Friday, April 20, 2018

Where Are You Going?

A few months ago, I was preparing for interview questions about my future dreams and goals. They ask things about where you see yourself in 5 or 10 yrs, what is on your bucket list, what are your goals? I have been thinking about it long after the interviews were over. It is important for us to reassess where we are headed every so often. Up until now, my major goal had been about finishing my schooling. Since it took so many years, I had deferred thinking in detail about what life would look like after that… it was a vague distant future that had now suddenly become closer. In fact, it felt like I waited so long I had forgotten what I originally wanted to do when I was done, and even then, a lot of it has changed. 

In the past whenever I would have answered a question like this about my future or “bucket list,” it would have been things like writing a book or travelling to some place. It was simply kind of a random list of things and mostly things that I thought most people should be doing or most people wanted to do rather than what was consistent with who I am. This time I thought more deeply about my life’s direction. It is great to have fun in life and enjoy God’s creation, but I also wanted to make sure that I don’t have just a mishmashed list of things. I know that my life’s purpose is about merging with Waheguru and continuing to follow the Sikh pillars of naam japna, kirat karni, and vand shakna. I wanted to figure out how my ideas for my future would fit into that purpose, so I reflected on the projects and activities I have enjoyed over the years and the things I wanted to continue to make time for. For example, my new goals involved wanting to finish reading the entirety of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, visiting the historical Gurdwaras and places from our Sikh history, participating in simran camps, attending kirtan smagams, and learning another instrument like Taus or Rabab to sing Gurbani with. I want to spend my life with those willing to learn, sing kirtan, and sit in sangat with me. 

In the past I used to plan a lot and try to control outcomes well in advance. Then I swung towards becoming scared of having goals or dreams and not wanting to picture my future. Finally, I learned the balance of having goals but being flexible in what God has written for us and the unexpected gifts God gives us. For example, I have ideas for volunteer projects and sewa, but I will ultimately do whatever sewa I am called to do. This is the beautiful thing about life because it can be spontaneous, and our experiences also can shape and evolve our ideas, just like my understanding of friendships, sangat, marriage, advocacy, religion, and work has all evolved. Goals are important because they help us plan for our careers, married/family life, and spiritual life, but rather than being too attached or stuck in the future we can see them as a general direction. 

Through the process of answering this question for myself, I learned that there are lots of things I could add to my bucket list, but its important to remember what will fulfill us in travelling the mind’s journey that we were born into this human life for. We never know how long we have, so we should prioritize that task. Gurbani tells us, “Even the greatest of the great worked and worked until they were exhausted. None of them ever accomplished the tasks of Maya.” The wordly list of desires and work will never end and will multiply manifold but we need the direction of one purpose to focus ourselves. One step at a time, we may set goals to learn morning Banis, sit in sangat every Sunday during the program, do a little bit of Simran daily, learn Gurmukhi, or whatever it may be so that we can advance that journey today. As Bhai Dalbir Singh Ji Tarmala says, in spirituality we learn to crawl, then walk, and we will automatically learn how to run, but the first step of remembering God over and over and learning the path of love is the hardest and takes the most time (katha link below). If your plans for today are inconsistent where you want to go, then it may be time to reconsider and adjust your course. 

rwmklI mhlw 5 ]
Raamkalee, Fifth Mehl:
qyrY kwij n igRhu rwju mwlu ]
Your home, power and wealth will be of no use to you.
qyrY kwij n ibKY jMjwlu ]
Your corrupt worldly entanglements will be of no use to you.
iest mIq jwxu sB ClY ]
Know that all your dear friends are fake.
hir hir nwmu sMig qyrY clY ]1]
Only the Name of the Lord, Har, Har, will go along with you. ||1||
rwm nwm gux gwie ly mIqw hir ismrq qyrI lwj rhY ]
Sing the Glorious Praises of the Lord's Name, O friend; remembering the Lord in meditation, your honor shall be saved.
hir ismrq jmu kCu n khY ]1] rhwau ]
Remembering the Lord in meditation, the Messenger of Death will not touch you. ||1||Pause||
ibnu hir sgl inrwrQ kwm ]
Without the Lord, all pursuits are useless.
suienw rupw mwtI dwm ]
Gold, silver and wealth are just dust.
gur kw sbdu jwip mn suKw ]
Chanting the Word of the Guru's Shabad, your mind shall be at peace.
eIhw aUhw qyro aUjl muKw ]2]
Here and hereafter, your face shall be radiant and bright. ||2||
kir kir Qwky vfy vfyry ]
Even the greatest of the great worked and worked until they were exhausted.
ikn hI n kIey kwj mwieAw pUry ]
None of them ever accomplished the tasks of Maya.
hir hir nwmu jpY jnu koie ]
Any humble being who chants the Name of the Lord, Har, Har,
qw kI Awsw pUrn hoie ]3]
will have all his hopes fulfilled. ||3||
hir Bgqn ko nwmu ADwru ]
The Naam, the Name of the Lord, is the anchor and support of the Lord's devotees.
sMqI jIqw jnmu Apwru ]
The Saints are victorious in this priceless human life.
hir sMqu kry soeI prvwxu ]
Whatever the Lord's Saint does, is approved and accepted.
nwnk dwsu qw kY kurbwxu ]4]11]22]
Slave Nanak is a sacrifice to him. ||4||11||22||
Link to katha:  (katha starts at 1 h 30 min)

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Happy Khalsa Da Sajna Divas, Happy Vaisakhi 2018!

This weekend we will be celebrating Vaisakhi! Vadhayian (Congratulations) to everyone! There will be an Akhand paath. In addition, there has been a program every evening this week. On Saturday, Nishan Sahib Sewa is at 1 pm. 

Vaisakhi is my favorite time of year. Besides the crazy snowfall this year it’s usually around when spring seems to be starting up, and the days are growing longer. It is a time of reconnecting to ourselves and to God. I am really inspired when the Sikh community all gathers together at the Gurdwara Sahib to read Gurbani, do sewa, and kirtan. When I think of the creation of the Khalsa and the perseverance and mighty spirit of the Sikhs, the triumph in times of hardship, I feel stronger knowing that this is my shared history. Vaisakhi is a time of remembering our path, celebrating where we came from and where we are headed.

On Vaisakhi 1699 Guru Gobind Singh Ji called hundreds of thousands of Sikhs to gather at Anandpur Sahib. The crowd was completely silent, fully taking in the words of Guru Ji. After spiritual discourse, Guru Ji addressed the crowd, and then took out his sword and asked for a sacrifice, a head. Suddenly the sangat was scared. Bhai Daya Ram Ji approached. Guru Ji went in a tent and came back with his sword, dripping with blood. He asked for another head. Next was Bhai Dharam Das, then Sahib Chand, Himmat Chand, and finally Mokham Chand. Some of the sangat started to disperse in fear, when suddenly Guru Ji came out with all five and performed the Amrit ceremony. These Singhs became our Panj Pyare, the embodiment of the Guru. Then Guru Ji got the 5 to baptize him. The mother of the Khalsa is Mata Sahib Kaur Ji. She added patasay to the Amrit.

Guru Ji gave the Khalsa the distinct identity of today- kesh, kanga, kirpan, kachera, kara, and kanga. This united the Khalsa and because the panj were from different castes and now equal, it also showed that there would be equality and no caste distinction. The identity was important in that no Sikh would be allowed to hide- their identity would stand out as Sikh and therefore they would be responsible for their actions. 

The Khalsa was important in uniting the Sikhs as saint-soldiers, as warriors in standing up against the oppression and injustices that were being faced. Sikh women were given the middle name Kaur (princess) and males were given the middle name Singh (lion). May we all embody the names Kaur and Singh as we have been given them. 


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Parkash Divas Guru Arjan Dev Ji

This weekend we will have an Akhand Paath for the Parkash Divas (birth) of Guru Arjan Dev Ji. 

Our fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji was born to parents Guru Ram Das Ji and Bibi Bhani in 1563, in Goindval. Guru Ram Das Ji’s cousin invited him to Lahore for his son’s marriage, however the Guru Ji was busy in sewa and asked his eldest son Prithi Chand to attend. He refused, because he did not want his brother to become Guru while he was gone. Mahadev did not want to go and thus, Arjan went. Guru Ji instructed him to stay to educate the Sikhs until he was called back. Two years passed, and (Guru) Arjan wrote a letter to his father, of love and devotion. Two letters were hidden by Prithi Chand, but the last one had strict instructions to reach the Guru. Reading it, Guru Ji saw that this was labeled as the third letter and asked asked Prithi Chand of any others, who eventually confessed and showed the other letters. Guru Ji was moved by the letters and (Guru) Arjan came home. He went on to be bestowed the Guruship. 
He went on to marry Mata Ganga in 1589. Mata Ji went to Baba Buddha Ji to get blessings for a child, and Baba Buddha Ji said “a son will be born to you who will crush the enemies of Nanak’s house, just as I have crushed this onion in my hand” and thus was born Guru Hargobind. 
Guru Arjan Dev Ji took care of people affected by Leprosy near Taran Taran Sahib. He provided them with medicine, dressed them, and took care of them even though they were abandoned by their own families. He invited Mian Mir (a Muslim saint) to lay the foundation stone at Harmandir Sahib. He collected the hymns of the Gurus into the Aad Granth and eventually contributed 2218 hymns to the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. The creation of the Aad Granth preserved Gurbani in its original form, preventing any misinterpretation and distortion from others. I never realized growing up how unique this was, and that the scriptures of other religions had not been written by prophets themselves but followers later on. Guru Ji also wrote Sukhmani Sahib. One interesting note is how Guru Arjan Dev Ji emphasized the singing of kirtan by the sangat themselves as well: “In Guru Angad’s days the professional bards, Satta and Balwand who sang the hymns at the Guru’s Darbar had started to believe their excellence as musicians and singers was responsible for their Guru’s popularity. With his love for music and expertise in the Ragas, Guru Arjan Dev Ji introduced the tradition of singing by the congregants themselves to avoid such egotism" ( 
Sikhism was growing rapidly. Hindus and Muslims came to meet Guru Ji. Unfortunately this caused a jealousy and concern among the Mughals. Many people fuelled this, including Chandu Shah. I have mentioned him a few times in my past posts. Remember he was governor of Lahore and a wealthy banker. When his family priest suggested that Guru Arjan Dev Ji’s son (Hargobind) would be a good match for his daughter, he made disparaging remarks about the Guru because he believed he was “upper caste.” Eventually his daughter was getting older and still unmarried, so he changed his mind, however Guru Ji refused knowing his true colors. Chandu Shah turned against Guru Ji and turned Jahangir against Guru Ji. He made up lies that the Aad Granth spoke out against Hindus and Muslims. During Akbars time, he had dismissed these allegations but Jahangir was different and believed this. 

On top of this, Khusro, also Akbar’s son, was the one supposed to be in line for the throne after Akbar's death. Muslim Clergy helped Jahangir become ruler because he would instate Shariyat Muslim Law. Meanwhile Khusro had gone to seek the blessings of Guru Ji at Taran Taran, and this meeting was suspicious to Jahangir, who was successful in becoming ruler. He arrested Guru Ji and fined the Sikhs two Lakh rupees and told Guru Ji to remove mentions of Sikh and Muslim religions from the Aad Granth. Guru Ji refused, and Chandu Shah caused the torture of Guru Ji. Guru Ji was imprisoned at Lahore fort in the hot summer months, chained to a post in the sun. Guru Ji sat on a red-hot iron plate, with hot sand and boiling water poured on his body. Mian Mir tried to intercede but Guru Ji said that whatever is done is God’s will. Guru Ji bathed in the waters of the Ravi River in 1606 and merged with the supreme light. 

Now as we reflect on Guru Ji’s life, we should think about all the lessons that we can incorporate into our lives such as having faith, acceptance of God’s will, meditation on God in times of difficulty, and to rise above our thoughts to live in the home of the mind. Guru Ji also reminded us that kirtan is not about musical expertise but the devotion that comes from our hearts and therefore we should all sing kirtan in sangat. May we all be inspired by Guru Ji's life. 



Thursday, March 29, 2018

Gurdwara Pictures Part 3

These are pictures from end of my tour visiting many Gurdwaras in Surrey, BC.
There were some amazing handmade paintings by Bhai Jarnail Singh Ji at Sri Guru Singh Sabha Surrey which explained Sikh history.

This is at the Nanaksar Gurdwara Sahib.

Gurdwara Dukh Nivaran

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).