Yogi Bhajan, The Sobriety in Anxiety
Sat Nam, Dear Family!
One time many years ago I had to do something which raised some degree of anxiety in me. I asked the Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan, how I should handle it. His answer taught me many things that helped me for many years to come. Please, let me explain.
Our beloved teacher answered, “Think and act as if whoever creates anxiety in you is now your child and you are the parent, and, when I say parent, I mean a good parent. Wouldn’t that create a different reality? Wouldn’t that reverse the situation? Wouldn’t that show compassion? Isn’t that better than being in pain? So, forgive everyone, especially yourself, then you’ll have more time to focus on the compassion this takes.” Understanding his statement was challenging enough in and of itself, so I decided to just keep seeing those individuals who brought up my angst as being children, not adults.
The situation I referred to above was a forthcoming meeting with my parents. Now, my parents were to become my children. Mostly, it was my father’s attitude that I had to contend with. I loved both my parents but differently. I perceived my mother as the fluff part of my upbringing. She taught me how to eat properly, how to be mannerful, how to appreciate fine art and jewelry, how to be my own person. Nevertheless, it was my father who taught me how to deal with life around me. He was my rock. I loved my father, but that didn’t negate my seeing the reality of his faults as well. So at this time in my matriculation, any reminder of what I came from, or what I was fighting to forget, was painful, uncomfortable, and to be avoided.
My father knew how to lay down the law. He was firm about it and heavy handed when it was questioned. Yet, he tolerated everything when, and after, all his enforcement efforts failed. But it was his bluster which was uncomfortable. He was loyal and I loved him for it. Don’t get me wrong, he was also about fun. Yes, he expected me to act in a certain way, but, either way, we still had a lot of fun times. He gave me almost everything I wanted, but the cost in harshness was painful. With all I had, I still wanted more!
I loved everything about my upbringing except the harshness it could sometimes create. I felt that there must be a better way. Enter our beloved teacher - my new rock. He also laid down the law. He demanded and wanted more out of each student. But, he tolerated everything thereafter. Now you know why the Siri Singh Sahib and I matched up so well together. He was just like my parents with one very important exception: he replaced harshness with compassion. Voila, he had everything I loved plus the compassion to make life fearless. I was his right off the bat.
Anyway, back to the story. My wife, my daughter and I drove out to the desert to visit my parents with a new sense of hope. I can do this. I’ll just act as if my parents are my kids and, thus, I’ll have the patience and tolerance to not be affected by their judgment. Well, I thought, that’s easy enough. Oh, how wrong I was.
Our visit ended in complete failure. Naturally, eventually, my father and I got into it. We started out alright, but, after a while, I just couldn't take the snide condescension in his voice and I got upset. And, this time was worse than ever as he refused to call me by my Sikh name. It was very unpleasant. I was most upset by my failure in not holding it together.
Thankfully, my parents’ winter home was not far from L.A. They visited often. There granddaughter was the apple of their eye. I continued to practice seeing them as my kids and, eventually, it began to work. I began to tolerate their insensitivity more and more until I no longer had to tolerated them, at all, rather I began to unemotionally educate and help them instead. Compassion kicked in. I no longer was haunted by who I was or who they were. I became secure in who I had become. It was a great catharsis. I learned to overcome my fear by facing it, not avoiding it. First, fear leaves. Then, life becomes a different experience as there’s one less insecurity to overcome. A richness and fullness accompanies this success. Relaxation entered my life.
I’ve learned more subtle things as well. I’ve learned that the value that my mother brought to my life was much more than just fluff. Her fluff was initiated by a belief that everything should come to her. She was a perfect JAP, Jewish American Princess. And, that’s the way things turned out for her. She got what she wanted. It was handed to her on a sliver platter. In fact, the Siri Singh Sahib used to say about her, “She’s got a rare pink aura. That means that she gets what she wants and it just comes to her.” She taught me her way of thinking.
I have always believed that things should just come to me. It didn’t matter whether or not I deserved them, or worked for them or not; this was what my mother taught me to believe. This is also the way of a true Sikh, for as our teacher often said, “There are two ways to get something, hassle and hustle for it, or sit in one place and see what Guru brings your way.”
Again, the Siri Singh Sahib and I were made for each other. Many times this way of thinking can be frustrating, but in the long run, it works out quite nicely. It’s a noble, royal way of thinking. I’m more and more grateful to my mother for this education.
My father taught me the discipline it takes to get from this world the things a royal needs - the hustle and hassle way. He hassled and hustled his way to providing for my mother, and me, as we practiced the ‘sit in one place’ way. He manifested all the ingredients and values of western success : correct commitment, hard work, and deliverance were the ingredients needed and he manifested these values very well. Therein lay the conflict. On one hand, things should come to me, on the other hand I have to work hard. Which is it?
This is where our beloved teacher once again became invaluable. He bridged the gap between grace and hard work. He taught me that correct hard work is necessary to guarantee success, but it also positions the student to be eligible to receive God’s grace. That doesn’t mean that positioning is always rewarded, nor am I saying that His grace can’t be granted without doing His duty, I just know the odds are much, much greater if the student does her duty as a show of gratitude, devotion and reverence for just the opportunity to be in this position to receive His grace. Making the hassle and hustle part of the process a matter of reverence is the key: make work a worship.
So, you can see how grateful I am for my parents and my teacher. I see now, how much they’ve added to my life, much more than I thought previously. I only wish that I could personally let them know of my extended gratitude. At least I can continue to tell God every morning that they’ve all done a wonderful job. I do! They all gave me anything I needed to have this great opportunity I have. That’s all they can do; the rest is up to me. They’ve done all they can and they can’t do it for me. I remind God every morning of their great service. In some small way, I hope this serves as my ever increasing gratitude for how Guru has blessed me.
So, treating everyone with the compassion of a parent has provided many lessons, and, I’m sure, more to come. I’ve learned that this way of being doesn’t happen overnight, at least, it didn’t for me. Just keep up practicing and it will work. It’s well worth the focus.
In the Humility of Service and Gratitude,
See Sikh Definitions.
Sat Nam, Dear Family! How can you tell who to believe. I mean, everyone has opinions. Priests, rabbis, gianis, all spiritual teachers have been held in high esteem as far as who to believed is concerned. We’ve been helped many times, and we’ve been betrayed many [times] also. How do we make a correct decision and increase the help, while decreasing the betrayal?
Almost all teachers have a point of betrayal. It may be very subtle. In fact, it can be so subtle that the teacher may not even know of their betrayal. And, even if they do, they learn to cover it up so it doesn’t affect emotions, mental state or consciousness. This is the biggest form of betrayal as the teacher betrays him/herself.
So, you could say with few exceptions, all teachers have a point of betrayal. Thankfully, many students never get to that point, so the teachings being followed aren’t compromised. And what seems to be a constant on a spiritual path, a student will consciously or not, test the teacher so the teacher has to prove he is trustworthy and will not betray the student.
Our beloved teacher [the Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan] had an elevated way of handling all challenges. He was one of those rare teachers who wouldn’t betray anyone. I did challenge him on several occasions. At the time I felt really badly about it. Who am I to challenge my teacher? What kind of student am I? Why do I want to bring anything but joy into his life? But, my wants trumped everything else including my teachers will.
So, why do we challenge our teacher? I’ll tell you why. Because we’re not perfect. We still want what we want whether we realize it or not. So, I tested his compassion. I now see how this was necessary and there was no need to feel so badly about it. As bad as it appeared, it wasn’t. I’ll tell you why. Because our teacher loved the opportunities to display his grace, his compassion, his eternal lack of betrayal.
He always said, “My body is covered with scars, no place is left without psychic marks.” By that he meant, he was covered with the scars of betrayal. Did he like it? No, but it comes with the turf. He didn’t like it because it meant that the student needed more than God, he/she needed their own will satisfied. On the other hand, he liked it because it showed him where the student was currently at spiritually, and it gave him another opportunity to show his compassion. And, that’s Godlike, so he liked it because it was pleasing to his Guru.
Rather than a lack of betrayal, I should label it as a great presence of compassion. His ultimate compassion was demonstrated by his nature of never giving up on anyone. If you hurt him, he kept up. He always wanted the best out of everyone. It didn’t matter how many times you had betrayed him, he still projected, gave, sincerely worked for your elevation. That was his job and he did it to a tee. If you couldn’t take it, you left him, he wouldn’t leave you. The Guru says, ‘wish well to all.’ He lived by these words.
That was his way of never betraying anyone. I was blessed to see it in action often. This is how his promise to us was delivered. This is how his teachings delve deeply into the cosmos. It’s an image, which is hard to live to. But, it’s an image of the greatest thing - compassion. This is the standard of our teacher and this is the protocol of this dharma. This is his legacy. This is his protocol. This is his gift. This is our blessing. We mustn’t let it go.
In the Humility of Service and Gratitude,
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, the Fluidity of Stupidity
Sat Nam, Dear Family! I’ll tell you how stupid we humans are… Now, that’s some way to begin a letter. I wonder how many of you I’ve already challenged to the point of offensiveness and lost already? Well, I am asking you to get over it, that’s the kind of teacher I am. I learned this from my teacher, Yogi Bhajan, [aka] the Siri Singh Sahib, although he had the discipline to pull back to the level of the student or students he was speaking with.
Nevertheless, when you hear him speak at yoga classes or in Gurdwara, he was very challenging. He pulled no punches. He spoke to students in that way so that they know what’s expected. What’s tolerated is another story. But, what’s expected is what makes us special. And, I might add, our tolerance also is what makes us special. So, he felt that if some students were freaked out by it, well he wasn’t willing to sacrifice the protocol for convenience.
By the way, even the students who have stayed have freaked out a time or a thousand. It comes with the turf. ‘It’s too much. I’ll get there. I’m not there yet. I’ll just tune out for now. I’ll use all my deflecting ability to how deal with this. I don’t have to do it all, do I? Well, maybe next life.” These are the questions even good students ask themselves. It’s part of the process, that is if they don’t freak out along the way.
So, being stupid turns out to be O.K. We’re all subject to discretionary teaching, and we’re the judge of what we want to do. That makes us even stupider. To be able to surrender stupidity is the blessings of the universe. And, it doesn’t take any ability. In fact, ability can be a deterrent as it deflects concentration.
So, the stupider we are, the better chance we have of overcoming our stupidity. We know what it takes, it takes surrendering to those teachings our beloved teacher spoke about at these occasions. It takes doing what we don’t want. It takes sacrifice. It takes discipline. It takes will. And for all of us it also takes God’s help. Being on the path of lessening our stupidity is what separates us. It’s what makes us real.
If you want to avoid the pain of sacrifice, the discipline of discipline, the misunderstanding of will, we know the way. It’s called chanting God’s Sacred Name. We’re so stupid that when it hasn’t worked to our satisfaction, we deny it; we delay it; or, we avoid it. What a mistake that is. All it does is keep inertia flowing. It doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t even reset how your existence flows - nothing changes.
At least if you keep up, you changed your existence so that it trends in the right way. And, who knows when stupidity will begin to lessen. Look for it and you’ll find it. It’s in the grace of His Name. Keep-up and I guarantee you’ll be blessed. Be so stupid that all you want is to remember His Name. While working, while playing, while anything, His Name is with you. Practice that kind of mutli-tasking and see the miracle. The miracle of being wise instead of stupid. It’s a fantastic journey. I say journey because stupidity never ends, and, luckily, neither does becoming more wise. Only God is perfect, so in His eyes, we’re all always stupid. Remember His Name until you merge with Him and become never stupid again.
In the Humility of Service and Gratitude,
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, Thanks for giving us The Elegance of Exclusive Excellence
Sat Nam, Dear Family!
Exclusive excellence, this is what Guru Gobind Singh shared with His Khalsa. He said (paraphrased), “If you truly want something special out of this life, live in exclusive excellence.”
He minced no words. He told it like it is and let the chips fall where they may. He didn’t sugar coat his words. He was very direct. What did he mean by this statement? I’ve thought about it for many years. Unlike almost all other sayings that have caught my attention over the years, this one hasn’t changed meanings. That’s the beauty of this statement by Guru ji. He was so clear that his truth was simple.
Exclusivity is a charged word. Many associate it with elitism. And, they are usually right. But, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. It’s not exclusivity which is wrong; it’s exclusivity at the cost of others. What about exclusivity in serving others selflessly? Wouldn’t that kind of exclusivity be respected?
What do I mean by, ‘in serving others selflessly?’ Those who truly serve others selflessly are few and far between. They are exclusive. I know that there are many who believe that they’re in this exclusive club, but it’s not their call. Guru decides who sits in His Court. His Court is where exclusivity leads to excellence through grace. This is where the true exclusive few servants of Guru, servants to all, become elevated through excellence by the grace of God.
This exclusive court lives in ‘exclusive excellence.’ This is the excellence to continue perpetually to do more and do it better than yesterday. For a Khalsa, excellence is serving Guru’s Will. Guru’s Will ends in victory. So, for us, excellence means victory. That’s the first part of our Guru’s will. In other words, if we act and think better and better in an excellent way about our victory in Guru’s name, if we’re true to this thinking, then we can never lose. Guru is on our side, He’s our true protector. It’s not up to us to judge how long this takes, or in what form our victory comes, our excellence demands one-pointed concentration on victory, victory alone.
This is what Guru ji means by, “if you truly want something special out of this life.” Excellence creates ‘something special.’ It means that Guru has found your discipline acceptable and you have been blessed to sit in His exclusive Court.
A disciplined practice is the key. Guru ji left no doubt about the discipline he meant. The discipline of the Khalsa is the principle of Bana (dress), Bani (prayers), Seva (selfless service) and Simran (meditation). (See More.)
This is the lifestyle of a Sikh practitioner of exclusive excellence. This is where exclusive excellence begins, leads, and follows. This is the correct hard truth about a true Sikh. Naturally, many don’t want to hear this, but Guru ji doesn’t care about what we want as his duty is to give us what we need. He wants there to be no doubt about what he requires and what is necessary to truly become ‘something special.’
Here’s the best news, for a Sikh, exclusivity is open to everyone. No invitation, no offer is necessary. Everyone is eligible to practice exclusive excellence. All they have to do is begin. In Sikh Dharma we initiate ourselves. We initiate ourselves to commit, practice, and deliver Guru’s will. It doesn’t even matter how well you practice. Just the continued practice has a built-in great reward.
This first step, commitment and discipline, begins with what appears to be the most daunting of all tasks. Wearing bana, doing sadhana, performing selfless service is not easy. It’s a very inspiring, direct, simple and difficult lifestyle. It may start out as very difficult, but at some point (and that point is up to Guru) what was daunting now appears easily doable. Life becomes a flow instead of a fight. Sukh Sahej. Peaceful Easy Feeling!
Sikh Dharma is for everyone. It doesn’t belong to the Punjab. It doesn’t belong to India. It’s universal. That’s what makes it great. We’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to practice Sikhism. We’ve been blessed beyond our awareness. We know about exclusive excellence. We know where to find the formula. Are we taking advantage of our luck? Have we committed or recommitted ourselves to the continued practice of exclusive excellence? We know the secret. What’s wrong with us if we don t take advantage of our blessings? These blessings should not go to waste. They won’t! That’s not who we are.
We are the victors. We are the servants. We are the examples. We are exclusively excellent. We are happy to say this because it’s not about us; it’s a reflection of our Guru. He makes us victors through our discipline to His will. We serve His Will. We are examples of His Will. And, we accept any challenge to this end.
Everyone is welcome. We make no distinctions. Whoever has been so blessed as to find Sikh Dharma, we serve first. We love these students as they give us the opportunity to teach the way to exclusive excellence. We are grateful to be able to share what we’ve learned with those who’ll come after us. That’s the way it’s always worked and we’re very grateful to be part of this time-honored process.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, The True Stillness of Illness
Sat Nam, Dear Family!
“Come in, darling,” the Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan, said to a woman as she entered the living room at the ranch. She was dealing with a health issue and had sought his advice. She was relatively new to our Dharma. I think she knew of her health issue for many years and that’s what inspired her to pursue our lifestyle.
She approached his chair and bent over to touch is feet. Touching the feet of an elder is a cultural trait from the East which we American students easily adopted. We did this in reverence for all he taught and gave us. I found it to be a very relaxing gesture. It showed respect for something greater than ourselves. It was a great first step.
“Sit down, sit down, please,” he commanded as he motioned for her to a place to sit on the carpet. Sitting on the carpet is another custom of ours. It shows respect and reverence. It’s a show of commitment to the student-teacher relationship. Not being on the same level as the teacher is an acknowledgement of that relationship. She did as he required, and then the tears began to flow. Her health issue had become more and more acute.
“She began to complain, "Sir, you told me that everything will be O.K. but it is not. The doctors say that the cancer has spread and there’s nothing else they can do. It’s just a matter of time before it’s over. Why did you not tell me the truth? I trusted you.” It was obvious to him and me that she wasn’t in her real mind. Her anger and frustration needed an outlet. He provided it. He could take it and he did time and time again.
“I understand your pain. I’m sorry for your misunderstanding.” She cut in, “What do you mean misunderstanding? You told me that everything was going to be O.K. and I believed you. There was no misunderstanding. Things aren’t O.K., so why, why didn’t you tell me the truth?” “I didn’t lie to you darling, I wanted our projection to be positive to prove to God that we believe in Him and we’ll never give up believing in Him no matter what the situation. Our job as a spiritual being is to be an example for those who come after us and never lose faith. When I said that everything will be O.K., I meant in the long run, not in a shortsighted view.”
What do you mean by that?” She continued, “Where have I lost faith? I don’t understand. Please explain this to me.” He responded, ”You are not this body. You are not this pain. You are not this uncertainty. You are not this fear. You are the daughter of the great spiritual warrior Guru Gobind Singh and are guided, protected, and loved by him personally. He’s got your back even if it doesn’t always seem like it. All these uncomfortable experiences we have to go through are actually the blessing of paying off any and all karma left. This pain is actually a ticket to liberation, to merger with Him. Remembering this at the right time is the antidote for any pain.”
What was left to say? She sat there stunned. She stared straight ahead for what appeared to be a considerable amount of time. Then, tears again began to flow. “You’re right. I’ve always known that what you do, you do for the best in me even if it doesn't always appear so. I know that. I’m sorry for using you as a means to vent my frustration.”
“Don’t worry darling.” He interrupted, which he usually did when someone needed forgiveness. His compassion made him quick on the trigger when it was needed. He made you feel that the thing which you needed forgiveness for wasn't a problem. No forgiveness was necessary. It was a great experience, one which was devoid of any retribution. It turns into an experience of gratitude, of compassion, of love on the part of the student.
She let out a laudable sigh. I could see her demeanor change as she lowered her head and said, “Thank you, sir. I’m sorry for being so rude. Thank you for understanding. I feel much better now. Thank you for reminding me of who I am. Sometimes easier ways of thinking get in the way of who I now am. Thank you for knowing who I am and having the courage to remind me. I now see what gratitude can do, I already feel much, much better.”
This was just another day in the perpetual teaching life of the Siri Singh Sahib. I was blessed again to see him in action.
See Sikh Definitions.
Sat Nam, Dear Family!
In 1979 I accompanied the Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan, to the Punjab on a Yatra, which is a spiritual journey to sacred places. The Punjab is always and an inspiring experience. Sikhism is exaggerated there. For instance, on this Yantra I experienced many more greetings and blessings were used by Sikhs than I ever imagined. One of these greetings captured my attention and has been a constant companion ever since. At least the pursuit of the meaning in this greeting has stayed with me. And, being with the Siri Singh Sahib exaggerated the number of greetings even more as many spiritual greetings were added into the mix.
Although it’s an old expression which is no longer typically in fashion, sometimes one Sikh (usually an older gentleman) would greet another with the word, "Santokh ji". Santokh means contentment and ji is a formal, humble, and reverent acknowledgement of the soul in another person. This greeting contains the essence of Sikhism. This greeting should never be forgotten.
Contentment is where relaxation resides. A relaxed life is a flow. A flow is not of your making, so life is ruled by someone or something else. In the case of a Sikh, the ruler is the Guru. Contentment for a Sikh is a life ruled, protected, and provided for by the Guru. Santokh ji is a blessed greeting acknowledging the bestowed flow of life. I shall continue to use it.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, The Purpose of life, No Strife
Sat Nam, Dear Family!
Have you ever asked yourself, “Why am I here? What is my life’s true purpose and how can I achieve it?” I think everyone has. It’s not this question which holds my attention; it’s the pursuit it tweaks, the sub-questions it conjures. What cost are we truly willing to pay, and what makes us think we can succeed? These are the questions which have held my attention for over forty years. Then again, for many, these questions aren’t relevant. They don’t need the answers. In some way, they are the fortunate ones, that is, if they’ve found their true destiny. Otherwise, there are a myriad of traps, misconnects, philosophies, you name it to steer you wrong as you pursue this quest.
I may have been naive in all other aspects at this time in my life, but this much I knew: I knew I would get back what I gave to my pursuit of whatever. The more commitment one makes to the pursuit of why we’re here, the more discipline one applies, the more deliverance through pure service, the more understanding becomes available. So, a daily lifestyle, naturally and typically, would be a better route to liberation than a weekly visit to church. This is the cost. Immersion into commitment beyond the ordinary was the time-honored cost. I was anxious to pay it. The promise of a life of true happiness was too alluring to pass up. I was willing to pay the price. Of course, there are many roadblocks, judgments and doubts along the way, but if the heart is pure, help is provided. It’s not easy, but it’s well worth it.
Well, that’s done. Now, “what makes us think that we can succeed? Who the hell are we?” That’s a really good question. Success is a habit and that’s a really good thing. Nevertheless, everyone’s habit of success has a limit, even for the most successful. I didn’t realize this at the time, and that’s where the problem lay. We don’t even know how we defeat ourselves, so how can we succeed in spite of ourselves? That’s another really good question. Great religions offer the way to overcome oneself. Religions offer a way to relax through life. That’s a good thing. I studied religions and I discovered that some religions offer answers as well. Some answers which make more sense than others.
I went about it as if I had no religion and had the choice to choose whichever religion I wanted. Of course, even with the best of intentions - biases, prejudices, habits, and tendencies still affect the choices we make. After a lot of study, it turned out that I didn’t choose a religion, I chose a teacher. I liked what this guy, the Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan, was saying; his words when right to my head and heart at the same time. What he said made perfect sense to me. I believed in him and he hasn’t let me down. He is the way to the answers of who, what, why and how we are here.
I was the kind of guy who was impatient to learn. I wanted to know the answers more quickly. Kundalini Yoga had provided me more answers than I ever expected. Now, I wanted more. Not because Kundalini Yoga was limited, it’s not - I was! It was my teacher who served me by providing the true Kundalini Yoga. So I was intrigued. What else does he have up his sleeve, which could help me with answers?
Well, he was a Sikh, so I began studying Sikhism. I loved it. It turns out that Sikhism is the basis for the Siri Singh Sahib’s teachings, and amazingly the essence of how I believed. How lucky were we? What greater answers are still available? None, that’s what! I accepted Sikhism because Sikhism and my teacher are one. If I want to become him, and I did, naturally, it’s much easier if you follow his teachings sincerely.
If the cost paid is satisfactory to the Guru, either through serving Him or His true representative, unseen obstacles are bypassed. You have help in overcoming limitations, seen and unseen. And, not just any help, you have the help of the Guru. The Guru help creates miracles. What cost could be too much if miracles come to you, miracles which propel you beyond your own awareness. Imagine miracles which not only provide understanding, but also provide the experience of the reality of this understanding. The answers become an experience as true happiness enters life. Living this joy, free of fear and doubt, is a gift from the Guru, explained by our teacher to be shared with all. We now know why we are here and what we can and will do about it.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, The Fuzziness of Happiness
Sat Nam, Dear Family!
The Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan, and I were driving up the California coast in the spring of 1985. It was an interesting time. The past year or so many students had left their discipline and the path of Sikh Dharma. Some were major teachers. It was a trying time. I remember this period vividly because I never saw our teacher sweat. He never showed me any insecurity. He lived the teachings. I loved this about him.
I don’t remember what I said to prompt his response, it’s not really important. What is important is his response, which has stayed with me ever since.
“Son,” he said, “nobody comes to spirituality when they are happy with their life.”
At first, his statement shocked me. I’d never thought of myself as an unhappy person. In my mind, it was a great sacrifice to give up my old life to follow this Yogi from the Punjab. I wasn’t unhappy that’s for sure, but I did know that I wasn’t satisfied as well. If there’s an answer to this life we live, I wanted to know it and I was willing to pay any price.
As time went on and after further consideration, I realized that what I have just explained above is the definition of unhappiness in my life even if I didn’t want to admit it. A life which is unsatisfied is an unhappy one. So, I began to accept the fact that “no one comes to spirituality who is happy with their life.” I began to understand what he meant. But, there was more.
Next, I began to think about “happiness,” after all, that’s what we’re talking about. Naturally, there are many definitions of happiness. Each has her own. Sometimes they overlap with other, but, still, each experience or understanding is unique. So, what standard is the happiness quotient held to? Why isn’t everyone happy? What determines limitations? Who’s the happiness judge?
For a Sikh, the best judge is the Guru. What does the Guru have to say about happiness? How does the Guru experience and teach happiness? And, where does this lead? In a nutshell, the Guru says it ends in love. Love expressed through devotion, gratitude, service, duty and deliverance to Guru and His teachings. love that provides everything, wanted and not. Love which is lodged in service to the Infinite. Love which recognizes where everything comes from, the Guru. This is how the Guru describes true happiness. This is where the Guru reminds us of His opportunity to bestow grace upon us. This is the ultimate happiness.
O.K., now we’ve described happiness at its highest level. What’s next? What’s next is what spirituality is all about: What do I do to reach true happiness and never feel unfulfilled again? The Guru says that the more I love Him, the more I’ll reflect Him. Metaphorically, I am the bride, the wife, of the Guru. I reflect him by doing more and more of what He commands of me, his servant. I don’t judge it. I don’t like or dislike it. I don’t feel it. I don’t get emotional about it. I just keep up serving it. I serve it until I become it, and then I serve it more. What I get is the experience of true happiness compounded through and with love.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, Don’t Cancel the Counsel
Sat Nam, Dear Family!
“To even have a chance to be able to inspire, uplift and start the process of transforming another’s pain, you first have to be heard by them. For someone to be open to your input, your healing, it is imperative that you first have deep empathy for them and feel the essence of their pain. Otherwise, you can’t help them. Your words will be a lecture and not heard, let alone appreciated.” We were seated at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in the casual dining area which every afternoon expanded into the lobby area to accommodate High Tea.
I had brought the Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan, there so he could experience some of the best of what America offers. Part of my job as Chief of Protocol back then was to show him places and events which I thought he’d enjoy – environments which I thought proper for a spiritual king. I knew that he saw the other side of life daily, the pain, the suffering and the hopelessness so I felt very grateful to be able to offer him the flip side. That’s where I came from; that’s what I knew; that’s what he wanted. It was that simple. It turns out I was here for a blessed reason. We’re all here for a blessed reason whether we acknowledge it or not. It’s really not our call.
On this day, a delicious ‘High Tea’ in a regal environment was on the schedule. I knew that he’d enjoy the experience. He liked royal things and he gave us all permission to enjoy the best of this world. He modeled the example of first service to his God, his Guru, and others, and then sitting back and watching gifts being showered by God in His pleasure. It was a delight to see and experience our teacher in life, at work and at play! I loved the way he served and enjoyed both this world as well and the next. He knew that wealth not captured by man, but bestowed by God, is the only the way to truly enjoy the accouterments of this world without any guilt, period.
As one of the many counterbalances to this process, a woman healer he had been counseling for several weeks joined us at the hotel. She wasn’t part of our dharma, but, that too, wasn't unusual. He had requested that she join us for a gentle repast. His quote above was in response to a question she had asked earlier. Our teacher had perked up right away. Her question required a response so now he could answer a question to which everyone would like to know the answer. I too was as eager to hear the answer, maybe even more than she!
His answer explained the necessary first step to start a healing process with another person who is in need of love. He had the sensitivity, ability and intuition to experience their pain, fear and depression but also, and most importantly, the ray of hope that could be kindled. He also knew the toll it takes in manifesting this empathy. He was all too familiar with the discomfort felt when one articulates another pain. This discomfort must pass through the counselor quickly, or the process becomes deleterious to the counselor.
The fact that he continued to counsel many others throughout his life was confirming evidence that he had learned how to dissipate this negative energy very effectively. This is why so many psychologists, counselors, and other healers came to him to learn the art of keeping up without burning out. He shared many healing techniques and specific meditations with doctors and many others in the healing professions to help them overcome “burn out”. A big focus of his was to uplift and support healers whose work included dealing with others negativity.
The woman responded, “How do you do that? How do you truly understand what someone else is going through?” Wow. Here was another question to which I couldn’t wait to hear the answer. He didn’t waste any time, “When you humbly serve the upliftment of another, God’s wisdom comes through. In the west it’s called empathy, in the east, intuition. In either case, when you experience it there’s no doubt that you’ve done so. You are living in ‘Thou’ not ‘I’. Remaining in the aura of God and Guru will help you not be grabbed personally by the enormous pain released in the exchange. You’d better be prepared or, eventually, it can devastate you. Know, too, that speaking the truth does not always bring about the desired results because not everyone is capable of, or open to hearing it. Still, you must continue to act in faith as your awareness keeps directing you to the heart of the other person; this affords the best opportunity for Guru’s grace to enter their life.”
Well, that was quite a statement. Now I knew how he was able to teach collectively and individually. I had seen him deal with many different kinds of students in many different ways. Now I understood why and how he could do it. Of course, doing it like he did it was much more difficult. But, at least I understood it. I knew what to practice in order to avoid the pitfalls inherent in the process. As the saying goes, ‘forewarned is forearmed. It was actually a great lesson.
The first test in counseling another is in understanding and experiencing their discomfort, all this is done through Guru’s Grace. The next step is in being able to dissipate then eliminate any discomfort so it doesn’t get its teeth in you. The last step is the awareness this experience gives us as to how to best respond to this discomfort in the most productive manner. It requires intuition, meditation, and sensitivity.
When another confides in you, especially when someone also relies on you to help, there is a duty for a teacher, a yogi, to do the best for that person. His statement provided a “heads up” as to how this duty can be best performed with the least amount of fallout. In my case, our teacher usually wasn’t so explicit as to how to do things. He usually left that up to me to figure out. Occasions like this were rare, valuable, and memorable.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, Add Thunder to Wonder
Sat Nam, Dear Family!
I used to wonder what it’d be like to live in the Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan's, consciousness. Even if for just a day, I wanted to know what the experience of where I want to go was like, so, that way, I’d be able to look for signs in my life which would led me in that direction. In addition, I knew that it would seriously keep me focused because I wanted to live there so badly. No more Mr. nice guy.
Time moved on and I continued to wonder. For me, wonder is a projection, a goal. Wonder tweaks the mind to imagine another exciting positive experience. I knew that my goal of wanting to experience the consciousness of our beloved teacher would feel great and do wonders for me. So, I kept wondering.
When I first began practicing Kundalini Yoga, I was looking for the sky to open up, Moses to show himself carrying a lightening bolt, and whip that transforming bolt right into my heart. Then, I’d know and experience that all that is promised is real. Well, it didn’t happen. But, what did happen was transforming as well.
There was no lightening bolt experience, however, there was an experience of burning embers warming my heart. It was so intoxicating that forty plus years later I’m still pursuing further depth in that heartwarming experience. It’s Infinite and more enjoyable as the heart warms further. It’s the process which leads to true compassion. It’s our teacher’s way. And, that’s the kicker, that means it’s our way as well.
I knew from the “Moses” experience that my wonder would take some time to manifest. It has. What I’ve learned is that the warmer the heart becomes, the more one can experience the consciousness of the Siri Singh Sahib. This is the experience of him himself. The more thinking and acting reflect no bias or prejudice, the more this neutrality reflects the consciousness of our teacher. It’s a wonderful experience. He’s truly with us again, sharing all the everything he is once more.
It’s the experience of never being alone again. It’s the experience of your mentor, your benefactor, your lucky charm, your guide, your protector, your support, your confidence, your reliance, your love, your master always being with you. This is the experience tapped into when your begin to experience the consciousness of our teacher. There’s nothing better. It’s the best. It’s beyond believable. It’s so off the charts. This experience is only available through no “self-judgement.” Judgement will kill the experience because no student is truly ready. So, suspend your self-judgement, flow with the experience, and success is straight ahead. It’s all Guru’s blessing, so it can’t be judged, it must only create greater and greater humility and gratitude.
The more humility and gratitude is truly displayed (remember, you can’t fool Mother Nature), the warmer your heart becomes. It becomes a self-propelled circle unto Infinity. It’s an experience inside and outside this world. It’s the experience of relaxation, the relaxation born out of the reality that life is taken care of for you. Your destiny is set, so, just relax and enjoy the ride no matter what the circumstances. It’s the only kind of life truly worth living. This is just one of the experiences of tapping into the life of the man, the yogi, the teacher, the Siri Singh Sahib.
My advice, be careful what you wonder about, it may become a lifetime pursuit. Then again, if you wonder about great things, that’s a great thing. The experience of our teacher is the experience of truth, of his teachings, of the Guru’s teachings, and of God’s command (not ours) all in one. It’s the experience of when spirituality becomes real. It’s beyond real, it’s a miracle.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, Karma within Karma
Sat Nam, Dear Family!
It’s all karma. But, inside that karma is a fascinating story, which must be dealt with. Let me give you an example.
As I meandered through the fields of servants who were blessed to follow the Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan, around, much to my innocent amazement there were servants with the full spectrum of devotion. Some were sincere, and some were along for the ride. And, as I came to know, that’s just the way it’s supposed to be in a true spiritual community. Everyone is welcome. In fact, this is our preferred way. Everyone is welcome to learn and practice our way.
Naturally, if we are successful, there will be all sorts of people who come to this drama to serve. However, some will even be grand betrayers. I didn’t know this at the time many years ago. I think the only one who could see what was truly happening was our beloved teacher. A dharma without betrayal and betrayers is an unfulfilled dharma. Betrayal must be challenged and defeated. It’s the true test of a true master. To be able to take it in the shorts and not only smile, but act without prejudice in return, is how the test shakes out.
Dealing consciously with grand betrayal is only available through Gurprasaad, God’s blessing. No one is capable of doing this on their own. It doesn’t even register. Acting consciously to betrayal is so against the accepted way of thinking and acting that I know it’s right. When one is bestowed this blessing of handling betrayal consciously, life becomes a worry-free zone. Life becomes a flow under the love and protection of Guru Himself. This is the reward for acting neutrality.
Neutrality begets itself twice over. Neutrality is joined by blessing of more neutrality. It becomes a self-perpetuating spiral unto Infinity. It keeps begetting itself. It’s a rollercoaster ride forever. It’s full of any joy you want it to be. It’s the grand intoxication; It’s the effortless journey to grander and grander contentment. It’s the ride for which you’ll pay anything to never leave. It’s the ride you’ve come to realize that there is a cost to pay in order to guarantee continuance.
The price for this continued experience is do Guru’s duty, the karma within karma. Duties of this world must be handled with the utmost concentration. Mastery of the next world means mastery of this world as well. Rather than avoid the challenges of this world, we challenge all comers. If those who step forward as challenges are betrayers, well so be it. With Guru’s help and protection, we will prepare to the utmost all details for our success. The rest is up to Guru as to whether or not we’re ready for His protection, but, all the same, we’ll just keep up no matter what. This guarantees our success. The only variable is time and that’s not up to us, so we just let it be.
Our teacher used to always remind me to just “let it be.” I understood him enough to know that I shouldn’t concern myself in certain given situations. It was just best for me to leave it alone no matter how vested I was. I had no idea of the depth his teachings. As I keep up, I grew to I continually see more in his teaching. I look more and more closely. “Let it be” is the other side of the coin of duty. He knew that I knew enough about this world to qualify for some degree of mastery, it was the other side of the coin, the subtle part, the beyond karma part, that was currently unavailable to my belief system. So, my loving teacher reminded me, when I should have reminded myself, to let it be - everything is God’s will.
He planted the seed to a balanced life, both of this world and the next concurrently. A life with the balance of great karma through the effortless immaculate duty of properly dealing with whatever comes my way, good, bad or whatever. And, here’s the secret, this cost of consciously dealing with betrayal, calamity, you name it, is actually gladly accepted as it fuels the spiral of spirituality.
The results are in. The greater the world is mastered, the more joy enters life. I’ve learned the proper way of thinking: The more the correct duty is preformed, the more Gurprasaad, God’s grace, enters our life so that betrayal can be dealt with properly. More and more joy is experienced. And, who doesn’t want joy in their life?
So, the enjoyment of karma, good or otherwise, has a cost: A duty well done. Without overcoming challenges, karma can’t be fully enjoyed. Take it as a blessing when you’re challenged beyond your capacity. Challenge yourself to see if your faith can’t do for you what you know you can’t do for yourself.
So, even though we know that everything is karma, we must act and think is if it’s not. We must truly believe that we are the creator and master of our destiny even though we know that we are not. Funny, in spite of all we know, God does recognize the unrecognizable. It’s the only power we have. It’s a form of prayer. It’s our only defense against our karma.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, No “I” in “Me”
Sat Nam, Dear Family!
Today, I write to you in a slightly different vein. Please bear with me. It will be worthwhile. I write more out of duty than anything else, but, don’t misunderstand; I’ve learned to truly love my duty. Let me explain.
One of the ‘Golden Rules” of spirituality is that a true student doesn’t challenge the teacher. The teacher holds the office of teacher. His role is to properly challenge the student in a unique way, which will have the greatest effect for the student’s growth. Of course we all know that there are different caliber teachers, and, yes, there are different caliber students, still, it’s all Guru’s grace.
By Guru’s grace, I have strived to follow this rule with full devotion, dedication and commitment. Taking this view even further, I have made promoting our teacher, the Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan, the focal point in writing these stories. I shall continue to share all my gratitude for what he has given me so that many are inspired by the Master’s Touch. This is my joy.
I have also been given the duty to just be myself. This great honor comes with a cost. The cost is this: With all my faults, with any bias and/or prejudice, my only intent is to honor an image: honor the image of the teacher, honor the Guru, honor God. This is our trinity. This is what we honor. Anything less, is much, much less.
In honoring this commitment, I have agreed to live and teach the teachings greater and greater each minute. This commitment is the same commitment I made when we first began this journey. So, what I write is drenched in the prayer that I always and only keep training my mind to act according to Guru’s Will. After all, that’s where the true truth lies.
In honoring this trinity, the obligation of just being myself has a hidden cost. I must honor myself as well. This is just what our beloved teacher taught. I must put myself at risk, I must have skin in the game. Honoring myself is not what you think. It’s not about me, it’s not about my ego, it’s about honoring myself so that I position myself for Guru’s help, blessings, kirpa. Honoring myself is actually a humbling tool. Esteem becomes an issue at this level and is no different than at any stage - except it’s exaggerated. Self-worth becomes an expanding or limiting force. How worthy are we and how much of God are we willing to let into our lives?
How much of God we allow into our lives is the ultimate test of faith. And, the beauty is that we’re not the judge, Guru is. That means the benefits are real. When God loves you deeper and deeper, He gives to you beyond your dreams. When enough of God is finally let into your life, God is finally happy. He’s found a student to love. A student who believes in accepting God’s goodies as an honor and duty. He honors his Guru in gratitude for this blessing. He accepts prosperity with the reverence and recognition that the game of life is truly orchestrated by God Himself. What comes his way does so at the will of God, period!
This is a relationship which must always be nurtured and must get better and better. This is a worthwhile relationship. It’s the most worthwhile relationship. It’s a soul to soul, heart to heart, mind to mind, body to body relationship which delivers whatever your dreams are, plus, plus, plus. It’s a relationship unto Infinity which grows deeper and deeper. It’s a relationship of love, respect, commitment, and honor. It’s a relationship made in heaven. This relationship keeps the student on the straight and narrow. This relationship only becomes real when God recognizes your straight and narrow.
This is the tradition I was trained to serve. It’s the tradition of our teacher, our Guru, and our God - all in the same complimentary tradition. It’s the tradition which makes us real. Otherwise, it’s a perpetual guessing game. Anyone who serves this tradition is blessed. They may or may not know it, but they’ve elevated their existence.
Therefore, it’s my blessing to serve this tradition continually more and more honorably. My flaws have been forgiven; my doubts have been removed; my limits have expanded; my service is blessed with devotion. My life has changed.
“Humee Hum, Tumee Tum, Wahe Guru!” “I am Thine, in mine, myself, WaheGuru.” I’m grateful beyond description.
See Sikh Definitions.
Yogi Bhajan, How a Student Teacher Becomes a Teacher’s Teacher
Sat Nam, Dear Family!
A challenge many potential students face is: How do I pick a spiritual teacher? The next question should be: How do I insure that I do not become betrayed by my teacher?
A true spiritual teacher must have the regal quality of never controlling the student. That’s where the teacher’s grandest of all control lies. This display of neutrality is alluring, intoxicating, and frustrating all at the same time. Yes, I said frustrating because the true teacher challenges the student’s belief system. It’s the call to Infinity. It cannot be avoided or denied in the true teacher/student relationship.
Frustration also has another side of the coin. Can you guess what’s on the other side? Faith. Frustration inhibits faith. And, this is a terrible place to reside. Frustration puts the student at risk. Faith must intercede or frustration will kill any dream. Since the true student knows the difference, frustration is acknowledged and dealt with until issues are resolved. I saw my teacher live in the faith side of this coin. He didn’t let frustration get in his way. His faith was so real that he didn’t experience any frustration. He knew where his bread was buttered. He knew that the grand plan was set, so, why sweat the small stuff.
On a beautiful California evening in 1977, the Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan, and I were driving up the Pacific Coast Highway heading towards Malibu. About half way up, I pulled off the highway and headed up the hills overlooking the ocean. I pulled into a parking area and we walked up a well-manicured path leading to a unique restaurant called “Inn of the Seventh Ray,” which served tasty vegetation food. Please remember, back then it was unusual to find good vegetarian food.
This was our first time at this establishment. I’ll tell you this; this was a very romantic spot. It was set into the hills, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, there were tables set outside as we traversed the path leading to an indoor dining room. Back in these times, our teacher and I would usually move out alone - just the two of us. There was no secretary on duty; there was no security person and no cars following us. This allowed me to see how he handled many circumstances close up and personal.
Times like this were as if only God and I were watching. I had no judgments on him. His actions were only subject to God. I was blessed to be able to notice how he handled many different kinds of situations. I took notice in order to learn from him, how to comport myself in all situations. What my teacher was or was not was of no consequence. What he was to me was a man who lived in faith. This is what he always showed me and I’m forever grateful for his consistency.
I knew of the tremendous financial stress he was currently facing. He was responsible for the lives of all in our community. It was an enormous job. Picture this: a group of ex-hippies in their early twenties joined together in a community and they needed to financially survive. They had no work experience, no plans, and no direction. He supplied it all. And he wasn’t interested in survival, he wanted flourishment.
He provided jobs for those who couldn’t get one for themselves; he trained any who wanted; he allowed for mistakes others would not tolerate. He relied on Guru Ram Das. Here’s his secret: he knew that it was as important to build people as it was to build an organization. This was a frustrating factor for many including me at the time. Nevertheless, I have seen his manner succeed. In spite of my habits, he demonstrated another, a better, way of succeeding.
This didn’t come without enormous issues, financial, personal, and interpersonal. He called it the Aquarian Business Model. Profit wasn’t the only goal; good will was just as important, good will to ourselves and good will to all others. He gave when most would say he shouldn’t; he kept up when it wasn’t possible; he endured beyond knowledge. He was responsible beyond being responsible. He had the faith, the belief, to let Guru fill in any gaps, and I saw Guru do this. This was our blessing. His protocol worked. We not only survived, but prospered because of him.
As we were eating, our conversation drifted toward politics, as it often did. At first blush, it would appear that there was nothing unusual about this occurrence. But, there is another side. There had been a mistake at our Golden Temple restaurant which had put the payroll in doubt for this week. Situations like this were not unusual. It’s not important how he resolved this issue, or that the issue was even resolved. What was important was his demeanor, his duty as a spiritual teacher.
I knew that he wanted to get away and relax for a few hours and my service was wanted and blessed. Naturally, I didn’t try to help unless he asked. He didn’t ask. We kept talking politics. What was important about this dinner was that his demeanor, as it was displayed to me, was consistent with the way it always was. He never complained about circumstances. He endured. He progressed. He delivered. He never let on about his pressure. He rarely did. And, if he did, it was short-lived. After all, he was human. That was his beauty, his grace. I always saw him as a true teacher.
Here is where the student becomes the discipline for the teacher. The true teacher maintains the proper discipline in front of the student and in front of God. Really, the student becomes the ultimate teacher. Does the teacher maintain his graceful and exemplary demeanor to the student in all circumstances? Does the teacher sweat, or does he let Guru deliver what’s necessary? Does he have the faith? Is his faith real?
The true test of a spiritual teacher is: Does he run after things or do things come to him. Sometimes, it can get confusing because some teaches do both – run after things and let things come to them. But, it’s the “come to him” part which separates the real from the want-to-be. A true spiritual teacher will undeniably be bestowed the faith to not worry, to know that everything is already set. It’s just ours, the student’s, game to help or inhibit the process.
Again, this can get somewhat confusing. The true teacher understands this relationship with the student. He knows that the student is his teacher. The student becomes the focus of the correct image which must be exemplified. The true teacher doesn’t let his students down. He reflects the teachings. He displayed these grand qualities to his students.
I was blessed to often be present. Naturally, I saw our beloved teacher in a myriad of situations, some quite unnerving. He never let me down. He was a teacher blessed by God. He had a different way of living it, which I loved. He had the blessing of being himself. Any judgment of him is of no consequence, he’s set. He’s in the hands of Guru Ram Das. Misjudge him if you must, challenge him if you think, do what you may, he’s set. He’s under the protection of Guru Himself.
Bottom line, if you choose our teacher as your teacher you can’t go wrong. And, there are many ways to go wrong. There are also other ways to live under God’s protection. I know that.
Nevertheless, our teacher is a fool proof way. Other teachers may be another way or not, that’s the risk. This much I know, our teacher’s way is a great way. So, why take the risk of finding another? You’ve already found it. You’ve been blessed. I know a lot of people don’t believe they are worthy to be blessed by Guru, but that’s another issue. Why not just accept that you have been blessed. My advice, take advantage of this priceless gift and watch the miracles unfold.
See Sikh Definitions.
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