To start with, Agama Yoga was paradise for many who walked by its gates; a haven on the Thai island of Koh Phangan that embraced historic tantric teachings underneath the watchful eye of its charismatic chief, the guru Swami Vivekananda Saraswati.
However beneath the floor, it appears this was no peculiar yoga college. Sixteen former pupils and workers who’ve spoken to the Guardian have mentioned they felt a “intercourse cult” was working inside Agama.
The 14 ladies and two males declare that for 15 years the retreat facilitated sexual assault, rape and misogynistic teachings, allegedly “brainwashing” lots of of girls into having intercourse with the Swami – whose actual identify is Narcis Tarcau – within the identify of serving to them obtain enlightenment.
After 31 ladies submitted testimonials alleging abuse to Agama, the varsity first tried to cope with it internally, however have now launched an impartial inquiry .
Tarcau is known to have left Koh Phangan in July, when a number of ladies went public with the allegations of abuse at Agama, and is not in Thailand. He couldn’t be reached straight for remark.
A lot of the 14 ladies from the UK, Australia, Brazil, America and Canada who spoke to the Guardian did so on the situation of anonymity. Three of them declare they had been raped by Tarcau underneath the guise of religious therapeutic. The others allege he sexually assaulted them in non-public consultations held in his workplace.
The alleged assaults included Tarcau penetrating ladies along with his fingers towards their will, aggressively groping them, or performing intercourse acts on them with out consent. After they mentioned “no”, the ladies declare Tarcau would say “I do know what’s greatest for you”, earlier than forcing himself on them.
In keeping with each female and male college students, the tradition of inappropriate sexual conduct was “endemic” at Agama. Not less than two senior male lecturers have additionally been accused of both sexual assault or rape. Each left Koh Phangan after the allegations emerged in July and the varsity confirmed it has suspended all accused male lecturers.
But many complainants say they stayed for years attributable to what they described as “brainwashing” on the college. They declare predatory sexual behaviour by a number of senior male workers was normalised by the tradition of Agama and those that complained spoke of being silenced by a risk of “destructive karma” for the remainder of their lives.
“It undoubtedly felt like a cult, he put a spell over us and folks had utterly blind belief in him and his religious powers,” mentioned one lady.
A press release issued to the Guardian by Agama apologised for the “struggling expressed by many ladies”. It added to an earlier remark from Agama that mentioned: “we’ve got not, at any level, denied the allegations”, but additionally claimed there was a “marketing campaign of hate” towards the varsity.
“Individuals are purposefully defaming Agama and spreading lies (even when contradicted by proof of the reality), which is a criminal offense in Thailand,” the assertion mentioned. “Folks with verifiable legal backgrounds are concerned on this marketing campaign towards Agama.”
The world’s largest tantric yoga college
Since 2003, Agama has grown into the world’s largest tantric yoga college, providing Yoga Alliance-certified programs and yoga instructor coaching to hundreds yearly. In addition to the principle centre in Thailand, it additionally has faculties in India, Colombia and Austria, and yearly welcomes tens of hundreds of tourists, primarily travelling from Europe, Australia and the US. About three quarters of those guests are ladies.
At peak instances there could be as much as 200 college students at Agama. Hottest was the month-long first stage course (which prices £305). However it was throughout increased stage programs that college students usually attended tantra workshops the place the opposite aspect of the varsity would emerge.
Tarcau, who’s from Romania, arrange Agama in Koh Phangan after leaving Rishikesh in India when it’s understood his visa was revoked . Tarcau had studied underneath Gregorian Bivolaru, one other Romanian guru who was on a publicised mission to sleep with 1,00zero virgins as the trail to enlightenment. Bivolaru went on the run in 2004 after being sentenced for having intercourse with an underage woman, was arrested in Paris in 2016 and was later launched. He stays on Europol’s most needed listing, accused of human trafficking.
Not each lady who handed by the gates of Agama say they grew to become victims – many got here and went freely, and the yoga remains to be spoken about glowingly, even by a few of Tarcau’s alleged victims.
However as a part of what Nancy Miller, a Canadian who studied and taught on the college for seven years, described as “delicate cult conditioning of Agama”, ladies had been inspired to give up to males, advised “feminism is bullshit” and that their guru knew what was greatest for them. They declare senior feminine workers, together with the varsity’s physician, would prescribe intercourse with Tarcau to “heal” them and unlock the pathway to tantric enlightenment, and that Tarcau advised feminine college students they need to be having at the very least 5 sexual companions per week.
In consequence, many ladies on the college entered into “consensual” sexual relationships with Tarcau believing it may treatment them of “sexual blockages”.
Flavia Tibucheski, from Brazil, who was normal supervisor of Agama between early 2015 and February 2016, says she was amongst those that let Tarcau have intercourse together with her, believing it will be a spiritually therapeutic expertise. She stopped it when she realised he had no curiosity apart from his personal sexual pleasure. He accused her of not understanding what was greatest for her physique. “I think about it a sexual assault however I do know a variety of ladies suffered greater than I did,” mentioned Tibucheski.
“I actually didn’t need to have intercourse with him, he was this large, fats repulsive man to me and I wasn’t interested in him however senior feminine lecturers on the college saved pushing me, telling me it will be actually therapeutic for me,” mentioned one other lady, who grew to become one in all Tarcau’s sexual companions for a number of years.
‘A grasp manipulator’
A number of accounts given to the Guardian, by each women and men, claimed Tarcau was “taking benefit” and “manipulating” weak ladies underneath the guise of tantric therapeutic. As a part of his teachings Tarcau would allegedly present pupils his favorite porn movies. He’s additionally mentioned to have used ladies as his home servants, and would hold them underneath his command by a mix of degradation, hypnosis and psychological manipulation.
Two totally different ladies, who each spent a number of years at Agama “underneath Swami’s spell” mentioned Tarcau chipped away at their vanity till they agreed to have intercourse with him. On each events they had been advised he was serving to to “unblock” them, in a single case from previous rapes.
‘I used to be so brainwashed’
In separate incidents, these ladies allege Tarcau had violently anally raped them. One of many ladies mentioned she had been with Tarcau in his house when he grabbed her out of the blue and compelled himself on her. “The was no stopping after I mentioned ‘please please cease, it hurts’.” She added: “I used to be so brainwashed at that time that I assumed ‘he’s my instructor, he is aware of higher than me what I would like’.”
It was within the one-to-one religious consultations with Tarcau that a lot of the reported sexual abuse at Agama is claimed to have occurred. In the meantime, criticism of Tarcau was systematically undermined.
“If I ever tried to talk up about Swami’s behaviour with ladies,you’d be shut down instantly, dismissed as being dramatic, that you simply had been spreading gossip and lies and threats of you being ostracised – and that’s a key dynamic that makes it a cult,” mentioned Miller.
“You’d be advised: ‘you may’t converse badly about your guru or you should have destructive karma for the remainder of your life.’ It was such a tradition of sufferer blaming and karmic retribution. That’s how they saved individuals quiet.”
In e mail correspondences seen by the Guardian between Tarcau and a girl who had been his lover for 4 years after which accused him of sexual abuse, he wrote: “For my part, you’re severely deluded and there’s a clear demonic affect upon your thoughts. Remember that these are errors which are dearly paid karmically and result in horrible religious penalties.”
Of their assertion to the Guardian, Agama denied the varsity was a intercourse cult. “Agama Yoga is a religious college whose core ideas are rooted into the genuine yoga custom,” they mentioned. “Our teachings comply with the ideas and teachings of the tantric path. Sexual tantra is a restricted a part of the genuine tantric custom and a restricted a part of our teachings. It’s clearly separated from the principle curriculum.”
In July, Yoga Alliance pulled its certification of Agama and former pupils are additionally contemplating taking authorized motion towards the varsity.
“Please let me remind everybody that these allegations are towards people and never towards the varsity,” the Agama assertion mentioned. “That mentioned, we do concede that it’s inevitable that these accusations will mirror poorly on our previous inside methods; methods that we are actually changing.”
The chief of police on Koh Phangan, Col. Satit Kongniam, mentioned they had been conscious of allegations at Agama. On Tuesday, a girl got here ahead to file a report of rape by Tarcau to the Koh Phangan police however because the alleged assault occurred over three months in the past, the statute of limitations for assault in Thailand, the police couldn’t examine or subject a warrant.
Final week, a proper accusation of rape towards Tarcau was additionally filed to the Thai Embassy in Australia who confirmed it it’s now being dealt with by police in Koh Phangan.
For the alleged victims of Tarcau, who’re scattered throughout the globe, the publicity has been a very long time coming.
“Being at Agama was probably the most traumatic expertise of my life,” mentioned one lady. “I’m unsure I’ll ever be capable of recover from what occurred there.”