Friday, November 27, 2015

Musical Jaap Sahib

Similarly to my last post, musical Jaap Sahib paath video. It's great to see a group of young people doing their prayers together. Here is the link to part 1. (Unfortunately there's ads between part 1 and 2 sometimes!). I remember the first time I read the english translation of Jaap Sahib I cried because it was so beautiful.

Translations of Nitnem:

Musical Chaupai Sahib with English Translation

I love listening to this video of Chaupai Sahib because you can read the translations along with the kirtan

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Naam Japo

In my last post about Guru Nanak Dev Ji, talked about Naam Japo (remember God), Vand Shako (share what you earn), and Kirat Karo (earn an honest living). Let’s examine the first, Naam Japo. It seems quite simple to remember God, but not many Sikh youth nowadays take out the time to do their prayers, and keeping your mind focused is another task entirely. This is demonstrated by the following Sakhi from

“When Guru Nanak returned home Guru ji gave away most of his possessions to needy people spent a good deal of his time in meditation and satsang. On one occasion he was asked: ‘Are you a Hindu or a Muslim?’ Guru Nanak replied, ‘With respect to my body, neither. I am no different from Hindus or from Muslims, but the divine light which is unceasingly shining within me (and in everybody) is neither Hindu nor Muslim.’

One time on a Friday, the holy day of the Muslims, the Nawab and other Muslim courtiers were going to the mosque to do their routine prayers (namaz). A Muslim cleric said that if Nanak believed in only one God, Allah, then he should join them in prayer in the mosque. So Guru Nanak went to the mosque with them and stood in the line of Muslim worshippers.

‘Deora Masit soi, Pooja namaz ohi’ --> Temple and Mosque are the same, Hindu way of prayer and the muslim method of prayer are the same

During the prayer the worshippers bent down and put their heads on the ground to show their servitude to Allah, but Guru Nanak stood in silence without taking part in the namaz. After the prayers the Muslim cleric questioned Nanak: ‘We showed our respect to God. Why did you not partake in this with us?’

Baba Nanak replied, ’I did take part in the prayer but both of you did not.’ Then he explained ‘Your mouth indeed was murmuring the prayers, but your mind was intent on your mare which today has given birth to a colt. Your mind was filled with fear lest the newborn colt might fall in the well. Now, you tell me, how can this kind of prayer be accepted by God?’ The cleric felt embarrassed and was mortified.

The Nawab, who was listening to the conversation, asked Nanak, ‘Tell me, will my prayer be accepted in the heavens?’ Baba Nanak replied, ‘Your mind also was not in the prayer. You were anticipating the arrival of the horses that you have ordered from Kandahar. Your mind was distracted by concerns about buying and selling horses.’ The Nawab responded with exasperation, declaring: ‘Nanak is a mystic, he is a prophet. But, this is my misfortune -- he was my minister but now he has become a fakir!’ Guru Nanak Dev then advised them that true worship is a matter of the heart and not of formal ritualism. According to Guru Nanak ‘There can be no worship without performing good deed.’ Both admitted the truth of Guru's statements and the Nawab cried aloud to the Qazi,’Thou seest not Khuda (God) speaking to us through Nanak?’ The Muslims perform five Namaz at five different times a day. The Guru addressed the meaning and virtue of Namaz: ‘Five prayers thou sayest five times a day, With five different names; But if Truth be thy first prayer, The second to honestly earn your daily living, The third to give in God's name, Purity of mind by thy fourth prayer, And praise and prayer to God thy fifth; If thou practiseth these five virtues, And good deeds be thine Kalma- the article of faith, Then thy can call thyself a true Muslim. By mere hypocrisy, O Nanak, A man is deemed false through and through.’ (Majh ki Var Mohalla 1, p-141)”

In Summary, I think many of us admit that even if we do attend the gurdwara, and do our prayers that our minds are elsewhere. When something good happens in our lives very few of us have the first thought as “Thank you Waheguru!” instead it would be to tell our friends, tell our family, then MAYBE we would think about what God has done for us. Let us refocus and remember God and what gifts he has given us. Even if that means consciously starting with taking out time to appreciate what we have before we go to bed. Then focusing on our prayers. Letting our minds truly concentrate. Thinking about God at our meals. Thinking about God when good and bad happens in our lives. And finally, transitioning to remembering Him at all times. I think that this is a much greater task than most people appreciate.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Guru Nanak Dev Ji's Birthday/ Happy Gurpurb

Happy Gurpurb! Today we celebrate the birthday of Guru Nanak Dev Ji!
Guru Nanak Dev Ji is the founder of Sikhism and was born to Hindu parents Mehta Kalu and Mata Tripta in 1469 in Talwandi (now Nankana Sahib in Pakistan). Although he was born April 15, the birth date is celebrated on the full moon in November. He had an older sister named Bibi Nanaki. His unique path became apparent at a young age when he learned at an unprecedented rate and impressed his teachers. I thought I would write a little bit about the life of Guru Ji.

One morning in 1499, Guru Nanak Dev Ji bathed in the river and disappeared for three days. No one could find him, and people feared he had died. He resurfaced three days later, having spent those days with God Himself. His first words after he emerged were “There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim”, meaning that everyone is the same according to God. Guru Ji was respected by all religions and travelled extensively spreading messages of honesty, equality between men and women, and speaking out against the caste system. It is thought he travelled over 28,000 km including to present-day Afghanistan, Turkey, Burma, Tibet, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Persia, and Arabia. Bhai Mardana, a muslim, accompanied him on his travels and played the rabab while Guru Nanak sang the hymns.

Rabab (a musical instrument)

Guru Nanak introduced the concepts of Naam Japo (remember God), Vand Shako (share what you earn), Kirat Karo (earn an honest living) everywhere he went. He made sure to communicate in simple language so everyone could understand, not just those who had a formal education. He was married to Mata Sulakhani and had two children, Sri Chand and Lakhmi Daas. He emphasized that you can still live a spiritual life at the same time as a family life. The following are some stories from his travels.  

In the town of Saidpur on his travels Guru Ji stayed with Bhai Laalo, a low-caste man, rather than with the weathly Malik Bhago. Malik Bhago questioned Guru Ji on his choice and Guru Ji showed, by holding Lalo’s food in one hand and Bhago’s food in the other by squeezing them that blood poured from the food of Malik Bhago and milk from Lalo’s. This was to demonstrate that Malik Bhago did not earn his food honestly and rather exploited others, but Lalo worked hard.

One famous story about Guru Nanak is when he was in Hasan Abdal. The villagers would come to visit Guru Ji instead of the Muslim Pir Baba Wali Kandhaari. He had a tank of water from which the villagers drank and without it, they had no water. He stopped providing it because he was angered they had been visintg the Guru Ji instead of him. After several requests, he still refused. Guru Ji asked a villager to lift a small stone and under it water rushed out and a new spring was created. Baba Wali’s reservoir dried up and he rolled a rock towards the guru to kill him, which the Guru Ji stopped with his palm. The rock stopped and that rock still exists at Grudwara Panja Sahib. Baba Wali became a follower of the Guru Ji,

Guru Nanak Dev Ji emphasized that we should not be stuck in rituals but rather be true to their religion. For example, he observed people throwing the water from the Ganges towards the sun to reach their ancestors and he started throwing it in the opposite direction, claiming that if their water reached the ancestors then his should reach his fields in Punjab.

Guru Ji started the tradition of Langar, a free community kitchen where everyone was welcome to sit and eat next to each other as equals. This was extremely important given the emphasis on caste status at the time. This continues on in Gurdwaras (sikh temples) everywhere today. After his travels he built the village Kartarpur.

When Guru Ji passed on from this world in 1539 it is said there was arguments between the Hindus and Muslims about whether the body should be cremated or buried but under the sheet, instead of a body there were only flowers, half of which were burned and half buried. He was succeeded by Guru Angad Dev Ji.

Book: Illustrated Life Stories of Guru Sahibs’

Friday, November 13, 2015

Live Well with Diabetes Event

Last day to register for tomorrow's diabetes event! Its a free event put on by the Canadian Diabetes Association at Esther's Inn from 10 am- 2 pm

Speakers include Dr. Leong, specializes in cardiology and diabetes and Shalina Edge, footcare specialist.

There will also be other displays to provide you with diabetes education

To register please contact Boyanne Young at 250-561-9284 or!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Losing our Language

I am extremely grateful for my mother who not only taught me Punjabi, but also invited other kids to our house so they could learn too. She taught me how to read and write so that I would be able to read paath (prayers) in the original form. She continues to speak to me in Punjabi so I would not forget. It would be easy enough for her to convert all of our family conversations to English but she doesn't do that. I am grateful for the mother who made sure I understood the value of our language.

I am saddened that my generation of Sikhs are losing their language. I have friends who have lost their Punjabi entirely by not using it, never learned it in the first place, or only have a basic working knowledge. Even less have bothered to learn Gurmukhi. By losing this knowledge we are losing a part of our identity. I understand that much of our everyday usage in Canada will be in English when we go out into the community, but at the same time we are losing our ability to communicate with members of our Sikh community. We are losing our ability to speak to our elders and to hear, first-hand, about our history. More importantly, we lose our ability to read and understand the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, and therefore the wealth of knowledge that guides us on how to live our lives.

If someone else had come along and tried to force us to lose our language, then we would fight for our right to keep our language. We would stand up and say- that’s wrong. We deserve the right to be able to express ourselves in our language. We deserve the right not to lose our culture. But Canada is a multicultural country and we are so lucky that no one is forcing us. We are lucky that our cultures are respected and embraced. We have let ourselves lose. We have willingly give up our language by not teaching our children, by not learning it ourselves, by not taking an interest. There are so many opportunities today that didn't exist before. Punjabi courses, books, online resources that did not exist before at all. Yet when I was teaching Punjabi classes to children at the Gurdwara it seemed that no one took an interest. Their parents didn’t care to help them practice in the weekdays and the kids didn’t have the initiative to do it themselves. It simply wasn’t a priority. They would be stuck on the same letters of the alphabet every week. They would read off their shabads in English. I have a lot of friends learning second languages out of interest, and yet it seems we can't even make the effort to learn our own mother tongue. It's up to us to show these kids that it's important and lead by example.

Even my own knowledge of Punjabi is limited to basic literature and is not extensive enough to read the books that my parents read. The ones that have the depths of knowledge about our history. I am actively working to make sure that I am able to keep up with my knowledge so that I don’t lose it, and to expand my vocabulary. I want to be able to discuss my medical issues with my patients. I want to be able to pass on my language to my children. I want them to be able to read the original Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and not just the translations. Let us all make an effort to teach ourselves, to teach our children, to make sure that we don't lose our language.