I was searching my articles published on the SikhNet and found one under the title: Reminiscences of My Visit to Espanola (1993).  My article ends on a positive note: “I feel Espanola is calling me again”. And my wish was fulfilled when in April 2023, I received a call from Sardarni Ek Ong Kaar Kaur Khalsa (EOKKK), newly appointed Director of SikhNet. I moved to Vancouver from Mohali in end of March to spend my time with my extended family living in Surrey, called new Chandigarh by many newcomers from Punjab. On June 1st, I reached San Jose, the hub of Silicon Valley in the Bay area of California, where my youngest son, Amarinder Virk, has set up his consultancy and IT company. 

The memories of my first visit to Hacienda Guru Ram Das, the Ashram set up by Harbhajan Singh Khalsa, better known as Yogi Bhajan, at Espanola, 25 miles away from Santa Fe, the capitol of New Mexico, kept haunting me day and night on reaching San Jose. Sardarni EOKKK was organizing a Symposium in Espanola “Finding Your Bliss with Anand Sahib”, the Bani of third Guru Amar Das Jee, during 14-16 June. EOKKK has translated Anand Sahib and other Banis of Nit Nem in English in her free verse. I met her for the first time in an International Conference on Sri Guru Granth Sahib, organised by Guru Nanak Studies Department of Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar in 2004. She was learning the art and craft of rendering Gurbani into simple English, taking lessons in Punjabi and Gurbani in original Gurmukhi under the tutelage of Prof. Balkar Singh, who was employed by Yogi Bhajan to teach his Khalsa initiates at Espanola.

On June 13, I took a hopping flight to Santa Fe with a stopover at Denver, Colorado. I was received at the airport by Sardarni Gurmeet Kaur Khalsa, EOKKK, and her husband Dr Patrick Michaud, a specialist in Robotics. The route from Santa Fe to Espanola depicts the features of a desert landscape, a typical New Mexican environment. We reached Espanola at 6 PM and I was lodged in a guest house, Nirbhe Nivas, reserved for male participants to the Symposium. There were 25 participants in all from different states of USA, 5 Indian Americans and me, the only Indian. The lodging and boarding arrangements were made in Espanola to our full satisfaction.

Images from 1993

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An encounter with Khalsa Kaurs of Hacienda De Guru Ram Das 1993 and Ek Ong Kaar Khalsa delivering her inaugural lecture.


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Recital of Anand Sahib Bani by Sat Kirin Kaur Jatha  and Tera Kaur and Guru Jai Singh Khalsa, my hosts of 1993 visit to Espanola

On 14th June 2023, all participants gathered in the Espanola gurdwara complex. EOKKK started the Symposium after a brief introduction to the theme and lecturers. It was a jam-packed programme interspersed with lectures, Yoga classes and musical rendering of Anand Sahib Bani. Even dance sessions were held for relaxation of participants. Evening prayers were held in Gurdwara before the dinner was served at 6 PM. It was not obligatory to attend the morning Yoga-cum-meditation sessions from 4-6 AM in the Gurdwara but I made up my mind to attend one session on 16th June before my departure. It was an uplifting experience to join the chorus of reciting Satnam-Waheguru in a melodious voice of a Khalsa lady recorded in a CD. Meditation session was followed by Kirtan (hymn singing) before the congregation breaks for breakfast in the community kitchen, called langar (free food for all irrespective of religion and ethnicity).

 After Symposium came to an end on 16th June evening, Indian-origin participants were taken around the Hacienda Guru Ram Das by Guru Simran Kaur Khalsa, the caretaker of the Ashram and one-time personal Secretary of Yogi Bhajan. It was a memorable trip, and I recalled my association with Yogi Bhajan, his wife, Bibi Inderjit Kaur Khalsa and other Khalsa ladies who took care of me by their valuable services. Guru Simran explained in detail the history of Ashram and its nurturing by Yogi Bhajan. He used to sleep for two hours only and kept himself busy in lecture tours on weekdays. He organised summer Solstice camps in Guru Ram Das Puri, 8 miles uphill from Espanola, where his disciples gathered in thousands from all over the globe to learn and practice Kundalini Yoga. Our Symposium was interlinked with summer Solstice, but I had no intention to stay more. Hari Jot Singh Khalsa took me round the venue to show the facilities created at Guru Ram Das Puri for camping and training of Khalsa Sikhs. This beautiful mountain resort is a well-deserved escape from mundane realities of life.

During my four days stay in Espanola, I made friends with my old acquaintances, especially Guru Jai Singh and Tera Kaur, who hosted my visit in 1993. Param Pal Singh of GNDU Amritsar, my host in 1996, had left Espanola and moved to Oregon State to promote Yogi Tea enterprise in north America. Gurbachan Singh Khalsa and his family are running a food chain in Albuquerque. (Mata G’s Vegetarian Kitchen). He was supplying food for all the participants of our Symposium. Fortunately, we met on the last day and exchanged pleasantries. He invited me to visit Albuquerque, but I had changed my plans to visit my old friend, Dr Jaswant Singh Sachdeva, in Phoenix. Prof. Harjit Singh Ahluwalia, a great Cosmic Ray Physicist, who served in University of New Mexico at Albuquerque for more than 40 years, was also interested in my visit. My new acquaintances include Guru Jot Singh, Hari Jot Singh, Guru Taran Singh, Har Naal Kaur, Guru Sadhana Kaur, and Sat Kirin Kaur.      

On June 17th, EOKKK and Dr Patrick drove me to Santa Fe airport for my flight to Phoenix. On my request, they took me round the downtown of Santa Fe so that I could have a glimpse of this historic city with the oldest church of America in its centre. Santa Fe is the capitol of New Mexico. All buildings of this city are designed under the state law to maintain its pristine glory of adobe architecture. It resembles somewhat like the old mud houses of our pre-partitioned Punjab. I took some photographs of the Santa Fe village in the downtown. This city is a favourite spot for the tourists from all over the globe.

During my flight to Phoenix, I started pondering over the legacy of Yogi Bhajan and his American Sikhs. In 1993, Yogi was recuperating from his open-heart surgery in a hospital of LA. He was kind enough to call me from his hospital bed to enquire about my wellbeing and arrangements in Espanola. He claimed to have a following of five hundred thousand American Sikhs. I discover the number of American Sikhs is dwindling and, if I make a loud guess, the number may be reduced to five thousand only. I do not want to explore the reasons for this decline. But I agree with Sardar Tarlochan Singh’s views, who was a frequent visitor to Espanola, that none of our Sikh organisations could do as much as Yogi Bhajan had done for the promotion of Sikhi in the western hemisphere. SikhNet is a flagship of American Sikhs with its global network. I wish Ek Ong Kaar Kaur Khalsa, its dynamic director, all success.   

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