Friday, February 24, 2017

Shaheedi Saka Nankana Sahib

This weekend we remember the massacre the occurred at Nankana Sahib Feb 21, 1921. Here is the history (references provided at the bottom of this page):

Maharaja Ranjit Singh reconstructed Gurdwaras destroyed by Mughals, and gave the “Mahants” (caretakers of these Gurdwaras) property rights and land attached to the Gurdwaras. Original mahants were individuals who spread the message of Sikhi, but soon they were just corrupt individuals hungry for money generated at the Gurdwaras. At the same time, the British were afraid that if the Sikhs took control of the Gurdwaras this would further unify the Khalsa against them and cause a revolution.

Mahant Narayan Das was the caretaker of Gurdwara Nankana Sahib. He was corrupt, and allowed many bad things to happen at the Gurdwara Sahib including rapes. The Sikh congregation approached the mahant to change his ways in October 1920. He refused to change and instead turned against the Sikhs. His anti-sikh group was going to have a conference on Feb 20, 1921 in Lahore. On three different opportunities the Shiromani committee offered to meet the mahant to discuss the issues peacefully, however he never showed up. The Sikhs had a congregation on Feb 16 at Gurdwara Khara Sauda and made a decision to go in jathas to take over the Gurdwara peacefully on Feb 20 while the mahant was away. Bhai Kartar Singh Jhabbar and Bhai Lachaman Singh Dharowali were to take their jathas. 

Meanwhile, the mahant cancelled his plans for the conference and hired 400 mercentaries and made plans to kill the Sikh leaders. He contacted the British Commissioner of Lahore and acquired firearms with the help of the government (this letter exists to this day). He furthered his plan by making holes in the walls for shooting at the Sikhs, strengthening the Gurdwara gate and he got paraffin.

On Feb 19, the parbandhak committee met and decided that the jathas should not go. Bhai Kartar Singh Jhabbar was present, and dispatched a sikh to send a message to Bhai Lachaman Singh Dharowali. Bhai Lachman Singh, still following the original plan, was waiting for Bhai Kartar Singh Jhabber’s jatha. At that time Jaethedar Tehal Singh’s Jatha arrived and encouraged them to move forward. They did ardas and took a hukamnama. They left at 10 pm to reach the Gurdwara Nankana Sahib b amrit vela. More Sikhs joined for a total of 200. Although women and children were asked to go back, one child, Darbara Singh refused to leave because he was inspired by stories of shaheeds and he joined the Shaheedi Jatha.

Upon arrival at the railway crossing near Nankana Sahib, Chaudry Paul Singh Hyallpuri (another source lists that it was actually Bhai Waryam Singh) arrived to convey the decision of the Shiromani committee, however Jathedar Tehal Singh said that the ardas had already been done and the time had come for them to act. The jatha arrived at the Gurdwara and did Asa Di War. Then the mahant ordered his mercenaries to kill the Sikhs. The bullets fired hit the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and many Sikhs. The rest were slaughtered with saws and swords, and some were burned alive including the 9 year old Darbara Singh. Bhai Lachaman Singh was tied to a tree upside down and burnt alive.

News spread and Bhai Kartar Singh Jhabber arrived with 2200 men. Mr. Curry, Deputy Commissioner of Lahore, had his army surrounding the Gurdwara and warned Bhai Kartar Singh that they would shoot the Sikhs if they approached. Bhai Kartar Singh stated that they were not afraid of death, and in seeing this, Mr. Curry became worried and handed over the keys. The mahant and a select few of the mercentaries were sentenced to death (one source says that this didn’t happen and the mahant was given security).

This is the history of how the Shaheedi jatha of Sikhs, who went to peacefully take back Gurdwara Nanakana Sahib from the hands of the corrupt mahant, were massacred. We remember these Sikhs every day in our ardas. May we forever remember their sacrifice and bravery in standing up for what was right. 


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

My Big Fat Ego

”Remembering the Lord’s Name, one is rid of ego and ignorance.” (Ang 1092)

We can all easily think of examples of people with big egos. Whenever I think of ego I tend to think of people who use their status and power to influence other people – “do you have any idea who I am?!!” You can spot it from a mile away- a person who judges, gossips, dictates what everyone else should do in their life but lives the opposite themselves, the one who walks by without a hello. I think it’s easy for us to see ego in other people and harder for us to understand that we are all diseased with ego. It’s important for all of us to recognize the disease of ego in ourselves, and understand that it causes our suffering. I know I had this moment when I was angry at one of my friends and I suddenly thought: why do I have so much ego that I can’t forgive? What if I was in their shoes? It helped me to realize that we can be so blind to our own ego, and that it is far more extensive than I previously thought.

I listened to some kathas about ego this week because I felt really drawn to the topic so I’m going to share what I learned. Ego is known as homai in Gurbani. It is talked about at length because it is what separates us from God. Ultimately, the cause of all of our dukh in life is ego. In the katha, they asked the sangat what they were afraid to lose. This was a big eye opening question for me because as he listed the examples I realized, yes I would be afraid to lose those things. Yes I'm afraid to lose social status. I didn’t think that mattered to me, but if all of a sudden I go to the Gurdwara and no one says hi to me and everyone is gossiping about me behind my back and I have a poor reputation, I would be upset. Even though I don’t like to think that I define myself by things like beauty, I do and I know that because if you took it all away tomorrow I would be in dukh. So I realized that even though I've been working on it, the identity I have of myself in my head is still very much focused on maya. We tend to make our identity dependent on things that are transient, and because we are so attached we become afraid to lose them: “In egotism, one is assailed by fear; he passes his life totally troubled by fear.” 

It is ego to think that we have anything at all. None of these things that we have in this world belong to us, and certainly none of these things will come with us when we die. Be honest with yourself- are you defining yourself by wealth, beauty, youth, social status, power, relationships? What are you afraid to lose? Unless your answer is Waheguru, you are in ego too. We should love Waheguru so much that the only thing we are afraid to lose is Waheguru and it drives us to meet Him. When we are afraid to lose other things we are lost in maya. Gurbani tells us the cure for ego is Naam. If we have Naam, we have no ego. If we have ego, our mind is not in Hukam and we do not have Naam. So since we have identified our ego, now we work on overcoming it. We work on reading Gurbani, doing sewa, doing simran, and living our life according to the Guru’s teachings. The more we work, the closer we get, but we have to put a sincere effort into it, and then our ego will be eradicated. 

“Where does ego come from? How can it be removed?
Ego is a result of the Hukam that people must walk according to their past actions
Ego is a chronic disease, but it contains its own cure as well.
Give us grace, that we can do the work of Guru’s Shabad
Nanak says, listen, people in the way, your suffering will depart.”

I highly recommend listening to the katha series on ego (videos 132-136, some of them are in two parts).

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Circle of Support

It seems like lately I’ve had a lot of nights where I stayed up wondering how to “fix” tomorrow so that it would be a day to look forward to, an exciting day, and not just "another day." I was desperate for tomorrow to be different. I made a lot of changes, like going to the prayer room at the hospital first thing in the morning before I started work, and it certainly helped, but each night kind of just felt the same no matter what I did. I felt fully responsible for this emptiness and I didn't understand how to fix it. Then one night this week I was in the middle of a 31 hour shift and I was just ecstatic. It’s a feeling that I’ve missed so much. I started talking to one of my colleagues and it was clear that while he was barely keeping his eyes open, I had so much energy I was nearly bouncing off the walls. He asked me where this energy came from. A large part of it was certainly helping to deliver a baby for the first time- nothing can beat that excitement. The rest of it was the fact that I was happy that I was part of a team that treated me with respect and I felt like I belonged. I was able to function to maximum capacity instead of being in survival mode.

I think maybe because our society focuses so much on the need to be independent, and that a "strong" person does things on their own, that I started to tell myself that I shouldn’t need to rely on anyone. I thought that I could just keep praying and get some peace so my environment doesn’t bother me anymore, simple...Not that simple! You don't just do simran in one day and then suddenly the toxic work environment doesn't affect you. It takes patience and practice, and its a process that you need lots of support for. That’s the purpose of sangat, because as humans we all need connection, love, respect, and trust. Connecting is the process of having someone sit with you while you are processing what you are going through and just listening and offering to be there and pray with you and do simran with you. They are part of your healing. When I’m scared I like to hide in my turtle shell, but its when I need people the most and those who care will climb into the shell with you if you let them. It is scary to let yourself really be seen- for all the flaws, the emptiness, the hardship, and to reach out. Everyone likes to be in control, and when you step out for help you are trusting someone else with that. There have been times in my life when I simply said, I need you, but the words were so hard because I didn't want to need. I wanted to be able to do everything myself, and also because I was scared that the answer would be no. I learned that I can survive no matter what the answer is, and also that in order to get support and to trust someone you need to let go of the fear, the pride, and the control. Even when we go to Guru Ji, we need to give over our own mat and accept Gurmat.

I am still kind of making sense of all of this, but realizing that its increasingly important for me to just take in the opportunities and the times that I do get deep connections with people, even if those are one second of someone being able to just “see me” and appreciating it. In December I sang a poem about the Sahibzaade at the Gurdwara and a few days later an Uncle ji came up to me and he gave me this picture of the Sahibzaade. He told me that he felt I needed to have it. It touched my heart because it was an exchange of human understanding that he had “seen me” and understood. This moment is especially close to my heart now that Uncle Ji has passed. With all the deaths I have seen in the last two months it just continually reminds me that our time in this human form is limited. Whoever you have in your life that "sees you" and values you, no matter how long they are there, remember to love them fully and climb into that shell with them when they need it. Those moments are special and you'll never regret having reached out, having cared, having listened. Even one day of trust and respect and connection can mean the world of difference because it is universal to both want and need to be supported and feel understood. 

“God’s slaves are God’s saints and comrades, meeting with whom doubt is dispelled.” (Ang 1264)

P.S. Don’t forget about simran upstairs on Sundays at 1 pm!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Dealing with Anger/Krodh

We often spend a lot of effort investing in physical/material goals- I want a house, this job, I want big muscles, etc. I think it’s good to have ideas of where you’d like to be (while being flexible with the idea that sometimes things don’t work as you want them to). Obviously we do need to have a job to make food to feed our families for example, and it helps to have a goal in order to get the education and training needed to get there. I think, though, that we focus so much on material goals that we forget about making spiritual ones. For example, people may hold a lavish wedding costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, but perhaps the bride and groom don’t even understand what the laavan are, and what the Anand Karaj means. We’ve invested so much on the external that we don’t take out the time to discover what’s internal. In today’s topic I wanted to talk about anger and how we can focus on where we need to be as a “goal” for guiding how to respond.

Anger is universally experienced by everyone, and we tend to spread it to other people like wildfire. It can be triggered by things that are so simple like we’re angry we stepped in a puddle and ruined our clothes, or it can be more serious, like “I’m angry my spouse cheated on me.” I’ll give you a simple example from today. I just finished my four week rotation out of town and I was overjoyed to finally be coming home. An hour into my drive, in the katha I was listening to, they started to do simran. I joined in: “Waheguru, Waheguru, Waheguru…I forgot my stethoscope.” So I immediately think, oh no. In two hours I’m going to be sitting at this exact same spot, and still an hour away from home. How frustrating. My thoughts switched from simran to being angry in just a split second. I figured I was actually lucky that I didn’t drive all the way home before I realized, and that I listened to an extra two hours of katha instead of going home and just collapsing on my bed. It just goes to show you how our mood can change so quickly, how our thoughts are also drawn away quickly and how they can stay there if we let them. I could have spent the two hours angry about it, but instead I tried to just enjoy the katha. 

Anger can obviously be toxic to our health. Most of us have experienced physical symptoms at some point from our anger. When I was little I used to spend a lot of time angry because I thought that somehow this would show the other person how much their action had hurt me, but really all it did was continually hurt me. I’d be the one crying and with a headache and stomach ache, and the other person would still have no idea what was going on due to my lack of communication. People aren’t mind-readers and destroying your own health certainly doesn’t do anything to resolve the situation. We certainly solve problems better when two people can sit with satogun thoughts (compassion, contentment, understanding, tolerance, etc.) and communicate our issues. I know a big problem for me has been a fear of hurting the other person’s feelings, particularly if I really care about a person. I used to avoid talking about topics that were bothering me just because I didn’t want to hurt feelings and then they would build up until I was so angry it just spilled out. I think being able to discuss calmly in a satogun state and talking allows us to know that we can share things without worrying about being offensive. It allows us to build honesty/authenticity and say what’s on our mind and that’s a lot healthier. I remember one katha on where they describe an example where someone drives by and throws a rock at you, and you are angry so now you get repeatedly angry whenever someone drives by, or you see a rock, etc. Yes it was a hurtful thing for them to have thrown a rock at you, but the point is that you are the one now unfortunately wasting away all your time, breath, and brain space, being angry about this incident instead of enjoying your life. So it really is important to understand how being excessively angry harms our health and uses up our precious breaths.

As you know, anger is one of the 5 dhoots- lust, anger, greed, attachment, and pride. Because of this, people think anger is evil and we should just avoid being angry. It’s used as a justification to suppress it/ “get over it”/ not deal with it. In truth, the 5 really can’t be suppressed though. It’s important to remind ourselves that the 5 dhoots aren’t evil, and they can actually be useful in this life; it’s just that we need to make sure our anger doesn’t take control of our mind. For most people it does- our anger makes us say and do things we didn’t want to and it lingers on and on, so that we waste our time away from God. Our goal is really to be at an avastha (spiritual level) where we are absorbed in Naam, let go of our ego, and at a stage where it doesn’t matter if you are praised or insulted, you are just as content. I posted a lot about this topic in my post about compassion and forgiveness as well, and I think that we need to take from the example of the Guru Ji’s who were verbally and physically attacked, and yet they didn’t react in anger. They didn’t create hatred against groups of people. They did emphasis the importance of standing up for the rights of others, for example, so it doesn’t mean we should just sit still and do nothing. Reaction is certainly difference than response. Response can be silence, conversation, action, etc. and we have a responsibility to stand up for ourselves and defend others too. That’s when we can do things like use that energy to rally together and fight for or create change in a positive way. Guruka Singh from Sikhnet has a video where he talks about how we these 5 are natural energies and we have to learn to face them and understand how they are part of us. I agree and I think it’s important then to have this framework of where we are headed and what’s our definition of normal, or what we see “everyone else doing” versus what we are taught in Gurbani. Since I started implementing changes to what I thought was an ideal goal for handling situations in which I’m angry, I stopped sustaining my anger. I realized that I cannot send an energy of anger and love at the same time, and I much prefer to care and love and hopefully work to resolve the issue than sustain a grudge. I know that I need to continue to work on it though. It’s just important to continually remember what we are striving for in this life, spiritually. That is what we take with us after this body is gone. Instead of fueling our anger, put that energy into fueling our love for God by investing in learning Gurbani, doing sewa, and Naam Japna.