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Summary of Question:"3HO" and "Orthodox Sikhs": Is there a difference? (2 Replies)
Category:Sikh Practices
Date Posted:Tuesday, 8/24/1999 7:47 PM MDT

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa

Waheguru Ji i fathe,

I was reading an article on the 3HO Foundation and came across this sentence:

>The points of divergence between both groups deal with the practice of yoga, >baptism, practice of the five "k's", and health. Members of the Sikh Dharma: >3HO are given the choice but strongly encouraged to have a Sikh Baptism which >enable them to join the Khalsa. Once they are baptized, Sikh Dharma members are >required to strictly follow the five "k's".

What differences are there and why?

Sundeep Singh Shergill
[email protected]


Dear Sundeep Singh,

Although there are some very real differences between "us " and "them" there is not such a wide gap as you may believe. The obvious difference is that 3HO is a collection of people who have converted to sikhism. Actually there are many people in 3HO who did not convert but were born and raised as Sikhs. I count myself among them. There are also Sikhs that are of Indian Origin who are involved with 3HO. In order to understand the real differences I would have to explain to you the entire history of 3HO, a very involved process. There are many myths as to how it started, one person had the audacity to write in that 99% of 3HO sikhs were previously drug users. I can assure you that that is indeed a falsehood. 3HO started because the people who started it had an empty space in their lives. A constant question hanging over their heads, it had to do with morality, spirituality, rebelling, government and the current establishment of their times and how to cope. This lead them all on a quest for the right path, a spi

ritual path that would answer the emptiness of the society they lived in. They, all of them met Siri Singh Sahib Yogi Harbhajan Singh Ji and became his students. Along the way they began asking him aboujt the Sikh Dharma. He explained it to them, and some finding it to be the answer to their prayers and doubts, began to practice Sikhism. He guided them along teaching them the faith, and shortly thereafter 3HO was founded. These same people that converted to sikhism some thirty odd years ago are still practicing today, many are still around and some have moved on to other ways of life. The core of 3HO( Sikh Dharma of the Western Hemisphere: you will understand this as you get further into the answer) is based on the identityof Sikhism and the Teachings of Guru Nank Devji. Included is the ancient lifestyle of yoga. Yoga is used in our daily life as a way of maintaining our health. As I have just explained to you Yoga was they way that the people were introduced to even the concept of the Sikh religion, as befor

e they had probably never even had the opportunity to see a sikh before Yogiji. So as Yoga is good for your health and not harmful to you in any way we continue to practice it to this day, as apart of our lifestyle.
As the newly converted sikhs began to develop and broaden their spritual horizons and grow as young Sikh men and women, they had a voracious appetite to learn as much as they could. They learned about Amrit and the baptism of Guru Gobind Singh Ji into the fold of the Khalsa. Many took the Amrit and took on the surname Khalsa. They led the lives of the Amrit Dhari Sikh. There was a great amount of energy and enthusiasm involved in the process and path of the Sikh. 3HO was formed to teach people how to master themselves through the teachings of the Guru's, yoga and Yogiji's teachings ( which are based solely on living life to your highest potential as a human being). 3HO has gained momentum and is now a highly recognized teaching force and is active in helping people, reach their own spiritual and health goals. This is the mission of the people of 3HO. We are going to continue on this path of teaching and growing and learning, because there is still a great deal of darkness in the world and there are still mill

ions of people out there who are looking for a higher calling, a longing they have to belong to something real and substantial.

This is not neccesarily a radical difference between "us " & "them". You must understand that not everyone who is associated with 3HO is a sikh, many of them are students or teachers who have not become Sikhs or do not wish to be. There is another umbrella that we are under and it is called Sikh Dharma of the Western Hemisphere. This is the organization that the western Sikhs are truly a part of. It has just developed that way. Not every man or woman that joined 3HO has remained involved with it. There are many Sikhs here who do not teach Yoga or are not a part of the 3HO organization per se. We have people of all different professions from Doctors and Chiropractors to engineers and builders so on and so forth. So in a sense we are just like other Sikhs: we go to Gurdwara and we do Akhand Paath's and we do seva and we are a community. We happen to have some additional things we do as a part of life style rather than religion. The real difference between us is that we come from an entirely different culture. T

his is not a bad thing it just means that we may look at the same picture and see it different ways. We are, in truth all brothers with the same cause, that is to spread the word of Guru Nanak DevJi. The politics that go on and the infighting and the diorganization are all useless to us. We are at some point going to have to get over these obstacles and start acting as a unified group.

To tell you the truth Sundeep Ji I cannot give you a full discription of 3HO and the western Sikh Pschology in such an encapsulated way. If you were to ask another man what he thought you might hear it from a totally different angle, as everyone has their own reasons for doing what they do. And as you well know no two Sikhs can agree at least that is the usual case. I have tried my best in this short amount of time to answer your question. It was a hugely involved one, it covers so much ground. If you wish to know more, next time try to be a bit more specific and I would love to answer. Also if you feel like not everything was clear I will be happy to clarify. Ihope that this has answered your question to some degree. Thank You

Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa Wahe Guru Ji ki fateh

Reply #2
Dear Sundeep Singh ji,
Wahe Guru ji ka Khalsa, Wahe Guru ji ki fateh.
Good morning. I looked at the site you mentioned. I haven't studied all of the text hot-links, but in general (for an academic, intellectual presentation) I was rather impressed in the balance and neutrality of the tone and stated intent. The conclusion of the "Cult and Sect" section stated the following:

<Toward the end of promoting religious tolerance and appreciation of diversity, we encourage
the use of concepts that are free of implicitly negative stereotyping. In place of "cult" and "sect,"
we recommend concepts like "new religious movements," "religious movements," or, simply
"religious group." >

Having been in the academic world 35 years ago, I am also acutely aware of the limitations of any intellectual attempt to define or characterize spirituality. I was 12 hours of course work short of completing the requirements for a PhD (in philosophy, and phenomenology of language) when I left the whole process in 1967. Any effort such as this site (rooted in academic sociology) will always be limited by the insights of the "inside" reporters consulted. It will always be an "outside-in" analysis. In this case I know the individual who provided the information about 3HO, and he is highly qualified to make such observations. However, the comparative terminology of <orthodox Sikhs vis-a-vis 3HO> is, to me, clearly not derived from him. As Sikhs of the Guru who are born of non-Punjabi parents in a "western" culture, who came to discover and commit to the Sikh Dharma of Guru Nanak and Siri Guru Granth Sahib (to use very precise identifying features), we are very sensitive not to use such concepts or terminol
ogies. We, as those who teach yoga and meditation on a non-sectarian basis to literally millions of non-Sikhs and Sikhs alike throughout the world, cherish our spiritual roots within Sikh Dharma and would consider naming Sikhs of Punjabi origin as <orthodox> in distinction to <us>, we would regard that as a false and demeaning conceptualization for all concerned. My point is that, I suspect, in an intention to provide perspective to this information piece, the gatherers did speak to several Sikhs of Punjab origin who must have been somewhat familiar with 3HO, that this terminology was applied <about us> and not <by us>.

The subtleties of cross-cultural understanding cannot easily be captured in <objective> sociological, observational language. It really isn't bad information, as far as it goes, but it doesn't really represent the essential awareness, attitudes or perspectives of the <subjects> being spoken <about> (namely, us as members of the 3HO Foundation). In fact, to speak <about> a subjective person or entity is actually to <objectify the subjective> which is a contradiction and a conceptual violation of what <a person as subjective being> is in the first place. Only <intuition> can bring us to pure understanding of another subjective state. Intuition is aroused and grounded in <meditation> (simran). And, in my own vocabulary, another word for this form of intelligence is Love. A sociologist would define love as an emotional state that clouds the intellect, and thereby blocks intellectual understanding. In spiritual terms, as I would use them, intelligence and intellect are at the opposite ends of a spectrum. I
ntellect is simply a hodge-podge generator of objectified concepts and ideas. Intellect is not intelligent. It is up to Intelligence to make wise use of intellect. The adademic mind has never understood this. Poets do. Mystics do. Saints do. Lovers do. Even insane people know, painfully, the difference between the language of love and the language of intellect. That is a human dilemma. Guru Nanak gave us Nam and Nam Simran as a way for mastering all aspects of the word and the mind. So the Sikh is <capable> of bridging the mental gap between intelligence and intellect within a broader, spiritual understanding and experience. But academics generally don't recognize or honor the distinction at all. However, even younger students within academia hunger and thirst for something more than the professors can deliver intellectually. We offer 6 classes per week at the University of Oregon, here in Eugene, Oregon. Each one is filled to capacity with 50 students each. Every semester, every year, for 25
years. Some students take the yoga and meditation classes every semester of their 4 years in college as a way to cope and excel in the mental environment of academia. Other students drink alcohol, use drugs, have casual sex, or inspire themselves with dreams of money as a way to motivate their ways through undergraduate education. Yoga and meditation are much better by far as vehicles for education. I'm referencing only one university out of hundreds where we teach yoga classes (usually in the physical education department or as an extra-curricular activity). In some cases, yoga is taught more systematically as a for-credit course in non-traditional psychology, etc., according to the orientation and academic credentials of the instructor.

I'll conclude this e-mail by saying again that we teach yoga, we teach meditation, because the benefits of yoga and meditation are compassionate gifts to a humanity that suffers. As Sikhs we don't proselytize others to become Sikhs. As Sikhs we encourage everyone to live healthy and live up to their own spiritual ideals and religious values (if they have them). A few yoga students do decide that meditation has aroused their desire to go more deeply toward devotion, and some discover and become devoted to the Dharma of Siri Guru Granth Sahib. That is only Guru's Grace. It is not our agenda as Sikhs to induce religious conversion. We live at the current moment of a tradition of 530 years of Sikh Dharma since 1469, when Guru Nanak was born. Every Sikh between then and now (obviously, primarily Punjabi) we honor and respect as our elders, our spiritual ancestors, who have borne and carried Siri Guru Granth Sahib on their shoulders through holocaust, apocalypse and desolation, with radiance and smiles on th
eir faces by virtue of Cherdi Kalaa, down to the present day. We are nothing but the dust under the feet of those saints. Thus, by their sacrifice and by the Grace of the Guru, the Siri Guru Granth Sahib has come to our shores and our lands to bring uplift and Dharma to a self-destroying human race. We regard every one of those millions of saints, who arose in Punjab, with deep love and respect as our spiritual ancestors and benefactors. To assign such terminology to them as <orthodox> and us as <what? something special and more enlightened?> would be the worst act of arrogance and disrespect. It is true that many Sikhs today don't know about us, and some who know about us don't respect us. That is not our problem. We love them in return. Our connection and involvement with the Panth has not been long enough, perhaps, to have earned their respect. Let us review in another 500 years. Until then, we are a sacrifice to the dust of the feet of the Saints of the Guru. May all beings be blessed.

Krishna Singh Khalsa

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