I met Peter Yeung (PY) when I was 18. I was young and naive and found myself in a toxic relationship. PY preyed on my vulnerability during that period by luring me to attend his “spiritual retreat” in Greece and funding half of the air fare tickets. I felt indebted to him and attended as many “teachings” as possible for the next 10 years.
PY’s indoctrination instilled a subconscious fear of missing classes (I didn’t want myself or others to end up in the lower realms!) so I was flying excessively for classes overseas, believing I was “generating merit”. He encouraged this kind of obsessive behaviour to my own detriment, even once approving of me borrowing money to pay for my air fare tickets! It was a dysfunctional lifestyle and I was constantly broke. I was enslaved in this perpetual cycle of self-sacrifice. This extremist “Buddhist” way of living progressively made me disconnect from society, family, friends and myself.
Over the years, I repeatedly observed PY verbally abusing his followers. He publicly shamed and humiliated students in front of one another, including myself. He peddled and repeated false narratives about me, which confused me but I rationalised them away by convincing myself this was part of the “mind training”. One year during a dinner in UK with him, PY did not like my honest and accurate answer to his question, and proceeded to assault me in public by slapping my head with both hands at least 20 times with such force that I was thrown around in my seat. It left me in tears and terrified for days.
However, I had been conditioned to view PY as a living Buddha and that his “wrathful appearance” was motivated by compassion. I believed everything he said and did was for the benefit of the student and the greater good. PY had the immunity of “guru devotion” and that was how I justified all his abusive behaviours. Another effective technique he used for mind control was telling us that “the first sign in depleting merit is losing faith in the teacher”.
I left Pathgate abruptly in 2018 when PY found out that I was romantically involved with another student. He raged at me over two days, terrorising me with vile, misogynistic abuse, and attacking my character with false accusations. The magnitude of his anger and hostility including his narrative that I am a “demon in female form” frightened me so badly that I thought I was going to get struck by lightning. This led me to question, “Why would a Buddhist teacher use fear to control me?”
In any case, there was no way I was going to return because I deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. It was truly a blessing in disguise because that’s how I got out of this cult. And although I was in shock by PY’s sudden wrath, I didn’t expect the further backlash of being ostracised by the community which included some of my family members. My voice was silenced and no one checked on my wellbeing. How is this Buddhist practice?
Subsequently, I underwent intensive therapy for two years to help me recover from the abuse and de-program from the toxic paradigm that I was subjected to. It was a difficult process but rebuilding my life post-cult has been incredibly freeing and fulfilling. Like his other fabricated prophecies, PY inaccurately condemned my future to failure and disaster which was a scare tactic to maintain power and control. This period of my life has been in fact the most empowering and meaningful.
I hope to inspire Pathgate victims/survivors to leave because they deserve better than being under the control of a 40-year career con-artist. The truth hurts but it will set you free.
– Isabel Pham
Follow Isabel on Instagram here.
As a 22-year-old woman around 1999/2000 I had the unfortunate experience of making acquaintance with ‘Sifu’ (as he was then calling himself) Peter Young. I was in the process of a distressing divorce which was freeing me from an abusive marriage. I was extremely emotionally fragile and ‘lost’ at that time and was introduced by a work colleague who was already an established student of PY. My colleague believed PY could help me with healing and clarity. I’m sure my personal situation and mindset wasn’t unique in terms of potential targets for recruitment.
I found neither healing nor clarity, instead I found and witnessed guilt, confusion, manipulation, deceit, abuse and coercion. I did not spend much time with PY before I took the decision to cut ties with his teachings and acquaintance – this period only lasted a few months at most, but in that time I witnessed and experienced the following:
- I was coerced and manipulated into sexual intercourse – it might have appeared consenting at a brief glance, but it never is when it is obtained by fear, lies or/and manipulation.
- I was thrown between a mixture of ‘love-bombing’, ‘criticism of character and abilities’ and ‘anger’ from PY. It was an exhausting emotional rollercoaster of control where I was in a constant state of emotional flux of never knowing which side of ‘Sifu’ would appear. Exhausting and abusive coercive controlling behaviour.
- PY continually alluded to his heightened spiritual awareness and status by pointing out things around him (mundane things like the way pigeons were attracted to his windowsill, and the fact he would get up to answer the phone before it rang (there was a click first btw!).
- I witnessed public humiliation of another student during class who was clearly very distressed, PY forbidding anyone to comfort her (and of course, despite natural human instinct, people were too afraid to). Extremely cruel and traumatising behaviour.
- I witnessed demonstrations by PY of his supposed ‘powers’ and boastful behaviour about himself and his achievements in class with his students. This all felt very much like a peacock showing off and an attempt to convince and draw newer members further into the fold.
- PY constantly wore sunglasses and told people he had the eyes of a Buddha and others would not be able to look in them. Funny how he was able to remove them for intercourse and I remained unharmed (well, unharmed by his eyes anyway).
- If PY wished to provide an accessible foundation of his teaching both in Buddhism and Tai Chi to a complete novice as I was, he failed. What poured continually through his words was confusing and inaccessible nonsense. In my opinion (and this is only opinion), apart from fear, this may be one of PY’s main methods of recruitment and retention of students.
- PY’s students seemed disconnected from each other and themselves. They were quiet, subservient and lacking in any joyfulness, whilst at the same time hanging on to every work PY spoke – I likened their behaviour to trance.
Thankfully a mixture of listening to my own intuition, an inability to connect on any human level with PY’s other students and the voice of another colleague who I confided in saying “this is not right” prompted me to leave and never return. I held anger for a long time, however time has brought me to a place of neutrality about the events that happened back then. I’m fortunate to have escaped so easily – and am aware others have endured years and, in some cases, decades of this abuse and control. I would like to help in any way to discourage new members, support ex-members or even encourage current members to disassociate with PY and Pathgate Institute.
Read Lisa’s full statement in full here.
In the early 2010s I made the mistake to place my trust in Pathgate member Loday and believe that place was a safe environment to send my daughter Rachel for a short length of time for some respite. Instead of respite she was slowly indoctrinated and abused over a ten-month period, right up until our escape.
I had planned to stay for one week, however I was emotionally blackmailed with the threat of demons if I left. As I attended the “teachings” It slowly dawned on me that most of what was being said was disturbing. I also slowly figured out I was being lied to, spied on, under some sort of surveillance, blackmailed, expected to obey instructions/orders against my will, and so on.
Over that period Loday interfered in my life to such a degree to contributing making me homeless jolted Rachel into the stark reality of how dangerous, abusive and controlling these people were. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Loday told Rachel that me being made homeless was not a problem — it was karma, nothing to worry about! Loday continued to lie, break promises, snitch/report back to PY all information he could gather etc. I realised Loday is a victim and he was obeying PY’s orders with all he was saying and doing. Personally, I didn’t witness any actions of a real Buddhist. Loday was living in an unrealistic fantasy toxic bubble! But like everyone there, he was brainwashed.
Shortly after, a weekend teaching took place and PY called me names (i.e. garbage) verbally abused me, humiliated me and berated me the whole day in front of everyone and threw a heavy stick at my head that slammed against the wall behind me.
These were just the tip of the iceberg, but it was these episodes that triggered my survival instincts that we had to get safe and leave.
I met PY and his entourage back in April 2009 in Athens, Greece where I was living at that time. It was a very difficult period for me — I was sad and with no motivation in my life, a girl in her late 20s who was trying to find her place in the world.
I was fascinated from the beginning because PY gave me a lot of attention and seemed to care about me. I can say that he understood that I adored him and abused my state. [Eventually I found out that] he was playing with me and that I was not the only [woman he was exploiting]. I felt frustrated and very sad because I understood this was normality for him and that after me, there would be other people suffering the same fate.
[When he understood I was leaving] he started screaming at me over dinner in front of everyone, and offensively saying that I was going to have a terrible future because I had lost the motivation and so on… I can’t remember everything he said. At the end he slapped my face in front of everyone.
I want to share my story because I want to show women that the line between normality and getting involved in a cult is very subtle and if you are in a difficult period it is very easy to be taken advantage of. Don’t be scared of what people tell you in there, nothing bad will happen to you. Buddhism is not like this. You can live a normal life after leaving.
– “Chime Wangmo”
Chime’s full statement here.
I trained and worked for Peter Young from 1999 to around 2001. He is a despicable person who is a narcissist and sadistic human being. He groomed me for years. After a night of terror, being locked in his flat, I left. I posted his face around Newcastle, Jesmond, Sandyford, all over taped to lamp posts saying ‘danger cult leader’. I would please like to be part of this website and have my story told.
– “Alice F.”
I was a student of PY from the late 90’s moving to live in Newcastle in 2000, I stayed there and experienced much of what had been described by others on your site until my “Buddha nature” spoke to me to leave in 2004, ironic as PY would have said this was pride talking… but literally was the only thing that saved me!
I was subject to many forms of abuse and because I had originally joined for the focus on martial arts I was repeatedly hit. Because of my practice I did well in his cult despite initially “breaking every vow possible” and being “destined to linger in hell for many lifetimes”… this came from kissing another student… thankfully PY was there to “clear my negative karma” by systematically beating me..!
I would very much like to connect to others who I may know during my time there as they were truly great people who were so wrongly hurt.
My husband and I were students of PY in the late 90’s. I must admit, at first we were drawn in and totally influenced by him. However, over time we experienced fear and confusion. We were often told that as students we were not wise enough to have opinions and could not trust our own thoughts. There are many negative experiences but the worst was when I told PY that I was leaving and would not be coming back. He was furious and lost his temper, he then went on to tell me that my husband was not right for me and would make me have an unhappy life. He then said that my children were in danger and would suffer as a consequence of leaving. As you can imagine I was distraught.
I am a little nervous of sharing this information even after all these years, but I am happy to if it helps other people in a similar situation.
On a positive note we are still happily married and our children have grown up to have great lives.
…Peter never told/taught me about Buddhism, he told me he was a Taoist Master (which I believed) [as] he was pretty charismatic. I know that some will question this however luckily I have been on his Pathgate website and you can see his martial arts videos… are proper dancing videos (any dancer can emulate any martial arts move only better)… Sorry for this ramble but this guy Peter is a nasty bit of work, he really undermined my confidence for the period I was with him.
John’s full statement here.
For many years I was PY’s loyal student… I learned a lot from my time with him. However, it is the kind of learning one gets from horrible experience. In that sense it is valuable, but I only just managed to get out with my mind intact. It’s taken me years to be able to speak up… The time and money I spent on him, if spent elsewhere, would have advanced me 1000 times further. I have seen many others destroyed, burnt-out or succumb to what can only be described as a kind of deliberate imbecility.
STAY THE F**K AWAY FROM HIM.
Read anon27’s contributions to the Cult Education Forum here.