Separating the Yogas from Sikhs

"The Sikh religion was largely established to do away with all the ascetic Yogas"

February 2000
By an Indian Sikh

Thank you for your postings on separating the Yogas from Sikhs. You are quite right, and are doing a good thing. I thought I was the only one on a quest to clean up the Sikh image by delineating it from the practices of Hindu Yogas. I am glad to see there are others doing the same!

It is most unfortunate that [to some extent] the introduction to Sikhism in the West has been done through the medium of Yoga, which is the very practice that Guru Nanak himself denounced in the establishing of his religion! Do you see some irony? The Sikh religion was largely established to do away with all the ascetic Yogas and yet its image in America, (and other Western countries) seems to be seen by the native Anglo-peoples--as a religion entwined inexorably with Kundalini Yoga! The average American may equate Sikhism with Kundalini Yoga, because the 3HO people have taught them that this is Sikhism and so they believe it! But nothing could be further from the truth.

Why have the 3HO people taught this to their Anglo-ethnic brothers? Because that is what they were taught by Yogi Bhajan. Who is in fact very much a yogi--despite the Sikh accessories he wears.

This Yogi Bhajan has entwined Kundalini Yoga with the Sikh religion because he seemingly had to rationalize his religious creation with the religion he was born into. It seems even his own family was against this in the beginning and I have heard that many of his own relatives renounced him due to his twisting of their own cherished Sikh beliefs.

All people in Punjab know yoga is against Sikh practice. In my opinion the reason why this blasphemous Yogi keeps bodyguards is to keep people from confronting him about teaching yoga in the names of the Sikh Gurus. He doesn't listen. Furthermore, 3HO backs up their right to distort the Sikh religion with their attorneys--who will threaten take action against anyone who says anything critical about them. Such an attorney once threatened my cousin, who once ran a Sikh newspaper--. This attorney said, "You cannot say that about us. We are a corporation and we can do anything we want. We will sue you."

It is true that the so-called "Sikh Dharma" is a corporation, as is the "Siri Singh Sahib Corporation" and others under the supervision and control of Yogi Bhajan. It seems to me that the followers of Yogi Bhajan shroud themselves in legally protected corporations so they can freely distort Sikh beliefs without fear of personal accountability.

How do I know this? I have direct personal first hand experience. That experience goes back to 1976 when I was 14 years old. At that time many Sikh parents used to send their children to 3HO for all sorts of lessons.

Some people may not like Yogi Bhajan bashing and will say, "Look at what he has done for Sikhi." I personally would have liked to see what Sikhi would have been like without him. I hope he has helped a lot of people, and done a lot of good. I hope his teachings benefit many. But his religion is different from Guru's. It is a composite blended religion, a synthesis of ascetic yoga (Tantra, Kundalini, Muntra, Mudra, Vedic medicines, etc.), what I call "Bhajanism" (his own philosophy) and some Sikhism. He mixes this all together into something that should be called "Amero-Bhajanism," which would make his followers "Amero-Bhajanites."

There certainly are some good people within 3HO. Maybe some are more Sikhs than "Amero-Bhajanites," but the majority appear to follow Yogi Bhajan first and the Sikh religion second. Of course they will tell you the opposite verbally, but if you observe their practice--the truth becomes obvious. My experience with 3HO was comprehensive and lasted for more than 20 years--in all sorts of situations, different states, living arrangements, "gurdwaras", on a social and personal level and so on.

You can view "Amero-Bhahanism" using the human body as an analogy. The internal organs, which are vital for its existence, would be analogous to Yogi Bhajan's ascetic yogic practices. The brain would consist of Bhajan's personal philosophy expressed through such things as his courses and teaching "manuals." Essentially, the minds of the followers simply mirror his philosophy. The skin or cosmetic covering would be the outward appearance of "Sikhs." They appear as "Sikhs"--thus people who don't really know their history and actual internal workings may frequently be fooled by them.

I have no problem with Yogi Bhajan, other than his use of the name "Sikh Dharma"--for something that is not Sikh in its practice. There is of course also the recurring claim that 3HO is a "cult." I have seen many people apparently "brainwashed" in 3HO. They seem mind controlled and claims of abuse have surfaced. Though it seems that almost all of the Indians who become involved in their "ashrams" eventually leave. There are branches of 3HO in Los Angeles and New Mexico. It may be somewhat different in other areas where the Yogi's influence is perhaps less direct. In fact, I think the further one gets away from direct influence, the better chance one may have in finding some real Sikhs who are genuine and not brainwashed.

It is easy to spot a 3HO member in LA. They often have that "spaced-out" brainwashed look on their face. In my opinion one loses "zaat" of "Sikh" by even associating with 3HO. The Yogi is their God and Guru for all intents and purposes. Within the 3HO there is clear evidence of personality worship, ascetic Hindu practices and all the various "mayas." I highly recommend people stay away to save their integrity.

3HO people are teaching the American public that Sikhi is Yoga, Bhajan's philosophy, yogic diets, etc.-- through their network of Yoga Centers. Many Anglo-Americans now think that Yoga is one and the same with Sikhi, because the 3HO people have told them so. It seems that whenever an American Caucasian asks me if I am a Sikh--invariably the next question they will ask is, "Do you do yoga?" Or they will talk about the yoga exercises they learned and think we are followers of Yogi Bhajan.

Clearly, authentic traditional Sikhs have a lot of work to do. All of the misinformation Yogi Bhajan has put out over the last 30 years in America through his teachings needs to be addressed by us. I think it may take us a couple of decades to separate the word Yoga from the word Sikh, in the average American's mind. Most Americans don't even pronounce the word Sikh correctly.

And I believe Yogi Bhajan knows what he has done is wrong.

3HO practices such as handing out Hanuman parshad (monkey-God) after karah prashad is handed out in their gurdwara, revering Guru Nanak's son as a high Sikh ideal (when he was renounced by Guru Nanak for his yogic practices e.g. urine drinking, etc., which are yogic Hindu practices and actually anti-Sikh). I could go on and on--there is such a long list of contradictions to basic traditional Sikh practice within 3HO.

But the main difference between a real Sikh and a 3HO member is that a genuine Sikh has his mind focused on the shabad, Guru Gobind Singh (GGS) and Gurbani. Whereas 3HO people have their minds focused on Yogi Bhajan. They should admit he is their real guru. I know they all sit at his feet in private.

There is a very interesting scenario I used to observe in the 3HO "ashram/gurdwara." When Yogi Bhajan walked in, they would all sit up straight and give all their attention and reverence to him. They looked expressly to him. That is the exact devotion I used to give only to GGS when I was there, but their loyalty was to Bhajan. I had absolutely nothing in common with them so I had to leave--I was like an island in their midst. My mind was on GGS, and the gaze of their minds, hearts and souls was on their Yogi.

Bhajan is their Guru for all intents and purposes. He sits on the palki in their minds. They are perhaps 80% Bhajanites, and 20% Sikhs. They will tell you, "No our Guru is GGS, and Yogi Bhajan--he is our "spiritual teacher." However, this is just duplicity--something he has created in their minds. A "spiritual "teacher" is a guru. You can only have one guru and for them it's Bhajan. They love him, obey him and bow to his wishes and ways--more than to the GGS.

When the Sunday Gurdwara service was going on at their ashram and a lecture from Yogi Bhajan was broadcast over their intercom (via phone from Espanola)--they would stop the kirtanis from playing immediately, mid-shabad and all just listen to his lecture. Usually it was just junk, him boasting about himself and often yelling at them. It is wrong to stop a shabad like that to take someone else's "word" over Gurbani. This is further proof that they are not really Sikhs. This was not just a singular occurrence, but rather something that has been going on for some time.

3HO people hold what they call "class" at their Yoga Center. This is often when the Yogi Bhajan comes and speaks. People may pay money to attend. And when they are there you can see that they behave like his disciples. They sit attentively and try to learn from him. The exact same thing a Sikh (disciple) does at a Guru-darbar gurdwara, which is the real "class" for a true Sikh. But 3HO members are instead the "Sikhs" of Yogi Bhajan and not followers of GGS. They should change the name of their religion to something else and stop fooling the American public. They are disgracing the name of Guru Nanak in the 20th Century!

Yogi Bhajan teaches that the word "Yoga" in Guru Grunth Sahib means his Kundalini Yoga. Once when a friend of mine left 3HO I asked her if she still considered herself a Sikh and she answered, "Oh yes, Kundalini Yoga will always be the center of my religion." Yoga Bhajan has his followers so indoctrinated they actually believe Yoga is synonymous with Sikhi.

Again, real genuine Sikhs have a lot of work to do in dealing with all of 3HO's misinformation. This will take us a few decades, but it is important. The honor of the Gurus, and the sacrifices all the Sikhs and martyrs made in the past must be re-established. We can't allow such a fad disgrace the Sikh religion.

Copyright © 2000 Rick Ross

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