“I will not marry you” was the statement Yogi Bhajan said to me in the middle of the wedding ceremony, with the family, guests, students and intended wife all gathered for this sacred event.
After a year of living in the ashram, the director, Bob, called me to his room. Already seated was a woman also living in the ashram. Bob proposed in a most round-about way, this woman and I could get married. I did a hard gulp. The thought had not crossed my mind. She was suitable enough, and a yogi and I liked the idea of getting married and having a family, but now? With her? We decided to go for a walk to consider from all sides if we shall do this. She seemed to be already agreeable to marrying me. Okay, that seemed like a good thing. As we walked I tried to find a yes inside me to agree to the marriage. I did not find a yes or a no. Then I switched tactics and asked if there was any reason not to get married to this woman now? No reason presented itself. So it was decided.
I know this may sound like an arranged marriage or worst, doing something against my good judgment. It was not either of these things. I have found many good things in my life have come from simply agreeing to remain present in a given situation. In other words, to not reject what is being offered just because I did not consciously recognize the benefit to me or how I might have attracted this event into my life.
Yogi Bhajan on his first trip back to India with a bunch of American students was attacked and his life was threatened by his old teachers who were angry that he was teaching the sacred science of Kundalini Yoga to a bunch of crazy Americans. The threats became so severe that the Indian army provided protection. The teachers who were threatening his life said “If you are such a great yogi, why don’t you let God protect you, why do you need the Indian Army?” Yogi Bhajan simply replied, “God gave me the army.” He was a practical man as well as a great master. So I sometimes let the universal flow of spirit do what is best for my life.
Okay, so the decision was to get married in December when Yogi Bhajan was in town before attending the Winter Solstice event in central Florida. According to his schedule, he could perform the ceremony on the 16th of December 1973. Now to make the preparations. It was a big event for our little ashram to have 70 people plus Yogi Bhajan in a space that normally had 10-15 students. A few days before I sent a message to Yogi Bhajan with a request to speak with him. I was getting nervous about getting married. No answer. I sent another message and again no answer. By default the event planning took place.
The ceremony was going to be a traditional Sikh style wedding. That meant there would be four rounds where the bride and groom after listening to the words about what makes a good wedding and agreeing to certain conditions, would stand and together walk around The Guru. This is the Sikh holy book which we chanted from every morning after Sadhana and read aloud each month in an akand path, a continuous reading of the entire book which took three and a half days. Above the place where the Guru sat was a canopy called a Chaur sahib. This was always a most beautiful design, with hand embroidery, often with gold thread. It was my task to fix this large cloth on the ceiling. The ceiling in the ashram was very high and even with a ladder, required a good stretch to reach the ceiling to attach one corner. Having only one ladder, I then had to reposition the ladder and attach another corner. Repeat this two more times. It was not easy but I was glad it was completed. Bob came in and said, it is not straight, it needs to be done again. Okay, up and down the ladder 4 more times with a few extra trips up and down to readjust the corners. It still was not straight. It needed to be done again until finally, it was satisfactory. That was a hard birth. I imagined it was a sign of my commitment, steadiness, and determination towards a successful marriage.
While attaching the canopy I was thinking of a story about Guru Nanak. As he was approaching his time to leave his body and this earth, a successor was needed. Guru Nanak’s son believed he would be the best option. Guru Nanak had another in mind but was open to test the situation. He asked the two men to build a wall at a fixed location and height. When they finished, he asked them to move the wall some meters away and with another height. This was difficult work but they did as asked. This went on a few more times until guru Nanak’s son said enough and quit the test. At the Guru’s request, the other man tore down and rebuild the wall three more times before all were convinced he would be the next Guru.
The day of the wedding arrived and I was still hoping to talk to Yogi Bhajan before the ceremony. He came late and with all the guests waiting, it was time to begin. During the wait, a most beautiful couple played the harmonium and sang with some of the audience joining in. This couple were a mystery. I never knew their story, just that they showed up for some ashram occasions and were wonderful musicians. They were living in Miami and wore the traditional Sikh dress complete with a beautiful red turban for Rama, and the full sari, chuni (a type of veil) for Sita. Until the students from Yogi Bhajan began wearing the traditional Indian garb and turban, no westerns did such things. That made Rama and Sita unique, and a great gift to play for the wedding. It was raining which in itself is not a problem since we are indoors, but just outside the main window to the ceremony room was an aluminum awning. As the large pellets of rain hit this metal awning it sounded like a machine gun. Our family, friends, and guests were all attentively ready for the marriage having removed their shoes with most sitting on the carpet.
The ceremony began and after the third round, Yogi Bhajan turns to the bride and asks, “Why are you marrying this man?” She gave an answer Yogi Bhajan found agreeable. Then Yogi Bhajan turns to me and asks, “Why are you marrying this woman?” I gave an answer and Yogi Bhajan says. “That is not the right answer. give me another.” Okay, so I gave another. He said no. I gave another and he said no. There was tension building in me, the bride and the people gathered. Beginning to feel a bit desperate I looked to my teacher, Bob, who was sitting next to Yogi Bhajan. Bob quickly diverted his eyes down to avoid contact. I gave a glance to the bride who’s face indicated I should give the right answer now. After a few more tries and more no’s from Yogi Bhajan, I began to hear the people gathered begin to speak. “He doesn’t know the answer.” “He is not going to get married.” “What can we do?” It became a desperate funny situation. I had run out of answers and began repeating past responses. After what seemed like 15 minutes, finally, Yogi Bhajan said okay. A huge relief could be felt and heard from all the people gathered.
The ceremony was soon over and all were congratulating me on finally getting the answer. I still had no idea what all that was about. The final step was the signing of the official documents from the state of Florida. Yogi Bhajan signed, my new wife and I signed plus a witness. I was about to ask Yogi Bhajan to explain what happened and he puts his hand on my shoulder, looks at me and says, “You have a strong heart. All is okay now.” A moment later he was out the door. To this day I have no clear idea of exactly what he meant but believe he was helping me to be a more loving person. To me, he was an example of unconditional love.
As things settled down a bit, Rama came up to me and offered his understanding of the correct answer Yogi Bhajan was asking for when he asked me ‘Why do you want to marry this woman? The correct answer was, ‘I am marrying her for life’.
The marriage lasted fourteen years and brought two amazing beings into the world. I have gratitude for the experiences that continue to unfold as I get to be a grandfather and live with an amazing woman who will probably be with me when I take my last breath.
Note: Wedding photo from 1972, me, bride, parents, brothers.