This is a slightly controversial topic from my knowledge on this aspect of Kundalini Yoga. I can only write from my experience through my training at Yoga West and what I’ve learned thus far about the two traditions.
I will tell you first off that Kundalini Yoga is not a religion. It is not a cult. It is simply a technology of using your body and training your mind to be able to embody your Divinity on this planet.
Yogi Bhajan, the man who brought Kundalini Yoga to the West in the late 60’s, was from India. He was a practising Sikh throughout his lifetime, and many of the practices of Sikhism were infused into Kundalini Yoga. Many who practice Kundalini Yoga become Sikh from what I can tell.
“When I started teaching Kundalini Yoga, I also began to give people Sikh Dharma. I didn’t want people to be misled. I did not want to be a Sat Guru; neither am I, nor was I, nor shall I ever be. Many people grow in stature and then want to be worshipped in their personal identity rather than taking people to their own Infinite identity. Values must be taught with Kundalini Yoga…
…It is true that as a person grows naturally and organically they will end up with the consciousness of a Sikh – a student of Infinity who is humble, serves all, and brings consciousness into committed action.” ~ Page 50, Yogi Bhajan, The Aquarian Teacher Level One Instructor Textbook
From my understanding Yogi Bhajan wasn’t on a mission to convert people to Sikh dharma it was simply that many things in the Sikh traditions make sense from an energetic point of view and therefore as a way of life. Many of the teachings are drawn from the ten Sikh Gurus as we read through our text books we see this occurring over and over again.
This is something that was addressed in the first two weekends at KYTT by our teachers: there is a yoga technology given by Yogi Bhajan that works. Take what works. You do not have to be Sikh or convert to being Sikh. It is not a requirement to walk the path of the Kundalini Yogi.
At first I was like “oh I want to get rid of all the Sikh things” but now to be honest, I just take what resonates with me. At first I didn’t want to have the Sikh stuff because I didn’t come to the class searching for a new religion or anything like that. I just wanted the yoga.
Then I realized that much of what is incorporated are things that are simply about being a good person, being a good teacher, seeking for the Truth. Now I don’t filter as much because I’m not concerned with figuring out if this is Sikh or not. It just is about being a good person, being humble, and embodying Divinity.
Take what resonates and leave the rest.
Sikhism is like most religions in this world. It provides a way of life that connects you to the Divine and provides you with a path to Enlightenment. And that’s great. I love being a good person and learning more things that will help me become a better person and more in tune with my Divinity.
Sometimes I’ve noticed with Yogi B. that his teachings are really clear and crystalline. They feel like they adhere to the Universal teachings. Other times I feel they are more human. It does not devalue his teachings to us but makes them more valuable because it shows how human he can be. He is human like us. And he is Divinity. And we can see both inside one man.
That’s really special: to be able to see both aspects inside one person. It really tells us that we are both. All of us.
Yogi B did cause some stir in the Sikh community I’ve heard and read about. Apparently some Sikhs don’t like the way that he was presenting the Sikh religion. It’s a matter of perception. Yogi B did have strong opinions about Sikhism. Here’s some quotes from Yogi B about Sikhism from one of my text books, “The Master’s Touch”.
“Please don’t misunderstand that we want you to be this, we want you to be that. t’s not true. Actually, Sikhism is not a religion, believe me or not. If you really understand it, it’s not a religion. It became a religion, we make it a religion, because we want to escape persecution. That I can understand. What is a Sikh? A Sikh is a living sage who helps another person to become a Sage in every age. “Sikh” means “student”. A student is one who studies to be a student, and whosover becomes a perfect student becomes a perfect master. And what is a sage? The one through whom wisdom flows. A sage is not wise. A sage is one through whom wisdom flows.” ~ Page 50
“When I came to the United States and we became Sikh Dharma, religion was forced on us. You have to understand, I am very anti-religion. I know all the loopholes. I studied every religion. And I said, “Why do we have to be Sikhs? What nonsense is this? Forget it.”
Then I thought, “Wait a minute. There is one way to do it. Give them bana, give them bani, give them seva…. they will automatically become intuitive.” ~ Page 165
I don’t adhere to any one religion, and I’m grateful to be learning about a different perspective on the world. I’m grateful to be learning about Saints and Spiritual Master’s I’ve not heard of before.
I’m grateful that Yogi B was kind of a rebel himself. 😉