Sikhi Roots In New Mexico
An Interview by DAVID ALIRE GARCIA [Sante Fe Reporter]
Inderjit Kaur Khalsa, known to many simply as Bibiji, is the chief minister of the Sikh Dharma of the Western Hemisphere, based in Española, New Mexico. She succeeded her husband, Harbhajan Singh (Yogi Bhajan), upon his death in 2004.
Santa Fe Reporter ("SFR"): Why do Sikhs in New Mexico wear flowing white robes and white turbans?
Inderjit Kaur Khalsa ("IKK"): We started wearing white because white is a combination of every color. All colors blending together turn into white. And once you start wearing white you start loving wearing white. It's so pure in its serenity.
How is it that the Sikh Dharma you lead came to be located in Española, NM?
Oh my God, this is a long story. My husband was living in Los Angeles and one of his students was from Santa Fe. They were searching for a place to have the yoga center. [Yogi Bhajan] told them to go to the north and you will see the light falling through the clouds. Look where it falls and ask to see if the property is available. They asked, and the owner said yes, and that is where the temple is now.
In one sentence, if you can, what is the Sikh religion all about?
The Sikh religion is a very universal and a very experiential religion. Whatever you say, you live through it. We meditate, eat vegetarian food, work hard, make money and share with others. We believe in the household lifestyle. We are married and we have families and live in the community. We don't believe in living in poverty.
Does the Sikh religion condemn homosexuals?
No, the Sikh religion does not believe in condemning anybody. The Sikh religion accepts everybody, that each of us are children of God. Everybody is equal. We don't believe in discrimination and we believe in accepting everybody as a human.
The Sikh religion teaches peace, opposes war and violence, but also operates a thriving security firm, Akal Security, that sometimes may employ violence to do its work. Is there any contradiction here?
No, we are protecting our country, our people. We have to protect ourselves and defend ourselves. And we feel very proud that we are patriotic and protecting our people and our country through our services.
Why do many Sikh men wear daggers?
The dagger is called a kirpan, which means ‘sword of peace.' [It is worn] in remembrance of the power of a weapon, which can take a life or cause great harm. It is a divine power, so we have reverence for weapons and keep them on our altar. A weapon is never to be used until every peaceful means has been tried and failed.
Why is practicing yoga so important to you?
Because yoga is the union with the body, mind and soul. And it gives you spiritual experience and also helps your physical body. It gives a very healthy lifestyle and a very spiritual lifestyle.
Why is a vegetarian diet so important to you?
Because we don't kill anything, we don't kill animals. When we eat vegetarian food it digests easily and it helps you get up in the morning easily. When we meditate in the morning, it's easier if you eat light food.
What is the most beautiful part of the Sikh holy book, the Siri Guru Granth Sahib?
The most beautiful part is it tells us of the good will of all humanity and it is a combination of writings from many religious. There are the writings of the gurus and Muslim writings and Hindu writings compiled together, so it makes it very interfaith.
For those who've never heard of him, who was Guru Nanak and what was his main message?
Guru Nanak is the founder of the Sikh religion and is known as the Guru for the Aquarian Age. His main message is that we have all been created by one God, we are all one family. The one God has created all of the religions.
The Sikh Dharma is very politically active here in New Mexico. You even make financial contributions to candidates. How do you decide who to support?
We are Democrats, but we are friends with everybody. Many people came to my husband, Democrats and Republicans, for advice and blessings. They are all our friends.
Why are so many Sikhs here in New Mexico named Khalsa?
Khalsa means ‘the pure ones.' When we take the baptism in our religion, you become Khalsa. It's a kind of brotherhood.
Does it amuse you that some people first learn about your late husband by seeing his face on a box of his Peace Cereal at a supermarket?
Yes [laughing], it amuses me to see his picture on the boxes, but it tells people about him. He was a great man. His theology and his vision and, yes, he also created these cereals so that people can live a healthy, happy, holy lifestyle.
Interview and top photo, Courtesy: Sante Fe Reporter.
Thumbnail photo, Courtesy: S. Gurmustuk Singh
Conversation about this article
1: Diane Johnson (Boston, MA, U.S.A.), November 08, 2008, 11:57 AM.
I attended the inauguration of former President, Bill Clinton, and had the opportunity to sit beside Yogi Harbhajan Singh ji at the Gala Ball. I also attended a private party hosted by him. I have lost contact with him over the years and would very much like to contact him or his office for a personal request regarding the upcoming inauguartion. Thank you for your assistance in this matter.
2: Surendra (Indore, India), February 15, 2009, 4:18 AM.
This is a good site to promote Sikh culture.
3: Gurpreet Singh (India), November 02, 2011, 10:07 AM.
I am very interested in knowing more about Bhai Harbhajan Singh Yogi.
4: Sherri Lesch (Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA), November 14, 2013, 5:28 PM.
I lived in San Francisco during the 80's and often visited the GRD clinic. I was healed in many ways. I am currently seeking a Sikhi counselor in ABQ. I have Presbyterian insurance. Is there anyone in ABQ from your community that I could contact? Thank you for your assistance. [EDITOR: Our columnist, Ek Ong Kaar Kaur, is in your general vicinity. If you contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org I am sure she could be of some help. Good luck.]
5: Basant Singh Sodhi (New Delhi / Addis Ababa), December 07, 2013, 1:54 AM.
I am a Sikh and I am a geologist doing mining in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Any prospects there for me?