Messenger From The Guru's House
When the agents of the SGPC, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Commitee, found them, Yogi Bhajan and his students were at Gurdwara Alamgir, a few kilometers from the industrial city of Ludhiana. This Gurdwara was bigger than most of the Sikh temples they had seen. It had been enlarged just a couple of years before.
The story of this holy place, which Yogi Bhajan shared with his students, dated back to the terrible days when Guru Gobind Singh was a fugitive from the Mughal Empire. After the Khalsa had been forced to evacuate the fort of Anandpur, a pair of Muslim brothers who used to sell the Guru fine horses, came to hear of his lonely plight. Ghani Khan and Nabi Khan set out and found Guru Gobind Singh. Meeting him, they offered the Master their help. Dying some cloth offered by a devotee a suitable blue, Ghani Khan and Nabi Khan dressed the Guru as a Muslim holy man. While the Mughal army scoured the countryside, the two carried the object of their manhunt on the road on a palanquin.
At the place of the Gurdwara, the tenth Master dismissed Ghani Khan and Nabi Khan after giving them a letter of commendation that would be treasured by their family for generations. Guru Gobind Singh proceeded from there on a horse provided by an old Sikh named Bhai Nauda who lived nearby.
As the agents from Amritsar approached, they found the Americans sitting outside the Gurdwara. Yogiji's students were chanting. The agents watched and listened from a respectful distance. They could make out the words: "Guru Guru Wahay Guru, Guru Ram Das Guru." The men had never heard this chant before.
As the sun passed overhead, the agents began to tire. The Americans, sitting or sprawling on the grass, continued to chant. Hours passed and the men from the SGPC grew in amazement. The devotion of these students of this Harbhajan Singh surpassed anything they had imagined. They telephoned Amritsar to tell of their humbling experience. So far as they could see, there was no threat from these western devotees of Guru Ram Das.
Guru Amar Das
The tour continued on with Yogi Bhajan serving as teacher, story teller, and tour guide. One big pilgrimage place had a very large well with a decorative dome overhead. Guru Ram Das's spiritual guide, Guru Amar Das, the third Master, had arranged for the well to be built with 84 steps leading down to the water. He said that anyone who chanted Guru Nanak's cosmic poem, the Japji Sahib once on each of the steps, then took a dip in the water after each recitation, would be freed from the bondage of 8.4 million lifetimes. That sadhana would take hours and hours, but there would always be people there reciting on the marble steps and dipping in the chill waters below.
Nearby was a large marble hall dating back to the third Master's time. According to the history of the place, the Emperor of Mughal India, Akbar, came there once to meet with the Guru. The emperor was an open-minded ruler, sympathetic to the Sikhs. When Guru Amar Das heard of his arrival, he sent word that before meeting, Emperor Akbar must eat "langar" - the common meal – with everyone. This defied the universal tradition of that day, that kings were superior to common people, their subjects. It hinted bravely of a new tradition when all humanity would be known as one.
The good emperor seated himself among people of all ranks and religions, men and women, farmers and tradesmen. That day, the only food available was rice and a seasoning of salt. The ruler remarked at how delicious the langar tasted. "There must be some special ingredient," he said. The only special ingredient was the love of the Sikhs and the grace of the Creator.
Another Gurdwara marked a place where Guru Amar Das had secluded himself for several days in meditation. On the door of the brick building, he had written a notice that anyone who entered the door and disturbed his meditation would no longer be a disciple of his.
After looking far and wide for several days, Baba Budha, one of the Guru's eldest and most respectful devotees finally found the place with Guru Amar Das inside. But what could he do? Baba Budha's great longing to be reunited with his Master gave him but one choice. Brick by brick, he burrowed his way inside. After that, all was forgiven, and the Guru joined his Sikhs once more.
Day by day, as the entourage neared Amritsar, the excitement increased. It seemed to exude from Yogi Bhajan and everyone was feeling it.
Finally, their buses made their way through the sundry traffic of bicycle rickshaws and brightly-painted trucks, and cars and cows and dogs, bearing left, steering right, weaving right and left, honking regularly, toward the holy city.
There was no downtown of looming skyscrapers to look to ahead. Rather, Amritsar was manifestly humble and close to the Earth. Early in their century-long reign here, the British had erected an incongruous clock tower to overshadow the Harimander or "Golden Temple". The people of Amritsar had unceremoniously demolished the tower in 1945 and thereby restored the city's respectful modesty.
For nearly four hundred years, the gracious town of pilgrims had grown – under Mughal rajas and Afghan invaders. The Sikh maharaja, Ranjeet Singh had made his summer palace here. During the British period, it had been the site of large demonstrations and even a massacre of a thousand innocents, the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. After independence, it had been at the centre of protests and demonstrations to gain the Sikhs their Punjabi-speaking state.
Parts of Amritsar remained much as they had been for centuries. The original buildings, noticeable by their smaller bricks, dated from the days when Guru Ram Das himself had held court on the banks of the fabulous pool excavated to hold the Harimander at its centre. It was here that Guru Ram Das disguised himself at night and set out for the last pilgrim station before the entrance into what was then the town of Amritsar. Incognito, he would wash and bandage the feet of the pilgrims, then return to his duties as Guru in the day.
This was the city of Guru Arjun, the fourth Guru's son, who completed the temple and compiled the priceless Shabad Guru to be installed as a jewel therein. It was from here that he left for Lahore to be tried and painfully put to death. And it was here that his son, the sixth Guru, Hargobind Sahib erected the Akal Takhat, the Immortal Throne, higher than even the imperious throne of the emperor, as a deliberate affront to his bigoted authority.
Twice, the Harimander was blown up, its holy pool filled with the corpses of innocent cattle. And twice it was restored. In the dark days when it was a crime to even say "Guru", intrepid Sikhs would take the chance of being painfully put to death just to take a quick dip in the waters of the holy Harimander. It was here the legendary Baba Deep Singh came with his volunteers to liberate the temple, continuing the fight though his head was severed from his neck. And in the peaceful days that followed, the Harimander was embellished with marble and filigree and a crown of precious gold by Maharaja Ranjeet Singh.
Harimandir Sahib was set like a precious jewel in the very centre of the city, amidst the confusing maze of alleys and lane ways designed to hinder invading armies. Visitors' first sight of the famous temple came through the high archways of the entrance, the Darshan Deori. There it glistened majestic like a gilded vision in the sun. --
At Home in the Harimander
Amritsar opened its heart to the American pilgrims. The people of Amritsar showed themselves to be gracious and warmly hospitable, curious and self-consciously discreet. They engaged the westerners, some of them habitually turbaned now, at every turn. A number of the students were even becoming adept at joining their hands in greeting and offering the customary “Sat Siri Akaal!”
For the newly-arrived Americans, Amritsar was an ancient city, a new continent to be discovered, a mystery to be uncovered. Each neighborhood brimmed with stories and legends, artifacts and gates, markets and Gurudwaras. And for those with even a little to spend, there were shops with fabulous sweets, outdoor stands with unheard-of fruits, and bazaars arrayed with all kinds of exotica.
The gem at the heart of Amritsar was the sacred temple of marble covered in gold, the Harimandir Sahib. After washing their feet below the large multi-domed entranceway, pilgrims descended a wide arcade of stairs and entered the holy site. On arrival, an artful vision dedicated to the glory of the Creator and all saints spread before their eyes as a heavenly panorama. Before them lay a vast, gleaming spectacle of white and blue and gold. Far to the left and far to the right, ran a broad, rectangular walkway of marble arranged in intricate geometric patterns. The walkway itself was completely surrounded by the outer building of the Golden Temple complex, comprised of the Sikh Museum and countless rooms for individual prayers and meditation, with domed entranceways on two sides. Inside the walkway's perimeter, the azure waters of the temple beckoned pilgrims to immerse themselves, to bathe and soak up the healing energies of that place, as devotees had done for centuries. Then, over the sparkling waters, a walkway with brass handrails offered pilgrims access to the brilliant temple, the foremost of Gurdwaras, gleaming gold beneath the blue sky.
Inlaid with semi-precious stones formed into innumerable intricate designs and motifs, the Harimander had been constructed by Guru Arjun as a holy seat for the most inspiring poetry of his time and place, the utterly transformative Shabd Guru. And there, seated beneath a precious canopy, on a gold throne with attendants all around, the living Word held court from the early, early morning until late at night, as thousands arrived from near and far to offer their respects.
The Yogi's students found themselves in awe of the great temple. They had never seen anything like it back home. The Americans came and steeped their spirits in the holy vibrations again and again. Some of them would come early and stay late into the day. Others would come in the evening and stay to the end of the day, when the huge volume of the Shabd Guru would be carried in procession on a gold palanquin to its resting place in the Akal Takhat building over the walkway and across the holy waters. A couple of the students even took up Yogi Bhajan's old routine of turning up for duty at 12:30 or 1 a.m. to wash the floors of the temple to cleanse the karmas of their soul.
In Amritsar, Yogi Bhajan reconnected with some of his friends and associates from just seven years before, when he had been posted there. He would visit their houses with his western students, who were acclaimed as celebrities now, speaking a foreign language (English) and chanting in the Guru's tongue. Yogiji was also met by Giani Mohinder Singh, a gracious and humble man who happened to be the Secretary of the Shromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the organization that administered the biggest Gurdwaras in Punjab.
Gianiji had taken an interest in the case of Harbhajan Singh and his entourage. Now that they had met, he did everything in his power to accommodate and serve them. The SGPC was abuzz with the arrival of the westerners. Some members didn't like the idea of a bunch of hippies from America taking up their religion. Others took a more accepting view. Giani Mahinder Singhji was instrumental in representing the Sikh Yogis in their discussions.
Finally, it was decided that if these westerners really wanted to embrace the Sikh way of life, they should be given an opportunity to be baptised into the Order of Khalsa. And what better place to be initiated than in the most holy city of Amritsar? This was a genuine offer. It was also a way of silencing the SGPC hardliners who never believed American hippies would ever agree to take up the hardy discipline of the order of saint-soldiers.
When Yogi Bhajan explained what was being offered to his students, many of them were very keen. Their hearts had been opened and their souls touched by the spiritual richness, the sheer human splendour, and the warm-hearted devotion they had witnessed since arriving in the Guru's Land. They had been amazed at the humble service and endless hospitality extended to them. It seemed the longhaired Sikhs in Punjab had realized for themselves much of what they wished for their troubled society back home.
Not everyone, however, was so eager to give up their freedom to do whatever they wanted whenever they wanted, another cherished American tradition. For them, this was more of a tour than a pilgrimage, and nobody was going to make them join any kind of religion.
The Amrit ceremony dated back many years to the days when the Mughal empire had cruelly dominated India's religious landscape. Guru Gobind Rai, tenth of the Sikh Masters, had seen his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur dedicate his last days to the cause of freedom of worship. The ninth Guru had courted arrest and gone to Delhi on behalf of the Hindu priests of Kashmir. In the capital he and three of his disciples had been cruelly tortured and put to death, remaining true to their faith to their last breath.
Twenty-four years later, when the Guru was a man of thirty-three, he called his followers together in the fortified town of Anandpur in the Himalayan foothills for the spring festival of Baisakhi. There, he challenged his Sikhs to come forward and give him their head. Only five responded to the Master's order. One by one, they came to him and were beheaded in a nearby tent. The Guru's sword bore the blood of his dear disciples. Tens of thousands who witnessed the events were stunned by what they witnessed.
Finally, Guru Gobind Rai re-emerged from the tent with the five disciples alive and in tow. Somehow, their severed heads had been rejoined with their bodies and they had been restored to life. The Master had proudly dressed them with beautiful saffron turbans and tunics. He then introduced them to the amazed multitude as his Five Beloveds, for they had passed his most difficult test. Their devotion had surpassed their fear of death. While Guru Nanak, the first Master, through Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth, had each found only one disciple worthy of the crown of Guruship, Guru Gobind Rai was about to anoint five worthy Sikhs as his equals in the holy Order of Khalsa, the pure ones.
The Guru then set to work stirring a steel bowl of water with a double-edged sword as he chanted and infused that water with superhuman courage and strength. Then his wife came by and contributed sugary sweets to the roiling nectar. This was to make those who partook of it sweet and humble as well.
At last, after reciting a number of Hymns, Guru Gobind Rai had his disciples sit in veerasan on one heel with the opposite knee against their chest as he infused them with the spiritually charged water, the Amrit. In their eyes, in their mouth and on the crown of their head, they thirstily received the nectar. From that day forward, the five men were given the royal “Singh” as a last name, as women would receive the name “Kaur”. The Master then requested the five to honour him with the same baptism, and he became known as Guru Gobind Singh, the Master who himself became a disciple.
From that day forward, the Khalsa grew in strength and numbers. One by one, it conquered the bigotry of the caste system, the oppression of the Mughals, the greed of Afghan invaders, the smug rule of the British and the duplicity of India's own rulers.
The Amrit Ceremony
So it was that, early one morning, Krishna and Premka, Ganga and Larry Wentink, Mark Vosko and Alan Weiss, John Twombly, Richard Buhler, Sandy and about thirty others, including a couple of youngsters, came together before the Akal Takhat building, across the waters from the Harimander. The first musical strains of the ragees at the mother temple would have just begun to waft through the darkness.
There they met with Yogi Bhajan, who instructed them, “I have brought you to the Guru's feet, and now my job is done. The rest of the distance you must walk alone.”
Yogi Bhajan's students then filed up the winding stairs to the roof of the historic Akal Takhat, where they and two Punjabi gentlemen who had come for the same reason, waited for the ceremony to begin. They were met by a saintly old Khalsa and five other men adorned with saffron-coloured turbans and tunics who would perform the ceremony. To some, it seemed odd that Yogi Bhajan, who had seen them through so much, should not be there. Perhaps having not heard his words, they expected him to arrive at any moment, but he did not arrive.
The Head Priest of the Akal Takhat, Singh Sahib Sadhu Singhji Bhaura, had officiated over hundreds of ceremonies like this. For many years, he had served as a missionary near the border with Nepal, where it was Hindus who had come to join the casteless fold of Khalsa. First of all, a little of the tradition of the Khalsa was explained to the group through an interpreter. Then the vows were enumerated: they were to rise each morning and meditate on the Name of God; they were never to take intoxicants; they were not to commit adultery; they were never to eat meat butchered in the custom of halal; they were to keep their bodies intact, never cutting their hair; they were to wear a steel bracelet, cotton undershorts with a drawstring, a wooden comb and a small sword of self-defense.
Over the centuries, many thousands had since put aside their egotism and dedicated their lives to purity and piety through this very ceremony, but that morning it proved difficult for some of those gathered on the roof of the historic shrine to accept everything wholly and without reservation.
For years, it had been the practice of these rebels and outcasts to distrust every known convention and authority in order to find their own truth. They had turned their back on the American nightmare of war and greed and exploitation and deception, with a hope of realizing the original dream. Along the way, they had had only themselves to rely on – their own integrity, their own judgment, and their own word. They had learned to trust their Yogi friend and teacher as well, but these vows sounded new and strange to them.
Several candidates took exception to some of the vows they were supposed to be taking to join the Order of Khalsa and they spoke up.
“What if I have been working all night or have been sick and cannot stay awake to meditate in the early morning hours? I know the vow says I won't take alcohol, but what if there is alcohol in a medicinal tincture that I must take to recover my health? What if I promise today to wear my undershorts all the time, but tomorrow I want to join in a sweatlodge ceremony with my Hopi Indian brothers where you are supposed to be completely naked? I never want to cut my hair, but what if I need to go for surgery one day and the doctor says they need to shave the skin where they want to operate?”
And so, after these objections and conditions had been aired and responded to, the ceremony was about to begin. Just then, someone asked about a big pile of new turbans for all the men who wanted to become Khalsa to wear. “What about the women?” they asked. “Aren't we going to have turbans like our brothers?”
The kindly old Khalsa in charge of the ceremony was stumped. He had never seen women demanding their own turbans at an Amrit ceremony or even heard of such a thing. Normally, everyone was just happy to go along, grateful to take part in the ceremony. People did not raise objections. Besides, all the shops would be be closed at this hour of the morning. Where could they obtain another dozen turbans for the women participating in the ceremony?
There was a lull of about half an hour as the Amrit candidates chanted and someone hurried to rouse a shopkeeper for a priority order of turbans... and finally the initiation ceremony began.
By the time they were all done, the sun was above the horizon and there were forty-two beaming Khalsa transformed and a little exhausted. They all lined up on the steps on the Akal Takhat with the sun in their eyes, and with Yogi Bhajan and a number of well-wishers, and posed for the probing eyes of posterity.
The “Siri Singh Sahib”
News of the initiation swept through Amritsar, and especially the SGPC, like a storm. Westerners had actually taken vows to live as Khalsa. Those who wanted to take consolation from the fact that not quite half of Yogiji's entourage had participated, could derive little comfort. The truth was that nearly half of those who had come to Amritsar with Harbhajan Singh had taken part. This was history.
It was not the first time westerners had asked and been accepted into the fold of Khalsa. In the previous two centuries, Englishmen in India had occasionally been known to “go native” and take up the local customs and religions. But never had so many come to embrace the Sikh way of life. And these new Khalsa were from America. America was supposed to be a melting pot of assimilation and a graveyard for Khalsa aspirations. Most immigrants were known to shed their turbans and beards before stepping on American soil.
How had Harbhajan Singh done it? Was it a miracle? Was this the beginning of a wave of conversion to the Sikh faith? How should the SGPC respond to this altogether unexpected turn of events? These and more questions filled the air.
Harbhajan Singh Yogi was invited to meet with senior Sikh officials as they discussed the unfolding course of events. Giani Mohinder Singh was there, as was Sant Chanan Singh, who had served as President of the SGPC since 1962. He was a brave and dedicated soul who had been jailed eleven years earlier during the peaceful movement to make the Indian government deliver on its promise of a Punjabi-speaking state. There too was Sant Fateh Singh, the head of the Sikh political party, the Akali Dal. He also had served the Sikhs in a brave and exemplary way over the years.
At one point in the meeting, Sant Fateh Singh indicated that Yogiji ought to be presented with a symbolic sword of honour, a Siri Sahib, at the Akal Takhat, and that he ought to be called by the title of “Singh Sahib”, even as the head priests of the holiest shrines of the Sikhs were known.
His longtime friend and collaborator, Sant Chanan Singh replied, “What do you mean? This one Harbhajan Singh will create many Singh Sahibs! We are presenting him with a Siri Sahib, so let us call him “Siri Singh Sahib”!”
So it was that on March 3, 1971, Yogi Harbhajan Singh was presented with a ceremonial Siri Sahib. In an official letter signed and dated five days later, SGPC Secretary Giani Mahinder Singh, authorized Harbhajan Singh “to act as a Minister of Divinity and to perform marriage ceremonies according to Sikh rites.” It also empowered the designated Siri Singh Sahib “to initiate and perform the Amrit ceremony, according to Sikh rites, initiating individuals into Sikh Dharma and further to appoint such initiated Sikhs as Ministers of Divinity.” A new chapter of Sikh history characterized by a renewed, expansive vision was beginning to unfold. --
With their return to America scheduled in a scant three weeks, the tour group of yogis and Sikhs made the most of their remaining days in India. Because of the danger of another attack by the thugs of Yogiji's former teacher, security had become a daily consideration. Still, there were Gurdwaras to visit, places to go, people who wanted to see them. Wherever they went, they travelled with their police escort.
Remarkably, on every occasion, Yogi Bhajan spoke as “we Americans”. He told the people of India, “America is not a country of sex and sensuality. America will create those great potent people who will not only be teaching God realization, but they will achieve God realization.” Not everyone he spoke to liked to hear this, but Yogi Bhajan was not one to care.
The Americans were the focus of a good deal of attention. One gentleman even offered to Yogi Bhajan that he should like to marry one of his healthy, happy, holy entourage. Yogiji approached Devorah and, with her agreement, a Sikh wedding ceremony was quickly arranged.
Sadly, the marriage only lasted a couple of days. It was long enough for those who wished Yogiji harm to foist the question of the legality of the marriage. The union of an American and an Indian citizen, was quite a rarity in those days. Yogi Bhajan's arrest and detention emerged as a real possibility.
The seed of other difficulties also took root when Ralph, a student of Yogi Bhajan's arrived in India late for the tour. Ralph innocently made his way to Gobind Sadan in Delhi, where he was adopted and stayed with the Baba there as his prize American disciple. After a few years at Gobind Sadan, Ralph Singh would become an outspoken representative, fluent in Punjabi and English, of the Delhi Baba.
For all the accolades Yogi Bhajan and his students received, this tour was never easy. Challenges and risks abounded. When it came time to go back to America, Yogiji gathered his students together and cautioned them of the difficulties still ahead, “Look folks, we have come to visit the house of Guru. We shall go back. Chant 'Guru Guru Wahe Guru Guru Ram Das Guru'”. We'll be protected somehow.”
Someone asked, “How, Yogiji?”
“I don't know. All I know is we are innocent. Something will happen that nothing will happen to us. We'll get out of this whole cloud. I know the time is hard. I know we are in a problem. I know we are encircled by police for our life protection. I know we cannot go on the town. I understand all that, but dear ones, keep on chanting. Everything will vanish.”
Then Yogi Bhajan prayed, “Lord, I do not know. I came to they house. I brought these people to thy house. They don't know who you are. They have never seen you. They have come on sheer faith. It is a divine faith. And if you will not maintain the divine faith, tomorrow nobody will come to the House of Guru Ram Das. Period. You should hear it very clearly too. I don't care if you have a house of gold and marble. I don't care. I know you have. I have love for you. But these people are new. They are here. They have enjoyed. It was a height of bliss and pleasantness when we were with you. Now the clouds have come. In your house we have been honoured. In five hundred years of Indian history, they have never respected any foreigners with that respect they have given us. God bless you. Thank you for taking care of the children.”
Just then, on a perfectly cloudless day, the sun the revealed itself as a double corona. Yogiji spoke to Sardarni Premka Kaur, “These children have come to the house of their Guru. This is an unusual sign. Someday the kids will write a history. Why don't you put your camera and snap it?” And she did.
On the day they were to leave, Yogi Bhajan called together the group of those who were returning, although a few were planning on staying behind for a time. He said, “Look, if we are honest and if our God and Guru are with us, on the twentieth of March I'll be speaking in San Francisco at that conference where I have been invited by the AMA and all that stuff. But if we are not righteous and if I have earned any bad karma, I'll be left. Then it is up to you sons to like me or dislike me. But if you can leave, as many as you can should try to leave.”
On the road to the Delhi airport to catch their scheduled flight out of India, Yogiji was stopped by Tarlochan Singh, longtime friend. After some conversation in Punjabi, Yogi Bhajan turned around from the front seat and said to Krishna Kaur and Sardarni Premka Kaur, seated in back, “I am going to have to stay here because they are planning to arrest me when I get to the airport. You have a choice: to go ahead and go ahead with the group or stay. It is totally up to you.”
Although their visas were due to expire on that day, there was no question in Krishna Kaur's mind. “If you stay, I stay. When I left LA, you said I was going to be your attendant and that would be my privilege and responsibility forever, and so until I get back to LA, I'm here.”
Sardarni Premka Kaur concurred, “I'm staying also.”
The threesome followed Tarlochan Singh to his house. There followed hours of intense telephone conversations and activity as efforts were made to clear a way for their departure. Finally, by the end of the day, things were settled and Yogiji and his two stalwarts flew off to Bombay (Mumbai) to join the rest of the entourage for the journey home.
Krishna Kaur, for her part, chanted to Guru Ram Das at the airport and all the way to England on the plane. When they stopped over in a hotel in London, she was still chanting lest anything go wrong. But Sardarni Premka Kaur was beyond keeping up. She was exhausted and needed to be hospitalized. Premka would remain in England for a couple of weeks. Yogi Bhajan too showed some of the strain of the journey, the betrayal of his former teacher, the separation from his family, and all the other tribulations. Gray hairs had begun to show themselves in Yogiji's beard.
During their day-long stay in London, Yogi Bhajan gave a yoga class at the ashram his students, Vic and Debbie Briggs, had begun at 34A Saint Stephen's Gardens. Vic had played bass guitar in a group called The Animals and Debbie was a former actress. The Indians affectionately called him “Vikram”.
Yogiji also went out to meet with some people he knew there from his days in India. Seated among them, there was an Englishwoman who fancied herself a Sikh and was encouraged in her delusion by the immigrant community. In typical style, Yogi Bhajan poked gaping holes in the notion that one could be a Sikh without living the lifestyle. Another delusion dropped by the wayside!
In the course of his discussion with the Sikhs living in England, the subject of Yogiji's former teacher, the Delhi Baba, came up. After some intense conversation, Yogi Bhajan switched to English, “When I left India, he was an angel. When I came back to India, he was a demon!”
The class, the feasts, the keertan, the meetings over, Yogi Bhajan and his students boarded their plane for New York and the final leg back from India.
Eight hours later, the airplane carrying them descended from the clouds, hurtled along the runway and came to a halt outside the big terminal building of John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. Outside, two big police cars with sniffer dogs awaited everyone.
When Yogi Bhajan looked outside and saw them, he protested to God, “No, this is not divine! We are not carrying any marijuana and we can't go through this process. We are not going to remove our pants and get sniffed! No, No! O God, you saved us from bullets. O Guru, you saved us from that tragedy. Now we are back and what are you going to do with us here? God, no! You can't betray these people. They came on a yatra. They came to visit the holy places. They can be shot, they can be fired at, and they can be sniffed by the dogs. No problem. But at this time, we are not being exposed. You are being exposed. Protect thyself!”
Yogiji went into an altered state of consciousness. All he could say and think was “No, no, no...”
Having an Indian passport, Harbhajan Singh was separated from the rest of the group. Yogiji gave his passport to the customs officer. The officer said something and all Yogiji could say in reply was “No, no, no.”
“Where is your baggage?"
“No, no, no.”
“Take it away.” Then the officer wanted to go through Krishna Kaur's baggage.
Yogiji continued, as though in an ecstacy, “No, no, no.”
“Alright. This is no offense.”
In a few minutes, everyone was clear. No one was detained or searched. It was a minor miracle.
At this stage, everyone from the east coast of the United States separated and Yogi Bhajan continued on to California with the remainder of his students. Another long flight above the clouds, and they were there.
Baba Singh brought some coconut water to the airport for his Master. Yogiji was still in a trance. “Is this San Francisco? No, how can it be? Where are we?”
“Sir, it is Los Angeles.”
“No, how can it be Los Angeles?”
“The aircraft was so scheduled that it came into Los Angeles, and then you are going to San Francisco in one hour, forty-five minutes. We received a phone call and so we came here.”
Finally, it felt as though a pall were lifting. The travellers had been protected in so many ways and now they were safe and home again to continue their adventure in the spirit of Sat Nam in America. --
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