Whether practitioners of the teachings of Kundalini Yoga, Sikh Dharma, or both, many students and seekers ask the question, “What is the relationship between Kundalini Yoga and Sikhi?”
One easy answer is that Yogi Bhajan brought this yoga to us and he was a Sikh. It feels natural for many to follow both jewels he offered, as the sound current of Gurbani carries much of the Kundalini Yoga experience. However, you do not have to be a Sikh to be a Kundalini yogi, nor do you have to be a yogi to be a Sikh. According to the teachings of Yogi Amandeep, who lovingly delivers stories from the Suraj Prakash Granth by Bhai Santokh Singh, there is a deep relationship between Sikh Dharma and yoga that is really neither simple nor direct.
Guru Nanak – the father of Sikhism
Guru Nanak was the first Guru. The Sikh path flowered from his spiritual expansion. He was born with a special spiritual inclination that rejected empty rituals, and he sought to become the man of God he was born to be. He traveled far and wide by foot and communed with many men of God. He was revered by the Buddhists as Lama Nanak, Rinpoche Nanak, or Bandra Nana. Sufis claimed him as Baba Nanak Shah. Muslims called him Phir Baba Nanak. He went to Mecca and was given a special robe inscribed with words from the Koran. Hindu scriptures wrote of the coming of Guru Nanak, and yogis called him Avdhut Nanak. ‘Avdhut’ means highest, one who has renounced everything. When the yogis retreated to the Himalayas during war, Guru Nanak told them to come down off the mountain. He taught that a true yogi is in service to humanity, and the 12 schools of yoga followed his call.
One day, Guru Nanak took off his chola and gave it to his eldest son, Baba Siri Chand, and told him to take care of the yogis. Baba Siri Chand went on to be the head of the Udasi clan, the yogic renunciates. Guru Nanak named Bhai Lehna, his humble student, to carry on the torch of the guruship as Guru Angad. So in this way, there were two sects which came from Guru Nanak: that of the renunciates (Udasi) and that of the householders (Sikhi).
Guru Ram Das – the father of Kundalini Yoga
Ties between the sects remained close, as each of the early Sikh gurus sent a son to be a yogic student under Baba Siri Chand. Baba Mohanji, son of Guru Amar Das (the third guru), became a yogic renunciate and was given two mantras of Guru Nanak’s that are still chanted in Kundalini Yoga today: Ong So Hung, and Ek Ong Kar Sat Nam Siri Wahe Guru.
Guru Ram Das, the fourth Sikh guru, offered his second son to join the Udasi sect. Baba Siri Chand, as a yogi and renunciate, never traveled to see the Gurus. But when he heard about Guru Ram Das, he traveled to Amritsar to visit him. As a yogic master, Baba Siri Chand did not age. He had no hair on his face and retained the body of a twelve-year-old. When he saw the all-powerful Guru Ram Das, he asked, “Why have you grown the beard so long?” (In other words, “Why did you choose to age?”) Guru Ram Das knelt down and swept Baba Siri Chand’s feet with his beard; a shocking gesture of humility coming from a Guru. Guru Ram Das said, “This is why I grow my beard, so I can wipe the feet of holy men like you.” Baba Siri Chand couldn’t believe the humility he witnessed before him. Baba Siri Chand said, “You have done the real yoga. You are king of all yogis. I bow at your feet, you hold the true throne of Raj Yog.” All the yogis that were under Baba Siri Chand bowed to Guru Ram Das. This is why it is said in the path of Kundalini that Guru Ram Das holds the throne of Raj Yoga – not because Guru Ram Das was a yogi as most understand a yogi to be, but it was deemed that he was the master of the truest and highest yogic state, marked by his humility and service.
Yogi Bhajan – teacher to the West
Yogi Bhajan was declared a master of yoga by Sant Hazara Singh at age sixteen, but it was not until he humbly served and cleaned the floors of the beloved Harimandir Sahib temple in Amritsar that he understood the essence of Raj Yog.
Yogi Bhajan chose to teach kundalini because it is a householder’s yoga – a yoga that allows one to reach the experience of a renunciate while remaining in the world, serving humanity. Yogi Bhajan also taught Sikh Dharma, and graced us with the transformational sounds of the Shabad Guru. In the practice of Kundalini Yoga, when we are not chanting out loud, we are often silently reverberating the mantra ‘Sat Nam,’ which is the second utterance of Guru Nanak after his enlightenment in the river as he composed what is now Jap Ji. Literally translated, Sat Nam means “truth is my name.” It reminds our soul of the one vibratory truth in the center of all Being.
Yogi Bhajan selflessly offered volumes of teachings on Kundalini Yoga and meditation, as well as the sacred path of Sikh Dharma. We are free to explore and feel what resonates with us the most. Only our hearts know what this is. Somewhere within this vast collection of teachings lie the tools to assist us in mastering our destiny. And the experience awaits to take us as deep as we are willing to go.