Thursday, October 22, 2009

Is duality worse than ignorance?

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa
Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh

Now and again you meet people who are totally engrossed in parties, drug and alcohol, and spend most of their time trying to achieve the "high" that they get from these things. Most of the time these people are ignorant of the effect that these things are having to their body and soul, or just don't care because they can't see the bigger picture.

But then there are people who take part in actions that they know will harm them or others. They might be addicted to drugs and have tried to quit numerous times, but just couldn't. They may be people who try to do sadhana in the morning, but just can't seem to wake up. They may be people who know that chanting the name of Waheguru is the ultimate high, but opt out on other things. They may be people who know that bullying someone is wrong, but do nothing to stop it. These people live in a state of duality.

So the question is : Is duality worse than ignorance?

What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Gurdaddi Divas Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji


Guru Granth Sahib or Adi Sri Granth Sahib Ji, is more than just a scripture of the Sikhs. The Sikhs treat this Granth (holy book) as a living Guru. The holy text spans 1430 pages and contains the actual words spoken by the founders of the Sikh religion (the Ten Gurus of Sikhism) and the words of various other Saints from other religions including Hinduism and Islam.
Guru Granth Sahib was given the Guruship by the last of the living Sikh Masters, Guru Gobind Singh Ji in 1708. Guru Gobind Singh said before his demise that the Sikhs were to treat the Granth Sahib as their next Guru. Guru Ji said – “Sab Sikhan ko hokam hai Guru Manyo Granth” meaning “All Sikhs are commanded to take the Granth as Guru” So today if asked, the Sikhs will tell you that they have a total of 11 Gurus. ( 10 in human form and the SGGS).
When one visits a Gurdwara (a Sikh temple) , the Guru Granth Sahib forms the main part of the Darbar Sahib or Main Hall. The holy book is placed on a dominant platform and covered in a very beautiful and attractively coloured fine cloth. The platform is always covered by a canopy, which is also decorated in expensive and very attractive coloured materials. The text in which the Granth is written is a script called Gurmukhi (literally "From the Guru's mouth"), which is considered a modern development of the ancient language called Sanskrit.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

What Diwali Means to Us

History Bhandi Chhor Divas
Courtesy of Manvir Singh Khalsa from his blog
The word "Bandi" means "imprisoned", "Chhor" means "release" and "Divas" means "day" and together "Bandi Chhor Divas" means Prisoners Release Day.

The Sikh celebration of the return of the sixth Nanak from detention in the Gwalior Fort coincides with Hindu festival of Diwali. This coincidence has resulted in similarity of celebration amongst Sikhs and Hindus.

When Murtaja Khan, Nawab of Lahore, noticed that Guru Ji had constructed Sri Akaal Takht Sahib, 'The Throne of the Almighty', at Amritsar, and was also strengthening his army, he informed about it to the Mughal Emperor Jahangeer. He also emphasized that he was making preparations to take revenge for his father's torture and martyrdom. When Jahangeer came to know about this he at once sent Wazir Khan and Guncha Beg to Amritsar in order to arrest Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji.But Wazir Khan who was a well-wisher of the Sikh Guru’s requested the Guru to accompany them to Delhi as Emperor Jahangeer wanted to meet him. Guru Sahib accepted the invitation and reached Delhi.On their first meeting when Jahangeer saw the Guru, he was completely won over by his youthful charm and holiness. The Emperor decided to become friends with the Guru. So he gave a royal welcome to the Guru. But Chandu Shah could not bear it. His daughter was still unmarried and thus the rotten sore was still bleeding (that Guru Arjan Dev Ji refused the offer to marry his daughter to Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji).

At Agra, the Emperor fell seriously ill. The physicians tried their best but they failed to care him. Then Chandu Shah conspired with the astrologers, who were asked to tell the Emperor that his sickness was due to wrong track of stars and it could, be cared only if some holy man goes to Gwallior Fort to offer prayers to the deity. He also pointed out that Guru Hargobind Ji was such a holy man and he should be asked go to Gwallior Fort. At the Emperor’s request the Guru readily agreed and left for the Gawalior Fort.In the fort Guru Ji met many princes who were detained there due to political reasons. They were leading a very deplorable life. With the help of Hari Dass, the governor of fort, the Guru improved their condition. Hari Daas was a Sikh of Guru Nanak and he become ardent devotee of Guru Hargobind. Once when Chandu wrote to Hari Daas to poison Guru Sahib, he at once placed that letter before Guru Ji.When several months passed and Guru Ji was not released then Baba Buddha Ji and other devotees met the Guru. They informed him about the despicable condition of the Sikhs, who were waiting for him with great eagerness. The Guru assured them that they should not worry, he would join them soon. Sikhs would gather and carry out Parbaat-Pheris, walking and singing Gurbaani, around the Gawalior Fort awaiting for Guru Ji's arrival out.In the meantime Sai Mian Meer met Jahangeer and asked him to release the Guru. Jahangeer, who had fully recovered, ordered Wazir Khan to release Guru Sahib, who reached Gwallior Fort and informed Hari Daas about the message of the Emperor. Hari Daas was very pleased to hear it. He informed Guru Ji about the message of Emperor. But the Guru declined to leave the fort unless the princes confined in the fort were also released.When Wazir Khan informed the Emperor about the desire of the Guru, the Emperor was forced to agree, though he didn't want to free the prisoners. So, out of cleverly the Emperor put down the condition that "Whoever can hold on to the Guru's cloak can be released." The fifty–two princes who had been detained due to political reasons or for committing default, were pining in fort for years. Having compassion for others, Guru Sahib was determined to get the prisoners freed. He had a cloak made with 52 corners, for each King to hold on to. The Guru left the fort with all fifty-two princes. As the Guru liberated the fifty-two princes so he is known as Bandi-Chhor (Liberator).
A Gurdwara known as Bandi-Chhor is built at the place where Guru stayed during his detention. Jahangeer advised Wazir Khan to bring Guru Hargobind in his court at Delhi with great honour. Jahangeer had realised that he wrong for torturing and killing Guru Arjan Dev Ji, who had not committed no crime or offense. He wanted to exonerate himself by indicting this crime on Chandu Shah and other officers. So in order to show his innocence he wanted to meet Guru Hargobind Ji. The Sikhs celebrate this day as Bandi Chhorr Divas i.e., 'the day of release of detainees' . So in the evening, illuminations are done with Deewé (earthen oil lamps) or candles and fireworks. The celebrations are held both in the Gurdwaras and in homes.What do we learn from Bandi-Chhor Diwas?52 Hindu Kings were freed with Guru Sahib. Guru Sahib could have left the Fort when he was offered the chance. However, Guru Ji thought of others before himself. Others freedom and rights were more important than his own. Guru Ji is always thinking not of his emancipation but everyone's emancipation. This is the attitude and virtue which Guru Ji filled within his Sikhs, by putting into reality this positive message.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Winner of Today's Woman Award Show

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa
Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh

In an event held on Friday October 2, 2009, the winners of Today's Woman Award Show were announced at the Civic Centre.

"In October, Special Events Creators produces the annual Today's Woman Show. This event consists of the Northern British Columbia Today's Woman's Awards, the Today's Woman Leadership Conference and a biennial Trade Show that is geared towards women of all walks of life, ages, lifestyles and varied interests. It provides an opportunity to learn what's new in business, careers, investment opportunities, fashion, health & wellness, cooking, recreation and so much more. Each show just gets better and better!!"

COMMUNITY ENRICHMENT AWARD and RISING STAR AWARD: Navpreet Kaur Sidhu – Prince George. Through her volunteer work with the Canadian Diabetes Association, Navpreet has helped increase awareness of Diabetes among South Asians.

As an active young leader and role model to the youth in the community, she has promoted youth volunteerism by leading a team for the Partners For Life Program and Canadian Cancer Society Annual Relay.

The events hosts were MLA Shirley Bond and MLA Pat Bell. The Free Press sponsored the Community Enrichment Award, while CNC sponsored the Rising Stars Award.

Here are some pictures


Nowadays you need a backup drive for your backup drive! I was downloading all the TVs shows recorded on PVR to an external hard drive, when the hard drive crashed. I didn't really care much about what I lost (most were just tv shows), until I realized I lost a recording of the Chardi Kala Jatha in Harminder Sahib! I was going to upload it on this blog soon too:( Then I also realized that I lost all the English and Punjabi interviews I recorded on various social topics. Digital media can be so frustrating. You never know when it is going to vanish!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

I once knew a Bobjeet

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa
Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh

I have been going to university for about four years now, and I have met so many different kinds of people. During a summer course, I came across a certain young gentleman... let's call him Bobjeet, who was from one of the smaller cities, either Dawson's Creek, William's Lake, I can't really remember. Now, 70% of communication is non-verbal communication, so when I say I know this person, I mean that I know this person's behaviour, attitude and opinions from observing him afar in class or walking in the hallways. You can learn a lot about a person from how they walk, sit idly or conduct themselves in public.

Bobjeet was keen on learning, he asked question after question to the professor, anticipating responses and purposing rebuttals. He was curious about every aspect of the study he was undertaking... or he used be. He wasn't amritdhari, but he was a "pure" Punjabi, and looking at how he conducted himself, he was a Sikh. I had one chance to talk to him during a break in the class, just common chit-chat on the the midterm that we just finished writing. Once he found out I spoke Punjabi he conducted the rest of the conversation quite fluently in it. Quite amazing since most people are embarrassed to even admit that they know Punjabi! Looking at his timid nature, you could tell that he was respectful and courteous. But, I said "timid" for a reason.... and not self-confident.

Now your thinking, wouldn't it be great if this young man became something great in his life. Bobjeet could help our Punjabi people gain access to basic services, such as health care, computer technology, bank services and more. He would be such a great asset to the community, with his genuine respect and courtesy. But, we will never know for sure.

Now before I go any further, let's explain my role in all of this. During the unfolding of the events you are about to hear, I luckily stumbled upon the role of silent observer... sort of like invisible entity that no one really cared to notice. I knew Bobjeet and his disposition and demeanor from my class. I also inadvertently knew his "new" friends from UNBC from a volunteer job that I undertook every week. You can probably guess the demeanor of his new friends. These people knew neither their culture or their language. Let loose in Prince George with more money than they need, this group of about three frequently got drunk and "partied" during the weekends, and aspired to be doctors during the weekdays. "Partied" is a mild term. What they did was get intoxicated to the point that they probably couldn't recognize their own sister if they saw her.

One evening, as we were volunteering together, the group was side-tracked as usual and started chatting. Again, people don't usually notice me when they start talking. As they were chatting away, instead of working, Bobjeet's name came up in the conversation. Here is a brief dialogue of what ensued.
" Bobjeet, yeah man, we definitely have to get him drunk"
"Man, Can you believe he has never had a drink before. What, is he a Mama's boy"
(Girl interjects) " C'mon, Bobjeet's nice, you better not convert him"
"Yeah, but he's not cool. No, we are definitely taking him to a pub tonight and getting him hammered".

Now I wasn't there for the actual incident, and during the entire time I never thought that Bobjeet would ever go through something as stupid as that. But like I said, I used the word "timid" instead of "self-confident'
A week passed in class, and I was busy with midterm and exams. The next time I noticed Bobjeet was outside of class, with a newly pierced ear and listening to loud rap music on his iphone. No more questions, no more Punjabi, no more curiosity to learn, no more intellectual behaviour. You may see him occasionally at UNBC hanging out with his girlfriend or smoking a cigarette. He's still here, his friends aren't. None of them got into medical school, thank god, and I suppose they moved back to their respective home towns.

I never knew that this could actually happen to people. I mean you see it in cheesy Punjabi movies and dramas, but now that I look back at the experience, I never really realized the seriousness. I wish I could have been more than I silent observer, but really how could I interfere in the life of a person that I didn't know. Of course, there is always the fear of being branded a whistleblower among peers.

Now you can imagine that everyone in a small town knows everyone, hence there is less chance of youth to get involved in drugs and alcohol, but also more chance that youth lack self-confidence when they move to bigger cities. No parent is going to tell themselves 'I am sending my child away to university so that they can get involved in gangs and drugs". Every parent is anxious when they send their child away for school, but Punjabi parents are more so. And they have a good reason. So many Indo-Canadian Sikh youth come to Prince George from smaller towns to study UNBC. So many anxious parents await in the small towns hoping that their kids are going to pass the tests and challenges of life brought in front of them by their peers.

I am astounded by the fact that Prince George doesn't have counseling and support services specifically designated toward Sikh youth. Really what is a gurudwara supposed to be for. It is supposed to be the centre where people come to find spiritual guidance and support. To date, no Prince George temple has provided formal counseling services to anyone, with full protection of a person's confidentiality. In the future, it would be nice to see community leaders that have been through the same ordeal to step in and provide comfort to parents by mentoring the youth. When youth come to UNBC from smaller communities the gurdwara should act kind of like a check-in, where Prince George community leaders and volunteers give an orientation to Prince George and the spiritual services provided to assist youth in their life and studies (programs which we need more of.. but that will be a different blog post). Out-of-townees get to know each other and Prince Georgians and kind of form a community. Throughout the year, volunteers check in with various students and provide guidance, mentoring and counselling services if needed. Most importantly if the counsellor can't help them, than they should contact the parents and relatives to step in and provide support.

Now, you may think, isn't this over the top. I mean aren't we controlling the lives of these young people. When I talk about guidance and counseling, I don't mean that preachers should follow the youth around and make sure that they don't cut their hair, or make sure that they do their 5 banis paath everyday; these choices are ultimately left to the youth to decide. What I mean is that relatable people, like university professors, fellow grad students, medical students, doctors should be there to help Sikh youth deal with the stresses and peer pressure encountered in university life, instead of turning to alcohol and drugs. Sikh Youth have different needs than the average university students, because they feel different societal pressures. Normal guidance counseling at universities aren't enough to address the specialized issues that Indo-Canadian youth are facing, and this drives youth into gangs, drugs and alcohol. No young person is going to look back in their life and say " I wish I would have done drugs in school, I missed out on so much." Similarly a person who did drugs, probably never imagined themselves in that position a few years ago.

Now the second problem that comes to mind is community gossip. You would think young people would be off limits, but know the "aunties" are as vicious to us as they are to anyone else, more-so behind your back. No wonder youth don't just come out and ask for help and admit that they have a problem. Deep down they don't want their parents or themselves to suffer public humiliation.

I can't imagine the looks of Bobjeet's parents when he stepped into their home again. I still can't believe the transformation to this day, sometimes I wonder if this alter ego thing really existed or if it was just my imagination.

Anyways, that is my story for today, and obviously the names were changed to protect the persons' identity. If anyone has any comments, please feel free to leave them at the bottom.