Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Stephen Josephs Photograph Collection
In 1969, Harbhajan Singh Khalsa introduced Kundalini Yoga to the United States. A charismatic former public servant from India, Yogi Bhajan, as he was known, taught the yoga of the Sikh gurus, centering his practice on self-discipline and self-awareness, but emphasizing worldly engagement, rather than ascetic withdrawal. Through his 3HO (Healthy, Happy, Holy) organization, Yogi Bhajan rapidly built an avid following among the so-called hippies, offering a holistic spiritual alternative to the prevalent drug culture. In the five years that followed the Yogi's arrival in the States, more than one hundred yoga ashrams were established throughout North America and Europe, to spread his teachings.
Established by Stephen Josephs (Gurushabd Singh) in 1972, the Guru Ram Das Ashram quickly became a regional center for instruction in Kundalini Yoga and Tantric meditation. After attending a course in Tantric Yoga in Paeonia, Colorado, Josephs acquired a house for his new ashram on Taylor Hill Road in rural Montague, Massachusetts, and almost immediately began to attract students, many of whom lived communally on site. Their day, Josephs recalls, began at 3.30 AM, with two and a half hours of rigorous yogic practice and music, followed by meditation and the work of the day. At its peak, the ashram had as many as twenty one residents, whom the ashram was able to feed for a mere dollar a day per person.
Josephs met his wife Alice (Gurushabd Kaur) in 1972, while the two were attending a tantric yoga course in Washington, D.C. During that course, Yogi Bhajan singled the couple out and called them onto the stage, saying he saw an arc of white light between them. After asking the audience if he had permission to engage them in marriage, and finding enthusiastic approval, the Yogi married the Josephs four days later. Although they left the ashram in 1983, their marriage has endured.
Josephs completed his doctorate in education At UMass Amherst in 1974 for a study of the Guru Ram Das Ashram, Education of the spirit; the dynamics underlying personal and spiritual growth into spiritual commune.