Healthy, Happy, Holy

Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization Timeline (3HO)

Name: Sikh Dharma: Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization (3HO)

Founder: Siri Singh Sahib Harbhajan Khalsa, more widely known as Yogi Bhajan

Date of Birth: 1929

Birth Place: Delhi , India

Year Founded: 1969

Sacred or Revered Texts: Sikh Holy Book (Guru Granth Sahib)

Size of Group: There are about 250,000 Sikhs in North America of which about 10,000 are Sikh Dharma: 3HO members. In 1995 there was a count of 139 ashrams/or teaching centers in the United States, 11 in Canada, and 86 additional centers in 26 other countries. (Melton, 1986: 51)


Upon Yogi Bhajan’s move to the U.S. in 1969, he began to teach kundalini yoga in Los Angeles, California through the process of founding an ashram and the Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization (3HO). The 3HO was formed with the purpose of teaching meditation, yoga and natural lifestyle to Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike; the ashram was the center of this practice. Due to the fact that he was a Sikh teacher, he was able to share his Sikh faith with his pupils and thus attained interested believers.

As a result of Bhajan’s religious work in the U.S., the Akal Takhat (the prominent spiritual authority of the Sikh faith) ordained him as the Chief Religious and Administrative Authority for Sikh Dharma in the Western Hemisphere. Sikh Dharma was formed to organize and disseminate these teachings; hundreds of ministers of Sikh Dharma were ordained, and hundreds of teaching centers were established. 3HO remained the education arm of Sikh Dharma.


Guru Nanak (1439-1538) established the Sikh religion as a syncretistic religion, a combination of Hinduism and Islam, with independent beliefs and practices added. Sikhism grew out of his disillusionment with what he believed to be the fanaticism and intolerance of the Muslims and the meaningless rituals and caste prejudices prevalent among the Hindus.

A succession of nine Gurus (regarded as reincarnation of Guru Nanak) led the movement during the period from Guru Nanak’s death until 1708. Each Guru added relevant beliefs and practices to the religion. In 1708, the functions of the Guru passed to the Panth (followers) and to the holy text. Members of both Sikh Dharma: 3HO and the orthodox Sikh religion follow all of Guru Nanak’s beliefs and teachings but differ slightly in the extent to which each group follows through with, or adds, certain beliefs/practices.

Both groups believe in One Supreme God and that this god cannot take human form. Their goal of human life is to break the cycle of births and deaths and to merge with God. There is great emphasis placed on daily devotion to the remembrance of God. This can be accomplished by following the teachings of the Guru, meditation on the Holy Name and performance of acts of service and charity. Members follow the admonition of the ten Sikh Gurus to rise before sunrise, bathe, and meditate upon God’s Name. These individual practices are followed by the singing of hymns from the Holy Book. The Sikh Holy Book (Guru Branth Sahib) is the perpetual Guru; there is no place in either group for a living Guru.

There are five cardinal vices that one aims to overcome in order to achieve salvation:

Kam (lust)

Krodh (anger)

Lobh (greed),

Moh (worldly attachment)

Ahankar (pride).

Rituals such as fasting, pilgrimages, superstitions, and idol worship are considered blind worship and are strongly rejected.

Normal Family Life (Grasth) is encouraged. Celibacy or renunciation of the world in not necessary to achieve salvation. The devotee must live in the world yet keep his mind pure. There is rejection of both sides of all distinction of caste, creed, race or sex.

The Gurus stressed the full equality of women, rejecting female infanticide or sati (wife burning), permitting widow marriage and rejecting purdah (women wearing veils). Honest labor and work are the approved way of living one’s life. It is considered honorable to earn ones daily bread through honest work and not by begging or dishonest means. Ban Chhakna, sharing with others, is also a social responsibility. The individual is expected to help others in need through charity. Seva, the community service is also an integral part of these groups. The free community kitchen (langar) found at every gurdwara and open to people of all religions is one expression of this community service.

The points of divergence between both groups deal with the practice of yoga, baptism, practice of the five “k’s”, and health. Members of the Sikh Dharma: 3HO are given the choice but strongly encouraged to have a Sikh Baptism which enable them to join the Khalsa. Once they are baptized, Sikh Dharma members are required to strictly follow the five “k’s”.

The five practices called Lhalsa saints are:

Kesh (long hair, which is never cut)

Kangah (comb)

Kachha (short pants)

Kara (metal bracelet)

Kirpan (a ceremonial dagger).

In contrast, the orthodox Sikhs are all baptized and their adherence to the five “k’s” in the present time isn’t as dramatic as that of members of Sikh Dharma.

Sikh Dharma members practice three different types of yoga: 1.kundalini, 2.laya, and 3.tantric which are supposed to enable them to meditate more efficiently. Members also put great emphasis on health, more so than is respected in the orthodox Sikh religion. In fact both yoga and vegetarianism are rejected by the Holy Book as form of blind ritual. There has been some controversy.


Barrier, N. Gerald, and Verne A.Dusenbery. 1989. The Sikh Diaspora: Migration and the Experience Beyond Punjab. Delhi: Chanakya Publications.

Dart, John. 1986. “Blessing the Quest for Success Seen as Boost to 2 Eastern Sects.” Los Angeles Times 19 July, Home ed.: Metro; part 2; page 4.

Dart, John. 1993.”Long Way From Home.” Los Angeles Times 1 August, Valley ed.: B1.

Khalsa, Kirpal Singh. 1986.”New Religious Movements Turn Towards Worldly Success.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 25(2): 233-245.

Melton, J. Gordon. 1986. The Encyclopedic Handbook of Cults in America. NY: Garland Publishing Inc.

Melton, J. Gordon, ed. 1996. Encyclopedia of American Religions. New York: Gale Research Inc.

Singh, Khushwant. 1985. The Sikhs Today. New Delhi: Orient Longman.

Singh, Khushwant. 1977. A History of the Sikhs. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Tobey, Alan. 1976. “The Summer Solstice of the Healthy-Happy-Holy Organization.” in Charles Y. Glock and Robert N. Bellah, eds., The New Religious Consciousness. Berkeley: University of California Press, pps. 5-30.

Wright, Chapin. 1978. “Natural Soft Drinks Gamble Paying Off.” Washington Post 13 December Final ed.: B1. 

Created by: Monica Villanueva
For Soc257: New Religious Movements
Spring Term 1997
Last modified: 07/24/01