An interview with the former Vic Briggs of “The Animals”,
who is also the former Mukhia Singh Sahib, Vikram Singh Khalsa.
“I like the guitar playing of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Vic Briggs”
– Jimi Hendrix 1967
Kamalla Rose Kaur: How does Sikh Dharma/3HO look to you now, years after?
Vikram Singh: It is still hard to sort. It seemed so incredibly beautiful, but it was so unbelievably awful.
Still, my wife and I feel that 3HO did save us from the 70s – disco, coke and platform shoes.
Kamalla Rose Kaur: What was 3HO Headquarters like when you joined?
Vikram Singh: They were in the Phyllis Street house in LA. Premka, Ganga Bhajan Kaur, a woman named Suzy Burns and Martha, who was the sister of Jan Wenner,who started “Rolling Stone” magazine .
Kamalla Rose Kaur: And Baba Singh lived in the garage.
Vikram Singh: Not yet. Baba was always there though, doing seva. Baba was my first friend in 3HO. He was an incredible Sevadar; absolutely amazing.
Kamalla Rose Kaur: So what was your situation back then?
Vikram Singh: Looking back I had a very manipulative girlfriend who didn’t want to be in California. She wanted to be in England. So she convinced me to ask YB to send us to England to start the first London Ashram. YB agreed immediately.
Kamalla Rose Kaur: Were you ever in “The Khalsa String Band”?
Vikram Singh: No.
Kamalla Rose Kaur: Let me get this straight. An internationally known British Rock Star, connected into the whole 60s music world, joins a fledging California yoga group and the Guru/Yogi figure sends him far away? What is wrong with this picture?
Vikram Singh: mmmmmmm
Kamalla Rose Kaur: Vikram Singh, YB must have been so threatened by you from the very first!
Vikram Singh: mmmmmmm
Kamalla Rose Kaur: Jealous, pee-green; my opinion. So what was it like in London?
Vikram Singh: It was horrible. I immediately found out that I didn’t feel British anymore. I wanted to be back in California where there was this spiritual awakening happening. Londoners weren’t interested in yoga, although nowadays it is huge business there. 3HO Ashrams have never done well there.
Kamalla Rose Kaur: How did you live? What was your source of income?
Vikram Singh: We lived off of yoga class donations.
Kamalla Rose Kaur: You went from being a Rock Star to living on yoga class
Vikram Singh: Yes.
Kamalla Rose Kaur: That was humbling.
Vikram Singh: Very.
Kamalla Rose Kaur: Vikram Singh, you stopped playing guitar and did the Kundalini 3HO lifestyle full time. Yogi Bhajan actually let you stop playing guitar. He didn’t use you in the 3HO Promo Band.
Vikram Singh: If I had been simply willing to teach yoga in London I think I could have made enough to live but that wasn’t the game. I was after “commitment”, I needed people to move into the Ashram and join 3HO. Cult induction, in other words.
Kamalla Rose Kaur: So you failed.
Vikram Singh: Yes and I felt tremendous shame about it.
Kamalla Rose Kaur: Did Yogi Bhajan shame you about it?
Vikram Singh: Yes, he reamed me!
Kamalla Rose Kaur: Was this always your relationship with Yogi Bhajan?
Vikram Singh: No. While living in London I took a vacation back to Califormia for three months and I was treated as part of YB’s household. It was heaven, actually. He treated me with special
But other than that one time, YB pretty much took a heavy position with me over the years.
Kamalla Rose Kaur: I have heard this same scene from others as well.
Now, as a Rock Star in that era, you had actually experienced audiences of screaming fans, yet suddenly you only cared about the opinion of one person? Is that it? YB became our one and only ultimate audience? Thus pleasing him could give us the experience of heaven, ecstasy – even better than being a Rock Star? Is that it?
Vikram Singh: Well, yes. Until I finally saw through it and realized there was no future for me in 3HO. I didn’t have the bucks.
Anyway. just as easily YB could make your life a hell and he often did.
Actually, most of the time.
Kamalla Rose Kaur: Did you go on that first trip to India in 1970?
Vikram Singh: No, but I was there to meet them at Heathrow Airport when they
returned. There was a window where you could look down into customs at Heathrow and here was half of them returning wearing whites and half of them wearing jeans. It was 3HO’s first schism.
Kamalla Rose Kaur: Tell me about that.
Vikram Singh: Back in the beginning of 3HO YB revered a Indian Sant named Virsa Singh. YB said it was Virsa Singh who gave him enlightenment and Virsa Singh who told him to go to the USA on incredibly short notice, like 24 hours or something like that. We actually celebrated Virsa Singh’s birthday as a kind of gurpurb in March of 1970.
You used to be able to look at Virsa Singh’s website and you could see where YB got his costume and many mannerisms but they do not have all the pictures of Virsa Singh on the web site that they used to. Looking at pictures of YB before he came to the USA, he didn’t look any different from any other Indian Sikhs. Tied up beard and baggy suit. White clothes came from Virsa Singh.
Also, even though we all thought it was essentially a hippy thing, communal living in 3HO mostly was inspired, I believe, by Gobind Sadan, which was and probably still is a commune.
Virsa Singh was a big thing in the beginning. YB spoke about Virsa Singh the way we later spoke about YB. He appeared to idolize him and kept his sandals on his (YB’s) meditation altar.
It was Virsa Singh who gave us the “Ek Ong Kar Sat Nam Siri Whahe Guru” mantra. That isn’t a regular Sikh thing. Story was that Virsa Singh received this mantra from Baba Siri Chand in a dream..
Kamalla Rose Kaur: Baba Siri Chand? So our Baba Siri Chand scene in 3HO came from Virsa Singh too?
This page will explain a lot about the YB/3HO attitude to Baba Siri Chand
As for that first India trip, it didn’t turn out how it was advertised.
Kamalla Rose Kaur: How was it advertised?
Vikram Singh: Three months with the Saints, meditating in peaceful gardens – that sort of thing.
Kamalla Rose Kaur: So what went wrong?
Vikram Singh: I don’t really know completely. I have heard hearsay that YB sent $ to Virsa Singh in advance of the trip for Virsa Singh to build housing for the group and so forth. When those first 3HOers got there, however, nothing had been done. They lived in tents. But we also know that Bibi Inderjit Kaur (Yogi Bhajan’s wife) was involved with Virsa Singh and his group and, of course, there are always Sikh politics to consider as well.
For sure, Virsa Singh’s sevadars noticed that YB’s group had pictures of YB on their altars not of Virsa Singh!
Whatever the causes, the Saints, YB and Virsa Singh, got into a conflict.
Kamalla Rose Kaur: That is an understatement from what I have been told.
Vikram Singh: Yes, YB was very very pissed. Thus a bit of a war started
up between the two Masters. The 3HO group felt threatened and endangered.
Kamalla Rose Kaur: What happened?
Vikram Singh: There was a schism, a split in the 3HO group – those for YB and those against him.
Then YB started bussing the group around the countryside, from one
Gurdwara to another claiming these were “white” Sikhs. The Punjabis were stunned and amazed. They had never seen a white Sikh.
Kamalla Rose Kaur: It was a sideshow!
Vikram Singh: Yes a Circus Act.
After that Virsa Singh was written out of 3HO history. If people only knew how much YB used to talk about him and tell stories about him back in 1970, it would give a much better perspective on where YB came from. He said very clearly that Virsa Singh was his teacher and how much he owed to him. He also said that he journeyed all over India looking for a teacher and met many saints including Sai Baba. He was constantly disappointed. Finally it was Bibiji who made him go to Virsa Singh, literally in his own back yard , well at least in Delhi. As he used to tell it, Virsa Singh really put him through it making him do 40 day sadhana after 40 day sadhana of Ek Ongkar Sat Nam Siri Whahe Guru for 2 1/2 hours every day. Finally one day, when he was cleaning the bathrooms at Gobind Sadan, Virsa Singh came, touched his third eye and he was enlightened. I heard him say this myself.
Not long after that Virsa Singh told him to leave everything and go to the US on very short notice. YB also told the story of how some friend was having a garden party and, because there was rain threatening, YB literally stopped the rain. Virsa Singh knew immediately and reprimanded him, making him water the plants at Gobind Sadan for some weeks after as a penance for having denied the plants their water from the rain.
Kamalla Rose Kaur: By 1973, when I joined, 3HO Virsa Singh was conveniently forgotten.
Vikram Singh: Yes but I believe this stuff is too important to be written out of 3HO history. Obviously I don’t know how much was true but, if Yogi Bhajan was telling this stuff as true in 1970, it was an important part of the beginning of 3HO.
Kamalla Rose Kaur: So half the folk from that first India trip in 1970 came back from India as Sikhs and half were not happy about what had happened.
Vikram Singh: Yes.
Kamalla Rose Kaur: How about you?
Vikram Singh: I was already a Sikh by then. The two good things that came out of my trial by ordeal in London was that I met my wife and I was blessed with Gurbani Kirtan. I took amrit because I wanted to, not because YB told me to, in November of 1971 and took the name Vikram because it was like Vic.
Kamalla Rose Kaur: You didn’t get your name from YB? You put yourself under the influence of Sikhs who were not YB, and under the influence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, without asking him?
Vikram Singh: I thought it would please him, but that was not why I did it. Sikhi spoke to my soul. Gurbani still speaks to my soul. I just prefer not to be involved much with Sikhs, Indian or American, because of the political considerations that are always present.
Kamalla Rose Kaur: And the Punjabi’s, what did they think of you?
Vikram Singh: Oh they were always very kind to me, but I learned very quickly that many Sikhs had a hidden agenda in their kindness which was often political. It didn’t take may months in London before I developed a very sensitive BS detector that served me very well over the years; although I was obviously selective where I applied it. Or perhaps I just went along with a lot of stuff because I thought it was the right thing to do.
…But back to the Indian Sikhs. Generally they seemed to have an easier time enjoying the kirtan of 3HOers who were less trained in India music; like Ganga and Ram Das Kaur. It was like when they were selling the little American Kaur (not Singh, you might notice) dolls in white clothes and turbans at the gift store near the Harimandir. It was all very sweet and non-threatening.
I learned Gurbani Kirtan very quickly. So quite suddenly, there I was, this white guy, doing this totally “Kick Ass Kirtan”! It seemed to disturb them somewhat. They didn’t quite know what to make of me. One ragi I was close to told me that another ragi, very well known, said I was “haaneekarak” (dangerous).
Kamalla Rose Kaur: Ha! I love it!
So did Yogi Bhajan ever encourage you in your Gurbani Kirtan performing?
Vikram Singh: Not really. I’d call him and let him know that I was off to this Gurdwara or that. After a while I simply got tired of it. What good was I doing? I wasn’t making that much of a difference for Sikhs or anyone else.
Kamalla Rose Kaur: You were a sideshow too.
Vikram Singh: Yes, I was a sideshow. Actually we were all a Sikh sideshow.
I remember once when YB came to San Diego. He met with Punjabi Sikhs and you know the scene. We were hanging around, bored and eating, while he socialized in Punjabi.
Well one of the Punjabi Sikhs was a friend of mine and he later took me aside and said, “Do you know what he was saying about you?”
I replied “You know I don’t know Punjabi that well yet.”
“He was calling you idiots and XXX.”
Do you know what XXX means in Punjabi? It means someone who has sex with his sister.
The next year it is the same thing. YB is in San Diego meeting with Punjabi Sikhs and we are just sitting there bored and eating. So my wife and I decide to get up and leave. YB notices and has someone go and call my wife back.
She returns to see what YB wants and he ignores her.
It was that petty towards the end.
Questions From Audience
Question: Judging by your website, you are still Sikh. Have you modified your practice having left 3HO?
Vikram Singh: Yes, I still try to be a Sikh. I leave it up to Guru Sahib to judge if I am or not.
Mostly my spiritual practice is Gurbani. I recite Japji, Shabad Hazare and 7 Jaap Sahibs every day, plus simran. I got the 7 Jaap Sahibs idea from Virsa Singh’s website. He recommends it. It seemed like a good idea so I did it and I love it. I have been doing it for almost two years, every day.
Question: Could you talk in detail about the episode at Darbar Sahib, Amritsar, when you assisted breaking the rule that women should not perform kirtan there?
Vikram Singh: Well, it didn’t seem like any big deal to me at the time. This was in October of 1980. We were up in the Gumbad (dome) which is a small gurdwara within itself. You can “book” akhand paths, which are performed by volunteers by paying a fee. I have no idea how much. As I remember, we “booked” an akhand path for YB. This goes on all the time. One finishes and another starts immediately. There is just time for a little kirtan.
I think it was at the beginning of the Path. Krishna got on the harmonium and just simply sang a shabad. We had Baba Nihal Singh (I still think about him with utmost love and respect) and some of his Nihungs with us. I do not remember any kind of protest from the sevadars, but then Babaji tends to have that kind of effect on people. They remain calm or at least appear to when he and his boys are around. I would love to see him again.
Anyway, I don’t remember any incident and, as I already said, to me it seemed no big deal. I didn’t even think of it as having historic implications. I knew about the no-women rule, but I thought it only applied to within the Darbar Sahib itself.
I am pretty close with Jodha and Gurukirn Kaur, much to the chagrin of certain people. I think that it was great that Guru Kirn managed to get in to wash the floors of Harimandir. I would like to see women take their rightful place in Sikhi. Why should there be any discrimination?
Question: What precipitated your (and your wife’s) leaving 3HO, and when?
Vikram Singh: It was in September of 1990. I don’t want to say too much at this time but I do want to say this. It has been suggested that I left 3HO over my equity in a piece of property. Not true. I left over a six figure equity that belonged to the San Diego Sangat. I was sick of those hard working and dedicated people in SD being bled dry by the leadership both at a national and regional level.
Question: What did the bogi do, say, about your leaving?
Vikram Singh: Amongst other things that I would “lose my soul”.
Question: Do you sing with a particular group of folks now?
Vikram Singh: (LOL) No, I sing by myself and I have some great computers that accompany me.
Question: Live in any kind of community?
Vikram Singh: So far, no. We sometimes think about community but, if so, it would be a very loose association.
Question: Thanks…you and your wife were always kind to me, and I loved listening to you both talk (accent and such) and laugh…and, of course, sing.
Vikram Singh: Thank you.
Question: I am glad you both seem so happy and at peace.
Vikram Singh: We still have our moments and are still healing but we love Hawaii. I have become much more loving and gentle since living here.
Question: I just wanted to comment to Vikram Singh that after listening to some of his kirtan on sikhnet.com that imo he has a true sikhi soul; it has been a long time since I’d heard any kirtan – but that of Vikram Singh Khalsa immediately transported me to the place where kirtan should transport listeners. WOW!
Vikram Singh: Thank you, I feel very humbled by your kind words. I have always tried to make my kirtan, in fact all music that I do, transcendent.
For many years, I have believed that my life purpose is two fold:
First to inspire and empower others spiritually with the sound of my voice.
Second, to help others to inspire and empower themselves with the sound of their own voices.
Recently, I have been inspired to add a third:
To bring through my music and presence a sense of aloha and healing to all I meet.
As I work on my book, which is mostly autobiographical, I am trying to explain in words, amongst other things, the effect I experienced when I first heard Gurbani Kirtan. It was so stirring and exciting and I was enormously moved by it. Every time I sing, whether Gurbani or other music, I try and recreate that experience for others. Believe it or not, I am even able to make it work with Hawaiian music.
Question: Vikram Singh, do you still have copies of Asa di Var that you can sell? I would rather not purchase from Siri Ved’s company.
Antiom: Sorry, but I do not. I will talk to Liv Singh and see what the status is.
I can tell you that my Jaap Sahib, that was recorded in 1986, is going to be re-released soon on CD. It has only been available on cassette up to now.
I have mixed feelings because I know I could do it so much better now, butit is somewhat of an historical document so I am just going to let it be released with a new cover. It will be released as being by Vikram Singh Vikram Singh.
Question: Did Yogi Bhajan give any hints as to where the yoga side of 3HO came from?
Vikram Singh: Very interesting question. It seems that he studied with Swami Dhirendra Acharya, but for how long I do not know. He was Indira Gandhi’s yoga teacher and politically VERY heavy in Delhi. Obviously someone that YB would be interested in. (I also had the experience of taking him to Disneyland, but that’s another story, albeit a good one).
Also, a man named Gurcharan Singh Journalist, who was a good friend of mine and had gone to college with YB, was Swami Dhirendra’ manager for a few years. See, it’s not only rock stars that need managers, swamis do too. That may not be germane to the question, but it’s interesting.
Anyway, Swami Dhirendra wrote two yoga books. I have one. The other ShaktiParwha has in her personal library and I have looked through it.
Particularly in the book Shakti has, there is a lot of stuff that we used to do back in 1970. But not much of the ‘classic’ Kundalini Yoga stuff: Breath of Fire, spineflex, cat & cow. I have no idea where these things came from.
YB did use to talk about Swami Dhirendra positively, but not in the same glowing terms as Virsa Singh. In 1975, Swami Dhirendra came to visit LA for a few weeks. Gurcharan Singh journalist was also there, although he lived in London. When they put the Swami on the plane to leave, YB and Gurcharan Singh both got down and kissed the ground, they were so happy to see him go. True story. That was probably the end of Swami Dhirendra’s chance of being in the 3HO history books.
Both Swami Dhirendra and Gurcharan Singh have since died.
So, that was a long winded way of saying I really don’t know much about the source(s) of YB’s Kundalini Yoga.
Question: I found the stories about Baba Virsa Singh very enlightening, as I has heard Bibiji as well as YB’s family credit him with a lot of the ideas for 3HO. Seems like he was a big influence, who as you say, was dropped from the history. I am curious then, if YB ever spoke of Sant Hazara Singh, who seems to have taken over in 3HO lore as YB’s main teacher.
Vikram Singh: He did. I wish I could remember more of it but I had no frame of reference. It seemed as though he was purposefully even more vague than usual talking about Sant Hazara Singh.
The only story that I remember was that, after YB finished his training Santji said that he was not to see him again. YB said that later he was traveling near a village and he heard that Santji was there. YB sent a message saying that he was passing nearby and the answer came back “I know, let him continue on his way”.
There was more, always about how hard it was but I just don’t remember.
Question: I appreciate you taking the time to re-hash this stuff for us, as it very healing an enlightening to have this past stuff cleared up. Thank You Vikram Singh
Vikram Singh: Thank you.