Yogi Bhajan, Early
Sat Nam, Dear Family! As the holiday season reminds us of giving, a story pops into my mind.
When traveling to India with the Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan, many things were quite evident. The
clearest one was that my suburban background did not prepare me adequately
for India’s unique experience.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, Punjabi Cultural Habit
Sat Nam, Dear Family! Today I remembered something that made me smile about my days with
the Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan. When we were in LA, I would pick
him up at Dr.
Allen’s house, where he lived, and we would journey off
to Beverly Hills for lunch at La
Scala. Afterwards, we would either go to a movie, or walk down
Drive to visit various shops. Many times as we walked down the
street, he would grab my hand and hold it tightly. This is a typical
Punjabi cultural habit, but I must admit, although I love my teacher
with all my heart, I never felt comfortable holding hands with him
as we walked down Beverly Drive. It tested my self-confidence and
self-image, and back in those days, I was never able to go beyond
the embarrassment. It’s funny how time brings a different perspective
on this sort of thing. A lot has happened since then, and I only wish
he were present today so I could show him my honor in once more grabbing
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, Swamis, Yogis and Rishis
Sat Nam, Dear Family! Back in the early days of our Dharma, around 40 years ago (it’s hard to believe that it’s been that long), the Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan entertained a special guest. This swami (Swami Satchitananda)* wasn’t just another swami; he was well credentialed, well titled, well honored, and well respected throughout India. Not just the public recognized him, but well-established schools of spirituality respected him as well. He had status.
Many swamis, yogis and rishis came to America in the 60’s and 70’s. The youth of this country was looking for some truth to this universe, which didn’t compromise intelligence. Americans were wide open for another way of thinking, which promised to answer this question. So, the flood of teachers, want-to-be teachers, exploiters, innocents you name it, came from India to audition to fill this gap. Since we Americans knew nothing about Eastern Philosophy, whatever was presented couldn’t be challenged. This was and is great if what is being taught is real. Finding a real Teacher was, again, a karma thing. Of course, that’s the kicker.
Yes, some came with just an exploiting nature, but most came with good intent. Temptations in America proved to be too much for many of them. It became a tragedy for those students left in the wake of those teachers who didn’t match up to their rhetoric. Those students who had to pay the price for this duplicity were left still wondering what happened. They were left confused and developed a deep distrust for the truth beyond the teacher. Many movements have gone by the wayside; some maintain; and a few flourish. This is the way it’s supposed to be. Naturally, this is why I’m so grateful to be a part of our Dharma. We continue to flourish and that says a lot. We have good karma with just identifying with this Dharma and we won’t let it go to waste.
It was a crisp day in February in Los Angeles. I entered the Estate where this important swami was staying. One of the secretaries greeted me at the front hall as I took my shoes off and placed them in the closet opposite the front door. “Where’s the Siri Singh Sahib?” I asked her. “He’s in the back sunroom with Swami ji, just go on back?” I did.
I was totally unprepared for what I saw. Our Master was giving a foot massage to Swami ji. “What’s this,” I remember thinking to myself. “How can my Teacher, in whom I’ve put all my trust, who I believe has a direct link to God, be acting like a student? He’s the Master! “
I constantly reminded myself to not judge what I thought about my Teacher. This was my saving grace. On this occasion, I reminded myself to file this instance away so it could be understood when I was able to do so. This much I knew, I wasn’t’ capable of understanding it on this day. I was determined to not be freaked out by anything and just keep up doing my duty. Occasions like this one challenged this commitment. “Am I really following the Teacher I think I am?” Please remember, this was many years ago when my mind was not as committed as I was. I had to deal with my monkey-mind a lot. But at the time, thank God, I was determined not to let this question haunt me. I believed that time would satisfy this question without my mind getting in the way: it did and it continues to do so. The blessing of this way of thinking is that removes any doubt from the psyche. I was ‘all in,’ no matter what I saw. I am just so grateful to everyone concerned from my birth parents to my Teacher, to my Guru that I found the right thing in which to be obedient and unwavering. It’s been the blessing of my life.
Whenever a situation occurred involving our Master, which I didn’t understand (and, there were many), I knew where to go to begin looking for the solution. The Teachings of Sikh Dharma are found in the Siri Guru Granth Sahib and are exemplified in the lives of the Gurus. All else is interpretation. The reason we have a true Teacher is because our Master lived these Teachings. He made it easy to understand his actions. Yes, many times his actions were different from ours, but that’s why he’s the Teacher.
Guru Ram Das, the fourth Sikh Guru, was the ‘patron saint’ of our Master. Everything he possessed, everything he learned, and everything he taught was through the grace of Guru Ram Das. He totally believed this. He believed this because he had dedicated his life to serve the will of the Guru. I believe this because of how the Guru protected and provided for him beyond comprehension. He would tell you that he and the Guru are one, and he’d totally mean it. And, after being with him on a daily basis for over three decades, I believe it too.
Now, one of the famous stories about Guru Ram Das was of his humility. To make a long story short, the Guru lived in a palace. Often in the evening when the court had gone to sleep, he would secret down to the temple dressed as a commoner. There he would sit at the temple gate and wash the feet of all visitors with his long beard before they entered the temple. Naturally, the next day, when they had an audience with the Guru in his full regalia, they were shocked to see he was the same commoner who had washed their feet the previous night.
I came to realize that our Master was acting with the same humility as his Guru in massaging Swami ji’s feet. I began to feel warm all over for now understanding a situation, which I could have totally misjudged if I had allowed myself.
The visiting Swami ji wasn’t just an ordinary guy. He was well educated in the realm of spirituality. He knew true humility and faith when he saw it. Yes, it can be faked, but only for a while. Swami ji was trained to know the difference. Swami ji’s recognition of who our Master was spread throughout India. This was easier for Swami ji than it would have been for other swami’s because he was a universal Hindu. This means that he understood that consciousness comes in many different forms and from many different religions. In other words, you didn’t have to be a Brahman, a Hindu of high caste, to be saintly. Now, monasteries, schools of philosophy, Ashrams, you name it, became aware of the Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan, a true Master in the West. Because of this recognition, our community and our Teacher became a ‘must see’ stop for any traveling Indian person of importance: holy men, politicians, businessmen, etc. For a few years we were quite busy. Guru Ram Das has a plan and if we just get out of the way we can see it.
I came to further realize that our Master acted differently in different situations. For example, he would listen to his students, in fact, he would solicit opinions, but he wouldn’t just act on them. However, if he were asked to do something by a neighbor, he would jump to it under the guise of the Sikh good neighbor policy. He would go to any lengths to create a good relationship with neighbors. He acted in accordance with the protocol of the occasion and his actions may be contradictory from one situation to another. That’s our problem to figure out, not ours to judge. It was always fascinating to see and figure out. Life was never boring around the Master.
*Swami Satchidananda Saraswati, born as C. K. Ramaswamy Gounder, was an Indian religious teacher, spiritual master and yoga adept, who gained fame and following in the West.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, Three Great Teachers
Sat Nam, Dear Family! I’ve had three great teachers in my life: my birth father, the Siri Singh Sahib, and Guru Ram Das. Many times the lessons they all taught me were the same. Let me give you an example.
“It’s funny.” he responded. “At first it was a problem. I had to rearrange my whole schedule. After a while my duty became my routine. Then, about a month ago, I really started to enjoy the experience. I’m going to miss being with the congregation every morning. I really enjoy sharing the experience with all the new friends I’ve made. Going there makes me feel much better about myself.” Well, that’s not the answer I expected, but it’s stayed with me for over half a century.
He loved asking questions like this.
“Those who do Sadhana,” I quickly answered.
“No,” he said with a cute smug tone.
Someone else in our group answered, “Guru’s Sangat can be found in your heart.”
That’s nice, but it’s not the correct answer.”
Now, he was going to give us his answer.
“Guru’s Sangat is found in the Gurdwara. Relate to the Gurdwara. Serve the Gurdwara. Mix with the people who join you in the Gurdwara. See what happens to your life. It’s beyond your belief. And that’s the blessing; you are propelled beyond your wildest dreams.”
See, I told you Granada was memorable.
He goes on, but you get the idea. He has been saved in spite of himself. He, Guru ji, goes on to tell us how his blessing of merger came about, “I was rolling around in the dirt and no one cared for me at all. In the company of the Guru, the true Guru, the Guru Sangat, I, the worm, have been raised up and exalted, blessed. All my sorrows and troubles have come to an end.” (Siri Guru Granth Sahib: || 4 || 5 || 11 || 49 || Page 167)
My advice, hang out with Guru’s Sangat.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, Misunderstanding Release in the Northeast
Sat Nam, Dear Family! In 1974 there was a publication distributed through our organization called Beads of Truth. It was a mimeographed monthly publication stapled together with a colored front page usually with some sort of psychedelic artwork on the front. This booklet was the way those of us in the boondocks kept abreast of what was going on in Los Angeles, the home of the Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan. Our Dharma was only a few years old at the time and students were much different than they are today. Straight out of the “hippy” movement, most were still weighted by this association. But, make no mistake about it, enthusiasm abounded and made up for a lack of experience in the Dharma. It was an exciting time. It was a time to change ourselves and change the world, save ourselves and save the world. Hope was real.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, Spiritual Student’s Best Dream
Sat Nam, Dear Family! Business meetings were held at any time necessary. Sometimes they were at midnight, sometimes later. They were held whenever the Siri Singh Sahib commanded. After all, he wasn’t just the Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan, the highest Sikh office; he was also the CMO, Chief Management Authority, the titular head of all the organizations for-profit businesses. In other words, he was the CEO (Chief Executive Officer), CFO (Chief Financial Officer), COO (Chief Operating Officer) and the total Board of Directors all rolled up in one, him. This was not a democratic organization. It would be a democracy freaks worst nightmare; it was a spiritual student’s best dream. Spiritual advancement doesn’t come without surrender. It may be to a teacher, it may be to a teaching, or it may be to just habit (inertia sucks). But, surrender we must. So, our surrender to our Master was our choice as we did so in hope that we could change for the better. We had picked a Teacher who had been blessed to teach the truth and a teacher who was living the teachings he taught.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, Back To Business
Sat Nam, Dear Family! Life wasn’t always a preverbal “bowl of cherries” or a “bed of roses” while living with the Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan. In 1994 the Master commanded me back into my business. I had been removed for several years and, when I say removed, I mean removed. He moved me out of my home in L.A. in 1991 and into a trailer on the ranch in New Mexico. Anyone who talked to me about my business was fined. Some did have to pay for this transgression, so he wasn’t kidding. Therefore, no one talked to me about the business. Oh, I heard some things, but not first hand.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, Don’t worry
Sat Nam, Dear Family! I used to wonder what it would be like to see and experience things as the Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan, did, at least for a day. In other words, what would it be like to be him and experience the world through his perception, his reality, and his wisdom. I was striving for a place where, like the Master’s reality, there is no doubt; where surrender is experienced; where trust is established between myself and my Guru; where life is a flow and all the inequities that life presents are understood and no longer judged. I learned that this experience is bestowed only through God’s grace. It’s not a day trip. It’s a lifelong pursuit. Nevertheless, to view things like the Master has been a great motivation in my life.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, The Sound (and grace) of Silence
Sat Nam, Dear Family! On a warn May evening in 1988, a student began telling a very funny joke that he had heard in a recent movie. The joke was rather long; nevertheless, it was quite funny. We were seated in a restaurant down the street from the Ashram in L.A., which we frequented regularly for dinner. The evenings were often open for the Sangat to join us and share time with the Master. He was available. This enabled him to enjoy different venues as well.
As the student proceeded with the joke, there were several openings to laugh. It was funny. The Master joined in and seemed to really be enjoying himself. He laughed with us and, even at points where we didn’t.
Here’s the kicker, the Master had heard the same story from another student the day before - I know, I was there. He didn’t act like an American and cut the joke teller off by blurting out the punch line or saying, “I’ve heard that before.” He patiently listened, he even joined in, he enjoyed the joke again, and he displayed the ultimate grace which no one could see except a couple of us who were with him the previous day.
I saw this same scene played out many times over my thirty years with him. Often, he would listen patiently when a student or guest would repeat something he already knew. The other person would never know he or she was repeating something. He always acted like it was his first time hearing the same story. His eyes still held the same depth of interest and love. No one could listen like he did.
In this instance, he allowed the student to express, share and give. His way of giving to the Master was in sharing the funny joke from a movie experience. What’s wrong with that? Nothing, that’s what! People give in all sorts of way. The Master’s duty was to allow all to give in the multitudes of ways that people give. He extended this same courtesy of openness to all. He loved all, rich and poor, strong and weak, funny and not so funny - all.
The dome at the ranch where the Master slept was filled with many treasures. Most of these were gifts; from swords to statutes; paintings to tiny carvings, you name it. On one wall displayed in prominence was a row of racks displaying many small gifts that he had received over the years. Many are worth practically nothing, but, to the Master, they were as priceless as the other more expensive pieces also on display. They were all given with love, reverence and devotion. The Master was an equal opportunity lover.
One time when I was into watches, in my hubris, I refused to look at a stainless steel watch which was being offered to us. I only wanted to wear gold watches, and only 18K at that. He rarely criticized me, but he subtly let me know on this occasion that I was limiting myself with my thoroughly lofty view. I never forgot it.
Few of his students have been able to see their gifts on display in his dome. Fewer still were able to recognize his gracefulness on display when they related a story he already knew, otherwise, they wouldn’t have told it. I was blessed to see his subtle gracefulness in action. I write this so that others can experience what I was so fortunate to see. He was the real deal. I saw him in action and I’m lucky to be able to share what I’ve seen.
I’m happy to say, I now sometimes wear stainless steel watches. I’ve learned that everything must be appreciated whether it is watches or people. I’ve learned to respect and love all: watches and people no matter what they’re made of. Every time I visit the dome, I make it a point to go by the small gift display. They remind me more, each time, of the true humility, grace and elevation of the Master. I am eternally grateful.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, Hate is the Weight of Ill Fate
Sat Nam, Dear Family! “I hate this guy sir. I’ve been married to him for seven years and all he does is criticize me and doesn’t even provide for the family. I want a divorce and you shouldn’t deal with him anymore either.”
On a warm spring afternoon in 1989, we were in a restaurant in Beverly Hills. A lady joined us for lunch. She was mad, “I don’t care what you say; I’m not staying with him, period!”
The Master answered, “O.K., O.K., no one is saying you must. But, your hate will get in the way of good judgment. Just act without vengeance. That’s all I’m asking. Hate is a strong word.”
The Siri Singh Sahib then talked about what his grandfather had told him. He also told us that this wisdom was one of the deep truths he lived by: “Everyone has good in them and everyone has special qualities that can be of great use to others. Find that. Relate to that. Build that. Love that.” Reflecting on this we understand first, there’s absolutely no one we should hate. And second, that everyone has something unique to contribute. If we hate, we hate our self as well. If we can remember that everything is a part of God, what is there to hate, despise, dislike, or even get even with? Hate keeps your mind focused on the wrong things. It attracts more hate as well as being extremely bad for your health. Hate is exclusiveness and we’re an inclusive people.
Think about it. Just one sentence and he changed my life. He gave me the tools to remove hate from my life. This is who the Siri Singh Sahib was and is. In the future much will be written about him from all different angles. That’s the way it always is with important people. Some will agree, some won’t, and some will tell all shades in-between. My duty is to tell everyone now and in the future what I saw and experienced: A man who gave me the opportunity to remove hate from my life is someone special.
The Master was transparent, but, as with all Masters, there were challenges to overcome to be able to see deeper into his transparency. My challenge was to provide for him what he wanted continually. This posture is hard to maintain with consistency over thirty years. The respect is always there, but, it’s true, intimacy does breed contempt. Well, I won’t go so far as to say contempt, but relaxing and taking liberties enter into all students minds. We do default to who we are, not who we want to become.
Let me give you a quick example. Manners in dealing with a true spiritual teacher dictate that as soon as the teacher speaks, everyone else shuts up. Whoever thinks what he has to say is more important than the teacher is full of himself and his ego. I was always aware of this, but, occasionally I would catch myself continuing to talk when the Master spoke up. It didn’t happen often and there’s no excuse for it. Nevertheless, when a student spends as much time as I did with the Master, mistakes like this will be made. Unfortunately, it’s part of the process.
The Master kept up with all of us in spite of our waxing and waning behavior. That’s what a true teacher does. Even if we felt that we didn’t deserve it, he made us feel like we did. He covered and carried this organization in spite of everyone’s (and I do mean everyone’s) whatever. He carried this whole Dharma on his back. He could do this because he, and all he was carrying, was carried on the back of Guru Ram Das.
This was his reality. Otherwise, how do you think all this happened? The Master’s life created the blessings we lived and are living. Yes, we were a part of it and were necessary. But, make no mistake about it, we were the grateful devotees that counted on his lead. The future was full of hope and our faith was rewarded. The Master not only had faith, but was the beneficiary of it. We all lived off his nickel. It’s best to not get confused.
We are nothing without him and I mean this in only the best context. Even if we were to become Gods (it’s a metaphor), we will never forget the blessed man who allowed us the opportunity to become great from nothing. He gave us the tools to become great. To him everyone had greatness in them. Dropping hate is a great step in the direction of greatness. The Master’s teachings through yoga and Sikh Dharma are the ultimate gift. This course is the highest available on the planet today.
I don’t mean that other paths are limited; not at all. All I’m saying is that the path of the Master allows the student to see the grace in all paths, bar none. And here’s the best part, the Master uttered many more sentences that changed my life and show me where excellence lay. Unfortunately, this lady was too full of hate to hear the truth at that time. But like all of us, she had more opportunities to turn it around and grow.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, So What's New, A President you say?
Sat Nam, Dear Family!
The following is an expanded letter I wrote to one of our readers. I thought I’d share it with you.
Everything in this world is a progression from a lack of consciousness to consciousness. The line graph of various consciousness issues never runs straight up. It’s not God’s way. The process may be anything from frustration all the way to full on elevation and it usually seems to fall initially further into the frustration category. And, that’s all God’s call. All we can do is to keep up doing our sincere duty to elevate ourselves, everyone and everything as well. It’s not our duty to worry about what God does. He does it with or without our consent. It’s also not our duty to judge what is right or wrong as many things which appear wrong turn out to actually be for the best even though we couldn’t see it at the moment. So, what me worry! I don’t think so. Let me give you an example.
In 1953 Earl Warren was selected as the 14th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by Republican President Dwight Eisenhower. Mr. Warren was a lifelong Republican, a three-time Governor of California, and had even been the running mate as the nominees for Vice President with Tom Dewey in his run for the Presidency in 1948. Then in 1953 conservatives were ecstatic with his selection to be on the Supreme Court and not only that honor but appointed to the highest position as the Chief Justice of this highest court in our land. Things looked good for them...the conservatives that is.
Shortly thereafter, Judge Warren was faced with the famous ‘Brown vs. the Board of Education’ case which outlawed segregation in public schools. This case demonstrated just the beginnings of Mr. Warren’s changing views. He made the court a power center on an equal basis with Congress and the Presidency. He began leading the court in supporting many other issues of fairness such as the landmark Miranda decision which mandated informing defendants in police custody of their rights.
The so called “Warren Court” became so liberal that eventually there were billboards all over the country with the words, “Impeach Earl Warren”! (I’m old enough to remember them.) That’s how much Mr. Warren matched up to his duty to do what was right.
So don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that Republicans become Democrats, frankly, I don’t care. What I am looking for in any leader is neutrality, fairness to all Americans, in fact, to all people worldwide. So, let’s not pre-judge or prejudice our projection before it has a chance to manifest. Let’s give our hope, our projection a positive spin. Let’s not get lost in negativity. Our duty is to continue our Prayerful nature and encourage all that is good. God’s in charge and let’s believe in His Fairness no matter how circuitous a route He chooses to take.
I hope this gives you another perspective and calms your mind a bit. Relax! Enjoy God’s play. Take a front row seat.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, Shrinking Thinking
Sat Nam, Dear Family! “Nothing is good or bad, thinking makes it so.” The Siri Singh Sahib, Yogi Bhajan, said this many times. I wondered about this statement for years. On its face, this statement seems easy to understanding, well it’s not. I wondered, ‘how can something bad not be bad: murder, abuse, you name it, they should always be bad, shouldn’t they? What am I not understanding about this statement? It sounds good, but I don’t get it. I know our beloved teacher is right, but why?’
At first I thought that it had to do with how things are perceived. After all, it’s self-evident that people see (and hear) things differently from the exact same set of circumstances. So, it’s’ how the circumstances are viewed which gives different perspectives. Our teacher must be telling us that neutrality is what is needed. It turns out that this is correct. The more neutrally an occurrence is experienced, the closer to the real truth we stand. But, there are other subtle meanings to this statement as well.
Next, I began to explore the “good and bad” reference in his statement as this part defines what thinking does (or, is it the other way around). If everything is karma and everything is God’s will, then God’s judgment trumps everyone else’s and, thus, there can be no good or bad judgment by anyone. Therefore, there is no good or bad. But, you ask, what about the “thinking makes it so” aspect? This phrase provides the technology, the methodology, the process of being good, bad, or somewhere in-between. Thinking makes something either good or bad, but why? So, the “good or bad” reference was a clue as to why it was true. This process was also correct.
Figuring out what he meant by “thinking” took a while longer. The word “thinking” is what threw me off track. What else could “thinking” mean? Had he used the word believing instead of thinking, I would have understood what he meant much more quickly. But, he didn’t make things easy for me to figure out; otherwise why bother to play his games? He knew how to challenge me, keep my attention, and make life fun. He taught me that things aren’t always obvious, so look deeper.
His statement “Nothing is good or bad” finally became apparent. It took years, but it’s been worth it. There is unbelievable wisdom in this statement which may be heard at many different levels. That’s what makes it so rewarding. It’s a perfect bit of communication by our teacher who is also a PHD in communications. We were blessed to see it on display. Now let me tell you what this statement finally said to me.
God is neutral. This should be a given by now. He creates this phenomenal universe through his neutrality. God enjoys his neutrality. We, earthlings, are preponderantly either positive or negative beings, or some combination thereof. We are rarely neutral. We don’t even know what it is, how to tap into it, and where to find somebody or something to show us how. We may think we know, but there’s a lot more which must be accounted for. Basically, we are ignorant of this truth: God had created this world out of his neutrality. This is why it’s so difficult for many to accept that God, who is good and who is all, can create such ill in the world as well. So if a student wants to be like God through his creation, he must be neutral. Our teacher takes us in this direction by displaying his life as an example. If we like what he is, if we want what he has, we must realize he got it through his own neutrality and we better make pursuing neutrality our priority. Neutrality is also correct.
Therefore, ultimately, what you believe becomes your reality. This isn’t a new concept, but it’s the truth nevertheless. The Bible (Proverbs) says, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Descartes said,” I think therefore I am.” The free will which God still allows us is how we believe things are. This creates our reality – right or wrong, good or bad. Therefore, “nothing is good or bad, thinking makes it so.” We make it so. Yes, God is above all thinking and is all good, but we must transcend our thinking to reach God. Therefore, we’d be smart to find someone who will remind us, teach us, demand of us that we do what’s right by following his example. Aren’t we lucky to have such a teacher?
His statement had many meanings as I’ve described above. Finally, the lesson is simple: follow your teacher’s teachings and example. There’s one more step in this progression. The next step is to become your teacher. Don’t judge it; don’t think about it; don’t anything. Just do. Follow our teacher’s direction and everything is on course. Everything will be fine.
See Sikh Definitions.
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