Trigger alert: The following includes discussion of abuse and betrayal in Satyananda Yoga.
Satyananda Yoga Teachers’ Association (SYTA)
After the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (RCIRCSA), Dr Josna Pankhania wrote to SYTA, wishing to discuss with them the findings of the Case Study 21 (CS21) of the RCIRCSA. She offered her support in evaluating their teaching materials and philosophy given the conclusions of the RCIRCSA. Pankhania also offered to support them through the process of engaging in healing reparations, since some of their management committee members had been swamis at the Mangrove ashram during and after the time the abuse had occurred. There was no proper response from SYTA. When this offer was repeated to SYTA by Hetty Johnston, the founder of Bravehearts, it was once again ignored.
We would like to remind all members of SYTA of the following:
- 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.
- The national peak body for Australia has produced this statement.
- Yoga Australia has also drawn up a Member Statement of Acknowledgement (MAS), an additional tool to further reinforce awareness of the potential for harm to occur as well as the importance of ethical conduct.
- Yoga Australia has built on their Code of Professional Conduct and Statement of Ethics:
- While many of the leaders of Satyananda Yoga and the associated global community have turned their backs on those who have been harmed in Australia, it does not mean that SYTA members should do the same.
- Please see the statements from In Good Faith Foundation and Bravehearts.
The Royal Commission highlighted the role of enablers, bystanders and beneficiaries in the history of abuse. Those who continue to teach Satyananda Yoga without acknowledging the survivors, or addressing the findings of the RCIRCSA, could be seen to be betraying primary and secondary victims, and thereby playing an active role as enablers, bystanders of on-going institutional betrayal, and beneficiaries. Our actions today contribute to tomorrow’s history, and each one of us has the power to choose whether it will be a history of himsa (violence) or a history of satya (truth) and ahimsa (non-violence).
We urge all SYTA Committee Members and affiliates to respond appropriately to the survivors and to findings of CS21 of the RCIRCSA and in this way, begin the work of reversing the legacy of harm in the country where the RCIRCSA sat, since it is never too late to make amends for past abuse and to institute healing.