Saturday, March 25, 2017

Who is Mai Bhago?

I have been trying to expand my knowledge and learn more so I wanted to share a bit about Mai Bhago.

Mai Bhago (Mata Bhag Kaur) born in Jhabal (present-day Amritsar). Her uncle, Bhai Langaha helped Guru Arjan Dev Ji in the construction of Harmandir Sahib and was martyred in Lahore. Thus, she grew up learning to be brave and courageous from her family's example. She was baptized when she visited Anandpur Sahib in 1699 when Guru Gobind Singh Ji started the Khalsa. Although she wanted to stay to train as a soldier, her father denied her as she was a woman and there were no women soldiers at the time. She started to learn warefare and horseriding anyways. She went on to marry Nidhan Singh. 

It is during this time in our history that the Mughals, under the guidance of Aurangzeb laid siege to Anandpur Sahib for 8 months. The Sikhs were dying due to lack of supplies like food. The Mughals said they would spare anyone who declared they were not a Sikh and thus 40 Sikhs, led by Mahan Singh, signed a document and told Guru Ji that they were not Sikhs anymore and returned to their villages.

The Mughals then offered a deal that the Sikhs could leave in peace from Anandpur Sahib. As the Sikhs left, however, Aurangzeb broke his promise. It is during this time that Mata Gujri Ji and the young Sahibzaade were separated from the older Sahibzaade and Guru Ji. The sahibzaade were martyred. Guru Ji and his accompanying Sikhs travelled, pursued by about 16,000 in the Mughal army. Guru Ji set up camp near Khidrana. The Mughals headed there for water, not knowing that the lake was dry.

Meanwhile, as the 40 men returned to their homes, Mai Bhago rallied their wives. They refused to talk to their husbands and kicked them out of their houses, disappointed in how they had deserted Guru Ji. Mai Bhago said that the women would go into battle if the men did not. They prepared their gear. They were ready to fight against injustice. Finally the 40 men, including Mai Bhago’s husband, were able to see their mistake. They headed to Khidrana to apologize to Guru Ji.

At Khidrana, they spread out shirts onto the bushes in order to look as if they had a larger group of Sikh forces, camping in tents. This is now the site of Gurwara Tambu Sahib. On December 29, 1705 a battle ensued. Guru Ji supported the fight from an area above. The Sikhs were martyred and the Mughals retreated, assuming that Guru Ji had died in battle. Mai Bhago and Guru Ji were the only survivors- Mahan Singh lay critically wounded and all else were martyred. Guru Ji took care of Mai Bhago, who was wounded, and Mahan Singh. He asked Mahan Singh his last wish. Mahan Singh asked that the 40 be forgiven, and thus they are remembered as the 40 Mukhte (liberated ones) in the ardas daily. The town of Mukhtsar (“pool of salvation”) was built in this location.

As Mai Bhago’s brother and husband had been martyred, she stayed with Guru Ji as his bodyguard until he merged with God. Then she lived in Jinvara, immersed in meditation and this hut is now called Gurdwara Tap Asthan Mai Bhago. Thus, Mai Bhago was a brave warrior and the first female Sikh soldier to fight in battle. She set an amazing example for all of us, Singhs and Kaurs, to stand up and fight against injustice no matter what the odds are.

Sources:

https://sikhunity.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/249128_10200157311515394_1295594208_n.png?w=1200 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Have a Little Faith

I don’t have a whole lot of time to post, but I thought I would write anyways. I have found myself wrapped up anxiety from indecision the last little while. Sometimes opportunities present and you just aren’t sure if it’s better to pursue them or not! There are so many decisions to be made and I was just feeling that with so many branch points of where my life could lead right now, I wasn’t sure of what is right for me. Particularly at this stage of my life, my decisions around my career and personal life especially are really going to be long-term decisions with big impacts on how I live my life. 

I sought guidance from Guru Ji and I took a Hukamnama that told me not to be scared, have faith. So I waited. Then another day I took a Hukamnama that told me that my conflicts would be resolved and I needed to have faith. I waited again. I found it hard to wait because my ego didn’t want to listen-it was so hard to keep the faith. My stomach was tied up in knots and I had a hard time sleeping, not knowing what to do. I don’t handle having “loose ends” or indecision very well- I like to deal with things and just have it be done. I find it very hard to have the patience to wait things through. Having been drained from exams, and not feeding myself with enough Simran, I found it hard to do anything but be anxious without answers, but I still waited like Guru Ji told me to. I knew that this is the right thing for me to do and that the whole point in a Hukamnama is that I hand over my mindset and accept what the Guru has told me. 

Last night I was working late, and I just came home and fell asleep. When I awoke in the morning I had this feeling that God was with me, and I am loved and complete. I have never felt this refreshed in the morning, despite the fact that it was just a few hours of sleep. The interesting thing is that of all the days of waiting, I got my questions answered today. I didn't think that it was possible for me to just know what the right thing or the wrong thing would be. I think sometimes God Himself intervenes to guide you and I just felt the confusion and the indecision was gone today. I wondered so many times before whether some things are just coincidence in life, and today I know for certain that everything happens with a purpose and that it guides us. We need to pay attention and learn from what life brings us so that we can grow. I am so glad that I just paused and just maintained faith because the answers just found themselves. So next time you find yourself anxious, maybe take a Hukamnama, and maintain that faith! In the best of circumstances it is easy to have faith, but it is when we are challenged when it is the most important. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Power of Choice

I asked Gyani Ji some questions at the Gurdwara one afternoon last week. We sat down and started talking about life and Gurbani. He emphasized that although everything is in hukam in this world, we have to understand that God has given us the freedom of being able to choose and make decisions as humans. Gyani Ji said “why is everyone always blaming God when things go wrong? Then when things are right, we say I did so much.” Sometimes I think that we forget that we have that choice and we just kind of sit back and do nothing. I remember in one episode of Being Bliss, the guest give an example about breaking a computer. Would you sit in front of that computer and just pray for it to be fixed, or would you take steps to get it fixed? It’s more logical to actually take steps to solve the problem.

I think sometimes we get scared so we don’t try and then we think that we didn’t have the ability to choose at all. I remember this time many years ago when I was learning how to do gatka with a wooden sword, I was terrified each time someone came at me. I had to practice to learn to trust the sword would protect me and let go of my fear. I think this is similar in life- we have to overcome our fears and just go for it, no matter what the outcome. When I look back, I don’t regret ever having tried to go for something I wanted, even if things didn’t work out. It doesn’t matter how hard I worked and if I failed, because I always learned something. At the very least through that process we learn about flexibility, which is necessary as we grow in life. Recently I saw a new father crying as he held his baby for the first time. I was so touched seeing how happy the family was even though nothing had gone as planned. In these last couple of months I know it has been freeing for me to let go of arbitrary life rules I had set up a long time ago and just readjust things (For example two years ago I would have wanted to move to Ontario to do a specialty, and now I want to stay here and practice family medicine and I know that’s right for me).

I spoke to Gyani Ji again today he emphasized that we can create heaven or hell in this life depending on our choices. If we follow the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and listen to the teachings as a lifestyle then we will have a happy life. He used the example of a husband. If he follows the teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib, he will treat his wife as his best friend and he will treat her with love and respect. There will be fighting like friends fight and then get along again, but nothing major like we see between husbands and wives. It doesn’t matter if the two people have completely different backgrounds, if they follow the teachings there will be love and friendship and that is the most important. No relationship- whether its mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, or parent and child will be in conflict if we see things the same way. If we see God in everyone and treat each other with love and friendship, we will be in heaven. If we simply sit at the Gurdwara and retain our stress, and don’t follow the teachings then we will remain in dukh (sadness). If we believe and have faith in Gurbani, we can trust God and let go of that stress. This is the power of the mind, and the power of choice.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Happy New Year!

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year. I hope that this year brings you lots of peace and fulfillment. May you grow ever closer on this path to being one with Waheguru!

Friday, March 10, 2017

What is 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 year it falls March 10-12. 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. The Akhand Paath for Holla Mohalla will be on the weekend of the 17th at our Gurdwara Sahib. 

Upcoming events
March 14 New Years
April 14 Vaisakhi
Surrey Naam Simran event at Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara: Apr 14th: 9:00AM – 9:00PM; Apr 15th: 9:00AM – 9:00PM; Apr 16th: 11:00AM – 2:00PM
April 15 Vancouver Vaisakhi Nagar Kirtan
April 22 Surrey Vaisakhi Nagar Kirtan
May 20 Prince George Vaisakhi Nagar Kirtan!!! 

References

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Kaur: Warrior Princess

I step out
Seeing the world burning in poison
Suffering hands reaching out,
I dig a well
pull up the water pail by pail
Footsteps approach
I am surrounded
Whispers, fingers pointing
gossip, slander, judgment

Seeing the fire grow,
I speak
Hands coming to cover my mouth-
a young woman doesn’t know what she’s talking about
They speak for me
Decide for me
Suffocating me in their opinions
Hands trembling and bloodied, I keep working
Eyes searching for help
I find isolation.

Fear grips me
tears flow as they rip away the pail
shocked, I fall back.
Images of women raped, murdered, disfigured for speaking
for fighting, for choosing, for simply living.
And the hand is no longer over my mouth
but I’m terrified to open my eyes, nonetheless speak

In the darkness,
The cool cave of my mind, I meditate.
The screams of the world fade away
Alas I had never been awake!
Seeing now the soul lit by God,
I grab my sword and break the shackles around my feet
I stand to be seen, to speak
To fight fiercely like the warrior I was born to be  
I am finally free.
Princess, daughter of God,
I am a Kaur.

It’s almost Sikh New Years (March 14th) and I really can’t believe the time is flying by so fast. I felt like this week it was important for me to write about being a Kaur, and the strength and confidence that has really come out of this year, so I wrote a poem. When I started to write, I realized that I couldn’t just write about victory or celebration of being a Kaur, but I also had to tell about the challenge in stepping out into the world as a Sikh woman. I think often times we feel ashamed to tell a story in which we doubted ourselves or were afraid, but the reality is that these moments do exist and it doesn’t make you a less successful in the end. It doesn’t make me less of a Kaur because I used those moments to grow, learn, and to rise up.

When I look back, I was reluctant (partly out of shyness and partly out of fear) to express the side of myself that was a confident advocate for women. I was scared of people labeling me as anti-feminist if I made “traditional” choices. I was about being criticized. For example I had this woman tell me that I was closed-minded for wanting to marry someone from my culture. In the end it was actually these types of comments that made me more and more certain that I do need to speak up. I got tired of hearing that so-and-so was a bad employee for choosing to stay home with her kids, or this person was a bad mother for working after having kids. We should simply be able to make choices that are right for our lives without being attacked for it and we don’t deserve to go through life thinking that our goals aren’t equal, that we as women aren’t equal or important. This is everyone’s responsibility. Men have a huge role in treating a woman with respect, and support her choices whether she is your mother, sister, wife, daughter, or friend. I'm glad I was able to move past that reluctance to finally be able to speak about these topics, and I think that a big part of it was freeing my mind from that fear.  

In our daily lives we all get so many opinions from media, friends, our communities (work, home, cultural, etc.). From this bombardment we start to limit ourselves by fear, shame, labels, judgment, comparison, etc. It’s like the stories of when they train young elephants by tying them to a pole with a thick rope. The elephant is unable to break free and stops trying, and then even when the thick rope is a thin string now the elephant doesn’t try. I feel like similarly, through our life, our mind learns to become an elephant tied to our string. When we are young we think we can fly, and we have wild dreams and then slowly we start to limit ourselves and the doubt builds. We get scared of just going for what we want in life. As soon as we hit a roadblock, we step back. I see the effect of thoughts on outcomes in my job all the time- it makes a big difference in someone’s healing whether or not they think they are going to get better or not. When we limit ourselves, we start to think we can’t do things even when they are easily within the realm of possibility. 

We have the capability to do so much but the mind is a slave to our thoughts. This is of course stopping us from doing a lot, but the biggest thing it’s stopping us from is meeting God! Gurbani describes the mind: “Within the mind are gems, jewels and rubies, if you listen to the Guru's Teachings, even once. The Guru has given me this one understanding: there is only the One, the Giver of all souls. May I never forget Him!” (Ang 2 Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji). So may we all focus on remembering God and finding these jewels in the mind, as we ring in the New Year. Don't know how to do kirtan?  Nervous to join simran class for the first time? Don't know how to read Gurmukhi? Let go of whatever is stopping you and just try because it's worth the effort. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Shaheedi Saka Nankana Sahib

This weekend we remember the massacre the occurred at Nankana Sahib Feb 21, 1921. Here is the history (references provided at the bottom of this page):

Maharaja Ranjit Singh reconstructed Gurdwaras destroyed by Mughals, and gave the “Mahants” (caretakers of these Gurdwaras) property rights and land attached to the Gurdwaras. Original mahants were individuals who spread the message of Sikhi, but soon they were just corrupt individuals hungry for money generated at the Gurdwaras. At the same time, the British were afraid that if the Sikhs took control of the Gurdwaras this would further unify the Khalsa against them and cause a revolution.

Mahant Narayan Das was the caretaker of Gurdwara Nankana Sahib. He was corrupt, and allowed many bad things to happen at the Gurdwara Sahib including rapes. The Sikh congregation approached the mahant to change his ways in October 1920. He refused to change and instead turned against the Sikhs. His anti-sikh group was going to have a conference on Feb 20, 1921 in Lahore. On three different opportunities the Shiromani committee offered to meet the mahant to discuss the issues peacefully, however he never showed up. The Sikhs had a congregation on Feb 16 at Gurdwara Khara Sauda and made a decision to go in jathas to take over the Gurdwara peacefully on Feb 20 while the mahant was away. Bhai Kartar Singh Jhabbar and Bhai Lachaman Singh Dharowali were to take their jathas. 

Meanwhile, the mahant cancelled his plans for the conference and hired 400 mercentaries and made plans to kill the Sikh leaders. He contacted the British Commissioner of Lahore and acquired firearms with the help of the government (this letter exists to this day). He furthered his plan by making holes in the walls for shooting at the Sikhs, strengthening the Gurdwara gate and he got paraffin.

On Feb 19, the parbandhak committee met and decided that the jathas should not go. Bhai Kartar Singh Jhabbar was present, and dispatched a sikh to send a message to Bhai Lachaman Singh Dharowali. Bhai Lachman Singh, still following the original plan, was waiting for Bhai Kartar Singh Jhabber’s jatha. At that time Jaethedar Tehal Singh’s Jatha arrived and encouraged them to move forward. They did ardas and took a hukamnama. They left at 10 pm to reach the Gurdwara Nankana Sahib b amrit vela. More Sikhs joined for a total of 200. Although women and children were asked to go back, one child, Darbara Singh refused to leave because he was inspired by stories of shaheeds and he joined the Shaheedi Jatha.

Upon arrival at the railway crossing near Nankana Sahib, Chaudry Paul Singh Hyallpuri (another source lists that it was actually Bhai Waryam Singh) arrived to convey the decision of the Shiromani committee, however Jathedar Tehal Singh said that the ardas had already been done and the time had come for them to act. The jatha arrived at the Gurdwara and did Asa Di War. Then the mahant ordered his mercenaries to kill the Sikhs. The bullets fired hit the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and many Sikhs. The rest were slaughtered with saws and swords, and some were burned alive including the 9 year old Darbara Singh. Bhai Lachaman Singh was tied to a tree upside down and burnt alive.

News spread and Bhai Kartar Singh Jhabber arrived with 2200 men. Mr. Curry, Deputy Commissioner of Lahore, had his army surrounding the Gurdwara and warned Bhai Kartar Singh that they would shoot the Sikhs if they approached. Bhai Kartar Singh stated that they were not afraid of death, and in seeing this, Mr. Curry became worried and handed over the keys. The mahant and a select few of the mercentaries were sentenced to death (one source says that this didn’t happen and the mahant was given security).

This is the history of how the Shaheedi jatha of Sikhs, who went to peacefully take back Gurdwara Nanakana Sahib from the hands of the corrupt mahant, were massacred. We remember these Sikhs every day in our ardas. May we forever remember their sacrifice and bravery in standing up for what was right. 

References