Yogi Bhajan, What’s Overlying the Crying?
The Master used to travel from center to center on a weekly basis. He was a “hand’s on” teacher.
This is how he taught; this is how he kept abreast of his students; and, this is how he led. On a weekend in October in 1983, he was hosted by the Boulder, Colorado community. I say community because he requested the presence of all to come and see him, Sikhs, yogis, yoga students, friends, enemies, you name it. And, “all” usually showed up; this gathering was no exception.
One of the visitors was an old student from a distant ashram. Guests and students from far away often showed up. This ex-student stood out because of his unusual demeanor and related a story which had an extraordinary ending. “I’ve been abused; I’ve suffered; I’ve lost my faith all because of a student teacher you wanted me to follow” he expressed in an exacerbated manner. His pain didn’t end there as he continued to relate a horror story relating to all the inequities he had suffered at the hands of this student teacher. Of course, this ex-student’s manner was wanting, but his pain was real... so real that the Master began to cry. It was an automatic, unfiltered three gulp cry, rarely viewed. Then, Master regained himself and spoke in his normal teaching mode. Nevertheless, the experience caught everyone’s attention. The director of the ashram told me of this event and the impact it had on his life. I can truly imagine.
This ex-student was pushed beyond his caliber by his student teacher. Well, that’s the way things are and were done around here. That wasn’t unusual then. Everyone is pushed. It comes with the turf. The Master is a Saturn teacher. That means he always requires more. But, he doesn’t require more than the student can tolerate. That’s why he’s the Master. This is where the sensitivity and caliber of the student teacher comes into play. Student teachers are required to make mistakes. That’s part of the process. There’s no need in trying to fulfill this requirement, believe me, many mistakes happened automatically. Sometimes those mistakes affect others, especially the student teacher’s students. Many real and imagined apparent misfortunes can and do arise from these mistakes. Here’s the real kicker, the student must display faith to overcome these inequities. So, it’s both good and not so good at the same time. Here was another example of the challenging paradoxes that greet one on a spiritual path.
I’m sure there are many reasons for the Master’s reaction, and they’d all be right: from a display of compassion, rarely viewed, to a display of transference reserved for taking on the pain of the ex-student, so he could move past this issue. And miraculously he did, as he left the meeting a different and renewed person. But, for me, there’s only one answer. The Master was allowing a glimpse into his real world where he acutely felt the pain of this encounter. He experienced openly the unendurable depth of pain when a student loses faith.
The Master believed that when one loses faith, he/she settles for less in life. When faith wanes, hope fades. And, hope is the motivation which keeps life in a positive vein. The Master’s job was to help people gain greater faith. He did this because he had experienced what faith had done for his life. His duty was to help others know and experience the enlightened perspective his faith had given him. This is part of the cost of this great blessing.
Because he knew the great experience of faith, he also knew the pain that comes when faith is judged. His reaction wasn’t just compassion. It was identification. As brief as it was, his pain was just as real as the ex-student’s. His identification with a loss of faith truly brought sadness into his awareness. He began to cry and then he gathered himself. But, he showed his hand. He experienced the pain of losing faith and he didn’t like it very much. Who could blame him? Not me. In fact, he showed me; once again, why I was so blessed to serve this man, this teacher; a gift of a being who truly understands, teaches and displays true love. Identification with his Guru and his student is true love. That’s my kind of teacher.
In the Humility of Service and Gratitude,
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, Prone to the Unknown Throne
Sat Nam, Dear Family! It was a warm day in the autumn of 1992. Between the Dome and the ranch house there was a shelter which is still there. It looks like a metal carport, but the Master had it installed as a shelter, mostly from the extreme New Mexico sun. It was usually so pleasant under the shelter and so we’d spend many lunch hours and afternoons outside in the shade. Usually, there were three of us there: Myself, Chief of Protocol and former ‘Master’s driver’; Dharma Singh, the ‘Master’s current driver’; and Siri Mukta Singh, the ‘Master’s Special Assistant’. What did Special Assistant mean? It meant he did whatever the Master requested, period. He did his job beautifully, otherwise he wouldn’t have lasted the decade he did before the Master passed. In addition to us, there was usually a guest or two.
On this day, there was a guest from Santa Fe. This guest’s body language told us there all that was needed to know. He sat under the shelter with his arms folded as if to ward off any bad vibes. Now, this wasn’t a run of the mill visitor. This guest had written several well received books on astrology. He was also full of himself and wanted to show just how great he was to everyone. That’s the way it is with many successful people like this one. This type also rarely sees that their game is usually transparent to everyone but themselves. It then becomes the job of a true spiritual man to not challenge this type of ill-manners, ignorance, disrespect, and unconsciousness person.
The Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan, said “When you truly have faith in the fact that the unknown has more in store for you than the known, the real spiritual journey begins. Until then, it’s all preparation,” Well, that statement will grab your attention; it sure did mine. The master did have his way of getting his point across. His statement was directed straight at our guest. This guest had been spouting off about how the stars viewed us. He spoke only of the stars’ negative context even though the stars almost always have both positive and negative influences. He chose to use this method to criticize us while also flouting how much he knew. It was an embarrassing display showing totally inappropriate behavior for a guest, especially, the guest of a respected spiritual leader. To heap insult on it all, his prejudiced view prevented any neutrality in even interpreting the negative aspects of the stars.
So, with all this naked “truth” exposed, the Master’s statement was meant for this guest to hear. We just happened to be within earshot. I had seen him use this tactic before when the situation called for it. In this case, he didn’t want to hear all this negativity. Nor did he want those around to hear it. It wasn’t necessary and he had put up with enough of it well beyond the boundaries of being a good host. His graceful way of handling this situation was beautiful to see. This guest was puffed up because of his intellectual awareness. Knowing the truth is great, but living it is the goal. This is where the real difference is made. The Master’s statement was made from a place that only a man who had experienced it would know it. Thank God this guest recognized this because of his intellectual training. He had no place to move. His game was up. He recognized that he had been recognized by the Master and there was no more illusion to play out.
To his great credit, this guest changed his attitude right on the spot. He became respectful, in fact reverent, as his speech and actions changed immediately. I’ve seen many come through who thought they knew something. Rarely are they able to put their ego aside and surrender to the truth. Usually, there is only denial, deflection, delay, or excuse. This rare guest had an "ah ha" moment where he had recognized that his journey had been limited. What he had put his faith in wasn’t enough. The rest of us around the shelter recognize this as well.
It wasn’t meant for our ears, but we had heard it. We could only infer that we, too, were part of a group that hadn’t switched from putting our faith in the known to the unknown. When instances like this happened, I would either deal with the issue, or tell myself “I will deal with this later”. That was my way of not feeling guilty. And, fortunately, eventually I did get to those issues I delayed. These instances were always trying days because they forced me to view myself from a different perspective, one which required more discipline.
Of course, he was right. Surrender is necessary when entering the spiritual path. It’s not a popular concept. It’s easier to hear that “everything is O.K. and you’re great.” His statement let me know that it wasn’t. More was needed to get done. Our guest had forced me to see the reality in my spiritual journey, a view usually withheld. I was lucky that I took this statement to heart and worked harder on myself. This is why I had come to him and this is what I wanted. Please, bring it on. There’s no more time to waste. So, I’m grateful to this guest for providing me with the opportunity to see things more clearly; I’m grateful to my teacher for showing this truth to me; and, I’m humbled that my Guru has given me the wherewithal to practice living this change.
In the Humility of Service and Gratitude,
See Sikh Definitions.
Sat Nam, Dear Family! I remember it like it was yesterday. Actually, it was forty years ago. The Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan, and I were sitting in a small restaurant, Jasons, in Westwood, in late spring of 1979 enjoying a falafel. Jason’s was a small but famous stop in LA because their Middle Eastern food was rockin! This was back in the days when the two of us ventured out alone each afternoon. We were just leaving a movie from around the corner and the falafel hit the spot.
“Sir, if you don’t mind me asking, what changed your life. You’ve told me many times about your earlier life, and you have hinted that is was not always a pretty picture. What happened?”
Well, that question was a bit presumptuous of me, but that’s the way I was. It was O.K. with me if he didn’t answer, but at least I had asked. I took the chance he would, and he usually did. Not always, but usually so. I took the risk in being mildly irreverent and it usually worked. He didn’t seem to mind even if I should have.
“It’s the same for everyone. Either consciously or not, dissatisfaction is the motivator. No matter what I had, I wasn’t satisfied. I understood spirituality. I was a yogi, but I wasn’t satisfied. I wanted more. I wanted it all. My saving grace was serving the House of Guru Ram Das, scrubbing the floors, and carrying the Guru. It allowed Guru the pleasure of serving me.”
That statement caught my attention straight away. I thought that our mission was to serve God, not the other way around? What’s the deal? I was about to ask him about that when he continued, “Son, if the way to God is through service and devotion to Him, doesn't it have to follow that God has the same blessed duty to serve and love his students? The way to God in all religions is to think and act like Him. God is pure love so His sharing love is His joy. He loves to serve and love more and more - just like His sincere students. Unfortunately or fortunately, the way it works is that God loves and serves His students in direct proportion to the students sincere devotion and service to Him.”
“So, you mean that you’re really serving God’s enjoyment when you allow Him to serve you? And, if your lucky to be in His great debt, a flow of perpetual love between student and teacher, student and Guru, Student and God results?”
“Now, you’re getting it. I wanted more and more. If it was all out there, I wanted it. I traveled everywhere in search of it. I met every holy man I could. I studied. I served. I did it all. But, that wasn’t enough. I wanted all that God had to give.”
I got up quickly to take his empty plate and put it aside. I think I just needed a moment to take in what he was saying. Truly, it was overwhelming for me at the time. As I sat back down, he continued as if we were never interrupted, “When I learned to trust Guru Ram Das, my lamp was lit. I learned this while doing ishnaan seva (washing and cleaning the Gurdwara) at the Golden Temple every morning. My love for Him finally became real.”
I wanted to know more. “If you don’t mind me asking, sir, what do you mean by your love becoming real? Isn’t love, love, or are there layers? And, if there are layers, what is the layer of real love like?”
“Real love is attained when you become content with yourself. Real love is complimentary, so there’s no guilt associated with God’s love for you. Real love is when satisfaction becomes contentment. Real love occurs when the student is never satisfied because there is always more and more love to share, but contentment reigns as an upgrade. Real love is layered, but not in the way we think. Real love is not linear. It’s overlapped and intertwined with layers of the experience of love. Real love is when you know that God has your back. You know this because you’ve been through it so many times that it’s no longer an issue. You know that you are protected, provided for, and deeply loved by your Creator.”
I took a sip of water as I tried to reconcile all the wisdom being thrown my way as he continued. “I had chased all over looking for the answer, and it was right in my back door. Sikhism gave me this contentment. It taught me how real love is demonstrated through compassion, compassion to all.”
Yes, that was a little much to take in a the falafel joint, but I kept it stored away for later use. Throughout the years, I’ve been able to augment what he said into my consciousness. It has became the antidote for everything. I must admit, it was really a surreal experience. Here I am, a spoiled kid from the midwest sitting with a master of the Universe and he’s saying things to me that holy men for centuries have sought to know and understand. How did this happen? Well, that’s for another time.
In the Humility of Service and Gratitude,
Yogi Bhajan, Educating Rita
Sat Nam, Dear Family! We are so lucky to have a Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan, as our teacher. He was a man who demanded more. “If I don’t demand more from my students, there’s a hundred percent chance that I’ll get less. That’s not how to build this Dharma the right way, and that’s my duty. So, please excuse me if I appear to be asking too much, but I have no choice.” We were seated at a restaurant in Westwood with an Indian Sikh doctor and his wife who were accompanying us for dinner at a Chinese restaurant in the spring of 1979.
I was lucky. The conversation between the Master and this Sikh gentleman was in English, not Punjabi. That was highly unusual. But, this man was a successful, highly respected, well-educated doctor who was also the head of a large Sikh Gurdwara (temple). He was fully Americanized, so English had become his default language. I was glad because I could listen in on their conversation.
This discussion was different than most the Master conducted. He was being challenged. He answered the questions almost all Indian Sikhs want to know: how do you teach these Americans; why do they listen to you, and why do you teach Sikhism in an unconventional manner? “I don’t settle for less. I keep pushing, not just my students, but myself as well. This is the Guru’s Dharma, so I serve that mission. I keep pushing in order to build students into teachers so that this Dharma can become more available to serve those who want to serve it. I teach as my Guru wants me to teach and that may or may not be as others want me to teach. That I can’t help. Your welcome to teach as you choose, I do the same.” “Isn’t that rather tiring,” this Sikh gentleman asked rather sarcastically. “No,” the Master shot back with a slight chuckle built into his answer. “I came here to serve Guru Ram Das and, so far, this is the job he’s given me.” The Sikh gentleman could see the determination in the Master’s face, so there was no sense in challenging his motives again.
This wasn’t the first time the Master had been tested by an Indian Sikh. Naturally, his teaching challenged convention and those who followed the traditional Sikh mode, which included most American Indian Sikhs like this doctor, found the Masters methods difficult to accept. His teachings included and started with Kundalini Yoga then progressed to the way some banis (Sikh prayers) were recited, and all stops in-between. Indian Sikhs had mostly been taught that yoga is akin to the work of the devil and should be avoided at all costs.
The Master taught that it wasn’t yoga that was the problem; it was the way it was used. After all, a sword is neither good nor bad; it’s how it’s used. It’s both worshiped and used for defense by a Sikh, or it can be used otherwise. Yoga can be used to elevate the practitioner, or, if advanced enough, it can be used to control ones environment. Using yoga, meditation, or mantras to for external purposes is a definite no-no. During Guru Nanak’s time (he was the first Sikh Guru), yogis were using their powers for ill purposes and this brought fright to many innocent people. These misuses lead to the misinterpretation of the true purpose of yoga and the misunderstanding of what the Guru was addressing when speaking of yoga. Not understanding time references like this one has produced grave misinterpretations in many religions and teachings, Sikhism is no different. It’s a case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. The true purpose of yoga is to “let it be,” leave everything alone, and let the Infinite do His will. Do not control anything and certainly do not use any powers to control the environments. Leave the siddhis (powers) alone and use yoga only for its intended purpose: the elevation of ones consciousness.
So now, this gentleman began to question the Master about yoga. I knew it was coming. This was low hanging fruit. In reality, it was the same question which we had heard many times and usually queried with a great sense of self-righteousness. This occasion was no different. I didn’t need to hear the answer. I knew nothing would satisfy this doctor. It’s like trying to explain to someone who has only eaten bananas all his life what a grapefruit is like. You can’t, it must be experienced. So it is with yoga. I know this because I’ve experienced what yoga is and what it’s done for me. It’s definitely not the work of the devil. Yes, it can be misused, but then again, what can’t.
Actually, combining Sikh Dharma with Kundalini Yoga is a great marriage. Sikh Dharma assures that the benefits of yoga are carried out in a focused and elevated manner. It’s the direction (focus) for the car (yoga). Sikh Dharma keeps the practitioner on the right highway. Sikh Dharma is great for yoga, and yoga is great for Sikh Dharma. That’s just the opposite of what this doctor thought, even though his thought was as firm as firm can be. The Master knew this going in, but that never deterred him. He had this same conversation over and over with many who didn’t understand yoga and with limited results, but he never stopped educating. Although he never saw it, the result of his education is now taking root. More and more Indian Sikhs are experiencing the great benefits of Kundalini Yoga. More and more Sikhs are searching for more, especially the younger generation. It’s wonderful to see.
I will always remember the last thing the Master said about our brothers and sisters, the Indian Sikhs, “You must never leave them. They’ve carried the Guru through time and space so we could have the opportunity to learn and serve. They have served our generation well and are to be respected, loved and included. We are a part of one another no matter what differences arise. Please, don’t forget this!” I haven’t.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, Ocean Commotion
Sat Nam, Dear Family! On a cool evening in 1993 the Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan said to several of us seated at the Eldorado Hotel in Santa Fe, “Yesterday, a student said to me, ‘Sir, I’d like to be here, but I love the ocean. I have to live near the ocean.‘ How do you think I should respond to that?” He often challenged us, his students, with such rhetorical questions. I knew the game; nevertheless, I saw various looks of confusion on the faces around the table. He continued, “I know many of you would think that her wish is O.K. Furthermore, many of you would baulk if I told her that the ocean view would not be in her best interest. You would think I was wrong, or at least not well informed, or any other judgment you might have. But my response to her is the truth that no one wants to hear. I told her that she belongs here with me.”
The Eldorado Hotel had become our default site of choice for the past several years when we journeyed into Santa Fe to relax. In fact, for several years it had almost become a daily routine. The hotel was a place that we all enjoyed. There was live music, good food, and good company, a polite staff who knew and catered to our needs, and usually a guest or ten to add additional entertainment! And, when I say entertainment, I mean entertainment. Sometimes we met old students; sometimes we spent time with a group called the Goddesses; sometimes we met other spiritual teachers; sometimes we spent time with politicians. New Mexico almost became as entertaining as California, well almost.
In-between episodes, often our beloved teacher’s conversation would turn toward an unusual situation he had recently experienced. Sometimes it was about a person or persons, sometimes with names, sometimes not and sometimes they were situations. Sometimes I could join into the discussion, and sometimes not. It was easy to detect. This evening was no different. These occurrences were always enlightening and many times painful as well. There was always a teaching attached to it.
On this evening, his statement was a vivid reminder to always be obedient to your teacher. It doesn’t matter whether you believe it, want to believe it, or even like it. Once you choose a spiritual teacher, any doubt for any reason, must be pushed out of the mind. This is one of the first tests challenging the student. “Conquer your mind and win the world.” Then as the student begins to benefit beyond his/her capacity because of the blessing of the teacher, a spiritual aspirant recognizes he is on the right path. The goal is to be a teacher and this is manifested by becoming your teacher. Therefore, once commitment is made, there should be no turning back. So, pick the teacher you want to become... before you commit... and then don’t judge your commitment.
If your teacher tells you to do something, do it. That doesn’t mean that you can’t argue with him. You can, so long as it’s not in anger. A good teacher will explain to you why, what he is requesting of you, is in your best interest. And, if he agrees with your argument or if he displays compassion, or if he is tolerant, or he sees that you’re not ready to do it, he may even change his direction to you. But, that’s his call, not yours.
The sincere student must be prepared to do whatever is requested by his teacher. This is how the student becomes the teacher. Otherwise, he is still different. The goal should be to be the same as your teacher. I know this runs counterintuitive to conventional thinking. But, spirituality is not about convention. There is no room for individuality in spirituality. That doesn’t mean that the student loses his or her individuality, not at all. The personality is still retained and that uniqueness continues to exist. That’s very comforting and that’s enough. But, the identity with me and my ego is transcended to an identity with my teacher, my Guru, my God.
Just the thought of giving up all your wants, desires, loves is enough to deter most. But, for the sacred few who are willing to make this sacrifice, they’re the lucky ones. They sacrificed for the right reasons. And, what they receive is far far greater than what they thought they wanted. But, that’s another story about faith and experience.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, Looking Good Is Finally Understood
Sat Nam, Dear Family! Back in the day, Mondays and Thursdays were the Siri Singh Sahib, Yogi Bhajan’s, teaching days in L.A. Six o’clock was the time and the ashram was always packed – everyone in their best getup. This reflected on one of his first teachings: “You must not only be good, you must look good.” He pounded this teaching into us. Some of us were more adaptable to this way, but that didn’t matter. You had to do it anyway. Some people even left this path over this teaching. They were not able or willing to follow instructions when they didn’t like it. That’s O.K. That’s the way it’s always been on any path.
Those who stayed on this path have adopted to his teaching and have grown to look better and better as time has gone on. After all, doesn’t spirituality necessitate “looking good?” The finger is always pointed most firmly at spiritual people who show their faults. So, as the Siri Singh Sahib Ji always said, magnify your virtues and eliminate your faults. He banged it into us, his older students, and it’s now our turn to do the same. We do this by example, so, we must “look good.”
Now, now that we’ve established “looking good” as an important quality and virtue for living a spiritual lifestyle, the next question becomes: What does he mean by “looking good?” I certainly don’t want to get it wrong now. The answer is simple. Just follow our teacher’s example and you’ll be “looking good!” I mean “real good.” Yes, but to be more specific, let me explain.
“Looking good” requires following our teacher’s example because he’s the one who took us to his Master, Guru Ram Das. We can’t pick and choose just yet. First we must learn to follow and then we can lead. The best follower, of the Teachings, becomes the best student and then the best leader. Having access to individual choice is only at the discretion of the teacher. This is only granted when the teacher is very satisfied with the obedience of the student. Back to “Looking good”: It ain’t so easy.
“Looking good” means presenting yourself with nobility, divinity, grace and dignity. This is easier said than done. Who doesn’t want to be a king or queen? “I’ll promise to be a good king, leader!” – Yea, right. I’ve heard that one before. If you truly want to be a good one, you must go through the pain of what a king endures. A true king takes on the burden of his kingdom. He doesn’t exploit it – he serves it. Again, it’s not so easy, but it must be done. The Siri Singh Sahibji said “Everyone wants to be King but nobody wants to wear the crown.” In this case he was referring to the commitment it takes to wear a turban.
“Looking good” means not looking bad. The Guru says, “see the truth in others and unsee it.” This means to see both the good and not so good in others and then unsee the negative. This way we do not project ill on others; we are not subject to their neurosis and we allow them the possibility of expansion and change. In other words, it means seeing the best in all people and situations but without being naive. There is no compromise. There is no judgment. There is no discrimination. This is another prerequisite for spirituality. God see’s good in all bad. So, God projects good to all.
This is an example of just what one of our beloved teacher’s classes can do to poke, provoke, confront and elevate. It did it for me and it’s done it for others. It’s made spirituality into a game for me. I must look better and better or else I fail. And failure is not an option.
In Ardas, our prayer is: “Naanak naam chardee kalaa, tayray bhaanay sarbat daa Bhalaa - Through Nanak, may your Name forever increase and the spirit be exalted, and may all people prosper by your Grace.” This means, wish well to all. Isn’t that what “looking good” really looks like?
“Looking good” means teaching this truth to all who are looking for it. This means sharing, not hoarding. God is a giver, not a taker, so look at what’s best for others and you’ll be taken care of. “Looking good” means demonstrating faith. It means looking out for others, as if they are us. This is a faithful step. It’s not so easy, but it’s one of the great steps in spiritual elevation.
Basically, the more a student follows the teachings, the teacher’s example and the Guru’s words (Gurbani), the better he/she looks. This applies to a student’s physical appearance, mental alertness, and spiritual awareness. Wahe Guru!
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, A Rare Moment A Teaching Component
Sat Nam, Dear Family! I caught him at a rare moment. It wasn’t planned that way; it never was. A rare moment for me was when the Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan, expressed himself as a student, not a great teacher. He became a great teacher by being a great student and sometimes he shared that intimate world. I was always truly grateful for these moments for they taught me how a great person relates, prays, and loves his Guru. It was a great teacher’s teaching in practice.
We had just come from a meeting with an important Giani ji. These are the high priests of Sikhism. They come in all different sizes, shapes, forms and colors. Some good, some otherwise, but, there’s one common thread among them all. Almost none believe that yoga can be a part of Sikhism. That’s what they’ve been taught, and that’s what they believe. They believe in the perpetuation of the science of religion. That may or may not come with a heart. This I will explain later. Of course, we know differently as we’ve experienced the benefits, rather the miracles of yoga.
This particular Giani had verbally attacked our teacher. This was not unusual. His impeccable, repeatable and acceptable knowledge of Gurbani (Guru’s teachings) led him and others to always follow the traditional approach. And, there’s something to that, but it can also be a trap. His attack was without a heart which made him visible to us but not to the rest of his Sangat (congregation). Our teacher tolerated this nonsense, but it wasn’t pleasant. He wanted the people of his culture, his home, the Punjab, to get what he understood: Sikhism as a living, breathing, lifestyle. They wanted no part of it. In fact, they put him down for trying to help. Isn’t that always the way?
On the way home I asked a question, one which I had no anticipation of the response I recieved, one in which, once again, brought things into focus for me, one in which our teacher described the great tolerance spirituality takes, one in which a debt must be paid, one in which showed me how this debt is paid. “Sir, why did we leave without you saying anything? Why do we have to take that? Why do we always have to be the good guy? Why didn’t we let this guy know the falsehood in his patter?”
The Master answered, “If a person has great faith, no explanation is needed; if he or she have little faith, no explanation is possible. This man declared himself as a person of little faith right of the bat, so why should I bother. I don’t argue with fools no matter if they are Gianis or students. Fools come in all forms. It’s a no win game.”His answer required more information, so I asked, “Sir, what is the difference between a person of great faith and a person of little faith?”
The Master paused and had a rare look of concentration on his face as he continued, “a person of little faith only has faith in his experience. When a person gets out of bed in the morning, don’t they have faith that they won’t fall to the ceiling? That’s called faith in science; faith in the science of gravity. The experience of gravity is an everyday experience; it’s easy to have faith in it, in fact, it’s mandatory. In order for a true science to exist, it must be predictably repeatable. This makes for an ongoing verification of science of action/reaction. The repeatable nature of reaction is where we put our faith. This is called little faith. The preponderance of faith is in this science of predictable and perpetual repetition in our past experiences.” I asked, “Isn’t that necessary?” “This kind of faith is necessary. I have no argument with it. It’s just not all there is, “he responded.
After a short pause which seemed to take hours, he resumed, “Those of great faith are those who practice believing in an invisible ‘something greater.’ Yes, there are those who only put their faith in the Infinite to the exclusion of all else, and I can’t argue with that either. But, until their faith also includes doing their duty in this real world, there is chance of being ‘spaced out’. Practice believing, and I emphasis ‘practice’ because that’s where the journey begins and paradoxically also where it ends, in the infinite. But don’t leave out your belief in science as well. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. In this case work is the science; play is the Infinite. This is the way of a Sikh.”
“This Giani knows the Siri Guru Grant Sahib by heart. In addition, he knows Sikh history better than we could ever imagine. But, it’s all spiritual science, and that’s not what religion is all about. There must be a heart, a heart of compassion and true understanding. And, when this man holds himself up as a great leader of this religion, I really don’t like it. But, like everything, I tolerate it. So, he becomes my opportunity to display a manner satisfactory to Guru, Guru Ram Das. That means I must display tolerance. That doesn’t mean I acceptance it, but I tolerate it. I know my nature. Rather than let him know what I really think of his stupidity, I tolerate. With all his learning and status, it’s better for me to just walk away. This I have learned in dealing with such people. I’m just grateful that Guru Ram Das allows me some latitude which is very satisfying. Guru is very patient with me. What can I say?”
But, what was on display wasn’t just our teacher’s tolerance; it was also his wisdom, devotion, consciousness, and ultimately his merger with his Guru. His heart was that of the Guru’s, so he tolerated. It didn’t mean that he accepted this man. He loved his Guru, he was a servant of his Guru, and when his Guru required certain manners, her followed. His tolerance didn’t mean that he wasn’t allowed to voice his opinion, he always had that option. It just had to be done in a conscious, teaching manner. Sometimes what isn’t said speaks louder than any words. In this case, by not entangling with this Giani, our beloved teacher was actually provided with a great opportunity. He taught this Giani a lesson, a lesson to man up whether he saw it or not! This is what the Master meant by his “latitude” and his “satisfaction.”
He always took the high road. It was a must for him and we love that about him. He also took all the leeway he could and that’s also what we love about him! He was the rare jewel of a teacher, but he was always still one of us and one with his Guru. He didn’t stand on ceremony; he told it like it really was and he did what he had to do. His devotion carried him through all. We are so very lucky to have such a teacher. We won the lottery and sometimes we can’t even see it. We have the chance of a of lifetimes. We must practice what he taught; I’ve experienced his power. It’s totally worth it!
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, Fools Set Their Own Rules
Sat Nam, Dear Family! I’ll tell you what was amazing about the Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan. He’d never take the bait. As a matter of fact, that was the subject of a Men’s Course he taught way back in the mid 80’s. What do I mean by “the bait?” Let me give you a couple of examples.
There have been many students who decided to practice our lifestyle the way they wanted. In fact, that applies to everyone. No one came or comes as a perfect student. Nevertheless, there were some who didn’t grow quickly and practiced our lifestyle in a manner which publicly flew in the face of our beloved teacher. These students indiscretions may have taken place in teaching, in business, in dharmic protocol, or all the above. It was an irritant to me. I didn’t like the way others could perceive our lifestyle through these students interpretation and decided to make their own rules. In fact, I was angry about it.
We were driving in New Mexico having just come from the establishment of a student. I was upset about the way their business was presented. It didn’t do justice to our protocol and I was not the only one with this view.
As usual, there were four people in my car; The Master next to me; the on-duty secretary behind him; and another secretary. It was time to gossip about our experience. Although we all know that it’s not nice to gossip, our teacher needed to hear it, but, not for the reason you’d think. He wanted to know what was going on in our community not as normal gossip, but as information. This is the way he could offset calamities before they occurred. He allowed, in fact, commanded to know what needed to be done. It’s always better to be one step ahead of time rather than the opposite.
One of the secretaries in the back said, “Weren’t those pictures disrespectful? Wasn’t that terrible sir?” He didn’t say a word. Another secretary in the back couldn’t help herself and I joined in, “Not only those pictures, but did you notice the smirk on the face of the student’s spouse’s face? It was obnoxious and reflects negatively on us. I don’t like this. Did you notice, sir?” Again, he didn’t answer. He wouldn’t take the bait. He was the teacher; he was this student’s teacher. He was the teacher of all involved. He wouldn’t speak ill of this student.
In another instance, a student began doing things which were also against our protocol. Now these transgressions are easy to justify and often are, but our beloved teacher was so compassionate that he took away this student’s need to justify. Let me explain.
There are many businesses owned and run by our dharma. Then again, there are many that are owned and run by various individual members of our community (sangat). This case was the latter. On a warm June afternoon in Los Angeles we visited this location. I don’t want to get into specifics as it may define an individual and this I don’t care to do. Nevertheless, the manner in which this student’s establishment was being run turned me off and once again, I was not the only one. The values reflected in this business were contrary to our Dharmic code of conduct and integrity. For instance, it would be like a student who owned and ran a bar. Well, that’s not the case, but you get the idea.
In this instance our beloved teacher didn’t just remain quiet; he continued to visit this establishment regularly for the next few months, much to the chagrin of those around him. And, we had no trouble expressing our dismay. He never took the bait or explained himself. That was for us to figure out.
Naturally, the student viewed the Master’s ongoing presence as an acknowledgement that what he or she was doing was okay, and the rest of us who were critical should just shut up because our teacher agreed with them. Well, they were half right, we should just shut up, but not because we were necessarily wrong, but because that’s the proper protocol even if we didn’t like what was going on. The Master acted for a different reason and it wasn’t our place to question, period.
This student confused, justified, and otherwise used the Master’s tolerance as acceptance. Our teacher wasn’t accepting what was going on; he just didn’t take the bait. His duty was to teach, not to control. A student is and was able to do as he or she pleased. Yes, there were the teachings, there was peer pressure, there was a need, but what you did was your business. No one came with clean hands, so he tolerated all. If a student was going in the wrong direction, like in this case, his tolerance, his patience, his love was the only possible antidote. Sometimes it worked, many times it didn’t. But, that wasn’t his problem; he just kept offering the opportunity for the student to turn things around.
He used this situation to teach. He taught us by his example. He taught that our judgment was wrong. If we were to have a judgment it should at least be the right one or we were doubly wrong, more wrong than that which we were judging. The correct judgment was tolerance with awareness but without judgment. How good or not they were, was up to God, not us. We were there to encourage, lead, teach, love; not to judge, demean, chastise, castigate, and talk about others. It was time to get it right. The game of life was inside not outside.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, Job of The Punjab
Sat Nam, Dear Family! “The God who created this universe, don’t you think He can take care of your routine as well?”
The Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan often said this to us. What did he truly mean by this statement? It took me quite a while to figure out. I mean, at what point does human effort, duty, end and faith take over?
At first I wondered if that meant we could relax through life. Well, it turns out that that’s right although not in the way I thought. Relaxation is fine, but it must be balanced with duty, discipline, work. It means that your duty doesn’t have to be painful. There’s a way to relax into your duty which makes it enjoyable. Your teacher, your Guru, your God, your Christ, your Adonai, your Allah, or Whoever you hold as Holy can bless your duty to be effortless through faith.
So, I wanted to verify my belief. On an early morning journey into Santa Fe to attend the Governor’s Prayer Breakfast in January of 1988 I decided to ask our teacher a question: “Sir, what exactly do you mean when you say, “The God who created and takes care of this world, don’t you think He can take care of your routine as well?’ Is it as easy as it appears to understand?”
His head rose up quickly as he turned to me while I was driving. I could see the look of alertness through his penetrating eyes. “Job, the story in the Bible is really the story of a true Sikh who’s under the protection of his Guru.” is all he said. I was shocked. He rarely taught in Christian or Jewish parallels. But, this is what a great teacher does. He teaches in a manner best suited to the student. In my case, I was raised Jewish and the story of Job (the last story in the Old Testament) was of particular relevance to me even though my knowledge of the Bible was greatly limited at the time. So, I began to study Job.
God proclaimed Job as the holiest man in the East which, at the time, was the known world. Job offered up sacrifices for his sons as they weren’t living correctly. Since everyone has their own karma, Job’s righteousness did not suffice for his sons. Still, God’s protection extends around all righteousness. That didn’t mean that nothing bad would never happen to any of his children, but there was still a degree of protection around the whole Job family. But, that’s the big, long term, picture, not necessarily the immediate one. Guru Nanak says in Japji, “Naanak tay mukh ujalay kaytee chhutee naal.” – Nanak, their faces shall be bright and many shall be liberated along with them. The Siri Singh Sahib Ji told us many times that through our spiritual efforts we can liberate 7 generations before us and after us! That’s the long term picture.
Back to Job: God tested Job further. He said, ‘let me take away Job’s camels, sheep, donkeys, oxen, servants and see if Job will cursed me to my face.’ In the course of one day, Job receives four messages, each bearing separate news that his livestock, servants, and ten children have all died due to marauding invaders and natural catastrophes. There was nothing left. One day he’s the wealthiest person on the planet, and the next day there’s nothing to his name. But, that’s not quite right, he has faith in God. If you have faith in God, you can climb out of any hole. As the Siri Singh Sahib Ji said, “If you lose your money you lose nothing. If you lose your health you lose something. If you lose your consciousness you lose everything.”
Through it all, Job continued to adore God. “The Lord giveths and the Lord taketh away. Praise the Name of God,” was his mantra.
That’s not all. Job had three friends visit him, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zopahr. These men were considered some of the wisest of this day. But it turned out that their wisdom was of the world, the wisdom of self-righteousness. They offered many reasons for Job’s plight; all couched in sanctimonious religious rhetoric. All these arguments were laddened with doubt. Job understood that when he, or anyone, is down, others will blame the tragedy on that person. This was a great display of mischaracterization on the part of these three supposed wise men. You find out who is truly wise and who is not in these situations. Job saw this and ended the debate.
That’s not all. His wife complained to him, “Your faith isn’t working. All this stuff about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is baloney. Look at what’s happened to us. God, if there is one, has failed us and you have failed me. There’s nothing to it, it’s all fake. Why don’t you just curse God and die.”
And, that’s not all. God messes with Job’s health. His body becomes riddled with painful boils from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head.
Finally, God spoke. He chastised the three friends for their words of folly and commanded they go to Job and beg his forgiveness. Job stood before God in great pain: his wealth gone, his children killed, his body riddled with boils. He was in bad shape! What does God do? He tells Job how he created this universe; how the stars were established; how he made the peacock, how he made the snowflake, how he made the rain… God was saying, “Job, if I did all this, don’t you think I can take care of your problem?”
Then, because of his unwavering faith, God blessed Job with ten times the livestock, a new family with ten more children, and a life of 140 years blessed full of days. He healed Job. Life was better than ever. Yes, Job defines some great qualities in a true Sikh, in a true Human Being. He’s courageous, contained, content, and conscious. He’s faithful beyond reproach. He’s a real Sikh. I discovered what our teacher truly meant: don’t fret just keep up and keep your faith and things will always work out for the best.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, Constraining Complaining
Sat Nam, Dear Family! “If you want to be relevant, you must do what it takes to become relevant, otherwise you’re a fraud and you don’t even know it,” our beloved teacher said as we were walking the ranch grounds for his usual inspection. It was a warm spring afternoon in 1994 and I had just finished bemoaning the fact that my business was not going right because cash flow was not flowing.
Several years earlier I was blessed to be pulled out of my business and relocated to the ranch. I was not allowed to talk to anyone about the business, but, when you’ve been attached to a business for a long time, your intuition about it does work. My main assistant was put in charge. This had always concerned me because I knew that there’s a great difference between being a good soldier and being a good general. This concern proved to be right, but that’s the good news as I knew then as I know now that faith had to be developed to competently deal with this issue.
Of course I knew what he meant by “relevant.” He meant faithfulness. And, he meant being faithful by his standards. That means going through the unfaithful stage without complaining because this is how your faith becomes real. He was reminding me to fake it at least until I make it. He was telling me that I was a long way away from becoming truly faithful and to stop complaining so that I could continue to grow.
I felt stupid and grateful at the same time. Stupid for thinking complaining was O.K.; and grateful that my teacher reminded me where I should refocus my mind. I didn’t like being judged, who does, but I knew that it was in my best interest even if I didn’t like it. So, right away it put my ego in play. Was I going to listen to him, or was I going to make some excuse? At least I knew the question which made my answer mandatory. I must listen to my teacher no matter how painful.
The lesson in this statement for me was: drop my ego and look to faith as the only goal and don’t pay any attention to any doubt, and, definitely don’t make any excuses for not doing my duty. Stop complaining about anything. Mercifully, I got the message and am forever grateful for it.
In the end, a couple of years later I was directed to go back into my business to save it, but now I did so with the realized faith that Guru Ram Das was taking care of everything and all I had to do was my duty faithfully, effortlessly and consciously. The business did turn around and it was done without stress. It’s a wonderful experience. I don’t know if I ever thanked him for his reminder, well, really, how could I ever?
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, Who, What, Uncut
Sat Nam, Dear Family! Sometime I would learn more when the Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan would talk to strangers than when he talked to me or other students. That’s because he would answer them not as students, but as an answer to their curiosity in the manner they could best hear it. His response was never challenging as it might be to a student, but simple, heartfelt, and sincere. Let me give you an example.
We were walking into a shop in Hamburg, Germany in 1987. We had arrived a day or so earlier on our yearly trek to Germany before heading off to France for the European Yoga Festival. It was a rainy day in Hamburg and everyone was well prepared with umbrellas. We walked through the shop into a coffee shop jammed with people looking for something warm to drink on this chilly afternoon. Suddenly, a couple got up to leave and our host scurried over to claim this spot. He did and three of us squeezed in.
While the rest of our crowd waited for an adjoining table to free up, our host brought drinks over for our teacher, the on-duty secretary and me. A couple of well-dressed ladies who were sitting next to us (well, everybody in Hamburg is well-dressed) began talking to us. Their English was exquisite, spoken with a slight aristocratic English accent. They weren’t shy at all. Finally, the lady with a hat asked a question which brought about our teacher’s response which, in its innocence, shocked me, taught me, and delighted me.
I didn’t expect the answer our teacher gave; in fact, it could have been answered in many satisfying ways. But, he chose a manner which opened my eyes. Actually, it gave me a glimpse into his belief system which had the effect of teaching me how to think – his way.
She asked, “Where does your religion take you and how do you get there?” Volumes have been written on this subject and in as many languages as exist.
He chose just a few sentences to respond. “We believe that if we’re honest trustworthy people, God will benefit us with a full and protected life. We believe in serving others for their best interest. We don’t proselyte; we share with those who seek our help.” Well, that pretty well summed it up in a manner they well understood and in a language I well understood as well. We believe that if we’re good, good things will happen for us. Yes, that’s it!
See Sikh Definitions.
Hari Jiwan Singh and Sat Bachan Kaur Khalsa, Bar Mitzvah Letter
Sat Nam, Dear Family! The following is a short letter I just sent to my cousin who is being Bar Mitzvahed this weekend. You might find it of some interest as it defines becoming a Jewish man through the eyes of a yogi, a Sikh, a Hari Jiwan who was raised Jewish.
"September 1, 2104
As the Bar Mitzvah saying goes, “Now you are a man.” But, you’re only thirteen. For Millennia, when a boy turned thirteen, he needed to be a man, wanted to be a man, in fact, was a man. Family, society, culture and life depended upon it. Today, well, not so much. In the modern world, our need to become responsible has been delayed. We can enjoy the innocence and easiness of being a child longer. I have no argument with that. But, that’s not all there is in being a true Jewish man.
You and I have a relationship even if you haven’t recognized it yet. And, that’s O.K. because today it’s my responsibility to encourage you to be a better and better Jewish gentleman, and, to do this without reservation, accommodation, or politics. So, on this precious day I will share with you how to continue becoming a great human being, a great Jew.
Judaism is a religion of the law. These are rules which create the technique to climb “Jacob’s ladder”, the Jewish method for becoming closer to God. It seems easy: follow the rules as depicted in the Bible’s Book of Leviticus. Then again, there are so many rules: 613 of them. Many of these laws appear in conflict with the modern world and, thus, don’t translate well today. So how can you be expected to live them? You can.
These rules have a purpose and a goal: to provide a method for a Jewish person to live a righteous life, a conscious life, a life of a tsaddik. Behind all the rules is God. Serve Him in everything you do and the rules will all fall into place effortlessly. You’ve reached the goal, you’re His; the purpose of the law is gained. All and any contradictions are understood. So, now we get to the point where I teach you what it means to become ‘responsible:” Live your life with no unhealthy restrictions, live carefree, live as a child, but when this lesson is balanced with the practice of seeing God’s beautiful hand in everything you do, you will recognize that He is always protecting you, providing for you, and blessing you.
Enjoy this day, enjoy your lovely family, enjoy the congregation, and enjoy your life, but, also, practice seeing God in all, in everything, and in yourself as well. This is the day to begin the practice of becoming a responsible man, a faithful man, a respected man, a loving man, a serving man, a “mensch,” a true Jew.
This is my projection for you. I wish you only the best. My responsibility requires that I’m always here and available to you and it’s not just a requirement. I am blessed, I am delighted, and I am honored to offer myself in your service to you should you ever want it.
May the light of God shine through you today so that you become a lesson to yourself and others that God is real and that He shines through you. Enjoy it.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, Phoenix or Kleenex
Sat Nam, Dear Family! “Give her a Kleenex,” was the Siri Singh Sahib, Yogi Bhajan’s, request to his secretary as his next appointment, a distraught young woman came into the living room. He motioned her to sit down opposite him. This wasn’t unusual as he conducted many counseling sessions with crying students.
You wouldn’t believe the neurosis, psychosis, paranoia and more that I was privy to hear him deal with over the years. I’m not allowed to say anything specific which may identify a person, of course, as these counseling sessions were a sacred communication between teacher and student. Being present at these sensitive and delicate meetings never ceased to show me how life is a relative perspective. But mostly, my gratitude and reverence for him were always deepened as I witnessed his unending upliftment of people and their challenges. Our teacher rejected no one. He dealt with all kinds of people; from low caliber to high caliber, and mostly all shades in-between.
Our teacher was their Priest, their Padre, their minister, their confidante, their help, their hope. And, many he helped weren’t part of our lifestyle. All that was necessary is that they experienced his grace and honesty. That translated into trust which then became hope. “Hope is the sexiest thing on the planet.” So, he became hope for all who sought his counsel.
This particular young woman thanked the secretary who provided the Kleenex, sat down and turned her attention to our teacher. “Thank you, sir, I can’t help myself from crying.” Then, without taking a breath, she began to complain, “I expected life to be great when I became spiritual. Well, it hasn’t turned out that way. You know the physical issues I’ve had the last year or so, now, my husband has left me. My kids, my house, my lifestyle, my …” Mercifully, our teacher interrupted her. That in itself was somewhat unusual. He typically would let those he counseled speak their peace before he began counseling. He always provided a message which could be heard, but usually, was uncomfortable to hear. The truth usually is.
“Wait a minute, wait a minute,” he said. “You mean to say that life is too challenging? That you’ve forgotten your faith? That you’ve become the judge as to when and how things should happen for and to you? You have a good job, you’re well respected, and you have many friends. Where’s your faith; where’s your gratitude?” There was a slight smile on his face. I rarely heard him in a sarcastic tone. This was the exception. His sarcasm was a form of teaching. He was restating the obvious but in a form that also relieved the tension. He delivered the truth and reality of the situation in a palatable manner. This way he could deliver a message that was otherwise too painful to be heard. It was masterful, naturally.
Occasionally, he would use this technique with older students who knew the teachings well and knew that everything was God’s Will and any challenge of that truth, even when under duress, was unacceptable. Doubt is the killer of all dreams including the dream of living a graceful life. A graceful life starts within and is verified by going without – and going without means sacrificing to the awareness that God is the Doer, so step number one is to surrender to His Will with the faith that through doing your duty everything will be taken care of.
The argument between student and teacher continued. But, the teeth had been taken out of it. Just the process continued. The outcome was assured. Eventually, this woman said, “Yes, sir, you are right. Everything is going to be O.K. That’s the way I’ve always forced myself to believe and there’s no sense in quitting now. Thank you for reminding me of my doubt so I can get back to practicing always thinking faithfully.”
This is how the Master worked every day on a myriad of students. It was a blessing to see him operate. Some things I understood at the time, some things I understood later, and some things continue to be unveiled. There’s still much to understand and look forward to from life all the way up until our final breath!
See Sikh Definitions.
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