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Yashvinder Kaur Uppal – Celebrated Regent of the Divine – 74 years

MSS Sat Santokh Singh Khalsa – True Contentment – 84 years

SS Sada Anand Singh Khalsa – Eternally Joyful – 77 years

Sat Kirtan Kaur Khalsa – True Adoration – 81 years
 

Yash – Departed Friday, Midnight, February 16-17, 2024 

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Yash, born to a Sikh family, immigrated from India to the United States via the UK with her husband Dr Satnam Singh, and their daughters, settling in Central California in 1978 where they had their son in 1990. The first time I saw Yash in about 1995, she had come to a program hosted by a small sangat of Western converts at the home of Sadanam Kaur. Yash wore an embroidered gold suit, and appeared, to me, absolutely regal. I thought to myself that she would never notice someone like me. I could not have been more wrong. Yash not only noticed me; she noticed everyone, everywhere she went. The next time I met her in a kirtan program at her home, she gave me the sewa of making prashad, the first of many times that she would give me that sewa over the next three decades. 

Yash took an active part in the Bay Area Sikh community, and wherever she went. She purchased a house near San Leandro Ashram, built a second house in Monterey, and managed to involve the tenants in reading sehaj paaths. She also attempted to purchase a house in Espanola. Whether donating projector screens to a gurdwara, helping to launch a teaching center, preparing langar, or washing plates, Yash always involved herself in sewa, be it a gurdwara, or a program in someone’s home. Upkar Kaur remembers meeting Yash in the San Leandro ashram and observed, “Yash never just sat, she always stayed busy, preparing langar, or cleaning up. We would talk together in Punjabi which was nice. You had to be careful because if you admired anything, Yash would give it to you.”

Our small local sangat of four families read our first entirely all-Gurmukhi akhand paath in Yash’s home. In about 2007, she arranged for at least one of us from each family to read a sehaj paath together. I had been feeling very forlorn, but group support in reading the sehaj paath immediately uplifted me. We would have the bhog at one of our homes and right away begin another. We read without missing a day continually for eight years without a pause. During this time, I began to think of her as our queen, our paath boss, because she always kept us going, calling often to check in with each of us. At some point around 2017, we took a short break, but as always, Yash got us reading again. About this time our sangat expanded to include Sat Sundri Kaur as well as Amrita Kaur and Pavneet Singh of Marina CA who began hosting programs in their home.

During the Covid lockdown, it happened that some of us were reading multiple sehaj paaths. About this time, we had begun reading "cyber paaths" using phone apps to manage reading schedules using Zoom to connect sangat and conduct the bhog. Yash confessed to reading seven cyber sehaj paaths simultaneously with various groups in multiple states at a time when she had an eye injury and failing sight. I strongly suspect she kept in contact with all the readers from each group, encouraging, or even bossing us, if need be, to keep up reading. Pathee Haripriya of Massachusetts noted, “Yash taught me how to start sahaj paaths, she encouraged me to bring as much love as I could.” Pathee Saraswati noted that Yash, “was kind to me…and understanding when I first started to read, her presence, her essence, is missed.” Pathee Acharya noted, “Yash was an incredible being, totally self-effacing and only wanting to serve. So quiet and humble, but a deep, and profound thinker with spiritual insights and experiences.”

I know for certain, that during her final days, she had been reading in at least two sehj paaths, one for Sat Santokh Singh, and another for SatKirtan Kaur. We concluded the paath that we had been reading for Sat Kirtan Kaur with bhog Sat Kirtan Kaur sang the sloks accompanied by her daughter Gurbani with Yash’s son Gobind Singh Uppal playing tabla. We immediately began another paath. We wanted to read for Yash, but she refused. Instead, Mariaya, a woman who lived in a house owned by Yash that had been damaged during a storm by a falling tree became the recipient of the paath. Yash continued to read even after being admitted to the hospital (unbeknownst to the other readers) until she could read no longer. Her final day of reading February 14th, gave us a clue, that something more dire must be happening with her health than she had let on. 

After giving her daughter, Joti, several hours of instructions between coughs, Yash fought for her final breath around midnight Friday, February 17th, 2024, as her beloved son, Gobind Singh, attempted resuscitation. She knew how much we all depended on her and struggled to stay with us until she could fight no longer. Our beloved warrior queen may no longer be present to boss us, but her presence is instilled in each one of us as though she still stands over us encouraging, and admonishing, us to keep up and continue our devotional reading. We dare not, can bear not, to let her down.

Sat Santokh Singh – Departed Wednesday, 5:35 pm, February 21, 2024

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Sat Santokh Singh came into this world the year that World War II officially started. Early childhood experiences shaped a lifelong desire to help others heal from trauma. He developed an interest in yoga in the late 1960s and played an active role in the early days of the Healthy Happy Holy Organization 3HO, and ultimately Sikh Dharma International SDI. 

On November 15th, 1970, Sat Santokh Singh met with Sukhmandir Singh, Sat Kirtan Kaur and her young son Datta, Guru Terath Kaur, and others who founded the “Banana Ananda” Ashram in San Rafael CA. Sukhmandir Singh helped to build a 12’x12’ tower along one side that ran from the basement up to the top of the mansion. Among those who later joined the ashram in 1973, were Vikram Singh, Hari Shabad Singh, Siri Pritam Kaur, Shakti Singh, Sada Anand Singh, and Sadanam Singh who remembers the eight-volume Steeks of Guru Granth Sahib as being housed in the tower in its uppermost story. Sadanam Singh remarked, “Sat Santokh Singh, being 10 years older, had a particularly unique situation integrating young hippies into a spiritual life.” Sukhmandir Singh observed, “Sat Santokh was good at what he did, and kept up all these years!” 

Sat Santokh Singh set up a company called Sat Nam Services, which employed people living in the San Rafael Ashram like Sada Anand Singh and Sadanam Singh, to clean up after concerts by musicians like Joan Baez, and the Grateful Dead, who partnered later on with Sat Santokh Singh in 1987 to establish the high school environmental organization Creating Our Future COF.

After several years, the San Rafael Ashram dissolved. Like many of its members, Sat Santokh Singh shifted to San Fransico and Berkeley California, and set up new ashrams. Others like Sat Kirtan Kaur, Sukhmandir Singh, Sadanam Singh, and Sadanam Kaur opened an ashram in Monterey California where Siri Pritam Kaur also lived before moving to Yuba City. About this time, the Sikh converts in Northern and Central California began integrating with Sikhs immigrating from Punjab to the Bay Area. Sat Santokh Singh, along with his wife Prabhunam Kaur, and her daughter Snatam Kaur, did Panj Pyare sewa, initiating 3HO members who elected to become Sikhs.  

In the early nineties, a major earthquake resulted in costly renovations prompting the sale and closure of the Berkeley ashram. Sat Santokh Singh and his wife Prabhunam Kaur then opened the ashram in San Leandro, CA where Sat Santokh developed Self Worth Journeys workshops to enable people to heal from childhood trauma, with an ultimate aim “to allow the flow of life’s physical, emotional, spiritual and material abundance.” I remember Sat Santokh Singh as kind, and thoughtful, remembering young and old alike, working, and networking, for the highest good of the entire Sikh Panth, and indeed the world at large, regardless of origin or affiliation. 

At about the turn of the century, Sat Santokh began focusing on training others in methods of releasing trauma in the hopes of ultimately healing humanity. Sadanam Singh recalls participating in public events with Sat Santokh Singh. During Laguna Days held at the Laguna Raceway, he played the gong while Sat Santokh taught yoga and led a meditation. Another event took place with Wavy Gravy and a crowd of 20,000 to 30,000 where Sat Santokh Singh led a meditation and Sadanam Singh played guitar during an intermission. Sadanam Singh remembers Sat Santok Singh as “incredibly talented when chanting to Guru Ram Daas. That was his space. It really lit him up!”

Covid lockdown heralded the beginning of Zoom sangat and participation in cyber sehj paath groups with San Leandro Sangat, including Prabhunam Kaur, San Francisco Sangat, including Siri Datta Singh, and Monterey Sangat including Yash and Sat Kirtan Kaur, their final paath being read during for Sat Santokh Singh during which time that the three of them passed on.

In the lingering moment of the setting sun at about 5:35 pm, Wednesday evening, February 21st, 2024 Sat Santokh passed peacefully from this earthly realm surrounded by his family and friends. His son Rishi Parbat Singh Khalsa remembers his father, Sat Santokh Singh, as, “a radiant example of how to live on the planet.” His wife, Prabhunam Kaur, remembers him as “a big loving presence, his huge heart filled with loving care and concern for family.”

Sada Anand Singh – Departed Thursday, February 22, 2024

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Sada Anand Singh joined the San Rafael ashram in about 1973, where he took an active part. Siri Pritam Kaur described Sada Anand Singh as, “a musician who had a heart of gold with music.” Sadanam Kaur remembers that he would get up before the others and play his guitar to wake them for morning sadhana meditation singing:

“Rise up, rise up sweet family dear

The time of the Lord and remembering Love is here

Love - Love is all you'll say 

If you'll awake, and rise up right away

The Lord will bless you in so many ways

If you’ll rise up, right now and sing His praise”

Music and lyrics by Guru Singh

Sadanam Singh recalls them doing 120 days of “morning call” for two and a half hours in the tower where they kept Guru Granth Sahib. He remembers Sada Anand Singh as a “good vibrations guy singing and chanting” and who inspired him to learn to play guitar, describing him as, “a guitarist who had a constant silver thread from singing mantras to full shabads, with a way about him which maintained that kind of grace.” 

Sada Anand lived for a while in the Berkeley ashram where he partnered with Bir Singh to import vehicles from Germany. In the early 90s, they expanded their business to include Japan. After living for 17 years in American ashrams, Sada Anand immigrated to Shin Kobe Japan where, in 1991, he received his first American visitor Dr Dharma Singh

Sada Anand Singh married a Japanese woman who took the name Kudrat. Following the 1995, 7.2 earthquake, conditions became unlivable in Kobe and the couple retreated to the top of Mount Ikoma, accessible only by cable car, where they began teaching again and opened the Ikoma Mountain Yoga and Retreat Center. Kudrat became pregnant while there, went into labor one evening after the last cable car had departed, and gave birth to their daughter 33 hours later at 4:17 am, a number which happened to coincide with the date of Sada Anand’s own birth. The family remained living at the top of Mount Ikoma and eventually purchased the property and renovated the building where they held vegetarian yoga retreats for Japanese people. They later expanded to include their base operation in Har House at the Ikoyama Yoga Center in Nara.

Sada Anand visited Monterey sangat at about the turn of the century. Sukhmandir Singh remembers taking Sada Anand Singh and his daughter to Santa Cruz where Siri Amrit enjoyed surfing. Sada Anand Singh also maintained a home in Espanola which he eventually put up for sale to raise money for renovations needed at the retreat in Japan. When Yash heard about it, she had Sadanam Kaur make an anonymous offer for her, not wishing to influence the outcome. After selling the Espanola house to a higher bidder, Sada Anand Singh often sought construction advice by phone from Sadanam Singh while renovating his yoga centers in Japan.

Sada Anand Singh truly maintained an international presence. Thursday, February 22, 2024, Sada Anand Singh sat in the Tokyo airport waiting to board a flight to Taiwan, where he expected to teach before leading a pilgrimage to the Golden Temple Darbar Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar India. Sada Anand, whose unforgettable name I always remembered as meaning Ceaseless Bliss, never boarded his flight. His earthy body remained seated as his blissful soul departed for Sachkhand, the Realm of Truth, the ultimate destination for the inter-celestial traveler bound for the Infinite Beyond.

Sat Kirtan Kaur – Departed, Saturday, Noon, March 9, 2024

Keertan in Loving Memory of Bibi Satkirtan Kaur Jee

Sat Kirtan Kaur joined 3HO for the yoga and stayed for the kirtan. She along with her young son Datta met with Sat Santokh, Sukhmandir Singh Guru Terath, and others who founded the Banana Ananda ashram in San Rafael CA on November 15, 1970. From there Sat Kirtan Kaur moved to Monterey CA in the early 70s along with Sadanam Kaur, Sadanam Singh, Dukh Niwarn Kaur, in 1977 Sukhmandir Singh, and in the early 80s Siri Pritam Kaur, to form the Monterey sangat, which eventually encompassed Santa Cruz. I had seen Sat Kirtan Kaur, attired all in white, board a bus I happened to be riding in about 1973 or 74 and thought to myself, “That person is really into what they are into.” I could not have been more right! Sat Kirtan Kaur always gave 100% of herself to whatever she did, and most especially to Kirtan. 

I met Sat Kirtan Kaur officially when invited to “do sadhana” by Sukhmandir Singh. I had gone to the ashram early one morning before dawn. I thought “Doing yoga in the dark, I guess that’s cool.” Then the lights went on and Satkirtan Kaur began doing kirtan. As I read the translation of the shabad she sang, I thought, “This is not yoga, this is religion.” I decided in that instant to go for it, in what became the most transformative decision of my entire life. From that moment forward Sat Kirtan Kaur became my teacher, mentor, sister, mother, and best friend for life. She involved me in a dharmic devotional life unparalleled by anything I had ever known. Her dark eyes glowed with spiritual fervor that outshone her kirpan. She told me in her lilting voice, “You should have a baby.” Up until then, I had only been told I should not. And so, I had three. Sat Kirtan Kaur attended each of my home births and became my 40-day sevadar with my second child. Our children also became best of friends. Though we did not live in the ashram, we saw each other frequently.

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Sat Kirtan Kaur and Siri Pritam Kaur introduced me to reading akhand paath. Siri Pritam Kaur moved to Yuba City in the mid-80s. Sat Kirtan Kaur, Sadanam Kaur, and I would go yearly to Siri Pritam Kaur’s house where we would meet Prabhunam Kaur and Shakti Singh. We would read an akhand paath together, turn by turn, hour by hour, for 72 hours until its completion. I thought this to be the best of all activities. Sat Kirtan Kaur also taught me kirtan or tried to. Our enthusiasm made up for anything and everything else lacking in those days. 

In the mid-90s, many Sikhs immigrated from Punjab to the Bay Area in a relatively short time. Sat Kirtan Kaur, with me at her side, discovered each new gurdwara as it came into being in San Jose, Freemont, Hayward, El Sobrante, Tracy, Livingston, Sacramento, and Yuba City. We received countless invitations to kirtan programs in private homes, and these became our weekend destinations. Sat Kirtan Kaur generously but quietly helped to fund several students. One of them, Simran Kaur, remarked, “She was like a mother to me during my school days.” 

Sat Kirtan Kaur began taking formal kirtan lessons from professional Ragis, Gyani Jagjit Singh, Bhai Manmohan Singh, Bhai Kultar Singh Bhai Avtar Singh among them. After discovering Bhai Baldeep who had a personal mission to perpetuate raga kirtan in its original form using traditional instruments, Sat Kirtan Kaur became his student along with her “kirtan sisters” Nirvair Kaur, Siri Sevak Kaur, Harbhajan Kaur” and others, for the remainder of her days. 

Sat Kirtan Kaur helped arrange for Shakti Singh to wed Upkar Kaur who remembers Sat Kirtan Kaur as “always doing a shabad every morning”, and who compared Sat Kirtan Kaur to a butterfly. “She was very light, while with her you forgot your troubles. She touched you and opened up new horizons.” 

Sat Kirtan also “played matchmaker” for Siri Chand Kaur and AmarAtma Singh who wrote her when he learned she was in hospice, “I’ll never forget the joyous smile that shined brightly on your face as you sang. I remember that most. That purity touched my soul deeply. I’m also grateful you introduced me to Bha Kultar Singh’s Jetha. Another blessed connection Our Santa Cruz community would have never been the same without your love and participation.”

Awtar Kaur of San Fransico wrote, “Sat Kirtan Kaur found sacredness and let sacredness find her… I am awed by the sacredness in her devotion. It has made an opening to let more sacredness find me.”

Pathee Haripriya noted that Sat Kirtan Kaur “was the first person I asked to double-check my Gurmukhi. If I could not find a meaning that felt true, she helped me find it.”

Sat Kirtan Kaur left printed instructions from Sikh Rehit Maryada Code of Conduct and Conventions for her Antam Sanskar and memorial ceremony by her bedside in preparation for her departure. We got a call shortly after her passing and joined Bhai Manmohan Singh at her home for kirtan. Sat Kirtan Kaur’s son, Hari, told us that she had been listening to Sukhmani Sahib and had noted that 10 minutes remained and she would continue to listen until the end when took her final breath. Her smile lit our inner vision as we sang hymns she had printed out and placed on her harmonium. Having worn primarily white for over five decades, Sat Kirtan Kaur chose to attire herself in blue that day accented with maroon and adorned with panj kakars (five articles of faith). As her daughter, granddaughters, daughter-in-law, and I put the finishing touches on her body according to her wishes later that evening, I looked down at her face to see that her downturned mouth had turned up into a smile while we tended her. She appeared to us as a beautiful warrior bride ascending to Sachkhand to meet her divine beloved. A kind of joyful exuberance filled the house. Sat Kirtan Kaur had done her final Prakash of Guru Granth Sahib that morning. I took this hukam while doing the final sukhassan: 

ਰਾਗੁ ਵਡਹੰਸੁ - ਸ੍ਰੀ ਗੁਰੂ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਜੀ - ਅੰਗ 559
Raag Vadhans - Guru Amar Daas Ji - Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji - Ang 559

ਵਡਹੰਸੁ ਮਹਲਾ ੩ ॥
vaddaha(n)s mahalaa teejaa ||
Wadahans, Third Mehla:
ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸਚੁ ਸੰਜਮੁ ਤਤੁ ਗਿਆਨੁ ॥
gurmukh sach sa(n)jam tat giaan ||
The Gurmukh practices true self-discipline, and attains the essence of wisdom.
ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸਾ ਚੇ ਲਗੈ ਧਿਆਨੁ ॥੧॥
gurmukh saache lagai dhiaan ||1||
The Gurmukh meditates on the True Lord. ||1||
ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਮਨ ਮੇਰੇ ਨਾਮੁ ਸਮਾ ਲਿ ॥
gurmukh man mere naam samaal ||
As Gurmukh, O my mind, remember the Naam, the Name of the Lord.
ਸਦਾ ਨਿਬਹੈ ਚਲੈ ਤੇਰੈ ਨਾਲਿ ॥ ਰਹਾ ਉ ॥
sadhaa nibahai chalai terai naal || rahaau || I
t shall stand by you always, and go with you. ||Pause||
ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਜਾ ਤਿ ਪਤਿ ਸਚੁ ਸੋਇ ॥
gurmukh jaat pat sach soi ||
The True Lord is the social status and honor of the Gurmukh.
ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਸਖਾ ਈ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਹੋਇ ॥੨॥
gurmukh a(n)tar sakhaiee prabh hoi ||2||
Within the Gurmukh, is God, his friend and helper. ||2||
ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਆਪਿ ਵਡਾ ਈ ਦੇਵੈ ਸੋਇ ॥੩॥
gurmukh aap vaddaiee dhevai soi ||3||
He Himself blesses the Gurmukh with greatness. ||3||
ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸਬਦੁ ਸਚੁ ਕਰਣੀ ਸਾ ਰੁ ॥
gurmukh sabadh sach karanee saar ||
The Gurmukh lives the True Word of the Shabad, and practices good deeds.
ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਨਾਨਕ ਪਰਵਾ ਰੈ ਸਾ ਧਾ ਰੁ ॥੪॥੬॥
gurmukh naanak paravaarai saadhaar ||4||6||
The Gurmukh, O Nanak, emancipates his family and relations. ||4||6||

A cyber sejh paath arranged by Siri Datta Singh Khalsa of San Francisco is being read at the time of this writing by Bay Area cyber sangat to honor these four unforgettable, dearly beloved, founders of our community, who departed this earthly realm for Sachkhand in late February and early March of 2024.

Credit:  Sat Sundri Kaur photos & Sada Anand Singh photos

 

Sukhmandir Kaur Khalsa

Sukhmandir Kaur Khalsa

Sukhmandir has written hundreds of articles on topics related to Sikhism and has co-written and and edited several books on the Gurmat teachings and Naam Simran meditation. 

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