An Open Letter to Anusara, Inc. & the Anusara Community. ~ Douglas Brooks

Via on Feb 28, 2012

Tantric scholar Douglas Brooks calls for the dissolution of Anusara, Inc.

This rather significant letter from Tantric scholar Douglas Brooks (who I interviewed recently here and who just published this on elephant, here) was posted today on his public Facebook page, and elsewhere. It seems Mark Zuckerberg, and not Yogadork or elephant, is the one breaking all the stories, here. ~ ed.

~

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.

Yours,
Douglas Brooks

 

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 Douglas Brooks is a scholar of Hinduism, south Asian languages, and the comparative study of religions.  He lived in India with his teacher, Dr. Gopala Aiyar Sundaramoorthy, studying and practicing Srividya, Auspicious Wisdom, and the modern traditions of goddess-centered Rajanaka Tantra.  A graduate of Harvard University, he has been Professor of Religion at the University of Rochester in New York for the past 25 years.

If you would like to know more about the traditions of Rajanaka Tantra or to engage in studies of yoga philosophy and the history of Indian spiritualities, visit rajanaka.com and srividyalaya.com.

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76 Responses to “An Open Letter to Anusara, Inc. & the Anusara Community. ~ Douglas Brooks”

  1. paul says:

    Wow. What a f!!ed thing to do, as the organ transplant begins, the godfather writes a public letter saying pull the plug. All the "you're smart, you can do whatever you want" will not get the ugly out of the stain this letter puts out. Phasmid indeed…
    (I'm no kula-ite, but, wow.)

    • Lor says:

      would a more apt metaphor be the godfather intervenes when he discovers the pediophile preist is being transferred to a new church?

  2. SMC says:

    Thank you for your clear sight.

  3. Glad says:

    am glad to see this. Dissolution of AY Inc is the only hope for the best (and the only viable parts) of AY to go on.

  4. elisabeth says:

    thank you for posting a real plan, douglas, even though you personally have no way to carry it out. its an tangible, real invitation to revolution. i have felt ever since the exposure of John's bad choices that we are in the perfect place for revolution. i felt like "of course", not that i was wanting a teacher i valued to truly be of questionable character, but "of course" because it is time for the model the dismantle and shift.
    what you are proposing here is that beyond 2012, anyone can teach Anusara yoga classes, yes?
    i believe that Michal has the best of intentions, but i do not look forward to a future of Anusara that divides community into "old Anusara" and "new Anusara" and those who stayed and those who left. its time for a real evolution of yoga~ yoga released to the community. the idea of a revelatory and revolutionary yoga burned strong in my heart 2 years ago; at that time i felt it as a push in to dedicate myself to Anusara yoga, and now the revelation and revolution continues …

  5. DGC says:

    Thanks you crystal clear understanding of the situation and suggesting a course ahead that is quite honorable.

  6. Philip Chaffee says:

    Douglas,
    As a long time student of Anusara and you, I can only say WTF? Why are you stepping into the ring and suggesting the dissolution of an organization of which you are not even a part before the dust has even settled and persons who remain part of Anusara given an opportunity to see what can be done to bring order to this chaos ? It is to me akin to throwing the baby out with the bath water. I frankly do not understand why those outside of Anusara feel compelled to tell those still part of Anusara what to do and how to do it. It's not as if they can't read or write or make decisions for themselves. All you are doing in my opinion is throwing more fuel on an already raging fire. With great respect for you and your teachings, I must respectfully disagree with your musings in this article-Philip .

  7. elephantjournal says:

    #
    Fabienne Bernard That's kind of sad… I mean there is value in Anusara, right?
    about an hour ago · LikeUnlike · 1
    #
    Danielle Diamond Agreed.

    #
    William King Gutshall Beat a dead horse long enough and people will want you to get rid of the carcass.

    #
    Lisa Nevar-Landsmann I think we all need to take a step back and decide what yoga means to each of us, what it brings to each of us and what we can each give back. There were some folks that made some terrible judgement calls and many people were hurt, but these people do not define yoga, of any style. These things happen (sadly) in many different industries, organizations, communities. Yoga was not immune to some human nature – appropriate or not.

    #
    Tia Pirkl I agree Lisa. If every company, every religion, every government dissolved itself over a sex scandal (or other inappropriate action) … We wouldn't have much left. It happens.

    #
    Tia Pirkl And to dissolve Anusara Inc … So that teachers move on into the future teaching the "Anusara method" sounds like a ridiculous idea to me. There is no way the method would maintain the standards we are all incredibly proud of. Without credibility and licensure it would get watered down and mixed up. We see it in other"methods".

    #
    Sara Willis Kimmerle And what about the excessive control of the teachers? What about special privileges for sexual favors granted? Or financial sanctions when someone has displeased John? This is about so much more that a "sex scandal". If this was a teacher in your kid's school how would you feel about it? Business as usual?

    #
    Joan Harris Crofton I feel for all the teachers who invested in this man but they did get a good education in the principles and practice of yoga. John Friend equals Anusara and is obviously unfit to be in a position of power over others..as a teacher or a spiritual leader. Time for him to step down and his disciples to move on…DB is quite right imo

    #
    Randell Dodge sad state of affairs…go back to the source…ashtanga…

  8. Navarre says:

    I don't get the sense of a" directive." John Friend's response to this mess has been so bizarre that yes, in fact, the credibility of Anusara as a "brand" and as a "community" has been destroyed. Let it die. What is there to fear? Good teaching is good teaching. Let good teachers stand on their own merits, not on a "brand."

  9. I agree with Navarre..sounds like Amrit Desai act all over again..all this branding of yoga?? (Kripalu is alive and strong without him, broadening away!)..and believe me there are splits and moral dilemmas in other forms of yoga and they march on..it is just more obvious when the head of State is revealed …
    let good teacher prevail.,
    I know little of the details of this nor do I need to as it seems like gossip..but the facts remain for those strongly impacted by them.

    • Kelley says:

      As you point out, Kripalu continued beyond and despite of Amrit Desai. Why not give Anusara as a school of Hatha yoga a chance to do the same.

    • Kelley Linn says:

      As you point out Kripalu survived beyond and in spite of Amrit Desai. Why not give Anusara as a school of Hatha yoga the chance to do the same.

  10. Scott Newsom says:

    Douglas,

    You are right on target here. It may not be obvious yet, but the competition between the ex-Anusara teachers for John's mantle is already incredibly intense. This is in addition to the competition between what is left of Anusara, inc. and those who left. Division has been sewn and the energy seems to be splitting the cracks even wider. Anusara will not come back together again and the only way they can contribute to healing now is to quit fighting and let the diaspora settle where they may. In my estimation, this is not possible in as large an organization as Anusara. There will be those who wish to hold onto their insider status until it dissolves between their fingers. So, we will watch as this malignancy grows. We are far from seeing the extent of the damage that will ultimately result from this.

  11. Douglas Brooks says:

    I need not be the one who makes this case but re: Ms. Pirkl and others who suggest that this situation can be reduced to a "sex scandal" I would suggest a closer look at the extensive conversation created by Anusara teachers to suggest otherwise. There are far many more issues raised. I repeat here that I have made my own views known in public because I have been party to a great deal of that conversation. I think I explained my relationship with John Friend and Anusara Yoga in the article published with Elephant Journal. I would be happy to point you there. It may be important to some to know I have no details further to disclose that have any material bearing on the explaining the facts of the situation. The evidence in the public domain is sufficient to make the case, I believe, I make here.

  12. Tanya says:

    I am looking forward to your own article in response to the NY Times one on Tantra and Yoga. In my country the majority of people think “sex” when I say “Tantra”. This whole John affair is opening up an opportunity for someone as well educated and esteemed as yourself to take some deeper knowledge to the wider sensationalist public.

  13. Dale Elson says:

    Throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

  14. kld says:

    Has anyone thought to ask what the students want? I can tell you that despite all of the sadness, disappointment, in-fighting and theorizing around what the right thing to do, I still want to be able to go to an Anusara class because I LOVE IT. Power, flow, yin, Ashtanga – they pale in comparison. Maybe those who have a vested interest in where this organization goes should look at the studentship before they make choices.

    • I am a dedicated Anusara student (regularly for over 4 years now) and I published my views earlier this week: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/02/i-still-lo

      Here is another student's viewpoint: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/02/the-anusar

      I stand by my teachers whatever they decide, and respect them (regardless of which side) for speaking their truth. Equally, as Douglas is such a learned, well-respected and integral scholar in our community, I greatly respect and sincerely appreciate everything he has expressed here and give him much credit for speaking up.- Jeannie Page

    • SQR says:

      This comment by kld is well worth remembering as the various vested (and not so vested) interests wrangle for their share.

    • FREE says:

      Just because the brand name "Anusara" will no longer exist does NOT mean that the teachers will stop teaching the method!

      • Douglas Brooks says:

        As FREE points out, that's the point I have tried to emphasize. Teachers unite around the method.; that much seems clear. How they do that will be up to them. Anusara,Inc. will decide its own fate. My suggestions are made public for the simple reason that the new CE0 cited me in her letter to the Anusara community and I felt it necessary to distinguish my views from their plans, with every belief that her citations were meant in good faith. I have no expectations and, as I see it, nothing to gain here but to retain the integrity of my views. Others will differ. That's a good thing.

    • Susan says:

      "Power, flow, yin, Ashtanga – they pale in comparison. "

      This statement, in a nutshell, is the problem.

  15. Douglas it takes a lot of courage to step into the front row with the spot lights.

    You knew that by stepping forward you were going to alienate the true believers.

    I commented yesterday that eventually, you are going to have to step forward and be the person people can look up to.

    A great number of people who have invested so much time, effort, and money and Anusara are stuck.

    Start your own certification organization – you surely have enough teachers standing with you – and certify them.

    Be strong.

    • Dan G says:

      Wow Harlan, I agree that Douglas is strong and note worthy and an awesome scholar and stand-up ethical guy… but if he wanted to have his own certification program, surely he would have already done it.

      In these kinds of instances, those of us who decide to "just be" not brand our Yoga, not try to capitalize on it, not feel the need to own it or make it concretized by the authority of "certification" or trademark, are rogue… Douglas Brooks (and Doug Keller) are rogue.

      And so is anyone else who steps away from a system that should not need a name designated by some one else who profited from a spiritual practice. Anu$ara… is what it looks like now….

  16. diane says:

    John Friend had a group of professors that got rich and found groupies galore in that universe. From my vantage point as another Ivy League academic they were not blindsided. Now to save face and perhaps their jobs they seeking the backdoor leading to the pillars of academia. Douglas Brooks the Godfather and others bare responsibility as well to all those students that bought into such an expensive pyramid scheme.

    • elephantjournal says:

      "Bear"…but you knew that, as an Ivy League academic. (sorry, my ma used to send my letters back to me, spell-checked). ~ Yours, Waylon.

      • Michael says:

        Could you be more of a pompous ass?

        You've shielded John and complicit AY teachers from "hell", but then correct someone on a PHONETIC misspelling of a word… you are a total jackass.

      • Harriet says:

        You are a funny man Waylon.thanks

        • wtf? says:

          You know, watching Waylon Lewis' behavior over the last two weeks, I have to admit I'm not impressed. Waylon, would you please stop with the bitchy correcting of commentators, and the whinging? It would really help things.

  17. Susan in NY says:

    It's over. Stop drinking the kool aid.

    Time to move on with whatever dignity is left.

    My heart breaks for this community.

    • elephantjournal says:

      Kool aid is a rather strong analogy…those folks killed themselves. I know plenty of Anusara folks who think for themselves. Now, after this, I hope, as you say, it'll be time to move one from any kind of hero worship.

  18. FREE says:

    I would like to see more of the senior teachers that have resigned that were FOR YEARS intricately involved with John Friend in his behavior patterns, the enabling of the dysfunction that ultimately undermined Anusara, publically take responsibility and accept some culpability regarding their enabling of this behavior! It is obviously still going on with the upper echelons that have remained, enabling John to go on about his business. It is systemic. That has to be fully exposed and stopped in order for Anusara to go forward and thrive. The only resigned teacher that I have seen take responsibility for doing this was Christina Sells. She asked for forgiveness for her part in this game! I totally respect her for that! What courage!!!

    • elephantjournal says:

      Elana did so, straight up, and got little but hell from the critics. That may be justified, but it won't encourage others to take blame.

  19. BJ Galvan beejgalvan says:

    Matters of the Heart don’t always make sense….. Especially when the mind is leading.

    Amazing how words can reveal Light and uplift or break hearts, divide and conceal Light.

  20. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  21. Dr. Katy Poole Katy Poole says:

    Dear Douglas,

    I appreciate your candor and heart in writing this open letter, but I can't help but wonder if you have another point to make but aren't making. (I've felt the same way when I read similar statements by the recently-departed teachers who have openly admitted they were in the "know" about much of this behavior.) Could it be that Anusara is just a made-up system that has no basis in any real lineage and therefore has no intrinsic value worth saving? I mean — CEOs "step down" all the time and put in puppet governing parties and companies continue on with business as usual. Look at Microsoft. (Though I can scarcely imagine Bill Gates involved in a sex scandal even though it might make him more interesting!) Even Bill Clinton wasn't fully impeached. And in many spiritual organizations such as Kripalu for example—if there is a real lineage behind them—survive these kinds of problems all the time under new leadership.

    Yet when I read your words, I feel like you're privy to something else that you aren't saying because if you were to really say it, it might completely devastate those followers who think there is something inherent value in Anusara that is separate from John Friend. And I sense that you don't want to misuse your authority in this way. Otherwise, from this outsider's view what you suggest as the future of Anusara, Inc. comes across as somewhat extreme—especially when you refer to John as an old friend. Without knowing the inside details, it sounds like you're throwing him under the bus. (And that comes across as a bit "weird" given how closely you were associated with Anusara from its inception.) No one is beyond redemption, unless there was nothing there to begin with. Perhaps this isn't something you can comment on and not fair to ask you to comment on—but does the emperor have clothes on or not?

    • Etienne says:

      It's pretty obvious that a lot of ugly very personal shit went down behind the scenes. I wouldn't know how to come forward w/ that kind of info w/o coming across as a wanker.
      But I share your question, and always have. Anusara is a cobbled-together thing, John Friend's THING, That's why though I enjoy the practice, I could never stomach the "spiritual teachings." It just seemed like total idiocy to me.

      • Douglas Brooks says:

        For Dr. Poole and Etienne here. My private conversations with John I can say with real honesty have never been ugly nor have we ever had more than real disagreements that have allowed us to continue to talk. In the spirit of the great grammarian Sanskrit traditionalists who remind us that the economy of but half a syllable is more auspicious than the birth of a child, I would say that this current letter needs to be read with the first piece published here on EJ, the one detailing the evolution of Anusara from 2005. I am sorry to say that despite my efforts in seminars to make it clear, there are some very good souls, as we see in the comments further below, that have understood the teachings of Rajanaka Tantra (my teacher's Srividya school in the south Indian traditions of goddess-centered Tantra) to be the voice of Anusara. From 2005 forward both John and I were clear that we had parted ways philosophically speaking: his original "big tent" idea giving way to his creation of Shiva-Shakti Tantra, something I didn't know about until he published his primer. I had always urged John to allow his students to find lineage Tantra if that is what they sought and to let his "Tantric-inspired" movement remain an effort to inspire deeper learning and the freedom of spirituality that we all deserve (i.e., no "official" Anusara philosophy). I have refrained from comment about John's creation of Shiva-Shakti Tantra for a host of reasons, perhaps the most important of which is that if we are to regard it as a new "school" of Tantra (and I believe every teacher even within a lineage innovates) then there is simply too little available from its founder to be commented upon. Tantra, like virtually all Indian spirituality, demands _more_ attention to orality than any written formulations of teaching for interpretation. JF with his S/STantra has needed to explain his views to his students, including the notion that they should in some fashion or another "align" with the basic ethos (however freely they are permitted). As an historian of religions, I could have only awaited more to make a determination of JF's S/STantra in the contexts of the history of Tantric teachings. But it is also the case that dozens of Anusara teachers found themselves confounded by the introduction of the S/STantra paradigm, or at least they expressed in some fashion or another that they weren't sure what to do, what they were being asked to sign on to. My opinion on that matter, when asked, was simply to say that they would need to take that up with John. In the case of Rajanaka teachings, I've taught from the teachings of my teacher for more than ten years to students who have asked. In truth, before that time in purely academic circles I presented my teacher's views within the Srividya school as yet another interpretation among many, something that I still insist upon doing so that students of Tantra can understand the diversity of ideas, interpretations, and practices; further, I mean to teach the array of Indian spiritualities with the history of religions perspective that Dr. Poole and I were trained to understand from our graduate work. The basic premise of that process of learning is something I take to be part and parcel of my own spiritual path, viz., that I hope to understand and explain as best I can every point of view from its most plausible and charitable vantage point. Simply put, we are asked to present others with the same honest empathy with which we represent ourselves and at the same time spare no critical tools (even when they are leveled at ourselves and our own views). When we do something like what Dr. Poole and I also do, which is work beyond the comfy confines of non-committal HR (history of religions) academia and dare to have our own commitments become part of the conversation, we understand as well that we are part of the process of critical appraisal. I meant to be brief but you know what happens… Thanks for these thoughtful efforts. Good conversation always inspires hope for empowering each others' efforts to make a contribution to community.

  22. Dr. Katy Poole Katy Poole says:

    Sorry, Waylon. I correct my own typo: "some inherent value" instead of "something inherent value." I wouldn't want the fine (non-ivy league) university I attended to be discredited by my sloppiness! :-)

  23. Lisa says:

    I'm fairly new to yoga, practicing daily since discovering Elena Brower on YogaGlo in August of 2011. I feel in love with the healing and the power of the teaching, not to Anasara perse and not to the very fat egos that seem to be busting out all over about this "scandal." So he screwed up royally, so there was taint painted on the brand of Anasara, but what I have read in the plethora of posts all over the globe, are teachers I thought were in this to HEAL and to GROW not to be so bloody caught up in THEIR image, right? I mean, if you are in this for the love of yoga and to empower your community and be a messenger of love and peace, can't you step aside, take your own egos out of the equation and rise above the back and forth banter?

    It smacks a bit of Fox News commentary when all they know to do is bash because bashing boosts ratings.

    I'll continue to seek out the yoga that heals and restores because it quite literally saved my life. I'd also like to continue to follow amazing teachers that choose to move forward and lead versus wallow with the masses.

  24. BradYantzer says:

    Douglas, Thank you for this needed addition to the situation at hand.

    There is something that keeps coming to the surface every time i read anything about this whole predicament. John has been doing this for a long time. He is a fraud. Bottom line. Case closed.

    The real question here is where is the cop-ability of all those that were in the know? So called yogis, in silence and walking away afraid to say anything because of how it would reflect on them? or they think it is spiritual to turn their eyes away and pretend they don't know what was going on, for how long? Lay on the spiritual BS crutch? Mean time, allowing John to continue to do the damage to himself and his flock. I really believe that the Anusara community is responsible for what has happened to John really. Is that what a kula does? Let their leader be inauthentic, untruthful, etc, etc, etc… Not a group of people i want to have in my life, that is for sure.

    Drop Anusara, let it die. It is so tainted anyway?

    The whole thing is a dark stain on yoga, not just the Anusara community. Think about it.

  25. simmonj says:

    In the anusara kula most are aware the Douglas coined the phrase Anusara and was played a key role in the evolution of philosophy within the Anusara method.
    The teachings that are the foundation of the Ansuara method are timeless wisdom spanning the practices of countless yogis and not intellectual property. The power of the teachings are based on their ability to transform our experience.
    The Himalayan Institute, Kripalu, Yogaville and Sivananda are all great yoga insitutions that continue to offer the teachings without the founders.
    The Anusara Method is nothing short of genius and revolutionay in its ability to transform which lies at the mass appeal it experienced in recent years.
    Of course your opinion is important in the history and shaping of anusara but ultimately the experience of the practioners in the kula will define the future of Anusara.
    My own personal experience is one of gratitude and respect for the teachings. Having studied with John and many others in the kula believe Ansuara will be a powerful methodology for countless people and many years to come.

    • shelly says:

      I am sad to see the suffering that the Anusara community is going through – it is very similar to what the Kripalu community experienced in the mid-'80s. They made it through, and I think the Anusara community will also find its way – as long as John Friend does as Amrit Desai did – leaves the community and doesn't return. That's the price he'll have to pay for his many transgressions.

      Still, I beg to differ with simmonj on one point. To say Anusara "genius" and "revolutionary" is, frankly, insulting.

      I guess it would seem to be revolutionary if you had never taken a yoga class from a decent yoga teacher before.

      This continual perpetuating of Anusara as the "be-all and end-all" of yoga practices is a big part of the Anusara culture, and I'm looking forward to the day when I don't have to hear about how much better it is than any other yoga practice out there.

      (The kula is still the coolest clique, apparently, even after the fall.)

      I have taken classes and workshops with several high level Anusara teachers. While they were fine teachers, the practice did not resonate with me. It's a derivative form, with an anatomical emphasis that is "universal" yes, but, I contend ANY yoga teacher who knows what they are doing, and has studied anatomy has also learned these fundamental physiological underpinnings through their own practice and training. The Anusara methodology and philosophy was cherry-picked by JF from other philosophies and hatha yoga practices, and intentionally packaged in such a way by JF that it had mass appeal.

      There, I said it.

      Still, I get it – you love your Anusara practice. Great – continue to do it every day. Enjoy it and share it with your students.

      But, I agree with Douglas Brooks. It's perhaps better to go forward and share it without a bureaucracy or branding, now that it has imploded.

  26. michaelpatrickmoran says:

    I have participated in some events associated with the Anusara school or style of yoga. I have been inclined to follow this story and read many of the postings, letters, and observations on the violation of trust that is the result of the actions of John Friend, as the leader of the Anusara organization.

    Having been touched by many of the heartfelt postings, I felt a desire to share some of my observations, which perhaps might be of interest to others who have been touched in some way by recent events within the Anusara organization.

    Just to share a bit of my background, I was first introduced to yoga in 1975, while a college student by taking classes offered at a University by a wonderful yogi by the name of Bharat Gajjar. Bharat had a “lineage”, (as many have discussed) in the Sivananda style of yoga, having as his own guru Swami Vishnu Devananda, who then had as his teacher/guru Swami Sivananda Saraswati. One of the things endearing about Bharat was that as essential as Yoga and his Hindu religion were to the core of his beliefs, he also was well grounded in modern American life as a scientist, professor, husband and father. Bharat, I suppose did not need to see yoga as his profession, and practiced what he referred to as “karma yoga”.

    So after this introduction to yoga, and having practiced admittedly intermittently over the next 30 years or so, I found myself in yoga classes at a fitness center discussing what appeared to me to be a new style of yoga (as incongruent as that sounds), and hearing about Anusara yoga for the first time from an Anusara “inspired teacher”, not quite Anusara certified. During these quick after class discussions, the name Dr. Brooks was brought up, and I was thinking, wait a minute I have heard that name before, that is one of my son’s Professors at the University of Rochester.

    So now really intrigued by what I am hearing I explore Anusara further and end up taking 3 weekend seminars with Dr. Brooks and 1 weekend session with John Friend at a local college outside of Philadelphia. I find value in all these events, although I am struck most by the attention to technique and alignment I receive at the Friend event not by John, but by one of his teachers who is constantly coming to my aid. My thought at the time was I must have stuck out like a sore thumb to warrant all this attention, but it was offered in such a positive and affirming way that it was helpful (thank you Michelle S.)

    So there is my background with yoga and Anusara. My heart truly goes out to all the teachers and students affected by recent events, as the upheaval to your lives as followers and proponents of this school is not being overstated when referred to as catastrophic, as it has been by senior level members.

    After the event with John, I did begin to receive emails from the organization about Wanderlust and other travel and training events. I recall hearing/reading about the introduction of Shiva-Shakti Tantra. What was not clear to me, and perhaps I am not alone in this misunderstanding, is that this was a clear diversion from the teachings of the “Auspicious Wisdom” or Rajanaka Tantra of Professor Brooks.

  27. michaelpatrickmoran says:

    Reading now the background that Douglas has shared, I wonder if this shift from the principles held to and taught by him as Rajanaka, (as he delivered them from his own lineage), was not downplayed intentionally so as not to bring additional focus on the creation of a new, or at the least modified belief system, now called Shiva-Shakti Tantra. As one who thought that it was Tantra as taught by Douglas that was at the core of the Anusara system, it is somewhat of a revelation the extent to which this new core belief system was not in alignment with the principles taught by Professor Brooks. His own words make that much clearer than I could ever attempt to do, so I won’t.

    As I said, having spent some time listening to Douglas review principles and share stories of his goddess centered studies of Indian spirituality and mythology, he provided a very solid center to what I took to be the core of the Anusara belief system. This was done as an educator, not is a manner that was proselytizing or constructed to force me in any way to accept all of his beliefs as the one truth. And also might I add, with a control and command of the English language that is equal to any speaker I have ever encountered.

    So when I read the stories and reports of the activities that John engaged in from teachers I do not know and have never met like Amy and Sarah, these are not anything like the principles I thought were at the basis of the system based on my admittedly limited understanding and experience of the system.

    The last thing I would share would be hopefully a more positive spin on the Anusara system. Although I did attend the workshops with Douglas as I discussed, and have developed meditation as a much larger focus of my practice as a result, my primary interest was in the maintenance of my health and body through the practice of asana.

    With that goal, I attended a Therapeutics workshop with Naime Jezzeny. It was very helpful and very sound in principles designed to produce a practice that would help my body heal and keep me on a path where I would not injure myself through bad alignment. To the extent that Naime learned these techniques through John and Anusara reflects very well on the system and the school of Anusara.

    Again, as a casual observer, a proponent of yoga as a positive life-affirming practice whatever your core belief system happens to be, and as some one exposed to at least a few different styles; I would plead that of all the voices being raised with suggestions, that the remaining Anusara team really, really, really listen to the suggestions of Dr. Brooks.

    By the way, my son is now a graduate with a degree in Religion and Political Science, so I have absolutely nothing to gain from this recommendation. It’s just my observation that the man knows of what he speaks, he speaks from the heart, and there is wisdom in what he is saying.

    My final recollection is that as nice as it would be to have this wonderful expansive center for yoga in CA, when Bharat wanted to have a center, he bought a row house in Wilmington DE and started the Sivananda Yoga Center in the bottom floor while renting the top floor to sustain it. It lasted some 30 years or so, and then he sold the building and donated the money from the sale to start schools in India.

    Now that my friends, is a guru.

  28. Ragaman Das says:

    Excellent proposition! This is, perhaps, the best article written pertaining to Anusara-gate. Kudos to Douglas Brooks and EJ for serving as a medium for logical and coherent dialogue. Yes. Anusara was a manufactured vehicle of survival. Many of its precepts were often criticized as "bubble gum yoga," or "guru in a box yoga." But it's time to bury the apologies, justifications, hatchets and denials. The spiritual current now calls for healing, renewal and progress on all fronts. The yoga community should encourage and allow the dissolution of Anusara, Inc. and all associations to the universe of Anusara Yoga. All teachers should immediately stop using the name as an umbrella or association. Go back to non-programatic yoga basics. Let the Anusara concept implode and gravitate into the single entity known as John Friend.

    The strongest and most talented instructors will flourish outside of the manufactured Anusara crutch that has enabled and empowered so many otherwise feeble people as "gurus." The best thing that anyone can offer the yoga community is to let this episode subside and relegate it to the pile heap of cautionary tales for innocent, as well as crooked, minds. Unfortunately, neither crooks, nor innocents ever learn the lessons of history. It seems like human needs and desires are stronger than the clearest guidelines. All the more reason to strive towards cultivating an authentic practice: yogas citta vritti nirodhah.

    Caveat! Ragaman Das is watching…

  29. kali says:

    So I understand that both John and Douglas have a philosophy of tantra in which the Goddess is being worshiped.
    Isn't it interesting that close to 90% of the practitioners of yoga are women yet in the majority of the cases men are in charge?
    A shift towards women in leadership would go a long way towards peace in the communities and peace on earth.
    Not the systems where women have to be more 'male-like' to succeed and lead but where the strong feminine is not only supported by other women but by strong men.
    A wise person once said, 'Only Grandmothers should be in charge – of Everything!'.

    Think about it.

  30. artpulse says:

    Who said that yoga teachers or anyone for that matter, are not suppose to have something to learn about themselves and will not hurt people in the process. Why do we idealize teachers as perfection itself? Where is the practice in all of this? I think in disappoint we can choose to judge or we can look at why we judge, and wise up.

  31. artpulse says:

    Who said that yoga teachers or anyone for that matter, are not suppose to have something to learn about themselves and will not hurt people in the process. Why do we idealize teachers as perfection itself? Where is the practice in all of this? I think in disappoint we can choose to judge or we can look at why we judge, and wise up.

  32. thebabarazzi says:

    Here's another prediction. This time, it's allllll about the lingam… D. Brooks, J. friend, the apocalypse, you know the deal. (Thanks for the repost Omiya): http://thebabarazzi.com/2012/03/01/video-yogis-di

  33. Theo spencer says:

    Doug,
    First of all, you have PhD, so I would never refer to you as Dr. Second, you were a student of my cousin Stephen at Middlebury, who referred to you semi-fondly as Douggie Brooks. I will never refer to someone with a PhD as Dr., as you insist on referring to yourself. First off, I have been to several 'retreats' with you, and as someone who has a 'masters' degree from a decent university, UCS Berkeley, you are one of the most-divergent lecturerers I have ever heard, unable to stay on point, or on question. I am no yogi, but over the years I have been to many classes at Juvamukti in NYC and OM and others and had a serious practice for several yerars. I found Anusara through someone close to me and ws taken most of all by the exactitude of the alignment and the focuss on the openness of the heart. Both of things seemed so right to me. When I met John about seven years ago at a big thing he taught in NYC, and on several other occasions, he seemed to represent what Anusara teachers I had had also had–an open heart and a loving personality.

    I feel compelled to say after reading what you have written of late–note mention the weekend seminars I have spent with you–that you represent neither of these qualities. I don't know John, and he seems obviously like a seriously flawed guy. But as someone recently wrote, what he created was loving and open. You know you are 'guilty' of some of the same crimes as John. For you to pontificate is, even from a distance, for someone who knows a bit about your academic history among other things, difficult to swallow.
    Theo Spencer 917-208-5192

  34. [...] so. Unless Anusara Yoga™ can separate itself from John Friend (and I so wish it would as Douglas Brooks laid out, the name association cannot recover. For me, it’s that [...]

  35. [...] the system of yoga itself, is fundamentally flawed, or whether John Friend must permanently be separated from Anusara Inc. This is where we must be careful to distinguish appropriate and understandable rage, grief, [...]

  36. entrpreneur says:

    I definitely will send this to my neighbor we were just talking about this yesterday!

  37. [...] it is to observe, as did Douglas Brooks, who called for the dissolution of Anusara, that “this could take some [...]

  38. Tony in Berkeley says:

    And now Douglas Brooks is conveniently cashing in on the ex Anusara kul-ites with his trainings, etc. The whole anusara scene was always about moneymaking anyway.

  39. Well said Douglas. I applaud you for speaking your truth, and I think you did so in a very eloquent and objective manner, not an inflammatory one. Jeannie Page- dedicated Anusara student.

  40. Philip Chaffee says:

    Morning D:

    Didn't mean to intimate that your comments were unwelcome, just that I disagree with the suggestion that Anusara needs to be put down for the greater good of all. Whether the conversations about Tantra and yoga have suffered a setback or this is simpy an opportunity to bring greater clarity remains to be seen.I suspect it will depend in large part on how those who can speak about it authoritatively like you respond. Haters will hate, seekers will listen and make their own decision and many could simply care less caught up in the sensationalism and gossip.

    I look forward to your comments about the NY Times hit piece or anything else for that matter as they are always stimulating and thought provoking whether one agrees or disagrees.I honestly believe that this whole debacle presents a teachable/learning moment for each of us on many levels.

    With respect~Philip

  41. Scott Newsom says:

    Perhaps the term "John's mantle" was misused here. The competition among the Anusara diaspora is for the students who no longer wish to be associated with the name Anusara. It is an assumption, based on my knowledge of human psychology that leads me to believe that som,e of these same people have hopes of rising to the very top of the Yoga world. By not naming names, my hope is that some self-reflection will help dampen some of this competition. Likewise, the tug-of-war between Anusara inc. and the Anusara diaspora can really only stop when one side lays down the rope. If neither side does, you will see exactly what Douglas Brooks predicts above.

  42. Tatiana says:

    Thank you Scott. Perhaps I have been practicing way too long– but the whole idea of the "top of the yoga world" makes me want to not even teach. I value practice over time with the same teacher– as both a student and a teacher.

    I take this as an opportunity for my own self reflection. Thank you again.

  43. FREE says:

    I think it naive to think that the method and practices will "dissolve" when the AY brand is disbanded. There will be plentiful and probably more powerful "Anusara" method and practice when the teachers are FREE.

  44. mattalign says:

    This is America. Let the free market decide what stays and what goes. There was something said about fashion once that I liked that would certainly apply to styles of yoga. It goes, "The absence of fashion altogether would, in itself, be a fashion statement". Likewise, the yoga of no style would be a new style of yoga called, styleless yoga, wanna sign up for a class?? There are a few spots left…

  45. Pamela G says:

    Please see the sentence just previous to the "pale in comparison" one where kld states "I still want to be able to go to an Anusara class because I LOVE IT." Do you see where the poster uses the first person singular nominative case personal pronoun "I"? It is not a far fetched conclusion that the "pale" statement following would also reflect the same personal preference since this is the tone of the entire post. He/she is speaking as a student and of his/her personal experience. I hear students of many different styles of yoga speak with the same enthusiasm about their style that they love and connect to deeply. I don't get offended or feel they are putting down my style because they love theirs. In fact, I feel happy they found something that's had a powerful positive impact on their lives and oftentimes ask them to share what they love about it.

  46. Student says:

    Not true….Sooner than being drenched with all this crap, I'd sign up for a yoga class in a church basement. Yoga existed long before the American consumer culture got hold of it. Besides, "free market" is a myth. Blech, Dear lord, the messed up values hidden behind all those smiles. "open to grace" seems to only really mean "open your wallet."

  47. Scott Newsom says:

    And thank you for the kind engagement. See you on the mat. :-)

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