Eddie Stern’s Statements About the Crimes of Pattabhi Jois (Post and Podcast)

Last week, I released the following video of the late Maty Ezraty puts Eddie Stern at a meeting of senior students in Mysore in the early 1990s, at which Jois’s abuses were openly discussed and acknowledged.

 

Ezraty recalls that she and Chuck Miller decided at that time to actively distance themselves from Jois. Stern went on to help Jois publish a book, to host Jois at U.S. events, and co-edit Guruji, a collection of interviews that glorify Jois.

Yesterday, Eddie Stern released a statement about the criminality of Pattabhi Jois. The statement is co-signed by his partner Jocelyne and can be found here on his site.

Through present-tense phrases like “The stories that are being reported on the actions of Pattabhi Jois…”, the Sterns imply that they have only become aware of Jois’s abuses recently, or since survivors like Anneke Lucas and Karen Rain have spoken up.

The Sterns’ statement was simultaneously published with this podcast excerpt with Eddie Stern, hosted by Leanne Woehlke.


In the podcast, Stern says:

I’ve read the reports of these women. I didn’t know what he was doing. And after reading the book, I could confidently know that — the Matthew Remski book — I could really confidently say I didn’t know about those things.

However, this same book recounts how Anneke Lucas went to Stern in 2001 after Jois assaulted her in New York. Here’s the relevant excerpt:

Anneke said that after Jois had returned to India, she went to Eddie Stern to report the groping incident. He was Jois’s host, after all.

According to Anneke, Stern’s wife – another senior Jois student – was also at the meeting.

“Eddie referred to ‘Guruji’s unfortunate problem’,” Anneke said, “apologized and told me I had done the right thing. His wife also offered words of sympathy.

“At the time,” Anneke said, “I was satisfied with the acknowledgment alone. But Eddie carries his share of responsibility by failing to warn me and others, and by persisting in spreading an image of Pattabhi Jois as though he was an enlightened guru.”

Nine years later, Anneke showed Stern a draft of the article she was about to publish.

“Eddie’s first question was ‘Why do you want to humiliate him like that?’ to which I answered: ‘He humiliated himself.’ Eddie agreed with me.   (PAAIC, p. 319)

Additionally, Stern told me via email in July of 2016 that he had flagged the infamous Jois adjustment video as inappropriate content. The video was subsequently deleted from Vimeo, but is now reposted here (trigger warning).

“I am very happy that they pulled it down,” he wrote, “and I hope that you will reconsider the need to continue using that video to prove/make some kind of a point.”

In his open letter to John Scott, Guy Donahaye says that Stern was a source for confirming Jois’s assaults:

Eddie Stern acknowledged the abuse and supported my action although he has as yet been unable to make a proper public statement. He is also the person I turned to for confirmation about KPJ’s actions after Matthew Remski had contacted me.

The structure of the podcast focuses on Stern’s own pain and concerns that he has been “targeted” for enabling Jois over the years. He describes being in therapy, and how he’s learning to listen.

Woehlke expresses sympathy over Stern being held responsible for Jois’s actions. She worries aloud that the discourse over Jois’s criminality will “undermine the good of a practice that can help so many people and especially someone like yourself who has been one of the primary teachers of this form of the Ashtanga tradition.”

Stern told Woelke that the movement to remove images of Pattabhi Jois from shalas — initiated by Jois survivors like Karen Rain and Jubilee Cooke — constitutes a form of denialism:

I don’t think it should be brushed under the rug, which is what I believe people want to do when they want to take Pattabhi Jois’s photo off the wall and stop using the opening prayer.

Like, okay, you can’t just sweep the guru under the carpet and then like, everything’s going to get better.

When Woehlke and Stern begin to discuss solutions to the crisis, he has this to say about the consent movement in modern yoga:

I don’t know if consent cards are like the answer. Um, you know, I see people selling consent carbs like all over the place now and I’m like, what are you turning sexual abuse into another industry? And it’s just really weird to me. That cuts off an important line of communication to where, you know, I don’t have to, you know, I don’t want to, I don’t want to sound, say the wrong way, but by using a card and just putting it on your mat, all of a sudden now you’re not communicating with the person who’s supposed to be your teacher. You just start putting out a stop sign there. One of the reasons I think that we have so many problems in our societies because of difficulty communicating. Like we don’t know how to communicate. Um, in a lot of ways.

And sometimes there’s a lot of fear, there’s a lot of whatever. So I just question and I wonder: would working on communication be a better way to surmount these problems rather than something like consent cards? If people really like consent cards cause they, they’re truly not able to verbalize it, I don’t want to remove that from them. Um, I, I just am going to make that observation that people are turning sexual abuse into another industry by selling things like consent cards.

4 Comments

  • I have never met Eddie. I found this interview very difficult to listen to. The self-importance of well-known yoga teachers continues to be disheartening. Trying to maintain that a system whose founder is a jerk may actually be a good system makes absolutely no sense to me. What I do understand is that the industry of yoga is vulnerable and that we need to all beware of any wiggling of our thinking that is designed to make us more comfortable about our livelihoods. I get it. But make the right choice guys. Ashtanga Vinyasa may be helpful, to a point, for a very small group of people, and for a very short time, but no, it is not even a remotely important part of a yoga practice. It has proven itself to breed egoism, to be more harmful and more perpetuating of fanaticism and injury, than anything good.

    Any system should be observed by looking at its source. If we have (sometimes understandably) been taken in by a philosophy, once the information is out there, we must endeavor to become clearer in our thinking. Once we know, it becomes easier to look at the path of a system’s development and to recognize it for what it is. The fanaticism that was generated by Ashtanga Vinyasa in its heyday is a direct result of the system’s problems and its primary teacher. That’s just the way it is.

    I get wanting to make a living. But once something is proven to be so faulty at its inception AND in its fanatical results, it is incumbent upon us to look it straight in the eye and be brave.

    Say no.

  • Ashtanga vinyasa yoga is a beautiful practice. It’s not helpful for just a small group of people. it is beneficial to anyone who wants to give it a try. Eddie is sadly an enabler and in denial about what he enabled.Have some compassion, as he works that out. Jois had a big problem yes, but it’s not worth throwing out the practice for. It’s too helpful of a physical practice for so many people to just trash it.
    there are egoists in every form of yoga.

    • It doesn’t seem to me that Eddie wants to work it out. From his own recent statement what comes through to me is that he wants us to have compassion for him as he and his wife work it out, yet wouldn’t even organize an event where they can at least be physically present. That sounds like hypocrisy to me. Also Eddi had 20 years to work it out. He instead enabled the abuse while PJ was alive then continued milking the PJ cash cow after he died. So when I need to choose where my compassion will go, I’ll choose Jois’s victims. Every time.

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