Soteria International were guests at Radio Freedom 20th January 2013.
The live radio show discusses the undemocratic aspects of anti-sect movements in Europe based on the new case study on FECRIS conducted by experts under Human Rights Without Frontiers and published by Dresden university.
The direct undemocratic influence of FECRIS is illustrated by two cases followed by Soteria; the French anti-sect police force CAIMADES attack on Terre du Ciel in 2012 and Italian SAS’s raid on the Tripura Sundari Yoga School in Bologna, Florence, Genoa and Rome in 2012.
The show further inform about the European discussions on re-introducing “plagio” laws and the perspectives this may have on the freedom of thought, conscience and belief.
Soteria reports from the EMISCO colloquium in the European Parliament on islamophobia. The need to address growing xenophobia in matters of faith and conscience was univocally expressed by the many experts from Human Rights, Universities and European institutions. Article here.
Soteria International were guests at Radio Freedom in a live show 18th December.
Hear about the formation of Soteria International and what Spiritual Human Rights are. The live radio show also gives a briefing on the seminar on “The Role of Spirituality in Modern Society”, hosted by Soteria 8th December 2012. Article here.
Sunday 20th January 14.00 - 15.00 Soteria guests a live radio-show for a discussion on the perspectives on spiritual freedom in Europe today, on background of Dresden University’s recently published Journal for the study of Beliefs and Worldviews “Freedom of Religion or Belief – Anti-Sect Movements and State Neutrality”.
EMISCO’s International Colloquium “A New Challenge for Social Cohesion: Protecting and Promoting Fundamental Rights for Muslim Communities” gave a diverse and still univocal image of the need for another paradigm in understanding coexistence today.
Hosted by British Member of Parliament Sajjad Karim in the European Parliament 9th January, the colloquium gathered as speakers and participants many of the most important parties in the freedom of thought, consciousness and belief. Soteria International was invited as participant by EMISCOs representative and raised the question on media’s role in breaching of fundamental rights, as observed in several of our cases.
Bucharest, 18 December 2012
Another court session in the case against Gregorian Bivolaru, founder of M.I.S.A. yoga school in Romania, took place on 18 December 2012 in the High Court of Cassation and Justice (HCCJ) of Romania. The session is part of the retrial which was decided in April 2012 by HCCJ, when it cancelled previous verdicts by the Trial Court and Court of Appeals of Romania, ruled in favor of the defendant.
The decision of the HCCJ’s panel, presided by judge Ionut Matei, to cancel previous verdict and to retrial the case, was accompanied by many procedural irregularities and judicial abuses, raising concerns on impartiality of the judiciary and respect for fundamental liberties in Romania. Following the international concern about the case, Soteria International decided to monitor the trial sessions and the events related to it.
On 8 December 2012, marking the occasion of the International Human Rights Day, Soteria International held in Copenhagen the 5th edition of the Spiritual Human Rights conference. SHR-2012 was organized as a public seminar on the topic of “The Role of Spirituality in Modern Society” and gathered distinguished speakers from various religious institutions and spiritual movements in Denmark, social activists and human rights defenders.
To follow up on the big international concern, Soteria has made a petition under Article 227 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, for public signatures to stop the persecutions, discriminative treatment and abuses against Yoga practitioners in Romania. The petition is a right for which any citizens resident in Europe, may present an individual or collective request, a complaint or observation concerning the application of EU law or an appeal to the European Parliament to adopt a position on a specific matter. Such petitions give the European Parliament the opportunity of calling attention to any infringement of a European citizen's rights by a Member State or local authorities or other institution.
Take action! Download the document in attachment and write for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Impact of Apostates’ Activities
on the Suppression Associations of Conscience or Belief.
In many cases apostates play a complex and crucial role when an association of conscience or belief is subjected to social and financial suppression in society, which may lead to social marginalization and financial or judicial problems for its members. In the frame of this report the term ”apostate” refers to individuals who leave and turn against an association of conscience or belief, making efforts to actively hinder the future development of the association. The term “association of conscience or belief” here refers only to associations who are not normative in the surrounding society.
18 July 2012, the European Commission issued their report “Mechanism for Cooperation and Verification for Justice regarding Romania” (M.C.V.) Soteria International follows the appearance of the long awaited report and the reactions it steers in media, with special attention to the MISA case, which is notorious by the Romanian judicial abuses related to it.
Domestic and international media mostly focus on the political implications enforced by the MCV report, and fails to elaborate on the implications for the Romanian people and the human dimension, which should be the focus of any government, local or European!
One exception is Vibeke Sperling in Danish Politiken. Ms. Sperling brings information about an interpellation to the European Commission made by an Italian member of European Parliament, Rita Borsellino, a prominent and prolific fighter against corruption and defender of human rights. The interpellation comes amid the tensions between various political groups related to the top-level political confrontation in Romania, and brings the focus back to the citizens’ rights in compliance with European legislation. The interpellation specifically refers to the situation of freedom of conscience and belief, and whether it is respected in the case of Yoga practitioners in Romania.
MISA - the Human Dimension.
In these two articles, based on documents from the Romanian MISA case, we see the human dimension of political framing and show-trials. A high price paid by those who are asked to play the role of "the victim".
The Price of Lies
The two contrary declarations of Simion Lupescu play key roles in the Romanian MISA case. Together with the situation of the “victim” Madalina Dumitru, who denies any criminal act against her, the contradicting declarations put the poignant question; is this a criminal case, or a show trial in continuation of Ceausescu’s persecutions? Read more...
When society turns its back…
When society turns its back to a group, the individuals of this group easily loose their fundamental rights and dignity. When already socially marginalized there is no-one to turn to, as no-one believes you and everyone turn your story to their advantage. In this vicious circle every attempt to be heard publicly is turned into another humiliating experience. You are judged before hand. Read more…
The two contrary declarations of Simion Lupescu play key roles in the Romanian MISA case. Together with the situation of the “victim” Madalina Dumitru, who denies any criminal act against her, the contradicting declarations put the poignant question; is this a criminal case, or a show trial in continuation of Ceausescu’s persecutions?
The totalitarian regimes’ practice of framing unwanted persons through false declarations is still practiced today in Eastern Europe. But the more transparent and internationally connected the society becomes, the more difficult and costly this practice is. Cynically, the higher price is not paid to the liar, but by him.
In 2004 the Romanian yoga school MISA is raided by anti-terrorist forces in an attempt to destroy this spiritual movement. The leader Mr. Bivolaru escapes to Sweden where he is given asylum in 2005. His driver, the aging Simion Lupescu lost his job and in the terror that followed the raids he was caught by Romanian police and suggested to give false declarations regarding Mr. Bivolaru. When first refusing, he is subjected to serious threats. With the promise of anonymity he gives a false declaration, on which the prosecutor continue the case.
In the end the anonymity of Simion Lupescu is not protected by police and prosecutor. Because of the lies he is not any longer welcome in the spiritual movement.
Simion Lupescu manages to escape to Denmark where he makes a new declaration. Away from the Romanian pressure he takes back the false declaration against Mr. Bivolaru. The new declaration describes the threats of the Romanian police.
When returning home he finds the process irreversible. Based on his previous false declaration his friends are now prosecuted. Simion Lupescu decides to leave Bucharest.
The second declaration of Simion Lupescu receives support when the other key witness, Madalina Dumitru, is heard by the Swedish Supreme Court. Her statements of being forced to make false declaration, and that there is no base for the criminal accusation against Mr. Bivolaru is considered “highly credible” in the Swedish decision.
As Mr. Bivolaru receives asylum in Sweden and was acquitted trial and appeal courts in Romania, the situation of Simion Lupescu might have been forgotten, and he could have continued his new life as taxi driver in a rural Romanian village. The 12th April the Romanian Supreme Court decided that his second declaration no longer qualify as evidence in the case. As now only his first false declaration still stands and the show trial continues, Simion Lupescu chose to disappear again.
I, the undersigned Lupescu Simion, with the following identification documents: – ppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp, in Bucharest, Romania and B.I. – Identity Document series R.D. no. 1111111, issued on 000000000 by the Bucharest 18th Police Station.
With regard to my statement from 10.10.2005, I wish to present the following elements and describe certain aspects:
A. I mention one more time that I withdraw my penal complaint as well as the allegations from the statements I gave as a plaintiff in the case file 6D/P/2004 of the Prosecutor’s Office by ICCJ, section DIICOT, file regarding Mr. Gregorian Bivolaru and other members of the yoga school organized by M.I.S.A. and that I renounce the civil claims brought forth until this day, 13.10.2005. Also I mention that the statements I submitted in this file, as well as the ones I gave as a witness, including the statements I gave as an “undercover witness”, when I was assigned the name of “Marinescu Vasile”, I gave them under pressure and death threat. They do not express the truth and my vision upon the things described and are therefore null and void and starting with this moment they must not cause any judicial consequences upon the persons charged in the files in question.
B. Initially, during January-February 2004, I was contacted by a person from the Bucharest Police, namely police officer Valentin who told me that MISA had filed certain complaints against me and that I was asked to go to the Prosecutor’s Office.
There I was questioned by prosecutor Cheaborsky who asked many things related to my personal life. I mentioned I did not want to make such statements regarding my believes, the yoga course and other such things. The prosecutor “asked” me to return to the Prosecutor’s Office in order to make various statements several times and I refused him. Next some I found some people waiting for me in the staircase of the apartment block where I was living. They told me I had to go where I was expected because I was needed there. One of the following days, I saw one of these men driving a car. He smiled at me and then drove towards me at high speed. Next he pulled the brakes making a lot of noise. After he by-passed me at the last moment, he told me that I should behave and be good and do what I was asked, otherwise his car brakes would no longer hold. Another time he told me not to go to the yoga course anymore or contact anyone from the course. After a period when I was thus intimidated, followed and threatened, I accepted to go to the Prosecutor’s Office. On that occasion I met several prosecutors and other various persons “dealing” with me. In my personal life, I contacted my parents and asked fro their help. I wanted to go to their place in order to live there, as I believed that I could that way escape the one threatening me, but my parents refused me.
I had rented the apartment where I lived in Bucharest until May the 30th 2004, using some of my wife’s money. Until May 2004, I made all the statements I was asked by the Romanian authorities in charge of my and of the MISA file. I was video and audio recorded; I was photographed in various situations when I was either writing statements or identifying photos, going on the field and doing many other things. I asked them why they were doing that and they said that was the procedure – to be video recorded.
After I accepted to write all the statements such as they were dictated to me, I wanted to leave Bucharest and get away form all this “anguish”. So I moved to Curtea de Argeş together with my wife.
After a few weeks, the persons who had followed me in Bucharest returned and asked me to turn on my mobile phone that I had turned off on purpose. I turned my phone back on and shortly after, someone called me and set a meting with a man called Bogdan Vlad, about whom I found out he was a lawyer. Now he was supposed to be our lawyer. I said we had no money and we could afford a lawyer but he replied that someone else was paying and that we should not worry. Then he showed me the documents that designated him to be our defense lawyer and we signed them. We tried to talk to our thus designated lawyer but he told us not to be stressed because he knew the case the he would answer to our questions later on. When we asked him to come and talk to us he systematically avoided us.
Afterwards we made some more statements regarding the MISA case and I tried to find my parents and get in touch with them. I succeeded in doing this and when I talked to him I asked them to allow my wife and I to live with them. I explain to them our situation and asked for their help. They eventually accepted quite unwillingly, that my and I should go to live with them. We could not stay long with my parents because they did not accept us. Next we went to stay with my wife’s parents. We lived there for the following period and during that time, whenever I went out of the house I could see the people who had followed me in Bucharest and everywhere else and who had “advised” me to behave and be good.
That was one of the main reasons for which I make these statements after leaving Romania, when I am outside its border.
C. With regard to the people who are charged by the prosecutors, I mention:
1. I met Mr. Gregorian Bivolaru 10 years ago and considering this long time since I know him, I can state that I am personally satisfied with him and with what he did for me. He helped me a lot and I owe him the fact that I crossed many stages of my life, from the spiritual point of view. Also, I can state that dl. Gregorian Bivolaru, as I met him closely, is a decent, modest human being, of an extraordinary morality, who abides by the laws of Christianity. He is a kind, special man and anyone can talk to him on any topic, in a harmonious manner. He is spontaneous and always willing to help everyone who needs it and asks for it.
Also, I can say that I was personally very close to him and endeavored to be next to him as much as could and also tried to understand him.
Next, I can say that through his way of living, Gregorian Bivolaru proved the special qualities that describe him as an extraordinary, extremely hard working and persevering man with an austere existence.
He would eat one time a day, for six days a week and one day he would fast. So he practically ate six meals a week, all of them vegetarian.
Due to his actions, Gregorian Bivolaru was noticed by many people who wanted to meet him in person and ask for his advices, with regard to various yoga issues, etc. Thus Gregorian Bivolaru could meet with 1000 people a week, for an average of 5-6 minutes with each yoga practitioner.
As a consequence of his yoga practice, Gregorian Bivolaru could reduce a lot the number of hours he used to sleep for. Thus he had even more time for work and he took care of even more activities he accomplished successfully. He could work for 48 hours in a row in order to write certain yoga courses or prepare the hundreds of spiritual characteristic books that we can find in the Romanian bookshops.
As for the advice that Gregorian Bivolaru offered to all those who asked for it, it had two essential features, besides being very wise:
a) no advice was compulsory for the one receiving it, each person receiving such an advice was free to act as he pleased;
b) the advice was always fully to advantage of the person asking for that advice and never for Gregorian Bivolaru’s benefit.
For all requests of advice, including the advice some persons demanded through notes or letters, or for the ones transmitted by myself, Gregorian Bivolaru wrote the answer on the back of the paper. The advice was completely benevolent and it was up to the person in question to follow or not the advice received. I personally know many people who did not follow Gregorian Bivolaru’s advice. I, myself, am one of such people. Next I used to regret it because if I had followed Bivolaru Gregorian’s advice I could have avoided many unpleasant events and wrong actions I did.
As many people wanted to practice yoga in Bucharest, they came to visit to ones who were already living in Bucharest. Also, several building were bought in order to be turned into spiritual establishments.
In these spiritual establishments, after approximately two years of living there, the yogi inhabitants concluded that they needed some common sense rules that would insure an ever more harmonious life together.
Thus the inhabitants of these establishments used to meet weekly or on special occasions, or maybe if a part of the water plumbing was broke or some other similar event occurred.
Upon common agreement, without any obligation towards Mr. Gregorian Bivolaru, people concluded that: not abiding by the rules commonly agreed upon by the inhabitants of the spiritual establishments should be penalized somehow through a money contribution for the fund destined to the utilities of the house in question, or a spiritual action should be done in order to help the one who made a mistake.
Therefore the so-called fines for the ones who destroyed some objects or forgot the stove or the boiler open (as such actions represented a danger for the integrity of the house and for the people’s state of health) were for the common expenses fund. They were neither taken by Gregorian Bivolaru nor by any other persons outside the establishment. They were also meant to awaken the state of attention and vigilance of the person in question and thus guarantee the safety of all people living there.
Actually, Gregorian Bivolaru did not attend the house meetings of the yogis from the spiritual establishments and also he was not the one who indicated what had to be done in certain situations.
There is no connection whatsoever between Gregorian Bivolaru and the fact that some practitioners from the course went to Japan. He did not take part in any way at the earnings they made and I did not see him take any money or other objects.
Gregorian Bivolaru did not send anyone to Japan or anywhere else. These people were free to do whatever they wanted. However it is true that I heard Gregorian Bivolaru telling these people to follow the rules or moral conduct and avoid any … (translator’s note: illegible in the original document) relationships.
With regard to the alleged relationship between Gregorian Bivolaru and Mmmmmmm Dddddddd, I personally have no knowledge of any such thing. I never saw or heard them say anything or make any gestures of a sexual nature in my presence. I personally never witnessed anything that might lead to the conclusion that such a relation exists, either during the spiritual cams from Herculane or from Costineşti.
Concerning the notion of “karma yoga”: to me, “karma yoga” signifies all the actions performed after doing a short meditations that is called the consecration and during which one aims at feeling the divine help manifesting through you.
The “karma yoga” technique begins when you wake up, but also before the main daily actions: when you eat, work, begin a certain definite activity, etc.
In the statements I had to give, I was forced to offer an interpretation for the notion of karma yoga, namely to equal it to unpaid work. I mention that the regularly paid work is also performed after the consecration of the action in question and it also falls in the category of karma yoga.
The activities performed by the yogi inhabitants of the spiritual establishments are performed to the best interest of the yogi communities, as well as the actions accomplished by the monks in a monastery. Those actions from the spiritual establishments are not performed for the benefit of Mr. Gregorian Bivolaru, who could not benefit from them anyway, as he did not actually live there.
The cooking, the cleaning, the painting and fixing of the broken windows, the painting of the door is for the benefit and interest of those who actually use the place in question.
Besides performing these activities in the establishment by turns, the persons in question also had a regular job. Such actions performed in the spiritual establishment take them a few hours a week, they are neither tiresome, nor are they imposed by anyone.
However in these spiritual establishments, the spiritual activity performed by the yogi inhabitants was important. If they wished to take advantage from the environment of a spiritual group, they had to act as such, just as the monks from a monastery have to attend the spiritual rites set by the Christian dogma.
However the people living in the spiritual establishments were not forced or compelled to perform any of the activities there. They could leave the spiritual establishment in question whenever they wanted, without any negative consequences if they did not want to attend the way of life in question with regard to which they had been previously notified before being allowed to stay within the community in question.
All the rules and even the manner for assessing their non-abidance or for setting the penalty, were known by absolutely all inhabitants, as well as by those who wished to become the inhabitants of such a spiritual establishment.
With regard to the charges brought to certain yoga teachers who allegedly sought to present Mr. Gregorian Bivolaru as a human being with paranormal powers, as an enlightened man whose advice had to be followed obediently, I mention that never, neither Mr. Gregorian Bivolaru ….. (translator’s note: illegible in the original document), nor Tttttttttttttt, Ccccccc Nnnnnn, Dddddddddd or Mmmmmmmmm ever made such statements.
The yogi philosophy and tradition were complied with as faithfully as possible but neither Gregorian Bivolaru or the teachers ever claimed to be persons in possession of the divine truth who have to be listened to. This aspect is highlighted by two clear motivations, namely:
a) All the people attending the yoga course organized by MISA were always advised to be as independent as possible, to think for themselves and take their own decisions. People could even hear Gregorian Bivolaru tell many times those who asked his advice to seek and find the bets answer by themselves or pray God and never do anything that contradicted their free will.
b) In the present, there have been and still are various opinions regarding a lot of aspects among the yoga teachers or even between some of them and Mr. Gregorian Bivolaru, and they are always open to a positive dialogue.
Such aspects fully contradict the insinuations of the people investigating me who tried to suggest that MISA is some kind of a dictatorship, even of an ideological nature. This is not real, as there are people who do not follow the teachers’ or Gregorian Bivolaru’s advice. It is all the less possible to apply such allegations with regard to committing certain palpable, illegal deeds.
As for the residences of the persons accused of human trafficking, some of the locations are used as spiritual establishments. I am familiar with the example of the ones purchased by Ms. Ccccccccccccc who was helped by her parents and by her relatives.
Other teachers also received some financial help form other people close to them, in order to purchase some establishments and subsequent to their purchasing and restoration, the yogis who wished to live there, could do this for free. It is therefore not accurate that the owners of the residences used as spiritual establishments got rich through the yogis’ unpaid work. Among the people charged with this, there are some whose activities had no connection with M.I.S.A. or with Mr. Gregorian Bivolaru. An example in this direction is Mr. Nnnnnnnnnnn who owned a house on the 133rd Sergent Turturică Street, where there was never any spiritual establishment, and where he conducted his own business.
Although I was asked to state there were certain radio receivers and transmitters that allegedly represented a danger to the national security on the 22nd Peleaga Street and some other such devices in Mr. Bbbbbbbbbb room, on the 123rd Turturică Street, I mention that the radio receiver and transmitter in question that I know of, could not tune in the frequency used by the Romanian Government, and the devices in question were kids’ toys.
I know Ms. Vvvvvvvvvvvvv as a person who used to help the people from the spiritual establishments solve various administrative issues, an activity which she conducted in good faith.
About Mr. Dddddddddddd I know that he is a doctor, a very diligent and altruist person and I mention that it is not true that he allegedly offered Gregorian Bivolaru money for purchasing certain residences. The latter one was not a man of money, he had no bank accounts and the presents that...... (translator’s note: illegible in the original document).
As I know the situation I experienced when I made the statements, when after receiving the distorted information aimed at by the investigators, I was video recorded and photographed, I am certain there are also other persons in a situation similar to mine. I am certain there are other persons who through certain means, were forced to make false statements in order to determinate Mr. Gregorian Bivolaru or other yoga teachers, yet they do not have the courage yet to come forth and tell the truth.
I thank God that through this statement I can tell the truth and fix the mistakes I made through my previous statements and thus no one has to suffer any more, of the people unjustly accused by me.
When society turns its back to a group, the individuals of this group easily loose their fundamental rights and dignity. When already socially marginalized there is no-one to turn to, as no-one believes you and everyone turn your story to their advantage. In this vicious circle every attempt to be heard publicly is turned into another humiliating experience. You are judged before hand.
Last century Europe took measures to rise the awareness of the equal rights and dignity of all. The discrimination based on gender, age or race has been successfully diminished along with discrimination of ethnic or sexual minorities as well as people with physical or mental handicaps. Still, there is a blind spot in society regarding discrimination regarding conscience or belief. If you chose to live your life according to conscience or belief differing from the norm of society, you may still today find yourself exposed without anyone to turn to.
The Romanian Supreme Court’s decision to re-judge the MISA case is unlawful and seems designed for a fast conviction.
On 12 April 2012 the High Court for Cassation and Justice of Romania came with an earth-breaking decision during what was supposed to be the last phase of the famously disputed judicial case in Romania. The previous two verdicts, of the Trial Court and of the Court of Appeals, which were fully acquitting the defendant, Gregorian Bivolaru, founder of a Yoga movement, were both annulled by the High Court and set for a retrial in the court of last resort, by the same judges who decided upon this unlawful annulment.
In its haste to cover the lies of the prosecutors who built the case 8 years ago against the yoga school MISA, the court forgot itself to act according to the law. Such, it didn't release the motivation of the decision within the legal term of 20 days, and when it did, after 42 days (1 day before the date of retrial) it only revealed the groundlessness of the decision.
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.
Lawyer company Delphi & Co from Stockholm intermediated a report of SKOP-Research regarding the Danish yoga movement from the NATHA yoga center and the MISA yoga movement, for MISA the Romanian Yoga School.
This study states our conclusions following some interviews we had with the MISA founder, Gregorian Bivolaru and one of his students, the leader of the NATHA centre in Copenhagen. The study also stands on interviews with former and current yoga practitionners, living in Copenhagen. Some of them are Romanian sojourning in Denmark.
The chief scientist of the study on MISA and NATHA is senior lecturer doctor Örjan Hultåker.
There are many forms of yoga and different ways to present and teach them. Yoga can be related to religious representations, but this is not a compulsory feature. These days yoga is part of the western culture, just as it occurs in the adverting of the American multinational companies for their products in different countries.
The multinational companies usually avoid references to any form of sect. The fact that a company like Kelloggs (producing cornflakes for breakfast) makes use of yoga for international advertising (including in Sweden) is clear evidence that yoga belongs to the western culture at present. In the West, yoga is not considered a threat for the social institutions, as it may occur in some countries including Romania. On the contrary, when Kelloggs offers their customers a DVD presnting some yoga exercises, it actually refers to a serious trend connected to welfare.
The webpage of Kellogs http://www.kelloggs.se/spk/Yoga/DVD%20Content.aspx states about Yoga: The form of yoga sampled on the Kelloggs Special K Yoga DVD is an active form of yoga, based on dynamic moves and breathing aiming at perfecting the harmony of body and conscience. Conscious breathing also triggers inner warmth, this is why you are going to get warm during the yoga session. The yoga training sessions of 20 and 45 minutes are based on Astanga yoga, which combines movement, flexibility and force. The 45 minutes program will provide complete training. When you practice yoga you should think that it is your yoga. There is no need for you to reach the same flexibility in practicing the body postures like the women in the pictures. You will probably notice that some poses are more at ease than the others, which is quite natural. Think that your body needs to get used to the body poses of yoga, for in everyday life we do not perform all poses that our body is capable of doing. In time, you can go further in practicing the poses and you will have more strength to perform this form of yoga. Be patient to get ready for the exercises that require more strength.
The presentation of the Kellogg company concerning yoga is quite similar to the way the Danish yogis of NATHA and the Romanian yogis of MISA are talking about it in the interviews.
The research presentation
There are two grounds to support this study. The first is that MISA the Romanian Yoga school MISA was accused of jeopardising the public order. Among other things, there have been references to human beings trafficking as compulsory work. Due to these accusations against the yoga practitioners, both MISA leaders and ordinary followers are subject to continuous persecution. In this respect we have reliable evidence from the Helsinki Committee, as reported by the Association for the Defence of Human Rights in Romania Helsinki Committee (APADOR-CH).
The other reaosn is the request for Gregorian Bivolaru, the founder of MISA, to be extradited to Romania, the country persecuting the yogis, according to APADOR-CH reports. Subsequent to our investigation, we can reinforce the conclusions of the APADOR-CH reports that state the accusations against Gregorian Bivolaru in Romania are unfounded.
Choosing the country and the investigated persons for this research
For practical and personal security reasons we could not perform this study in Romania. Together with the company that agreed to this research we chose to interview some yoga followers of MISA in Denmark. The yoga system founded by Gregorian Bivolaru acknowledged as MISA in Romania is practiced in lots of countries, among which Sweden. The yoga activity is larger in Denmark, where for a few years there have been a few centres in Copenhagen and over the country.
The school in Denmark is based on the yoga system founded by Gregorian Bivolaru and it is called the NATHA center. The NATHA centre in Copenhagen offers a large variety of courses. There are also some collective residences in Denmark, ashrams, where the yoga practitioners can live for longer or shorter periods of time.
There is one reason we chose Denmark for our investigation: the yoga activities are managed here by a Romanian yogi, quite close to Gregorian Bivolaru. His name is Mihai Stoian; he has had a close relationship to Gregorian Bivolaru and he often used to ask for his advice, including for the schedule of the yoga courses. Mihai Stoian, the leader of the yoga activities in Copenhagen, also had an important role in MISA in Romania, where he was the manageer of the publishing house where the yoga courses and different other materials were issued.
There are many similar points in the statements of the interviewed persons about the activities of NATHA in Denmark and MISA in Romania. There are similar activities, practical courses in the yoga halls and in the ashrams. Gregorian Bivolaru has a special status among the yoga practitioners and his picture is on the front wall of the training hall in Copenhagen.
The interviews for the study were conducted by the scientific manager of SKOP, senior lecturer in sociology Orjan Hultaker, by the sect issues expert, priest Karl-Erik Nylund and his SKOP associate Oscar Hultaker, expert in behaviour issues and doctorship candidate at the University of Uppsala.
Interviewing the leaders
The interviews with Gregorian Bivolaru and Mihai Stoian took place during Gregorian Bivolarus detention at the Malmo Police. As Gregorian Bivolaru was restricted under custody there was no way for him to communicate to Mihai Stoian and influence one anothers statement in their interviews with Karl-Erik Nylund respectively Orjan Hultaker, who had separate interviews with them.
Karl-Erik Nylund and Örjan Hultĺker also interviewed some yoga followers and staff members from the NATHA center in Copenhagen, where most of the work is performed as karma yoga, which implies volunteer work - not to be taken for human beings trafficking, which means compulsory work. For instance, there is a yoga practitioner, living in an ashram, who meanwhile attends the Copenhagen University courses.
Interviewing committed yoga practitioners Karl-Erik Nylund and Örjan Hultĺker also interviewed six yoga practitioners about their activities, moral principles and their attitude about yoga. Three of them are Romanians, currently living in Denmark, therefore they could report on practicing yoga in Romania.
Interviewing former yoga practitioners and persons no longer living in the ashrams
According to Karl-Erik Nylund and Örjan Hultĺkers interviews with the yogi, SKOP set up an interview guide, which may be used for random quiz on the persons who have practiced yoga in NATHA or had been living in the ashram for a while, but they no longer live there. Studies on social structures and movements usually point to the persons that no longer belong there as proper sources of information.
The SKOP assistant Oscar Hultaker is a behaviour issues expert and degree candidate at the University of Uppsala, in Sweden. He interviewed by phone five persons, among which two former followers, who had only got in touch with NATHA by attending the courses, and they currently have no contact to NATHA.
Three of the interviewed persons had been living in the ashram, but they moved out. One of them at least gave up practicing yoga. They have all personal contacts with persons still attending NATHA, even to persons belonging to other yoga movements.
Oscar Hultaker chose the persons to quiz on the lists of former followers, which NATHA placed at his disposal.
The five interviews followed a quite detailed guide, containing the following questions:
What was the influence, order and persuasion process, the personal example, the relation to the leaders?
What was most important about yoga, techniques, ideas and karma?
Do/did people believe in the religious part of the ideas?
What was karma yoga about?
Do you still practice yoga techniques / karma yoga?
What is your contact to other yoga practitioners?
Örjan Hultĺkers conclusions
The interviews conducted by Oscar Hultaker were enclosed to this report. Karl-Erik Nylund also wrote a separate report Ť Gregorian Bivolaru and the MISA movement ť.
There are two things indicating a social movement as a jeopardy for the social order:
- First, the movement should have some direction concerning moral values (accepted by the practitioners) which goes against the social values, regulations and standards.
- Secondly, the social movement pattern should isolate and get away from the rest of the society, when it comes to social contacts and information.
Yoga practitioners do not consider MISA a religion, or a mass of beliefs
The MISA founder, Gregorian Bivolaru makes use of lots of religious symbols and ideas in his courses. He states a syncretic vision and his ideas are based on different sources and religious traditions, which Karl-Erik Nylund reports in his study: Report on Gregorian Bivolaru and the yoga movement MISA.
Nevertheless, there is no religious core common to all yoga practitioners of MISA and NATHA. For people answering the interviews, yoga is most of all physical exercise and many of the practitioners describe it just as the multinational Kelloggs company in its yoga exercises DVD.
Aiming to reach harmony between body and spirit - this can be no breach of social rules
Besides physical training, many followers of NATHA consider yoga a way to connect the physical and the psycho-mental enhancement of the individual. As the Kelloggs put it: its an active form of yoga based on motion and breathing, aiming at a state of harmony between body and consciousness.
This does not stand against the general values of society in any way. On the contrary, yoga is quite popular even outside MISA and NATHA which complies with the current trend in the individual evolution and the consciousness development by means of physical training that provides health.
MISA and NATHA voice their ideas and moral values in the open. There are lots of articles in the internet introducing of Mr. Gregorian Bivolarus moral ideas and values and the yoga classes of MISA and NATHA. The leaders of the movements were quite open in their presentation of the courses and different activities.
Open social structure
Sects usually imply serious separation between their adepts and the outsiders. Not only do they have to accept a particular faith, but there are also special rites required in order to have access as a member of the group or to leave it. People who belong to the sect can be easily identified by other members.
As far as our interviews with the followers in Denmark pointed out, we can state an open structure there, which has nothing to do with the restricted, sectarian structure. People who moved out the ashrams say they could do it with no conflicts or worries.
Concerning the sects, people who leave it can no longer stay in touch with their friends there. People intervied in Denmark tell us they keep in touch with their friends in the ashrams, even after moving out.
These subjects do admit some connection between MISA / NATHA and other forms of yoga. There is no way to take any of the above differences for sectarian differences, the followers state confess with regard to the professional value and reliability of the courses they attend, for the activity of the yoga centres does not pursue material advantages.
Yoga can be considered a hobby competing with other spare time activities, with regard to the time allotted. Former followers stated they gave up practicing because it required too much time.
The yoga practitioners are not isolated from society
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.
No program for social changing was detected
The interviews pointed out no program for social changing. The practitioners did not start to practice yoga in order to change the society, but they aim to enrich themselves in order to become more kind. The changing that may occur at a social level is the result of their being living examples that can stand as models for the others. There is no documented plan for collective actions meant to disturb the social order.
Its quite difficult to stir the yogis for group actions
The yoga movement is open to society and it considers itself part of it. People practicing yoga at MISA also belong to other groups. The followers have no mutual principle about changing the society or disturbing the social order.
It would be rather difficult to stir the yogis from Denmark or from other countries to group actions, therefore there is no ground to define this movement as a sect. The conclusion to draw is that the yoga practitioners do not stand for a threat of a genuine democratic society. Given that this movement lacks any revolutionary ideology and it is part of society there is no reason to consider it a sect.
Intead, yoga practitioners can represent the ground of a social protest in the countries under totalitarian regimes that fear and block the legal democratic channels.
This 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 Swedens 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 Hultĺker, 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 Jungs 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 individuals 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 individuals 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 Hindus 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 ones 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. Leaders 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 Bivolarus 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 70s, the Heavens Gate movement from 90s or David Koresh from Waco USA, are examples of groups that imposed a strict discipline to their members. The leaders 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. Bivolarus 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 Bivolarus 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 ones 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 (head 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 pĺ sektens villkor . Sellin 1998
Nylund, Karl-Erik Att leka med elden sekternas värld . Sellin 2004
Hammer, Olav Pĺ spaning efter helheten New Age en ny folktro .Wahsltröm &Widstrand 1997
Holm, Nils. G Religionspsykologins grunder, Ĺbo Akademi 1993
Holm, Nils G. (Ed.) Encounter with India, Ĺbo 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 Bivolarus writings
The Romanian judicial system scrutinized in the European Parliament. Member of European Parliament will bring it further to the European Commission
On Wednesday 11th of April The NGO Soteria International kept a conference in the European Parliament on the topic of abuses and irregularities of the Romanian judicial system in the Gregorian Bivolaru / MISA case. In the conference participated Members of European Parliament and media. This conference comes at the culmination of a work of several weeks of Soteria International in the European Parliament which has already generated letters signed by a big number of Members of European Parliament from all political blocks to the Romanian Prime-Minister and Minister of Justice, expressing their concern over reports of violations of correct judicial process in this case.
In the conference spoke representatives from Soteria International, Mihai Stoian representative of MISA, as well as special gust and key-note speaker Dr. Gabriel Andreescu – founder of APADOR-CH Human Rights NGO in Romania and who is the author of a comprehensive study of the case.
Dr. Gabriel Andreescu: ''We cant have a Romanian normal system of justice, we cant have a normal Romanian democracy without solving the MISA case''
42 yogis risk imprisonment in an ongoing Romanian justice scandal.
The leader of the yoga movement, Mr. Bivolaru, has been protected by the Swedish authorities against the Romanian persecutions since 2005. 25-80 other yogis have had to leave their jobs, families and homes as a direct result of the abusive judicial and media campaign against the yoga movement MISA.
Despite strong international criticism from human rights organizations, politicians and experts, the case against the yogis is now in the Supreme Court of Romania where the verdict will be given on the 21st March.
42 yogis risk imprisonment in an ongoing Romanian justice scandal.
The leader of the yoga movement, Mr. Bivolaru, has been protected by the Swedish authorities against the Romanian persecutions since 2005. 25-80 other yogis have had to leave their jobs, families and homes as a direct result of the abusive judicial and media campaign against the yoga movement MISA.
Despite strong international criticism from human rights organizations, politicians and experts, the case against the yogis is now in the Supreme Court of Romania where the verdict will be given on the 21st March.
Invitation for scientific researchers, activists and practitioners within the trans-disciplinary field of human rights and spirituality
For the fifth consecutive year Soteria International welcomes participants to a visionary conference on the emerging field of Spiritual Human Rights.
This year’s event presents key note presentations and Q&A sessions addressing the question “What is the Role of Spirituality in Modern Society”.
The event marks the continuous effort to develop a common platform for unfolding Spiritual Human Rights into modern society.