Monday, October 16, 2017

Chardi Kala

Chardi kala means being in high spirits. Interestingly I think some people think of it as simply being positive- a smile that hides the pain inside. I have never liked the concept of simply masking and covering up emotions rather than dealing with that because it proves damaging in itself. Perhaps, like me, many other people thought chardi kala is about turning negatives into positives. You have something bad happen and you see the good in it, and you work towards learning from it. I think this is definitely a step up than ignoring emotions and pretending they are fine, but what I learned now is that chardi kala is part of a spiritual avastha and is not just turning negative into positives. I saw a great video on Sikhnet that explains this I would encourage each of you to watch the video.

To be in real chardi kala, one must have Naam and be really connected to God. When there is doubt, immediately we aren’t in chardi kala. When we look at the martyrs in our history we see that they were in chardi kala. As he explained in the video, their mind’s death had already come and they had merged with God, so they no longer feared anything and were able to make great sacrifices. Chardi kala is more than optimism, because in optimism we simply “think” through the negative thoughts and either find a spin on the situation or focus on positive thoughts instead. Chardi kala isn’t achieved by thinking because it is beyond maya (thoughts). We see optimistic people get hit by a series of bad events and finally 'the straw that breaks the camel’s back hits,' and they lose faith. This is normal for us, this is what we understand. As manmukhs we reach our breaking point, we have doubts, we get depressed when life throws its worst at us. The spiritual state of chardi kala is beyond that- Guru Gobind Singh Ji lost his parents and four children, one thing after another and did not waver in his faith, did not break under that pressure. Gyani Sant Singh Ji Maskeen writes in his book Panch Parvaan that interpersonal conflicts happen because our relationships are based solely on similar thoughts, emotions and ideas, but the relationship of love with God is the one that gives us anand and unites us: “When love is limited and narrow, it is attachment but when this attachment expands and becomes unlimited it turns into love.” We need to cultivate that relationship with Waheguru. When we overcome ego, and the 5- kaam, krodh, lob, moh, hankaar, and replace our doubt with faith and trust in God, then chardi kala can take over the mind.

Through chardi kala emerges a resilience that most of us cannot fathom because we have not experienced it. If the practical work is not done, and we simply accumulate the knowledge, we can’t reach that state. It’s the work of sewa, simran, understanding Gurbani, sitting with sangat- the combination of all things that we are taught in Sikhi that gets us there. Gyani Sant Singh Ji Maskeen writes “If we connect ourselves with our conscious mind to anyone or anything, we will adopt his or her qualities also. By remembering insignificant trivial and small things, we will also become like that. If we are remembering the fake, one day we will also become fake. But on the contrary if we remember the Truth, we will adopt truthful qualities…If you have the power of memory, remember God Almighty, the Truth for one day you yourself will become your own master. But if you remember the insignificant, you will yourself become the slave" (Panch Parvaan English translated). We do not have to be slaves to situation, to others, to the 5 in the mind. Let us all strive for the spiritual state of chardi kala.

Panch Parvaan by Giani Sant Singh Ji Maskeen

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Happy Bandi Chhor Divas! (Diwali)

It’s Bandi Chhor Divas on Thursday, Oct 19th and we will be celebrating with morning and evening divans at the Gurdwara Sahib that day. 

Guru Hargobind Ji, our 6th Guru, build the Sri Akal Takht Sahib and strengthened his army. In 1619, Murtaja Khan, Nawab of Lahore, noticed this and lied to emperor Jahangir that Guru Ji was going to seek revenge for the torture and execution of his father (Guru Arjan Dev Ji). Wazir Khan was sent to arrest Guru Ji, however he instead asked the Guru Ji to accompany him to Delhi to meet Jahangir. Jahangir changed his mind once he got to see and hear Guru Ji speak, and Guru Ji saved his life from a lion. 

(I am going to write a little bit of back-story about Chandu Shah. He was the governor of Lahore, and a wealthy banker. His family priest suggested Guru Arjan Dev’s son Hargobind would be a good match for his daughter, however being of upper caste, Chandu Shah refused and made disparaging comments about Guru Ji. These were passed on to Guru Arjan Dev Ji. Over time, Chandu Shah reconsidered and felt this may have been a good match, at which point he asked for the match to be arranged. Guru Ji refused, knowing Chandu Shah’s real nature from his comments. Chandu Shah was enraged and went on to cause the torture of Guru Arjan Dev Ji.) 

Then in 1619, when Jahangir fell ill, Chandu Shah wanted to find a way to imprison Guru Hargobind Ji as well. He told an astrologer to tell Jahangir that a holy man needed to pray for him at the Gwalior Fort (prison) in order for him to get better. Chandu Shah recommended this be Guru Hargobind Ji. Guru Ji prayed in the prison, and worked to have the conditions of the jail improved for the prisoners. Hari Daas, who was in charge of the prison was actually a follower of the Guru himself, and helped as much as he could including foiling Chandu Shah’s plan to poison Guru ji.  Jahangir’s health improved but the Guru Ji was kept prisoner. His followers, led by Baba Buddha Ji, became concerned and visited Guru Ji. Guru Ji told them not to worry. Sufi Saint Mian Mir then convinced Jahangir to release Guru Ji. Guru Ji thought of the other prisoners, Hindu Princes who had only been imprisoned due to political reasons and were suffering for years in the poor conditions of the jail. He said he would leave the jail if the other prisoners would be released. Jahangir did not like this idea, but agreed that only those prisoners who could hold the cloak of the Guru could be released.  Guru Ji designed a long cloak with 52 tails for each prisoner to hold, and they were all released. Gurdwara Bandi Chorr Sahib has been created at the site of the Gwalior fort. So Bandi Chhor Divas, translated as “prisoner release day” is the day that Guru Hargobind Sahib and the 52 princes were freed from the prison. When Guru Ji safely traveled home to Amritsar, Diwali was being celebrated by the Hindus, so we celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas at Diwali each year.

Happy Bandi Chhor Divas everyone! 

picture from

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Upcoming Programs

We will be celebrating the Gurpurb/Prakash Divas of Guru Ram Das Ji this coming weekend, starting tomorrow through Sunday

We will be celebrating Bandhi Chorr Divas (Diwali) on Thursday, October 19th at the Gurdwara, and over that weekend.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Spiritual Actions through Work

Interestingly when I woke up this morning and when I got to work was two entirely different feelings. When I woke up, it was one of those rare days we've all had when you are struggling to get yourself together. I have hundreds of shabads recorded, but when I sat down in my car this morning, the shabad that played was “Gur Mere Sang Sada Hai Naale.” (My Guru is always with me, near at hand)
Har Ka Naam Riday Nit Dhaye
Sange Saathi Sagal Taraaee
Gur Mere Sang Sada Hai Naale
Simar Simar Tis Sada Smaale (Rahao).
Tera Kiya Meeta Lage
Har Naam Padarath Nanak Mange

“Mediate Continually on the Name of the Lord within your heart
Thus you shall save all your companions and associates.
My Guru is always with me, near at hand
Meditating, mediating in remembrance on Him, I cherish Him forever. (Pause).
Your actions seem so sweet to me.
Nanak begs for the treasure of the Naam, the Name of the Lord.”

Many of you may remember that these lines were read by Guru Arjan Dev Ji at the time of his shaheedi (martyrdom). I immediately found great comfort that whatever lied ahead for me in this day, I would be able to face it with the Guru by my side. Thus, by the time I arrived to work, I transformed from physically prepared to mentally prepared for a day of sewa (service). 

Maskeen Ji talks about the Bhagats in his book “Laavan.” He writes “Ravidas may be mending shoes, this is his profession. But this profession is also his religion. He is mending the shoes with a feeling of welfare service for others, with a ‘Bhav.’ In his heart , he says ‘O’ God You have made this as my profession to earn my living and all these people whose shoes I mend are Your forms only. I am doing their service, so thanks to You my Lord. Such a person’s profession becomes his religion, his way of thanks and gratitude to God" (p.57 of the book Laavan). Maskeen Ji describes that an action with a desire attached is a business, and one with devotion and dedication is a dharam (spiritual action, religion). He gives the example if someone visits the Gurdwara for 40 days to get their desires fulfilled- this is a business transaction, not a dharam, but if your heart and devotion is in it, then it is a dharam: “If the mind has only materialistic gain as its prime requirement then doing kirtan is also merely a profession, a business and if a heart is full of gratitude, of thankfulness, of dedication, of devotion, of love for God, of welfare service for others then even weighing of objects, mending shoes, weaving cloth, every action is a ‘Dharam'” (p 58).

I think this brings us to a point about job satisfaction as well. I was talking to someone who saves lives for a living yet has no love for it, still no satisfaction. I was shocked because I thought that saving lives would be satisfying for anyone. It really made me reflect on what satisfied means. It’s not about the job itself, but the mindset of the individual. I think that Maskeen Ji is reminding us of that here- that it's about dedication in your heart that determines if it's work or spiritual action. Of course working fulfills our body’s need for food by making money, but there's one path where one fuels ego and greed, and there's another that trusts that God will provide, and this is my spiritual fulfillment. I feel that I definitely have a lot of job satisfaction, and my heart lies in the families I see and the people I get to sit with to hear their stories. I think that there is a far distance to travel though from not just doing it with love, but doing it for God like Bhagats Ravidas, Naamdev, and Kabir. Naamdev who dyed clothing said “I dye myself in the color of the Lord, and sew what has to be sewn” (Ang 485 Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji). To get to that level, the pride and the ego has to be taken out. Each action is not for ego, each action is service to God as sewa. Unfortunately for a lot of people job is a place of great ego, of attachment, of pride, of making a name for yourself and in that way work becomes everything. Work becomes identity, work becomes a business, and not a dharam or any part of a spiritual journey. As we walk that spiritual path through the laavan these are the types of things to think about- where we sit on this spectrum, who our inspiration is, and how we work to get there. As we mentally work with all the tools we have- simran, sangat, Gurbani, katha, kirtan, etc. then we certainly will reach that state over time, by Waheguru’s grace as the 4th laav tells us.

Listen to this shabad by Bhai Niranjan Singh,7998

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Hum Avgun Bhare Ek Gun Nahi

I saw a part of Giani Sant Singh Ji Maskeen’s katha written out on facebook today and it remind me of a section of the book “Laavan”. In the post (forgive me for any translation errors- it was written in Punjabi), it said that a spiritually awakened mind has compassion over someone’s demerits (avgun). He gives the example of the body. When someone falls due to body’s weakness, we have so much compassion for them. We run to help. When someone falls due to their mind, we hate them. In the English translated book laavan, he writes “On seeing a Gyani, a spiritually evolved soul, who is ahead in this inner journey of the ‘self’, he gets feelings of reverence and devotion. On the other hand on seeing an ignorant being, he gets feelings of compassion that this person has no understanding of the truth and so has not even started the true inner journey. These are the symptoms of a spiritual being, that he has devotion towards the highly evolved saintly souls and compassion towards the ignorant.” Giani Ji also gives the example of Sheikh Sajjan, the man who was murdering all the people who were coming to seek shelter in his home, and how Guru Nanak had compassion and showed him how to change his mind. Sajjan changed and stopped murdering people, becoming a follower of the Guru.

Guru Arjan Dev Ji writes, on Ang 1357
“Through the Mantra of the Name of the Lord, Raam, Raam, one meditates on the All-pervading Lord. Those who have the wisdom to look alike upon pleasure and pain, live the immaculate lifestyle, free of vengeance. They are kind to all beings; they have overpowered the five thieves. They take the Kirtan of the Lord’s praise as their food; they remain untouched by Maya, like the lotus in the water. They share the Teachings with friend and enemy alike; they love the devotional worship of God. They do not listen to slander; renouncing self-conceit, they become the dust of all. Whoever has these six qualities, O Nanak, is called a Holy Friend.”

I think it is really important for each of us to reflect on these teachings because it gives us a sense of whether we are growing in the right direction. It gives us a goal and inspiration. I am continually reminded of how much work needs to be done on the mind. When I find myself bothered by external situations, I am reminded that I am the one who needs to find peace in my mind. Bhatt Kirat writes on Ang 1406, Hum Avgun Bhare Ek Gun Nahi. “I am overflowing with sins and demerits, I have no merits or virtues at all.” We are quick to look at other people in a bad light. We apply different standards to ourselves and even our loved ones. It’s important to remember Gurbani, and get rid of ego through all of our methods: naam japna, sewa, simran, sangat, kirtan, etc. Giani Sant Singh Ji Maskeen’s wise words explain to us how we must have compassion and understanding for other people’s mind journeys.

Bibi Bhani

I thought I’d take this chance to write about Bibi Bhani Ji since we are celebrating Guru Ramdas Ji’s Gurpurb. Bibi Bhani Ji was daughter of Guru Amardas Ji, wife of Guru Ramdas Ji, mother of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, Grandmother of Guru Hargobind, Great Granmother of Guru Teg Bahadur, and Great Great Grandmother of Guru Gobind Singh! This is truly amazing. She thus was a very important woman in our history.
Bibi Bhani was born in 1535 to Guru Amar Das Ji and Mata Mansa Devi. She got married to Bhai Jetha Ji (Guru Ramdas) in 1554 as discussed in my previous post. The couple did sewa together, and she devotedly served her father even after having three children. Sikhiwiki writes “There is special status of Bibi Bhani in the life of Guru Amardas by the way she cared for her father proving that there was no difference between a son and a daughter. Both can equally serve their parents.” Bibi Bhani lived her life with humility and always thought about others. When a Sikh offered Bibi Bani money for new dresses and jewellery for her wedding, she read this line of Gurbani “False is gold, false is silver, false are those who wear them,” and requested that this money should be spent on the langar to serve others. After the torture and martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, she stayed strong and supported Guru Ji’s wife and son, Hargobind. She was doing sewa of individuals with leprosy when she left this world in 1598.  
Guru Arjan Dev Ji has written about his mother’s blessings in Ang 496 of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji
“Remembering Him, all sins are erased, and ones generations are saved.
So meditate continually on the Lord, Har, Har; He has no end or limitation.
O son, this is your mother's hope and prayer, that you may never forget the Lord,
Har, Har, even for an instant. May you ever vibrate upon the Lord of the Universe (Pause).
May the True Guru be kind to you, and may you love the Society of the Saints.
May the preservation of your honor by the Transcendent Lord be your clothes, and may the singing of His Praises be your food.
So drink in forever the Ambrosial Nectar; may you live long, and may the meditative remembrance of the Lord give you infinite delight.
May joy and pleasure be yours; may your hopes be fulfilled, and may you never be troubled by worries.
Let this mind of yours be the bumble bee, and let the Lord's feet be the lotus flower. Says servant Nanak, attach your mind to them, and blossom forth like the song-bird, upon finding the rain-drop.”

“Noble and Brave Sikh Women” by Principal Sawan Singh