Yogi Bhajan lectured his 3HO followers regularly and was quite set on having his every thought recorded. He had his own dedicated videographer, a man named Siri Ved Singh. “For over 30 years he (Siri Ved) traveled with Yogi Bhajan and recorded his lectures, more than 3600 video recordings and approximately 8,300 lectures in all, including audio tapes.”
A closer look at these recordings give a sense of the volume of them. In the Library of Teachings, a website containing the digitized versions of these talks, maintained by 3HO’s Kundalini Research Institute (KRI), there are 3,210 lectures archived.
Within a month of arriving in L.A. and deciding he was a spiritual teacher, Bhajan was able to convince some of his students that his ideas were so valuable to the world that they should be audio-taped and preserved for future generations. The first recorded lecture is from January of 1969, a month after he landed. Starting in the 1980s, when inexpensive video gear became available, many of his lectures were video-taped. Towards the end of his life, because he was so ill, showing up in person was impossible, Yogi Bhajan was literally phoning in his last few lectures.
In thirty five years of promoting his version of spirituality, yoga and meditation, if we take the number from the web site about the life of Siri Ved Singh, Bhajan lectured 8,300 times. That averages to over 237 lectures a year, which is more than five lectures a week! Clearly, Bhajan had a lot to say.
The first time I heard Yogi Bhajan speak at a Tantric course in the early 1980s, I found I could not follow his talk. His speech style was reminiscent of another Indian spiritual teacher I had been tried to listen to, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the leader of the Transcendental Meditation group. I had taken that group’s training to learn a simple meditation technique years earlier. Part of the indoctrination involved listening to Maharishi’s heavily-accented voice on a VCR recording, talking ostensibly about enlightenment and spirituality. Bhajan made about as much sense to me, but his voice was louder and angrier. My first thought, as I wasn’t yet fully in the 3HO cult, was, “Oh great! Another angry man in my life to deconstruct”.
3HO cult members were encouraged to listen to Bhajan’s words at every free moment. The idea was to absorb some of his wisdom simply by having his voice playing in the background. Similar to meditating on Bhajan’s photo, the goal was to fill a student’s awareness with all things Yogi Bhajan.
In the 1980’s it was possible to subscribe to have audio cassette tape recordings of the great man’s words mailed to you each month. Followers would put these audio tapes on in the background, while they were cooking, or ironing, believing that they were enriching themselves simply by listening to him without giving much attention to the content of his speeches.
I could never really tolerate listening to these cassette tapes myself. I found they’d lull me into sleep only to be jarred awake when he changed his tone, or his frequent clearing of his throat of mucous. He would, within the same lecture, praise his students as the saviors of mankind and then without missing a beat, berate them as ingrates, worms or dogs. His lectures were often populated with profanity, words unexpected from a ‘spiritual teacher’.
We can get a sense of some of his interests by reviewing some search terms of how often they are mentioned in his ‘Library of Teachings’.
His coarseness was attributed to his being a ‘Saturn Teacher’, which seemed to just mean that he could be an asshole whenever he felt like it. “Poke, Provoke and Elevate” was his motto. He rarely seemed to get to the Elevate stage. His homophobia, weird ideas about rape, fat phobia, calling out and embarrassing students are all well documented.
His stories, when you could make sense of them often seemed to have a vindictive nature, almost Old Testament Biblical stories of people getting what they deserved and somehow, he would invariably end up as the hero of the story.
If I read the words of any random lecture now, as I can’t tolerate listening to his voice for long, I notice that his talking doesn’t make sense to my Western mind. The ‘lectures’ don’t really have a recognizable flow or logic to them, they are more extemporaneous word collages, often angry and filled with a seemingly random assembly of words. His stories rarely make any sense and the morality of his stories is not clear. This incomprehensibility was sold as a feature. The idea was that the great man was talking on a psychic level and that he was healing you as he spoke.
These days if you search on the Library of Teachings, 3HO seems to have got the message that a lot of lectures are controversial and can contain abusive material. The first thing you will see when searching the Library is a Content Warning: “Some of these transcripts and videos contain material that can be offensive and triggering. In the spirit of transparency, this material is offered in its entirety and the reader/viewer is encouraged to practice self-care as some material can be offensive and triggering.“