Thursday, October 20, 2016

Gurgaddi Divas

Today was the Gurgaddi Divas of Guru Har Krishan Ji and Guru Granth Sahib Ji. The Gurgaddi Divas of Guru Granth Sahib Ji will be celebrated this weekend at the Gurdwara Sahib.
Guru Har Krishan Ji was our 8th Guru Ji, born July 7, 1656 to parents Guru Har Rai Ji and Krishan Kaur. He became Guru at a mere 5 yrs old. Emperor Aurangzeb summoned Guru Ji to delhi at the request of Guru Ji’s jealous brother, Ram Rai. Upon arrival in Dehli Guru Ji stayed with Raja Jai Singh. This site is now Gurdwara Bangla Sahib. There was a smallpox epidemic in Delhi at the time, and Guru Ji cured the many devotees that flocked to see him. Unfortunately Guru Ji too fell ill with smallpox and named “Baba Bakale” (Guru Teg Bahadur Ji) as his successor. For more information, please visit the websites below.


Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Damage of "Shame on You"

Shame is a feeling that we have all experienced. I’ve written about shame in the past but I wanted to share more today. I heard someone say not too long ago that they were so ashamed that they thought themselves undeserving to read Gurbani. That’s what makes this an important topic. Shame can make us think we are undeserving, when that simply isn’t true. When we get stuck in shame, it is a serious struggle. We lose our confidence and think we aren't good enough. We lose our motivation to move forward because we feel so bad about ourselves we think we are beyond being able to change. We get stuck in the past and on what we did or said, or our perceived deficiencies. This drives us into depression, anxiety and fear. When we are stuck in shame, we need the most support from people who care about us to remind us that we aren't the awful people our brains have made us out to be. Despite this, we tend to isolate ourselves out of fear of what people would say, and how they would judge and criticize us. This is because we want to protect ourselves because we are already hurting, and having someone else reinforce that pain would only make it hurt worse. People are downright hurtful and unsupportive sometimes, so we do have to choose carefully who we share things with because some people simply don't have the life experience, maturity or knowledge to be able to realize what is needed at that time. I believe in the importance of having a space in which we can talk safely- one in which we can comfortably share our thoughts, feelings and experiences knowing we will be received with empathy and understanding from the other person. 

We all make mistakes, and some bad choices. Me too. It could very well be any of us in the situation we are shaming someone else for. In order to fix things, and work on yourself, though we need to move out of that shame. That doesn’t mean ignoring what we did and just saying “well the past is in the past, too bad” and then wandering around like nothing happened. Looking back can help us break patterns of behavior. Processing the past can sometimes take a long time but that’s okay because the time spent is learning about how to fix things, make things better, improve ourselves, etc. I think of it as an investment in myself and a type of sewa because looking back can break patterns of thinking and behaviour that would otherwise just be carried forward for the years to come. We need to remember though that the past cannot be erased, or redone, and so just thinking about it over and over, without the goals I stated above, is harmful. Then we are wasting our present re-living a past we cannot change. In order to get all this process started, we have to get past our shame. When we are in shame we need these reminders: God loves you, and if you ask for forgiveness and really feel it, He knows that. God is in all of us: “God says, all creatures are mind and I am in all hearts.” (p. 952 Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji) and “The compassionate God is merciful, humble, and is the ocean of peace; He dwells in everyone. He sees, hears and is always with me but I am a fool and I think that He is far away” (p. 612). There are so many stories of people who had done really horrible things in their lives and who had interactions with our Guru Jis and then changed their ways. I think back to those often because it reminds me that if those people were able to do it, it should be no problem for me with the help of Guru Ji. Our ability to learn and better ourselves is a really amazing thing. I am constantly learning each day, and we have to remind ourselves not to judge yesterday from what we learned and know today. 

Lastly I wanted to comment on shame-based teaching. The reason this topic really came up for me lately is I’ve been reflecting on how much shame is used and accepted in medicine. Hearing things like “you are a failure, you aren’t going to make it, why did you want this career” in response to not knowing a fact/concept is really harsh but it happens frequently in medicine. I think the underlying rationale is “I went through it therefore you do too” or “it’s motivating you to do better.” Shame based teaching probably happens in every field but if f there’s one thing I’ve learned from reading Brene Brown’s work in shame research, it’s that shame is not helpful, it is not a motivator, and there isn’t “good” shame. Listen to Brene’s response in this video to “don’t some people [ex. criminals] deserve to be ashamed?” (no!)

Let’s use the example of a teacher telling you “you should already know that!” or “wow you don’t know that already?” I’ve heard teachers say this over and over. Instead of teaching a concept, they will comment on how this should already be part of our knowledge. It deters the individual from asking questions or clarifying concepts. You become afraid to admit when you don’t know something and that's when people become egotistical. You start to pretend to know things you don’t know and just memorize complex information instead of actually learning it. Basically you’ve now got an individual that pretends to know everything, but doesn’t know a whole lot in reality and that’s the opposite of a learning environment.The cycle actually doesn’t end here. I’ve then seen doctors shaming their patients and other students and learners. Instead of educating their patients and bringing the information to a more basic level so they can take charge of their own health, I will hear doctors using complex medical knowledge. Yet all the knowledge is not knowledge we came with when we were born or will take with us when we die! And more importantly, it can be learned. I could ask you a million questions on medicine and you might not know the answer but you could ask me how to make cheese or questions about types of dogs and I won't have an answer for you, so why make anyone feel bad if they desire to learn?

In closing I am just going to leave you with the thought that we need to stop justifying making other people feel ashamed, and instead start helping to support people in the ways they need to make change. One of the wonderful things about Sikhism is that our Guru Ji's made it clear that our relationship to God is a direct one. We don't need people with more spiritual experience to be our interpreter. The language used in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib was made so that it was easy to understand at the time, and used examples that were relevant to what people were seeing in their daily lives so that people could understand (I think it's hard for us now because the language has changed over time and the examples ex. farmhands, monkey traps, etc. are not relevant to our surroundings if we aren't farming or living in areas where those animals are, etc.). The idea was not to create a special caste or elite group of people who have all this knowledge and hold onto it. Rather the Gurus were against this and wanted each individual to be able to gain spiritual knowledge and share it with other people. The more people that understand and know, the better. It's never too late for us to learn and expand our knowledge of Sikhi! 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Where is the Home of the Mind?

The home of the mind is called Sunn (and various other names including Sehaj Ghar, Nij Mahal, 10th gate, 4th state, temple of the body, etc.) and exists within this body. God lives in this temple inside our body, and also in formless form (called Nirgun). Since God lives inside our body, this is where the mind has the chance to unite with God, and receive food for the mind (called Amrit). The mind is at peace in Sunn.

The problem is that our mind doesn’t want to play by the rules of this game. God has taught the mind ahead of time what the rules are and that it is only here temporarily, but the mind gets attached to the world and doesn’t want to listen. Absorbed in ego, our mind forgets God and starts to love the governor of maya, Kaal. (Remember maya is everything physical in this world plus our THOUGHTS). Mind’s husband is actually God but it starts to think Kaal is her husband and loves Kaal. Remember, the home of the mind is in the body, but the mind is constantly escaping the body through the 9 openings of the body, driven by maya. In this state we don't recognize God, appreciate that He sustains us, love Him or sing His praises. We think that the 5 dhoots (lust, anger, greed, attachment, pride- also named the subordinates of Kaal) are our friends. Lured by them, the mind wastes its precious life breath on thoughts (maya) instead of remembering God. That breath was needed in order to connect to our body so our mind can go home! Then the mind gets sick, it has trouble sleeping, and the body becomes sick. Yet the mind continues to try to cheat and doesn't want to play by the rules. We must control our mind by doing simran to stop our thoughts. We should sit in sangat to learn and do sewa, and do nitnem to remind the mind the rules of the game. 

So I think it's super important to do the practical work of simran, and I know it's really hard. I find my mind is always trying to find ways to cheat me. I entered the shower this morning saying "Waheguru, Waheguru" and by the time I got out my mind had changed it to something else and I was humming some random tune. Sitting in the sangat really does help- I find that when my mind wanders, it comes back again and again, reminded by my surroundings. Often times I think it's hard for us to find motivation because we really are so much in love with maya that we aren't motivated to do simran by a love for God. Sometimes that motivation comes out of our sickness, suffering, etc. Regardless, I think through that process of doing the simran we do realize our love for God.


Forgetting the Way of Love By Bhai Sewa Singh Tarmala


Tuesday, October 11, 2016


Here are some pictures from the Punjabi Canadian Senior Society's Bike-A-Thon this year. The money raised went to the Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation. Thus far, the Society has raised $62,000 over the last six years! We are so proud and appreciate the work that went into organizing this every year. Be sure to check take part next fall! 

For more information on the bike-a-thon visit

Monday, October 10, 2016

Parkash Divas Guru Ram Das Ji

Yesterday was the Parkash Divas (birthday) of Guru Ram Das Ji which will be celebrated at the Gurdwara Sahib this coming weekend.

A little bit of history:
Guru Ji was born October 9, 1534 to parents Haridas Ji and Mata Daya Ji. He was named Bhai Jetha Ji. He came across some Sikhs traveling to Goindwal, and upon meeting Guru Amar Das Ji he decided to stay there to do sewa. He then married daughter of Guru Amar Jas Ji, Bibi Bhani. When Guru Amar Das Ji was selecting a successor, he asked both of his son-in-laws to make platforms. Upon inspection, Guru Ji asked that they both be torn down and rebuilt over and over. The older son-in-law refused, however Bhai Jetha Ji continued to keep rebuilding the platform seven times. He then became the successor of Guru Amar Das Ji in 1574 at age of 40, and was named Guru Ram Das Ji (servant of God). Guru Ji created Ramdaspur (present day Amritsar). Guru Ji wrote the laavan (read at Anand Karaj/marriage) and 688 of the shabads in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Guru Ji also designed Harmandir Sahib. 

For more history, visit the websites below.