Did I Join A Cult And Not Even Know It?

For the past three months, I have been 100% enthusiastic about Kundilini Yoga.

Don’t think my emotions had no foundation in fact. I read the Wikipedia entry on Yogi Bhajan and at the time it only contained neutral or positive descriptions of his life.

This afternoon, however, I read some devastating reports on Kundilini Yoga.

I feel like I joined a cult and did not even known it. (Yogi Bhajan and Shlomo Carlebach taught together.)

Wait, ten days ago I felt uncomfortable with all the celebrations for Guru Singh‘s 64th birthday.

The room was packed even before class was to begin.

OK, not so creepy.

There were streamers and balloons to celebrate the Guru’s birthday.

As a straight man, I am not into this.

Before the Guru entered the room, a teacher led us in a warm-up meditation and had us practice a song to sing when the Guru walked in.

Now I’m starting to feel uncomfortable. After all, a manly man does not celebrate another man’s birthday. A manly man only celebrates the birthday of the woman he’s sleeping with.

But this is LA and maybe the mores are different.

So the Guru walked in just after 7pm and the room went wild.

This is a little creepy because he’s just a bloke having a birthday and who cares about a bloke having a birthday except his mommy and his sisters and the woman he’s doing. Only these women should care about his birthday.

So we had a wonderful class of yoga. I was surrounded by beautiful women. All good.

Then after class, a bunch of people went to hug the Guru and the Guru takes care to only hug wives when he hugs them together with their husbands, after all he’s a Guru and very holy, and then the Guru danced with us and he had such a happy pure smile on his face and he’s just so full of love that even a manly man such as myself was not unmoved.

Then there were cake and cookies even though it was all vegetarian, I abstained because my standards of kashrut are just that high, bitch.

This woman (Kamlapadi Kaur Khalsa) was a member of Yogi Bhajan’s group for 20 years. Then she left and eventually wrote this devastating essay:

Yogi [Bhajan] was a master of Tantric Yoga, which is another way to say that he was a master of sex. Within the Tantric tradition of India and Tibet, it is recognized that sexual energy, is in fact, the same substance as spiritual energy. Yogi [Bhajan’s] students were encouraged to marry and explore this energy within the boundaries of monogamous relationships. Extra-marital sex and pre-marital sex were taboo within our cult. When affairs did happen among us the whole cult community was deeply shocked and strongly titillated. Had Yogi [Bhajan’s] harem ever come fully to light over the years, the cult would have instantly blown up and destroyed itself. Such is the power of sex. No other misconduct that Yogi [Bhajan] pursued was anywhere near as threatening to [his] position and lifestyle as his sexual activities. Yogi [Bhajan’s] greatest challenge, therefore, was not only to seduce supposedly spiritually committed women into his bed (not all that difficult perhaps), but to keep them quiet about it for over twenty years. Now that takes some pretty strong magic indeed!

Yogi [Bhajan] kept his affairs secret from the cult-at-large by hiding them right out in the open, under our noses. This was, in fact, how he concealed all his unrighteous activities. He was always telling us that he was a crook and not to be trusted, but in light of all the fantastic yoga sets and mind blowing meditations he was teaching us, we just didn’t believe him. As for sex, it was part of the mythology that swirled around him that Yogi [Bhajan] needed very little sleep. Therefore, somehow, it didn’t seem strange to us that he would lock himself into a bedroom each night with one of his many "secretaries". After all, who knew when he might need to give a bit of dictation?

Once when Yogi [Bhajan] was visiting one of the ashrams that I lived in, I was up and awake in the middle of the night nursing my newborn baby. Right over my head, in Yogi [Bhajan’s] bedroom upstairs, I clearly heard the rather unmistakable sounds of heavy breathing and bed pounding copulation, but I interpreted the sounds to mean that Yogi [Bhajan] was doing a strenuous yoga set. At that time the implications of what I was hearing were just too intense and devastating for me to compute, so my mind simply fogged over.

The ways in which Yogi [Bhajan] controlled his mistresses were the same time-honored ways that men have been attempting to control women throughout history. As long as they played their roles devotedly, Yogi [Bhajan’s] women were given a great deal of status, political power within the organization, financial security and lots of cool jewelry. If they stepped out of line, however, they were shamed and their life support systems were threatened. At the most mundane level, Yogi [Bhajan’s] secretaries all signed secrecy contracts before they took their jobs and if they left the cult they knew that they were in potential danger from [his] goons–were they to spill the beans. In truth most of Yogi [Bhajan’s] women loved being part of the elite few, the inner circle, who knew all the powerful secrets that they believed we average, more stupid students would not have understood or have been capable of handling.

As well as all these normal methods of coercion, Yogi [Bhajan] was a master at keeping those around him completely stressed out and busy running around dealing with one manufactured crisis after another. Yogi [Bhajan’s] women, as well as the men in the inner circle, never knew when [his] wrath might fall about their heads for no reason at all. The fact that the content of Yogi [Bhajan’s] public humiliation sessions usually focused on the deep seated, real or fabricated, psychological problems of his victims, made [his] inner circle a rather desperate bunch of Yogi pleasers. Needless to add, [his] secretaries were also extremely competitive towards each other and unlike the women in the rest of the cult they did not bond well with others of their sex.


"Everybody who is in 3HO is going to be a [yoga] teacher, period. Whether you like it or you don’t. Either you will ultimately end up a teacher or you will leave us". Yogi Bhajan, Winter Solstice–1973

The 1998 Gal Research Group listed 3HO’s description of themselves as follows:

"Students and teachers of Kundalini Yoga, which includes all types of yoga, who practice the 3HO way of lifestyle as taught by Yogi Bhajan".

Kundalini Yoga teacher training is the flagship of recruitment and product for the 3HO ("Happy, Healthy, Holy Organization"). The organizational publication "The Science of Keeping Up" (Vol.1) Editor Shakti Parwha Khalsa states that–"3HO is a teacher training organization".

RECRUITMENT–Step One (It’s the classes stupid)

3HO recruiting begins with people taking Kundalini Yoga classes at centers or ashrams. Charismatic ashram teachers influence the students. These teachers advise–practice Kundalini Yoga daily, chant to still the mind, and use the teachings of Yogi Bhajan as a means to become more positive and have more energy. They are urged to feel the "experience" and use the "technology" of Kundalini Yoga.

Kundalini Yoga teachers may make claims, like these posted on the Internet and attributed to Ravi Singh Khalsa–"Introduction to Kundalini Yoga". This includes a "…list of the general benefits of Kundalini Yoga not only to wet your appetite, but to get you thinking along certain lines". He concludes–"You may never have considered that any exercise or self-help system could be so comprehensive or profound".

Such claims begin 3HO’s "thinking along certain lines" to mold the minds of many unsuspecting Yoga students that come to classes.

Khunrum emails me from Cambodia: "My thought is the article is too long to read right now. Do you feel like a cult person? Do you bang a drum and hand out leaflets at the airport?"

Chaim Amalek emails: "You joined a cult years ago and didn’t even know it."

Fred emails: "On the bright side, if you did join a cult, at least you had no money for the cult leader to steal. BTW, if you did join a cult, who is the cult leader? Who are the other cult members? Is there a cult leader to whom you are slavishly devoted?"

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
This entry was posted in Cults, Guru Singh, Yoga and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.