Cult’s Reach

How big is the Kundalini Yoga/3HO Cult anyway?

Speculations on the size of the Kundalini Yoga/3HO cult.

3HO Ministers Mapped
Here is the list of Sikh Ministers from the 3HO web site mapped to Google Maps. 

• Blue icons are for Singh Sahibs 
• Purple icons for Sardarni Sahibas. 
• Yellow icons for Mukhias and Bhais.

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Click on image above to go to Google Map with 3HO officials displayed.

3HO Sikh Ministers
According to the list, from 2019, there are 317 official 3HO ministers listed. 152 of whom are said to be ‘Not Current’. The Not Current status could just be a matter of not paying their dues on time.  There are 155 Sardarni Sahibas (the ladies) and 137 Singh Sahibs (the gents) — almost equal proportions. Not quite the usual yoga class ratio of 90% women and 10% men. Apparently YB hadn’t come up with a gender neutral version of the title before he died. 

The list contains 1 Bhai Sahiba (Yogi Bhajan’s wife, Bibiji), 12 ‘Mukhia Singh Sahibs’ (men) and 5 ‘Mukhia Sardarni Sahibs’ (women). These titles were usually reserved for regional leaders. The leaders of the leaders.  All the Mukhias are in the USA. The EU may need to look into this.

It seems like after a while YB was handing out Singh Sahibs like attendance badges. In terms of leadership, some of the people listed, I wouldn’t follow to the Exit if the house was on fire.

I wonder how many of these ministers of the 3HO Dharma are handing in their badges. Perhaps the Khalsa String Band can back get together and do a new version of Bob Dylan’s “Knock Knock Knocking on Heaven’s Door”. “Mama, take this turban off of me, I can’t wear it anymore, It’s gettin’ dark, too dark to see…” and “Mama, put my kirpans in the ground I can’t show them anymore…”

It looks like the Minister List has not been updated since 2019 Spring, so the numbers could be considerably lower if updated today. I have heard of at least a few people who have turned in their minister designations.

The map gives a sense of the geographic distribution of 3HO, but not much on the actual population of 3HO land.

Estimating 3HO Members
Back in the days, YB bragged that he had 200,000 followers. This always seemed bogus to me, even when I was in the cult. 

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Source: 1975-06-15 The Los Angeles Times Sun – Sikhs have undaunted faith in their leader

I always guessed 3,000-5,000 turban wearing members at most…If one could get the average number of turban wearers times the number of ministers, a realistic number of people in 3HO might be derived. Back in the day (the 1980s), the Toronto ashram had 25-30 people. These days, the number is much lower. Even in my day, many ashrams had 3-5 people, but would often still have a Singh Sahib or a Sardarni Sahib. Then there were a handful of places, Los Angeles, Espanola, Phoenix, Washington DC etc that had larger communities. If the average was 25 people x 300+ ministers, the total might be 7,500 in 3HO. That seems too high. I always guessed 3,000-5,000 turban wearing members at most, but it has been a while since (until Premka’s book came out) I had much to do with 3HO.
Then if you count the number of people with turbans, some of them started back in the late 60s – early 70’s as 20 year olds. That makes them in the 70-plus year-old range now, so they are starting to die off. Combine this with regular attrition and the latest revelations about sexual abuse and the numbers have to be way down. Even before 2020, there was not much new blood coming in, as most people in this era don’t want to join a cult. They don’t mind chipping away on the sidelines, doing yoga and meditations but they aren’t prepared to put on a turban for everyday living. If you look at what is happening today, most yoga students don’t put on a turban. They might get a spiritual name, but many only use that in 3HO gathering contexts, so are they really followers?