Guru Singh Recalls a Decision that Changed His Destiny
What is that?” I heard a huge voice behind me asking, as I sanded an antique Thonet bentwood chair.
I turned to see Yogi Bhajan, my new teacher, towering over me with a most inquisitive stare.
“It’s my turban, Sir,” I responded with great enthusiasm.
It was actually a scarf that I’d managed to wrap enough times around my head, so as to capture all the curls of my unmanageable hair into one well-mannered clump.
“Why you’re doing that?” he continued to question.
“To be like you,” I replied, surprising even myself. “I want what you have.”
“Wow!” he said with a huge grin, “For you to cap an ego like that, it’s really something. Let’s see what it brings.”
He was right. This was huge for me. As a professional musician, my mountain of long curly hair was an identity; it was part of my personal and professional image. To cap and wrap it under a turban had been very impulsive, but also a bit courageous. After all, Warner Bros. Reprise Records had me under contract and I was hearing talk about being the next Dylan/Donovan.
So how then did I become Yogi Bhajan’s first student to tie a turban? I initially tied it to stop lacquer spray and sawdust from creating cement in my hair, and Yogi Bhajan was the reason I was working on that chair.
A few weeks earlier, just a month after starting yoga, I had attended a birthday party for Jules Buccieri, who owned the antique store where 3HO began. Yogi Bhajan needed a place to teach Kundalini Yoga in Los Angeles in January 1969—Jules offered his store. When it was time for class (before and after store hours), we would empty the furniture into the parking lot and do yoga on the antique Persian rugs.
That night at the party, Yogi Bhajan asked me where it was that I worked and I told him proudly that I didn’t. I was a musician.
“That’s very well,” he said to me, “but you need to learn to work too.”
I looked back with disbelief. This was the teacher who appeared in my life after I spent nine months in the Mexican wilderness with an indigenous Shaman. This was the teacher who the Shaman told me I would meet. He said to go and find the “Great One!” And now this “Great One” was telling me to get a job?
“If you want to understand the teachings, you’ll have to understand the students,” Yogi Bhajan smiled. “Most students aren’t musicians, they work; they have jobs.”
He laughed and turned to Jules Buccieri. “Hire this ‘music-man’ on the spot,” he said, and I began sanding and painting antiques the very next day.
That was the beginning of a journey, now thirty-six years in the making; a journey of creating a teacher, minister, husband and father, out of a musician, who now uses music to teach.
Once I discovered how a turban made me feel, the reasons quickly changed from protecting my hair, to connecting my brain. I found the turban that wrapped and held my head, both focused and calmed my mind. I was a different person with it on.
A long time has passed since the initial dust and spray, the surprising bonus of focus and calm. What really made me tie that turban were faith, trust, and admiration for a teacher. What’s resulted from it has been monumental.
Years later, Yogi Bhajan says to me, “We had no idea, did we Guru Singh, where tying a turban was going to lead?”
“Not at all,” I answer.
In January of 1969, after meeting Yogi Bhajan, he began his daily Kundalini Yoga practice. He was the first Westerner to wear the turban, and began accompanying the Master as he taught at Universities, lecture halls, spiritual centers and Sikh Gurdwaras around the world.
As chairman of the International Council of Sikh Ministers, Guru Singh has worked with spiritual and religious leaders of nearly every faith, working to connect diverse communities around the world. His extensive music background and knowledge of Sahaj Shabad (sound) therapy enables him to offer a unique approach to counseling, restoring the natural human physical, mental and emotional harmonies through meditation and applied sound.
Guru Singh has recorded a number of CDs, some of which are not currently available. His revolutionary and still very popular Game of Chants, a collaboration with his good friends GuruGanesha Singh, Thomas Barquee and Seal, was an early and very successful attempt to launch a new musical genre of “Spirit Rock”.
Anyone who has attended the annual Summer Solstice Sadhana in New Mexico will know him from his (very) early morning wake-up song – “Rise Up” – (also included in Game of Chants), as he serenades one and all with his guitar.
Guru Singh is a third generation yogi and teacher of Humanology and the Kundalini Yoga Experience. He is a musician, composer, author and a Minister of Sikh Dharma, with a Doctorate of Divinity. He is one of the Founding Directors of the Miri Piri Academy, an international elementary through high school in Amritsar, India, where students from around the world benefit from an academic curriculum delivered with a spiritual-global focus.
Members of his family lived in India in the early 20th Century. His great aunt studied with Paramahansa Yogananda (Autobiography of a Yogi) and traveled with him to the US and served him until his passing in 1952. He was an early mentor for the young Guru Singh (born 1945) in his family home in Seattle. A devoted family man, he has bases in Los Angeles, Seattle and India, and teaches around the world with his wife. They have 2 children and grandchildren. Visit GuruSingh.com for more information about him.