Gurus Behaving Badly: Why Do Sex Scandals Happen? ~ Kimberly Lo

Via Kimberly Lo
on Mar 26, 2013
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In case you haven’t heard by now, Bikram Choudhury is being sued by his former student, Sarah Baughn, who claims he sexually harassed her.

Gurus and sex scandals are nothing new; Choudhury is not the first and probably will not be the last yoga guru embroiled in a sex scandal. Indeed, he joins a long list of others including Swami Muktananda, Swami Satchidananda, Amit Desai, and of course, John Friend, whose recent scandal made headlines last year and has left the future of Anusara yoga in question.

The question as to why these guys do this is easy: It’s because they can.

Influential men in all walks of life have used their power to get women—it’s become such a cliche that most of us have no problems conjuring up the classic stereotype of the rich, powerful older man and his much-younger trophy wife.

Still, why people fall for predatory gurus is more complex. As someone who has practiced yoga for more than a decade, I have noticed that many come to yoga after they have experienced a major transition in their life: a relocation to a new place, a break-up, a health scare, etc.

Even those who have supportive friends and family often feel alone or at least that no one can know what they go through.

It can be extremely comforting to have someone who will listen to you without judgement; it can also be nice to be in the presence of someone who seems to have it all together even if that may not actually be the case.

Many of these men have charisma oozing out of their pores.

A friend of mine who studied with Amit Desai several years after his infamous scandal said Desai was one of the most charismatic people he ever met. As my friend said, “There was just something about him that I could not help but like.”

For many people who are struggling with their own self-esteem issues, being around someone who displays high amounts of self-esteem can be like a drug: it may even start to rub off.

One of the amazing things about yoga is that it works: you become physically and emotionally stronger, you feel better and as a result, you may even start to let go of the little anxieties and thoughts that use to plague your mind.

While a good teacher can guide and help you, the real work comes from you. Ultimately, you are the one who deserves the credit for the positive changes that are happening in your life and body and not the guru.

It is possible that many people lose sight of that and give the guru all the credit, thus making themselves vulnerable to these predatory teachers.

Also, in all fairness, it is not just women who fall for these gurus; I have personally seen many men who are so devoted to their teachers that they cannot begin to fathom that these guys may have flaws. This combination of mindless devotion and the inability to see the guru as human is a recipe for a disaster.

Even though I tend to think that most gurus start out genuinely wanting to help people, power has a tendency to change people. While some may use it for good, the desire to use it to further their own self-interests may prove too great of a temptation at times.

Amongst other things, Sarah Baughn alleges that Choudhury told her,“My wife is such a bitch…she is terrible to me. She is so mean. You have to save me.”

If true, then Choudhury illustrates better than anyone how some gurus may be more flawed than their students. The word “guru” merely means “teacher”. There is nothing magical or sacred about the word or the people it is applied to.

At the risk of sounding like a cliche, we are ultimately our own gurus; a big part of becoming our own gurus is learning to trust ourselves.

If a guru seems to be more interested in getting you into bed than helping you find enlightenment, then he probably is—in which case, run, do not walk away from him.

Even if you end up leaving your yoga community, you will not leave yoga.

Rather, that is something inside you that no one can ever take away.





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Ed: Bryonie Wise


About Kimberly Lo

Kimberly Lo is a yoga instructor and freelance editor & writer based in Charlottesville, VA. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework, travel, and photography. Connect with her on Facebook.


5 Responses to “Gurus Behaving Badly: Why Do Sex Scandals Happen? ~ Kimberly Lo”

  1. fragginfraggin says:

    "The question as to why these guys do this is easy: It’s because they can."
    Teachers have a responsibility to teach yoga as a system. This includes the yamas and niyamas.
    Teachers are also expected to be held at the same standards they teach, which includes sexual integrity.
    When teachers pick and choose the aspects of yoga they determine are important and unimportant to teach, aspects such as ahimsa and bramacharya get thrown out.
    Part of the responsibility of a kula and the whole point of practicing yoga as a community is to hold each other to higher standards. Meaning, if your mat-mate sees you acting out of accordance with the system you're devoted to following, they should let you know real quick you're straying onto a path not in alignment with yoga.
    IF you like to take the Aleister Crowley approach to life, and feel that one can "Do what thou will" or if you feel that you cannot protect someone from their own Dharma, then perhaps yoga is not for you.
    A yoga teacher well versed in yogic philosophy and steeped in the knowledge of the sutras is expected to have the self discipline to re-direct a starry-eyed infatuation back to the path of yoga and not into their pants. It takes strong will to walk this path. Much like walking the razor's edge. Either you make the choice to adhere to your yogic standards, or you do not.

  2. Kimberly Lo says:

    Yes, they certainly do have a responsibility to themselves and their students.

    With that said, I was talking about why predatory teachers do this. Clearly, these guys are not following the true yogic path if they engage in this stuff.

  3. Sarah says:

    I really feel sorry for Sarah Baughn and I hope more people in her system really stand behind her!

  4. Lindsay says:

    What about why do sex scandals happen- because people get very rich from them. How about doing some actual research rather than citing other articles. Or even more crazy, why not try looking at a situation from a different angle than the classic victim/predator one? You are your own guru, yes in a way, but you can't teach yourself something you don't know, but apparently you can write about it. What uninformed nonsense, right up elephant journals alley.

  5. Vikas Rana says:

    Can we stop this. Yet another latest news on baba sex scandals