June 19, 1929 – November 8, 2023
by SS Dr. Shanti Shanti Kaur Khalsa
2023 (Fourth Quarter)
The day before Shakti Parwha Kaur left her body, a book arrived for me in the mail. From a Far and Lovely Country is the latest in the Number One Ladies Detective Agency series, written by Alexander McCall Smith. When the first book in the series was published in 1998, Shakti Parwha Kaur and I became book buddies. We both enjoyed the humorous wisdom stories of the lead character, the strong and gentle Mma Precious Ramotswe.
Shakti Parwha Kaur and I met on January 5, 1972 when I came to Los Angeles to celebrate the 3rd anniversary of 3HO. I was a recent graduate of Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training in the Phoenix sangat, and a few of us decided to cross the desert with the promise of some fun.
Shakti Parwha Kaur spoke that day about how she met Yogi Bhajan at the East West Cultural Center and how his response to her question, ”What is your purpose in coming to the West?” changed her life. She was a student of Vedanta and had studied with many of the Eastern teachers of the time. She was more than skeptical of the latest arrival.
She described driving him to his classes and often missing the exit on the freeway because of her focus on their conversation. And somewhere during her January 5th speech, she sang “Accentuate the Positive,” her signature song.
I was taken by Shakti Parwha Kaur’s clarity and command. Her Bhakti—her devotion—was as strong as her Shakti. This came across in her presence and in the power of her words.
A few months later Shakti Parwha Kaur became a mentor, when I was named secretary for the Western Region of 3HO. I reported to her directly. We began a correspondence that continued for seven years, and a friendship that lasted six decades.
She demonstrated how to live an authentic life. She had the courage to be fully herself, and she expected the same. It was an extraordinary blessing to have her in my life. I understood why she held herself and others to a high standard and why she tolerated no nonsense.
Shakti Parwha Kaur had a consistent sadhana practice and she showed us how to embody sadhana into everyday life. By this time, I was living in Los Angeles and driving her to group sadhana at Yoga West each morning. Once when I entered her apartment to gather her shawl, blanket, and sheepskin, I found her at the kitchen counter, sorting her daily vitamins into labeled pill boxes. She turned her head toward me and offered this wise and simple observation: Don’t take yourself too seriously, and have a container for everything.
Perhaps you heard her share this advice when she facilitated White Tantric Yoga. Perhaps you heard her sing “Accentuate the Positive”.
She had an adventurous spirit, and loved to explore and discover new things. About every two weeks we toured a museum, saw an obscure film, or swapped a new book. We ate at a whole lot of restaurants, just to try them out. A few made the cut for return visits. Shakti Parwha Kaur’s favorite, Bella Roma, named a risotto after her, and put it on the menu after she requested that they make it the way she likes it: with asparagus and other delicacies.
She broke new ground seemingly everywhere. The first student of Yogi Bhajan and Kundalini Yoga in the West; an original co-founder of 3HO Foundation and of Sikh Dharma International; the first Western Kundalini Yoga teacher. She reversed the oral tradition of Kundalini Yoga when she published her first book, Kundalini Yoga: The Flow of Eternal Power, that put into writing the basics of practice.
She loved to write. In addition to publishing four books, she produced spirited and detailed newsletters that were sent snail mail to every ashram, and later to every member of the International Kundalini Yoga Teachers Association. A humongous movie fan, she wrote insightful and humorous reviews. She wrote volumes of poetry. Her poem, Condolences, is included here.
From a Far and Lovely Country is sitting on my altar, along with flowers retrieved from Shakti Parwha Kaur’s memorial service. When I finally open its pages, it will be to hear Shakti’s laughter at the characters’ predicaments and Shakti’s own down-to-earth solutions.
It will be to remember her continuing presence, with love and gratitude.