Trigger alert: The following includes discussion of abuse and betrayal in Satyananda Yoga.
Case Study 21: Satyananda Yoga Ashram
Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (RCIRCSA)
In 2014–15, Case Study 21 (CS21) of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (RCIRCSA) examined, and made findings, regarding child sexual abuse by the leaders of Satyananda Yoga, reported as occurring during the 1970s and 1980s at the Satyananda Yoga Ashram at Mangrove Mountain, New South Wales (NSW), Australia.
The RCIRCSA heard testimonies about sexual abuse by Swami Akhandananda Saraswati, Swami Shishyananda Saraswati (Shishy), Swami Gorakhnath Saraswati, Swami Satyananda Saraswati, the founding guru, and his successor, current head of Satyananda Yoga, Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati.
The RCIRCSA concluded that Swami Satyananda Saraswati, the founding guru of Satyananda Yoga, had overarching authority at the Mangrove Mountain Ashram (and its centres) in his role as head of Satyananda Yoga worldwide. The RCIRCSA also determined that some practices and values associated with Satyananda Yoga served to foster and mask widespread abuse.
The international head of Satyananda Yoga, Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati, has offered little guidance or leadership in relation to the troubling conclusions of the RCIRCSA. Please read the Yoga Australia Statement for further information (Yoga Australia is recognised as the peak body for yoga in Australia).
While the head of Satyananda Yoga and most of the associated global community have turned their backs on those who have been harmed in Australia, it does not mean that the Australian members of this yoga movement should do the same.
This website has been created by former initiates of Satyananda Yoga, yoga teachers from other organisations and yoga researchers and academics, in consultation with many of the survivors of abuse, and with secondary victims of vicarious trauma and institutional betrayal.
The aim is to record:
- the history of abuse in Satyananda Yoga in Australia;
- the testimonies of the bravery, courage and resilience of the survivors as presented at the Royal Commission;
- the on-going manifestations of institutional betrayal and its impact on the community; and
- examples of beneficiaries, enablers and bystanders of the historical abuse and the on-going institutional betrayal; and
- provide resources and courses to educate people on Case Study 21: Satyananda Yoga Ashram (RCIRCSA).
Responses to the RCIRCSA by:
- AYS (Academy of Yoga Science) Wellbeing Foundation
- Yoga for Good Foundation
- Rocklyn Yoga Ashram
- SYTA (Satyananda Yoga Teachers’ Association).
- Yoga Australia
It is hoped that future generations will learn from these accounts of individual and communal histories and will avoid making the mistakes of their predecessors.
Salute to Survivors
To the survivors who gave their testimonies to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (RCIRCSA), we say thank you. You shone a light into the darkest corners of Satyananda Yoga and we are grateful, because you have shown us what is real and what is depraved in yoga.
Many of you went whilst very young with your families to the Mangrove Ashram and the Indian Ashrams, there to have the prime of your lives stolen from you. Many of you went independently in search for meaning and healing, and you too were left confused and traumatised in what should have been a sacred place of retreat.
For decades, you have carried alone the wounds of betrayal, perpetrated by one who was your supreme guide and highest source of inspiration. You have suffered in silence holding the shock and horror within you.
Now, thanks to Case Study 21: Satyananda Yoga Ashram by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and the #MeToo Movement, you know that, within Australia and in other countries, you were one of many, who suffered such abuse in the Satyananda Yoga Empire. You are no longer alone.
To all of you we offer our deepest sympathy and respect, and our care and support as we search for truth, healing reparation and justice.
To the family members and friends of the survivors and supporters we thank you for taking a stand against violence and abuse in yoga. Though many of you, too, have been blamed, shamed and silenced, we say, you too are no longer alone.
To the advocates and allies we say, take good care of yourselves, the journey you have embarked upon is long and arduous. Let us attend to our ethical and moral duty together so that the next generation can be better informed about what is right and what is wrong in yoga.
Brave survivors, your experiences will not be relegated to the annals of past history for we understand that your experiences are not historic, they are ever-present. As such, your stories will be held here for the world to see and for future generations to learn from and honour.