Letter from the SSSC
On behalf of the SSSC and all our affiliated organizations, we share this statement with the Sikh Dharma and Kundalini Yoga community on our continuing work to acknowledge and learn from the various experiences of harm shared by current and former community members, and to heal our global community.
The founder of our community, Yogi Bhajan, died almost two decades ago. Over the past two years, reports of harm have been made about Yogi Bhajan and other leaders in our community, as well as reports of harm from next-generation members about experiences in our school programs. In our prior communications, we have explained the immediate steps we took to determine the scope of these reports of harm, as well as our next steps to respond. Those efforts included retaining an outside group, An Olive Branch, which collected, reviewed, and reported on a wide array of painful as well as positive experiences with Yogi Bhajan. There have been divisions within our organization as we work to understand this information.
We publicly shared the process and outcome of this work so we could learn about these issues together. The information collected was important to assess how best to offer healing to the community. It confirmed for the Board that there are members of our community who are in pain, and many have expressed a need for support, action, and change. As we have previously affirmed, we are committed to learning and growing to ensure our community is a safe and supportive place that reflects our deepest values.
Starting in August 2020, we began pursuing a path of compassionate reconciliation, which included creating space for and actively listening to all areas of concern from the community, on any issue, as the foundation for our next actions. It was during this effort that more community members came forward and disclosed their harmful experiences in our communities. These experiences included harm at our schools in India and other youth programs, ranging from various types of abuse to neglect and poor living conditions.
The experiences that were shared were, and remain, very painful. Many members of our board and community attended or sent their children to these schools, and many are only now beginning to understand their experiences. These former students, who are now adults, are a key part of the future of our community, and we are fully committed to supporting them. As such, we accept these reports with a heartfelt desire to support the healing of any former student who had any form of hurtful or damaging experience at one of these schools or programs.
We recognize that one of our greatest organizational shortcomings was that we did not listen to or acknowledge those who experienced harm from our leadership, in our schools, or in our communities over the years. Too often, their voices were met with silence or disbelief. We see the courage it took for individuals to come forward to shed light on these difficult issues, and we thank every person who was willing to share their experiences. You have brought awareness to these important issues and the call for change, and we want you to know that we have heard you. We acknowledge the pain and suffering you have shared with us, and we are committed to a compassionate and supportive response.
While we cannot claim to know the full extent of each person’s pain, we deeply regret all suffering in our community, including the abuse, neglect, and other serious harms that have been shared by women, members of the next generation, and others. To every person who suffered any wrong by any individual associated with our community over the last fifty years our community has existed, we offer our sincere and unequivocal apology. We accept responsibility for our role as an organization in any situation where a person was hurt. We also recognize that words of apology are only a beginning – these sentiments must be accompanied by action.
To date, our process of compassionate reconciliation has included gathering reports of harm, conducting additional listening sessions, and offering counseling for anyone in need. As an important next step in this process, today we announce that the Board has unanimously approved the implementation of an Independent Healing and Reparations Program. Through this voluntary reparations program, we offer our commitment to owning the harm that has been described and are dedicating our attention and resources to helping those in need. We take this important step for the community knowing that a formal reparations program will not be the end of this journey. Our work must continue long after this specific program concludes, as we take its lessons to heart, improve, and strive to live our values.
A detailed written protocol for the Independent Healing and Reparations Program will follow soon. The program will be run by independent, experienced administrators. The program will be available to individuals who experienced harm in our schools and youth programs, regardless of whether the harm was perpetrated by a staff member or a peer, and those who report sexual abuse by any leader or other person under institutional control in the community. The program will offer emotional and financial support to eligible claimants regardless of when and where the harm occurred.
We commit to growing in our understanding of these hurtful experiences. We are committed to ensuring they do not happen again. None of the harms that have been described are a reflection of who we intend to be as a community. We pledge to continue a process of learning, repair, and institutional changes to ensure safe and healthy environments in every one of our organizations and for every person who is part of or interacts with, our diverse community.
We know this has been a very difficult time. Many people are on a personal journey to reflect on their own experiences over decades, integrate new information, and travel their own road to truth and understanding. As a Board, we represent many of the diverse views in our community, but we are unified around two core principles: respect for each individual and extending care to those in need.
Just as our community includes people from many different backgrounds, cultures, and religions, who bring different viewpoints to the practice of our teachings, we can accept different perspectives now as well. We urge all not to slander, attack, or judge any individual, whether they describe experiences in the community that are painful, positive or both. We have come to understand that no organization can come to a consensus about decades of differing experiences—with Yogi Bhajan, in the schools, or in any other aspects of the community. The process of moving forward has taught us to focus on respecting each person’s individual experiences and views as we embrace a collective commitment to serve everyone, without judgment or prejudice, for the good of all.
It is our prayer that the Sikh Dharma/3HO community will be stronger, kinder, and more compassionate in the future because we met the challenges of this difficult time by staying true to our core values. As we move towards a shared future for our global community, we urge everyone to join us in dedicating ourselves to the next part of this important work and focusing our prayers, meditations, thoughts, and efforts on healing the pain and divisions in our community. May we move forward with compassion, kindness, integrity, and service, honoring the Light that lives within each of us that will guide our path forward.
SSSC Board of Trustees
SS Awtar Kaur Khalsa
SS Ek Ong Kaar Kaur Khalsa Michaud
SS Gurujodha Singh Khalsa
SS Gurujot Kaur Khalsa
SS Guruka Singh Khalsa
SS Gurumeet Kaur Khalsa
SS Guruprem Singh Khalsa
SS Gurusangat Singh Khalsa
SS Gurutej Singh Khalsa
SS Harimander Singh Khalsa
SS Sahaj Singh Khalsa
SS Sham Kaur Khalsa
SS Siri Pritam Kaur Khalsa
SS Sirivishnu Singh Khalsa
SS Viriam Singh Khalsa