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The Ethical and Leadership Challenges Posed by the Royal Commission’s Revelations of Sexual Abuse at a Satyananda Yoga Ashram in Australia

Responsible Leadership and Ethical Decision-Making

ISBN: 978-1-78714-416-3, eISBN: 978-1-78714-415-6

Publication date: 16 May 2017


The purpose of this paper is to examine the ethical and leadership challenges arising from revelations of child sexual abuse in the 1970s and 1980s at an Australian Satyananda Yoga ashram. This paper responds to the Royal Commission’s exposition of child abuse at an Australian yoga ashram and was the first such investigation involving a faith-based organisation outside the churches.

This paper provides a critical cultural analysis of the findings of the Australian Government Royal Commission into child abuse in relation to Satyananda Yoga. Particular practices and values associated with Satyananda Yoga may have served to foster and mask widespread abuse.

This paper should generate discourse within the yoga community at both the grassroots level and within the upper hierarchy. It outlines the importance of critical awareness among teachers and students. It is hoped that the paper will help to catalyse a reparation process for survivors of child sexual abuse. It is also suggested that yoga academies re-evaluate practices and values that have been used to justify abuse.

Satyananda Yoga’s ethical and leadership challenges warrant broader research than was undertaken for this paper. The still unresolved matter of reparations for survivors of abuse needs urgent consideration.




I wish to express my sincere thanks to Dr. Brenda Dobia, Senior Lecturer, Western Sydney University and scholar of the Sakti tradition and Professor Roy Moodley, Director of the Centre for Diversity in Counselling and Psychotherapy, University of Toronto, Canada. I would also like to thank psychotherapists Shukla Dhingra (the United Kingdom), Dr. William Hall (the United States) and Dr. Amrita Narayan (India); The Ethics Centre, Sydney; Knowmore Legal Service and, most importantly, the entire Sydney-based staff of the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.


Pankhania, J. (2017), "The Ethical and Leadership Challenges Posed by the Royal Commission’s Revelations of Sexual Abuse at a Satyananda Yoga Ashram in Australia", Responsible Leadership and Ethical Decision-Making (Research in Ethical Issues in Organizations, Vol. 17), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 105-123.



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