In wake of scandals, 3HO movement signs on to DEI and seeks Sikh ties

Although the 3HO movement, a “neo-Sikh” group promoting Kundalini Yoga and drawing a largely white following, continues to suffer repercussions from sexual abuse scandals involving its founder Yogi Bhajan [see RW, Vol. 34, No. 9], the group has reinvented itself, stressing racial equality and diversity and building ties to mainstream Sikhism, writes Simranjit Steel in the journal Sikh Formations (online in February). Since 2020, the movement has faced an internal “reckoning” stemming from reports of the founder’s abuse, but the reforms have centered around bringing Kundalini Yoga to “underserved communities” and aligning the organization with “anti-racism” and DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) practices.

In studying email communications, Steel finds increasing portrayals of non-white members. Other examples of concern with anti-racism strategies are monthly meet-up groups separating out “people of color and white-bodied people to support those who have been unrepresented in the community and to unpack white privilege respectively,” she writes. Her analysis also revealed a shift in organizational communications “toward greater emphasis on connections to and alignment with more ‘mainstream’ Sikh traditions.” This includes publicizing classes in Gurmukhi, the language of the sacred text, the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, and celebration of holidays commonly observed by Sikhs in Punjab, India. Steel concludes that the anti-racism efforts and alignment with traditional Sikhism are a strategy of the 3HO to reassert its legitimacy in the face of widespread instability due to its abuse crisis.

(Sikh Formations,