Editor’s note: The writer of this post wishes to remain anonymous.
“I attended MPA in the early 2000’s, and I would describe Miri Piri Academy as something between a prison and a zoo. I can only attest to my own experiences at this institution, however it is my understanding that conditions were even worse in the years before I began attending. Although it is difficult to give justice to the conditions at Miri Piri Academy through words alone, I will attempt to summarize some aspects of my experience through the following anecdotes. For the purposes of accuracy, I will only report here things that I was personally subject to, or that I witnessed, though I will not differentiate between the two. I will exclude from this post things I was aware of but did not personally witness.
Here are some of the things that I witnessed:
- Duct-taping other students to one another or to the wall, sometimes in conjunction with beatings or ripping off the duct tape from their skin
- Arranging other students into a line to kick them across the room for fun
- Burning other students with lit matchsticks and incense, leaving scabs and scars, sometimes across the entire body
- Forcing younger students (as young as 6 or 7) to fight for entertainment. Those who refused to fight were beaten.
- Choking other students until they lost consciousness for entertainment. Laughing at them as they suffocated.
- Holding other students underwater for extended durations in a process known as ‘dunking’, refusing to let them breathe.
- Punching and slapping other students in the face to see how many hits it took to make them cry. Laughing at them when they did cry.
- Beating and abusing other students until they would divulge embarrassing details about themselves that could be used to mock them.
- Holding a knife to the throat or a burning matchstick to the eye of other students and saying “don’t move”
- Treating other students as slaves or maids: forcing them to clean and fetch food for older students with threats of violence.
- Randomly bursting into students rooms in the middle of the night to beat them, throw things at them, or otherwise harass them and disturb their sleep.
- Rampant theft of personal belongings, especially food items or toilet paper. Beating of students until they produced desired items.
- Use of abusive and derogatory nicknames to dehumanize other students
- The education provided at Miri Piri Academy was laughable, and many students learned nothing. Students who skipped all of their classes would still be given A’s or B’s to ensure that report cards looked good for parents.
- Even amongst the staff members there was a pervasive culture of fear. I witnessed the way the local teachers and staff were verbally assaulted by some of the 3HO staff, who would at times abuse them to the point of tears.
- Due to the conditions at MPA, the mental health of some students declined precipitously. Some students went without showering or cleaning themselves for weeks or months, developing dreadlocks and hiding beneath blankets in their beds amidst their own vomit and filth. Some students also stopped eating and became skeletal in appearance. No staff members intervened on behalf of these students, and instead of help they were offered further humiliation and shame, being labeled as ‘weak’. They became social outcasts whom no-one would dare speak to for fear of association.
- The nature of the interaction between students at the school resembled what I now recognize (through watching documentaries) as prison culture. If you were less physically strong and unable to protect yourself, you would need to form affiliations with a group for protection, sometimes in exchange for resources such as food or toilet paper. Conflicts would sometimes occur between different groups if a protected member were to be abused or stolen from. Those who did not have ‘protection’ were universally targeted for abuse.
“These anecdotes detail only a small fraction of what I experienced, as there is much I’m sure that I experienced but can no longer remember. On the whole, these behaviors were more the rule than the exception at MPA. These were the kinds of things you would expect to see occurring regularly on a day to day basis. Staff members and board members of the institution were fully aware of and bore witness to the abuse and the conditions at Miri Piri Academy. They not only failed to address the conditions at the school in any way, but perpetuated the culture of ‘snitches get stitches’, and suppressed complaints through fear and shame. Some staff members even participated in mocking and bullying students. The conditions at the school were touted as intentional – we were told that we were put under stressful conditions to ‘turn carbon into diamond’, and that the abuse was *good* for us.
“This was the message that was sold to the parents of the students, and despite glaringly obvious indications of abuse and neglect, parents would year after year send their children back to this prison. Such was the power of the cult of Yogi Bhajan. He was depicted as some sort of Guru or all-knowing living deity, and his word was absolute. Questions about the reasoning behind the operation of different aspects of the school were often answered with ‘Because Yogi Bhajan said so’.
“It is really quite hilarious to me now, thinking back to the juxtaposition between the stated goals or ‘mission’ of the 3HO boarding schools and the reality of them. There was so much talk about positivity, discipline, and uplifting others, but the reality of what I saw was hatred, judgement, cruelty, and abuse. The atmosphere of cruelty at MPA was pervasive, and caused students who attended to, willingly or not, become hateful, remorseless, and cruel themselves. It astonishes me that the school has continued to operate to this day, and as many ‘anti-bullying’ programs as they may implement, and as much as staff members may claim the school has changed, it is hard to ignore the fact that the school is still run by the very same people who oversaw the monstrosity that I witnessed.
“The fact that these same utterly braindead and deplorable individuals are not in some sort of prison for enabling and facilitating child abuse on a grand scale and instead continue to run this shameful institution is a testament to the ability of this cult to brainwash. I too succumbed to this brainwashing, and it has not been until recently that I have been able to fully grasp the reality of what I experienced.
“I encourage any who read this message who have attended any of the 3HO schools to think deeply about what you witnessed while you were there, and to share your stories if you can, as we are the only ones who can now put an end to the evil that was started so many decades ago.”