Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Let your mind be filled with love

 “Sing, and listen, and let your mind be filled with love” (Japji Sahib)

I recently read a few of Giani Sant Singh Ji Maskeen’s books translated into English, and I wanted to share some of what I learned in addition to some reflections. The best thing we can do with knowledge is to both apply it to our lives and to share it with other people because it’s a gift. Maskeen Ji reminds us that every relationship is dependent on memory. If you don’t remember the other person’s relation to you, how will there be a relationship? So the first step in meeting God is obviously to remember that we have a relationship with Waheguru! We can’t do simran if we don’t remember our relationship with God. I have to say that after spending years lost in thoughts and maya, I too had a difficult time remembering; after all, maya purposefully keeps us confused, entertained so we will forget our relationship to God. This is the state of the sleeping mind. I remember at the end of the day sometimes I would think oh no, I forgot to remember God all day. I got so wrapped up in my work, I didn’t stop to thank God, I didn’t stop to pray, I didn’t stop to do what I came here (in this human life) to do. In fact back then I didn’t really understand what this path was, what the purpose of life was, what remembering God meant. It wasn’t until I really just fell in love with this path and understood all those things that remembering became easy. In reality, we tend to store the bad things people said to us in our memory, and forget all that Guru Ji taught us. One of the examples in Maskeen Ji’s book was that of Suthra, originally a child that was homeless after his parents kicked him out, and then became a Brahm Gyani after Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji raised him. One day Suthra purposefully bothered the sangat, and then when the sangat complained to Guru Ji, Suthra said he didn’t remember what he had said to them, maybe if the sangat could tell him about the shabad and katha being read at that time, he could remember. Of course no one remembered, they only had remembered the words of Suthra. In this way, he taught them to keep Guru’s words in their minds first and foremost.    

Once we remember God, we must listen and pay attention to our own voice (when we do simran) and to what Guru Ji is telling us. Read the following shabad:
“Farid, the path is muddy, and the house of my Beloved is so far away. If I go out, my blanket will get soaked, but if I remain at home, then my heart will be broken. My blanket is soaked, drenched with the downpour of the Lord’s rain. I am going to meet my Friend, so that my heart will not be broken.”
I have heart this shabad almost daily for the last 10 yrs because it is part of a CD that we play at our house all the time, but I had never understood it until reading Maskeen Ji’s katha. He explains that there is a lot of mud on the path that the mind walks (to God), for example kaam, krodh, lob, moh and hankaar. He writes for example, “The mud of the other’s wife and other’s wealth is in the eyes. To hear other’s censure and one’s own praise is the sludge of the ears. The tongue has got the mud of tasting different types of food and speaking lies…” (p. 49 Prabhu Simran). The blanket in this shabad is the mind. If we walk this path, our mind is going to get muddy, meaning we will most definitely experience thoughts of things in maya while we are attempting to focus on simran or prayers. We've all sat down and had our mind wander. Yet as the shabad explains, that too is part of the path to God and you must just keep trying. Maskeen Ji explains that if we don’t try to meet God, we won’t perceive an obstacle: “Only when we start moving forward, the new come to know that it is very difficult to pass through these streets. He who has not moved cannot understand the intricacies of the spiritual path” (page 50, Prabhu Simran). If we keep trying, surely we will reach our destination. Remember, when we take steps towards God, God takes steps towards us. I’ll give you an example from my life recently. Normally, I read a lot of books about Sikhi translated from Punjabi to English. Besides reading children’s books (and Gurbani) I hadn’t tried to read an “advanced” Punjabi book in a really long time because my previous attempts had resulted in slowly stumbling over the complicated words and not understanding what I was reading. When we were buying books my Massi Ji encouraged me to buy just one in punjabi and try to read it so I bought Kiv Koode Tute Paal by Bhai Sewa Singh Ji Tarmala (a 350 page book). I often read sections of the English books to my parents at night-time; it’s a nice way to spend time with family and have everyone learn something together. So before I cracked open this book, I called my mum on the phone (since I’m in Toronto) and started reading. I was surprised that not only was I able to read quickly, but I was also able to understand. I’m now 100 pages into this book, and the fact that somehow my ability to read and understand Punjabi has improved this much is a gift from God because this book was never translated into English. Waheguru!

Lastly, to let the mind be filled with love- this comes naturally if we really do listen. I think the most encouraging kathas I have learned from and the people who have inspired me, are the ones who teach with love to uplift everyone. They spread the message that we can all meet God in this lifetime. Judging others doesn’t have a place in Sikhi- each is on their own path and God has given qualities to people as per their karma. It is kaal (governor of maya) that divides us (as per God’s Hukam). Kaal sends kaam, krodh, lob, moh and hankaar into our minds and thus we have thoughts that do not match those of other people and we fight. If only we could remember that God sent all of us here together (parents, siblings, spouses, friends) by our destiny so that we could work together and meet God together. We should teach our younger generation that our goal is to learn and this is the point of Sikhi. In order to do that, it’s important to let go of our pride. Maskeen Ji writes, “The passion to learn should prevail in every age, under all circumstances and upto the last moment… There is enough to learn and one should consider that he knows nothing, at least about Truth.” You are learning, I am learning. We shouldn’t judge another for what they don’t know, because we didn’t know before we learned. Every effort matters because we need to move through the mud to reach Waheguru. 

References:
Prabhu Simran by Giani Sant Singh Ji Maskeen (editor Harjit Singh)
Perfect form of Sikhism by Giani Sant Singh Ji Maskeen (editor Harjit Singh)
Shabad Guru Surat Dhan Chela by Giani Sant Singh Ji Maskeen (editor Harjit Singh)
Kiv Koode Tute Paal Bhai Sewa Singh Ji Tarmala

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Parkash and Sukhasan of Guru Granth Sahib Ji

A while back I was at the Gurdwara in the evening and they were doing the Sukhasan. When we started singing the shabad “Jithe jahai bahai mera satguru” I realized that actually still didn’t know what we are singing even though I have seen the Sukhasan hundreds of times, so I decided to learn more about the Parkash and Sukhasan of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji. The following is paraphrased from sikhiwiki.org, and I attached links to videos from youtube of both the Parkash and Sukhasan, explaining in detail how this sewa is performed. 
Parkash (meaning light/awakening) is when we bring the Guru Granth Sahib Ji from the place of rest to the Darbar Hall at dawn. I just learned that the Guru Granth Sahib Ji’s room of rest is called the Sachkhand (realm of Truth). First, the Granthi matha teks, and Ardas is done. A cotton cloth (or towel) is placed on the head of the Granthi and Guru Granth Sahib JI is placed on the person’s head and carried to the Palki Sahib. Guru Ji is placed on the head to symbolize that Guru JI is above human ego. Shabads or simran are recited and everyone stands up, then when Guru Ji is taken to the palki sahib everyone matha teks and sits down. Guru Ji is placed in the center of the manji sahib and the ramallas are unwrapped. The ramallas open in a diamond shape, and a small ramalla is placed on Guru Ji. Then once again the cloth is placed on the Granthi’s head to lift up the Guru Granth Sahib Ji so that the diamond shaped ramalla can be re-folded into a rectangle. Three pillows are placed down and covered with a cotton ramalla. Guru Ji is placed down and raised vertically, then opened. We say Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh. The side ramallas are placed inside the front and back covers and draped over the sides of the palki sahib, and Guru Ji is covered with 2 more ramallas. The Hukamnama is read and the Guru Ji is covered with ramallas again.
Videos of how this sewa is performed (part 1 and 2):
Sukhasan means to attain a position (asan) of comfort (sukh), and is the name for when we retire the Guru Granth Sahib Ji at the end of the day or program. First, the Granthi takes a Hukamnama, then recites kirtan sohila, while removing the side ramallas. The Guru Granth Sahib is placed in the center of the manji sahib and covered with ramallas. The Granthi covers their head with a cloth and places the Guru Granth Sahib on their head. The rectangular ramalla is refolded into a diamond, and the Guru Granth Sahib Ji is wrapped. The side and large ramallas are placed overtop so Ardas can be done. The Granthi places the Guru Granth Sahib on their head, and walks to the Sachkhand while the sangat stands and then matha teks.
During this time we sing the shabad: Jithe Jai Behai Mera Satguru so than suhava raam raje, Gursikhi so thaan bhallia lai dhoor mukh lava. Gur sikhaa ke ghaal thaee paee jin har naam thiava. Jin Nanak satgur poojiya tin har pooj karavaa. Here is the translation: Wherever my True Guru goes and sits, that place is beautiful, O Lord King. The Guru’s Sikhs seek out that place; they take the dust and apply it to their faces. The works of the Guru’s Sikhs, who meditate on the Lord’s Name, are approved. Those who worship the True Guru, O Nanak- the Lord causes them to be worshipped in turn.
We then say Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal, Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh. Here are the videos of how this sewa is performed:
References:
http://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Prakash

Monday, June 12, 2017

Maya's Trap: Power and Control

Last year’s trip to Toronto was definitely life changing, as I wrote about in my previous posts. It was really when I found my inspiration and my own path in Sikhi. I think it is extraordinary how our destiny brings us people and experiences that fit together like a puzzle, and everything lays the foundation for what is next. Currently I’m back in Toronto mostly to work as part of my training, but I am still learning a lot (including how to play tabla!). Working in a multicultural urban setting has definitely opened my eyes to people’s stories and how they leave behind their homeland to escape violence, poverty, and discrimination to find new opportunities in Canada. When I see the struggles with unemployment, health, language difficulties, being away from supports, etc. it makes me realize the privilege I have had in being born here and knowing how to speak English. It deepens my appreciation for my parents and grandparents, in the work they did to make this life possible for me. I am thankful that I got the opportunity to come here so I could get a different experience and expand the way I see the world and the lens in which I see it.

I’m going to share something I’ve observed while I have been here. Everyday, I have gotten a lot of unsolicited advice, sometimes forcefully, about what I should be doing with my life. This advice comes from South Asian taxi drivers, patients, strangers you meet at the Gurdwara or stores for example. In our culture, people believe that young women like me don’t know what to do, or what’s good for them, and that other people should be telling them what to do. There is supposed to be no role for independence in a young woman’s life, and maybe only a limited role in a man’s. The problem is that it’s an important phase of development to find out what you want in life, what you expect, what you like, and try things out. I’m glad I’ve already gone through that and I have a strong sense of personal direction for my path, so I feel less reluctant when I decline opportunities that don’t fit what I want.

I was reading Giani Sant Singh Ji Maskeen’s translated book, Shabad Guru Surat Dhun Chela. He writes, “According to the Indian belief uptil today maturity, elderliness, spiritual power and foresight comes after the age of 35… It has also been agreed that wisdom develops along with the development of the body.” He goes on to describe how this isn’t true because your body can grow older without gaining any wisdom at all, and on the other hand some are born wise such as Dhroo, Prehlad, Baba Buddha Ji, the 4 Sahibzaade, and Sri Harkrishan Ji.

I think a lot of people’s forcefulness is driven by maya- people arbitrarily decide what is important. It’s important to have kids before this age, to make this much money, to work this much in this kind of job, etc. and then if other people don’t meet that, they say they have failed. They want the power of having other people live like they want them to live- it is a greed for power and control. It bothers me that people try to pressure and force others, because this is not what Sikhi taught us. This is actually one of the examples that is given in the book: Harnakish is the 70 year old father of 5 year old Prehlad, and tells him that he must worship Harknakish. Prehlad refuses and says that God is the only one that must be worshipped and remembered. Eventually Harnakish makes many attempts to kill Prehlad and is unsuccessful because Prehlad has met God. Who was wiser? Force doesn’t get us anywhere, because it falls under the category of maya. God gets us everywhere and anywhere we want to be. People’s lack of faith and trust in God makes them manipulate everything, but if we were to just see how perfectly God arranges everything maybe we would relax a little and enjoy this life! Enjoy the gifts we are given daily. We should remember to use Guru’s compass to guide our lives: “Everyone longs for You Name, but without the Guru, no one finds You. All are enticed and trapped by Maya.” Guru Ji never said life had to be unenjoyable to be successful in our religious goals. Perhaps it is the trap of old patterns in our cultural thinking that create arbitrary rules that prevent us from being able to live life to it’s fullest potential. 

Let us reflect on Giani Ji's words, "Meditation is the grand act out of all religious acts. The sound of meditation awakes the sleeping consciousness. The more a person awakes, more mature he will become, more bliss he will get and more wisdom he will acquire. A fully awakened person will become almighty God" (p. 119 Shabad Guru Surat Dhun Chela). 

Monday, June 5, 2017

TurbanUp

I went to TurbanUp event in Yonge-Dundas Square in downtown Toronto on Sunday and it was a really cool experience. We’ve actually had similar events in Prince George on Canada day, but this was just on a larger scale. The event was about educating the public about Sikhism and they had langar, gatka, kirtan, face painting, people drawing portraits, paintings and calligraphy in punjabi. There was probably just about every color of fabric that you could imagine, and volunteers were tying turbans on members of the general public. People had huge smiles on their faces as they saw what they looked like in the mirror and proudly walked away wearing a turban. It was a priceless experience for me as well because it’s the first time I’ve worn a keski. Being around so many other Kaurs and Singhs in my keski made me feel confident and united. I definitely learned a lot about turbans including different names like keski, dummala, paag, etc. and I saw many more ways of tying turbans than I ever knew existed!

I was a bit nervous about leaving the center to go to the Eaton Center mall. As comfortable as I was in that square, I was nervous to go beyond it into the world with my keski.  I think it did make me feel somewhat shy, but it really helped that Toronto is so multicultural and diverse. This experience ultimately really made me really appreciate the courage it takes for Singhs or Kaurs to wear a turban each day. After all, when you are wearing a turban a big part of it is to stand out and be easily identifiable, to be accountable for your actions, and to be known as a Sikh rather than blending in with the crowd. 


Here’s some pictures from the event. I would have taken more but my phone battery died pretty quickly.




This last one is me and my Massi Ji and cousins

Friday, May 26, 2017

Washing Away the Anxiety

“Anxiety is removed, and heart's desires are fulfilled, when True Guru, the treasure of excellence showers his benediction.” Ang 191
These last few weeks have been a real blessing. I’ve finally gotten to enjoy a few weeks of school without anxiety. Anxiety can be a real monster- it leads us down the path of getting lost in planning for “what if’s” that will probably never even exist. It’s been really great to just wake up and feel happy with what God has given me and understand the more divine forces at work than the miniature choices I make in my daily life. Whoever I have a chance to see, whatever I have the opportunity to do, wherever I have the chance to go, I go where God leads me. For example, I think today was probably the first time I’ve walked into an exam without any anxiety at all. In fact when I left home I felt like I might have left something behind, and I did- the burden of anxiety on my shoulders. This was true despite the fact that I didn’t study even a small fraction as much as I normally do. Instead, I spent most of my time in the last few weeks focusing on simply feeding my body and mind. It’s definitely reinforced how a healthy body and mind can make a world of difference to our ability to be able to focus, concentrate and achieve what we need to.

It’s been most interesting for me to learn to function without my mind racing all the time. I’m used to multiple streams of thought happening at the same time and interfering in my current task, and I realized that this is a major way that anxiety drains our energy. I’m realizing this is why Sikhi teaches us to bring our thoughts down to one- Waheguru, and then finally none in order to meet Him. I think also, a large part of reducing anxiety is simply staying away from people that feed it, regardless of whether or not they intended it. It’s important to spend time with people who guide and support us on our path and remind us of what’s real and important. I’m thankful for conversations that allow me to find a new way to see things, or take my anxiety and turn it around, for the people that remind us that God’s will is perfect and each day is worth celebrating. The more effort we spend towards meeting Waheguru, the more love we feel in our lives. I’m thankful, happy and excited for my next adventure. May Waheguru bless you all. 

This hukamnama summarizes everything so well:
“Siree Raag, First Mehl: Through the Guru, the Pure One is known, and the human body becomes pure as well.The Pure, True Lord abides within the mind; He knows the pain of our hearts.With intuitive ease, a great peace is found, and the arrow of death shall not strike you. ||1|| O Siblings of Destiny, filth is washed away by bathing in the Pure Water of the Name.You alone are Perfectly Pure, O True Lord; all other places are filled with filth. ||1||Pause|| The Temple of the Lord is beautiful; it was made by the Creator Lord. The sun and the moon are lamps of incomparably beautiful light. Throughout the three worlds, the Infinite Light is pervading. In the shops of the city of the body, in the fortresses and in the huts, the True Merchandise is traded. ||2|| The ointment of spiritual wisdom is the destroyer of fear; through love, the Pure One is seen. The mysteries of the seen and the unseen are all known, if the mind is kept centered and balanced. If one finds such a True Guru, the Lord is met with intuitive ease. ||3|| He draws us to His Touchstone, to test our love and consciousness. The counterfeit have no place there, but the genuine are placed in His Treasury. Let your hopes and anxieties depart; thus pollution is washed away. ||4|| Everyone begs for happiness; no one asks for suffering. But in the wake of happiness, there comes great suffering. The self-willed manmukhs do not understand this. Those who see pain and pleasure as one and the same find peace; they are pierced through by the Shabad. ||5|| The Vedas proclaim, and the words of Vyaasa tell us,that the silent sages, the servants of the Lord, and those who practice a life of spiritual discipline are attuned to the Naam, the Treasure of Excellence. Those who are attuned to the True Name win the game of life; I am forever a sacrifice to them. ||6|| Those who do not have the Naam in their mouths are filled with pollution; they are filthy throughout the four ages. Without loving devotion to God, their faces are blackened, and their honor is lost. Those who have forgotten the Naam are plundered by evil; they weep and wail in dismay. ||7|| I searched and searched, and found God. In the Fear of God, I have been united in His Union. Through self realization, people dwell within the home of their inner being; egotism and desire depart.O Nanak, those who are attuned to the Name of the Lord are immaculate and radiant. ||8||7||”