The "Perfect" Turban
There might be a great deal of pride among these new Sikhs. There could also be light-hearted comedic moments.
One Sikh said to the other, "Yogi Bhajan showed me how to tie a turban."
The other said, "Yeah?'
The first Sikh, "Yes, and I tied it myself and it's perfect."
For a moment, it was perfect, but perhaps the ego of the wearer spoiled the perfect alignment of the folds and creases of the turban because just at that moment, the frontal layer of the turban unraveled and fell comically from the crown and into the face of the first Sikh – to the quiet delight and amusement of the other.
Lawton Boseman and Richard Lasser lived together and regularly took Yogi Bhajan's classes. It was April 19, celebrated as Baisakhi Day, and the two of them were going to the Sikh Study Circle on Vermont Avenue. Yogi Bhajan had told them it was a special day, and they were going to go see what it was all about.
As they made their way, Richard told Lawton that he was going to become a Sikh that day.
"Why are you going to do that?" asked Lawton.
"Because my teacher is a Sikh and I want to be like him," replied his friend.
"Okay, I'll do it too."
When Lawton and Richard arrived at the Sikh Study Circle, they announced their intention to the people they found there. These Sikhs from India had never before seen a non-Sikh who wanted to become a Sikh. They were stumped. What should they do? One of them phoned to ask Yogi Bhajan what he thought should be done. He advised them that all they needed to do was simply give these young people to the Siri Guru Granth Sahib. There was no need to tell them anything. The young men would know what they needed to do.
*His recent testimonial follows.
"Years ago---back in the early 70's my brother Joseph invited me to a 3HO Kundalini Yoga Intensive that was offered in the mountains outside of Boulder, Colorado. We had just lost our little brother and our family had suffered much before this sad event. I went with sister Mary Lynn to spend some quality time Joseph. It was a silent retreat with class after class of yoga and meditation. These yogi's were wearing turbans and called themselves Sikhs. I got up at 3:45 am with my brother to take a cold shower and prepare for the morning Sadhana (spiritual discipline). All of this was amazing to me. Cleaning my blood with pranayam (breathing techniques) and sweating through rigorous yoga techniques left me ready for meditation. During this retreat ...a Sikh spoke of family and praying and living happy--healthy--and holy lives. I got Higher than a kite---acid and peyote were no longer needed for me to have expanded awareness. The catch was that Sikhs, being very aware and with healthy nervous systems, did give up their lives for freedom. How could I not be attracted to people who put their heads on the ground and put their lives at risk for others. Thank you and Happy Holidays...for touching the lives of my family, and for your courage and love. Sat Nam." --
A simple ceremony was improvised. Two men from the congregation graciously offered the steel karas from their wrists so that these new Sikhs might have them to wear. The youths stood before the Guru and the congregation.
In front of the assembled Sikhs, most of whom had cut their hair and shaven their beards in an effort to "Americanize", the president spoke, somewhat awkwardly, to the two sparkly-eyed Americans, "Well, you've got the beard and the turban... I guess you know what to do."
The Peace-Giving Name
In the Aquarian Age, nothing exists in isolation. Even for those of Yogi Bhajan's students who immersed themselves completely in their new lifestyle, violence from outside occasionally intruded on their peaceful reality.
In April 1970, when a gathering of the Master's devotees assembled at the arrivals terminal of the Washington airport, chanting softly in anticipation of his coming, the airport police thought they were demonstrators and forced them to leave.
Once the Master arrived, he stayed for a week, teaching classes and encouraging the local Kundalini Yogis in their efforts. Yogi Bhajan also took time to visit local Congressmen, assuring them that not all America's longhaired young were violent insurrectionists.
On a quiet Tuesday evening, Yogi Bhajan and his students found their way to a small lecture room at the American University. The Master delivered a talk on the power of Sat Nam and the dawning age of self-awareness. But just as he finished his presentation and the questions drew to a close, the sound of shattering glass resonated up the hallway.
There, in the main auditorium, anarchist Jerry Rubin had just given a talk of his own, inciting his student audience to destroy the system, beginning with the very building they were in. There was a distinct smell of smoke as the rioters torched the place.
In the room with the Master, someone picked up a guitar and the peaceful Yogis spontaneously began chanting to ride out the pandemonium. They continued and continued, until police and firemen finally arrived to guide them safely outside. The evening provided everyone with a violent reminder of the polarized state of the American union – and the remedy of chanting the Name.
The Darkness Before the Dawn
"Twenty million started out.
"It's been a long time comin'.
The Yogi Bhajan story simply cannot be told without referring to the world in which he lived. Ganga was probably not the only one who saw in "the Yogi" the answer to the prayers of a generation, but the challenge for us now, nearly forty years later, is to comprehend the spirit and substance of those times. Much of what happened then may be difficult for us now, in our comfortable, polluted paradise, to believe.
This was America at war, and to a large extent, it was at war with itself. It was Yogi Bhajan's gift to be able to see this and, day by day, to minister to its casualties, to garner new volunteers, and to train his gentle forces for a long march to peace, freedom and ultimate humanity.
War was breaking out all over. The palpable frustration of the young and the bold boiled over into the streets. In Chicago, began a show trial of some of the younger generation's brightest political strategists. Outside the court, demonstrations grew, and finally on October 8, three hundred activists outfitted with helmets, goggles, cushioned jackets, chains, pipes, and clubs stunned the country by smashing cars and windows in the wealthy Gold Coast neighbourhood, charging right into a formation of two thousand riot police.
By the next weekend, hundreds of thousands peacefully marched on Washington and campuses and state capitols across the nation demonstrating their opposition to the government's undeclared war across the sea in Vietnam. In November, a group of First Nations activists struck a blow against the empire by seizing and holding the rocky island of Alcatraz, off the California coast. It was a public act of insubordination and a strike for Red Power. Three days later, a reporter broke the story of the massacre of 109 civilians by scared and stupefied American troops in the village of My Lai back two months earlier. Then, come December, fourteen Chicago police took their revenge on the tide of violent activism by raiding an apartment and shooting dead two Black Panthers while they slept.
Outside of sanctuaries where health, happiness and holiness were the regimen of the day, even the flower children were losing their innocence. Too many drugs, too many dealers, too much ripping off, was grating the tender psyches of psychedelic crowd. And then there were the bad hippies. Before Woodstock was over, a coven of drug-crazed killers had been arrested for the widely-publicized murders of a pregnant actress and several others at their rural California digs.
Finally, on December 6, came the great Anti-Woodstock: the Altamont Free Concert, near San Francisco. Instead of Wavy Gravy and the Hog Farmers, the organizers enlisted Hell's Angels to police the hundreds of thousands at the festival. The event was full of bad vibes from the beginning, and did not end without a near riot and the murder of a young spectator by the Angels while "Sympathy for the Devil" hooted and echoed into the night.
For many, John Lennon and Yoko Ono served as voices of dispassion in an otherwise chaotic time. Their days of bedding in for peace at hotel rooms in Amsterdam and Montreal back in June had struck an incredulous chord around the world. Why indeed couldn't people just make love, not war? At year's end, they hired billboards around the world to say: "War Is Over If You Want It – Happy Christmas from John and Yoko." Lennon could be innocent and sweet, but was also capable of biting and cold, as in "Cold Turkey," Lennon's hit from the fall. His next hit single, apart from the Beatles was "Instant Karma."
Things moved so quickly… A Senator from Wisconsin called on students to fight environmental degradation with the same intensity that they opposed war. The first "Earth Day" was scheduled for April 22, and preparations were going well. Meanwhile, three hundred hard-core activists held a council in Flint, Michigan and decided to continue their efforts to destroy the system from underground. Soon, the FBI's most wanted list would be expanded from "Ten Most Wanted" to Sixteen. Half of them were wanted for crimes against the state. Army recruiting centers, government buildings and banks were favored targets for destruction. According to a U.S. Department of Treasury survey, in 1970 every week saw an average of forty-two politically motivated bombings or acts of arson.
Outside the court houses, the war in America was partly a war of symbols. To be young with hair over your ears would mark you for suspicion from the police if, you happened to be a male. In the U.S. South, it might get you put in jail and a free haircut. If you ate granola, it was a dead giveaway that you smoked pot. Granola was hippie food, and hippies smoked pot. In those days, it was irreversible logic and usually true. Hippies ate other things too: sprouts and wheat germ, yogurt and whole wheat bread, brown rice and tamari. That the foods were healthy was one thing. That they challenged the status quo made them insurrectionary and potentially dangerous.
The revolution had its own music. The soft, plaintive sounds of mid-1960s, with the likes of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez and Peter-Paul-and-Mary, and The Incredible String Band, was mixed with the more strident sounds of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, the Who, the Rolling Stones, Crosby-Stills-Nash-and-Young, and potentially, the Beatles. Then there was also Ravi Shankar, in a class of his own.
Hippie reading encompassed much that was practical and quite a lot that was purely visionary. The Whole Earth Catalogue, first issued in 1968, provided all the information you ever needed to set up a homestead and survive on your own. Romantics inclined more toward the lilting verses of Kahlil Gibran's, The Prophet. Acidheads would prefer something by Timothy Leary who proclaimed LSD to be the avatar of our times. Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five was a favorite read for its surrealistic take on the absurdity of war. Politicos would prefer something more rowdy, like Jerry Rubin's Do It!
There was media too. Dissenting views and appearances were mostly excluded from the great television monopolies, excepting when CBS's news anchor Walter Cronkite would offer the kids a sympathetic word or when, once a week on select stations, the frantic musical Monkees would air their hair-raising antics. Mostly it was on FM radio that you would hear the longhair music, the longer cuts. Shorter three minute versions aired on AM.
Where the hippies really proliferated was in print. Hundreds of weekly journals opened up with the Liberation News Service, a radical Reuters, linking them all together. Out west, there was the Los Angeles Free Press, the San Francisco Oracle and the Berkeley Barb. Atlanta had The Great Speckled Bird, Austin its Rag, and there was the Chicago Seed, and the Village Voice in Greenwich Village. Even Easley, South Carolina had its Aquarian Times. Up north, there was Vancouver's Georgia Straight, Prairie Fire in Regina, the Octopus in Ottawa and the Harbinger in Toronto. Over in Europe, Amsterdam had its Om and London its Oz, and there were many, many others.
People created the fervent, the movement, the demonstrations, the ashrams, the yoga classes, the free schools, the free concerts, the free kitchens – and the underground media reported it, mythologized it, and nurtured it by giving it other people's attention.
Because of their history in New Mexico among the Hopi and Pueblo tribes, the hippies had enjoyed their cooperation through the late 60s. Now, however, the situation at the canyon was becoming strained. The natives found the nude bathing of the hippies in their stream offensive. They were also particular that any fire was a sacred fire which required a ceremony to be lit, and that non-natives not light any campfires whatsoever.
Seeing that Yogi Bhajan and his students were about to be evicted from the reservation, a friendly métis by the name of Robert Bossier offered them the use of his arid acreage nearby. Within a few hours, all the goods and people had been accounted for and neatly packed into a caravan of about forty vehicles on the dirt road at the entrance to the site. Once everything was in readiness, Yogi Bhajan took up his position as traffic cop in the middle of the main road and, swinging a large shawl over his head, began to urge the drivers onto the highway. "Go, go, go!" he shouted as they pulled out and gained speed and traction on the asphalt.
It was a fine exercise moving in unison, but the best was yet to come. When the second-last vehicle had pulled out and turned right to follow the others, Yogi Bhajan commandeered the final one – an under-powered Saab with Dawson, the head of the nearby Espanola ashram. With unswerving faith, the Master urged his doubting charioteer to enter the opposing lane of the narrow highway and to speed ahead - to pass one, two, three, four of the vehicles on the right. Over rises and around blind curves and bends they went, Dawson's face and hands sweating on the wheel. Then eight, nine, ten, eleven - minute by minute, second by precarious second… Another eighteen nineteen twenty twenty-one twenty-two twenty-three – and onward… thirty-six, thirty-seven, thirty-eight, thirty-nine, forty, forty-one – until at last they had miraculously passed the whole column and taken the lead position at the head of the caravan.
Finally, the new site loomed up ahead, past the landmark Camel Rock. There it was: a patch of dry unremarkable riverbed, a piece of the tawny semi-desert stretching out from the side of the road. The column paused and the vehicles made their way, one by one off the road and down a steep, crumbly embankment.
For those who stuck with the Yogi, there would be no possibility of going back, no thought of it even. It didn't matter that there were no facilities, no water, nothing, not even a way out. For the next days, this would be their home. Somehow things would work themselves out. For now, they were there, and that was that. And that was all that mattered.
The Visit of the Hopi Elders
Some would say this was the first truly 3HO Solstice. This time, there was no psychedelic bus race, hardly any psychedelics, and less nudity and casual sex. In contrast with previous events, Kundalini Yoga was the main event and Yogi Bhajan master of ceremonies. This was also the first solstice with a price attached: all of $5!
The Santa Clara Canyon where everyone gathered was located on an Indian reservation. This idyllic location was an outcome of the longstanding rapport between the tribes of New Mexico and the new longhaired tribes from the cities. It had a clear mountain stream, meadows of long sweetgrass, and tall beautiful pine trees. The place was high enough in the mountains that there was a dusting of snow when everyone awoke that first morning.
As it happened, at that time a delegation of Hopi Indian medicine men, very old men with long white hair, came to visit. Yogi Bhajan received them all with respect and they returned his consideration.
The elders had come to share their tradition with the great yogi, just as many of his students had learned from the Hopis, only these were very respected medicine men. As they sat together, the ancient seers told Yogi Bhajan of huge gatherings of spiritual people that had taken place for a hundred thousand years. They described how the heroes and leaders of those times would gather all over the Americas and across the Bering Strait to celebrate and sanctify the "One Unified Supreme Spirit." That spirit existed in everyone. By gathering together in this way, they believed the spirit would manifest more clearly.
According to the Hopi elders, the gatherings occurred every one hundred and eight years. In this way, everyone who attended had heard about the event from someone who had experienced the last meeting. The last one had taken place over two thousand years ago. At that time, it was decided that the forces of destruction and violence, disharmony and perversion were increasing so forcefully that their sacred traditions needed to be protected and kept from the onslaught of that darkness. The Hopi tribe was elected to be the keeper of the One Unified Supreme Spirit.
The medicine men went on to say that, according to their sacred tradition, just before the darkness reached its height, a white-clothed warrior would come from the East and create an army of warriors dressed in white who would rise up and protect the One Unified Supreme Spirit. This would be the final battle between good and evil. The elders continued that they had come to give the sacred duty of keeping and protecting the One Unified Supreme Spirit to Yogi Bhajan since they had determined he was the warrior in white of their prophesy.
After the exchange, there was a sweat lodge ceremony to seal the bond between the two tribes, the one ancient and Western, the other newly from the East. Many of Yogi Bhajan's students participated, although they did not know what to make of the visit of the ancient shamen. The Master, however, was clearly affected by their teachings. A great responsibility had been placed on his shoulders and soon, and from an unexpected direction, trial and adversity would begin to make itself felt.
The 60s were over. While four Beatles disbanded in bitterness and U.S. campuses erupted in demonstrations at the news U.S. troops had invaded Cambodia, as AM radio broadcast the saccharine ambiance of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and "Let It Be," Yogi Bhajan was making plans for a new Aquarian Age.
The coming summer solstice was foremost in his mind. In the May issue of Beads of Truth, the monthly newsletter, the Master put out an invitation for children of the Aquarian Age to come out for the event.
Beads of Truth
May 15, 1970
SAT NAM! Greetings to all the 3HO family and the entire community. The day is drawing near for the celebration of the Summer Solstice, June 21st, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This day is the day when the yearly cycle reaches its peak of expansion, when the flow of energy is at its height, when we experience the year's longest day and shortest night, and the annual day of unity (Yoga) for children of the Aquarian Age.
Each of you must notify and alert all the community to prepare and depart in caravans for the Maharaj Ashram, Route 4, Box 88D, Santa Fe (Phone 505-983-1913). Coordinate yourselves and all be together in a unit as a family. Each one must notify the community by sending the message through the local underground radio stations and newspapers, and let the word be spread, so that all may unite to experience and create the purest vibrations, to gather the energy and be united for the uplift of humanity.
Make preparations to advise all your people that they will be sleeping outdoors and should be prepared for very, very cold nights (35-45 degrees) and very hot days (up to 85 degrees). They should come equipped with food and utensils for cooking and eating, and a good suggestion is to bring plenty of brown rice and soy sauce. Also be sure to carry water containers.
I may also request you to take up a special collection for this Summer Solstice to be sent to 3HO Headquarters to help us to cover this time when there will be less classes and more expenses for traveling.
God bless you all, and His wisdom continue to prevail through you, each and every one. It will be a great day when we all can meet in Santa Fe for this beautiful celebration of the Aquarian Age.
Yogi Bhajan --
Santa Fe has instructed us to plan to arrive after the 10th of June at Santa Clara Canyon and to bring plastic tarps in case of rain. Caravans will be departing from Los Angeles on June 10th. See MAP of campsite on a following page. SAT NAM!
Yogi Bhajan was entrusted with the secret knowledge of many sages of India. This he knew, and as needed, he would openly dispense that life-giving, consciousness-raising know-how. His students and others also came to know of the potency of these techniques. Most accepted them gratefully as the teacher allowed.
One day, a student of Yogi Bhajan's, attractive and well-mannered, spoke to him. They had been sitting for a time when she said, “Sir, I have a very humble request. If you will grant it to me, I will be your slave. You can put me in that bottle.”
Ordinarily, as a religious man, Yogiji would have said, “Oh, fine. What can I do for you?” But his intuition told him to answer otherwise, “Wait a minute. What is it?”
“I would like to have a promise first,” coyly she replied.
“What can a mortal promise? There is no such thing as a promise. If you trust me, tell me what you want.”
“I went to India...” she replied.
“In India, somebody told me, 'If you want to learn this kriya, ask a man who has gone to America. His name is Bhajan Yogi. He can teach you. He is the only one on this planet who knows.'”
“That is true.”
“I want to learn that.”
“Isn't it a good thing to learn?”
“No, it is a most rotten thing to learn because this is one thing which is very powerful, and it should be with people who know how to keep it.”
“Have you not learned it?”
“Yes, but I have never used it.”
“I won't use it either.”
“Forget it! I never asked my teacher to teach it. He taught me. He gave it to me. He trusted me. And you are asking for it. I will never teach you that.”
The pretty woman said, “Hell hath no fury like the wrath of a woman scorned!”
“That is for men. Yogis drink it.”
The outcome of their exchange that day was that the woman published and distributed rude, negative, slanderous pamphlets ostensibly about Yogi Bhajan. The pamphlets were so provocative that many people would turn up at Yogiji's classes just to see who he was. Classes grew tremendously with all these curious people.
One day, the woman returned and asked Yogi Bhajan, “Are you not afraid of all this publicity?”
Yogiji replied to her, “What is my publicity? What is my purpose in life? I am not afraid of publicity, nor afraid of people. I am only afraid of God and Guru. Let me be true to there, to go home. I want to be true there. I want to tell him, 'Look at what all they did to me, but I never forgot you.' That is all I need. I do not need you and I am not afraid of your publicity. You do your best. Leave the rest to God.” Yogi Bhajan then went on to tell the woman a story, “If I had thought of just being comfortable, I would have chosen that path long ago. I was offered the presidency of a trust where there was so much money that you don't know what to do with it. I refused. I had my own thing to do and wanted to do it the way it was to be done. What does it matter?”
Seven Centers, Three Methods
As Yogi Bhajan taught – prolifically – others recorded and transcribed his notes to share with others. Sometimes they would be published and sent around in the 3HO newsletter.
Over the years, Yogi Bhajan would refine his message and change his emphasis, but from early on he was a straight-talking teacher who would brook no nonsense. If his English wasn't flowery, his words certainly carried weight. And that is why they were cherished so.
"There are six nerve centers in the body. They are all in the spine. They each have a projected center, which are:
"What a man is? Do these centers have some correlationship with the man? Yes. A person whose consciousness dwells in the rectum is a faggot or a lesbian. He will never have a straight sex relationship.
"A person whose center of consciousness is the second center of consciousness, he will be a sex maniac and a sadist. He will enjoy giving pain in sex.
"Third center of consciousness is the third point. We call it the mool bandh. Here that person can't overcome his greediness, he may try his level best. Somehow he will like to get others' things. They may be useful to him or not. No problem.
"Fourth center of consciousness is the heart center of consciousness where equality, service, love starts.
"Fifth center of consciousness where nipples and throat form a triangle, a man gets knowledge. He may talk – his words may not be a flowery English – but words will have that heaviness of consciousness they will go straight into the heart.
"Sixth center of consciousness is man can know around him everything. He may use it or not. Because the pituitary gland gives the greatest intuition, that man can foresee into the time, and what he sees is correct thing.
"The last center of consciousness, which is the highest center, is a person becomes most humble. Extreme humility if you will find in a man, his center of consciousness is highest center because his ego becomes Universal Ego. Then that person has no pain and no pleasure. What he says, happens. And that is the highest center of consciousness. --
More 3HO History