Yogi Bhajan often spoke about the different teachers he studied with. Teachers of yoga, meditation, and dharma presented themselves as he passed through the phases of life and he studied with all of them. But there was one man who changed and directed Yogi Bhajan’s life like no other – Sant Hazara Singh.
Not much is known about Sant Hazara Singh as historical information is difficult to find around the tumultuous time of Indian independence. However, earlier this year I had a chance meeting with Sant Hazara Singh’s grandson, Karanbir Singh Chhina, who lives near Chandigarh, India. Through our discussions, I learned a lot more about this venerable personage.
Sant Hazara Singh Chhina was of the Baba Bidhi Chand Chhina lineage and grew up in Sursingh Sahib, the historical village of Dal Baba Bidhi Chand south of Amritsar. Baba Bidhi Chand was a great hero in the Sikh tradition and a devoted servant of Guru Hargobind Sahib. He is best remembered for his daring acts of bravery returning two beautiful stallions to Guru Hargobind, Gulbag and Dilbag, that had been stolen by the Mughals. It is written that Guru Hargobind declared, “Bidhi Chand Chhina Guru Ka Seena!” This means, “Bidhi Chand Chhina is the heart of the Guru.”
Sant Hazara Singh grew up in Sursingh Sahib, and was student and sevadar of the great Sant Baba Sohan Singh ji, the 10th leader of Dal Baba Bidhi Chand. He was so devoted that he made his bed on the floor under Babaji’s cot in case he needed something in the night. The young Hazara Singh served him without fail. Growing to maturity in that environment, Sant Hazara Singh became a childhood friend of the late Sant Baba Daya Singh, son of Baba Sohan Singh and to become the 11th leader of Dal Baba Bidhi Chand.
When he was of age, Baba Sohan Singh sent Sant Hazara Singh to Gujranwala to set up his own takhsal (teaching center). It was here from Sant Hazara Singh that young Harbhajan Singh first studied what we now know as Kundalini Yoga. Yogi Bhajan often spoke of his teacher with devoted respect and speechless awe.
“Do you know that I still do not recognize the face of my grandfather and my teacher? I never ever looked up at their face, but I can accurately draw their feet. It is a state of consciousness, not what you know or what I know.” July 16, 1981
Yogi Bhajan was a faithful student of Sant Hazara Singh throughout his school years. Not only did Sant ji teach him many of the kriyas that we practice today, but also the essence of Sikh Dharma, including its history and martial arts. Yogiji often told amazing stories of Sant Hazara Singh, giving us a glimpse of what that life must have been like. In 1995, he said at Khalsa Women’s Training Camp in Espanola,
“I went through a very tough teacher…He brought out of me, not the man, not the godly man, not the great man, but a real human. There’s nothing in the world I can pay to him in tributes, in compliments, and in thanks. He did the most wonderful job. I used to say I was a nut, but he tightened all my nuts so good that I became the best. And that’s why [I say that] calamity is my breakfast, tragedy is my lunch, and treachery is my supper… What else do you want after this? Is there anything else which can bother you? If you can eat all these three things and digest them, you are the best person.” July 4, 1995
India at that time was under British occupation, and many Sikhs were agitating for a free and independent nation. In 1934, most of the Buddha Dal, the warrior Sikhs, were imprisoned by the British in Lahore. Baba Sohan Singh went there with his people to serve food and take care of their needs during internment. One can only imagine how Sant Hazara Singh longed to be with his teacher in service at this time, and it is likely that he was often gone to be with Babaji. So, the demands of the time often interrupted Yogi Bhajan’s training.
Finally, around 1945, Sant Hazara Singh called his students individually to his room for a finale audience. Yogi Bhajan told us how apprehensive the young Harbhajan Singh, now a teenager, was about that meeting. On one hand, it was electrifying to be called to Sant ji’s room for a private meeting, but on the other hand, it could have easily been something very confrontational and unpleasant! To the future Siri Singh Sahib’s surprise, Sant Hazara Singh said that he was leaving for good and that Harbhajan Singh, 16 years old at the time, was now a master of Kundalini yoga. He also told him at that meeting, that Harbhajan would never again see the face of his teacher.
Sant Hazara Singh left Gujranwala for the service of Baba Sohan Singh, and was arrested by the British shortly thereafter. He spent several hard years in jail in Lahore. When the political prisoners were freed after India gained her independence in 1947, he returned once again to Sursingh, his childhood home. From there he moved to Doraha and then to the village of Sanaur where his descendants live today.
Yogi Bhajan never lost his love for his teacher. When he was posted to Amritsar in the 1960’s, he sent word to Sant Hazara Singh humbly requesting permission to see him. But true to his word, Sant Hazara Singh denied the request and Yogi Bhajan never saw the face of his teacher again. Sant Hazara Singh passed away in 1972.