The Lawsuit That Almost Exposed Yogi Bhajan Nearly 40 Years Ago

Trigger Warning: Contains a discussion of extreme sexual abuse

Watch this on YouTube or read the transcript below.

By now, you may have heard about Pamela Dyson’s lawsuit against 3HO cult founder Yogi Bhajan in 1986. At the time, her lawsuit was one of two lawsuits handled by the same lawyer against Yogi Bhajan. This is the story about the second lawsuit, the one you probably have not heard about.

Yogi Bhajan had arrived in Los Angeles in 1968, claiming to be a yoga master from India. Teaching ‘Kundalini Yoga’, a set of powerful yoga moves combined with strong breathing techniques and chanting, he quickly built up a cult following. He named his group 3HO and disguised the fact that it was a cult by draping it in the garments, chanting and religious symbols of Sikhism, one of the world’s great religions.

Bhajan surrounded himself with young women, calling them his ‘secretaries’. Both lawsuits are from former secretaries. Both accuse Bhajan of sexual abuse and financial exploitation.

Pamela Sarah Dyson said “…the Yogi called one afternoon to tell me the story of Karta Purkh’s escape. I was horrified. I knew he had begun to have sex with Kate. I had seen the bruises, the marks he often left upon his secretaries. By then she was around 20 years old, and I never imagined it was non-consensual.”

According to current testimonies, from the very beginning, Bhajan was sexually exploiting the young female followers that he had gathered around himself. He controlled all aspects of these young women’s lives and regularly demanded sex from them, by some accounts, he became increasingly perverse and controlling as the years went on.

In the spring of 1986, one of Yogi Bhajan’s secretaries, a young woman he had named Karta Purkh, filed a lawsuit claiming that, among other things, he had violently raped her. She stated that Bhajan had been grooming her since she was a teenager. She said that her own sister, who had encouraged her to join the cult, physically aided Bhajan in the rape.

The legal claim further states that “From December 1980 through May, 1985, the plaintiff also lived under the constant threat, fear and reasonable apprehension of physical injury or death if she resisted the sexual assaults of Bhajan.“

On July 4th, 1986, in a lecture at Khalsa Women’s Camp in Espanola, New Mexico, Bhajan read from the lawsuit’s statement of claim, brazenly mocking the woman and the other secretaries involved. Appallingly, the audience of 3HO women in attendance can be heard laughing at the deeply disturbing description of the sexual abuse of this young woman.

Here is the clip from Yogi Bhajan’s lecture speaking at the 3HO Ladies Camp.

…and if I tell you one example of the complaint, you shall be shocked. One of the complaint is, Sardarni Guru Amrit Kaur Khalsa and Sardarni Guruki Kaur Khalsa physically held down at the ground and I perform an act of “asodomy”, I don’t know what they call it.

A sodomy and then I got up and I peed.

(Students’ laughter)

Yogi Bhajan: Khalsa Womens Training Camp Lecture, July 4th, 1986

The sections he is referring to from the claim: “In carrying out his sexual assaults, Bhajan was at times physically assisted by defendant Amrit Kaur and at times physically assisted by defendant Guru Ke, who would physically restrain the plaintiff.“

“During the period between June, 1978 and February,1985, the plaintiff was repeatedly struck or touched in a manner which any person of ordinary sensibilities would find to be highly offensive, and which caused the plaintiff pain and physical harm, as well as fear, apprehension and resulting mental and emotional harm. These incidents include, but are not limited to, beatings; involuntary sexual intercourse, sodomy and other sexual attacks; administration of ostensibly medical treatments; administration of bizarre rites; urination upon the plaintiff; and other particulars.”

IIn 2020 after the publication of the book “Premka – White Bird in a Golden Cage” by Pamela Saharah Dyson, over 30 women spoke out about their experiences of Bhajan as a sadistic serial sexual abuser and rapist.

The Olive Branch Report, commissioned by the 3HO organization declared that “We found that it is more likely than not that Yogi Bhajan engaged in sexual battery”.

This new information puts the original 1986 lawsuits and his making fun of the charges in a very different light. His mocking now can be seen as a pre-emptive defence strategy. Rather than have them hear it from others, he is attempting to get ahead of the news with his own version of events. In effect, he was saying: “Can you believe what this crazy woman is claiming?” The implications are clear to his followers. If they don’t believe him, they are betraying their spiritual master.

There is also a good chance that the other women named in the claim, Guru Amrit and Guruke, were in the audience that day. According to Pamela Dyson, Bhajan insisted that his overworked and dead-tired secretaries always attend his classes. Talking openly about the rape case in front of an audience, would have served to shame and control the two women cited in the incident. Hearing these prominent secretaries being outed so freely and easily by Bhajan probably also terrorized other secretaries who had been sexually exploited by Bhajan.

Finally, his comments could serve to incite his followers into action. On the surface he was simply asking them to pray for him, but it could also move some of the more fervent followers to shame, shun, threaten or even act violently towards Karta Purkh, the young woman claiming abuse. We are seeing some of this type of behavior today, with the ‘deniers’ that remain in the cult group, who have engaged in threats and attempts to shame the women who have come forward with their own stories of sexual abuse by Bhajan.

Ultimately, the lawsuits failed in 1986. Neither woman had the resources for a prolonged battle and Bhajan played for time. According to Pamela Dyson, “Yogi Bhajan kept claiming medical exemptions, provided by his in-house doctors, to avoid sitting for his deposition.”

Because of the stalling tactics by Bhajan, the two women, Pamela Dyson and Karta Purkh, were coerced into signing trivial settlements and the documents they signed prevented them from ever receiving any payments in the future. Because of this, they have been left out of the current 3HO reparations program. Those documents were clearly signed under duress. If the Siri Singh Sahib Corporation board is interested in doing the right thing, they would voluntarily offer compensation to these two brave women who were the first to attempt to expose the corruption and sexual abuses of Bhajan almost forty years ago.

In the 1986 lawsuits, Pamela Dyson asked for $1.5 million and Karta Purkh asked for 2.5 million. Adjusted for inflation, today these amounts would be $4 million and 6.7 million respectively. This doesn’t account for compounding interest, had they been paid in 1986. The 3HO Empire left behind by Bhajan is sitting on over $175 million.

In the light of all that has come out about Bhajan, his manufactured ‘Golden Chain’ lineage of Kundalini Yoga, the manipulations, the lies, the accusations of fraud, and worst of all, the accounts of serial sexual abuse and violence, is it not time for the Siri Singh Sahib Corporation, the governing body of all the 3HO organizations, to do the right thing and offer a formal public apology and a settlement to these two women for their decades old lawsuits?


Video Clip of Ladies Camp Lecture: full transcript available on 3HO Library of Teachings.

Credit to NPR Imperfect Paradise: Yoga’s “Queen of Conspiracy Theories Podcast for surfacing this quote.

Pamela Sarah Dyson quotes from her blog

Karta Purkh Kaur Lawsuit

Inflation Calculator

Voice synthesis:

Soundtrack: Namaste by Audionautix is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.

July 15, 1986 there is another instance of Bhajan mocking the lawsuits and his student laughing.

Secretary general, in confinement, I can’t believe it. She’s the only one officer, who can bring charges against Siri Singh Sahib. The only one officer, and the only one officer, who can pass a motion in the Khalsa Council, whatever she feels, because she’s the Head of the government. And for eighteen years, somebody remain a secretary general of Sikh Dharma, transliterates Peace Lagoon, write Guru for the Aquarian Age and has her picture on the altars of many of you, has been confined for eighteen years. And raped and that midised, sodomised and God Bless me, I can’t.
(Students laugh)

I thought when somebody does with a goat, or sheep that’s what it is. I never knew that people do it but anyway, I’m learning.God, at fifty-seven years age, I have to learn it now my God, it’s not a single black left. But somehow, if, okay, if Guru saves us, saves us. If these Panch got into the whole thing, it’s their problem, and it’s Guru’s will. If not, then we’ll go through it, there’s no problem, there’s no way out. Because personality has to be sacrificed, at the altar of general good. And personality is different. Personality is that of a Yogi Bhajan. That has nothing to do.

Yogi Bhajan LA Lecture – July 15, 1986

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