Saturday, September 24, 2016

Daily Hukamnama

Today's Hukamnama (Ang 633) from Sikhnet
Sorat'h, Ninth Mehl: In this world, I have not found any true friend. The whole world is attached to its own pleasures, and when trouble comes, no one is with you. ||1||Pause|| Wives, friends, children and relatives - all are attached to wealth. When they see a poor man, they all forsake his company and run away. ||1|| So what should I say to this crazy mind, which is affectionately attached to them? The Lord is the Master of the meek, the Destroyer of all fears, and I have forgotten to praise Him. ||2|| Like a dog's tail, which will never straighten out, the mind will not change, no matter how many things are tried. Says Nanak, please, Lord, uphold the honor of Your innate nature; I chant Your Name. ||3||9||

Friday, September 23, 2016

Too Young

I was told I'm "too young to be religious" from an elder in our community. My immediate response was to blurt out “well you never know when you’re going to die,” which, in retrospect, was true but should have been worded more carefully when talking to an old lady (oops). Really, I think that this is a mistake for our elders to be telling young people. Basically the idea is telling people to do whatever when they are younger (often used to justify things we shouldn’t be doing in Sikhism) because they can just take amrit when they are old and everything will be forgiven. How are you going to suddenly transform yourself from the way you are used to living and also pay off all those karms? Even at my age I’m already finding it hard to establish a new routine, refocus my life on faith. I can’t imagine spending another 10, 20, 30 years lost and wandering around in the world and then trying to do it. Other people have told me I’m more religious than most, and that’s good enough so why are you trying to do more? Because there is a lot of work to be done inside still and I see it now. I have wasted so much time already, I don’t know how long I have so why would I not want to spend each breath trying to fulfill my purpose? I know my goal is to meet God, and that will give me peace and happiness to be able to enjoy my life, so it doesn’t make sense that I would spend the next 40 years doing things that don’t help me reach that goal. The 5 dhoots/thieves (kaam, krodh, lob, moh, hankaar) have stolen enough, let us not let them steal any more of our life-breath. Remember also that the Chaar Sahibzaade were all very young when they were martyred. We cannot say one is too young to learn about sikhism. 

Surprisingly this video on forgiveness also talks about why its important for people to start practicing Sikhism younger:

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Reflection from a long day

Another really long day today. It felt like rowing a boat against the current and not going anywhere. I am using this time to reflect on the fact that each day, even days like today are a blessing. 

I started answering questions on Sikhnet quite a while back to give back to help other people who needed support. So I talked to someone yesterday who was struggling a lot and no one in his life knew the right things to say, or had any guidance on where to go. I realized  that the only reason I know what to say was really because I had gone through my own struggles. I have gone through ripping myself apart to rebuild with a stronger foundation, and now God was acting through me to help this amazing to be able to see my painful experiences as a blessing that I am now able to use to help other people. Basically I spent this last year and took all the skills that I had lacked: communication, assertiveness, decision-making, and conflict resolution, and worked on them month after month until I built up to being able to have long overdue (!!!) conversations. Now I am able to use these skills to not only make things easier for myself, but to relate to others on a level that I would never have been able to before. So my message for today is allow yourself to grow. Letting go of your ego that we already know everything or should know everything is necessary to allow us to learn more. It isn't easy to admit that we have poor skills in something, or we did wrong. But what good are our painful experiences if we don't use them to learn from each other? Growth is painful. Conversations are sometimes really painful. Being honest can be painful. But if we don't do the work we won't get the valuable reward of what comes after the pain. 

There are some days I'm so tired of trying. Tired of making the effort, tired of the pain, worn down from the journey. Tired from wandering alone. At times frustrated, meeting people absorbed in themselves, and yet unable to blame anyone because I too am lost in maya. It reminds me of many lines in gurbani. 

"Deluded by doubt, I wandered over the whole world. Searching, I became frustrated. My Husband Lord has not blessed me with peace and tranquility; what will work with Him? By Guru's Grace, I meditate on the Lord; I enshrine Him deep within my heart. O Nanak, seated in his her own home, she finds her Husband Lord, when the Creator Lord grants His Grace." (page 947-948)

"I have wandered in doubt and confusion, through birth and reincarnation; now, I am so tired. I am suffering in pain and wasting away. Says Kabeer, meeting with the Guru, I have obtained supreme joy; my love and devotion have saved me." (page 335). So maybe not everyone is willing to put in the work, but it's worth it!

my new quotes wall for inspiration to keep doing simran!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


"My boat is wobbly and unsteady- it is filled with sins. The wind is rising- what if it tips over?" page 878 Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji

Friday, September 16, 2016

Kirtan At Gurdwara

Don't forget to attend daily kirtan 6:30- 7:30 pm daily at the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara.

Make Sure You're Not "Too Religious"

The other day my friend was introducing me to one of her friends, an older woman. My friend explained that I spent the summer focused on spirituality and finding peace. She went on to describe me as, “she’s religious, but not too religious.”  She explained she thinks religious people think they are above everyone else, they are stuck in traditional lifestyles and old thinking. Therefore, as she put it, one should not be too religious.

This isn’t the first time I have heard this. When I came back from Toronto I was dying to share my experiences of visiting all the gurdwaras and attending simran with people. I learn a great deal from other people’s stories, and I know mine have the same power to change lives, spread knowledge and ideas. As people started to ask about my trip I was reluctant to share though. My journey was not just “spiritual” but deeply rooted in Sikhism. (This is where having a lack of Sikh friends becomes a factor!). I knew the desirable trait for someone to have is "spiritual" and not religious. A lot of my friends are atheist and those that identify with a religion still don’t believe that one should be “too religious.” To them, religion is strict. It’s the box they strive to be free of. So the comment my friend made wasn’t just limited to her. If I’m honest, a small part of me three months ago would have said I’m scared to be so religious, which is pretty much the same thing. Having spent this time meeting new sangat, talking with gurmukhs who had met God, and learning more about Sikhism, I realized that my fear of being so religious was because I didn’t know what it meant to be a true Sikh.

To me being religious was going to the gurdwara, being amritdhari, doing your prayers. On top of being a caring, honest, hardworking person. But basically your actions and your appearance defined how religious you were. I didn’t understand the whole mind aspect to it. To me, the people who wore their 5 Ks were the highly religious, despite the fact they might have been consumed in anger, greed, attachment, lust, pride and ego. I didn’t understand the rules of the game God has put us in. I had assumed that these things were indicators of who is religious, and therefore I can understand why one would be confused and say you do not want to be too religious. Spending time with people who we perceive as highly religious but are spreading the poison of gossip or anger would make one not want to be religious! Sikhi is really about making an effort to cleanse the mind. The gurmukhs I had the pleasure of meeting this summer had put the inward and outward appearances together- they had met God. So the comments my friend made about really religious Sikhs thinking they are above others was not accurate. Those that were truly religious had to let go of ego to meet God, and saw everyone equally. 

This is why learning is really important. We aren’t in this world to be judging other people’s lives (after all I’m full of sins how can I judge you?) but we can lead by example and we can help remind others about the rules of the game. If we don't know we are players we cannot win. I remind myself that even if I'm sitting in the main hall at the gurdwara but my mind is wandering to other people's clothing or how attractive I find someone, I am not really achieving my purpose of being in the gurdwara. My body may be sitting there but my mind isn't. A large proportion of people are lost in spiritual darkness, but even this is part of God's game: “This world has been deluded by doubt. You Yourself, Lord, have led it astray” (p. 72 Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji). Gurbani also tells us it can be overcome: “The spiritual teachers know nothing but the Truth; they obtain true understanding. They are led astray by Him, but they do not go astray, because they know the True Lord. Within the homes of their bodies, the five passions are pervading, but here, the five are well-behaved. O Nanak, without the True Guru, they are not overcome; through the Naam, the ego is conquered.” (p. 425). The Gurus showed people how to conquer the mind. They got people out of the falsehood of superstitions, rituals, caste differences, etc. that people are still lost in nowadays, and showed them Truth (God). We can learn from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and examples in our history, and share our knowledge with others. In my own family instead of saying "no you're wrong," instead I have started saying "let's read this book together" or "let's listen to this katha." We learn and teach each other. Having learned what it really means to be religious, I can say that it’s a beautiful thing to be more religious and there’s no such thing as too religious. I strive for the level of commitment and dedication those gurmukhs have, and the amount of love they have for God and His creation. 

Internal Struggles

Monday, September 12, 2016

Forgiveness, Compassion, & Sarbat Da Bhalla

I grew up with a strong sense of compassion and empathy, and the belief that people are good inside because they are souls/children of God. Sometimes their minds have accumulated durmat mehal and it is hard to see their true color. Interestingly sometimes I find that people have a hard time understanding (or believing) compassionate acts. When you are angry and gossiping they get on board to fuel the negative energy. When you are instead loving and forgiving of others’ mistakes they are shocked and confused at how that is possible. In fact this comment on Sikhnet answers says it all “OMG! forgiving others for little things or for bigger issues that they have conspired against due to animosity is unheard of in this age of Kaliyug” (1). I’ve often heard variations of “you’ll see one day, and understand that people are bad inside.” I’ve heard this so many times now that I’ve started to have a little doubt in my mind… am I na├»ve to live my life seeing the good and treating others with compassion, empathy and forgiveness? I knew the answers lied in our Sikh history so I did a little research to convince myself.

Bhai Kanhaiya Ji is a well-known role model of true compassion from our Sikh history. He served water to the wounded soldiers at Anandpur regardless of whether they were fighting on the enemy side (2). When questioned by Guru Gobind Singh Ji, he replied “‘I saw no Mughals or Sikhs in the battlefield. I only saw the Guru's face in everyone.’ The Guru, pleased with the reply, blessed him and told his Sikhs that Kanhaiya had understood his teaching correctly. Guru also give him medicine to be put on the wounds of fallen soldiers (Sikhs and Enemies).” (2) The Sikhs always fought in defense (3). The wounded soldiers from the enemy side were brought home and “would be cared for, given shelter and food and warmth and nursed back to health. Guru Ji would personally then hand them back their weapons and say ‘Go my son, we shall see you again on the battle field’” (3). Guru Gobind Singh Ji did not seek revenge against those who were against him by killing Aurangzeb or Wazir Khan or even Ganga who lead his children to their death (4). When a beloved sikh of the Guru, Bhai Mann Singh was killed, the murderer was sent to Guru Ji for punishment (4). Guru Ji pardoned him and set him free (4), just as Guru Teg Bahadur forgave Dhir Mal for hiring men to shoot him (4). These are just a few of the countless examples of forgiveness that were demonstrated by Sikhs in our history. May they serve as our role models and teachers for who we strive to be, and what Sikhism means. Guru Amar Das Ji reminds us “‘It is not proper for saints to take revenge. There is no greater penance than patience, no greater happiness than contentment, no greater evil than greed, no greater virtue than mercy and no more potent weapon than forgiveness. Whatever man sows, he shall reap. If he sows trouble, this shall be his harvest. If a man sows poison, he cannot expect ambrosia’” (4). Dalip Singh and Amarpreet Singh Munde from the Sikh Research and Education Center write “Sikh Teachings are for reformation of the sinners not by force or coercion, but by imparting proper education on the basis of Equality of all persons, love and freedom. God's Name is Immaculate and All Wisdom. If the sinners are brought near to God by love and persuasion, their minds are cleansed from the filth, they will begin to lead a moral life on their own “(4).

When we are able to forgive another, it is beneficial to ourselves. It releases the energy of anger, hatred, and negativity that eats away at our own lives. Having the understanding that we all make mistakes helps in forgiving others. Guruka Singh says, ““When you hold onto what someone did or said to you, or even whether it’s real or imagined, you create an interlock with that person’s psyche. You bind that person to you. When you break the lock and release it, then if you created the reaction to someone (if you did something bad) then you have an opportunity to make that right. If someone did it to you they have the opportunity to make it right, its not your job to hold them to it, it’s their karm not your karm. You have to deal with your own actions and you have to deal with your own words. And people who have interacted with you have to deal with their own actions and their own words. If they lied, if they connived, if they hurt, that’s their karm” (5). 

Ultimately, it is God that we have to answer to and it says many times in gurbani that Waheguru forgives us: “He gives and forgives all beings” (p. 106 Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji), “He forgives countless sins in an instant” (p. 260). If we are honest with God, realize and admit our mistakes, we will be forgiven (6). Often times however we don’t make it that far. We don’t want to admit we did wrong, so we deny it, and we don’t take responsibility for what we did. Sometimes instead of asking what we can do to help someone get better, we stay silent out of fear of admitting to ourselves we hurt someone, especially if it was someone we care about. Instead of reconciliation we break relationships we care about. Sister Shivani says on her show Being Bliss, that someone who has hurt another person can do three things: apologize, realize what they did (and commit to not doing it again), and send an energy of love and compassion to the other person (7). This last point was extremely important. She gave the example of someone not accepting your apology/refusing to talk to you (7). In response, you feel hurt and angry at them for not accepting your genuine apology so instead of sending them love, you are sending them anger (7). I have to admit I’ve done this. I can remember a time my heart-felt apology was not accepted and I got annoyed the other person couldn't let it go. I failed to realize they were in pain (their words said they were fine but it turns out they weren’t), and when I realized that, I changed my energy from annoyance/anger to understanding, love, and compassion because they are just healing. Just doing this from a distance in your own thoughts makes a difference. 

In the end I got the answers I was looking for. Sikhism teaches us to treat others with compassion, empathy and forgiveness. At the end of our ardas everyday when we say “Nanak Naam Chardi Kala, Tere Bhaanay Sarbat Da Bhala” we are praying for Guru Ji to “bless the whole humanity with happiness, peace, and love for all" (8).

 “The true mark of maturity is when somebody hurts you and you try to understand their situation instead of trying to hurt them back”–Unknown.