Bangkok: Fourteen female tourists have claimed that they were sexually assaulted by a guru at a yoga retreat in Thailand’s picturesque Koh Phangan island, a media report said on Friday. Agama Yoga embraced ancient tantric teachings under its charismatic leader, the guru Swami Vivekananda Saraswati whose real name is Narcis Tarcau, the Guardian report said. Tarcau, who is from Romania, set up Agama in the island in 2003 after leaving Rishikesh in India when it is understood his visa was revoked.
The 14 victims from the UK, Australia, Brazil, US and Canada, along with two other men said that for 15 years the retreat facilitated sexual assault, rape and misogynistic teachings, allegedly “brainwashing” hundreds of women into having sex with the Swami in the name of helping them achieve enlightenment. Three women claimed they were raped by Tarcau under the guise of spiritual healing while the others alleged he sexually assaulted them in private consultations held in his office. The victims told the Guardian that they felt a “sex cult” was operating inside Agama. After 31 women submitted testimonials alleging abuse at Agama, the school first tried to deal with it internally, but have now launched an independent inquiry.
Tarcau is understood to have left Koh Phangan in July, when several women went public with the abuse allegations. A statement issued by Agama apologised for the “suffering expressed by many women”. “People are purposefully defaming Agama and spreading lies (even when contradicted by evidence of the truth), which is a crime in Thailand,” the statement said. Since 2003, Agama has grown into the world’s biggest tantric yoga school, offering Yoga Alliance-certified courses and yoga teacher training to thousands every year. Besides the main centre in Thailand, it also has schools in India, Colombia and Austria.