Guru Sandesh S. Khalsa, ND died unexpectedly on August 11, 2021 at his home in Lake Oswego, Oregon. He was 71.
Dr Khalsa, known affectionately as “Dr K.,” was a respected naturopathic physician and a beloved member of the naturopathic medical community. He served for decades in many important and trusted roles, including teacher, mentor, college president, dean, administrator, and accreditor, and was a guiding force for the profession. He touched the entire naturopathic medical community in the United States and Canada and will be remembered for his great intelligence, wisdom, patience, compassion, and sense of humor.
Dr Khalsa was born on October 21, 1949 in Glendale, California, to Virginia Wright Reid and William Reid. He grew up on Lido Isle, an island community in Newport Harbor, California. He graduated from Newport Harbor High School in 1976, then studied at Occidental College in Los Angeles, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1972.
After graduation, he opened a record store in Newport Beach and attended classes in Kundalini Yoga with a student of the Sikh guru Yogi Bhajan. These classes reinforced his interest in diet and health and inspired his interest in the Sikh religion. His spiritual practice grew from listening to lectures by Yogi Bhajan and attending Kundalini Yoga gatherings in Los Angeles. During this time, he learned about naturopathic medicine and the availability of training to become a naturopathic physician.
In his early 20s, he committed to spiritual practice as a Sikh and to becoming a naturopathic physician. From that time, and for the rest of his life, he devoted himself to Sikh practice and to naturopathic medicine as the foremost, essential aspects of the one spiritual path he had chosen: to serve God through devotion and service to others. His faith was fundamental to his life and to his work as a teacher, a healer, and a leader. Dr Khalsa was fully conscious that his service and devotion to his students, his patients, and the naturopathic medical profession were his path to God – the path of Right Action – the work he was born to do.
A Life of Service
Dr Khalsa trained as a naturopathic physician when the first 2 years of coursework were completed at Kansas Newman College in Wichita, Kansas. Before heading east to Kansas, he met with Yogi Bhajan and expressed his wishes to follow the Sikh path and asked to be given a Sikh name. The name chosen for him – Guru Sandesh – literally translates as “message teacher” and also means “Teacher of the Divine Message.” Those whose lives he touched will recognize how he fulfilled the role bestowed by this name. While studying biology at Kansas Newman College, Dr Khalsa initiated the teaching of Kundalini Yoga. In this role, he inspired some of his yoga students to become Sikhs, teachers, and healers themselves.
Returning to the West Coast, Dr Khalsa obtained his doctorate in naturopathic medicine at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine (NCNM) in Portland, Oregon, graduating with distinction in 1978. After completing his degree, Dr Khalsa served tirelessly in support of the naturopathic medical profession in numerous capacities, including President of NCNM; President of Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine in British Columbia, Canada; Dean of the University of Bridgeport School of Naturopathic Medicine in Bridgeport, Connecticut; President of the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges; and member of the board of directors of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and the Institute for Natural Medicine. He also served as President of the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education and as a site visit team leader for the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
So Many Lives Touched
Dr. Khalsa was devoted to his students. He was known and appreciated for helping them to excel, and for mentoring them in how to complete their long and rigorous programs. With his kindness, humor, calm demeanor, and a steadfast devotion to service, he helped his students become better doctors and better people. His long, distinguished career benefited many, including the naturopathic physicians and acupuncturists whom he taught, and the patients and communities they have gone on to serve.
Followers of the Sikh religion believe that the succession of gurus who began the religion were “inhabited by a single spirit.” When the last of this line of gurus passed away in 1708, the spirit of the gurus is believed to have transferred into the religion’s sacred scriptures. In a similar manner, one can imagine that Dr Khalsa’s spirit will continue to animate the naturopathic medical institutions to which he devoted much of his life.
Dr Khalsa married Amar Kaur Linda Northrup, LAc, in 1991 in Portland, Oregon. They lived in Lake Oswego and enjoyed hiking, music, art, and travel – including train travel, one of Dr Khalsa’s passions. He was also an ordained minister in the Sikh religion and a beloved member of the local and international Sikh and Kundalini Yoga communities. Among the most important moments in his life were the pilgrimages he took to India to visit the sites most associated with the heart of the Sikh faith.
Survivors include his wife, Amar Kaur Linda Northrup, LAc, his family of naturopathic colleagues, and the Sikh communities of Portland and Eugene, Oregon. Cremation was on August 16, 2021. His ashes will be spread in places dear to him.
Condolences may be sent to 630 B Ave. #3, Lake Oswego, OR, 97034.
Donations in Dr Khalsa’s name may be made to the Great Bear Foundation, Missoula, Montana (http://greatbear.org).