Friday, March 23, 2018

Local Expectations

Each setting, whether it is a school, workplace, or city, has its own local culture. Working in different locations has taught me a lot about how to balance fitting into a new setting while still being true to who I am, and has given me a lot of perspective and appreciation for home. Over the last couple of weeks, I have been really surprised at how different the value systems are in the lower mainland. I hear a lot of Canadian-born Sikhs talking about material things, and the expectation that naturally their wishes will be fulfilled by their parents. For example, I heard a guy complaining about how the vehicle his parents bought him back in high school wasn’t the one he wanted, and how they should have gotten him something better. He failed to see the fact that he was privileged that his parents had bought him a vehicle, especially when he was so young. There seemed to be no appreciation for what his parents had done for him, or their hard work and sacrifice that went into making his life easier. I was even more shocked to realize that many of the parents, even outside of the Sikh community, felt that this was their duty. If their child was doing a professional degree abroad, they paid for all tuition fees, living expenses, for a vehicle, etc. When someone asked me to tell my parents to buy me an office building to set up my practice, I realized that this was seen as normal here! Although I was happy that there seemed to be a lot of support for family, I have been really surprised that people think a monetary investment is more important than time. That money is often earned at the expense of family time because that time is spent working instead. For some people it sounded like family has become a relationship simply of money itself. One girl was telling me how she wanted to get away from her family yet expected that they fully fund her studies and living expenses while she transferred to a different university. I think it is different when families come together to share resources with an appreciation and understanding for each other. I think that understanding usually comes with a time investment in building the relationship. In that setting, if a parent can afford to pay tuition and fund studies, there is a sense of responsibility that you would want to do your best in school to succeed in achieving your degree. 

When most people are going in one direction, it is hard to live and think differently because it soaks into your life too. It is hard to describe the strong push and pull that occurs and it is almost like when you are in the water and the waves pull and push you. It is an external pressure that comes from other people about what you should and shouldn’t be doing, but it is constant, intense, and more intrusive than anything I have ever experienced. Even just sitting in my car in the parking lot there was a man knocking on my window trying to sell me stolen perfume out of a stolen bag. “No I can’t give you are ride” ends up with someone trying to push their way into your car anyways. Every no is met with strong resistance and a reinterpretation as a yes. I’ve noticed the intrusiveness extends to deception and manipulation so people can get what they want, and I’m not used to constantly thinking about other people trying to use me to get what they want. Saying “Waheguru, Waheguru” before a comment that disrespects me as a woman just makes me sad that people never realized what God is or Sikhi is. 

Now I understand why people struggle to be able to connect with Sikhi and escape maya. When you grow up in this type of environment you will end up prioritizing the same things everyone else does. People survive by using others before they get used. From the conversations I’ve heard guns are actually considered cool accessories in Surrey, and by girls too, not just guys. It’s a lot harder to break out of a pattern when you don’t have the right sangat, and when you don’t even know what good sangat means because that’s all you have known. It has been heartbreaking to look around and see people of my generation not knowing anything about Sikhi. People aren’t who they say they are or who they pretend to be so it makes finding sangat even harder. Someone described it as a major culture shock to move to Surrey and I get it. Just like living in a small town has its challenges, so does this. As a young woman safety is also an issue, but I never thought I would say that I wasn't cautious enough and that I needed to be even more vigilant to protect myself. That seemed to be true here. 

When our boundaries are challenged with so much pressure, it is easy to think “maybe I will make this one exception today.” (I’m not talking about comfort zones because moving out of what is comfortable actually helps us grow significantly and can be good). When we cross a real personal boundary of ours it usually doesn’t work out well. Many years ago a man told me that when he was young the line between right and wrong moved a little bit at a time until he could no longer remember where the line was, and he ended up living a life of crime which he eventually turned around. I never forgot that. It reminds me that I have to focus on whether I am walking towards God or away from that path.

This experience has taught me that even when you are grounded and you know your path well, it can be easy to become disillusioned in a new environment. We are all vulnerable from time to time, but the compass of Guru Ji helps to guide us, and sangat reminds us of our path. These are the people who understand that the pull of the world is strong in different directions and we make big and small mistakes that maybe aren’t consistent with who we want to be or who we are. Waheguru blesses us with that sangat. They are the people who support us in learning through life. I’ve also learned to appreciate the value of kirat karni and how much time my family has invested to support me. 

First Mehl: We are good at talking, but our actions are bad. Mentally, we are impure and black, but outwardly, we appear white. We imitate those who stand and serve at the Lord’s Door. They are attuned to the Love of their Husband Lord and they experience the pleasure of His Love. They remain powerless, even while they have power; they remain humble and meek. O Nanak, our lives become profitable if we associate with them. (Ang 85)

Friday, March 16, 2018

Holla Mohalla

This weekend the Akhand Paath at the Gurdwara Sahib is for Holla Mohalla. Holla means military charge, and Mohalla means procession. Holla Mohalla is a 3 day festival held at Holgarh fort in Anandpur Sahib (and Gurdwaras across the world). This is a festival started by Guru Gobind Singh Ji in 1700 for Sikhs to gather and reaffirm their commitment to the Khalsa. This was around one year after Guru Ji initially created the Khalsa, and a time during which Aurangzeb was ruling. Holla Mohalla is celebrated the day after Holi. Now every year Sikhs gather to have mock battles, do gatka, horse riding, and practice military exercise, in addition to doing kirtan and having music/poetry competitions. Holla Mohalla is a reminder to us of our responsibility to always fight against injustice, and of our strength as a community. 

More Gurdwara Pictures

After work I went to go do Ardas and matha tek today at Gurdwara Sahib Dashmesh Darbar (Surrey). I was pleasantly surprised that there was kirtan going on in the middle of the afternoon. The interior of the Gurdwara Sahib is absolutely stunning, here are some pictures: 

Gurdwara Amrit Prakash Sahib

Gurdwara Guru Teg Bahadur Sahib

The hukamnama I got this morning was:
Wadahans, Fourth Mehl, Ghorees ~ The Wedding Procession Songs:
One Universal Creator God. By The Grace Of The True Guru:
This body-horse was created by the Lord. Blessed is human life, which is obtained by virtuous actions. Human life is obtained only by the most virtuous actions; this body is radiant and golden. The Gurmukh is imbued with the deep red color of the poppy; he is imbued with the new color of the Lord's Name, Har, Har, Har. This body is so very beautiful; it chants the Name of the Lord, and it is adorned with the Name of the Lord, Har, Har. By great good fortune, the body is obtained; the Naam, the Name of the Lord, is its companion; O servant Nanak, the Lord has created it. ||1||
I place the saddle on the body-horse, the saddle of realization of the Good Lord. Riding this horse, I cross over the terrifying world-ocean. The terrifying world-ocean is rocked by countless waves, but the Gurmukh is carried across. Embarking upon the boat of the Lord, the very fortunate ones cross over; the Guru, the Boatman, carries them across through the Word of the Shabad. Night and day, imbued with the Lord's Love, singing the Glorious Praises of the Lord, the Lord's lover loves the Lord. Servant Nanak has obtained the state of Nirvaanaa, the state of ultimate goodness, the state of the ultimate goodness, the state of the Lord. ||2||
For a bridle in my mouth, the Guru has implanted spiritual wisdom within me. He has applied the whip of the Lord's Love to my body. Applying the whip of the Lord's Love to his body, the Gurmukh conquers his mind, and wins the battle of life. He trains his untrained mind with the Word of the Shabad, and drinks in the rejuvenating essence of the Lord's Nectar. Listen with your ears to the Word, uttered by the Guru, and attune your body-horse to the Lord's Love. Servant Nanak has crossed over the long and treacherous path. ||3||
The transitory body-horse was created by the Lord. Blessed, blessed is that body-horse which meditates on the Lord God. Blessed and acclaimed is that body-horse which meditates on the Lord God; it is obtained by the merits of past actions. Riding the body-horse, one crosses over the terrifying world ocean; the Gurmukh meets the Lord, the embodiment of supreme bliss. The Lord, Har, Har, has perfectly arranged this wedding; the Saints have come together as a marriage party. Servant Nanak has obtained the Lord as his Spouse; joining together, the Saints sing the songs of joy and congratulations. ||4||1||5||

Guru Ram Das Ji reminds us here that after many janams (births) of virtous actions Waheguru blessed us with this human birth so that we can merge with God. In this lifetime if we train our mind through simran, and cleanse our mind with Gurbani, we will cross the world-ocean (maya) and achieve our purpose. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Happy New Year!

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year! May we all appreciate how many gifts we have today, starting with pavan, the breath of life. I am thankful for the sacrifices all the Sikhs before us made in order for us to be here. May God bless you with chardi kala, good sangat, and Naam. Success, fulfillment, and peace will naturally flow from those gifts. I hope everyone gets a little bit of a chance today to reflect on where you are in your life journey, and use this time to deepen your commitment to exemplifying the values of Sikhi, to learning from each challenge, working hard and honestly, sharing with others, and remembering God in every breath. I hope this year brings us unity, love, and unending compassion for each other’s journeys.

In the month of Chet, by meditating on the Lord of the Universe, a deep and profound joy arises.
Meeting with the humble Saints, the Lord is found, as we chant His Name with our tongues.
Those who have found God, blessed is their coming into this world.
Those who live without Him, for even and instant- their lives are rendered useless. 
The Lord is totally pervading the water, the land and all space. He is contained in the forests as well.
Those who do not remember God- how much pain must they suffer!
Those who dwell upon their God have great good fortune.
My mind years for the Blessed Vision of the Lord's Darshan. O Nanak, my mind is so thirsty!
I touched the feet of one who unites me with God in the month of Chet. (Ang 133)

Sunday, March 11, 2018

House Against Natural Disasters

Congratulations to Prabhnoor Sidhu for her silver medal in her project "House Against Natural Disasters" at the Central Interior Science Exhibition. She is interested in engineering and last year she did a project on buildings against tsunamis and earthquakes. This year she worked hard to do this project on making a house to resist natural disasters and spent hours coming up with an original design that she built out of k'nex. She also got interviewed by CKPG news (link below).

Gurdwara Sahib Pictures

It is a special week coming up as Wednesday is the beginning of a New Year, and also the celebration of the Gurgaddi Divas of Guru Har Rai Sahib Ji.

I found myself thinking about our Gurdwara Sahib all day since I normally listen to the Akhand paath on weekends and do kirtan in the evenings. I really missed it. So today I went to Darbar Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji on the outskirts of Surrey. Normally here there are a lot of gray rainy days but today as the sun was setting and I arrived at the Gurdwara, I appreciated for the first time why people like to live here. There is always sangat the Gurdwara, and the mountains are right outside. I wouldn’t trade home for anything, but I got a lot of peace from that. My experience so far has been much better than trying to live in the lower mainland a few years ago, but the nights are a different story. Walking in the night, a wave of unease and grief lingers in the air, reminding me of all the young Sikh men shot on these streets. We all have so much potential, for good and for bad, and we make that choice everyday. With the Guru’s guidance we can walk the path that achieves our purpose. 


Friday, March 2, 2018

Exciting News

I am excited to share that I got accepted to the family medicine residency program here. It is a privilege to serve the community that raised me. I’m touched by all the love I have received over the last 24 hours! It has been an incredible journey and it wouldn’t have been possible without the help and support along the way. 

When I started medical school, I had no idea that my whole life journey would change because I fell so deeply in love with Sikhi. God has blessed me with so many gifts and the news hasn’t even really quite sunken in yet! As I spent the day packing for my last set of electives, I’m relieved that this is the last set of goodbyes, and that I will get to come home for good after this. May Waheguru bless you and make all your dreams come true as well. 

Monday, February 26, 2018

True Freedom

I mentioned a little bit about the idea of “freedom” in one of my recent posts. I got to thinking about this because it’s one of the things I hear and read about often from our Sikh youth, especially in the late teens/early 20s. It is a critical time of transition as people change friend groups, transition into jobs or university, and shape their futures. For some people it is a realization that people live their lives in very different ways and we all make a choice on how to live our lives. For this reason it is also a very vulnerable time. Unfortunately it seems to be the time when people ask themselves why they are the only ones living the disciplined life- “everyone else is enjoying life freely, why can’t I?” We’ve all either heard this or said this ourselves at some point. It seems like everyone else is enjoying every pleasure of the world while suddenly your own way of living seems like a burden of rules. I think parents struggle at this point too because some parents don’t know exactly how to navigate increasing independence, or allowing children to find their own way, in their desperate attempt to protect their children from what they see as a wrong path. I have seen some families in which it can come across forcefully, leaving youth feeling trapped.

I think one of the problems is seeing Sikhi as external rules instead of a flowing way of life. It is seen as static instead of something to be explored and learned. Without an understanding of the purpose of life, of maya, of God, or a strong relationship with our family (our main sangat), everything crumbles when we are tested. Bhai Sewa Singh Ji Tarmala wrote in his books about how we are blinded by maya, how we don’t hear anhad bani (the voice of God); and how we wander naked with our hands and feet in shackles, suffering as slaves of the 5 thieves because we don’t have Naam. In the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji it says, “Some are self-willed manmukhs; they do not love the Word of the Shabad. Bound in chains, they wander lost in reincarnation” and “O mind: without the Lord, whatever you are involved in shall bind you in chains.” So while we may appear free to the physical eye, we live as prisoners. We were royalty, God’s children, but we are not awake to see that reality. So when we understand this and if young people were to see the world from this lens, we no longer see “everyone else is free and gets to do whatever they want.” Most people aren’t awake to the chains that they are bound in that traps them into the cycle of reincarnations. I learned a couple of years ago from’s kathas, that we can really only make a choice on how to live, if we have experienced God and Naam. Otherwise, by default, we are living the path of dhaat (path to maya). True freedom, liberation, comes from God. Gurbani describes how the Gurmukh is free of disease, ego, pleasure and pain, suffering, desire, fear, doubt, conflict, hatred, and the list goes on. The Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji says, “The Guru has shattered the shackles on my feet, and has set me free” (Ang 1002) and “One who realizes his Lord and Master is set free, and not bound by chains” (Ang 937). This is jeevan mukhti. 

When I look back, discipline has shaped my life, and yet this type of self-discipline is undervalued in Kaljug. I learned discipline really young. I started Tae-Kwondo when I was 4 and I quickly learned that not listening and not doing things properly means a lot of push ups! My favorite scene in movies is usually when the person works hard to achieve their dream. These days it seems like there is a focus on doing things easily and effortlessly, as if it comes naturally. I have seen people underplay how much effort they put in, or brag that other people had to put in so much work to get there but they didn’t. It’s supposed to look easy, even if it isn’t. No one wants to hear about rules and discipline. Yet it is these things that have saved me from a path that I’m glad I’m not on. I remember entering high school in grade 8, I thought I knew everything (like we all do at that age) and it was really my family’s way of living that way that saved me from sangat that was really a horrible influence for me in my friend group. We don’t even know enough at that age to make a real informed choice about most of our decisions, and I think that’s why parents play such an important role in setting up a disciplined life (they can't make those decisions for forever!), because it is about the way they live their own life as a role model too. It is easy for us to say that this is an issue just in childhood but its not. Like I mentioned earlier, many people never do realize there are two paths- liv and dhaat, and that’s God’s Will too“With the mind caught up in playful pleasures, involved in all sorts of amusements and sights that stagger the eyes, people are led astray.” It is by God’s grace that we realize it. 

I remember the day I made a choice to start doing simran and walk a new path back in the summer of 2016. It was a life-defining moment. I was sitting at the kitchen table at my uncle’s house at it was late at night. I was listening to a katha from on my phone and taking notes in my journal. In the katha, I don’t remember the exact wording but he said something about just try this and see what happens in your life. I thought to myself, yes I can try this. If it doesn’t go well, I just go back to my old life anyways. Believe it or not, I was terrified to walk into the unknown because I knew that it was more than just about simran… it was about understanding the journey of life in a way that I had never seen it and I didn’t know if I had it in me to do it. It was those words to “just try it”, that changed everything for me and redefined what is pain, what is pleasure, what is suffering, why am I here. As Sikhs, we have been taught to spend our time doing nitnem, sewa, working, and to balance our lives. It is not possible without discipline, but it’s also not a set of rules if it is a core value of our life. Sikhi flows naturally when we know why we are here, because God does our work for us. I don’t think that you can do this for anyone else very long- for your parents, or for other people, and I think that’s where a lot of people go wrong. It’s not for someone else, its for us, and you can't force someone else, it happens out of love alone. Simran feeds you, kirtan feeds you, in a way that our mind has forgotten that it is hungry for. God created this world for us to enjoy it! The way to enjoy it is if we are not slaves to it. 

In moments of confusion from the illusion around us, it is easy to doubt ourselves and wonder if everyone else indeed has it right. While writing this post I read an article called “Self-Discipline or Just Uptight" (1). This Veer Ji describes his moment of confusion, “Perhaps I am too uptight, conservative, insecure, narrow-minded, or misguided. Maybe I am not having as much fun as the other guys and girls because I place too much importance into my faith which may or may not even exist. Maybe my moral compass is pointing to radically in one direction. The question is not whether I am right or wrong, the question is whether I am inhibiting many of life’s experiences by being too black and white. Am I missing out on a fun life by being too traditional or ‘faithful’?” (1) He goes on to describe an example of a young woman who asked him to go clubbing, “I told her that clubbing was not my thing and that I would not be going. Little did I know that this was going to open up an even bigger barrage of intrusive questioning. She began asking me quizzically, so what do you do for fun?... She had the guts to continue jabbing into my personal life in a sneaky manner, so how will you please your wife when you get married. You have to have fun in life, blah, blah, blah… otherwise, she will ‘boot your ass'" (1). He concludes how he realized it is important to just be true to yourself and not swayed by other people’s version of how you should live. It reminded me of the time an aunty told me I was closed-minded for only wanting to marry someone of my own religion. I solidly know that I want to spend my mind-journey with someone who has the same core values of Sikhi and therefore understands the same purpose in life (!) and yet it still threw me off because she said “closed minded.” Like Veer ji, I was disoriented. Because we will be challenged, we need to be that much more certain of what freedom is, what fun is, what our direction in life is. Life is supposed to be fun and joyful, and in fact maya is painful. In true freedom we have broken the chains maya and the cycle of reincarnations, so let us not be fooled by the illusion of freedom.

Lastly, to share this shabad, “Har Jan Naacho Har Har Thayi. O humble servant of the Lord, let your dancing be meditation on the Lord, Har, Har” and continued into the shabad “It Rang Nacho rakh rakh bhao. So dance in this love and keep the beat with your feet

Words to the shabads (go to display at the top to see transliterations):
you can also download it from (Delhi 2017 Rainsbhai)