Saturday, October 27, 2012

More disappointed with KYM than with Kausthub

I finally got around to digging into the now well known accusations (sexual / emotional / mental) against Mr. Kausthub Desikachar. I write this with great disappointment and with a very heavy heart. In this entire episode, I am more disappointed with KYM than with Mr. Kausthub.

If you are not well acquainted with this issue, here are some links. They will provide you most of the information that you need. Some of the links are also opinion pieces. Hence, take everything in the links with a pinch of salt. Some of the facts in these links are not very precise but they are mostly immaterial to the discussion at hand. Hence, kindly ignore these minor inaccuracies.

Despite all the obvious flaws that were evident in KYM's functioning from my day one there (like authoritative hierarchy, unwanted secrecy, fawning on guru etc...), KYM was always one institute that was close to my heart. Despite their weakness, they still had lot of good things about them (which are difficult to sustain in an Indian context). For example, it was a public trust but still had the efficiency of private firms. For more than 25 years, they functioned out of a hut, they have trained countless number of people in yoga thereby directly contributing heavily to the well being of countless families and individuals. This was quite impressive to me. But, all this has now changed. KYM, in an obvious attempt at mere damage control, are trying to sever all contact with Mr. Kausthub and by doing so, they have the gumption to claim that they are upholding the principles of Yoga.

In a recent announcement sent to many people on their listserve, they have claimed
"The Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram has never had and never will have any involvement with any activities of the KHYF."

They may choose to never have any relationship in the future but the part about not having any relationship in the past is a blatant lie. I have personally seen many teachers from KYM teaching at KHYF. Not just teaching at the KHYF office in chennai, but also travelling abroad on behalf of KHYF. In addition, all students who finished the teacher training course at KYM were asked to register as a yoga teacher with KHYF by paying $200 (was made $170 for us-  which urs truly paid to KHYF). In fact, the studies department and vedic chanting classes at KYM were brought to an end (except for therapeutic purposes) and were all set to be moved to KHYF. I have witnessed these things personally and hence I am not sure what to make of such a blatant lie.

All the more worrying is the attempt by KYM to amputate Kausthub from itself and claim that the gangrene has disappeared. This is simply day dreaming. KYM is the process that has the produced Kausthub with all his problems in his present state. The attempt to separate the end result from the process is verily anti-yoga. Kausthub is indeed a product of the authoritatively hierarchical and guru-fawning culture at KYM! If a sincere attempt is to be made to cleanse the system, then KYM must be a part of the cleansing process.

To begin with, the senior teachers need to own up moral responsibility for their omissions and commissions. Starting from Mr. Desikachar, there is a need for all the senior teachers at KYM to give heart felt true and genuine answers. Unfortunately, Mr. Desikachar may not be in a mental state right now to be able to do this. But, other senior teachers can step in and will have to do some soul searching on the front. The biggest questions that cry for answers from my limited understanding of the situation are:
  • What was the action taken upon the letter given by Ms. Saraswathi 5 years ago to Shri Desikachar?
  • Despite Mr. Kausthub starting his own private for-profit yoga institute, why was he allowed to continue to be a director at KYM? Is this not serious conflict of interest?
  • Why were many of Mr. Kausthubs misdemeanour's not caught at an early stage?

Only at KYM I got introduced to the yoga sutras. One of the sutras in the second chapter says,
te pratiprasava heyah sukshmah

This simply means, nip the problem in the bud. Why were all the senior teachers who are all extremely well versed in the yoga sutras unable to implement this when it came to the actions of Mr. Kausthub?

Will there every be any heart felt sincere response to this episode from KYM? I guess not. From my experience, whenever I have pointed out some issue with some traditional system (not just KYM or Yoga), I have met with response, "Its the systems bad time that even novices like you dare to question them". Obviously, such an attitude will not help. Questions should be dispensed with on the merit of the questions instead of the scholarly aptitude of the questioner.

It is possible that KYM wants to protect themselves in order to preserve the valuable tradition so painstakingly built by Shri Krishnamacarya and Shri Desikachar over many decades of tireless efforts. Hopefully, they are doing all the needed self analysis to figure out why this happened. If such is the case, hopefully they will share with us the details in due course of time. Only when the senior teachers demonstrate such high moral responsibility, will I personally call it upholding the high principles of Yoga!

Jiddu Krishnamurthi had adviced Mr. Desikachar as a young adult, "Sir, dont become a guru, dont exploit, dont become rich.". JK had said this to many countless people of course! I have never met Mr. Desikachar in a personal conversation. But the culture at KYM certainly is not free of the culture of the authoritatively hierarchical guru! Many times in the past, I had taken this culture lightly though there will be some internal resistance from me towards it. But, episodes like this push me towards taking a increasingly blatant anti-guru stand. The hierarchy of guru-shishya comes with a power disparity and that is a healthy breeding ground for such exploitation. This needs to cease if yoga is to be given a chance to guide us towards sanity. This is a very big lesson that I have learnt through observing all that is being played out.


SimpleYogi said...

Extremely well written article and I fully agree with what you have said .Since u have studied at KYM itself you know better how things work there .
I went through some of your other articles in this blog and they are well written .I will read the rest later .Keep it up .

Anonymous said...

Brilliant Partha! I don't know who you are, my salutations to you! Finally an Indian speaking up! What a relief!

SimpleYogi said...

Jiddu Krishnamurthi had adviced Mr. Desikachar as a young adult, "Sir, dont become a guru, dont exploit, dont become rich.". JK had said this to many countless people of course!

Yes JK said this to Desikachar as well as many people but except for few not many listen to it because to follow that you need to be nobody and be a common simple person but people want to become somebody and in the quest to become somebody you end up violating the rules of Yoga and end up in a mess like this .

SV said...

A senior teacher's personal exchange with me as response to this article:

"for the very first time, kym is acting without the direct pressure or influence of Deikachar’s family: for the very first time. I think we ought to to give it a chance. We ought to wait and give them time to directly speak out about the past. The process of entering a new situation, where they do not have to consider Sir or any of his family members anymore is certailnly overwhelming for them.

Whatever Sir’s weaknesses have been: he has not exploited directly the role of a teacher to gain control and power over people. This stands to his credit in spite of all his obvious omissions. Kausthub belongs to a differnet league, is a danger to society, spcifically of the yoga-society.

We ought to give KYM a little time to rebuild its resources. Perhaps this thriving and useful institute can survive. We ought to strengthen and not weaken the people working at this at this conjecture."

Raghu said...

Dear Partha,

What you say is right. This confusion between a respect due to a lineage and it being taken advantage of is some thing KYM has to deal with. Some of us who had left KYM earlier when we could not manage this dissonance,( and each of us has a different threshold of it and a different idea of the dharma sankata), are looking at how to respond to the crisis.

I am hoping we will have some thing concrete to say soon.


Partha said...

Dear SV,

I agree with the senior teachers view. If a sincere effort is indeed being done to salvage things, we all need to provide it all the help it deserves. KYM indeed has many wonderful things within it. We should not throw the baby out with the bath water. Me heart felt best wishes to everyone working on this.

Dear Raghu Sir,

>> "and each of us has a different >> threshold of it and a different idea >> of the dharma sankata"

I certainly do agree with this.

Thanks a lot for openly coming out and commenting. It does really help.

Lets all hope we get some answers and concrete steps to build positively on the great resources available.

SimpleYogi said...

A note to KYM people who are trying to solve this problem :
"Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them." - Albert Einstein

Anonymous said...

Partha Namaskar
Keeping in mind the respect and reverence to Great Krishnamacharji kindly keep this personal views personal or to friends on your contact list. Putting in Blog and making it go viral will not help.
Create an awareness but only with those who will handle it delicately. Pleasr think it over.

Partha said...

Dear KR sir / madam (not able to identify you with ur initials, not sure if I have met you either),

Thanks for your comment. I do realise that this post has gone viral and there are many unintended interpretations of the same going around. That it went viral is a shocker to me too. It was not my doing (I guess you assumed that).

Having said that, I have also met people who have interpreted it in ways that were quite close to the spirit of my post.

Nevertheless, post facto, I realise I could have communicated what I felt with senior teachers at KYM first (thereby giving them a chance to respond) instead of posting it in my blog directly, given that the opinions involved KYM. But, sadly, my relationship with the senior teachers (excepting may be one) is not up to that level, for which both parties are quite equally responsible.

I hope everyone learns from this.


Unknown said...

By way of introduction: I began studying with Desikachar at J. Krishnamurti's insistence. From 1967 to 1973 I studied one on one. I knew Krishnamachary and Meneka. I left Yoga teaching in the late 70's primarily because I found it was inadequate for addressing the one dimension of Yoga most needed especially by Western students. I am aware this view is not well understood and may even be meet with hostility. Never the less here is a little of what I have to say on the broader subject of sexual exploitation in Yoga and or Guru circumstance.

I will start with what I have come to think is the heart of what is missing in modern Yoga practice. What is sorely missing from the Yoga world is a basic education in psychology. The only psychology worth learning is sacred psychology and that is the archetypal. The oldest one is Astrology, while the youngest or should I say most recent discovery and IMO the most useful, is the Enneagram. There is a prejudice that if, whatever the subject, is not covered in the Yoga Sutras (I did them in Sanskrit with Desikachar) we don't need to cover it. I have been exposed to a counter argument that the "teaching must be contemporary" this given to me by both Krishnamurtis. I have found this to be far more true and operative in my 'practice' than the traditional view. I left Yoga teaching because the issues presented by my students were beyond my ability to address and it felt inauthentic to pretend that my training was adequate for the task.

Modern Westerners have a unique set of psychological challenges which no amount of asana and pranyama can effect. And when allowed to go unaddressed will in all likely hood surface as the 'shadow'.
No amount of Hatha Yoga practice will heal or change what is essentially a psychological issue. Yoga has four dimensions. Physical, emotional or psychic, mental and spiritual. The psychic is best understood as 'the feeling principle' and in our patriarchy dominated world the most problematic and the one least served by modern forms of Yoga. It should come as no surprise that we continue to see this shameful display by Yoga teachers praying upon their female students. Nothing in the training of teachers especially those from India prepares them for confronting the shadow side of their sexuality. The answer does not lie in the past or Eastern scriptures but in self-knowledge and a foundation in archetypal psychology.

Douglas Rosestone

Partha said...

Dear Douglas,

Thanks a lot for your very detailed feedback. I agree with a lot of what you say. Life is extraordinarily complex and no set of external actions can be a formulaoc complete solution though different tools have different effectiveness under different circumstances.

Ultimately, there is a self that is deeper than the archetype. Internally one needs to be thoroughly established in it. Only then the individual has a chance of working out external solutions

Thanks once again.