Yogi Bhajan: Happy, Healthy, Holy Sikhism and Kundalini Yoga
It was an unusually dry, hot morning in the summer of 1996, in Española, NM, at the grand home and Mother Ashram of Yogi Bhajan (also known as the Guru Ram Das Ashram). I and a handful of other followers arrived in the early morning to be nurtured and schooled by the brilliant and loving Sikh master.
The eight of us sat comfortably in his living room and were greeted by his lovely wife, Inderjit Kaur, and given some tea. After a short speech on Kundalini yoga and meditation, Yogi Bhajan invited me for a private walk.
I loved being around Yogi in those days. He was very kind to me, often doing my numerology, and giving me personal counsel. He was fatherly, patient, and intuitive. He was also connected to one-third of the world’s wealth.
I miss him, dearly.
“Make yourself so happy so that when others look at you, they become happy too.” — Yogi Bhajan
The Amazing Life of Yogi Bhajan
Harbhajan Singh Khalsa (1929-2004) was born in Gujranwala, located in the Punjab province, which is now in Pakistan.
Born into a wealthy family, his mother was Hindu, and his father was a Sikh. His parents enrolled him in Catholic schools where he was taught by nuns. Given the extreme wealth of his family, Yogi Bhajan was somewhat of a prince. He commanded thousands of servants and employees.
When India was divided, Yogi Bhajan fled to New Dehli, India where he was a refugee. He would eventually excel in economics at Punjab University, where he was also a debater and athlete. He would go on to work for India’s IRS and as a customs agent at an Indian airport. Yogi Bhajan and his wife Inderjit, also known as Bibiji, had two sons and one daughter.
Yogi Bhajan began teaching in the United States in the 1960s, during which he inspired many followers within the hippie movement.. In 1969, Yogi Bhajan incorporated his 3HO Foundation, which he led as its spiritual director.
A non-governmental organization within the United Nations, the mission of 3HO is to be an organized community for the family of people who live not just “with” each other, but “for” each other. 3HO has since grown to over 300 centers in over 35 countries, with hundreds of thousands of followers.
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Yogi Bhajan also founded the International Kundalini Yoga Teachers Association to help set standards for teachers of Kundalini yoga and meditation.
“On the fifth of January, when I gave a lecture, they asked me, ‘What have you brought for us?’ I said, ‘I gave you a Healthy, Happy, Holy way of life.’ I have not come here to collect students; I will create teachers, and teachers so created in this 3HO, shall teach the world a way of life with style. That’s what we have said; that’s what we are doing; that’s what we are.” -Yogi Bhajan, 1/5/93
In 1973, his educational organization, known as Sikh Dharma International (SDI), became a 501c(3) religious organization, committed to teaching the highest level of Sikh ideals, while also serving humanity and the global Sikh community. Sikh Dharma International offices are located at the Mother Ashram.
Yogi Bhajan, known to his followers as Siri Singh Sahib or Siri Singh Sahib Bhai Sahib Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji, was loved by many. He was the founder in or trusted management consultant for over 17 businesses in natural food, breakfast cereals, beauty products, real estate, computer systems, security services, and yoga centers. Companies that he influenced include Golden Temple, Akal Security, Peace Cereals, Yogi Tea, Soothing Touch, and many others. Yogi Bhajan’s employees and associates sometimes affectionately called him, “The Boss.”
While Yogi understood that most religions share the same core beliefs, he was grateful to be taught the fundamentals of Sikhism and yogic knowledge by his grandfather, Bhai Fateh Singh. His spiritual teacher was Sant Hazara Singh of Gujaranwala, a profound yogi and mystic.
Because of his dedication to his teachers, Yogi became transparent about his background, challenges, and beliefs, with the hope it would inspire others to deepen.
He once offered, “I was born into a very rich family. I played with diamonds for marbles, and I had great authority. I was the elder son of the ruling dynasty, like the Prince of Wales, and I had every opportunity to act like a total idiot. There were thousands of servants to whom my word was the law, and I could have whatever I wanted, like a rich, spoiled kid.
But I was lucky. I had a very saintly grandfather, and a saintly family tradition and disposition. I met a lot of holy men who would come to our house, and I chose a very saintly teacher. His approval of me was considered the joy of the family. His mark on me is so deep; I love him even now. Do you know that I still do not recognize the face of my grandfather or my teacher? I never ever looked at their face, but I can accurately draw their feet. That’s the consciousness of it.”
When Yogi Bhajan came to the west, it was not to grow a large body of students who loved his Kundalini Yoga; it was to create teachers who would go out into the world and teach peace and yoga, as an alternative to the prevalent drug culture within the hippie movement.
Yogi Bhajan became a US citizen in 1976. He was affectionately called Siri Singh Sahib Ji by his devotees.
The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan
Yogi Bhajan’s lectures were stimulating, heart-centered, and profound. When he began teaching in the late 1960s, it was not merely to share yoga and meditation practices. He taught a full lifestyle that inspired every individual to radiate and shine in every aspect of their lives.
Yogi Bhajan’s teachings continue to include lessons on how to dress, eat, relate, communicate, love, raise conscious children, and do business with loving grace.
Overall, Yogi Bhajan’s goal was to inspire, uplift, and enlighten everyone he encountered. He wanted every spirit to feel whole, healed, and sovereign. I am able to feel his warmth and love to this day.
Deeply committed to serving humanity and guiding his fellow Sikhs, Yogi Bhajan was the first Sikh to offer accessible teachings that were relatable to people from every background, language, and culture.
According to Yogi Bhajan’s SikhDharma.org, “Sikhs believe in creating abundance, peace, and prosperity by praising the name of God, earning a righteous living and sharing what they have to serve humanity. Sikh populations across the globe enthusiastically participate in outreach activities and contribute to their local communities by serving food (langar) and through building interfaith dialogue and cooperation.”
SDI’s mission is to serve and uplift humanity through the teachings of the original Sikh Gurus along the path of Sikh Dharma, as shared by Siri Singh Sahib, Yogi Bhajan. The foundation’s global vision is to raise humanity’s spirit by serving God (the Divine or the One-in-All).
The Yogi Bhajan library of teachings is a vast, accessible online archive. You can access it here.
Yogi Bhajan Quotes
There are many Yogi Bhajan quotes on love, life, marriage, raising kids, and business. Here are a few of my favorites:
- “Recognize the other person is you.”
- “Travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light.”
- “An attitude of gratitude brings great things.”
- “What is a human being? A magnetic field, that’s all he is. What kind of magnetic field is it? It vibrates on its own nucleus and in proportion with its existence with the entire universe. And there are many magnetic fields, millions of them. Without your talking with somebody, you communicate.”
- “When ego is lost, limit is lost. You become infinite, kind, beautiful.”
- “Share your strengths, not your weaknesses.”
- “The greatest art is to sit, and wait, and let it come.”
- “Your total life is nothing without activity. When you are not acting, you are dead. You act in sleep also. You act through dreams. You act through mental vibrations. You are continually vibrating. The moment you don’t vibrate you are dead. Death is nothing but non-vibration of a finite unit. That’s all death is.”
- “Self-reliance conquers any difficulty.”
- “Hope is not a prediction of the future; it’s a declaration of what’s possible.”
- “When you speak, it should be as if Infinity is speaking.”
- “The most difficult thing on the earth one can practice is to be humble. It is not easy; it is difficult because you have to surmount the existence of whole Maya and to recognize that God is by your side. Then you feel the humility.”
- “Love is the ultimate state of human behavior, where compassion prevails and kindness rules.”
Yogi Bhajan Books
While Yogi Bhajan gave many profound and inspiring lectures, the list of books below continues to enlighten those who are drawn to Kundalini Yoga and the 3HO way of life.
- Yogi Bhajan, The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan
- Siri Singh Sahib Bhai Sahib Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji (Yogi Bhajan), Furmaan Khalsa: Poems to Live By
- Yogi Bhajan, The Master’s Touch
- Yogi Bhajan with Gurucharan Singh Khalsa, The Mind: Its Projections and Multiple Facets
- Yogi Bhajan, The Aquarian Teacher – KRI International Kundalini Yoga Certification Text and Manual
- Yogi Bhajan, The Game of Love, A Book of Consciousness: The Poems and Art of Yogi Bhajan
- Yogi Bhajan, Man to Man: A Journal of Discovery for the Conscious Man
- Yogi Bhajan, I am a Woman: Book and Yoga Manual
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Yogi Bhajan’s Motto, Credo, and Challenge
You might find these on several of Yogi Bhajan’s websites:
- Motto: “If you can’t see God in all, you can’t see God at all.”
- Credo: “It’s not the life that matters; it’s the courage that you bring to it.”
- Challenge: ”Don’t love me; love my teachings.”
Yogi Bhajan’s Death
Siri Singh Sahib Bhai Sahib Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji died of complications related to heart failure on Oct 6, 2004, at his Guru Ram Das Ashram.
His wife, Inderjit Kaur survives him, along with his sons, Ranbir Singh and Kulbir Singh; his daughter, Kamaljit Kaur; and five grandchildren.
Yogi Bhajan was a blessing to this world, and his teachings will live on in those of whom he taught, inspired, and loved.
To participate in the 3HO community and enjoy past of Yogi Bhajan’s vision for the world, consider attending Yogi Bhajan’s annual International Peace Prayer Day Celebration in New Mexico. You’ll meet lots of warm-hearted people, and enjoy lively music and interfaith prayers. You’ll also hear speeches by luminous leaders in religion and politics, and those in service to humanity.
“We started a healthy, happy, holy way of life, and that became 3HO. It is a dream come true. It is a very pure path in which every human is worshipped equally. Everybody is a potential teacher. There is no ‘yes’ and ‘no’, rather there is a set discipline to follow…We built a foundation called the 3HO Foundation: a Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization of people.
The first song I sang was, ‘We are the people, the people of love, let us people love today.’ Certain little things started happening in a very unique way with all of you. All of those who have left, all who are with me, who shall be with me, or who shall leave me, all play a very important role in the development of 3HO—a lifestyle of the Age of Aquarius where humans shall be first and foremost purely human, and will do everything graciously.”
-Yogi Bhajan, 1/5/94