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 https://www.sikhnet.com/news/chardi-kala-whats 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