Sunday, July 31, 2016

Explanation of the Laavan (Anand Karaj)

As always, my goal is to help support and encourage people who have chosen to learn more about Sikhi, as well as increase awareness about important issues and share my experiences. I think we all learn a lot from each other's experiences and it helps to know that you are not alone when you face challenges. I also hope to share the knowledge that I am learning with others. I don't like it when we go to listen to something and they are speaking to the wrong audience. I was trying to listen to an online katha for example, and for 15-20 minutes the person speaking was talking about how people should have an interest in gurbani, which I felt was really just preaching to the choir. All the people who are going to be watching this katha, or at sitting at the gurdwara listening to it have already invested their time, they already have the interest because they are sitting their with their attention on the person speaking or they would not hear his message anyways. Rather than delivering the message that I came to listen to, I had to listen to 20 minutes of why I should be interested in that message. I know that everyone who is reading this blog has an interest in learning more about Sikhi, and I hope that I give you something to think about, learn about, and share with others. 

This last week has been really up and down for me. I wanted to balance having to do work with spending time for simran. It was a lot easier being away from home where I was free of all stress and were surrounded by people who made God the focus of their life. Back home the pull of maya is stronger. There’s work to be done, people to see, and before you know it a storm of thoughts has been created. It takes practice not to go back to the old way of doing things. I used to fill up my day with a lot of things. There’s nothing wrong with doing work, after all Guru Nanak Dev Ji told us all to live the life of a householder rather than renunciation. He was married and had children. But there is a difference between working and drowning yourself in work. There’s a difference in being with other people and making them your life. The imbalance just creates exhaustion.

Let me ask you, who will listen to your every thought without judgment and forgives your every mistake? Who will listen to your fears, desires, insecurities, and never walk away? Who will love you more than you love yourself, and if you take just one small effort, they will make a thousand efforts to help you? Who will love you endlessly even if you don’t love them back, you rarely remember them, and you are never appreciative of what they give you? Waheguru. I keep reminding you because I need to remind myself too. Each day we need to remember and prioritize our purpose to meet Waheguru. Those of you who are already doing this, it's really great and please keep it up! 

One of the kathas I heard during my trip mentioned the laavaan which are read during the Anand Karaj (wedding). I decided to share the translations of the laavan here because the deeper meaning is that of describing the marriage of the soul to her husband, God. “The hymns outline the progressive stages of the awakening soul-bride as she advances spiritually to ultimately blend with the divine groom in the dawning realization of her divine destiny” (1).

The following is the description from the book Anand Karaj, the Sikh Marriage Ceremony. The book describes, “During each Lav the bride and bridegroom go round the Sri Guru Granth Sahib symbolizing that God will be the center of their marriage and their support in life” (2).

FIRST LAAV
“In the first round of the marriage ceremony, the Lord sets out His Instructions for performing the daily duties of married life. Instead of the hymns of the Vedas to Brahma, embrace the righteous conduct of Dharma, and renounce sinful actions, Mediate on the Lords Name; embrace and enshrine the contemplative remembrance of the Nam. Worship and Adore the Guru, the perfect True Guru, and all your sins shall be dispelled. By great good fortune, celestial bliss is attained and the Lord, Har, Har, seems sweet to the mind. Servant Nanak proclaims that, in this, the first round of the marriage ceremony, the marriage ceremony has begun” (2).

SECOND LAAV
“In the second round of the marriage ceremony, the Lord leads you to meet the True Guru, the Primal Being. With the Fear of God, the Fearless Lord in the mind, the filth of egotism is eradicated. In the Fear of God, the Immaculate Lord, Sing the Glorious Praises of the Lord, and behold the Lord’s presence before you. The Lord, the Supreme Soul, is the Lord and Master of the Universe. He is pervading and permeating everywhere fully filling all spaces. Deep within, and outside, as well, there is only the One Lord God. Meeting together, the humble servants of the Lord sing the songs of joy. Servant Nanak proclaims that, in this, the second round of the marriage ceremony, the unstruck sound current of the Shabad resounds” (2).

THIRD LAAV
“In the third round of the marriage ceremony, the mind is filled with Divine Love. Meeting with the humble Saints of the Lord, I have found the Lord, by great good fortune. I have found the Immaculate Lord, and I sing the Glorious Praises of the Lord. I speak the Word of the Lord’s Bani. By great good fortune, I have found the humble Saints, and I speak the Unspoken Speech of the Lord. The Name of the Lord, Har, Har, Har, vibrates and resounds within my heart. Mediating on the Lord, I have realized the destiny inscribed upon my forehead. Servant Nanak proclaims that, in this, the third round of the marriage ceremony, the mind is filled with divine Love for the Lord” (2).

FOURTH LAAV
“In the fourth round of the marriage ceremony, my mind has become peaceful; I have found the Lord. As Gurmukh, I have met Him, with intuitive ease; the Lord seems so sweet to my mind and body. The Lord seems so sweet; I am pleasing to my God. Night and day, I lovingly focus my consciousness on the Lord. I have obtained my Lord and Master, the fruit of my mind’s desires. The Lord’s Name resounds and resonates. The Lord god, my Lord and Master, blends with His bride, and her heart blossoms forth in the Na. Servant Nanak proclaims that, in this, the fourth round of the marriage ceremony, we have found the Eternal Lord God” (2)

Lastly, the shabads Viya Hoa Mere Babula is read
“My marriage has been performed, O my father. As Gurmukh, I have found the Lord. The darkness of ignorance has been dispelled. The Guru has revealed the blazing light of spiritual wisdom. This spiritual wisdom given by the Guru shines fort hand the darkness has been dispelled. I have found the Priceless Jewel of the Lord The sickness of my ego has been dispelled. I have found the Priceless Jewel of the Lord. The sickness from ego has been dispelled, and my pain is over and done. Through the guru’s teachings, my identity has consumed my identical identity. I have obtained my Husband Lord, the Akahl Murat, the Undying Form. He is Imperishable; He shall never die. And He shall never ever leave. My marriage has been performed, O my father. As Gurmukh, I have found the Lord” (2).

Notice that Guru Ji tells us to meditate on the Lord and we will surely meet Him! 

References

2 Anand Karaj: The Sikh Marriage Ceremony. New Delhi: Sikh Foundation. Print.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Clay Art


I made this out of clay today of a lion holding the Nishan Sahib. I am hoping to paint it after it eventually dries (it’s air-dry clay). 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Beneficial or Not?

Yesterday I was working on taking some notes on old lectures I’d seen and I realized there were a few things I wanted to read up on. So I looked up some stuff (it was about chitr gupt) and it still didn’t make sense. I got more and more confused because most of the information I could find was only on forums. The Sri Guru Granth Sahib english translation offered me little information because the translation is only line by line- it’s just the direct translation without the context or background information. That’s why I’ve been spending further time now reading on things like dharam rai, dasam dwaar, anhad shabads, etc. In the process of all this I became frustrated at my lack of knowledge and wondered if there was any use in me reading translations if I still didn't understand after i read them. I also went to Sukhmani Sahib prayers yesterday, and someone I know said to me today (note she doesn't attend the prayers) that "if you just read and repeat, I think it's of no use." That made me feel like well then I guess I don’t know how to spend my time anymore.

Having had some time to think about it, I came back to my uncle’s statement that Simran is the way to everything. In Sukhmani we read “Simro Simar Simar Sukh Pavo, Kal Kalesh Tin Mahi Mitavo”= “mediate, meditate, mediate in remembrance of Him, and find peace. Worry and anguish shall be dispelled from your body” (translated from Srigranth.org). Obviously the more time you can spare for simran the better, but we have to work and have other responsibilities too- just remember to make this a priority. I still have a hard time getting myself to sit down to do simran. My mind wants to wander, and the first 5 minutes are brutal as my mind is all over and I force my body to stay put and not go on facebook or watch a movie or whatever my mind wants me to do at that moment. Then the mind starts to settle and it feels better. With practice, it is getting better. Which is the point of all this. It IS beneficial. If I was to say “well there’s absolutely no use in me doing simran if my mind is all over the place.” How will your mind learn? It needs practice! Give it the chance to practice. Similarly, I’m going to keep going to the Sukhmani prayers. Why? Because it IS of use to sit there. You are learning to read the prayers, and then you will start to understand too over time. You can’t master something all at once. At least I spent those three hours at the gurdwara thinking and focusing my mind on God rather than doing something that isn’t furthering my purpose. So I will keep doing other things like reading translations of shabads, hukamnamas, etc. because even though I may not fully understand, at least I understand something and at least I’m working towards understanding. I’m building up my knowledge and one day God will grant me with the understanding I desire, at the right time. The lesson I want to share is that we need to continue to practice doing simran and we will get better at it. Make an effort to understand gurbani. 

Sidenote: igurbani is a great app for searching hukamnamas and shabads using the first letter of each word in the line; I use this to search hukamnamas and shabads and punjabi/english translations while they are reading at the Gurdwara. I have found the sikhnet gurbani app great for listening to gurbani and searching in english. 


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Deciding how to spend your breath

One year ago if you told me I’d be spending my summer travelling just to go to camp, and devoted to doing simran and listening to katha, I would have said "no way!" That’s not where I imagined myself to be. I could say I have worked really really hard in order to get to where I am today. But really it’s not about what I did. It’s by God’s grace that I am where I am, how I am- He is the Giver, He is the Doer and I am the medium through which this work happens.

My life used to be entirely about maya. I didn’t allow myself to stop to really focus on what I was doing, my mind would be fragmented into 2 other things I should be doing in the moment. It reminds me of the story of when Guru Nanak Dev Ji when to the mosque and didn’t participate in the Namaz because he said no one else there was really praying; their minds were elsewhere. I felt guilty, but I couldn’t figure out how to pause my life, and my priorities were elsewhere. Meeting God was a theoretical that would happen one day, I didn’t know how or when, or even what it really means. A big factor in me taking out the time to make God a priority now is that I have a little bit of knowledge which I have used to remind myself of my purpose. That’s why I am going to be continuing to spend time sharing my knowledge and experiences on this blog to spread the knowledge. When I was younger I thought maya was money. Then I thought maya was just kaam, krodh, lob, moh, hankaar until recently. Now I know maya is so much more than that, including our thoughts and what is in this physical world. The knowledge of the different qualities of maya helped me be more aware of how I am using my precious breath in this life. I remember in one of the early katha lectures on mysimran.info he said something along the lines of “why not gain the knowledge and then make a decision on how you want to live your life?” He explained that without having met God, how could you really make a decision, right now you don’t have a choice, all you know is maya. That makes me really want to share what I’m learning with other people so that we can all choose. 

I used to really rely heavily on other people that I trusted to make big life decisions. I knew they’d give me good advice, but the real reason I went along with it, even if I disagreed, was that I was too scared to be wrong when the stakes were so high. I was too scared to be hurt and then also told “I told you so,” and feel dumb for not having taken the advice of someone who has more experience and wisdom than me. There came a point I had to make decisions all on my own, and I had no one else to blame, but I also knew that I was the one that had to live with my choices and I would regret not having made the choice I wanted, regardless of outcome. I'm glad I made those choices myself because it's strengthened my ability to choose my path now. If you think about it, we all make decisions every moment- how will I use my breath? Only you make that decision, and it’s important as I said last post, to choose sangat wisely as well. Try to be around people who support the person you want to be. If people are wasting your time, remember it’s you who has to live with the decision that you stuck around to waste your precious breath too. Honestly I was nervous and maybe scared to start spending so much time on simran and gurbani because I was sure I would fail at continuing to do it. Each time I make a post about this I think, this is all going to fall apart because I won’t be able to keep up with it and then people are going to be like “well what are you doing with your time now? you’re trying to tell other people but you didn’t even stick with it yourself!” Well that’s actually ironically the thought that led me to posting in the first place. To send the message that I’m a person just like you and I’m scared, just like you might be, that I won’t succeed in this. Maybe there’s people criticizing your path. I want you to know you're not alone in feeling like that. Even if I fail, other people might get help and at least I would have tried. Each time we try we get one step closer. I’ve had times in my life I’ve become more spiritual and then less spiritual. Maya pulls us back- that’s the game! But each time I come back, I am closer. I'm never at square one, the knowledge I learned is still there. I'm going to use my voice, and the power in that voice, to talk about important issues, and remind other people of their purpose. 


Remember, our mind is never satisfied at the amount of information, we need to do the practical work of simran (close your eyes. start with pulling your belly button in as you say Wahe- then pause, push it out and say Guru. Just let the breath happen how it does). I got a lot out of meeting people who have met God and realizing that they are in bliss and I could be too. They are people who taste amirt raas and hear shabads and other things I didn’t know existed before now, and I want to experience that too! So, I’m encouraging everyone to take out the time to do simran. We are blessed with human life, and let's use it to meet God. 

Check out this pdf (short!) book called "The Purpose of Your Life is to Meet God" from mysimran.info: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/62963343/Book%201%20The%20Purpose%20of%20Your%20Life%20FINAL.pdf 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sangat

I listened to a great lecture on sangat from mysimran.info (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7PHBvH27img&feature=youtu.be ). Sangat is not just at the gurdwara- its all the people you spend your time with. It’s really interesting I happened to watch that lecture today because that’s something I have been thinking about a lot since I got back from my trip: Who do I choose to spend time with?

Right before my trip to Ontario I realized that there were very very few people that knew how to give me what I need in my life right now. What I needed required a combination of trust, understanding of who I am/what I believe, spirituality, and emotional maturity. On top of that, there is consistently a question of how much the friendship means: is it worth it to address ongoing problems, or do you just distance yourself and eventually cut them out? I left being uncertain of who I wanted as part of my life because I hate (and almost never!!) cut people out. 


When I went away, I met people who had met God. This was a new type of sangat for me and really changed the way I think. It fulfilled my need for what I needed in my life and what I was searching for. I knew after that, that I needed most of all to be in the presence of people who understood this game and desired to meet God, or at least had that interest and we could work on it together. That meant most people I knew just didn't fit. Those friendships were based on gossip and negativity, which I only realized after being in the presence of a different type of sangat. I've realized that I don't want to continue to spend time being weighed down by relationships that don't feed me. One of my friends said you need to ask yourself "is this person feeding me physically, mentally, spiritually?" That's a good way to assess the sangat you are with in my opinion. If they aren't, you should take a step back. 

In the lecture they post a slide that has this line from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib “Kabeer, I have been ruined and destroyed by bad company, like the banana plant near the thorn bush. The thorn bush waves in the wind, and pierces the banana plant; see this, and do not associate with the faithless cynics.” 1369. Being around people all the time who don’t believe in God or spirituality, or don't care about the path and are only interested in maya are not going to help you escape it. They will pull you back in. So I'm being more careful. I’d rather spend time figuring out my path on my own than being  pulled into a path of negativity and anxiety which seems to already be naturally pulling at my mind. I now pose the same questions to you that they have posted in the lecture “what do you discuss and who do you discuss it with?”so that you can figure out what sangat you are in! 

"If you cannot find a good companion to walk with, walk alone, like an elephant roaming the jungle. It is better to be alone than to be with those who hinder your progress." Buddha