Awakening is not genetic

Do you remember the story between Siddhartha and his disciple? Siddhartha Gautama transmits direct prajñā (wisdom) to a disciple simply by giving a wordless teaching to the sangha by holding up a white flower. None of the students understand except one, who smiles and sees the truth of our subtle existence and the form of the formless.

Ladies and gentlemen, yoga students, teachers, teacher trainers alike all in the Krishnamacharya lineage, and for those who aren’t in the lineage, who practice yoga or even who don’t……listen.

…..Awakening is not genetic….

Strangely enough not everyone in the yoga world has a good idea of who T. Krishnamacharya is. In case you don’t already know, the first part of this article is some background.

It isn’t a name that is thrown around often, even though Krisnamacharya just so happened to direct the movement of the practice of Yoga to later reach the western parts of this so divine and dark planet…..and who knows if it would have at all without him.

Krishnamacharya, his teachings and the international school; Krishnamacharya Healing & Yoga Foundation (KHYF), could possibly have a lot more popularity than it actually does.  At one point, apparently, an American businessperson had made an offer to the family to market the Krishnamacharya name and lineage. They could have been billionaires living off of spiritual seekers and yogis alike with keen interest.

However, the family refused, holding integrity in the name of true yoga.  Afterall, Krishnamacharya was a humble man, who never once even labeled himself as a ‘yogi.’

Of all five children of Krishnamacharya, three were inclined to take the yoga path. The first born son, T.K.V. Desikachar (KHYF/KYM), an excellent teacher and contributor to the yoga learning’s of many other great teachers. His brother T. K. Srinivasan(http://www.yogakshemam.net/English/homepage.html)  lives in France, and have small circle of students following him.  He is  relatively unknown by the international yoga community, because there is a tradition in India that the first born male heir to take up the responsibility of maintaining the family linage, so he has kept a low profile in order to not out-shine the authentic Krishnamacharya Tradition-KYM, even though “he was a great yogi” according to Srivatsa Ramaswami and his father (Namarupa No.6).

In turn, Desikachar had three children, two boys and one daughter. The eldest boy has a mental condition, although I am uncertain of which. I am told that Sir has openly talked about him in various workshops, and that he would often wonder off without a trace, so he is not in a fit state to take up the responsibility. Sir’s daughter Mekara is a yoga teacher too, who lives in USA and has a great chanting voice, whom I have heard on various KYM vedic chanting CDs. Since Mekara is a female,  so she has no right to take up family business too. I suppose that is how Sir’s other son, Kausthub Desikachar, landed the opportunity of continuing the family tradition, if he were to choose it, which he did.

Dr. Kausthub Desikachar, son of Sir T.K.V Desikachar, grandson of Krishnamacharya, the (now former) CEO and director of the KHYF, a Teacher, Trainer, Mentor, Therapist and Psychotherapist.  A juicy title to live up to.  Since 2001, Kausthub has been travelling to every nook of the world, leading a constant back to back schedule of workshops and training to the public, to teachers, to senior teacher trainers, in various elements of yoga.  Anyone, who ever met Kausthub in person, knows he is more than a vibrant character.  Kausthub is an extraverted, free spirited, a kind of yogi on the yoga fringe, a rebel teacher, friend, mentor…..and much more in past secret.

Kausthub is bright, quick and without any verbal filter to state comments upon race, gender, age, status etc. in a sloppy, immature and offensive manner.  Yet somehow for the most part it became humorous….perhaps because it was often shocking to hear.  For any student in questioning his lude behavior, it could have been disguised as Kausthub creating a subtle sort of psycho/spiritual testing of their beliefs in him and the teachings.  Though no-one seemed to be entirely certain.  As well, somehow he redeemed himself through his brilliant ability to be perceptive, intuitive, insightful and an excellent teacher in the classroom.

He was well liked and many enjoyed his energetic presence.  He was young, colourful, vivacious, creating a distinctly exciting and dynamic vibe when around.  However, lets admit that most of us questioned his behavior and often awkwardly laughed off his discriminatory and offensive jokes, unsure of his reasoning.  I have to admit to all of the group, I can see that we and many more worldwide, brushed off his behaviour, in majority giving him undeserving credit for being in the blood lineage.  However, of all the countless biography’s which have filtered through nearly every KHYF/KYM textbook, Kausthub lacks the shine that his grandfather carried.  AND none of us were going to question the man who was supposedly living up to his humongous role in the yoga world, Krishnamacharya’s grandson…..who would want to screw that up?

So in our somewhat nieve, forgiving, love for the path and the lineage as well as trust in the school, we (everyone KHYF associated worldwide) let A LOT of Kausthub’s actions slide.

What I felt and noticed was that despite his incredible capability to translate Sanskrit concepts from the Yoga Sutras into modern day understanding, as well as his talent with demonstrating teachings through our own individual experiences…..he still lacked the presence, the calmness, and the settling comfort one has around a solid yoga teacher…..He was Kausthub, his energy restless, wild and wreckless.

Only a few Sunday’s ago did myself and the entire KHYF staff, students, teachers, mentors, trainers and more hear of Dr. Kausthub Desikachar stepping down from the KHYF/KYM and affiliates worldwide, due to the allegations made against him for sexual, mental and emotional abuse.

A surprise, no, and many would agree that there was actually NO surprise.  If we stop there for a moment, can’t we all see that this is not a good sign of integrity, satya, or a teacher?

And yet this news still came as a shock, because the entire gold leaf plated and intricate kingdom of the KHYF, of our belief in someone close, someone who we all looked up to in one way or another, of that person being anyone, and our belief in the yoga sangha in general began to dissintigrate for me.  I saw the castle pieces crumbling in front of my minds eye as I read that first sentence in the official statement from the school.

Still, at first for many this was easily brushed off, considerate of Kausthub’s “open minded and free loving” nature, we could imagine the possibility of him having an affair. Especially considering the intense ‘social pressure’ his path and life had laid out for him, so it was “understandable”.

The shock remained present of course. Especially for those tied into the lineage, the teachings, the training, and the connection to the sangha, and of course those in close contact with Kausthub himself. Though, the KHYF had appeared to be a school so deeply true to its source, the nature of yoga, so honest, so compassionate, and so diligent in practice…..from what I felt while in India, it was the 29 devoted and glowing souls in our group, the students who actually truly represent these qualities. Who, I saw, practice them and carry them humbly into their lives. As students of this lineage, we must take perspective and become unattached to it.  The essence of Yoga is within YOU.  We must remember one’s true śraddhā.

I felt a “hush” on the situation, as though the whole sangha wasn’t even whispering about it.  There was no attention acknowledging this news on any of our social networking sites, in media, or even through email. I waited a couple days before making action to create sharing and togetherness.

Then more emails began to filter in, passing around in a hissy fit…

In the same letter the KHYF states;

“Upholding this tradition and approach in the field of Yoga and Therapy, The Krishnamachraya Healing and Yoga Foundation are taking these allegations very seriously.”

Perhaps not seriously enough, since this is the first acknowledgement from them that any kind of mischievousness had taken place on Kausthub’s part.   I received an email from a former Teacher/Trainer in the lineage, someone who had left.  This email explained that there have been several accounts of Kausthub’s manipulative abuse during therapy sessions to force the student into sexual acts with him.  These accounts were from several different women, all written in 2007. These letters were directed to either the KHYF or Sir Desikachar.   It is disappointing to find this former teacher stating, that those who wrote these letters were ignored, threatened and eventually “phased out” of the school entirely.

Since this occurrence, there has been no other contact to support those who had Kausthub as a mentor.  Then recently all Mentorees received a letter from Kausthub’s personal email, which states that he has taken a ‘break from teaching.’

Dear Mentorees,


Owing to present circumstances,  I have decided to take a break from teaching.  With this in mind, you might wish to consider an alternate mentor from the KHYF registry to continue your yoga journey.


However, the other option is to wait and as soon as circumstances become clear then I will be in contact again to further discuss mentorship.


I regret the inconvenience and concern this has caused.


Sincere regards,

 

Kausthub

Not only did this reveal that the Kausthub still has some power, enough for the school to let this email slide through.  As well, this letter made it obvious that in his illness, he remains in denial of the whole issue, thinking he’ll be back teaching, and unaware of the detrimental consequences of his actions.

It is our responsibility as a sangha, as those with truth in themselves, as those on the yogic path, to take important action.  How could we possibly support a yoga organization designed to teach and learn healing, which has also ignored the needs of their own students, students who were actually abused by their own leaders in a “therapeutic setting.”

The fact that the father Desikachar also ignored not only Kausthub’s behavior, but these unveiling letters from several women bringing attention to his abuse, is a foreshadowing…..that there was a beginning.  Where did Kausthub’s actions stem from?

Sir Desikachar, likely saw these letters and ignored them? Or was it Kausthub who intervened and hid them? controlling and threatening the staff to keep them hidden.  Regardless, anyone who was working with Kausthub’s should have known him well enough, and therefore must have neglected the possibility of him having inappropriate relations with students.

“It’s the teachings not the teacher” is a phrase that has been thrown around in the KHYF sangha a lot in the past couple weeks.  Sure, there is definitely truth in that, however how can one learn from an organization which has a rotten core.  The icing of the teachings cannot be learnt from a core/school that isn’t embodying its own teachings.  It is an illusion.

We can still learn from the teachings.  We can still learn from Krishnamacharya, who was a brilliant, beautiful, awakened being tuned into a truth from which is not inherited through genetics, it is something acquired from experience, Vairagya and Abhyasa, a dedicated sadhana, and a surrender to faith.

I will no longer have any part affiliated with the KHYF.  We are continuously hearing more and more details of Kausthub’s preverse, manipulative behaviour and if not physical, at least psychological, rape and sexual abuse.    He has scarred many many women who will deal with these repercussions for a very long time to come.

What he has done is that of an extremely ill being. We can accept that.  We can let him take his therapy and heal. We can be compassionate.  However, what I find disappointing is in us as a worldwide sangha.  I doubt that any of those who were working close with him, weren’t aware or at least didn’t suspect some inappropriate behaviour.

That blind eye, gave him so much power to fuel his ego and his actions.  By giving him the benefit of the doubt due simply to his position, his relation to Krishnamacharya, his humour etc. was passive and blind to the grander picture.  That is what allowed this to go on for years, with more than 10 women I know of.  Then, for those who actually knew, like the KHYF staff, and possibly Sir Desikachar who read those letters 5 years ago, it is shameful.

There is much more said in action than in words.  We must take a stand.  We have to in the faith and name of yoga, we cannot support this school.

Awakening is not genetic.

Us not taking action, is assisting the issue.

The fragility of our lives is that of a blade of grass dancing in the wind, and our power that of lightning blades pearcing the earth.  they are equal….and still we often move through our lives unaware of both.

we are born as wild mountain lions…..yet live most of our lives like sheep.

let us be reminded of the parts of us that need not sleep.

Thank you

Blessings

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15 thoughts on “Awakening is not genetic

  1. Very insightful. But compassion does not outweigh the need to protect future victims. There is a strong possibility that every abuser was abused. We can have compassion for that reality & still insist that K faces his accusers, make fair compensation, and become accountable for all actions. Otherwise we are merely deepening the samskara you describe here… unwitting collaboration with a libertine, and, allegedly, sexual predator. K needs to return to Austria soon, and we as a sangha, in our last act together need to insist he does so. Otherwise we are still ignoring real human suffering, including the heartbreaking fact of Kausthub’s denial of what he has done. We can’t compromise the welfare of living beings, especially K’s victims, and sad to say, his future victims.

    1. Gabe, I agree with you. When I said to be compassionate towards Kausthub, in no way did I mean to imply that we should soften the outcome of his actions. I am one on insisting that we stand up for our sangha, for those women, for us, for yoga and for him to acknowledge and be accountable for the damage he has caused. Yes he is still in denial and he is still somewhat protected from a lot of people and change by being in Chennai. Thank you for writing.

      1. Thank you goldenflight. This is not an easy time for any of us as we sort out next steps, whilst the leadership remains silent.

  2. Thank you so much for writing this. I feel the openness and truth coming through from all sides helps so much. Kausthub is indeed very very sick. As far as I know he still doesnt even acknowledge what he has done and is not able to face his addiction – or himself- honestly. It is- as you said- the sign of a very progressed state of mental illness. I am also very disappointed that the allegations from 2007 were not taken seriously by TKV Desikachar. It sadly unveils the sickness of the whole system and that is even more disheartening.
    Someone very wise said to me recently that instead of always looking at how much people know, instead we should start looking at how people act. That shows how much they have really understood. all the best to you and thanks again.

  3. A very well written article but I feel that Kausthub & Co will just cover this up with some token action and he will be back to action after few months when public memory is faint with respect to this incident . The Purity with which Krishnamacharya taught Yoga is no longer there at KYM as Krishnamacharya Yoga has been transformed in to a Corporate Yoga Organization though KYM still has lots of wonderful teachers but many of them have been driven out by Kausthub & Co . Whether Desikachar was also part of this or whether he was helplessly watching his son do all these damage I do not know . They are master manipulators and know the art of Intellectual Manipulation and many western people are unware of these things .Only know they are coming to terms with these sort of Manipulative actions after the Bubble has busted .

  4. Shankar’s comments on 20th Oct seem very pertinent now. Thanks for writing this. The whole thing is extraordinary; he certainly has chutzpah…

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