Guy Donahaye’s letter to John Scott with my introduction:
Thank you, Guy Donahaye for publicly sharing this very bold letter to John Scott and attaching it to the blog that Gregor Maehle and I wrote in response to JS’s views on Pattabhi Jois and sexual abuse.
I completely agree with Anneke Lucas’s comment:
“Great clarity. Thank you. I really appreciate you bringing up private conversations in as much as that they were pertinent to this issue. I also appreciate that you state Eddie Stern privately acknowledged P. Jois’ abuse, even though I will add that he has also privately minimized the abuse, and blamed and attacked victims. Finally, I really appreciate you breaking the taboo on P. Jois’ son’s suicide. A very different portrait is emerging.”
A very different portrait indeed. In the letter Guy discloses Jois family secrets that became Ashtanga yoga secrets. KPJ was violent with his family and he drove his son, Ramesh, to suicide. That’s another issue that we all knew, in the ’90s at least, but wouldn’t admit. Maybe in later years devotees censored any reference to it, the same way they tried to erase hints of KPJ’s sexual violence.
The number of secrets in Ashtanga is astounding, along with a servitude to confidentiality that’s oppressive. AY teachers might want to consider the validity of the saying, “our secrets make us sick.”
Over and over again in communication with Ashtanga teachers they told me things privately that didn’t match what they said publicly, which also did not match things that I heard they said to other people privately.
Speaking about KPJ’s abuse privately is problematic because we don’t know what someone is saying. As Anneke pointed out, Eddie Stern has been privately minimizing KPJ’s abuse as well as blaming and attacking victims. That’s not an acknowledgment. Actually it can cause more harm than not saying anything.
Unfortunately many public “acknowledgments” have also minimized KPJ’s abuse and disrespected victims.
Some teachers are making the effort to learn a respectful approach to acknowledging abuse: to elevate and center victim and witness testimony. Guy’s letter is unambiguous witness testimony to Ashtanga teachers’ corruption and betrayal of survivors of sexual abuse.
Another problem with only acknowledging the abuse privately is that everyone deserves to know the truth. If AY teachers hoping to support KPJ victims are only willing to confirm KPJ’s abuse privately, that means the disclosure will be kept hidden from certain people including many victim/survivors. How are we supposed to feel safe and comforted when “supporters” can’t make a public acknowledgement? Maybe it’s the myth of good intentions.
The myth of good intentions says: Why risk your professional and social status? When the very secrets and myths that built your success silenced and marginalized others, why platform the marginalized voices and support more victims in coming forward? Why learn from them the extent of the harm you were party to and how you can make amends? Why do those things, when you can just say you’d like to do them and enjoy the magnificence and impunity of your good intentions? After all you never meant to harm anyone.
There are a lot of myths in Ashtanga that need busting. In light of the myth of good intentions, it’s interesting to note that Guy’s letter ends with a call to action: It is important to be part of the healing and evolution NOW, so that your actions do not continue to cause suffering to others.
Dear John Scott
I am writing to you in this public forum in the hope that you will now take some responsibility for the harmful words and actions you have displayed.
Your comments in a recent interview about Pattabhi Jois’s sexual assaults have been thoroughly analyzed and assessed by Karen Rain and Gregor Maehle here: https://chintamaniyoga.com/response-to-john-scotts-view-of…/
It behooves you to read what has been written.
It is perhaps understandable that, until you have been made familiar with the effects of sexual assault and trauma, you will underestimate the impact of your words. It is important to understand the meaning and impact of a few terms: deflection, denial, gaslighting and enabling.
A few months ago I contacted you and all the other teachers who contributed to the book of interviews: Guruji: A Portrait about acknowledging these sexual assaults.
Only four people responded to my letter:
One, Peter Greve, fully supported my proposed action and was ready to make a statement.
Another, Eddie Stern, acknowledged the abuse and supported my action although he has as yet been unable to make a proper public statement. He is also the person I turned to for confirmation about KPJ’s actions after Matthew Remski had contacted me.
A third person, Dena Kingsberg, responded that she did not consider KPJ’s actions as abuse and wanted to remember him with love and gratitude.
A fourth person, Sharath Rangaswami, did not respond to me directly, but made a public statement on his instagram feed a few days later.
And a fifth person, your secretary, responded, confirming that he would convey this message to you directly. I received no response from you whatsoever and this is why I am writing to you in this public forum – to encourage you to take some responsibility.
So far, the response of the ashtanga community and especially those senior teachers, with a very few exceptions, who studied closely with KPJ and regarded him as their Guru, has been appalling!
Although Karen and Gregor give a thorough breakdown of the problems with your response to the question of abuse, I would like to add a few thoughts.
In the first place you mention “the person” who initially started speaking about this – that is, Karen Rain, she has a name and she is not afraid to stand behind her words.
You say you were “surprised” by her assertions. I assume you were both surprised because she appeared to have drunk the cool aid at the time and also you were surprised that KPJ was being accused of sexual assault.
You say you received the same adjustments as the women who were assaulted. This has been repeated by various other teachers – I assume that means that Pattabhi Jois dry humped you, grabbed your genitals, breasts and digitally penetrated your vagina? I don’t think so.
Like me and many other practitioners, when the graphic videos such as these:
were first aired, you probably cringed and looked quickly away, perhaps thinking that KPJ was just having a bad day.
For a teacher of Ashtanga such videos were really bad news, provoked lots of uncomfortable questions, but were put down to Ashtanga haters, and thankfully, these videos disappeared from view soon after they surfaced.
But they have not gone away. In fact, the evidence is accumulating and can no longer be denied. As long as we deliberately look the other way, these revelations will come as a “surprise”.
But with acknowledgement comes not only surprise but deep shock, because for those who have spent their life promoting KPJ as a guru and their own teachings as an expression of his, comes the realization that everything you have stood for is a sham. And worse!
KPJ was no yogi! He not only sexually assaulted his students, he also severely harmed many of them physically and psychologically – to such an extent that, individuals like yourself have been living in deep delusion for decades.
You say in the interview that he lost two sons – and you imply that this was something that happened to him, in a passive sense. However, he did not lose them, he drove them away. One he drove to his death and the other moved as far away as possible!
I became quite close to his son Manju for a while when he lived in NYC. We used to hang out and talk quite often. He often spoke about how badly his father had treated him, used to beat him, how he had hardly spoken to him for over two decades and never went back to visit him. He also told me how KPJ had driven Ramesh to suicide. This was also confirmed by another independent source, one of Ramesh’s closest friends. KPJ and Ramesh had a huge fight just before Ramesh took his life. KPJ was not only sexually incontinent, he was also violent, caused harm, even to his closest family, his two sons.
By being a teacher devoted to promoting KPJ’s teachings one absorbs KPJ’s principles! He was dishonest, harmed his students, sexually assaulted them and psychologically controlled them. This will have been inherited. If you see him as the source of your teaching, then your teaching will be tainted by the same faults. Being close to KPJ and following his teaching with devotion will just steep one in ignorance that prevents one from seeing this reality.
I have a deep sympathy for anyone who took KPJ on as their sole teacher, as their purported sat guru. Your suffering and misery will be great and will cause you to deny that he did anything wrong. It will cause you to perpetuate the suffering of those he harmed (including yourself).
However, the clock is ticking. These revelations will not go away. The truth is out and will start making life very uncomfortable for you, as it has for those who have already acknowledged it.
It is important to be part of the healing and evolution NOW, so that your actions do not continue to cause suffering to others.
If you’re still reading Greg Nardi wrote a candid, soul-searching, owning of accountability, including a chilling description of being on both ends of grooming:
“In my inner searching, I first remembered that from 2000-2003 I didn’t return to Mysore and contemplated never returning because I was disillusioned with Pattabhi Jois. I since have realized the many ways that Iwas groomed by photos in shalas, hagiographies, and teacher testimony widespread in the yoga community to project infallibility onto Pattabhi Jois.”
“Because I was able to minimize the assault, I could compartmentalize the discomfort I felt and relegate what I witnessed to a human flaw. I even congratulated myself for my maturity in being able to see Pattabhi Jois as human and make the distinction between him as a guru and a man. I sympathized with him and felt protective over him because of the demands of the community. On this shaky ground I built a reverential relationship to a sex offender and promoted him as a master.”