Harbhajan Singh Yogi

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Harbhajan Singh Yogi
Personal details
Born (1929-08-26)26 August 1929
Kot Harkarn, Punjab, British India
Died October 6, 2004(2004-10-06) (aged 75)
Espanola, New Mexico
Spouse(s) Bibi Inderjit Kaur
Children Ranbir Singh, Kulbir Singh, Kamaljit Kaur
Profession Spiritual Director of 3HO Foundation, Religious Leader, Board Member of Akal Security, Golden Temple Bakery, and other US Corporations, Founder of Miri Piri Academy, Former Indian Civil Servant (in Customs Service)
Religion Sikhism
Congressman Tom Udall with Singh's widow, Bibiji. Singh is depicted in the center portrait.
Harbhajan Singh Yogi (right) with Satpal Singh Khalsa (left)

Harbhajan Singh Yogi (born as Harbhajan Singh Puri)[1] (August 26, 1929–October 6, 2004), also known as Yogi Bhajan and Siri Singh Sahib, was a spiritual leader and entrepreneur who introduced Kundalini Yoga to the United States.[2] Yogi Bhajan originally studied under Sant Hazara Singh, Dhirendra Brahmachari of Vishwayatan Yoga Ashram, and Baba Virsa Singh of Gobind Sadan."[3] He was the spiritual director of the 3HO (Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization) Foundation, with over 300 centers in 35 countries,[4] and the first chief executive or "Siri Singh Sahib" of Sikh Dharma of the Western Hemisphere, charged in 1971 by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee with starting a Sikh religious ministry in the West.[5]

Family[edit]

Harbhajan Singh Puri was born on August 26, 1929 into a Sikh family in Kot Harkarn, district Gujranwala, in the province of Punjab (British India). His father, Dr. Kartar Singh Puri, served the British Raj as a medical doctor. His mother was named Harkrishan Kaur. His father was born in the Sikh tradition and young Harbhajan was educated in a Catholic school run by nuns. Theirs was a well-to-do landlord family, owning most of their village in the foothills of the Himalayas.[6]:18 Singh married Inderjit Kaur Uppal in Delhi in 1954. They had three children, Ranbir Singh Bhai, Kulbir Singh and Kamaljit Kaur.[7]

In 1976, Singh legally changed his name to Harbhajan Singh Khalsa. His wife, known as "Bibiji" was named to the religious post of "Bhai Sahiba" of Sikh Dharma of the Western Hemisphere in the 1980s.

Education[edit]

Singh learned the fundamentals of Sikhism from his paternal grandfather, Bhai Fateh Singh. As a teen, Singh spent several years under the strict tutelage of Sant Hazara Singh who declared his student a Master of Kundalini Yoga at the age of sixteen.[6]:25

Singh's schooling was interrupted in 1947 by the violent partition of India, when he and his family fled to New Delhi as refugees. There, Singh attended Camp College – a hastily put together arrangement for thousands of refugee students – and led the Sikh Students Federation in Delhi.[8]:45[9] Four years later, he graduated with a Masters Degree in Economics.[10][11]:34–35

The Yogi Bhajan Home page at www.yogbhajan.org states a degree in "communication psychology".

Indian Civil Service[edit]

In 1953, Singh entered the Indian Civil Service. Singh served in the Revenue Department, where his duties took him all over India. Eventually, he was promoted to the post of customs inspector for the country's largest airport, outside of Delhi.[11]

Yogic study in India[edit]

Throughout his life, Singh continued his practice and pursuit of yogic knowledge.[11]:30 His government duties often facilitated his traveling to remote ashrams and distant hermitages in order to seek out reclusive yogis and swamis.

In the mid-1960s, Singh took up a position as instructor at the Vishwayatan Ashram in New Delhi, under Dhirendra Brahmachari. This yoga centre was frequented by the Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, his daughter, Indira Gandhi, and diplomats and employees from a host of foreign embassies.[11]:36

Migration to North America[edit]

Singh emigrated to Canada in 1968. According to his own account, he left India under pressure to participate in Soviet psychic experiments at their designated research center in Tashkent.[12]

Although a promised position as director of a new yogic studies department at the University of Toronto did not materialize because of the death of his sponsor, Singh made a considerable impact in the predominantly Anglo-Saxon metropolis. In three months, he established classes at several YMCAs, co-founded a yoga centre, was interviewed for national press and television, and helped set in motion the creation of eastern Canada's first Sikh temple in time for Guru Nanak's five hundredth birthday the following year.[13][14]

Late in 1968, Singh went to visit a friend in Los Angeles, but ended up staying to share the teachings of Kundalini Yoga with members of the hippie counterculture of California and New Mexico.[6]:32–33[14]

Kundalini yoga[edit]

Main article: Kundalini yoga

While Yoga practice and philosophy is generally considered a part of Hindu culture, Singh distinguished himself as a teacher and practitioner of yoga and a Sikh. He quoted Bhai Gurdas to say, “The Guru's Sikhs, who are Yogis, they get up in the morning and in the maya, the hustle-bustle of the world, they are unattached.” (Var 29, Verse 15)[15]

While adhering to the three pillars of Patanjali's traditional yoga system: discipline, self-awareness and self-dedication (Patanjali Yoga Sutras, II:1), Kundalini Yoga as taught by Singh did not condone extremes of asceticism or renunciation. Singh encouraged his students to marry, establish businesses, and be fully engaged in society. Rather than worshiping God, Singh insisted that his students train their mind to experience God.[10]:115–118

His students referred to Singh's yoga teachings as Raj Yoga which they described as the yoga of living detached, yet fully engaged in the world.[15] In respect of the rigor of his teachings, Singh would find kinship with other 20th century Sikh sadhu saints, such as Sant Baba Attar Singh, Sant Baba Nand Singh, and Bhai Randhir Singh. In the outreach of his teachings, Singh's contributions are unparalleled in modern times.[15]:200–208

Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization[edit]

Main article: 3HO

In 1969, Singh established the 3HO (Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization) Foundation to further his missionary work. It served his premise that every human possessed the birthright to be healthy, happy and holy.

Singh's brand of Sikhism appealed to the hippies who formed the bulk of his converts. The Sikh practice of not cutting one's hair or beard were already accepted by the hippie culture, as was Sikh vegetarianism. They liked to experience elevated states of awareness, and they also deeply wanted to feel they were contributing to a world of peace and social justice. Singh offered them all these things with vigorous yoga, an embracing holistic vision, and an optimistic spirit of sublime destiny.[16]

By 1972, there would be over one hundred 3HO yoga ashrams mostly in the U.S., but also in Canada, Europe and Israel. Student-teachers would rise each day for a cold shower and two-and-a-half hours of yoga and meditation before sunrise. Often, they would spend the rest of the day at some "family business", be it a natural foods restaurant, or a landscaping business, or some other concern. A Sikh was supposed to earn honestly "by the sweat of their brow" and many did just that.[17]

By the 1990s, there was a culture shift. On a personal level, rising early and overtly being a Sikh was considered more of an option than an implied directive. Meanwhile, the surviving communal businesses had incorporated and many had grown exponentially to keep pace with the rising demand for health-oriented products and services. This period also saw an increased interest in yoga worldwide.[18]

To serve the changing times, Singh created the International Kundalini Yoga Teachers Association, dedicated to setting standards for teachers and the propagation of the teachings.[19]

In 1994, the 3HO Foundation joined the United Nations as a non-governmental organization in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council, representing women's issues, promoting human rights, and providing education about alternative systems of medicine.[19]

Aquarian age timeline[edit]

In spring of 1969, soon after Singh had begun teaching in Los Angeles, a hit medley "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" was topping the music charts and being played everywhere. The performers, The 5th Dimension, happened to be signed to a record label owned by one of his students (and his green card sponsor), musician and entrepreneur Johnny Rivers.[20]

Singh incorporated the storyline of the dawning new age into his teachings, a case of melding Western astrology with Sikh tradition. Singh proclaimed "Guru Nanak was the Guru for the Aquarian Age." It was, Singh declared, to be an age where people first experienced God, then believed, rather than the old way of believing and then being liberated by one's faith.[21]

His timeline for the arrival of the Aquarian age varied over the years, but in 1992, Singh fixed it at 2012 and gave his students a set of morning meditations to practice until that date to prepare themselves.[22]

Native American connections[edit]

Some of Singh's earliest students in Los Angeles had spent time in New Mexico influenced by Native American, especially Hopi teachings. To fulfill their wishes, he accompanied them in June 1969 to their summer solstice celebration at the Tesuque Indian reservation outside of Santa Fe.[23]

At the next year's celebration, a delegation of Hopi Indian elders arrived. They spoke of their ancient legend that before the end of the present age of darkness, a white-clad warrior would come from the East and create an army of warriors in white who would rise up and protect the "Unified Supreme Spirit." A sweat lodge ceremony was held and a sacred arrow given in trust to him. The elders explained that they had determined he was the white-clad warrior of their legend.[24]

Seven years later, he purchased a large parcel of land in the Jemez Mountains where the Hopis had indicated sacred gatherings had taken place for thousands of years. The elders had said this land needed to be prepared so "the Unified Supreme Spirit can once again be experienced by the great tribes and spread through all the people of the world." The land was named "Ram Das Puri" and annual solstice prayers and festivities have been celebrated there every summer since. Since 1990, these have included a Hopi sacred prayer walk.[25]

Pilgrimage to Amritsar[edit]

In the winter of 1970-71, Singh brought an entourage of eighty-four Americans on a pilgrimage to the Sikh holy city of Amritsar, India. The Punjabi Sikhs had never seen Westerners in turbans before, and at first, they were suspicious. The Sikh administration in the holy city of Amritsar was in a turmoil. Once they understood that the devotion of the Westerners was genuine, they approved of the visit. Of the eight-four Americans, twenty-six took vows to join the Order of Khalsa as full-fledged Sikhs.

On March 3, 1971, outside the Akal Takhat (the traditional seat of Sikh temporal authority in Amritsar), Sant Fateh Singh and Sant Chanan Singh bestowed on Singh a ceremonial sword and a robe of honor and a unique designation. They had reasoned that Yogi Singh had indeed created "Singh Sahibs" (noble lions), and to continue in his work he would need a higher designation. For this reason, they gave Singh the unprecedented title of "great, noble lion": Siri Singh Sahib.[26] Because no one before in all of Sikh history had received this title, it would ignite controversy in years to come.

Inter-faith work[edit]

In the summer of 1970, Singh participated in an informal "Holy Man Jam" at the University of Colorado at Boulder with Swami Satchidananda, Stephen Gaskin of The Farm in Tennessee, Zen Buddhist Bill Quan-roshi, and other local luminaries. A few weeks later, he carried that inspiration forward and organized a gathering of spiritual teachers to engage and inspire the 200,000 attendees of the Atlanta Pop Festival on the stage between the performance of the bands.[27]

These seminal events served to awaken interest in inter-faith discussion such as had not been seen since the 1920s. In 1972, Singh participated in religious panels at Harvard University, Cornell University, Boston University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. That same year, he visited Pope Paul VI and advised him to convene a gathering of friendship and understanding for representatives of all religions. He reminded Paul VI that catholic meant "universal" and suggested that, as head of the world's largest religious organization, he would be the most suitable leader to host such a meeting.[28]

Singh maintained his relationship with the Catholic Church under Pope John Paul II. In 1983 and again in 1984, they met. When the Golden Temple came under assault from the Indian Army with the loss of life of many hundreds of pilgrims, the pontiff offered his official condolences.[29]

During the United Nations Year of Peace 1986, Singh instituted a yearly Peace Prayer Day for people of all denominations at the Summer Solstice near Santa Fe.[30]

In that same year, Pope John Paul II convened a gathering of religious representatives of the world such as Singh had proposed fourteen years earlier. Singh participated in a ceremony held the same day in Los Angeles.[31]

All through the 1970s and 80s, Singh actively engaged in and chaired numerous inter-religious councils and forums, including the Inter-Religious Council of Southern California, the World Conference for the Unity of Man, and the World Parliament of Religions.[32] In 1999, he gave a presentation at the Parliament of the World's Religions in Cape Town, South Africa.[33]

Gender relations[edit]

Singh, the son of a graceful mother, was deeply shocked and offended by the exploitation of women in America. In 1971, he taught a gathering of his female students that they were the "Grace of God." Thus began the Grace of God Movement for the Women of America. Strip clubs in San Francisco were briefly picketed, but Singh's real emphasis was on re-educating America's largest exploited class.[34]

In the summer of 1975 Singh held an eight-week camp in New Mexico where he taught the psychology of a successful woman. Successive camps included subjects such as martial arts, rappelling, fire arms training and healing arts to build the character and confidence of the women in training, which is why the camps were designated "Khalsa Women Training Camps." [35]

Although Singh did teach a few weekend courses for men, his emphasis was on women because he recognized in them the foundation of any society, and he wanted to fundamentally end the disempowerment of Western women and the destruction of families.[34] In his words: "God lives in a cozy home."

While encouraging his female students to practice natural childbirth and to breast-feed, practices which were not widely adhered to in the early 1970s, Singh also revived the ancient Indian custom of celebrating the arrival of the new soul at the one hundred twentieth day of pregnancy. This laid emphasis on the dignity and divinity of motherhood.[35] By adhering to this historic custom, Singh also encouraged his women students in family planning. (In Catholic tradition, which is very significant to this issue in the West, the belief that pregnancy actually begins at the quickening, around the fourth month, was adhered to up to the time of Pius IX.) They should only to embark on motherhood if they were fully prepared to accept the responsibilities – and if they were not, then to terminate a pregnancy before the second trimester was far preferable (and certainly not a sin) to bringing a soul into ungraceful circumstances.

Singh also encouraged mothers to swaddle their infants and families to sleep all together, another traditional practice, although he afterwards stated that he lost nearly a third of his students over this one teaching.[36]

Sikh rights in North America[edit]

Singh played a role in having the right of practicing Sikhs to keep their distinctive turbans recognized in the United States and Canada. When, in 1973, three men serving in the U.S. Armed Forces took up the Sikh faith, they faced harsh discipline for maintaining their beards and turbans contrary to military regulations. Singh arranged for religious authorities in Amritsar to take notice of their cases, which caused the U.S. Armed Forces to change its policy in regards to the keeping of beards and wearing of turbans, so as to accommodate Sikhs in the service.[37]

This development led to a similar case launched by a student of Singh in 1977, a test challenge involving the Canadian Armed Forces. The Canadian Human Rights Commission decided the case in favour of the Sikhs.[38] A number of subsequent cases in Canada led to widespread acceptance of the wearing of turbans in a number of uniformed services, including municipal transit companies and police forces, most notably the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, where Baltej Singh Dhillon became the first turbaned member of the national police force in 1990.

During the 1980s Unrest in Punjab[edit]

During the 1980s Sikh struggle for civil rights in Punjab, Yogi Bhajan strove for peace and attempted to mediate between the Sikh leadership in Punjab and the Indian government under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In 1980, he warned the Sikhs of 'terrible consequences' if they did not unite and later advised Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale to work peacefully when the movement turned violent. He tried, in vain, to mediate peace between the members of Indira Gandhi's government and the Sikh leadership in Punjab.[39]

Singh played a unique role in the unfolding cataclysm. He was familiar with people on both sides of the conflict. Through his time in Delhi, teaching at the Vishwayatan Yoga Ashram of Swami Dhirendra Acharya, he had come to know the ruling Nehru family who were patrons and students of the swami.[40] He was also well-connected with Sikhs, holy men and politicians alike. Singh, given the unique spiritual designation “Siri Singh Sahib” by the elected leaders of the SGPC and Shiromani Akali Dal in 1971 for his work spreading Sikh teachings in the west, also brought a visionary sense and a global perspective to the situation. In the first month of 1980, Singh was visited by a terrible vision of destruction at the Golden Temple. In response, he had 250 letters sent to Sikh leaders in India urging them to unite in order to avoid a tidal wave of destruction within two years. Singh also spent January and February of that year in India meeting with leaders on all sides with a view to preventing that outcome.[41] This effort continued in his annual visits to India through 1984.[42]

As it turned out, the Sikhs belonging to the Congress party, namely Giani Zail Singh the Home Minister, Darbara Singh the Chief Minister in Punjab, the Maharaja of Patiala - Amarinder Singh, and Buta Singh kept apart from their Akali party counterparts until June 1984, when Amarinder Singh turned in his party membership and, for a time, joined the Akali party. On the Akali side, by August 1980, it was divided into two factions. That rift endured for two years, until the two groups joined with the group led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale to prosecute the civil disobedience campaign against the Central Government under the leadership of Sant Harchand Singh Longowal and six other members of a designated high command, namely Parkash Singh Badal – former Chief Minister of Punjab, Gurcharan Singh Tohra – President of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Jagdev Singh Talwandi, Surjit Singh Barnala – former Union Agriculture Minister, Sukhjinder Singh – former Punjab Minister, and Ravi Inder Singh – former Speaker of the Punjab Legislature. This coalition held together until September 1983, when the increasing frustrations of negotiating with the Prime Minister began to take its toll in a growing division between hardliners led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and Jagdev Singh Talwandi and the moderates led by Harchand Singh Longowal.[43]

In early 1982, Singh met with the Akali high command in Teja Singh Samundri Hall at the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar. On that occasion, he warned them of the danger in the international community of Sikhs being labeled as terrorists. Singh also advised the Sikh leaders that in Indira Gandhi's gambit to win popular support she could either send the Indian army into Sri Lanka to protect the Tamil minority there or she could target the Sikhs. Either way, she could come out as “saviour of the Hindus”. According to Singh, the choice belonged to the Sikh leaders. He advised they conduct an information campaign using the Sikh President of India, Giani Zail Singh as a symbol to show the world Sikhs are peaceful people. The leaders, all of them members of the Akali party, however could not fathom using their long-time political foe as a positive instrument for peace and self-preservation. Harbajan Singh also suggested highlighting the tradition of Bhai Khanaiya as the first Red Cross Society in history and the tradition of Guru Gobind Singh whose arrows were embedded with gold so even enemies who died could have their last rites done gracefully. He proposed that Baba Nihal Singh, the leader of the Taruna Dal of Nihung Sikhs based in Harianbela be made the head priest of the Akal Takhat, the Sikh seat of temporal authority. He also promised that if they did this and afterwards anything untoward happened to the Nation of Khalsa, he would present himself before them to receive any punishment they would like to award. Rather, he promised that if Baba Nihal Singh were made Jathedar of the Akal Takhat, Sikhs would come through their trial with victory and grace. This proposal was also unacceptable to the political leadership. For all Singh's advice and consideration, the leaders did not alter their tactics.[44]

On Singh's visit to Amritsar in 1983, he was summoned by Baba Kharak Singh, the elderly and widely respected builder and maintainer of holy places. Then, in the presence of Sant Harchand Singh, Sant Jarnail Singh, and Abhinashi Singh, the SGPC Secretary, Baba Kharak Singh gave him two blankets, four embroidered sheets, and 800 rupees as an offering of appreciation. He then predicted that there would be a time of great pain in the west and the east. As a remedy, Baba Kharak Singh dispensed a mantra for Singh to recite: “Aap sahaa-ee ho-aa, sachay daa, sachaa DHo-aa.” Baba Kharak Singh said to him: “In the west, you are going to be hit with a lot of pain, but these Sikhs may not be ready to take that pain. Therefore, chant this mantra: 'Aap sahaa-ee ho-aa, sachay daa, sachaa DHo-aa.'” Harbhajan Singh took it and then he said: “Don't doubt me. You think I am an old man? I don't know anything?” Harbhajan Singh said: “No, no, no. I don't doubt you. It's alright. What kind of hurt?” Baba Kharak Singh said: “None of your business! Don't ask questions. But I will tell you a story. In such-and-such a Gurdwara there was a man who made our life miserable and I went to Santji (my respected teacher). I told him, this man is making our life miserable, teasing us, beating us, and trying to do all kinds of treacheries. And then he said, “Chant this verse: 'Aap sahaa-ee ho-aa, sachay daa, sachaa DHo-aa' and the enemy dissolves.””[45] Singh subsequently urged all his students to chant the verse each day during the heat of the crisis.

When the mobilization against India's Central Government turned ugly with the targeted killing of six Hindu bus passengers at Dhilwan, Punjab on October 5, 1983, he sent money to the victims' families and a telegram to the Sant Harchand Singh Longowal to call a halt to the campaign for a few weeks, until peace returned. In response to the Sikh terrorists withholding the Golden Temple complex, the Indian Army carried out Operation Blue Star, Singh proclaimed that the event marked the end of a dynasty.[46] He also uniquely advised that the Akal Takhat had martyred itself to awaken the Sikh nation.[47]

Singh's contact with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in the summer of 1983 may have instrumental in the pontiff's awareness of Sikhs and his timely proclamation of goodwill at the time of the Golden Temple attack and massacre.[48] He was also persuasive in keeping India's Sikh President, Giani Zail Singh from resigning his position in protest, a move that he anticipated would bring on even greater disunity and bloodshed. Singh encouraged his students to send telegrams to the President, urging him to stay on.[49]

Singh convened a conference in New Mexico, June 23–25, 1984 to chart a response to events in India. The outcome of the gathering was an agreement on a series of objectives including an international investigation of the disaster, free media access to Punjab, proper medical care to the wounded, the return of Sikh temples to Sikh control, the release of Sikh prisoners, withdrawal of the army, police and paramilitaries from Punjab, and restoration of civil rights to Sikhs throughout India.[50] Singh suspected a larger Soviet agenda behind the humiliating destruction, which he termed the “martyrdom of the Akal Takhat”. The Soviets and their influential Marxist allies in India needed to eliminate or demoralize the Sikhs in order to achieve their objective of a secular, Communist state in south Asia. The plucky Sikhs were targeted because they found to be prosperous, essential to India's agriculture and its armed forces, and proven opponents of political oppression. The first objective of the Soviet plan was to discredit Sikhs as violent terrorists. In a November 1984 interview, he described Jarnail Singh Bindranwala as an “armed plant”. He also accused the KGB of involvement in Mrs. Gandhi's assassination, saying the Soviet Union preferred a weaker Rajiv as Prime Minister over his powerful, independently-minded mother.[51]

Unlike many Sikh leaders in the west, Singh was cool to the idea of a small separatist homeland where Sikhs might find security. He pointed out that whenever Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister, the so-called “President of Khalistan” would be at his post in London, but when she was out of power, he would come to India. Why, Singh asked, was this?[52] Singh's vision was vast, global, and inclusive. Rather than Khalistan, he vouched for “Duniastan” - the World as a homeland for all Sikhs (in Punjabi: "dunia" = world, "stan" = land).[53]

As the international media and human rights observers were kept out of Punjab, indiscriminate arrests, tortures and killings by the police left an estimated 10,000 civilians dead, and hundreds more of the visible minority Sikhs disappeared or detained without charges or trial.[54] Singh continued throughout the crisis to press for justice, forgiveness and reconciliation.[55]

Work for nuclear disarmament[edit]

In 1982 Singh joined other civil leaders in demanding mutual nuclear disarmament.

Singh's efforts took the form of his speaking at a number of disarmament rallies and his mobilization of his students, encouraging them to talk to their friends and relatives about the dangers of nuclear war.[56]

Shortly after Singh began his activism again the U.S. government's defense policy, the special Sikh exemption which allowed Sikh males to serve in the armed forces wearing their distinctive turbans and beards was disallowed.[57]

Sikh unity[edit]

In 1974, a distinguished delegation of Sikhs from India toured North America and Europe and offered their approval of Singh's work. The group consisted of Gurcharan Singh Tohra, President of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Mahinder Singh Giani, Secretary of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, Sardar Hukam Singh, President of the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Shatabdhi Committee (and former Speaker of the Indian Parliament and Governor of Rajasthan), and Surjit Singh Barnala, General Secretary of the Shiromani Akali Dal.[58]

While some Sikhs subsequently criticized Singh, deeming his administrative titles, structures and symbols as heterodox, in 1979 the Professor of Sikhism designated by the Akal Takhat, Dr. Kapur Singh,[59] came from Amritsar and addressed the Khalsa Council, Singh's governing council, and assured their practices were well within the parameters of Sikh tradition.[60]

In 1986, as the Khalistan movement (Sikh separatist movement within India) exerted an increasingly divisive role in the Sikh community by splitting Sikhs between those who demanded an independent homeland using violent means if necessary to achieve that goal and Sikhs who wished to work toward a peaceful resolution, Singh acknowledged Bhai Sahib Bhai Jiwan Singh of the Akhand Kirtani Jatha as Jathedar (Secretary) of Sikh Unity.[61]

Although he was instrumental in creating a new culture of Sikhs in the Western Hemisphere – Gursikh yogis speaking English, Spanish, German and Italian – Singh did not appreciate artificial divisions dividing Sikhs from one another, whether based on caste, race, nationality or any other grounds. He valued Sikh unity and always considered himself a Sikh first and last. This was ably and aptly reflected in the new media of Sikhnet.com which today serves Sikhs around the globe. It was begun by students of Singh in 1983 while the internet was still in its infancy [62] – and has since grown to be the largest Sikh resource in cyberspace.[63]

Political influence in U.S.[edit]

Singh was not in the least naive about the importance of being politically connected if one wanted to succeed in the United States, and did not shy from political functions. While he opposed the Reagan government’s economic policies, Singh appreciated a strong foreign policy and especially U.S. efforts to dislodge the Soviet Union from Afghanistan.[according to whom?]

As early as 1970, Singh was known to call on members of Congress in their Washington offices.[64] He also befriended successive governors of the state of New Mexico. Singh was known as a Democrat. Since 1980, he was both friend and adviser to Bill Richardson, who served variously as New Mexico governor (2003–2011), U.S. Energy Secretary (1998–2001), U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (1997–98), and member of the U.S. House of Representatives (1983–1997). Bill Richardson was a candidate for the Democratic Party's nomination to run for the office of U.S. President in 2008.[65]

Healing arts[edit]

When U.S. President Nixon called drugs America's "Number one domestic problem," Singh launched a pilot program with two longtime heroin addicts in Washington, D.C. in 1972.[66] The next year, a full-blown drug treatment center known as "3HO SuperHealth" was launched in Tucson, Arizona. The program used Kundalini Yoga, diet and massage therapy to cure the addicts. According to the 3HO website, the center distinguished itself in 1978 as being among the top 10% of all treatment programs throughout the United States, with a recovery rate of 91%.[67][not in citation given]

Early on, when the term "stress" was still practically unheard of, Singh warned his students a tidal wave of insanity would soon engulf modern industrialized societies.[68] As a remedy, Singh taught hundreds of techniques of yogic exericise and meditation. Many have been catalogued by their traditionally known effects in calming and healing the mind and body. Some of those techniques have been scientifically studied and applied in clinical practice with favorable results.[69]

One of the most noteworthy successes has been achieved by Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D., whose holistic treatment of Alzheimers disease using yoga with other therapeutic modalities has been lauded by the U.S. Surgeon General.[70][not in citation given]

Business life[edit]

Singh encouraged his students to go into business and served as a trusted adviser to a number of profitable enterprises. The best known of these are the Yogi Tea Company which packages and markets his tea formulas, Golden Temple Bakery which specializes in natural cereal products, the Soothing Touch health and beauty care products company, Akal Security and the Yoga West Center in Los Angeles.[71]

Miri Piri Academy[edit]

In 1998, Singh founded the Miri Piri Academy with the support and help of his younger son Kulbir Singh Puri at a short distance outside of Amritsar (Guru Ki Wadali) , India. The distinctive boarding school offers studies in a regular curriculum, plus Sikh studies and a daily regimen of yoga, meditation and service. Currently, students of seventeen nationalities are enrolled.[72]

Notable students[edit]

Media coverage[edit]

Singh received significant coverage in the North American media, particularly in the early 1970s when yoga was still a matter of general curiosity.

Singh's message of no drugs, family values and healthy living was widely popular, and many of the media stories were positive, serving not only to educate the public, but also to publicize the work of the 3HO Foundation. Some focused on the lifestyle, others on the inspiration behind the organization.[73][74][75] Others focused on Singh's holistic approach to drug addiction.[76][77][78] Some writers reported on Singh's officiating at mass marriages where many couples would be betrothed and everyone wore white.[79][80][81] Others zeroed in on the issue of Sikhs up against the US Army dress code.[82][83] While Newsweek, USA Today and Macleans Magazine in Canada published favorable articles about Singh in 1977, James Wilde of Time wrote a critical article that year, titled "Yogi Bhajan's Synthetic Sikhism".[84] Wilde alleged that Gurucharan Singh Tohra, former President of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), had stated that Singh is not the Sikh leader of Sikhism in the Western World as he claimed, and that Tohra had denied the SGPC had ever given the title of Siri Singh Sahib to Singh.[84]

The Time article was followed by emphatic rebuttals from Tohra. There was also a demonstration held outside Time's London office and a detailed demand for a retraction published under the title "Time Will Tell" in the 3HO publication Beads of Truth, Issue 36, Fall 1977.

Singh is mentioned in a range of reference works, including the New Age Encyclopedia.[85] Western scholarly appraisal of his work may be found in Hew McLeod's Who is a Sikh?[86] and Sikhism,[87] and in Verne A. Dusenbery's article "Punjabi Sikhs and Gora Sikhs: Conflicting Assertions of Sikh Identity in North America".[88]

BBC interviewed Singh at the 300th anniversary celebration of the Baisakhi holiday at Anandpur Sahib, India in 1999.[89]

Singh is also featured in books discussing the successes of Sikhs who had migrated from India to the West, including Surjit Kaur's Among the Sikhs: Reaching for the Stars[90] and Gurmukh Singh's The Global Indian: The Sikhs.[91]

The 1973 documentary Sunseed stars a number of teachers of eastern wisdom, including Singh. The Sunseed crew accompanied him to India in 1970-71 for the filming.

Honors[edit]

As well as his title "Siri Singh Sahib" awarded to him at the holy Akal Takhat in Amritsar in 1971, Singh was also designated "Bhai Sahib" in 1974.[92]

The Peace Abbey of Sherborn, Massachusetts awarded Singh the Courage of Conscience award on November 17, 1995.[93]

In 1999, at the three hundedth anniversary of the founding of the Order of Khalsa in Anandpur Sahib, India, Singh was awarded another rare honorific, the title "Panth Rattan" – Jewel of the Sikh nation.[94]

After his death, Singh joined a select few – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, and Pope John Paul II – in having members of the U.S. Congress pass a bipartisan resolution honoring his life and work.[95]

Obituaries[edit]

Singh died of complications of heart failure at his home in Española, New Mexico, on October 6, 2004, aged 75. He was survived by his wife, sons, daughter and five grandchildren.[2] Singh's passing was widely noted in the press, with obituaries appearing in The Los Angeles Times,[96] the Times of India,[97] The New York Times,[98] and Yoga Journal.[citation needed]

In addition, his passing was noted by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, which closed its offices to commemorate Singh's death.[99]

The State of New Mexico honored him by naming of a highway after him. It is called the Yogi Bhajan Memorial Highway.[100]

The state of New Mexico which created history in the US by flying its flag at half-mast for two days (Oct 7-8) in honour of Yogi Bhajan after his death on Oct 6, went a step ahead by declaring Oct 23 as ``Yogi Bhajan Memorial Day. [101]

Sikh scholars' views on Singh's mission[edit]

Singh's work has received mixed reactions among mainstream Sikhs.

Bhai Sahib Sardar Kapur Singh, a Sikh scholar recognized by the Akal Takht, praised Singh highly for his work in spreading Sikhism in the West.[102][unreliable source?]

Dr. Fauja Singh, M.A., Ph.D, Professor and Director, Department of History and Punjab Historical Studies, Punjabi University, Patiala, India praised Singh's marriage of yoga and religion, saying "he has helped to retrieve [yoga] from its distorted image of the medieval period and has restored it to its original and meaningful usage and purpose, that is to say, the desire to attain union with God through its agency."[102][unreliable source?]

On the other hand, Dr. Trilochan Singh, author of over twenty books on Sikh history, published a treatise in 1977 highly critical of Singh entitled "Sikhism and Tantric Yoga."[103][unreliable source?] In James Wilde's Time article of September 5, 1977 “Yogi Bhajan's Synthetic Sikhism,” Dr. Trilochan Singh proffered his opinion that "Bhajan's synthesis of Sikhism and Tantrism is a sacrilegious hodgepodge."[84]

Publications[edit]

  • Yogi Bhajan, The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan, Santa Cruz, NM, Kundalini Research Institute, 1977.
  • Siri Singh Sahib Bhai Sahib Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji (Yogi Bhajan), Furmaan Khalsa: Poems to Live By, Columbus, Ohio, Furman Khalsa Publishing Company, 1987.
  • Yogi Bhajan, The Master's Touch, Santa Cruz, NM, Kundalini Research Institute, 1997.
  • Yogi Bhajan with Gurucharan Singh Khalsa, The Mind: Its Projections and Multiple Facets, Espanola, New Mexico, Kundalini Research Institute, 1997.
  • Yogi Bhajan, The Aquarian Teacher - KRI International Kundalini Yoga Certification Text and Manual, Santa Cruz, NM, Kundalini Research Institute, 2003.
  • Yogi Bhajan, The Game of Love, A Book of Consciousness: The Poems and Art of Yogi Bhajan, Espanola, NM, Sikh Dharma International, 2007.
  • Yogi Bhajan, Man to Man: A Journal of Discovery for the Conscious Man, Santa Cruz, NM, Kundalini Research Institute, 2008.
  • Yogi Bhajan, I am a Woman: Book and Yoga Manual, Santa Cruz, NM, Kundalini Research Institute, 2009.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Biography". Sikhnet. Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  2. ^ a b Yogi Bhajan, 75, 'Boss' of Worlds Spiritual and Capitalistic, Douglas Martin, New York Times, October 9, 2004, retrieved September 18 2008
  3. ^ The Deeper Dimensions of Yoga: Theory and Practice: George Feuerstein. pg 55
  4. ^ Yogi joins Mother Teresa, Pope in US list Press Trust of India
  5. ^ The Man Called Siri Singh Sahib, M.S.S. Sardarni Premka Kaur Khalsa and Sat Kirpal Kaur Khalsa, editors, Los Angeles, California, Sikh Dharma, 1979, p. 132.
  6. ^ a b c Khalsa, Sardarni Premka Kaur (1979). "Early History". In Khalsa, Sardarni Premka Kaur; Khalsa, Sat Kirpal Kaur. The Man Called Siri Singh Sahib. Los Angeles: Sikh Dharma. 
  7. ^ Beads of Truth magazine, Fall 1978, 39:6-9; Beads of Truth magazine, Spring 1981, II:7:28-33.
  8. ^ Singh, Shamsher (1979). "The Fruits of Inner Searching". In Khalsa, Sardarni Premka Kaur; Khalsa, Sat Kirpal Kaur. The Man Called Siri Singh Sahib. Los Angeles: Sikh Dharma. 
  9. ^ Lal, Harbans (October 2007). "Celebrating the Life of Yogi Harbhajan Singh Ji". The Sikh Review: 52. 
  10. ^ a b Khalsa, Shanti Kaur (1995). The History of Sikh Dharma of the Western Hemisphere. Espanola, NM: Sikh Dharma. pp. 3–4. 
  11. ^ a b c d Khalsa, Gurcharn Singh (1979). "The Torch Bearer of Sikhism". In Khalsa, Sardarni Premka Kaur; Khalsa, Sat Kirpal Kaur. The Man Called Siri Singh Sahib. Los Angeles: Sikh Dharma. 
  12. ^ Yogi Bhajan talk, January 25, 1992, Espanola, New Mexico, GTE Recording #NM047.
  13. ^ Khalsa, Guru Fatha Singh (May 2007). "Biography of Yogi Bhajan". Messenger from the Guru's House 14. 
  14. ^ a b Hampton, Edna (28 November 1968). "Yoga's Challenges and Promises". The Globe and Mail. p. W11. 
  15. ^ a b c Khalsa, Guru Fatha Singh (2008). The Essential Gursikh Yogi: The Yoga and Yogis in the Past, Present and Future of Sikh Dharma. Toronto: Monkey Minds Press. p. 229. 
  16. ^ Cowley, Susan Cheever; Kasindorf, Martin; Lisle, Laurie (21 April 1975). "Sikhdom, U.S.A.". Newsweek: 65. 
  17. ^ 3HO Ashram Listing, Beads of Truth, September 1972, pp. 23-24
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  40. ^ Singh Sahib Gurcharn Singh Khalsa, “The Torch Bearer of Sikhism,” Messenger from the Guru's House, ed. Mukhia Sardarni Premka Kaur Khalsa and Sardarni Sahiba Sat Kirpal Kaur Khalsa, Los Angeles, Sikh Dharma, 1979, p. 36; Inder Malhotra, Indira Gandhi: A Personal and Political Biography, London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1989, pp. 187-89.
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  42. ^ Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa, “High Times,” Beads of Truth Magazine, Summer, 1980, II:5, pp. 17-21; M.S.S. Gurutej Singh Khalsa, “When I Touched the Heart of Mother India,” Beads of Truth Magazine, Fall, 1981, II:8, pp. 4-20; Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa, “High Times,” Beads of Truth Magazine, Fall, 1981, II:8, p. 27; Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa, “High Times,” Beads of Truth Magazine, Summer, 1982, II:9, pp. 18-21; Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa, “High Times,” Beads of Truth Magazine, Summer, 1983, II:10, pp. 27-28; Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa, “High Times,” Beads of Truth Magazine, Summer, 1984, II:13, pp. 22, 24-25.
  43. ^ Kuldeep Kaur, Akali Party in Punjab Politics: Splits and Mergers, New Delhi: Deep and Deep Publications Pvt. Ltd., 1999, pp. 81-85, 90.
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  45. ^ Bhajan taped lecture, June 24, 1984, Golden Temple Recording, #G151.
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  48. ^ Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa, “High Times,” Beads of Truth Magazine, Winter, 1983, II:12, pp. 30-31.
  49. ^ Gurmit Singh, History of Sikh Struggles, Vol. III, New Delhi, Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, 1991, pp. 191-92.
  50. ^ Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa, “The Voice of Prophesy”, Beads of Truth Magazine, Winter 1984, II:14, pp. 5-6.
  51. ^ Yogi Bhajan, C-SPAN interview, November 15, 1984; Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa, “The Story Behind the Story”, Beads of Truth Magazine, Winter 1984, II:14, pp. 7-9; Details of KGB and Communist involvement in the 1984 debacle are given in: Sangat Singh, The Sikhs in History, New Delhi, Uncommon Books, 1999, p. 396.
  52. ^ Yogi Bhajan taped lecture, January 6, 1985, Golden Temple Recording #G176.
  53. ^ Yogi Bhajan taped lecture, July 1, 1984, Golden Temple Recording tape #G152
  54. ^ Amnesty International Report: Break the Cycle of Impunity and Torture in Punjab, January 20, 2003 - http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA20/002/2003/en/dom-ASA200022003en.html[dead link]
  55. ^ Sardarni Premka Kaur Khalsa, "Sikh Dharma Position on Crisis in Punjab," Beads of Truth, II:13, Summer 1984, p. 27; Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa, "High Times," Beads of Truth, II:14, Winter 1984, p. 21; Shanti Kaur Khalsa, The History of Sikh Dharma of the Western Hemisphere, Espanola, NM, Sikh Dharma, 1995, pp. 144-55
  56. ^ Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa, "High Times," Beads of Truth, II:10, Winter 1982, pp. 26-29
  57. ^ Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa, "High Times," Beads of Truth, II:11, Summer 1983, pp. 24-25
  58. ^ Sardarni Premka Kaur, "Sikh Renaissance," Beads of Truth, June 1974, pp. 11-16; open letter from Hukam Singh, Sri Guru Singh Sabha Shatabadi Committee, July 18, 1974
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  64. ^ Sardarni Premka Kaur, "Mission Possible," Beads of Truth magazine, Issue 16, December 1972, p. 35 (Senator Mark Hatfield and Congressman Mark Corman); Shakti Parwha Kaur, "High Times," Beads of Truth magazine, Issue 17, March 1973, p. 36 (Congressman Jonathan Bingham).
  65. ^ Bill Richardson, "Yogi Bhajan Day," Aquarian Times, 4:4, Winter 2004, pp. 94-95
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  68. ^ quote: "So normally on this Earth, 90% of people will be crazy. I am not making a prediction. It is a truth that will be seen by any of you living to that age. Everybody will be funny, you know. You will never be in a position to determine why somebody is angry, why somebody doesn't want to see you, why somebody doesn't want to love you, why somebody has come and given you two or three slaps and kicked you out of the house... nothing you will be in a position to imagine. Unpredictable actions of the human being will be the common trend in social living. This will be the new human race." Yogi Bhajan lecture April 12, 1973, published as "The Blue Gap" in Beads of Truth, Issue 22, March 1974, p. 25
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Further reading[edit]

  • Khalsa, Guru Fatha Singh, The Essential Gursikh Yogi: The Yoga and Yogis in the Past, Present and Future of Sikh Dharma, Toronto, Monkey Minds Press, 2008, ISBN 978-0-9682658-1-9
  • Khalsa, Guru Fatha Singh, Five Paragons of Peace: Magic and Magnificence in the Guru's Way, Toronto, Monkey Minds Press, 2010, ISBN 978-0-9682658-2-6

, On-line at: http://www.gurufathasingh.com/five-paragons-of-peace.html

External links[edit]