The Moody Blues
The 'Birds' moved to Florida from the Midwest in early 1969 after Hari Singh attended a January conference of Opticians in Sarasota, Florida. Before returning home they explored the idea of moving to Florida if the logistics could be worked out. Hari Singh then acquired a job offer with the Merritt Optical Laboratory in Orlando, now Apex Optical Laboratory, so they returned home and put their house up for sale, which they had just purchased prior to Thanksgiving of 1968. It was decided that if the house sold quickly, and they realized enough cash flow to pay the moving expenses, they would make the move to Florida. They subsequently moved to Orlando in February of 1969.
Orlando - The City Beautiful
'Hair' tells the story of the "Tribe", a group of politically active,
Sat Nam. The Bird family's first contact with Yogi Bhajan happened a few months after Hari Singh attended a Theosophical Society meeting in Winter Park, a suburb of Orlando, Florida in 1969, not long after the historic Woodstock Music Festival. See 50 Woodstock Photos.
The guest speaker was Yogi John Twombly, a local resident who was living with his parents on Nela Avenue in South Orlando. He had addressed the Orlando chapter of the Theosophical Society concerning Kundalini Yoga and the traditions of India. Note: Yogi John reportedly passed away in the late '80s. Details are unknown.
Yogi John had recently returned to Orlando from a music festival where he met and became a student of Yogi Bhajan. He was the first Florida teacher of Kundalini Yoga and the first head of a 3HO ashram in the Orlando area. (John later married a lady named Soorya).
When Hari Singh returned home from the gathering, he told Hari Kaur that “a guy with long hair, who looked like Jesus” had spoken to the group. He asked Hari Kaur, “What do you think about inviting him to dinner sometime?” She said anytime would be fine, so a date and time was arranged for Yogi John to come to the house.
James George was Yogi Bhajan's first foreign student in India. He used to come to my home to take Yoga lessons from Yogi Bhajan. He and I did the Shankh Prachalaan kriya, a digestive and respiratory cleansing kriya, a few times.
He was so impressed with Yogi Bhajan's yoga techniques that he encouraged him to teach Kundalini Yoga at Toronto University.
After accepting Commissioner James George's invitation and the University's invitation to come and teach Kundalini Yoga, Yogi Bhajan left for Toronto in year 1968.
He left behind three very young children and a wife who had no idea how she could be supported during his absence.
A Ms. Cohen who was his Toronto coordinator met a tragic accident a week earlier before Yogi Bhajan was due to arrive.
The Toronto University position did not pan out and he was left to his own devices and the kindness of his sister-in-law's hospitality until he left for Los Angeles at the invitation of his old Sikh indian Friend, Dr. Amarjit Singh Marwaha, a wealthy and respected community leader and close friend of Mayor Tom Bradley of Los Angeles. After four years, Yogi Bhajan was joined by his family in Los Angeles. A little part of forgotten history.
Note: if you have Netflix, please see "Crazy Wisdom" about the Buddhist Monk who escaped from Tibet and landed in America through UK. Here also, you will notice a photo/interview of Canadian High Commissioner, James George.
When Yogi John came to dinner he advised us that his spiritual teacher -- Yogi Bhajan -- was coming to Orlando in the near future to teach some Kundalini Yoga classes. He also advised that since his parents did not relate to his lifestyle, he did not feel that Yogiji could be properly accommodated in their home. So he asked if Yogiji could stay with the Birds.
We agreed. And when he indicated Yogiji would be bringing a secretary and asked if she, along with Yogi John, could also stay we again agreed.
What really ended up happening was that hours after Yogiji and his secretary, Premka Kaur, arrived a total of 26 house guests showed up, as well as some 'Hog Farm' folks who fortunately stayed in their 'Road Hog' bus since the house had just three bedrooms and only one bathroom.
Yogi Bhajan Arrives In North America
It was September 13, 1968. Harbhajan Singh Yogi, now thirty-nine years of age, waited his turn in the line-up that had just disembarked at Toronto's international airport. In the queue were tourists, professionals, government people and hopeful immigrants. Gradually, Harbhajan's place in line moved up, as people were cleared at the front by the customs inspectors.
Himself having so recently been the chief customs officer at India's busiest airport, Harbhajan Singh savoured the sweet irony of his new status. Finally, the people in front of him were cleared and it was his turn to step forward and engage the officer at his desk. The inspector's eyes took in the papers placed in front of him.
"I am a yogi." Harbhajan Singh, the former customs inspector, had decided to make a break with his past. A new future required a new identity and this was it.
"I am a yogi. You can say it is like a priest. I am a man of God."
"Do you plan to work here?"
"Yes. I have been offered a job at the university here as a teacher of yoga. You can see from the letter here."
"I see. What do you have with you?"
"Only this handbag. My luggage went missing in Amsterdam."
"All right, then. Welcome to Canada!"
The arrivals lounge was packed with people pushing to and fro. You could hear French and English being spoken. There was a cluster of Czech refugees, just arrived, with their precious bundles and suitcases. At 6' 2" tall, Yogi Harbhajan Singh towered over the milling crowd, looking for a familiar face. It was not there.
Yogi Harbhajan, master of patience, went within. An hour he waited, then reached in his pocket for the number of the man from the university who was to receive him. It was Friday afternoon, and he called the office of his sponsor. The secretary who picked up the phone had been expecting his call. She did not have good news. The professor had been involved in a serious traffic accident and died just the day before.
Harbhajan thanked the secretary and offered his condolences. Hanging up the pay phone, he reflected on the briefness of life and the inscrutable course of destiny.
What was he to do now? His employment and all his plans were up in the air. His luggage, so carefully selected and packed, was gone forever. There was not even anyone to receive him at the airport.
At that moment, the Word of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib came to Harbhajan Singh. The lines were from Guru Nanak's Japji Sahib:
"So," Harbhajan the Yogi thought, "it is Your Gift. Thank you!"
Just then he saw the diminutive Canadian masseuse he had known in Delhi. She had made the arrangements for him to teach at the university. The woman had heard the news of the professor's accident and come to the airport alone to receive Harbhajan. Together they took a taxi to her apartment home where she had an extra bedroom prepared for her tired guest.
Fall was in the air. Soon the leaves would be changing colour. The Canada geese would be flying south. It would be Thanksgiving, Halloween, and soon after, the snow would fly.
Yogi Harbhajan Singh had arrived in another hemisphere, very different to what he had been accustomed to. The people here looked strangely blanched compared with the coffee-skinned people of Delhi. They spoke with a different accent, sometimes difficult for Harbhajan to understand. There were lots of cars here, but fewer people.
There was a whole new world for Harbhajan Yogi to explore, but after a little dinner with his hosts and a Kirtan Sohila to himself, it was time to put all this aside and rest for the coming adventure. (Excerpt from "Messenger from the Guru's House" commissioned by Yogi Bhajan in 1983. --
Download Yogi Bhajan's April 13, 1969 lecture here. http://www.sikhnet.com/files/attachments/events/yogi-bhajan-4-13-1969-talk.pdf
Yogi Bhajan 1969
Yogi Bhajan, Early '70s
Yogi Bhajan and Family, 1972
Yogi Bhajan In The Late '60s
*"The person who is at the bottom right is Steve (forget last name), my yoga teacher in Woodstock, NY, in 1970. He was giving free classes in the macrobiotic restaurant at 5 Rock City Road. I moved with him to NYC later in the year, with Yogi Bhajan's blessing. We had gone to Staten Island and talked to Yogiji on Ronnie Keith's house barge, who allowed Kundalini yogis to stay prior to embarking to India. We had a small ashram on Staten Island where we taught classes (also in Manhattan)." DG --
Chief Seattle's Vision
The Hopi Vision
Some of Yogi Bhajan's earliest students spent time in New Mexico and were influenced by Native American Hopi teachings. In June of 1969 Yogiji attended their Summer Solstice Sadhana at the Tesuque Indian reservation outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
At the 1970 Summer Solstice Sadhana, a group of Hopi elders arrived. They spoke of an ancient legend concerning the time before the end of the present age of darkness when a white-clad warrior would come from the East and create an army of warriors in white who would rise up and protect the "Unified Supreme Spirit." They held a sweat lodge ceremony and a sacred arrow was given in trust to him because the elders determined that Yogi Bhajan is the white-clad warrior. See Yogi Bhajan's Mission Is On The March.
Hopi Sun Spirit
Seven years later, in 1977, Yogiji purchased a large parcel of land in the Jemez Mountains where the Hopis had indicated sacred gatherings had taken place for thousands of years, the last being over two thousand years ago. The Hopi elders said the land needed to be prepared so that "the Unified Supreme Spirit can once again be experienced by the great tribes and spread through all the people of the world." The land was named "Guru Ram Das Puri" (the Village of Guru Ram Das, see Map) and the annual 3HO Summer Solstice Sadhana and festivities have occurred there every summer since. See Solstice Sadhana Site Map. Since 1990, these have included a Hopi sacred prayer walk.
"Sadhana is a test of self-grit." Yogi Bhajan
The Hog Farm
The Roots of 3HO 1969
Monterey Pop Festival
Yogiji's First of Several Visits To The Oakmont Lane House, Orlando
So many people showed up from nowhere it seemed, it was a real tight fit to say the least. The swimming pool in the back yard at the Oakmont Lane house ended up being used for bathing, and several holes were dug with shovels to accommodate “nature’s call” on numerous days, since the waiting-line for the one and only bathroom was always a good wait. Early on, Hari Singh became aware of the presence of pot on the premises, so he advised all the guests to dispose of any drugs while at the residence, especially with Yogiji as our very special house guest. Unfortunately, as a consequence, the only commode got plugged due to a bag or bags of pot being flushed.
Leisure Time with Yogi Bhajan
Yogiji would sit on the couch and visit with anyone who was around,
and stayed several days, since he did not have a regular schedule in those days.
At night, Yogiji slept in the third
bedroom, and his secretary, Premka,
slept on the floor. That bedroom was selected, because it had it’s
own air conditioner, and could be regulated separately from the rest
of the house, so the guest’s comfort could be guaranteed. It
was Sat Kartar’s, our son's
bedroom, and during that time he slept on the floor or wherever he
could find a spot in our bedroom, as did our daughter Ong
Kar. The other 20 plus people slept wherever they could. Usually
it was side by side throughout the entire house. Some also slept on
the back porch or the pool deck.
On one occasion, a large boil had developed on Hari Kaur's forehead just prior to one of Yogiji's visits. When Yogiji saw the boil he advised Hari Kaur to slice an onion in half and to heat one half as hot as possible to the touch. He then applied the hot onion to the boil several times in succession and then popped the boil.
Yogiji introduced us all to the idea of showering each day in cold water. He taught that a daily cold shower does wonders for the nervous system. See Ishnaan, The Science of Hydrotherapy. See Guruka Singh's video. See "Got the Blues? Try a Cold Shower."
Yogiji also introduced Hari Kaur and those present to Ashiatsu or 'Back Walking' whereby the spine is realigned and a great deal of tension is released. The first time he applied this technique to Hari Kaur he registered shock at how much adjustment occurred. Hari Kaur has used this technique on receptive people ever since. It really feels great. See OnsiteFamilyHealthcare.com.
Taste Treats with Yogi Bhajan
On another occasion, Hari Singh introduced Yogiji to a special rice dish that he perfected as a young teenager. It's called Sopa Seca or just plain Sopa. It's made with 'tons' of garlic, and lots of onions and tomatoes. Yogiji could not get enough of this dish, and he requested, actually he ordered that Hari Singh prepare a batch of sopa whenever he visited Orlando. Yogiji in turn introduced everybody to things like his renowned Yogi Tea and beet and carrot cassarole. Then, there was avocado on toast with raw garlic, and some of his now famous spicy dishes, some almost too hot to handle. See SopaSeca.com.
Yogi Bhajan Amidst The Orange Blossoms
In 1970, during a Yogi Bhajan visit to Florida, a photographer by the name of Mikio Kuzumoto, a Kundalini Yoga student and active duty Major in the U.S. Air Force at the local airbase, took a series of exceptional photos of Yogiji in the courtyard of a church in Orlando. Yogiji had gone there to conduct a lecture and Kundalini Yoga class. The photos (see below) were taken before a background of blossoming orange trees on the church property. These photos are now in the possession of Sat Kartar Singh and Gurubachan Singh of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
On another occasion, Hari Kaur was looking out of the kitchen window into the back yard and the pool deck. On the deck, were Yogi John and a young woman, Noreen, in full lotus, both naked, being photographed by Mikio. Wondering what Yogiji would think of this, Hari Kaur called for him to come see, and when he looked, he rolled his eyes, shook his head from side to side, shrugged his shoulders, and just walked away without a word.
Yogiji's Unexpected Journey To Orlando
Another time, Yogiji had traveled to the Miami area. He called Hari Singh to say that he had been provided a ticket to Miami, paid for by a student, Suzanna. He was invited to teach Kundalini Yoga and meditation classes in Miami. (In those days, whenever he received a paid fare, he would travel just about anywhere to teach classes.)
So, according to Yogiji and Premka, his travel secretary, when he got to Miami, they were very surprised to have Suzanna make inappropriate advances. Yogiji told her he was interested only in teaching. Whereupon she insisted that he and Premka get out of her vehicle. She then sped away leaving them stranded at the side of the road. Yogiji and Premka hiked to a phone and called Hari Singh for assistance.
Then, while Hari Singh was preparing to leave for Miami, Yogiji again called and said that he and Premka had just enough money between them for a bus ticket to Orlando, and would he please meet them at the Orlando bus station, whereupon Hari Singh met them at the bus station and brought the weary travelers back to the “Bird’s Nest” (Yogiji's words) for a few days of rest and relaxation.
1970 Pop Festival
Yogi Bhajan's visit to the Florida Bird’s Nest in November of 1969 involved attending the Pop Festival, November 28-30, in West Palm Beach. Upon transporting Yogiji to the festival, the rains began, and it was a real gully-washer. Hari Kaur got out of the car with the children (3 and 5 years old at the time) and tried to follow the group into the festival. However, her sandals got sucked off by the 6 inches of mud (more like quicksand), so she gave it up and took the two soaking wet children back to the car where they all went to sleep waiting for the concert to finish. When Yogiji finished his presentation to the group of thousands of mostly young people we proceeded back to Orlando.
"It was cold, it was raining...it was definitely a war zone...
Janis Joplin, Summertime
On occasion Yogiji could be seen rotating mala beads in his hand and we learned that this practice had a very practical as well as a deeply spiritual meaning that involved an ancient technology.
We learned that the mala beads are used as an aid to meditation. The use of a mala can assist the mind to enter a meditative state. The mala beads are moved in rhythm with the breath and mantra, so that both sleep as well as excessive mental distraction can be prevented. See Meditation: How it works. See Healing Practice of Mudras.
Yogi Bhajan with The Children
Ong Kar, now of Herndon, VA, and Sat
Kartar, now of Albuquerque NM, were in pre-school at this time,
and Hari Singh, a licensed Optician,
had lost his job with Winter Park Opticians after he began growing
his hair and beard, which was especially unacceptable by many employers
at the time of the Vietnam War.
Yogi Bhajan and The Atlanta Pop Festival
In the summer of 1970, Yogi Bhajan participated in an informal "Holy Man Jam" at the University of Colorado at Boulder with Swami Satchidananda, Stephen Gaskin of The Farm in Tennessee, Zen Buddhist Bill Quan-roshi, and other local luminaries. A few weeks later, Yogi Bhajan carried that inspiration forward and organized a gathering of spiritual teachers to engage and inspire the 200,000 attendees of the Atlanta Pop Festival on the stage between the performances of the bands.
M.S.S. Livtar Singh Khalsa tells of when he accompanied the Yogi Bhajan, aka, Siri Singh Sahib, to the Atlanta Pop Festival. Livtar Singh said there were a half dozen, or so, different self proclaimed gurus at the event, and all of them were scheduled to go on stage to speak before the Siri Singh Sahib. However the kids were restless, impatient for the concert to begin, many were getting high, and no one paid much attention to guru after guru going onto stage and talking in their quite broken English about how they should meditate.
Then it was finally time for the Siri Singh Sahib to go on stage. Livtar Singh said it was profound to see how within ten minutes or so he had everyone chanting together, singing Sat Nam and moving their arms in what we now call celestial communication.
Afterwards, Livtar Singh asked him, "Sir, I do not understand what happened. You came on stage to an unreceptive crowd and spoke in the same broken English as the others, and yet the result was so different. Why? What do you know, what is your secret."
Livtar Singh said he answered with just one word: "Sadhana."
Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa
The Vietnam War
Little Kim Phuc saw the tails of yellow and purple smoke bombs curling around the Cao Dai temple where her family had sheltered for three days, as North and South Vietnamese forces fought for control of their village.
This June 8, 1972 file photo, above, is of crying children, including 9-year-old Kim Phuc, center, running down Route 1 near Trang Bang, Vietnam after an aerial napalm attack on suspected Viet Cong hiding places as South Vietnamese forces from the 25th Division walk behind them. A South Vietnamese plane accidentally dropped its flaming napalm on South Vietnamese troops and civilians.
From left, the children are Phan Thanh Tam, younger brother of Kim Phuc, who lost an eye, Phan Thanh Phouc, youngest brother of Kim Phuc, Kim Phuc, and Kim's cousins Ho Van Bon, and Ho Thi Ting.
Yogi Bhajan Reaching Out
The First 3HO Winter Solstice Sadhana
"Sadhana is a test of self-grit." -- Yogi Bhajan
In December 1971, in preparation for the first 3HO Winter Solstice Sadhana, Yogi John Twombly arranged for the gathering to occur at the newly acquired ashram in a residential area called Pine Hills, in western metro-Orlando. Hari Singh, then employed by the Orange County Health Department as a drug abuse counselor and yoga teacher at Thee Door, later known as The Center For Drug-Free Living, (and more recently, as Aspire Health Partners) advised Yogi John against holding the Winter Solstice Sadhana at the Pine Hills location.
The ashram site was seen
as being too small and without adequate facilities and permits. Yogi John
however, indicated that he preferred not to engage any “establishment
red tape” with the authorities and that despite Hari Singh's
advice he would proceed as planned.
Yogiji took charge of the scene and phoned Hari Singh to get engaged with the situation, and lend any assistance in order to mitigate the dilemma. Shortly after Hari Singh and Herb Brockman, a colleague from Thee Door, arrived at the Pine Hills ashram, Yogiji directed Yogi John to contact the Green Acres Mobile Home Park about 4-5 miles away. Arrangements were made and Yogi John advised all the Solstice Sadhana arrivals of plans to move the Winter Solstice to the Green Acres site.
The Winter Solstice Sun at Stonehenge
The Orlando Sentinel-Winter Solstice Sadhana Article
We returned to the Pine Hills ashram with the kids in the early evening
intending to drive to the site in a caravan. Upon arrival, Yogiji
met us and directed the four of us to take him in our little VW Bug
to the Green Acres campsite, which was located at 9701 S. State Road
434, on Forest City Road in Seminole County, before its demise in
the late '90s or early 2000.
He then got out of the car and proceeded to direct the following caravan to the right fork that led to the site, waving the flashlight, whereupon he jumped back into our VW and directed us to proceed to the front of the column again before we reached Green Acres, which was about a 10-15 minute drive from the Pine Hills Ashram. What a great ride! What a great night! What a great Winter Solstice Sadhana!
3HO Winter Solstice 1971
Today's 3HO Winter Solstice Sadhana Site. Click here.
3HO First Family 1972
3HO Winter Solstice Sadhana 2012
3HO Orlando Ashram Resident
"Yogi John Twombly told me the way he met Yogi Bhajan is he was hiking through the California mountains in June of 1969 and walked up on the Summer Solstice Sadhana. And I attended the Celebration of Life rock festival in rural Louisiana between Alexandria and Baton Rouge, in July of 1971. I went to a few of Yogi John's classes and I moved into the Pine Hills ashram in Orlando a few days after I turned 18. I went to the first Winter Solstice Sadhana at Green Acres in December, 1971." -- Suchitar Singh
The Celebration of Life Music Festival
Solstice Sadhana - A Spiritual Retreat
Solstice Sadhana Security
Yogi Bhajan was a former Indian Army officer and Customs official. From the very beginning, he stressed the importance of Security, Safety and Service (Seva) as an important exercise in Group Consciousness.
Around-the-clock Security at all Solstice Sadhana entrances and exits was SOP, Standard Operating Procedure. This included Security Sevadars wearing red or yellow armbands, checking everyone's camp-authorized ID, and everybody signing in and out when entering and exiting the campground. See Video.
We had around-the-clock roving or stationary-post Sentries assigned to all camp areas including the camp perimeter, registration center, White Tantra Yoga stage, merchant's bizarre area, kitchen and food stock areas, showers and toilets, children's camp, medical tent, and the tent camp area. Sevadars wore special arm bands and carried whistles and flashlights. Their duties included hazard alerts, traffic control and rendering assistance to Solstice Sadhana attendees with special eyes-and-ears attention to all security issues. See What Is Security? See General Protocols. See Rules of Conduct. See proposed Security Organizational Structure.
The Solstice Sadhana Security Team is responsible for the physical safety and well-being of the participants and the camp. The primary duties of the Security Team are to staff the camp entrance, welcome attendees, monitor the flow of traffic (both pedestrian and vehicular) into and out of camp, patrol the entire camp, act as an information resource for all attendees, maintain order in the parking areas, and coordinate with other service areas, local law enforcement, and emergency response teams in the event of an emergency. Through the successful completion of our duties we hold the space for a peaceful and joyous camp experience for all.
NOTE: SERVICE EXCHANGE IS NOW AVAILABILE. If you wish to serve as a member of the SECURITY TEAM, contact us here. No previous security experience is necessary. All service exchange members will be trained. See Video.
It was a real challenge getting volunteers, especially for security duty, since it involved around-the-clock shifts. But then we adopted rotating schedules. This allowed Security Team Members to attend at least some of Yogiji's lectures and the White Tantra Yoga sessions.
A spirit of cooperation between individuals allowed Sevadars to participate in other camp activities. This spirit has been an important part of the Solstice Sadhana experience from the very beginning.
Over the years, more experienced staff members, including Security Team volunteers (apply here) with previous Solstice Sadhana experience, have organized and implemented the Rules of Conduct, diet, and all aspects of the Security, Safety and Service programs. See Who Is Responsible For Your Security. See Why Are White Tantra Yoga Classes So 'White'? See ToServeIsToSucceed.com.
SOLSTICE SADHANA IS A SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE
THE SOLSTICE SADHANA DIET
The diet is a simple, nutritious, and cleansing yogic vegetarian diet (much of the diet is vegan). Yogi Bhajan designed this diet to support the Solstice experience. The spicy soup for breakfast and spicy mung beans and rice served at dinner are part of his recommendations. Note: A non-spicy version of the soup and dinner dish is available to anyone who cannot tolerate spicy food.
Organic Food Upgrade
Meals are included in the registration fee, and much of the food at Solstice Sadhana is organic. However, we’ve had overwhelming requests for more organic food. If you prefer eating organic, please contribute to the support of organics.
Bring reusable/washable cups, dishes, utensils, and cloth napkins for your own use at meals. Cups, dishes, and utensils may be purchased on-site.
Breakfast: A potato, celery, and onion soup is served with bananas and oranges on the side.
Lunch: Quinoa tabouli, hummus, stuffed grape leaves, tortillas (Special note: Because Yogi Bhajan did not design a specific lunch menu, this meal may vary somewhat.)
Solstice Sadhana Soup
Yogi Tea: Yogi Tea with soy milk or cow’s milk (upon request) will be served twice daily: after Sadhana and nightly at the Yogi Tea Café. There are also hot water and alternative Yogi Tea options provided all day long. On White Tantra Yoga days, Golden Milk will be added to the menu. Golden Milk is a traditional recipe for joint health. It is a delicious combination of milk, turmeric, cardamom, and almond oil.
Special Dietary Needs: If you have special dietary concerns, we cannot support them in the kitchen. You may bring dry foods, however please do not bring anything that requires refrigeration. We also suggest you keep any food items in a tight lidded container so animals cannot get into it.
"It takes 40 days to break a habit;
The Adi Shakti de Guadalupe Mural
Guru Singh's Solstice Sadhana Wake Up Song
The Sing-a-Long Lyrics
Rise up, rise up, sweet family dear
Rise up, rise up, sweet family dear
Lord will bless you so many ways
Rise up, rise up, sweet family dear
Rise up, rise up, sweet family dear
Rise up, rise up, sweet family dear
The Early 1970s
Yoga Classes at Orange County Jail and Thee Door
During the 1970-1972 time frame Hari Singh taught Kundalini Yoga classes in the Orange County Jail as a part of an Orange County, Florida initiative called 'Thee Door', an anti-drug, youth outreach program of the Orange County Health Department. Hari Singh coined 'Thee Door' as the name of the program.
In 1971 Governor Reuben Askew appointed a visionary* figure, Mel Coleman, to succeed retiring Sheriff Dave Starr (photo), who was an alleged Ku Klux Klan figure. Sheriff Coleman authorized unprecedented access by Thee Door counselors to serve the jail population, mostly drug offending inmates, which included the teaching of Kundalini Yoga and meditation by Hari Singh, inside the jail. See Letter From Sheriff Colman's Office.
The program was administered from Health Department facilities on West Central Avenue, in a former grade school building just west of downtown Orlando, where Hari Singh also conducted Kundalini Yoga classes and counseling. Thee Door was under the direction of Dr. Wilfred Sisk, the Orange County Health Officer, another visionary who initiated the program. It later came under the supervision of his appointee, Marge Jackson. See Letter From Marge Jackson.
*Note: The time frame of these events was the late '60s - early '70s in the Deep South during much civil rights unrest. According to the Orlando Sentinel, "Former Orange County Sheriff Dave Starr, who served from 1949 to 1971, was identified as a Klansman in sworn statements to the FBI. So was former Apopka police Chief William Dunnaway and other powerful county and city officials who ran local government agencies decades ago. These affiliations were documented when the Orlando Sentinel obtained decades-old FBI records in 1991, e.g., "Southern police departments were filled with Klansmen and Klan sympathizers in the '50s and '60s, according to Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center."
During this time, Yogi Bhajan made plans to again visit Orlando on a Florida teaching tour. Hari Singh advised the student inmates well in advance of Yogiji's possible visit inside the jail, which generated all kinds of excitement. After Yogiji arrived and was granted clearance to enter the jail, he spent almost an hour of quality time with the inmates inside their classroom cell, an experience they long remembered.
The head teacher at the Denver, CO ashram resigned in late 1972. Yogi Bhajan contacted Hari Singh at the December, 1972, 3HO Winter Solstice Sadhana and asked that he fly to Denver to check out the possibility of moving there to fill the vacancy, which he did.
Upon his return, Hari Singh learned that the Health Department office building had burned to the ground and that there were no immediate plans to rebuild the structure. The Hari's saw this development as a significant indicator of the direction of their destiny, whereupon they put their Orlando residence up for sale and subsequently moved to Denver in February of 1973.
Yogi Bhajan, in his role as the Siri Singh Sahib, ordained Hari Singh and Hari Kaur as Sikh ministers, i.e., Singh Sahib and Sardarni Sahiba of Sikh Dharma respectively, September 1, 1973, in Denver, Colorado. He later proclaimed Hari Singh to be Mukhia Singh Sahib of Sikh Dharma in April, 1978, in Los Angeles, California.
Early Kundalini Yoga Sets
3HO Ashram Residents, San Rafael, CA, February 1973
Summer Solstice 1973
The First House of Guru Ram Das in Denver, Colorado
There were several 3HO students living in the rented Clayton Street ashram in Denver who were operating Hanuman's Conscious Cookery restaurant (later renamed Golden Temple Conscious Cookery) on University Boulevard just around the corner from the Denver University campus. See I replaced drugs with Kundalini Yoga.
The Second House of Guru Ram Das in Denver, Colorado
Within a few months the Hari's purchased a larger two-story brick home at 1072 Josephine Street across from the Denver Botanical Gardens, in which to house the residents of the 3HO ashram known as the House of Guru Ram Das.
A short time later, the Hari's children, Ong Kar Kaur and Sat Kartar Singh, left for grade school at Nanak's 5th Centennial School in Mussorie, India for one school year, in 1974. This experience gave them valuable insights, which have remained with them to this day.
Ong Kar Kaur and Sat Kartar Singh in India 1973
Ong Kar and Sat Kartar, India, 1974
Our Son's Letter From India
Some years later, upon visiting India again, Sat Kartar sent a letter and a photo home dated January 8, 1991, which reads in part:
"At Paonta Sahib, there was this old man that stayed in a corner on the 2nd stoop. He faced the Gurdwara. He was dressed in a white turban, white beard, and white body wrap. He had a bowl, mat, blanket and cane.
clothes and possessions were grayed from dirt. The slow dirt. The
dirt from little washing and a lot of time, his brown skin actually
made his clothing seem white now that I think about it. In any event,
his life was Bani and
Shabad (to do with Sacred Words and Sacred
The 8:50 Laugh-ins
It seemed like almost every evening after dinner and after yoga class the residents would gather somewhere in the ashram, the sadhana room, the kitchen, or elsewhere for a 'laugh-in'. Somebody would share an incident of their day or a story and all those present would engage in banter and laughter. Then, invariably, someone would look at the clock or their watch and announce the time. Almost always, it was 8:50, and this would set off another round of giddiness. Very funny and interestingly curious phenomenon.
The Khalsa String Band
The Khalsa String Band came to Denver for a concert in 1975 and entertained patrons at the Golden Temple Conscious Cookery. The restaurant closed later in that year when the ashram residents initiated other enterprises more in line with the group energy.
The '70s also saw the arrival in Denver of Guru Maharaji, the juvenile spiritual teacher from Dehra Dun, India, who established the Divine Light Mission organization in Denver. This was also the time when Mahareshi Mahesh and The Beatles, Baba Ram Dass, Timothy Leary, Alan Watts, Swami Satchidananda and others were gaining influence with the youth of the day.
You Can Make The Sun Shine
Stand For Righteousness
All For One
The Denver Ashram Expands To The Suburbs
The Hari's purchased an additional personal residence in 1976, on a cul-de-sac in Aurora, CO, a suburb of Denver at 17490 East Gunnison Place, with the intention of creating a community of separate, clustered, satellite residences.
The ashram residents began marrying and the need to expand their living area became apparent. The 3HO Washington, DC ashram subsequently adopted this same concept in Herndon, Virginia following a visit to the Denver area and the Aurora house by Lehri Singh and his wife Ganga Bhajan Kaur.
Yogiji's Clandestine Visit To Aurora, Colorado
At one point in the late '70s there were serious reports of a plot to assassinate Yogiji to wit he came to the Aurora house for some days under clandestine circumstances, i.e., nobody knew of his whereabouts except the Birds. Yogiji would speak only cryptically to his staff on the phone so nobody could figure out where he was hold up. At one point he was heard to tell Hari Har Kaur on the phone, "I'm at the house where the water flows under the table," referring to a uniquely made coffee table with an attached water fall underneath. The Hari's even provided Yogiji with a key to their home in the event it was ever needed again as a Safe House. Yogiji commented at the time, "You know, Hari Singh, this is the only key I have to a home. I don't even have a key to my own."
all doctors are healers.
In 1974 Hari Kaur had the good fortune to meet Hanna Kroeger in Boulder with regard to some health issues. Hanna was well known as a healer and health educator. She was the proprietor of Hanna's Herb Shop in Boulder and was the subject of considerable controversy among the established medical community. (Hanna passed away in May of 1998.)
After seeing Hari Kaur, Hanna recommended that she visit a man "with X-ray vision" (her words), named Harvey Bevier, a former World War II bomber pilot, who was a visionary mystic and shaman-healer in Denver. He normally provided his treatments out of a small residence on Hooker Street.
Hari Kaur's successful treatments at the hands of Harvey turned out to be the beginning of a very special relationship between Harvey and the entire 3HO Denver-Boulder community.
Later, the Hari's introduced Harvey to Yogi Bhajan during one of Yogiji's meditation and White Tantra Yoga teaching tours in the Denver area. Harvey treated Yogi Bhajan thereafter with his special 'karate chiropractic' procedures at the Denver ashram on several of Yogiji's visits. In fact, the first time Harvey applied his moves to Yogiji, a much larger man, Yogiji registered his surprise at Harvey's ability to effortlessly lift him off the stool. Yogiji's response, a resounding, "Wow!"
At one point, Hari Singh asked Harvey about his characteristic navel-setting cough each time he applied one of his many body-aligning moves. Harvey said that the practice was taught to him by his teacher in order to prevent any over-adjustment in the application of his technique. Yogiji later said that Harvey employed a kind of treatment use by the ancient Egyptians thousands of years ago. He was so impressed with Harvey's treatments that he always insisted on seeing him whenever he came to Denver.
Harvey came to the Denver ashram one Sunday each month for a while to treat those who wanted to see him. He never charged a fee, but folks always left sizable offerings for his services. Harvey passed away in December of 1993.
White Tantra Yoga
White Tantra Yoga Meditation
“A Kundalini Yoga kriya is a sequence of postures, breath and sound that are integrated together to allow the manifestation of a particular state. When you execute a kundalini kriya the result of its repetition is the access to, and mastery of a particular, predictable and stable state – a facet of your awareness.” The Aquarian Teacher
White Tantra Yoga
Voice of An Angel
During the '70s Hari Singh Bird taught Kundalini Yoga and meditation classes in several Colorado locations including state and federal prisons. At this time Singh Kaur Khalsa was a resident at the Denver House of Guru Ram Das. She accompanied Hari Singh to these classes on numerous occasions. Singh Kaur possesses a crystal-clear, angelic voice and presence. She led the meditation portion of classes with her voice and her guitar.
Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
The Transformation of Me Into We
Utilizing his training and experience as a Drill Instructor while a member of the Marine Corps Reserve, Hari Singh incorporated aspects of close order drill into the Denver ashram early morning sadhana in the '70s, as a means of stimulating and maintaining maximum group participation.
Yogi Bhajan subsequently asked Hari Singh to travel to the Phoenix, AZ and San Francisco, CA ashrams in 1978 to lead close order drill as a part of the ashram resident's early morning sadhana experience. ("If you cannot walk together, you cannot work together." Yogi Bhajan)
During Hari Singh's Phoenix visit an incident occurred whereby the formation of ashram residents were drilling during early morning (before sunrise) sadhana in a nearby park. A lady resident of the ashram was carrying her infant daughter. At some point during the maneuvers and because of her desire to participate in the group activity she secured the sleeping infant on a park table thinking that the group would remain in close proximity. Hari Singh however, marched the formation some distance away unaware of the child's circumstances. The park police on routine patrol happened to find the child just as the formation returned to the area. Guru Liv Singh, the head of the Phoenix ashram, and Hari Singh had a lot of explaining to do in order to satisfy the park police as to what was going on after which the group, with the child safely in tow, marched back to the ashram for the conclusion of morning sadhana.
Also, in the late '70s and early '80s, at the request of Yogi Bhajan, Hari Singh served as the Drill Master for the Select Rifle Drill Team at the 3HO Women's Training Camp, formerly Khalsa Women's Training Camp (KWTC), Espanola, NM, now the International Women's Camp, IWC. See an inspiring account of one woman's Drill Team experience at the Khalsa Women's Training Camp.
3HO Sikhs at the Golden Temple 1979
"It is incumbent on those who know to teach those who do not know."
The U.S. Air Force Academy
Yogiji visits the Sikh Cadets at
The Denver Experience Ends
From February, 1973 until its closing in June of 1984, the Josephine Street House of Guru Ram Das ashram was a host to many Kundalini Yoga students and others looking for shelter, rest, counseling, food, employment, and other assistance.
Some of today's baby boomers are former residents and guests of the Denver ashram. And the ashram hosted the Indian Sikh community as a Gurdwara, a Sikh house of worship, for a number of years as well. (See the November 4, 1974 issue of the Denver Post's Religion News Weekly with photos by Bill Peters.)
The ashram business enterprises evolved over several years from the restaurant into Khalsa Residential and Commercial Services, a successful janitorial-cleaning service until 1984, when it closed due to staff attrition partially due to ashram singles wishing to marry and married couples desiring to acquire appropriate housing in order to raise children, and the resulting decline in ashram resources.
In June of 1984 the Hari's returned to residency in Florida, in Winter Park, a suburb just north of Orlando, whereupon Hari Singh opened a private, joint Optometrist-Optician practice in Southeast Orlando some months later.
The practice was sold to a group of local eye physicians in 1992 when Hari Singh joined the optometric practice of Dr. Steven Burkstaller in Roswell, NM while volunteering his services as the Sikh Chaplain for the newly admitted Sikh cadets at the New Mexico Military Institute, from whence Ong Kar and Sat Kartar had previously graduated in 1982 and 1984 respectively as the first Sikh attendees and graduates of NMMI, thanks to the efforts of then Assistant Chancellor for Sikh Dharma, M.S.S. Ram Das Singh. Both graduated with high honors along with many fond memories of their experiences as cadets. --
The Sikhs at NMMI, early '90s
First Sikh Alumni return to NMMI 2012
Gallery of 3HO Legacy Teachers
Legacy Teachers are all of those early students of Yogi Bhajan who sat at his feet, who were personally chiseled by him, and who deliver his teachings today. Until recently, this crusty group of greying middle-agers and senior citizens was affectionately referred to as “the old-timers.” Maybe they’re not so old. Didn’t the Master tell us that age is measured by flexibility of the spine? Many of the so-called old timers have very flexible spines. These early pioneers of our Dharma were sent by Yogi Bhajan to teach Kundalini Yoga all over the world. Some had everything to lose and nothing to gain. They opened ashrams, led spiritual communities, and inspired people through their lifestyle and their devotion to Yogiji’s teachings. They stood the test of time and the test of fire of the Master’s personal touch.
Legacy Teachers are now sharing their stories. Each of them in some unique way was touched by the Master and transformed, uplifted, and healed. These experiences and stories are part of Yogi Bhajan’s legacy. Through them we get little glimpses into the amazing and beautiful teacher who gave his all to his students so that they could become the teachers of future generations. The stories are inspiring, funny, insightful, and always show the way to God. -- Kirpal Singh Khalsa, Ph.D.
Gallery is open to all 3HO Legacy Teachers of the '70s genre.
Aquarian Age Wake Up Call