Friday, May 27, 2016

A mix pot "Sikh" wedding: The modern day Punjabi wedding...

What is nowadays labelled as ‘Sikh’ wedding by Punjabis,  in reality are a mix of Hindu, Islamic, Christian and Punjabi traditions. Most people unbeknown to them follow these rituals in good faith and enjoy them thinking they are part and parcel of Sikhi. However, it is usually the case that these rituals and customs are contrary to Sikhi and therefore defeat the objective of having an Anand Karaj, which is to receive the blessings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Due to a lack of knowledge and awareness about what a ‘Sikh’ wedding in reality should be, most people carry on following popular culture.

6 non-Sikh traditions that people think are part of "Sikh" weddings

(1) Rangoli/ Maaeeyaa (Hinduism)
Rangoli is an ancient Hindu form of drawing for special festivities. It is meant to welcome the Hindu deities into the home for blessings and is an offering of good luck. Before weddings take place, a Rangoli design is made on the floor, which consists of repeating patterns of flowers and geometric shapes made of flour and colour. In this pre-wedding ritual, the bride or groom sits on a stool before the Rangoli pattern and has a a turmeric paste applied to them. This Hindu ritual is meant to make their minds and bodies pure before the marriage ceremony. It is also used to lighten and beautify the skin.

Note: A Sikh would want to invite Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji to their home, rather than a deity or goddess. There is no such thing as good luck. Good actions lead to lead good results. Reciting and singing Gurbani brings blessings. One is beautified according to Gurmat by singing Vahiguru's Praises and living in accordance to the Guru's Teachings.

(2) Mehndi Ceremony (Islamic)
Dyeing the hands and feet with henna is something mustahabb (encouraged) for women in Islam, unlike for men. A number of Hadiths indicate that it is highly encouraged. Abu Dawood (4166) narrates, "A woman gestured from behind a screen, with a letter to the Prophet Muhammad in her hand. Prophet Muhammad withdrew his hand and said: “I do not know whether it is the hand of a man or a woman.” She said: It is a woman. He said: “If you were a woman, you would have changed your nails,” meaning, with henna. It is part of the Muslim tradition (Sunnah) for women to dye their hands with henna as instructed by Prophet Muhammad to be differentiated from men.

Note: A Sikh wears that which pleases the Guru, not another religion's respected prophets. The Guru is pleased with a Sikh wearing the Panj Kakkaar.

(3) Sehra (Hindu/Mughal)
A Sehra is decorative veil worn by a groom that originates from Northern India from Vedic times. It consists of an embroidered rectangular piece with strings that make up the veil. The stringed veil can be either made of flowers or beads. The Sehra is tied over the groom’s turban. Alternatively the groom’s turban can have the Sehra stitched into it. First, it covers the face of the groom like a veil and protects him from "Nazar" or the "evil eye." Second, it reminds the groom that the search for a life partner is over and a veil across the face indicates he should not look any other lady. Although it originates from Hindu culture, amongst Muslims the Sehra has been patronised and adopted into Islamic culture since the Mughal era where kings wore elaborate looking head gears encrusted with precious pearls and stones during their weddings. In fact, the word ‘Sehra’ literally means a poem sung during a ‘nikah', Muslim wedding ceremony.

Note: Gurbani does not believe in the 'evil eye' concept', and says reciting Vahiguru's Name rids one any perceived evil eyes or bad luck. Secondly, a Sikh lives by the principal of seeing every other woman as his daughter, sister or mother. Throughout Sikh history Sikh's have been known for their high moral character, and this was without the help or reminder of a Sehra or face veil.

(4) Jai Mala (Hindu)
The Var Mala ceremony is known as Jaimala also. The reference of this ritual is found in Vedic literature. In ancient times (during Vedic age), the kings used to arrange the system of selection of the groom by their daughters. They used to invite the son of kings (raaj-kumars) of the friendly states, a grand ceremony was arranged and the girl (or bride) was given the opportunity to select the groom of her choice. In this system, she was free to put the garlands in the neck of her groom of choice. The same concept is followed in modern times too, but with the changes that there is only one bride and groom.

Note: A Sikh couple's union in Gurmat is bound by Gurbani and blessings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji when one bows before the Guru and walks around the Guru to indicate the Guru is the centre of their lives. A Sikh's union is not made with garlands or necklaces, but bound by the Guru.

(5) Ring Ceremony (Christian)
Early Christian marriages had a ritual to wear the wedding ring in the third finger. As the priest recited during the binding, "In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”, he would take the ring and touch the thumb, the index finger, and the middle finger; then, while uttering “Amen”, he would place the ring on the ring finger, which sealed the marriage. Nowadays, it is worn on the fourth finger. The church considers it as a symbol of love and faithfulness. It stands for the promise made between a man and a woman that binds them for eternity in love.

Note: A Sikh wears no symbol of any other religion or belief. A Sikh wears the Panj Kakkaar as their jewellery and symbol of commitment to the Guru.

(6) Throwing of Rice (Hindu/Christian)
In Hinduism as the bride steps out of her parent’s house to be a part of her husband’s family, she pauses at the doorstep to throw handful of coins and rice back over her head thrice. Throwing rice and or money, is a manifestation of Goddess Lakshmi (the Hindu Goddess of prosperity and wealth). The bride wishes that her parent’s house always remain prosperous. Coins signify wealth, whereas rice is a symbol of health. This ritual also symbolises that the bride has repaid her parents for her upbringing and for everything they have bestowed on her.  In Christianity, the rice throwing tradition at weddings originates from Paganism. Throwing of rice in marriage ceremony is the same as throwing salt over ones shoulder. It's casting a spell for good luck and a blessing for fertility. In Christianity it was re-interpreted as a reminder to the couple that the primary purpose in marriage is to create a family that will serve and honour the Lord. Therefore, guests symbolically throw rice as a gesture of blessing for the spiritual and physical fruitfulness of the marriage.

Note: According to Gurmat as one acts, he reaps. To throw rice as a blessing is not Gurmat. To wish someone well and give blessings in Sikhi is through reciting Gurbani and doing Simran.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

"Gangsterism" and violence in the name of Sikhi: A Sikh perspective...

ਜੋ ਸਿੱਖ, ਸਿੱਖ ਨੂੰ ਜਾਣ ਕੇ ਕੈਦ ਕਰਾਏ, ਲੁਟਾਏ, ਮਰਵਾਏ, ਸੋ ਦੈਂਤ ਜਾਨਣਾ । - Tankhahnama Bhai Choupa Singh Shibber 

Author: Bhai Jasjit Singh Ji, New Jersey

The current situation in the Panth of Sikhs fighting amongst themselves leading to Beadbi (disrespect) of the Dastaar, pulling of Kes, killings, and committing assassination attempts on fellow Sikh Gur-bhais (Guru-joined brothers), is sure a sad state. In fact, it points to the uprising of the  Malechh (fake imposters).

Daas was going through Rehatnamay (Sikh codes of conduct) and there are very hard Bachans (words) towards those Sikhs who commit and indulge in such acts against other Sikhs. Tankhaahnama Bhai Chuapa Singh mentions those accounts as very much against Sikhi, resulting in one becoming a Thankhaiya (liable for religious disciplinary action, including socio-religious boycott).
1) ਜੋ ਸਿਖ, ਸਿੱਖ ਦੇ ਦਾੜ੍ਹੇ ਹੱਥ ਪਾਏ, ਸੋ ਭੀ ਤਨਖਾਹੀਆ ।   
"A Sikh who pulls another Sikh's beard is a Thankhaiya."

2) ਜੋ ਸਿਖ, ਸਿੱਖ ਦੇ ਕੇਸਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਹੱਥ ਪਾਏ, ਸੋ ਭੀ ਤਨਖਾਹੀਆ ।
"A Sikh who pulls another Sikh's Kes (hair) is a Thankhaiya."

3) ਜੋ ਸਿਖ ਨਾਲ ਹੱਥੋਂ-ਪਾਈ-ਲੜਾਈ ਕਰੇ, ਸੋ ਭੀ ਤਨਖਾਹੀਆ ।
"One who gets involved in a physical fight with a Sikh is a Thankhaiya."

For the above three you can imagine how many Thankhaiye are out there now. How can we talk about the Chardi Kala of the Panth? The following code talks about one who doesn’t stop the fight even if asked by a fellow Sikh is also a Thankhaiya:
4) ਜੋ ਦੁਇ ਸਿਖ ਆਪਸ ਵਿਚ ਲੜਨ, ਸਿੱਖ ਮਨ੍ਹਾ ਕਰਨ ਅਤੇ ਲੜਾਈ ਨਾ ਛਡਣ, ਸੋ ਤਨਖਾਈਏ ।    
"When two Sikhs are fighting amongst themselves and a Sikh tells them not to but they continue, they are Thankhaiye."

The next Bachan is even stronger:
5) ਜੋ ਸਿੱਖ ਸਿੱਖ ਨੂੰ ਜਾਣ ਕੇ ਕੈਦ ਕਰਾਏ, ਲੁਟਾਏ, ਮਰਵਾਏ, ਸੋ ਦੈਂਤ ਜਾਨਣਾ ।   
"A Sikh who intentionally sends to prison, loots, or kills another Sikhs, should be recognised as a demon."

Furthermore, it says one who has close contact with them are Thankhaiye too. Not Just Thankhaiya but "Bemukh Thankhaiya". Be-mukh means one who turned their face away from the Guru, i.e. an apostate:
6) ਗੁਰੂ ਕੇ ਸਿਖ ਐਸੇ ਨਾਲ ਨਾ ਵਰਤਣ, ਬੇਮੁਖ ਤਨਖਾਹੀਆ ।   
"A Sikh of the Guru should not associated with such a person, otherwise they are Bemukh Thankhaiya."

In light of above Rehatnamay (codes of conduct), the recent killing of Bhai Bhupinder Singh is committed by none other than a Daint (demon). They can’t even be called Sikh. Whoever supports them or keeps relation with such people are also BEMUKH Thankhaiye.

May Guru Sahib save us from this dark age of Kaljug and Malechha da Naas Hovay.

Jasjit Singh

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Gurdwaras and Sikh Rehit Maryada...

5 things that most Gurdwaras don't do but still claim that they only follow Sri Akal Takht's Maryada

 1. The colour of the Nishan Sahib
The Sikh Rehit Maryada states:
(ਡ)  ਹਰ ਇਕ ਗੁਰਦੁਆਰੇ ਵਿਚ ਨਿਸ਼ਾਨ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਕਿਸੇ ਉਚੀ ਥਾਂ ਤੇ ਲੱਗਾ ਹੋਵੇ | ਨਿਸ਼ਾਨ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਦੇ ਪੁਸ਼ਾਕੇ ਦਾ ਰੰਗ ਬਸੰਤੀ ਜਾਂ ਸੁਰਮਈ ਹੋਵੇ ਅਤੇ ਨਿਸ਼ਾਨ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਦੇ ਸਿਰੇ ਉਤੇ ਸਰਬਲੋਹ ਦਾ ਭਾਲਾ ਜਾਂ ਖੰਡਾ ਹੋਵੇ |
"Every Gurdwara should have a Nishan Sahib on a raised level. The material of the Nishan Sahib should be yellow (Basanti) or greyish blue (Surmei), and the on the end of the Nishan Sahib should be a spear or Khanda made of Sarbloh (pure-iron)."
Sadly, nowadays it is becoming a rare sight to see a Nishan Sahib that is the correct colour. The colour of Nishan Sahibs are either orange (Kesri), dark orange, or peach colour. These are not colours that represent the Sikh sovereign nation. There is no Rehatnama that instructs Sikhs to have a Kesri colour flag. The Kesri flag, or orange colour, is a Hindu national colour and resembles the flag outside a Hindu temple and is the same colour as the RSS and Hindu right wing flags. The peach colour flag is used by Hindu saints and Deras.

2. The Nagara
The Sikh Rehit Maryada states:
(ਢ)   ਗੁਰਦੁਆਰੇ ਵਿਚ ਨਗਾਰਾ ਹੋਵੇ, ਜੋ ਸਮੇਂ ਸਿਰ ਵਜਾਇਆ ਜਾਵੇ |
"A Nagara (war drum) should be kept in the Gurdwara, which should be played at the appropriate times."
In most Gurdwaras the Nagara is absent and if they do have a Nagara it is not played during Prakaash time in the morning, during Ardaas time, and Sukhaasan time. 

The massive drum with a metallic hemispheric body was called ‘Ranjit Nagara’, the drum of victory, a name given the kettledrum percussion instrument installed by Guru Gobind Singh Ji at Sri Anandpur Sahib in 1684.  The Nagara, Punjabi for the Persian ‘naqqarah’ was a symbol of royalty. As well as fulfilling his spiritual office, Guru Gobind Singh Ji had, like his grandfather, Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji, adopted the emblems of worldly dignity. He wore an Kalgi and arms, sat under canopy and went out riding in state. The installation of a Nagara was another sign of authority. Keeping and using a Nagara in the Gurdwara had become part of Sikh tradition. The Nagara is beaten as a declaration of the sovereignty of the Khalsa, as a symbol of the sovereignty of truth and righteousness. 

3. Akhand Paaths
The Sikh Rehit Maryada states: 
ਜੇ ਕੋਈ ਆਦਮੀ ਆਪ ਪਾਠ ਨਹੀਂ ਕਰ ਸਕਦਾ, ਤਾਂ ਕਿਸੇ ਚੰਗੇ ਪਾਠੀ ਕੋਲੋਂ ਸੁਣ ਲਵੇ ਪਰ ਇਹ ਨਾ ਹੋਵੇ ਕਿ ਪਾਠੀ ਆਪੇ ਇਕੱਲਾ ਬਹਿ ਕੇ ਪਾਠ ਕਰਦਾ ਰਹੇ ਤੇ ਸੰਗਤ ਜਾਂ ਟੱਬਰ ਦਾ ਕੋਈ ਆਦਮੀ ਨਾ ਸੁਣਦਾ ਹੋਵੇ |
"If someone cannot do Paath themselves, then should listen from a good Paath reader, but it should not be the case that the Paath reader is sitting by themselves reading with no Sangat or family of the individual present."
Akhand Paaths have become misused and the respect shown to Gurbani has deteriorated over time. Rather than encouraging the Sangat to read Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji themselves and hold Sadhaaran Paath, Gurdwaras happily do Akhand Paaths knowing at night time there is no Sangat or family members listening to the Paath. It has been inspiring to see Akhand Paaths conducted by Gursikhs during Smaagams before Rainsbaaees usually, where Gursikhs throughout the Akhand Paath sit near Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and listen to the Paath. However, for the majority Sangat that is not the case.

4. Anand Kaaraj
The Sikh Rehit Maryada states:
ਪ੍ਰਕਰਮਾਂ ਕਰਨ ਸਮੇਂ ਰਾਗੀ ਜਾਂ ਸੰਗਤ ਲਾਵਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਕ੍ਰਮ ਅਨੁਸਾਰ ਸੁਰ ਨਾਲ ਗਾਈ ਜਾਣ ਅਤੇ ਵਰ ਕੰਨਿਆਂ ਹਰ ਇਕ ਲਾਂਵ ਮਗਰੋਂ ਮੱਥਾ ਟੇਕ ਕੇ ਅਗਲੀ ਲਾਂਵ ਸੁਣਨ ਲਈ ਖੜ੍ਹੇ ਹੋ ਜਾਣ | ਉਪਰੰਤ ਮੱਥਾ ਟੇਕ ਕੇ ਆਪਣੀ ਥਾਂ ਤੇ ਬੈਠ ਜਾਣ ਤੇ ਰਾਗੀ ਸਿੰਘ ਜਾਂ ਅਨੰਦ ਕਰਾਉਣ ਵਾਲਾ ਅਨੰਦ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਦੀਆਂ ਪਹਿਲੀਆਂ ਪੰਜ ਪਉੜੀਆਂ ਤੇ ਅੰਤਲੀ ਪਉੜੀ ਦਾ ਪਾਠ ਕਰੇ |
"The boy and girl, after every Parkarma, should Matha Tek before Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, lowering their forehead to touch the ground and then stand back up to listen to the recitation of the next Laav. After the fourth Parkarma, the boy and girl should, after doing Matha Tek before Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, sit down at the appointed place and the Raagis or the person who has conducted the ceremony should recite the first five and the last Pauris of Anand Sahib"
According to the Sikh Rehit Maryada one is supposed to stand up to listen to the reading of each Laav, then do Matha Tekh, followed by Parkarma. When one goes before a judge, the person being addressed and spoken to by the judge, has to stand up. Similarly, when someone goes to receive the gift of Amrit from the Panj Piaare, you have to stand up when speaking to the Panj Piaare and when they interview and speak to you. 

5. Langar and Degh
The Sikh Rehit Maryada states:
ਸਿਰਗੁੰਮ , ਨੜੀ ਮਾਰ (ਜੋ ਸਿੱਖ ਹੋ ਕੇ ਇਹ ਕੰਮ ਕਰਨ) ਦਾ ਸੰਗ ਨਹੀਂ ਕਰਨਾ |
"Do not associate with (one who being a Sikh becomes) a Sirgum (cut-haired) or tobacco user." 
It further states:
(ਠ)  ਤਨਖਾਹੀਏ ਇਹ ਹਨ:- ੧.   ਮੀਣੇ, ਮਸੰਦ, ਧੀਰਮੱਲੀਏ, ਰਾਮਰਾਈਏ, ਆਦਿਕ ਪੰਥ ਵਿਰੋਧੀਆਂ ਨਾਲ ਜਾਂ ਨੜੀ ਮਾਰ, ਕੁੜੀ ਮਾਰ, ਸਿਰਗੁੰਮ ਨਾਲ ਵਰਤਨ ਵਾਲਾ ਤਨਖਾਹੀਆ ਹੋ ਜਾਂਦਾ ਹੈ |
"The following are Tankhaahias (individuals liable to be reprimanded involving automatic social boycott):  1.    Anyone maintaining relations or communion with Meene, Masand, followers of Dheermal or Raam-Raae, or any other anti-Panthic individuals or groups, Narhee-maar (users of tobacco), Kurhee-maar (those who kill or abort their daughters), and Sirgum (those who cut their hair)."
According to the Sikh Rehat Maryada foot note, maintaining relations or communion means "ਰੋਟੀ ਬੇਟੀ ਦੀ ਸਾਂਝ" (i.e. to eat from or marry into). Nowadays, there are Gurdwaras which have those who cut their hair or use tobacco or intoxicants (i.e. alcohol) giving out Degh, making Langar and distributing Langar.  Some Gurdwaras even have paid chefs or Laangaris who have cut hair and or consume intoxicants (i.e. alcohol etc). According to the Sikh Rehat Maryada, anyone cooked food and from the hands of such persons would be deemed liable for religious disciplinary action (i.e. Tankhaah). Due to pleasing others, the observation of the Sikh Rehat Maryada has been relaxed and yet still claim to be following the Panth's Maryada.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Bradford Sikh Family Camp...

On Sunday 1st May 2016, Guru Nanak Gurdwara Bradford held a one-day Sikh Family Camp for all ages. The theme of the camp was 'universal brotherhood'. The workshops covered sisterhood and brotherhood within Sikhi, and the familyhood of humanity. The speakers included Bhai Vijay Singh (Luton), Bhenji Navrup Kaur (Woolwich), Bhai Jagjit Singh (Wakefield), and Bhenji Sukhi Kaur (Birmingham).

During the camp younger campers learnt about the Nishan Sahib, Saakhis (stories), and how to do Johrian Di Seva (seva of cleaning shoes). The camp ended with campers sharing what they had learnt with the rest of the Sangat and all campers singing Shabad Keertan. This was followed by Rehraas Sahib by campers. May Guru jee bless all the organizers and sevadaars to do more sevaa!

Bhai Vijay Singh's workshop

Bhenji Sukhi Kaur's workshop where she used a puppet to help explain Sikhi to the children

Bhenji Ujjagar Kaur with the nursery children

Fun activities and games

Younger children learning about the history of the Sikh Gurus

Workshop on the Panthic spirit of Gursikhs during the British Raaj

Children doing Sikhi activities

Children doing Johrian Di Seva.

Questions and answers session with the adults

Campers presented what they have learnt and the message they are taking away with them from the camp

At the camp I met Bibi Ruth Kaur. An English lady in her 60s from Doncaster, who has taken Amrit. She had come to Bradford to attend the camp. Hearing her journey to Sikhi was very inspiring.

Dhan Hai Guru, Dhan Hai Teree Sikhee!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Part 2 - Denmark Sikh Family Camp - Inspirational Stories

Story from the Sikh Family Camp held from 22-24 April, 2016, in Denmark:

ਪੂਤਾ ਮਾਤਾ ਕੀ ਆਸੀਸ ||
ਨਿਮਖ ਨ ਬਿਸਰਉ ਤੁਮ੍ਹ ਕਉ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਸਦਾ ਭਜਹੁ ਜਗਦੀਸ ||੧|| ਰਹਾਉ ||
"O son, this is your mother's hope and prayer, that you may never forget the Lord, even for an instant. May you ever vibrate upon the Lord of the Universe. ||1||Pause||"
(Goojree M:5, 496)

At the Denmark Sikh Family Camp I met Bhai Lakhdeep Singh, his wife and young child. Bhai Lakhdeep Singh can always be seen doing seva in the Langar or Chaur Sahib seva. I had an opportunity to talk to him and find out about his journey into Sikhi. 

Bhai Lakhdeep Singh has a disabled child called Kabir-jyot Singh ('Kabir' literally meaning 'magnificent', and 'Jyot' meaning 'light'). Truly, Bhai Lakhdeep Singh and his wife have accepted their disabled child as the great light in their lives which has made them see and appreciate life and Vahiguru. Kabir-jyot Singh was not born disable, but when still a baby he became ill and the hospital doctors in Punjab gave him to much oxygen which resulted in brain damage. It was inspirational to see how both Bhai Sahib and wife accepted Vahiguru's Will and do not see their child as a burden or punishment from Vahiguru, but a blessing from Vahiguru which helps them to remember Vahiguru. "Kabir-Jyot gives us so much happiness. He is the joy of our lives. He keeps us remembering Vahiguru. We are thankful we have have been given this opportunity to do his seva" said Bhai Lakhdeep Singh. 

Bhai Lakhdeep Singh shared his mother had taken Amrit and was very religious minded. However, his father was not Amritdhari and drank alcohol. His mother had inspired and encouraged him to visit the Gurdwara, do Seva and instilled in him Sikh values. However, during college he got into the wrong company and ended up visiting the barber's shop. The long Kes (hair) his mother had proudly taken care of since childhood, was cut by the barber and placed into an envelope. 

Bhai Sahib came home and opened the gate of the house. When his mother saw him with a shaven face and cut hair, she began crying and slapped him in the face. Slapping him on the face, she said, "What have you have! What have you done! I begged and begged the Guru to have you and now this what you have done? I went to Baba Buddha Ji's Asthaan (place) to do Ardaas to have you. O what have you done? I looked after your Kes with such love and devotion. How will I face my Guru?" 

ਬਚਨ ਹੈ ਸ੍ਰੀ ਗੁਰੂ ਜੀ ਕਾ ਕਿ ਜੇ ਕੋਈ ਸਿਖ ਦਾ ਬੇਟਾ ਹੋਇ ਔਰ ਮੋਨਾ ਹੋਇ ਜਾਵੇ, ਤਿਸ ਕੀ ਜੜ ਸੁੱਕੀ,
ਔਰ ਜੋ ਮੋਨਾ ਸਿਖ ਹੋਇ ਜਾਵੇ ਤਿਸ ਕੀ ਜੜ ਹਰੀ |
“The sermon of the Guru is that if a son of a Sikh becomes ‘Mona’ (cut-haired) then his roots have dried up; and if a ‘Mona’ becomes a Sikh, then their roots have become fresh with life.
 (Thankhahnama: Bhai Nand Lal Ji, p. 60)

Being young and immature, Bhai Lakhdeep Singh said that he got the envelope with his cut Kes and threw the envelope at his mother, and said, "Here have you beloved Kes. You did the Ardaas, not me. I don't care what anyone says, I am happy like this." Saying this he walked out in anger from the house. 

When he came back home that night, his mother did not speak to him. Three days had passed and his mother had not spoken to and nor cooked for him. After three days, his grandmother called him over and said, "Son. Do you know that for three days, your mother has not eaten a single grain of food nor a single drop of water. This is because of you. If you want your mother to eat food or drink water, you will have to seek forgiveness from here." Knowing his mother, he knew that she had great faith and courage, and that if she had her mind set to do something she would. It was clear that the mother would happily go without food and happily die if her son had turned his back to his Guru.

Moved by the determination and suffering of his mother, he immediately went to his mother and fell at her feet. He said, "Mata Ji, please forgive me. I have made a mistake. I will never cut my hair again, but please eat some food and have some water."  The mother asked, "If you promise that you will never commit the same mistake you did again, I will eat something my son." They both embraced one another. 

Bhai Lakhdeep Singh said, "My mother's faith and determination gave me Sikhi. If my mother had said, "O well, youngsters are youngsters" or "these things happen" I would not be a Gursikh today. My mother's stubbornness and strict stand made me turn around. That was only time I ever allowed a barber to touch my hair with scissors."

One thing that moved him and deepened his faith again was a CD that was given to him. The audio CD was a divaan of Bhai Ranjit Singh Dhadrianwale on the Shaheedi of the Chhote Sahibzaade. Hearing the history of the Sahibzaade further strengthened his resolve to follow the Guru and seek the Guru's blessings. Keeping his Kesh and wearing a Dastaar again, he was walking in the village and came across a young Hindu boy who was his friend. He was shocked to see that he had grown his Kes, and wearing a Dastaar. He asked, "What has happened to?" The young man replied, "I have decided to become a Sikh and planning to take Amrit. Let's take Amrit together." Just as company had taken him away from the Guru, the blessed company brought him back to the Guru. Both friends went to Takht Kesgarh Sahib and received the gift of Amrit.

After Amrit, both him and his friend would everyday go the local Gurdwara and do Seva. His father became so angry with him doing Seva that he scolded him and said, "You are always at the Gurdwara. Move your bed to the Gurdwara and stay there. Get out of this house!" When the father went away, the mother would hug him and say, "Don't worry son! I will speak to your father and make him come around. Carry on doing Guru Ji's Seva and visiting the Gurdwara. Never give up on Seva or stop going to the Gurdwara. Go, and remember to come back home."  His mother would always cover him and protect him whilst building up his Sikhi in front of his less understanding and non-religious father. 

Despite not much education due to the circumstances at home, he got married to his wife who is an Advocate and university graduate. He asked his wife that she would have to take Amrit if they wished to get married. She accepted and received Amrit. Both of them showed so much contentment and satisfaction with life, despite the day to day challenges of life, which left a lasting impression on me. 

ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਬਚਨ ਤੁਮ੍ਹਾਰੇ ||  ਨਿਰਗੁਣ ਨਿਸਤਾਰੇ ||੧|| ਰਹਾਉ ||
 ਮਹਾ ਬਿਖਾਦੀ ਦੁਸਟ ਅਪਵਾਦੀ ਤੇ ਪੁਨੀਤ ਸੰਗਾਰੇ ||੧|| 
ਜਨਮ ਭਵੰਤੇ ਨਰਕਿ ਪੜੰਤੇ ਤਿਨ੍ਹ ਕੇ ਕੁਲ ਉਧਾਰੇ ||੨|| 
ਕੋਇ ਨ ਜਾਨੈ ਕੋਇ ਨ ਮਾਨੈ ਸੇ ਪਰਗਟੁ ਹਰਿ ਦੁਆਰੇ ||੩|| 
ਕਵਨ ਉਪਮਾ ਦੇਉ ਕਵਨ ਵਡਾਈ ਨਾਨਕ ਖਿਨੁ ਖਿਨੁ ਵਾਰੇ ||੪||੧||੧੪੧|| 
"O True Guru, by Your Words, even the worthless have been saved. ||1||Pause|| Even the most argumentative, vicious and indecent people, have been purified in Your company. ||1|| Those who have wandered in reincarnation, and those who have been consigned to hell - even their families have been redeemed. ||2|| Those whom no one knew, and those whom no one respected - even they have become famous and respected at the Court of the Lord. ||3|| What praise, and what greatness should I attribute to You? Nanak is a sacrifice to You, each and every moment. ||4||1||141||" 
(Aasa M:5, 406)

Monday, May 02, 2016

Part 1 - Denmark Sikh Family Camp - Inspirational Stories

Story from the Sikh Family Camp held from 22-24 April, 2016, in Denmark:

Story of Brother Rakesh

ਜੀਅ ਕੀ ਬਿਰਥਾ ਹੋਇ ਸੁ ਗੁਰ ਪਹਿ ਅਰਦਾਸਿ ਕਰਿ ||
ਛੋਡਿ ਸਿਆਣਪ ਸਗਲ ਮਨੁ ਤਨੁ ਅਰਪਿ ਧਰਿ ||
"When your soul is feeling sad, offer your prayers to the Guru. Renounce all your cleverness, and dedicate your mind and body to Him." 
(Gujri M:5, 519)

At the end of the Sunday divaan, Bhai Gursewak Singh came to me and said that someone would like to talk to me. I thought it must be someone who is upset with the lecture I had given about Gurmat and felt offended that I spoke about alcohol or Amrit etc. Bhai Gursewak Singh brought to me a Veer jee with cut hair, wearing an orange rumaal and an 'Om' Hindu symbol around his neck. The Veer jee said to me, "Sat Siree Akaal jee." He spoke Hindi. He asked, "Can I take a few of your moments, I wished to talk to you." 

We took a seat at the back of the Darbar Sahib and began talking. The Veer jee introduced himself and said, "My name is Rakesh. I am a Hindu. I am originally from Gujarat. I come here, to the Gurdwara regularly. The one thing I love about Sikhs and the Sikh religion is - simplicity. Everything is so simple and everyone is so welcoming. Although I am a Hindu, I don't get the same inner-peace and joy that I get from the Hindu temple as I get from the Gurdwara Sahib..."

He continued, "I wish to share with you a story about this Gurdwara and how this is a special place for me." He explained that he was married to a Danish lady, who had a daughter from a previous marriage but was accepted by Rakesh as his own. When he arrived in the country he used to go school to learn how to speak Danish. Whilst learning Danish he met a Punjabi aunty who was also learning Danish. One day the Punjabi aunty invited Rakesh to the Gurdwara Sahib because they had an Akhand Paatth Sahib.

Rakesh explained, "From when my daughter was born, her feet were not flat. They were curved upwards. Because she could not place her foot flat, she could not walk. The doctors said that there was no cure and wrote that she would never ever be able to walk." He explained that on the Saturday of the Akhand Paatth Sahib, they visited the Gurdwara Sahib in Copenhagen for the first time. He didn't know much about Sikhs and it was the first time he was visiting a Gurdwara in his life. Rakesh, his Danish wife and daughter which they carried to the Darbaar Sahib, stood before Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. 

Rakesh said, "Sardar Ji! My wife and I decided we would pray to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji to make our daughter better so that she can walk. My wife and I stood before Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji with our hands together and prayed. My wife said to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji that if he makes our daughter better, she would raise her as a Sikh. We later had langar and went home." He explained, that evening they arrived home, they noticed their daughter's curled feet had gone one inch down. The following morning they woke up, they noticed their daughter's feet had gone down by another inch. By seven days, both feet of their daughter were straight and touching the ground. Rakesh smiled and said, "The doctors said she could not walk. Within a week Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji blessed our daughter and she is able to walk now. Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji is not just wisdom - Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji is a Power. I know - I have experienced this. Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji is a real, a Living Power. Since then, I come all the time to the Gurdwara, listen to Gurbani and Keertan, and do Seva. I love coming here. It gives me so much peace, joy and satisfaction."  

ਸਚੀ ਕੁਦਰਤਿ ਸਚੀ ਬਾਣੀ ਸਚੁ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਸੁਖੁ ਕੀਜਾ ਹੇ ||੫||
"True is Your Power, and True is GurBani. O my Lord and Master! True is the peace which You give. ||5||"
(Maaroo M:5, 1074)

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Denmark Sikh Family Camp, April 2016...

From 22nd April to 24th April, a three-day Sikh Family camp was held at Gurdwara Singh Sabha Copenhagen in Denmark. The camp was attended by children and adults. Bhai Rajpal Singh and Bibi Prabhujit Kaur from Holland came to do seva of leading classes for children. Approximately fifty people attended the camp over the three-days. Going to camps for me is not about teaching the Sangat about Sikhi, but more importantly taking something from the Sangat. I can say that this camp was so inspiring. So many campers and members of the Sangat had so much to give and learn from.

The main topics that the parents and adults class covered over the camp were (i) exploring female foeticide, dowry, why some cultures dislike the birth of girls and the Gurmat perspective; and (ii) exploring the role of family in Gurmat, learning from family relations of the Ten Gurus, and issues affecting children in today's modern world. The younger children learnt Saakhis, basics of Gurmat, why and how we should come to the Gurdwara Sahib, and Panj Vikaar.

Some photos from the camp:
 Bhenji Prabhujit Kaur (Holland) with the younger children's class

 Younger children's class

 Family and Gurmat workshop

 Adults workshop - group discussions

  Adults workshop - group discussions

  Adults workshop - group discussions

 Dastaar tying - Bhenji Isha Kaur, from Turkish background from Holland having a Dastaar tied.

 Veer Jasbir Singh playing the Dilruba.

 Question and answers session

 Degh being prepared by Gursikhs

Evening divaan - Bhai Gursewak Singh doing Kirtan of Aarti Aarta

On Sunday morning we visited 9 year-old Deenpal Singh in hospital who wanted to be at the camp but due to ill health was in hospital.

Bhai Subegh Singh Ji, thanking the Sangat at the end of the camp

At the end of Sunday divaan, the younger children presented what they had learnt and received prizes.

Dhan Guru, Dhan Hai Teree Sikhee!