Friday, February 5, 2016

Living Behind A Mask

There is a lot of focus on telling Sikh youth about how they should appear. Sometimes we guilt or shame them into becoming what we want them to be. So when the child grows up and makes his or her own choices, for example the boy who becomes a teen and cuts his hair, we are disappointed, shocked, and angry. We didn’t realize the tactic of coercion to get our children to do things doesn’t hold up very long. Maybe we force him to keep his hair, but then he is only Sikh in his appearance and not internally. I think its important that rather than just focusing on the external things, let us create a love for Sikhi inside the child. A love so deep that if challenged or questioned, that they will find their way back again. In order to do that, we need to focus on the qualities of a Sikh, the basic teachings. The teachings of treating each person with respect, being accountable for your actions, quality between men and women, standing up for what’s right, never giving up or giving in. There is no use in putting on a false appearance if the inside is nothing.

Many of us live behind a mask.  They want everything to look good to an observer from the outside, and that’s all that matters. Maybe you didn’t notice your mask because you use it so much. It’s the “fake self” that smiles when you are falling apart inside, that lies and pretends to be someone it is not. The mask can be anything anyone wants it to be, whatever is convenient and will help to gain an advantage. This is successful, no doubt. I’ve seen a lot of people pretending to be someone they are not and being successful in building a career or getting superficial things and becoming popular. They don’t share their real challenges or hardships, they brag about their achievements and possessions. They justify their fake life by these outer signs of success, and maybe because the fear that actually being their real self will lead to rejection. If a person rejects the mask it doesn’t matter. If you are trying to be a real Sikh and standing by your values, you will be forced to stand up for your actions and decisions and that can be hard. Maybe you aren’t prepared to actually do that work, you think coasting through life is a better plan. After all, no one is giving you a medal for working harder than everyone else by being your true self.

If I lost you with the idea of the mask I’m going to bring in some cultural examples of how we are putting on appearances instead of actually living the values of Sikhism. Shame drives a lot of the behaviors in our culture. In western culture its about guilt. In our culture its about honour and shame. A person can do whatever they want as long as it doesn’t bring shame to the family. They can be the biggest criminal, do the worst possible things, as long as they aren’t caught, it is fine. It brings them the fancy cars and the mansion so it looks great. But the minute that person is caught, they are nothing to their family because they brought shame to the family. When do we stop focusing on appearances and earn an honest living like Guru Nanak Dev Ji taught us? We teach boys its ok to date as many girls as they want as long as they marry the quiet daughter-in-law that knows how to cook and clean and doesn’t stir up trouble, because the appearance of having that daughter-in-law matters. We teach our girls- our sisters and daughters that are the victims of sexual violence to suffer in silence. If she speaks up, at the time she needs the most support, she is abandoned and blamed for something that she had no fault in. “She brought shame to the family”, “what will people think”, “she is nothing to us” brings about disgusting behaviors like so-called “honour killings.” What a tragedy. How can we do this to our daughters and sisters and still be called Sikhs? So when do we stop focusing on appearances and support our daughters and sisters?

The person who wears the mask attends the gurdwara to show off their fancy clothes and brag to other people. After all, again, its about what other people would say or think if they didn’t do that. Being a Sikh is not about the appearance of attending the gurdwara. Its not about the show, its about what is in your heart. Going to the gurdwara is about sangat. Its about the power a group of people there for the purpose of advancing your knowledge in spirituality, just like we go to school. Instead of really understanding the meanings of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, we have started to just worship, which is not what the Gurus taught us. We need to learn and use the knowledge.

I’m here reminding you that that mask is preventing you from having a true connection with anyone. That the mask is defeating our life purpose. The greatest way to serve God is living the Sikhi values. God gave us this mind to be able to make our own decisions and be accountable for them. Life is about making decisions that further the soul to be one with God, everything else is an illusion and will go when you die. Don’t let the core of the being be lost to Maya- the illusion of this world (lust, anger, greed, attachment, pride also known as kaam, krodh, lobh, moh, hankaar). We weren’t born as Sikhs to hide behind a mask. Being true to yourself will get your soul somewhere that the mask can’t. Pretending you are something you are not is just doing harm to the true purpose of that soul. In order to teach our children, we have to walk the walk and throw the mask away.

Monday, January 25, 2016

More Shabads- Mere Laalan Ki Sobha and Eh Tan Man Tera

As promised, more shabads! Sorry its taking so long, I am just re-recording because I got a new camera. I will be recording how to play shabads as well (step-by-step).

Mere Laalan Ki Sobha (Translation from Sikhnet)
O, the Wondrous Glory of my Beloved!
My mind is rejuvenated forever by His Wondrous Love. ||1||Pause||
Brahma, Shiva, the Siddhas, the silent sages and Indra beg for the charity of His Praise and devotion to Him. ||1||
Yogis, spiritual teachers, meditators and the thousand-headed serpent all meditate on the Waves of God.
Says Nanak, I am a sacrifice to the Saints, who are the Eternal Companions of God. ||2||3||

Eh Tan Man Tera Translation (Translation from Sikhnet)
This body and mind are Yours; all virtues are Yours.
I am a sacrifice, every little bit, to Your Darshan.
Please hear me, O my Lord God; I live only by seeing Your Vision, even if only for an instant.
I have heard that Your Name is the most Ambrosial Nectar; please bless me with Your Mercy, that I may drink it in.
My hopes and desires rest in You, O my Husband Lord; like the rainbird, I long for the rain-drop.
Says Nanak, my soul is a sacrifice to You; please bless me with Your Darshan, O my Lord God. ||2||

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Happy Prakash Divas! (Guru Gobind Singh Ji's Birthday)

Guru Gobind Singh Ji Prakash Divas
We will have a program at the Gurdwara in celebration of Gobind Singh Ji Prakash Divas (birthday). Guru Gobind Singh Ji is our 10th Guru, son of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji and Mata Gurjri Ji, born December 22, 1666 at Patna Sahib. His early education in Punjabi, Braj, Sanskrit and Persian was in Anandpur Sahib. Guru Tegh Bahadur’s shaheedi occurred when Gobind Rai was only 9 years old. He had not hesitated in telling his father to make this important sacrifice-“None could be worthier than you, father to make a supreme sacrifice.” Guru Ji went on to write great works such as Jaap Sahib which we read in our daily prayers.

It is Guru Gobind Singh Ji who created the Khalsa in 1699, and this is celebrated on Vaisakhi every year. If you’d like to read more about this, see our posts on Vaisakhi. Thus came the image of the Sikh you see today, with the 5 symbols of faith (Kesh, Kangha, Kara, Kirpan, Kacchera) and ready to give their life to defend the innocent at any time. Guru Ji writes in the Zafarnama “When all other means have failed, it is but lawful to take to the sword.” The Rajput chiefs of Silvalik hills were disturbed by the formation of the Khalsa as the Sikhs did not believe in their system of discrimination based on caste. They felt threatened and tried to force Guru Ji out of Anandpur Sahib, but were unsuccessful for five years. They got help from Emperor Aurangzeb and in 1705, he promised the Sikhs a safe exit if they left Anadpur Sahib. As stated in my previous post about the history of the Chaar Sahibzaade, the Mughal army did not fulfill their promise and it is during this time that many Sikhs were killed by the pursuing Mughal army, in addition to many manuscripts being lost as they crossed the Sarsa river. Guru Ji’s four sons were martyred.

Guru Ji spent time in Dina where he received a letter from Aurangzeb asking him to come to Deccan to meet him, however Guru Ji rejected his offer and wrote him the Zafarnama in response, delivered to Auranzeb by Daya Singh and Dharam Singh. In the battle of Muktsar on December 29, 1705, Guru Ji, Mai Bhago, and 40 Sikhs who had previously deserted the Guru Ji, faced the Mughal army led by Wazir Khan. These 40 became known as the 40 Mukhte (saved ones). Guru Ji spent 9 months at Damdama Sahibn (Talvandi Sabo) finishing the Sri Guru Sahib Ji. It is said that the Zafarnama touched Aurunzeb and he invitied Guru Ji for a meeting, however Guru Ji had already left for the south. Guru Ji helped Bahadur Shah gain the throne after the death of Aurangzeb. Nawab Wazir Khan ordered the murder of the Guru Ji to be carried out by Jamshed Kahn and Wasil Beg. One of them stabbed Guru Ji, however Guru Ji killed the attacker. With the help of the Emperor’s surgeon, he was on the path to recovery. Several days later the wound burst open and started bleeding, but was again treated. Knowing that these were his last days, Guru Ji declared the Guru Granth Sahib Ji as his successor.

Let us remember what the Guru Ji has contributed to our history!


Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year 2016! What better way to celebrate the new year than to remember God and be thankful for all the gifts he showers us with. Sometimes these are disguised in the form of a challenge or hardship, but we come out stronger. Wishing everyone peace, happiness, wisdom, and success in this new year. Let us grow closer to Waheguru, leave behind kaam, krodh, lob, moh and hankaar, remember our history and represent Sikhi well in our communities. May we face the hardships we encounter in this coming year by keeping our faith in God and may we remember Him also in times of happiness. Be proud to be a Sikh and celebrate by joining us in ardaas at the Gurdwara at midnight tonight.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Chaar Sahibzaade History

My apologies for not posting this yesterday because I have been away the last few days. Here is the history of the 4 sons of our 10th Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji: Sahibzada Ajit Singh, Jujhar Singh, Zorawar Singh, and Fateh Singh. It is this time of year we remember the shaheedi of these young Sikhs.

Guru Gobind Singh Ji and his fellow Sikhs had been battling the Mughal Army for months at Anandpur Sahib. Emperor Aurungzeb sent a message that if they left the fort, they would be allowed to be free. On the night of December 5, 1705 Guru Gobind Singh Ji and his fellow Sikhs left Andandpur Sahib when it was raining heavily, and crossed the Sarsa river with the Mughal army pursuing them. Sahibzaade Ajit Singh (18) and Jujhar Singh (14) made it to the Fort of Chamkaur by December 6 with Guru Gobind Singh Ji and a group of 40 Sikhs.  They suffered many casualties trying to cross the Sarsa. On December 7, 1705 the enemy had surrounded Fort Chamkaur and the Sikhs had exhausted their ammunition and arrows. They were “a mere forty defying a hundred thousand,” in the words of Guru Ji. There were over 100,000 Moghul soldiers on foot and 700 mounted, pursuing the small group of 40 Sikhs. The Sikhs were left to fight with swords and spears only. Guru Ji sent out his sons to battle. Sahibzada Ajit Singh and Jujhar Singh were martyred while leading other Sikhs into battle. Guru Ji writes in the Zafarnama (to Emperor Aurangzeb), “It matters little if a jackal through cunning and treachery succeeds in killing two lion’s cubs, for the lion himself lives to inflict retribution on you.”

On the night of December 5th Mata Gujri and the younger Sahibzaade Zorawar (age 9) Singh and Fateh Singh (age 7), and the cook Gangu were separated and as a result stayed in Gangu’s home. Gangu was greedy and stole Mata Ji’s bag of coins. Then he provided the location of the Sahibzaade to the officials- Jani Khan and Mani Khan, who arrested the Sahibzade and Mata Gujri on December 8th and confined them in Thanda Burj (Cold tower) at Sirhind. Because it was winter, the tower was freezing at night and they were allowed nothing to eat or drink. The governor of Murinda went to get the Sahibzaade to meet Nawab Wazir Khan and separated them from Mata Ji, telling them that their father and brothers had been killed. The sahibzaade did not believe him. Nawab Wazir Khan tried to get them to convert to Islam by bribing them with many gifts and riches but the Sahibzaade stayed strong, even when they faced death. They did not give up their Sikhi. They stayed another night at the Thanda Burj due to Nawab Sher Muhammad Khan’s insistence that they should not be killed. The next day Nawab Wazir Khan ordered them to be bricked alive and when he hesitated due to Nawab Sher Muhammad Khan’s pleas, Diwan Suchchanand insisted that the children would grow up to be as their father was and they should not be spared. The brick wall was made as the Sahibzade recited Japji Sahib, but when the bricks reached their chests, the wall crumbled. Nawab Wazir Khan ordered them to be beheaded. Mata Gujri Ji passed away as well. Gurdwara Fategarh and Gurdwara Joti Sarup is now standing where Mata Ji and the small Sahibzaade were cremated.

photo from: 

When Guru Ji learned of the death of his younger sons as well he told the Sikhs “I have sacrificed four sons for the survival of the thousands of my sons who are still alive.” He wrote the shabad, Mitry Pyare Nu Haal Murida Da Kahna:
"Tell the beloved friend (the Lord) the plight of his disciples.
Without You, rich blankets are a disease and the comfort of the house is like living with snakes.
Our water pitchers are like stakes of torture and our cups have edges like daggers.
Your neglect is like the suffering of animals at the hands of butchers.
Our Beloved Lord's straw bed is more pleasing to us than living in costly furnace-like mansions."
Every December we remember the sacrificies of the Chaar Sahibzaade, Mata Ji, and the many Sikhs who fought against injustice. May we always remember the lives given so we could have the right to practice our religion today, and the bravery that these young Sahibzaade had in choosing the path that was right instead of what was easy.

A History of the Sikhs Volume I 1469-1839, 2nd Edition by Khushwant Singh

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Harmandir Sahib

I made this painting of the Harmandir Sahib/Golden Temple over the last few months. It took quite a bit of time to make the details of the crowd because I wanted to represent different groups of people ( the married couple ,the pregnant woman, kids etc.)
For more information on the Harmandir Sahib, visit

Monday, December 7, 2015

More Shabads to Come!

Hi everyone, I've been working on recording more shabads and then I will post ones with just the keys so that people can learn how to play them. Hopefully they will be up soon!