by SS Suraj Kaur Khalsa, Pasadena CA
I learned how to be devoted by observing the Siri Singh Sahib’s unwavering devotion to the Guru. While I was serving my spiritual teacher, I was actually serving the Guru!
At age 17, I had found my way to the Houston ashram with its wonderful yoga classes that comforted my soul. I decided to wait for July 4th, 1976 to move into the ashram, claiming my own independence on the day of our country’s Bicentennial celebration.
Not long afterward, one of the regular yoga teachers became ill and I was asked to teach the class. Even though I had no training or experience, I absolutely loved the yoga, so I quickly got over my fears and began my 42 years of regularly teaching Kundalini yoga. Sadhana also came easily, but I was always the last one in the Gurdwara every morning. I was extremely shy and did not want to be asked to do any of the readings.
The Siri Singh Sahib would regularly travel to Texas to lead Tantric and meditation courses. I lived with Sadhu Singh and Sadhana Kaur who were the directors of the Houston ashram. I helped care for their young son and sewed yoga pants to sell at the ashram. The Siri Singh Sahib stayed at Sadhu’s house when he was in Houston, and I was fortunate enough to start my many years of having the privilege of personally serving him.
It was fascinating to sit in the living room and see him counsel people. It was fun hanging out watching television with him, helping to braid his hair and rub his feet. One day, he noticed on a shelf in my room my antique ink pot that had a crack in it. Maybe he saw that I was broken inside too.
He told me that he knew the pain of my past and that I was fortunate that my life had brought me to the Guru’s door. He told me that I belonged to the Guru’s house now and that I would always be taken care of and protected. He said that I was also his daughter and that he would “keep me in his pocket.”
A Relationship with the Guru
This singular transformational conversation jump-started me on my path of devotion to the Guru. I immediately started looking at the Guru differently and became grateful for the reality of being watched over and protected. The Siri Singh Sahib inspired me to start my own relationship with the Guru.
I started reading in the Akhand Path and immediately got tested when three small children climbed up the stairs to the ashram gurdwara and started crawling all over the ramalas and me while I was reading. I kept focused on the Guru and kept reading until someone came running up the steps to find the missing toddlers! (Later, that year I was again tested while reading in the Espanola Akhand Path. Two yelping puppies ran into the Gurdwara and jumped all over the ramalas and me. Again, I managed to keep them off the Guru and I kept reading until I was relieved. The look on the next reader’s face was priceless!)
I was living in Houston, teaching children’s yoga and working at Nanak’s Landscaping and the Golden Temple Restaurant. One day I got a high fever and one of the ladies was giving me a reflexology session to bring down the fever when I blurted out, “but I don’t want to get married!”
I fell asleep and woke up at 1:00 a.m. shouting, “NO, NO, NO!” Just then the phone rang. It was the Siri Singh Sahib saying that he had a husband for “his daughter.” (He also told them what to do with my fever.) The next morning, with strep throat, I called the Siri Singh Sahib and politely said that I respected him as my teacher, but did not think marriage was a good idea.
He replied very clearly and loudly, “I think you should do it!” Thus began my life as the wife of Dr. Santokh Singh, serving with him as the co-director of the Guru Ram Das Ashram in Altadena, CA. I became pregnant four months later with my daughter, Guruprakash Kaur (an angel sent from heaven!) and during the 120 days of pregnancy, I started my first Sahej Path. The Siri Singh Sahib was very happy about this and reinforced in me the importance of this link to the Guru. We also started holding Akhand Paths at the Altadena ashram, which were very powerful experiences for all of us as a Sadh Sangat.
Obey, Serve, Love, Excel
I learned the meaning of Obey, Serve, Love and Excel directly by watching the Siri Singh Sahib, listening to his many lectures and seeing his own personal devotion to the Guru. We were all so blessed to learn and absorb directly from the Master. I also had the great fortune, like many others, to be able to serve him personally and regularly in his Los Angeles home, at the Espanola Ranch, and at 3HO Solstice Celebrations.
SS Hari Kirn Kaur and I were blessed to serve him regularly at Khalsa Chiropractic seminars throughout the years. One Khalsa Chiropractic Association meeting was in Newport Beach, where the Siri Singh Sahib was staying at the same hotel as the Dalai Lama and Billy Graham. The Universe was having an energetic convergence with three spiritual leaders together at the same time!
It was easy to chant and pour my prayers and love while ironing the Siri Singh Sahib’s robes or preparing his food. It was a nice surprise when he would come into the kitchen and teach us to cook a recipe that his mother or grandmother had taught him. Over the years I made him many stained-glass windows (see article below), which he cherished and placed in several of our Gurdwaras and properties.
Healing with Shabd Guru
After the Siri Singh Sahib’s passing, I continued to read from the Guru in my Sahej Paths. I feel the Siri Singh Sahib’s presence when I read, and I feel all the Gurus with me as well. I do my best to read at least 10 Gurmukhi pages a day. I highly recommend starting your own Sahej Path and reading a few pages each day.
At this point, I am blessed to be doing my 31st Sahej Path and I hope to continue this practice for the rest of my life. Reading the beautiful script of the Gurmukhi letters comforts me, elevates me, and protects my family and loved ones. It is a daily touchstone, along with my personal sadhana. I am grateful to say that there are others in our Altadena/Pasadena community who maintain the Siri Guru Granth Sahib in their homes as well.
Even though he is no longer physically with us, we are all still on the path of obedience, service, love, and excellence to his mission and to the Siri Guru Granth Sahib. We do this daily through our prayers, our teaching, and by serving the community, raising our children with consciousness, and serving the Siri Guru Granth Sahib. We all play an important part of the mission of bringing higher consciousness, compassion, love, light, and healing to this planet, especially in times of confusion, division, and the disregard of simple, sacred truth.
I learned devotion from the Siri Singh Sahib, from his example of living in devotion to the Guru with his every breath. I learned devotion from the way that he always acknowledged and recognized the acts of devotion and love that people gave to him.
When I was asked to write this article, I was told that the Siri Singh Sahib loved wearing the clothes I ironed for him because he could feel the purity of my prayer and devotion in them. That knowledge made my heart sing to receive that gift from him after all these years. It confirmed my belief that he was aware of all acts of devotion and even now is aware and a part of all the things we do in his name and in honor of our beloved Guru.
A Legacy of Beauty by SS Suraj Kaur
[Editor’s Note: Suraj Kaur Khalsa is an ordained Sikh Dharma Minister, whose inspiring stained-glass creations represent a beautiful aspect of her unique and devotional contributions as a student, yogi, Khalsa woman, and Sikh Dharma Minister.]
As an art student, I always loved the beauty of stained glass. I was not personally exposed to it until I moved into the Houston ashram. The ashram had a stained-glass studio as one of its many businesses. My good friend, Tod, moved into the ashram about six months after me. Tod somehow managed to work at the ashram glass studio and I worked at our Golden Temple Restaurant. Tod learned the art of glasswork and made his mother a beautiful fireplace screen, while I learned how to make a delicious cream of cashew mushroom soup and spent my mornings chopping 50 pounds of onions!
When I married, I moved to the Altadena ashram, housed in a beautiful multi-story 1922 Craftsman house. We had a big yoga room surrounded by windows with a view of the trees outside. A glass door with a half-moon open space separated the yoga room from the main hallway. At one point, we had 18 adults and a few children living there, so it was hard to keep everyone in the ashram quiet during the evening yoga classes. Out of necessity, I took my first stained glass class in order to fill up the open space above our glass door. With guidance from my wonderful teacher, Hisa, I was able to make a three-piece arc with an Adi Shakti and lotus flowers that fit perfectly above the door to keep the noise out!
Over the next decade, I was blessed and fortunate to make many stained glass windows that I presented to the Siri Singh Sahib and to our Dharmic community as gifts. A stained glass depicting the blackbird turning into the white bird in the healing Golden Temple waters is featured on the wall in Guru Ram Das Ashram on Preuss Road in Los Angeles.
I designed an Adi Shakti window with all of the chakras for Yoga West that stood behind the Siri Singh Sahib when he taught his Los Angeles classes. I was blessed to make a Guru Ram Das design for the Gurdwara at the Hacienda de Guru Ram Das in Espanola. Another piece was in response to the Siri Singh Sahib request for two eagles for Khalsa Women’s Training Camp (KWTC) to remind women to soar in their own Divine Majesty.
I created a stained glass piece showing the Siri Singh Sahib and Bibiji washing the marble floor of the Golden Temple in devotion, which hangs in the KWTC Gurdwara along with the eagles. I made him his “night light” for his Los Angeles bedroom depicting the Golden Temple surrounded by the hawk for strength and the dove for peace. The Siri Singh Sahib requested Adi Shaktis for his dome, so I made two New Mexico-inspired panels that flank the dome’s front door.
My favorite piece is the Lady of Guadalupe/Adi Shakti with an angel at her feet, commissioned for the Siri Singh Sahib by a student. She truly is beautiful. Each piece that I made took months to complete. With each piece I created, I chanted and infused many mantras and banis into them. They were all made from a place of meditation and devotion.
I felt that I was being a channel of spirit. The Siri Singh Sahib explained that the windows channeled so much energy that sometimes it could not be contained, and they would sometimes need to crack as a way of releasing the energy. With all the physical work, energy, and prayer that went into each piece, it seemed as if I was giving birth to each one. I was humbled that the Siri Singh Sahib honored me one day with a proclamation at Khalsa Women’s Training Camp for my stained glass work.
He called me up to the stage and I was so nervous and embarrassed to be given any attention! I saw and felt a stream of energy come directly from him and it surrounded me with the most blissful, peaceful, spiritual energy that I had ever felt! He gave me the gift of feeling what his soul felt like all the time and I will never forget it or forget him.
About the Author
SS Suraj Kaur Khalsa is an ordained Sikh Dharma Minister. She began practicing Kundalini Yoga in 1974 at the Houston, Texas ashram and became a Sikh and yoga teacher in 1976. Dr. Santokh Singh and she are parents to Guruprakash Kaur, Sarab Sarung Singh, and Updesh Kaur and are the grandparents of Ravijit Singh, Sukhprem Singh, and Amrita Devi Kaur.
For over a decade, she created beautiful stained glass windows for the Siri Singh Sahib and our Dharmic properties. Suraj Kaur is an accomplished artist and children’s book author. She also personally served the Siri Singh Sahib in Los Angeles for many years. She has served as a sevadar to new mothers and their babies over many decades. She continues to teach, serve, and support her community of yoga teachers, students, and patients of her husband’s Khalsa Chiropractic Center.