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The American who lived with Bhindranwale

By Anju Kaur, SikhNN staff writer, Washington Bureau
Posted: Friday, January 17, 2014 | 08:14 pm

Norman Kreisman, of California, was known as Baba Nam Singh Khalsa when he was living at the Guru Nanak Niwas with Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, from 1982 to 1984.

Photo Source: Norman Kreisman

Baba Nam Singh had been suddenly thrust back to the U.S., to his life with Yogi Bhajan, a life and a man he did not recognize anymore.

Although Yogi Bhajan had known Nihal Singh before he sent Baba Nam Singh to live with him, Jarnail Singh was one of the few public figures he did not know at that time.

“I think he did more talking about him (Jarnail Singh) after he died than while he was alive, that he was being manipulated by foreign interests. Who knows? I don’t know why he says the stuff he says. I really don’t care.

“I’m sure I told him what I thought. (But) why would he think - just because I lived with him for a couple of years - why would I know any more than he? I mean you’re not dealing with a normal person,” he said of Yogi Bhajan.

“He told the SGPC that if they made Baba Nihal Singh jathedar of the Akal Takhat, that that would somehow protect the Golden Temple from being invaded, or some story like that. I don’t know that it’s true. It’s just something Yogi Bhajan said after the fact, after Operation Blue Star.

“First of all, it implies that he knew that something was going to happen. We don’t know if he did. And if he did, how did he know? Maybe he had connections with Gandhi or something. Who knows?”

Publications by Yogi Bhajan's organizations show he had connections with members of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, the Akal Takhat jathedaars, after 1981, members of the Punjab and Delhi governments, members of parliament, and a particularly tight connection with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

He knew Gandhi before he left for the United States in 1968, and was invited to her residence many, if not every, time he visited India.

Baba Nam Singh accompanied Yogi Bhajan on one of those visits to Gandhi’s palace in Delhi.

“I know he visited her is Delhi," Kreisman said. "I was part of the group that went with him to visit her. This was in the early 1980s. He went to Delhi, and we were invited to her residence in Delhi. I remember she would not allow any pictures taken except (by) her official photographer. And none of us could take pictures of the event. And I remember I had to leave my Sri Sahib at the front. I had to leave it with the guard at the front.”

Baba Nam Singh left Yogi Bhajan, and Sikhi, and closed the doors to a time that seemed more like a previous life than an old memory.

“I left because I learned from my time in India that Yogi Bhajan was not teaching real Sikhism. He was teaching his own whatever it is. And then I had to decide…

“I don’t want to be a Yogi Bhajan Sikh. Do I want to be an American Sikh in America?

"When I came back here I was very disillusioned by what I saw (at Yogi Bhajan’s ashrams). I saw people that thought they were Sikhs that didn’t know the first thing about it. They were so into their own thing, I didn’t even recognize it as Sikhism. And I didn’t want to associate with them anymore.”

Perhaps he did not find enough support around him to remain a Sikh. Baba Nam Singh left Sikhi in 1987 and went back to being Norman Kreisman. He is now a lawyer in Southern California. He has a raspy voice and talks openly, sometimes fondly, of his time with Jarnail Singh and his men. But don’t ask him about his time with Yogi Bhajan. He gets upset.

“I’ll just tell you a story and then I don’t want to talk about it anymore because I’m not interested in it,” he told SikhNN.

“We were at the Golden Temple in the morning for Aasaa Dee Vaar. And, at the stage where we were sitting, right up close, there is the place where they pass out the parshaad. But before they do, they first pass it out to the punj pyaaray. Because we were sitting up front, we were part of the punj pyaaray. So we, five of us, got it first – me and Yogi Bhajan and three other people. And what you do is you hold it in your hands, and then they put some in a bowl for the Guru.

“I went to the Golden Temple every morning for four years. I know how it works…

“So we’re supposed to hold it. And you hold it in both hands until the Guru is served. They put it in a bowl and cover it with a cloth. And then you partake it yourself. And you usually give some out to other people, too.

“(Yogi Bhajan) started eating his right when they gave it to him, before they served the Guru. You could hear this whole murmur in the Golden Temple - the people - you could hear this whole murmur in the crowd. And a bunch of people kind of turned to me, because I guess they knew I knew, and they said, even he turned to me and said, What’s going on? What’s going on? What’s the big deal?

“I said, you’re supposed to wait until they serve the Guru.

“And Yogi Bhajan said to me: “I am the Guru.””




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