Mark Whitwell on Kausthub Desikachar

 “I wish to make clear that the sexual scandal around Kausthub has no implication, at all, on Krishnamacharya’s life work and dedication to Hatha Yoga. Although lineage held in family is a historic way of preserving teachings, the lineage is not dependent on this arrangement. Krishnamacharya himself communicated to me, all who represent their teachers work with a clear heart and honest intention are lineage holders.”  (Mark Whitwell, from his Facebook page.)

Part 1:

Part 2:

Mark is a former student of Krishnamacharya and Desikachar, so I am glad that he weighs in on the matter and I agree with what he says.  One of the things Mark speaks to is the cultural (patriarchy) aspect of this and as I said in my own first post , there are various layers to the situation and that is one of them.

In an ongoing discussion of the Kausthub mess, a friend and I cyber-chatted about one of  the latest writings about it in the yoga blogosphere and he gave me permission to quote him.   We have a bit different perspective on the matter having both studied at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram.  Many commenting on this in the yoga blogosphere have not.

“Lots of people are viewing this issue from their misconceptions about India and yoga.  If guru culture (whatever the hell that means) has burned them (or they have never experienced a guru and essentially see them from a strictly xenophobic, American individualism is the highest virtue point of view), they’ll bitch and moan about it.  If large Westernized organizations (whatever the hell that means) have burned them, they’ll bitch and moan about that.

So many comments on blogs have centered on how “organizations” should behave.  It’s bullshit.  Americans are so quick to absolve individuals of responsibility by talking about a “culture” that enables.  Some cultures enable and even promote either good behaviors or bad, useful ones or detrimental ones… usually some mix of all.

But this shit could’ve been staved off easily if people at an individual level had done the right thing.  They all acted in their own self interest… or mostly in their self interest (some acted in the interest of their teacher/friend/colleague).

Nobody acted in the best interest of the student.  And here’s the really awful part because as teachers we are always supposed to act in the best interest of the student.  You don’t give techniques to students just because you know them or are eager to teach them… or even because the student is begging for them.  You give them to a student only if it is in the best interest of the student (and this takes appropriateness into account).

It’s a much uglier thing to come to terms with.  But I can’t imagine that anyone who had taken this situation, regardless of what point of view they were looking at it from, and sat with it in meditation or even just considering it with some common sense to determine the right action would’ve come to any different conclusion than that it had to stop.

And yet it didn’t.”

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28 thoughts on “Mark Whitwell on Kausthub Desikachar

  1. Thank you, Linda, for keeping this important conversation going.

    Your unnamed friend’s comments, however, are neither accurate nor coherent.

    Firstly, neither I nor any critic of KYM/KHYF I’m aware of has “absolved” Kausthub Desikachar or any other individual for their behavioural failings. What I and others have done is to call attention to how abusive behaviours evolve in and are protected by a cultural/systemic context — a truth that you yourself have referred to, I believe.

    Secondly, your correspondent is self-contradictory on the point of individual failing versus group failing:

    “But this shit could’ve been staved off easily if people at an individual level had done the right thing.  They all acted in their own self interest… or mostly in their self interest (some acted in the interest of their teacher/friend/colleague).”

    So what is it? Individuals making isolated choices that they alone are in control of, or individuals linked to one another in webs of mutuality, with some acting “in the interest of their teacher/friend/colleague”? (The latter proves a “culture”.)

    Your correspondent wants to impugn “individualism” in the first paragraph, and then invoke it as the angel of responsibility in the second.

    Lastly, to imply that the grievances of those “burned” (i.e., abused and traumatized) by guru culture or corporatized yoga amount to “bitching and moaning” reveals not only an ear of tin but a heart of stone.

    • Thanks for commenting, Matthew, but I wondered about your reaction to what Mark has to say.

      I reread (more than a few times) what my friend wrote to try to see it from your perspective and I couldn’t. IMO, what he wrote wasn’t difficult to interpret at all. for me, the essence of what he said is: the real tragedy is that the teachers failed the students…not just KHYF teachers failing their students but also Desikachar failing Kausthub. and that ultimately it comes down to the individual, which is Kausthub. just like it comes down to an abusive priest in the Catholic Church (yes, they covered up the abuse, but ultimately it was the priest’s own actions.)

      as you mention in your piece, there are 5 women who came forward but who knows how many others there are. I don’t believe every incident was non-consensual. We know this is not a sudden aberration but ongoing, so my gut tells me that over the years Kausthub came on to other women in his group who told him to fuck off and probably didn’t mention it to anyone. That’s what women do given the culture, whether it’s eastern or western. I’ve certainly done it myself. Some jerk comes on to you and you tell him off and rack it up to him being just another asshole. It happens to women every day. Obviously those who came forward did not or could not (for whatever psychological reason) tell Kausthub to leave them alone.

      and you’re right, I did refer to the KYM covering up or at least ignoring Kausthub’s actions when they came to light. But, like I previously wrote, I have a different perspective on this since I HAVE studied in India as many times as I have. As I said, I absolutely don’t condone any covering up or avoidance of this situation, HOWEVER, I understand the reason why. The fact of the matter is, this shit is PRIVATE in India. In the land of the Kama Sutra and explicit erotic carvings on temple walls, sex is still not spoken about publicly. Lingerie ads are cheap porn. PDAs between men and women are rare. And no matter how “westernized” some in India are becoming, mental aberrations are still seen as shameful or not understood at all. One can read stories in the Indian papers about how some poor soul was found chained to a tree because he “acted strangely.”

      One can criticize that attitude all they want to, but that’s the way it is. It’s changing, but slowly. So not talking about it? Ignoring it? I get it.

      But like I said in my first post about this, don’t lay all this at the feet of KYM or call it an Indian cultural disconnect. The KHYF teachers in America and Europe who had inklings about Kausthub failed their students (again, that’s on the individual), which is what my friend refers to as people acting in their own self-interest.

      Now for your article….

      There are more than a few things I take issue with but will only speak to a few.

      You talk about the “guru culture” of KYM. Frankly, I never experienced that at KYM. I don’t fear the word “guru” like many westerners do and I’ve written about that more than once, most recently here (and ironically mentioning Kausthub!): http://lindasyoga.com/2012/03/29/whos-afraid-of-the-big-bad-guru/ For me, there’s a huge difference between blindly following someone you consider a guru (whatever that person’s definition of guru is) and having respect for a teacher and their teachings. Or else maybe I am more discerning than others. As a teacher said on one of my vipassana retreats, spiritual teachings (yoga, Buddhism, etc.) are like bowls of rice — pick out the dirt and eat the rest.

      As you may or may not know, I’m taking a group to KYM next year, however, when this mess broke I asked others for advice. One person I asked was NY studio owner and blogger J. Brown who is familiar with the lineage via Mark Whitwell. He told me that he thinks the situation is different from Anusara because there is no “spiritual head” of the tradition and it is by Desikachar’s example that there is no brand name. This means that no one person can lay claim to it and, therefore, no one person’s bad behavior can diminish the power of the teachings. In his opinion, he thought that I should carry on as planned and “stay true to your practice and the experience you were hoping to provide the people joining you and it will be good enough. The experience of going to India and studying at the Mandiram is not contingent on one particular teacher.”

      and I agree. what surprised me was that out of everyone who is coming with me, only one person was bothered by what Kausthub did and decided not to go. everyone else referred to the “individualness” of the situation, i.e., it’s all on Kausthub, not the organization of KYM and not the culture.

      what also strikes me about this situation is that it seems to me the outcry about Kausthub is not anywhere near as loud as the commotion was about Anusara in the yoga blogosphere. why is that? it’s curious to me.

      Posting a photo of Krishnamacharya looking over Desikachar’s asana and then speculating on their relationship is far-fetched, to put it diplomatically. I’ve heard Desikachar tell the story more than once about how he came to yoga, and it was not as a young boy. He was an adult, an engineer, and all his life watched his father teach students, both Indian and Western. He said he was shocked when he saw his father hug Indra Devi in public on the street. No one did that just like no one taught women Vedic chanting until his father did. He told us he did not ask his father to teach him yoga until he saw Krishnamacharya stop his pulse for two minutes. Only then did he ask his father to teach him everything he knew. Maybe Desikachar embellished his story but as for the “chain of demands” that you refer to, seems to me it was Desikachar who demanded.

      as to your idea about finding another yoga model “before the entirety of yoga culture becomes a pop-culture punch-line”…. you mean it’s not already? when a well known yoga blog posts a video about yoga boners and yoga clothes makers reference camel toes and how good a pair of pants makes my ass look? I think we’re already a good ways down that yoga pop culture road. Punch lines are individual; shut up and do your practice as I have written about here (only to be accused of being “anti-intellectual” by one of your good yoga blogger friends.)

      And I’ve never prostrated in Chennai.

      By the way, I asked my friend to respond to your comment because I believe he has important things to say about the situation. With his study at KYM, he is closer to Kausthub than I ever was so his perspective is also different from yours or mine.

      • Linda — I think Mark is brilliant. Especially in these clips, in which his love and criticism flow in equal measure.

        As for your friend’s argument, I’ll make it simple: your friend called a cultural critique of a yoga teaching structure “bullshit”, and minimized the pain of Kausthub’s victims, and, by inference, John Friend’s as well. Is that more clear?

        Intersubjectivity means that “ultimately” it does NOT come down to an individual alone, but an individual enmeshed in a series of relationships that we call a culture.

        I’ve studied in India as well, and, as I said in my piece, know that there are cultural differences that are impenetrable to me. But the KYM/KHYF organization is participating in a global yoga culture from which it benefits, and must stand up to scrutiny from the cultures it teaches to.

        If you read my article more carefully, you’ll see that I spread responsibility around, and lump KYM/KHYF together as corporate affiliates, and even address the fruitless damage-control movement to separate them, given how entangled they obviously are. I also specifically name American and Europeans affiliates as co-enablers. I wrote:

        “The elements are achingly familiar: systemic sexism, vulnerable students seeking psychological validation, magical thinking, a self-deluded, developmentally stunted and perhaps sociopathic teacher abusing his power in the hotel rooms of his ennui. What we’ll have to dig for is the murkier but critical social story of Kausthub’s enablers, from his associates at KYM and KHYF, to his American and European hosts and champions, all the way up to his father, the venerable T.K.V. Desikachar, son of the late T. Krishnamacharya.”

        Yes, it is a risk for me to psychoanalytically speculate on the possible father-son-grandson dynamics of the line, but I do so as a son and father myself interested in the demands and anxiety of influence. Not to mention the fact that it is well known that Krishnamacharya was capable of cruelty. I can also say that as an ex-Catholic and ex-member of two cults of personality, the hagiography usually conceals a darker story.

        You’ve made a courageous choice to bring students to KYM under the shadow of this scandal. I for one would not support this institution, especially with my tuition dollars, until it was perfectly clear that KYM/KHYF had made full financial and therapeutic retribution to Kausthub’s victims, as I outlined in my article. This is not “bitching and moaning”. It’s a matter of using the only power I have as a learner within yoga pedagogy to not support an organization before it cleans house.

        Hopefully you will be able to apply pressure from within, as a long-term student.

      • “his love and criticism flow in equal measure.”

        I think mine does, too.

        “You’ve made a courageous choice to bring students to KYM under the shadow of this scandal” — people have called me courageous just for going to India alone.

        “I can also say that as an ex-Catholic and ex-member of two cults of personality, the hagiography usually conceals a darker story.” – I thought so. my gut told me from your comment that this is personal for you. everyone has a shadow self. even saints.

        I left it up to the students coming with me whether they wanted to continue with the trip or not. I told them what happened before it hit the yoga blogs which they appreciated. Save for one, they all wanted to continue with the trip. their choice. that speaks to their support and trust in me as a lineage holder (as Mark calls it), for which I am grateful.

    • Lots of commentaries on this topic lately. Matthew, have you had the opportunity to speak directly to any of the women who brought the allegations in Austria, who are part of the group bringing charges in the U. S., or to any of the teachers/ colleagues that knew this was going on or suspected prior to the accusations being made public in Europe?

  2. I’m curious about Mark’s history. I agree with some of what he says – but to what extent was he a student of Krishnamacharya (who hardly spoke any English and as fas as I know hardly had any western students either)? As far as I know, he was not really in the inner circle of Desikachar’s students either – my understanding is that he had some contact, but neither regular nor sustained. IN fact, for whatever reason, all reference to him appears to have been removed from the second edition of The Heart of Yoga (the first edition says it was co-written between Mark and Desikachar). What happened there? To say that he had the same education as Kausthub seems misleading. Mark’s views seem more influenced by neo-Tantra than a traditional South India Brahmanical orthodoxy. So without commenting on what he says – I’m just a little concerned about the way he presents himself and on what he bases his authority. I’d be interested to have some clarification.

    • thanks for coming here, ranju. I would certainly not speak for Mark and all I can say is to ask him yourself, maybe email him for clarification. In the same way I would not want someone speaking for me about my yoga history, I would not speak for Mark the same way I would not speak to what happened between Gary Kraftsow and Desikachar. Both can tell their own histories.

  3. Well, I have to say that Mark Whitwell has been in his own mash-up over being inappropriate with regards to his sexual behavior at a yoga retreat –and I understood his behavior was linked to Desikachar then not speaking to Mark. Period.
    This is my understanding, and I was there for the bad behavior. I witnessed it.

    I like the blog very much.
    I love Mark Whitwell, so it isn’t any bad on him. Yes, he is brilliant. I was sorry about the event (for him).

    I’ve no idea what the heck happened with Anasura or with Desikachar.
    I haven’t been paying any attention to the yoga world for YEARS.
    Why?
    Well, I witnessed Gary Kraftsow behave badly at a yoga retreat with a young woman.
    Gary was my teacher.
    It was crappy. I was embarrassed.

    That’s when I’d had enough.

    Sign me,
    Allise Rhode
    Reno Nevada.

    • Thanks Allise for clarifying that. I appreciate your disillusionment after witnessing your teacher of the time behaving badly – it’s a difficult thing. You obviously feel that Gary’s behaviour was sufficient to turn you off yoga completely – do you think there’s something about yoga and men that is intrinsically corrupting? Do you feel you threw the baby out with the bathwater, or do you feel that giving up yoga was the right thing to do? Or perhaps I’ve misunderstood – and you haven’t given up yoga but just the “yoga world”? (and I fully appreciate that!). Also curious to see how Gary’s behaviour was enough to turn you completely off, but it seems that Mark’s “mash up” left you sorry for him?

      • Hi Ranju,

        It’s been more than a decade. 12 years at least since this thing with Gary.
        I’ll touch on Mark Whitwell toward the end of this message Ranju. I see these two events differently, that’s for sure.

        I spoke with Gary, after the events at the yoga retreat.
        He told me I hadn’t seen what I’d seen with my own two eyes.
        He told me I’d seen the energetic level, and he intimated that it was my mind that was somehow producing the ‘vision’.

        What I saw:
        Gary in a sauna with a very young woman –Gary married at the time– her hand on his knee, her breasts fully on display.
        ***Gary didn’t move her hand.

        I heard from the retreat staff that that night –the two of them (Gary/Young Woman) utilized a vacant bed on the property.
        –The girl shared a room with another woman at the retreat,
        –so a place would have been required for them to be alone.

        I heard that Gary would not be utilizing this retreat center again. That Gary wasn’t welcome after his behavior at this retreat center.
        ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

        Gary knew the young woman before this retreat. They knew each other from a yoga venue Gary taught at regularly.
        She expressed an interest in Viniyoga.
        Gary was interested in having a teacher at this venue who would be committed to Viniyoga.
        This is how it started. With a desire to have an acolyte well placed. (this is my view)

        Gary then had his wife call me.
        Mirka explained that he was a normal male who was simply attracted to her. No big deal.

        [Of course I didn't mention to Mirka, or to Gary, the other part of the story. The bedding down part. The bed all mussed up.
        I had heard Gary said he and she just talked into the night. I've know idea the truth of any of that. ]

        – BUT –I know what I saw. I thought that Gary was behaving like a nut case. I know also, that Gary isn’t welcome at this yoga venue any longer. I don’t believe Gary ever went back to this retreat center following this indiscretion.
        Within a few years, Gary and Mirka divorced. I quit paying attention, so I’m not sure when they divorced exactly.

        The girls room-mate confided that this girl was ‘after’ Gary. And this I believe is true.
        She would sit in the very front of the room, in front of Gary with her ample bosom half exposed.
        –She told some people that she had bad eyesight… and had to be up close…

        At any rate, Gary told me I was not seeing the reality of the situation.
        This was a harmful ‘tactic’. Gary harmed me by playing games with my mind.
        Gary tried to make this about me. About my ability to see clearly what was in front of me.
        Seeing Clearly.
        – What we are hoping to achieve in yoga.

        BUT THE TWIST, Ranju, was that I was seeing SPECIAL.
        Gary dangled the idea of ‘special seeing’ on my part.
        I felt Gary dangled this ‘solution’ as an ‘escape hatch’ –for BOTH of us.
        A way for a win-win.
        I would have a third eye, and he would be able to say it didn’t REALLY happen.
        Yuk.

        S0:
        I could buy-in to what Gary was ‘using’ as my ‘excuse’for what I’d seen (or not seen)
        –and be SPECIAL.
        With my energy-yogic vision?
        This is what made me puke.
        This was the abuse.
        This was why I needed to cut off my relationship with Gary and quit my training in Maui.
        – Because I had my mind toyed with –in a dishonest way.
        – I would call Garys behavior abusive –now. In retrospect.

        Then I was left to deal with it. No apology. No my bad. No, — just my imagination (or whatever… special yogic delirium…)
        _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

        Ranju, I tried to figure out my path in Viniyoga.
        I tried visiting several teachers in the tradition. Sonia Nelson, Ann Rogers, Kausthub. I began to study chant. I enjoyed this very much, but the loss of my teacher left a void. There wasn’t that spark for me. The intellectual meat was just gone.

        In fact, in a private meeting with Kausthub, I told Kausthub about the Gary thing/event. Hoping K. would let his father know.
        I mean, after the way I’d seen Mark treated, I figured Gary would at least get a talking to…

        After visiting this blog yesterday, I researched the internet to find out what Kausthub had been up to that had him in such trouble.
        I also researched what John Friend had been up to. I’m telling you that I was not aware of these other events until yesterday. I had taken a training with John Friend one weekend in the Los Angeles area. I’ve run into John from time to time. I can relate to all that has gone on for John and Anasura yoga. It perhaps may happen again, this kind of public flogging. Personally, I think it’s healthy. The American Yoga way, I hope.

        At any rate, I told K. Desikachar. K. told me I was full to the brim VATA, and I should drink a LOT of water each day.
        Later in this retreat (in Chicago) one of the ‘participants’ in the retreat (an acolyte?) told me that I displayed the behavior of someone who had been raped!!

        Reading yesterday –about what Kausthub is accused of doing and saying to these women– well, I guess I can say that the interface I had with Kausthub was in that vein,
        –and may even show that Kausthub used his students to quell Vata women
        –women who have been ready to call out a teacher who is abusive.

        I had a private with Kausthub.
        In a hotel room at the event.
        It was odd. I was feeling it was all wrong. The way the money changed hands. He wanted that cash the minute I walked in the room.
        And he was critical of me.
        Vata was like an epithet.
        I was made to feel ashamed for being Vata, –and for telling about Gary. I was asking K. if I should be HIS student now.
        ?? Was that what I should do.
        (Gary was busy divesting himself of students at that time, students he felt were not really ‘his’.)

        So: I was diagnosed, and given the prescription: drink tons of water.

        Regarding your question about Mark Whitwell. –Mark was not married, although he had his girlfriend with him.
        It was uncomfortable to see him hurt his girlfriend emotionally.
        It was distracting to the retreat to have Mark all a-twitter over this young young woman.
        I just realized that as much as I enjoyed Mark, he was not going to be my teacher.
        Mark was my first Viniyoga teacher.
        I was interested in pursuing Viniyoga. I was searching for my teacher. This is why I came to Mark’s retreat. Looking for a teacher, after reading The Heart of Yoga. I knew it was Viniyoga for me.
        I was seeking my true path in yoga.
        _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
        I did leave yoga. I took a few years. It was painful to me.
        After a few solo years I stopped teaching, –I stopped my personal practice at that time.

        I was introduced to Chant.
        I spoke with Ann Rogers about what happened. But Ann didn’t want to talk about it, and again, I felt I was the ‘problem’, in that I needed to not get stuck around what happened. I wasn’t allowed to tell her the story. I was shut down.

        But Ranju,I lost a lot, and Gary, not being able to be honest, created that loss for me.
        Essentially the loss was seeing the willingness of my teacher to harm me. Or manipulate me.
        It was just wrong, Ranju.

        It’s a sadness. There is a sadness there.
        That all this with Kausthub thing now brings it up in me.
        But I see these recent events as a way I can move on.
        And the neat thing is this: I see a way of being back in the yoga world. The American yoga world.
        I’m grateful for the bravery of the 50 people at the Austria retreat, and the 5 women who stood up to K. in a really powerful way.

        I hope this helps you to understand.

        Later on I learned that Mark Whitwell is involved in an ashram tyype of group that in my view abuses women, by the way.
        I don’t know what that is all about, or if he still is a senior teacher with this group or what.

        I think the Tantra thing is problematic. I know that Gary was getting all involved in studying with a guy who teaches in this vein.
        I think it leads these men into a place that is not useful to others, at the very least.

        Thank you Linda for all this space. You have my permission to print this if you feel it is useful.

        Best to all,
        Allise.

  4. Allise, thank you for coming forward with this. there is absolutely no reason whatsoever that anyone should be “shut down” for speaking truth.

  5. Hi Linda,

    I was allowed to acknowledge something happened, but not ‘allowed’ to ‘talk in out’.
    In fairness to Ann Rogers, at that point, I didn’t have a teacher.
    ** She wasn’t clear about our relationship. But Ann knew why I was there. I know she had discussed the situation with Sonia.
    I should amend my comment to read: I –felt– shut down.

    Emotionally, I was in the big ocean without a life raft.
    It was a cool ocean.
    I needed/wanted the ocean to be warmer, hehe. — And a cool drink on the side of the pool, please. Thank you.

    But there was the frown. Clearly Ann was uncomfortable. Being sensitive to her discomfort, I stopped the telling.
    I hadn’t really much to say. As you see, the situation was simple bad behavior.
    – It took a long while for even myself to put my finger on the manipulation. On what was really wrong.

    What was really wrong? That when building a yoga empire, students are fodder.

  6. I see that K’s close student,, Carolyn Hedin, has not given up K.
    She remains on a list of currently hanging tough students of K.

    I see that on August 13th, 2012 her Facebook page listed under

    Bluewater Yoga Studio

    On August 13, 2012: The FB page for her business posted a notice for a 500 hr KHYF teacher training to be held at her studio in RedWing Minnesota.
    The dates given for the KHYF teacher training: between Nov. 2012 and Nov. 2014.

    This would mean that the training has started, if it started.

    The dates are auspicious.

    I know Carolyn. She has a lot to protect here.
    If K. really stepped away from teaching at that time? Why this?

    • I got a reply from Bluewater Yoga Studio.
      The KHYF teacher training course was cancelled.
      Bluewater (Carolyn Hedin)…. Carolyn was a student with me in Gary’s Maui teacher training.
      For some reason, she had to hook up with K.
      Maybe someday, Carolyn will tell us her story. This will be an interesting story. If truth be told.

  7. Hi Allise
    Many thanks for sharing your story so thoughtfully and extensively. I find it really troubling and upsetting when something at the heart of what we are trying to do appears to be so corrupted – and you have expressed that hurt and confusion really clearly. I had my own experiences also of disillusionment with what I saw as inappropriate behaviour – for me it was how I found Kausthub’s bullying, boorish attitude and the arrogance that came with it. There was also the rewriting of history, the political infighting, the splitting, the accusations of “bad faith”, of those who were loyal and those who were disloyal, those who stayed on the path and those who drifted off. It became alarmingly cultish – and all that stuff about being “special” – that chimed with me.
    It is very sad to hear of your experiences with Gary; has that disillusionment made it hard to read his writings? I have always found Gary interesting and thought provoking to read, but have never met him.
    Interesting too to hear about Mark. The thing I found hard in the Mark interview is that he answered the questions as if he was a personal student of Krishnamacharya – which I’m sure he wasn’t. He talks as if his authority to speak is because of his close links to this family – which again – I doubt. Much of what he says seems fine – but why hide behind the pretence of being so closely linked to Krishnamacharya?
    I really hope the behaviour that has provoked this whole business is dying out. I hope it’s harder for people to be shut up in the days of the internet. I know this sort of behaviour – sexual abuse, and abuse/ misuse of power, has been going on for years in many quarters in the yoga world. There are many victims, many who have not spoken out in public. It takes a lot of strength – I guess people have to ask themselves: is it worth it to speak out? I’m sure there’s a lot of fear, and also it may open old wounds.
    And finally: I think that you’ve really put your finger on something very important at the end of what you wrote:
    “What was really wrong? That when building a yoga empire, students are fodder”.
    That sums it up.
    Thank you!

  8. “Betrayal” is absolutely the right word for this. Patanjali tells us there are three means to right knowledge: direct perception, inference, and testimony (of someone or something trust-worthy). From your account, it looks like you were put in the very uncomfortable place of having two of these sources point to something and the third contradict it. It was literally playing with your mind. And it put you in the painful place of having to re-evaluate one of your trusted sources of testimony. This isn’t trivial. There’s so little that we can trust whole-heartedly in this world. To have to let go of one of those things makes an impact.

    I’m glad you found this place to be able to talk about it. There is a strange trend that has trailed these sex scandals where teachers and students conceal what they’ve seen, heard or suspect because they don’t want to “gossip.” The result is that abuse, manipulation and impropriety persist for years and years until something blows up and then everyone wants to stand back to stay clear of the shit, as if they have no accountability.

    I’ve spoken with Linda at length about these things. I am good friends with some of the people involved in both the Friend and Desikachar scandals and had way more pain, suffering, anger and confusion come my way than I knew what to do with. When I tried to bring these issues to fellow teachers, they were uncomfortable talking about it. Perhaps they felt there was nothing they could do? Or they just didn’t want to hear more of it? I don’t know and can’t put so much blame on them because I never got an explanation. People have their reasons.

    I have found such immense value in having Linda to talk to openly. It’s impossible to put a price on it. There’s alot of commentary online about John Friend and Kausthub Desikachar which comes from people who knew neither of these men (at best they met them briefly) and have have not spoken directly and honestly to a single one of the students involved. You take the time to talk to some of these folks and all clean, simple theories go to hell. It’s ugly and messy and requires you to think and feel more than you’re prepared to. It challenges you in ways you can’t imagine it will. If there’s something in this society that we don’t understand well it’s the mechanics of sexual and psychological abuse.

    All of this commentary that attempts to simplify this… none of it helps the people who are in the midst of it. It’s mostly people projecting their own experiences onto the situation and those involved find no comfort in that. When we seek to be understood, it’s not enough for people to just take sides. Finding someone who listens, who gives you the space to speak your mind despite what its contents are, despite how difficult, ugly and uncomfortable it is… there lies the healing.

    I hope you’ve found your way or are in the process of it, Allise.

  9. Hi Ranju,

    Thanks for hearing. I feel odd having my name on it. I had to think back. I haven’t done this. I’m doing this now.

    _________________________________________________________________________________________
    I researched Gary this morning, after a friend told me last night that Gary had had “brain cancer”. I had to assume she was sort of wrong, since I could see that he still is alive and all. So I see it was a ‘benign’ brain tumor.
    But I get it.

    I had cancer too. In 1999, and then another surgery in 2000. I too had a cancer the size of a golf ball, only I describe it as the size of a duck egg. Inside my brachial plexus on the left. It surfaced after a yoga intensive! The egg sat on my shoulder like a little bird.
    I thought I had a hematoma, so I lived with it for 6 months until I saw a plastic surgeon asking him to take it off. I said to the cosmetic surgeon: “I’m a yoga teacher! I can’t be in front of my students with this on my shoulder any longer!”
    He looked at me funny and sent me for an MRI.

    I blamed myself sometimes, thinking it had to do with the loss of my yoga teacher.
    I saw Gary at Omega institute, when TKV Desikachar came, sometime in the early 2,000′s I guess.
    I didn’t approach Gary, and he didn’t seek me out either.

    Before I had this cancer, I had had other troubles in my chest, in my brachial plexus. I had had an acute brachial plexopathy in my right chest, losing the use of many muscles enervated by the brachial plexus. I recall I had suffered a great feeling of hopelessness the night before I awoke with the acute brachial plexopathy.

    The cause of these problems probably stems from an injury I sustained. I fell out of a helicopter in 1984, and was holding onto the seatbelt I had unclipped for dear life. Both arms came out of the sockets, and I was working in total wilderness (in Alaska). It took 5 hours before I could get air-lifted to hospital. By that time some damage to the plexus I’d imagine. With the arms out of their places.

    I still don’t have full use of my right arm/shoulder, but you wouldn’t notice. I can’t hold binoculars for more than a minute.

    This week?
    What started my –waking up– this past few days was that an old yoga friend FB’d me,
    – saying she had found some letters I had written to her 15 years ago or so. She and I were together at the retreat with the bad-behaving Gary….
    My friend told me that my letters to her, re-read, were full of wisdom. And she thanked me.
    And today, I thank her. For waking up a part of me that (obviously!) needs to heal.
    – The hurting part of losing a precious yoga teacher.

    Bottom line, he was my teacher. I loved him.

    So I can understand the pain Kausthub’s students must feel. I know the healing journey will take a very very long time. Unless there is skillful intervention/s which may make an opportunity out of it. Silk purse and all that.

    There’s so much more to say.
    I guess I’m very tired right now, but I’m feeling very hopeful. I feel this amazing shift, even before I caught up with what’s been happening in Gary’s life.

    Maybe my ramblings will help you.
    The teacher in me wants to share.
    I’ll caution by saying that great sadness can have tremendously negative health effects. And the most amazing illnesses can still leave us un-answering the ‘wake up call’.

    Change is what we can count on.
    – A moment from now can and will change.
    Will we be aware?
    Will we pick-up-the-phone and transform ourselves in awareness?
    I’ve now answered my own ‘phone call’, but I couldn’t have done it without you three women.

    Best to you.
    Allise
    Thank you Linda, print as you see fit.

  10. Ranju,
    I don’t think Mark is fabricating his conversations with Grandpa, or Papa.
    If you are looking for a teacher you can feel safe with, I think he is this kind of teacher.
    The man is a breath of fresh air. He has to offer what he has to offer. Kindness, clear thinking, friendship.

    What we need, is sangha.
    And I would have to guess that many of Mark’s students would be great friends.

    What I’m coming to understand is that we need a few good friends in life. A spouse isn’t enough. Doggies are not enough. Hiking is not enough. We need others –of our own kind– who listen to us and mirror us.
    We need the anandabody up and running.
    Allise

  11. Thank you so much Ore.
    I have come to your conclusions.
    I see my new sangha forming. I see that my next teacher will be.
    I see that my yoga practice has begun again. I’ve marinated long enough.
    I’m open again. And the teacher is there. In ways I never imagined.

  12. Here are a few thoughts about what this thread is about.
    A teacher embroiled in a sexual abuse scandal.

    Mark Whitwell –on camera explaining –sexuality being distorted– The Story of K. Desikachar having odd sexually charged behavior that is harmful to others. Of an abuse of power on many levels, most egregiously manifesting in sexual aggression.

    Mark speaks of:
    Sexuality manifesting outside of ‘bounds’, shall we say. Out of the bounds of respect for the balance of give and take in real intimacy –with a sexual partner (or, in this case ‘the feminine’).

    K. Desikachar’s sexuality “…Coming out sideways…”
    In that the feminine in this case were not enjoying the advances of the masculine, and were physically pained, and emotionally and spiritually pained.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________
    Now in this thread, some people talking about their own experiences with teachers behaving badly. Around right relationship with students and others, in public, and in private.
    Here in this thread is ‘Telling’. How students feel wronged and harmed. Confused and also Clear.

    Story telling: has been a way for humans to share with one another since the beginning of ‘two’.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
    Yoga teaches that ‘story telling ‘allows those around us to hear each other. Student to student, teacher to student, student to teacher.

    What parts we ‘hear’?
    We will come to our own understanding/s –through the story as told, and as taken in.

    We also ‘see’ the story teller, in our minds eye, perhaps also in the flesh, and we gather information based on nuance.
    The story being shared is appreciated on many levels.
    On the levels of us that are present to listen. How we are paying attention. Why we are paying attention.

    ?? To answer Ranju’s question. Is it hard for me to listen to Gary, now that I am no longer his student, and have felt harmed by him in the student-teacher relationship.

    No, Ranju. It’s easy to hear Gary yakking away. Even if I’ve heard the same story a hundred times. There is always a different part of me that takes in the valuable, and I receive something from his stories.

    Some people are offended when:
    Gary –in the pursuit of making his points through the telling of personal stories– ‘outs’ family and friends.
    But these are the stories Gary has to tell.

    We all have our stories to tell.

    I think this blog, for example, is a place for stories on a broader level.
    First, we have to put down in writing. *** This requires a focus not always there when conversing aloud.

    Some may feel offended. That remains.
    Some may forgive easily the so-called errors made, the ‘outing’ of information that ‘should be secret’ or some such idea.
    Tsk tsking is always there.

    But the story, when written down like this?
    Well, there it is.

  13. Linda, just now got a chance to see Mark’s vids, most excellent, spot on, and in the usual Whitwell fashion, eloquent! What I just wrote to Mark was some interesting information to me — since I work with yoga for men and within the men’s community —
    which is, “Teenage boys are twice as likely to be sexually abused than girls.” There are many reasons for this but we as society make the assumption that women are the number one victim of sexual abuse…

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