Yogi Bhajan, Acquaintanceship of a Relationship
Sat Nam, Dear Family! I’ll tell you a big secret about everyone’s relationship with the Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan. A relationship with him is dependent upon the student’s projection. That’s all that matters. How a student views him creates the reality of the relationship.
If you view him with devotion, that’s good. It’s no guarantee, but is a good beginning. At least you’re in the game. The question is whether your devotion will stand the test of time. It’s not as easy as you think. But, devotion is the way past believing your own opinion of things. It’s the beginning of changing your life. It’s a great beginning, one which has its own beautiful experience of Infinity.
If you view him like a father, he most likely won’t match up to your expectations. Since, most likely, your father failed in your estimation, shouldn’t it follow that a replacement model will fail also? It sure does to me. And, that’s what I’ve seen happen more times than I’d care to remember.
If you think your teacher is your friend, he can’t do his job. You limit him right off the bat. Your friend will not challenge you like your teacher must. If you set the limit, the experience will be limited at best. Your teacher may sometimes treat you like a friend, but that’s always his choice, not the students.
If you view your teacher with respect, you will be treated fairly. That means that you may not agree with “fairly,” but, again, that’s not your call. Respect allows your teacher’s view of “fairly” to prevail. You may not agree with it, you may lobby against it. But, his is always the last word and that’s what you’ve asked for. That’s what viewing your teacher with respect gets you. It’s a very worthwhile pursuit.
If you view your teacher with skepticism, you’ve missed the point. Yes, everyone has skepticism in them to one extent or another. But, it’s not about not being skeptical, it’s about having a transmission to elevate your thinking beyond this skepticism. It’s about not allowing that skepticism get in the way of any thinking. Viewing your teacher with skepticism is putting yourself at great risk. In other words, why have a teacher at all?
If you view your teacher emotion, this will most definitely eventually lead to a relationship filled with commotion. Love is misunderstood; love is not an emotion! Emotions vary; true love does not! The experience of truly loving a true teacher may bring on an emotional response, but it’s seeped in devotion, devotion to something greater, to that which serves you selflessly. To begin with emotion may be a good start, but it’s misleading. If the relationship remains emotional, it will eventually be doomed.
If you feel anything, either good or bad about your teacher, you’re wrong. It’s that simple. Our teacher would say, “Why should I care about your feelings? I want the best for you, and that usually has nothing to do with your feelings.” Feelings are about you and your needs; spirituality is about God and His needs. I’ve heard it said many times, ‘feelings don’t lie,” well, I’m here to say I differ, feelings lie to us all the time. Spiritually is about what’s best for us and that’s usually not what’s comfortable for us. Well, I’m here to tell you that your feeling typically just get in the way of your best interest. I know you don’t want to hear this, but what can I do. It’s the truth.
In the Humility of Service and Gratitude,
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, Frolic In Politics
Sat Nam, Dear Family! The Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan, loved the game of politics. He played it magnificently. Politics is almost essential for an Indian. It’s a way of life, whereas, we Americans’ take it for granted. So, he came here as a pro in dealing with the innocence of American politics - and he only got better and better from there. I was blessed to see how politics works from his perspective. It was very different. Let me give you an example.
Television was usually on when in the presence of our beloved teacher. I was raised on TV. It was also my mother’s constant companion, so I enjoyed multitasking. My only objection (which I kept to myself) was that sports programming was never on the agenda. It really didn’t matter as the news, politics and movies kept me well interested and entertained. This Thursday afternoon in late September of 1991 was no different. Right after lunch in the ranch dining room, we retreated to the living room as was our habit.
The “off year” elections were in full swing. Negative ads “in spades” were coming into fashion, one right after another. I turned to our teacher and asked, “Why all these negative ads now, sir, and how do they get away with it?” “That’s American democracy,” he responded rapidly and rather matter of factly. “Democracy demands that both the bad and the good can be expressed. Otherwise, only a prepared side from each candidate will be presented and that can fool the public. It happens all the time. And that further means that accusations, attacks, slander, lies, etc. are ‘fair game’ whether it be people or issues. This is how democracy at its ugly best works. But, there’s another way.”
“Why,” I asked? He cut me off after one word knowing my question in advance (or, maybe I cut him off, anyway he was a very tolerant man), “This way of practicing democracy allows the public optional ways of viewing each candidate. Of course, this is categorically unfair as money, initiative and special interests limit or expand availabilities. Nevertheless, the process seems to work fairly well in spite of any limitation because the public is given more information to sift through.”
“Yes,” i interjected, “but how does anyone know who to believe?” “Well,” he said. “That’s the art of politics. A good politician will convince you that his version of himself is the right one and others who malign him are wrong, while others, usually in the media, will try and persuade you otherwise. Then it becomes the public’s duty to decide who they ‘want to’ believe.
He went on to say, “Popularity, power, money, religion, looks are some of the elements that come into play. But, the public does get to pick who they want to lead them. Wisely or foolishly, that’s their choice, and, so far, the process has worked well enough although I do see signs of a lack of diligence. If only politicians would spend more time explaining who they want to be and how they’re getting there and less time denying and defending themselves against the attacks of others, we would definitely know who to believe. That’s how integrity and diligence are revealed and reaffirmed. This is democracy at its very best.”
It seemed so easy to understand what he shared. Why didn’t everyone understand this? Well, I didn’t understand it up until I was blessed to experience his wisdom. So, why should the world understand? They haven’t been blessed to hear him yet.
He wasn’t done yet, “Aren’t we lucky that we are a spiritual organization which is not political and not subject to the scrutiny of democracy?” Yes, I was glad, very glad. Stay tuned.
In the Humility of Service and Gratitude,
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, Inflation of Expectation
Sat Nam, Dear Family! “It’s up to you to expect more out of life; It’s up to me to tilt you in the right direction,” the Siri Singh Sahib said to me one afternoon in May of 1992. Well, a statement like that will catch anyone’s attention. It sure did mine. I already thought I expected a lot out of life, what was he talking about?
This was another one of those statements he made which he knew would intrigue me to understand what he truly meant. This was the game he played with me. But since my experience of life was good, why did I need to expect more? Isn’t what I had enough without tackling what seemed like a very difficult job?
But, that’s not the way it worked around our teacher. It may have taken some time, but you didn’t diverge far from our beloved teacher’s will. Obedience became a challenge and no longer a philosophy. Faith was, and is, the antidote for test after test. So, I began practicing expecting more out of life and letting him tilt me where I needed to go.
The formula is this: presuposing the teachings are true, the more obedient you are to a teacher/teachings, the more devotion becomes infused into your life until your being becomes a constant prayer. Abundant blessings are recognized and experienced. Devotion brings security*; security brings love; love brings devotion. The circle is thus completed.
Now, I need to digress on a personal note. Some people have commented that the way I write can sometimes be viewed in the self-aggrandizement category. And, I agree, that assumption is available. However, I can say with all honesty that it is actually with humility that I write these stories. With heartfelt gratitude for all I have received and gained by being so blessed to be so close to our teacher that I share these stories with the world. Please remember, I write them mostly for future generations of students of the Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan. I think it’s important to let them know that following our beloved teacher does lead to an experience of our teacher. They need to know that what they are doing will produce results. Rather than judge, I write these so that future students can have the opportunity to appreciate the confidence these stories are meant to share. I’m sorry for any misunderstanding.
If by the Grace of Guru Ram Das, I am able, in any manner, to share, inspire, teach, and uplift by sharing the living example of this man, Siri Singh Sahib Yogi Bhajan, then I am doing my job. The greatest lesson I learned from him was that it’s not only what you see about him, not what you don’t see, which makes him great. I was able to not only see this in him, but, in some small way experience it with him as, in his infinite compassion, he always was kind enough to carry me along. I could show at least that much gratitude. So, I did.
n the Humility of Service and Gratitude,
*Security is the absence of risk.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, To Do and To Not Do
Sat Nam, Dear Family! “Son, there’s a thin line between doing nothing and doing everything,” the Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan, said one starlit night in Los Angeles in the May of 1979. Starlit nights in L.A were quite rare, so I knew something unusual was happening.
We were on the veranda of a beautiful restaurant in Hollywood Hills. These were the early days when just the Siri Singh Sahib, Yogi Bhajan, and I would venture out each afternoon alone. There were no secretaries on-duty, no security people, no cell phones to our ear (they did not exist yet!) and so pressing issues could be handled. So, luckily, I became his focus. It was the best of times, even though on reflection, I wasn’t as grateful as I wish I would have been. But, that’s the way it was supposed to be.
To show you my lack of understanding, I usually had no idea what he was talking about when he referred to the Guru! But, thank God, I was lucky enough to know that I had to figure it out. I compartmentalized his teachings and just enjoyed our outings. I also knew that study wouldn’t provide the answers to the challenges and mysteries he provided, only consciousness would. So, his personal teachings became a barometer for me. I knew that the more I understood, the greater my personal growth would be and therefore I’d be going in the right direction. So, as answers became more familiar to me, the more I relaxed.
Doing nothing means acting out a play without emotional investment. Even though it is emotional investment which got us here, sitting at the feet of our teacher, our grit having been paid off, now God is asking us to relax because everything is set. Nevertheless, God says to act as if it’s not set. This must be done without any emotional investment or any fear because your faith lets you already know the outcome. You can now truly enjoy the ride.
There is a thin line which separates emotional investment from grace. Grace is much better. Our teacher’s tendency to want to always do more is what got him Guru’s grace and now he was told to relax. Well, that’s a big risk because if you haven’t reached God’s grace, then you’re faith will not work. He relaxed and we prospered. He was absolutely right. He did live in Guru’s grace. I saw it, I benefited from it, and I want to share it with those who want to experience it. He was the real deal. God does exist and the way to His court is through the teachings.
That evening as I understood his test at hand, he allowed me inside to see what challenge he was currently facing. It was monumental but he accepted it with the same fervor as he did all his previous challenges. He would overcome this as well. And, I saw him do it and always with dignity, courage and grace.
He was always working to serve this Dharma and us better. That meant he got better and better as well. The difference is that he started off at a much higher level than we did, so don’t confuse the issue. The big lesson here though is that none of us are ever done. There is always more; just learn to enjoy it, not fight it, and do it with pleasure. Enjoy this life! This was his great lesson that I’ve been blessed to understand. This is what his statement and his teaching to me on beautiful this starlit night.
In the Humility of Service and Gratitude,
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, Yes, Stress can Press Distress
Sat Nam, Dear Family! “Tell me, son, Why is it necessary to overcome stress? Why not just meditate on avoiding it?” We were driving up to Santa Barbara for a function on an unseasonably cold and gloomy day in the winter of 1985. The journey up the Pacific coast on Highway 1 was always enjoyable. With the ocean on one side and the Santa Monica Mountains on the other, it was a lot different than the Midwest where I grew up. The part that was unusual was the fact that the Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan, was awake for the whole journey. On trips like this one, he’d usually dose off. So, on this occasion, he asked this question.
The questions he’d ask always had more than one meaning, and many times, many more. Sometimes, I didn’t even understand the basic answers. That’s why I needed a teacher. I was smart enough to know that I needed help and lucky enough to take seriously the help I got from our teacher. I recognized how lucky I was to have his great help, and prayed to be allowed to continue the practice of following that help. His help always had roots in the teachings from the Guru. Yes, he had some fascinating twists, but that was his charm and entertainment. That’s why his help was so important. It was a true help which lead to fun, happiness, entertainment, joy, elevation, wisdom and liberation. His service to Guru Ram Das guaranteed that.
I started my answer with the standard fare, “Well, sir, isn’t stress bad for you? Why would you want stress in your life?” Answering a question with a question is not necessarily the best form of communication, but he was tolerant and didn’t correct my manners. He just answered my question, “Nobody wants stress in their life. It just comes naturally; everybody has problems. Rich people have rich people problems. All the money in the world doesn’t guarantee a stressless existence. In fact, there are typically more things to stress out about if you are wealthy. Poor people have poor people problems, gay people have gay people problems etc. It comes with the turf of life. The answer is not to look to constantly trying to eliminate stress from your life, but, rather, learn how to overcome it. Otherwise, you are perpetually subject to being stressed out. If you eliminate one stress, another will come. We’re so lucky. We’ve found a way out. All we have to do is continue to serve more, do more of Guru’s will, and have the faith that Guru will take care of it.”
So, I thought to myself, a stressful life is tied to Guru’s will. The way to totally eliminate stress bothering me was to learn to overcome it by practicing following Guru’s will more and more. That gave me the confidence to have faith that Guru will take care and of it, that I’ve paid my dues and can relax into faith. I can report that this formula works. Yes, stress is there, and, yes, we must deal with it. But, at some point the stress of life is overcome through Guru’s grace. All that’s left is compassion, gratitude, understanding and devotion. It’s the best trade off in the world. No, there’s no time limit on when Guru will come through; a time limit is one of God’s toughest tests. It the test of true worthiness and devotion leading to true duty and faith. It’s a test too never give up. In fact, never doubt the choice we’ve made to always serve the Guru. Always working on having no doubt will effect this commitment, period!
And here’s the best part: Serving our Guru’s will not only elevates one out of stress, but, also provides protection against it much better than we could do for ourselves. This is how he taught me to overcome stress. I know of no other way.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, Don’t Balk at Talk
Sat Nam, Dear Family! I was really lucky in life. I not only had a great, great spiritual teacher, but I had a great father as well. let me give you a quick example. My birth father had an expression, “I’m never bought up on talking.”
Now, my father was a very successful self-made real estate developer. And, I might add, he lived by this expression. He talked to everyone including his enemies. When I joined him in business, this shocked me. My father was very open with me so I knew how he really felt about almost everyone with whom he came in contact.
Every morning we would meet at a coffee shop where other commercial real estate developers and agents would have breakfast. People would come and go, but there was one long bench and table and chairs placed perfectly along it, which allowed many people to have one conversation usually about sports, current news and/or business. Remember, this was a long time ago, back in the mid- sixties. These mornings were examples of how networking was done before the Internet. Sitting in an office all day would not bring opportunities like the ones presented at this breakfast.
My father was relatively new to being a sole developer. Up until then he had partnered with several groups. He now knew the business. He was ready to take the risk and challenge, which accompany new opportunities. He was ready to step up and develop real estate by himself.
The transition to real estate developer typically traverses through other aspects of the real estate business. My father’s course began in commercial real estate sales where on one such deal, he partnered with another agent and sold a property. The other agent, let’s call him Mr. Foster, finagled his way out of not paying my father the commission that he was due. It happens. Business can be very cutthroat. People can be very deceptive. Let me add that it was a large commission which was badly needed at the time.
So now, some years later at the coffee shop, it was shocking to see my father talk to him at breakfast just like he did any other person. There was no hint of anger or resentment. It was great acting. He saw the advantage of not excluding opportunities because of grudges. I learned a great lesson from a great father.
On one blessed morning, just as he was standing to leave and tipping the waitress, Mr. Foster mentioned, almost under his breath, “Oh, I just put together a commercial zoned property on Hanley Road and it will accommodate a twelve story building with well over 100,000 square feet of rentable space.”
I felt my father snap to attention. He didn’t show it, but I could tell he was really excited.
To make a long story short, my father tied up this property that very day with Mr. Foster. Commercially zoned property in Clayton (a beautiful suburb) had not been available before. It was too valuable and was gobbled up as soon as it hit the market. My father did his magic and built a beautiful building on the site which made us millions. This was the sixties and a million dollars was worth ten today. All this happened because he and Mr. Foster were purportedly on good terms. Who knows, maybe Mr. Foster sold the property that day to my father because he wanted to make up for the mistake he had made without hurting himself. He got his price and he wasn’t a developer, he was just an agent. Anyway, it worked out beautifully.
Fast forward to life on our spiritual path. One of the great teachings of the Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan, is: “Keep your friends close and keep your enemies closer. So, my father taught me a great spiritual lesson. Who knew? Certainly not me. The bottom line is that “not being bought up on talking” is a twofer, two for one. It has both earthly and otherworldly benefits.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, No Cynicism, Skepticism, or Pessimism in Criticism
Sat Nam, Dear Family! The Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan, was criticized by many. That’s always the way it is with truth, it comes with the turf. Not everyone has the mark of spiritual destiny stamped upon their forehead. In fact, most are still programed to live as skeptics. That’s not anyone’s fault, it’s the way it is. But, for those who chose to stamp themselves as well, devotion, love, is the answer which guarantees victory over maya.
Our beloved teacher taught us how to stamp ourselves and give ourselves a chance at Guru’s mercy. He taught us what to do to be in the position to ask for His mercy. He taught us how to believe this was possible. Can a person change his/her own destiny? Well, you must try. Just as the secret to the universe is to know that God’s will does all, still we must act like He doesn’t and continue to do our duty.
A spiritual aspirant must do everything in his/her power to act in accordance with an elevated destiny written upon the forehead whether it is so written or not. And, since we usually don’t know what’s written, it’s imperative that we act like it’s written to become an elevated soul. That action becomes our prayer for mercy to Guru. And, here’s the best news, our Guru says he listens to the plea of the sincere student. So, no harm, no foul! Sincere is the operative word.
I write this as a testimony to what I have witnessed and what I continue to witness. Our teacher lived under the grace of Guru Ram Das. It’s no joke, it’s real. His life was set. Yes, he rode with the issues in life, both good and otherwise, but underneath it all, he was blessed by Guru Ram Das. His mark, his destiny was set. He looked at criticism as just another part of life, necessary, often revealing and sometimes even entertaining, So, criticism caught his attention without any insecurity or reaction attached.
Criticism more impacted him when it affected this dharma. He was very sensitive to how this dharma was and is portrayed. What he wouldn’t do for himself, he did for this dharma. If that meant relating and dealing with criticism, well, so be it. So, he looked at criticism as a necessary part of life. Criticism challenges you to prove to yourself that you’re on the right path. Criticism is a good thing. It keeps you focused. Our teacher was very focused. I am deeply grateful that he taught me to appreciate criticism; it becomes a tool rather than a detriment.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, The Good Health of Wealth
Sat Nam, Dear Family! I never thought that I’d find a spiritual teacher who thought like I did. After all, a teacher’s duty is to teach a different way of thinking than the student. I don’t mean by any means that I thought just like him, but in some things, we thought alike. That made my spiritual journey easier. Actually, I now realize that the brilliance of our teacher was that he connected so well with his students, that many had this feeling of being so at home in his teachings! Now let me give you an example of where I saw how The Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan, and I shared some comforting ideas.
Many thought that our beloved teacher was too focused on wealth. Some even left because of this view and if you didn’t understand him, yes, that view was available. Nevertheless, he was smarter than the rest of us - that’s why he was the teacher. He understood wealth beyond our experience. He knew where it came from and how to use it properly. As he often said, it’s difficult to be spiritual if you don’t know where your next meal is coming from. True, it’s no blessing to be poor and that’s not what Sikh Dharma is about.
He knew that wealth is a social tool and also a political tool. Wealth is neither good nor bad, it’s how it’s used which determines the difference, and God is the only judge. Underneath spirit and prayer, he knew that this world is run by money and, like it or not, wealth makes a large impact. He knew that since we were pioneers and challenged the status quo, material wealth could make this challenge easier. He knew that it was a blessing to have the assets necessary to defend what is necessary. He knew that to maintain and continue this dharma, money was necessary - it keeps the wheels turning.
He knew that in representing Guru Ram Das, he must serve only His will. He knew that in serving His will, victory was assured when that service was true. He knew that there was no such thing as defeat. He knew that his Guru is the King of Kings and that a true King must be represented royally.
He knew that it was up to his Guru to provide whatever was needed for us to represent him properly. He knew that his Guru, his King, would only want to be represented through a true teacher whose only goal was to serve him better and better. He knew that in our lifestyle, wealth was another verification that Guru’s grace was upon us. He knew that this was a great responsibility for which he was willing and capable to match up. He embraced prosperity. He taught prosperity. He was prosperity. Now do you see why I was so lucky to serve him personally?
Money is what money does. And, money was something we both were not afraid of. Yes, initially, the reason we used money was different, but the love was the same. His love came from his pure devotion to God and Guru and mine was for what money could do. Thankfully, our teacher’s job was to teach me how to use money more expansively. Through him I learned how to properly use and appreciate wealth, using it for good purposes and that meant personal use as well. I was already half way there, but it was the last half which was the most difficult to learn. How lucky was I to have him as my teacher. Yes, life has been good.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, Shake the Ache to Fake
Sat Nam, Dear Family! Time and time again, the Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan, used to say, “fake it till you make it.” It is an obvious statement, or so it seemed. I thought all it means is keep up practicing with a good attitude, and this is what it truly means. But, there’s more. Let me explain.
This statement is basic truth: Don’t let anything get in the way of your commitment. What I didn’t understand is that not everyone is able to “fake it!” Many judgments come in-between.
“Yes, sir, that’s what I want to be,” a student responded as we were sitting in the back yard of the Estates at the ranch in New Mexico. “It’s just difficult to live a fake life. I was raised in a religious culture and “faking is a sin. Why do I need to fake anything?” Our beloved teacher interrupted, “yes, my daughter, faking is a sin I agree” (parenthetically, he usually agreed with whomever he was dealing with, at least at first as many couldn’t hear him without first being heard). “But, who says it’s a sin? Why is it a sin?
Are there other reasons to call it a sin? Do you know the answer to these questions? No, of course you don’t. Do you want to hear the answer?”
“Please, sir, I humbly request your answer to these questions, the student requested.” Our teacher began. “Fake is a word with different interpretations. Except through God’s grace, no one changes without focusing their mind on the wanted change first. We call this projection; others call it anywhere from madness to blessing. It’s one of our techniques to change your mannerisms for the better. For us, this projection is a blessing. It allows us to be what we couldn’t even imagine. It’s our “ace in the whole.” My greatest ability is to be able to reinvent myself. It’s a great blessing from Guru Ram Das. As long as this technique is used in service to the Guru, ‘faking it’ is a true blessing.”
Like almost everything, this word, fake, has been misused and abused. Fake became synonymous with trickery, and corruption and that’s basically true. So, fake has become a sin in the eyes of the Church. Fake becomes a thing to be avoided at all costs. It’s drummed into congregation after congregation as a distinction between right and wrong. This is a hard concept to put aside. It’s hard wired straight to the security blanket portion of our mind. It’s hard to challenge with logic. It’s beyond reason. Can we really believe what we fake? It’s our ignorance which allows us to defeats ourselves.
This is why and where we need a teacher. And, this is where advancement only comes with truly listening to him. If he says “fake it,” well, then “fake it,” don’t judge it, just do it! I like this concept. The thought of becoming what I could only dream of was and is intoxicating. Our teacher gave me, and all his students, permission to believe our dreams. As usual, his counseling was as much for me as whomever he was currently dealing with. It’s only through Guru’s grace that this thinking is not only O.K. but far more. Guru then grants his grace to those who surrender to His will. I was lucky to see this in action between our teacher and Guru Ram Das. I was even luckier to learn from it.
“I get it,” this student exclaimed. “I’ll do it; I’ll just fake it!” “Now you’ve got it,” the Siri Singh answered clapping his hands together once in his usual manner when something good had happened.
So, “to fake it” takes on an additional dimension. You no longer fake it for yourself, but, rather in service to His will. This is the ultimate place to “fake it.” It’s a place of no regret. You become the creator of your own destiny and you’re doing it in the right direction. Life becomes more fun. And, here’s a great part: throughout the process, you maintain your own personality and it’s your right to do so. You don’t lose your identity through the process of surrender. You remain yourself throughout the process. Life is great! Stay tuned.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, Cognition of Recognition
Sat Nam, Dear Family! Recognition was always an iffy game with the Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan. One day he would want to be recognized by everyone, then another day and he’d act almost shy about any acknowledgement. At first it was heard to figure out. But then, after watching him for several years, it became clear.
What he actually commanded was that his environment be reverent. It could be misinterpreted as his need for recognition and he had that right, but that wasn’t the reason. No doubt he enjoyed the attention, but that wasn’t the reason either. So, I remained reverent along with others.
It turns out that his command was more for us than it was for him. We were learning reverence. It is a must on the spiritual path and I was determined to match up. I’ve slipped up many times, but I’m still “keeping up.” Reverence brings love. Not the kind of love we have been taught so much in our Western TV and movie culture and also not agape love which religions of the West profess. And please don’t get me wrong, I’m not against either, but there is another.
The other love is called, “Sikh Love.” It’s the love between the Guru and his servant. It’s an all-encompassing love. It’s a love beyond time and space which magically, meticulously conducts time and space. It’s a love which removes all doubt. It’s a love of symbiosis, protection and gratitude. It’s a love of service through appreciation. It’s true love.
This reverence is based on a relationship of trust. The student does what the Guru wants. This is where this trust springs. And, here’s the absolutely best part, the Guru trusts and loves his student so much that He grants him whatever he wishes.Yes, the student has some latitude, but he better not take too much leeway or this trust may be broken. So, the circle is complete. How can you not love and serve that which grants you whatever you want? Trust and reverence are must on a spiritual path. It guarantees that the relationship between the Guru and his student is never broken and, thus, His magic will never be withdrawn.
Recognition becomes a blessing from our Guru and, thus, is experienced through the acknowledgement of the Guru. And, as such, it’s seen as a passing grade on the way to merger. What’s wrong with that? Nothing, that’s what! Recognition becomes our report card towards merger with our Guru, and, thus, merger with God. So, it becomes necessary that “the more the recognition the merrier,” become a mantra. It’s Guru who commands it!
Then, why did our teacher sometimes command “no recognition?” Well, that’s for next time. Stay tuned.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, Lifetime Theme Song of Getting Along
Sat Nam, Dear Family! Last week we talked about how recognition for the Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan, usually was a devotional thing. This week, I promised to tell you why sometimes he shunned recognition.
For our teacher, there is a vast difference in how he treated the world and how he treated his students. The world was his playground, his students were his duty. As a spiritual teacher he served his students, the world was his playground.
Our teacher was a master politician. His mission was to get along with as many people as his Guru commanded, so he went out of his way to accommodate others knowing full well that many times their opinions sucked. But, nevertheless, he got along with all size and shapes. Sure, not everyone wanted to get along, but that’s just part of the game of life. His duty was to not make any break from them be his choice. He never let down anyone, they let themselves down. He was always available.
A true spiritual person is available to everyone, especially enemies. And, there are many enemies if you’re a true spiritual person - skeptics are all around! Holding them at bay is the duty of this spiritual person. Some do it better than others, but, usually, the more you try to get along, the line of obsequiousness, surrender to another person’s will, comes into play. Our teacher never crossed this line; he never gave in to another, but still managed to “get along.” He was always committed to Guru Ram Das, and no one could compare with Him.
In order to get along with others, naturally, he would have to be much more flexible than he was with his students. That’s how it goes or he’s not serving the best interests of his Guru and his students whether they knew it at the time, or not. But, he served the world through accommodation, tolerance. This flexibility was amazing to watch. Once you knew this about him, life around him was simpler to understand. He WAS and IS the real thing. Just follow him. Practice doing what he taught. Practice doing what he said. Have faith, he’s the real deal. You’ve hit the jackpot! Be smart and take advantage of it.
His flexibility to the world was shown through his acceptance and support of almost everyone. He did this in a very simple way. He could agree with almost everyone’s statement because that was their karma, and, that’s what they believed. So he could agree with their individual truth. Our wise teacher absolutely could acknowledge the reality of their truth. He would say, “Yes, I agree with you” and mean it. He had to live their reality in demonstration of humility from their context. He did. And, unless they were an aware person (rare), they typically had no choice in what they thought or did. His problem, by his own admission, was that his compassion wouldn’t let well enough alone. He involved himself where he shouldn’t because of his compassion for others. He wanted them all to be better.
In the Christian mode of the West, humility is often displayed through a lack of personal recognition. This is only part of the definition, but many follow it as absolute. He had to live their reality in demonstration of humility from their context. He did.
Many times he shunned any recognition. He got along with almost everybody through this demonstration of humility through tolerance, Therefore, his impact was a larger demographic. He was serving as he should. Yes, sometimes he acted very reverent because he was that too. It was a victory for shushmana; zeroing of yourself; contracting your ego into nothingness. It’s another method of victory. The true Sikh has many tools available by Guru’s grace. This is but another. So, there was a method to his irreconcilable behavior. Stay tuned.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, Don't Sweat Debt
Sat Nam, Dear Family! This particular warm October day started out like any other but it wouldn’t turn out to be. When the Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan, reacted differently to a perceived crisis, it was always a sign that it was time to stop arguing, debating, discussing and just follow his direction.
“Sir,” They’ve posting a sign on a pole in the front of our property,” a secretary burst in to announce. Our teacher and I were in the living room watching T.V. The bakery in Eugene, Golden Temple Bakeries, was having financial difficulties. This issue dealt with this problem.
Since at the time I wasn’t privy to the legal structure, I could only assume that our teacher was in some way connected to the business. Otherwise, why would their creditor create a need for him to have to deal with this situation, and, I might add, deal with it in such a public way? He asked that several of our Sangat Community leaders and secretaries present themselves. This is how he worked. He asked for the opinion of many, and, if the advice was good, he’d take it - although that was usually rare.
“Get a lawyer,” said one of our lawyers when informed. “How could Oregon let this happen,” offered another. “What should we do?” asked another?
We were all gathered in the living room at the ranch. Our teacher looked at the notice and then even read it out loud. He then became very quiet and still. His human frailty was touched and I had the strong impression that he was close to tears. Yes always a Yogi but still a sensitive human who had to deal with let downs and shocks. He now had to deal with an issue he didn’t like, that being ‘not paying a debt’. After all, he taught and believed that debt paying is karma paying; debt unpaid is karma creating. This notice flew in the face for everything he stood for. He had to make this right. How was Guru Ram Das going to turn this around into something good and positive, I remember thinking to myself. This will be interesting. He could now teach by example and he did.
“Get the miller on the phone,” was our teacher’s solution. A lawyer in the room broke in, “ Sir, I don't think this is a wise thing to do. Your conversation may compromise or create further issues not in our favor.” “Get the miller on the phone,” he repeated. Why would he do this? This doesn’t make sense? Didn’t he first need to talk to people in Oregon to understand exactly what he was dealing with? Evidently not.
The miller was summoned and he actually flew to present himself in New Mexico. “I understand that you’re not going to deliver to us until our bill is settled,” the Siri Singh Sahib said to the miller after normal formalities, courtesies and manners were settled. “You know that we can’t do business without the necessary deliveries.”
“That’s right. We’re not going to deliver anymore. We cant’ afford to do business like this. It’s not good business,” the miller responded with his slight European accent. “We’ve taken it way to far already. We’ve extended ourself far more with you than we ever have with anyone else before.”
“I agree with you,” said our teacher. “I know what I need to do. I can see that you’re a good man. Only a good man would have let things go this far. I call on your goodness once more to understand that I won’t let this company go down. I won’t fail them or myself. You’ll get back everything we owe you with interest, plus you’ll get all of our business in the future. All we require is a little more time. My reputation is at stake, so I have no choice but to come through.“
To make a long story short, after an hour of sincere communication the miller agreed to allowing Golden Temple more time. The miller grew to trust the Siri Singh Sahib. Really this trust between them was the only way Golden Temple Bakery could and would be saved.
Our teacher came through, he delivered. He did this by taking a personal interest in the operation and people at GTB. He became the CMA (Chief Management Authority), a new title for him. He trained them; poked them, provoked them, confronted them, and elevated them; there was never any doubt in his mind. He knew that Guru Ram Das would make everything O.K. so long as he did his additional job as CMA.
But, why was this embarrassment necessary? The answer is simple in retrospect: He needed to show us how to succeed under relentless pressure, to show us how to believe we can have faith that all is taken care of so long as we do our correct duty. We learned to believe this because we saw how things perpetually worked out for him. His faith was verified. He taught us by example that faith works when continual service to Guru’s Will is the goal and the direction. The trick is to always remember this, especially when we least want to. Stay tuned.
P.S. There would be no Golden Temple Bakery without this incident being successfully resolved. So, make no mistake about it, our beloved teacher is the reason that Golden Temple Bakery survived. It was then joined by the Yogi Tea Company, which is our very successful Dharmic business in Oregon today.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, Leaving on a Grieving, Deceiving Jet Plane
Sat Nam, Dear Family! The Imax Theater in L.A. is located next to a science museum. It’s also an aviation museum. There were airplanes inside the buildings suspended from the ceiling. Outside there were real planes and more displays of planes all around the grounds. The Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan, and I were walking around the grounds as we were a bit early for the movie, when a message was delivered which commanded immediate attention. Our movie was in jeopardy but really I was anxious not really knowing what occurrence commanded his absolute attention.
He wanted a phone to deal with this issue and, remember back then, there were no cell phones. I found a pay phone on the grounds and began pouring in coins as he spent a lot of time talking to several people to understand the depth and the reason for this tragedy.
Up to this point in time, a couple members of the Siri Singh Sahib’s staff had left the path and of course, his staff. Redirection of a commitment to this path is always difficult. This path is difficult, so there’s occasional reevaluation. It comes with the turf; it’s part of the process. What’s not part of the process is to give into reevaluation for a fabricated reason, justification, or excuse. There were different stories for each case. But, true to his destiny of being a true teacher, he extended to all as they were leaving as well as afterwards. And, one thing they all knew was that he was always available to them, all they had to do was to act like they deserved him. When this was lost, all bets were off. He loved discipline; when a student displayed it, he was pleased. And, when discipline was present in the form of service to the Infinite, our teacher was even more pleased. Back to this present challenge, another staff member was exiting.
By the time he hung up the phone for good, it was too late for the movie. He was so preoccupied that nothing was going to get in the way of his duty to calm this situation down. We proceeded back to the Ashram. In the world it’s called, “damage control;” in the spiritual world it’s called compassion, sacrifice and good business. He sprang into action - conversation, negotiation, reaffirmation, reconciliation, stagnation, fixation, you name it ensued. It’s all part of the process.
Everyone (all his students), and I mean everyone, believed they had a special love relationship with our teacher - and, that’s true, they did. But, this much I can tell you, his only true love was with his Guru, Guru Ram Das. Once a student disrespected that relationship, he became the best actor in the world. He didn’t want to offend anyone once the student/teacher relationship was broken. Nevertheless, his true love was reserved for those practicing serving this Dharma. He loved their commitment. He respected their commitment. He served their commitment.
Whenever he became focused on a situation, life around him was ratcheted up. His complete focus on the issue was a marvel to see. I saw how he actually learned to calm himself down after such intensities so he could allow his focus to deal relaxedly with other things as well. Life became balanced again, but his inner intensity never changed, he just occasionally changed its focus. Actually beyond his calm, wise, elevated exterior, he was deeply driven. Even though he knew his limitations and how to overcome them, he was always and forever humbled and grateful how someone like him, with all his faults, could still fall into his Guru’s arms. His past, his faults, his future faults no longer mattered. All was forgiven. He knew that every day you start from scratch with a new beginning and another chance at redemption and elevation. This could only be accomplished with Guru’s help. He knew this it and he relied on it. This magnificence is who your teacher was and is.
To make a long story short, the situation at hand was handled with grace. It took some time and a lot of conversations. That was his duty. Yes, this particular staff member left with a lot of drama, but that was part of the process. Life was in perfect balance. He lived as the Teacher; he lived as the slave. He lived as the Master; he lived as the servant. He lived as a king; he lived as a subject. He lived as a blessed man; he worked as if he weren’t. His perfect duty was combined with pure faith. The results were phenomenal. He lived a fearless life. It was a blessing to see. Stay tuned.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, A Cat’s Eye to Fly High
Sat Nam, Dear Family! I had always wanted a cat’s eye ring. Cat's eye, Chrysoberyl, is called the “jewelers stone.” Good ones are expensive, rare, unique, beautiful and powerful. In the Ayurvedic system, they are one of the nine most powerful gemstones on the planet. They are very desirable in the arsenal of a spiritual aspirant.
have studied the history and effects of various gemstones on the body and psyche and I know the effects of each of these powerful gems. However, I’d rather just wear them and see what effect they have on me. This is the most fun.
I bought a cat’s eye ring on a November day in 1992. My parents’ estate was finally settled and I had a nice windfall. So, I splurged and bought a cat’s eye ring from Jerry which was overpriced and not very negotiable since it was a consignment piece. Nevertheless, it was a nice piece and I wanted to see what a cat’s eye would do for me. Not waiting for the right price and paying the premium cost was worth it to me so I could experience it immediately. I gladly paid it.
This twelve carat cat’s eye was set in a woman’s ring with beautiful diamonds surrounding the gem. I took the ring to Angel (the Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan's jeweler) with the request that he make it into a gent’s ring. He performed his magic and built another bezel surrounding base which created a unique and beautiful ring. In a week or so I was wearing this piece.
I loved wearing this ring. The cat’s eye’s effect on me was dynamic. I began to see things more clearly as my intuition became deeper and automatic. The Siri Singh Sahib must have seen this change in me also because shortly thereafter, he wanted to go downtown to see a gem dealer we often dealt with. We had met Andrew through his wife, Kim. Kim was a jeweler designer of repute in her own right. We had met her at a wholesale gem show in Tucson and, over the years, had purchased many pieces from her. Our relationship grew and we went to lunch with her in Beverly Hills many times. Andrew had some beautiful stones. He was a major league color gem dealer. I respected Andrew’s choice and knowledge of gems. He really knew his business.
We sat down in Andrew’s office. The first thing our beloved teacher said was, “Do you have any cat's eye chrysoberyl?” “I have a great one, but it’s not cheap,” Andrew answered in his Hungarian accent as he turned in his chair to open the safe behind him. He produced a beautiful thirteen carat plus gemstone - perfect honey color, dye straight eye line, and no flaws. This gem was an example of what a perfect cat’s eye is supposed to be like. It didn’t take long before our negotiation was done. Andrew never allowed me a big discount as he usually gave us a good price to begin with. So when a fair price was reached, I reached for my checkbook. Fourteen thousand five hundred dollars was the settlement price (remember, this was twenty five years ago when things were much less expensive). Back then, that was quite a lot of money for a cat’s eye. But, this stone was a gem and I knew that it wouldn’t go down in price. After all, the best of anything always holds its value. This stone was a gem.
Out of Andrews’s office we went. Andrew couldn’t join us for lunch, so the Siri Singh Sahib and I walked across the street to the Biltmore hotel for our favorite lunch when we were downtown. The Biltmore was an old L.A. and a magnificent structure. We loved the pasta bar located in one of the restaurants. (A footnote: If you want to see a photo of this Hotel, go watch “Drop Dead Diva” on Netflix...they show an arial view every episode!)
I orchestrated a pasta for me and him (I knew his taste) and returned to our table. The Siri Singh Sahib was looking at his cat’s eye.
“Son,” he said as he handed me the gem. “Take this to Angel and have him make a ring just like the one he made for you.”
At first I was startled that my ring was no longer going to be unique. Then, reason set in. If the Siri Singh Sahib wanted a ring like mine, what greater honor could there be surrounding this issue. Subsequently, through the years, the Siri Singh Sahib and I have several rings and pendants which are the same. They are the most valued pieces in my collection. Stay tuned.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, The Pink Slip of Leadership
Sat Nam, Dear Family! “Leadership is first about showing up.”
The Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan, was sitting in his chair at the ranch Estate in Espanola on a hot, dry June afternoon. An ashram leader had come from one of our larger Sangats (congregations). This student had been under a lot of fire from his Sangat members recently. He came to see the Siri Singh Sahib for, purportedly, clarification. It turned out what he wanted was to be supported more than disciplined.
“I can’t change that law just because I’d like to help you,” our teacher continued. “Many have tried to work around this rule, I don’t know of anyone who’s not been subject to this law. Maybe it can be done, but I wouldn’t bet on it. It may take a long time, but leadership which doesn’t show up cannot last, especially in this Dharma.”
The ashram leader looked in shock. He was just trying to take it all in. After seeing this scenario play out over the years I could have bet that he was thinking, ‘what did our teacher mean by this? Does this conflict with my beliefs? Is this what I want? Can I justify not following this? He can’t expect me to do everything, I already do a lot! What does he mean by ‘showing up,’ just because I don’t do Sadhana (spiritual disciplines) or go to Gurdwara every Sunday doesn’t mean that I can’t lead.’ He sat motionless as these questions most probably popped into his awareness. It must have been only a few seconds, but it seemed like minutes.
The ashram leader finally pulled himself together, “What else should I do?”
“You ask me?” our beloved teacher interjected, “After all these years, you ask me and not yourself? If I I answer you, you can’t be a leader. I’m training you to be a leader, so figure out what else you should do and do it.” Again, this student felt somewhat catatonic. He must surely have then thought, ‘Now he not only wants me to do what I don’t want, he is asking me to be my own teacher.’
I could see the look of confusion on his face. This time it took a full five seconds until this student was able to bring his focus back to reality. He did, but he didn’t come back all the way, he was still dazed. He had reached his limit. I could see that there was something out of kilter. We didn’t realize what it was until months later. But, when we did, it all came together - this student had reached his limit and wasn’t going to go beyond it.
This leader had been given a lot of leeway in the past, but it was now time to lead by example. He was being told that he no longer could set the rules himself like he had done in the past when had often been supported even when he was wrong. Now, the rules were to be set by the Siri Singh Sahib and they needed to be followed. That’s what’s expected of a true leader. He/she follows the lead of the best of whatever he leads. In our case, it’s our teacher and his teachings.
The rule our teacher was setting was: show up! He knew what that meant, I knew what he meant, and this student knew what he meant. Nevertheless, I’m sorry to say, this student rationalized his way out of the obedience requested of him. He left shortly thereafter.
I understand this defeat; I don’t accept it! We’ve been given Sadhana as a gift, as a blessing, as an opportunity to become greater than we ever imagined. If we think something is too big to be tackled or some action to tiring to undertake, then we haven’t taken advantage of Sadhana. Sadhana makes the impossible, possible. It allows us to overcome our own limited judgment.
Unfortunately, this student hadn’t been doing Sadhana for some time, and it showed. His limit was challenged and he gave into it right straight away. He had a chance to be a leader, but it took continuous self-discipline. We can all become leaders in our own right. Start with Sadhana and see the miracles. Sadhana is so important that I can’t even begin to explain. And let me add, the Siri Singh Sahib Ji never stopped teaching us about Sadhana and why to do it! He taught twice a week at the L.A. Ashram and at the Espanola Ashram for 35 years. Every day after he taught, the Sadhana room was packed at 3:30 AM! Consider he is still teaching and take the hint: DO Sadhana!
See Sikh Definitions.
Pages And Points To Ponder
Memories, Moments, and Missives
See more at 3HOLegacyLinks.com.
Memories to share? Register here.
Pages And Points To Ponder