An update to the latest scandal and sad disappointment to reach the yoga public involving Kausthub Desikachar, son of T.K.V. Desikachar, grandson of Sri T. Krishnamacharya: a letter sent Tuesday, October 16th to an estimated 700 email recipients spanning “respected friends, colleagues, well-wishers of KYM and of Sri T.K.V. Desikachar and members of KHYF” from longtime respected teacher in the tradition, R. Sriram, on “the culmination of many cases of harassment over the years, which have come to light only dimly or not come to light at all, but which are bound to face up now after this official complaint.”
Sriram has been a student of T.K.V.Desikachar for almost 30 years during which time he had some direct learning under Sri T.Krishnamacharya himself at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in Madras, an institute for yogic studies, according to his website.
Here you have his full letter addressing the situation in more detail, describing three students’ complaints against Kausthub involving abuse of power, sexual harassment and intimidation. Sriram takes careful steps to point out the true Desikachar legacy and the legacy of Sri T. Krishnamacharya, separating the misdeeds of its younger generation from the teachings and traditions, and actually suggesting that Kausthub may require longterm professional help.
(We’re also sad to hear of T.K.V. Desikachar’s illness and send him well wishes.)
Our reasons to post this, and any misuse of power for sexual and/or other gains past, present or future can be summed up by Sriram’s words:
Yoga is not about culling out spirits or surrendering one’s individual will power to a teacher who assumes the role of a yoga-sorcerer. No teacher in the world has a right to demand authority over others. The goal of yoga is Kaivalya, independency and not wrong devotion.
Here’s the full letter. Beware there is some strong imagery.
UPDATE: Final version of the letter with additional testimony as confirmed by one of the women as well as Sriram, the letter’s author.
Respected friends, colleagues, well-wishers of KYM and of Sri T.K.V. Desikachar and members of KHYF,
Since I have been a student of Sri Desikachar since 1977, a teacher at the KYM from 1982 to 1987, sat with great awe in innumerable lectures of Prof T. Krishnamacharya and have been an important support for the flourishing of KHYF in Europe, I am compelled to write this letter.
Actually in the year of Sri Desikachar’s 75th birthday, we ought to take stock of the unique service he has done to the field of yoga. He has highlighted the role of the breath and of Patanjali’s Yogasutra in a way that no other modern yoga teacher has done. He has written books, many of which like “The Religiousness of Yoga” are unique treasures in the world of modern yoga literature. He has trained innumerable students world-wide and inspired them to understand the depth of the teachings of his father, Prof T. Krishnamacharya. Today we ought to recapitulate this and in gratitude and quietness pray for his welfare. For, he is not well. He told me in January 2010 that he is suffering from an irreversible ailment of brain deterioration. More than two years have passed since, and today he is in no condition to assess or address the situation which has been unfolding.
Thanks to five brave young women who have, in spite of feeling intimidated, lodged a complaint with the police in Austria and the resolve of a group of 50 students undergoing a yoga therapist training to stand behind these women, matters have come to light which are shocking. I am adding here a brief sketch of three persons’ reports. This is the culmination of many cases of harassment over the years, which have come to light only dimly or not come to light at all, but which are bound to face up now after this official complaint. Through some of their co-students studying with me on an individual basis, these five women have approached me and I have spoken to them.
Kausthub has systematically intimidated them into believing that they are unwell and need his help and then sexually harassed them. If they did not comply, he has been abusive towards them and tried to instill greater fear into them regarding their own health and welfare or that of those close to them. He has been using tools that are absolutely not in the realm of yoga, surely not in that of his father or his grandfather. He has used them in a way which completely lacks any sense of decorum for a yoga-teacher, which the two great masters have stood for. He has used the reputation of his father and his grandfather not only to entice women against their will into submitting to him sexually, but also to propagate wrong information.
The details lead us to the conclusion that Kausthub is developing psychopathically, needs perhaps professional help on a long term basis and should be stopped from further activity in the yoga world. It is awful to say this, since I have seen Kausthub’s astuteness in teaching theory. But his continuation poses a threat not only to women but also to the right awareness for the teachings of the two masters.
A woman of a European country: She has a history of abuse and had lost her parents in a young age. She is at the seminar in Austria with her 15-month old baby. In a private class he forces her to believe that her parents had been killed by a spirit and that the spirit is still lurking around and would affect her and would come to take the child. He tells her that her husband is not good for her and unsuited to deal with this, but he, Kausthub would be able to heal her and remove the spirit. He cajoles her into submitting to a long “granthi” treatment where he presses the feet and the belly with his fingers. The treatment gives her excruciating pain. At the end of it, he puts his tongue violently into her so that she almost gets choked. During the rest of the seminar session he calls her repeatedly into his room with pretexts and tries repeatedly to kiss her and force her into submitting to his sexual approaches.
A woman living in Germany is a long-term student of his, who got close to many teachers and also family members of Kausthub. He has been repeatedly grabbing her grossly, forcing his tongue into her mouth, twisting her arm, saying she has a lot of problems and he can only help her if he can penetrate her. He promises her that it will be good for her to sleep with him, because he would give her the ring of Kirshnamacharya to wear during the intercourse. During a study tour of Mysore with his “Sanga” group, whilst they are all gathered in the Parakala Mutt, the holy centre associated with Sri Krishnamacharya’s biography, he gives her the ring and asks her to sexually unite with him. Since she continuously refuses to comply, he begins screaming that she is frigid and cannot relieve her problems if she doesn’t reveal her warmth to him.
Last year right in her presence he writes a fictive interview and publishes it in August 2011 in the leaflet “Synergie”, which he sends world-wide around. In this interview he uses the name of T.K.V. Desikachar as the partner to his interview, who was obviously in no condition to participate in such an interview.
A woman of USA : During a private teaching session he performs a “granthi” treatment on her. She has writhing pain but trusts that he is doing something beneficial for her. At the end of the painful treatment he embraces her and kisses her on the mouth before she leaves his room. A few days later she develops massive convulsions. He repeatedly maintains that she has been sexually abused as a child, probably by someone very close to her like her father. She tells him numerous times that there was nothing of that sort in her history that she remembers, but he continues, ”Come on, own up, you have many signs of someone who was sexually abused, be honest about it, tell me what happened.” Kausthub talks about his opinion to others in the group without her permission. From Austria she flies to Chennai, where she had registered and paid for a KYM teacher training. Her roommates take care of her as her state worsens and she is unable to attend the classes. Her requests to Kausthub to help her are not responded to properly by him and so she goes to an Ayurvedic physician, to whom she does not relate all the details, because Kausthub has warned her not to speak about it at all, if she ever wanted to get healed. Kausthub calls her roommates for a meeting and warns them that she is unstable and they should not get too involved with her.
A woman living in a European country: Since the first module he was always encouraging her to be better,” to shine”, to develop as a healer, always on the side telling her what her downside and challenges were, but still she was learning from this and trusting him, feeling close to his teacher, until she realized recently how he was trying to make her dependent to him. He had shown behaviors that she thought were inappropriate both with physical language and verbally, he was repeatedly spanking her on the butt publicly, even if she asked him not to, he would say she had to relax, she was so stiff, why not to… telling her how she had such a good ass, to quote some examples. During the third module he implied that she had been abused in her past and when she said she hadn’t he told her not to be very sure about that, leaving her with a big distress inside. During last module, at lunch time, without her asking him for any help, he started manipulating her verbally and physically, pressing her granties on her arm until she could not bear the pain, her head was falling on the lunch table because of the pain, while two classmates were watching, and lead her to believe she was all alone in this world, but he was there for her, he would help her “become a ruby”. He hugged her, put a hand on her butt and kissed her on the lips, while one of her female classmates was watching in awe. She rejected him saying that he was making her uncomfortable and he told her to relax, that she is so stiff, and made fun of her saying it was just her “cultural bullshit”… The next day after breakfast, again without permission or a therapeutical context, he pressed again her granties, violently under her eyes, leaving her with a lot of physical pain and emotional distress, he tried to kiss her again, she rejected him once more and he did not like it. A few hours later he was humiliating her in front of other people, saying things like “she is choosing always the wrong men”, that she could assist in the Yoga Sutras Seminar as the “class whore”, and attend the Spirituality in Sexuality seminar as his assistant while making suggestive body movements. When he said goodbye before leaving he again said: “you know I am there for you, I will help you.”
The simple case of a healthy and cheerful long-term student of mine in Germany illustrates in what way manipulation is going on: During a midday walk in a seminar he catches up with her and tells her, “I am seriously worried about your allergies and overall health”. “Don’t worry Kausthub, it is not bad”. “No, I tell you, there is some heavy disorder behind this, it could get much worse.” “Kausthub! You can’t speak to me like this and try put fears into me. I have lost my father due to cancer.” “See! Didn’t I tell you that you are having serious and unknown problems. Trust me, I know.”
After having heard what has happened in Estonia in the “Sanga-meeting” this August, I can only say, the affected people ought to speak out. Yoga is not about culling out spirits or surrendering one’s individual will power to a teacher who assumes the role of a yoga-sorcerer. No teacher in the world has a right to demand authority over others. The goal of yoga is Kaivalya, independency and not wrong devotion.
We are called to advise people to boycott KHYF. I am in touch with several senior and long-time students of Sri Desikachar and active members of KYM and have taken their support in writing this letter. In Chennai there is an honest attempt to shut all teachers of KHYF out of the doors of KYM, the centre started by Sri Desikachar. This is a right effort for people to reinvest their faith in his life-project KYM, which is a non-profit organization. If it succeeds in shutting out the influence of Kausthub, there will be an authentic forum for students all over the world to learn yoga as the way it was envisaged by him.
May this lead to healing and open the doors for others to feel empowered to come forward in the future.
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