How to end Sex Scandals in the Yoga Community.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Mar 25, 2013
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…Or any mindful community, for that matter.

We can end scandals by dropping the notion that goodness is separate from us.

When our dreams come true, we will still be miserable if…

If we think happiness is future tense, it will always remain so, ever out of our grasp. Enjoy now. Start enjoying now, now. The best way to do so:

tote new

No, not buying a tote. Just read it.

So, after 10 years, I’m all over the catalogs and posters and stages of various conferences and events, and have been for some five years now, off and on. And yet still my happiness has nothing to do with any temporary recognition (or lack thereof): we find our happiness not in ego fulfillment but in generosity and mindfulness.

toronto yoga conference waylon lewis ego

I mean this not as a humble brag, but as what it says: this stuff—when our ambitions come true—actually don’t make us happy. In fact, fulfilled ambition can make us into our own worst enemy, miserable and ridiculous, unless, as Seane Corn puts it, we pass along any goodness we receive, and keep the love flowing.


This is important stuff. Otherwise we become fake gurus, or fake guru worshipers, and the scandals persist, year after year.

It’s important, when such scandals occur, that we students take responsibility.

This isn’t about blaming the victim.

“Growing up means watching my heroes turn human in front of me.” ~ Dan “Soupy” Campbell

Responsibility is the opposite of victim-hood. It’s important that we not shy away from assigning half the blame to we the students, and not merely 100% to the teacher. Otherwise, we risk getting too PC and more importantly we risk losing sight of how we can be empowered and put an end to such scandals: by dropping theism, hero-worship, idolatry. So asking why “yogis fall for such men” (or, yes, women) is important.

It is we the victims’ faults, in a sense, in that we are not victims, and we shouldn’t act like victims or view ourselves as victims.

“Don’t follow in the footsteps of those who came before, seek what they sought.” ~ Basho

We can end scandals by dropping the notion that goodness is separate from us.

“What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person.” ~ John Green

There was incredibly little self-examination following the John Friend scandal, and yet there was plenty of unending anger and victimization instead of learning from the mistakes of our fallen idols, and the commercial apparatus set up to milk our worship.

Examining theism is key to ending these recurring, and unnecessary tragedies.

I just left the huge, impressive Toronto Yoga Conference (videos coming soon), and can tell you that idolatry in the yoga community is alive and well…and these seeds will continue to bear fruit.

It’s generally harmless, if the teachers (such as Seane, at the conference, or Richard, back home) don’t buy into the worship and kind words and adoration we drown them in.

But when teachers do dip their own insecurity into the honey of ours…trouble.

Whenever I write about scandals, the idolaters (all of us, to some extent) think that I’m defending the teachers. I don’t give a shit about such teachers…I care that we regard ourselves as warriors, in the Shambhala sense, as full human beings on the path and that along our path of devotion and learning we never let go of our critical intelligence. And that when we bow to our teachers, we bow with respect for ourselves as well as them and their learning.

So let us all join in vowing, to ourselves, that we will not seek happiness in worship, or personal attainment. That we will seek our happiness in service, and in our path of waking up. Let us renew our willingness to put ourselves out there, to confront our communities and teachers with respect, but without aggression or servility.


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


10 Responses to “How to end Sex Scandals in the Yoga Community.”

  1. Jennifer White says:

    Love it. Interesting thoughts in the wake of the latest "yoga scandal revelation." This actually reminds me of the 29 Gifts challenge I'm participating in (I wrote a blog on my first gift, a day without internet for my daughter). It's amazing how much energy and happiness you find when you realize what you have to offer the world.

  2. Dana says:

    Being at the TO conference I was filled with great humility, strength and love as I did my practice with a few great teachers. Sean Corn being one of them. She has a way of sending off unspoken vibes to those practicing that asana needs to leave our own comforts and really make a change for the better for all people (yes I really did get all that from her). However, as i leave my mat and head upstairs to the crowds of people looking for happiness in spending or the new latest self improving gadget that is needed for our practice…I get a sick feeling in my stomach. Trying to absorb it still. ON one hand I feel immersed in love and on the other I feel deep sadness that I am not sure we are getting it, So I head back to my mat!

  3. sandra says: comments by Zhander Remete on the nature of Yoga (short interview snippet)

  4. sandra says:

    and this from EJ:
    "I feel that on one side there’s a very strong culture of people doing yoga purely for the love of yoga and there’s a very strong culture of people that are doing yoga for the love of money. And they are teaching for economic reasons before other reasons or starting yoga businesses…and this is a new phenomenon. But I know for myself that I am committed to preserving an integrity on what I am willing to sell and what I am not willing to sell."

  5. elephantjournal says:

    Metzger Stop scandalizing sex! Voila – done.

    Leslie C Sex is not the problem…it's the "power over" that is…or could be.


    Kapal Nath As a member of a yogic tradition that "worships" the founders and gurus as being deities I must agree with Waylon! My experience is that it is unhealthy and even counterproductive to hold our guides and teachers to be perfect or "god-like". To hold other humans to such standards means that we will inevitably be let down or even abused as ideals seldom exist in the real world. This does not mean that we should not hold our guru's and teachers in a reverential manner, but instead that we should be realistic about the fact that they are people also. What is more beneficial, is holding ourselves to high standards while at the same time retaining compassion for ourselves and our process. Maintaing reverence for the traditions that we follow does not necessitate being unrealistic about anything, but instead helps the tradition maintain it's authenticity and accountability. Adesh Adesh

    Marva Brook Waylon thank you so much for posting this.

    Melissa Roberts I really enjoyed this post!

  6. Auki says:

    I'm sick & tired of all the hot-shot-yoga-teacher-assholes embarrassing sincere yoga practitioners & tarnishing the publics perception of the yoga community at large.

    Speaking of hot-shot-yoga-teacher-sex-scandals, Bikram is being sued now too. Check it out:

  7. Vikas Rana says:

    Watch the latest another news on baba sex scandals. How can we end it?

  8. Andrew Hoffman says:

    Hello, Waylon,

    Regarding your comment:"Responsibility is the opposite of victim-hood. It’s important that we not shy away from assigning half the blame to we the students, and not merely 100% to the teacher."

    This would make a lot more sense if there was no power differential involved. But there is. We are all to some extent conditioned by our culture. Because we believe that those who have accepted the role of spiritual teachers have achieved something we desire, we cannot assign "half the blame to the students," who are after all novices on the spiritual path. The greater responsibility by far is that of the teacher who should act as an ethical role model.

    In Falk's Stripping the Gurus, available online, the author talks about Osel Tendzin who was the successor to Chogyam Trungpa. Despite having AIDS Osel had unprotected sex with over 100 male and female students without telling them about his AIDS. According to Osel he did this because Trungpa told him he should not tell anyone he had AIDS and that they would not get the disease. One can only hope Trungpa told him no such thing, but Trungpa's own legacy is marred by episodes of violence including the famous event involving William Merwin.

    The point is that incidents such as this show clearly that teachers who have been given transmissions of spiritual authority in recognized spiritual traditions certainly bear the bulk of responsibility for the breach of ethical behavior. This is not to claim that they are totally responsible or that students should not do all they can to empower themselves. The point is that the power differential is real and is ingrained in the culture. That must not be ignored if the situation is to be changed.

  9. greenbless says:

    While these "sex scandals" or public disavowal of yogic precepts cause people to become disheartened, it is a aspect of Western culture that draws these perversions in the first place. The teacher chooses those students and those students choose their teacher for those lessons. The perversion of that yoga was present before it became public. The path of asana that the United States enjoys celebrating with Western flare sans Samtosa or Sauca is being reckoned by this public moment that Bikram is having, and any public affair that a yogi or path has such as this could be considered a reckoning. The paths that do not have this manifestation will be made stronger by this public experience.

  10. Jenn says:

    Why is this latest "scandel" not appropriately being named? It's not a scandel, it's accusations of rape. Is hero-worship & popularity as such that we have to label it differently and since when? The fact is, people who seem to feel they lack seek and in seeking, may latch onto any of the newest trends to find fulfillment or meaning or…take responsibility for yourself, act responsibly, stop lowering your self worth in comparison to advertised expectations/altered realities, and for those that teach, include that in your practice and admit you get off on the recognition. This veil that you only do it for the greater good is horsesh**. You enjoy it, you earn a living doing it and it feels good to be recognized. Own it then be responsible about it.