3HO the Happy Healthy Holy Organization

White American Sikhs

3HO Yogis and Sikhs
3HO Yogis and Sikhs. Photo © [S Khalsa]

The Happy Healthy Holy Organization (3HO) of white American Sikhs was founded by Yogi Bhajan in the late 1960's and early 1970's. At that time most members lived together communally in ashrams in order to support the practice of early morning sadhana meditation which began several hours before day break with Kundalini yoga, postures, and chanting of mantras loosely based on Gurbani, as taught by Yogi Bhajan, a Sikh from the Sindh province who claimed to be the only living "Mahan Tantric".

Practitioners originally were taught by Yogi Bhajan to respect Guru Granth Sahib as their guru. Students were given spiritual names, wore only white clothing, kept their hair unshorn, tied turbans, were expected to abstain from relations outside of marriage, were restricted from using alcohol, drugs, or tobacco, and adhered to a strict vegetarian diet. Yogi ji not only trained his follower in yoga postures, but instilled the concept of moral living. Students also learned the basics of gurdwara worship with devotional singing of kirtan, and Sikh history and gurus. He taught his devotees that, "To die as Khalsa is better than to live as anything else." and encouraged initiation into Sikhism.

While on a trip to Punjab with 84 students,Yogi Bhajan visited the Golden Temple, where 26 of his students were initiated as Amritdhari Sikhs. On March 3, 1971, they visited the Akal Takhat and established Sikh Dharma of the Western Hemisphere, also known as SIkh Dharma International (SDI).

Sant Chanan Singh the president of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) bestowed upon Yogi Ji the title "Singh Sahib." The SGPC endowed him with a letter authorizing him to perform marriages, funerals, to ceremonially administer Amrit, along with the responsibility to propagate Sikhism in the West.

Yogi Bhajan thereafter became known to his students as "Siri Singh Sahib Bhai Sahib Harbajan Singh Khalsa Yogi Ji PhD."

The 'Siri Singh Sahib' and his secretaries collaborated to produce a volume of Sikh daily prayers interpreted into English titled Peace Lagoon. SDI published information of gurdwara protocol, and began to license Ministers of Sikh Dharma without requiring licensees to have the ability to read Gurmukhi, the original script of Sikhism's holy scripture Guru Granth Sahib, be versed in Gurbani, or have in-depth knowledge of Sikh history. A small gurdwara which doubled as a yoga center was established on Preuss Road in Los Angeles, near Beverly Hills, California. A gurdwara and a yoga center were also established in Espanola, New Mexico, along with a 3HO summer, and winter, campground.

A number of manuals were published based on Yogi Bhajan's teachings, and preachings, which included yoga postures, kriyas, meditation techniques, and therapies, personal advise, counsel on marriage and family values, vegetarian diets, and recipes. Virtually an entire philosophy emerged, and evolved, which had everything to do with self transformation, but little to do with mainstream Sikhism.

Since the death of Yogi Bhajan in 2004, the modern day 3HO establishment known as Kundalini Yoga Institute (KRI) continues to train, and certify, teachers of Kundalini Yoga based on knowledge of postures, and kryias, without regard, beyond class time, to consideration of student's / teacher's actual early morning sadhana meditation, practice of abstinence, and dietary restrictions, or dress code, as originally taught by Yogi Bhajan, as long as fees are paid.

In 3HO, someone maybe a yogi without having any interest at all in Sikhism, however it's highly unlikely that a Sikh affiliated with 3HO would having no interest in yoga. Sikh converts interested purely in "Sikhi" (Sikhism) are more, and more, being assimilated by the ever growing population of mainstream Sikhs immigrating from Punjab to America.

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