The teachings of Yogi Bhajan are like an ocean full of life and treasures for mankind. From Kundalini Yoga to Sikh Dharma and much more, these teachings have saved thousands of people and inspired many more to become better human beings. On this page, we attempt to give you a brief insight into his life.
Born as Harbhajan Singh Puri) (August 26, 1929 – October 6, 2004), also known as Yogi Bhajan and Siri Singh Sahib, was a charismatic and influential proponent of Kundalini Yoga and Sikh Dharma. He is best known as the spiritual director of the 3HO (Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization) Foundation, which today is one of the world’s largest yoga-teaching bodies, and for his outspoken defense of the holistic doctrine of Sikh teachings. He was widely known as a master of Kundalini Yoga and taught thousands to be teachers and spread the teachings.
Family of Yogi Bhajan
His parents from a Khatri Sikh family, of Puri Clan. His father, Dr. Kartar Singh Puri, served the British Raj as a medical doctor. His mother was named Harkrishan Kaur, Theirs was a well-to-do landlord family, owning most of their village in the foothills of the Himalayas, in the Gujranwala District of western Punjab. His family went to a sacred journey with him in his first 40 days of life
Yogi Bhajan met Inderjit Kaur ( knowned as Bibiji) in 1951, when their parents arranged a meeting. They married in November 1953 and started a life together in India. The marriage was blessed with three children, Ranbir Singh, Kulbir Singh and Kamaljit Kaur. When Kamaljit was still a baby, the family moved to Amritsar, so they can visit the Golden Temple daily. They open their house to students that take yoga classes with Yogi Bhajan. Bibiji and Yogiji hosted spiritual gatherings in which Kirtan ( devotional singing) was performed. Family life was surrounded by spiritual inspiration.
They moved to New Delhi and continue to serve people from all paths. Yogi Bhajan teach yoga and meditation until in 1968, he accepted an invitation to teach Yoga and meditation in Canada.
Harbhajan Singh’s schooling was interrupted in 1947 by the violence that former neighbors, of different religions, unleashed upon each other during the partition of India, when he and his family fled to New Delhi as refugees. There, Harbhajan Singh attended Camp College – a hastily put together arrangement for thousands of refugee students – and organized the Sikh Students Federation in Delhi. Four years later, he graduated with a Master of Economics.
Throughout his life, Harbhajan Singh continued his practice and pursuit of yogic knowledge. His government duties often facilitated his traveling to remote ashrams and distant hermitages in order to seek out reclusive yogis and swamis. Sometimes Yogi Bhajan would find them to appraise their worth, for India always had a surfeit of supposed “holy men.” At other times, he would sincerely go to learn the specialized knowledge possessed by this or that sadhu.
In the mid-1960s, Harbhajan Singh took up a position as instructor at the Vishwayatan Ashram in New Delhi, under Dhirendra Brahmachari. This yoga centre was frequented by the Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, his daughter, Indira Gandhi, and diplomats and employees from a host of foreign embassies.
Sant Hazara Singh master of Yogi Bhajan
Yogi Bhajan often spoke about the different teachers he studied with. Teachers of yoga, meditation, and dharma presented themselves as he passed through the phases of life and he studied with all of them. But there was one man who changed and directed Yogi Bhajan’s life like no other – Sant Hazara Singh.
Not much is known about Sant Hazara Singh as historical information is difficult to find around the tumultuous time of Indian independence. However, earlier this year I had a chance meeting with Sant Hazara Singh’s grandson, Karanbir Singh Chhina, who lives near Chandigarh, India. Through our discussions, I learned a lot more about this venerable personage.
Sant Hazara Singh Chhina was of the Baba Bidhi Chand Chhina lineage and grew up in Sursingh Sahib, the historical village of Dal Baba Bidhi Chand south of Amritsar. Baba Bidhi Chand was a great hero in the Sikh tradition and a devoted servant of Guru Hargobind Sahib. He is best remembered for his daring acts of bravery returning two beautiful stallions to Guru Hargobind, Gulbag and Dilbag, that had been stolen by the Mughals. It is written that Guru Hargobind declared, “Bidhi Chand Chhina Guru Ka Seena!” This means, “Bidhi Chand Chhina is the heart of the Guru.”
Sant Hazara Singh grew up in Sursingh Sahib, and was student and sevadar of the great Sant Baba Sohan Singh ji, the 10th leader of Dal Baba Bidhi Chand. He was so devoted that he made his bed on the floor under Babaji’s cot in case he needed something in the night. The young Hazara Singh served him without fail. Growing to maturity in that environment, Sant Hazara Singh became a childhood friend of the late Sant Baba Daya Singh, son of Baba Sohan Singh and to become the 11th leader of Dal Baba Bidhi Chand.
When he was of age, Baba Sohan Singh sent Sant Hazara Singh to Gujranwala to set up his own takhsal (teaching center). It was here from Sant Hazara Singh that young Harbhajan Singh first studied what we now know as Kundalini Yoga. Yogi Bhajan often spoke of his teacher with devoted respect and speechless awe.
“Do you know that I still do not recognize the face of my grandfather and my teacher? I never ever looked up at their face, but I can accurately draw their feet. It is a state of consciousness, not what you know or what I know.”–Yogi Bhajan July 16, 1981
Yogi Bhajan was a faithful student of Sant Hazara Singh throughout his school years. Not only did Sant ji teach him many of the kriyas that we practice today, but also the essence of Sikh Dharma, including its history and martial arts. Yogiji often told amazing stories of Sant Hazara Singh, giving us a glimpse of what that life must have been like. In 1995, he said at Khalsa Women’s Training Camp in Espanola,
“I went through a very tough teacher…He brought out of me, not the man, not the godly man, not the great man, but a real human. There’s nothing in the world I can pay to him in tributes, in compliments, and in thanks. He did the most wonderful job. I used to say I was a nut, but he tightened all my nuts so good that I became the best. And that’s why [I say that] calamity is my breakfast, tragedy is my lunch, and treachery is my supper… What else do you want after this? Is there anything else which can bother you? If you can eat all these three things and digest them, you are the best person.”–Yogi Bhajan, July 4, 1995
India at that time was under British occupation, and many Sikhs were agitating for a free and independent nation. In 1934, most of the Buddha Dal, the warrior Sikhs, were imprisoned by the British in Lahore. Baba Sohan Singh went there with his people to serve food and take care of their needs during internment. One can only imagine how Sant Hazara Singh longed to be with his teacher in service at this time, and it is likely that he was often gone to be with Babaji. So, the demands of the time often interrupted Yogi Bhajan’s training.
Finally, around 1945, Sant Hazara Singh called his students individually to his room for a finale audience. Yogi Bhajan told us how apprehensive the young Harbhajan Singh, now a teenager, was about that meeting. On one hand, it was electrifying to be called to Sant ji’s room for a private meeting, but on the other hand, it could have easily been something very confrontational and unpleasant! To the future Siri Singh Sahib’s surprise, Sant Hazara Singh said that he was leaving for good and that Harbhajan Singh, 16 years old at the time, was now a master of Kundalini yoga. He also told him at that meeting, that Harbhajan would never again see the face of his teacher.
Sant Hazara Singh left Gujranwala for the service of Baba Sohan Singh, and was arrested by the British shortly thereafter. He spent several hard years in jail in Lahore. When the political prisoners were freed after India gained her independence in 1947, he returned once again to Sursingh, his childhood home. From there he moved to Doraha and then to the village of Sanaur where his descendants live today.
Yogi Bhajan never lost his love for his teacher. When he was posted to Amritsar in the 1960’s, he sent word to Sant Hazara Singh humbly requesting permission to see him. But true to his word, Sant Hazara Singh denied the request and Yogi Bhajan never saw the face of his teacher again. Sant Hazara Singh passed away in 1972.
Journey to North America
In New Delhi, Harbhajan Singh was faced with a stark choice: to serve his government by joining the Soviet military‘s psychic research program in Tashkent or leave the country. The Canadian High Commissioner, James George facilitated his immigration to Toronto, Canada in 1968.
Although a promised university position as director of a yogic studies department did not materialize because of the death of his sponsor, Harbhajan Singh the Yogi made a considerable impact in the predominantly Anglo-Saxon metropolis. In three months, he established classes at several YMCAs, co-founded a yoga centre, was interviewed for national press and television, and helped set in motion the creation of eastern Canada’s first Sikh temple in time for Guru Nanak‘s five hundredth birthday the following year.
Late in 1968, bearded and turbaned Yogi Bhajan went to visit a friend in Los Angeles, but ended up staying to share the teachings of Kundalini Yoga with the already long-haired members of the hippie counterculture of California and New Mexico. In effect, he had found his calling.
Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan is considered the most comprehensive of yoga traditions, combining meditation, mantra, physical exercises and breathing techniques; it is a Raj Yog, encompassing the eight limbs of yoga into a singular practice of excellence and ecstasy.
“Kundalini” literally means “the curl of the lock of hair of the beloved.” This poetic metaphor alludes to the flow of energy and consciousness that exists within each of us and enables us to merge with – or “yoke” – the universal Self.
Fusing individual and universal consciousness creates a divine union, called “yoga.” The Upanishads, dating back to the fifth century B.C., describe the kundalini, although the oral tradition reaches back even further into history. For thousands of years, this sacred science and technology was veiled in secrecy, passed along verbally from master to chosen disciple.
Kundalini Yoga as a practice is a Raj Yoga and combines all the traditional eight limbs of Yoga. Yogi Bhajan was the student of two Masters. Sant Hazara Singh declared Yogi Bhajan a Master of Kundalini Yoga at the age of 16 1/2. Guru Ram Das, the Fourth Sikh Master, appearing in his subtle form, gave Yogi Bhajan his own Gur Mantra, many years later, in the early years of his teaching in the West.
Kundalini Yoga was taught from Master to student for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years and intersects with the lineage of the Sikh Masters such as Guru Nanak, Guru Ram Das and Guru Gobind Singh for the past 500 years. Its sources include many other yoga Masters of the Northern Punjab region of India, as well as the unique contributions of the Gurus in the use of naad and Shabad Guru. Guru Nanak started the Udassi line through his son Baba Siri Chand, a Master who served and taught for more than 100 years. He taught to all existing lineages of that time and educated several of the Sikh Gurus in their youth. Yogi Bhajan was the first to openly teach Kundalini Yoga in the East or the West. The lineage is now held in legacy through the technology of the Golden Chain—a connection to the Masters through the subtle body.
From the time he arrived in the US, he often said:
“I’ve not come to gather students, but to train teachers”.–Yogi Bhajan
In 1970, he completed his first teacher’s training and the Kundalini Research Institute was formed in 1971 and went on to formalize the certification and training of teachers internationally.
Yogi Bhajan passed away at his home in Española, New Mexico on October 6, 2004. His relentless schedule had taken its toll on his body. He was 75. He is survived by his wife, Inderjit Kaur; his sons, Ranbir Singh and Kulbir Singh; his daughter, Kamaljit Kaur; and five grandchildren.
More about Yogi Bhajan
If you would like to know more about the history and life of Yogi Bhajan visit: https://studentsofyogibhajan.com/