Sat Nam Dear Family,
It was warm late afternoon in December of 1976. The Siri Singh Sahib called me over to the Ashram in L.A. “Hari Jiwan,” he said, “You’re now the Chief of Protocol. “ “Thank you, Sir,” I said, “what does that mean?” “You’ll figure it out” he continued.
I wasn’t much into titles, but he was and this was the first one he gave me. India is a country of titles. Back then, India was pretty much a closed society. Very few had a lot of money and there was a relatively small middle class. So, if you didn’t have much money, a title would provide the necessary status. This custom translated well to our community as, back then, we didn’t have much money and the titles provided recognized status to Indians and gave us something to grow into.
There was no internet in those days, so I had to go to the library to read up on what a Chief of Protocol’s duties were. Great, I thought after reading up on the position, this was a duty of high importance. Little did I know, that’s not how it was going to be. It turned out that my duty was to pick up, house, and care for whomever and whatever came to town. That wasn’t the duty I read about, but that’s how it was. I would get calls at all hours of the day (many at midnight as these were the less expensive flights) to pick up someone at the airport. I don’t mean to complain about having to crawl out of bed to do my duty as many who served the Siri Singh Sahib had more difficult duties to perform. It just wasn’t what I thought it would be: Plan and execute a program for visiting leaders, accompany the Siri Singh Sahib on all official visits, act as the Siri Singh Sahib’s personal representative and liaison, etc.
The Siri Singh Sahib would meet with guests, other teachers and students daily. I was usually sitting at his side. As students would arrive, they would usually bring gifts for him which is the requisite custom. As the sessions began, eventually, most students would speak and act inappropriately in his presence. I felt it was my duty as Chief of Protocol to speak up and let them know how to address and respect a spiritual master. What a mistake that was. Invariably, he would tell me to “Shut up!” As the Master, he wanted to know the problem and not be limited by protocol.
For the last 35 years I’ve never fully understood exactly what my duties entailed.
Recently, I was having lunch with a beloved and devoted sister in divine. As usually, we talked of many things. And, also, as usual, the conversation came around to the Siri Singh Sahib. We discussed the necessity of keeping the image, personality, and intimacy of the Master alive. She casually mentioned, “That’s the job of the Chief of Protocol.” Wow, she was right on. That was and is my duty. It’s not how one starts or progresses, it’s how one finishes that matters. Thank God I now know my duty, better late than never.
Thank you, Siri Hari Kaur.
M.S.S. Hari Jiwan Singh Khalsa
Chief of Protocol