On Lifestyle and Autonomy

Many Kundalini Yoga students came across Yogi Bhajan during the last years of his life when he was very infirm and didn’t speak in public as much. Most of his teaching was remote, via pre-recorded, and pretty old, videotape. For the Kundalini Yoga students who never had the pleasure to meet Yogi Bhajan, I can only imagine they have canonized him, but I do find it difficult to see how anyone could sit through his cryptic and nonsensical lectures, where most of the time there was nary a complete sentence uttered.

Not long ago, but before he died in 2004, I was in Española, attending a friend’s wedding. My mother wanted me to say hello to him so I reluctantly went up to him. He said “I know you”. Well, that was sort of the way it always was – people would tell me how much he cared about each and every child in 3HO, but half the time, we were treated as total strangers, and I’m not even sure him or his wife, or his staff, knew our names! But he also said it as if he was still exerting some form of control, as if he was saying that although I’ve removed the turban, my “disguise” hadn’t really worked (he often called normal attire and cut hair a disguise).

That’s when I witnessed someone approach him and literally BOW to him and kiss his feet. We were always instructed as kids to touch his feet when he passed – but never to “worship” – well what I saw that day was pure worship, and he did not refuse. For the majority of my life, he was more royalty than what he claimed to be as “one of us”. He wore a white robe, often of ostentatious fabrics like damask silk or ornately quilted silks and he wore huge jewels. Sometimes he even wore fur, which was puzzling to me as a kid who was being raised, under his edict, to be a vegetarian. When I asked my mom why he wore fur, she told me he had blessed the animal who sacrificed its life and granted its soul liberation.

although the educated side of me knows how the system for recruiting new members into a cult works, it’s still beyond me how anyone could fall for it – when the hypocrisy is right in front of our faces. The less rational side (or maybe the more rational side) remains baffled, probably because I’ve developed a high level of skepticism.

Bottom line, is Kundalini Yoga (the 3HO stuff) is just this: heavy breathing, calisthenics and modified asanas and chanting. There’s nothing to disprove that breath and movement make one feel better, so I think new recruits are willing to take the chanting as sort of a package deal. But what they may not see is that it’s the package deal that’s the biggest hoax on the practitioner. It’s reeling them in, forcing edicts and dogmas as lifestyle.

Lifestyle is what you make of your own life. How can a set of prescribed dogmas be likened at all as lifestyle! Autonomy cannot be underscored more here!