Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year 2017!

Happy New Year!!!

I wish everyone lasting love, peace and contentment for this new year. Let us spend this year focused on the purpose of our life in the marriage (union) of the soul-bride with God. Let us overcome the 5 thieves (kaam, krodh, lob, moh, hankaar) by using the 5 weapons (compassion, truth, inner contentment, humility and love) to win this game of life. If we do simran and focus on our voice, we will start to hear the Divine Word (Naam). If we listen to Naam we will get Jot of the Mind, and with God's grace we will unite with Him. May we turn to Guru Ji for guidance on this path to God and answers to our questions. 

Here’s a shabad about the union of the soul-bride with God. 
 “I am not stained by only one sin, that could be washed clean by virtue. 
My Husband Lord is awake, while I sleep through the entire night of my life. 
In this way, how can I become dear to my Husband Lord?
My Husband Lord remains awake, while I sleep through the entire night of my life. 
With hope and desire, I approach his Bed,
But I do not know whether He will be pleased with me or not.
How do I know what will happen to me, O my mother?
Without the Blessed Vision of the Lord’s Darshan I cannot survive.
I have not tasted His Love, and my thirst is not quenched.
My beautiful youth has run away, and now I, the soul-bride, repent and regret. 
Even now, I am held by hope and desire.
I am depressed; I have no hope at all.
She overcomes her egotism, and adorns herself; 
The Husband Lord now ravishes and enjoys the soul-bride on His Bed.
Then, O Nanak, the bride becomes pleasing to the Mind of her Husband Lord;
She sheds her self-conceit, and is absorbed in her Lord and Master.” (p. 356-357 Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji)

Don't forget the program starts at 5 pm at the Gurdwara tonight. 

P.S. There is a live program happening from the UK (starting 2:30 pm Prince George time today) if you Facebook "Sikh Channel" and scroll down :) 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Mata Gujri Ji

Mata Gujri Ji was born in 1624 to parents Bhai parents Bhai Lal Chand Subulikka and Bishan Kaur. She was the wife of Guru Teg Bahadur Ji. She moved first to Amritsar, then Kartarpur and then Bakala. She spent this time doing sewa, meditating on God and performing household duties. When Teg Bahadur became Guru, they travelled to Amritsar to establish Chak Nanaki (present day Anadpur Sahib) with Mata Nanaki, and then travelled to Patna. Since Mata Ji was pregnant, she and Mata Nanaki stayed at Patna while Guru Ji continued his travels to spread the word of God. Mata Ji gave birth to Gobind Rai in 1666 while Guru Ji was away on his travels. Guru Ji returned in 1670, and left for Delhi, requesting Mata Gujri Ji, Mata Nanaki and Gobind Rai to meet him in Lakhanur. Together they continued on to present-day Anandpur.

In 1675, Guru Ji left for Delhi (see post on Shaheedi of Guru Teg Bahadur Ji). Knowing he would be marytyred, Mata Ji stood strong. As a widow, she raised the young Guru Gobind Singh Ji to be a courageous leader, while she managed the affairs of Anandpur with her brother. As Guru Ji grew up, she also inspired the army during the battles. She helped to raise her four grandchildren, the Chaar Sahibzade. In December 1705 Mata Ji and Zorawar Singh and Fateh Singh were separated from their family, then betrayed by Gangu and confined at Thanda Burj. Mata Ji played an immense role in providing support to the Sahibzade at such a difficult time. She too joined the Eternal Light when the Sahibzade were marytyred.

There are not enough words to describe the role that Mata Ji has played in our history. She is a source of inspiration and a role model to all of us. In even the most devastating of situations she was a pillar of support and she stood strong, brave, courageous.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Gifts from Family

It’s been a interesting year so I guess it didn’t really surprise me this week that I ended up getting pneumonia on my birthday! But you know I’m just filled with so much love for Waheguru, and it’s only deepening as I spend this time sitting in bed doing Simran, reading prayers, listening to kirtan, etc. Being sick also means I have time to write so I’ll write about something that happened last week.

A few of my colleagues were discussing their adult kids. One woman wondered how to force her son to go to church given the fact that he refuses, and the response from other people was they couldn’t get their own kids to go to church, mosque, etc. The words force and control were key in the conversation and kept being mentioned over and over. This got me thinking about how I was raised and why I go to the Gurdwara so I’m going to share a little reflection on what my parents have taught me.

My parents are not Amritdhari but the values and principles they live by are rooted in Sikhi. They are big believers in leading by example so while they talked about earning an honest living (kirat karni), hard work, and discipline, they also did it. Like other immigrant parents, they have their own story about how they built their life up from scratch. This story is not mine to tell here but has inspired me in how I live my life. My parents always emphasized sharing what you have (vand shakna), but it wasn’t just limited to giving money or items to charity. It was also about sharing your time in doing sewa, and sharing your knowledge and skillset. I grew up in a house where family, friends, and strangers have come over or called at all hours asking for advice or help and I’ve never seen my parents turn someone away. In the book I’m reading “Forgetting the way of Love” by Bhai Sewa Singh Tarmala it says “the purpose of our life is not limited to our family. Guru Gobind Singh Ji taught us that all humanity is our family. The Guru Ji gave us Gurbani so that we can learn how to live with humanity as one family.” This is certainly what my parents have lived by. They’ve often said that helping other people’s children is the same as helping their own. My mom also spent a lot of time teaching us about Sikh history by reading stories, teaching how to read Gurbani, and taking us to kirtan lessons. I remember the soothing sound of her voice reading Kirtan Sohila every night when we went to bed. I think this really made a big difference in inspiring me to learn more about Sihi as I grew up.

Lastly, my parents have always been huge advocates for the empowerment of girls/women. The Kaurs in our history have been a powerful force for change and I think we need to embrace that warrior spirit within ourselves. My parents raised me to be my own person, with my own goals and to think for myself, rather than being dependent on others for my survival. This mindset has definitely shaped who I am and how I’m going to raise my own children. From watching their interactions, I have learned what it means to be an equal partner and the hard work, compromise and sacrifice in working together towards a common goal.

Now having reflected on the way I was raised, I ask myself why I go to the Gurdwara. I go to visit Guru Ji, I go to learn, I go to sit in Sangat- I go because I love it! I go because Sikhism is my first priority in life. I go because I feel the difference it makes in my life. So I’d say it’s not about control and it’s not about force. If we force someone, they will send out an energy of anger and hatred, and they will only do something for so long. If we serve as role models and sources of inspiration (as my parents have been for me), that’s how real change comes about. Then people decide to change for themselves and it’s long-lasting because they themselves experience the benefit of their choice.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Kirtan Art!

My favourite hobby is definitely kirtan. Since I'm sick and can't really sing, I thought it would be fun to make a clay sculpture of doing kirtan! I'm probably going to have to wait quite a while for it to dry before I can paint it but I'll post when it's actually done. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Shaheedi of the Chaar Sahibzade

Someone asked me to make a video showing how to play the poem Vatan Lamian Te Rasta Pahar Da by Bhai Harjinder Singh Ji (about the two younger Sahibzaade) on the harmonium. Unfortunately I haven't got much of a voice because I'm sick but I still posted it so people have enough time to learn it. I will eventually re-post a new video with tabla.
Here is the video:

Here are the words:
ਵਾਟਾਂ ਲੰਮੀਆ ਤੇ ਰਸਤਾ ਪਹਾੜ ਦਾ 
ਤੁਰੇ ਜਾਂਦੇ ਗੁਰਾਂ ਦੇ ਲਾਲ ਜੀ। 
ਸਰਸਾ ਨਦੀ ਤੇ ਿਵਛੋੜਾ ਪੈ ਿਗਆ 
ਉਸ ਵੇਲੇ ਦਾ ਸੁਣ ਲਉ ਹਾਲ ਜੀ
ਰਾਤ ਹਨੇਰੀ ਬਿਜਲੀ ਲਿਸ਼ਕੇ 
ਰਾਹ ਜੰਗਲਾ ਦੇ ਪੈ ਗਏ ਨੇ 
ਰੇਸ਼ਮ ਨਾਲ਼ੋਂ ਸੋਹਲ ਸਰੀਰ ਨੂੰ 
ਦੱੁਖੜੇ ਸਹਿਣੇ ਪੈ ਗਏ ਨੇ 
ਛੋਟੀ ਉਮਰ ਦੇ ਦੋਨੋ ਲਾਲ ਜੀ। 
ਮਾਤਾ ਗੁਜਰੀ ਉਹਨਾ ਦੇ ਨਾਲ ਜੀ। 
ਸਰਸਾ ਨਦੀ ਤੇ ਿਵਛੋੜਾ ਪੈ ਿਗਆ
ਉਸ ਵੇਲੇ ਦਾ ਸੁਣ ਲਉ ਹਾਲ ਜੀ। 
ਵਾਟਾਂ ਲੰਮੀਆ ਤੇ ਰਸਤਾ ਪਹਾੜ ਦਾ 
ਤੁਰੇ ਜਾਂਦੇ ਗੁਰਾਂ ਦੇ ਲਾਲ ਜੀ। 
ਕਹਿਰ ਦੀ ਸਰਦੀ ਹੱਡੀਆ ਚੀਰੇ
ਬਾਲ ਨਿਆਣੇ ਕੰਬਦੇ ਨੇ 
ਉਗਲੀ ਫੜ ਕੇ ਮਾਂ ਗੁਜਰੀ ਦੀ 
ਰਾਹ ਪੱਥਰਾਂ ਦੇ ਲੰਘਦੇ  ਨੇ
ਕਦੋ ਅਜੀਤ ਤੇ ਜੁਝਾਰ ਵੀਰੇ ਆਉਣਗੇ
ਮਾਤਾ ਗੁਜ਼ਰੀ  ਨੂੰ ਪੁੱਛਦੇ ਸਵਾਲ ਜੀ। 
ਸਰਸਾ ਨਦੀ ਤੇ ਿਵਛੋੜਾ ਪੈ ਿਗਆ
ਉਸ ਵੇਲੇ ਦਾ ਸੁਣ ਲਉ ਹਾਲ ਜੀ। 
ਵਾਟਾਂ ਲੰਮੀਆ ਤੇ ਰਸਤਾ ਪਹਾੜ ਦਾ 
ਤੁਰੇ ਜਾਂਦੇ ਗੁਰਾਂ ਦੇ ਲਾਲ ਜੀ। 
ਉਮਰ ਨਿਆਣੀ ਦੋ ਬੱਚਿਆਂ ਦੀ 
ਇੱਕ ਮਾਂ ਬੁੱਢੜੀ ਸਾਥ ਕਰੇ 
ਬੇਦੋਸ਼ੇ ਇਹਨਾਂ ਨਿਰਦੋਸ਼ਾਂ ਦਾ
ਕੌਣ ਹੈ ਜੋ ਇਨਸਾਫ ਕਰੇ
ਐਸੀ ਹੋਣੀ ਨੇ ਖੇਡੀ ਚਾਲ ਜੀ। 
ਸਰਸਾ ਨਦੀ ਤੇ ਿਵਛੋੜਾ ਪੈ ਿਗਆ
ਉਸ ਵੇਲੇ ਦਾ ਸੁਣ ਲਉ ਹਾਲ ਜੀ। 
ਵਾਟਾਂ ਲੰਮੀਆ ਤੇ ਰਸਤਾ ਪਹਾੜ ਦਾ 
ਤੁਰੇ ਜਾਂਦੇ ਗੁਰਾਂ ਦੇ ਲਾਲ ਜੀ। 

I also wanted to re-share this post from last year about the Shaheedi of the four Sahibzade. 

Here is the history of the 4 sons of our 10th Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji: Sahibzada Ajit Singh, Jujhar Singh, Zorawar Singh, and Fateh Singh. It is this time of year we remember the shaheedi of these young Sikhs.

Guru Gobind Singh Ji and his fellow Sikhs had been battling the Mughal Army for months at Anandpur Sahib. Emperor Aurungzeb sent a message that if they left the fort, they would be allowed to be free. On the night of December 5, 1705 Guru Gobind Singh Ji and his fellow Sikhs left Andandpur Sahib when it was raining heavily, and crossed the Sarsa river with the Mughal army pursuing them. Sahibzaade Ajit Singh (18) and Jujhar Singh (14) made it to the Fort of Chamkaur by December 6 with Guru Gobind Singh Ji and a group of 40 Sikhs.  They suffered many casualties trying to cross the Sarsa. On December 7, 1705 the enemy had surrounded Fort Chamkaur and the Sikhs had exhausted their ammunition and arrows. They were “a mere forty defying a hundred thousand,” in the words of Guru Ji. There were over 100,000 Moghul soldiers on foot and 700 mounted, pursuing the small group of 40 Sikhs. The Sikhs were left to fight with swords and spears only. Guru Ji sent out his sons to battle. Sahibzada Ajit Singh and Jujhar Singh were martyred while leading other Sikhs into battle. Guru Ji writes in the Zafarnama (to Emperor Aurangzeb), “It matters little if a jackal through cunning and treachery succeeds in killing two lion’s cubs, for the lion himself lives to inflict retribution on you.”

On the night of December 5th Mata Gujri and the younger Sahibzaade Zorawar (age 9) Singh and Fateh Singh (age 7), and the cook Gangu were separated and as a result stayed in Gangu’s home. Gangu was greedy and stole Mata Ji’s bag of coins. Then he provided the location of the Sahibzaade to the officials- Jani Khan and Mani Khan, who arrested the Sahibzade and Mata Gujri on December 8th and confined them in Thanda Burj (Cold tower) at Sirhind. Because it was winter, the tower was freezing at night and they were allowed nothing to eat or drink. The governor of Murinda went to get the Sahibzaade to meet Nawab Wazir Khan and separated them from Mata Ji, telling them that their father and brothers had been killed. The sahibzaade did not believe him. Nawab Wazir Khan tried to get them to convert to Islam by bribing them with many gifts and riches but the Sahibzaade stayed strong, even when they faced death. They did not give up their Sikhi. They stayed another night at the Thanda Burj due to Nawab Sher Muhammad Khan’s insistence that they should not be killed. The next day Nawab Wazir Khan ordered them to be bricked alive and when he hesitated due to Nawab Sher Muhammad Khan’s pleas, Diwan Suchchanand insisted that the children would grow up to be as their father was and they should not be spared. The brick wall was made as the Sahibzade recited Japji Sahib, but when the bricks reached their chests, the wall crumbled. Nawab Wazir Khan ordered them to be beheaded. Mata Gujri Ji passed away as well. Gurdwara Fategarh and Gurdwara Joti Sarup is now standing where Mata Ji and the small Sahibzaade were cremated. 

photo from: 

When Guru Ji learned of the death of his younger sons as well he told the Sikhs “I have sacrificed four sons for the survival of the thousands of my sons who are still alive.” He wrote the shabad, Mitry Pyare Nu Haal Murida Da Kahna:
"Tell the beloved friend (the Lord) the plight of his disciples. 
Without You, rich blankets are a disease and the comfort of the house is like living with snakes. 
Our water pitchers are like stakes of torture and our cups have edges like daggers. 
Your neglect is like the suffering of animals at the hands of butchers. 
Our Beloved Lord's straw bed is more pleasing to us than living in costly furnace-like mansions."
Every December we remember the sacrificies of the Chaar Sahibzaade, Mata Ji, and the many Sikhs who fought against injustice. May we always remember the lives given so we could have the right to practice our religion today, and the bravery that these young Sahibzaade had in choosing the path that was right instead of what was easy.

A History of the Sikhs Volume I 1469-1839, 2nd Edition by Khushwant Singh

Friday, December 16, 2016

Celebrating the Journey

It’s almost the end of December so I’m going to reflect on some of what I’ve learned over this year.

I shared a lot on the blog about emotions and stress management this year. I think as a society, we can do a better job of accepting emotions as a normal occurrence instead of as a weakness. A particularly supportive moment for me was when a male colleague said, “Society makes such a big deal out of emotions. You have permission to cry. Crying is ok, I mean haven’t you seen other people cry?” It took away the feeling of being afraid of looking like I can’t handle it- like I’m weak or fragile, and just normalized my experience so I didn’t have to hide it or be ashamed of it. I think it was particular influential that this came from someone who, as a male, was raised to believe that emotions are weakness, and yet has chosen not to perpetuate that belief. I have tried to share most of the emotional coping skills and stress management skills I’ve learned because these are universally important for everyone. We all experience events in our lives that will emotionally challenge and drain us, and the more resilient we are, the easier it is to move through the emotions without letting them harm us. One of the skills I want to highlight is sharing your story, despite the fact that it takes a lot of trust when we are vulnerable. I think the depth of human connection that results when one person shares part of their life, and the other learns how to respond to that suffering with empathy and compassion is unparalleled. Yes, it’s a risk and if it doesn’t go well, the pain itself is also unparalleled, but that’s the point of vulnerability.  

Stress really comes down to perceiving that you are not able to meet the demands placed upon you. I often have wondered where the line is- how much stress can a person handle and what determines that? On one hand we have evidence that people can handle whatever is thrown at them and not give up no matter what- we see this in our Sikh history over and over. On the other hand, I’ve heard people say all the time “there’s only so much a person can handle. Everyone has a limit.” I’ve experienced reaching my limit and needing to take a break from a situation to regroup, but I’ve also experienced being able to plough through a situation and overcome it, and I wonder what the difference is sometimes. I am still working on an answer for myself, but as of writing this post I think it comes down to skills. Maybe there isn’t a true limit to what a person can handle, the limit depends on what kind of skills you learned. In skills I’m actually including spirituality. We are all capable of getting to a spiritual state where pain and pleasure are irrelevant, where our minds are at peace despite the external situation. I think most of us are just at varying degrees of reaching that so while we are bombarded with external situations we aren’t at that spiritual state to be able to allow us to get through it. That’s where the emotional coping skills come in and allow us to get through it. 

Over this year I realized I took things that I’ve known in theory for a long time and I put them into practice for the first time. For example, I knew that Sikhism is important to me, and my health should me more important than my schooling, but I was never able to actually put those priorities in the right order in my life despite what I wanted. I think the thing that changed this the most was sitting in sangat with Gurmukhs who had met God and actually learning that the purpose in our life is to meet God and how that is achieved. It started to make a lot more sense to me than it did when I was younger. This really just awakened me to make some changes in my life like going to the Gurdwara more often, doing simran as much as possible, etc. Through this my understanding has grown and my priorities have shifted. I realized that my education is not about accomplishments and achievements but about sewa, that people’s life and death is not in my hands but God’s. I learned to let go of my attachments and dreams and hand them to God. I learned that you aren’t responsible for other people’s happiness (This was news to me, because I’ve spent my whole life thinking it was my job to please other people and be responsible for keeping them happy. Talk about stress!) You could sacrifice everything and still someone’s happiness could be unchanged, because it’s not up to you. Realizing that everyone is taken care of by God, and that everyone has the ability to have their own relationship with God to create that happiness and contentment for themselves has helped me to understand that more. All these experiences and changes in my thinking have been integral to learning how to move towards a more peaceful and balanced life.

I used to have these rigid goals and ideas for myself and my future, and I realized quite some time ago that those aren’t going to work for me. I thought maybe if I let them go I would be doing something wrong because people say you shouldn’t compromise your goals for anything. Well I changed my goals because I changed what I value. I changed what I value because I continued to grow and learn. I encourage you to continue to grow and learn as well because it’s never too late. If you’d like, feel free to comment on what you’ve learned this year.

P.S. Now that it’s finally the holidays I’m hoping my sore throat goes away now so I can upload some kirtan videos!