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PostPosted: Sun Sep 27, 2015 7:57 pm 

Re: "Deras and Babas" by IJ Singh
Tue Nov 11, 2014 11:28 am

This was IJ Singh's position regarding Yogi Bhajan and Bhajanism back in 2002.

Global Sikh Daily News Online March 7, 2002

Corner Room
The I. J. Singh Column

3HO, Yogi Bhajan and The Sikh Way

I. J. Singh Wed Mar 06

I have been away from for the past month and missed much of
the lively exchange on Yogi Bhajan and the movement inspired by him. Not
that it will soon be settled, I too would like to add my two cents worth
to the brew in the cauldron.

I agree with many who find Yogi Bhajan singularly unimpressive in his
pronouncements on Sikhism. In fact, when he mixes Sikh belief with his
advocacy of numerology, astrology, gemology and all other kind of
personal -ologies, he and his practices appear rightly and
embarrassingly abhorrent to most thinking Sikhs. I also realize that
many of his followers drop out of his movement after a brief stay; many
go away embittered with the man and his ways.

But Yogi Bhajan is charismatic and he has influenced many, often for
their betterment. Just think how difficult it is to influence even one
person during a lifetime. Sikhs have been in North America for over a
hundred years but never, until Yogi Bhajan, have we been able to make
any meaningful connection with the non-Sikh culture around us.

There are those who came to Yogi Bhajan's fold after experimenting with
many alternative lifestyles and a whole smorgasbord of religions and
other ways of finding alternative states of awareness. Many, even after
leaving him, have retained some positive feeling for Sikhism, if not for
the man. Many have discovered a healthier, cleaner life. These I can

But I will not deny that when I listen to his drivel, which I have done
many times, or see him in personal interaction with people, which I have
also done, I am often repelled and appalled. He then reminds me of what
little I know of the mad monk Rasputin who acquired great influence in
the reign of Catherine the Great.

But I have also met many of those who came to Sikhism through Yogi
Bhajan and I am impressed. Many are dedicated serious Sikhs. Sikhism, to
them is the significant commitment of their lives, not just a cultural
connection - as it is for many Punjabi Sikhs. Yogi Bhajan has given his
many followers a happier, healthier, holier life. Why shouldn't they
look up to him? Many have made an earnest attempt to understand their
new faith. Many have progressed far beyond their leader. How can I not
admire them and approve their ways? Are they perfect? Of course not, but
who is?

I hasten to add that my admiration is not total. I also see many who
think they are better - God's gift to humanity and Sikhism. It is the
same demeanor that I see in Yogi Bhajan. Such hubris has no place in
Sikhism. I also see practices that are outside the pale of Sikh
tradition and teaching, as we understand it, that adulterate the
pristine purity of Sikhism. Some examples are numerology, astrology,
yoga, and when he talks of meridians and chakras - and there are many
more. There is no way that I can find acceptance for these in my heart.

Let me come to these issues via a detour through some other religions.
Modern Christianity presents over 250 denominations. The single focus of
each remains the life and teachings of Jesus Christ but their methods
vary so much that they often appear at odds with each other. Many do not
recognize the others as Christians, and many have serious doctrinal
differences with each other, yet to the world they are all Christians.
They may not talk to each other or even enter each other's place of
worship; they will not marry each other, yet they are all undeniably
Christian. Many have fought each other but time has taught them to allow
each other space. Even if internecine warfare has diminished and they
appear at peace with each other, it does not mean that their differences
are not as sharp as ever.

Sectarian or fissiparous movements are a natural product of time and
geography. They may stem from real differences with the original
movement, emerge from local realities or, as happens more often, may
reflect the personal limited vision and constraints of a new charismatic
leader. If the leader keeps the connection with the mainstream, the
movement rapidly evolves into a sectarian new denomination.

All religions show such phenomena with time, as does Sikhism. Namdharis,
Radhaswamis and Nirankaris attest to this. The variety of Sants and
Babas who proliferate like mushrooms in the countryside of Punjab are
examples and so is Yogi Bhajan. Many of their practices are significant
departures from the traditional Sikh practices and the Sikh Code of

Many of these Sants are also personally devoid of integrity, honesty or
any values that make one into a spiritual mentor and guide. From the
variety of information available in the public domain it seems that Yogi
Bhajan may also belongs to the same ilk. I can deplore it but ultimately
it is a burden that his followers have to carry. It is their onus and it
is they who need to cultivate a discerning eye and their conscience.

If the practices and personal actions of these so-called religious
leaders, such as Yogi Bhajan, run afoul of the laws of society, the law
should take its course. If their practices contradict or undermine the
traditions of a religion that they profess to espouse, the recourse lies
in the ecclesiastical mechanisms of dealing with those who flout the

Many religions have formal mechanisms of dealing with conduct that is
unbecoming but the ultimate goal remains to reclaim a person and
"shunning" him or her becomes the method. The extreme form of shunning
is excommunication for which the Roman Catholics have become famous, but
other types of Christians as well as Muslims and Jews have practised it
in history.

The Sikhs, too, had a workable model that was inclusive of the variety
of opinion that would exist in any large community and, at the same
time, was able to effectively deal with infringement of religious mores.
This was the tradition of "Sarbat Khalsa." History has demolished it but
we need to rediscover it, reclaim it and redesign it to accommodate the
new realities of our global presence.

Inder Jit Singh is Professor & Co-ordinator of Anatomy at New York
University. Among other publications, he is the author of two books of
essays: 'Sikhs and Sikhism: A View With a Bias' and 'The Sikhs Way: A
Pilgrims Progress'.

I.J. Singh is on the editorial advisory board of 'The Sikh Review',
Calcutta and 'The Encyclopedia of Sikhism', Punjabi University, Patiala.

This is what IJ Singh posted here at the Wacko World of Yogi Bhajan in November 2014:

I.J. Singh

My opinions are not much changed. I think it is the followers and ex-followers who have to come to terms with the phenomenon. Yes individual Sikhs should have opinions on what the whole movement meant or means today. But those are individual opinions. At this time Sikhs lack a collective mechanism to come to terms with such matters and I think I pointed it out.

Kamalla Kaur:

I think you are missing the main point, and that you are also wrong. :D

Your article about Deras and Babas is breakthrough help in the X-Bhajanist mission to get the Truth told about the Yogi Bhajan Dera and helps the 2nd and 3rd Generation of Bhajanists heal/deal with the abuse they experienced. Our experience, after 14 years of anti-cult activism, is that outside experts like you, and say Philip Desplippe, the academic who recently wrote the rip roaring tale, From Maharaj to Mahan Tantric make far more difference than what we X-followers and followers have been saying down through the years.

IJ Singh:

Kamalla, you say "I think you are missing the main point, and that you are also wrong. :D"

Kamalla, you have made a one sentence judgment on a fairly long essay with a slew of reasoned arguments. My purpose in writing is to foster a conversation about a topic that I feel is important. It is not to present a one-line answer to a complex question; that’s why I try to reason matters as well as I know how.

I am definitely not looking for a one word judgment of approval or disapproval. Your one sentence, in fact, closes the discussion and then there is nothing more to say.

Your brief line tells me nothing except what and how you feel about the matter. I understand the feeling but that’s not the question that I tried to deal with in this essay.I do sincerely welcome reasoned disagreement but not summary judgment. That unfortunately is all too common on Sikh sites.

Kamalla Kaur:

Dear Inder Singh,

"I think you are missing the main point, and that you are also wrong. :D "

I am so sorry IJ Singh, I was making a joke. Even added a smiley face!

I had a point, but it was VERY obvious - to me and x-members particularly - but it didn't work in my prose to make light of it just because it is obvious. Again, forgive my clumsy humor.

Let me try again. Our fourteen years of experience as activists is that followers and x-followers of Bhajanism can talk and write for years and years with little impact.

But articles like your article on Deras and Babas comes along (or that academic journal dedicated to Bhajanism, or news articles by Sikhs and nonSikhs get written) and it HUGELY advances our cause - simple by telling the truth. Again, you are not a member or X-member but you have made a HUGE difference already in impacting Sikhs on our behalf. Much more than anything we have done.

So our disagreement is only that you think followers and X-followers need to work it out, and we think it is getting the TRUTH out that matters most. You did/do that great, thus we are grateful, of course.

Frankly many former students of Yogi Bhajan might simply give up, but we aren't going to stop trying to help the 2nd and 3rd Generation Bhajanists who were so terrible abused, so we "keep up" and slog on.

IJ Singh:

Thank you kamalla for such a generous, kind and prompt note.

Although I say that "it is for the followers or ex-followers ....." this is for two reasons:

1. I know somethings but am not really privy to the details -- I have not researched that thoroughly. I have not lived that life,

2. More importantly I believe that rather than make enemies we need to communicate with each other -- the Bhajanites and the non-Bhajanites. But I think I point to some failures of Yogi Bhajan as well and quite frankly so. I mean a comparison with the mad monk Rasputin is hardly complimentary. But there are matters that only the Bhajanites (present or ex) can face and lay out.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Sikh world (largely of non-Bhajanites) needs to have a conversation about. And I want to promote that. You see I am not an acolyte of any man.

So I don't mind if you post something of mine; in fact I am most appreciative. Sometimes bouquets come, other times it is brickbats. But such is life and I am grateful.

Thank you and all the best

I.J. Singh

PostPosted: Tue Sep 29, 2015 10:56 pm 
Thanks to the work of Dr. Doris Jakobsh, Wetern academics are classifying Bhajanism as a "New Religious Movement" as distinct from mainstream Sikhi.

3HO/SD of the Western Hemisphere - Dr. Doris Jakobsh

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