If one were to search the Globe for a community or sect or clan that for more than 20 centuries has done the same religious, social and cultural activities and is domiciled in the same place throughout the 2000 years, one would not find such a community until one zeros in on the geographic coordinates 1.399686°N, 79.693622°E, the exact location of the ancient temple town of Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu, in South India.
Chidambaram town was known as Tillai till recent times, Chidambaram being the name of the Temple. The Podu Dikshitars are also known as Tillai Vaazh Antanar or ‘the Brahmins of Tillai’ were associated with the temple from its inception. This unique clan was originally three thousand in number and hence they were also known as Tillai Moovayiravar or “The Three Thousand Brahmins of Tillai” – T R Ramesh
Due to interlinking socio-econmic factors, the endogamous clan of temple priests has been reduced from the original 3000 to approximately 360, but based upon how the temple continues to self-organize, it is estimated the Diksitar community of Chidambaram “is possibly the oldest and longest functioning democracy in the world.”
Maybe, they are not as naive as Douglas Brooks would like us to believe…
Douglas Brooks is a scholar of Hinduism, South Asian Languages, although his Sanskrit pronunciation is terrible and comparative study of religion. He is also professor of religious studies at the University of Rochester. Brooks’ scholarship has been completely irrelevant to my own pursuit of Yoga. I have never studied with him nor read his books. Before this incident, I did not realize that he was John Friend’s right hand philosophy man and we all know what a shit show that Anusara business plan was…In response to the fallout, Brooks had this to say,
“I believe a fundamental issue here involves the relationship of authority and power within the history of yoga, even the history of contemporary hatha yoga. In sum, I oppose in principle the notion that any one voice can claim authority to speak for others and represent them without mechanisms of accountability to those represented. In sum, I oppose tyranny of any kind, any model in which one person is the superior over all other “equals.”
He later goes on to foreshadow his own narcissistic demise…”Any guru situation that implies or manifests a position of spiritual superiority is, as I see it, deeply vulnerable to corruption.”
Douglas Brooks organizes expensive retreats to South India for wealthy patrons, who can afford his brand of spiritual tourism. Chidambaram Temple is one of the highlights of the 2 week journey. This is from Brooks’ Rajanaka India website, “On our Classic South India Temple Tour we always visit Chidambaram, the home of the Dancing Shiva…And, During mealtimes we eat with the locals at small restaurants or at the homes of friends or temple priests.”
Please notice the local hospitality that Brooks and his pilgrims enjoy. He insists that he has given tens of thousands of dollars when in actuality he pays Temple fees for Homas/ rituals as part of the annual retreats that are performed for the benefit of him and his students.
At present, it is notoriously difficult for Diksitars to earn enough money to support themselves and their families, some earning just $47 a month and others less. Meanwhile, Brooks is charging $6000 per student, which includes airfare. In this image I count 14 women, but generally he has an average of 20 students. Do the math.
“The worst justification of despotic rule invariably comes from a model that vests too much power in one person, because these are the makings of a “cult.” My teacher taught me that as we learn together, truth is a collective and collaborative experience that must include the possibilities of doubt and error. To hold the seat of teacher is also to give it up and share it, that our jobs followed the old adage: “to surpass the master is to repay the debt” in such a way that no one individual would ever be regarded as the one in power.” Douglas Brooks
S%%%%,Let’s assume —and I am making this assumption—that we both have the Dikistars best interests at heart. I have 37 years of experience with their plight, their poverty, their exploitation, their efforts for opportunity. Everyone wants opportunities, no less these folks who have lived their lives about 100m from home (and back). So you chum up with Selva, and you think that because he is bright, curious, and ambitious—good for him, I say—that this means you should act? What presumptuous nonsense. And you know anything about this complex history and their history of exploitation? You don’t ask me, you don’t ask Babu who would talk to Rajasekara? What do you do? Either you are a well meaning fool or you’re as exploitative of me, Babu, and the family as it appears. There is no excuse for your behavior.These young men are in for an emotionally bumpy ride, at best. You don’t know what you don’t know, and neither do they. Is there no marker for wisdom and discretion for you? Is there no boundary that you would simply take up as your own without considering the more complex issues unknown to you? Apparently.
You have not merely offended me—and everyone else that has worked for the past 15 years or more to help the Diksitar community create realistic opportunities and healthy situations—you have made your self-importance an issue that has forever changed my willingness to trust and call you a friend. If you think I’m being all paternalistic and protective of these young men, you are quite right. I have that prerogative because had you asked me or Babu or ANYONE and not simply allowed your own initiatives to be as naively moved as Selva, you would have done some good. As it is, you go right ahead. I’ll repair this damage after it happens. And listening to Selva on this matter is like getting advice from a kitten. You really don’t fathom that, do you? This is appalling and you are culpable if and when this goes poorly. Of course, if that happens then Babu and Vish and I will get the blame. In short, you are no friend to anyone here.
Dear DouglasI am very sorry you are angry and feel I am trying to steal your knowledge and connections. This is not my intent. After my return from my trip to India with you in December, Selva contacted me via whatsapp as I had signed the deekshithar book and we started a friendship. For several months now Selva has been sharing with me his desire to travel and share with people outside India. I extended to him the idea to come to Bali as it is a Hindu country and he can see how other Hindus practice around the world. I have explained to him the nature of Bali, how people dress and behave. I have made arrangements for him and Mahee so that their dietary requirements will be met. Selva and Mahee have been watching the world via social media and seem interested to see the world and how it works. I will do my best to keep them safe and out of harm’s way. They have discussed with their father and he has given his approval and guidance.As for the India tour, my students in ###### have been asking for a few years now to travel to India with me. I have fallen in love with Southern India and they are eager to see this place. I have no students outside of ###### other than expats who have been my students in ######, and as my student base is Muslim I have no intention of offering a spiritual pilgrimage, only sight seeing. We will spend only one day in Chidambaram, and will not be doing any religious rites as this is not their interest. I do not have your knowledge and experience to offer anything near what you can even if I desired to do so, which I do not as it will put me in danger in Riyadh. I do not teach students yoga philosophy or mythology other than when I am required to do so by Noah on a Yogamaze teacher training. I offer only yoga asana and meditation in a style learned from my previous teachers. I am sorry that you feel that my intentions are otherwise. I asked a tour operator to create a trip of Southern India with a stop in Chidambaram. To be honest I have no idea where we went when I was with you other than Chidambaram and the resort we went to (the name of which I do not even know) as I kept no record of the names of places we visited, and such a tour as you offer is not suitable for my students.I do not wish to upset you or take anything from you but only to offer a site seeing and yoga asana holiday for my students in ######.Please accept my sincere apology for any upset and anger I have caused you.BlessingsS%%%%
S%%%%I need to be brief here so I am hoping you take this note with every good intention and with my genuine concern. But I will get to the point.When you asked the two young Diksitars to go to Bali, without the slightest compunction it seems to consult me or anyone else who understands their history, culture, and customs—I was astonished. What an appallingly bad idea. They are so innocent and naive, so incapable of comprehending western yogis doing holiday things on Bali, you have put them, as they will soon find out, in a very awkward position. Food? Got that idea covered? How they act and behave? What impressions they will bring home with them to Chidambaram? What could you be thinking? Do you not fathom the issues here? I would be happy to explain at length.Then this morning I see that you have planned a trip to India. I note the itinerary. Really?Let me come to India with you, take all of your hard work, steal it, and make it mine. If that is not what you were meaning to do, that is effectively what you are doing. This is deeply disrespectful and likely unethical. There is nothing I can do about it but make it clear that that is not only how I feel about it but everyone you could possibly respect will very likely concur. This is just way out of bounds. What you are doing in Bali demonstrates judgment that is, at best, naive and poorly thought through. What you are proposing to do in October is simply ripping us off, and honestly it takes a lot to get me this animated and unhappy.Our friendship is at stake here because honest friendship requires real boundaries and care. You can do as you please.yrs, Douglas
Anyone who goes to South India will a do a tour like Douglas, not because he created it, but because the architecture and religious culture specific to South Indian Hindu temples establishes an almost identical itinerary. The Pancha Bhuta Sthalams, all dedicated to Lord Shiva, which includes Chidambaram, are celebrated as unique to Tamil Nadu’s spiritual heritage, which any google search will quickly reveal.
Noah Maze, acting as proxy for Douglas Brooks, sent this letter.
I hope you are well and that the YTT is going beautifully. I will want to hear about that at a different time, but I’ve got to cut to the chase.
Douglas is deeply unhappy that you have brought the young Dikshitars to Bali and with your plans to take a group on a S India trip.
I’m not sure how all of this has come about. I know you well enough to know you have the best intention, but at the moment, that is not what is pressing. Here is what is pressing: if you value your relationship with Douglas (and others; Babu, Vish…) you need to take immediate action to do undo whatever can be undone, and do damage control.
If you want to maintain these friendships and valuable company you must write to Douglas and ask him exactly what he would like you to do right now and simply do exactly as he says. You should also apologize and be as humble as possible (even if you don’t believe you have acted wrongfully—as I’m certainly sure you did not mean to). I understand this may all feel very unfair. There will be time to work through that later. For now, I am asking that you do as I am asking. We will process feelings later.
You have not asked for my input, help or advice here. I am aware I am crossing over lines I usually respect by offering my opinion and advice unsolicited. I do however have your best interest in my heart. Based on my communications with Douglas I have decided I owe it to you to say these things to you. This is in spite of my strong desire to remain neutral and uninvolved (that’s my MO—but sometimes we gotta go where it’s uncomfortable). As my student and our representative, your actions bear upon me and our community of teachers and yogis. We are all affected by your choices, and the consequences may be dismal if you persist with your plans.
I am sorry for the stress this email will cause. I am sorry for the stress the other emails in your inbox must be bringing about. I hope you feel my compassion and know that I have deep affection and admiration for you, S%%%%. It is not too late to get this right.
I truly hope you will take my words to heart and that this hiccup will turn out to be just a little blip on the screen of a long life and connection.
The Agency of a Young Diksitar
The beauty of travel are the friendships made along the journey. Our Host S%%%% met the Diksitars on retreat with Douglas Brooks in the beginning of 2015. They formed a friendship that has continued to grow and facilitate travel for the Diksitars. The Diksitars, with the help of their American host, planned to come to the United States in the summer of 2016. The young Diksitar writes to Douglas for support. You know, the one whose family provided meals in their modest home in Chidambaram to Brook’s white pilgrims.
I hope you are happy and well! My father and I are making our first visit to the USA this summer with the tentative dates of July 15 to August 15, 2016. We are so excited to visit our many friends in the USA who have visited us over the years in Chidambaram. Currently we are in the process of finding yoga studios or other venues to host our program Mantra Gosham. Mantra Gosham is an opportunity to experience the bliss and higher vibrations that are created through mantra chanting and ritual. We have offered 2 retreats in India and a short program in Bali over this last year to great success, and we are now looking to bring the program to the USA. Our intention with sharing Mantra Gosham is to raise peace consciousness through our practices, and to raise donations for Rathna Charitable Trust’s education for children programs in Tamil Nadu, India. Any support you can give us is much appreciated!
Aum Namah Sivaya
Here is Douglas’ response to two grown Indian men, Diksitars, maintainers of the oldest temple structure community in India, who Brooks’ own brand of spiritual tourism has exploited for a decade.
The young Dikistar responds,
I have no intention to beg from you and the poonais as I have been blessed to be a priest who can work for global peace and prosperity. I am not here to take up poor advice from you in this regard. I am not having any personal benefit by making this US trip and it is all for the services we do for the needy. You have crossed your limits with your messages. You SIR are playing priest, doing rituals, chanting mantras, telling stories and myths, and proselytizing people in the USA. We have opened our home and hearts to you and your students repeatedly with no expectations. Now you say it is a burden to host us in USA, what then is the meaning of 10 years friendship sir?
Douglas then set out to intimidate those who would host the Diksitars.
I have been aware of this story for a year now, but when the Diksitars, planning to return to the US this summer, noticed potential hosts suddenly backing out after initially expressing interest, I felt it was time to expose Brooks for his attempts to prevent the Diksitars from Doing America, the way Brooks Does India.
I posted to Facebook.
Can someone help me understand this?
Douglas Brooks studies in South India. He dresses and plays Diksitar to Western audiences, where he makes quite a bit of money, but when members of the family he has appropriated his knowledge from want to come to America, he has this to say…
I mean look at how angry colonialists get when they can’t control the flow of ideas and income…
This is a direct qoute from Douglas Brooks –
“We have had more than ten years of relationship with this family and their current plans —made without the slightest consultation— are in my opinion deeply misguided and problematic. I would be happy to explain fully my views but I think that bringing Diksitars to America is plain wrong: a mix of new age evangelicalism and cultural mismatch.”
Does he think not he is also partipctaing in new age evangelicalism and cultural mismatch when he performs South Indian Brahmin all over the West?
Can someone tag Douglas Brooks and ask him to explain his views more fully?
Brooks performing Diksitar/Brahmin priest in L.A. with Noah Maze
I then sent Brooks an email.
He promptly blocked me from FB and offered these words to his followers
Shortly after I posted, Jacbob Kenner shared this on his Facebook page, along with the letter he received from Douglas Brooks, which attempted to prevent the Diksitars from traveling to St. Louis.
Well, since this situation has been shared by someone else, I must be honest about how I see this concerted effort of blatant colonialism, supremacy, and cultural appropriation. Here’s the letter I received from Douglas last year. I suspect I’ll get a new one this year, too. If you want to know one of the big problems of yoga in the West, it’s yogis from the West thinking they own it over the people who have practiced it for millennia.
And then S%%%%, who hosted the Diksitars in Bali and America, bravely spoke out against her abusers.
“Two years ago the drama started over a friendship and a friend’s request for assistance. Due to my decision to help a friend, I have been threatened and had my reputation smeared in FB groups and in the yoga community. I mistakenly thought the drama had died down, but sadly it continues until today with the one who is the aggressor claiming he is the victim. What I want people to know is that Douglas Brooks, and my former teacher Noah Maze, caused me extreme anxiety and stress, and that until today I feel panic when I hear their names. They threatened me, told me I would lose my friends, lose my community and face consequences that would be dismal if I did not humble myself and immediately comply with Douglas Brooks’ orders to end my friendship and support of the deekshithars. You can read below their emails to me. I had not planned on making this public out of fear, I was harassed by other members of Dougas Brooks’ community up until only a few months ago. I am experiencing panic just writing this, with the expectation that I will receive more hate mail….but I think it is time now to share why I left my community, it was due to threats and intimidation by people I had at one time looked to as my teachers.”
Brooks has been making repeated claims to his innocence and integrity…
And then the following day he added…
His Followers have poured out in droves to support him and to ask me and others to stop the “attacks”…they all seem to be much more interested in my mean spiritedness than in Brooks’…
Fortunately, not all drink from the same koolaid…
I imagine this is how John Friend descended. First there was denial at the public allegations, then gaslighting and scapegoating as deflecting mechanisms. Soon, other people started to come forward with their own stories of abuse and intimidation and more and more, it just unraveled with reluctant followers kicking and screaming the entire way.
When I add Douglas Brooks to the conversation around “who owns Yoga,” I can’t help but be deeply disturbed at the colonial double standard employed by him and his followers, who parade around performing South Indian Diksitar, while regulating the movement of authentic Brahmins, so as not to have any competition on their home turf. This territorial control is exactly how Brooks maintains his paternalistic position in the American Yoga Industry.
Why Douglas Brooks, Noah Maze or any of the people who have traveled to Chidambaram didn’t want to reciprocate the generosity and kindness they received there is one of the more inhospitable outcomes of cultural appropriation.
I’ll leave you with a comment made on my initial post, which featured the image below. In the words of revolutionary poetess, Jessica Sequeira.
“Why are all these white people sitting around. I don’t like seeing White Folks, just sitting around chilling. Especially white dudes. Pick up a broom. Give back our land. Go flip a burger for a couple of weeks.
Stop blissing out.
You have no right to chill into nirvana right now.
Fuck You, with your bullshit relax.”
Sent June 4, 2017 at 7:11 pm Mountain Time…By the wife of Noah Maze, Tracy Maze.
You are currently disseminating false and misleading information about Noah Mazé on the internet in violation of numerous laws. Your conduct is illegal and includes malicious slander, libel, defamation and misrepresentation. You are likewise in violation of laws relating to wrongful business conduct, as enumerated in the California in bus and prof code section 17200 et seq. and, around the world, in similar statutes.
Your behavior currently violates common law and rulings in numerous cases that address similar wrongs. By disseminating misleading information, you have been and continue to cause us significant injury and undue stress. In context of the situation and in contrast to your misrepresentations, we will not tolerate your false representation. Using a term such as “bully” in our current era is deliberate, malignant invective meant to damage our reputation.
We demand that you immediately cease and desist from the continuance of these violations, and take immediate measures to mitigate this harm. You must remove all postings and references you make to Noah Mazé, YOGAMAZE, or any of our employees on the Internet or anywhere.
Further activity which maligns Noah Mazé and our organization will compound this egregious harm and add to the damages we are currently suffering.
If you believe have a right to persist in your pursuit to harm us and spread misinformation and falsehoods or to otherwise publish your story, we must insist that you first make your case with a judge.
We look forward to your prompt compliance and your immediate confirmation of same. Should you choose not to heed this letter within 48 hours of its remittance, our attorneys will be in contact.
Sincerely, Tracy Silver Mazé
Please click on images to enlarge. Noah & Tracy insist “we” scrub our Facebook walls of any mention of Maze or Brooks, not because allegations against them are false, but because they can’t handle the truth of themselves even after decades of Yoga…
From the blog of Noah Maze at Yogamaze. He clearly admits his patriarchal coercive tone. He does not apologize to the woman he victimized with his intimidation, because he thought it was more professionally lucrative to apologize to his student base for any inconvenience and ends with a business plug for more Yoga…$ching$ $ching$.
In Answer to Recent Events
The material in the original blog post you are seeking to read has been taken down.
To anyone still wondering what this is about or to anyone trying to follow the thread:
I was accused of privately writing (2 years back) to a teacher in our employ – who had been hired to deliver a teacher training on behalf of YOGAMAZÉ – in a patronizing and coercive way. I regret my words. They were unskillful. I am remorseful. I have learned a great deal, and I am committed to continuing to learn about embedded social and cultural inequalities that those of us who sit in a position of privilege are not sensitive enough about.
I will endeavor to learn more about this and shed light on this where possible. I will endeavor to use my privilege to raise social awareness in a new way as a result of this – and if nothing else that has been a positive outgrowth of this experience.
The original article that lived here was a statement authored in response to a pretty intense social media attack on my character. Although I made a mistake, I think the mistake was severely over blown in the media – my statements were taken out of context and I felt a need to contain the blaze.
My purpose in writing a response was to provide an insight into my experience, feelings and remorse in connection with a private conversation that sadly became public, because I was asked by the parties involved to share my story and perspective. I regret that I can no longer share that statement with you as I believe it served to ameliorate the alleged harm.
Upon publishing that piece, we received feedback we may have been misinformed about relationships we outlined. We have not researched the matter further. We apologize if we got it wrong. We fully expect we do not accurately know the intricacies of relationships that are not ours – even those that ARE ours can sometimes be confusing.
So it is down.
We are relieved to report all parties involved (or nearly all) are in respectful discussion and on a path working toward peace.
We apologize for any inconvenience or frustration you may feel at not being able to comfortably understand what transpired or come to your own independent judgments given the lack of information that remains.
I encourage you to email us directly with any remaining appropriate and respectful questions. I will attempt to answer all questions, but with an eye toward kindness and with the intention of revealing no hurtful information.
I apologize if I have in any way wasted your time in the last week or if your life was in any way negatively impacted by this drama.
Thanks for following us. Hopefully next time you come to our website it will be for the purpose of joining us for yoga! 😌