by SS Sada Anand Singh Khalsa, Nara, Japan
During the April 2011 Siblings of Destiny meetings, Sangeet Kaur had an opportunity to interview Sada Anand Singh from Japan. He spoke about living, teaching and serving in Japan, especially in light of the recent tragic events there.
I originally went to Japan in 1968 as a university exchange student. It was during the war in Vietnam. Every day there were antiwar demonstrations in the streets. The universities were closed and so I never did attend school, but I got involved in the demonstrations and came to love the country and the people. I suppose I had my first spiritual experience there. It was the first time I ever saw a picture of myself bowing before a temple.
Coming back to America, I got into Kundalini Yoga and met Siri Singh Sahib ji. I would often talk about going back to Japan, so finally the master grabbed me by the neck and said “Go today!” That was 22 years ago. According to the “experts,” Japan is not an easy place to integrate into, but I feel that I am part Japanese now. I really love the place and have never had a thought of leaving.
There is a small community of devoted Sikh families an hour and a half away from our home. I represent our group in that community, and attend their Gurdwaras as often as possible. They like my guitar kirtan. Before the 1995 earthquake we lived very near another Sikh Gurdwara.
Now it is quite a distance, but I’m looking forward to spending more time there on a regular basis. These people have very little technology besides the Guru. They don’t know how to breathe, how to meditate. So a lot of them are suffering despite their material wealth. I share the inspiring SikhNet website with them.
Sikhs in Japan basically stay amongst themselves and never think anyone else would want to become a Sikh. It is eye-opening for them to learn about our world-wide Sikh community.
Over the years I have learned a lot about Japanese society. Deeply rooted in the culture is the edict that one must not be “different,” not stand up, not stand out. Yet Siri Singh Sahib ji told me that one day the largest number of Sikhs in the world would be in Japan. Already many of our Japanese yoga students want to become Sikhs. They have found Japji and some of them have gone to Summer Solstice in the US. In the beginning I hesitated to introduce them to Japji because I thought they would find it too “religious.”
The Japanese all say they don’t want religion.There have been so many charlatans, so many scams in Japan. At the same time, the Japanese are deeply spiritual. Everyone bows his head. Everyone believes in the chi, the pranic energy, so it’s a very easy place to live, actually, because there is that spiritual base. It’s very easy to teach yoga there. You just say, “Close your eyes” and the students go into meditation, looking like the Buddha. Buddhism is very similar to Sikhism, in that it gives a direct experience between you and the Creator, with no middleman. Meditation and mantra are not strange to any Japanese person.
Our Yogi Tea business is a great avenue to reach and serve people.We do a lot of trade fairs, yoga festivals, vegetarian festivals, and Earth days, where we meet ecologically-minded people who are looking for ways to uplift our planet. We are also making efforts to get Yogi Bhajan’s teachings translated. Although the Japanese have all studied English, outside of Tokyo you will find that very few actually understand it. It isn’t an easy language to translate. We now have some Kundalini Yoga teachers in America who are helping us.
We have ten Kundalini Yoga teachers scattered around Japan. None live in the area hardest hit by the earthquake and Tsunami. We translated the Survival Kit into Japanese and have given it to many people. I took one trip up to the area that suffered the most damage, and was happy to be able to deliver food there.
But what the people really need are homes, and to be strong and heal themselves. My goal now is to find the avenues to reach the suffering. Even though there are a lot of bureaucratic levels in Japan, I speak Japanese, and I have lived there long enough to know that when there’s a “‘no” there is a way around it. Most people only know Hatha Yoga or Ashtanga Yoga.
But we can offer so much more –technology to not just wake up the energy, but meditate and sing the praises of God, to remind the Japanese of how beautiful they are inside themselves. Because that is what they lost – they’ve lost their whole families, their homes, and now are suffering from radiation. We are seeing many more suicides. The simplest technology, like left nostril breathing or any meditation for the heart, can give them a chance and a hope.
After the first earthquake in 1995 we were blessed to acquire a special place of nature in the mountains, only 35 minutes from Osaka. It is now a beautiful mountain retreat, ready to serve. The Sikh community will start coming for retreats, since they have no place to get together. These children have never had a day in the countryside, never attended a Rensubhai. We want people to come, to use this place for spiritual events and retreats.
I’ve always had the idea of making an orphanage in Japan. Now it’s time. It’s right there in front of me, all these children from the earthquake. There will eventually be a migration to our area. By God’s Grace I will have a big report for you in the future!
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