A BRIEF HISTORY
Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa! Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh!
Sikh Dharma and Yoga West had an early start in Eugene. In 1970, Yogi Bhajan sent Sat Kirpal Singh and Kaur to establish an ashram community in Eugene. Many of you sitting in the audience today had your start in Eugene as myself and Viriam Singh did years ago. Both he and I are surviving artifacts of the early Eugene Ashram community.
Some interesting and important things to note about Eugene.
Kundalini Yoga has been taught at the University of Oregon continuously since 1970. Many people in the Dharma got their start through these classes.
East-West Tea Company (aka Golden Temple Bakery) started in Eugene in 1971. Under the early leadership of Nirvair Singh, the company manifested a retail bakery store and shakti shoe outlet in addition to the manufacturing facility. Sangat members delivered bakery products to towns in the Willamette Valley, all the way up to Portland, Oregon. Wha Guru Chews were conceived by the Nirvairs. We still hear feedback from people in Eugene about how their children were raised on Wha Guru Chews!
In 1979, Golden Temple hosted a business conference in Bend, Oregon, where Sopurkh Kaur delivered notes from Yogi Bhajan that Sikh’s would one day control 1/6 of the Nation’s economy.
In the early 90’s, Eugene became the corporate manufacturing center (CMC) which included in addition to cereal, Sunshine/Soothing Touch oils, Herb technology, Yogi Teas, and Ancient Healing Ways.
We’re now in a new building which is Eugene’s 2nd largest commercial structure at 186,000 square feet.
East-West is known for its outreach to those less fortunate via organizations such as Food for Lane County and Women’s Space.
Yogi Bhajan loved coming to Eugene. He loved the relaxed and laid-back nature of the community and Sangat. It was an opportunity leave the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles. The original tantric yoga courses (outside of summer and winter solstice) were five days long and of course, taught in person. Remember those? As the business grew, so did our teacher’s involvement. He would come to do business besides teaching.
Ardas Bha-ee meditation was first taught when he visited Eugene in May of 1982. He also performed the marriage for my wife and I (Ardas) the weekend of that visit.
The school in India was originally run and managed from Eugene by Sat Kirpal Kaur.
The Man Called the SSS, Ladies Camp publications, Furmaan Khalsa, Sadhana Guidelines II and many other yoga manuals were developed and/or partially developed from Eugene. SSS gave specific direction to Sat Kirpal Kaur to “Publish or Perish”.
Eugene was home to Snatam Kaur for several years. Her concerts and tours started in Eugene, originally sponsored by Yogi Tea.
After 9-11, Sangat members Siri Kaur and Snatam Kaur started the religious non-profit, Interfaith Prayer Service International. Since September 2001, there has been an Interfaith Prayer Service held monthly in Eugene where all faith and religious traditions participate. That’s 18 years or 216 months of continuous services. It is the longest running interfaith service in the United States. Gurumukh Singh currently serves as the financial officer on the board.
Eugene, Oregon is also home to the famous case involving Karta Kaur in 1985. She was fired from the Eugene school district for wearing her turban. The local Sangat and Sikh Dharma International fought this nearly to the United States Supreme Court (the Supreme Court would not hear the case because it was consider infringing on States rights). The case was never successful and cost the Dharma a huge sum of money. Ravitej Singh in Eugene along with the Sikh Coalition created a publicity campaign in 2009 that basically shamed the State of Oregon into repealing this law. Ravitej and Sat Hanuman were eventually flown to Washington DC to receive an award at a SALDEV gala.
The years 2009 to 2012 were particularly hard on our community because of the lawsuit and falling out of the Golden Temple management team. These folks and their families had all been part of the Eugene community. We have recovered from this trauma which is reflected in both the revitalization of our legacy facility and a reconstitution of our Sikh Dharma of Oregon board with new dedicated directors.
Our Sikh and Yoga West community now leads and hosts a breakfast for the homeless that feeds 300+ homeless folks on Sunday morning six times a year. A responsibility that is shared with other religious congregations in Eugene.
Our current building and structure, which houses our Guru Ram Das Gurdwara and Yoga West studio, was acquired in 1977. We have invested close to $100,000 in the last 3-4 years to improve both the interior and exterior of our facility and to comply with local codes for church buildings.
Another hallmark of our community has been the expanding Punjabi community. They love the non-political and devotional flavor of our Sangat and add much depth and color with their multi-generational heritage.
After much deliberation and planning, our board has decided to upgrade our current location. We are calling this the North wing expansion. It will add two unisex bathrooms, a secondary large lungar hall, kitchen, and a Nivas (apartment) for visiting Sangat. We share today the concept drawings for this enhanced facility inside your packet.
For the more distant future, we have a large plot of land that lies behind our ashram houses that may one day contain a much grander Gurdwara and associated gardens. From a ridgeline years ago, high above the little valley where our ashram community sits, Yogi Bhajan pointed down to that area of land and said there is where our future lies. As Snatam has commented, Eugene is one of the locations where she feels the presence of the Guru strongly.
Our north wing expansion may cost upwards of $600,000 to $750,000. We intend to finance this project through existing cash reserves of $100,00, the sale of a parcel of land near Chino Valley (which may generate $100,000 to $150,000), and a fundraising campaign. We are planning to break ground on this new addition, September 1, 2020.
Thank you for this opportunity to present this brief history and a look into our near and far future.
Gurumukh Singh and Viriam Singh