The representation in visual° below is undoubtedly incomplete and not fully correct. Still, it gives an idea about the complexity and broad reach that Yogi Bhajan had. Structures, organizations, and responsibilities constantly changed and remained elusive and unclear to outsiders.
Most atrocities occurred in the "Inner Circle" and isolated parts like the boarding schools in India where 3HO kids were sent to.
The further out from the center, the less visible and tangible the consequences of the dark practices were. Some of YB’s followers, whom he put in leadership positions, copied his behavior. He was the only example they had. His lieutenants, who were involved in the family's criminal activities, were sentenced and imprisoned.
° Inspired by the visuals cult expert Dr. Alexandra Stein uses in her book Terror, Love& Brainwashing to explain the structure of a totalist system.
Tej explains how people in the early seventies longed for connection and community, something YB had in offer ...
* SSSC, the Siri Singh Sahib Cooperation created by Yogi Bhajan is the umbrella organisation overlooking the profits (Yogi Tea, Akal Security, ...) and non-profits (3HO, KRI, Sikh Dharma, ...). At least that was the case till beginning 2021 (chart below). On the new SSSC website (where the picture of a meditating Yogi Bhajan was finally removed in March 2021), the profit organisations are not mentioned anymore. www.sssccorp.org
This organisation chart was shared by Philip Tanzer in his Medium article of Aug 27, 2018 - Questions about Akal Security - Should a non-profit, tax-exempt church oversee a for-profit security contractor tasked with enforcing ICE-policies? -Link
Yogi Bhajan was a charismatic and authoritarian leader. He built a mythology around himself, telling different life stories at different times to different people. It is a challenging task to piece together his true history.
Depending on who you talk to, he was a narcissistic psychopath or a saint. He had a great need to control others and used every possible means to do so: lying, cheating, abusing, slapping, slandering, cursing, ripping off, exhausting, exploiting, flattering, seducing, terrorizing, punishing, bullying, ...
He was a masterful manipulator and made people belief he could read their mental states. "I read your aura. I know your karma." That scared people.
He never wanted to be left alone. Day and night, one of his secretaries had to stay at his side. The highest good for his devotees was to get his attention and to serve his physical, emotional, sexual, financial, and material needs.
Uncritical obedience was the norm. Personal needs were neglected to serve the master. Outside his inner circle of 'concubines' and henchmen, there was an ornamental layer of loyal followers. They had a bit more freedom and were allowed a bit more contact with the outside world, but the primary focus was always to serve and contribute to the system set up by the 'Siri Singh Sahib', a title that is still present today in the name of the overseeing organization, the Siri Singh Sahib Corporation, ssscorp.org.
Mani Niall about living in LA close to Yogi Bhajan.
Appeared two weeks after he died from a heart attack at the age of 75.
... Women so adored him, it became an honor just to wash his feet. Men longed for his approval. They trusted him to arrange their marriages and select their careers...
The article mentions there were about 300 yoga centers and 4,000 instructors, more than a dozen corporations and $1 billion in government contracts for security and that Bhajan achieved remarkable recognition from governors, legislators, heads of state, and other religious leaders.
Bhajan’s legacy wasn’t immune to controversy. While many see him as a tireless missionary whose only goal was to serve humanity, others considered him a brilliant cult leader and masterful con man who lived the life of a rock star by exploiting his followers.
Bhajan’s devotees worked hard for their guru’s approval. He demanded they rise before dawn for cold showers and hours of chanting, and routinely fast. He could be a screamer, they said, who ignored some and lavished others with gifts and praise.
About his political connections:
Over the years, Bhajan became a generous political donor to both parties and established strong ties to the New Mexico governorship. Richardson considered him a trusted advisor and loyal ally.
“Besides his wonderful spiritual side,” Richardson says, “there was a very pragmatic political operator who was always protective of his Sikh community.”
To Bhajan’s followers he was a tireless giver, prescient sage and bon vivant who loved a good joke, fine jewels, song and dance. They quote him constantly and consider his teachings sacred. But critics note there were serious charges leveled at Bhajan in the 1980s, accusations his followers dismiss as fabrications, but that raise doubt concerning the yogi’s intentions.
“People basically deferred their critical thinking to Yogi Bhajan and leaders of the group,” says cult expert Rick Ross, who has counseled former Bhajan devotees and has posted lawsuits filed against the yogi on his website. “The litany of complaints that have surrounded the group regarding abuse go back to the ‘70s: sexual, financial exploitation and allegations of child abuse. This is a group that has a deeply troubled history.”
Guru Jot Singh Khalsa, who managed Bhajan’s Virginia ashram, and Guru Jot’s son-in-law Albert Ellis, were convicted for importing tons of marijuana into the U.S. from Thailand during the 1980s. Guru Jot entered an Alford plea, which meant he admitted no guilt, but acknowledged the prosecution could likely prove its case.
Mark Baker, once the director of training for Bhajan’s Akal Security -- which guards airports, federal courts and military installations -- sued the yogi for intentionally misleading government officials to keep Baker from becoming a New Mexico state trooper when he suspected the drug trafficking. His case was settled out of court.
And Bhajan’s longtime personal assistant Pamela Dyson and another devotee, Katherine Felt, sued him in federal court, claiming Bhajan forced them to be his concubines and that they were beaten, starved, brainwashed and tricked out of thousands of dollars. Their cases were ultimately dropped. “We never paid a penny to them,” Kirtan Singh says.
(Today we know that this is not true and the cases stopped because the man who was supporting the women to sue Bhajan, was threatened by 3HO.)
Today we know that Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajanquite different is from Kundalini Yoga as described in the Tantra's.
Sir John Woodruff was the first Westerner who did an in-depth study of the ancient Kundalini Yoga. His book 'The Serpent Power' was first released in 1919. It still is a prime document for people who want to study Kundalini Yoga as described in the ancient scriptures.
Over the years Yogi Bhajan has changed the story about the origin of his teachings. He claimed that he was a master of Kundalini Yoga at the age of 16, just another lie. Over time he changed the names of his teachers and there are serious doubts about the different titles that he bestowed on himself.
In 2013 already historian Philip Deslippe published 'From Maharaj to Mahan Tantric'. He researched the different sources that Yogi Bhajan used to create 'his' form of yoga. It seems he used elements from different forms of yoga and sound current techniques.
In his Uncomfortable Conversation with GuruNischan, Dr Ron Alexander talks about how Yogi Bhajan himself admitted that he made it all up.
Both websites continue to call this yoga the 'Yoga of Awareness' while for so many years the tons of abuses that happened inside the community were not 'seen' by the people who were very close to the perpetrators involved.
Recently 3HO and KRI leave the quotation 'as taught by Yogi Bhajan' behind. They just mention Kundalini Yoga. This only adds to the confusion.
Why not call this yoga Bhajan Yoga? Because that is what it is, right?
It is within Swami Dhirendra’s unique teachings that the defining characteristics of Yogi Bhajan’s Kundalini Yoga can be found.
Philip Deslippe - 2013
Guru Dev Singh (°1948, †2021)
Guru Dev Singh was a student of Yogi Bhajan. Little is known about his background, except that he was probably also a shaman of Mexican tradition.
He was called master of Sat Nam Rasayan, a healing technique that uses the techniques of Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan.
GuruDev Singh was the leader of the Sat Nam Rasayan organization that became independent of the Kundalini Yoga organizations after Bhajan's death in 2004. That's why they do not adhere to the Code of Ethics and Professional Standards that exist in the Kundalini Yoga environment and are managed by EPS.
In 2013, women from the Belgian SNR community informed Guru Dev about sexual abuse that happened during a Sat Nam Rasayan training by Hari Singh, the SNR instructor who Guru Dev considered as his spiritual son. Link to this story.
The Sat Nam Rasayan organization never officially reacted or taken any stance related to the stories of abuse.
As obvious as the link between this yoga and Sikhism is for the devotees of Bhajan, the leaders of this community and people living in 3HO ashrams, the more mysterious and unclear it is for the 'normal' yoga practitioner outside of these circles.
They are seduced and enjoy the mesmerizing effect of the Sikh mantras, and certainly the way 3HO musicians and singers have integrated them in new-age songs. This experience helps them to quickly overcome their scepticism related to the religious character of this yoga.
The blend of Sikhism that Yogi Bhajan introduced in the West and the weird titles like 'Siri Singh Sahib' and 'Mahan Tantric' he started using, puzzled many Indian Sikhs.
Dr.Trilochan Singh who met Yogi Bhajan in 1977 and could not believe what he saw and heard during that visit, wrote the book about this experience: 'Sikhism and Tantric Yoga. A Critical Evaluation of Yogi Bhajan's Tantric Yoga in the Light of Sikh Mystical Experiences and Doctrines.' Link to a free downloadable version.
This book should be a mandatory read for all Kundalini Yoga students in teacher training programs.
The author, a renowned Sikh historian and writer was very unhappy with the way Yogi Bhajan intertwined yoga and Sikhism. The information in his book gives a good impression on the atmosphere in the early years of the organization.