Yogi Bhajan's Seven Years in America and His Tinkling Titles

by Gursant Singh ⌂ @, Yuba City California USA, Friday, April 30, 2010, 05:06 (5106 days ago)

The following is taken from "Sikhism and Tantric Yoga" by Dr. Trilochan Singh.

We are not concerned in this chapter with Yogi Bhajan's life in India. His father, who lives in New Delhi, his innumerable colleagues in the Customs office, where he worked on a junior post for many years, and his classmates, some of whom are in the U.S.A. who know him better than he himself remembers of these years. Stephen Gayle, Correspondent, New York Post, who interviewed him in December 1972, writes, "In March of 1968 he met a Canadian who appeared to be very sad and disappointed as he prepared to board his flight home, when Bhajan said, he had been unable to find a Yogi in India who could bring his sorely needed teachings to the West. Bhajan volunteered and later was on his way to Toronto, the first immigrant who ever came to Canada to specifically teach Yoga." In Canada, Yogi Bhajan was either unable to teach Yoga or the Canadians refused to learn. So he came to the U.S.A.
It was Dr Amarjit Singh Marwah, whose well known hospitality to all known and unknown Sikhs visiting Los Angeles tempted him to be first his guest and then be a pest for him. Dr Marwah kept him in his house giving him free board and lodging, and then recommended him to Dr Judith M. Tyberg, Founder-President of East-West Cultural Center, Los Angeles, to permit him to take Yoga classes in the Center. She generously permitted Yogi to teach Yoga classes for which she paid him. When on Sunday 12th June 1977 I went to deliver a lecture in the East-West Cultural Center, Dr Judith M Tyberg who is a Ph. D. in Sanskrit from Benaras University and a very noble, devout, deeply religious scholar, took me aside after the lecture and told me the whole story of Yogi Bhajan's unmentionable misdoings in the East-West Cultural Center. Tears rolled down her eyes and her body trembled as she told me the whole sad and humiliating story for which she has ample evidence.
It was here in the East-West Cultural Center Yogi Bhajan met Premka Kaur (Pamela Lavison), a divorcee, Shakti Parwah (Susso, a waitress and then a helper of Dr Tyberg in East-West Center), Sat Simrin Kaur (a talented and sensitive Jewish girl, smart in pompous publicity), Rick Straus, a very shrewd, romantically knavish and ambitious organizer, who was then rich enough to give a car and money to Yogi Bhajan.

Yogi Bhajan's Beloved Master Sant Virsa Singh

In Beads, 1:2, March 1970, we read the following announcement: "On February 22nd 3HO Ashrams across the U.S.A. celebrated the birthday of Yogi Bhajan's Master, Saint Virsa Singhji. In Los Angeles there was continuous chanting for an entire week preceding the celebration, with students on 2 1/2 hour shifts of chanting the mantra Ek Ong Kar Satnam Wahguru. The day of celebration was bright, pure and strong. In the ashram there was chanting, meditation, and a marriage ceremony was performed by Yogi Bhajan, uniting his student Tracey Maison with her husband. The marriage ceremony from Adi Granth was read aloud by Shakti Parwha raising the union to the level of Truth: Satnam." (Beads, Vol 1:2, p 2)
In Beads 1:7, month not given, page 5, it is recorded, "In the last three days we also ran a chanting marathon: two altars were set on the front porch and on the back porch and everyone was posted to chant for 21/2 hours to continue the custom which was established in honor of Sant Maharaj Virsa Singh ji's birthday last February 22nd."
On page 1 of this very issue of Beads is announced: "The technique we use was brought to America by Yogi Bhajan, Master of Kundalini Yoga, who is the spiritual guiding force of 3-HO. This indicates that Yogi Bhajan had not promoted himself to the enviable position of the One and only Mahan Tantric in the world, and Shakti Parwha had neither become a 'Kaur' nor the Spiritual Mother of 3HO. These divine ranks were appropriated two years later.
In Beads 8, September 1970 page 11, there is the following announcement: "In December 1970 Yogi Bhajan will leave for a three month trip to India, taking with him a number of students. If you are interested in making this Divine journey contact Alan Oken, 163 State St., Brooklyn N.Y. for details. The cost all inclusive is $1,050, room and board at Gobind Sadhan, house of Yogi Bhajan's Beloved Master, Maharaj Virsa Singh ji, Departure and return to New York. In the name of the Cosmic Power which prevails through everybody and the Holy Nam which holds the world."
It is a noteworthy fact that up to 1971, Sant Virsa Singh was the Beloved Master of Yogi Bhajan, who has never practiced Yoga, or any Kundalini asana. The visit to India was filmed by some of Yogi Bhajan's companions, and I had the good fortune to see it in the second week of June at Los Angeles. The hall was full of Yogi Bhajan's ex-devotees, and four present-day devotees. I found the opportunity to meet and talk to many of them informally. They all had some or the other bitter experience with Yogi Bhajan and his system, and some day they may tell their part of the story. My differences with Yogi Bhajan are purely academic and my purpose and duty is to protect and uphold Sikh doctrines and prevent as far as my pen can the abuse and misuse of Sikh doctrines and insult to the Gurus which Yogi Bhajan is unscrupulously spilling everywhere.

The Documentary Film on Yogi Bhajan

The film started with the caption on the screen: "Being a cunning assemblage of unscripted film documentary, the 90 day Trip of Happiness to India with Yogi Bhajan and his Yoga students." Here are some of the scenes which have left a deep impression on my mind.
At New York airport can be seen, in the opening scene of the film, Yogi Bhajan bubbling with enthusiasm and Premka loudly asking the camp followers not to do in India what the Americans are normally allowed in 3HO ashrams, but in spite of "so many do not" instructions they impulsively did those very things. Our friend Ganga Singh Dhillon is conspicuous by his smart appearance, and he knows more about this tour than any other Indian living here.
Although I visit Delhi every two or three months this film was the first that gave me a glimpse of Sant Virsa Singh and his ashram, who along with Nirlep Kaur, the mistress of Gobind Sadan, is quite popular among the very rich and the quite illiterate people but equally unpopular among serious, intelligent and knowledgeable Sikhs. Yogi Bhajan is seen in the film, introducing him as, "My Master, who is the greatest living saint though he never went to school," and a silly Sardar excitedly calls him the prophet of the age.
The most sensational and amusing scene is when Yogi Bhajan praises the magnetic field and aura of Sant Virsa Singh and then prostrates at the feet of his Master, lying flat like a crocodile about to shed tears. He virtually kisses Virsa Singh's feet which were covered with white socks and Punjabi shoes covered with silver lining. Sant Virsa Singh stands still not uttering a word of blessing and I was for a moment wondering whether it was the man himself or his statue.
On the next day Sant Virsa Singh is seen holding a tumbler full of water and churning it with a Kirpan (dagger). He calls it Amrit and gives it to Yogi Bhajan who drinks it and feels transported into seventh heaven, and in an induced ecstasy he showers praise on his Master. He uses the same words which have become a gimmick with his followers to praise him in the Beads and Sikh Dharma magazine. Sant Virsa Singh has about the same number of uncritical followers in Delhi as Yogi Bhajan has in America, that is between 1500-2000 (including women and children). The figure is generally overstated by propaganda lies. Sant Virsa Singh's practice of giving Amrit (which he gave to Yogi Bhajan and 84 Americans) with a Kirpan is the most Un-Sikh like practice I have ever seen. No Sikh, least of all a Sikh saint believing and practicing Sikh ideals of Guru Gobind Singh would ever do such a thing and act as mini-guru as Sant Virsa Singh is shown in the film. If this is true that Virsa Singh is posing and acting as an avatar of Guru Gobind Singh, and he is making some of his empty-headed followers to believe it, then he is alienating himself and his devotees from the Khalsa Panth. After the death of Guru Gobind Singh, about 15 people have tried at different times, and in different ways, to pose and act as avatars of Guru Gobind Singh, and after trumpeting their impostor guru ship and avatar hood, they have died in humiliation and are condemned by history. Sant Virsa Singh must make his opinion and position clear on this matter. Nirlep Kaur, who is also the leading lady of Gobind Sadan, should make the actual facts clear publicly, because it is because of such Un-Sikh like practices going on in Gobind Sadan, and these silly theories that he is an avatar and prophet, which have conditioned a large section of Delhi Sikhs to dislike him, and it is under such circumstances, scholars, orthodox Sikhs, and enlightened seers consider it below their dignity even to go and meet him. But I am sure he has not taken the liberty to insult the Gurus as Yogi Bhajan has been doing day in and day out even in Sikh homes and posing as someone even superior and wiser than Guru Gobind Singh.
The film then highlights how Americans are entertained in Gobind Sadan. Almost all Americans are grumbling. One angry American confronts Premka, and she calmly and tactfully tries to talk him out and slip away. This angry American remarks, "Don't you try to behave like a Mother Superior with me. If something is not done soon I will kick you on your ..." (What he said after this is unmentionable.)
In the camps the Americans are shown smoking, and some of them lighting candles and incense before a picture of Yogi Bhajan which they were supposed to use for meditation and concentration. Some of them are seen doing crude Yoga asanas, in a very painful and clumsy manner, and there was nothing of the restraint and dignity and self-control of practicing Indian Yogis about any of them. Then there is a sudden break. We shall be quoting the comments of Yogi Bhajan, Nirlep Kaur, and Sant Virsa Singh on the basis of the tape-script of everything said in the film which the author was able to acquire in order to be accurate and authentic in this book.
After this incident Yogi Bhajan shifted to Alamgir Gurdwara, a few miles away from Ludhiana where he stayed for a fortnight or so. This part of the story is not shown in the film, but the author was there, as Ludhiana, the Industrial city of the Punjab, is the author's hometown. At my request Singh Sabha Gurdwara Model Town gave a reception to the American Sikhs, followed by dinner. I was the first to address them. It was here that I met Larry Singh and Ganga, a very sober couple who have I believe imbibed more of Sikhism and are better known and respected among the Sikhs than even Yogi Bhajan. Premka. the favorite lady of Yogi Bhajan, was always by his side, now spreading a special rug for him to be seated in the Gurdwara a little more comfortably than other Sikhs, now doing this and now doing that. It appeared that she considered it below her dignity to speak to anyone except to her Master, for her Master, and through her Master. When Professors Darshan Singh of Agricultural University tried to introduce Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh's son Bhai Sahib Balbir Singh, me and other important members of the committee to Yogi Bhajan, he looked up askance haughtily like Caesar coming after a disastrous battle with Pompey, and pretended to ignore everyone, because to his surprise no one treated him as a Holy man. They just treated him as a Healthy and Happy Man, the type 3HO insists on producing.
When everyone was taking his dinner, and I was talking to Ganga and Larry, Yogi Bhajan was sitting on a sofa and to his misfortune, Dr Harnam Singh Kohli questioned him about his creed. The first question he asked Yogi Bhajan was, "How as a Sikh holy man or even as a Yogi do you reconcile your holiness with three diamond rings which occupy your attention more than anything else? This is something quite un-Sikhlike." Yogi Bhajan in his usual aggressive tone turned round and said, "You have never seen the world outside Punjab and never been to Europe and America. You do not know how things are there. These rings and diamonds have occult significance and Americans understand it." Dr. Harnam Singh retorted, "I qualified as an Eye Specialist in the U.S.A., and have stayed there longer than you have done and know about American life and culture much more than you do. I have not seen any religious man, Christian or otherwise, not even Hollywood Actors or the President of the U.S.A. wearing and displaying diamond rings as you are doing." But the most wonderful thing in Yogi Bhajan is that you may disarm him by reasoning, arguments, factual truth, but his sharp tongue and his aggressive demeanor are such ready-witted tools of offense and defense that they have done him more harm than good. For his assumed holiness, his mind ignorant of Sikh doctrines, his heart devoid of sincerity and loyalty to his Faith, this perhaps is the best and only coat-of-mail.
Sant Virsa Singh's Reaction to the Split:
In the film we can see Sant Virsa Singh seriously disturbed and as he is sitting on a chair without his shoes and socks, with left leg crossed on his right knee, he is visibly shaken and keeps on rubbing his toe nervously, saying, "Othe ahnda riha eh mera Guru hai; eh ahnda riha ki nahi." A young lady who spoke softly and in beautiful English translated it to a few Americans who broke away from Yogi Bhajan, saying, "Did he not say, 'Santji Maharaj is my Guru to you all?' " The Americans agreed but reported that now Yogi says, "Maharaj Virsa Singh did not understand my teachings." Sant Virsa Singh is also heard saying, "jede lok mainu mande han una nu bada shack laga hove ga. " "Those who still accept me and believe in me must have been greatly shocked." Then the Sant and his disciples explain to the Americans that he had asked them to make arrangements for the Americans and he had assured that he would pay for them. He had charged them $1050 dollars each and yet he had not paid a penny for all the free board and lodging given to them.
Yogi Bhajan's Reactions:
Yogi Bhajan is at his best in his apologetic grandiloquence as he kept on talking to his seriously disturbed followers. Sometimes it was his cosmic magniloquence and sometimes it was parrot-like repetition of 3HO jargon mixed with yammering, incoherent tittle-tattle, and at other times it was improvised harangue for pity and compassion on his lot. To invoke this compassion and pity for himself he compared his humiliations and debacle with his prophet Master with the suffering of Christ just before he was put on the cross, and he pleaded that time will come when he like Jesus will be understood much later. The Americans listen to him, grumbling, protesting, but helplessly grim as if determined to do something as soon as they reach the U.S.A. He also urged them never to accept any Man as a Teacher, a lesson which he forgot as soon as the crisis was over. "It is the Will of God," he said, imitating Moses of MGM films. "You are the chosen ones. This is your last life to wipe out the obstacles of your past karma. We are the teachers of the Aquarian Age. We are people of destiny. When God is everything, then you are in everything. When you are in everything, how can you say you are not God. What is right? What is wrong? There is nothing right and there is nothing wrong. Thinking makes it so." The Americans laughed at this and he felt amused and flattered. He also suggested that he brought them to India to show them that their country (U.S.A.) was much better, cleaner, more democratic and allowing individual freedom than India, which was full of unclean surroundings and people. He posed as their countryman and American although he was still an Indian citizen at that time. After hearing him talk endlessly and incoherently an American young man remarked cynically, "Some men are born as teachers, but some men are teachers without understanding what they teach." He was repeatedly saying that he was positive and never negative in his approach. And so he was. And that is the best part of his character as an Actor in the film. He does emerge as a hero because he is as positive as an unrepentant hoodlum of San Francisco.
Nirlep Kaur's Reactions:
The most apt comments on Yogi Bhajan in this film are those of Nirlep Kaur, the indisputable Mistress of Sant Virsa Singh's ashram, Gobind Sadan. In Sant Virsa Singh's spiritual domain, she occupies the same position as Shakti Parwha and Premka Kaur do in the Tantric domain of Yogi Bhajan. I have never agreed with her politics of duplicity in which all Delhi Akalis and Congressites surpass one another, and I severely condemned her sacrilegious and mad adventure to capture the historical Gurdwara of Sis Gang through armed gangs, in the "Hindustan Times," an outstanding paper of Delhi. She talks without showing her usual anger and hatred on her face. She said, "All Americans were most welcome to study scriptures and our way of life. He does not let us talk to them. And now he has taken protection of the police. If he is a yogi and a guru he should move about fearlessly. He talks about astrology, Aquarian Age, Capricorn and other nonsense which has no place in Sikhism." Someone reports to Nirlep Kaur that people are insulting Yogi Bhajan everywhere and he has strong police protection. Nirlep Kaur jubilantly remarks, "I have great faith in God. God will certainly humble him. Sooner or later He will humble him."
In the film Yogi Bhajan is seen standing near his bus, surrounded by armed police. The Americans are confused and dazed. The only persons I could recognize were Premka standing loyally near Yogi Bhajan, Baba Don and his wife, and the sad and sensitive Krishna (Black) who stood bear-headed utterly bewildered. She is an outstanding musician and like Vikram Singh has impressed the Sikhs of the U.S.A. with her Kirtan. So men are openly professing their bitterness, but they find themselves in a very ugly situation created only by Yogi Bhajan's odd behavior and character.

At Amritsar

The scene shifts to Amritsar where Mahinder Singh, Secretary of S.G.P.C., is the constant companion of Yogi Bhajan. No other prominent leader is there. There are two most humiliating scenes, both of which ended in a farce. The Americans are lodged in the precincts of the Golden temple either in Guru Ram Das Rest House or Guru Nanak Niwas. Some of them, who perhaps continued to declare in the film that they came for Yoga and not for Sikhism, continue to smoke, and to burn candles before Yogi's picture.
The first humiliating scene is Jathedar of Akal Takhat administering Amrit baptism to the reluctant and ignorant Americans, a drama organized and arranged by Mahinder Singh and his bosses. They are huddled together and told that all they have to do is to keep their eyes open and say Vah-Guru ji ka Khalsa and Vah-Guru-ji-ki Fateh every time they are given baptismal water. Normally that was what was required from them except wearing five K's, all of which Yogi Bhajan does not wear to this day. He might do in the future. While baptism is being administered in the film, one can hear laughter, giggling and indecent disturbances from outsiders who are watching and commenting. The whole spectacle is so sacrilegious and an open insult to the authentic and traditional method of administering Sikh baptism that I do not think Sikh baptism was ever made such a mockery and empty ritual as was done by the present S.G.P.C. leadership through the present Jathedar of Akal Takhat. If this is the way the baptism is carried out always from the Akal Takhat without even reading the full forty verses of Anand Sahib, then this is something against which all decent Sikhs all over the world should raise their voices too. Those who are receiving baptism do not know what they are receiving, and those who are administering baptism do not care to explain what they are giving. The greatest sacrilegious act and even sin by those who act as Panj Pyaras is to administer baptism to those who do not deserve it and those who are not fully prepared for it. The giggling, the laughter, undesirable utterances by outsiders (people other than Panj Pyaras), and other noises make the ceremony a humiliating and disgusting sight.
What then was the result of all this theatrical baptism administered in the most undesirable manner from the sanctum sanctorium of Akal Takhat, the holiest of the holy places? Within a month when these Americans came back 80 out of the 84 American followers of Yogi Bhajan shaved off and left him and Sikhism by his own admission. The whole episode enacted according to a Grand Deal with Mahinder Singh and Yogi Bhajan, the nature of which every Sikh can understand, is a lasting stigma on the manner Akal Takhat Sanctity is maintained.

Marriages of Convenience and Transactions

Yogi Bhajan picked up two beautiful American girls from his camp followers, the name of one is alleged to be Deborah and also picked up two young Sikhs who did not know English, the name of one of them is alleged to be Amarjit Singh, and arranged a typical Sikh marriage in the precincts of the Golden Temple. The girls did not know them two days earlier, nor did they have any thought of marriage. They laugh and giggle and tell each other that it is exactly as they used to read in history books about Indian marriages. Even when film directors select couples for stage marriages they give more time and thought to it than was given by this thoughtless, selfish and greedy man, Yogi Bhajan, and his corrupt accomplice Mahinder Singh, who made elaborate arrangements for the marriages in the precincts of the Golden Temple at the expense of the Temple or S.G.P.C. At the end of the marriages Yogi Bhajan declares, "I, Bhajan Yogi, Minister of Sikh Church, declare you husband and wife." No one ever declares consummation of marriages in Sikh traditions like that. Once the marriage rites are over, the marriage is over.
The film ends with brides and Yogi Bhajan's whole party coming by plane to the U.S.A. and an announcement declaring, "The Brides came home without the Bridegrooms." The film also ends with the following comments on Yogi Bhajan's 90 days Holy and Happy Trip to India: "Religion is the sigh of the destitute, religion is the feeling of the heartless world; religion is the spirit of the unspiritual world." I have noticed that in every Sikh home Yogi Bhajan's un-Sikhlike activities are criticized at dinner tables in the U.S.A. and in every home the irreligious life and activities of S.G.P.C. also come under criticism in India, England and the U.S.A. but no one knows what to do about it. I earnestly hope that God or 10 million Sikhs living all over the world will do something to bring the long-awaited day of Reckoning to put them on the right Path.

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