Harbhajan Singh Puri was born in 1929 in the part of India that is today Pakistan and was still a teenager when he was called initially to serve as a heroic leader to his own people. In 1947 during the violence associated with the partition of Pakistan from India, he was only 18 but managed to lead his village of 7,000 people 325 miles on foot to safety in New Delhi. Later, he studied economics and entered government service. During his academic and professional career he taught yoga. In 1968 he left India, first for Canada and then settled in the United States where he became a citizen in 1976. He then changed his name legally to Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji, known as Yogi Bhajan for short.
For centuries the followers of the Kundalini Yoga system followed a tradition of keeping their practice shrouded in secrecy. However, Yogi Bhajan broke with that tradition believing that the larger public could benefit from the practices of Kundalini Yoga. He called the life system “3HO” (healthy, happy, holy).
Under his guidance the 3HO Foundation established more than 300 centers in 35 countries. Besides teaching yoga philosophy and practice, 3HO promoted women’s issues, human rights and education in alternative systems of medicine. He pioneered a drug rehabilitation program that was became highly respected in the U.S.
He also used his professional background in economics and his entrepreneurial skills to expand the health food business. Among the products he promoted was a breakfast food called Peace Cereal. He used these innovations to promote socially responsible business practices, such as a move toward using organic foods.
Yogi Bhajan was a strong advocate for world peace and religious unity. He met with religious leaders of all faiths, including the Dalai Lama, Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, and two Archbishops of Canterbury. He was a regular participant in interfaith activities such as the Parliament of the World’s Religions and the World Fellowship of Religions, serving as co-president of the latter. He was an organizer of the “Meeting of the Ways” in San Francisco and was a co-founder of the Unity of Man Conference. The Peace Abby in Sherborn, Massachusetts, gave him their “Courage of Conscience Award” for his work on interfaith relationships and world peace.
In 1985 he established the first International Peace Prayer Day Celebration. The annual day of musical celebration and interfaith prayer has drawn many national and international leaders. Yogi Bhajan favorite saying was, “If you can’t see God in all, you can’t see God at all.”