Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Battle Raging Inside

Today I was reading “Pothi Parmesar Ka Thaan” by Bhai Sewa Singh Tarmala to my parents. The chapter I was reading was talking about our internal and external battles in life. Bhai Sahib writes about how back during the times of the Guru Jis, people were being sold as slaves in markets in India. In the context of oppression and the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, it became important for one to be able to defend oneself physically. To be able to ride a horse and be trained in weaponry became important to one’s personal freedom. Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji introduced these so that the Sikhs could defend themselves. 

Guru Arjan Dev Ji complied all the scriptures at the time and called them “Pothi Parmesar Ka Thaan.” Guru Hargobind Singh Ji lived the practical aspect of those teachings. Bhai Sahib writes about how the 5 (lust, anger, greed, pride, attachment) are making our mind a slave inside. What was true on the outside, was also true on the inside. We need to protect and fight for our mind’s freedom from slavery. As slaves of the 5, we fight with our families, and the people we love. The method of freedom is explained through Gurbani and starts with simran to awaken the mind. A sleeping mind cannot fight.

Sri Harmandir Sahib and the Akal Takht were made externally for people to be able to recognize what is in our mind. Harmandir Sahib represents the Mandar/Gurdwara/Mahal that God has made inside our own mind; that we have to work to access. Akal Takht was made to understand that just as decisions were made there, the same happens inside, at that place where God gives the mind a fansla (I’m having trouble translating this properly into English but I’ll use the word “decision”). In order to yield the sword correctly (only in defense, battling the other person’s mindset only and understanding that God resides within them too) the Sikhs had to conquer this internal battle first. That is why we are called Saint-Soldiers. 

So if we reach the Harmandir in our minds, if we bathe in the pool of Amrit of our minds, and cleanse the mind, we would not argue and we would not fight with one another. We would see God inside and outside. We are all warriors, but a lot of us have let our minds just go to sleep and we’ve been captured. We have to work to free our minds. Let’s all remember the story of the mind, what we came here to do. Let’s remind our friends, our families, and then work towards it. Next time you argue with someone/disagree/clash on something think about the 5 starting this fight. They’re stirring up trouble so you lose focus on your real task! I think about it nowadays and usually it’s easier to just let it go. Say Waheguru, breathe deeply. Then you no longer are caught up in the argument itself, but see the other person and their importance to you. 

Bhul chuk maaf karni.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Kirtani Jatha

Many people have been asking about recordings for the shabads by Bhai Dawinder Singh Ji and Bhai Surinder Singh Ji (Goraya Wale), with Bhai Ranjit Singh Ji playing tabla. We are so happy and blessed to have had them here with us for the last 5 months at our Gurdwara Sahib. The sweetness with with they read Gurbani has been an inspiration to many and we will be sad to see them leaving later this month. Their last program will be on Sunday. A special thank you to Bhai Surinder Singh Ji for teaching us kirtan and tabla. For access to their recordings, the shabads have been uploaded onto youtube.
Please check out (and be sure to subscribe to):

Friday, August 18, 2017

Dukh Bhanjani Beri

I saw a portrait of Bibi Rajni shared on a facebook page for Sikh history quotes, and I remembered seeing a movie about Dukh Bhanjani Beri when I was younger. I decided to refresh my memory about the history.

Bibi Rajni was the 7th daughter (some sources say fifth) of Raja Duni Chand, a revenue collector. She was a Sikh of Guru Ram Das Ji. One day her sisters were excited that their father had given them new dresses. Bibi Ji remarked that these gifts are actually from God. Raj Duni Chand was overtaken with anger and pride that he had bought those gifts. He decided to marry her to a leper to teach her a lesson- he would see how God would help her live her life now. Bibi Ji was a devoted wife. She cared for her husband, bathing and feeding him as sewa. She used to carry him in a basket (I realize the picture is showing a wagon, but the history says it was a basket).

Bibi Ji’s husband asked her to take him to a place of worship to end their suffering. They were poor so they had to beg for food. She carried her husband to many places of Hindu worship, but no one was able to cure him. Guru Ram Das Ji was constructing Amritsar at that time. When they met other Sikhs, they were given a room to live. Bibi Rajni started cooking meals for langar. Nearby there was a Ber tree. It was at this place that Guru Amardas Ji used to pick basil (Tulsi) to put on the infected toe of Guru Angad Dev Ji. She carried her husband to the shade of that Ber tree and left to go make food for langar.

Her husband saw two crows fighting for a piece of bread, and when they dipped into the nearby pool of water, the crows came out white. He pulled himself to the water. He was cured of leprosy! He kept one finger out of the water to show her it was still him. When Bibi Ji returned, she believed that this stranger had killed her husband. She didn’t believe his story. She went to Guru Ram Das Ji to determine if it was true. Guru Ji told her about the healing powers of the water, and that her husband should put that finger in as well and it would be cured. Indeed, he was cured. This spot became known as Dukh Bhanjani Beri (reliever of pain and suffering).

The couple continued to do sewa, and had seven sons together. Duni Chand apologized and accepted his son-in-law, giving him all of his property. He went on to become a disciple of the Guru.

This Sakhi reminds us to speak truth as Bibi Ji spoke to her father, telling him that God was the giver; to maintain faith in difficult times just as Bibi Ji did when she served her husband as a leper; and in the healing powers of Gurbani.

Photos and history from the following references:

A Balanced Mind

Perhaps in our lives everyday we don’t realize how our mind is pulled in different directions. In Bhai Sewa Singh Ji’s books I’ve read a lot about how our mind constantly escapes through our senses- through the pleasures of sight, touch, smell, taste, and sound in order to feed the 5- kaam, krodh, lob, moh and hankaar (lust, anger, greed, attachment and pride). Our goal was to keep the mind inside, but it constantly escapes outside. The imbalance of the mind is so common a lot of us have forgotten what it means to have a balanced mind. It’s when we see it in other people that it becomes noticeable, even then it’s easier to recognize a mind pulled by anger and greed, than one pulled by attachment for example.

I used to spend a great deal of time overtaken by my emotions. Just to see injustices in the world would affect me. Then later I started to think that maybe there’s something wrong with being emotional and I really didn’t people to know that part of me. Finally, I came to understand that this part of me was part of the same trait that makes me caring, compassionate, and loving in life. It’s a part of who I am. The acceptance of my emotional self and embracing it as an important part of me went a long way to my personal growth. It keeps me from fighting what it means to be me, what is a defining trait of who I am. As I grew to accept it, I also grew to understand that the neutralized mind is an important one.

For some reason, I used to think that there were two extremes. That either you cared too much (you were overly emotional), or you didn’t care at all (you had no emotion). I didn’t realize that this too was something that requires a good balance. When we look at other people and they don’t eat, or sleep, or function when something goes wrong, you come to realize how damaging it can be to let the emotional mind take control. Of course the flipside is that emotion is also necessary for human connection and understanding each other. It took me a long time to realize that mellowing out the mind doesn’t mean not caring, but rather caring more deeply for ourselves and our own health. The mind is more resilient, and the body will function better when we find a good balance for it.

Upon hearing someone else’s story today, I realized how far I had gotten in my own journey of working on balancing the mind. I saw my own progress when I saw my old self in someone else. The tool-box of simran, kirtan, and reading/understanding Gurbani has helped to make life a lot easier and decisions a lot easier. It’s different when you are confident in a decision after you’ve done Ardas and taken a Hukamnama, and trust in Waheguru. It’s part of understanding that the game of life is played with the mind. I am still very much working on finding a more balanced mind in my job, but I have recognized the importance. Out of everything we see on a daily basis, we cannot carry that baggage home with us as a burden. There are some days I feel the stirrings of my mind being pulled in different directions, and I work on it, with Guru Ji’s help.

We need emotion to be compassionate and caring, and we need to also prevent that emotion from taking over. Let us each ask ourselves, is my mind balanced? 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Moving past our fears

One of my friends posted on facebook that she was “practicing contentment in the ambiguity of the unknown.”  I started to think about her statement. A lot of times rather than contentment, anxiety comes over us in the face of the unknown. That anxiety is generated from fears that our imagination dreams up. I think a lot of us express our fear as anxiety. I’m anxious about X, Y, Z but actually we are anxious because we are fearful. We are fearful of our futures, of loss, rejection, failure, pain, what people will think. If we fear failure, we won’t take any chances to succeed in life.

I’m reading the book ‘The Third Eye’ by Giani Sant Singh Ji Maskin (English translated version). In it he says, “Only man is such a living creature who always remains frightened. There is no fear. But by an imagination of fear, he remains fearful and fear becomes a burden of life and takes away all the flavor of life…In this manner after infusing fears of many types in his life, a person makes his life a hell.” I think he very concisely expressed how negatively fears affect us, and how it’s all about our mind and how we wire our minds. Maybe a lot of us don’t think about our minds, but the whole game of life is based on the mind. We should try to understand it. We should realize that we are letting our mind run around generating all kinds of fears and it is damaging. No one else can stop that process on the outside- it’s up to us to understand how our minds are tricking us.

Maskeen Ji gives this example. “An accident of railway train or bus has taken place. Now one is so much more frightened that it is difficult to sit in the train. Death takes place even at home, rather more people die at home than in train accidents. Then should we refuse to go inside the house?” The reason why this is such a good example is because almost all of us would justify such a fear of trains after an accident. We would support others in justifying it, building it, and therefore it would worsen and take over the mind. Most of us will have something big happen in our lives that will challenge our mind. Sometimes many times, sometimes once, but even once is enough to let the fear take over our life. Perhaps we don’t realize how controlling our fears are. Maskeen Ji says “To remain frightened all the time is a hindrance to the development of life. Those who do not embrace dangers, cannot undertake any big development.” So our fears must be challenged in order for us to grow.

The thing about fears is that sometimes the worst does come true. Maybe there was another train accident after that. Sometimes you do fail, or get rejected, or experience pain and loss. I think this is where resiliency comes into play. If we live in chardi kala, and understand the will of God, our pains and our fears will dissipate. In order to be okay with accepting that risk when we face a fear, we have to have faith. Guru Ji tells us “He Himself acts; unto whom should we complain? No one else does anything. Go ahead and complain to Him, if He makes a mistake. If He makes a mistake, go ahead and complain to Him; but how can the Creator Himself make a mistake? He sees, He hears, and without our asking, without our begging, He gives His gifts. The Great Giver, the Architect of the Universe, gives His gifts. O Nanak, He is the True Lord. He Himself acts; unto whom should we complain? No one else does anything.” (Ang 766 SGG Ji). 

Our mind will trick us into thinking that we have limitations and that we should be afraid, and that we should never try anything in life. Sometimes it’s necessary for us to just believe and trust that no matter what it’ll be okay and to go for our dreams. Giani Ji tells us that “fear of God can liberate us from other fears.”

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Rainsbhai Kirtan Tonight!

Rainsbhai kirtan tonight at the Gurdwara (431 Lewis Dr), Quesnel. Kirtan for kids/Bibis starts at 7 and Gyani Jis will be on at 10 pm.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Passing on Our Values

Recently, we had a Gurmat camp for the youth and I went to listen to them do kirtan in the evenings. I remember one evening, the camp leader was talking about there used to be hours of kirtan, lots of sangat, and so much love that no one would want to stop. He was disappointed that this has dissipated over the years. I guess it got me thinking about our future generations. I mean it’s really hard even for me to be able to find someone my age to talk to about Sikhism… what about my kids one day?

The first sangat that we have in life is our family. Children are born into families based on our past associations and karma. Let’s say a soul just has a small distance to go before merging with Waheguru. That child will be born to a mom that did a lot of work towards reaching God, and into a peaceful family. The family unit is incredibly important, and I think the huge pressure of individuals being for themselves in western culture sometimes puts a wedge into our families nowadays. It makes young people think that there’s something wrong with the closeness of family. For example, people ask “why are you still living with your parents?” Then some people start to drift away from their families because of the judgment of other people. But we should actually appreciate the fact that in our culture we have this great value that we look out for each other, we are there for each other, that we take care of our elders, etc. Family is an important value.

The role of parents in role modeling for their children is obvious, but I think it still gets overlooked. A lot of parents are so busy working, sacrificing, that they think the bigger and bigger their houses, and the more cars, maybe that will fulfill them. In that, people not only don’t pay attention to what’s going on in their families, but they build greed and ego, and they lose away their own time too. I’ve read in Bhai Sewa Singh Ji’s books many times that people get to the end of their life and they wonder why they had worked so much for money, when they should have been working for Naam. That’s why I think it would be more beneficial if each of us tried to understand our own journey. If we want our children to know how to speak punjabi and read gurmukhi, then we should practice. We should learn the game of maya and walk the path to God. It’s easy in life to gossip, cheat lie, hate. It feeds the maya that traps us in various life forms. We should rise above that, if not for the sake of the future generations, then for at least ourselves and our own personal journey.

As we speak, gang violence is ripping through the South Asian community in Surrey. A lot of those youth were born into Sikh families and left their Sikhi behind. Our shaheeds (martyrs) in Sikh history, didn’t sacrifice their lives and families lives for our generation to let go of our values for nothing. We shouldn’t just dump this problem on authorities but also recognize our own roles in our homes and communities for preventative measures. As my 13 year old cousin says, that person that has a giant sher (lion) tattoo on his back, and a khanda on his arm, and needs to have a huge khanda in the front of his car with the music blasting doesn’t understand Sikhi or understand our values. It’s just show. 

So my message today is not to forget the values that our Guru Jis instilled in us. Not to forget the values that the shaheeds have fought for. Then let’s carry these forward in our families and reflect on how we are doing in our own journeys. Ask yourself, is my Sikhi just for show, or am I doing my best to learn on this journey day by day?

Finally, to lighten up the mood I’m going to give a small example about tabla which I think is a metaphor for life. A week into my tabla lessons, the Gyani Ji told me to stop and just spend half an hour tapping with one finger to try to make a louder noise. I could have been annoyed that I was back at lesson 1, but actually I realized that this wasn’t square one, but a new layer of learning. I didn’t lose all the knowledge I already had about how to play the whole taal, I just needed to work again on one area so the whole thing sounded better. This is the same in life. Sometimes we worry we are back at square one, the same situations again. Sometimes I worry that I’m going to be far away from my spiritual path again. Every time something challenges me though or I'm confused, I find my way again. Sikhism is a base layer in our lives, the gel that holds us together. When we reaffirm those values, it moves us closer to god again. 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Ik Onkaar Painting

My quotes poster kept falling off, so I thought maybe it was time to put something new up on the wall. I painted this today. The backing is spray-painted gold. For those of you who can't read Gurmukhi (may God bless you with the opportunity to learn) it says: sangat, sewa, katha, gurbani, keertan, naam japo, kirat karo, and vand shako, with Ik Onkaar in the middle. There is one God, may we all put Waheguru at the center of our lives. I am putting this up so that each morning when I wake up, may I be reminded of the pillars of Sikhism and be inspired for the day ahead.

Reminder for next week that there is Rainsbhai Kirtan happening in Quesnel on Saturday. I am hoping to do kirtan there. I would encourage as much sangat to come as possible from PG because its a small community, and the more sangat there is, the more anand there will be for all of us.