By Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa
Thirty-four years ago, when I first heard Yogi Bhajan speak of his vision of creating the 3HO Foundation, a “Healthy, Happy, Holy” Organization, I didn’t like the word “holy.” It sounded too churchy to me. Holy? I thought: sanctimonious, holier than thou, bor—ing! Of course, that’s not what he meant at all.
Fortunately, I kept listening. He explained, “If you’re holy, you don’t do to anyone what you don’t want them to do to you.” So far, so good—the Golden Rule. Then he added that to be holy also means that you receive each inhalation gratefully, aware that it is God’s gift to you. Wow. Having that consciousness is a big order. It would require amazing focus to actually be aware of each incoming breath, but what a profound impact the acceptance of such a concept would have on our lives. Such a belief might cause us to be a lot more careful how we use each breath. We might change how we talk to one another. We might choose our words more thoughtfully. We might decide our actions with the thought in mind that God is living and breathing in us 24/7.
It is a fact; we are born as spiritual beings. That is our true identity. We just don’t realize it; we have forgotten our source. We don’t consider that all things come from God, and all things—including us—shall return to God.
Meanwhile, we visit Earth so we can balance out our karmic debts, learn specific lessons, and consciously connect with the spirit that is already within us. To achieve this Divine union is the highest goal of human life. This state of yoga, or union, can only be attained while in a human body, and so it is said that the very angels envy us our human birth.
We travel through time and space in physical vehicles that we have earned by our past actions. Karma also determines the mental bodies we are issued to serve us while we’re here. Just as most physical bodies are less than perfect, similarly, our mental bodies can use some repair—and they definitely need daily maintenance. That’s why a consistent daily spiritual practice, sadhana, is so essential.
If we’re already spiritual beings, what does “spirituality” mean? I think it means how we express that spirit. If we act from the premise that God really does see through our eyes, hear through our ears, and speak through our mouths, we naturally will be kind to everyone, no matter who they are. We will love everyone, in the highest sense of the word, and have compassion for all of humankind. Yogi Bhajan says, “If you can’t see God in all, you can’t see God at all.”
Spirituality surely means practicing the Golden Rule and making our choices and deciding our actions by considering whether they will bring us closer to spirit or take us farther away. The ability to decide our actions, to act rather than just react like robots, requires that we are not ruled by our emotions. It means we are in control of ourselves. And such yogic self-control makes us holy. “Holy is someone who controls what goes in and out of his or her nine holes.” Yogi Bhajan went on to describe a yogi as someone who is “not affected by the pairs of opposites.” Another challenge! How many of us can remain equally unmoved, calm and undisturbed, in the face of praise or blame, applause or insult? He never defined a yogi as someone simply having a flexible spine.
More and more people these days practice yoga, a lot of them just for the physical benefits. But many understand its deeper purpose, and they also chant and meditate to enhance their experience of spirit. Some go to churches, temples, synagogues, or mosques seeking spiritual fulfillment through religion. But religion and spirituality are not necessarily synonymous. Ritual with consciousness can be inspiring and uplifting, but ritual and dogma devoid of spirit are ineffective—or worse. Wars have been fought in the name of religion, atrocities have been perpetrated on innocent victims in the name of religion, but never has spirituality caused damage to anyone.
Every thought, every word, is a pebble dropped in the ocean of human consciousness. When you drop a pebble in a pond, it creates ripples; concentric vibrations emanate from that one action and move the surrounding waters. The thoughts and words of some souls have caused huge waves of change in humanity. Social change comes about when enough individuals share the same thoughts, espouse the same goals, and actively participate in means to achieve them. Everything starts with a thought.
Martin Luther King, Jr. had a thought. He called it a dream. Mahatma Gandhi, the 10 Sikh Gurus, Buddha, Mohammed, Moses, Jesus the Christ, Martin Luther, Annie Besant—each had a thought. They are only a few of those throughout history who connected with their inner truth with such power and authority that many thousands of other individuals supported their efforts and worked together to improve the human condition. The thoughts and actions of individuals such as Susan B. Anthony, Margaret Sanger, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Rosa Parks made sweeping changes in society.
According to Cultural Creatives, there are over 50 million individuals who are changing the world through shared values, aspirations, and lifestyles.
From sweatshops and child labor to profit-sharing and minimum wage laws, from top-down management to team networking, we’ve come a long way in the last 100 years, but not nearly far enough. “Man’s inhumanity to man” must come to an end. Racism, spousal abuse, sexual exploitation, religious persecution, corruption in business and politics have not disappeared, but more and more such degrading conditions are being brought to light—and are not being tolerated. As we move toward the Aquarian Age, “nothing can remain hidden.”
Whatever we have done in the past has brought us to this point in time. Our future depends upon what we do from this moment forward. As individuals, we can choose at any given moment to live in the light of spirit—or not. When we look to the pure light within, we will come out of the shadows. It only takes one lighthouse to guide many ships through dangerous waters to safety. Never underestimate your power as an individual to influence the course of history.
“Lives of great men all remind us, we can make our lives sublime, and departing leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time.”
I try to remember one of Yogi Bhajan’s first lessons, “Value your breath; it is your life.”
Inhaling Sat, exhaling Nam, we acknowledge and honor our spirituality. Respiration brings inspiration, which leads to aspiration. And it is aspiration coupled with determination that has brought about social change, and God willing, shall continue to do so until, as Gene Roddenberry envisioned, “There will be no poverty, no war, no greed, and all the children will know how to read.”
May God bless us to make this a better world for our having lived and breathed on it. Sat Nam.
Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa was Yogi Bhajan’s first student in the United States. She has been teaching Kundalini Yoga since 1969. She is the author of Kundalini Yoga: The Flow of Eternal Power; Kundalini Postures and Poetry; and Marriage on the Spiritual Path: Mastering the Highest Yoga. She is a frequent movie-goer in the City of Angels.
 Cultural Creatives, by Paul H. Ray, Ph.D., and Sherry Ruth Anderson, Ph.D.; Three Rivers Press; New York.
 From Man Was Made to Mourn: A Dirge, by Robert Burns.
 Yogi Bhajan
 From A Psalm for Life, by H.W. Longfellow.
 The Bij Mantra: Sat=Truth; Nam=Identity. (Breathe only through the nose.) Sat Nam rhymes with “But mom.”
 Creator of Star Trek (as quoted by Jonathan Frakes, a cast member, recalling Roddenberry’s words).