Monday, September 18, 2017

Wake up the Mind

I read a Hukamnama the other day this line of Gurbani keeps running through my mind. “You believe that your life in the world is true.” I think this line of Gurbani has more depth than I can appreciate or understand. On one level, we know that we came on this earth to meet God, but that the illusion of maya has clouded our vision and gets in the way of us meeting Truth. One of the Bhain Ji’s I met explained that night and day are actually reversed. When we wake up in the morning we are actually sleeping. Why? We enter this world, this dream, and we kind of just “sleep” through our lives. We don’t live in Hukam, or meet God, or see Truth. We don’t look at each person as Waheguru. Instead, our minds are overcome by jealousy, anger, etc. and we divide ourselves. When we go to sleep, we receive instruction from God. That is our time to spend with God, but often times we have spent so much time in maya that we end up in dreams. The process of awakening is the process of seeking Truth (God) and happens through simran. In that way, we can become “awake” spiritually 24/7.

On another level, I came to understand that this line is saying that God is operating on a whole other level we don’t understand. We are often struggling to understand when we don’t know the whole picture. There is a reason for everything. We are limited in what we can see in this life. We often jump to assumptions that God is unjust or unfair based on a small portion of the picture. I remember one time I asked one of my friends how they deal with seeing so much suffering. They said to me something like “everyone has their own journey.” I think I hadn’t really understood until today that they were talking about the soul journey and not the life journey. We tend to see people as their life journey, and a lot of the time we end up not having answers that we need to get peace. When we understand that God operates on the soul’s journey- all the lifetimes that soul has gone through, then we can start to understand that what we see in life isn’t necessarily true as we see it.

In the face of seeing sad things in life (which happens in almost every line of work, and if not at work then in personal life and in the world in general) then there is that question of what can you do as an individual. It took a long time for me to understand that my role in life is not necessarily to change people’s realities or fixing everything. Waheguru decides how long we each have to live. There are some things that cannot be corrected. Let’s take an obvious example- your friend’s family member dies. You know that you can’t bring that person back to life for your friend, but you do your best to support them. We do what we can in our realm of influence. I remember one of the Gurmukhs I met talked about how they did simran next to a dying relative 24/7 so that they could know that they as a family had helped in his spiritual progression and fulfilling his purpose in this life and that his mind would be on God in his last breaths. It was a powerful experience for the whole family and they got a lot of peace from it. A lot of times it’s about seeing a devastating situation and realizing what CAN be done rather than what can’t be undone. Ultimately there is a role to trusting that God is just and has this whole other realm of things happening and souls connecting, and then there’s our ability to really connect to God and trust that each soul is taken care of. There’s the ability of each person to do our best to make a difference in other people’s lives as well. So really to understand this line of Gurbani it requires us to see that Truth by connecting to Waheguru.

"He Himself is the school, He Himself is the teacher, and He Himself brings the students to be taught”

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Bani Guru Guru Hai Bani, Vich Bani Amrit Sare

Bani Guru Guru Hai Bani, Vich Bani Amrit Sare. Gurbani Kahe sevak jan mane partake Guru nistare.
“The Word, the Bani is Guru, and Guru is the Bani. Within the Bani, the Ambrosial Nectar is contained. If His humble servant believes, and acts according to the Words of the Guru’s Bani, then the Guru, in person, saves him.”

This weekend, I had the chance to go with my family to meet some Gurmukhs to do simran and listen to katha. It really helps to be able to spend time with Gurmukhs who can answer your questions and guide you. I have written quite a few posts about simran and the game of life, including the role of maya. As a quick review, maya is not just physical but also our thought patterns. These are the three thought patterns that Gurbani tells us about: satogun (“good” thoughts like compassion, empathy) associated with akash lok (birds) and sukh sagar (ocean of happiness), rajogun thoughts (neutral thoughts like thinking about work) associated with bhoom lok (things that live on land) and agan sagar (ocean of fire), and lastly tamogun thoughts (lust, anger, pride, gossiping, etc.) associated with patal lok (underwater) and bik sagar (ocean of poison). Our goal is to move out of maya (above the thought patterns) and into the state of meeting Waheguru. I’m going to build on this and write a bit about what I learned in katha this weekend.

We often hear the words sant, sadhu, bhagat and brahm gyani. These terms are actually explained at length in Sukhmani Sahib. In katha, Bhenji explained that a sant is someone who hears Anhad Shabads. These shabads are also known as Naam, God’s voice, and have various other names in Gurbani. Individuals who keep doing simran and focusing on the shabds will taste amrit ras in their mouths. I have met many Gurmukhs who have experienced this. Then when the shabads are heard at all times, no matter if there are large crowds and lots of distractions, those individuals are known as Bhagats. Bhenji said that it is a great sewa to the world to be able to keep the mind connected to God at all times and live in Hukam. Those who are one with God and see jot are Brahm Gyani. It’s helpful to know about these spiritual stages. 

Waheguru speaks to all of us. Because of the “curtain of doubt” (param da pardah)/maya, we are unable to hear it and see the jot. In our first stages of simran, we try to get into really finding a comfortable position and focusing on our voice out loud. In each session we should end by moving into a whisper and then doing the simran inside our mind (antargat), in silence, so that we can practice trying to hear the shabads. Many times people will fall into a dream-less "sleep" when doing the simran, and that's actually a good thing because you have joined your mind to Waheguru. Anhad bani is a sound and not words that are written. I had a lot guidance from Gurmukhs in my initial stages of simran to guide me to being able to hear them, which is why sangat is important. Once we hear that bani we should try to listen to it as much as we can. After Bhenji explained, I’ve really made it a goal for myself to try to listen as much as possible. It’s also a moment of relaxation and a break for our minds, and a reminder that Waheguru is present at all times caring for us.

Most of us know that giving time and attention is a bigger gift than anything physical we could give someone. A well-wishing thought or prayer for someone is worth more than money could buy. This also translates into our spirituality and I think it can be harder for people to grasp that concept. To work on our relationship with God we need to give it time and attention. It's not just about having an Akand paath, or donating food. It is about the devotion that comes from our heart that pulls us to sit there and listen to the paath, to do sewa, to follow the instruction of Guru Ji. I think we “chase” maya a lot and it helps to realize that there is one clear direction from Gurbani towards God and Guru Ji helps to save us from wandering around aimlessly.

One of the hukamnamas I read this week:
geI bhoVu bMdI CoVu inrMkwru duKdwrI ]
The Restorer of what was taken away, the Liberator from captivity; the Formless Lord, the Destroyer of pain.
krmu n jwxw Drmu n jwxw loBI mwieAwDwrI ]
I do not know about karma and good deeds; I do not know about Dharma and righteous living. I am so greedy, chasing after Maya.
nwmu pirE Bgqu goivMd kw ieh rwKhu pYj qumwrI ]1]
I go by the name of God's devotee; please, save this honor of Yours. ||1||
hir jIau inmwixAw qU mwxu ]
O Dear Lord, You are the honor of the dishonored.
incIijAw cIj kry myrw goivMdu qyrI kudriq kau kurbwxu ] rhwau ]
You make the unworthy ones worthy, O my Lord of the Universe; I am a sacrifice to Your almighty creative power. ||Pause||
jYsw bwlku Bwie suBweI lK AprwD kmwvY ]
Like the child, innocently making thousands of mistakes
kir aupdysu iJVky bhu BwqI bhuiV ipqw gil lwvY ]
his father teaches him, and scolds him so many times, but still, he hugs him close in his embrace.
ipCly Aaugux bKis ley pRBu AwgY mwrig pwvY ]2]
Please forgive my past actions, God, and place me on Your path for the future. ||2||
hir AMqrjwmI sB ibiD jwxY qw iksu pih AwiK suxweIAY ]
The Lord, the Inner-knower, the Searcher of hearts, knows all about my state of mind; so who else should I go to and speak to?
khxY kQin n BIjY goibMdu hir BwvY pYj rKweIAY ]
The Lord, the Lord of the Universe, is not pleased by mere recitation of words; if it is pleasing to His Will, He preserves our honor.
Avr Et mY sglI dyKI iek qyrI Et rhweIAY ]3]
I have seen all other shelters, but Yours alone remains for me. ||3||
hoie dieAwlu ikrpwlu pRBu Twkuru Awpy suxY bynµqI ]
Becoming kind and compassionate, God the Lord and Master Himself listens to my prayer.
pUrw sqguru myil imlwvY sB cUkY mn kI icMqI ]
He unites me in Union with the Perfect True Guru, and all the cares and anxieties of my mind are dispelled.
hir hir nwmu AvKdu muiK pwieAw jn nwnk suiK vsMqI ]4]12]62]
The Lord, Har, Har, has placed the medicine of the Naam into my mouth; servant Nanak abides in peace. ||4||12||62||

Friday, September 8, 2017

Bikeathon

Reminder of the Punjabi Seniors Society bikeathon tomorrow. We will be meeting at the Gurdwara at 8 am. Then meeting at (or biking to) Purden Lake at 12 pm.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Reflecting on Our Relationship with Waheguru

I’ve been mulling over some things in my head the last few days so it has taken me a while to write! I’ve been thinking about the false sense of urgency sometimes we create on ourselves. It serves as a source of stress to try to make life happen faster than it needs to, when actually each piece of the puzzle will only fit exactly when the time is right. Overall, there seems to be a balance between waiting and action in life. Sometimes we are required to wait and we get so tired of not being able to do anything about it. Sometimes we are required to make many efforts, and we get tired of trying. If you wait, you might lose the opportunity, but if you jump in too fast, things might not be good either. Altogether, there’s a kind of skill or wisdom to knowing what is required of you at this time, and it relates to connecting to your soul and figuring out your direction.

Lately there have been some days when I’ve said in my Ardas “Waheguru, I know there’s a reason for everything and I just don’t understand!” My Hukamnamas have been very direct, but it’s still taken me a while to understand what turned out to be a big “light bulb” moment for me. In particular I got this hukamnama three times.
Bairaaree, Fourth Mehl:
The Lord's humble servant sings the Glorious Praises of the Lord's Name.
Even if someone slanders the Lord's humble servant, he does not give up his own goodness. ||1||Pause||
Whatever the Lord and Master does, He does by Himself; the Lord Himself does the deeds.
The Lord and Master Himself imparts understanding; the Lord Himself inspires us to speak. 
The Lord Himself directs the evolution of the world of the five elements; He Himself infuses the five senses into it.
O servant Nanak, the Lord Himself unites us with the True Guru; He Himself resolves the conflicts.

Firstly, on a worldly level I’ve really found the importance of letting go of assumptions and clearing up misunderstandings by discussing things and listening. After all, God is Sach (Truth) and we can really resolve a lot of conflicts that way. Even thinking (which also falls under maya) is very powerful. I have a childhood friend who moved away to go to law school and I hadn’t talked to her in maybe 8 months. I then was thinking about her quite a bit and had a dream about her. All of a sudden she phoned me the next day saying she’d been thinking of me a lot lately and felt she should call. It’s interesting how powerful thinking can be. 

Now going back to my realization. I realized that on a deeper and more spiritual level that what plays out in all our relationships in this world is a reflection of our relationship with God. The more we connect to God, the more we connect with other people’s souls because God is in all. The more we struggle with our relationship with God the more conflict we will have because we will be stuck in maya. You know that moment when you meet someone and you already feel like you’ve known them forever? It’s that soul connection, the deeper connection formed by all the simran and prayers you’ve done together in past lives. When we connect through Ardas and simran, it’s a lot more powerful than using our words. From books I’ve I read I know that through simran, we are able to go to Sunn and meet other souls. As we spiritually progress then, Gurmukhs are actually able to live that understanding that God is in all and see God in everyone. I’m still far from being able to do that, but I got a glimpse of understanding of our interconnectedness. My sense of urgency has decreased. I can see that everything so far in life contributed to my path in Sikhi, and that if we have any conflict in life, we should work on our relationship with God because that improves our relationship to self and all others at the same time. 

"The Lord and Master acts, and causes us to act; union is in His Hands. O my mind, no one appears to be mistaken, to one who has dispelled his own doubts; he realizes that everyone is God." 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Punjabi Movie

Given that this rarely happens, I thought I would mention that there's a Punjabi movie in our theatre right now. I haven't seen it but it's called "Vekh Barataan Chaliyaan."

Thursday, August 31, 2017

First Prakash Diwas Guru Granth Sahib Ji

Tomorrow (September 1st) is the 413th anniversary of the first Parkash Diwas of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. This is when Guru Arjan Dev Ji installed the Adi Granth at Harmandir Sahib. The following explains a bit of the history and the translation of the first hukamnama, which is on page 783/784 of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji: 


"At dawn, the entire sangat marched towards Harimandir. Bhai Buddha carried the Holy Book on his head and Guru Arjun walked behind swinging the whisk over it. Musicians sang shabads. Thus they reached the Harimandir. The Granth Sahib was ceremonially installed in the centre of the inner sanctuary on Bhadon Sudi 1, 1661 sK/September 1, 1604. Bhai Buddha opened it with reverence to obtain from it the divine command, as Guru Arjun stood in attendance behind. 
The following hymn was read as God's own announcement for the occasion:
'He Himself hath succoured His saints in their work, He himself hath come to see their task fulfilled. Blessed is the earth, blessed the tank. Blessed is the tank with amrit filled. Amrit overfloweth the tank: He hath had the task completed; Eternal is the Perfect Being, His praises Vedas and Puranas sing. The Creator hath bestowed on me the nine treasures, and all the charisms, No lack do I suffer now. Enjoying His largesse, bliss have I attained, Ever-expanding is the Lord's bounty.'" 
source: http://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Adi_Granth 
picture reference: http://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/File:SGGS_pic.jpg  

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Priority Setting

At work we were talking today about priority setting for healthcare in communities, which made me think about priorities in family settings, individual relationships and ourselves. For the mental/spiritual/physical health of a family I think it’s really helpful for people to share similar priorities. I saw a video on Sikhnet that talked about how in a marriage, the devotion of the heart should match. Guruka Singh said it doesn’t matter if someone is further along in their spiritual growth because that can be balanced, but devotion matters a lot. He gave the example of a wife who has the Guru and sangat as the center of her life, and her husband has his job and “mates” as the center of his life, being a mismatch of devotion. (Of course it could be the other way around). How do those two people grow together? They would be growing in two different directions! I think his point ultimately can be summarized as “priorities.” What are your priorities as an individual? As a family? When we do Anand Karaj we are saying that as a couple we have decided that our priority is Guru Ji. Guru Ji has established this as a base for successful marriage. But some people leave that behind as soon as they walk out of the Gurdwara. If parents don’t have the same priorities, its hard for the children to figure out what to prioritize and for the family unit to be all on the same page.

Ultimately a person’s time, effort and heart’s energy is going to go towards where their top priority is. The maximal number of thoughts will go to that priority. Bhai Sewa Singh Ji talks about in his books how it is these differences in thoughts that lead to fighting within relationships, families and society at large. As Sikhs we are taught that our top priority is that main reason we came on this earth- our union with God, to move beyond the world of thoughts and connect on a deeper level of souls. 

There’s nothing wrong with realizing that you need to shuffle and readjust your priorities. I remember I wrote a post a long time ago that talked about how I had my priorities that I ideally wanted to have and then I evaluated how realistically how my day played how didn’t match, so I worked on matching it up and eventually I did that successfully. So I encourage you to think about what/who is important in your life, and what you actually did today (where were your thoughts? what were your actions?) and whether they aligned. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Healthy Sikh Youth

Today was probably one of the easiest transitions back to school/work than I’ve ever had, so I’m glad to have the time to write. A lot of what I learned today was about how preventing disease and healthy communities starts with healthy children (starting in pregnancy). At work, I was reading through a report from Northern Health about growing up healthy in our region. It talked about a lot of the social things that affect our health like education/employment, food/housing, and social supports (called social determinants of health), and about which things we are doing well and which need to be improved.

As I was reading through, I was thinking about what aspects of this are and are not relevant to our cultural community. In many ways, I have been asking myself these questions for years… What issues is our Sikh community facing and how do we address them? When we were planning programs directed at gang violence prevention in the South Asian program, or talking about diabetes, we had to address how specific aspects of our culture played into the issue at hand. I remember once when I was handing out healthy cooking DVDs about how to make healthier dhaal, one of the Aunties was insulted and said “but I already know how to cook!” It taught me that we have to think in a difference lens for different populations.

The report I read talked about how it’s important for a child to have their basic needs met (food, housing, education, childcare), emotional needs met (feel safe, valued, loved), and participate in the community (through activities in nature, cultural, and organized activities). I thought about what we do really well in our cultural community. One of the sections in the report was about improvement is needed in destigmatizing supports for parents. For the Sikh community, I think we good job of supporting pregnant moms and new moms. Particularly,there is a recognition that new moms need help, and either families come from far to help, or if they live all together already, it helps to take the pressure off the new parents for getting time to sleep, and take care of themselves. I also feel like there is encouragement for breastfeeding as well. I remember was actually surprised the first time I had heard about stigma around breast-feeding, because growing up in our culture it’s definitely supported and encouraged. We do a good job of emphasizing the importance of education as well.

I think in particular our community does a good job of connecting youth to our culture. We have recognized the importance of identity, and belonging and our roots. At the Gurdwara we provide programs like tabla lessons, punjabi lessons, kirtan classes, etc. Obviously most of us want our youth to be able to sit and participate in the program, but sometimes it can be really long for them. I remember Bhai Manvir Singh Ji talked in one of his kathas about how even having kids playing outside (not in the main hall) when they are younger is okay, because they develop a positive association with coming to the Gurdwara (instead of having the memory of someone yelling at them!). I feel like in the Sikh community we also do a good job of teaching resiliency through struggle, which is not only through our history, but most families have had when they adjusted to life in Canada. Overall, I really feel like we do a lot to help keep our children healthy and invest in their future. I think because families are invested in each other and our dreams are usually collective- that your children be successful in their lives, etc., it helps because the goals are long term. 

There were many recommendations in the report I read about what should be improved in our communities to support youth, and that included better supports for mental health and substance use, addressing poverty, etc. When we apply this to our cultural community, I think alcohol use, youth gang involvement/drug use, anger, and domestic violence are issues. Learning healthy coping strategies for stress (following the teachings of Sikhi and learning to combat the  thieves) is important to help in making our families healthier. Working on developing a sense of responsibility in the family (helping out around the house, etc.) and larger responsibility for our actions should be improved as well. That ties into some of the issues with drug use/gangs as well, because families that deny their child's problem enable the youth not to take responsibility, but those that get help often save their children's lives and futures. Developing a relationship with police is also a challenge in our community. I remember we were taking pictures with my dad one day, and someone said before they knew it was him, they initially panicked that the police was here. For those of us born here, police/9-1-1 means protection, safety, help. For many people from India, police means something different due to corruption. So I think developing positive relationships with police as a source for help when there is trouble is also important. I know a few Sikh youth who now want to become police officers and I think that’s really awesome in being able to change that perception for our futures!

Lastly, I think another new emerging issue is technology. I have read a few questions from youth about technology on Sikhnet, and on top of that, observing my own young cousins I’ve realized that a lot of parents don’t know what’s going on online. On top of that, a lot of youth don’t seem to know anything about basic internet safety! Especially for families that don’t supervise their kids that closely (often not by choice- grandma is watching the kids because both parents are working, etc.), it can be hard to know what they are doing online, compounded by the fact that some parents don’t know how to use that technology themselves.

We all play a role as part of the community to the health of children growing up. I think it’s important to recognize and explore what aspects of that we are doing well and which areas we can work on to support the healthy development of Sikh youth that are growing up.

The reference to the northern health report I was referring to:


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Gratitude

Some days are hard, and today was a hard one. Goodbyes are difficult to say, and I have had to say a lot over this last little bit. One of them was even a forever goodbye- an acquaintance who passed away last week. I’m reminded that our time here is temporary, and for a purpose. 

Yesterday I was reading Gyani Sant Singh Maskeen Ji’s book, Third Eye, and it talked about expressing gratitude in our Ardas. He talked about how the only thing that is ours in this life is God. We think everything is ours, but everything is actually temporary, and only God belongs to us. He said we should express gratitude in our Ardas. He described things such as being thankful for our parents, breath, etc. and included sunlight in the list. At this I paused and re-read. When have I ever been thankful for sunlight?!! That if there was no sun, we would not survive. It made me think… where is my gratitude? We make all kinds of demands in our Ardas, but where is our appreciation. Where is the moment of surrender? Bhai Manvir Singh says that the answer to our ardas can be ‘yes’, ‘yes but later’ or ‘no but something better is coming.’ When we say God, whatever you give me, whether it’s a no or a yes, I’ll be happy just to have you, then that is real trust and faith. 

So today was about gratitude. I’ve been really lucky to have met some very inspirational people in my life, however short or long they were there. I am fortunate that on my last day of summer break, I woke up with my family at Amritvela today and went to the Gurdwara, I went back for the morning and evening Divans. I’m grateful for the sangat, I’m grateful for the jatha, and I'm grateful that God has given me this time. So I’m trying today, to surrender my wishes and desires and hopes, and simply express gratitude for this precious human life.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Kirtani Jatha Clay Sculptures

They were a bit harder than expected to make, but I had fun!