Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Ma Durga Navratri




What it could mean to live in a world of duality as a practicing yogi

“Truth has no tradition. It cannot be transmitted.” –J. Krishamurti


Reflecting on our recent national, regional and local dramas with ethical complaints surfacing about Supreme Court nominees, senior Iyengar Yoga teachers, media moguls, family members, and who knows who all else, I find myself reflecting on sutra  II.35 of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras:


Dicussing this sutra with friends yesterday, I’ve spent the last day wondering why we speak at all. 99% of the time, speech has some egotistical motivation, or is just filling space/time with inane observations—“Hot again, isn’t it” “Yeah, and humid too”.

A civil society, a democracy which is based on non-sectarian principles of respect for everyone’s chosen religion (or none), has to follow principles of fairness. Due process for those accused and for those accusing. Fairness for those who are wronged and those who wrong them. Problem is that every single religion has their own teaching about how to deal with moral infractions. Many of them reach similar conclusions.

Nevertheless, if we are to live in a culture, a HUMAN UNIVERSE, in which this principle of fairness—DUE PROCESS—is offered to complainer and complained-about, to accuser and accused/plaintiff and defendant, petitioner and respondent, to use legal terminology, we have to put aside our separate agendas about “Ultimate Truth” or “Religious Values” which may or may not be shared by all parties involved.

Due Process has a long legal history, which I won’t go into here. What I found reassuring about the Senate confirmation hearing process was that it gave both parties a chance to be heard, not only by the committee, but by the whole nation.
This large audience has been commenting and reeling since last week, and at least has led to a further investigation.

I have reread our IYNAUS By-Laws and reread the Pune Constitition on our precedures for dealing with ethical complaints. I was on the original IYNAUS board when accusations against Manouso Manos first arose and was part of the team that spoke with him personally. Manos’ subsequent therapy, B.K.S. Iyengar’s advice to our community that we ALL accept a period of touching only arms and legs after getting permission to touch was accepted as a viable solution to the complaints.

Now that other allegations have arisen, some recent, some from past years, we have gone through our process again,. I am assuming that this process followed  the procedures outlined in the By-Laws and the Pune Constitution, but honestly, I have no way of knowing for sure.

What troubled me about the breaking of news about these new allegations, specifically the one from Anne West, is that Certified Iyengar teachers were petitioned as a group to send supporting letters and emails to IYNAUS and to Pune.
I question that this was a fair request and whether it afforded the complainant, Anne West due process, while her complaint was being investigated. I also question whether Pune has to be involved at all unless and until our own internal procedures have been followed, or possibly even after that.

One of the concerns when allegations first arose in the late 1980’s was that our impecunious nonprofit service/educational organization –IYNAUS—could be sued by someone who had been through our process but found it unsatisfactory. I am not a specialist in sexual harassment/abuse law. I don’t know if we have a practicing attorney member of our association who is.  Yet, this remains a real fear if we do not ensure that our internal procedures offer due process to all parties.

These are my questions today. Do our procedures need to be refined/rewritten? Can we find a way to lead the way in the yoga community in creating a fair and safe forum for students and teachers alike? Would this help avoid litigation that could be costly/possibly fatal to the financial health of our nonprofit association?

I could not agree with my colleague Hong Gwi-Seok more: it appears to be true that we have allegations that a Certified teacher/member of our community believes to be true of inappropriate touching and we have a denial on the part of the senior teacher complained about. This  can lead us to a place where we see that two seemingly contradictory truths exist side by side: inappropriate contact occurred, AND the accused is capable of brilliance in teaching.

We have guidance going forward:


And go forward we must.

Perhaps the Sri Argala Strotam for Ma Durga can also offer sustenance (and highly recommended is Krishna Das’ version of this—“The Beautiful Song”): 

Rūpaṃ dehi jayaṃ dehi yaśo dehi dviṣo jahi*
Grant us your form (Liberation), Grant us victory, Grant us welfare, remove all hostility (negativity).

Jai Ma Durga!

Querétaro México, 10 octubre 2018


            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