Twenty-two adults have left the Sikh Dharma community near Espanola within the past two months over differences with Yogi Bhajan, U.S. leader of the East Indian religion, a former Sikh said Wednesday.
Keval Singh Khalsa, who moved to Santa Fe last month with his wife and three children, predicted others will soon be leaving the ashram, as the community is called in the Punjabi language. He said people have tired of the rigid structure of Sikh life [at the ashram] and of being set apart from others in their dress and customs.
He and others who have left said they have lost confidence in Yogi Bhajan as a spiritual leader. Located on 40 acres in Sombrillo, east of Espanola, the ashram has served as the Sikhs Northern Hemisphere headquarters for more than a decade. It had about 125 members last November, Keval said.
Yogi Bhajan was unavailable for comment. A spokeswoman at the Sikh leader's office in Los Angeles said, however, that he plans to fly to New Mexico today to spend several days at the Sombrillo ashram. The Sikhs operated the3HO Foundation, Healthy, Happy and Holy [Organization]. They practice kundalini yoga, rising at 4 a.m. for two hours of meditation, followed by the teachings of Nanak, who founded the Sikh religion around 1500.
Those who have left include the ashram's former director, Wha Guru Singh Khalsa and, his wife Wha Guru Kaur, who ran the children’s pre-school and the women’s training camp. They moved to Tucson in December and are in the process of changing their names back to Bill and Celeste Steen.
The Steens, who married at the ashram in 1971, said in a telephone interview this week there is a lack of flexibility in the organization, in which decisions are made from the top.
"The point I left was a point of transition, and a point of change, but basically I have nothing but good memories about the time I spent there and what I got out of it", Steen said.
Others who left are among the jethadars, leaders of eight groups the ashram is divided into, which are called Missals.
They include Keval, who heads his own development company, and his wife, Jiwan Jot Kaur, who directed the Sikh’s International Khalsa Children’s Camp; Ramanand Singh, owner of Khalsa Kleaners, a cleaning service and his wife, Raghu Rai Kaur; a women jethadar, Sirgun Kaur Khalsa; and Sanget Singh, a jethadar, who left with his wife, Sanget Kaur. According to the fact sheet prepared by Keval, 22 adults and 10 children have left the ashram since December. He said the departures were the result of discussions during the last two years in which the leaders of the ashram talked about their feelings of separateness from non-Sikhs in the area.
"From friends in Santa Fe, we learned that we were not understood, that there was a feeling we had invaded the community, that we were over-aggressive, that we kept to ourselves and that we thought ourselves better than others, he said.
"We began to rediscover the simplicity that originally attracted us to the community--before it began to isolate itself by dressing differently, setting up an extensive organization and generally isolating its members from mainstream America", he said.
Originally, he said, they didn't wear turbans and had more contact with outsiders. They were there simply to practice yoga, he said, adding: "There was one God and it didn’t matter how you worshipped him or what you did."
Some members of the ashram rediscovered these values, he said, explaining a statement emphasized in an advertisement he has purchased for Santa Fe newspapers this week. It says, in capital letters, "The national head of the organization did not support us in these rediscoveries".
Keval claimed he donated $90,000.00 and another member donated $30,000.00 to the construction of a church at the ashram. Keval said that Yogi Bhajan had told him the land in question was owned by the organization, but he learned afterwards that it was actually owned by the Yogi.
Hari Naryan, who moved to the ashram in late 1976, became the first of the 22 adults to go when he packed his bags in December. Naryan, 33, said Wednesday that leaving the ashram also meant leaving his wife, who refused to part from the leadership of Yogi Bhajan.
Ramanad Khalsa, one of the founders of the ashram, moved to Santa Fe last week and changed his name back to Richard Holton. "I was there for 13 years and I finally decided it was time for me to go", he said.
Link: https://culteducation.com/group/795-3ho/1147-former-sikhs-tell-why-they-left-new-mexico-religious-communitys.html - not working anymore …
Be aware that these are only fragments of the truth.
Many more stories are out there, told and untold.
Telling these stories is needed. It is a prerequisite for justice and reconciliation.
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