YOGI BHAJAN WAS THE SIKH FOUNDER of 3HO, the nonprofit “Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization,” headquartered in Los Angeles. Born in the Punjab, he worked as a customs agent in New Delhi before emigrating with his wife to North America in 1968, at age thirty-nine, to teach kundalini and white tantric yoga there. White tantra is used “to purify and uplift the being,” as opposed to black, which is “for mental control of other people,” or red, which is “for sexual energy and senses” or for demonstrating miracles (S. Khalsa, 1996). Yogi Bhajan has said that kundalini yoga will be the yoga of the Aquarian Age and will be practiced for the next five thousand years (in Singh, 1998a). Guru Terath Singh Khalsa, who is [Bhajan’s] lawyer and spokesman, says that Bhajan is “the equivalent of the pope” (Time, 1977). Yogi Bhajan is unique among spiritual teachers because he is also the Mahan Tantric of this era. This means that he is the only living master of white tantric yoga in the world, since there can only be one on the planet at any given time. He is a world teacher, a very special instrument whom God has appointed and anointed to awaken the millions of sleeping souls on this planet (S. Khalsa, 1996). The idea that Bhajan is actually the “Mahan Tantric of this era” via any recognized lineage, however, has been questioned by some of his detractors. In any case, Madonna, Rosanna Arquette, Melissa Etheridge, Cindy Crawford, Courtney Love and David Duchovny have all reportedly been influenced by Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, one of Yogi Bhajan’s devoted followers (Ross, 2002). As of 1980, Bhajan claimed a quarter of a million devotees worldwide, including around 2500 in his ashrams. The yogi himself was reported to live in a mansion in Los Angeles. The late (d. October, 2004) Bhajan’s brand of Sikhism has actually been rejected by the orthodox Sikh community, but that seems to derive more from him including elements of (Hindu) kundalini yoga in it than for any concern about the teachings or practices themselves.
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As a Master, as a yogi, Yogi Bhajan always sees women— and men—from a cosmic viewpoint. He never forgets that we are primarily souls, paying our karma and learning our lessons in these two different forms…. “I believe that so long as those born of woman do not respect woman, there shall be no peace on Earth” [Bhajan has said] (S. Khalsa, 1996). The particular brand of “respect” offered to women within Bhajan’s community, however, may have stopped somewhat short of any enlightened ideal, as one of his female devotees explained: When I moved into the Philadelphia ashram back in the ’70s, I was handed a little pink book called Fascinating Womanhood…. [I]t is a practical how-to manual on marriage from the woman’s point of view, written by a Mormon. It is the philosophical opposite of feminism, completely committed to the belief that the spiritual fulfillment of women is achieved through unquestioning service and obedience to men….
In most ways 3HOers no longer play such extreme sex roles. It has been a very long time since I have seen a male head of an ashram lounging around while sweet young things ply him with foot massages (K. Khalsa, 1990). Of course, that implies that there was a time when desirable young women in the ashrams would give foot massages to the highly placed men there. In a series of lectures entitled “Man to Man,” Yogi Bhajan explains women’s nature to the males: “One day she is very bright and charming and after a couple days she is totally dumb and non-communicative. This is called the ‘normal woman mood.’” And because women fluctuate so much, “a female needs constant social security and constant leadership … when you are not the leader, she is not satisfied” (Naman, 1980). Such “fifteenth century” (i.e., when the Sikh religion was founded by Guru Nanak) attitudes toward “the fairer sex,” though, would invariably have an alleged flip side: Bhajan has repeatedly been accused of being a womanizer. Colleen Hoskins, who worked seven months at his New Mexico residence, reports that men are scarcely seen there. He is served, she says, by a coterie of as many as fourteen women, some of whom attend his baths, give him group massages, and take turns spending the night in his room while his wife sleeps elsewhere (Time, 1977). When the same Ms. Hoskins became disillusioned and decided to leave the 3HO group, she was allegedly told by Bhajan that “she would be responsible for a nuclear holocaust” (Naman, 1980). Perhaps in anticipation of such calamities, Bhajan is reported to have suggested (in Singh, 1998): We should have a place, which should sustain five thousand children, five thousand women, and one thousand men. Of course, if we have learned one thing from Dr. Strangelove, it is that such women would have to be chosen for their “breeding potential”….
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The proper attitude toward the guru, within 3HO as elsewhere, was explained by Bhajan himself: Advice should be righteous, your mind should be righteous, and your advice and activity to that advice should be righteous. If a guru says, “Get up in the morning and praise God,” will you do it? Answer: Yes. Question: If the guru says “Get up in the morning and steal,” will you do it? Answer: Yes. Question: Is everything the guru says righteous? Answer: Otherwise he is not a guru. Question: Is it righteous to steal? Answer: Perhaps he is testing, who knows. What is a guru? A guru is an unknown infinity of you, otherwise another human being cannot be a guru to you (Bhajan, 1977). Note that this quotation is not taken out of context: it is a full entry in the “Relationship” chapter of the indicated book by Yogi Bhajan. The alleged result of such attitudes is not altogether surprising: The yogi makes money from businesses run by his yoga disciples, but was sued for “assault, battery, fraud and deceit.” He decided to settle out of court. One of Bhajan’s top leaders and yoga enthusiasts was busted for smuggling guns and marijuana and then sentenced to prison (Ross, 2003c). And what was Bhajan’s reported response to such downturns of fortune? The critics didn’t spare Jesus Christ, they didn’t spare Buddha, and they don’t spare me (in Naman, 1980).
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At the 1974 3HO Teachers Meeting in Santa Cruz, New Mexico, Yogi Bhajan had allegedly predicted:In another ten years hospitals will have iron windows and people will try to jump out. There will be tremendous sickness. There will be unhappiness and tragedy on Earth. Your dead bodies will lie on these roads, your children will be orphans, and nobody will kick them, rather, people will eat them alive! There will be tremendous insanity. That is the time we are going to face (in Singh, 1998). And from the same sage in 1977 (reported in Singh, 2000): Now you say there is no life on Mars? Mars is populated … it is over-populated. The rate of production and sensuality is so heavy, and the beings—they grow so fast that they have to go and make war on all the other planets. There are beings on Jupiter. There is a hierarchy. Their energy and our energy interexchange [sic] in the astral body and it is highly effective.
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For a long time I didn’t worry much about the few odd people who left 3HO. I hadn’t liked them much when they were in 3HO so it seemed reasonable to me that, after forsaking the truth, they had all become pimps, prostitutes and drug dealers, like the rumors implied (K. Khalsa, 1990). But again, Bhajan himself saw it all coming: [Yogi Bhajan] warned all of us who were to become teachers that, “You will be tested in three areas: money, sex, or power —possibly in all of them.” It is a great responsibility and privilege to teach kundalini yoga. It is said that if a teacher betrays the sacred trust placed in him, he will be reborn as a cockroach! (S. Khalsa, 1996). Kundalini yoga. Tantric sex yoga. Pimp yoga. Prostitute yoga (“3-HOs”). Drug-dealer yoga. Gun yoga. Nuclear holocaust yoga. Cockroach yoga.