The Second Coming of Guru Jagat

That, and the growing unrest in his community, prompted me to interview Jagat in April. I could not have imagined at the time that this would be our last interview.


As a practice, kundalini is characterized by intense work of breathing, repetitive poses, and alternative lifestyle choices, such as wearing white and eating mostly vegetarian. Followers, including celebrities Christy Turlington, Russell Brand and Alicia Keys, call it “old technology”. In fact, it was almost entirely invented by one guy in the late 1960s. Harbhajan Singh Khalsa, a former customs officer, immigrated from India to the United States, where he would die a wealthy and well-off guru. beloved known as Yogi Bhajan. He’d taken elements of Sikhism, Hinduism, and Buddhism, dressed them in a New Age aesthetic, and sprinkled them with techno-futuristic jargon. And, in the American way, he had turned that fiction into a multi-million dollar empire that included a private security company (a private security company (a company still hired to work by the not-so-yogic ICE) as well as the very popular, duly lucrative Brand Yogi Tea.

Bhajan had been charged with rape, sexual misconduct and financial embezzlement, both before and after his death in 2004, but in a pre-# MeToo era few seemed to pay heed. That all changed when, in early 2020, his former employee, lover and victim, Pamela Dyson, self-published her explosive memoir, Premka: White bird in a golden cage: My life with Yogi Bhajan, sparking a wave of other accusations including, but not limited to, sexual violence, rape, fraud and pedophilia. A report by an independent third party, including interviews with hundreds of witnesses and victims, found the abuse “more likely than not” to have occurred.

Jagat saw it differently. After promoting a video that sought to discredit Dyson and defend Bhajan, she wrote in an Instagram post: “This story is no truer than any other story – the truth always lies in the eye of the beholder. ” The “truth” was something she had spoken of often; only to her it meant something subjective, changeable and relative (not at all the truth). His position triggered a backlash that opened the floodgates. One account, @ramawrong, managed by Becky Lowell and Nicole Norton, who had been Jagat’s personal assistant, began anonymously posting reports of Jagat’s bad behavior. Sources have painted a picture of a toxic workplace, deeply at odds with the values ​​professed by the company. Jagat could be abusive, irrational, and tended to lie; she spent money like water and often failed when it came time to pay her employees, many of whom, despite being full-time employees with “manager” in their titles, earned well below salary minimum and had to present themselves as independent contractors. , depriving them of benefits like health care. In a company-wide group discussion, Jagat wrote, “Fuck you” for not writing a promotional email like she wanted and threatening another group, “I’m going to ring the bell. [sic] your figurative necks, otherwise all the photos you have taken so far are not in the drop box.

“Perfection was demanded,” said Charlotte Medlock, former chief marketing officer of Ra Ma. “She wanted our full devotion.” Pleasing Jagat, whose name means “teacher of the universe,” was not only a matter of job security, but also of spiritual salvation. “It’s like a cult within a cult,” Norton said. And then there was Jagat’s new and surprising penchant for far-right conspiracy theories like QAnon. “After January 6, I saw how dangerous she was,” said a former employee who wished to remain anonymous about Jagat’s habit of promoting QAnon rhetoric within his feel-good bubble influential. Adherence to these far-right beliefs revealed troubling racial and socio-economic prejudices. Staff were dismayed to see Jagat defending an employee who described Black Lives Matter protesters as “cockroaches” in company-wide WhatsApp. As one employee said, “It shook me to the core. “

Yogi Bhajan in his motel room after attending World Invocation Day 1974 in Boulder, Colorado.
Barry Staver / Getty Images.

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