Who is Yogi Bhajan?
If you cannot see God in all, you cannot see God at all.
Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji, known as Yogi Bhajan to hundreds of thousands of adherents worldwide, left his physical body at 9 PM, MST, on October 6th, 2004. His passing took place at his home in Espanola, New Mexico surrounded by family and friends.
The cause of death was complications due to heart failure. He was 75 years old.
An outstanding pioneer in many fields with a deep and compassionate insight into the human condition, he established permanent institutions, created spectacular events, and produced a prolific body of teachings.
The first to publicly teach Kundalini Yoga, when he arrived in the West in 1968, he announced he had come to the West "to create teachers, not to gain students."
A deeply devoted Sikh, his inspiration and example motivated thousands to embrace the Sikh way of life. Through his personal efforts, Sikh Dharma was legally incorporated and officially recognized as a religion in the USA in 1971. In 1971, in acknowledgement of his extraordinary impact of spreading the universal message of Sikhism, the president of the SGPC (governing body of Sikh Temples in India), Sant Charan Singh called him the *Siri Singh Sahib, Chief Religious and Administrative Authority for the Western Hemisphere, and he was given the responsibility to create a Sikh Ministry in the West by the Akal Takhat, the Sikh seat of religious authority in Amritsar, India. He was honored with the title Bhai Sahib by the Akal Takhat in 1974.
Born Harbhajan Singh Puri, August 26, 1929, in the part of India that became Pakistan in 1948, he was the son of a medical doctor. He spent his youth in privileged environments in private schools and his summers in the exclusive Dalhousie mountain region of Uttar Pradesh. As a young boy he attended a Catholic convent school.
When he became a United States Citizen in 1976, Yogi Bhajan changed his name legally to Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji.
When he was just eight years old he began his yogic training with an enlightened teacher, Sant Hazara Singh, who proclaimed him to be a Master of Kundalini Yoga when he was sixteen and a half.
During the turmoil of partition in 1947, at the age of 18, he led his village of 7000 people, near what is Lahore Pakistan today, 325 miles on foot to safety in New Delhi, India, where he arrived with only the clothes on his back. Displaced Indians were given houses in India and soon he was able to continue his education at Punjab University where he excelled in debate and was a star athlete, playing both hockey and soccer and earning the name "China wall" from his opponents.
After graduating with a degree in Economics, he began Indian government service with India's Internal Revenue Department, and supervised the creation of the IRS building in New Delhi. Shortly thereafter he moved to the Customs Service and become head of Customs at Palam International Airport (now known as New Delhi's Indira Gandhi Airport).
Throughout his academic career and government service he continued to teach yoga to people from all walks of life.
In September of 1968, he left India for Canada to teach yoga at Toronto University, carrying a letter of recommendation from Sir James George, Canadian High Commissioner in New Delhi, who had been his student. After two months in Canada, he flew to Los Angeles for a weekend visit. Arriving in Los Angeles virtually unknown, Yogi Bhajan met a number of young hippies, the spiritual seekers of that era, and immediately recognized that the experience of higher consciousness they were attempting to find through drugs, could be achieved by practicing the Science of Kundalini Yoga, while simultaneously rebuilding their nervous systems.
Breaking the centuries old tradition of secrecy surrounding the empowering science of Kundalini Yoga, he began teaching it publicly. With the yogic sciences of yoga, meditation, yogic philosophy, and loving acceptance, he gave the soon to be called "Baby Boomers" an effective alternative to the prevalent drug culture. He called it the "3HO" (Healthy, Happy, Holy) way of life.
From humble beginnings, teaching first at the East West Cultural Center and then in a student's furniture store in West Hollywood, "The Yogi" was like a magnet. Students flocked to his classes. Soon he was teaching at colleges and universities, including Claremont and UCLA, and accepting invitations to teach in other cities.
In July of 1969 the non-profit 3HO Foundation (Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization) was incorporated in California. 3HO's service to humanity is through Kundalini Yoga, meditation and the Science of Humanology which improves physical well being, as well as deepening spiritual awareness.
his guidance as Director of Spiritual Education, 3HO mushroomed worldwide,
to 300 centers in 35 countries. In 1994 3HO became a member of the
United Nations as an NGO (Non-Governmental-Organization) in Consultative
Status (Roster) with the Economic and Social Council, representing
women's issues, promoting human rights and providing education in
alternative systems of medicine.
Yogi Bhajan became the Mahan Tantric (only living Master of White Tantric Yoga)
in 1971. He conducted White Tantric Yoga workshops in cities around the world. In 1987
he transferred these workshops to videotape, calling them "Renew
to be New" Courses, which continue to be held worldwide. See MahanTantric.com.
In 1982 Yogi Bhajan oversaw the placement of the first Sikh cadets to attend NMMI, the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, New Mexico.
his guidance these cadets excelled in all academic and athletic programs
in which they participated at the Institute. They achieved scholastic
excellence and graduated with honors. He is shown above with NMMI
Superintendent, Major General Childress, attending the NMMI Homecoming
ceremonies in 1983.
In 1971 at the Celebration of Life Music Festival in New Orleans he shared the podium with Swami Satchitananda and Swami Vishnudevananda. He participated in many interfaith forums and conferences, including the World Parliament of Religions. In the early 70's he helped organize the first 'Meeting of the Ways' in San Francisco and was co-founder of the Unity of Man Conference. He became Co-President of the World Fellowship of Religions in 1974. He served on the Board of Directors of the American Council of Executives in Religion and was a member of the Interreligious Council of Southern California, the Rotary Club, and the Los Angeles World Affairs Council.
In June of 1985 he established the first International Peace Prayer
Day Celebration in New Mexico. This annual day of musical celebration
and interfaith prayer draws several thousand participants, including
prominent national and international leaders in the realms of religion,
politics, and humanity. Those honored at this event and given grants
for leading the way in spreading the word of peace have included:
Grandmothers for Peace and the Gesundheit Institute.
He was a champion of women's rights, and believed that it is women
who are the backbone of society, and since 1972 when he inaugurated
the first of annual women's camps, he taught technology to turn 'chicks
Comments from two long-time students of Yogi Bhajan
"If you do Yogi Bhajan’s numerology you see that he has a path number of eight. That is the number of self-sacrifice through service to others. At the last birthday party for him that he attended I remember him telling us: “I have lived an unbalanced life. Don’t do that. Balance your life. Every day make time for meditation, work, relaxation, exercise and service.”
His destiny was to sacrifice himself. He took on tremendous amounts of karma from his students and it took its toll in a way we will never understand. He often said, “If you make a portrait of me after I am gone, make it with peanut shells. If you could see me clearly, you would see that I am covered with scars just like that.” He took so much negative energy and processed it for us. Many doctors and caregivers tried to get him to prioritize his own health, all to no avail. He is who he is. We have to be who we are." -- Guruka Singh Khalsa
"One time for me, he suggested a special diet that was quite rigorous and I expected to be beyond my ability to endure. He had me call his office every day with a report and continued to encourage me. It felt like I was being carried around in his pocket--that he was with me, giving me his strength. The regimen was a challenge but I was able to keep up. He knew how important it was and supported me in becoming the person he saw I could be.
Having had that experience allowed me to see how he carried others, sometimes for shorter times and sometimes for longer. He lifted me up, supported me, carried me through many challenges until I was able to stand on my own, meditate, lean on God and Guru, be myself, serve others. I believe he did this for many, many others. He did it because he could but not without consequences." -- GuruSurya Kaur Khalsa
Ram Das, my only prayer is that all my words be thine.