Thursday, August 31, 2017

First Prakash Diwas Guru Granth Sahib Ji

Tomorrow (September 1st) is the 413th anniversary of the first Parkash Diwas of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. This is when Guru Arjan Dev Ji installed the Adi Granth at Harmandir Sahib. The following explains a bit of the history and the translation of the first hukamnama, which is on page 783/784 of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji: 

"At dawn, the entire sangat marched towards Harimandir. Bhai Buddha carried the Holy Book on his head and Guru Arjun walked behind swinging the whisk over it. Musicians sang shabads. Thus they reached the Harimandir. The Granth Sahib was ceremonially installed in the centre of the inner sanctuary on Bhadon Sudi 1, 1661 sK/September 1, 1604. Bhai Buddha opened it with reverence to obtain from it the divine command, as Guru Arjun stood in attendance behind. 
The following hymn was read as God's own announcement for the occasion:
'He Himself hath succoured His saints in their work, He himself hath come to see their task fulfilled. Blessed is the earth, blessed the tank. Blessed is the tank with amrit filled. Amrit overfloweth the tank: He hath had the task completed; Eternal is the Perfect Being, His praises Vedas and Puranas sing. The Creator hath bestowed on me the nine treasures, and all the charisms, No lack do I suffer now. Enjoying His largesse, bliss have I attained, Ever-expanding is the Lord's bounty.'" 
picture reference:  

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Priority Setting

At work we were talking today about priority setting for healthcare in communities, which made me think about priorities in family settings, individual relationships and ourselves. For the mental/spiritual/physical health of a family I think it’s really helpful for people to share similar priorities. I saw a video on Sikhnet that talked about how in a marriage, the devotion of the heart should match. Guruka Singh said it doesn’t matter if someone is further along in their spiritual growth because that can be balanced, but devotion matters a lot. He gave the example of a wife who has the Guru and sangat as the center of her life, and her husband has his job and “mates” as the center of his life, being a mismatch of devotion. (Of course it could be the other way around). How do those two people grow together? They would be growing in two different directions! I think his point ultimately can be summarized as “priorities.” What are your priorities as an individual? As a family? When we do Anand Karaj we are saying that as a couple we have decided that our priority is Guru Ji. Guru Ji has established this as a base for successful marriage. But some people leave that behind as soon as they walk out of the Gurdwara. If parents don’t have the same priorities, its hard for the children to figure out what to prioritize and for the family unit to be all on the same page.

Ultimately a person’s time, effort and heart’s energy is going to go towards where their top priority is. The maximal number of thoughts will go to that priority. Bhai Sewa Singh Ji talks about in his books how it is these differences in thoughts that lead to fighting within relationships, families and society at large. As Sikhs we are taught that our top priority is that main reason we came on this earth- our union with God, to move beyond the world of thoughts and connect on a deeper level of souls. 

There’s nothing wrong with realizing that you need to shuffle and readjust your priorities. I remember I wrote a post a long time ago that talked about how I had my priorities that I ideally wanted to have and then I evaluated how realistically how my day played how didn’t match, so I worked on matching it up and eventually I did that successfully. So I encourage you to think about what/who is important in your life, and what you actually did today (where were your thoughts? what were your actions?) and whether they aligned. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Healthy Sikh Youth

Today was probably one of the easiest transitions back to school/work than I’ve ever had, so I’m glad to have the time to write. A lot of what I learned today was about how preventing disease and healthy communities starts with healthy children (starting in pregnancy). At work, I was reading through a report from Northern Health about growing up healthy in our region. It talked about a lot of the social things that affect our health like education/employment, food/housing, and social supports (called social determinants of health), and about which things we are doing well and which need to be improved.

As I was reading through, I was thinking about what aspects of this are and are not relevant to our cultural community. In many ways, I have been asking myself these questions for years… What issues is our Sikh community facing and how do we address them? When we were planning programs directed at gang violence prevention in the South Asian program, or talking about diabetes, we had to address how specific aspects of our culture played into the issue at hand. I remember once when I was handing out healthy cooking DVDs about how to make healthier dhaal, one of the Aunties was insulted and said “but I already know how to cook!” It taught me that we have to think in a difference lens for different populations.

The report I read talked about how it’s important for a child to have their basic needs met (food, housing, education, childcare), emotional needs met (feel safe, valued, loved), and participate in the community (through activities in nature, cultural, and organized activities). I thought about what we do really well in our cultural community. One of the sections in the report was about improvement is needed in destigmatizing supports for parents. For the Sikh community, I think we good job of supporting pregnant moms and new moms. Particularly,there is a recognition that new moms need help, and either families come from far to help, or if they live all together already, it helps to take the pressure off the new parents for getting time to sleep, and take care of themselves. I also feel like there is encouragement for breastfeeding as well. I remember was actually surprised the first time I had heard about stigma around breast-feeding, because growing up in our culture it’s definitely supported and encouraged. We do a good job of emphasizing the importance of education as well.

I think in particular our community does a good job of connecting youth to our culture. We have recognized the importance of identity, and belonging and our roots. At the Gurdwara we provide programs like tabla lessons, punjabi lessons, kirtan classes, etc. Obviously most of us want our youth to be able to sit and participate in the program, but sometimes it can be really long for them. I remember Bhai Manvir Singh Ji talked in one of his kathas about how even having kids playing outside (not in the main hall) when they are younger is okay, because they develop a positive association with coming to the Gurdwara (instead of having the memory of someone yelling at them!). I feel like in the Sikh community we also do a good job of teaching resiliency through struggle, which is not only through our history, but most families have had when they adjusted to life in Canada. Overall, I really feel like we do a lot to help keep our children healthy and invest in their future. I think because families are invested in each other and our dreams are usually collective- that your children be successful in their lives, etc., it helps because the goals are long term. 

There were many recommendations in the report I read about what should be improved in our communities to support youth, and that included better supports for mental health and substance use, addressing poverty, etc. When we apply this to our cultural community, I think alcohol use, youth gang involvement/drug use, anger, and domestic violence are issues. Learning healthy coping strategies for stress (following the teachings of Sikhi and learning to combat the  thieves) is important to help in making our families healthier. Working on developing a sense of responsibility in the family (helping out around the house, etc.) and larger responsibility for our actions should be improved as well. That ties into some of the issues with drug use/gangs as well, because families that deny their child's problem enable the youth not to take responsibility, but those that get help often save their children's lives and futures. Developing a relationship with police is also a challenge in our community. I remember we were taking pictures with my dad one day, and someone said before they knew it was him, they initially panicked that the police was here. For those of us born here, police/9-1-1 means protection, safety, help. For many people from India, police means something different due to corruption. So I think developing positive relationships with police as a source for help when there is trouble is also important. I know a few Sikh youth who now want to become police officers and I think that’s really awesome in being able to change that perception for our futures!

Lastly, I think another new emerging issue is technology. I have read a few questions from youth about technology on Sikhnet, and on top of that, observing my own young cousins I’ve realized that a lot of parents don’t know what’s going on online. On top of that, a lot of youth don’t seem to know anything about basic internet safety! Especially for families that don’t supervise their kids that closely (often not by choice- grandma is watching the kids because both parents are working, etc.), it can be hard to know what they are doing online, compounded by the fact that some parents don’t know how to use that technology themselves.

We all play a role as part of the community to the health of children growing up. I think it’s important to recognize and explore what aspects of that we are doing well and which areas we can work on to support the healthy development of Sikh youth that are growing up.

The reference to the northern health report I was referring to:

Sunday, August 27, 2017


Some days are hard, and today was a hard one. Goodbyes are difficult to say, and I have had to say a lot over this last little bit. One of them was even a forever goodbye- an acquaintance who passed away last week. I’m reminded that our time here is temporary, and for a purpose. 

Yesterday I was reading Gyani Sant Singh Maskeen Ji’s book, Third Eye, and it talked about expressing gratitude in our Ardas. He talked about how the only thing that is ours in this life is God. We think everything is ours, but everything is actually temporary, and only God belongs to us. He said we should express gratitude in our Ardas. He described things such as being thankful for our parents, breath, etc. and included sunlight in the list. At this I paused and re-read. When have I ever been thankful for sunlight?!! That if there was no sun, we would not survive. It made me think… where is my gratitude? We make all kinds of demands in our Ardas, but where is our appreciation. Where is the moment of surrender? Bhai Manvir Singh says that the answer to our ardas can be ‘yes’, ‘yes but later’ or ‘no but something better is coming.’ When we say God, whatever you give me, whether it’s a no or a yes, I’ll be happy just to have you, then that is real trust and faith. 

So today was about gratitude. I’ve been really lucky to have met some very inspirational people in my life, however short or long they were there. I am fortunate that on my last day of summer break, I woke up with my family at Amritvela today and went to the Gurdwara, I went back for the morning and evening Divans. I’m grateful for the sangat, I’m grateful for the jatha, and I'm grateful that God has given me this time. So I’m trying today, to surrender my wishes and desires and hopes, and simply express gratitude for this precious human life.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Kirtani Jatha Clay Sculptures

They were a bit harder than expected to make, but I had fun!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

What Will People Think?

When we are little kids, I think the idea of “what will my parents think” helps to shape and guide our moral compass a little bit. It helps to keep us out of trouble and decide between what’s good and bad. When we get older though, I think “what will people think” becomes a problem. It’s not necessarily based on what is just, right, moral, true. Rather, it’s based on the pressures of culture and society. For example, if you keep your hair and you live in a community where most people don’t, you could say “what will people think” and get rid of your kes. You could get rid of your whole Sikh identity over the pressures of other people. Instead of using our own brains to decide what's right or true, we rely on public opinion. People’s opinions will vary and sometimes no choice you make is going to save you from gossip and judgement. "Oh she stayed home with her kids!" "Oh she went back to work and didn't stay home with her kids!"

Especially around stigmatized topics like mental health, drugs, domestic violence, etc. there is a lot of “what will other people say? What will they think?” Rather than even focusing on solving problems sometimes, it’s about covering them up so that other people won’t know. Living your life by what other people think is like a jail. It ties us down from being free, true to ourselves. More and more life becomes about appearances and less about what’s inside. People will talk and nitpick, but that’s their problem, not ours. For those of us who have read Gurbani, we know that it’s not right to slander and gossip about people.

I recently watched the movie Rabb Da Radio. (Spoiler alert if you haven’t seen it.) The main character has to decide between telling the truth and being kicked out of her in-laws home (this was set in the 70s so there was nowhere for her to go if she was kicked out) or to maintain a lie about the reputation of her sister-in-law and get to stay with her husband/in-laws family. I think the inner struggle of this character was very relatable. If we apply our current topic, anyone who thinks “what will people think” would have lied because her reputation would be ruined by being kicked out of her in-laws house and she would have had to beg on the streets. The movie was about our conscience, about our relationship with God, about faith in doing the right thing, and using that as our moral compass rather than what other people think. Even the sister-in-law's fiance doesn't accuse her or question her behaviour based on public opinion. I think it was a powerful message in using our own hearts to guide us. 

I think this issue is a matter of balance. If we didn't care what anyone thought we wouldn't follow laws. There would be disorder. But we can't overly care either. I think we should move on from “what will people think” to what would God think? What is just and right according to Sikhi. What does Guru Ji tell us? What is my conscience, which is connected to God, telling me? 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Back to School

I can’t believe the summer is over already and I’m just a couple of days from going back to school. It’s my last year so hopefully I’ll be able to keep up with recording shabads, blogging, art, and reading  (okay maybe not all of them, but at least some!). 

Recently, I dug up an old assignment from my first year of medical school where I had written that my goal was to work on my conflict resolution skills. Little did I actually know how many conflicts I would face that would offer me the chance to build these skills, that in fact this would go on to become one of my stronger skillsets. 

Sometimes in life we don’t really know what’s next. What is coming to test us, or the opposite, what surprises are around the corner! When we look back, it all fits together, but when we look ahead it’s all unknown. I didn’t know the amazing people I’d meet this summer. I deepened my connection to God through the good company of Gurmukhs that I met on my trip, and the kirtani jatha here. I was inspired to wake up and read Gurbani in the mornings, and do simran, to sing and listen to as much kirtan as possible. Each day that has tested my patience, I have turned to the power of Ardas and the Hukam of the Guru to soothe my mind. I realized when our connection with God deepens, so does the connection to ourselves and to other people, because God is both Nirankaar and Akar (formless and in forms). Looking back, this summer was very much about learning how to best take care of myself and recharge body, mind and soul (a lot of which was accomplished by playing with my cousins and little sister!).

Whenever there is something new, of course there is going to be an aspect of the unknown ahead and I think that feeling comes up for a lot of us each fall. Usually this time of year, a red leaf falls and we panic that the summer is over now. (I'm sure the darkness and coldness doesnt help anyone's mood.) But the unknown can bring us a lot of gifts that we never imagined and we can look forward to those. At each step of life, we bring forward what we have learned from the past and apply it. 

Good luck to everyone who is going back to school this fall! We are privileged to be getting an education. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Battle Raging Inside

Today I was reading “Pothi Parmesar Ka Thaan” by Bhai Sewa Singh Tarmala to my parents. The chapter I was reading was talking about our internal and external battles in life. Bhai Sahib writes about how back during the times of the Guru Jis, people were being sold as slaves in markets in India. In the context of oppression and the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, it became important for one to be able to defend oneself physically. To be able to ride a horse and be trained in weaponry became important to one’s personal freedom. Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji introduced these so that the Sikhs could defend themselves. 

Guru Arjan Dev Ji complied all the scriptures at the time and called them “Pothi Parmesar Ka Thaan.” Guru Hargobind Singh Ji lived the practical aspect of those teachings. Bhai Sahib writes about how the 5 (lust, anger, greed, pride, attachment) are making our mind a slave inside. What was true on the outside, was also true on the inside. We need to protect and fight for our mind’s freedom from slavery. As slaves of the 5, we fight with our families, and the people we love. The method of freedom is explained through Gurbani and starts with simran to awaken the mind. A sleeping mind cannot fight.

Sri Harmandir Sahib and the Akal Takht were made externally for people to be able to recognize what is in our mind. Harmandir Sahib represents the Mandar/Gurdwara/Mahal that God has made inside our own mind; that we have to work to access. Akal Takht was made to understand that just as decisions were made there, the same happens inside, at that place where God gives the mind a fansla (I’m having trouble translating this properly into English but I’ll use the word “decision”). In order to yield the sword correctly (only in defense, battling the other person’s mindset only and understanding that God resides within them too) the Sikhs had to conquer this internal battle first. That is why we are called Saint-Soldiers. 

So if we reach the Harmandir in our minds, if we bathe in the pool of Amrit of our minds, and cleanse the mind, we would not argue and we would not fight with one another. We would see God inside and outside. We are all warriors, but a lot of us have let our minds just go to sleep and we’ve been captured. We have to work to free our minds. Let’s all remember the story of the mind, what we came here to do. Let’s remind our friends, our families, and then work towards it. Next time you argue with someone/disagree/clash on something think about the 5 starting this fight. They’re stirring up trouble so you lose focus on your real task! I think about it nowadays and usually it’s easier to just let it go. Say Waheguru, breathe deeply. Then you no longer are caught up in the argument itself, but see the other person and their importance to you. 

Bhul chuk maaf karni.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Kirtani Jatha

Many people have been asking about recordings for the shabads by Bhai Dawinder Singh Ji and Bhai Surinder Singh Ji (Goraya Wale), with Bhai Ranjit Singh Ji playing tabla. We are so happy and blessed to have had them here with us for the last 5 months at our Gurdwara Sahib. The sweetness with with they read Gurbani has been an inspiration to many and we will be sad to see them leaving later this month. Their last program will be on Sunday. A special thank you to Bhai Surinder Singh Ji for teaching us kirtan and tabla. For access to their recordings, the shabads have been uploaded onto youtube.
Please check out (and be sure to subscribe to):

Friday, August 18, 2017

Dukh Bhanjani Beri

I saw a portrait of Bibi Rajni shared on a facebook page for Sikh history quotes, and I remembered seeing a movie about Dukh Bhanjani Beri when I was younger. I decided to refresh my memory about the history.

Bibi Rajni was the 7th daughter (some sources say fifth) of Raja Duni Chand, a revenue collector. She was a Sikh of Guru Ram Das Ji. One day her sisters were excited that their father had given them new dresses. Bibi Ji remarked that these gifts are actually from God. Raj Duni Chand was overtaken with anger and pride that he had bought those gifts. He decided to marry her to a leper to teach her a lesson- he would see how God would help her live her life now. Bibi Ji was a devoted wife. She cared for her husband, bathing and feeding him as sewa. She used to carry him in a basket (I realize the picture is showing a wagon, but the history says it was a basket).

Bibi Ji’s husband asked her to take him to a place of worship to end their suffering. They were poor so they had to beg for food. She carried her husband to many places of Hindu worship, but no one was able to cure him. Guru Ram Das Ji was constructing Amritsar at that time. When they met other Sikhs, they were given a room to live. Bibi Rajni started cooking meals for langar. Nearby there was a Ber tree. It was at this place that Guru Amardas Ji used to pick basil (Tulsi) to put on the infected toe of Guru Angad Dev Ji. She carried her husband to the shade of that Ber tree and left to go make food for langar.

Her husband saw two crows fighting for a piece of bread, and when they dipped into the nearby pool of water, the crows came out white. He pulled himself to the water. He was cured of leprosy! He kept one finger out of the water to show her it was still him. When Bibi Ji returned, she believed that this stranger had killed her husband. She didn’t believe his story. She went to Guru Ram Das Ji to determine if it was true. Guru Ji told her about the healing powers of the water, and that her husband should put that finger in as well and it would be cured. Indeed, he was cured. This spot became known as Dukh Bhanjani Beri (reliever of pain and suffering).

The couple continued to do sewa, and had seven sons together. Duni Chand apologized and accepted his son-in-law, giving him all of his property. He went on to become a disciple of the Guru.

This Sakhi reminds us to speak truth as Bibi Ji spoke to her father, telling him that God was the giver; to maintain faith in difficult times just as Bibi Ji did when she served her husband as a leper; and in the healing powers of Gurbani.

Photos and history from the following references: