Sat Nam. In the summer of 1970, I was stationed at Tyndall AFB (Air Defense Command/NORAD) where I was a Sergeant in the Personnel Section of the USAF. I went to my second Rock (Pop) Festival in two years. I had been to my first on Labor Day weekend in New Orleans where the same groups had traveled down from Yazgar's Farm in upstate New York (Woodstock Music Festival) and played again in the deep south. A fellow airman from San Francisco had inspired me to attend with him. Jefferson Airplain, Richie Havens. Janis Joplin, Iron Butterfly, Jimi Hendricks, Its a Beautiful Day and more were there for the weekend. Now, in the summer of 1970, the Second Atlanta Pop Festival came to Georgia. It was here that I first saw the 'long tall' Yogi named Bhajan. He was about 6' 4" and had a commanding presence on the stage. I noticed him, listened to his Indian accented English as he admonished the youth to get off the drugs and learn other techniques to conquer the evils of the world we were currently facing.
I then moved to Manchester, New Hampshire and began the re-entry into civilian society. On the last weekend of April 1971, I hitchhiked with a girlfriend to Washington, DC to take part in the "Non-Violent" Peace activities on May Day (5/1/1971). Since I had served during the Viet Nam War and saw the culture around me I decided to work for World Peace. On April 30th at Georgetown University, I managed to connect my girl friend to some college students from NH and asked her to leave.
The next day on May Day, 1971 was my baptism of fire. I was arrested on the 14th Street Bridge on the way to the Pentagon. Next to me was Dr. Benjamin Spock (the Baby Doctor, whose book my mother and every other 'Baby Boomer" parent used). He was interned with thousands of others in RFK Stadium before being released on misdemeanor charges. I was not so lucky. I was selected by riot police who had corralled us against the railing, tear gassed us and at gun point threw me into a small wagon with about 20 other protesters. We were taken to Central Locke-up at DC Metropolitan Police HQ. We were put into jail, wreaking of mace and tear gas, tired, hungry and pretty unsure of our fate. Twenty five hours later, we were brought individually in front of a Court Magistrate. I pleaded "guilty" and paid a $25 fine and was ordered to leave DC immediately.
I hitchhiked back to New Hampshire. After settling my affairs in Manchester, and reluctantly leaving this wonderful young lady, I hitchhiked to Titusville, Florida where my mother resided with my siblings.
It was now the July 4th weekend and my younger sister begged me to take her to the next Pop Celebration, the "Celebration of Life", which ironically took place on the Mississippi outside New Orleans.
The life of this young 21 year old was about to take a turn in the road of life. There, walking among the throngs of young people, many strung out on LSD, mescaline, hashish, pot, was the "Long Tall Yogi", I had seen the year before in Atlanta. This time I was free to explore, so I followed him to the stage where he and another Swami would ascend the stage to speak to the hundreds of thousands waiting to hear musicians whom many had missed by not being old enough or unable to attend the original Festival at Woodstock in 1969.
I remember standing next to the "Yogi" and feeling very cool as the temperature outside his aura was about 105 degrees and very humid. That was an amazing experience for me. I had been smoking pot so I wasn't sure it really happened.
Two days later, I felt compelled to drive back with my sister and two other friends to Florida.
As we traveled south on US highway 92 out of Tallahassee, Florida, I was sitting in the front seat of the VW "Bug". I was asleep, as were the fellow passengers in the back, along with my sister's Samoyed dog.
Suddenly I was awakened to my face and head crashing through the windshield of the car. We had hit at small pick-up truck stopped in front of us at the crest of a small hill. I was bleeding everywhere. My sister was crying and screaming, thinking I was going to die. I told her to get the ace bandage which was in the front (trunk) and wrap it tightly around my head. Then I said, go call the ambulance and police. I then noticed the driver had splinters of glass in his face. We were both in shock but I was more alert than he was. I reached into his top shirt pocket and retrieved two MJ 'joints' and tossed them into the woods.
After spending a week in the hospital, I was flown back to Orlando by the insurance company. I had white bandages, resembling a white turban over my right eye and over my entire head. Weeks later, it was removed but many stitches remained. With some coaxing from a cousin I took the GI Bill and entered BBC, Brevard Community College, in Cocoa, Florida. During the later part of August, 1971, I began taking Kundalini Yoga Classes by a yogi named "John" from Orlando, Florida. He and his wife Soorya would drive over on Saturday evenings to Cocoa Beach and teach a two-hour class at someone's home.
In November of 1971, while attending a World Religion Class with Dr. Lin Osborne at BCC, the professor invited his students to attend the lecture by a Yogi who had arrived from California with some staff. I had seen the pictures of the "Yogi" at BCC and realized I was taking yoga classes from one of his students, "Yogi John" Twombly. During the lecture, another student of the "Yogi" asked me if I wanted to come to her home and personally meet this amazing spiritual teacher, whom I first saw back in 1970 in Atlanta, a few months before my accident in New Orleans. I was about to have a vegetarian meal and sit at the same table with this "Yogi". We called him "Yogi" because no one had explained his full name (Harbhajan Singh Puri) to any of us.
I realized then that the saying was: "When the student is ready, the Teacher appears." After all, we had crossed paths three times. I was beginning to get the message.
On April 1st 1972, I took my Sikh vows and committed to live the path of a "house-holder" and keep my hair and beard unshorn. I wore a steel bracelet on my right wrist. I was given the name "Hanuman" (Singh) though I didn't know what it meant.
In the fall of 1972, after a long depression of losing the woman I felt I would share this spiritual life with we moved out to our new home in Orlando, Florida, a 26-acre piece of land in Pine Hills. We had discussed getting married and Yogi John and Soorya Kaur were going to perform the ceremony.
In August, she left one day because she didn't feel the same longing I had felt towards this new path. I felt sad but knew this was the path I was destined to follow. In September, Yogi Bhajan's wife (Bibiji Indirjit Kaur) and her three children arrived to stay with us until Yogi Bhajan arrived from Los Angeles for the second annual Winter Solstice Sadhana.
A young lady in the Ashram was arranged by BIbiji, John and Soorya to marry me in November of 1972. It was our innocence and trust which brought these two people together. Purusha Kaur Chronister would marry Hanuman Singh Erickson on Thanksgiving Day (11/23/1972) at Baba Siri Chand Ashram in Florida.
Two years later the first of two daughters (Satpavan Kaur) would be born in Altamonte Springs, the new home of Baba Siri Chand Ashram. In the cold winter of 1976, after spending 9 months in Cleveland, Ohio as the Director of Guru Ram Das Ashram, I was transferred to Boston, where our second daughter, (Siriswami Kaur) would be born at home on a Sunday evening. In December of that same year, I would petition the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to change Kathleen Chronister Erickson and my name legally to: Satpurusha Kaur Khalsa and SatHanuman Singh Khalsa, thereby changing our daughters last name to Khalsa.
In May of 1980, we moved back to Altamonte Springs, Florida where we would eventually move into the house next to the Ashram on a dirt road. In 1983, Satpavan Kaur would accompany her closest friend, Sat Bachan Kaur (one year younger) to Mussoori, UP INDIA to attend school at Guru Nanak Fifth Centenary School at 8,000 feet in the Himalayan foothills. A year later, her younger sister, Siriswami Kaur would fly back to India with her to attend the school.
My recollection of the attack on the Golden Temple, 1984
After 9 years, not without challenges, our two daughters graduated from schools in India and went to live with our Teacher, now Siri Singh Sahib Harbhajan Singh Khalsa (Yogiji) in Los Angeles, CA and eventually Espanola, New Mexico.
In 1992, Satpurusha Kaur and I, after much counsel with the Siri Singh Sahib Ji agreed to an amicable divorce. Both of us would remarry in the summer of 1992.
She would remain on Center Street in Altamonte Springs, now paved, down the street from where we first brought Satpavan Kaur's soul into the world.
I would, with the Siri Singh Sahib Ji's blessings, marry Amrit Kaur Khalsa, on June 14th, 1992.
It's now 22 years later, our Spiritual Teacher has transitioned into the realms of Sach Kand (heaven) and my partner and wife, Amrit Kaur, live just two hours from Eugene, Oregon, where both our daughters (now almost 40 and 38) reside with their spouses of 20 years, each with a daughter and son. Our eldest grand daughter, Shiv Antar Kaur will be 17 on June 23rd, 2014. She will have finished her junior year at Miri Piri Academy, just outside the city of Amritsar in Punjab, India.
What a life, we all have been blessed to live. So many blessings, they are uncountable.
I thank God, I was injured in 1971 in that car accident. I thank God for Dr. LIn Osborne, for Yogi John Singh Twombly and his wife Soorya Kaur. I thank Guru Ram Das for bringing Yogi Bhajan, Siri Singh Sahibji and Bibiji and my siblings, Ranbir Singh, Kulbir Singh and Kamaljit Kaur into my life. See family photo.
I thank the Guru for the twists and turns of my life. But most of all, I thank the Guru for my commitment, I took in April of 1972, (42) years ago this coming Tuesday (4/1/2014) when I bowed my head to the Siri Guru Granth Sahib.
Somewhere in 1999, my brother and friend of 42 years, SS Gurubachan Singh Khalsa, told me to say a prayer, the Siri Singh Sahibji said daily: Thanks Gurubachan Singh, I have only missed once, since 1999.
Ad Sach Jugad Sach, Hebi Sach, Nanak Hosi Bi Sach. God Bless Guru Ram Das, Be Kind to me Oh Lord, this day. You, who rotate this Universe, rotate my Routine.
Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh!
Sat Nam. My wife Amrit Kaur and I moved from Millis, Massachusetts in the late fall of 2005 to Troutdale, Oregon, 15 miles east of Portland. I had been in Natural Products industry for 18 years on the east coast, helping to found a brokerage company which both of us served on the management team of until we retired from this company in 2002.
During the almost six years I served, I was chosen by the Oregon Federal Security Director to train every officer at seven airports in Oregon, consult with DHS and TSA in Washington, DC to help bring an awareness of how to treat Sikhs wearing Turbans, what Kirpans and other aspects of Sikhi are with regards to Security and air travel.
Along the way, I was asked by Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) and Sikh Coalition to help change a garb law on the books in Oregon which had prevented qualified Teachers in Public Schools from teaching due to the wearing of religious garb, This affected Sikhs, Muslim women and Orthodox Jews. On April 1st 2010, the law was signed by the Governor of Oregon.
In late November of 2011, I retired from TSA and decided to retire. That lasted 1 year and now I am back serving as natural food broker merchandizer in Portland, Oregon. By Guru's Grace I continue to serve as he directs.
Sat Nam. The reason these folks are all smiling is I helped them finally win union representation.
The folks I worked with in Portland for six years are good souls. They treated me with respect and honor. I am grateful for the time spent with them serving our nation and working with the folks in Arlington, VA, at TSA headquarters, training FBI and Oregon State Police personnel and the TSA officers and managers in Oregon airports from Portland to Medford, from Bend to Klamath Falls.
A highlight was in April of 2010 when Ravi Tej Singh Khalsa and I, with the help of many good Christians, Jews, Muslims, Republicans and Democrats and the Governor of Oregon, changed a Ku Klux Klan instigated law from back in 1922 which prohibited relgious garb being worn with teachers in public schools.
Traditional dress for Islamic women
Now, Muslim women with hijab, Orthodox Jews wearing yamaka, and Sikh men and women wearing turban can teach, if qualified, in public schools and don't have to compromise their religious mandated identity. I am blessed to have been able to make a difference in the culture of security and the role of Sikhs in America. --
Points To Ponder
The first yoga teacher in America was a Sikh, Bhagat Singh Thind, who first came to the U.S. (Astoria, Oregon) in 1912 and finally became a U.S. citizen after three attempts and two rejections. Then came Paramahansa Yogananda in 1920. The American Hatha yoga instructor, Indra Devi, didn't begin teaching until the 1930s. She took advantage of the U.S. Immigration Act of 1917 and the Quota Act of 1921, which prevented Sikhs, Hindus and Sufis from immigrating to America until 1965 when President Johnson signed the Immigration ACT into law, which allowed people other than Europeans to immigrate -- then Swami Satchitananda and Yogi Bhajan came in 1968. Thanks, to Peter Max and Johnny RIvers for sponsoring them for their "Green Cards".
NOTE: Bhagat Singh Thind, arrived in the U.S. from Punjab in 1912 and went on to Seattle on July 4th, 1913. He then moved to Astoria, Oregon where he married an American woman and worked on railroads and in the logging industry. He joined the U.S. Army in 1917 and held the rank of Sergeant. Dr. Thind passed away in 1967, in Los Angeles. He left his American wife, Vivian, and two children who were also Americans.
Another young Sikh served in the U.S. (Union) Army during the Civil War. He came from India originally and then migrated to Canada where he joined the U.S. Army. He is unidentified by name but is seen in a photo with other White "Brits" who served during the Civil War cheering U.S. Dough boys as they marched off to France in WWI.
As for Bhagat Singh Thind, he would go to the University of Southern California, Berkley where he received a Ph.D. He was not allowed to get U.S. citizenship until the 1930s (after three attempts) in New York state because of the Immigration Act which prevented Indians and other Asians from getting citizenship. He taught Yoga and meditation as a Sikh. There is at least one video of his teachings on diet, meditation, pranayama and asanas. He wrote several books on the links between the teachings of Jesus and Guru Nanak Dev.
Dr. Thind's wife, Vivian, whom Bhagat Singh married in 1934 after he finally received his U.S. citizenship, became an aquaintance of Dr. Amarjit Singh Marwah, the same Dr. Marwah, who helped Yogi Bhajan get from Canada to Los Angeles in 1968. -- See My Recollections of Dr. Bhagat Singh Thind.
Patanjali's Eight Limbs of Yoga
1. Yamas - Dos