Saturday, January 28, 2017

Embarrassed to Ask

Having been born into a Sikh family I think that a lot of things have sort of become a routine and I find myself on “automatic mode.” A few years ago I remember one of my friends asked me to take her to the Gurdwara. I was nervous because I knew she was going to ask me questions about what was going on and why, and I was afraid I wouldn’t know the answers despite the fact that I had been coming to the Gurdwara since I was born! I was scared also that she’d ask me to translate what Gyani Ji was saying, after I either didn’t understand or wasn’t paying attention (which usually happens when you don’t understand). I ended up doing quite a bit of homework beforehand, and it was a great learning experience for both of us.  I didn’t remember this until this week, when I realized again the importance of going back to the basics.
This week when I was listening to kathas I realized that there is a lot of basic terminology in Gurbani that I don’t fully understand. It feels kind of embarrassing to now be asking these questions, after so many years of both hearing them and saying them. For example, understanding what Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh means. What does meeting God mean? What is the mind? How were we created? What is maya?  What is the meaning of sakhat? Manmukh? Gurmukh? I’ll tell you, in all honesty, I still don’t know the full answers to all of those questions, and I only started learning the deeper answers in this last year. I may have been doing kirtan and reading Gurmukhi since I was a little kid, but I still have a lot of learning to do. I think it just points out that it’s never too late. I remember one Gyani Ji telling me how he didn’t ever go to school and didn’t know the alphabet, and people told him he wouldn’t amount to anything. He started on this path and he is now not only able to read the Guru Granth Sahib Ji, but also teach others the meaning behind it and do kathas. We shouldn’t be ashamed or embarrassed to ask questions. If we don’t ask or seek out the knowledge, we won’t find the answers and we will continue to pretend to know instead of actually gaining real knowledge. We shouldn’t let our ego and pride get in the way of our learning.

I think not understanding what’s happening at the Gurdwara is one of the big reasons why people of my generation don’t attend. I have been attending the Gurdwara my whole life and as I mentioned earlier, a lot of it was my parent’s example and inspiration. There were a couple of years of university, though, where I felt like well I’m busy and I don’t understand the katha anyways, so I didn’t make it a priority to go each week. I kind of started to lose interest. The reason I went back wasn't that I suddenly had more time- actually I had less time because I sometimes had to work at the hospital on weekends, and I had more to study. The reason I went was because one of my friends kind of made me feel guilty about not going as much, and said that I should set an example for other people, so we both agreed to start going more often. After attending more, I learned more, and the more I learned, the more I understood and I made it a priority. So it’s nice to encourage others to go too. I probably wouldn’t be this passionate about Sikhi if I hadn’t gone back because someone encouraged me. Now I'm excited to go and the learning never stopped. This last Sunday I was sitting in the Gurdwara and just had this amazing realization that we sit together each week, for years, and pray together. Some of us, young and old, have been praying together for our whole lives, and perhaps we don’t know each other or we otherwise would not know each other outside of the Gurdwara. God puts us all together based on our past associations (having spent time in meditation of God together in our past lives) and gives us the opportunity to spend the most powerful, deep and meaningful moments together in the sangat. I just found it really heartwarming to realize that we are all learning together and working towards reaching God together.

So I’m going to share with you what I learned about Naam and Gurmantra. “Waheguru” is our Gurmantra. It is a tool given to us by the panj pyare, for us to reach God. Gurmantra is also referred to as Gurshabad in Gurbani. Naam is often translated as “Name of God” in English translations, but rally refers to the sound of God’s voice from which all of creation was created. This sound cannot be described. Naam is referred to by many names in the Gurbani as well including Shabad Guru, Shabad, or Ong (in Ik Ong Kaar). It comes in multiple forms- we can experience it as a sound (anhad shabad), taste (amrit ras), and jot (light). When Gurbani refers to Hukam (translated in English translations as God’s will/command), it means Naam. When we have Naam, we are in Hukam and without it, we are not in Hukam. Naam can only be found within ourselves. We stop using our physical senses, close the 9 doors of the body, and shut off our thoughts through simran (repeating the Gurmantra) to experience it. Learning also comes through practical experience and we also must simultaneously do the simran in order to understand what cannot be explained with words. 

There continues to be simran upstairs (not in the main hall) at the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara at 1 pm on Sundays.  Feel free to join us! 

Bhul chuk maaf karni

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