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Douglas Brooks: Anusara Inc. Must Cease to Exist to Avoid Further ‘Irreparable Harm’

in YD News

Douglas Brooks known to some as the ‘Godfather of Anusara’ took to facebook to present an open letter to new CEO Michal Lichtman, and his “common sense solution,” which in short, is for Anusara, Inc. not to reorganize, but to completely dissolve and die (in order to live).

He makes clear he’s still in a supportive position:  “I hope everyone involved in those events knows that I meant then, and mean now, to help my old friend John and to opine in ways that serve the students of Anusara Yoga.”

But goes on to explain his disbelief in the lack of transparency:

From John’s every public statement, I have found myself beyond credulity with the absence of disclosure, by the insensitivity towards the true victims of this crisis (i.e, the members of the community), and, frankly, what I can only describe as a disingenuous lack of candor on John’s part. I cannot doubt John’s sincerity, which I take to be more alarming for the facts that we already possess.

And how not just the Anusara community has suffered, but how yoga has suffered as a whole, and how this will continue lest Anusara, Inc. cease to exist and John Friend take the role of a less public “revolutionary.”

John’s actions and statements further establish a pattern of behavior that one senior teacher describes as having created “irreparable harm” to the reputation of the community. I believe this to be a fact beyond reasonable dispute. However events in the press portray the situation, the conversation about yoga’s benefits, the history of teaching and teachers, and the study of Indian spiritualities, especially Tantra, has suffered a significant setback due to John’s actions. The Anusara community and the yoga community at large suffers that degradation by association, implication, and public perception.

Read the full letter below:

An Open Letter to Michal Lichtman, CEO, Anusara, Inc.
and the entire Anusara Community

Common Sense: Thoughts on the Present State of Affairs

I find myself compelled to write to express to Michal Lichtman a genuine sense of appreciation for her efforts, for her desire to bring healing and value to the many who have been hurt by John Friend’s actions and the long-term consequences these actions will have on the yoga community. Michal means to provide a voice of healing and gracious inclusion and I do not mistake that voice. I have remained over these past weeks a public voice that has meant to bring the discourse into reasonable understandings rather than legitimizing or representing a particular point of view. Today, I find myself brought into the public conversation in ways that require me to reply.

Having been cited liberally in Michal’s letter as she outlines plans for a reorganization of Anusara, Inc., I feel compelled to reveal my own understandings of the situation and to distinguish her genuine intentions from what I understand to be a strategy and a plan from Anusara, Inc, that will certainly only further divide the community and exacerbate a situation that will continue to prove more problematic for all. I offer, as Thomas Paine put it, “nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense.” But let me not be disingenuous either. Paine fomented a revolution. I am recommending nothing less than that.

Certainly, I understand Michal’s efforts to bring together community and to arrive at a place where those who have devoted lives in time, effort, resources, and love towards the yoga taught within Anusara feel the sense of real value for their accomplishments. All involved for these many years are grateful to John Friend for having brought us into valued relationships and conversations about yoga.

Anyone privy to the conversations of the then-Interim Committee to which I was party before the Miami event will know that I expressed my opinions regarding the situation at the time and for the evolution of Anusara with a certain stridency. All I can add to that memory is that I would offer no opinion to true friends that is without passion, seriousness, and rigor to the argument. These I take to be demonstrations of how deeply one cares. I hope everyone involved in those events knows that I meant then, and mean now, to help my old friend John and to opine in ways that serve the students of Anusara Yoga. I am not expecting these opinions to be followed; I respect disagreements and I never ask my own students (much less my friends) for “alignment” with views, only their most honest criticism.

Regarding events since February 3rd and into the Miami situation, it seems clear to me that none of my advice or input was much heeded by John or those who agreed to his choices. I mean to make clear here that some would not agree with John’s choices (myself included) while others believed these decisions were his to make and so would continue to stand with him, regardless of whether they agreed with his actual decisions. From John’s every public statement, I have found myself beyond credulity with the absence of disclosure, by the insensitivity towards the true victims of this crisis (i.e, the members of the community), and, frankly, what I can only describe as a disingenuous lack of candor on John’s part. I cannot doubt John’s sincerity, which I take to be more alarming for the facts that we already possess.

John’s actions and statements further establish a pattern of behavior that one senior teacher describes as having created “irreparable harm” to the reputation of the community. I believe this to be a fact beyond reasonable dispute. However events in the press portray the situation, the conversation about yoga’s benefits, the history of teaching and teachers, and the study of Indian spiritualities, especially Tantra, has suffered a significant setback due to John’s actions. The Anusara community and the yoga community at large suffers that degradation by association, implication, and public perception.

Let us not fool ourselves, the deep feelings of betrayal and fracture are accompanied by evidence mounting each day to further substantiate the case that John’s actions are continuing to make matters far worse— especially if his wish is to heal fractures, accept the reality of his actions, and understand that the Anusara community can no longer exist with any form of his leadership in any capacity or association. Not only do I see the current efforts at healing and reconciliation from Anusara, Inc., as premature, I believe that for all good intentions involved, that these plans and strategies will reinforce “irreparable harm” to Anusara, the community, and to the cause of learning and practicing yoga.

So long as there is Anusara, Inc., even one organized by teachers or established as a non-profit (the business of which I understand is complex and would involve enormous resources of community effort), there will be direct association with John Friend. Call this a mistaken perception or even a misunderstanding of the “new” Anusara, any such reorganization will further fracture community, harden feelings, and create the tangible impression that John’s actions and choices are supported and being represented. In my opinion, any re-formulation of Anusara as a teacher’s co-operative, a non-profit organization, etc., can only result in these unwanted consequences.

If I may be so bold as just another person with an opinion: There is, as I see it, a common sense solution that will create a situation for the entire Anusara community to come eventually to healing and, perhaps too, for John. I will present this as a series of steps and a rationale for each.

• Announce that Anusara, Inc., in any possible configuration will cease to exist by the end of 2012.

This will forever prevent any possible faction of “us” and “them”; it will relieve doubt and any implied pressures to “rejoin”, and it will assert the integrity of all persons, including those who have been party to re-organization efforts. Everyone will be equal, at last. Everyone will be recognized for good intentions and actions that serve the cause of “uniting.”

The alternative of a “rejoining” a “new” Anusara, as is currently proposed, cannot achieve as much as simply bringing Anusara, Inc. to a natural conclusion, an end.

• Allow all certified teachers to finish their 2012 programs with the intention to use the approval from Anusara, Inc. as a mechanism for establishing their own relationships with accreditation that no longer relies in any way on Anusara, Inc.

Teachers will organize organically in well-wrought relationships with each other (this is already happening, of course); they will find their way without Anusara, Inc., because they have been well-taught and have brought their gifts to bear in the study of yoga. The teachers have the expertise and the community resources to represent themselves as “Anusara” method practitioners. Their credibility will belong to them, not to the organization. In short, simply allow the teachers to teach. If there are financial issues to the administration of pending approvals or hours of credit then find ways not to place that burden on the teachers.

• Ask John Friend to retain the trademarks and properties of Anusara, Inc., so that no one else can reform or reorganize in any formal way. If John leads the revolution to give Anusara to the community then perhaps everyone can see the wisdom in understanding that Anusara belongs to the community. A crucial component here is that John permits any one to teach the method beyond 2012 without any enforcement or claim on the concepts and practices.

The “standards” of Anusara must organically be reformulated without any single organization representing the method. Why? Because then “Anusara” can create a long lasting, community-based legacy that is entirely dissociated from the perceptions of the past and recognizes that irreparable harm cannot be undone. We want to forgive but not in any way if we are being reminded to forget. We can heal when it is time but not before we recognize the real effects of damage done. Don’t worry about Anusara losing its method or its standards: these will continue in new ways led by an already formidable corps of talented persons.

• This final dissolution of Anusara, Inc., will secure the best of its past and create the opportunity for a future that is inclusive and honest. There will be innumerable Anusara classes and people will decide for themselves how a given teacher teaches: the onus belongs to the teacher, where it should. Anusara, Inc. in any form can bring no such credibility.

Why? Because there is no possible configuration of Anusara, Inc. that could in any practical, honest, or realistic way distinguish itself from his leadership or his role as founder-teacher. You cannot undo the realities of history but you can move forward without creating future burdens, perceptions, and fractures.

• John in time may reclaim his role among his peers disavowing any relationship to Anusara as it continues beside him in the work of former students. He will be the revolutionary that created the Anusara method and he will be remembered as the one who gave it to his community and then rejoined the larger yoga community as a gifted teacher. For John to continue in any role of leadership, implied, concealed, or actual is to consign Anusara to the status of another fallen yoga cult. That would be a real shame, unnecessary but, in my opinion, a certainty unless he leads a revolution that changes everything currently being proposed to “re-organize.”

I have not been privy to any recent conversations regarding re-organization and some may suggest that I mean here to exert an undue influence on people within the community. I apologize if I exhaust your good will but I cannot believe that my influence outweighs the common sense of individuals who have the intelligence, good nature, and inner resources to make up their own minds. Further, I cannot for the life of me think of one way I benefit from making public my opinions, especially since they seem to be so at odds with the strategies and on-going plans announced by Anusara’s new CEO. I have not at all, for example, addressed those with a financial stake in Anusara, Inc., and offer no business opinion about licensing agreements, investment, or other related matters. Those issues I leave to others with more expertise.

As I said at the outset, without any personal connection to Michal Lichtman, I sense as others have that she means to offer her very best efforts. Since she seems to have considered so much of my input from previous efforts (I mean, her liberal citation of my written efforts), then perhaps she will regard what I have offered here too as my honest, good faith effort to be a constructive presence within the yoga community. Folks that don’t like my ideas, are upset perhaps by these proposals: to them I say thank you for having considered this an offering that is an effort of heart expressing good intentions. I hope you will see it as that: an invitation to think about the situation in a way that doesn’t solve every problem but comes to the heart of the matter.

Douglas Brooks



73 comments… add one
  • Say what ?

    Dear D Brooks,
    You, in this missive, are spot on. Proper burial at sea, yes.
    NOW, Plainly speaking, may we be so bold as to request full disclosure from YOU regarding your personal knowledge of all the years of “wrongness” since you were there with JF from the beginning in the inner circle at his right hand , the Godfather in your words ; what did you know; when did you know it; why did you wait ’til someone else shined the Light to speak up? Your silence around this subject is deafening. Or maybe we just did not find your disclosure elsewhere, if so where may we find it ?

    • Say what ?

      I posed this same ? on the FB page & he essentially pleaded the 5th Amendment by refusing to directly answer it , instead referring to the Elephant Journal article of 2/15/12 in which he wanted JF to continue to teach with Anusara & in essence condoned JF actions
      by stating, ” I am deeply sad for all of the yogis and teachers who have suffered and are suffering now in the Anusara community. I am so very sad for my friend John. I wish him every good thing, health, and prosperity. I have not commented here on the substance of the allegations, or any admissions of behavior. Adults have relationships, all sorts of things happen in life, and these situations are not all the same. Everyone’s private life deserves our respect.”
      I say, yikes & ick. Now you decide !!!

      • TemplePriestess

        agreed! yikes, yuck, & ick.
        all cut from the same cloth.

        • xandra360

          Indeed, the ‘brand’ is truly tainted.

  • David

    I wish people would start recognizing that more than the anusara community is now being affected by this “scandal”. It is tarnishing the yoga community as a whole, even those totally unrelated to anusara. When the headline reads “Yoga and Sex Scandals:No Surprise Here” (http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/28/yoga-and-sex-scandals-no-surprise-here/) then the reputation of ALL yoga teachers is being damaged. Thanks John.

    • Julie

      Love this! These ‘celebriyogis’ need to seriously get over themselves….

      • TemplePriestess

        Just had lunch with a senior Iyengar teacher.
        Her take on Anusara Inc. > “Iyengar Las Vegas Style”
        … that made me laugh. 🙂

  • John

    To think I once called this man a friend…. He betrays me in this, my time of need. Clearly I accidentally canceled the pensions, the sex coven was taken out of context, and those women’s vaginas fell onto my erect penis, all just simple misunderstandings. Then this egomaniac tries to boss me around. I’m pulling his book from our site now, and cancelling any further work with him. I am also assembling my army of shri soldiers to attack his credibility and stalk his every move.

  • honomann

    Damn you John Friend.

    You fucked yoga up for a lot of people. Even non anusara practitioners. Hope you are enjoying your sabattical.

  • Jane C.

    At last there’s an adult in the room.

  • Dude

    Mr. Brooks is correct about the death of Anusara but for reasons barely acknowledged in his letter. I think that is mostly related to the fact that, whatever his ties and connections as godfather to Anusara, Mr. Brooks is also tarnished by the brand, by his deep connections to Anusara (including having obviously benefitted in name, reputations and maybe even economically). It is just a fact. Though it is barely acknowledged, he doesn’t hide it either. Brooks, like the rest of the inner circle is so tarnished by his affiliation with JF and Anusara Inc., it would be easier in some ways if it would just go away.

    Though I appreciate Brooks’s words, like the other inner-circle members who have now attempted to distance themselves from JF (like Elena Brower), my response to all of it is please just stop talking. That’s all these people do. I guess it is hard not to do when one “sits in the seat of teacher” so often. But good god. Of course they want the noise to stop; it would be good for them. Because so many of the so-called leaders of the Anusara movement are in a way culpable for acts of omission and willful blindness, they will not be able to hasten this process (though I agree with Brooks that Anusara needs to wither away).

    So Brooks is correct about the result but Anusara’s death will be achieved because the brand is so corrupt it cannot be sustained in any form that resembles what it is today, was yesterday, or any number of yesterdays. I feel bad for the many dedicated people who are left in struggling towards a certification that has less meaning. I feel bad for the many principled local teachers who were not part of the chosen group whose certification is tarnished. For all those people, their lives and teaching will be better for this, for not being tied to a tarnished brand. It is just going to take time to get there. Hopefully my local teachers will make the transition away from Anusara, Inc. peacefully and allow the quality of their teaching to speak for itself.

    • Where's The Boycott?

      For Anusara, as in most companies, it’s all about the brand. JF was so concerned with brand trademark he forgot about brand reputation. In the past, wonderful teachers worked hard and paid a lot of money to get certified so they could have teaching credentials and identify their classes with this brand. It was a win-win situation where the brand gave them credibility and identification and they in turn gave the brand exposure and good-will from their happy students. JF has changed that dynamic. Now the brand is synonymous with sleazy activities and behaviors. Suddenly the brand is not helping and in some situations is hurting the teachers linked to it. JF’s recent activities and letters have only made the situation worse. Douglas Brooks is right that for many people, the only way the word/brand “Anusara” can have any positive connotation in the future is if it is not followed by an “Inc.” and is not owned by or affiliated with John Friend – and the public won’t distinguish between a for-profit Inc. and non-profit School of Anusara – as long as John Friend is anywhere in the picture it will be seen as business-as-sleazy-usual.

      • Virginia

        JF didn’t change that dynamic without the complicity of some of those wonderful teachers..who worked hard and paid a lot of money to identify with this brand.
        Brands do not give teachers credibility. Their hard work and diligence do.

  • grateful for this article…voice of reason.

  • Chris

    Anusara, Inc. ?? CEO ??? Huh ????

    Hello ? Was the “Inc.” not a dead give-away at the very outset itself then ?

    Patanjali meant for Yoga to be taught under the ancient Hindu education system of Guru-Shishya (Teacher-Student).

    This ancient Hindu education system of Guru-Shishya was a Not-for-Profit system of education, wherein Yoga was to be taught by selfless and humble Gurus to earnest and disciplined Shishyas, residing in the Ashram of the Guru.

    In this system, the Shishya offers to the Guru nothing but Seva (service) at the Guru’s Ashram, and the Guru demands nothing of the Shishya, save total dedication to his studies. At the culmination of his studies, the Shishya offers to the Guru a simple, yet meaningful gift or service (Guru-Dakshina), as a symbol of his gratitude, and, in turn, receives his Guru’s powerful blessings, as he sets out into the world, to carry on his Guru’s noble work.

    The Seva provided by the Shishyas at the Guru’s Ashram was designed to ensure that the Ashram remained self-sufficient, and self-sustaining, in terms of resources such as food, shelter, etc. In addition, benevolent Kings (Rajas) would bestow endowments on the Ashram every now and then.

    The Guru and his Ashram only imparted Knowledge and Wisdom, and did not accumulate wealth.

    In India today, many Yoga institutes, such as the Yoga Institute of BKS Iyengar in Pune, and the Yoga Ashram of Baba Ramdev, operate almost as not-for-profit organizations.

    Patanjali would not have approved of today’s horrible “Yoga, Inc.”. Much like JC would not have approved of the Vatican.

    • Scott

      The .inc itself is a lie. Anusara is a sole proprietorship. Sole proproetorships are by definition not incorporated. I guess the implications are obvious when the name of the organization itself is a lie.

      • It may not be a lie per se.

        When a person starts a business, even a sole proprietorship, you can name it whatever you wish. So, he could have simply named it Anusara, Inc — not to necessarily designate that it’s incorporated, but as a company (since people understand inc as company).

        A friend of mine named his business — which was an S-corp — “FunFood LLC” which is technically a different legal designation (limited liability corporation). But that’s the name of the company.

        Remember that show “Kids Incorporated?” (I never watched it, I just remember the title). I’m fairly certain that the title of the “show” wasn’t incorporated at all — though it was funded through many companies, I’m sure.

        Likewise, Anusara, Inc — I always assumed — was a designator to say that “this is the company, the bsuiness” that was in turn related to “Anusara Yoga” which would be the method/intellectual property for which one would need to get a license from Anusara,Inc (the company) to utilize the branded names.

        But then, I know a lot more about this than your average cat, I guess.

        • Scott

          Wow. Nice bullshit. You should go work for John, if you don’t already. You would be a nice fit.

          • Brooke

            Seriously, dude?

          • I was simply explaining that a person can name their company whatever they want, which doesn’t indicate it’s actual legal designation — and that it’s not illegal to do so.

            Likewise, it is really only a lie based on the knowledge and intent of the individual naming the business and choosing the legal designation.

            In my experience, most people, and most small business owners, are seriously *hazy* on the law.

            There is often a lot of posturing around what is and isn’t legal and/or moral due to this “haziness.” And, a lot of yoga studios don’t even do the basics of what they need to do legally to operate.

            They might incorporate (or not), but do they get their occupancy certificates? If so, are they posting them? How about health and safety regulations in regards to recreational fitness centers and air flow? What about contracts and how they relate to independent contractors, employees, and most importantly, clients? What laws attach to things such as refunds and exchanges (refunds are usually dictated by law — but people often say “no refunds!” even though the law states that you MUST give X days for refunds depending upon the duration of the contract, which has to do with the expiration date!)? How does the expiration date affect the contract?

            And it gets more complex. When you have employees — and even pensions like Anusara, Inc had — the law becomes even more complex on how you hire these people, how you manage them, how you let them go and when — everything has a legal process.

            And most people have *no clue* about that process. Or, they do and don’t do it at all — and then figure no one will care, notice, or even look into it.

            And if there is that level of intentionality — the second one — then yes, it’s “shady.”

            But most people — in my experience — just rent a space and set up shop and don’t do anything more than that. They are sole proprietors, and they offer these specials and those class cards and this and that because “it’s the way other places do it.” No real knowledge of what they might be accountable for should it — as they say here — “all go to custard.”

  • Clear

    It’s also clear that Brooks was most moved to write by that awful William Broad article in the NYT, which tarnished the image of Tantra that Brooks wants to keep alive. That’s fair; he’s a scholar, he’s done his work. But he’s also theorized his own form of Tantra philosophy and wants to protect that from both Friend and Broad. Well, if you want to make the call about that, you’d have to read his stuff, I guess.
    Yet though Brooks is by far the most straight-shooter on the scene, he’s also doing this out of some self-interest for the preservation of his authority and hos own views of Tantra in public. He — and the others — still keep allude to all this personal shit that hasn’t fully come out in the open. Brooks hints at Friend’s mental breakdowns, for ex. Hard to tell if Brooks is just trying to be discreet to protect the privacy of people around Friend who might have gotten harmed in very intimate ways, or just keeping secrets, or both. It’s after all hard to spill that stuff without sounding like a sordid asshole yourself. More and more messs.

  • I hope the powers that be at Anusara, Inc. listen to this. He captures the impressions I have of John Friend from what he has written.

  • Chris

    So sad that the West takes a noble, profound, sublime thing like the ancient Hindu science of Yoga, and degrades it to a pedestrian, commercial trinket.

    In India, Gurus like Baba Ramdev and BKS Iyengar are practically giving it away for free – just like Patanjali meant for Yoga to be disseminated, for the greater good of all Mankind.

    The lovely flower sprinkles its fragrance in the wind, for all to delight in, asking for nothing in return.

    • Also, in India, there are plenty of yoga shysters pulling the same shit. Ever wonder what the average Indian thinks of yoga? If they’ve heard about this scandal, they’d probably say, “See, I told you so!”

  • omiya

    Reposting the link I found above [http://thebabarazzi.com/2012/02/29/open-letter-to-douglas-brooks-please-calm-down/], and the text. This is brilliant, and the most sane voice I have read during all of this:

    To this we must say:
    1.You are not starting a “revolution.” You are trying to save the face of an imaginary community of Western yogis, most of whom can barely stand one another (unless their agents suggest they act otherwise [you know who you are, EB & DTF]), and who should have been smart enough to not buy into the branding of a discipline as beautiful as yoga to begin with. Shame on them.
    2.John Friend’s fall from grace (pun intended) will not have an effect on the tradition of yoga, and it is completely Euro-white-centric for you to suggest it will. Shame on you.
    3.Anusara’s tarnished name will not effect any means toward personal and authentic Tantric practices and inquiry by serious students of the path. All those who would be swayed by the distractions of this silly cocktail party you call the “yoga community” should probably go right ahead and dismantle that Shiva-Shakti mantle right now. Shame on them.

    In light of that, know this:

    There is an alternative to this miasma of red-carpet yoga culture, and we at TheBabarazzi.com represent only one small not-so-humble fraction of it.

    We do not care about saving the face of yoga or the yoga community. We do not care who likes yoga. We do not care who does not like yoga. We do not care how its image rests upon the blistered iris’ of the public eye. We do not care what writers in the New York Times have to say about yoga. We do not care what people think or feel about yoga. We do not care if people think you will break your back practicing it. We do not care if people think having sex with a donkey is integral to it. We do not care which teacher slept with which student under which full moon on which equinox. We do not care what happens to yoga businesses who trade in the likes of such stupidity as yoga image, yoga fashion, or yoga lifestyle. And, we certainly do not care what happens to Anusara, Inc.

    We care about our teachers. We care about our practice. We care about the practice of those who practice with us. Because, no matter what happens to your rich friend’s business, when the sun rises, and most self-proclaimed “yoginis” are still drooling on their Ralph Lauren pillows, we will have already long begun nourishing our deep and sordid love affair with one of the greatest traditions the world will probably ever see.

    We will be practicing.

    • Brooke

      “…our deep and sordid love affair with one of the greatest traditions the world will probably ever see.”



  • Bruce

    Get over it people, this is becoming very tiresome. Any serious yoga practitioners know exactly what to do now. Enough of the vitriol, I am sure JF and his Merry Band are all acutely aware of public perception of recent events.

    • Reply

      Hey Bruce! If you’re tired of it, don’t read it.

    • Also, I am really not seeing “vitriol” — it’s been a constant refrain from people, but I really am not seeing it. On occasion, yes — but from the general folk in and outside of anusara, not so much as we are being accused.

      It’s as if to say that even talking about the very issues that this brings up — in ourselves, in our communities, and within a specific community (which we can define in lots of ways — the anusara community, the yoga dork blog commenters community, etc) — is “vitriol.”

      Instead, many of us are trying to work out our feelings, air our grievances about what has happened to us (both in the past and in the present), and figure out how to move forward with our friends.

      I don’t see how that is “vitriol.”

      • Reply

        Oh, occasionally, some vitriol. Not this time for this, though. It just makes me wonder what emotionally spoiled and socially isolated people AY folk are that they are so put-upon and exasperated and hurt and and and….blah blah blah about the intensity and range of response. There’s a real petulance there, like teenagers or preteens screwing up and then being snotty and resentful when people have the gall to get pissed off and call them out. Good lord. Matt Remski was right — the jetset hotel conference center yoga festival crew seems to have no stomach for living in an actual community, which is often hard b/c you can’t control and dominate other people’s responses. What children.

    • Kate Bartolotti

      Right on, Bruce! Vitriol was exactly the same word I was thinking.

      BTW, did you read Waylon’s interview with John? Amazing integrity. I can’t understand why the NY Times did not cite him for his original research.

  • Sara

    But you’re still reading it, Bruce, all the way to the end of the comments section.

    • rob

      LOLs. I wonder if it’s becoming so ‘tiresome’ to Bruce because he has some motivation for sweeping it all under rug?

  • kekesam

    bravo dr brooks for saying it like it needs to be said. dissolve anusara and all association with john friend, as painful as that seems to be for some of the teachers who insist on standing by him. anusara will never be taken seriously again. all it stood for was destroyed by the owner which was his choice. the fact that he took so many down with him is unfortunate ,as at one time he had a good product. somewhere along the way johnnie boy got off track as evidenced by his response above to dr brooks. this response is one of a very mentally disturbed person someone who has some issues he is not dealing with or whatever john friend is obviously not stable.

    as for those on the committe they better seriously consider standing by anusara inc, s .sherman t. dorian ect .as there reputations are going to be reflected off ther not so illustrious quasi ex leader, and possibly be called into question.

  • Bruce

    Not any more, back on the mat now. I refuse to let this “scandal” detract from the important stuff in life xo. Let’s have some more funny clips of cats and stuff life that YD

  • Dear Doug. (and Dork)
    You may remember me. Alice Maisel took the Yoga Kula course and invited me to your talks.

    This discussion has the tone of a family argument or perhaps a betrayal by a business partner. As practicing yogis, are you sure that each participant’s self is fully expressed in a named body? Is that named body really the source of all that is done? I’m not trying to pull you into the rarefied atmosphere of spiritual bull-droppings. But look around you. This crisis is happening in the context of an American culture that is sex-crazed. It’s also money crazed, but let’s just discuss the sex part.

    Even little school-girls learn to think that being a good lay is their only value, and every week another advertiser finds a way to show more skin in more seductive poses. Have you seen the hamburger ad with the girl who jiggles her buttocks?

    This is also the kind of sex-crazed culture where President Clinton stood at the podium, wringing his hands and begging our forgiveness for doing what every dominant male does or wishes to do. This unstable mixture of guilt and lust seems to be one of the fires feeding the world’s most powerful culture, overshadowing the entire planet. It also takes its toll, especially on unprepared idealists.

    An example was Sant Keshavadas, the ‘Singing Saint’, who gave me my present name. Sant was a spiritual phenomenon – a child who had a divine vision and began singing. He came to America with his wife and children, and started chanting sessions in an Oakland home. After some hours of chanting, we would take break. Young women would jump up on the couch with Sant and pull up their knees so they could face him. When they did that, their skirts would rise above their knees. Nothing in Sant’s Indian experience prepared him for this. In very few years, he was hooked on willing young women. Eventually, he had to leave America to avoid legal actions.

    A woman who had sex with Sant told me that she finally had to stop because it was too painful to watch Sant, an unprepared idealist, hating himself after they were done. I remember finding it difficult to watch Clinton, altho I doubt he was really an unprepared idealist.

    None of what I said here is justification or excuses for John’s behavior. But –
    After all of you have been the aggrieved complainant, after all of you have been the righteous defender of your legal and moral rights, after all of you have been a collaborator in fixing what was broken – remember and perhaps even return to being the observer. . . observing a fascinating interlude, somewhere between a tragic novel and a disturbed ant-hill.
    I love you foolishly,
    Freedom is what you do with
    what’s been done to you. ~ Sartre

    • Reply

      Fuck wha….?

      Learn to write in English, kekesam

      • WTF?NoFuckwha?

        I understood kekesam’s english and message just fine.
        Thumbs up to kekesam who is awake and gets it.
        @”Reply” – stop being jf’s bum buddy, would ya? You shri filled moonies need to detox from your openhearted shri-filled bullshit mind manipulated programme which has naught to do with “grace” and seems to have made you very closed minded. If you are truly open to Grace then you will see divine intention all over this “scandal”. Divine had enough and exposed it for what it was. A circus act and a fraudulent scam. And that revelation is a gift from the Divine directly to anyone who bought the sham and drank the cool aid. Ishvwara pranidhan. You are ignoring ishvwara in this equation. Everything is God’s will. Including “this” …. Anyone who thinks that those in the inner circle are not as equally shamed as Friend are delusional and still drunk on the cool aid. PARTY is OVER and you need to go home, have some coffee, sober up, sit down, confront your addiction, and actually open to grace by listening to the silence. Om Swaha.

        • Fuck wha...?

          My mistake. Thanks for catching that. Not kekesam. I meant this Das dude.
          But beyond that, as soon as anyone starts w/ the “butt-bud” name-calling and so on, you’re only proving that AY is sordid-sex- saturated, crude and immature behind the scenes.
          So let it die.

          • WTF?NoFuckwha?

            yeah- youz rght about the bum buddy comment. it was crude. its just such a good way to describe a pandering shill. in terms to the Das dude – wowzer. in no way is JF innocent or vulnerable to the ways of western sexuality. not that Sant Keshavadas is innocent nor to be excused caving to temptation — but the underlying motivations and dominant vibrations between the two men are two totally different animals. not apples to apples. These neverending spins are so twisted and display such warped logic …

  • huh?

    Sweetie, you need to get off the pipe. Really.

  • WTF?NoFuckwha?

    why? why you say that? don’t agree? support your position instead of just throwing out such comment. i’m open. and i’m not your sweetie, fyi.

  • Josh

    Interestingly sanctimonious for a teacher who him self has been known to sleep with his students! I am just saying….

  • Anusara is just a company name associated with JF, i believe that it is the discretion of the students and the teachers if they will be affected. Its more of a reputation and not entirely the whole truth.

    • Anusara is a company name associated with its well-known teachers, too. And many of them have shown a lack of discretion – that is a big part of the whole problem.
      It always seemed to me that it was all about perpetuating the brand/reputation/appearance and little to do with substance or anything near the whole truth!

  • Dear WTF?NoFuckwha?,
    You don’t seem to get it. They’re both innocent. So are you.
    In a selfless moment of truth, Keshavadas said, “Pondurengadas, if guru has a body, he’s got juices.” That’s most of what you need to know.
    Meantime, the game WILL go on. Enjoy.
    WTF?NoFuckwha? March 1, 2012 at 10:32 am
    yeah- youz rght about the bum buddy comment. it was crude. its just such a good way to describe a pandering shill. in terms to the Das dude – wowzer. in no way is JF innocent or vulnerable to the ways of western sexuality. not that Sant Keshavadas is innocent nor to be excused caving to temptation — but the underlying motivations and dominant vibrations between the two men are two totally different animals. not apples to apples

  • WTF?NoFuckwha?

    Dear P. Das:
    I get it. I understand. They are all innocent to the irresistable temptations of the VJJ. BooHooHoo for them. Frankly I am not a fan of blaming female sexuality for the lecherosity of the male gender. “They couldn’t help themselves – the girls pulled up their skirts”. PLEASE . Give me a break. Each of us face many temptations between right/wrong every day. You said ” Nothing in Sant’s Indian experience prepared him for this … he was an unprepared idealist”. Okay. He didn’t grow up in this highly sexualited culture and was raised with more decorum and decency and was “not prepared”. IN NO WAY does that hold true for John Friend, nor Bill Clinton either for that matter. Hence, it is NOT apples to apples. I highly doubt that they, like Sant, “hated himself after they were done”. Just put another knotch on the bedpost! BwaHaHa. And I don’t feel too much compassion for such conduct when other people got very hurt by such narcissism and lack of integrity and responsiblity. They are nothing more then teenage boys. Obviously. No. They don’t get my pity and no they are NOT innocent. That is my point – I don’t think YOU are hearing ME. 🙂
    and … I love YOU foolishly. FYI>

  • Oh, the woes of buying and selling “yoga”. I love how yoga seems to have a way of sloughing off some of the capitalist grime, every once in awhile. While I believe teachers have a right to be paid for their time in teaching yoga, the multi-level marketing schemes, like Anusara Inc., totally take advantage of this barter. The sutras clearly outline, in the yama and niyama, the codes of conduct for yoga students. John Friend and Anusara Inc. are not aligned with any of the yama, in my opinion. Interesting, not even meeting the expectations for yoga student, let alone teacher/leader. Maybe yoga is not meant to be a “business” in the same way we think of business.

    • Chris


      You are absolutely right about Yoga not being meant to be a business

      I had expressed my views on this topic, in my earlier comments on this very thread.

  • nityashakti

    Does anyone even remember Douglas Brooks’ involvement in the siddha yoga mess, most especially the scholar’s conference regarding the publication of “The Meditation Revolution”? Those of us who were there are amazed to see Brooks (and Sally Kempton as well) now treated as “moral authorities” by the yoga community. I guess it’s true, “those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it”.
    Frankly, I am not in the least surprised at John Friend’s behavior and neither are any of the others I know who saw him rising to the top with “the blessings of his guru” when he was teaching the yoga portion of the weeklong courses at the siddha yoga ashram. I wonder if ANY of these people (the yoga teacher, the “siddha yoga scholars” and the ex-swamis) will ever take responsibility for their actions. To hand out moral advice to others when you, yourself, are suspect is, to me, the height of egotism. How about a little self-inquiry and humility for starters? To those in the yoga community, I would respectfully suggest that you take time to investigate the history of your teachers carefully, especially if Tantra is involved. Certainly you can learn from someone who is basically unethical but it’s a good thing to understand what the situation is beforehand.

    • Dude

      I meant to say right on to nityashakti.

    • DavidE

      I’ve never been much of a joiner so to speak. All through my 3 plus years of Anusara trainings the conversation around the greater kula family didn’t receive much of my attention. There’s a lot I learned from my trainings and still use in my classes and I appreciate John Friend’s studentship and what he learned from the many masters who trained him and also appreciate his own creative use from his own discoveries. Curious as any yoga student should be, I’ve heard Douglas Brooks and my own teachers say, I wondered about Nityashakti’s “The Meditation Revolution” reference and did some googling to find out more.

      Sarah Caldwell writes: “This is an essay about secrecy and revelation, about the powers and dangers of that dialectic, and about ethical dilemmas that surface when we probe the official versions of an institutional religious practice that aims to transform human consciousness. It is about my own traversing of that razor’s edge path over the last twenty years, and some of the questions and a few lessons that have arisen from that journey. It is about the uses and meanings of sexuality in a religious context, about dimensions of power…”

      In her second paragraph I read: “This article has a triadic heart, a phrase intentionally borrowed from Paul Muller-Ortega’s beautiful book, The Triadic Heart of Çiva, which treats in detail the Kaula Tantric tradition of Abhinavagupta. It is to this tradition that I will look for partial interpretation of the late Swami Muktananda’s teachings and ritual practices.”

      Kaula (kula) traditions & ritual practices….didn’t hear anything like this in the teacher training talks….read on.

      “My essay suggests two apparently contradictory theses: namely, that Swami Muktananda (1908-1982) was an enlightened teacher and practitioner of an esoteric form of Tantric sexual yoga, and that he also engaged in actions that were not ethical, legal, or liberatory with many disciples.”

      Sounding familiar.

      “…it presents him (Abhinavagupta) as a typical follower of the Kula system…. [T]he characteristic feature of…Kaulism is that it denies antagonism between sensuous joy and spiritual bliss (Ånanda); recognises the former to be a means to the latter; and emphatically asserts that it is meant for the few, who are highly proficient in the Råja-Yoga as distinct from the Ha†ha-Yoga, who have such control over the mind that they can withdraw it
      from the stimulating object even at a time when it is being enjoyed most….”

      “What struck me immediately was that this could have been an eyewitness account of Baba’s daily darshans, public afternoon audiences with devotees and guests.”

      “But as I started to read further in the thick red volume about
      Abhinavagupta and the Kaula practices, I was taken aback. Sitting in my dorm room in the Ganeshpuri ashram in India, in the hour of sultry afternoon stillness between morning and afternoon work sessions chopping vegetables in the kitchen, I eagerly fingered page after page describing in detail the secret sexual rites of the Kaula Tantra, the drinking of wine, eating of meat, and sexual intercourse.”

      It’s a long read, over 35 pages, and from it I gained a greater perspective of the meaning of kula. I don’t know John Friend other than having taken a beginner’s teacher intensive and some classes and so I won’t presume to know his mind or his own practices and intentions with his method or know his relationship with his students, both initiated and unitiated.

      A little more on Kaula:

      -“The Kaula lineage is closely linked to the Siddha and Nātha traditions.”
      – “Philosophically the term is said to represent a unifying connectedness, beneath the various objects, processes and living entities of this world, which may be identified with these goddesses as aspects of the supreme deity, in some regions the god Shiva, elsewhere a goddess. Another meaning sometimes given to the term kaula is that of a “group of people” engaged together in the practice of spiritual discipline.
      – “Kaula practices are based on tantra, closely related to the siddha tradition and shaktism. Kaula sects are noted for their extreme exponents who recommend the flouting of taboos and social mores as a means of liberation. Such practices were often later toned down to appeal to ordinary householders, as in Kaśmiri Śaivism.”
      – “The concepts of purity, sacrifice, freedom, the spiritual master (guru) and the heart are core concepts of the Kaula tradition.”
      – “Group practices, which are restricted to the members of a kaula (family), include rituals, festivities, initiations and the secretive tantric sexual union. The purposes of this practice are the initiation of novices, the expansion of consciousness and expression of the bliss already attained as participants become more and more advanced.”

      If the Kaula Tradition its concepts and practices are what this whole “Anusara explosion” is about then the conversation needs to include this. Do all Anusara teachers both certified and inspired embrace the unifying Kaula (kula) connectedness? And if so do they share their beliefs with their students?

      Returning to Sarah Caldwell quoting June Campbell: “The imposition of secrecy therefore…when it occurred solely as a means to protect status, and where it was reinforced by threats, was a powerful weapon in keeping women from achieving any kind of integrity in themselves, for it seems clear that the fundamental and ancient principles of Tantric sex—the meeting together of two autonomous individuals as partners for sexual relations to promote spirituality—was tainted by the power wielded by one partner over the other.”

      An there you have it, why the outcry by some.

      • Brooke


        David: Many thanks for this. Very, very good information.

    • Kate Bartolotti

      Nityashakti, please hold to the policy of not spreading negative rumors.

  • Dude

    Right on.

  • Dear WTF?NoFuckwha?
    I am sorry to have offended you. Perhaps you are an active participant in this wretched mess. If so, it may be appropriate that you bring some righteous rage to the battle. Krishna told Arjuna, Now that you know the outcome is already settled, go out and fight as if it all depends on you.

    On the other hand, you might be losing your yogic sense of self as an observer, and turning into another aggressive American; adding more American combativeness to the Americanization of yoga. Or, like quantum physics, you may be in both states at the same time.

    I was going to address you by name, but would it be printable? Anyhow, I want to tell you that your thinking is very clear and accurate. You have good reason to be proud of your clarity, but I notice you also seem proud in reporting for whom you feel compassion and who gets your pity. I recommend you enjoy your superior qualities, but don’t start believing in them.

    You might have guessed that I am enjoying this opportunity to play with yogic platitudes in a way that honors both yoga and you.

    Hang in there, you’re in good company. Yoga Kula was a noble enterprise, and some good will probably rise out of its ashes. Whenever you’re about to give up in disgust, remember that you are trying to practice yoga in present day America, where everyone who is anyone lies and cheats.
    Love & Blessings,
    People who fight fire with fire usually
    end up with ashes. – Abigail Van Buren

  • WTF?NoFuckwha?

    thank you P.Das.
    i was born a warrior and i will die a warrior. not an american aggressive warrior (I am not American) but a justice fighter.
    you are right – sometimes in our attempt to create shift in the western “rat race”, we become rat like ourselves in order to speaka the language and that creates some rajas forsure ….. 😉 if you refer to Anusara when you say Yoga Kula was a nobel enterprise – i disagree i tell you. most certainly some of the innocent had noble intentions and were attracted to what they saw as good,but that was only a projection of their own goodness. the entity itself was not a nobel enterprise. it was a wolf in sheeps clothing. pranams.

  • Bob

    Hey Douglas Brooks has to make a living. And he has a family to support!

  • leah

    Yes to DavidE up above. It’s an image as old as time–women swirling around the godhead. Back in the day that’s exactly what a kula was. Forget the lovey dovey way the term is used in Anusara to mean community. It literally meant a clan of women, also called yoginis, swapping sexual fluids with a godhead(s) so they could feed their ravenous lust for semen and the godhead could accumulate power, which he derived entirely from female sexual fluid– or so the thinking went. While the kula was dependent upon these women for it’s very existence and for the transmission of power itself (which flowed through their bodies), they did not accrue power in this model and they had no claim on the kula itself. Indian patrilineal family and societal structures grew out of the kula tradition.
    David Gordon White is a great source for anyone who wants to know more about this stuff. He is a well respected scholar of Tantra who makes a unique contribution because he is not a practitioner. He’s the go to guy when you just want to know what was going on where. In his book, Kiss of the Yogini, he explains how things evolved out of the stone age when these eyebrow raising kula practices were assimilated by the South Asian elite in subsequent centuries. Sexualized ritual practice was sublimated, aestheticized, and refined into the Tantric mysticisms which we study in this present day an age.
    For me, this body of knowledge and practice is some of the most exquisite, sublime stuff that I have ever come across and I plan to continue to study it for the rest of my life. It makes great sense to me that sexuality, as it relates to creation, to harvest cycles, to moon cycles, and as the a priori condition for life itself would be part of any meaningful investigation into the nature of existence, which tantra is supposed to be. I don’t see any reason to shy away from sexual metaphor, as part of the yogic endeavor. His Holiness the Dali Lama invoked sexual metaphor repeatedly (as Tibetan Buddhism is a Tantric path) this summer in the middle of Washington, DC when he gave the Kalachakra initiation to thousands of people in the Verizon Center! For those of us who adore the Tantra, sexuality is part of the poetry of the universe. It is far from a problem.
    The problem is when men on power trips use goddess worship and tantra as a pretense to control, use, or manipulate women. What I liked about the Kalachakra was that the crowd seemed to be a nice balance of male and female. It’s hard to overlook that discrepancy in the yoga community. Everywhere we look we see hoards of mostly women swirling around male yoga teachers and scholars (AI Wanderlust festival is case in point. And by the way, where the F are the credentialed female scholars of tantra?), hanging on their every word, seeking their favor, and generally in some form of deference to them. The other day my friend was talking about John and the scandal. He joked, “Let’s face it, at the end of the day the man [John] would say ‘downward facing dog’ and a sea of vaginas would rise up to the sky!” I hate to be crude, but I think us yoginis have a tendency to underestimate what that might mean to a man, or why it might lead to problems. It takes my male friends to remind me. On some base level, and in light of recent events, one has to wonder if certain things haven’t evolved as much as we think they have.
    Even absent overt sexual practices, kula has always been about the transmission of power and knowledge, secrecy, and elitism. It doesn’t work without willing participants. Just as it was thousands of years ago, with or without actual sex going on, men who surround themselves by women tend to vibe a certain power. To what degree have we reproduced or will we continue to participate in this ancient and unhealthy pattern?
    I have heard Anusara affiliated scholars repeatedly deflect these questions about the more transgressive aspects of the tantra as well as questions about true empowerment for women in the context of goddess worship. Given the present situation, I don’t see how these questions can or should be ignored anymore.

  • DavidE

    “…sexuality is part of the poetry of the universe. It is far from a problem.”

    The authors of Sex at Dawn would probably agree:(http://www.sexatdawn.com/)

    – “We’ll show that human beings evolved in intimate groups where almost everything was shared—food, shelter, protection, child care, even sexual pleasure. We don’t argue that humans are natural-born Marxist hippies. Nor do we hold that romantic love was unknown or unimportant in prehistoric communities. But we’ll demonstrate that contemporary culture misrepresents the link between love and sex. With and without love, a casual sexuality was the norm for our prehistoric ancestors.”

    “Even absent overt sexual practices, kula has always been about the transmission of power and knowledge, secrecy, and elitism. It doesn’t work without willing participants.”

    As I wrote in my earlier post I wasn’t interested in joining the Anusara kula and since I’ve been away from the Anusara school for years now I don’t know what is taught or even said about kula and community today but I think it only fair to the thousands of students and hundreds of teachers, certified and inspired, that the meaning of kaula as John Friend, Michal Lichtman, and The Steering Committee define it be truthfully explained.

  • IRM

    Yes to Nityashakti, DavidE, & leah: I don’t know if you are still tuned in to this conversation, of if I am arriving too late on the scene.

    To Nityashakti, yes, I do remember the mess of Douglas Brooks trying to defend the edited version of “Meditation Revolution”. I am also surprised to see Sally Kempton and him connected to Anusara. They have lost quite a bit of credibility with me for their role in covering up the scandals in Siddha Yoga, and for not owning up to it, as far as I know. I just looked it up again on http://www.leavingsiddhayoga.net. That conference where he spoke was on Nov 22, 1999. http://www.leavingsiddhayoga.net/frames2.htm

    Nowhere does Brooks mention his own personal history with such a power-abusing guru as Gurumayi – including trying to wriggle out of the scholar’s questions to him at that conference ! I have not found any clear statement of his, on his facebook page or website, renouncing SY. He just mentions his new teacher left and right, who seems to be a somewhat obscure unknown Indian teacher, made known in the West mostly by Brooks himself, as far as I can tell.

    Thanks for DavidE for all your research & quotes. Sarah Caldwell’s on http://leavingsiddhayoga.net/caldwell.sarah.pdf is well worth the read & helped me a lot during my transition out of Siddha Yoga. Her studies illuminate Baba Muktananda’s transgressions with teenage devotees, and make it clear that it cannot be considered as tantric practices sanctioned by the scriptures.

    Baba Muktananda was Gurumayi Chidvilasananda’s guru, and John Friend still recently called Gurumayi his guru (see anusara.com

    Half way into the above interview you’ll find this question:
    “How did you connect with your teacher, Gurumayi Chidvilasanada?”

    So John Friend actually has a long lineage of abuse of power in those two gurus. Anusara Inc. in many ways is like a sister corporation to Siddha Yoga.

    There is a lively discussion going on about this on another blog, which would be of interest to anyone who has a history in with Siddha Yoga & sees the similarities with “Ansuragate”: http://ritualsofdisenchantment.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2012-01-01T00:00:00-05:00&updated-max=2013-01-01T00:00:00-05:00&max-results=1

  • leah

    I feel it necessary to make clear that I know absolutely nothing about Douglas Brooks’ relationship to the Siddha Yoga situation. I am actually not in favor of people making cryptic, anonymous, unsubstantiated insinuations about other people’s character (sorry Nityashakti). I was just commenting on DavidE’s blog because I thought he brought up interesting points in his first comment and I’m interested in some of the larger implications and challenges with the concept of kula etc…perhaps not the juiciest subject in the world but something i think is important.

  • corestrength

    Given that many people may not read his entire message, Doug asked me to summarize it as follows:

    “I, I, I, me, I, mine, I, I, myself, Mine, me, I, I, I.”

  • Brian Smith

    Douglas Brooks is Just like John Friend. I am trying to find out how much time Douglas actually spent in India. He has been covering up for John Friend for years. He knew what a self entitled prick JF was but did nothing. He covered it up for the money folks.
    Hey Douglas you are BORING and do need a make over. Call the FAb 5! The pony tail look went out in 1992.

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