Via commentator David Moore, this:
Koh Phangan is a small tropical island famous for its laid-back hippie vibe, healing workshops and full-moon parties. Cafés serve magic mushroom shakes and detox clinics offer colonics with organic coffee enemas.
The latest toxin that’s being flushed out is not a psychedelic drug, but a so-called “sex cult”.
Agama, one of the world’s largest yoga training centres that was a business magnet on the island for 15 years, is closed as it addresses sexual abuse allegations.
Its guru Swami Vivekananda Saraswati, a Romanian native born as Narcis Tarcau, is understood to have left Koh Pangan.
In July, 31 women publicly alleged sexual abuse at Agama. Fourteen women told the Guardian last week they were sexually assaulted by Tarcau, three of them said they were raped.
Hundreds of Kiwis have passed through the school.
One, a 36-year-old woman, did about 12 months total of yoga teacher training at Agama over five years.
She tells the Herald on Sunday of going to Tarcau’s house for a “healing meditation”.
“Afterwards, he kissed me and started taking off my clothes without asking,” she says.
“There was a lot of pressure for sex, even though I said no.”
She managed to leave before anything happened but what really disturbed her was a senior teacher’s reaction.
“[He said] ‘Like wow, how did you manage to leave without making love.’ I felt really naïve.
“Swami is very aggressive and manipulative. There was all this subtle pressure to sleep with him and other teachers the higher you go in the school. Men are told that women want to be ‘taken’.”
Women were also encouraged to have sex with other women in threesomes “because yin and yin together are good” but gay male sex was not encouraged.
“The brainwashing is subtle but relentless. If unwanted sexual advances or worse happened, and the woman wanted to bring it up, she was told either that she needs to be more open and work on her heart chakra, or that she is attracting this kind of experience. It’s her karma to work through this, especially if it happens more than once.”
A weirdo running a cult and persuading daft women to have sex with him is nothing new, and I imagine such men have existed since the dawn of time. But what differentiates this from, say, the Manson Family is the age of the women: one is 36, another mentioned in the article is 42, another in her 30s. These are not naive teenagers but women approaching middle age, yet some stayed in this place for years. I can’t help but think this Saraswati chap was exploiting the deep insecurity I wrote about here:
For most people, “travelling” – as opposed to simply going on holiday – is something you do in your twenties before settling down into a proper job and/or family life. But for single women, it’s something they do well into middle-age and perhaps beyond, usually going to exotic locations where they talk in lofty terms about spirituality (while scoffing at anything which even hints at formal religion). There must be a pretty big market for this: reasonably wealthy women who have nothing else to do during their annual holidays but jet off somewhere exotic for a few weeks or months of “finding themselves”. I don’t think they’re going abroad to get laid, but they do seem a bit lost, as if going to a nice location will help fill the gigantic hole in their lives back home.
In short, there is very little in this story – not the location, the retreat’s claimed purpose, the cult leader, the profile of the women who attended, nor what took place – which I find very surprising. I’m half-minded to think the reputation of the centre was well known and that served as an attraction, to some women at least.