Harbhajan Singh Puri, known to his devoted followers as “Yogi Bhajan,” is dead at 75, reports the Times of India.

A former customs agent in New Delhi, Bhajan emigrated to the United Stated from India through Canada during the 1970s guru craze. He eventually became a Los Angeles yoga teacher and ultimately formed a religious group known as “3HO” (The “Happy, Holy, Healthy Organization”).

Like other pop gurus Bhajan had his share of celebrity followers.

3HO has been linked to singers Courtney Love and Seal. And a popular LA yoga teacher and 3HO member attracted celebrity students such as Madonna, Rosanna Arquette, Melissa Etheridge, Cindy Crawford, David Duchovny and Sherilyn Fenn.

However, despite its name 3HO had many unhappy former followers and ironically the guru that claimed his yoga made its adherents healthy, was plagued by perpetual illnesses and died from heart disease.

Bhajan also had a history of allegations regarding rather unholy sexual misconduct.

He was repeatedly accused of exploiting female devotees and once sued by his personal secretary for “assault and battery.” The case was later quietly settled out of court.

Yogi Bhajan’s followers preferred to address him as “Siri Singh Sahib,” but he was also known as a “cult leader” and once compared to Rev. Moon founder of the Unification Church.

Prominent sociologist and Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Offshe said in an affidavit that 3HO “exhibits characteristics common to cult organizations.”

The self-proclaimed “world Sikh leader” actually ruled over a relatively small religious following composed primarily of Americans and situated largely in New Mexico, Arizona and California within small insular communities.

Bhajan’s faithful were known for their yoga, vegetarian diet and white dress code.

In India, Sikhs allow democratic elections of priests and oppose personality cults. Yoga has no part in Sikhism, and India’s Sikhs are known to be meat eaters and often wear colorful garments.

Despite a historic rift between mainline Sikhs and Bhajan’s American disciples an Indian Sikh leader eulogized the alleged “cult leader” as “a tech-savvy new age guru” who propogated “the message of Sikism,” reports Indo-Asian News Service.

Bhajan’s religious compound near Espanola, New Mexico experienced an exodus of members in 1985 and 3HO today appears to be an aging and dwindling group.

Nevertheless New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson declared, “Yogi Bhajan a leader in the Sikh community nationally and internationally…[and]…a great friend of New Mexico” reported The Albuquerque Journal.

Richardson benefited politically from 3HO support and its members made substantial campaign contributions.

The governor has ordered flags throughout the state to be flown at half-mast for two days to honor Yogi Bhajan.

Perhaps Gov. Richardson overlooked these prophetic words of Bhajan who once told his followers, “Your dead bodies will lie on these roads, your children will be orphans, and nobody will kick them, rather, people will eat them alive! There will be tremendous insanity. That is the time we are going to face.”

He concluded, “So you have two choices: be a Sikh, or a sick.”

Hardly the thoughts of a benign spiritual leader and “friend.”

Bhajan was a relentless self-promoter and his multi-million dollar business empire is likely to be his most enduring legacy.

The web of corporate holdings he once controlled includes Akal Security, a company responsible for $1 billion dollars in US government contracts, according to a recent article run in the New York Times.

How could “homeland security” be in any way dependent upon a company linked to an alleged “cult,” which also has a closely related history of criminal indictments regarding one of its past and most prominent leaders?

Yogi Bhajan’s trusted subordinate, Gurujot Singh Khalsa (AKA Robert Alwin Taylor), was convicted for conspiracy to import marijuana, racketeering and money laundering. He also attempted to obtain illegal weapons.

Ironically, while Gurujot served time in a federal prison Akal Security began to turn a profit for Yogi Bhajan and his 3HO followers, largely through federal contracts.

The legacy of loot left behind by Bhajan is considerable and no doubt his surviving family will live comfortably.

Somewhat uncomfortable though is the thought of Akal as part of America’s “homeland security” and a US governor pandering to a purported “cult” by memorializing a man many considered little more than a megalomaniac.

Note: New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson later declared October 23rd officially “Yogi Bhajan Memorial Day.”


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