Inside the Thai Spiritual Haven Run by an Alleged Sexual Abuser

Koh Phangan is a small island in southeast Thailand known to tourists for its parties and beautiful beaches. The beauty of the locale also lures visitors in search of relaxation and spiritual awakening. Among the island’s most popular schools is Agama, a yoga community led by Swami Vivekananda Saraswati, whose teachings have attracted thousands of students since opening in 2003.

Only recently have allegations of sexual assault by the Swami come to light, as reported by the Guardian. (Agama and the Swami deny these allegations.) This short documentary is an in-depth look at how the school—led by one charismatic leader—is accused of fostering a culture of abuse and manipulation under the guise of healing and enlightenment. Janja Lalich PhD, a sociologist and specialist in coercive influence, also explains how leaders can assert power in isolated groups.

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Executive Producer: Lily Nguyen; Senior Producer: Jennifer Perry; Lead Editor: Eileen Kennedy; Producer: Laura Brickman; Coordinating Producer: Pilar Enseñat; Editor: Joon Chung; Design/Animation: Dan Ashwood; Additional Camera: Matthew Reyes; Additional Editor: Santiago Garcia

Send tips and inquiries to Jennifer Perry, jennifer@jezebel.com.

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DISCUSSION

goddessisgood
goddessisgood

The sheer gall of this European man to take the name of Swami Vivekananda!! The original Swami Vivekananda was one of the greatest spiritual leaders India ever had, the spiritual reformer and support behind many of Gandhi’s philosophies and actions, and of the Indian Independence movement. He brought Hinduism (and therefore, yoga) to the west and helped establish the Parliament of World Religions. I really don’t understand — how do people’s spidey senses not go off when they first encounter such blatant hubris, not to mention colonialist cultural appropriation?

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