Editor: We asked Mahan Rishi how he discovered Kundalini Yoga, what inspired him to become a teacher, and what he likes about teaching at Sat Nam Fest. Here is his beautiful response!
Mahan Rishi: I connected with Kundalini Yoga after two hitch hiking adventures in North America. From early on I had an affinity for nature, and when I was 18 and graduating from high school I decided not to go to college and to travel with a friend from NJ to Alaska in search of a wilderness lifestyle. It was a wonderful time of wandering, curiosity and self-discovery. While in Alaska during August, we were on our way to Valdez when we were consumed by a snow blizzard and cold winds. We quickly looked at each other, and said, “southern California sounds good now.”
We walked across the street and headed south. I ended up in Laguna Beach in California for a few months before coming back to NJ. I still had the inspiration for travel so I hitch hiked up to Newfoundland Canada in November. A cold time to be there as well.
As an 18 year old I was guided by the spirit of the wind and going where ever the next breeze took me. During these travels I heard the saying, “you can travel around the world a thousand times and not know yourself, the monk can go into a room, close the door and see the Universe.” This statement inspired me to go within.
After traveling throughout Newfoundland I came home to NJ and transformed my room into a suburban cave where I spent the next number of months reading scriptures of different traditions and practicing yoga and meditation to the best of my ability.
During my studies I seriously read the book, Be Here Now, by Baba Ram Das. Somewhere in the back of the book he says, ‘Kundalini yoga is powerful, you need a teacher.’ My two friends and I said ‘we want to do that!’ We found the book Spiritual Community Guide, which had the spiritual teachers of that time along with the communes and ashrams in North America. We found the House of Guru Ram Das in Princeton NJ, and saw that they taught Kundalini yoga. We thought this was a wonderful find. Within a short time we drove to Princeton in my VW bus and knocked on the door. This beautiful woman (my future wife), opened the door and invited us into the sadhana space. Her husband of that time came out and told us about ashram living and invited us to his Kundalini yoga class at Princeton University. We went to the class and had a profound and powerful experience. It was February 20, 1975. Within a month I moved into the ashram and have been in Princeton ever since.
Kundalini yoga and meditation continues to be a profound and inspiring experience. The opportunity to teach at sacred gatherings such as Sat Nam Fest magnifies the joy for me. It is always wonderful to be in the company of brothers and sisters who are sincere about their personal growth as well as planetary evolution. Sat Nam Fest provides the space for inspired exploration and discovery. It is one of my most favorite environments for teaching. The bliss and happiness that arise from deep devotion and practice are a great blessing.
The loving atmosphere of Sat Nam Fest creates an open and nurturing environment for all of us to melt into one another’s heart and to access aspects of our being that express kindness and compassion.
The music and chanting at the festival continues to evolve in its connection with the divine and the skill and professional quality of the bands deepens each year as well. The chant concerts are one of the most enriching aspects of the gathering.
Most of all, I feel it’s the softness and sensitive presence of everyone that feels nurturing to the heart and a comforting space to relax in. People of all ages and backgrounds have the opportunity to find a sacred reservoir of healing and peace.
Teaching has been one of the most fulfilling aspects of my life. Seeing people awaken in their hearts, expand consciousness and create a life guided by an inner sense of self-love is a great blessing. As a teacher, I feel the joy of being able to contribute to someone’s life that is deeply meaningful and transformative. Yogi Bhajan has provided an immensely important opportunity to serve the planet and bring greater peace to the lives of many.
Life outside of Sat Nam Fest is fulfilled with my wife Nirbhe Kaur and family, and our healing arts practice and teaching in Yardley Pa. I also enjoy creating rock gardens, working in the yard and going on travel adventures. Some of my up coming adventures will take me to Iceland and Senegal, as well as cosmic interspaces in the Golden Light.
Sat Naam Deep Love to All