France arrests guru, 40 others in raids on yoga sect

Published November 29, 2023
This photo taken on April 1, 2004 in Bucharest shows Gregorian Bivolaru (L), the spiritual leader of MISA sect (The Movement for Spiritual Integration in the Asolute) evacuated from a Court, by the special police forces. — AFP/File
This photo taken on April 1, 2004 in Bucharest shows Gregorian Bivolaru (L), the spiritual leader of MISA sect (The Movement for Spiritual Integration in the Asolute) evacuated from a Court, by the special police forces. — AFP/File

PARIS: French authorities on Tuesday arrested 41 people in raids against a controversial yoga sect, including its leader, the guru Gregorian Bivolaru, a source close to the case said.

The sect is accused of numerous abuses under Bivolaru, who has been repeatedly in the crosshairs of judicial authorities in Romania, Sweden and France in the last years, the source said. Bivolaru, 71, is a national of both Romania and Sweden.

The people were arrested in the Paris region and southern France and included other key members of the sect, the source added.

Some 175 police officers were deployed for the operation, during which 26 women — several of whom were held against their will — were freed, the source said. They had been “kept in deplorable conditions” both in terms of space and hygiene, the source said.

Several women, of different nationalities, said they had been victims of the MISA organisation and its leader, the source said. Women were encouraged to accept sexual relations with the group’s leader and “to agree to participate in fee-paying pornographic practices in France and abroad”, the source said.

The network, called Movement for Spiritual Integration into the Absolute (MISA), runs several yoga schools and related operations. On its official website, yogaesoteric, the group describes itself as the “largest yoga school in Romania and in Europe” and Bivolaru as its “spiritual mentor”.

Its success “comes from a traditional rigorous approach of the yoga system, from a great number of both theoretical and practical aspects studied and the coherent integration of the yoga values and practices in the Western cultural environment”.

Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2023

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