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Zabel Article, Part 1: Greed and Need

Yogi Bhajan lied constantly. As Pamela “Premka” Dyson, someone who served at his side for 16 years, wrote recently, “He was shameless and he loved pushing the envelope to see how much he could get away with.”[1] Rob Zabel’s recent article spoke of this as Bhajan’s “shrewd inventiveness,” yet Zabel tries hard, and in my view unsuccessfully, to draw the reader’s attention away from Bhajan’s creative duplicity.[2]

Following recent revelations and investigations, any serious study of Bhajan’s yogic legacy needs to put a spotlight on Bhajan’s shameless fabrications. Given what we now know, the most obvious explanation for the roots and context of Bhajan’s teachings is that they were invented on the spot to serve his well-documented greed and needs.[3] Any alternative explanation needs to be grounded in solid evidence. Zabel’s, unfortunately, is not.

When I heard there was an objective scholar studying Bhajan’s yogic legacy, I looked forward to reading a reliable history of the young Bhajan and understanding more about how this body of work, which I practiced and even taught for many years, was actually created. As teachers, we passed along to curious students Bhajan’s lies about there being over 5,000 sets in the practice, all created and tested by ancient yogis.[4]

Zabel attempts to resurrect that tired mythology. He presents the reader with wild speculation and ham-handed historical revisionism designed to suggest that Bhajan was an earnest teacher and a worthy yogic philosopher. While Bhajan might well have been that person on occasion, evidence of his lack of integrity and “shrewd inventiveness” cannot be written out of any serious study of the context and history of Kundalini Yoga as Taught by Yogi Bhajan (KYATBYB).

Zabel’s work is in the same genre as Ravi Singh’s “True History of Kundalini Yoga,” although Zabel does cite some sources, and Jivan Mukta’s “3HO In the Light of History,” although Zabel is apparently not someone who has committed his life and livelihood to KYATBYB, as Singh and Mukta have. All three, however, have a strong and clear interest in portraying KYATBYB as extending back and forward in time and significance beyond Bhajan.

Zabel’s self-interest comes in the form of a grant that funded the research and writing.[5] The grant came from the Kundalini Research Institute (KRI), a wing of Bhajan’s depleted and desperate organization, 3HO. KRI and 3HO are under tremendous pressure to prove that the teachings should persist despite the corruption and criminality of the Bhajan, who had promoted his organization using a fabricated legacy and a false super-human persona. Their entire business depends on it, including the highly profitable “solstice sadhanas,” “white tantric yoga” events, and the many levels of teacher training. Even if the reputation of their founder and teacher is beyond repair, they hope that Bhajan’s yogic legacy can be backfilled. They want someone to prove that this yoga is more than a reflection of its founder, a corrupt predator by virtually all accounts.

In upcoming posts, we will look at how Zabel attempts to restore this shaken foundation of yoga that Bhajan brought to the west. To close this post, however, and to say why this kind of work needs to be examined critically, I’m going to cite some statistics. All good scholarship incorporates a blend of facts and hypotheses, but scholarly articles that change the way we think about a historic person or period have a compelling factual foundation. This author attempts to rewrite history using guesses, conjecture, suppositions, big words, and poorly-sourced evidence. A simple indication of how vague the claims are is the percentage of pages that contain certain words:

  • probably or probability: 27%

  • perhaps, 22%

  • seems, 35%

  • likely, 32%

  • may have, 25%

  • Zabel uses the words tantra or tantric on 37% of the pages, but 0% of the pages contain his definition of tantra, to cite just one example of purposeful vagueness.

  • Finally, Zabel uses the word “emic” on seven different pages, and from what I can tell it refers to an oral history that isn’t written anywhere, which papers over the fact that he doesn’t have any evidence beyond the shaky claims of one young man’s “forthcoming” research.


[1] Dyson, Pamela (December 6, 2021). Personal communication.

[4] Kaur, Devpreet. What is a kriya?

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