The articles that follow were written as a series called "Healing The Dysfunctional 3HO Family" and were published, one at a time, at intervals of every six months, in the 3HO Bay Area newsletter, called "Visions" from 1990-1992. Japji Singh Khalsa from San Francisco CA was the editor of "Visions" and I regularly contributed short, humorous, slightly daring, pieces to the "Rag" as we called it. It is very important to understand that none of us knew that we were in a cult. Had we known what Yogi Bhajan was up to, most of us would have up and left, and we would have taken as many other 3HOers with us as we could.
Yes, that is what we would have done and that is what we did, in fact, do, when we finally stumbled upon the abundant evidence of Yogi Bhajan's inappropriate behavior.
I must add here, however, that for a few select great warrior Sikhs, we can proudly say that Yogi Bhajan kicked us out before we could leave. SAT SIRI AKAL!
I am very proud to share these articles with this site. May they be used for the freedom and liberation of all. My beloved Bro, then known as SS Guru Bir Singh, asked me to write the series. It was the late 80s and he had been reading up on dysfunctional family 12 step theory as applied to organizations and he told me, "They are describing 3HO perfectly in this book! You gotta read this stuff and then write about it!"
And amazing! It did fit and the dysfunctional family model gave me permission to talk about so many things happening in 3HO that were really starting to bother me. So I wrote that first "Healing The Dysfunctional 3HO Family" article and Japji Singh published it and it got Xeroxed and faxed all over the 3HO nation.
Suddenly, after years of being a nobody within that Dharma, I was well known and our local 3HO newsletter was suddenly national. It was a great feeling.
But X-3HOers read that article too and Indian Sikhs and I started getting phone calls from them. They would compliment me so much and then act weird. I didn't understand what was going on.
"You don't know then." they would say, and 'negativity' would ooze from them and I would feel this horrible dread and bail out of these calls.
But when action was taken by higher ups in the 3HO Organization to suppress the distribution of "Visions", with my article number 2 in it, I then knew I was dealing with a real "Addict" , that Yogi Bhajan was not merely having that role projected onto him by his students as I had been asserting in the series. By the time Healing the 3HO Dysfunctional Family #3 was published, I knew everything. I knew it all.
So remember as you read, Article 1 and 2, I was totally an innocent dupe. Article 3 and 4 I knew it all and I believed myself to be in danger and I wrote them anyway. Article number 4, I couldn't have cared less if anyone read it. It was enough that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Yogi Bhajan read it. He is reading these words too, of course. I never knew him to not keep good track of what people say about him.
By the time Healing the 3HO Dysfunctional Family #4 disclosed every 3HO secret I knew of, without accusing Yogi Bhajan directly of anything, I was working as hard as I could to help the same Guru Bir Singh who had inspired me to write this series, prove his innocence in a horrible phone marketing scam. He was innocent. He had agreed to receive some business mail for a 3HO Brother and the next thing he knew the Feds stormed into his office one-day and grabbed that evidence and they took him away in handcuffs. Gur Bir lost everything- 3HOers shunned him, and Yogi Bhajan wasn't returning his calls.
I, however, received a phone call from one of Yogi Bhajan's better known bodyguards and was told that it would probably be smarter for me and my family if I didn't bother to show up in the courtroom to watch Guru Bir's trial.
I took off my turban that day and I went to that trial and all the trials that followed. Gur Bir was found innocent- but I have gotta say that many many of us were just as innocent as Gur Bir, but he got to prove it better than the rest of us did. He made me proud to be a Sikh- he still does! Mind you nobody knows we are Sikh these days; we have changed names, cut our hair, joined other churches and temples, gone different ways. But still, many speak of courage, but speaking doesn't give it. It is in the face of death, we must live it.
Because of this, instead of printing these next bold words after the title like in the past (and you notice I have changed the title of this historical series a bit as well), I want to say these next bold words first this time, fully acknowledging Gur Bir and his amazing wife SS GurSiri Kaur Khalsa for their amazing time of hot-plate sitting.
With special thanks to S.S. Gur Bir Singh Khalsa for suggesting the topic.
The first several years that I lived in an ashram I felt right at home. Had I been more self aware this would have worried me considering that "home" for me had been an alcoholic family. Now I can see that my early years in 3HO were spent re-enacting many of the typical dynamics of my disturbed youth and that I (and most of my other Sikh brothers and sisters) were busy creating a "dysfunctional" spiritual family with all the same ground rules I had lived under for the first 18 years of my life.
These rules have, of course, loosened their hold on me and on the rest of our sangha over the years. Now I only notice shadows of these patterns when I observe 3HO and myself but still, I think it is useful to discuss them. After all we know that the cardinal rule of a dysfunctional family is "don't talk" so talking in this case is not only interesting, but liberating as well.
It would be hard to imagine me surviving in a family that didn't talk or to imagine an ashram where conversation isn't one of the prime pastimes. Actually in my family (and in ashrams I have lived) we talked all the time. We just never talk about what was really going on. In my family the taboo subjects were as follows:
1. Don't talk about Mom and Dad's problem. 2. Don't be angry. 3. Don't question the rules, beliefs, and image of the family. 4. Don't deviate from your role.
I plan to deal with these ground rules and how they have affected my 3HO experience in a series of four articles for "Visions". I think I will tackle the last taboo first; that is, what are the roles we play in 3HO and how do we get stuck in them.
Please note that I am speaking from the wisdom and ignorance of my own personal experience, not as an "expert" or psychologist. I am most humbly aware that many of my brothers and sisters living in this region know much more about this subject than I do and I would love to hear your response (expert or not) in the form of letters to the editor. Japji Singh could use some mail.
There are two different types of role playing dysfunctional families. The first type might be called "personality roles" and the second types are "sex roles" . Some examples of personality roles are the addict, the co-dependent, the hero, the scapegoat, the forgotten child and others.
Briefly, the addict is the power broker in the family. All the other roles revolve around keeping this person stabilized, protected, functioning and happy. These are all impossible goals.
Obviously in 3HO it is a rarity for a Sikh to be addicted to alcohol or drugs, but it is not that uncommon for a Sikh to use money, sex or power compulsively and abusively. It is important to know, however, that even if a person is perfectly sober and sane, they may be cast in the role of addict by those around them. This is often the case with Yogi Bhajan. In an alcoholic family no one knows just what the addict is going to do next. Similarly, Yogiji is often a very surprising and confrontive person, which causes many of those around him to try desperately to keep him fed, pacified, controlled and happy so he won't do anything too outrageous too often. This is very hard and unnecessary work, and the prime role of the co-dependent.
The co-dependent is the primary caregiver of the addict. Much of the co-dependent's job is public relations. They smooth the waters, rationalize away any problems, deflect consequences away from the addict, keep everyone in their place and keep the public image and the belief systems in place. In return the co-dependent gains intimacy with the addict, a tremendous amount of manipulative power and a very strong sense of being spiritually superior.
The children's roles of hero, scapegoat, and forgotten child are not politically powerful roles in the family or organization, rather they are the flunkies of the system. Briefly, the hero is the good kid, the scapegoat is the bad kid and the forgotten child are the invisible kid.
When I moved into the Philadelphia ashram back in the 70s, I was handed a little pink book called "Fascinating Womanhood". For any of you who missed having this book affect your life, it is a practical how-to manual on marriage from the woman's point of view, written by a Mormon. It is the philosophical opposite of feminism, completely committed to the belief that the spiritual fulfillment of women is achieved through unquestioning service and obedience to men.
I first read this little tome while in my militant women's liberation mode so, needless to say the book angered and disgusted me. Yet since my marriage of 9 months was not going at all smoothly and because my ashram sisters assured me that Yogi Bhajan was into the book and getting his wife to read it, I decided to put some of the principles to a try.
It was a miracle! Instead of arguing with every little thing that came out of my young husband's mouth, I tried listening, nodding and pretending to agree with him and he loved it! Almost overnight my husband went from someone who avoided me to a lover who actually seemed to like to be around me. I was converted! I knew that it was the highest liberation of a woman to serve her husband sweetly, strive to be a "domestic goddess" and wear ruffles. Yes, I am afraid I even wore ruffles!
Inevitably this new philosophy got all tangled up with the 3HO concept of women being the Grace of God. I had not yet met the Goddess Kali and I would not have known what to do with Her if I had. In time, much to my relief, my husband began to show signs of dissatisfaction with all this adoring support and started asking leading questions like, "What do you want to do with your life anyway?" and I gave the little pink book and the ruffles to Goodwill.
In most ways 3HOers no longer play such extreme sex roles. It has been a very long time since I have seen a male head of an ashram lounging around while sweet young things ply him with foot massages. However recently there has been a lot of talk about how Yogi Bhajan has married a few middle-aged men off to teenage girls. In an attempt to understand why Yogi Bhajan might do such a thing, there have been several explanations put forward within my hearing. One was that perhaps the marriages would allow these older men to "mold" these young girls to their liking.
Now I have no idea why Yogiji put these couples together (their auras were a pretty match?) but, hopefully, "molding" had nothing to do with it. You don't need to be a Jungian psychologist to understand that even if girls were moldable ( and they are not!) the last thing we need is a world full of male fantasy women. Technically this catastrophe is known as the "anima problem"; that is what happens when women attempt to become what their fathers or husbands want them to be rather than finding the true expression of their own female humanity and spirituality. This true femininity is neither that of a castrating Amazon or fascinating princess- or maybe it is a bit of both!
The other type of role playing in a dysfunctional family is that of taking on personality roles. The primary two roles, as I have already mentioned, are that of the addict and that of the co-dependent (usually Mom and Dad). In 3HO these roles have frequently been played by the head of the ashram and his inner circle, and by Yogi Bhajan and his inner circle. Please note again that I am not saying that Yogiji is an addict, rather that we often cast him in that role. The role of addict and co-dependent I will cover in great detail in my future article on (you guessed it!) 'Don't talk about Mom's or Dad's problem". For present, however, I would like to discuss, briefly, three of the standard children's role in the dysfunctional family; that of hero, scapegoat and forgotten child.
The hero role might be better described as the "unsung hero" role. In the dysfunctional family this is the sibling that comes home and makes sure that dinner is cooked, that the younger children are taken care of and the co-dependent parent is comforted and the addict is put to bed to sleep it off. In 3HO we call this figure the "Keep Up Ji".
When Yogi Bhajan comes to town, you won't find the hero going out to dinner and movies with the Master and members of the inner circle. No, our hero has spent the last week painting, nailing, cleaning and cooking. She is in the kitchen making Yogi Bhajan's food, not upstairs eating it. He is busy running the children's program or out in the rain doing guard duty. And when 3am comes our heroes start the morning prayer while the addicts, co-dependents, and scapegoats snooze the ambrosial hours away.
In my family, my older brother filled the role of hero leaving me free to be the scapegoat and rebel, my primary dysfunctional life role! However, after I pulled off my ultimate scapegoat act (yes, you guessed it again, I joined 3HO) I tried my hand at the hero role for a few years. This, mind you, is a very hard role for someone like me who hates housework, cold water and people telling me what to do. I only kept it up for those few years because I thought you could get into that co-dependent inner circle by being a hero. This is absolutely wrong. You make it into the inner circle by being co-dependent, not by being good- but I didn't know that until much later.
The scapegoat is the problem child. This is the kid who acts out, gets lots of negative attention, and even at times (gasp!) breaks the family taboos ! Many of these people don't keep up in 3HO and almost all of them get a bit "fringed", or marginalized, shall we say. These are the most likely of the children to become addicts as well. In 3HO scapegoats tend to come under attack at "house meetings". In fact, they are usually the reason the meeting has been called!
Once while I was still in my hero phase I visited the Boston ashram. This was back in the days of the Golden Temple Restaurant and let me tell you, those heroes worked like dogs!
There was this bad boy Sikh there, however. His main outlaw act was not rising for the mandatory sadhana each morning. They tried everything. They hauled him onto the stair landing where everyone had to walk over him to get to the yoga room but he slept peacefully through that. They threw him, blanket and all, into the cold shower, which successfully woke him up but then he crawled back to bed.
They had just called a house meeting to discuss this problem child when I came to the end of my visit. I have always wondered what they tried next and where that mighty soul might be now.
You probably haven't noticed or remember too many Sikhs who play the forgotten child role. Wearing all white and a turban is not something most forgotten children are interested in. They stay to themselves and to their rooms. I do remember one forgotten child I lived with in the Portland ashram. I can't remember her name but she kept the plants watered and the cats fed.
In the dysfunctional family this role is handy for avoiding the whole mess. I have tried this one a bit in recent years but I am not very good at it. Heck, I have tried all these roles at one time or the other!
Now if you are well versed in dysfunctional dynamics you will notice that, even though I give the illusion of plain speaking in this article, I have, like a true co-dependent, not broken any of the taboos I listed at the beginning. After all I have 1. avoided talking about the problems of Mom and Dad, 2. any anger I have has been expressed in a covert enough way to cause no real alarm, 3. I have not questioned any major Dharmic beliefs or rules, and 4. I have kept faithfully to my Scapegoat role! This is why I chose this taboo to discuss first, it is the easiest!
In the next issue of "Visions", I will attempt to get down to some real taboo testing and talk, yes really talk, about 3HO a dysfunctional family.
Copyright © Rick Ross.