan’s medical condition during the last years of his life. Medical records were offered, but none were requested.

Page 38-39 findings of the report says that:

Multiple women made accusations that they were often bitten and had bruises on their lips, face and neck.”

There were many people on the ground at Yogi Bhajan’s residence every day for years and they NEVER saw ANY indication of bruises or bite marks on his staff.  At least one interviewee was asked by AOB if they ever saw any bruises or bite marks.  That person, someone who lived in the same house as some of Yogi Bhajan’s staff, replied that they had never seen anything.  Chances are that if AOB had used their “Assessments of Credibility” to ask the dozens of supporters who contacted them if they had ever seen any sign of bruises or bite marks, they would have been able to come to a “more likely not” determination for these claims.

AOB does not mention how many people they asked if they saw bruises, and who said they had never seen any evidence of that.  Instead, they asked, “What about the orgies?”

Why was NONE OF THIS INFORMATION SHARED in the report?  There was no substantive information challenging the credibility or veracity of the claims, which was represented in hours of interviews with supporters.

“Supporters” Disregarded

In the report, there are only general comments by “Yogi Bhajan Supporters” who contacted AOB to vouch for his character in a general way, sharing “nice and supportive” comments.  These seem to have been included in order to compliment the narrative which was portrayed by AOB of long-time community members, who support Yogi Bhajan, or who were closest to him, as being cult members who edify him as a God.

To the contrary, many of these people, are conscious, God loving people, who also happen to love and appreciate their Spiritual Teacher.  Many of them contacted AOB with extremely valuable information, which calls into question the veracity of the stories of the accusers.

The report included no substantive, credible information provided to them by the supporters, which questioned the credibility of the claims.  In this way, the report is extremely one-sided and biased.

There were instances where people shared with AOB that they had been at Yogi Bhajan’s home every day until 11pm for years, were his driver for years and had indeed lived with some of the accusers.  When they listed these details in an email to AOB, the AOB replied, asking if their statement was good enough, or whether they wanted to have an interview.  Others who lived on Yogi Bhajan’s home property and were part of his household day and night for years, and who knew his staff and the “comings and goings”, were not granted interviews.

Wouldn’t these people be the very ones who, someone conducting an investigation would want to question?  For example, the claims of group sex and orgies.  Wouldn’t these people most likely have seen or heard something?

The report dismisses these people, because some supposed claims happened behind closed doors.  However, if the behaviors described in the report had been happening over the decades of time that the accusers claim these behaviors happened, somewhere along the way, people would have “tripped up” and spilled the beans.  In as close knit of a community as we are, and with so many people who were around Yogi Bhajan day and night, someone would have heard something.

After their interviews, sometimes lasting for more than 1-2 hours, people voicing their support of Yogi Bhajan, or who had information to refute the claims, were simply asked these 2 questions at the end of their interview:

  • Did you ever see or hear of orgies taking place? The only reference any supporters had ever heard of about this, until this report came out, was in a slanderous article against our Dharma.
  • Even though we’ve heard Yogi Bhajan was a good person and helped many people, don’t you think there’s any way he was just a man who had certain needs?

Very few other, if any, probing questions relating to the claims, were asked of the supporters by the AOB interviewer.  Mostly, they just took any statements the supporters wanted to share and did not proactively ask questions.

On page 68, the report says,

“Even though many attended various gatherings to receive his teachings, not everyone was in his immediate, daily environment and so did not experience the proximity that the Reporters experienced.”)

Contrary to their effort at rewriting history, as if only the reporters were closest to Yogi Bhajan, AOB does not mention anywhere in their findings anything about supporters having the same “proximity”.  From what they say in the report, it would seem that the supporters are simply blindly following Yogi Bhajan, without having the same access and understandings as the accusers.  This is biased and simply not true.

On page 53, AOB states

As reported earlier in Section 7.1, Supporters’ interviews and statements also offered general refutations that questioned why Yogi Bhajan, as an evolved a human being, would want or need to engage in sexual relations with his students and that they themselves had never witnessed such behavior by their teacher.”

This question, which AOB asked of supporters, “questioned why Yogi Bhajan, as an evolved a human being, would want or need to engage in sexual relations with his students”. If the supporters never saw ANY acts of sexual misconduct and they truly believe in his integrity, then, yes, they would indeed refute the question.

If the goal was indeed to get to the truth, many questions could have been asked of Yogi Bhajan supporters, who were around him so much (i.e. did you ever see any indication of sexual abuse?  Did you ever see anyone working with Yogi Bhajan who was bruised and using makeup to disguise their bruises, etc.)? If these questions were asked, why are they not included in the report?

Time and again, supporters expressed that they did not feel that they were being taken seriously, that AOB had already made up their minds, and that it was a waste of their time to have participated in an interview.

Summary of What We Learned about AOB’s Process

  1. AOB did not require any proof of a person’s identity
  2. AOB did not require any corroboratory proof of any kind to the allegations people made to them.
  3. AOB did not truly investigate the allegations at all.
  4. AOB took everyone’s allegations as credible and true.
  5. AOB did not check any information provided to confirm or deny the credibility of the accuser.
  6. AOB did not verify whether the alleger/accuser ever even met Yogi Bhajan.
  7. AOB purposely did not include in its full report TO YOU (and the rest of the world), the volumes of information they had received, which seriously questioned the credibility of the claims.

Claims for Money

This following situation is not specifically related to the AOB report, but is relevant to the report, because it establishes a pattern of how claims have been handled throughout this process, whether directly through the AOB report, or through other claims brought against our organization.

The understanding by some people in our community is that they would receive money if they made complaints.  When asked directly, multiple people confirmed this was their understanding.

One adult, who was once a child attending MPA, recently made a claim that he was abused while attending MPA, and when offered, requested money for counselling.

He said that in conversations via social media channels, he was told he just had to say he was abused at MPA, summer solstice kids camp, or children’s camp after solstice, and he would receive money. “If you make a report of abuse to AOB, you’ll receive money”.  He said “why not?  It’s free money”.

Being part of the Listening Tour convinced him that he was an abuse victim and that he was wronged and deserved something.  He contacted AOB to say he was beat up and called names. After telling his story, AOB asked him, “Do you want to receive counselling?”  He said yes and he said he received a check.  He did not actually receive counselling.

He said he and his friends were told there is possibly more money coming in the future.  He also said that a lawyer is working on a lawsuit against the SSSC.   They are working on this through the “listening tours”.  He said “Old people are stupid.  We are recording their conversations at the listening tours and taking screen shots and building a case against the Dharma”.  Lawyers have told them that because the SSSC is making payments to the next gen for counselling, it is an “admission” of wrongdoing, and so it will help their case.

There was no ID check; he said he knew his ID would not be checked and no one would cross reference his story.  He received money; “Free money” for “counselling”.  He did not have to provide proof that counselling took place.

His understanding was that the money came from SSSC via AOB.  He said that the people receiving money are not supposed to talk about it; that they had to verbally agree to confidentiality.  He said he was breaking the agreement by admitting he was paid.  He would not say what amount he and others were paid.  Later, other people confirmed people are receiving $1200.

Interference in the Independence of the Investigation

Even if AOB was inclined to investigate the veracity of the claims, instead of just simply taking down stories at face value, they were told early on by the CRT that they could not look at social media.  This was a direct interference by the CRT into the independent “investigation” process.

When this was discovered, pressure was put on the CRT, that they were interfering with a supposed independent investigation.  Subsequently, as stated in section 5.4 of the report, (“Other Data Considered”), the CRT started providing AOB with “public postings gathered by a professional firm from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube about and from Reporters and Supporters”.

If the allegations are supposedly anonymous, how would the PR firm even know who the “Reporters and Supporters” were, they could look for information from accusers who had made their claims publicly, but what about the other accusers?  Instead of AOB having permission to freely review information themselves on social media, they had to rely on information provided to them by the PR firm.  How can a PR firm, who is not involved in the investigation, even know what information to look for?

Instead of AOB having permission to freely review information themselves on social media, they had to rely on information provided to them by the PR firm.  How can a PR firm, who is not involved in the investigation, even know what information to look for?

AOB was not allowed to collect their own data from social media.  This was clear interference with the “independence” of the “investigation”.  This is particularly troubling, since there was no representative of the accused and the claims were generally anonymous, so only AOB knew who was making what claims.  This means that there were very few resources available to them for corroboration of the stories.  The only options they seem to have used for cross reference as to the veracity of the claims was:

1.      people who knew both the accuser and the accused and somehow found out about the allegations (through social media, the April Khalsa Council meeting or through word of mouth, hearsay) and

2.      what was said on social media, which instead of looking for and accessing directly, was only shared with them by PR firm who, if confidentiality and anonymity were preserved, did not know what all of the claims were and who was making them.  Full access to social media could have provided AOB with information showing inconsistencies in stories, etc.

Time and again in the sections of findings of the report, AOB states

“In public social media made available to us, we found no confirmation or disconfirmation of these allegations…”

If AOB was putting so much weight of referring to social media in their findings, they should have had free reign to look for the information that only they knew to look for and not just what was fed to them, by a PR firm who was not privy to the full details of the investigation.

Misleading Information

In section 4, the report states

“that the SSSC Board of Trustees contracted with AOB to perform an internal investigation”.

This is an attempt to change the narrative, to make it seem that the requirement of AOB to be licensed (which they were not, and which means this report is actually ILLEGAL), can be discounted.  AOB did not perform an “internal” investigation.  They were an outside entity hired to do an “independent” “investigation”. An actual internal report would have been done by the EPS office.  AOB is not part of our organization, so therefore, they did not conduct an “internal” investigation.

Other mistruths have been conveyed by the SSSC.

Click here to see the response to mistruths in the SSSC follow up letter.

Statements of Bias which were out of the Scope of this “Investigation”

Accusing Our Community of Being a Cult

Why in an investigation regarding sexual misconduct, would AOB feel compelled to give a sociological evaluation of the organization as a whole, calling it a cult?

AOB claims that the reporters

“experiences conform to what authoritative sources list as characteristics of cults and how people are impacted in cult-like organizations.”  The authoritative source they quote is an Integrative Psychology Magazine 2015 article titled “Recovery from church, institutional, and cult abuse”.

By whose standard is this an authoritative source and what is this opinion doing in an investigation of sexual misconduct?

Waxing Philosophical Regarding Celibacy of Spiritual Teachers
Page 51 (7.5 A. Allegations), AOB states:

“Spiritual leaders’ practice of celibacy offers benefits for the communities they serve. When a spiritual leader is celibate, they are free to redirect their time and sexual vitality toward nurturing the development of their students and toward service in general.  By remaining celibate, they also free their students (and everyone else) from the potential frustration, disappointment, fear, clinging projections, jealousy, etc. that often attend sexual involvement.”

What is AOB doing here?  Lecturing the readers on what the benefits are of celibacy of spiritual leaders are?  Is AOB saying spiritual leaders cannot be married and still be spiritual leaders?  Who is AOB to opine whether a spiritual leader should be celibate or not?  This is outside of their scope of looking into the claims they were presented with.  It comes off as haughty and demonstrates a bias in their analysis of the information they were presented.

Lecturing Us About Our Values
AOB continues by saying:

“As indicated in Section 7.2.3, allegations about Yogi Bhajan’s behavior include many activities that, if true, would violate the Sikh ethical standards he preached and that are clearly delineated in Vow #14 of the Sikh vows. This vow promises celibacy before marriage and prohibits sex out of wedlock.”

Here AOB presumes to lecture our community on what our ethical standards are.  Again, this is beyond the scope of what they were hired to do and is presumptuous and disrespectful.

In conclusion, the report states:

“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?”

First of all, this question itself assumes the behavior actually happened.

Second, if there was supposedly a “code of silence” amongst the staff and they kept all of this a secret, then how would the community be unheeding them?

Third, claiming that it was “unheeded for such a long time in a community rooted in compassion” is patronizing and insinuates that our community knew about these supposed behaviors, ignored them and in doing so were not compassionate.  This is offensive and once again shows a large bias against not only the supporters, but others in the community, who also have only just recently heard of these claims.

These “questions for consideration” from AOB are insulting.  None of the claims in the report were proven and in fact, they were not even investigated to determine if they actually did happen.

The report goes on to say:

”Is such secrecy beneficial to the overall goals of3HO/ Sikh Dharma? Going forward, can the community rally around Yogi Bhajan’s own advice to “Follow the teachings, not the teacher?  Finally, we understand that accepting the findings of this report, that is, the likelihood that Yogi Bhajan engaged in sexual misconduct, will continue to be difficult for some individuals in the community. Nonetheless, we respectfully suggest that reconciling with this likely truth and the damage it has done to some of its own may be a way for 3HO/Sikh Dharma to move forward.”

This is disrespectful accusing our community of keeping secrets and using a statement by Yogi Bhajan to lecture us.  Suggesting “reconciling with this likely truth”, is mind-boggling advice from an organization who bungled this report in so many ways, as were have been detailed out in this document.

An Example of a Fair and Legal Investigative Report

It may be helpful for people to see an example of what a proper, fair and legal investigative report looks like.  One that is publicly available is an investigative report which was done for Shambhala, a spiritual organization, who went through an investigative process into allegations against their leader.  The Shambhala leadership had a proper, fair investigative report conducted by real investigators.

Here is a link to the Shambhala Investigative report, so you can see what a real investigative report looks like.

Accountability

The SSSC ignored the publicized flaws of the unfair and ultimately illegal investigation which were pointed out to them early on.  They should have taken the steps necessary to ensure that a proper and fair investigation was conducted.  Because of their missteps, we now have an illegal report which stemmed from an improper and error ridden process, which directly resulted in damaging the reputation of Yogi Bhajan.

This report and the damning conclusion that resulted was instigated, directed, and supported by the SSSC, even against direct evidence that it was unfair and illegal.  We need to hold its members accountable.  We deserve to know who on the board supported this action and who did not.  Unfortunately, the process by which the report was approved was determined to be “confidential”, and we are denied knowing who was responsible.  It has not even been made public if there were resignations from the board as a result.  It appears that the board is determined not to acknowledge dissent or differing opinions, even among its own members.  And all of this while espousing honesty and transparency of the process.

Being hypocritical does not generate trust.

My Point About the Report

As many know by now, “An Olive Branch” (Entity without any license or authorization to carry out investigations) has received from the CRT (Collaborative Response Team – 3HO, 3HO Europe, SSSC, KRI, SDI) the task of carrying out a independent investigation (… commissioned an independent organization, An Olive Branch – AOB, to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations …) in order to assess the reliability and validity of a series of accusations against Yogi Bhajan (abuses etc.).

 

Reading the recently released report, it is noted that:

 

– To protect the privacy of the people interviewed, a number is indicated (e.g. 86: Yogi Bhajan …), followed by the accusation against Yogi Bhajan.

 

– When third parties are involved, to protect their privacy, [Name] is indicated, followed by what these people would have done.

 

– At the end of each section reserved to the testimonies of the alleged victims, there are the conclusions assumed by AOB.

 

– In conclusion, there is a summary of the accusations against Yogi Bhajan and a series of suggestions that AOB gives to organizations referred to Yogi Bhajan’s teachings to deal with the whole situation (especially after the release of the report).

 

In summary, what do we really have in hand?

 

Here are some of my considerations, ergo “fallible”, and we could discuss them together…

 

The meaning of “Investigation” is: “Systematic activity, to establish the truth about certain facts”. “Establish the truth”.

 

As regard all that, something drew my attention. Whenever third persons appear in the accounts of the alleged victims (the “[Name]” indicated above), there is never a reference to a search for evidence by calling the [Name] to confirm or deny the accounts of the alleged victims.

It should be added that it is true that testimonies in favor of Yogi Bhajan were also collected in the report but, it is important to specify that, these testimonies never concerned the specific accusations made against Yogi Bhajan, but they are only comments regarding his person, his teachings and his works.

I ask to myself: what investigative activity has been carried out if, when third parties were involved in the facts reported, they were not asked to give their version?

 

Is it an investigative activity to collect and catalog a series of statements, without any subsequent verification?

Looking beyond, two sentences caught my attention, because they are practically always repeated when it comes to “conclusions”:

 

– “In public social media made available to us, we found no confirmation or disconfirmation of these allegations …”

 

– “… we have sufficient evidence to conclude it is more likely than not that Yogi Bhajan …”

And then I ask to myself: can a person’s credibility and reputation be so deeply stained by accusations whose validity has not been established even by those who carried out the whole investigation? In social media they have not found confirmation or denial of the accusations against Yogi Bhajan and, at most, they can go so far as to say that it is “more likely than not” that what was said has happened (a banal and obvious conclusion if one considers only the part of the alleged victims).

 

Overlooking the “small” detail that, in all this investigative activity, no space for reply has been given to those who represents Yogi Bhajan today, would these be the conclusions of a “systematic work to establish the truth of the facts”?

 

Are we sure that alleged victims and alleged perpetrators (Yogi Bhajan and some [Name] sometimes called into question as accomplices) have been treated in an absolutely impartial way, guaranteeing both of them the opportunity to offer their own version of the facts? How has this been or has not been done and why?

 

“An Olive Branch” has easily “dissociated” itself from this point: when we talk about “burden of proof” they write verbatim “Our charge was to evaluate all the evidence for a specific complaint and to apply a specific standard of proof, not to determine that the allegations were ‘true’ or ‘false’…”

 

“Not to determine that the allegations were true or false”??? What??? So what is the use of an investigation if it does not help determine if the allegations are true or false???

It is fundamental to know what “More likely than not” means for An Olive Branch ; is clearly explained: “… means that the claims is at least 50,01% likely to have occurred” … and they continue (to “unmark” definitively) reiterating that “This finding is not the same as a finding that an allegation is true or that the accuser is telling the truth”.

 

The CRT has commissioned an investigation into events that will have repercussions on thousands of people and we are satisfied with a “maybe-truth” (not because I define it as such, but because it is the one the investigators gave, and it has been well paid! – we are talking about 3- $ 500,000 – to investigate clearly and unambiguously, it states) and is this disclosed without any further verification?

 

Who benefits from all this?

 

If you were Yogi Bhajan, how would we feel?

Let’s try to imagine how we would feel if we were faced with infamous accusations and, without any form of contradictory, the investigator publicly declares that “it is more likely than not” that we are guilty (obvious outcome, given that only a part has been heard) – even if those who publicly expose us as “guilty” state that they are unable to determine if the allegations are true or false .

 

What will people remember? Our guilt, our perversion or the footnotes that the investigator has inserted to discharge any responsibility for her own action?

All of this, how does it have to do with the “striving for the truth” that should be one of the goals, if not the main one, of a community that draws on millenary teachings that aim at growth as individuals and as a “group” in awareness and consciousness?

I’m not a lawyer, but as a simple reader it’s clear that something “strange” is really going on. Just my 2 cents!

Many blessings!
Sujan S.(Roma, Italia)