The Fight For Yogi Bhajan’s Empire
Guru Singh Khalsa's Testimony
By Kamalla Rose Kaur, Special to Sikh News Network
Posted: Thursday, June 16, 2011 | 04:11 pm
"Guru Nanak was the first of the Sikh Gurus. And he was a yogi," testified Guru Singh Khalsa, on behalf of Yogi Bhajan's Sikh Dharma. "All the Sikh Gurus were Udasi."
Photo Source: Courtroom View Network
Mukhia Singh Sahib Guru Singh Khalsa was the first witness on the stand at the Multnomah County Circuit Court, in Portland Oregon, where the battle is on for control of the late Yogi Harbhajan Singh Khalsa’s empire.
‘Mukhia Singh Sahib’ was the title Yogi Bhajan gave his high priests. In his May 23 testimony, his high priest, Guru Singh Khalsa, spoke on behalf of Sikh Dharma, the religious community founded by Yogi Bhajan, which is suing the business community, also founded by Yogi Bhajan.
Khalsa is a tall and thin elder with a long face and a very long, thin grey-and-white beard that reaches his waist. He wore a cream and white kurta pajama and a very bright white turban during his court testimony.
He was captured online by the Courtroom View Network. The camera sits behind the attorneys’ table, facing the judge and witness stand, and is continuing to record the whole trial.
In the video, Khalsa can be seen as the only person wearing the Yogi Bhajan-style garb. But behind the camera, the rest of the courtroom is packed with Yogi Bhajan’s students and dharma devotees.
"Approximately 40 members of the sangat travelled to Portland from around the country to attend the trial and to show their support and solidarity,” said Gurujot Kaur Khalsa, secretary general of Sikh Dharma, on the Sikh Dharma Legal Defense Facebook Page. “It is an amazing experience of unity to be here together at this significant time."
They silently chant ‘Jai Tegang’ together as they face their opponents, the members of Unto Infinity Board and Golden Temple Management, she said.
Khalsa testified last month as an expert in the history of the dharma and how it developed. He told the court of how he came from a family of yogis and how he was one of Yogi Bhajan's first students, and among the first dharma ministers.
At one point, Khalsa burst into a song telling the court a story about how he met Yogi Bhajan. He recalled how he and others were playing music when Yogi Bhajan walked into the room, and they all burst into a song. He demonstrated that moment by bursting into a song in the courtroom.
Recalling his first yoga class with Yogi Bhajan, Khalsa mused: "I had been with masters from the East my whole life but this was the first one who was real, who was down to earth, who was connected to people."
When asked about being the first of Yogi Bhajan's students to put on a turban, he explained that he could see that Yogi Bhajan had an advantage in wearing a turban so he decided to try it. He liked how it felt, so he began telling his friends. “(Soon) I began to teach turban tying lessons," he said. His recollection was conspicuous by his omission of anything Sikh in donning his first turban.
After meeting Yogi Bhajan in 1969, Khalsa said he took two Kundalini Yoga classes every day for the next two years. He became Yogi Bhajan’s driver and fixed his car and his roof. “I did everything,” he said enthusiastically.
And when Yogi Bhajan died, Khalsa was the minister at his funeral.
Khalsa said he has been representing Sikhs at many interfaith events, including ones with the Dalai Lama. He has lectured internationally, recorded many albums, studied in India, written two books, and much more.
One of the lawyers questioning Khalsa had to bring him back from his stories several times. He then continued.
Contrary to Sikh history and Sikhism, Khalsa testified: "Guru Nanak was the first of the Sikh Gurus. And he was a yogi." He explained that in the Udasi tradition you practice yoga while being a householder.
Udasi is a sadhu sect that follows Sri Chand, Guru Nanak’s elder son, whom he disowned. Udasis also practice yoga. Sikhs do not.
"All the Sikh Gurus were Udasi," he falsely said from the witness stand.
There is a great deal of Sikh Dharma material that is taught during Kundalini Yoga teacher training, he added.
“Kundalini Yoga mantras and postures are all mentioned in our (Sikh) scripture,” he said, incorrectly.
"The Siri Singh Sahib's (Yogi Bhajan’s) teachings are like the threads of a shawl,” he continued. “Sikh Dharma and Kundalini Yoga are perpendicular threads in that shawl."
When Yogi Bhajan returned to India for the first time in 1971 with 84 Caucasian students wearing turbans, the Sikhs’ reaction was: "You have created Singh sahibs, or ministers - so you, Yogi Bhajan, must be the Siri Singh Sahib!"
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee gave him the title of Siri Singh Sahib, and Yogi Bhajan became "the chief religious authority for all Sikhs in the Western Hemisphere," he said.
In the last part of his testimony, Khalsa was asked about the meaning of ‘Waheguru’. He explained that ‘Wahe’ means ‘Wow!’ and ‘gu’ means darkness and ‘ru’ means light.
"Does the term have significance for Sikhs?" the lawyer asked.
"Yes, Sikhs say it all the time,” Khalsa said. “It can be an exclamation or a greeting!"
But, for Sikhs, ‘Waheguru’ is a name for God.