Sunday, December 10, 2017

History of Pingalwara

Yesterday I watched the inspiring movie “Eh Janam Tumhare Lekhe” (I dedicate this life to You) on Netflix based on the life of Bhagat Puran Singh, who founded Pingalwara meaning “home of the crippled” in Amritsar. Pingalwara is a home to individuals with physical ailments, mental health disorders, and disabilities, as well as orphans, individuals who were abandoned, impoverished, or abused. 

Puran Singh was born into a Hindu family in 1904, originally with the name “Ramji Das”. His mother was poor but worked hard cleaning dishes to be able to send him to school at a hostel. After failing his grade 10 exams, he started doing sewa at Gurdwara Dehra Sahib. After his mother died, he continued to do sewa by cleaning the floor, managing cattle, making parshade, and serving langar. He washed the clothes of the homeless and took sick individuals to the hospital. He describes that he became a Sikh because when he stayed at a Mandar, he was told to do all the cleaning, and afterwards instead of offering him food, the Brahmins ate their food in front of him. In contrast, when he went to the Gurdwara, he was given warm langar without any expectation of sewa. He took Amrit in 1923. 

In 1934, someone left a four-year-old boy with leprosy outside the Gurdwara. The Head Granthi appointed Puran Singh his parent. Puran Singh named the boy Pyara and cared for him his whole life. At the age of 19 (in 1924), he started Pingalwara. He subsequently went on to found the “All India Pingalwara Charitable Society.” He wanted to offer care for those abandoned by society. He understood that hospitals were full, and many could not afford treatment. Those with chronic or incurable diseases were not admitted and were left to die on the streets. In 1947, during the partition, he reached a refugee camp and started treating the wounded. He got an idea to start an institution to care for patients and Pingalwara became what it is today. V.N. Narayan writes, “He did not work miracles. But he did reveal, in word and deed, the power to transform lives, alleviate pain and lift up such hearts as are hurt, depressed and disconsolate.” 

On top of his other work, Bhagat Puran Singh was passionate about the environment. He printed educational articles on reused paper, and handed them out for free. He planted saplings and traveled by foot or bicycle whenever he could. He writes, "From my childhood, my mother had asked me to do personal service to all the creations of God. This tender and distinct feelings of virtuous tasks was ingrained in my mind. My mother had taught me to provide water to the animals, plant trees and water newly planted saplings, offer feed to the Sparrows, Crows and Mynahs, pick up thorns from the paths, and remove the stones from cart tracks. This had embedded the Name of the Almighty in my heart. She had entrusted me to the custody of Gurdwara Dera Sahib and started me on a path of virtuous living. By following this path your mind can never waver." That work continues and Pingalwara has its own orchard and nursery with 60,000 saplings distributed yearly. 

Today Pingalwara serves 1700 patients with 7-9 patients being admitted monthly. They run schools, prosthetic center, Physio/ENT/Ultrasound/Dental centers, and OR, and pharmacy.  They have a training center to teach skills like weaving, sewing, etc. Medications and care are free, thanks to the generous donors who support Pingalwara. Many patients are able to recover and be reunited with their families. The education is helping to uplift individuals out of poverty. Pingalwara is currently run by Dr. Inderjit Kaur after the passing of Bhagat Ji in 1992. 

I am very inspired by Bhagat Puran Singh’s life of sewa and compassion for humanity. His story should be added to those that we tell children so they have role models to look up to. May we all live by his example. We all have the power to touch lives and transform them each day. We cannot underestimate the power of looking someone in the eyes. We cannot underestimate the power of listening, the power of empathy, and the power of our individual sewa. Sometimes we tend to think about service to people, but it's also important to serve all of God's creation including plants and animals. 

                             "Dignity in death is a birthright of each living thing." (Bhagat Puran Singh)

“Eh Janam Tumhare Lekhe” (2015)

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Connecting in Times of Fear

These are times of fear. We are afraid to show our true selves and to stand up for what we believe in because we fear criticism, rejection, hatred, and violence. Guruka Singh writes on Sikhnet “These are extremely dark and turbulent times. All over the world people are experiencing confusion, fear, and doubt” (1). That doubt and fear create a wall that separate us from Waheguru. Brené Brown talks about how the traumas that we collectively face such as terrorist attacks and mass shootings, have caused the ripples of isolation and disconnection from fear (2). She describes this as a spiritual crisis, and I couldn’t have put it any better. In Braving the Wilderness, she writes
When I look through the two-hundred-thousand-plus pieces of data my team and I have collected over the past fifteen years, I can only conclude our world is in a collective spiritual crisis. This is especially true if you think about the core definition of ‘spirituality’ from the Gifts of Imperfection: Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that connection our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Right now we are neither recognizing nor celebrating our inextricable connection. We are divided from others in almost every area of our lives. We’re not showing up with one another in a way that acknowledges our connection” (2).
Similarly, Simer Singh did a katha in which he talks about how the fear and hatred has created times of intolerance. He also described how this intolerance comes from our disconnection from seeing God in one another- from not having Naam (3). He states, “When we are taught to fear something in the world, automatically we are taught to hate it. We hate because when we’re taught to fear something, our automatic instinct is to feel safe, so by eradicating what we fear we think we will be happy. This is the slippery slope to violence and war” and “[u]ltimately the mind wants to feel safe, that’s why it’s trying to eliminate things so that it can go head and try to prop up its ego” (3,4,5).

This constant threat to the mind of not feeling safe has a large toll. Our brains are wired to go into fight, flight, or freeze mode in the face of danger. Chronically this can cause us harm and have a heavy toll on our health and daily function. Brené writes about how the brain’s self-preservation mode can cause it to create stories about what’s happening to exaggerate our fears, prevents connection and leads to loneliness (2). She argues that as a social species, connection is just as important to us as food and water because it is key to our survival (2). In terms of our response to that threat to survival, she writes, “[W]hen we are in pain and fear, anger and hate are our go-to emotions. Almost everyone I’ve interviewed or known will tell you that it’s easier to be pissed off than it is to be hurt and scared” (2). Rather than connecting with each other and overcoming that fear and pain, we are disconnecting and allowing it to build hatred between us. Simer Singh talks about how one of the root causes of hatred is the fear of our own insecurities and intimate details being exposed when we trust someone: “We start to hate because we fear that our imperfections will be exposed.” Ultimately this fear prevents us from actually trusting and showing up in the relationship, so he says “people get divorced from friendships, sangat, from important relationships all because of their own insecurities” (3,4,5). When we own our faults and start to work on them, then we no longer become afraid of being exposed (3,4). This process happens through letting go of ego in our spiritual practice of simran. In this next section we will talk a little bit more about the process of moving from fear and it’s consequences, into love and connection.  

John O’Donohue was quoted in Brene’s book and writes, “This is not about forging a relationship with a distant God but about the realization that we are already within God” (2). The solution to our spiritual crisis can only be spirituality. To overcome fear, intolerance, hatred, and loneliness, we need connection to Naam. Guruka Singh writes “It is a time to go deeper within ourselves. It is time for meditation, self-discipline, prayer, deep cleansing, self-identity and self-control. It is a time to connect with others of like mind and heart. It is time to serve the world in any way we can. Together we are powerful. To go deeper and stay in touch with truth and love, we can: Have a daily spiritual practice, Don’t give in to fear, despair or anger, and reach out when it becomes overwhelming... and most importantly: Be a source of light.” (1). He gives us some very practical ways in which we can cultivate our connection. Simer Singh also gave a very important piece of advice that rather than focusing on the negative qualities of other people, we should be looking within our own minds at removing our bad thoughts (rajogun and tamogun thoughts) (3,4,5). When we work together to meditate and learn in sangat, we find ourselves (3,4). There is visible proof of this when we meet Gurmukhs who are spiritually connected. I recently got a chance to sit down and hear the stories of a couple of Gurmukhs at the Gurdwara. The heartache, violence, and devastation shocked me, and yet they did not live in fear. Their faces showed the glow of chardi kala, and I would have guessed of the hardships in their stories if I hadn’t had the opportunity to listen. These were real-life examples of individuals who had realized that God is within each person and served with love each day of their life. They overcame the darkness and fear of Kalyug to serve as a light.

Let’s look at some more examples of overcoming fear. In her book, Brené uses the example of Antoine Leiris, whose wife was killed during a mass shooting during a terrorist attack in Paris in 2015 (2). He wrote a letter to the attackers in which he says, “Friday night you stole the life of an exceptional being, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you will not have my hatred…You have it coming, but if I respond to hatred by anger that would be giving in, to the same ignorance that made you what you are. You want I’m afraid, that I should look at my fellow citizens with a look of suspicion, that I sacrifice my freedom for security. Lost. Same player still playing” (6). I was so moved by his words “but you will not have my hatred”, I shared this letter with my dad. He commented on how it reminded him of Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s Zafarnama, the letter to Aurangzeb. Coincidentally, Simer Singh also mentions this in his katha. He talks about how Guru Ji first mentions Aurangzeb’s virtues and then asks him why he did what he did (3,4). Guru Ji doesn’t blame a large group of people (in fact the Sri Guru Granth Sahib is written by people of all castes and Hindu and Muslim religions as well), or spread hatred for Aurangzeb, because we are taught in the mool mantar that God is Nirbhau and Nirvar- without fear, without enmity/hate. Once we are jeevan mukht and reach our purpose we also carry those virtues.

Ultimately, it is our connection to God in formless form and in each other, which will help heal our fear. Brené writes, “We’re in a spiritual crisis, and the key to building a true belonging practice is maintaining our belief in inextricable human connection. That connection- the spirit that flows between us and every other human in the world- is not something that can be broken; however, our belief in the connection is constantly tested and repeatedly severed. When our belief that there’s something greater than us, something rooted in love and compassion, breaks, we are more likely to retreat to our bunkers, to hate from afar…It’s counterintuitive, but our belief in extricable human connection is one of our most renewable sources of courage” (2). Of course there are times we all “retreat to our bunkers” after our trust is broken and we are hurt. When you show up and say “this is who I am and this is my story,” you risk being hurt. You have that knot in your stomach about being seen and acknowledged, or ignored and rejected. Yet I’d much rather risk the pain of people coming and going, in order to experience the full joy of connection. I’d rather live knowing I had the courage to express what was in my heart than never have tried. The power of connection was solidified for me this Sunday. The Dhadhi Jatha was going to leave so we invited them over to our house to say goodbye. Before they left, they said that they were thankful for the love they got from our family and wanted to do Ardas for us as their gift to us. As we stood in our living room, the Jatha and my family, all of us were teary-eyed. It was a rare and generous gift that I’ll never forget. I’ll never forget the power of that prayer and of connection to each other and to Waheguru. So let us do what Guruka Singh said, and reach out, pray, and meditate with each other in these times of Kalyug. 

“O Nanak, the spiritually wise one has conquered all others.
Through the Name, his affairs are brought to perfection; whatever happens is by His Will.
Under Guru's Instruction, his mind is held steady; no one can make him waver.
The Lord makes His devotee His own, and his affairs are adjusted.” (Ang 548 SGG Ji)

1 Singh, G. (2017). Read the 2017 SikhNet Annual Report. [online] 2017 SikhNet Annual Report. Available at: [Accessed 5 Dec. 2017].
2 Brown, Brené. Braving the wilderness: the quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone. Random House, 2017.
3 Singh, S. (2017). Tolerance in times of intolerance. [online] YouTube. Available at: [Accessed 5 Dec. 2017].
4 Singh, S. (2017). Why do we hate? Tolerance in Times of Intolerance Part 2 (Punjabi Removed). [online] YouTube. Available at: [Accessed 5 Dec. 2017].
5 Singh, S. (2017). Love and Peace | Surrey Arts Centre. [online] YouTube. Available at: [Accessed 5 Dec. 2017].
6 Storypick. (2017). "You Will Not Have My Hatred." A Paris Man Writes A Letter To ISIS About His Wife's Death. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 Dec. 2017].

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Male Shame and Resilience

Last summer, I bought a book for one of my friends called Daring Greatly by shame and vulnerability researcher Brené Brown. I knew her work but decided maybe I should actually read it before I gave it away! I got about halfway through when life got busy and I ended up going to Toronto. I forgot about it and it sat on my bookshelf for almost a year and a half, but this weekend I remembered and had this feeling that I needed to re-read it. Reading it turned out to be a transformative process for me, learning about myself in ways I didn't understand before. 

I’ve written about Brené's work previously so I’m going to quickly review definitions. The word vulnerability means “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure”, and she gives examples of saying “I love you” first, calling a friend whose child died, or asking for forgiveness, all as vulnerability (1). She describes shame as “I am bad” or “I am not good enough” and guilt as “I did something bad” (2). Most of us don’t spend this much time thinking about the difference, but when we feel shame, we feel unworthy of love and connection (2). She explains “The thing about shame and the thing about us being defined about the worst thing we’ve ever done or the worst thing that’s ever happened to us, is that there’s nowhere for us to go. The second you’re a liar, then you’re a liar. There’s no focus on the behavior that you can change, it’s become who you are and there’s nowhere out from underneath that” (2). So let's talk about how this shame affects our relationships with self and others.

Shame Triggers
Daring Greatly explains that the triggers for shame for males and females are different due to societal expectations, and it is necessary to understand those to overcome shame (1). For women, it is the expectation that we must be nice, modest, thin, “do it all”, “do it perfectly” and make it all look effortless (1). I had read a lot about female topics of shame from her other work but I knew very little about male shame. In general in society, I feel we don't talk a lot about male shame. It is a topic that we sweep under the rug and ignore. In terms of expectations on men, Brené writes “Basically, men live under the pressure of one unrelenting message: don’t be perceived as weak” (1). What immediately changed my life and way of thinking was what she writes about her experience interviewing men:
“I was not prepared to hear over and over from men how the women- the mothers, sisters, girlfriends, wives- in their lives are constantly criticizing them for not being open and vulnerable and intimate, all the while they are standing in front of that cramped wizard closet [reference to Wizard of Oz] where their men are huddled inside, adjusting the curtain and making sure no one sees in and no one gets out. There was a moment when I was driving home from an interview with a small group of men and thought, Holy shit. I am the patriarchy. Here’s the painful pattern that emerged from my research with men: we ask them to be vulnerable, we beg them to let us in and we plead with them to tell us when they’re afraid, but the truth is that most women can’t stomach it. In those moments when real vulnerability happens in men, most of us recoil with fear and that fear manifests as everything from disappointment to disgust and men are very smart. They know the risks, and they see the look in our eyes when we’re thinking, C’mon! pull it together. Man up. As Joe Reynolds, one of my mentors and the dean at our church, once told me during a conversation about men, shame, and vulnerability, ‘Men know what women really want. They want us to pretend to be vulnerable. We get really good at pretending’” (1).
When I read this part of her book, I’ll be honest, I put the book down, covered my face, and I cried. Because it was true. It was the truth that nobody wants to talk about. These were real men telling their stories, and I was one of those women. I realized the power of my words, my reactions, my conflicting expectations, and as much as I hated it, my own inability to “stomach it.” As much as I wanted that deep connection of knowing someone is vulnerable with you, there also existed a panic in the face of a man’s fears and emotions. There was this idea in my mind that no matter how much I’m struggling, he’s supposed to hold it together for the both of us. He's supposed to know when I don't know, he's supposed to be calm when I'm anxious. I realized it was hypocritical of me to want someone to love my imperfections and not embrace theirs too. 

When I started reading more about this topic, I realized we can carry around a lot of beliefs that can be damaging to our relationships, and we learn these ideas as we grow up from the culture around us. For example, the Good Men Project wrote about the myth that women are givers and men are takers, “Women are givers but men are givers, too, and just as much as women, we need to be recognized and reminded that we matter to you” (3). We also tend to underappreciate the ways in which men express love (which typically is more physical actions), and show their support (often by trying to fix the problem rather than talking). Brené talked about the story of one particular man and wrote, “Never in my life before that moment did I think about men feeling vulnerable about sex”(1), well me neither. We are brought up to think that women are the ones who feel vulnerable about it, not men. I didn’t think about it feels to be expected to be the one to ask someone out and constantly face the possibility of rejection, criticism and ridicule because like it says above, men are pretty good at pretending that it doesn’t bother them and hiding their feelings (3). It must be a tremendous pressure not only to feel it, but to hide how you feel too. Dr. Lissa Rankin writes “[M]asculinity can be a cage our culture imprisons men in. Then we shame them for being armored up in the prisons we helped them make” (4). It is the same cage Brené writes about, “I see how boys are issued a crate when they’re born. It’s not too crowded when they’re toddlers. They’re still small and can move around a bit. They can cry and hold onto to mamma, but as they grow older, there’s less and less wiggle room. By the time they’re grown men, it’s suffocating” (1). I don’t want to be part of making a cage and suffocating anyone. I want to do better. It’s important for us to understand how our shame prevents us from fully engaging in relationships and sitting in each other’s vulnerability. 

Burden of Expectations
Daring Greatly describes a frequent situation in arguments in a relationship, where the shame of one individual exacerbates the shame of the other and creates an environment of disconnection. Brené writes, “When I talk to couples, I can see how shame creates one of the dynamics most lethal to a relationship. Women, who feel shame when they don’t feel heard or validated, often resort to pushing and provoking with criticism… Men, in turn, who feel shame when they feel criticized for being inadequate, either shut down (leading women to poke and provoke more) or come back with anger.” This is why it is important for us to understand shame triggers. Over time, “We start to unravel. The expectations and messages that fuel shame keep us from fully realizing who we are as people” (1). Then, “[w]e disengage to protect ourselves from vulnerability, shame and feeling lost and without purpose…we don’t show up, we don’t contribute, and we stop caring” (1). In that process, we lose out on the beautiful experiences involved in living a full rich life.

It is damaging for society to increase expectations on men that they should be riding their “White Horse” constantly, and to only focus on deconstructing expectations for women not to be perfect. In her audiobook, Men, Women and Worthiness, Brené summarizes by explaining how we can’t expect men to conform to rigid unrealistic gender roles and not expect it to trap us as well because trapping men or women into a box is equally damaging (2). She says “I want to come home and be able to fall apart and have a partner who looks at me and says I get it, he understands what women are up against, he understands that I’m doing the best I can, that I’m not the girl from Flashdance, that I’m not going to be able to break dance, do ballet, look awesome and do that stuff all the time. Not only does he get it, he signed on to the fact that I shouldn’t have to be doing all those things. We can’t want that from our partners but at the same time pledge our allegiance to the system ‘Hey I want you to be there for me, but you still need to be on the White Horse.’ Every time we buy into these norms, every time we buy into these ideals of who and what we’re supposed to be, our partners are supposed to be, our friends are supposed to be, every time we sign on and perpetuate those, we lock ourselves into the same straight jacket… When I buy into my dad and my friend and my husband have to be John Wane; at the same time we sign up for that class, we are signing up for and I’ll stay quiet and thin and modest and spend all my money and time and effort looking pretty. We can’t have it both ways and what I would argue for is we look at each other and say let’s be the full expression of our humanity, let’s both bring everything we can bring into being together and building families and building relationships”(2). 

Solutions & Shame Resilience
Shame resilience is about recognizing triggers and what shame feels like, reality-checking those expectations, and then sharing your story with someone you trust. Shame is about feeling like you’re the only one, but when we connect with other people and get empathy, it destroys shame: “Shame derives its power from being unspeakable... If we cultivate enough awareness about shame to name it and speak to it, we’ve basically cut it off at the knees”(1). Instead of letting that moment destroy our relationships, we move through it. Normally when people are ashamed they can have many reactions such as judging and criticizing, lashing out in anger, numbing, disengaging, hiding, or trying to overly please others (1). Learning to identify, name and share a shame story lets us stay true to who we want to be-caring, loving and engaged. Brené writes, “When I asked men, women, and couples how they practiced whole-heartedness around these very sensitive and personal issues, one answer came up again and again: honest, loving conversations that require major vulnerability. We have to be able to talk about how we feel, what we need and desire, and we have to be able to listen with an open heart and an open mind” (1). Then we experience the benefits of vulnerability: joy, love, connection, etc.

I write a lot about empowering women and giving us a voice. It is important for us to continue to recognize the effect that South Asian culture has in particular on Sikh women’s struggles and to understand everyone’s roles in practicing the equality we have been taught in Sikhi. At the same time, we can also focus on re-defining men's roles, and it is important to give those a voice as well. Jack Myers writes in TIME:
“Focusing on better men, dads, husbands, boyfriends, and sons does not come at the expense of the rightful attention to women’s rights and equality…As a society we need to be more supportive of paternity leave, stay-at-home dads, and men entering traditionally ‘feminine’ careers, such as nursing or teaching. Just as we encourage girls to be strong and confident, to enter STEM careers, and to be anything they want to be, we need to similarly encourage our sons to embrace female-dominated HEAL careers (health, education, administrative, literacy)…If we fail to focus on redefining men’s roles alongside women’s, we are in danger of fostering a culture of hostility among men who are feeling left out in school, in the job market, and in relationships” (5).
Both men and women struggle under these expectations because there’s no way to sustain them. So we should all work on holding the space of vulnerability and reality-checking our expectations. Let’s use every opportunity to grow, however uncomfortable and difficult it is at the time. If I look back, the most important learning moments of my life were the excruciating process of sharing a shame story, or sitting with someone in their moment of vulnerability. 

For our father, our brother, our son, our friend, our husband, it matters that we open up a space for their vulnerability without putting up more walls, without criticizing, without running away in fear, and simply just engage. Engage in conversation, just like I asked men to do for their sisters, mothers, and wives in my post about male privilege last year. Dr. Lissa Rankin writes
“[Men] need to know that we don’t need them to pretend to keep it all together when they feel like falling apart…If we want men to feel close to us- and to be good partners when they grow up- they need to feel safe to unravel. They need to know we can take turns being the pillars of strength for each other. Yes, as women, we desire men who we can lean on when we feel weak or fuzzy or ungrounded. But we can’t expect men to play that role all the time. It’s just not fair- and it’s not serving any of us. Instead, we need to be able to be vulnerable with each other…Men need permission to stop faking it when they feel vulnerable, which means we need to demonstrate that we can sit in the puddle of their imperfections with them, without shaming them or making them question whether our love might be withdrawnInstead of badgering men for being shut down and unemotional, let’s have conversations with the boys and men in our lives to let them know our love and acceptance is not conditional upon their strength” (4).
Learning all of this has inspired me to change the way I think and live. Ultimately, to empathize, to live in harmony, to love deeply, and “be the full expression of our humanity,” is what it means to be a Sikh. So let us each work on shame resilience, be courageous, be vulnerable, and dare greatly: “When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make. Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience. We must walk into the arena, whatever it may be- a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation- with courage and the willingness to engage. Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgment and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen. This is vulnerability. This is daring greatly” (1). 
putting masks away and having an empathetic conversation

1 Brown, B. (2016). Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. London: Penguin Books Ltd.
2 Brown, B. Men, Women and Worthiness: The Experience of Shame and the Power of Being Enough. Narrated by Brene Brown, Audible, 2012. Audiobook.
3 Fiffer, T. (2017). The 3 Things a Man Fears Most: An Exposé of the Male Psyche -. [online] The Good Men Project. Available at: [Accessed 1 Dec. 2017].
 4 Rankin, Lissa. (2014). Women, Please Stop Shaming Men | Lissa Rankin. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Dec. 2017].
5 Myers, J. (2016). Young Men Are Facing a Masculinity Crisis. [online] TIME. Available at: [Accessed 1 Dec. 2017]. 

Volleyball Champ!

Congratulations to my sister Prabhnoor! Her team won all their games at their Volleyball tournaments this season, and she also won a medal for Most Improved Player. She enjoys swimming, skating, volleyball, and basketball.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Tilak Janju Rakha Prabh Ta Ka

Since I won't be able to do kirtan at the Gurdwara tomorrow, I recorded this shabad for Guru Teg Bahadur Ji’s Shaheedi. 

In the Dasam Granth, Guru Gobind Singh Ji writes this shabad about Guru Teg Bahadur Ji below:

thilak ja(n)n(j)oo raakhaa prabh thaakaa. keeno baddo kaloo mehi saakaa. 
saadhhan haeth eithee jin karee. sees dheeaa par see n oucharee (13)
dhharam haeth saakaa jin keeaa. sees dheeaa par sirar n dheeaa. 
naattak chaettak keeeae kukaajaa. prabh logan keh aavath laajaa (14)
t(h)eekar for dhilees sir prabh pur keeaa payaan. thaeg behaadhar see kriaa karee n kinehoo(n) aan (15)
thaeg behaadhar kae chalath bhayo jagath ko sok. hai hai hai sabh jag bhayo jai jai jai sur lok (16)

He protected the forehead mark and sacred thread (of the Hindus) which marked a great event in the Iron age.
For the sake of saints, he laid down his head without even a sigh. (13)
For the sake of Dharma, he sacrificed himself. He laid down his head but not his creed (principles).
The saints of the Lord abhor the performance of miracles and malpractices. (14)
Breaking the potsherd of his body head of the king of Delhi (Aurangzeb), He left for the abode of the Lord.
None could perform such a feat as that of Tegh Bahadur. (15)
The whole world bemoaned the departure of Tegh Bahadur.
While the world lamented, the gods hailed his arrival in heavens. (16)


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.).