Gurujodha Singh Khalsa is the Guru’s warrior. He is also an accomplished saxophone player, lawyer, and sixth-degree Black Belt, who has worked closely with Yogi Bhajan, the Sikh community, and the African American community. He is beloved by children from Southern California to South Africa.
In this warm and uplifting interview, Gurujodha reveals the radiant wisdom of an accomplished yogi and martial artist.
Your upcoming Wednesday workshop at Sat Nam Fest is called “The Path of the Spiritual Warrior.” What is the objective of the course?
The Path of the Spiritual Warrior is a dynamic study in human interaction. Human beings are in constant interaction and always interconnecting; meanwhile, many of us are way out of balance. It’s easy to throw one another off. So, balance in interactions starts with balance within yourself. The workshop will teach techniques to bring inner balance to the individual so that we can enjoy more balance in human interactions. Balance starts within.
What does it take to create this inner balance?
In the workshop we get students to refine their capability to be alert in every moment. We refine our quickness to notice three things: 1. What is my projection in this situation? 2. What is my intuition telling me? 3. What is the wise action? In every human interaction, be aware of the power of your words; realize your intuitive sense; and know and take the best action. We’ll practice techniques that can bring a person in tune with their heightened responsiveness capabilities. We’ll also learn some valuable physical moves that will get students excited to learn more about combining yoga with the martial arts.
Can you discuss some practical, real-world situations for which these tools come in handy?
We often have to interact with people we do not like. Or we have to deal with an energetic that we feel less than enthusiastic about. In these cases, there is a three-step, internal process that we go through. 1. Accept everything about the situation; resist nothing. 2. Consciously direct and redirect energy so that it serves a return to balance. 3. Create a resolution that works for maintaining the balance. If we encounter things we do not like, and we resist, that energy will just build up and throw us off balance. The things we don’t like to do are exactly the things we should do.
What are benefits of bringing these three conscious steps into human interactions?
We experience what it means to be truly tolerant. Our tolerance level builds. We become immune to negativity. So, if someone comes along and makes a snide remark, you naturally respond in a way that can turn that interaction playful and light hearted. You won’t react with aggression and an emotionally charged comment. You won’t get tense and say, “Hey, what did you say to me?” Instead, you’ll stay calm and offer a come back that is not trying to one up or be smart, but a come back that will turn the energy peaceful and diffuse aggression.
This kind of ability develops over time, when we gain wisdom that comes from the journey, from the discipline. Martial arts is an art. When mixed together with yoga, we gain ways to ease the mind with the breath. We use the martial arts techniques with intelligence.
The more disciplined you are and the further you go with these teachings, the less likely you will need to use any physical techniques in tense interactions. Because the teachings and discipline allow you to build a projection and persona that keep conflict and violence away from you; they repel conflict and violence so that your presence can build a consistently peaceful environment.
Can you discuss what it takes to be a light-hearted spiritual warrior?
It’s analogous to the process of training in music. In music, once you’ve done all your practice and prep of scales and arpeggios, you can be in a state of joy and ease in creative performance. Similar with yoga and martial arts, the discipline brings you to a state of union and joy.
Take the example of Stretch Pose. It’s a difficult pose, and you have to do it for at least three minutes. You can’t find your mind until your body gives out. You can’t find your spirit until your mind gives out. Spirit is a feeling of flow. You need to do all three minutes or more to get past the body, past the mind, and touch the spirit to be in the flow.
I like to teach kids because they are full of innocence and spontaneous joy. We test kids on this black belt board. Life throws challenges at them. Maybe a young boy gets slapped upside the head by a bully. Is he going to let that get to him, or is he going to get up on his feet and get back in the game? These kids get to a place of understanding that if they overcome impulsive reactivity — and instead meet a challenge with determination to get in the game — they achieve mastery.
Can you share a story from working closely with Yogi Bhajan?
In law school, we needed to do something to keep from going insane with the rigors and boredom of law school. We discovered yoga. I had been reading a book by a Sufi Sage named Hazrat Inayat Khan who talked a lot about music and cosmic consciousness. I looked at his photo on the front cover of the book and said to myself, “I wish I had a teacher like this.” Two weeks later, in a yoga class, I looked up and noticed a picture of a man with a beard and turban and a voice inside me said, “There’s your teacher.” It was a picture of Yogi Bhajan.
Soon after that, I was taking a yoga workshop with Yogi Bhajan in the same room where I had been attending Evidence classes for law school at Penn. We were all so touched. He was a master communicator. He might be in a roomful of people, but it was like he was speaking directly to you, to your heart. Yogi Bhajan gave us powerful tools and an identity, and these tools truly empower us from within.
Later, I became a member of Yogi Bhajan’s security team, and I traveled with him to South Africa. He delivered teachings in Johannesburg to the well-to-do. I was asked to deliver a letter from the Siri Singh Sahib to Nelson Mandela. Though I did not get to meet Nelson Mandela, that was an exciting task. Then we went into the black township, and I have never seen such poverty in my life. There was a little green church where we set up for his session. Kids there were eager to help, so they pitched in by setting up chairs. They brought young friends.
They went and got grown ups to come to the class, so I offered them the front row seats. Yogi Bhajan’s assistant at the time warned me, “You can’t do that.” But I insisted that these helpful kids get front row seats. The kids kept up the whole time, completed all the meditations and exercises. It was so inspiring. Afterward, Yogi Bhajan — who never mindlessly offered compliments — gave me a look of approval that I will remember forever.
Can you share some memories from past Sat Nam Festivals?
A memorable moment I had at the Sat Nam Fest was teaching the kids. We were practicing some animal poses. One pose was butterfly, and I’d ask the kids to tell me what animal we were imitating. They’d shout out “Butterfly!” And I’d pretend I didn’t hear it right, “What, buffalo?” “What, did you say bird?” Eventually we completed the exercise, and I said, I’m surprised nobody said, “Butterfly.” And the kids just lost it. We laughed together real hard. Spirits are high at Sat Nam Fest.
Once at the festival, some women came up to me and asked if I could teach them some martial arts techniques with sticks. So, I taught a spontaneous small session outside. This kind of spontaneity and curiosity is special at Sat Nam Fest.
Another time, Adarsh Kaur from Yoga West was insisting that I meet a guy named Jon Carlo. Later, during my class, I chose a volunteer from the audience, a big guy. I held him in the zone of pain, applied some pretty intense moves on this guy. Afterward, I asked, what’s your name. He said, “Jon Carlo.” Funny coincidence. Turns out, he was the Jon Carlo Adarsh had insisted that I meet. These are the kinds of magical things that happen at Sat Nam Fest.
What has kept you committed to the spiritual warrior path these years?
When I finally made it to the Brown Belt level in Kenpo, Ed Parker — who possessed the same compassion and mastery as Yogi Bhajan — gave me a hug and said, “It’s been a long road, but you’ve made it.” That’s a moment that keeps me going, that I will never forget. I feel that I have a job to do. I need to share these teachings.
Gurujodha is a special soul who radiates perfect grit and humor that is true to the spirit of the teachings of Yogi Bhajan. It’s a blessing to spend time with him. His delivery of this technology will give you real buoyancy, smarts, and poise on your path as a spiritual warrior.