Saturday, July 19, 2014

What I got from watching The Source Family

I just watched The Source Family, a recent film that depicts the brief life of the cult of the same name, led by James Baker, aka Father Yod, aka YaHoWha. The film labels itself a documentary, but is less so than it is a compilation of old footage and interviews with past members who, to this day, largely believe that James Baker was, and still is, God.

My initial review of the film is that it's a repetition of an old formula: nostalgic and sentimental chronicle of the rock n' roll 60's, starring the 'wierd and wacky' charismatic leader-guru-guy. On another level though, the movie's major failing is that never truly probes the darker side: the casualties of the spiritual movements that swept through the hippie counter-culture scene. This is all-too likely to be because Isis Aquarian (still a true-believer) was Associate Producer of the film, and is in possession of the entire Family archive.

We can't expect to see a true examination in this case. But in this flippant look, there's a mistaken assessment that because The Family didn't end in catastrophic tragedy like Manson Family or People's Temple (Jonestown), that life in The Family must have been a benign frolic. This perpetuates the perception of the 60's counter-culture cults that they were merely a joke. The movie fails at acknowledging the destructiveness of cults, and the devastation that they have had on people's lives. There's a lack of humanity in this approach.

So, what do we – survivors of cults – gain from such works? I have to admit, I wanted to watch it. I was curious. I wanted to see what kind of picture would be painted, and I wanted to be able to address any discomfort with what I would see, both in the footage, and in the crafting of the picture.

There is so little mention of anyone who was born into The Source Family, that it's like watching a generation being erased right in front of you.

It's shocking. We see footage of what looks like a terrifying home birth going very badly, and a very narrowly escaped death. No responsibility taken in their complete negligence. These are people who were ordered to refuse medical care under any and all circumstances, and WE are asked to watch an infant nearly die right in front of our eyes.

Sadly, this is a typical story. With libraries full of literature about cults, there remains a glaring lack of information about the people who were born and raised in them. Many professionals in the field of cult recovery will even admit to not having adequate information or training for the care of second generation adults. And like The Source Family, the story of the second generation children of 3HO hasn't been so much as glanced at. This negligence, or erasure, is that much harder to digest with the obsessiveness with with the fixation on cult leaders and their inner circles and harems persists, seemingly never out-of-vogue. It's as if they're being given a second – and perhaps more glorifying – platform for their misdeeds. And the followers... the plebians? The tone I hear, time and time again, is that there needs not be any sympathy for them, or their offspring.

The upside:
It was helpful for me to see in the footage of The Source Family the many parallels this group had to 3HO/Kundalini Yoga. With these parallels between most cults and charismatic leaders, one can become reassured over time that their respective group wasn't especially clever – that they shared many tactics, and often borrowed and mimicked each other's ways.

In The Source Family, Yogi Bhajan is referred to a couple of times, and it's hinted that he was one of the providers for the template for the charismatic leader. (We also know that Yogi Bhajan borrowed techniques from other Gurus of the time, like Swami Sachidananda, Ram Dass and Maharishi Mahesh). Photographs of early 3HO in Los Angeles were used in the film. One of the archival photographs used was the famous Lisa Law photograph of YB at The Farm in El Rito New Mexico, an early document of YB's emergence on the scene.  It's through these scenes that we can start to build bridges toward conclusions about the human traits and the motives of a these cult leaders – narcissism and megalomania being the driving forces behind the behavior.

And the charismatic leader's unrelenting narcissism can be of value, if only to teach us something in the end (something we should not have to learn, but here we are).  Jim Jones, James Baker and Yogi Bhajan all managed to record copious amounts of footage of themselves, leaving hundreds of hours worth of archives for scholars, historians and documentarians to later pore over. The narcissism is so powerful a force in these individuals that they possess no awareness that any of this footage may one day be the tool that will expose them in their duplicitousness, their myopia, their insecurities, and their absurdities.

Makes one wish someone would make a quality picture with it in the end.






Saturday, September 14, 2013

The inventing (and re-inventing) of Kundalini Yoga

For anyone unaware (is there anyone?), Kundalini Yoga and 3HO Sikh Dharma are inextricably linked.

There is no historical, ideological, or anthropological connection–what-so-ever–between the religion of Sikhism and Kundalini, aka Tantra. Yet this link has nevertheless found its way into the common vernacular among many people in the west with little epistemological discourse.

I'm not here to UN-link the two.  That's been done, almost to the point of exhaustion already. I have the benefit of believing in neither. That means I'm free to look at it from a distance, although that distance for me is never too far, having been brought up to have a devout and uncritical belief and appreciation for the ideologie(s) AND the link.  

This brings me to my current topic, which is 3HO's many iterations, or, re-inventions of their ideologies, beliefs, and social positions, and the inherent conflict that this ongoing re-invention presents.

If, during my childhood in the 70's, 80's, 3HO purported an ideology or belief system, it was presented as the truth. It was presented as well that there can only be one truth. And that if this truth was the one truth, there really can be no other truth.  Truth, in the religious sense, is not subjective.

Devotees of Harbhajan Puri (Yogi Bhajan) accepted his teachings as this truth.  It wasn't subjective. It was not up for discussion or debate. (Although many of his lectures were hardly coherent, and often conflicted with other lectures. No matter, his truth was THE truth).

He lectured extensively about sexuality.  He lectured about women's sexuality. He lectured about men's sexuality. And he lectured about homosexuality.

Here are some of so-called truths about homosexuality that I can recall off the top of my head: "Homosexual men are homosexual because their mother didn't love them while they were in the womb"... "Homosexual men were stuck in their first chakra"... "Homosexual men like to wear black leather and studs and have anal sex because they are obsessed with their first chakra, and can't get out of their lower chakra"...  "Homosexual women were homosexual because they hated men"... "Sex between two women is different than being a homosexual".  ...and so on.

Enough.  It's so absurd, and to think it was presented as truth makes me sick.  Because in this case it meant that the devotees had permission from their leader to be homophobic.  And when it came to real life, they acted out their homophobia openly and aggressively.  Make no mistake. I was there. I saw it, and sometimes I was even the recipient of it. And I left because of it.

Even if 3HO is different today, if YB's teachings were the truth (and in this world, remember that the truth is not subjective) aren't they in conflict with his doctrine?  In end, are they openly saying, "Yogi Bhajan was wrong"?

No. Instead, they are revising his teachings, wiping the slate clean of all the crap he said, picking and choosing what, of his many bizarre philosophies to re-iterate, and painting a false picture of a progressive and learned person who really wasn't either.

Religions need to be flexible with the times. And it's way better that 3HO appears to now be on the side of good. Just keep in mind that it was not that long ago that Bibi Inderjit Kaur was asked that she give permission to gay couples to have wedding ceremonies in the Gurdwaras in New Mexico. She denied that request.  This was in the early 2000's.

3HO Sikh Dharma has a very short history, and amnesia only works for those who stand to benefit from it.

I'm no amnesiac.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Upcoming ICSA Events to take advantage of

If you're reading this blog, chances are you are curious about 3HO and Yogi Bhajan.  Also, chances are you were born and raised in this group. And if you were born and raised in this group, there's a 90% chance you were sent away to boarding school in India. And a 100% chance you have a lot of horror stories.

If so, the International Cultic Studies Association may be a valuable resource.

This July there is a workshop for former members of cults. It's in Colorado Springs, and goes from Friday July 26th–July 28th.  Go here for more information: http://events.icsa.name/overview-co

Then in November, right there in the belly of the beast, Santa Fe New Mexico, is a 'mini' ICSA Conference being held. Go here for more information: http://events.icsa.name/overview-santa-fe

Either way, you should read THIS PAPER just to get started on the process.

GOOD LUCK!


Thursday, May 9, 2013

As If I Needed A Reason...

A child separated from his or her parents experiences profound emotional trauma and damage to his or her true sense of security.  This is the fundamental reason not to send children to boarding school.

But in addition to that, there are other reasons NOT to send a child to boarding school in India through the 3HO sponsored schooling system. Here are some.

  • health risks like Hepatitis, Malaria, and Giardia
  • physical abuse
  • corporal punishment
  • sexual abuse
  • death (There now have been two extremely unfortunate and tragic ends to young lives at Miri Piri Academy)

It might not occur to someone reading the Miri Piri Academy brochures, where it's advertised as an enriching and valuable experience.

Take a look at Why Boarding School at the MPA website and you will understand what I mean.

It contains testimonials by proud, flag-waving alumnus, as it (hastily and poorly) outlines some of the so-called benefits of overseas boarding school.  Education however, is not referred to, and therefore I assume is not a priority.

I'm not surprised considering the principal of MPA is a former Indiakid, has no formal higher education, and no education in learning and child development.  He was ordered to return to India immediately after completing his own schooling, and he has been there ever since.  Does that sound like someone who is qualified to look after your children?

In addition to the bizarre recruitment, I'm more sickened that there are 2nd generation 3HO adults actually choosing MPA for their children.

Have we not learned ANYTHING?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Giving Back

Chapter 1

As Sikh children, we were told to give back. In fact giving back to one's community, or Dasvandh, was one hallmark among my many memories as a Sikh child. My parents gave ten percent of their income in tithings. It's part of Sikh tradition to give a tithing, even if very small, at every temple.

I have been away from the 3HO Sikh Dharma community for nearly two decades, so it is from a healthy distance that I observe the ongoing legal battles between all of the for-profit companies (Akal Security, Golden Temple Foods, Yogi Tea, etc), non-profit companies (Sikh Dharma International, Sikh Dharma Worldwide, Siblings of Destiny, et al.), the familial heirs to Yogi Bhajan's personal fortune, and his personal assistants, who are staking a claim to the very large sums of money involved among all of these entities.

It's complicated, it's convoluted, and, for many it's infurating! (I think I can say this and be heard by believers and non-believers alike)

One of the reasons these legal battles are impossible to appreciate is that it's about millionaires fighting with other millionaires about who gets to keep the pot of gold. And a pot of gold it is. Akal Security has received about $30 billion in federal contracts in its existence.

And then there are the rest of us. There are those who remain in "the dharma" and continue to work for meager wages. There are those whose homes are the property of the 3HO Sikh Dharma non-profit religious entity. There are those who simply walked away from all of it, and re-built their lives one step at a time. And there are those who were born and raised there and:

1) worked for a 3HO Sikh Dharma business or organization for minimum wage
2) were discouraged from attending college, or
3) attended college eventually, but paid his/her own way, borrowing in order to do so.
4) did not attend college, and fend for his/her selves in what ways he/she can.

and finally,
5) that financially cover one's own therapy and counseling. (I'm hoping everyone is doing this regardless, by the way)

As for me, all of the above.

I am successful and fulfilled in what I do, which is good. But I can't say that going out on my own as a young adult totally alone was not immensely challenging. Or that I didn't encounter some major hurdles. And I cannot say that I would not have greatly appreciated my community giving back to me in some form of support in return for my contributions to them.

But as I left to forge my own path, all I heard was Sayonara. No, what I literally heard was, "you will be a drug-addict prostitue lying in the gutter".

But alas, this is the way of the world much of the time. Religions don't give plebians support, and Tithings aren't a choice. Tithings are an obligation. It's one's holy duty to give to the church. And to ask anything in return other than salvation or pure bliss is showing greed and discontent.

At the Sikh Dharma Worldwide website: http://sikhdharmaworldwide.org/ you will see information on ways to give, but not much on community engagement and outreach. You will see pages that have been set up to accept donations that will cover their incurred legal fees. There is a website and domain dedicated to Tithings alone called http://www.dasvandh.org/. They do, however, "give" in the form of political contributions. To both parties. In large sums. State and Federal.

Chapter 2

After the legal mess, most of us have an idea of the net worth of Sikh Dharma International and all of its "nesting dolls" of non-profits and for-profits. I ask, when are they going to give back? Have they set up a college scholarship fund? Have they set up a fund to help young adults go out into the world to succeed? Have they instituted any sort of support structure for its young members so that they may move forward, move upward, and thrive? Has Bibiji Inderjit Kaur Puri offered up any of her personal fortune to help others? Have Peraim Kaur and Kartar Singh, after receiving their settlements offered to help anyone recovering and surviving this cultic environment? Has the Kettle Foods empire ever offered to help out? Or, for that matter, any one of the multi-million dollar businesses, that benefitted from the hard work and dedication of ashram devotees, who often worked for very little pay, offered up support?

And yet, and yet... there are people right under their noses in Española who live in dilapidated mobile homes.

It's time to give back. It's time to offer to heal wounds and mend hearts.

There is a generation of adults who suffered as children, and there are more generations to come–who as children suffered needlessly due only to your callousness, your narcissism, and your dogma.

And to my 2nd and 3rd generation readers. We can heal our wounds by finding ways to give back to our communities too. I have hope that we can take that grain of advice and we can polish it into a beautiful, shining pearl.

We have come this far.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Ram Das Puri




Satellite Google Maps view of the 3HO sponsored summer solstice and Peace Prayer Day events in Northern New Mexico.

Yogi Bhajan's real name was Harbhajan Singh Puri. He named the solstice site Ram Das Puri back in the late 70's. I guess he named it after himself and no one noticed or cared?

Isn't Puri just a tribal name? Doesn't really translate to anything having to do with the 4th Patron Saint of Sikhism, Guru Ram Das... who was born with the surname Sodhi, according to wiki.

On the far, middle right of the picture is a small, bare area. That is where they held firearms training. The spiral pathway is for the ritual peace walk, where, IMHO they trotted out some local Indians to make up some chants so that a bunch of new-agers could feel like they were participating in an authentic tribal ritual.

The claim is that this was sacred Hopi land, and Puri was their so-called "white-clad warrior" (wikipedia, just look at the citation source to clear up any confusion). Prior to it being 3HO owned property, it was actually inexpensive ranch land.

Geography alone would indicate that any pre-columbian inhabitants of the land would have belonged to a different Pueblo tribe, the closest ones being the San Juan or Santa Clara Pueblo. Not sure what they think about all these white freaks stealing their land.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword

Firearms training, and exposure to firearms were normal growing up in 3HO Sikh Dharma. My parents owned two or three handguns and a rifle. Even as a young child I knew where they were stored – inside their bedroom closet, loaded, and inside a padded, brown leather holster. Yogi Bhajan had a 24-7 cadre of armed security guards that were always within arms reach of him.  These guards were mostly men, albeit some very young and inexperienced "men", and there was one woman, named Shanti. These guards openly declared that they were willing to give their lives to ensure his safety.

Every summer the young children (as young as four or five years) lived in tents at Ram Das Puri for 8 weeks of children's camp. Our mothers were "down the hill", undergoing a different kind of indoctrination, a militarized retreat called Khalsa Women's Training Camp. Handgun and Rifle target practice, however, occurred at about 1000 yards' distance from our children's camp. Women from KWTC rode up in orange school-busses. When us children saw the busses arrive we were excited and happy, thinking 'maybe this is when I'll get to see my Mataji, and she'll hug me, kiss me, and maybe she'll even take me home with her'. Alas, the bus never stopped. It drove past us with moms waving, and cheering us, while we cried and begged for it to stop. And while they didn't appear pained, us children were injured by their deliberate show of "detachment".


The ladies of KWTC demonstrating their drill routines, c. 1984

KWTC target practice did not come without its glitches. One of those was fatal, in which a man, who was there to assist KWTC women, was the unfortunate victim of a firearm backfire. The bullet exited the rear of the chamber, entered his neck, hit his carotid artery, and, being 8 miles up a dirt road from the hospital, he bled out and perished. He left behind a two-year old son, a boy of my generation.

Although this man was skilled in the use of firearms, there is no predicting when a tool like this will malfunction. And although we were raised with a certain "respect" for the instrument, we began our own firearms training between the ages of 12 and 16. I shot my first handgun, a Glock 9mm, when I was 15.

But how did this group morally justify the use of weapons of this nature? As converts to the Sikh faith, they had adopted the practice of carrying the Kirpan, a harmless little steel dagger. Even so, how does one make the leap from the Kirpan to a 45-caliber semi-automatic handgun?

Yogi Bhajan, the sole authority of 3HO Sikh Dharma, was both allied with factions of the Akali Dal and the sikh separatist Khalistan movement, and possessed by a personal desire for power and wealth, so began with a strategy common in cults: the doomsday scenario. He painted this doomsday scenario to be the transition from the Astrological Piscean Age to the next Astrological age, the Aquarian Age. In this transition, which could last several centuries, would be great suffering and strife. He said, "Most people will be crazy. You must master my meditation techniques that will uplift you from the ensuing insanity. But you must also be prapared. You are Warrior-Saints". A convenient message to the 3HO members – piety without backing down. So they meditated whilst militarizing themselves. They practiced yoga and they practiced shooting guns–at Ram Das Puri, our privately owned, hilltop children's camp-slash-yoga festival-slash-firing range.

Contrarily, contemporary Indian Sikhs are generally not inclined to militancy. My Sikh classmates at GNFC were not even remotely militant. They came from upper middle class Punjab backgrounds that, for the most part, chose Guru Nanak, the pacifist, as their Patron Saint. And at the same time they, like us, were schooled in the history of militancy in Sikhism from the time of Guru Hargobind (1595-1694) to Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708), Maharaja Ranjit Singh, etc etc, but while Indian Sikh children are educated, we were indoctrinated, and made to learn and adopt the martial arts and dress of the Nihang sect, a small, male-only class of orthodox and martially inclined Sikhs.

  

  

 

Portraits of 2nd generation 3HO sikh boys in full Nihang regalia.

Historically, from the 17th Century to World War II, Sikhs have enjoyed the warrior class status among the changing and evolving structures of India – from the Majarajas, and the Moghul Empire, to fighting alongside, and then against the British Raj. The history of Sikhs (militant or not) in Punjab and in India is fascinating, and deserves broad, mainstream exposure–if only to serve as a meter for all the complexities of modern Indian history. The most alarming chapter, however was one that I was in India for – the rise of the Sikh separatist movement, and the subsequent Operation Blue Star*, which ended in the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by Sikh Separatists disguised as secret service, followed by rioting, war, and mass bloodshed, and ending in 1989. Thousands upon thousands of people were massacred as a result of this clash between Indian government and a few self-righteous, agenda-driven ideologues.

***

Notwithstanding, there's no logical conclusion to make regarding any connection of traditional Sikhism, and it's proud military history to Western Anglo Sikh converts and handgun ownership. Perhaps it's an ideology that conveniently fits with a self-serving and paranoid "all-American" desire to exercise their 2nd Amendment Right to the fullest, and their fervent attachment to a paternalistic figure like a cult leader.

When I was eighteen I made a resolution to never own or even touch a handgun. A friend carried his Colt 45 with him to a party and left it in my car. As I was coming down from LSD, I held the gun in my hand and experienced a chilling and gripping feeling that this was nothing but an instrument of death. Not protection, not self-defense. Death. Hate. Fear. Paranoia. Destruction. I wanted no part of it.

I am grateful for LSD for providing me with this outside intervention. The substance itself became a catalyst for open-mindedness and my eventual path toward tolerance and acceptance. Through this I not only experienced the feeling of turning away from militancy for good, but toward using my creativity and intellect as a force far more effective than any weapon could offer. Then and there I knew I was better than the gun-toters.

My heart goes out to the Sikhs in Wisconsin. You might think this white lady doesn't know you, but I do. Many of you were my friends when I had no parents or family. I enjoyed your selfless hospitality in your Gurdwaras and Langars, and for that I have fond memories. And while I no longer wish to worship with you in your temple, I wish you prosperity and happiness in the country that is my homeland that I do love so.



*The Wiki link to Operation Blue Star may not be entirely neutral, but you can follow citations to learn more about it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Trauma at boarding school and before

For a large portion of my life I managed to satirize my experiences in boarding school in India. In social situations with my "Indiakid" peers, I can keep up with the laughing and mockery and the absurd story-telling... which is usually how most social situations wound up. But then a silence will fill the room when I blurt out something like "... and then I was ankle-deep in shit!" (There was one incidence in which I was truly ankle deep in raw sewage)

By and large it has not been socially acceptable to talk about the difficult aspects of boarding school, and by and large it is avoided. In our early adult lives I had a difficult time expressing my individual feelings, so as a way of coping, I would find something absurd in a shared experience to laugh about.

We are individuals. It's not realistic to expect that we go navigating the world and our lives as if they are common and shared.

In more recent years I have had to get more real about the harmful aspects of 3HO and India boarding school. Understanding the breadth of my experience allows me to examine my own life, my own actions, my own purpose, and my place in the world. Part of examining it is to acknowledge the traumatic aspects. As a young adult, I was under an assumption that trauma, or even post traumatic stress, was the result of one isolated incident that imprints in one's mind and haunts the individual forever. But the more I looked at my own life I came to realize that the situation as children in India wasn't one, singular or isolated traumatic incident. It was the multiplicity of chaotic situations that acted on us as the main stressors. Take the poor conditions of our environment, add the randomness in the kinds of punishments enforced on us, plus the minor but random violence imposed upon by teachers, and you have a institutionally hostile environment that day after day continues to compound the stress.

If this basic outline of our situation isn't traumatic, I don't know what is.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Steven Hassan on Huffington Post

Have you been reading any of the articles about the current schizm in Sikh Dharma? If so, what's your response as a 2nd generation adult?

Here is the op-ed piece by cult recovery expert, Steven Hassan. From there, is a link to a piece in the Santa Fe Reporter. The Eugene Register Guard also has a slew of articles. Below is the comment I left for Steven Hassan at the Huffington Post. I hope he reads it.

I'm often left with feelings of dismay and anger that, although there is word slowly making it to the public that 3HO/Sikh Dharma/Kundalini Yoga is a cult, perhaps now and imploding cult, but a de-facto cult nonetheless, no article has, to date brought up the experiences of those of us who were raised in it, shuttled about, and never even given the choice to "join or not". These articles, over and over, simply express your own schadenfreud for the business-side of 3HO's troubles, and the unfolding drama among its 1st generation baby-boomer converts. Not one mention of Sikh Dharma Foreign Education. Not one mention of GNFC School, or GRD Academy. One mention of Miri Piri Academy, that mentions it is a "training camp". It is not a training camp. It is a boarding school located in India which runs ten months out of the year. To call it a camp is completely misleading.

This implosion is yet another indicator of the 1st generation's callousness toward their 2nd generation - their children - and the 1st gens. willingness to suspend parental duties to please their guru, Yogi Bhajan. It is safe for me to say that 100% of us feel betrayed and abandoned. Perhaps those 2nd generationers who have remained in the Sikh Dharma community are experiencing this sense of betrayal differently, and probably cling to the faith even more. I still have a sense of comraderie with them - because we have all shared the same experiences as children. It hurts me to imagine them hurting over the things we did not start, and that we did not ask for.

So, enough of the schadenfrued. Enough of quoting Kamall Rose Kaur, who I am beginning to think is the leader of "the exes cult". Enough of the fanatics who railroad blogs and forums as a soapbox to preach their version of what "true Sikhsim" is.

If any of us 2nd generation are to participate in the dialogue, it will only be after we are recognized as autonomous individuals, not as puppets. Sherri has asked me to go on the record if she is to write an article about the schools in India. Does she have zero clue about what it means to recover from an upbringing in an abusive cult? Steven Hassan's approach is also problematic. What he seems to not understand is that the more one tries to "bust" a cult, the more divisive you are, and therefore the more futile it is. No one who is in a cult will ever admit that it is a cult! And the world will always have cults. One only realizes something is a cult after one has left - and then, the process of transition is extremely perilous and traumatic, that to have the cult-busters banging down your door to rally around their cause feels like just another version of thought reform.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Remembering US Independence Day in India

The GNFC school year was the reverse of what it is in the States. We got two and a half months off during the winter months, and spent March through November in India. Our July Fourths were not spent cooking out, or going swimming, watching fireworks, lighting sparklers, or feasting on fruit cobblers.

Our parents wanted for us to get far away from what they considered to be American: sex, drugs and rock n' roll. They considered India-- and its culture, traditions and customs--exotic and holy. But the moment we arrived we knew that India was NOT exotic OR holy, and they too had sex, drug and rock n' roll - just a tempered down, more repressed version of it.

The teachers and dorm matrons at GNFC were so unprepared to work with children from different backgrounds, that they often lashed out at us, targeted us, showed belligerence toward us, and used pejorative language at us. Oddly enough, this actually mobilized us to exercise what we considered to be our birth right: questioning authority. Those unrealistic expectations, placed on us so drastically, only felt oppressive and authoritarian. We had an acute intuitive sense that it was supposed to repress our will, and independent thought: wholly American traits in our minds. The thought of giving that up caused deep hopelessness - that we would never go home again, that we'd be "stuck in India".

So, in the only manner we could defy authority, we became overtly proud to be the "obnoxious Americans". And Fourth of July in India motivated us, even if ever so slightly, to embody true American Don't Tread on Me Independence. And yeah, it was often a losing battle, resulting in our faces meeting the stinging hot hand of a school marm.

I'm glad today that our parents were blind to the thought of us clinging to our American traits so hard.

...Got to hand it to GNFC and India - the place charged me to develop my own freedom of thought. And the battery that we were subjected to on a daily basis only fueled it more.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa, Wahe Guru Ji Ki F....

Many of us who chose not to live "in the Dharma" left on our own accord, and are quite happy forging our paths as we see fit. We enjoy autonomy, anonymity, freedom of expression, freedom in our attire, dress, hair, the freedom to consume anything we want to consume, etc, etc. But it's possible that the prospects of more and more children winding up in India, some even 3rd generation children, causes discomfort and distress for us, as we continue in our own lives to process what it all meant. It's not unreasonable to experience a sense of concern over the futures of 3HO 2nd & 3rd genrs. or to care about the welfare of our old classmates who remain in this institutional setting. We know, perhaps with more clarity, that they remain in this setting for a variety of pressures, all of them real. We have all so palpably experienced the nearly crushing pressure to conform and to assimilate.

We all know what this pressure feels like, whether we were able to walk away or not.

But... when I see that this is going on, I am dismayed, and I am angered, and I vehemently oppose any sort of accord that attempts at an unequivocal manifesto that would assume to speak for me.

If you were born or raised in 3HO Sikh Dharma, yet do not subscribe to its tenets, it does not mean that you do not have the inalienable right to voice your concerns, talk about your history within 3HO or India, or advocate for the future generations.

Send your feedback to Sikh Dharma Next Generation: feedback@sikhdharmanextgeneration.org. Tell them your story, tell them your experiences, tell them how YOU live your life today. Any "accord" that assumes to speak for the 2nd generation adults born and raised in 3HO Sikh Dharma, whether they are actively engaged in the lifestyle or not, will be met with the reminder that the majority of those born and raised in this group have since left.


Live Your Life Response

Sikh Dharma Next Generation: "Agree that the Siri Singh Sahib bestowed upon us an invaluable legacy in his teachings of Sikh Dharma, Kundalini Yoga and meditation, and White Tantric Yoga, and in the non-profit organizations that he helped to form"

Live Your Life: The Siri Singh Sahib was an authoritarian, charismatic leader of a cult. He claimed to be a yoga master. He invented a series of calisthenics-like exercises and branded it as ancient Kundalini Yoga. He invented "white" tantric, in which he intentionally put his disciples in a trance-like state in order for them to suspend critical thinking, and blindly follow the prescriptions he called lifestyle. He created 501(c)3 organizations under the guise of religious freedom, and enlisted his disciples, and children of his disciple to turn over 10% of their income and volunteer their free time to him through his organizations. He lived a wealthy, lavish and luxurious lifestyle with the use of these funds.

SDNG: Agree that younger generations are the future leaders of Sikh Dharma and the non-profit organizations, and the future of the legacy of the Siri Singh Sahib;

LYL: The 2nd, 3rd and all future generations of the 3HO Sikh Dharma cult were unwitting and unwilling recipients of his authoritarian leadership. He ordered his disciples to swap children between households in different parts of the country. He ordered his disciples to put infants on dangerous diets. He ordered his disciples to send children away to an abusive boarding school in India, sometimes as young as six years old. He ordered young adults to work for his profitable businesses at minimum wage. He ordered and conducted the arranged marriages between young adults, or teen women to older men. The Complex Post Traumatic Stress symptoms experienced by many of the 2nd generation adults is his responsibility.

SDNG: Agree that developing leadership by the younger generations is the way to secure the Siri Singh Sahib’s legacy into the future;

LYL: The Siri Singh Sahib's legacy of abuse and authoritarian rule ends with him in death. He has no power over any of the future generations of 3HO Sikh Dharma, and cannot inflict any more orders or harm on any of his disciples or unwitting victims within the 2nd and 3rd generation. By living one's life as one sees fit, one removes the authority of this cult leader completely, and is able to enjoy the autonomy of a free life.

SDNG: Agree that it is critical to act now to create a smooth transition between current and future leadership;

LYL: What is critical, is to understand that the trauma and abuses suffered under this cult are in no way one's own fault or doing. What is critical, is for the 1st generation to take responsibility in its own part of putting its children in harm's way, despite repeated reports of abuse, sickness, neglect and filth while living in India, and in Ashrams across the world.

SDNG: Agree that this task requires a broad community effort;

LYL: If this indeed requires broad community effort, any task of taking the reigns for the future of 3HO/Sikh Dharma MUST include a clause which speaks of the intentional abuses of the boarding school environment in India, and the 3HO Ashrams. It MUST include a clause that hundreds of 2nd generation adults born and raised in 3HO Sikh Dharma have denounced its principles, its tenets, and especially its leader, Yogi Bhajan aka Siri Singh Sahib, and have undergone therapy and counselling at their own expense for cult recovery and PTSD.

SDNG: Agree that it is essential for established leaders to help develop younger leaders and create pathways for younger leadership;

LYL: It is essential for 2nd generation adults born and raised in 3HO Sikh Dharma to understand that the short term goals of the Siri Singh Sahib and his inner circle was to exploit the hard work and sacrifice of the populace of 3HO Sikh Dharma, and that this short term goal did not account for a future for the next generations of 3HO Sikh Dharma

SDNG: Agree that it is the responsibility of the younger generations to make the commitment to learning, training, and developing the necessary skills to fulfill leadership roles.

LYL: It is the right of all 2nd generation adults born or raised in 3HO Sikh Dharma to live a life of autonomy and freedom, whether or not they choose to adhere to the principles of 3HO Sikh Dharma. It is the responsibility of current members of 3HO who consider themselves the "future" generation to take into account differences in religion and creed, to take into account autonomy and freedom, and to take into account the majority of 2nd generation adults who have adopted the inalienable right to a life free of authoritarian obedience to one person.

Readers have my full permission to forward this response to: feedback@sikhdharmanextgeneration.org

Thursday, March 25, 2010

They pimped us out

In the time between school in India and my leaving 3HO for good, I lived in the Española ashram, and briefly worked for the Khalsa companies. This was the most difficult time in my young 3HO life. By order of the Siri Singh Sahib (aka Yogi Bhajan), I was ordered to leave college, and told to work for one of the 3HO companies - for $5.00 per hour, no benefits, and a strict "bana" dress code. This happened at a time when many of us 2nd generation young adults were being instructed on how we were supposed to approach our futures, and many of us young women were winding up with the worse fate of an arranged marriage. We were ALL told that we would one day "own all of this", that these companies would someday be in our hands, that we would be the ones running them, earning income for ourselves, our families, and the community. The future of 3HO was idealized. The Siri Singh Sahib told us that all his wealth would someday be "ours", that it never really "belonged" to him, that it belonged to "the Khalsa". He told me, personally, that college was a waste of time, and that I could learn all I wanted at his companies AND be rich, and that college would not guarantee me a future like these companies would.

But the truth was that my job at the company turned out to be mind-numbing, and almost immediately after I started it, I felt like a corporate shill, and I felt like I had no future. My worst days were when I had to work with any of Yogi Bhajan's personal staff. But it was those days living in New Mexico that it occurred to me that there was a deep economic disparity between him (and his inner circle) and the rest of "the Sangat". 3HO is one of those groups that can proudly boast financial successes among many of its members, but the other side of that story is that many many members of the New Mexico community lived for a very long time in poverty and volunteered much of their free time to make him and his inner circle comfortable while they stayed at "the Ranch". The majority of New Mexico Sangat did not enjoy the luxuries at the Ranch, like the swimming pool, but did work to maintain its beautiful facade, spent nights in the security booth, and many late evenings fixing meals and cleaning up. I remember that the volunteer force was large, and well coordinated by the community leaders and his inner circle. As a young adult, I was expected to volunteer on a weekly basis, wether it was fixing meals or cleaning up.

When I began to lose interest in the community, I was called into his living room, and he yelled at me, calling me a "fucking bitch" and a "prostitute drug dealer". One of his staff members pulled me aside and told me that "he's telling me this because he loves me". Her name was Siri Karam, and I've resented her ever since, for being an accomplice to this man who was berating me and humiliating me.

In recent news, Siri Karam is now one of the leading figures in a hostile corporate take-over of the 3HO companies since the death of Yogi Bhajan in 2004. She, and three others took over Golden Temple for $100, and have since been firing workers, and locking members of the community out of their common spaces. It's a long, drawn out legal battle, and it's ugly.

This may seem counter-intuitive, but I'm deeply angered and dismayed by these turn of events. I know I have mentioned this in my blog before, I do believe most of the members of 3HO are good, honest, open-minded people, who's honest intention is to have a close community where they can share religious and spiritual experiences. For them, their worst mistake was to put their trust in an authoritarian man who did not have their best interest at heart, and who benefitted largely off their hard work and 10% of their income.

The sad truth is that Yogi Bhajan's rhetoric meant nothing in legal terms, and now that the companies are in dire straits, it's those hard-working, community minded folks whose futures are in peril. The part that angers me the most is that for much of the 2nd generation adults who have stayed and worked for these companies, and for some it has been since they were in their teens, they will have no education and no savings to fall back on if they lose their jobs. There are no 2nd generation executives at any of these companies, to date. We were treated like shills this whole time, and while I may have been able to leave, get an education, and find success, my peers who were not able to do so, have lost out. For the many 2nd generation adults who were instructed to marry very young, who have been put into arranged marriages, who had children when they themselves were children, they were being pimped out by not only Yogi Bhajan, but our parents too.

Our parents pressured us daily to follow "the Siri Singh Sahib", to trust him, and to obey and serve him. To them, that would be our coming of age. Our parents so blindly followed him, that they couldn't see the forest for the trees - that he was living in exorbitant wealth, using their hard-earned money to fund his and his inner circle's lavish and luxurious lifestyles, and pimping off young women to men ten years their senior, and exploiting our cheap labor.

I'm hoping that after all this passes, that the 3HO community can begin to build a truly democratic community, one that is focused on some of the more universal tenets of sikhism, not Yogi Bhajan's twisted and dogmatic version of it. I'm hoping that folks will truly provide their children with a sustainable future, and encourage higher education, critical thought and independent thinking. I'm hoping that they will see that their children do not need to be shipped off to Miri Piri Academy, and that when they stay home with their parents, they will reap the benefits of particpating in a constructive community, not one that is subservient to the needs of one, sole authoritarian presence.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Indiakids: Are we "Third Culture Kids"?

I was spending time recalling the many boarding schools in Mussoorie (Waverly, Wynberg-Allen, Woodstock, Mussoorie-Modern just to name a few) and came across this term on Wikipedia: "Third Culture Kid"

Third Culture Kids or Trans-Culture Kids, (abbreviated TCKs or 3CKs,) whom are sometimes also called Global Nomads, "refers to someone who, as a child, has spent a significant period of time in one or more culture(s) other than his or her own, thus integrating elements of those cultures and their own birth culture, into a third culture".[1]
Since the term was coined by sociologist Ruth Hill Useem in the 1960s, TCKs have become a heavily studied global subculture. TCKs tend to have more in common with one another, regardless of nationality, than they do with non-TCKs from their own country.


The article is not fully supported by citations, but has a lot of bibliography and footnotes at the bottom of the page.

Do Indiakids fit into the Third Culture Kid population?

Here's an excerpt, that makes some sense, but also reads more as opinion than data:
TCKs are often multilingual and highly accepting of other cultures. Moving from country to country often becomes an easy thing for these individuals.

Many TCKs take years to readjust to their passport countries. They often suffer a reverse culture shock upon their return, and are constantly homesick for their adopted country. Many Third Culture Kids face an identity crisis: they don't know where they come from. It would be typical for a TCK to say that he or she is a citizen of a country but with nothing beyond their passport to define that identification for them. They usually find it difficult to answer the question, "Where are you from?" Compared to their peers who have lived their entire lives in a single culture, TCKs have a globalized culture. Others can have difficulty relating to them. It is hard for TCKs to present themselves as a single cultured person, which makes it hard for others who have not had similar experiences to accept them for who they are. They know bits and pieces of at least two cultures, yet most of them have not fully experienced any one culture making them feel incomplete or left out by other children who have not lived overseas. They often build social networks among themselves and prefer to socialize with other TCKs.


What do you all think? Is this something you think would be helpful in describing your present situation in life, and when describing upbringing? I think the main difference is that we did not have our parents, as many TCK's did have. But, it's important to note that there were the American Embassy kids at Woodstock boarding school in Mussoorie too.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A brief summary of the India program

The boarding schools I went to were GNFC school in Mussoorie and GRD Academy in Dehra Dun. At first GNFC was the school all the parents collectively sent us to, until about 1989. It was a traditional Sikh boarding school that had a British influence, and had separate campuses for boys and girls. The majority of the students were Indian Sikhs, with some Thai Namtari Sikhs, and us American 3HO Sikhs. The majority of faculty and staff were Indian, and there were about a half-dozen American "guides" with us (incuding the notorious Nanak Dev Singh), and out of those, three were actual teachers and the rest were sort of just assigned to watch over us. One of the guides was made head-nurse by GNFC, and became in charge of the infirmary.

Then there arose a conflict between the 3HO organizers of the India "program" (they were called Sikh Dharma Foreign Education or SDFE) and GNFC. The rumor I got was that SDFE was stiffing GNFC on the bills, and GNFC gave us the boot. SDFE told us however that GNFC was scamming us. I'm really not sure what the real story was, but in 1989 SDFE began constructing its own school in Dehra Dun, called GRD Academy, and was to be structured a lot closer to Yogi Bhajan's idea of a proper school, and was also co-ed. From then on it became a quest of theirs to form a school in their own ideals (or as they said "to have a school of our own").

GRD Academy was funded by a man named Raja Singh who was a rich sikh from Delhi. The school was constructed from the ground up, and we attended class and lived in the dorms all during construction. Food supply was often short, and class was often haphazardly organized. Some of the "guides" who were with us at GNFC stayed along for GRD and played more important roles in the shaping of the school, and many more young adults were brought in from the US, some of whom had attended GNFC and graduated from there. Our Principal, Mr. Waryam, was recruited from GNFC as well. He was a nasty drunk.

There were two guides with US Military backgrounds, and they were brought in to teach us military style drills, something that Yogi Bhajan was particularly fond of at the time. For some reason, the Indian students at GRD were exempt from the military training. The 3HO children were to remain at GRD only for a couple of years, and I really don't know why it didn't work out, because I was back home by then, attending a new experiment for 3HO youth, the New Mexico Military Institute, which also did not last much more than three years. Also in the time of the last years of GNFC and GRD, a state-side school in Albuquerque, NM was founded, called Amritsar Academy, and where Nanak Dev ended up after leaving GNFC in 1986, which also shut down sometime in the early nineties,.

When Punjab became more peaceful and opened up to visitors, SDFE took on the task of moving all the 3HO children to another new, privately owned, and purely 3HO school environment, and that is what Miri Piri Academy is today. MPA is owned by Sikh Dharma-3HO. I never attended MPA, and never visited either. It appears to be more focused on Sikhism and Sikh Culture, and less focused on academics. I know that it still operates the same way that SDFE organized sending guides over: very low pay, in exchange for room and board. They recruit individuals with no knowledge about childcare, or experience with teaching. They plunk these people in positions of authority over many children, and have no business being there. Some teachers or guides at MPA simply graduated from GNFC, GRD or MPA, and went straight into these positions, with no training or higher education, and certainly no education about childhood development or education. I'm unaware of the statistics for graduates of MPA who pursue higher education. My guess is that it's relatively similar to my own generation. The majority of youth who pursue higher education ultimately gain critical thinking skills and independent thought, and pursue their own lives outside the realm of 3HO.

We were beat and slapped by the Indian teachers and guides at GNFC, and were also made to do lots of bizarre corporal punishments, that had lots to do with awkward positioning and endurance. At GRD, the beating was not non-existent, however was rare. The corporal punishment remained about the same as GNFC, and was often inflicted by the guides, and the Indian teachers at GRD rarely ordered punishments. Amritsar Academy had it's own "seva" style, or "karma-yoga" type discipline. I don't know first-hand what the disciplinary style of the staff and teachers is at MPA, and I'm not comfortable talking about the various rumors that circulate, because I have no way of verifying them. Please comment below if you have a first-hand account.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

On Consensus and the Bully Pulpit

Normally when we think of consensus, we think of it in a positive, unifying kind of context - like solidarity. But growing up in 3HO, and having left when I was 18, I've developed a different kind of outlook toward consensus and consensus-building.

I wasn't granted an opinion or a voice once I left 3HO. Had I remained in the community, I could have perhaps worked toward changing things by being vocally opposed to practices, but as I felt at the time, I knew that any hope for change was already futile. I'd be better off living my own life on my own terms, and avoiding the imminent threats of an arranged marriage. But with the decision to leave came the loss of my own history, and even culture. I had to relinquish my identity as partly a 3HO Sikh child, partly an individual to the past, and work toward a new and more autonomous identity in order to discover my own personality. Unfortunately it meant turning over my story to those who remained in the community, and who were able and willing to prop up the faith, and frame the discourse through their own lenses.

On the social networking sites, the self identified 3HO sikhs, who make up less than one-third of the "indiakids" population and chatrooms, are routinely hammering on for an across-the-board agreement on our history - be they individual, or group. They are forcing a consensus without the realization that first, a consensus is far from what is actually necessary for healthy discussion, and second, that they will ever get one.

It's a pernicious attempt at writing history from the point of view of the bully pulpit.

An excellent example illustrates how cults force mandatory consensus, or non-democratic, authoritarian process:
"I don't think we went to the same school or grew up in the same community. Whoever Kelly is forgets that they weren't the only one there."

Although we did grow up in the same community, I was the only one there - we all were the only ones there. I remember feeling like I was the only one experiencing an overbearing sense of oppression in my community that I was supposed to be proud to call heritage. And although I was not the only one, when I was forced to do corporal punishments, and when I was beaten and slapped around, I was singled out and alone.

Today it remains a real issue that this voice of the overbearing and loud bully pulpit continues to cast doubt on individual histories that are out there and needing to be recounted, for the sake of our own individual progression and growth.

"It wasn't that bad" does not work anymore for the many individuals born and raised in Sikh Dharma 3HO. If it felt bad, it was bad. No consensus is required.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

On punishment

We were punished a lot. Even before India, at children's camp, we were often given very unreasonable and bizarre punishments. I'll go into those children's camps again soon... Sometimes I think GNFC was actually a haven from those camps - once we were sent off to school, we didn't have to go to camp anymore.

As I process a jumble of memories from that time, when some of us were as young as six years old, I think of our bizarre, and well, cruel and unusual punishments. The most common corporal punishment for the small children at GNFC was murgha (rooster). Murgha was humiliating - we were often singled out by the teachers, sent to the corner and ordered to crouch down, wrap our arms under our knees and pinch our own ears. There were times that a group of children were ordered tot do murgha - when it became a little easier to bare, but then the matron or teacher would still manage to single a kid out and make him or her perform the punishment for a longer, more unreasonable amount than others. The position cuts off circulation to the legs and head and caused dizziness, headaches, and leg aches. If the kids rear-end wasn't low enough, the teacher would hit it with a cane - more punishment.

What were the provocations that led to murgha? Geez, I can barely remember - I remember it being ordered almost randomly, and because of the tiniest infraction, like being last in line or losing your toothbrush. I was actually a good kid, and like I said in previous posts, I managed to stay under the radar. But I remember having to do murgha all the time! It didn't matter if you were a troublemaker or not - the punishment was across the board and systematic.

Murgha is a tradtional punishment (and when I say traditional, I mean, yes, they still make kids do it!). The most sadistic part is that it really only can be done by small children, who are still flexible and skinny!

So I wonder how this Indian tradition fit in with the ideologies of 3HO. When we told our parents what we had to do, they shrugged it off. They had already used other, perhaps less torturous, yoga poses as punishments, and they were already conditioned to throw us into a cold shower, clothes and all - and they thought those things were okay to do, because Yogi Bhajan said it was and in fact was the one to teach it to them.

All three: Murgha, Yoga as punishment, and cold showers ALL fit under the same umbrella of corporal punishment, and in America corporal punishment is abuse. Perhaps it was more convenient for YB to have us be in a land that hadn't considered that yet.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

On Vegetarianism

Growing up in 3HO I was raised a vegetarian. We ate dairy and cheese, but no eggs and we avoided any food with other animal by-products like lard or chicken stock. I'd say that our diets were very strict, health food diets, but not vegan. Yogi Bhajan often instructed his students to go on fasts, usually lasting about six weeks (40 days was "the standard" to "break" a "habit"). I remember one fast that he instructed to women who wanted to lose weight: Drink nothing but Skim Milk mixed with Diet Coke, but that's another topic all-together.

One time, as a child, one of us was served meat by accident and we all started to cry. We had no concept of a world that was indifferent to our vegetarianism.

Organizations that promote vegetarianism are well aware that children are easily frightened and even traumatized by the sight of slaughter and they know that children are unable to disseminate the complex information within such imagery. Yet they knowingly present the information bluntly and unapologetically (it's parallel to the anti-abortion fanatics handing out "literature" outside clinics with tragic imagery of extracted fetuses). I don't agree with the tactic used, and it dismays me to see that the cause for humane treatment of animals has grown far too fanatic and dogmatic.

Growing up in 3HO we too were conditioned to signify meat and any and all animal slaughter with mass violence and savagery. We were implanted with far too violent a picture of the nature of food with complicated politics and causes that we were too young to comprehend. As small children who hadn't developed the skills to act or think rationally, morally or critically, our innocence was exploited and we were conditioned to be traumatized.

A child growing into adolescence may continue to carry this brutal imagery and the big-picture consequences with them for a long time. We become more and more weighed down by the burdens of society, experiencing feelings of guilt for anything that could be harmful in any way, and developing an unbalanced barometer for right and wrong. I think THIS is primarily why it took me a long time to decide to be an omnivore (but not strictly speaking). Today I'm happy that I've given the subject a lot of thought and can comfortably make decisions based on my own intellect and needs.

Because I am someone who is skeptical of, and continually disillusioned by the moral high ground, I know that a one-size-fits-all approach is not for me. Nor is it sensitive to the vastness of cultures around the world that all have the same common ground - food for sustenance and survival. I am dismayed by people who were and still are willing to ignore this very basic truth and buy into diet as religion, suspending logic to extract some kind of meaning from anything their leader tells them, meanwhile separating themselves from others based on irrelevant choices.


I recently read an article about a vegan restaurant which espouses the self-help philosophies of Landmark Forum, and encourages, sometimes even requires employees to spend their own money on Landmark Seminars. The Landmark Forum has been designated a cult by most in the cultic studies and psychology fields.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Found an interesting blog post by a Kundalini Yoga practitioner.

3HO - Cult or Spiritual Environment?

I'm frankly a bit relieved by the writer's awareness of this issue, because it's rare that someone deeply engaged in the 3HO or Kundalini Yoga community would ever even use the word "cult" in reference to one's self. If you were born and raised in 3HO, I think it would be good to comment on his post because the more information that people have about 3HO's past practices, the better it is for newer members. The side of the story of the 2nd generation adults who have since left to live their lives in broader society is not heard by incoming yoga practitioners/students, I guarantee. Not that it's a cause of mine, but I do feel that total silence is not the way.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I found this quote on Rick Ross' website and it struck a chord:

"I was researching 3HO for a friend who was asking me about it, and I found this site. I found it interesting, and I'm glad you have it. The group needs to be exposed for what it really is, and not many people have even heard of it. I was born in 3HO, and I spent quite a few years in the ashram in New Mexico. I didn't know I was in a cult. For me it was all so normal. I thought I was a real, genuine Sikh. I loved the Gurus, and I wanted to be holy, even when I was very young. My older brother is the one who had the most difficult time. He went to school in India when he was eight years old. He did not really understand what was happening, and he thought our parents were dead, and that he was an orphan. My parents did not realize how harshly the children were being treated there. He slept in a crowded room with bunk beds and cement floors. He told us there was no bathroom in the dormitory, and the doors were locked at night with a chain. He was beaten quite often, although he was quite a good kid. It occurred to my brother and I later what a strange trick our early years had been. We were born into a world that is not really the 'real world,' and we didn't know it. We were extremely devoted Sikhs, and we learned later that we hadn't even been real Sikhs. When my family left the group, no one knew we were leaving, and we never looked back. We changed our names and started a new life. The people I knew when I was a kid I have never seen since. My brother and I have been really lucky. We've both traveled the world doing humanitarian work, and we've had quite adventurous lives so far. We decided not to become bitter about the past, and we're both quite happy people."

Saturday, August 8, 2009

On Given Names

I can't believe I haven't yet written about the broad issue of the given name. It's an issue that I know plagues a number of young adults born and raised in 3HO Sikh Dharma. Sikh Dharma/3HO converts are given a "spiritual" name, with roots in sanskrit and gurmukhi. My given name was three syllables, plus my middle name kaur and my last name khalsa. Alot of names start with a Sat, Siri or Gur (or both, or even all three!)

Needless to say, once away from 3HO, introductions were not much fun. With names like Satgurschnrub Kaur Khalsa, and so on, one can relate!

I've come to have the opinion that Right-off-the-bat inquiries into the origins of my name are actually nosey and borderline rude, as opposed to when I was younger and really did think someone was truly interested in ME. Lesson? Don't ask someone about their life story when just having been introduced to them seconds ago. For years, in my attempt at evading the saga that was my (our) upbringing, I'd get uncomfortable and squirmy and wound up just wanting who ever it was I was speaking with to go away, leave me alone. Sometimes I used the old "hippie parents" routine, but the dilemma was that I felt compromised, because, well, I know that most hippies still managed to keep their own identities. I'm letting my parents (and their leader) off too easily by dismissing their choices as typical hippie behavior.

But be frank and use the word CULT and your new acquaintance gets a little uncomfortable. Or maybe just a little too intrigued for a first encounter. Either way, it's no solution.

I find myself particularly in a jam when I meet someone from India. They understand my name, easily identify it as Indian and usually translate it for me from whatever language they most easily identify with. They then want to know, and often act as if they are entitled to an explanation. They want to know how a white person with no apparent signs of religious conversion wound up with an Indian name! Desperate to not be pegged as the girl who just discovered yoga and how good her ass looks in yoga pants, yet only managed to expand her knowledge of Hindu culture enough to start going by saraswati, I say "I was born with this name". And then usually that just leads to more questions...

No... Way... Out...
.
.
.
.

Cut to now. I often shorten my name on first encounters, and it suits me, and the situation almost every time.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Video and the Cult Leader

There are thousands of hours of videotape of Yogi Bhajan's lectures. Every single lecture I ever had to sit in, there was a video camera on record. When I saw the PBS documentary called Jonestown, the reels and reels of raw footage of Jim Jones reminded me of Yogi Bhajan's own narcissism, and I hoped that one day someone will think about revisiting these lectures as a way to understand Yogiji's true motives - to garner disciples, control them, and live in luxury off of their hard earned money.

Today, some of his videos are starting to emerge on Youtube. This one, called Humbleness and Jewelry, exemplifies his rambling, nonsensical, yet authoritarian and often angry diatribes:


(I can't help but mention that the title should be humility and jewelry, as humbleness is not a word).

Here are some more videos relating to 3HO:
For the new recruit, there are lessons on turban tying.

If you're still out there trying to find that special someone, there's plenty of online "matrimonials" sites to sift through (No Dating!).

And once you've snuggled in for the long haul, you've got six videos worth of relationship advice right here.

Here's a funny, satirical video called Mind Control Cults:

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Pilgrimage to Hemkund, elev. FIFTEEN THOUSAND FEET


View GNFC to hemkund in a larger map

My first trip was in 1985 when I was 11. The trip from Mussoorie consisted of two full days on a bus, mostly along a mountain precipice that may or may not have had several land-slides blocking the way, followed by two full days of steep uphill hiking, the second day passing the timberline to a mountain lake with a tin-roofed gurdwara at the top. Sikh Pilgrims are supposed to bathe in the lake, but the window of opportunity is tiny, as mountain fog rolls in by about 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon. Also up there is the famous Valley of the Flowers, which is a shorter hike from Gobind Dham.

The altitude really had me on that first '85 trip. The leader of the trip, Nanak Dev Singh seemed like he was specifically there just to "regulate our lazy-asses", and I remember I had made it almost to the top when, at every switchback, I absolutely had to rest - but there he was behind me - with a stick. I was so fatiqued that his harangues didn't even seem to bother me - I seem to remember being poked by his walking stick and it not mattering at all. I remember the bus ride being pretty scary, but exciting and fun too. I had a new silver paint-pen that I used to tag the seats "I wuz here". Nanak Dev caught me and didn't let me leave the bus for lunch (which was Maggie Noodles) until I cleaned it off. I used the chinese white from my watercolor set and took care of it and he bought it. I was surprised that I got one over on him!

The next few pilgrimages were a heck of a lot more fun, but never spiritual - as are most of my memories. The food at Gobind Ghat and Gobind Dham was crap, but tasted so good, and my stamina was far better the older I got. One summer though, was really popular for sikh tourists, and unfortunately that meant the facilities (meaning the bushes lining the trails) were fucking disgusting. This was not American hiking - In an Indian pilgrimage, everyone goes, regardless of age, ability, or fitness level. There are orderlies and porters, donkeys and mules for any and every kind of transportation, for ones own belongings, supplies going back and forth between villages, and even people. The very small fit into a snug little basket that a man carries on his back, and the very large usually sit on a platform that is carried by four men - like a palanquin or something.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

at GNFC: the teachers

In my years at GNFC school, I and my classmates were routinely harangued by our teachers. They did not understand that we children had just been dropped into a foreign culture, a society with very different rules, behaviors, conventions, languages, and politics. For instance, as American we were accustomed to raise our hand if we wanted to ask teacher a question. But we didn't ever have to ask permission to enter a classroom.

I remember 3rd grade as just a series of mimicking the Indian kids, so as to avoid a teacher freak-out or a beating. In India a student was expected to stand at the entry of a classroom, hold out a straight arm, palm down, and say: "Ma'am may I come in?". At the start of class when the teacher walks in the whole class stands up and sings "Good Morning Ma'am, and Thank You Ma'am". I clearly remember NEVER being taught this, or prepped for it, yet assimilating to it immediately. Our meal prayer was "For what... we are... about to receive... Oh Lord... make us... tobetrulythankful" - for a long time I had no idea what I was saying, but I mumbled it anyway. At the end of every meal we had to stand up and say "We Thank Thee Oh Lord for Food and Thy Fellowship". Japji Sahib was recited every day, before breakfast, in a droning monotonous chant, to the point where I think I remember the way it was chanted more than the hymn itself.

It didn't matter how much of these cultural norms we did assimilate to. According to the teachers, us Americans, remained "hooligans". The fact that we had not been trained like monkeys to anticipate and cower, was mortifying to them. They were conditioned, and perhaps took for granted, that children feared and respected them. They weren't prepared for children who weren't raised with that concept. But it was we who were on the receiving end of their sticks. A common mantra of theirs was "Who could have possibly raised such a rude child", or some kind of insult to our parents, which made us feel even worse because we missed them so much.

Ironically, but not to credit their intolerance, they may just have had a point. We kinda did have irresponsible parents. They didn't raise us responsibly - they let a stranger dictate to them, step by step, what to do with their own lives and with our lives. They listened when Yogi Bhajan ordered them to swap us around, and they obeyed when he told them to send us half way around the world. They obeyed him when he ordered us to stay there, even when we wanted to come home.

If we were hooligans, it was because we were left to our own devices.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Cartwheels in a Sari

Listening to the author of "Cartwheels in a Sari", Jayanti Tamm on NPR this morning. I'm gonna grab a copy for myself, and if you were raised in 3HO or any other high demand religious group, where your spiritual teacher claimed to have a direct connection with God, maybe it's worth a read. The parallels are astouding!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Yogi Bhajan on Wiki

Yogi Bhajan's page on Wikipedia has some GEMS. For example, he was "the son of a graceful mother". Who knew?

An excerpt on his attitude toward homosexuality reads:
"...Yogi Bhajan at first was shocked by the phenomenon. Through the 1970s and early 1980s, Yogi Bhajan taught that the condition could be cured through intensive yoga and self-analysis. By the late 1980s, however, Yogi Bhajan resigned himself to the conclusion that "sometimes God goofs" and puts men into women's bodies and vice versa."
--Yogi Bhajan, Comparative, Comprehensive Communication, Eugene, OR, 3HO Transcripts, 1980, pp. 102-3, 221


So, according to him a gay person is one of nature's mistakes? If the 3HO today, or anybody following his teachings whatsoever make any claims to being tolerant, then they had better denounce this statement openly and publicly. Go ahead, use my comments section to do it.

Next, here's my reasoning for why I consider 3HO to have characteristics of "doomsday" cults:
^ quote: "So normally on this Earth, 90% of people will be crazy. I am not making a prediction. It is a truth that will be seen by any of you living to that age. Everybody will be funny, you know. You will never be in a position to determine why somebody is angry, why somebody doesn't want to see you, why somebody doesn't want to love you, why somebody has come and given you two or three slaps and kicked you out of the house... nothing you will be in a position to imagine. Unpredictable actions of the human being will be the common trend in social living. This will be the new human race."
--Yogi Bhajan lecture April 12, 1973, published as "The Blue Gap" in Beads of Truth, Issue 22, March 1974, p. 25


You know, I don't even have to give a footnote on why that statement is so absurd! But really, I have memories of Yogi Bhajan preparing us for the "apocolyptical" aquarian age, including rifle and handgun target practice, "survival" camps, KWTC (Khalsa Women's Training Camp), having ashrams arm themselves, and finally, military school for some of the 2nd generation. Around the time when I was in the military school, all he lectured about was the "Aquarian Age" and how we'd better prepare for it. To prepare for it usually required ridiculous dieting and long meditation sessions that involved pointing fingers in some direction "to align" our auras. Of course, if you did prepare yourself (the way he instructs) for the upcoming change in ages, you would be one of the rare people to have the pleasure of living in a blissful utopia.

Why would a "spiritual teacher" make predictions of a doomsday nature? Well, first it's because he's not really a spiritual teacher, he was the leader of a de-facto cult, and it's in order to keep disciples feeling dependent on them for their very survival. As long as they are in a state of dependency, members don't question his decisions, they assume they are for the benefit of themselves, and the group as a unit.

I will provide reading material later, or until then, go to:
www.factnet.org
www.icsahome.com
So, because of the nature of my gmail name, I get targeted banner ads that Google thinks are customized to my profile. I don't know why, I don't have anything set. I guess it's just the nature of my goofy email address: sat gur schnrub

I've gotten yoga ads, spirituality ads, kirtan and other devotional music ads, and now I'm getting MIRI PIRI ACADEMY ads!

Anyway... needless to say it is all very annoyingly IRONIC.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Kinda like Harry Potter, but not...

I remember my first day at GNFC very well. We arrived at lunchtime, after a grueling train, bus and taxi ride up to Mussoorie. They were serving Rajmah Dal, chapatis and rice in the upstairs, well-lit senior dining hall. The food was good - I made burritos out of the beans and chapatis and thought, if this is school life, it aint so bad. Then we got our school numbers and house assignments - this was all very foreign for me, as I was only familiar with US public schools. There were Nalwa House (gold), Ranjit House (sky blue) and Attari House (maroon). The next year, Ajit House was formed, and was navy blue. I remember being psyched because someone told me I was in Attari - who wouldn't want to be in the house named after the videogame!

In actuality the houses refer to Sikh heroes/martys: Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Hari Singh Nalwa, Shaam Singh Attari and Sahibzada Ajit Singh... snooooze...  and, well, I did not end up in Attari house. But whatever house you did wind up in, the kids in other houses always seemed to have more fun, be more together, get more food, less beatings, etc.

Here's how I remember it breaking down: Ranjit house had all the goody-two-shoes, clean kids. Attari House had all the aggro athletes, but not as many smart kids. Nalwa had the brainy kids, but not much athletic clout. And Ajit house usually came 4th in everything, but somehow turned losing into solidarity for one another.


Attari House at PT competition.
For this most ridiculous "sport", we had to get up early and practice every single day: Dung, tak-tak, Dung, tak-tak, Dung, tak-tak...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Don't Nettle



This morning I was chatting with someone about nostalgia. It's so hard not to get a bit nostalgic about India when confronted with cute kid pictures, mostly of us posturing or posing and having fun, or like the silly one above. But still, the letters of the not fun times come in to me steadily enough to be reminded of the fuck-upness of it.

What also is being revealed slowly is a current between 2nd generationers' patterns of recurring dreams having to do with India. I myself have a recurring dream. Often times in the dream there are a classmates who possess more enthusiasm for the program in India, and currently remain in the community. In my dream their persona and behavior is overbearing, and I am feeling marginalized and stressed out by it. I think they represent the overly fanatic dogmatic side of 3HO, and the message that one was a failure by not "getting with the program".

Some of the ones in my dreams are in reality to this day saying "Speak for yourself, but I was never abused". Lucky them to feel that way, but they are wrong and they are actually just attempting to invalidate others' experience by negating or denying their own. There were some that were given the opportunity to be henchmen or a cronies, and have since developed habits that embrace and even perpetuate authoritarianism and militancy.

If even one kid gets hit or assaulted by an adult - it's an abusive environment! Bottom line. Is the dirty sock picture not proof enough?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Dirty Socks

What kind of sadistic (and moronic) fuck would punish kids by making them stuff filthy socks in their mouths and then TAKE A PICTURE OF IT?



Nanak Dev Singh, that's who!

After seeing this photo I am of course reminded of my own filthy condition as a kid at GNFC, and how humiliating it often was. We were not given laundry service regularly - sometime it would be months before the Dhobi Wala showed up. And when Dhobi did happen, our clothes were often lost or destroyed. Most of the time we had to wash our own clothes by hand with cold water. We usually sent off our uniforms, but our socks, underwear, and private clothes were too important to risk getting lost. For that, we were expected to purchase our own detergent, buckets, scrub brushes, etc. and do our wash on our own personal time. This was as young as eight and nine years old!

Hey, we may have had grime build-up, but as far as I'm concerned, that's not a crime. Abusing and neglecting children is.

P.S. Thank you to the person who posted this snapshot, and I apologize if it has been used outside of its intended context. I do not post it out of inconsideration for the individuals who actually suffered this treatment. I post it as a resource. We all went through this kind of thing, and to be honest, I am glad there photographic evidence of it still exists.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

On Tolerance

For anybody that's been able to catch the recent flick "Milk", there's probably no doubt that questions of the tolerance within your own family, friends, religion or culture would arise. Growing up in the ashram, I had to listen to a lot of homophobic, ignorant and intolerant remarks about homosexuality. To be fair, I had to listen to a lot of ignorant comments about people living in mainstream society - people who drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes and do recreational drugs, people who listen to heavy metal, rap or techno. And, it was mostly from my own family that I heard the homophobic sentiments and ignorant name calling.

3HO describes itself as a "tolerant" community. I'm not really sure what exactly they mean by this, because there is little diversity within 3HO. In the 70's it grew out of the conversion of white, christian-born hippies of the 60's, and has since spread through different regions of the world, mostly within christian cultures. They preached tolerance for other religious beliefs, while maintaining rigid superiority for their own faith, and a VERY rigid attitude towards lifestyle. Lifestyle choices were not among the list of things to be tolerant of.

Once a person joins, and becomes assimilated with 3HO, any chance for real development and growth ceases, and the individual is left to grapple with (or ignore) his or her hang-ups, phobias, neurosis, and even mental disorders. If one was homophobic before entering the group, chances of changing his attitude mid-way through life among the group are unlikely, and lingering sentiments remain and continue to be perpetuated.

While I don't think it's fair to label every member of 3HO a homophobe, I do think there is a shared responsibility. As an adolescent, 3HO really hit me hard was when one of my own generation acknowledged that he was gay. He was cast out by his mother and step-father and left to support himself in his late teens. Never having been given a foundation in the first place to live in mainstream society, in addition to being told he had no place among his family because of his sexual orientation, he floundered and suffered with addiction for quite some time. The community was not there for him. Even with empathy, if he didn't feel he had a place among the elder generation, how could he have confided in his own?

This is when the question started coming up among 2nd generationers: Where exactly does 3HO stand on the issue of homosexuality? When a 2nd generation member asked Bibiji (Yogi Bhajan's wife and current authority figure on policy) about the official policy towards gays in the community and whether gay marriage could be administered in the sikh temple, the answer was: "We welcome people of all lifestyles, but we will not perform a same-sex marriage in our Gurdwara". That's the litmus test on tolerance.

Since a member of 3HO's lifestyle is dictated to them by Yogi Bhajan, who has lectured on pretty much everything from brushing your teeth, to sex, food, thoughts, etc, they began to truly believe that homosexuality is wrong for some but okay for others. Among the sex talks he does go into why gay sex for men isn't yogic, but why gay sex for women is sublime by citing some hokus pokus mystical yogic gobbledy-gook. Unwilling to look further, the community does not see that it has nothing to do with being gay, nor are they able to identify that these are his fetishistic issues.

By blindsiding otherwise tolerant individuals with myths, he's done actual harm by generating an entire community which has been okay with institutionalizing homophobia. The blame lies in him and his "policy team", aka Khalsa Council - for even one second generation child, teen or adult who has been disenfranchised for who they are, and had to suffer for it. It's the kind of pain that no one ever deserves, yet perpetuates among so many cultures, and needs to change especially among any "new religious movement" that preaches tolerance.

But it's a cult, so how can one expect anything other than absurdity? True, they don't even come close to right wing christian groups or the mormons who have done immense damage, but I do think that individual damages do need to be accounted for.