But I keep coming back to one aspect of the story, 'five young woman came forward and spoke up' and yet when I look at the response it seems a modern exercise in damage limitation. I find I'm still not satisfied and wonder what would satisfy me, a Mea culpa from Kausthub himself perhaps.
Ongoing updates added to the bottom of this post as any relevant information comes in, see also here http://yogasentinel.wordpress.com
Having a blog that's been around for a while, I do tend to get passed certain things, these can be exciting, Krishnamacharya's Yogasangalu, the 1930's Krishnamacharya heart stopping article, Krishnamacharya's lecture notes (?) Salutations to the Teacher and the Eternal one, Nancy Gilgoff's 1970's Ashtanga Syllabus.... but there are also disturbing things too, pictures, video's, anecdotes, letters etc. What to do with these, many are old news that have been dealt with in the past but some...?
When I received information on the recent "varying allegations of sexual, mental and emotional abuse against Dr. Kaustaub Desikachar" my first inclination was to post, my second to wait and see if KYM and KHYF 'cleaned house' my third inclination, when it seemed that the issue was being handled, managed, behind close doors' on members-only private sections, was to pass the information I had along to sites with more experience dealing in such allegations and with a broader readership, Huffington Post, Elephant Journal, Yogadork etc, others it seems did the same.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this story is that the current allegations against Kausthub Desikachar do not seem to have been an isolated incident, the letter A Ranganathan includes with his own by Saraswathi V dates back to 2007 and yet Kausthub Desikachar was allowed to continue teaching one on one and to control and guide the direction of KYM and KHYF.
If it's true that In the practice of yoga we put ourselves in vulnerable positions, whether it be in allowing physical hands on adjustments to postures, or in stripping away layers of our ego structures, as we question who and what we are or even what it means to ask such questions, how do we ensure the integrity of the environment in which we do so?
I came across this notification on the KYM (Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram) website this morning and was wondering about the benefits of a board of trustees over centralised control.
I'd thought for sometime that perhaps something similar to the KYM Trustee structure might have been an option for Ashtanga and KPJAYI with the passing of Sri K Pattabhi Jois given the growth of the 'style' and the growing number of Authorised teachers and International visitors to the Mysore shala. Would a board of trustee structure more or less effectively ensure and protect the future of Ashtanga?
If we look at the letter dating back to 2007 that A Ranganathan includes with his own below, A board of trustees doesn't seem to have been that effective in the case of KYM. How do you ensure a strong Board of Trustees that wont be bullied, intimidated or manipulated, it's members forced out or pushed to one side. Is a Steering Committee (post John Friend Anusara) more or less effective, can we merely rely on family and friends to advise us, how do we ensure that we listen, that we will always listen?
Here's the notification on KYM's website
And the earlier notification from KHYF concerning the "varying allegations of sexual, mental and emotional abuse against Dr. Kaustaub Desikachar". Published on yogadork and it's all yoga baby blogs plus responses ay YogawithNadine and at AdoreYoga, comment threads are on going on all these posts.
A student of Sri. Desikachar from the late 1960s.
I am writing this letter with disappointment and pain that the rich tradition of Yogacharya T. Krishnamacharya has been tarnished by his grandson, Kausthub Desikachar.
On 22nd September 2012, KHYF sends out a news letter with the following statement:
The Krishnamachraya Healing and Yoga Foundation has been made aware of the varying allegations of sexual, mental and emotional abuse against Dr. Kausthub Desikachar .
Upholding this tradition and approach in the field of Yoga and Therapy, The Krishnamachraya Healing and Yoga Foundation are taking these allegations very seriously
The admission of guilt of Kausthub Desikachar was forced out because of the following:
1.The recent letter sent by Sriram, one of the seniormost teachers of yoga
As you may be already aware, 5 young women from different European countries and the USA have lodged a complaint with the police in Austria, charging Kausthub with sexual, mental and emotional harassment and of misuse of his offices as yoga mentor in private 1 to 1 sessions. They are part of a Therapist – training programme being conducted by KHYF in Austria.The entire group of 49 participants is uniformly and unitedly backing the 5 women, four of whom have laid the complaint with the police. The complaint has now also gone to the Interpol as well as to the police of the European Union.
2. This was followed shortly by a newsletter in UK:
Dear KHYF UK members
It is with deep sadness that we are sending this email. A scandal is breaking - has broken - around Kausthub. He has been accused of abuse, sexual, emotional and spiritual. He is full of remorse and shame and is seeking help from different directions, to change his behaviour.
Sd. Gill and Sarah
3. And a newsletter in North America:
Dear KHYF-NA Members,
As KHYF Teacher Trainers and long term direct students of Mr. T.K.V. Desikachar, we feel a responsibility to address the situation that has recently occurred in Europe involving Kausthub’s behavior with female students.
Last Friday, four women from the European KHYF Yoga Therapist Training filed formal complaints with the police in Austria accusing Kausthub of sexual, mental and emotional abuse. The allegations include the misuse of his position as a yoga
Sd. Sonia Nelson, Chase Bossart, Kate Holcombe and Dolphi Wertenbaker
I would like to repeat the sentence from the KHYF newsletter ( apart from the fact that they have mis-spelt Sri.Krishnamacharya’s name twice ):
Upholding this tradition and approach in the field of Yoga and Therapy, The Krishnamachraya Healing and Yoga Foundation are taking these allegations very seriously
This is what they should have done in July 2007, when V.Saraswathi wrote a detailed letter to Sri.Desikachar. I have copied the entire letter at the end , but I would like to highlight very serious and important points raised by Saraswathi:
1. At many points in these 17 years I have been confronted with dishonesty, lies, lack of transparency, control, authority, and immense fear!
2. MANY people have been brainwashed to believe and blindly follow this young, reckless "saviour of lives" whose behaviour is a perfect antithesis to the tenets of yoga.
3. – in the guise of a teacher trying to "solve" their emotional problems. These poor, gullible students have been forced, manipulated and seduced to believe that all that he did to them was in their best interest.
4. By condoning his actions, I have also been responsible for perpetuating the suffering of so many students, especially women! I have so often questioned my own value system and even felt a loss of self-respect and dignity.
5. I am writing this with the hope that some change will come, for the good of this Institution, your father's teachings, your reputation
Saraswathi has had the courage to speak out and risked being ostracized. I have heard that several teachers have suffered this over the years.
Having been one of Desikachar’s oldest students and having helped out with the start of KYM, I felt it is my duty to speak out. I was not aware of Saraswathi’s letter until a few days back. When Kausthub plagiarized the English translation of Yogamakaranda, done by Lakshmi and Nandini, he was forced to withdraw the first edition after he was confronted with evidence. In a meeting in a former trustee, Suresh Rao’s house, Kausthub, put on a show of remorse and begged for forgiveness. We realized his deceitful nature when he misrepresented facts on the KHYF website.
It hurts me that Sri. Desikachar, a stickler for discipline and ethical behaviour among his students and teachers, turned a blind eye to his own son’s unpardonable misdemeanors.
Kausthub’s behaviour is not new and it is ingrained in him, going by the letter of 2007. A person of this nature should not be permitted to teach Yoga , let alone represent an institution that bears Sri Krishanamarya’s name.. Sri. Krishnamacharya’s teachings belong to the entire yoga community and not just to the family. Merely asking Kausthub to step down but control the working of KYM, would not solve the issue. It is important to help out all the women who have suffered from his ruthless exploitation and abuse and his other forms of deceit. Only then will the statement “Upholding this tradition and approach in the field of Yoga and Therapy” have any meaning.
Kausthub does not require sympathy, having direct access to Krishnamacharya’s traditions and teachings. All those women students who were exploited and abused by him are the ones who need the support and sympathy. It is a pity that the other women teachers and trustees of KYM, who were aware of the happenings in 2007, remained silent spectators and not support a brave woman, Saraswathi when she spoke out.
Saraswathi’s letter written to Sri Desikachar in July 2007 included as an attachment by A Ranganathan to the letter above, "I have copied the entire letter at the end ", circulated and sent to the press with, I'm assuming, her permission.
My Most Respected Teacher,
It is with much pain I write this letter to you, to the person I hold in such high esteem and reverence ever since I met you as a twenty one year old novice seventeen years ago. But things have come to a point that I have to speak my heart. I hope my teacher will reflect on this deeply because it concerns the future of KYM, KHYF and the future of your father's teachings.
I have decided to leave KYM and this tradition. I made this decision about 10 days ago. I had submitted my resignation to Kausthub and SS Sir citing reasons for doing so, largely based on my family circumstances. While all that I communicated at that point is the truth, the real reasons for my wanting to leave this tradition after 17 years of 200% loyalty to the teacher and teachings was not revealed because I was not ready to do that yet. Now I am ready to speak, from my heart, for myself and for so many people who have been loyal to this tradition and you, and who now feel completely disillusioned and cheated.
Sir, you have always said that you are proud of the KYM team that is so dedicated and strong. I have been a member of this team till today and feel privileged to have been a channel of healing for many people while healing myself and evolving as a better human being. The abundant care and generosity you embody, the valuable teachings you have shared with us, and the strong example of Vairagyam you stand for have actually kept all of us bound to you, as if, for eternity. But there comes a point when the very teachings
I come from a humble background but my parents taught us to live a life of honesty and integrity. At many points in these 17 years I have been confronted with dishonesty, lies, lack of transparency, control, authority, and immense fear! Perhaps that was the way it was meant to be in this tradition – a teacher student relationship where Sraddha is rooted in fear and attachment. We were taught not to question the teacher, we had to "demonstrate" loyalty and Sraddha and believe that WHATEVER the teacher does to you is for your good. Every action of your teacher is going to take you to less Avidya and more clarity. The teacher is always right and if we question or doubt it, our perception is faulty or we do not have enough Sraddha! I have lived my life in KYM for these long years following this dictum to the letter. I do not regret my decisions or beliefs because what I have gained from you in the form of teachings and healing is immeasurable. But looking back, I do see some very dark holes... and there is so much pain because I have been in a spell of illusion, especially in the recent years. I now choose to disbelieve the "belief" that "the teacher is always right", "the teacher can never be questioned".
I have now come to understand - the unarguable truth – from many people who have been exploited by Kausthub in the Sanga. Actually there is no Sanga! The real connection in this Sanga is based on fear and delusion. The truth is that this Sanga has some of the most unhappy people who feel trapped in the "Spider's Web", full of fear, insecurity and rage. Some are still so blind and deluded to believe that with all the "pushing of the buttons", "all the pressure", the carbon will one day turn into diamond! Stepping back, I am able to see the extent to which SO MANY people have been brainwashed to believe and blindly follow this young, reckless "saviour of lives" whose behaviour is a perfect antithesis to the tenets of yoga. Have I misunderstood the meaning of the Sutra "tatra dhyanajam anasayam"?
I have been listening to some of the women students of Kausthub and the atrocities committed by him, to what extent he has transgressed their personal boundaries and invaded their lives – in the guise of a teacher trying to "solve" their emotional problems. These poor, gullible students have been forced, manipulated and seduced to believe that all that he did to them was in their best interest. I have seen you "demonstrate" Aparigraha but Kausthub has clearly demonstrated "parigraha" and is reinventing the meaning of the word "Brahmacarya".
Some have woken up and some are still in a slumber. Perhaps, they have much in stake: fear of authority, financial entanglements with KHYF, true thirst for knowledge which they still "believe" can come only from being in Kausthub's Sanga and above all, blind faith in this teacher because he is Sri Krishnamacharya's grandson and Sri Desikachar's son!!
What I see in all this is that Kausthub needs HELP! He, more than any of his sick students, needs therapy. Please help him Sir, refer him to a good therapist who can save
I also take responsibility for this situation. People like me have often felt uncomfortable with the very obvious inconsistencies in Kausthub but remained silent with a hope that he will one day become more mature and evolve! But how long can students wait for the teacher to evolve? By condoning his actions, I have also been responsible for perpetuating the suffering of so many students, especially women! I have so often questioned my own value system and even felt a loss of self-respect and dignity. Probably it is the fear that has been so deeply instilled in all of us, or the attachment to you, my teacher. Also, Kausthub has always treated me with great love and respect and I have always treated him like my younger brother. But that is not an excuse for me to remain blind and silent.
Today, many people like me feel disappointed, manipulated and a deep sense of despair. I am moving out. I may even be blamed and branded as an "unfaithful", "ungrateful" student. You may even want to send me on a pilgrimage for the sacrilege I am committing by writing this letter. But I am writing this with the hope that some change will come, for the good of this Institution, your father's teachings, your reputation and for Kausthub. I feel the future of this living tradition lies only in your hands, your discretion and fair judgment.
You may want to consider these suggestions:
Taking moral responsibility for all that is happening (in the name of teacher-student relationship & "heart-to-heart" connection), you may want to consider whether Kausthub should continue as Executive Trustee. KYM is a 31 year-old healthy adult, well nourished by you and the excellent team of teachers and staff. KYM can continue independent of KHYF and evolve as a model Institute for this tradition.
Evolve strict codes of conduct for all teachers and students of KHYF that has to be communicated to all the KHYF members. Very specific rules that cannot be twisted or turned in any manner by whomsoever concerned.
Ensuring the one-to-one healing environment is absolutely safe for a female student if the mentor is a man.
Demystifying the concept of "rituals" that is so much used and misused in this tradition.
Contextualising healing – to happen only in class room situation.
KHYF should have a Redressal Forum consisting of senior members of this tradition who have clean reputation, high level of honesty and integrity, who can address any issues brought to them by any member of the KHYF with fairness; where people can seek justice without fear.
Decentralisation can be the only solution if authority cannot be handled with responsibility and maturity.
These are only my humble suggestions. You may be aware that things have gone too far, and will take their own course. Before you take any action, you may want to reflect and see what you would do if any teacher belonging to KYM or KHYF is alleged of such a behaviour. As a person coming from this tradition, I would not want people to point fingers at you for following double standards.
I thank you for all the generosity and care you have showered on me through all these years. My path is now different; my conscience does not permit me to stay here any longer. I will continue to allow myself to be guided by the teachings and practices I have received from you Sir and remain, forever, grateful to you.
In deep gratitude,
July 24, 2007
UPDATE 1. 12/10/12
My follow up post
Kausthub Desikachar's KHYF sexuality course condemned by AG Mohan
UPDATE 2. 17/10/12
Below is a public letter from Sriram a long time student of TKV Desikachar and KYM, outlining details concerning the current allegations against Kausthub Desikachar.
Before reading that letter however you may like to take a look at this post by Scott Thotts, a former student of Kausthub Desikachar and the KHYF
And the letter from Sriram
UPDATE 3. 18/10/12
And this blog post from someone within KHYF, discussing how this could have been allowed to happen, as well as relating the how the news began to break.
Awakening is not Genetic
The most disturbing section of the post perhaps, is this email
"Then recently all Mentorees received a letter from Kausthub’s personal email, which states that he has taken a ‘break from teaching.’
Owing to present circumstances, I have decided to take a break from teaching. With this in mind, you might wish to consider an alternate mentor from the KHYF registry to continue your yoga journey.
However, the other option is to wait and as soon as circumstances become clear then I will be in contact again to further discuss mentorship.
I regret the inconvenience and concern this has caused.
Not only did this reveal that the Kausthub still has some power, enough for the school to let this email slide through. As well, this letter made it obvious that in his illness, he remains in denial of the whole issue, thinking he’ll be back teaching, and unaware of the detrimental consequences of his actions".
When I did finally decide that I wanted to post on this, that there seemed to be an exercise in damage limitation going on at KHYF and KYM, and that Kausthub Desikachar would be seeking to return to teaching when things had died down ( I was correct in this, see Update 3 above). I contacted Elephant Journal again, because of their broader readership, to see if they would like to publish this post as an article. Below is the response from Waylon Lewis of Elephant Journal
"So this has already been all over Yogadork or other sites for more than a week? No need to publish on elephant, then? We're a far larger site than Yogadork, and far less concerned with gossip...if we published this, it would be with responsible reluctance and careful positioning of facts and allegations. If it's already out there, elephant's not necessary to this. We do not consider ourselves to be grouped with sites that revel in this kind of thing.
Instead they decided to go with stories like "Should my yoga teacher get a boob job" and "Yoga for hangovers".
UPDATE 5 19/10/2012
Email update from KHYF this morning
UPDATE 6 19/10/12
UPDATE 7 31/10/12
On 31 Oct 2012, at 15:08, Chase Bossart wrote:
Thank you for supporting the letter that was sent to the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram (KYM). Altogether, 134 of us signed the letter!
It was good to see the announcement from the Mandiram (KYM) explaining that the organization:
- is a Non-Profit, Public and Charitable Trust,
- has cut all ties with Kausthub, and
- has not had, and never will have, any involvement with any activities of the KHYF.
It was also useful to see the Krishnamacharya Healing and Yoga Foundation (KHYF) email stating that it is a private business and explaining its ownership. Both emails are attached to this email.
As teacher trainers and mentors, we have been in communication with many of you privately and it appears that the distinction between the KYM and KHYF as well as the steps each has taken to address the current situation was not clear to everyone. In response to the kinds of questions we have been asked on an individual basis, we felt the need to present the following clarifying information to the larger association of KHYF North American students and teachers.
The difference between the Mandiram (KYM) and the KHYF is that the former is a non-profit clinic and the later a for-profit certification body. The Mandiram (KYM), which has been a charitable trust since its founding by Mr. Desikachar in 1976, is primarily a yoga therapy clinic where the majority of the classes are one-on-one yoga therapy sessions. In addition, the Mandiram also offers individual yoga & chanting classes, educational programs including teacher trainings, clinical internships, and publishes a few books.
The KHYF, which was created as a private business in 2006, primarily serves as the body issuing KHYF certifications, overseeing the accreditation of yoga teacher training programs and providing yoga therapist and vedic chanting teacher trainings. It also publishes a number of books under its publishing division, Media Garuda.
Kauthub has been the executive director and owner of KHYF since its inception. In light of the serious allegations against Kausthub, many people expressed concern that their KHYF certification and training monies may be financially supporting Kausthub (no monies paid to the Mandiram go to Kausthub). Accordingly, the KHYF announced a number of administrative steps attempting to alleviate these concerns (email announcements are attached).
Some of the steps that have been taken by the KHYF are:
Kausthub has stepped down from his position as executive director of KHYF, and in his place appointed his secretary, Anupama Das, as the director in-charge. (September 21st)
Kausthub transferred ownership of the KHYF from himself to his mother and his father who, due to an ongoing health condition, is unable to actively participate in any aspect of the KHYF administration or teaching. (October 19th)
Kausthub sent an email to his mentees notifying them that he had “decided to take a break from teaching… and [they] might wish to consider an alternative mentor…” but that “…as soon as circumstances become clear that [he] will be in contact again to further discuss mentorship.” (October 9th)
These steps leave the relationship between Kausthub and the KHYF basically intact and we have no assurance that Kausthub’s influence on the organization or his financial benefit from it will be lessened. Unless further concrete steps are immediately taken toward this assurance, the KHYF will not be capable of providing education, oversight and certification that reflects the high standards and international reputation of the teachings of Śri Krishnamacharya and Mr. TKV Desikachar. Consequently, at this time, KHYF is not a viable professional organization.
At the same time, we, as well as others, remain committed to passing on these wonderful teachings and to supporting each other and our community as we move forward. The Mandiram (KYM) is also currently discussing ways that they can provide support to the members of our tradition. We appreciate that support and will continue to maintain close ties with the Mandiram and will continue to support and help the Mandiram in anyway that we can.
In the long term, we recognize the need for a new organizational structure that preserves and passes on the tradition of Śri Krishnamacharya and Mr. TKV Desikachar’s teachings, issues certifications, determines accreditations, etc. We would like the input of all the members of our community in North America to help decide how to proceed. We would like to suggest the creation of a committee to begin this discussion. If you are interested in organizing or serving on this committee, or would just like to be informed of the work of the committee as its proceeds, please send an email toHealingYogaAmerica@gmail.com. Please include any comments and also tell us your location.
In the short term, we recognize that some of you have concerns regarding your current certification. If you are currently a KHYF certified teacher or teacher trainer, you can be certified by Yoga Alliance through the Healing Yoga Foundation in San Francisco. If you would like to know more about this, please send an email toHealingYogaAmerica@gmail.com. This will also be possible for those in the middle of a KHYF accredited training program which is not directly administered by the KHYF but taught by KHYF Teacher Trainer(s), once you finish the program. The Healing Yoga Foundation in San Francisco is a 501(c)3 Non-Profit Corporation under the governance of the Tides Center Foundation and has no affiliation to either the KHYF or the Mandiram.
We are also investigating a similar possibility through the Healing Yoga Foundation’s association with the IAYT for those who have completed the KHYF Yoga Therapy training. We are in the beginning stages of gathering information for setting up the procedures required to implement this process and we will keep you informed of the progress as it happens.
We look forward to hearing from you in the near future.
Chase Bossart, Kate Holcombe, Amy Wheeler, Anita Claney, Dolphi Wertenbaker & Sonia Nelson
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