False Allegations Against Isha Foundation
We have come across media reports of false allegations against Isha Foundation. We wish to strongly respond to these baseless allegations on a public platform.
We have come across media reports of false allegations against Isha Foundation by a couple that their two daughters – Maa Mathi and Maa Maayu (previously Geetha and Lata) – are being held captive at the Isha Yoga Center. Mr Kamaraj had petitioned the Collector of Coimbatore stating that his daughters had been brainwashed into taking sanyas after tonsuring their head.
We have already sent individual responses to the media and the government in this context, refuting these allegations. But now as these false allegations have been carried by several media houses and begun to circulate on the social media, we have decided to strongly respond to these baseless allegations on a public platform.
We would like to clearly state on record that all the above allegations – of holding captives, brainwashing, and forcing individuals into sanyas or brahmacharya – are absolutely false.
Isha Foundation was established with the purpose of addressing all aspects of human wellbeing. More than 3 million volunteers are involved in this endeavor worldwide, of their own free will, not by any coercion from the foundation. There are about 1500 fulltime volunteers (including about 200 brahmacharis and 640 married people) residing at the Isha Yoga Center. Every one of them is here by their own choice and is free to leave any time they may wish to do so.
Similarly, in this particular case of Maa Mathi (34) and Maa Maayu (31), they are here by their own choice and are by no means held here against their will. They have been residing at the ashram for the last seven years. Five years ago, they took up brahmacharya as a spiritual path, again through their own full willingness.
The path of brahmacharya (monkhood) has been an integral part of India for thousands of years and is prevalent in every spiritual tradition of the world, from Buddhism, Christianity, Jainism, etc. In Isha, brahmacharya is held in utmost sacredness and is not offered freely to one and all. The application for brahmacharya involves an extensive period of introspection and self-assessment so that the applicant fully understands what the path entails and whether it is suitable for him/her or not. Further, while many apply, only a few are accepted based on their commitment, integrity and longing. The very notion of imposing brahmacharya on any individual is unthinkable.
Both of the above-mentioned brahmacharinis have released a statement about these baseless allegations:
We are both bewildered as to why our parents are creating a commotion, five years after we decided and took brahmacharya. It was, in fact, our parents who introduced us to Isha. And before we took our decisions, we both spent a year explaining to them what brahmacharya meant and why we wished to pursue this spiritual path. In the last five years, they have visited us at the Isha Yoga Center numerous times, have spoken with us, eaten with us, and spent time at the Center.
When we met our father at the Deputy Superintendent’s Office in Coimbatore on July 30, we tried to resolve the problem through discussion. But he began to shout and use abusive language towards us. He threatened us with consequences and said that he would bring people to protest against Isha, to disturb the peace and tranquility of the area. He threatened us that he will go to any extent to disturb our life.
We find this very distressing, considering that we are both adults who chose our path in life with full knowledge and understanding of what we were doing. No one compelled or convinced us to make this decision. In the 21st century, when women are breaking glass ceilings and moving beyond traditional restrictions on their freedom, it is sad that our parents do not appreciate our choice, as women, to pursue a path of spiritual wellbeing. The All India Democratic Women’s Association has also entered the fray. They have taken the onus upon themselves to claim we need to be rescued. It is ironic that an organization that claims to stand up for women’s rights, does not recognize our freedom as women, to choose what is right for us!
We realize that perhaps our parents are disappointed that we did not follow their advice in our life choices – a conventional path of marriage and financial achievement. But once again, we wish to convey to them that there is no cause for concern. We assure them that our wellbeing is not in question. We hope that they will take pride in the fact that both their daughters have taken their wellbeing into their hands, and are also working for the wellbeing of all.
It is unfortunate that such false allegations have been circulated without any amount of truth in them. We request the media houses/individuals to please check for authenticity before spreading such news.
Isha Foundation is happy to address any concerns regarding this. We invite Isha volunteers to please share your experiences with Isha on your personal blogs, and social media accounts in order to assuage any concerns the public may have about the foundation. We are deeply grateful to all Isha volunteers, many of whom have been with us from the inception 30 years ago, and have made this organization what it is today. Only because of you, so many millions of people around the world have been benefited by the science of yoga and made a difference to their lives. Thank you for being with us and lending your support in so many ways.
Please use #MyStoryWithIsha when posting your experience.
Update: The High Court has dismissed the plea and ruled in favor of Isha Foundation. Please read this blogpost for details and the complete judgment.