- (Legal and Media Cases)
Who are you calling a sect?
When we think of sects, immediately associations of manipulation and abuse arise. Who among us didn’t meet such accounts on newspapers or TV?
‘Sect’ is the new ‘S’ word – as it is today one of the most degrading slurs that can be used against a group or an organization. And the ‘S’ word is used with great ease, regardless of the devastating effect it has on those that it is flung upon. But apart from the pejorative meaning given to this word, the journalist is committing another big error (crime?): replacing journalism with an aggressive form of activism that risk to threaten the very essence of this important work. Especially when the object of the journalistic attention is a social group that is engaged into a spiritual work … the deviation can be immense and consequences bigger than one can estimate.
Indeed, at one point or another, almost any spiritual movement has been accused of being a sect. And this severe error was not made by journalists that were not informed enough on the significance of the term but by journalists turn into activists that tried to impose their one-sidedness to their public.
If it wasn't that the media represent today one of the powers of the state, it would have been just another “error in the matrix”. But with the importance and power the media is gaining from us, it is our duty also to correct its actions and point out any dangerous patterns when they appear. I have seen and directly encountered, few times already, the strange phenomenon of journalists changed into activists of one-sidedness, monologuers that refuse to learn from and listen to the other one's opinion with genuine openness just because they consider already knowing the truth.
And to the victims of such activists are given only the chance of trying to find their justice into the labyrinth of media-defenders bureaucracy, an institution that can easily rival the mythical Labyrinth of Minos. If one can make it out of this journey alive, they will drop the charges and will be happy to have survived the deadly poisonous bites of these media hyenas.
The case I know
One such case is that of Natha Yogacenter in Denmark. Natha Yogacenter was founded in 1990 and is one of Denmark’s oldest and largest schools of Yoga, Tantra and Meditation. However, in 2009 Jyllands-Posten published a series of high-profile articles by Orla Borg, accusing Natha Yogacenter of being a manipulative sex-sect. In order to make the accusations more credible, the journalist was presenting insinuations that the financial support that the Yoga school was receiving from Copenhagen commune was misused by the sect. And of course, to make his claims a little more credible he gave even some numbers (a cheap trick used to show you have done your homework and you know what you are talking about when you do not have a clue).
These articles, which stretched over 3 weeks, were soon indiscriminately picked up by over a dozen other media.
Following the media reports, the Copenhagen Municipality investigated Natha Yogacenter’s accounting and administration for evidence of the claims of Orla Borg. However, their investigation found no evidence of that, and the support continues until this day. After one month of serious investigation they have cleared all the accusations from the already big media campaign. Needless to say, the media never reported the results of this real investigation and the failure of the journalist/activist.
One must ask then – why is it that claims which had such an extensive public echo could not be certified at all when investigated? How come that the journalist failed to investigate such a simple aspect?
The bizarre metamorphic change: journalist turn one-side activist
When contacted to show him the story from Natha's perspective, the journalist clearly told me (in a recorded phone conversation): “No matter what is your story I will not publish it ...”.
This is where the ugly face of the one-sidedness starts to appear and Orla Borg the journalist shows clear signs of a strange metamorphic change into an activist of his own truth. I leave it to another time to talk about the reasons for such bizarre change to appear. Here we only point out the dangerous pattern that sometimes – not so seldom – surface into the media even here in Denmark.
Now I can see that same accusation of being a sect and misusing the public fonds by Natha Yoga center appear into a show on TV2 that was probably running out of sensationalism: “Denmark according to Bubber”. He is trying some old tricks that for sure sell: sex, sect and corruption.
The fact that the production company failed to offer minimum conditions for cooperation, trying constantly to trick me and Natha into a strange deal was already addressed here (link to the article “An incoming media case?”). They even lied to us by saying that they never used but only one kind of contract that it was offered to us also. When checking around we found more than one different (much better) deal that they offered to others. And here is again the same face of the activist showing up from the smokescreen created to hide it.
All these shows to the attentive observer that there is something behind the scene and the journalist is nothing more in this case but just an activist of his own truth, in a crusade of one-sidedness. After all, even the real crusades were just the extreme end of a one-side journey of their own truth being forced on the others.
And here is the interesting part: the important question that all of the media reports failed to ask was ‘what is a sect?’. What are the criteria of defining a sect, and is Natha Yogacenter fitting these criteria?
“This is an important story” tells Bubber to BT's journalist Jan Eriksen. But what he fails to show is a responsible investigation since it is such an important story. Then, is it important because your truth is the only one to be heard?
As it turns out, such criteria for analyzing a sect are clearly defined and can be easily found after even a short investigation.
One of the world’s leading experts on the topic of sects and spiritual movements is Swedish vicar Karl Erik Nylund. Nylund says that for a movement to be defined as a manipulative sect, it has to manifest at least 3 of 4 characteristics:
- Aggression – punishment of the members criticizing the leader or the movement.
- Aversion – criticism and persecution of the people outside the group such as parents for instance.
- Alienation – closed circuit inside the sect, as a geographical or ideological group. The sect becomes the new family.
- Absolute truth – only exists within the sect, and the leader/leaders are entitled to the absolute right of interpreting the truth.
Back to the case of Natha Yogacenter and the ‘S’ word: Nylund had actually made an investigation of Natha Yogacenter already at 2005. This investigation was done by request of the Swedish Supreme Court for the purpose of the case of Yoga Teacher Gregorian Bivolaru (Spiritual mentor of Natha and all its sister schools around the world) who had requested not to be extradited to his native country of Romania on grounds that he was persecuted there for his spiritual beliefs. In a precedent making verdict, the Supreme Court decided not to extradite Bivolaru and later he was granted political asylum in Sweden. This decision relied in part on Nylund’s report that was clearly stating: Natha Yogacenter and its sister school in Romania M.I.S.A. were absolutely not sects.
In Nylund’s word’s: ‘’During my conversations with the MISA practitioners and teachers, I found nothing of the first two A-s (Aggression and Aversion). With regard to the ashram life, only a part of the persons live there and the activities are not the closed circuit type. The courses are accessible to anyone from the outside. Anyone may attend the courses. Therefore we ARE NOT talking about alienation. Some of those who are more dedicated might have a minimum contact with the outside world, however leaders actively seek to oppose this form of alienation, by encouraging them to return to their work and family. Gregorian Bivolaru DOES NOT claim to be in undeniable possession of the absolute truth. Together with other people, he is a spiritual guide and is convinced he is a man with a mission in the society. On the other hand he displayed and still displays no political claims. If people will transform through the lacto-vegetarian diet and through meditation, this will occur gradually. Bivolaru’s power resides in his very humbleness. Therefore in the MISA case, we can find none of the criteria defining manipulative sects.’’
As we can see, in the case of Natha Yogacenter, not only did the one-sidedness activist Orla Borg fail to question whether Natha is a sect by checking the criteria, but he even neglected to mention any expert opinion on the topic. He skipped over this strait to the verdict, ignoring all evidence that did not support his claim, resting instead, entirely on rumors and gossip. Following in his footprints, Bubber is bringing the same people that the JP journalist was using in 2009 to make his own one-sided truth campaign. Same pattern of actively ignoring the obviousness and trying to show only one side of a story that otherwise would prove very interesting in its entirety … but this story would also prove threatening for the sleep of ignorance of some people.
The ‘s’ word is used today far too easily. In the absence of aiming to find the truth by looking into the reality according to clear criteria – ‘Sect’ is reduced to just a painfully harmful insult which is directed at organizations whose only fault may very well be that they offer an alternative to the social norms. In other words – it is just a reaction of fear or aggression towards what we do not understand.
But for me more worrying is the reoccurring pattern in the media of activism of one-sidedness. How can we rely on the discernment of people that prove to actively choose to ignore a part of the reality in order to prove that their truth is the only one? And when these people have the power that a journalist is given by us, the citizens, the problem can be very big for everyone. Can anyone protect us from such strange deviations?
- (Legal and Media Cases)
After 5 days in court, the deliberations of the case of the ownership of Bhoga are concluded, pending decision by the court.
Upon following the testimonies and declarations from both sides, one can notice a significant phenomenon: while Natha's team has focused upon presenting it’s case for the right of ownership over the farm (Bhoga), Kim Schmock focused most of all on attacking Natha and Mihai Stoian (as the coordinating teacher) – trying to depict it as a sect. This is alike 2 people debating over what day it is: one says ‘its Wednesday’ and the other argues ‘you’re ugly’.
It should be mentioned that the judge has specifically asked that the parties will only focus upon the juridical aspect. Therefore, the team which represented Natha in this trial decided to focus only on the juridical arguments and did not mention the long list of harassments, threats and physical attacks from Kim against the Bhoga spiritual community, its individual members and against Natha. Natha has tried to keep a correct and responsible trial and avoided bringing up Kim’s violent behavior, knowing that it would damage his reputation severely. Unfortunately, Kim and his tiny group of colleagues did not share this attitude. Instead, they focused almost entirely on attacking Natha, trying to present it as a sect, hardly even approaching the actual matter of ownership of the farm. This is a very cheap strategy which shows that Kim doesn’t have good arguments. He therefore prefers simply to attack Natha since it’s much easier to destroy a reputation then it is to build one when you lack proof. The goal was obviously to play upon the innate fear that people have today of being manipulated and abused by sects – trying in this way to influence the Judge's emotional opinion upon Natha's stand.
For this purpose, Kim “produced” as witnesses 3 former members of the school who had personal grudges against Mihai Stoian. It is well known that these 3 people have over the last two years, and out of vindictiveness, been spreading lies and gossips about him and about the school in the social environment and even in the media. It is significant to note that they had absolutely no proof for any of their claims, accept for their word – thus being no more than gossip which has no place as evidence in a court of law, beyond being irrelevant to the case. In fact, should they have tried to sue Natha or Mihai for their complaints, they would certainly lose, as they had no proof and there are so many witnesses to testify to the contrary. Yet in this case, their imaginary complaints were not the subject of the trial and therefore Natha did not bother to produce witnesses to refute them. And so, the Helsingør court of law became the stage on which the good name of Natha and its members were smeared by vicious gossip invented by a tiny handful of resentful people who had nothing to add to the actual case at hand. Should Kim win the trial, it would signify the victory of prejudice and lies without proof over logic and evidence.
This strange strategy embraced by Kim's team might make one wonder: since one of the witnesses, Karsten Brask Fischer (known in Jyllands Posten and other papers as ‘Jesper’) is pretending to be an exponent of the democratic theory, how can he come with an argument like this in an ownership trial? What he tried to prove was that Natha is a sect and doesn't know a democratic way. But as an exercise of democratic thinking, what is the point in proving Natha as a sect in this ownership case? Is a sect not allowed to benefit from the justice as anyone else in a democratic system? Can a sect be cheated without problems and without juridical consequences? The logic of this kind of argument is typical to xenophobic extremists and not to people that are used with democratic rules.
Unmoved by this vicious and degrading strategy, Natha's team presented a clear-cut and common sense case, supported by sound evidence: Kim was only the front man in the buying of the farm while it was abundantly clear from the initial deal that the farm was Natha’s, Kim’s name on the papers being only a formality for the time being, until it will be transferred to Natha. Kim has made this commitment completely clear both in writing and in speech on many occasions, which dozens of people were testifying for now in the court or on their written and signed declarations. On the basis of this commitment, Natha has invested a great amount of money, and over a hundred persons – members and friends of Natha – have volunteered their services dedicating more than 20,000 working hours all for extensive renovations and improvements in the farm, increasing its value and functionality to what it is today. These people and Natha have done so only because they knew that it was belonging to Natha and the purpose of their voluntary work was to turn the farm into a spiritual community where students from Natha can live and practice spirituality together – also in large camps, guided by the teachings of Natha. Kim was involved in all these actions, and well aware of the common knowledge of the purpose of the farm and its ownership, he confirmed it on many occasions and by no means ever said anything to contradict it (until much after the work was done). Kim’s own contribution was only 130,000 kr. which he had put for the down payment.
Going over Kim’s testimony his response to these proofs is evident: on each count he either says that he doesn’t remember (he stated this on several accounts!) or he denies it – yet Natha has presented a dozen witnesses to confirm every statement and could easily put forward dozens more, should the time of the court would have allowed it. The attentive reader will rightfully ask: how come Kim doesn't remember important moments which prove him wrong and yet he “remembers” with complete certainty that he has the right to own the farm?
What was striking in the court was also to notice the difference in attitude and quality of the witnesses. The witnesses from Natha had nothing to gain, unlike Kim, who stands to gain a profit of millions of dk crowns from selling the farm – the fruit of the work of countless people from Natha, who united for the sake of the vision of creating a spiritual community. These witnesses were relaxed regarding the possibility of winning the ownership, being motivated by affirming the principle of Justice. Of the many witnesses on behalf of Natha some were not even friends of Mihai or Natha, they were former students as well as people that were never attending any courses in Natha. On the other side we find few people that were all having a personal problem with Mihai.
Let’s have a look now at what are the arguments that Kim brings forth with the help of his 3 witnesses: Karsten Brask Fischer, Celia Clausen and Michael Eriksson – all of them former students with personal resentments against Mihai:
1. Kim claimed that Bhoga could not belong to Natha, since, according to him, Natha could not afford owning Bhoga. This argument, beyond being irrelevant is also ridiculous, considering that Natha invested significant amounts of money in the Bhoga property – around 1,8 millions kroner in 5 years – and furthermore hold the entire economical responsibility of the place, providing all the resources for mortgage, energy consumption, maintenance and building developments (2,2 millions kroner). Beside that, active and responsible members of Natha control a foundation (Prema Fonden) which owns two significant properties in Copenhagen facilitating Natha Yogacenter and ashram community.
2. Karsten claimed that Natha cannot own Bhoga, and no contract with it is valid, since, according to him, it did not exist legally at the time – not having legal registration. This is pure disinformation. Natha has existed as an association since 1993, registered according to law and fulfilling all the legal requirements. The proofs presented and the witness of former chairmans of the organization were very conclusive in this respect.
3. As we have said earlier, the main argument by Kim and his handful of witness is that Natha is a sect in which all the members are manipulated by the leader and their wills are subordinated to his. Therefore even if Kim had made a commitment to Natha and its members, it was under manipulation and therefore not valid. Here the attentive reader may ask: if Kim says he didn’t make any commitment to give the farm to Natha, then how can he say that the commitment (which he claims he didn’t make) was under manipulation? Furthermore, this argument is meaningless – implying that people are free of responsibility for any of their actions, if they only claim that ‘they were influenced’. Should this argument win in court it would mean a danger to our entire society, which is based upon people assuming in a mature way responsibility over their actions. What about the enormous contribution by the many people who helped build Bhoga? Will that be taken away from them just because Kim will be relieved of his promises because he screams ‘sect! sect!’?
Moreover, accusing Natha as being a sect is a very serious accusation – which requires proof. No such proof was provided. Karsten Brask Fischer claimed to be an expert of sects and thus judges Natha as such, yet he has no expertise in the matter what so ever. We may ask – how many articles has he published about sects, if he indeed is an expert? On the other hand, the most renowned Swedish expert on sects, rev. Karl-Erik Nylund, whom the Swedish high court occasionally call upon for consul on such matters, concluded categorically that Natha is not a sect in AN OFFICIAL REPORT.
Kim and his 3 colleagues spent hours telling tales of how Natha is a sect. Yet all their inventions are easily refuted by the hundreds of members of Natha who through their own lives demonstrate the opposite. In many places even their own tales were contradicting themselves. We would not tire you with the hours that would take to refute them, one by one. We will just mention one accusation by Karsten who claimed that Mihai Stoian was abusing his influence to gain more power and enjoy the resources of the school for his own personal wealth! Anyone who knows Mihai knows that he works an average of 16 hours a day for the benefit of the school and the students, day in and day out, even weekends, and in return he is given a salary that is smaller then that of a school teacher. This accusation from Karsten is even more absurd, considering that for a long period, Mihai was living in a small damp room in the basement of the ashram Prema, while Karsten was enjoying two large rooms in the upper floor. Is this the image of a leader who creates a sect in order to abuse its members for his own profit? Those from Natha who knew Kim’s witnesses while they were in the school can tell of the irony of their accusations. These people were notorious in Natha for their fanaticism and their individual tendency towards sectarian like behavior. Karsten and Celia especially were known for on many occasions preaching to others that they should be more dedicated to the school. This was an attitude which was specific to them and was not characterizing the life of the school. They were reproached by others and were even corrected many times by Mihai, explaining that this is not fit for a spiritual school – a school which is based on the freedom inherent to each of us. Therefore, when they criticize Natha – it is themselves that they criticize, for they were the sectarians in Natha.
4. Another claim by Kim’s accomplice’s was that the arguments provided by Natha have been falsified. Their proof to that is that, according to themselves – they were the ones who falsified them while they were still in Natha. This can be hardly considered as proof; since it is only their word and no one can confirm it (they do not even confirm each other’s statements). Celia Clausen, for example, created a situation that was surprising for all that were in that moment in the court (after Karsten Brask Fischer was performing something similar another time). At the moment of witnessing, Celia was asked by the lawyers how come she changed sides? She was the one who was responsible for running the civil case about the ownership of Bhoga and she wrote the subpoena together with Nathas lawyer, and thus to built up the defense of the Bhoga farm against Kim's attempts to steal the property from Natha. She also wrote herself a declaration with all her knowledge and experience about this case. Yet now her statements were contradicting her signed declaration. To this she explained that she was falsifying the declaration for the case to look good. When asked if she was forced to make such false documents she stated that she was not forced but she was considered responsible!!! This is a strange argument from a future lawyer. So, if one take a task and is considered responsible, then this will entitle him/her to do whatever it takes? What kind of character is using such argument? The situation is interesting also from a logical perspective: if Celia was lying in the court now it means that her previous declaration was true and now she is trying just to make things better for Kim. If she was falsifying indeed the declaration then it means that she was lying in that situation and this already disqualifies her as reliable witness and even as a lawyer later. Yet from all her statements in the court it comes out very clear the fact that she was now lying in the court and her previous declaration was true. For instance she stated (to the big surprise of all the former friends that were present in the court) that in reality she did nothing in Bhoga but to paint half of a wall and therefore her written declaration was false. Everyone that was involved in the Bhoga project will understand why was this statement a surprise for us in the court. Lying is something bad but lying in the court and in front of your former colleagues is much worse. Considering the fact that Celia Clausen is in the fourth year in the law school, her testimony in court prove a severe lack of responsibility and even fanaticism in defending her new friend Kim with any risks.
Furthermore, why should we believe Celia and Kims other witnesses (also Michael Eriksson stated in court that he lied before), since they themselves confessed that they falsified evidence for court? So, why believe a liar? How do we know that they are not lying now? They ask us to believe that all the dozens of witnesses of Natha and the dozens more who were not allowed to testify for lack of time, were all lying, and instead we should believe them – confessed liars. If anyone can believe that argument I dare say that their judgment is hindered by prejudice.
5. Another argument that Kim presented is what he considered as a precedent: when Natha rented a place on Købmagergade 26, which at the time was its center, the school invested effort and money into renovating the place, yet, when Natha moved out of that address, all that work was left behind. According to Kim, this precedent should be applied also for Bhoga. This is a very strange line of argumentation, since the two cases are totally different – in the case of Købmagergade 26 it was clear from the beginning that Natha is only renting the place and has no ownership over it, therefore Natha knew that all its work on renovating the place will be left behind one day, when they will move out. This was also the reason why the school paid very little rent for the place, since the renovations were considered as an investment. In Bhoga, however, the case was entirely different – there was a commitment from Kim that the farm belongs to Natha, and therefore, all the work invested into the place was done on the basis of the understanding that Natha owns the place. This is also why Natha paid all the bills and covered all the expenses. This is also showing that Natha is not going to trial for profit – otherwise it would have also went to trial over Købmagergade 26 – but is simply standing for justice.
We find 3 persons spreading lies that severely hurt the reputation and work of hundreds. One might ask, what could motivate 3 such individuals? Mikael stated himself that he is motivated by the fact that Kim has another legal case against him, one in which he might lose 100,000 kr. Therefore, Kim has the means to pressure him to comply with his agenda. As for Karsten and Celia, much can be said as to their motives, but since we do not wish here to degrade ourselves to their level of spreading malicious gossip, it would suffice to say that for a along while during their time in the school they have made serious mistakes against their fellow students, treating them badly as well as treating each other badly. Both of them being very sensitive to their image, they have tried to hide their mistakes and for a long time managed to do so, until eventually, their injuries against their colleagues and against each other exceeded themselves and were revealed by the student body. Confronted with the consequences of their own actions they decided to leave the school. It could have ended there, and friendship could have continued between them and their former colleagues. Yet, in order not to face their own mistakes, Karsten and Celia chose to throw the blame, saying that it was not their faults but everyone else’s. They turned themselves in their minds into victims – pretending that everything bad that happened to them was because of ‘the sect’ and not because of their own mistakes. Since then, they have used any opportunity to hurt Natha and their former colleagues: speaking ill of Natha in any occasion, commenting against it on the net, publicizing their fictional stories in papers and even testifying in court at any trial against Natha (The Bhoga case is not the first case to which they were lying in order to testify against Natha). Here one cannot but note that their obvious and active hostility towards Natha disqualifies them from being considered as objective and reliable witnesses. A witness biased by their own personal problems cannot be used in the court without biasing the result of the testimony. We can only hope that the judge has also noticed these elements and will consider with care these contradicting statements from the three witnesses.
The Bhoga trial is a case of formality vs reality. Kim's arguments are obviously formal while Natha's arguments are based on the reality of facts. The Judge is confronted with a difficult task since Kim Schmock has some documents on his name, yet there are plenty of witnesses which clearly prove Natha's version of the story. Today we are sometimes hiding under the shield of formalisms in order to protect ourselves from the impact Reality would have upon our soul. Yet sometime, in order to feel alive, one needs to cut out the formalisms and dare to look into reality without hesitation.
Now the truth only needs to wait for the Judge to give the final verdict on December 14th. And so, all our eyes are turned to the Judge Morten Larsen, in wait for him to acknowledge what is obvious to all those with eyes to see and ears to hear.
On behalf of Nathas Bhoga team
Hans Hvass & Mariah Claire
- (Legal and Media Cases)
When we requested JP to publish our reply to the accusations against us, the newspaper argued that if Natha wants their reply to be published in the paper, they must make an official request in accordance with a specific legal formulation. By doing so, the paper tried to use bureaucratic excuses to delay and prevent us from the right to reply to the accusations against us. Therefore, we formulated an official request for reply, as stipulated by law, and sent it to JP. Here is this request for reply to one of the articles of 24th May, just in case JP finds another excuse for denying our right to reply.
Dear Jørn Mikkelsen, Editor (Ansvarhavende chefredaktør) of JP
In the article appearing on the front page of JP, from 24.5.09, having the title ''Public funding to people behind sex-sect'', there are several serious mistakes and wrong information, which is causing slander to the name and reputation of Natha yogacenter, its teachers and students. Therefore, we respectfully insist that you shall correct these mistakes by providing the correct information to your readers, by posting a correction in your paper, and in order to undo the damage which had been done by your paper to the work and reputation of so many people. We insist that you give this correction the same weight which you have given the misleading article – by giving it the same place and space in the paper.
Request for reply under the Media Liability Act, Section 36:
The news-paper JP, on 24.5.09, on page 1, article ''Public funding to people behind sex-sect'', published the following information:
1. title: ''Public funding to people behind sex-sect''
2. sub-title: ''Copenhagen commune has in many years been funding a yoga school that is controlled by a Romanian sect-like organisation, which is earning money on sex-services and participation in porn movies''
3. ''The leisure-time-administrators of Copenhagen commune is being accused of being naive and putting their ‘checking-duty’ aside, because the commune is giving around 600.000kr every year to a yoga school, Natha Yoga Center, which according to ex-members from the schools inner-circle is being controlled by a Romanian sex-sect, MISA.''
4. '' In Romania it (MISA) is being accused for trading with women, prostitution and anti-Semitism.''
5. ''The newspaper, Jyllands-posten, can today document how several of the teachers from the yogaschool in copenhagen has been, or still are, earning money on such things as strip shows and porn movies which is supposed to be part of a spiritual development, but which according to the critics is to earn money for the sect.''
6. ''The Priest, Tom Thygesen Daugaard, that once was the leader of the Christian dialogcenter, has been following the development in the organisation says: “It is very naive of Copenhagen Commune to give money to Natha without investigating what is behind. Behind it is a totalitarian sect-organisation which are manipulating young seeking (like people looking for the meaning with their life etc and therefore are very open etc) humans, and are running different sex-services. There are reasons to strongly advice young people against approaching the organisation.''
The information is wrong because:
AD 1a. Natha is not a sect of any kind. No authority on the subject has ever defined Natha as a sect. The sources which are brought in the article and which make this statement are clearly not reliable or authorities on the matter, and therefore cannot provide the grounds of labeling Natha in such a way.
The 'ex-members of the school' are in fact two persons who have their own clear interest to defame Natha:
1.Kim Schmock – who has a legal dispute with Natha over a property of 4-5 million Kroner;
2. ''Jesper'' – who has a personal vendetta against several instructors from Natha, for reasons which are personal to him.
The other source in the article which is supporting this affirmation is Tom Thygesen Daugaard from ''Dialog Center'' – this can not be considered an authority on the subject of sects and religions, since academically recognized authorities on the subject, such as - Mikael Rothstein professor of the science of religion at university of Copenhagen (www.skeptica.dk/1999/rothstein.htm) , Peter Lodberg president of the All Danish Church Council (www.kristeligt-dagblad.dk/artikel/14029:--Dialogcentret-kritiserer-for-ensidighed), and Tim Jensen of Syddansk Universitet (www.kristeligt-dagblad.dk/artikel/14029:--Dialogcentret-kritiserer-for-ensidighed) – all regard them as very questionable sources. Professor Rothstein even states ''The DC is devoid of any scientific expertise and it would therefore be completely grotesque if Danish authorities listened to their opinions on others'' (http://www.kristeligt-dagblad.dk/artikel/14050:Kirke---tro--Vrede-over-centers-advarsel-mod-frikirker). Therefore, there is not provided any reliable support for such a serious affirmation. We remind you that the journalist ethical code, section A, point 2, states ''Criticism should be exercised to news sources, especially when their statements may be coloured by personal interest or injurious intent'' – this has not been done.
AD 1b. There are clear evidence that Natha is not a sect - priest Karl Eric Nylund. Doctor of theology and arguably Sweden's foremost authority on sects, following a special investigation which was done by the request of the Swedish Supreme Court, has concluded in his official report that MISA and the other yoga schools which are a part of the Atman International Yoga Federation (Natha being one of those schools) are not sects and that they have nothing in common with the structure of a sect: "...Therefore, in the MISA case, we can find none of the criteria defining manipulative sects.'' (www.natha.dk/en/news/press-release-coming-soon/swedish-expert-karl-erik-nylunds-report-on-misa-and-gregorian-bivolaru.html). Swedish Sociologists from the research company Skop-Research made an investigation of both Natha and MISA. This investigation was lead by Dr. Örjan Hultåker, and concluded that neither Natha nor MISA may be considered as sects: ''Given that this movement lacks any revolutionary ideology and it is part of society there is no reason to consider it a sect.'' (http://www.yogaesoteric.net/content.aspx?item=3865?=EN).
AD 1c. There is also no proof that Natha is an organization which is focused on sex. The only sources which are supporting these claims are unreliable and invalid – in this context all that was stated in point AD 1a. is valid also for this point. Supplementary, the curriculum of the courses that are thought in Natha are available (www.natha.dk/da/news/press-release-coming-soon/appendix-1-curricculum-1st-year-yoga-courses.html) and prove that the sexual topic is little represented in the program and only as theory related to the spiritual improvement of the sexual experience.
AD 2a. Natha yoga center is not controlled by any Romanian sect-like organization – it is not controlled by any organization at all. As Natha's statues clearly show, it is a non-profit, ''people enlightening association'' with democratic institutions. Natha is a part of the Atman International Yoga Federation, with which it has a collaboration in respect to teaching material, however, Natha is completely independent from an administrative and financial perspective.
AD 2b. The yoga school MISA (the ''Romanian organization'' that the article refers to) is not a sect-like organization. As proof, we mention the information which is presented in point AD 1b.
AD 2c. Natha yoga center has never earned money from sex-services or porn movies, nor had it ever been involved in such activities.
AD 2d. There is no real proof for these accusations (the accusations to which points AD 2a, AD 2b and AD 2c answer): Natha being controlled by another organization, MISA being a sect-like organization, Natha earning money from sex-services and porn movies. The only sources which are supporting these claims are very questionable – all that was stated in point AD 1a. is also valid for this point.
AD 2e. If this statement is in the quality of factual information – it should be supported by hard evidence, yet this is not done anywhere in the article. If this statement is in the quality of a comment by an individual – it should be made clear that that is the case, since as it is put in the article, it induces the impression of being factual information, when in reality it is not. We remind you that the journalist ethical code, section A, point 5, states: ''It should be clear what is factual information and what is comment'' – this was not done.
AD 2f. These accusations were already directed against Natha in the past (15.11.04) by Dialog Center. Even in spite of the fact that DC had just made their slandering attack, Københavns Kommune still started the standard process of recognizing Natha Yogacenter as a People enlightening association with a thorough investigation of all the courses and workshops of the school. Natha yoga center started to receive support from the Commune in May 2005, following an investigation which took place from November 2004 until May 2005. This is indicating that the Commune found no proof for these accusations. This is clear and official proof to the falsity of the claim in this segment of the article.
AD 3a. Natha yoga center is not controlled by MISA. Natha and MISA are both members in the Atman International Federation of Yoga, and are having a collaboration in regards to the teaching material, yet are completely independent form each other from an administrative and financial perspective. As Natha's statues clearly show, it is a non-profit, ''people enlightening association'' with democratic institutions.
AD 3b. MISA is not a sect of any kind. See point AD 1b.
AD 3c. The sources for this affirmation are highly questionable - the 'ex-members of the school' are in fact two persons who have their own clear interest to defame Natha:
1.Kim Schmock – who has a legal dispute with Natha over a property of 4-5 million Kroner;
2. ''Jesper'' – who has a personal vendetta against several instructors from Natha, for reasons which are personal to him.
The Journalist ethical code, section A, point 2, states: ''Criticism should be exercised to news sources, especially when their statements may be coloured by personal interest or injurious intent'' – therefore, these sources could not be used in the article in this way. The journalist ethical code, section A, point 1, states: ''It is mass media's duty to bring accurate and fast information. So far it is possible, it should check whether the information given is correct'' – this was not done.
AD 4a. There are no accusations against MISA in Romania – there is a trial against 21 yoga teachers and yoga students from MISA.
AD 4b. The accusations in the above mentioned trial are not as stated in the article. The 21 yoga students and teachers are accused of: human trafficking (strictly related to the Romanian law on “voluntary work” and they are not related to any sexual activity – according to the official documents from the trial) and constituting such a group.
AD 5a. Natha yogacenter has never earned money from such activities as strip shows or porn-movies.
AD 5b. Natha is not responsible for the actions that any yoga student or yoga teacher does in his/her private life.
AD 5c. There is no real proof to support such accusations – that such activities take place to earn money for Natha yoga center. The sources for this information are highly questionable – see point AD 1a., since all that is stated there is also valid for this point – and therefore this accusation should have not been published, conform the journalist ethical code, section A, point 2.
AD 5d. Natha is not a sect – see points AD 1a. and AD 1b.
AD 6a. Tom Thygesen Daugaard from ''Dialog Center'' cannot be considered as a reliable source: academically recognized authorities on the subject of sects, such as - Mikael Rothstein professor of the science of religion at university of Copenhagen (www.skeptica.dk/1999/rothstein.htm) , Peter Lodberg president of the All Danish Church Council (www.kristeligt-dagblad.dk/artikel/14029:--Dialogcentret-kritiserer-for-ensidighed), and Tim Jensen of Syddansk Universitet (www.kristeligt-dagblad.dk/artikel/14029:--Dialogcentret-kritiserer-for-ensidighed) – all regard the Dialog Center as very questionable sources. Professor Rothstein even states ''The DC is devoid of any scientific expertise and it would therefore be completely grotesque if Danish authorities listened to their opinions on others'' (http://www.kristeligt-dagblad.dk/artikel/14050:Kirke---tro--Vrede-over-centers-advarsel-mod-frikirker). Therefore, this source cannot be presented as an expert on the subject of Natha, and JP should not publish such serious accusations from such an unreliable source. We remind you that the journalist ethical code, section A, point 2, states ''Criticism should be exercised to news sources, especially when their statements may be coloured by personal interest or injurious intent'' – this has not been done.
AD 6b. The accusations in this segment are completely false. Natha is not a sect, it is not controlled by a sect, it is not manipulating any body and it has never run any sex services - as proof, see points AD 1a., AD 1b., AD 1c., AD 2a., AD 2b., AD 2c.
AD 6c. The Dialog Center has already made these accusations against Natha in 15.11.04. None the less, the commune, after investigating the yoga school and its activities, arrived at the conclusion that Natha Yoga Center deserves the status of ''people's enlightening association'' – and by this indicating that they found no proof for these accusations. Therefore, the claim that “It is very naive of Copenhagen Commune to give money to Natha without investigating what is behind'' – is false. The commune has already investigated and decided that Natha yoga center deserves the status of ''people's enlightening association'' and financial support from the commune.
On behalf of Natha Yoga Center, I must therefore ask for reply under Chapter 6 of the Media Liability Act.
Please confirm that you will bring our reply as soon as possible and no later than Monday 22.6.09.
- (Legal and Media Cases)
These lines constitute the reply that we offer to the campaign of untrue and slanderous remarks that the newspaper JP triggered on 23rd May, 2009.
We insist that this reply will be published in its entirety, and that our right to reply will be respected within a fair dialogue. The full version of this reply appears on www.natha.dk. We hope that JP will have the fairness to publish this reply, giving it the same attention that they have given our critics without giving us the chance to reply until now.
We wish to clarify from the beginning, that we are open to discuss spiritual matters which are more difficult to understand, but we do not consider that placing lies and slanderous remarks in a debate, as JP has done, brings any good aspect into the discussion. Even from the title, the journalist from JP proves a sheer ignorance of some principles and launches a double mistake:
1. Using the phrase “sex-sect” in relation with the name of Natha. Natha is not a sect and this statement must be immediately corrected.
With some elementary research many relevant sources that state quite clearly what a sect is and is not could have come to the attention of the journalist. Moreover, the most ridiculous aspect is that there is a specialist report related to Natha, which refers to the same subject as researched by Karl Erick Nylund. Dr Nylund is a priest and doctor of theology and is arguably Sweden’s foremost authority on sects. Following his investigation, Dr Nylund concluded that Natha and MISA are not sects and as such they have nothing in common with the structure of a sect. Dr Nylund found ‘..in the MISA case, we can find none of the criteria defining manipulative sects…MISA is a yoga movement where the participants aim at self-perfecting and improving their state of health and harmony through a lacto-vegetarian diet and yoga techniques.’
To read the full report by Dr Nylund, please visit http://www.gregorianbivolaru.com/sweden-3-2.php. On the following link you will find the report on MISA and Natha by the Swedish sociologists from Skop Research. Their report was one of the main pieces of evidence in the extradition trial of Gregorian Bivolaru ruled by the Supreme Court of Stockholm on 11th – 12th October 2005. Some of the conclusions in their report are that MISA and Natha are not sects but organizations with an open social structure and an open ideology. “Considering the interviews we had in Denmark, we can absolutely draw the conclusion that the yoga practitioners want to be part of the society. There is no reason for them to get isolated. They even expressed their wish to include yoga as part of the public education, such as university courses - mutual wish for yoga schools or other alternative medicine organizations.” To read more about this report, visit http://www.gregorianbivolaru.com/sweden-3-3.php.
How could a journalist make such serious allegations without doing the minimum research? This information is readily available on the internet. The use of the phrase “sex-sect” in connection with Natha is a grave mistake and must be immediately corrected. The status of Natha Yogacenter is a ‘People Enlightening Association’.
2. The second mistake that we ask to be immediately corrected is the placing of Natha in the category of organizations which focus on sex. Tantra is a millenary spiritual science that, among other things, offers the possibility for a human being to use, in a spiritual way, our inborn sexual potential! Natha teaches Tantra courses in which the subject of sexuality in its spiritual aspect comprises only a small part of the teaching. Therefore, to place Natha in the category of organizations which focus on sex is akin to saying that a high school is a sexual education institution just because sexual education is in the school curriculum. Through this typecasting, it is obvious that their intention is hostile. To clarify this matter, we add to the appendix, for the curious ones, a curriculum of an entire year of Natha’s course material for our Intensive Yoga course (what a serious investigative journalist should have found himself). In this way you will be able to form your own opinion about whether or not you consider if Natha deserves to be labeled as a “sex organization”. (Link in appendix 1).
Another serious mistake is that although the investigation took place over several days, the journalist didn’t find time and still hasn’t found time! to ask Natha for their side of the story. If he had have done so, he could have avoided implicating himself in the personal revenge acts of some ex-members of the association. If he had only contacted Natha as the ethical code of journalism obliges him to do, all the aforementioned mistakes could have been easily avoided. The yoga school was first contacted on Friday afternoon when the board of Natha could no longer gather to prepare a reply. Moreover, upon being contacted by Natha’s P.R. representative, the journalist declared that he wouldn’t use Natha’ s opinion in this edition anyway, and that MAYBE later, in another edition he would do this. We are very curious to see if this reply will be accepted in the spirit of correct and balanced communication.
Another serious mistake is the reference to the Dialogue Centre as experts on the subject. Simple research would have revealed that, among others, Michael Rothstein, Danish sociologist of religion, affirms that “The research of Dialogue Centre has nothing to do with science of religion... in reality Dialogue Centre was never anything more than a Christian community under strong and authoritative leadership.” Read the article in Kristelig Dagblad at: http://www.kristeligt-dagblad.dk/artikel/14029.
Through their actions this organisation have shown themselves to be more deserving of the title, Monologue Centre instead of Dialogue Centre, as they formed their statements about NATHA WITHOUT HAVING ANY CONTACT WITH NATHA AND WITH THOSE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ACTIVITIES IN THE YOGA SCHOOL. All their statements are only manipulations of some slanderous remarks which have been gathered from the media, in particular the Romanian media, without even having the common sense to make the minimum effort to address the school that they so assiduously attacked. A simple verification of the sources, which is a fundamental part of the ethical journalistic process would have made it clear that the Dialogue Centre are champions of the slanderous monologue, and they have a particular penchant for indiscriminately attacking yoga schools.
We did some research to help the JP journalist and here are some of our significant and shocking discoveries:
In 1990, before Natha Yogacenter even existed, Dialogue Centre wrote a letter to the Danish Parliament in which they spoke against any public funding of any yoga centres in Denmark. Self proclaimed crusaders, Dialogue Centre have since then been working proactively to stop public funding of any yoga school in Denmark, claiming that they are indeed not objective in their viewpoints. In 2004 Dialogue Centre published the article “Natha – a Holy path to God or Prostitution?”, written by Tom Thygesen Frederiksen (the same source quoted in the current JP article). When Natha complained to the press authority, Tom Thygesen Frederiksen defended himself with the following statement: “Dialogue Centre and its paper, Den Nye Dialog, is by its own statutes, and also publicly, a forum based on an opinion that is founded on a traditional Christian standpoint and has a critical relationship to new religious movements. This is the premise for the article and the activities of Dialogue Centre”. Yet, on May 23rd, JP is publishing the same views of the same person presenting it as an “expert” opinion, even though he himself openly states he is not objective. Also the newspaper, Kristeligt Dagblad, has published an extensive article about Dialogue Centre, written by journalist Leif Kiil Soerensen on 20th December, 2006, in which Dialogue Centre is criticized and given the name ‘the Monologue Centre’. Here is the link: http://www.kristeligt-dagblad.dk/artikel/14029:Kirke-tro-Dialogcentret-kritiseres-for-ensidighed.
We would like to emphasise that when NATHA requested the support of Koebenhavns Kommune, this request was made publicly and this request was also posted on our website. This fact drew the attention of those from Dialogue Centre who immediately made serious allegations about the school, allegations which tried to stop the Kommune’s support. This shows both the openness of our school that has nothing to hide - by publishing the intention just before receiving these funds on the site - and the role of redeeming, that the Dialogue Centre unjustifiably assumes. These attacks launched then by Dialogue Centre contain, strangely enough, exactly the same lies which are now circulating with the help of JP. Significantly, Dialogue Centre launched these attacks without bothering to make a single phone call to Natha, to communicate (HAVE A DIALOGUE) with someone from the management of the yoga school. We regret that this attitude has also been “contaminating” the JP journalist.
In the light of these statements made by Dialogue Centre, Koebenhavns Kommune conducted an investigation into the yoga school. Following months of investigation, they gave Natha the status of “association for enlightening people”. How is it possible that after a few years the same campaign, using the same arguments which proved to be false once, is again taken into consideration? Simple verification would have brought to light all these aspects and avoided this situation in which the work and leisure time of hundreds of people is pulverized by the slander of a “Discrimination Centre”.
A simple examination shows that all the sources quoted by Orla Borg are of questionable reliability. Another example of this is the “ex-member of Natha” Kim Schmock, who is accusing Natha of being involved in providing sex-services. Yet Mr Borg omits to mention some relevant information about this source: Kim Schmock has an ongoing legal dispute with the school, in which he is trying to steal from Natha a property valued at 4-5 million kroner, and he hopes through his unfounded accusations to gain public support for his purpose. For several years he has harassed and aggressed several of Natha’s yoga students, sometimes even to the point that the police had to intervene. It is clear that this person is biased and has much to gain financially by attacking Natha, therefore his statements cannot be trusted. However, Mr Borg does not mention these facts at all, instead he quotes Schmock as a reliable source. This information can be found on Natha’s website and could have easily been discovered by the journalist. If he had contacted Natha he would have been informed of this. We can only conclude that either the journalist did not properly investigate the story, and therefore he should not have made such accusations, or he knew of Kim Schmock’s background and chose to ignore it, still using him as a reliable source and intentionally withholding his background from the readers and in doing so, committing an act of manipulation.
Use of key words such as WARNING in the beginning of the article is part of the classical methods used to manipulate the mob. The statements which say that Natha is an organization that earns money from sexual activities are unfounded and constitute serious slander. The fact that Natha offers courses where people can learn, among many other things, also how to spiritualize the intimate life, does not mean that it offers sexual activities. Therefore, this statement must be corrected as it is not true.
We want to bring to your attention that the lies the journalist refers to in the title “Sex, Lies, and Yoga Courses” are the only the ones included by the journalist in his articles. In order to say that someone is lying, one needs to prove that the statements are not correct. Yet in the article none of Natha Yogacenter’s statements are presented, therefore, the term lies cannot be applied to the school. Instead the statements of so-called witnesses and specialists are included and in the following we will demonstrate that the presented statements are not true and therefore they are LIES.
JP tries to show their concern for the citizens by using the headline “WARNING”, yet we ask where JP’s concern really lies since they did not verify any of the statements in the article, for concern for the same citizens!
The intention to manipulate the opinions of the citizens is obvious in the use of the persona “JESPER” who desires to remain anonymous out of fear for his future and for his career. However, if this man is upright and what he says is true, what kind of career can be jeopardized by such an upright attitude which exposes the lies and manipulation (maybe except a political career and only in some cases). The journalist tries to insinuate that the yoga school would represent an obvious danger – we emphasize that innuendo is a masked form of slander. This case is underlined by the anonymous aspect of Jesper’s character. The same innuendo appears several times during the set of articles from JP and represents a serious slender to all honest and open men, who practice yoga or who teach yoga in this school! Statements as : “WARNING” , “naive danes are in danger…”, “what is hiding behind the appearance?”, “dialogue centre warns”, “risks to become enrolled”, “I highly warn”, “everything is based on a lie”, are a clear indication of this intentional strategy.
Being clearly a deliberate gesture of inducing a state of fear and obscurity upon the Natha yoga school, we ask ourselves what lies behind such a bad intention which doesn’t belong to the methods of a professional such as the journalist from JP?
In connection to this mysterious Jesper, the quotation of an anonymous source as the basis for serious allegations is unethical because it does not allow the accused to ever be able to verify the truth of the claims of the anonymous accuser. Remaining anonymous he can hide his hidden agenda. If someone accuses another he must also be available to be questioned. Since we do know who this Jesper is we can affirm that all of his remarks have no validity because of a very strong personal dependency relationship that the ‘Jesper’ has with some of the teachers in the school. We do not want to expose him and for this reason we find it irrelevant to explain the story behind this. Considering that due to his anonymity we will never be able to refute any of his claims, JP should either completely remove any reference to him or else they should reveal his true identity.
Another serious statement that we ask JP to correct immediately is that Natha Yogacenter is an organization that promotes prostitution. It is naïve for a journalist to believe that you can attribute such a statement to an anonymous character, and to believe you are absolved of all responsibility. The statement is so absurd that we don’t consider doing anything more than to ask for its immediate removal! We remind Mr Borg that the title of investigative journalist, to which he aspires, obliges him to verify the statements that he publishes, even if they come from anonymous sources, especially in the case in which the opinion of the other party is not checked at all! Since these statements are not demonstrated by any facts they should be rectified immediately.
Another serious violation of the truth is the entire series of lies regarding the financial situation of Natha Yogacenter. We understand that this financial crisis affects many, but we do not understand this as a reason for manipulation. The statement that money from the Kommune ends up in the same “box” as the money coming from the so-called sexual activities is, once again, a tendentious insinuation, which is based on a lie that was repeated several times throughout the articles. Natha had never made any income from offering of sexual services! In the yoga school sublime sexuality has always been openly discussed as a chapter in people’s spiritual life. Efficient methods through which the sexual experience can be refined and spiritualized for spiritual benefits have even been taught - however it is a big leap from here to sexual services or prostitution - and the journalist jumped to conclusions on purpose.
Moreover, the attempt to confuse the life and individual opinions of some private persons with the activity of an organization is a typical discrediting action, usually used in politics! Has Mr Borg mistaken the section of the newspaper in which he writes?
Here we do not discuss the fact that many years ago a teacher (even if he is a coordinating teacher), decided to make a movie in order to illustrate a millenary Tantric method or whether or not the fact that it was artistically successful. The movie and its making has never been a secret and therefore we cannot speak of it as being an attempt to mislead public opinion. The intention to insinuate that these private actions are a characteristic of the yoga school is scandalous. We respect the private choices that each person makes in life and we encourage each individual to live according to their principles. Such statements show a serious lack of knowledge about yoga since the science of yoga cannot be judged by what some yogis do in their personal life. This intentional confusion aims to suggest that Natha Yogacenter is promiscuous so as to argue that the granting of funds from the Kommune was a wrong gesture. How come the investigating journalist did not discover that among Natha’s students there are medical doctors, students of reputable universities, famous actors, renowned sexologists, psychologists and musicians? The method used by the journalist is one in which you find a particular aspect which could be considered to be true from a certain perspective and then generalising this aspect in an abusive way, thus applying this aspect to other aspects which the journalist wants to demonstrate – in this case presenting Natha as a firm for sexual services. If he had asked us, we would have been at his disposal to provide complete information about the school’s financial status and as a result the investigation would have been truly complete. In this case, probably the investigation would not have ended with the scandalous results that Mr Borg successfully obtained by using this simple method of manipulating public opinion.
This series of lies is completed by the following lie which completely distorts the possible outcome of the trial regarding the 21 yoga teachers in Romania. As a result of the “investigations” made by Mr Borg, he finds the 21 yoga teachers accused of “prostitution, trafficking of women and tax fraud”, when in reality the trial is about the following accusations: human trafficking and constituting such a group. The only aspect taken into account was the way ‘karma yoga’ (voluntary work done in a spiritual way) was interpreted by prosecutors within the Romanian law. The indictments don’t contain any sexual accusations or references to prostitution. The only reference to prostitution or women trafficking is to be found in the Romanian tabloids, none of these ever being proven or the subject of a trial!
Is Mr Borg incapable of differentiating between a juridical source and a source from a tabloid??
Without needing to discuss the truth of the accusations from the Romanian authorities, it is clear that the investigating journalist is distorting the facts.
For more information and a wider perspective on the case regarding the 21 yoga teachers from Romania, we recommend to watch the following video. This is a very interesting short film containing interviews with 3 persons: 1. Jens Peter Bonde, member of the European Parliament; 2. Lisbeth Kirk, chief editor of the EUobserver; 3. Ulla Sandbaek, priest, ex-member of the European Parliament. Two of these persons have made their own investigations into the case and have reached to the conclusion that the accusations produced by the Romanian authorities are without any basis and are abusive towards the yoga school. A third person (Lisbeth Kirk) brings critical information against the justice system in Romania.
Attentively following the unfoldment of the events in connection to MISA Yoga School in Romania (The abuse of MISA by the Romanian government even became a subject of discussion in the European parliament and is one of the reasons why Romania, as a new member of the European Union, received warnings from the European Forum regarding Justice) we cannot help but notice a strikingly similar procedure! Calumnies are thrown out to the press without any prior investigation, the accusations are based only on the opinions of ex-students (only 2 of them) and of groups with a clearly preferential agenda…no, we are not describing here the Natha case in the Scandinavian press, but the MISA case in the Romanian press, in order to show the striking resemblance. The only difference is that in Romania the government dared to make physical abuses against yoga practitioners. Hopefully, we will not see that in Denmark.
If we are to follow the plan that is shaping up through this campaign, the next step is to find one angry parent, who lost his or her child in the sect, even if the child is in his second youth or maybe even close to retiring! Let us see if what follows in this campaign will put us in the position of prophesizing, by making this anticipation, or it will prove us that our country is more mature and that here we truly know how to integrate all cultures and human aspirations in a superior spirit of mutual understanding.
To conclude, all these specifications give us the right to ask JP to make the necessary corrections. Their mistakes bring grave material and spiritual prejudices towards Natha Yogacenter.
On Behalf of Natha Yogacenter
Maria Porsfelt, Chairman
Sahaj Porslund, Press-responsible
natha.net, July 15th 2009
- (Legal and Media Cases)
The report was one of the main defense evidence in the extradition trial ruled on by the Supreme Court in Stockholm on October 11th – 12th 2005. The final and irreversible decision of the High Court from Stockholm was to decline the extradition request submitted by the Romanian state against Gregorian Bivolaru.
Karl-Erik Nylund is a doctor in theology, a priest and maybe Sweden’s greatest expert with regard to sects. His most recent work is “Att leka med elden – sekternas värld” - “Playing with fire – world of sects” (2004). For more than 30 years, he has been helping people who are the victims of various sects, and also their families. His expert opinion is often asked for concerning these issues and he is often quoted by the media, being well known for his critical attitude towards dangerous sects. For this reason, Karl-Erik Nylund is entitled to assess whether or not the Movement for the Spiritual Integration into the Absolute (MISA) displays features resembling the dangerous sects. During his research work for writing this report and during the interviews, Nylund cooperated with sociology doctor Örjan Hultåker, founder and head of SKOP-Research, Skandinavisk Opinion AB Institute.
1. MISA Yoga School
A series of specialty materials, mentioned in the bibliography list, were studied for writing this report. Also there were three interviews with Gregorian Bivolaru during the police custody in Malmö, the interviews with Mihai Stoian and six MISA yoga practitioners. Three of them are from Romania. Moreover, we even contacted other Romanians living in exile who are not members of this yoga school.
1.2 Founding the yoga school
The Movement for Spiritual Integration into the Absolute Association was founded by Gregorian Bivolaru in January 1990. The Association initially consisting in 22 founding members, started the yoga school that now comprises more than 37.000 practitioners in several countries among which Sweden, Denmark and Finland. The name of the yoga foundation is “Esoteric Orient Yoga” in Sweden and “Natha”, in the other two countries. Movements such as MISA often appear within environments featuring a spiritual vacuum where religious ideas not in accordance with the official religion are persecuted. Such facts regularly occur in the communist or former communist countries. Free thinking and movements consisting in a large number of members are not regarded with benevolence.
The Romanian orthodox church is not thrilled with this yogi movement whose ideas originate in the Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, in Jung’s ideas and so on. The movements based upon ideas belonging to several religious and philosophical paths are called syncretic. Most religions and religious movements are syncretic. The phenomenon is rather a rule than an exception. In a very simplified manner, as a social phenomenon, religion is a system of meaningful believes and legitimate roles. People who grow up within a religious community have certain explanatory patterns and ways of acting they use personally. They learn the dogmas and the rites granting identity to the human being.
1.2.1 Difficulties faced by the spiritual movements
The interactions of the society with the spiritual movements, such as MISA, permanently undergo difficult moments. Such instances that can have an effect on belief systems and role patterns may also emerge under various life circumstances people are confronted with, or even inside the individual’s personality structure. Sometimes even faith crises might appear. Such crises are natural in a pluralistic society. Spiritual movements resort to activities that aim at helping people confronted with such crises, in order to regain their faith.
1.2.2 MISA activities
Originating in India, Yoga is considered extraneous and dangerous in many Christian countries, especially in powerfully orthodox countries such as Romania for instance. Yoga represents a danger for the adept recruitment process permanently carried out by the Church as well as for the fact that the followers might by be attracted by this foreign “religion”, as the church sees Yoga. For this reason they feel compelled to fight against Yoga and often even present it as demonic.
Yoga has been practiced for more than 4000 years. It is an old self-discipline Hindu system of techniques meant to harmonize and unify the body, the mind and the soul through physical exercises, breath control and meditation. The word “yoga” comes from Sanskrit and it signifies “union”, “tuning in with”. Such union actually is the tuning in of the individual’s soul with the universe through spiritual techniques and a process of self-perfection.
There are various forms of yoga. One of the forms of yoga practiced at the MISA school is karma yoga. In our language, this form of yoga would be called: voluntary work. The purpose of a Hindu’s life is moksha – the spiritual liberation. Moksha means being free from the cycle of reincarnations. However moksha, spiritual liberation, is also attained by the one who becomes free from ignorance. There are several paths towards this ultimate purpose: Jnana (the way of knowledge), Bhakti (the way of devotion) and karma (the way of action). There is no such thing as a unique path and a sole savior; there are several opinions, leaders, guru and deities that contribute for helping those who ask for it, in order to walk the spiritual way.
Briefly, we can say that for those who practice yoga at MISA, one of the ways of pursuing self-realization is karma yoga. By all means, this is not about human trafficking; it is a voluntarily chosen path for attaining one’s spiritual purpose with the help of a spiritual guide. Within MISA, each practitioner is under the guidance of a teacher helping him on the spiritual way or tempering him down, if the case may be. The practitioners do not isolate themselves from their families or society.
An ashram is a place for living a simple life an being able to practice meditation more. Even the yoga practice is a form of meditation. An ashram aims at facilitating a better health condition and a spiritual life for the practitioner. As a matter of fact, any home may be called an ashram. Within MISA, ashrams are a form of living in common, similar to student dormitories. Each dormitory follows certain rules for the life in common to work. The MISA ashrams abide by the following rules:
1. No meat, alcohol or coffee. No smoking. These rules are both for the inhabitants of the ashram, and for visitors.
2. It is recommended to practice yoga daily for two hours, besides the yoga classes.
3. All people take part at the household activities from the ashram, such as cleaning, house and garden maintenance, house shopping, for instance.
4. Everyone must attend the ashram house meetings (similar to the house meetings of the people living in the same building).
5. Everyone cleans the place on his own when he makes any mess.
6. Silence hours after 23.
7. Previous notification regarding overnight guests ashram, except for constant visitors.
8. Everyone is asked to let the others know when leave on a holiday or a vacation.
This life resembles the life in a student dormitory. There is a person in charge with the dormitory management. It is normal for a person who damages anything to replace that object. This is not a punishment but something natural in a community where one spoils something of the common use utilities. Each group has its own norms expressing the common moral values and each individual is expected to abide by them.
These activities: karma yoga, meditations and the practice of physical exercises help all individuals become fulfilled and complete human beings. The MISA yoga practitioners also believe in the possibility of curing themselves and this is called therapy. Yoga is not a mere spiritual, self-realization training – it is a body and mind therapy.
2. Leader’s part
MISA is a coherent group, namely a group whit a powerful “us” feeling inducing the sensations of belonging to the group. The opposite of such a group is the so-called extraneous group, such as it often happens with religious groups. Most people stay away from such extraneous groups because they are strong expressions of negativity. Communist and terrorist groups, the adepts of hedonist religious movements and the sexually perverted groups fall under this category. The information on the Internet (such as the Romanian journal websites for instance) clearly indicates that for Gregorian Bivolaru, certain politicians are part of such an extraneous group. He also mentions other groups in his declarations and writings. For this reason, it is obvious that because of his allegations, highly critical to certain Romanian politicians, Bivolaru made powerful enemies. People express their opinion against such “extraneous groups” through peaceful street demonstrations in Bucharest.
2.1. Gregorian Bivolaru’s guiding role
Various roles inside a group do not hold the same exact value. The founder of the group often rejoices a special kind of respect. This aspect is also valid in the case of religious groups.
One of the most important aspects in life is the spontaneous tendency to follow the conduct of the majority or of the group leader. This silently occurs inside all groups. The beginner, the newcomer or the one from a lower rank does not even notice the quickness of his attempt to adapt to the group norms. Powerful leaders can make the group members follow the group moral norms and values. The one with authority holds control over people though various means, such as rewards and punishments for instance (such as isolation, fines, etc.) During my study regarding MISA I noticed no such behavior or punishment.
The radical religious groups, such as the Guyana movement from the 70’s, the Heaven’s Gate movement from 90’s or David Koresh from Waco USA, are examples of groups that imposed a strict discipline to their members. The leader’s word represented the law for the others till death. The MISA Yoga School IS NOT such a group.
Also MISA cannot be called a rigid spiritual movement. Such a movement would not allow criticism. Within MISA, everyone is free to criticize the aspects related to its activity or even the teachers. Also, every person is free to leave the yoga school without fear of retaliation.
Retaliation is a feature of manipulative sects, namely: “such religious or any other kind of movements inside which crises concerning faith are actively repressed, denied or punished. A manipulative sect consciously aims at erasing self-identity and replacing it with a pseudo-identity guided by an ideologue or by an ideology.”
According to this description of the manipulative sects, it is clear that MISA is not a manipulative sect.
For a movement to be a manipulative sect, it also has to comply with three of the four A-s.
Aggression – punishment of the members criticizing the leader or the movement.
Aversion – criticism and persecution of the people outside the group such as parents for instance.
Alienation – closed circuit inside the sect, as a geographical or ideological group. The sect becomes the new family.
Absolute truth – only exists within the sect, and the leader/leaders are entitled to the absolute right of interpreting the truth.
During my conversations with the MISA practitioners and teachers, I found nothing of the first two A-s (Aggression and Aversion). With regard to the ashram life, only a part of the persons live there and the activities are not the closed circuit type. The courses are accessible to anyone from the outside. Anyone may attend the courses. Therefore we ARE NOT talking about alienation. Some of those who are more dedicated might have a minimum contact with the outside world, however leaders actively seek to oppose this form of alienation, by encouraging them to return to their work and family. Gregorian Bivolaru DOES NOT claim to be in undeniable possession of the absolute truth. Together with other people, he is a spiritual guide and is convinced he is a man with a mission in the society. On the other hand he displayed and still displays no political claims. If people will transform through the lacto-vegetarian diet and through meditation, this will occur gradually. Bivolaru’s power resides in his very humbleness. Therefore in the MISA case, we can find none of the criteria defining manipulative sects.
Bivolaru went on a retreat in order to meditate and write books. The school was taken over by a managing board and is formally and democratically managed by this board. Each yoga school from the other countries has one leader, regularly one of the senior MISA members and is registered as a non-profit foundation, with a democrat board of management. I could call Bivolaru an “honorific member”, who due to his modesty, rejoices at a lot of respect.
2.2 Charges against Gregorian Bivolaru
The interviews I conducted with Gregorian Bivolaru, one of them attended by only the two of us, made me seriously question the pedophilia charge brought against him. Within the movement, the relations among people are very close, even between teachers and students. However the girl involved was not Bivolaru’s student. Personally, I would be extremely surprised at the existence of a relationship between Gregorian Bivolaru and Madalina Dumitru.
The other charge brought against him while he was under arrest in Malmö, namely human trafficking, simply is a misunderstanding of what karma yoga means. See the text regarding karma yoga above. The issue at stake here is that of voluntary work, as a manner of self-perfection and attainment of the truth. Many of the people living in an ashram do not have the money to pay for their stay and through karma yoga they have the opportunity to attend the ashram activities. The MISA followers state that karma yoga is a form of meditation that elevates the one practicing it out of doubts and alienation and this can turn the world we live in into a better place.
2.3 Spiritual camps
Every year, in Romania, 10-12.000 people gather in order to attend the international yoga symposiums organized by MISA. Worldwide practitioners come here and practically fill up and entire holiday village. Among other things, they also practice heliotherapy. The participants at this symposium are accepted based on an ID card for which they have to send photos, sometimes in a bathing suit, to the MISA leader. This happens in order to “read” the aura of those who wish to attend and see whether there are any health disorders. According to MISA - everything is alive – people, animals, plants – and surrounded by an energetic field called an “aura”. The ability to see auras can be developed through training. The aura of the people at a high level of their spiritual evolution is white and can be seen from miles away. There are seven vibratory levels of the aura, associated to the seven chakra-s or centers of force. For a healthy human being, these energetic focal points are clear and distinct. In the case of a sick person, the aura is fuzzy and its colors dark.
During the selection of the camp participants at these international symposiums, among which there are many young persons, a large number of photos are received. Such photos were seized by the Romanian authorities and classified as pornographic pictures because they obviously do not at want to see the content of the photos (namely one person in a bathing suit) and their purpose.
3. What is MISA actually?
If MISA is not a manipulative and dangerous sect then what is it? I could say about MISA that it is a movement supporting a different way of life, alternative therapies, displaying strong Gnostic sincretism features. The basic ideas are reincarnation and self-transformation (the ability to transform one’s self). A cult is a movement often emerging in a psychic deprivation environment, when people gather around a leader. MISA is a yogi movement where the participants aim at self-perfecting and improving their state of health and harmony through a lacto-vegetarian diet and yoga techniques.
Following the interviews I conducted with several Romanians from the Diaspora, I have strong doubts with regard to the fact that Gregorian Bivolaru could be allowed a fair trial in his own country. As I could see by myself, the charges against him are obviously untruthful and this is why they are the very evidence of the persecutions he is subjected to. Also, I do not believe that Gregorian Bivolaru would stand any chance for survival in a Romanian prison.
-Mihai Stoian (coordinating teacher of the Natha yoga center)
-Three Danish yoga practitioners and three Romanian yoga practitioners visiting Denmark (I will not reveal their names out of safety reasons)
-Ulla M Sandbaek, former EU Parliament member
Nylund , Karl-Erik Att leka med elden – om livets på sektens villkor . Sellin 1998
Nylund, Karl-Erik Att leka med elden – sekternas värld . Sellin 2004
Hammer, Olav På spaning efter helheten New Age en ny folktro .Wahsltröm &Widstrand 1997
Holm, Nils. G Religionspsykologins grunder, Åbo Akademi 1993
Holm, Nils G. (Ed.) Encounter with India, Åbo Akademi 1990
Haglund, Gunilla Credo guiden Uppslagsbok för sökare, Sellin 1997
Harper´s Encyclopedia of Mystical and Paranormal Experience. Castle Books, Edison 1991
Mc Guire, Meredith B Religion. The Social Context IVth edition . Wadsworth Publ.House 1997
Mr. Gregorian Bivolaru’s writings