Early Years of Yogi Bhajan in India
Born Harbhajan Singh Puri, August 26, 1929, in the little village of Kot Harkam, Tehsil Wazirabad, in the district of Gujaranwala, in what is now Pakistan, but at that time was still a part of India. His family went on a sacred journey with him in his first 40 days of life
His father was a medical doctor, Dr. Kartar Singh Puri, and his mother was named Leela Wanti by birth and Harkrishan Kaur after she married. She was a woman of indomitable will and unswerving adherence to righteous principles. As a mother, Harkrishan Kaur was able to instill this integrity in her son, which he exemplified through every challenge in his life.
He spent his youth in the privileged environments of private schools and his summers in the exclusive Dalhousie mountain region of Himachal Pradesh. As a young boy he attended a Catholic convent school.
He was just eight years old when he began his yogic training with an enlightened teacher, Sant Hazara Singh, who proclaimed him to be a Master of Kundalini Yoga when he was sixteen and a half.
Harbhajan Singh also showed a great affinity for healing and medicine, and he often inquired about his father’s medical practice. He showed a great sensitivity for all types of ancient knowledge including the preventive techniques of yoga and diet, as well as standard remedies including allopathy and homeopathy.
His grandfather Sant Bhai Fateh Singh was very influential in his life and taught him about the Sikh way of life from the time he was a young boy. The presence of his grandfather was pivotal in the way Yogi Bhajan would experience life.
Sant Bhai Fateh Singh provided the perfect environment and communication to nurture Yogi Bhajan´s devotion. With love and strength, he taught his grandson the way of dignity, righteousness and the divinity of the human being.
A Young Leader
During the turmoil of partition in 1947, at the age of 18, Harbhajan Singh led his village of 7000 people, near what is Lahore Pakistan today, 325 miles on foot to safety in New Delhi, India, where he arrived with only the clothes on his back. Displaced Indians were given houses in India and soon he was able to continue his education at Punjab University where he excelled in debate and was a star athlete, playing both hockey and soccer and earning the name “China wall” from his opponents.
After graduating with a degree in Economics, he began service in the government of India, with India’s Internal Revenue Department, and supervised the creation of the IRS building in New Delhi. Shortly thereafter, he began to work for the Customs Service in India and become head of Customs at Palam International Airport (now known as New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi Airport).
Marriage and Family
Harbhajan Singh met Inderjit Kaur ( knowned as Bibiji) in 1951, when their parents arranged a meeting. They married in November 1953 and started a life together in India. The marriage was blessed with three children, Ranbir Singh, Kulbir Singh and Kamaljit Kaur. When Kamaljit was still a baby, the family moved to Amritsar, so they can visit the Golden Temple daily. They opened their house to students to take yoga classes with Yogi Bhajan. Bibiji and Yogiji hosted spiritual gatherings in which Kirtan (devotional singing) was performed. Family life was surrounded by spiritual inspiration.
They moved to New Delhi, where he continued to serve people from all paths by teaching yoga and meditation. Then in 1968, he accepted an invitation to teach Yoga and meditation in the West.
Early Years in the West
In September of 1968, he left India for Canada to teach yoga at Toronto University, carrying a letter of recommendation from Sir James George, Canadian High Commissioner in New Delhi, who had been his student.
The beginning of this journey was full of challenges. When he arrived in the airport, his suitcases were lost in transit. The professor that invite him to teach in Canada had a fatal car accident on the way to pick him from the airport.
After two months in Canada, he was invited by Dr. Amarjit Singh Marwha to Los Angeles for a weekend visit. Arriving in Los Angeles virtually unknown, he has the possibility to start teaching classes of Kundalini Yoga in the East West Cultural Center.
Yogi Bhajan met a number of young hippies, the spiritual seekers of that era, and immediately recognized that the experience of higher consciousness they were attempting to find through drugs, could be achieved by practicing the Science of Kundalini Yoga, while simultaneously rebuilding their nervous systems.
Breaking the centuries old tradition of secrecy surrounding the empowering science of Kundalini Yoga, he began teaching it publicly. With the yogic sciences of yoga, meditation, yogic philosophy and loving acceptance, he gave the soon to be called “Baby Boomers” an effective alternative to the prevalent drug culture. He called it the “3HO” (healthy, happy, holy) way of life.
From humble beginnings, teaching first at the East West Cultural Center and then in a student’s furniture store in West Hollywood, “The Yogi” was like a magnet. Students flocked to his classes. Soon he was teaching at colleges and universities, including Claremont and UCLA, and accepting invitations to teach in other cities.
Her family was still in India, waiting for the green card of Yogi Bhajan to come and reunite as a family. After three years Bibiji and the children came to live in the United States. Even when the cultural shock at first was tremendous, she understand her mission of serve the Guru´s path.
She commited to share the teachings of the Guru, open her house to feed the students, physically and spiritually. They serve the mission of their life, establishing the 3HO family and expand the Sikh Dharma to the west hemisphere.
When he became a United States Citizen in 1976, Yogi Bhajan changed his name legally to Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji.
Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan is considered the most comprehensive of yoga traditions, combining meditation, mantra, physical exercises and breathing techniques; it is a Raj Yog, encompassing the eight limbs of yoga into a singular practice of excellence and ecstasy.
“Kundalini” literally means “the curl of the lock of hair of the beloved.” This poetic metaphor alludes to the flow of energy and consciousness that exists within each of us and enables us to merge with – or “yoke” – the universal Self.
Fusing individual and universal consciousness creates a divine union, called “yoga.” The Upanishads, dating back to the fifth century B.C., describe the kundalini, although the oral tradition reaches back even further into history. For thousands of years, this sacred science and technology was veiled in secrecy, passed along verbally from master to chosen disciple.
Kundalini Yoga as a practice is a Raj Yoga and combines all the traditional eight limbs of Yoga. Yogi Bhajan was the student of two Masters. Sant Hazara Singh declared Yogi Bhajan a Master of Kundalini Yoga at the age of 16 1/2. Guru Ram Das, the Fourth Sikh Master, appearing in his subtle form, gave Yogi Bhajan his own Gur Mantra, many years later, in the early years of his teaching in the West.
Kundalini Yoga was taught from Master to student for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years and intersects with the lineage of the Sikh Masters such as Guru Nanak, Guru Ram Das and Guru Gobind Singh for the past 500 years. Its sources include many other yoga Masters of the Northern Punjab region of India, as well as the unique contributions of the Gurus in the use of naad and Shabad Guru. Guru Nanak started the Udassi line through his son Baba Siri Chand, a Master who served and taught for more than 100 years. He taught to all existing lineages of that time and educated several of the Sikh Gurus in their youth. Yogi Bhajan was the first to openly teach Kundalini Yoga in the East or the West. The lineage is now held in legacy through the technology of the Golden Chain—a connection to the Masters through the subtle body.
From the time he arrived in the US, he often said:
“I’ve not come to gather students, but to train teachers”.
In 1970, he completed his first teacher’s training and the Kundalini Research Institute was formed in 1971 and went on to formalize the certification and training of teachers internationally.
As an important part of the teachings that Yogi Bhajan shared, were the self awareness of women. He believe that in the creative power of women, resides the transformation of the world.
The creation of the Grace of God Movement of the Women of America, was one of the steps in which women started learning and sharing. The principle at the core of this movement was to empower women from all backgrounds to live as the Grace of God. To let women connect with her true depth, radiance and intuition.
On pages 204-205 of the book, The Man Called the Siri Singh Sahib, published in 1979, SS Ek Ong Kar Kaur Khalsa shares the following:
On September 22, 1971, Siri Singh Sahib Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji established GGMWA, The Grace of God Movement of the Women of America.
Through its special teachings, woman was given the tools to regain her self-respect. These teachings enabled woman to emerge, quickly and easily from her ignoble past, into the radiance of her swan-nature.
By 1976 the women of GGMWA were ready to begin training themselves as a body. The stage for a woman’s training program had been set in the summer of 1975, when the Siri Singh Sahib had taught a two-month course under the blue skies of Espanola, New Mexico.
In July 1976, the first Khalsa Woman’s Training Camp catapulted GGMWA into its present stage of active training whereby grace is spun like a gold thread into a mantle of dignity, divinity, and ecstasy of consciousness.
Directed by the Siri Singh Sahib, Khalsa Women’s Training Camp provides the environments needed by noble women to relax into their godliness and grow in spirit, mind, and physical fitness. It provides a focus of intelligence whereby humor and candor unlock the doors to long-forgotten kingdoms of the soul in which the meaning of life unfolds like a flower and sets the patterns of life by which God can flow into every action and fulfill the yearnings of 8.4 million existences.
Six years of special GGMWA teachings have given women the training to focus their tremendous power and creative energy and direct it to the Infinite in the true spirit of womanhood. By His Grace in September 1977, it became GGMWW, the Grace of God Movement of the Women of the World, through the vision of its founder, Yogi Bhajan.
The work continued. Training in self-esteem, and fearless leadership, developed new dimensions. By 1978, 3HO Centers sponsored “survival” training seminars for women from coast to coast, opening up realms of consciousness and entering an age when women will be known as the “Grace of God”.
“Woman, you are virtuous because you are a woman, and if you will not remain a woman, you will lose all your virtues. Woman is virtuous because she is a woman, and when she does not act, think, behave, deal, and understand, as a woman, she is of no use to humanity.” ~ Siri Singh Sahib Ji
Since 1976 he started the Khalsa Women Training Camps. In this events women spend time together, learning yoga and meditation, martial arts, Gurbani ( Sikh Hymns) and self defense. It creates the bond between women, and expand their consciousnees to live as great creators of the reality.
For many years women gather to experience the teachings of Kundalini Yoga and Sikh Dharma. Women from all around the world came to this events to nurture, excell and restore.
All this experiences, allow women from all over the world to continue the mission. Until now, there are many events, gatherings and circles of women sharing the teachings. It creates a new perspective in which women, the gift from the Universe, expand in all the realms of their consciounscionnes
From the day he was born, Yogi Bhajan was surrounded by consciouss and devoted men.
His daily experience was interacting with his father, grandfather, and relatives. They manifested the divinity of being human, the capacity and inherent value of vibrating like a man inspired by Infinity.
In the US, Yogi Bhajan understood the need for men to connect with their spirituality. In the western world, the man governed his value by material success, his physical strength or his success with women.
The possibility of connecting with other dimensions of being a man was not yet part of common life in society.
The world and the changing society created an existential vacuum in men, which needed to be filled with understanding and spirituality.
He saw a great opportunity in giving men tools for self-knowledge, expansive development, and prosperity in all areas of life.
This is how he created the conferences “From Man to Man”. In them he shared with men, he spoke to them directly, questioning preconceived ideas about masculinity. Each lecture went deep into the pillars of being a man. It delivered meditative tools, understanding about communication, nutrition for men, relationship with women. These conferences became an important guide and provided the basis for success as men to those who participated. Over time these conferences became books, which are known under the title “From Man to Man.”
His teachings to men are still alive, with people around the world sharing his teachings, experiencing its benefits and transforming the concept of masculinity.
” As a male you have to understand that you will only be recognized as a man if you are trusted. If you don’t gain the trust of the people to whom you relate, it doesn’t matter who you are, or what you possess, or what you think you can influence, you have nothing to commend you as a man. ”Yogi Bhajan
Creating a Legacy
Healthy Happy Holy Organization 3HO
Yogi Bhajan had a vision to create a new non-governmental organization in order to support lifestyle expansion.
The acronym 3HO stands for Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization. The search for health, happiness and spirituality was satisfied with this new way of life. Kundalini Yoga and meditation were changing the life experience of thousands of people.
In July 1969, 3HO was incorporated in California. His service expanded the teachings of the science of Humanology, Kundalini Yoga and meditation and selfless service. This allowed the creation of multiple yoga centers, conferences and ashrams around the world.
More than 30 countries have 3HO teachings established as teaching centers. This bring a new awareness to people all over the world.
In 1994, 3HO became a member of the United Nations as an NGO (Non-Governmental-Organization) in Consultative Status (Roster) with the Economic and Social Council, representing women’s issues, promoting human rights and providing education in alternative systems of medicine.
Traveling extensively in the 1970s and 1980s, Yogi Bhajan crusaded tirelessly to educate, uplift and enlighten everyone he met. His basic message was
“It is your birthright to be healthy, happy, and holy”.
In 1973, Yogi Bhajan founded SuperHealth, a system of yogic science to break habits & heal addictive behavior.
It is a unique drugless, addictive rehabilitation program, that blends the proven ancient yogic wisdom of the East with the modern technology of the West. SuperHealth was accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organization and received its highest commendation. In 1973 it distinguished itself as being in the top 10% of all treatment programs throughout the U.S.
In 1989 Yogi Bhajan met with then President Mikhail Gorbachev and established addiction treatment programs in Russia based on the SuperHealth model.
SuperHealth is a NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) with special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations since 2021
Becoming the Mahan Tantric (only living Master of White Tantric Yoga) in 1971, he conducted workshops in cities around the world. In 1987 he transferred these workshops to videotape, calling them “Renew to be New” Courses, which until the 2020 COVID outbreak, continued to be held worldwide. Read more about White Tantric Yoga. Find out more about the Mahan Tantric
Inspired and motivated by his words and adhering to the practices he taught, students created music, art, and poetry reflecting the universal wisdom he shared. Over 200 books have been written based on his teachings, as well as a wealth of CD’s, videos, paintings, and sculpture. He himself wrote over 30 books including, Furmaan Khalsa, Masters Touch and Mind and Its 81 Facets.
A loyal friend and mentor of Senators, Congressmen and Governors regardless of political affiliation, he promoted spiritual awareness in all arenas. An ardent advocate of world peace and religious unity, as the Siri Singh Sahib (Chief Minister of Sikh Dharma International), he met with world leaders of all faiths to encourage dialogue, including Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, the Dalai Lama, and two Archbishops of Canterbury. In 1995 he received the Courage of Conscience Award from the Peace Abbey in Sherborn, Massachusetts
In 1971, at the Celebration of Life Music Festival in New Orleans, he shared the podium with Swami Satchidananda and Swami Vishnudevananda. He participated in many interfaith forums and conferences, including the World Parliament of Religions. In the early 1970s, he helped organize the first ‘Meeting of the Ways’ in San Francisco and was co-founder of the Unity of Man Conference. He became Co-President of the World Fellowship of Religions in 1974. He served on the Board of Directors of the American Council of Executives in Religion and was a member of the Inter-religious Council of Southern California, the Rotary Club and the Los Angeles World Affairs Council.
Man of Peace
In June of 1985, he established the first International Peace Prayer Day Celebration in New Mexico. His belief was that peace in the world could only be attained through people finding peace and harmony within their own lives, in their own homes and relationships. He started International Peace Prayer Day as a way for people of different faiths to come together and create a common prayer for peace.
Until the 2020 COVID outbreak, this event of musical celebration and interfaith prayer continued to draw several thousand participants annually, including prominent national and international leaders in the realms of religion, politics and humanity. At this event each year a person was honored and given a grant for leading the way in spreading the word of peace. These have included: Grandmothers for Peace, the Gesundheit! Institute, Alfredo Sfeir Younis and Dr. C.T. Vivian.
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