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Formation13 July 1969 (55 years ago) (1969-07-13) Los Angeles, United States
FounderYogi Bhajan
TypeReligious organisation
HeadquartersEspanola, New Mexico
OriginsKundalini Yoga
Area served
AffiliationsSikh Dharma International, Yogi Tea, Akal Security

3HO (Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization), also known as Sikh Dharma of the Western Hemisphere or Sikh Dharma International, is a controversial[failed verification] American organization founded in 1969 by Harbhajan Singh Khalsa, also called "Yogi Bhajan".[1][2][3][4][5] Its adherents are popularly referred to as the Sikh Dharma Brotherhood.[4] While referred to as the 3HO movement, "3HO" is strictly speaking the name only of the movement's educational branch.[2][5] Scholars have defined 3HO as a new religious movement.[6][7]



The 3HO movement is known for including some practices found in certain Dharmic traditions such as meditation, vegetarianism and yoga, particularly Kundalini yoga.[4][5][2] 3HO also believes openness to yoga and spiritual ideas as a source of strength.[8][9] Both men and women wear turbans and often wear white clothes.[4]

3HO requires its members to follow a strict lacto-vegetarian diet.[10][11] The use of alcohol, recreational drugs and tobacco is forbidden.[10]



Despite 3HO claiming to practice Sikh teachings and values, the organisation is largely condemned by the wider Sikh community, with some going as far to refer it as a cult.[12][13][14][15][16]

Condemnation by SGPC and Akal Takht


In 1977, Gurucharan Singh Tohra, former President of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), stated that Harbhajan Singh was not the leader of Sikhism in the Western World as he claimed, and denied Singh's claim that the SGPC had given him the title of Siri Singh Sahib.[13]

Sikh High Priest, Jaswant Singh stated that he and his council professed to be "shocked" at Bhajan's "fantastic theories." Yoga, Tantrism and the "sexual practices" taught by Bhajan, the council declared, are "forbidden and immoral."[17]

Sexual abuse allegations


After the release of a memoir in early 2020, several victims filed a civil lawsuit in Los Angeles against 3HO. They claimed that Bhajan not only abused them but that members of 3HO were also aware of the abuse. As a result, An Olive Branch, a consultancy specializing in addressing misconduct in spiritual communities, conducted an investigation. Their conclusive report confirmed the likelihood of the allegations being true.[18][19][20]

In 2019, Yogi Bhajan's former secretary Pamela Saharah Dyson published the book Premka: White Bird in a Golden Cage: My Life with Yogi Bhajan, reporting that she and other women had sexual relationships with Harbhajan Singh.[21] In March 2020, anti-cult activist Be Scofield published an article in her magazine The Guru reporting sexual abuse and rape of female followers and assistants including Dyson by Harbhajan Singh, based on "over a dozen original interviews".[22]

Scholars' views on 3HO and Yogi Bhajan


Scholars including Verne A. Dusenbery and Pashaura Singh have concurred that Harbhajan Singh's introduction of Sikh teachings into the West helped identify Sikhism as a world religion while at the same time creating a compelling counter-narrative to that which identified Sikhs solely as a race with a shared history in India.[23]

Sikh historian, Trilochan Singh offered a contrasting perspective in his critical work entitled "Sikhism and Tantric Yoga." "I am extremely worried about the manner in which Yogi Bhajan teaches Sikhism to American young men and women whose sincerity, nobility of purpose, and rare passion for oriental wisdom and genuine mystical experiences is unquestionably unique. I do not care what fantastic interpretations of Kundalini Yoga he gives, the like of which I have never read in any Tantra text, nor known from any living Tantric scholar. I am not prepared to take seriously his newly invented Guru Yoga in which his pious and uncritical followers must concentrate on a particular picture of Yogi Bhajan, which practice is called mental beaming."[24]

Philip Deslippe, a historian of American religion, wrote a 2012 article "From Maharaj to Mahan Tantric: The Construction of Yogi Bhajan's Kundalini Yoga", using 3HO source archive material and news articles to reveal how Harbhajan Singh recreated his own story after his first trip back to India:[25]

I set out to answer the question "where did Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan (KYATBYB) come from?" and not much else. I tried to support my findings with as much evidence as possible, and for that evidence to be as clear, specific, verifiable, and close to the source, such as interviews with first hand witnesses (Pamela being one of them), quotes from Yogi Bhajan, contemporary newspaper accounts, and exercises taken from manuals. I concluded that in the early years of 3HO, Yogi Bhajan was using the physical yoga of Swami Dhirendra Brahmachari and the persona and mantra of Baba Virsa Singh, and that the figure of Sant Hazara Singh only became prominent after the first trip to India in 1970-1971 when Yogi Bhajan had a falling out with Virsa Singh.

— Philip Deslippe.[25]

Governance and control

Yogi Bhajan (1985) founder of 3HO

Yogi Bhajan formed Sikh Dharma International as a California nonprofit religious corporation "organized to advance the religion of Sikh Dharma and as an association of religious organizations teaching principles of Sikh Dharma, including by ordination of ministers of divinity and operation of places of worship." During Yogi Bhajan's lifetime, Sikh Dharma International, along with related legal entities Siri Singh Sahib Corporation and Unto Infinity LLC, were held and controlled by Siri Singh Sahib of Sikh Dharma, a California "corporation sole" of which Yogi Bhajan was the only shareholder.[26] Following the Yogi's death in 2004, a dispute ensued over the governance of those entities and assets. Yogi Bhajan's wife, Bibiji Inderjit Kaur Puri, alleged that she had been appointed to the board of Unto Infinity, and that she and their three children were appointed to the Siri Singh Sahib of Sikh Dharma board of directors (and thus in a position to exert significant control over all of the Sikh Dharma legal entities); but that following Yogi Bhajan's death the other board members of those entities improperly prevented them from taking part in governance. In January 2017, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the lawsuit was not on its face an ecclesiastical dispute.[26][27][28] However, in April 2018, Chief Judge Michael Mosman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon dismissed the case.[29] Judge Mosman concluded that there was significant evidence that the 3HO corporate entities were religious in character and thus that the dispute could not be adjudicated in civil court.[29]

3HO summer solstice 1970

Business ventures


According to anthropology professor and Sikh diaspora researcher Nicola Mooney, 3HO Sikhs have combined "ethic and capitalism" to their spiritual pursuits, with Sikh Dharma International and its associated corporate entities and directors creating and controlling the Yogi Tea and Akal Security brands with a worldwide presence.[30]

Golden Temple of Oregon, a natural foods company that built the Peace Cereal and Yogi Tea brands, was owned by a corporate entity controlled by Yogi Bhajan, and was estimated to be worth around $100,000,000 at the time of his death. The company was transferred to Kartar Singh Khalsa for $100, sparking lawsuits over improper disposition of the assets.[31][32] Golden Temple's cereal division was sold to Hearthside Food Solutions in May 2010 for $71 million; the executives were later ordered to return more than half of the sale price to a court-appointed receiver. Hearthside was later acquired by Post. Golden Temple was renamed East West Tea Company after that sale.[33]

Another SDI-related company, Akal Security, initially hired 3HO members to guard shops and restaurants. It grew into a $500 million-a-year company with federal contracts to protect numerous government buildings in Washington, DC and elsewhere, including courthouses, airports, and embassies. The founders donated the company to the church in 1980.[27]

Following the death of Yogi Bhajan, control over Golden Temple and Akal Security was contested in a series of lawsuits in Oregon.[34]

List of child organizations of 3HO



  1. ^ Eleanor Nesbitt (2016). Sikhism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. pp. 101–102. ISBN 978-0-19-106277-3.
  2. ^ a b c Sects in Sikhism, Encyclopedia Britannica
  3. ^ Pashaura Singh; Louis E. Fenech (2014). The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies. Oxford University Press. pp. 8, 358, 515–522. ISBN 978-0-19-100411-7.
  4. ^ a b c d Kristen Haar; Sewa Singh Kalsi (2009). Sikhism. Infobase Publishing. pp. 9–14. ISBN 978-1-4381-0647-2.
  5. ^ a b c Opinderjit Kaur Takhar (2016). Sikh Identity: An Exploration of Groups Among Sikhs. Taylor & Francis. pp. 161–168. ISBN 978-1-351-90010-2.
  6. ^ Lewis, James R. (2011). Violence and New Religious Movements. Oxford University Press. pp. 3-5. ISBN 978-0199735631
  7. ^ Chryssides, George D. (2012). Historical Dictionary of New Religious Movements. Scarecrow Press. p. 161. ISBN 978-0810861947
  8. ^ Kamala Elizabeth Nayar (2004). The Sikh Diaspora in Vancouver: Three Generations Amid Tradition, Modernity, and Multiculturalism. University of Toronto Press. pp. 127–128. ISBN 978-0-8020-8631-0.
  9. ^ Jakobsh, Doris (2008). "3HO/Sikh Dharma of the Western Hemisphere: The Forgotten New Religious Movement?". Religion Compass. 2 (3). Wiley-Blackwell: 385–408. doi:10.1111/j.1749-8171.2008.00068.x.
  10. ^ a b York, Michael. (2009). The A to Z of New Age Movements. Scarecrow Press. p. 169. ISBN 978-0-8108-6816-8
  11. ^ Fenech, Louis E; Singh, Pashaura. (2014). The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies. Oxford University Press. p. 365. ISBN 9780191004117
  12. ^ "Before the sudden death of its leader, Ra Ma Yoga Institute was accused by some former members of being a cult. What happens now?". Insider. Kundalini yoga was brought to the US in the 1960s by Yogi Bhajan, who died in 2004. It offered codes to live by, and Bhajan's followers — largely white ex-hippies — were thirsty for enlightenment. They called themselves "American Sikhs," though the practice had nothing to do with actual Sikhism.
  13. ^ a b Wilde, James (5 September 1997). "Religion: Yogi Bhajan's Synthetic Sikhism". Time. Archived from the original on November 17, 2007. Retrieved 2011-01-02.
  14. ^ "The Second Coming of Guru Jagat". Vanity Fair.
  15. ^ "Yogi Bhajan Turned an L.A. Yoga Studio into a Juggernaut, and Left Two Generations of Followers Reeling from Alleged Abuse". Los Angeles Magazine. Bhajan was a controversial figure among South Asian Sikhs, who noted that he picked up some aspects of their faith while abandoning others. For one, Sikhs aren't vegetarian, their religion does not include yoga, they do not revere living gurus. And they don't wear white.
  16. ^ "How a Cult-turned-Corporation Hijacked American Sikhism". The Juggernaut.
  17. ^ "Religion: Yogi Bhajan's Synthetic Sikhism". Time Magazine. 5 September 1977. High Priest Jaswant Singh, a leader of the Sikhs in eastern India and comparable in status to Bhajan Backer Tohra, last week denounced Bhajan's claims. He and his council professed to be "shocked" at Bhajan's "fantastic theories." Yoga, Tantrism and the "sexual practices" taught by Bhajan, the council declared, are "forbidden and immoral."
  18. ^ "Inside The Dubious World Of A Cult That Turned 550-year-old Religion Into A Commodity". India Times. In light of the memoir that came out in early 2020, and after many of the victims filed a civil lawsuit in Los Angeles against 3HO, claiming that not only did Bhajan abuse them but also that members of 3HO were well aware of the abuse. Following the allegations, an investigation was opened by An Olive Branch, a consultancy that is strangely established to deal with misconduct in the spiritual community. Their final report revealed that the allegations are indeed (most likely) true.
  19. ^ "OIive Branch Report". The SSSC Office of Ethics and Professional Standards.
  20. ^ "Olive Branch Report". Kundalini Research Institute.
  21. ^ Dyson, Pamela (2019). Premka : White Bird in a golden cage : my life with Yogi Bhajan. Maui, Hawaii: Eyes Wide Publishing. ISBN 978-0-578-62188-3. OCLC 1142816131.
  22. ^ Scofield, Be (March 5, 2020). "Master of Deceit: How Yogi Bhajan Used Kundalini Yoga for Money, Sex and Power". The Guru. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  23. ^ Verne A. Dusenbery (1999). "'Nation' or 'World Religion'?: Master Narratives of Sikh Identity" in Sikh Identity: Continuity and Change. Pashaura Singh and N. Gerald Barrier, editors. New Delhi: Manohar Publishers. pp. 127-139; Pashaura Singh (2013). "Re-imagining Sikhi ('Sikhness') in the Twenty-first Century: Toward a Paradigm Shift in Sikh Studies" in Re-imagining South Asian Religions. Pashaura Singh and Michael Hawley, editors. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill NV. p. 43; Opinderjit Kaur Takhar (2005). Sikh Identity: An Exploration of Groups Among Sikhs. Aldershot, England: Ashgate Publishing. pp. 172-77.
  24. ^ "Sikhism and Tantric Yoga". The Gurumukh Yoga Forum. Retrieved May 26, 2020.
  25. ^ a b Deslippe, Philip (2012). "From Maharaj to Mahan Tantric: The Construction of Yogi Bhajan's Kundalini Yoga". Sikh Formations. doi:10.1080/17448727.2012.745303. S2CID 144988035. Retrieved March 2, 2021.
  26. ^ a b Puri v. Khalsa, 844 F.3d 1152, slip op. at 5-9, 33 (9th Cir. 2017).
  27. ^ a b Pein, Corey (2011-08-24). "Death of a Yogi". Santa Fe Reporter. Santa Fe, New Mexico. Retrieved 2017-01-17.
  28. ^ Pein, Corey (2010-07-07). "Khalsa vs. Khalsa". Santa Fe Reporter. Santa Fe, New Mexico. Retrieved 2017-01-17.
  29. ^ a b Bernstein, Maxine (2018-04-27). "Judge dismisses lawsuit over rulership of Sikh business empire". The Oregonian. Portland, Oregon. Retrieved 2018-11-08.
  30. ^ Mooney, Nicola (2012). "Reading Weber Among the Sikhs: Asceticism and Capitalism in the 3Ho/Sikh Dharma". Sikh Formations. 8 (3). Taylor & Francis: 417–436. doi:10.1080/17448727.2012.745305. S2CID 145775040.
  31. ^ Culverwell, Wendy (2012-02-24). "Schwabe Williamson sued for $230M in Yogi Bhajan-related suit". Portland Business Journal. Portland, Oregon. Retrieved 2017-01-17.
  32. ^ Buri McDonald, Sherri (2010-12-14). "Yogi's widow sues managers". The Register-Guard. Eugene, Oregon. Retrieved 2017-01-17. The widow's lawsuit, which was filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court in Portland, alleges that Unto Infinity authorized raises and perks for its members, including boosting Khalsa's salary from $125,000 in 2002 to $850,000 in 2008. . . Hers is the third lawsuit to accuse Unto Infinity members of breaking their fiduciary duty to safeguard the Sikh Dharma community's assets and of personally profiting instead. The other two lawsuits — one filed by Sikh Dharma ministers and the other by Oregon Attorney General John Kroger — were consolidated earlier this month.
  33. ^ "Golden Temple execs must return $36 million". Oregon Business. Portland, Oregon. 2012-06-19. Retrieved 2017-01-17.
  34. ^ Bernstein, Maxine (2017-01-09). "Long court battle over Sikh business empire takes another turn". The Oregonian. Portland, Oregon. Retrieved 2017-01-17.
  35. ^ a b VanderBeek, Conner Singh (2023). "The Sikh Internet". In Mandair, Arvind-Pal Singh; Singh, Pashaura (eds.). The Sikh World. Routledge. pp. 507–509. ISBN 9781032488110.
  36. ^ a b Singh, Pashaura; Fenech, Louis E. (27 March 2014). "Sikhi Through Internet, Films, and Videos". The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies. Oxford University Press. pp. 473–474. ISBN 9780191004117.

Further reading