Gabor Maté and Sat Dharam Kaur’s statement on Yogi Bhajan in response to our up-coming, multi-day Compassionate Inquiry event

Statement from Gabor:

To all those who have expressed your shock and dismay at the thought that I, or any program I am associated with, has anything to do with Yogi Bhajan, his organization 3HO, or with any Kundalini Yoga group:

First, I thank you for posting your concerns. In response, please know:

1. I am fully aware that Yogi Bhajan was a spiritual charlatan, an exploiter, manipulator, profiteer, and sexual abuser. He belongs to a long line of opportunists who turn their spiritual power into a means of feeding their egoic desires, causing untold harm to their vulnerable followers. Such people are to be found in many lineages, both Eastern and Western, and more such instances are uncovered each year—for example, Shambala most recently. For those interested in my exploration of this phenomenon, please see the YouTube discussion with spiritual teacher Adyashanti: (the discussion about trauma begins at about 42:00, of spiritual leaders exploiting their followers, at c. 50:00)

2. I have never had any personal connection with or interest in Bhajan’s organization. I am also neither a practitioner nor teacher of Kundalini Yoga, nor an advocate for it. Although I do (in a modest way) follow a yoga practice, I don’t find Kundalini practice personally inviting, hence am in no position to recommend it. I am also in no position to advise against it. Many people find it helpful, as I have witnessed.

3. My good friend Sat Dharam Kaur, a Kundalini teacher, helped to develop Compassionate Inquiry. Thanks to her devotion to CI and her organizational skills, over the past two years CI has been studied by well over one thousand health care practitioners in seventy-seven countries. Sat Dharam has experienced the practices of KY personally life-sustaining, hence was all the more agonized and appalled when the truth about her teacher Yogi Bhajan’s crimes was revealed. She has publicly said so. I acknowledge Sat Dharam’s integrity in recognizing the harms done by a teacher she had, at one time, revered. I have no judgment on her decision to continue her particular yoga discipline.

4. Kundalini is not a formal part of CI. Sat Dharam offers optional breath and related exercises to participants on a completely voluntary basis. No one is demanded or expected to follow these—I certainly do not, as I make clear to participants. Many are grateful for these yoga exercises; many other CI participants do not choose to take part in them.

5. In no aspect of Compassionate Inquiry is Yogi Bhajan or his organization ever mentioned positively or recommended; on the contrary, we have publicly spoken to our students about his deplorable actions. In my view, the leadership of his organization—despite their public avowals in wake of the scandal and despite their stated intentions, however well-meant—have still not taken full responsibility for their long-time blindness and coverup. I believe they have lacked the emotional maturity and strength to do so.

6. Sat Dharam will make her own response, as she has already done elsewhere. She is someone I completely trust.

7. I am open to continuing this dialogue with anyone wishing to engage in it.

Thanks again for your attention, participation in this discussion, and above all, for your commitment to the truth.

Gabor Maté

Statement from Sat Dharam Kaur:

Thank you for sharing your dismay and concern that Gabor should be associating with someone, such as myself, who practices kundalini yoga and was once a student of Yogi Bhajan.

Like you, I was shocked, disgusted and horrified when I learned of his actions, and the cover-up by individuals within the organization. I understand the pain of betrayal, loss and disillusionment.

My own journey had me examine my relationship to a teacher and teachings, my motivations for spiritual practice, and to evaluate the effects of that practice. That lead me to the realization that the greatest teacher is within me (and each one of us) and that the relationship I have with that teacher is what matters most. I continue to cultivate that relationship and am guided by it. I also recognize that I feel much better, more connected, whole, energized, intuitive and at peace when I practice kundalini yoga than when I don’t. It works for me. To allow a dead man’s actions or anyone else to take that sustenance away from me would be a disempowerment and disservice to myself. Kundalini yoga existed long before Yogi Bhajan. It does not belong to him or any organization, but to those who choose to practice it.

I do not represent an organization. I am myself – someone who has chosen to live as a Sikh and align with a set of values and a discipline that was modelled by Guru Nanak, and includes equality, inclusion, acceptance, non-dualism, faith, devotion and a search for truth.

My efforts to support Gabor’s work come from a desire to:

1. Recognize the trauma I experienced as a child, the coping strategies I employ, and the parts of myself that I suppress.

2. Help others to know themselves better, and be more compassionate towards themselves, through the use of Compassionate Inquiry.

3. Create a global network of Compassionate Inquiry Practitioners so that we can help people heal from trauma before they act out to hurt themselves or others

4. Bring this work into organizations and institutions so that society as a whole becomes kinder, more aware, and responsible.

There is a tremendous need at this time for humanity to heal, accept differences, take responsibility for our actions, beliefs and projections, and move towards repairing what has been dysfunctional, broken, distorted, disconnected and unsustainable. It is fulfilling for me to work within myself and with others to help facilitate this.

Sat Dharam Kaur

7 thoughts on “Gabor Maté and Sat Dharam Kaur’s statement on Yogi Bhajan in response to our up-coming, multi-day Compassionate Inquiry event”

  1. Thank you Both for addressing the concerns directly.

    Your clear public statements clear up the issue for me and many others.

    A number of students of yours Sat Dharam Kaur spoke up and stared clearly that you have been supporting the Survivors since the allegations came out and after the report.

    Thank you for making such clear public statements

    Sincerely Al Reford
    Victoria BC Canada

  2. Thank both of you for your clear and honest responses! This is the Tao towards the future where we self correct as we proceed into the light and healing of the entire Gestalt of this dream.

  3. Teri Jo Wheeler

    Wonderfully stated – both of you. Thank you. And thank you for your meaningful, heartfelt work in the world.

  4. Thank you for the responses Gabor’ and Sat Dharam this helps me understand better. I was very curious to read the comments and responses here but don’t see any. Am I failing somehow to access them ?

  5. Sat Bir Kaur Khalsa

    Dear Sat Dharam Kaur, thank you so much for your words, thoughts and caring concern for all of us…I was so delighted when you visited Summer Solstice so many years ago after publication of your work on breast health. I love so much that you grew into your heart, your integrity and such a blessed and grateful path to share with the world.

  6. While I sense pure intentions here, there is one point in the statement of Sat Dharam Kaur that still feels uncomfortable to me and drives me to react. Yes, it is true that Kundalini Yoga existed long before Yogi Bhajan. It was described in the Tantra’s. In his book ‘The Serpent Power – The Secrets of Tantric and Shaktic Yoga’, Arthur Avalon (Sir John Woodroffe) describes this Kundalini Yoga in a language understandable to us. That ancient yoga has nothing to do with the yoga style Yogi Bhajan introduced in the West. In 2013 historian Philip Deslippe explained all this in his ‘From Maharaj to Mahan Tantric’ article: how Yogi Bhajan created his yoga taking bits and pieces here and there and adding his own sauce. Therefore, to be respectful towards the old teachings, it would be better to call his creation: Bhajan Yoga, as that is what it is. Many very positive testimonies exist about the practice of ‘Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan’ (best alternative for Bhajan Yoga), that is true. The question is if people will still have similar experiences if they know the full truth about the man who created it. If they hear or read about the diverse and complex traumas that he initiated and about the traumatized people whom he used and abused. The most conscious thing teachers can do is to be fully transparent to their students about the history of the techniques they offer. And then the students can choose whether or not they can separate the teachings from the teacher. That’s why dear Sat Dharam Kaur, I wanted to add this comment. Thank you for listening and enjoy your beautiful work. I do hope it spreads widely.

  7. Susan Templeton

    Thank you Dr. Mate and Dr. Kaur,

    As any student of any teacher can tell you, it is the message that matters and how we take our learnings to heart. It is said the Buddha once had a novice who traveled with him who was very bad mannered, made terrible food and complained bitterly about everything. When someone asked the Buddha why he kept this novice around given all his faults and shortcomings; the Buddha is said to have smiled and said ‘good practice’.

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