by SS Krishna Singh Khalsa, Espanola NM
2021 (First Quarter)
There was a time when Greed Capitalism was stood upside down, on its head, in a very practical way during the dark, socially-conflicted times of the late 1960s and 1970s. This was when Yogi Bhajan and a group of dedicated men and women started a bootstrap business called Sunshine Brass Beds in Los Angeles.
Just as Kabir spoke of the inevitability of “many hardships” on a spiritual path, we all had experienced many times of hardship trapped within a very unfriendly and indifferent world system. And yet we were also pierced, blessed, and welcomed by the diamonds of Sikh Dharma and Kundalini Yoga, just as Kabir had described.
“When the Diamond of the Lord pierces the diamond of my mind, the fickle mind waving in the wind is easily absorbed into Him.  This diamond fills all with Divine Light; through the True Guru’s Teachings, I have found Him. ||1|| The sermon of the Lord is the unstruck, endless song. Becoming a swan, one recognizes the Diamond of the Lord. ||1||Pause|| Says Kabeer, I have seen such a diamond permeating and pervading the world. The hidden diamond became visible when the Guru revealed it.” (Bhagat Kabeer-ji, Siri Guru Granth Sahib, Ang 483)
The Greed Capitalism of the 1950s and 1960s was the corporate, money-driven economy known as “the rat race.” As a generation who was “coming of age” at that time, we were faced with the massive problems of the vicious anti-humanity characterizing the Vietnam war and the racism that triggered the Civil Rights movement in the United States.
Many of us felt a need to find a far more positive and constructive way to live. Among our generation, it was a common perception that “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” But the system enforcing these problems was very powerful indeed. And most of our parents and public institutions bought into it, either unwittingly or intentionally.
We were fortunate to find a connection with the teachings of Yogi Bhajan, who brought us to a practical and spiritual vision for human life. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the Cosmos delivered us to him. We found an awakening of how to live through selfless values of compassion and generosity, rather than greed and egocentric self-interest.
Dedicated to Service
Sunshine Brass Beds, among other businesses started by student-teachers of Yogi Bhajan, was based on a highly focused visionary plan wherein for-profit businesses would be entirely owned by a core of non-profits dedicated to values of devotion in service to humanity. In this way, our non-profit organizations would not have to beg or plead for corporate and government financial grants in order to do work derived from Khalsa and Sikh values.
Moreover, we didn’t want our services to fulfill grant stipulations imposed by governments, corporations, and banks. The profits from our businesses flowed upwards to support the more lofty aims of selfless service and sharing of ancient human and spiritual knowledge. From the perspective of the Dharma we served, humanity was mired in suffering due to the lack of orientation toward the sacredness of life, and a lifestyle based on Seva.
We were starting families as householder yogis and preparing to become spiritual teachers in the Kundalini Yoga model of the teachings of Yogi Bhajan. With no “seed capital,” it became abundantly clear that the visions we were counting on could never be realized unless . . . , unless we created our own businesses, based on our own values of spirit and humanity. We would have to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.
Fortunately, we had three very unique blessings by our side:
- We found personal inspiration and enthusiasm in the teachings of Yogi Bhajan, our Sikh Gurus, and our own daily sadhana practices.
- We had commitments from Yogi Bhajan himself, as an ongoing guide and mentor. And over the years, there were many times when he patched us up, re-oriented us, and got us moving forward again.
- Finally, and most important of all, we had the blessings of Guru Ram Das. We came to understand and experience Guru Ram Das as the Lord of Miracles who created, organized, and delivered.
For almost 25 years the Sunshine Brass Bed factory produced museum-quality brass furniture in Los Angeles. The business was initially capitalized with $600 from our own pockets, which paid for an acetylene cutting torch and an arc welder; all the machinery was built from scrap materials.
In our first year as a cooperative operation, the average pay was 13 cents an hour—but that was in addition to the ashram housing and meals that Yogiji arranged for, to help us get started. We had wealth without money.
We lived in an ashram with our families, and for lunches at the factory, we got a box of delicious leftovers from our community restaurant, Golden Temple Conscious Cookery (the first national chain of vegetarian restaurants in North America).
Our entire net worth was created from sweat equity and constantly increasing sales, initially in decorator trade and furniture stores, and later, through factory direct wholesale to the public. By 1976 our annual sales were more than $6 million. (Adjusted for inflation, that would be $18 – 20 million in today’s dollars.)
For myself, standing in front of a polishing wheel coming at me at 100 miles per hour, polishing brass for four years, was not a curse. It was a hardship that has poured so many blessings into my life. It was smoky, filthy, and dangerous (like a war zone), but to learn survival in that environment, when opportunities to fail were all around us, was a lifelong blessing for all of us who served there.
Work as Worship
That polishing wheel became my meditation teacher, forcing me to live so one-pointed in my mental focus, because if I were to allow my mind to wander for one second, I could have been dead in five minutes. What I learned from the forces of that polishing wheel brought the strength of mind and body, blessings that have lasted throughout my life.
At every step of this incredible journey that we shared, we were coached, inspired, supported, and mentored by our spiritual teacher, Yogi Bhajan. During his lifetime he founded and built an international organization that has reached millions of people in many ways, so that humanity can experience how to live differently—in true co-operation and trust; in peace and creative harmony.
Into the Aquarian Age
The Aquarian energies are awakening humanity to seek a better way. These are the times that Yogiji was teaching for, preparing us for, 50 years ago. He spoke of a tidal wave of insanity and was putting us through it early so that we would have the knowledge and grit to go through it and survive as a spiritually conscious family. We have been gifted with methods for humanity to self-create freedom, security, and prosperity—how can we possibly hold back from sharing these gifts? We have to take the world back from the ego and return it to humanity.
As the ancient adage says, “Don’t give a man a fish; teach him to fish and to create for himself.” And now it is time to do it all again, in service to the multitudes of humanity who are becoming lost in the riptides of chaos that will eventually land us all in the Aquarian Age.
Wahe Guru Ji ka Khalsa Wahe Guru Ji ki Fateh!
About the Author
SS Krishna Singh Khalsa is a Minister of Sikh Dharma, a graphic illustrator and animator of yoga and Dharmic teachings and practices, and a healer. He began teaching Kundalini Yoga in January 1970. He has a deep experience in 3HO business startups – manufacturing, accounting, security services, and organic foods certification management. As a Sikh, under the direction of the Siri Singh Sahib, he served as a training sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve in Los Angeles for seven years. He is very happily married to SS Sangeet Kaur Khalsa (Newsletter Article Editor). Together, they focus on teaching Raj Yoga Meditation, mantra, and Gurbani Kirtan and energy healing practices for Khalsa in the Aquarian Age.