Q&A with Guru Singh
The following year, 1971, we ventured northward to Paonia Colorado, a town of about 500 people back then, known for its cherry orchards. We camped on a mesa covered with groves of cherry and apricot trees and helped pick the fruit as part of our exchange. The highlight of this Solstice was that Yogi Bhajan had now inherited the position of Mahan Tantric* and the first Solstice White Tantric Yoga* course took place. One of the most memorable exercises was to see how long each couple could hold focus and concentration without breaking. Yogiji set up a band of roving jokesters to get people to crack. If you failed this test, you joined the jokesters to challenge those who remained. The last couple held out for two hours and broke when someone got a shovel, thrust it between the couple, and yelled, "Can you dig it?" This Solstice had a unique bathing system of jumping into an irrigation ditch from which you could see the glaciers melting to feed it. You would then float two hundred yards to a low bridge where you needed help to stand; it was far too cold to do it on your own.
In 1972, we came west to Northern California's Mendocino County with several additions to our ongoing Solstice tradition. It was here we first experienced parachute shade canopies, straw-bale ground cover, and Yogi Bhajan's Solstice Diet. In addition to White Tantric Yoga, a highlight of this Solstice was the three-women-against-one-man-free-for-all Kabaddi contests.
In 1973 and 1974, we moved back to New Mexico—Yogi Bhajan's preferred location—to a Scout camp in the Jemez Mountains. Having seen several yatras to India by 1974, a curious group from the SGPC (including President Gurcharn Singh Tohra) came to see us in our own environment. The first Solstice Amrit ceremony took place at this camp.
In 1975 and 1976, we went to extreme heights—literally: the eastern slopes of the Pecos Mountains provided a forestry dude ranch with minimal facilities, frosty mornings, and sizzling Tantric afternoons. The first Solstice-based Khalsa Council meetings took place here.
In 1977, our roving band of 3HO yogis finally found what has become our permanent home for annual gatherings: just outside of Espanola on 150 acres that Yogi Bhajan discovered by the Grace of Guru Ram Das—the land he named Ram Das Puri. Drilling 836 feet into the mountain, he found the water we would drink, but time was short and when everyone arrived, the only shelter set up was that old faithful system of parachute canopies and straw-bales. Sheepskins, socks, and blankets were always covered with straw when we packed our bags for home. A sacred land used for hundreds of years by the local Pueblos Indians, we gathered our tribe as they had gathered theirs for centuries.
Over the next year, we built the first installment of our Tantric Shelter, a children's camp, a Gurdwara,* and the beginnings of a fully functioning kitchen, plenty of flush toilets, and permanent tent-sites.
In 1985 Yogi Bhajan inaugurated the first International Peace Prayer Day to focus our group energy on global peace. As the years have gone by, our children's camps have grown, our facilities have improved, the numbers of students from all over the world have increased, and the message remains the same: Ram Das Puri, Home of the Khalsa, is the place to be when Summer Solstice rolls