Acknowledgement and renewed vision
Recent events such as the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse have cast a light into the shadows of Satyananda Yoga institutions in Australia as it was thirty years ago.
We feel great sadness and regret that the pain and suffering of the children affected in cases of historical child sex abuse, raised during the Royal Commission, was not systematically and directly addressed in the past by Satyananda Yoga’s institutions and management.
The Yoga Association of Victoria will do everything in its power, legally, ethically and procedurally, to protect children and all vulnerable people who come to yoga, and the ashram, as a place of refuge, and we welcome any feedback that will come from the Royal Commission that may help us better protect those in our care.
As part of our Professional Code of Practice, sexual relationships between teachers working with YAV and adult students, because of the potential power imbalances, and harm that may come to the students, are also not acceptable.
After the time of the historic allegations, the ashram in Australia was completely restructured, not once, but twice, with the aims of creating structures and governance that better protected children and minimised the amount of power held by any one person. One of the aims of the initial restructure was to decentralise power away from Mangrove and create a number of strong independent hubs. This is when the Yoga Association of Victoria was formed, and it was a primary reason for its foundation. It was an opportunity for the regional community to be directly involved in the management of the ashram and to promote yoga throughout the regions.
The YAV committee, made up of ashram residents and non residents, with talents and experience from a broad range of professional fields, has had been functioning as an integrated part of management and strategic decision making for YAV and Rocklyn Ashram since the 1990s. As part of the process of renewal YAV is currently undertaking an extensive process of reflection, looking to sustain and creatively develop the potential of yoga, yoga lifestyle, and ashram life, to enhance the lives of the people of the region.
The Royal Commission, in raising these historic issues, has also provided a strong impetus to reflect on the overall structure of the organisation in Australia.
Aside from permission to use the practices and resources, there has been very little formal institutional or administrative relationship between Australia and India for many years. With the retirement of Swami Satyananda in 1988 and Swami Niranjanananda’s retirement as President of Bihar School of Yoga in recent years, even the symbolic connection has become less.
The institutions in Australia have already been set up to be independent and self governing and stand on their own two feet. To maintain and enhance this, the Yoga Association of Victoria is taking steps to take greater responsibility for its own direction, to better reflect the distinct beautiful jewel that Rocklyn Ashram has become, and to take on a responsible role as a beacon for yoga lifestyle.
We are connected to a tradition which is thousands of years old, which goes far beyond any individual. Whatever mistakes individuals may have made in the past, the tradition to which we belong was created by thousands of heads, hearts and hands, most of whom were acting in good faith and without blame, by people giving the absolute best of themselves. We stand publicly by this community of yoga practitioners knowing that we are also part of a dynamic tradition that learns from its mistakes and endeavours to respect all who come into contact with it.