By VERN BARNET
Special to The Star
“If you can't see God in all, you can't see God at all.”
— Yogi Bhajan
He would be known as Yogi Bhajan. At the age of 8 he began to study yoga. At 16 he was declared a master of Kundalini Yoga. At 18 he led his village of 7,000 people on a 32-mile trek from what is now Lahore, Pakistan, to New Delhi, India, during the turmoil of the 1947 partition creating boundaries between those two countries.
In 1968 he came to the United States, began teaching and founded 3HO, the Healthy Happy Holy Organization. In 1971 his efforts led to the incorporation of Sikh Dharma in the United States. His efforts to bring a Sikh ministry to the West were recognized by Sikh authorities in Amritsar, India, and he came to know three U.S. presidents and other political and religious leaders around the world. This Oct. 6, at age 75, he died at his home in New Mexico.
At the memorial service, former U.N. ambassador, now New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, spoke with humor and gravity about their 30-year friendship and Yogi Bhajan's advice about Richardson's weight, his pronunciation of Spanish, his politics and international security issues. Richardson saluted his work for world peace.
Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, the leader of the Kansas City Sikh Dharma community, knew Yogi Bhajan well and studied with him each year.
I asked Karta Purkh to comment on Yogi Bhajan's motto, “If you can't see God in all, you can't see God at all.”
Karta Purkh said Yogi Bhajan “saw within everyone that divinity that he acknowledged within himself. There was no one undeserving of his love and compassion.”
Beyond yoga and Sikhism, “his wisdom extended into the realms of communication, the healing arts, business, religion and government.” A founder of the International Peace Prayer Day, Yogi Bhajan traveled the world promoting tolerance, peace and equality for everyone.
Karta Purkh is an American whose life (and name) was changed by encountering Yogi Bhajan's Kundalini Yoga, a highly energetic and integrative physical and spiritual form of meditation. Karta Purkh, a member of the Kansas City Interfaith Council, said, “I found that the experience I was seeking through the alteration of mind by the use of drugs was available in a healthy” practice, peeling away “the onion layers of fear, superstition, anxiety, desire, doubt, denial, confusion, neurosis, regret, intellectual vanity, societal training, guilt, habit and egoism to see what was really at my core, why I was there, and what I was to do with that knowledge.”
“I truly feel that (Yogi Bhajan) is still alive within his teachings. He never proselytized any of us but his … life inspired us to be like him. His yogic teachings were the methods we could all use, no matter what religion we adhered to, to live … in truth and faith and full confidence that we are doing the right and righteous thing.” Sikh Dharma is “how an enlightened person is to live his or her life. He showed us this by his example.”
Vern Barnet does interfaith work in the Kansas City area. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.