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Sex and your Guru

by Arlo Hennings 14 days ago in Humanity · updated 6 days ago

knowing the boundaries

Sex and your Guru
Photo by Dainis Graveris on Unsplash

I met with my spiritual guru in his Yogi pad. During my one on one session, he rubbed my crotch. I trusted him with my head. And now he wants me to trust him with my body?

I told him he lost his way and left.

THIS ESSAY is about spiritual teachers who have sex with their students. The suffering that such encounters often cause, and what we can try to do about it.

The definition of Sexual abuse by yoga gurus is the exploitation of the position of trust occupied by a master of any branch of yoga for personal sexual pleasure. Allegations of such abuse have been made against modern yoga gurus such as Bikram Choudhury, Kausthub Desikachar, Amrit Desai, and K. Pattabhi Jois. There have been some criminal convictions and lawsuits for civil damages.--Wikipedia

I'm not a guru of any school of thought. Why, then, do my words deserve your attention?

First, I'm a longtime writer and speaker whose topics focus on spiritual subjects. This essay grew from a talk I gave at the Bali Spirit Fest.

Over the past two decades. I've had the good fortune to know many spiritual teachers as friends. And acquaintances.

Over the past twenty-five years. I've studied with several spiritual teachers - most of them in the Zen tradition, some of them well known.

I've also attended retreats and workshops led by other spiritual teachers. I went through my distress and disappointment. As I learned that some of the teachers I respected had had sex with their students.

Interpersonal boundaries are necessary for all relationships.

When sex occurs between a spiritual guide and a student. The teacher-student relationship is often damaged.

Yet spiritual teachers should know not to go there. The student is prone to celebrity lust. Imagination and fantasy are more likely to give in to those swami's eyes. The responsibility to walk away falls to us. Their students, followers, disciples, and protégés.

Spiritual teachers. No matter how enlightened make mistakes. They have hormones too. To feel empathy for spiritual teachers. Because they are exposed to more frequent temptations than most of us. Is still no excuse. There is boundary training.

Some spiritual teachers are attractive. So are their students. Sexual magnetism is normal. But if left unchecked at the karmic endorphin door can be asking for trouble, confusion, and harm.

Only the Buddha and Christ, I am aware of transcended sex. Don't wonder why instead of meditating you're disrobing.

There are also mystics, new-age guys, and “spiritual” people. Who are lowlifes, and activists/idealists who are in it for themselves?

To save your valuable time searching the web for a guide. The following is a good list compiled by

Bad signs to look for in a Spiritual Man

The Spiritual Man Who Thinks You’re Special: You are a light in the darkness to him. He is your teacher, and he sees much brilliance and potential in you. You are what he needs, and he is what you need — spiritually, of course. Or he wants to personally help you. You, more than anyone, are worth his precious spiritual energy and time.

The Spiritual Man Who Wants To See You Outside Of Class: Why would a charismatic, “enlightened” man want to see you outside of class? Why would he invite you into his home, into his inner circle, into his family, or to his most exclusive retreats? Because he wants to do something inappropriate and he’s getting you used to be alone with him.

The Man Who Wants To Spiritually Connect With You — Through Your Body: This guy can take any scripture of any spiritual tradition and twist it to convincingly to mean that spiritual connection is best experienced through sexual connection. Selling teenagers into prostitution? Having multiple wives and mistresses? He’s got scripture to back it up.

The Spiritual Man Who Pierces You With His Eyes: His gaze is unbelievably powerful. When he looks at you, you swear he can see right to your soul. Why do they always pierce you with their eyes? It’s a move of control and dominance. I once had a creepy swami try to pierce me with his eyes, and I left his ashram within 10 minutes.

The Spiritual Man Who Wants To Touch You: Eyes on you turns into hands on you. He’s so spiritual that he wants to heal you hands-on. Or he invites you in for a private session only to reach up to your shirt. Since he thinks he’s G-d, he feels entitled to your body. Question what he’s doing and he’ll back it up with scripture, or explain to you that it’s part of the teacher-student relationship.

The Spiritual Man Whose Love And Non-Attachment Are Superior To Everyone Else’s: He challenges you to be strong enough to handle his love. He’s not sure if you have what it takes to be loved by him, and he wants you to prove it. And/or he is a master of non-attachment. He wants to prove how good he is at not getting attached by getting intimate with you and not giving a crap. He convinces you that you are weak because you have human feelings, and he is strong and enlightened because he is a master of non-attachment. He’s not a womanizer — he’s just really good at not getting attached!

The Humble Man Who Talks About Himself — A Lot: I’ve met way too many of these guys. All conversations lead back to him. He is so humble that he doesn’t even have possessions or home — instead, he’s going to mooch off of you and other women. Counter something he says, and he’s going to throw the humble card at you: If you don’t agree with him (or you don’t flatter him), you’re arrogant. Since he is so humble, you are assaulting him by disagreeing with him.

The Very, Very Sensitive New Age Guy: This man has feelings. His feelings are very strong. You must never hurt his feelings, though he is free to hurt yours. He is a master of using psycho-babble and “non-violent communication”. You make him feel a certain way — he is never responsible for controlling his feelings.

The Religious Man To Whom The Rules Don’t Apply: He sure knows all the rules. He can recite them backward and forward, in multiple languages (Sanskrit! Hebrew! Hindi!). He is fastidious in tiny details that inconvenience other people (his special way of washing his hands! his special diet!), but when it comes to, you know, like, not raping people, the rules don’t apply to him. His spiritual position entitles him to exploit you however he wants to!

The Crusader For Justice Who Makes You Feel Dumb: This man knows everything about justice. He knows the key to world peace. He quotes Marx, Mandela, and Maimonides in the same sentence. He knows Angela Davis personally. If there was a big protest, he was not only there but he was on the front lines fighting the cops and he has a scar on his inner thigh that he wants to show you to prove it. This man is committed to The Cause above all. So lofty is his goal that he doesn’t need to be nice to regular people like you. He can be nasty, denigrating, rude — all in the name of The Cause. Call him out on it and you’re siding with the oppressor.

The Married Man Who Tells His Marital Problems To You: This spiritual master has a spiritual advisor — a very famous guru — but even that guru can’t empathize with his marital problems. Thank the goddess that you can, though. It turns out that in every way that his wife lacks, you are just brimming over. Why can’t his wife be more like you, he asks you.

The Enlightened Man Who Tells You All About How Men & Women Are Supposed To Relate To Each Other/How Women Should Be: This guy is an expert on gender. He knows every religious or spiritual reason why women should be subservient to men. He presents his “knowledge” as absolute truth. If you don’t relate to him on his terms, he’ll educate you on how to be a better woman. He’s on a special mission to teach very young women (even girls) how to be women.

The Clergy Man/Guru Who Wants Your Money: He can convince almost anyone (and especially women) to financially support his “mission”. If it’s not by promising salvation if you give him money, it’s by inviting you to very, very expensive retreats. Want private healing sessions or lessons in spiritual practice? One way or another, you’ll pay for them.

Anybody Who Ideologically Justifies Polyamory: If he’s really “progressive”, this man can quote The Ethical Slut. And since his predecessors in his spiritual lineage had multiple wives, certainly he should have them. While he is free to enjoy his spiritually-sanctioned dalliances, you’re in big trouble if he even thinks you’re cheating on him. After all, it’s Tantra! Or it’s Christianity! Or Abraham had more than one wife! He has so much spiritual mojo that he is simply gifting it to all the women he’s intimate with. How dare you refuse his gift!?

The Healer Who Has A Special Treatment Just For You: This man has identified that something is wrong with you. There is something wrong with you that only he has identified because he is so enlightened. It is critical that he, and only he, heal you. What? Having sex with him is part of the treatment? How surprising!

Where to seek help

The Yoga Alliance has published a policy on sexual misconduct. It describes the types of conduct considered inappropriate for yoga teachers in America. And the procedures for reporting, reviewing, and investigating a grievance. It defines sexual misconduct as "Unwelcomed conduct of a sexual nature. Physical or verbal in nature." It states that it is impossible to list all situations that might form such misconduct. But gives examples such as sexual advances with or without touching. Sexual jokes, comments about sexual orientation, and questions about a person's sexual experiences. The Yoga Alliance notes that it does not have the powers of law enforcement agencies. They encourage people to make use of those systems. Violations of the policy can be punished by actions from education. Incorrect conduct up to "revocation of Yoga Alliance membership and credentials."

Trust your gut. If the person doesn’t feel right no doubt is not.


Arlo Hennings

Author 2 non-fiction books, music publisher, expat, father, cultural ambassador, PhD, MFA (Creative Writing), B.A.

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