Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Guru Teg Bahadur Shaheedi

This weekend at the Gurdwara Sahib we are remembering the Shaheedi of Guru Teg Bahadur Ji. 

Guru Teg Bahadur Ji was born April 18, 1621 to parents Guru Har Gobind Ji and Mata Nanaki. He became our 9th Guru on April 16, 1664. Emperor Aurangzeb ordered the destruction of Hindu temples and Gurdwaras, fired Hindus from their jobs and imposed taxes on them. The Brahmin Pandits of Kashmir were threatened that if they did not convert to Islam they would be executed. Their daughters were raped. They came in desperation, asking for help from Guru Ji to protect them from Aurangzeb. Guru Ji’s son, Gobind Rai, was a mere 9 years old at the time and asked what was happening. Upon hearing that this would require the sacrifice of a great person, Gobind Rai replied that there would be no one else better suited to defending the Brahmins than his own father. Guru Teg Bahadur Ji told the Pandits to tell Aurangzeb if he could convert Guru Ji to Islam, then they would as well. Gobind Rai was made Guru on July 8, 1675. Guru Teg Bahadur Ji set out for Delhi with Bhai Sati Das, Bhai Mati Das and Bhai Dayal Das. They were then arrested. Guru Ji was transported to Delhi in an iron cage on the back of an elephant. On the way, he composed the following: “Dohraa: My strength is exhausted, and I am in bondage; I cannot do anything at all. Says Nanak, now, the Lord is my Support; He will help me, as He did the elephant. ||53||” and the reply to himself “My strength has been restored, and my bonds have been broken; now, I can do everything. Nanak: everything is in Your hands, Lord; You are my Helper and Support. ||54||” (page 1429 Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji).

Guru Ji and his followers were tortured. Bhai Mati Das, Sati Das and Dyal Das were martyred in front of Guru Ji. Bhai Mati Das Ji was sawed in half. When Bhai Dyal Das Ji was then asked to convert to Islam, he replied “My misguided friends, do you think that you have killed my brother, Bhai Mati Das? If so you are mistaken. You have not killed him. You have given him ever lasting life. He has become immortal. He will live forever in the hearts of men. He will be source of inspiration to others. Many like him will rise and follow his example. A time will come when you and your emperor will be no more, but Bhai Mati Das will be yet alive. I will not give up my faith. The pleasures which you offer have no charm for me. The tortures with which you have threatened me, have no terrors for me. Be quick and send me to where my brother, Bhai Mati Das, has gone to live forever in the lap of the Lord.”  He was then made to sit in a pot of boiling water. Bhai Sati Das Ji was martyred by being wrapped in cotton and burned alive. Guru Ji was in deep meditation while witnessing these horrific events. He chanted: “Give up your head, but forsake not those whom you have undertaken to protect. Says Tegh Bahadur, sacrifice your life, but relinquish not your faith.” Guru Ji was beheaded Nov 24, 1675 at Chandni Chauk for refusal to convert to Islam. (Gurdwara Sis Ganj has been created at this site). There was a big storm right after the execution. Bhai Jaita Ji took Guru Ji’s severed head to Anandpur Sahib for cremation, and Bhai Lakhi Shah took Guru Ji’s body, setting his house on fire in order to cremate Guru Ji’s body. 

This was a huge moment in history. It set the scene for the fall of the Mughal empire and the rise of the Khalsa under the guidance of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Guru Teg Bahadur Ji taught us the body can be tortured but the soul is one with God. Guru Ji sacrificed his life for the rights of Hindus to practice their religion. This teaches us that as Sikhs we need to stand up for human rights as a whole, giving our lives if necessary. Guru Gobind Singh Ji wrote, "Sis Diya Par Sir Na Diya" of Guru Teg Bahadur Ji, meaning "He laid down his head but not his principles." May we all be inspired by the sacrifice of these Shaheeds to build our faith so strong that it cannot be destroyed by any challenge in life, that we remain in Chardi Kala no matter what, and to stand up for the rights of those who cannot protect themselves. 


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Baba Deep Singh Ji

This weekend we are commemorating Shaheed Baba Deep Singh Ji. I wanted to share not only the history of Baba Deep Singh, but also the history of events happening during his lifetime. I knew that Baba Deep Singh Ji had been decapitated and had continued to fight. I didn’t know most of the history below until I did some research. After reading about the tortures the Sikhs faced during the holocausts and at the hands of Mir Mannu, I was so proud of the bravery of the Sikhs in fighting and surviving these injustices. It is thanks to the bravery of the Singhs and Kaurs during these times of persecution that our religion survived and that we get to be Sikhs today. May we all learn from this history how to persevere through hardship. Our history is about survival, resilience, and faith in God. 

Baba Deep Singh Ji was born in January 1682 and was martyred Nov 13, 1757. He was born with the name Deepa to parents Bhai Bhagata Ji and Mai Jeoni Ji in Pahuvind. At the age of 12 he traveled with his family to Anandpur Sahib and met Guru Gobind Singh, where he was asked to stay. His family returned home and but Deepa continued to do sewa in Anandpur Sahib. He learned horsemanship, archery, and use of weapons. At the age of 18 he received Amrit on Vaisakhi, and was then known as Deep Singh. He spent eight years learning Gurmukhi from Bhai Mani Singh. In 1702, Guru Ji requested that he return to help his parents, and he was then married. Two years later, he learned of the separation of Guru Ji from the younger Sahibzaade and Mata Gujri during the battle with the Hindu Hillput Rajas. He met the Guru at Damdama Sahib in Talwandi and learned of the martyrdom of the Sahibzaade.

At Damdama Sahib, he worked with Bhai Mani Singh to prepare the final text of Guru Granth Sahib Ji, which was recited by Guru Gobind Singh Ji. He continued the sewa of producing handwritten copies of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji for several years. These copies went to Sri Akal Takht Sahib, Sri Takht Patna Sahib, Sri Takhat Hazur Sahib, and Sri Takht Anandpur Sahib. A copy in Arabic was sent to the Middle East. He was the first head Granthi at Damdama Sahib.

After the Jyoti Jot of Guru Ji, Baba Deep Singh joined Banda Singh Bahadur in fighting at the battle of Sirhind, during which Wazir Khan was killed. In 1733, he joined with other Sikhs to form the Dal Khalsa, which was divided into the Buddha Dal and Taruna Dhal, and further into five jathas. Baba Ji led one of these jathas, which went on to be known as the Shahid misl.

This was a horrible time of oppression and injustice. Zakariaya Khan Bahadur, Governor of Lahore, rewarded anyone who removed a Sikh’s hair, took off the scalp of a Sikh, give information on whereabouts of Sikhs. He sentenced anyone who withheld information or gave shelter to the Sikhs. Bhai Mani Singh was martyred in 1737, cut joint by joint. A Mughal officer named Massa Ranghar was stationed in Amritsar to prevent the Sikhs from accessing Harmandir Sahib. He committed many bad acts there, and in response, Mehtab Singh and Sukkha Singh killed him and escaped in 1740. When Bhai Taru Singh was arrested and was made shaheed in 1745 by removal of his scalp, Mehtab Singh also surrendered himself and was martyred on a wheel. 

In 1746, the Chotta Ghallughara took place (small holocaust, only named small because there was a much larger one later). Mughal commander Jaspat Rai was killed fighting against the Sikhs, and his brother Lakhpat Rai who lived in Lahore, vowed revenge against the Sikhs. The Sikhs were outnumbered and under-equipped and fought with all their might. They received no support from the hill Rajas, who also attacked. About 7,000 Sikhs were killed and 3,000 were captured then executed, the rest making it to the sanctuary of the Lakhi Jungle. At that time the Sikh population was small due to persecution and this is estimated to be a loss of 1/3 of the total Sikh population.

In 1752, Ahmad Shah Durrani led an invasion into India and it was during this time that Sukkha singh (who had killed Massa Ranghar with Mehatab Singh) was martyred. Durrani was defeated by the Mughals and Mir Mannu took over as Governor of Lahore until 1753. Under Mir Mannu's command, hundreds of Sikhs (women and children included) were publicly executed daily at the present site of Gurdwara Shahid Ganj. Many Sikhs were hiding in Jungles as each house was searched. Women who were in jail were given 40 pounds of grain to grind daily with an extremely heavy chakki. These women were offered freedom if they converted to Islam. A heavy stone was placed on the chest of women unable to grind. Their food for the day was a bowl of water and a quarter of a piece of bread. Their children were speared, cut into pieces and the pieces were put as a garland around the mother’s necks. 300 children were killed in this way and not one Kaur give up her Sikhi. One woman was tortured severely, and she continued to jap Waheguru until she was finally killed. Seeing the fact that her faith was not broken after days of torture, many guards left their jobs.These women were strong and resilient! They did not give up their religion. It is said that people used to sing “We are the plants and Mannu a sickle, but by now, everyone knows, The more he cuts us, the more we grow.” In 1750, Kapur Singh Virk led 500 Sikhs to attack Mir Mannu, however he escaped. He died by falling off his horse in 1753 and the prisoners were freed. These women are in our ardas daily.

In 1755, Ahmed Shah Abdali invaded India and looted valuables and forcibly took Hindu and Muslim women and children as slaves to sell them. No one dared to stop them; not the Rajputs or the Maratha Khatris. Baba Ji’s Jatha attacked Abdali and freed 300 women and girls, and 100 boys. They were taken home. This again shows how the Sikhs stand up for justice- it didn't matter that these were Hindus or Muslims, but just human beings.  

Abdali appointed his son Taimur Shah to "finish" the Sikhs. When Jahan Khan invaded Amritsar under the direction of Taimur Shah in 1757, they defiled the sacred pool and started demolishing the Gurdwara. Baba Deep Singh Ji was now 75 years old and gathered Sikhs to go towards Harmandir Sahib. There were about 5,000 Sikhs. At Tarn Taran Baba Ji drew a line on the ground with his Khanda, asking only those willing to die to cross the line. All Sikhs crossed and Baba Ji recited "Jo to praym khaylan ka chaao, sir dhar talee galee mayree aao, It maarag pair dhareejai, sir deejai kaan na keejai.Those who wish to play the game of love (to follow the Sikh path), come to me with your head in your palm. If you wish your feet to travel this path, don't delay in accepting to give your head.” Jahan Khan headed to Tarn Taran with an army of 20,000. Baba Ji’s army reached 5 miles from Amritsar when the battle began. He fought with a 15 kg Khanda. When it was almost won, reinforcements arrived for Jahan Khan. Jamal Khan, a Mughal commander, attacked Baba Deep Singh Ji and both were beheaded at the same time. A young Sikh warrior called out, reminding Baba Ji of his vow to die at Harmandir Sahib. Baba Ji stood, holding the severed head in his left palm and the Khanda in the right, continuing to fight until he reached Harmandir Sahib. Seeing this, many of the Mughals ran away terrified. Baba Ji matha tekked and laid his head on the parkarma at Harmandir Sahib and became one with God. The Sikhs won the battle. He was a true saint soldier.

(Note: it was when Ahmad Shah Duranni returned that the Harmandir Sahib was blown up in 1757 and the Vaddha Ghallughara happened where 20-50, 000 Sikhs died in 1762.).


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Indo-Canadian Gangs

Goojaree, Fifth Mehl:
Remembering Him, all sins are erased, and ones generations are saved.
So meditate continually on the Lord, Har, Har; He has no end or limitation. ||1||
O son (child), this is your mother's hope and prayer
That you may never forget the Lord, Har, Har, even for an instant. May you ever vibrate upon the Lord of the Universe. ||1||Pause||
May the True Guru be kind to you, and may you love the Society of the Saints.
May the preservation of your honor by the Transcendent Lord be your clothes, and may the singing of His Praises be your food.||2||
So drink in forever the Ambrosial Nectar; may you live long, and may the meditative remembrance of the Lord give you infinite delight.
May joy and pleasure be yours; may your hopes be fulfilled, and may you never be troubled by worries. ||3||
Let this mind of yours be the bumble bee, and let the Lord's feet be the lotus flower.
Says servant Nanak, attach your mind to them, and blossom forth like the song-bird, upon finding the rain-drop. ||4||3||4||

When I started writing this post, it was going to be a small story about going to the Gurdwara in Edmonton, but the more I thought about it, it took a different direction. On Sunday I took a taxi to the Gurdwara and the driver was curious about what motivates a young person to put this much effort into going to the Gurdwara. I talked a little bit about my spiritual path. He brought up the topic of how a lot of young people have no interest in going, and the alarming rates of gang-related murders in the Indo-Canadian community. I didn’t realize this had been an issue in Edmonton as well and we talked about it briefly.

The first shabad the jatha read was “Poota Mata Ki Asees” (the translated shabad above). “O son, this is your mother's hope and prayer, that you may never forget the Lord, Har, Har, even for an instant. May you ever vibrate upon the Lord of the Universe.” Although I have read this shabad many times, it was the way and context in which it was read that suddenly the emotion of the shabad struck me deeply. When a child is born, a mother wishes a happy life on that child. Sikh parents want their children to get further than they did, and to spiritually progress on the path to God as well. There is so much joy at the birth of a child. A mother doesn’t wish for her son that he grows up and avoid the Gurdwara. She doesn’t wish that a police officer comes to her door to tell her that her son was murdered in the streets in his 20s.

We know that there is a serious gang violence problem amongst Indo-Canadians in the lower mainland right now. The situation has much improved in our community locally, but there is a growing problem in Surrey, where we are constantly reading news articles about young Sikh men who are now dead from gang-related violence. Old statistics from 2005 were that over 100 young men involved in gangs had been killed over the 12 years prior to that (1). I can’t imagine what the statistics look like now, considering how many individuals were killed after that. One Sikh mother said in an interview for Global news “An ambulance goes past and I can’t sleep because I keep thinking, ‘Oh my God. Is it my son that’s been killed?’... I wouldn’t stop worrying until he got home”(2). This is what makes this topic so important- because it could be your child one day, or mine, if we don’t figure out what is driving this.

One of the problems that have been highlighted as contributing to this growing issue is parenting (2). Many parents are busy trying to make their lives more comfortable for their children so they do not have to experience the hardships they did, and at the same time this leaves little time for them to supervise or spend time building a relationship with their children (2). A few years back, Wally Oppal said “"A lot of the [Indo-Canadian] gang thing is thrill-seeking, but a lot of it has to do with idleness and having things handed to them. The result is you don't work hard. What more is there for a 16-year-old to accomplish if he's jumping into a BMW in Grade 10? They lose focus and there is a disconnect with the parents because they're out working, often two or three different jobs, to pay for everything”(3). He identifies the additional issues here of youth lacking motivation and purpose. Since youth are pulled in at a young age when their brains aren’t fully developed to understand the consequences of their decisions, it is obviously especially important for them to have a sense of guidance in making their decisions.  

In the face of a lack of time with parents, youth often look up to others to fulfill that role, for example in movies, songs, or relatives who are involved in the drug business. In the Global News video they referenced Jazzy B’s music videos as part of the problem of promoting the idea of the “flashy gangster” (2). These role models are neither realistic nor positive. Staff Sgt. Houghton spoke about the movie Beeba Boys, stating” Beeba Boys shows nice cars, expensive fashion and other perks of gang life without the fleeting nature of such pleasures. Nor does it show the paranoia of gang life, in which such criminals are on edge about police, their enemies and even their friends…The challenge we have as the police is to overcome these constant pop-culture messages that are somewhat ubiquitous, I would argue, in our culture that being a gangster is cool, that you will have money, that you will have good-looking women on your arm all the time, that you will have all of these things in life” (4). This comes back to one of my recent posts about finding the purpose in life, because of course the gang lifestyle will fulfill the desire for power, money, women, status, etc., but will not fulfill the purpose of our lives.

Wally Oppal also pointed to gender inequalities causing a sense of entitlement in young men (3). Renu Bakshi, from CTV reports “From the moment a Punjabi boy opens his eyes, his parents hand him the keys to the Porsche of life. From now on, his mother will ride in the back seat, literally and figuratively, putting her son ahead of the world. Her boy will have the privilege of eating a warm meal, without the chore of clearing the dishes alongside his sister. In a fit of childhood rage, he will kick and punch his mother…In too many cases, violence is the tool with which the head of household settles disputes with his wife, as well as other members of the family. RCMP in the Vancouver suburb of Surrey, where many Sikhs live, say a disproportionate number of the domestic disputes their officers attend involve Sikh couples, and the disputes are almost always sparked by alcohol” (5). In this type of setting, not only is the male child entitled, but the role of the mother (woman) is not respected in the household.

I was shocked to realize after reading many articles that many of these young men think that they are embracing Sikh values of bravery, that by not being afraid to end up dead in the streets over drugs is noble. Despite the fact that Gurbani makes it brutally clear what happens to a person when they fall into maya and don’t follow the path of God. Renu Bakhsi states,
From Sunday sermons at Sikh temples to Friday nights at bars, police files show that disagreements among Punjabi men are regularly settled with the use of force. The difference is, youngsters have replaced the holy Sikh sword with machine guns…[T]he very essence of Sikhism, its spiritual struggle for human rights, has been perverted by misguided men bent on gaining power and exacting revenge. The Sikh teaching, ‘When all else fails, only then raise your sword,’ no longer applies to defending the defenceless. It is an excuse to use violence to settle the score”(5).

When we look at protective factors to prevent gang involvement, they include parental involvement/monitoring, family support, coping skills, positive social connections/peer support, positive interaction with mentors, positive social environments in community, academic achievement, and reducing alcohol/drug use (6,7). Many of these things can be accomplished by living per Sikhi: 
- (Good) Sangat: gives positive social connections, support, role models, belonging
- Sewa: builds community connection, teaches humility and hard work
- Naam Japna and kirtan: teachs there is something greater than you and me, teaches     use of emotional regulation (how not to use force to fight over something and not let anger control you)
- Kirat karni- is literally about hard work
- Vand shakna- is about sharing with others, thinking of others first and not being selfish, focused on wellbeing of all rather than individualism
- Gurbani: gives us purpose, sense of direction, discipline
- Gurus also taught us to get involved in taking care of our bodies by sports, etc. which is one of the examples that Wally Oppal gave to combat gang involvement (3)

When we look at the man every mother strives to raise, it is one who serves the community, respects women, helps out around the house, and works hard. The type of man a woman can say that she is safe and comfortable around because their word can be trusted and they uphold the highest of values given to us by the Guru Jis. If a mistake is made, they own it and learn from it. That is a mother’s prayer for her son. That is a sister’s prayer, from me to all my brothers. May you never forget your roots, may you always remember Waheguru and fulfill your purpose in this life. May you live up to your name, Singh. 


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Remembering Sikhs in World War 1 and 2

“In World War I and II, 83,005 Sikhs were killed and 109,045 wounded fighting for the allied forces” Australian Sikh Heritage (1) 

World War 1 
In honor of Remembrance Day (yesterday), I thought I would post more about Sikhs in the World Wars. A BBC documentary states, “More Indians volunteered to fight for Britain in the First World War than all Scots, Welsh and Irish combined” (2). Out of the volunteers in the Indian Army, 22% of those were Sikhs despite the fact that they only formed 2% of India’s population (1). This amounted to 35, 000 Sikhs at the start of the first world war and 100,000 by the end (3). The Sikhs were known as ‘The Lions of the Great War’ and used weapons such as chakrams, and talwars (4). There are records of ten Sikh Canadians who voluntarily served in the First World War (5). These were John Baboo (wounded at Vimy Ridge), Sunta Gougersingh (killed in action), Buckam Singh, Hari Singh, Harnom Singh, John Singh, Lashman Singh (killed in action), Ram Singh, Sewa Singh, and Waryam Singh (5).

As Manveer Singh Ji points out, the Sikhs fought in the British Army because wherever there is oppression, a Sikh goes to fight (3). He told the story of Baba Maghar Singh Ji in his katha on Sikhs in World Wars. The Sikh soldiers all kept rehat. He described how Baba Maghar Singh made a kirtani jatha that did Asa Di Waar in the Army (3). He was sent to France in 1914 (3). On the ship over, the Sikhs made degh for a Gurpurb, but one of the british officers, Mr. Carlton, kicked it over (3). Mr. Hill intervened and ordered them to use it despite the disrespect that had taken place (3). Baba Maghar Singh Ji threw it in the ocean, saying “We have sold you our bodies, but we have not sold our Sikhi to you” (3). When it was time for the ship to land in France, Mr. Hill agreed to have the Guru Granth Sahib Ji leading the Sikhs (3). Ardas was done before battle began, and even after winter fell the soldiers continued to do Amrit ishanan with cold water (3). Baba Maghar Singh served as an inspiration to his fellow Sikhs and upheld the highest of values.

Austrailian Sikh Heritage writes, “In the Gallipoli campaign, the 14th Sikh regiment was virtually wiped out, losing 379 officers and men in one day’s fighting on 4 June 1915…During this battle, the 14th Sikhs (as part of the 29th Indian Infantry Brigade), composed entirely of seasoned Sikh soldiers from the Punjab, launched repeated attacks, in the face of murderous machine gun fire, against the Turkish positions astride Gully Ravine. Held up by the barbed wire that was unaffected by the allied artillery bombardment a section of men leapt the barbed wire and charged the Turks with their bayonets. However, human valour was unavailing against modern weapons of war, and on that day the battalion’s casualties amounted to 82 percent of the men actually engaged in the battle “(1).

After the War: Jallianwala Bhag Massacre
Despite the brave efforts of Sikhs fighting for the Indian Army, on Vaisakhi 1919, the British ordered the massacre of 1500 unarmed men, women and children at Jallianwala Bagh (2).

World War 2
Again, large numbers of Sikhs served in the war. Notable contributions were in the Battle of Malaya, Burma Campaign and Italian Campaign (4).  

Let us remember those who fought for justice, and those who continue to protect us. 


Picture: France- 1915

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Creating Boundaries vs. People-Pleasing

I have been exploring the sense of “self” over the last week. In my job, I ask people to describe themselves to try to get a sense of their understanding of themselves and life’s purpose. Many people define themselves through their job and relationships, and underneath there is a feeling of emptiness and lack of “self.” I was recently listening to a podcast from about life’s purpose. Simer Singh talked about how we can fulfill all the criteria that society gives us such as getting a job, getting married, buying a house, and still feeling empty (1). This is because we never worked on our real purpose to meet Waheguru (1). He talked about how, while worldly pursuits like sports and school are often competitive, our goal of meeting God is not about being first or the best (1). I often think we compare ourselves to others and think “so-and-so already has kids” or “this person already has achieved X, Y, Z.” That race to get this mental checklist completed causes us to miss the point that time allows us to learn, grow, mature, and when we are ready, God delivers what we need. Thus as Simer said, our goal of meeting Waheguru is about joining others to work collectively (1).

A co-worker I just met brought up the topic of the need to help or please others. I was interested to learn more about the concept of pleasing others as a purpose, of tying one’s self-worth to other people instead of God. Many people would call this “people-pleasing.” This happens, for example, when an individual seeks approval from others, fears rejection/criticism, or avoids conflict (2). Since this is driven by an underlying fear, it has a negative effect on individuals and eventually, a person starts to feel trapped, resentful, used, and gets burned out (3). What is the difference then between helping others in a healthy way and people-pleasing? Yong Kang Chan writes “A healthy compassionate person would take himself or herself into consideration… They please others but yet they don’t put other people first. They see other people and themselves as equal. ‘Selfless’ to them doesn’t mean disregarding themselves. It means disregarding the ego’s needs of feeling important and worthy from helping others. They don’t see pleasing other people as their responsibilities or obligation. They don’t burn themselves out from helping others” (2). This is essentially what Gurbani teaches us- that we are equals, we need to do sewa with humility and without ego, and that you can serve others while taking care of and standing up for yourself. Serving others is not a burden, because it is recognizing the Divine within you, and to take care of yourself is a sewa in itself.

Years ago I watched videos from Brene Brown, a shame researcher, about setting boundaries in order to be a compassionate individual. At that time, I still had not understood the concept, but it just clicked for me. On a podcast from the Lively Show, Brene explained that in her research the most compassionate people had the most boundaries (4). Compassion is “the belief we are connected by something rooted in love” (God) (5). Boundaries are not walls or emotional distance, but rather simply “what’s okay and what’s not okay” for you (4). It is the boundaries that make compassion sustainable and prevents us from burning out (4). She gives an example that you are holding a Christmas party but are reluctant to invite a friend who gets drunk every year (4). The boundary is that you tell your friend that you want her there but it makes you uncomfortable if they get drunk, and she can only come if she doesn't get drunk (4). From this we can really understand that we all have boundaries- for example, expecting that people show up on time. Say you move in with a roommate, or you just got married. There is that process of figuring out each other’s boundaries. I remember my cousin telling me that for a whole year after she got married she and her husband fought about keeping the doors locked. She grew up in a household where it only felt safe if the doors were locked and he grew up in one where the doors were always unlocked. I realize now that this was about their personal boundaries. I’m away from home so I called my mom to tell her about all these things I learned, and immediately recognized all the examples of how she has set good boundaries. She is very eager to help others but is also clear not to impinge on the things she values. For example, she turned down an extended family member's event because she wanted to go to my sister’s soccer tournament. These are what keeps her compassion and empathy sustainable.

In order for us to set boundaries, there is a process of figuring out what is okay and not okay for you, which is a process of discovery. It now made sense why I hadn’t originally understood the concept of emotional boundaries because it was only when I took a year away from school to reaffirm what I believed and valued, that I figured out what my boundaries were and how to communicate them. I knew a lot about giving but I didn’t know a lot about feeding myself. My spiritual awakening created a strong sense of self that allowed me to understand how to make giving sustainable and how to care for myself.

Brene’s work on boundaries comes out of her shame and vulnerability research. In order to experience the wonderful things in life- joy, belonging, love, it is necessary to experience vulnerability, because to connect to others we have to let ourselves be seen (6). In order to be vulnerable, we have to talk about shame, that feeling that you are a bad person/not good enough (7). That shame leads to depression, addiction, violence, bullying, etc. while guilt is inversely related to these (7). Guilt is when you can say I behaved badly, but I’m sorry and I made a mistake (7). Brene’s research shows men’s shame tends to be about being perceived as weak, and women’s shame is often about meeting conflicting, competing expectations/doing it all (7). How do we deal with the shame? When we are vulnerable, we have courage and we tell someone our story because the moment those words come out, the silence the shame hides behind is broken (7). It is important to share the story with someone empathetic; “people who earn the right to hear your story” (8). Empathy is how we communicate love for people so they know they are not alone- when someone says “me too”, which breaks the shame (7). Brene states “you show me a woman who can actually sit with a man in real vulnerability and fear, I’ll show you a woman who has done incredible work” and “you show me a man who sits with a woman who has just had it, she can’t do it anymore … and he really listens, I’ll show you a guy who has done a lot of work” (7). In order for us to have vulnerability, empathy, and compassion, we need to have boundaries (4). In order for us to fulfill the purpose of our life and meet God, we need to serve the Divine self, Waheguru within us. We are no longer working towards pleasing others, but God that exists in others with endless compassion and empathy.

I got this very relevant Hukamnama when I was writing this post:
rwmklI mhlw 5 ]
Raamkalee, Fifth Mehl:
kwhU ibhwvY rMg rs rUp ]
Some pass their lives enjoying pleasures and beauty.
kwhU ibhwvY mwie bwp pUq ]
Some pass their lives with their mothers, fathers and children.
kwhU ibhwvY rwj imlK vwpwrw ]
Some pass their lives in power, estates and trade.
sMq ibhwvY hir nwm ADwrw ]1]
The Saints pass their lives with the support of the Lord's Name. ||1||
rcnw swcu bnI ]
The world is the creation of the True Lord.
sB kw eyku DnI ]1] rhwau ]
He alone is the Master of all. ||1||Pause||
kwhU ibhwvY byd Aru bwid ]
Some pass their lives in arguments and debates about scriptures.
kwhU ibhwvY rsnw swid ]
Some pass their lives tasting flavors.
kwhU ibhwvY lpit sMig nwrI ]
Some pass their lives attached to women.
sMq rcy kyvl nwm murwrI ]2]
The Saints are absorbed only in the Name of the Lord. ||2||
kwhU ibhwvY Kylq jUAw ]
Some pass their lives gambling.
kwhU ibhwvY AmlI hUAw ]
Some pass their lives getting drunk.
kwhU ibhwvY pr drb cuorwey ]
Some pass their lives stealing the property of others.
hir jn ibhwvY nwm iDAwey ]3]
The humble servants of the Lord pass their lives meditating on the Naam. ||3||
kwhU ibhwvY jog qp pUjw ]
Some pass their lives in Yoga, strict meditation, worship and adoration.
kwhU rog sog BrmIjw ]
Some, in sickness, sorrow and doubt.
kwhU pvn Dwr jwq ibhwey ]
Some pass their lives practicing control of the breath.
sMq ibhwvY kIrqnu gwey ]4]
The Saints pass their lives singing the Kirtan of the Lord's Praises. ||4||
kwhU ibhwvY idnu rYin cwlq ]
Some pass their lives walking day and night.
kwhU ibhwvY so ipVu mwlq ]
Some pass their lives on the fields of battle.
kwhU ibhwvY bwl pVwvq ]
Some pass their lives teaching children.
sMq ibhwvY hir jsu gwvq ]5]
The Saints pass their lives singing the Lord's Praise. ||5||
kwhU ibhwvY nt nwitk inrqy ]
Some pass their lives as actors, acting and dancing.
kwhU ibhwvY jIAwieh ihrqy ]
Some pass their lives taking the lives of others.
kwhU ibhwvY rwj mih frqy ]
Some pass their lives ruling by intimidation.
sMq ibhwvY hir jsu krqy ]6]
The Saints pass their lives chanting the Lord's Praises. ||6||
kwhU ibhwvY mqw msUriq ]
Some pass their lives counseling and giving advice.
kwhU ibhwvY syvw jrUriq ]
Some pass their lives forced to serve others.
kwhU ibhwvY soDq jIvq ]
Some pass their lives exploring life's mysteries.
sMq ibhwvY hir rsu pIvq ]7]
The Saints pass their lives drinking in the sublime essence of the Lord. ||7||
ijqu ko lwieAw iqq hI lgwnw ]
As the Lord attaches us, so we are attached.
nw ko mUVu nhI ko isAwnw ]
No one is foolish, and no one is wise.
kir ikrpw ijsu dyvY nwau ] nwnk qw kY bil bil jwau ]8]3]
Nanak is a sacrifice, a sacrifice to those who are blessed by His Grace to receive His Name. ||8||3||

1 “Your Life Without Purpose Is " ____ _____ _____ ".” SoundCloud,, 6 Nov. 2017,
2 Chan, Yong K. “Psychology of People Pleaser: Why Do They Need to Please Others?” Nerdy Creator, 15 Sept. 2016,
3 Champion, Vickie. “Home.” Vickie Champion, 2010,
4 Lively, Jessica, and Brene Brown. “#124 The Lively Show by Jess Lively on Apple Podcasts.” Apple Podcasts, Jessica Lively, 17 Feb. 2016,
5 Brown, Brene. “Brene Brown.” YouTube, YouTube, 16 Mar. 2017,
6 Brown, Brene. “The Power of Vulnerability | Brené Brown.” YouTube, YouTube, 3 Jan. 2011,
7 Chan, Yong K. “How Brené Brown Helped Me in Overcoming Shame & Admitting Failure.” Nerdy Creator, 5 Aug. 2016, 8.
8  OWN. “6 Types of People Who Do Not Deserve to Hear Your Shame Story | SuperSoul Sunday | OWN.” YouTube, YouTube, 24 Mar. 2013,