Bana - The SD/3HO Dress Code

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Archivist1

Bana - The SD/3HO Dress Code

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From "Graceful Women; Gender and Identity in an American Sikh Community"
by Dr. Constance Elsberg, page 171:

Bana

Originally, SD/3HO members wore a variety of clothing styles, which varied from ashram to ashram. Early on, Yogi Bhajan suggested that white was an ideal color choice because the "vibrations" were pure and distinctive white dress would draw attention to members, and thus to the guidance and service they could render. So more and more members began to dress in white, or at least in light colors. Soon turbans and standard dress were introduced, and with Sikhism came the vow to keep the "five K's."

(3HO/Sikh Dharma) members have found various ways of fitting such (bana) practices into their own frames of reference. Sometimes they do so easily and lightly, an attitude captured in the phrase "White is fun to wear."

Sometimes a woman cheerfully admits her conformity to group norms:

"I didn't feel like I had to wear a turban and I didn't feel like I had to wear all white, but because everyone else is doing it, that is what you do. But you try to find out the underlying reasons why we cover our heads and why we do this and that, but still it's kind of vague sometimes."

Others have to work harder at finding an acceptable interpretation:

"Everyone started wearing white. It was Yogiji's idea to wear white. I didn't wear white because I had two kids - two very active boys- and I said, 'This is ridiculous."...Well, just about then was the first Women's Camp...I was willing to try what they were saying...The thing that got me - you can always get me if you come at me from a scientific standpoint- was the vibration of the color...I said, 'Okay, I'll try wearing only white while I'm there...I felt better in light colors."


Here is a typical case of an individual who is not eager to adopt a group norm but who does want the satisfaction of group belonging and shared beliefs. She holds out for some time until she finds a reason for conforming that is congruent with her self-image or her belief system. In this case, the woman speaking prided herself on being an intellectual, and when faced with a "scientific" explanation for the custom, she was willing to give it a try.

She also acted in accordance with two other 3HO norms: willingness to experiment and readiness to experience heightened sensitivity. Not all 3HO people say they can feel the physical effects of wearing white, but many do, and a belief in such effects and in the desirability of feeling them is widespread.

Another (3HO) member who had wearied of dating and wanted to be spared men's advances, emphasized the modesty aspects of wearing bana:

"I think the spiritual robe is something very nice, something very special. When you put it on, it is like you dress for God. You don't dress to be sexy, those kinds of things."

Hers is another example of a woman adapting a new practice to a preexisting frame.

At first, only men wore turbans. Yogi Bhajan said that the turban would channel and conserve men's energy and protect him from stress and confusion. Later women began "tying a turban."

SD/3HO tradition has it that Premka, then Yogi Bhajan's secretary, first tried one on for fun. He saw it, liked it, praised it, and so other women began to imitate her.

Archivist1

Re: Bana - The SD/3HO Dress Code

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From: IprayzGod 7/25/04

'Early on, Yogi Bhajan suggested that white was an ideal color choice because the "vibrations" were pure and distinctive white dress would draw attention to members, and thus to the guidance and service they could render.'

Early on, he also said wearing white would 'raise one's awareness and consciousness', as a person would be more aware of where they sat or leaned...probably just wanted to get people out of jeans and tie=dyes.

From: RoseLotus1

Yes, after reading "Graceful Women" I am now quite sure that Yogi Bhajan did not like hippies and he was out to literally reform us, we were so screwed up and all. His secretaries back then, according to Dr. Mike and others were all helmet heads; teased hairsprayed poofy doos. And Premka was Jackie O, all the way, raised to be the consort of James Bond or the like. According to her, she never even considered doing anything beyond slavishly serving men and male dominated organizations until she had been out of 3HO for a decade. She completely missed the hippie thing and the feminist thing; until she got into the Goddess Movement thing in the late 80s and early 90s.

And yes, Yogi Bhajan was playing to a Sikh audience, turning those horrible dirty hippies into Khalsa! That must have appeared a miracle at the time!


From: Aliveandwel1 7/25/04

Two of his sayings: Go from hippie to happy, and go from Woodstock to Steelstock. He was from the wrong generation but pretended to understand in order to manipulate.


Also YB wanted to separate us from society. I wonder if white is the death color in India? Many yoga groups do wear it though for purity or meditation. He spoke of being dead while alive or giving our heads. I wonder if the symbolism of it really may have meant something to him.

Archivist1

Re: Bana - The SD/3HO Dress Code

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From "Graceful Women, Gender and Identity in an American Sikh Community"
by Dr. Constance Elsberg

page 172-174

As with the color white, there are beliefs about the effects of wearing a turban. Here is one version from a Washington DC woman;

"Only the men were wearing turbans...I told one of the men, I said,'I'm going to teach a yoga class tonight and I want to wear a turban. Can you lend me some material?' So he lent me some material and I tied the thing on my head, and it looked really weird. But I put it on and it felt really good...I just couldn't believe how different I felt. I felt really centered and I felt this energy just like all in my top chakras."

Here is justification based on feelings and on the "sensitivity" that is expected to rise as members meditate and progress along the spiritual path.

While many people on the East Coast thought bana was "fun", or energizing, a number of people on the West Coast evidently rebelled at the prospect of wearing a turban. Even in the East it can still be a source of discomfort and contention. (SD/3HO) members have experienced job discrimination because of the practice, and it can create social distance at work and in the community. Children have been teased for wearing turbans to public schools, and 3HO people are subject to ridicule and stray comments when they wear bana on the streets:

"Getting used to wearing the clothes, letting my hair grow...looking different was hard for me...It still bothers me sometimes. I'll be walking down the street and someone will say 'Hey turban head,'or something less reverent than that; but it is not as bad as it used to be."

Such stray comments were particularly difficult during the Gulf War(s), when many people seemed to have unaccountable associated the (SD/3HO) distinctive dress with Iraq.

When asked why she bothered with bana, given all the complications it added to her life, the woman cited above replied:

"It's the relationship you have with your teacher...These are the things that he has put down and that's it...I've gone out before, had my feelers out there, felt what it is like to dress in street clothes, and shave and live like that. It does affect my consciousness. I found myself living on a lower rung, so to speak, spiritually, when I was out there."

Without the bana, she said, she felt like Samson without his hair. In SD/3HO clothing and consciousness are closely bound, and bana has been interwoven with her sense of identity and her feelings of independence from the larger culture. She is inclined to talk about the "muck and mire" in the larger world and her struggles to avoid it. Bana is a useful symbolic marker separating her from what she sees as the outside world's dangers and temptations.

The SD/3HO concern with clothing and its effects can be viewed as an extension of the countercultural emphasis on the symbolic properties of dress. Writing about a different group -the Amish- Kraybill (1989) notes the "symbolization of core values" which one often finds in such groups. This symbolization is evident in 3HO where bana encapsulates Sikh values and organizational boundaries. Whether her initial response to wearing bana is eagerness or reluctance, whether the practice is justified in intuitive or ultilitarian terms, a 3HO woman who regularly wears the turban and other items of clothing is reminded daily of her group membership in a concrete, and kinesthetic way.

A central image in SD/3HO is that of union with God. "God is sort of where everything is all right." said one (SD/3HO) woman. "I always have an image of a bright light and of all being in union with the light, which is a really common image, but it's sort of like where I feel all the anxieties, all the tensions, all the cares, all the worries stop; and they stop just because you are united with your creator. I'm part of God and I don't realize it fully, and that's where all the tensions, and anxieties and the anquish come from."

For the speaker, "union" represents serenity, trust in herself, and belief in the ultimate goodness of the universe. It implies a self that is free of internal conflict. It is a self in tune with its surroundings, a self that acts on the world but is not motivated by ego or will. Oneness with God, in SD/3HO accounts, sometimes seems to also be equated with an easing of the pangs of individuation and the difficulties of living with multiple perspectives and roles. It represents an alignment of external and internal presentations of self.

Its (union's) opposite is separation from God. One woman's description of alternating merger and separation from God captures both the desired and feared states of mind:

"I might have a couple of weeks when I'm feeling unplugged. I just can't feel God inside me, and I'm being short-tempered and over-eating, and I'm not loving myself, and then I'll kind of hit bottom...fall at my altar and say, 'OK God, I give up.'...Then, you know, I realize, 'Oh this is part of God's plan. I'm meant to give up. I am meant to realize that by myself I can't affect change and I just surrender to the part of me that already knows that everything is all right.' So then I have a couple of weeks of just cruising, doing what I need to do and feeling happy."

(SD/3HO) members try to find a way of approaching everday life that allows them to regularly experience this kind of "cruising." One woman describes her effort:

"The bottom line is always making God your focus twenty-four hours a day...I have a long way to go but I try to...It used to be me doing everything; now it's more me doing it through the presence of God...I have to keep bringing myself back to it, just really having those few moments of absolute connection with God that I have now to be constant, to be totally through me, so when I go to work it doesn't just disappear, or when I step in a car I don't think of other things. I mean I step out of Gurdwara and my mind goes right to the movies."

Archivist1

Re: Bana - The SD/3HO Dress Code

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From: Aliveandwel1 7/27/04

And if you read the early lectures, he figured it out. While at an airport I think, he proclaimed himself some important spiritual teacher when he wasn't being treated well at customs, and someone said to him that he didn't look like one....So the outfit was invented. This is a paraphrase of course. From then on though he kept saying that if you wanted to be treated as an important spiritual person you have to dress like one.

From: IprayzGod 7/30/04

'kept saying that if you wanted to be treated as an important spiritual person you have to dress like one'

Kind of like merinque on lemon merinque pie: it looks solid, but it is nothing but puffed up air.

From: RoseLotus1 7/26/04

"But I put it on and it felt really good...I just couldn't believe how different I felt. I felt really centered and I felt this energy just like all in my top chakras."


After leaving 3HO/Sikh Dharma and studying theater, the above comment seems so absurd to me. Of couse, being cast into a dramatic and powerful part (saint, spiritual teacher, kundalini yogi, tantra-mystic, or Khalsa) and donning an exotic costume for that role, and performing that role in public makes you "feel" different. Dress a woman up like Queen Elizabeth, right down to the last ruff and diamond, and who is surprised when she says, "Wow I really feel like I could rule all England!"

From: IprayzGod 7/27/04

Well, if you are just a customs inspector and want to get alot of people to believe you are a Master Yogi, the thing to do was have a special outfit...like Maharishi, etc. Fake it to make it and all....

Archivist1

Re: Bana - The SD/3HO Dress Code

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From: dharm18 8/3/04

Dont forget white expands your aura by (3 ?) feet...

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