Monday, April 13, 2015

Remembering the Shaheeds of 1978...


Kathaa by Bhai Sahib Pinderpal Singh Ji on the Shaheeds of 1978 from Derby April Smaagam 2014:

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

The Panth and Me...


 What are our duties and responsibilities towards Panth?
Author: Bhai Kulbir Singh Ji (Toronto)

The most important duty and responsibility that we have towards Panth is to follow Gurmat. What good can we do to others, if we can't do the ultimate goodness of following Gurmat for our own self?

Guru Sahib blessed us with His Gurmat which includes firstly Naam, Gurbani and then Rehit and Seva. Sikhi is about obeying Guru Sahib's Hukams that include Naam Simran, Gurbani Sevan, keeping Rehit and doing Seva. If we don't do Naam Abhyaas, Gurbani Paath, Amritvela, and keep Rehit, what Panthik duty can we fulfill? Without fulfilling the Shakhsee Rehnee (individual Rehit), Panthi Rehnee cannot be kept.

Guru Sahib made us Bhagats but today we have started following the ways of the Mayadhaari worldly people. We sleep late at night and don't get up at Amritvela. We spend money on many useless things but hesitate taking out full 10% of our earnings as Dasvandh. We wear Patloon-Kameez (Western dress) with great pride (and shauq) but when it comes to wearing Baana, we make the excuse that it will cause Haumai or that we are not worthy of it. We eat from hands of smokers (narreemaar) and Nigure (ones who don't have Guru Nanak Sahib as their Guru i.e. are not Amritdhari) without thinking twice.

Keeping Sarbloh Bibek, which is one of the most important Rehit that makes Khalsa Niyaara and without which Khalsa can never be in Chardi Kala (in the words of Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh jee), is one thing but today most of the Panth and even some of our brothers sisters within the Jatha, openly slander this Rehit and even claim that it's not even a Rehit of Guru Sahib. Never mind keeping this Rehit if you have an majboori (problem, inability) but at least don't slander it.

If we don't keep Rehit including Amritvela Naam Abhyaas Kamaaee which is preceded by Keshi Ishnaan (full bath including the hair), keeping Kakaars (including Keski), staying away from Bajjar Kurehits (cardinal prohibitions), giving out Daswand (one tenth of one's income), and keeping Sarbloh Bibek, then are Hindus and Muslims going to obey these Hukams?

The Seva of Panth starts from us. We must first become Tyaar-bar-Tyaar Gursikhs by keeping Guru Sahib's basic Rehit and then go about executing other duties of Panth. Secondly, if we have a problem or inability to keep a certain Rehit of Guru Sahib, then the second most important Seva we can do is to not slander this Rehit. If not promote it, then at least not oppose it so that others may not get discouraged from keeping this Rehit. Thirdly, we ourselves should not do Be-adbi (disrespect) of Guru Sahib by promoting padd-chhed of Guru Sahib's Birs and also strive to do Smaagams only in the Hazoori of Siri Guru Granth Sahib jee (which is Lareedaar Saroop).

There are many others ways to fulfill our duties towards Guru Panth but without the basic duty of following basic Gurmat, we can't execute any other duty diligently.

Bhul Chuk dee Muaafee jee.

Kulbir Singh


Monday, March 30, 2015

Poem: I Wonder If They Know....

I WONDER IF THEY KNOW....Author: Bhai Vijay Singh (UK)

Crammed into lorries they cry out in separation
Cooped up in small spaces with little ventilation
From their caring mother they have had to let go
I wonder if they know...

Arriving at unfamiliar places
Loaded off with panicked faces
Huge psychological torture they undergo
I wonder if they know....

Inside the slaughterhouse they are made to wait
For showing distress the beating is great
They are hit with sticks and their pain really shows
I wonder if they know...

They watch their family being murdered for their meat,
With chains they are hung upside down from their feet,
As others watch on, hearing screams and moans
I wonder if they know....

The time comes for them to meet their fate
What crime have they done with a punishment so great,
The knife is inserted and the blood flows
I wonder if they know....

An everyday story of an animals life
To satisfy the human, they must face the knife
Just like the Jews were herded onto trains
Their fate unknown and no one to explain
Animals face the same torture everyday,
For this pain and suffering we must surely pay
Think before you eat how would you feel
If you had to experience such an ordeal.
Your body is not a graveyard,
It's the temple of the Lord,
With care and compassion where love is stored

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Story of Bhenji Rajbinder Kaur...

Vaheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Vaheguru Ji Ki Fateh

The journey that Guru Sahib placed me on was a long treacherous one; treacherous because of my own faults and wrong doings, making the wrong decisions in life and pushing Sikhi principles away as far as I could in pursuit of worldly happiness.

Thinking back now, the main memories of 'Sikhi' I have as a child was going to the Gurdwara on a regular basis with my mother. I remember an elder Gursikh, who used to come to the Gurdwara, and all the kids knew him as the baba who gave all the children a pencil and paper to take and doodle on. We didn't used to have iPhones or any kind of gadgets in those days, so pencils and paper were a luxury. All the kids used to flock to him and it's funny how that's now one of the few childhood memories I have. As I grew older, my Gurdwara visits became few and far between. I only used to go for weddings etc and only if I was forced. I remember skipping Anand Karaj's (weddings), as I felt they were 'boring' and I used to only go to the reception after, as I felt this was the main part of the wedding!

I started removing my hair as early as I could. I remember feeling a lot of pressure from my school friends to fit in, in this way. I first removed leg hair, arm hair, and then started removing facial hair and started to regularly visit the hair dresser, because I wanted to feel beautiful and wanted to fit in with the crowd. I wanted to become more attractive to others. I won't go in to details, but I rebelled against my parents wishes as much as I possibly could. I would lie to them, sneak out and got in to bad company and didn't care who I was hurting along the way. I used to drink alcohol and stayed out late at night, and just wanted to be a free spirit, I wanted to do what I wanted to do and that was it. I didn't care about my parents worrying at home, or the consequences of someone seeing me while out "doing my thing" and the word getting back to my parents.

When I reached my mid 20s I met my now husband. We were monay (had shorn hair) and based our relationship on mutual attraction. Funnily enough, we first spoke about Sikhi, even though I knew absolutely nothing, and still don't. Within two weeks of meeting, I knew I was going to marry him. I'm not sure how, but call it woman's intuition. There was a long battle between my parents and I about caste as my parents were typically culturally inclined. However my father was first to come round, as I was always a daddy's girl and something pulled at his heart strings and he agreed to the marriage. Mum was a bit harder to convince. During our engagement period, my fiancé was coming more and more in to Sikhi. He started doing sangat with Gursikhs and I remember one time, we met, and he said "I want to take Amrit". I didn't have a clue what Amrit was or what living as a Gursikh involved. I was shocked and emotional and said to him please don't change yet. We were weeks away from our marriage and I wanted all my family to see my husband in the image that I had met him in. We agreed to compromise. The compromise was that he would wait for me and that I would look in to becoming Amritdhari after marriage.

We got married and my husband kept wanting to keep his kesh, but I stubbornly didn't want him to. His love for Sikhi kept growing and growing, and I honestly resented it. I didn't want him to change the way he looked. I loved the way he looked when we first met, and felt so attached to that image. I used to force him to go to the hairdressers. I wouldn't talk to him until he had tidied himself up, as he looked messy with a beard and unshorn hair. I fought his want to change to the point that I would cut his hair for him, as he started to refuse going to the hairdressers. I used to turn off paath or Kirtan he used to play in the car as I wanted his attention.

During the first couple of years of marriage a few elders in the family passed away. This hit me hard and I started to question what happens when we die. At my grandmothers funeral, when everyone recited Sohila Sahib, I couldn't do it as I didn't know it. So I promised myself I would learn this paath. This was the first I had learnt in my then 28 years of life. 28 years.

My sadness about death didn't change the fact that I didn't want my husband to change his appearance. He would go to programs alone and, even though he still cut his hair he used to tie a Dastar. He felt he couldn't go in to sangat without a dastaar on. When he came home from programs I would resent his change and tell him to take his dastaar off. Such was my hate for his change. He used to invite Gursikh to our house to do veechaar with us. But I still didn't want to move towards Sikhi.

It was only until I fell pregnant in 2007, that I really started to change. We were told that I had a high risk pregnancy for Downs syndrome baby. My heart broke. As a mother, your instinct is to want your children to be healthy and happy. My husbands first reaction was to of course turn to Guru Sahib. We started to do Ardaas every day asking Guru Sahib to make sure the baby would be okay. I cried so many times during the Ardaas. I started to listen to JapJi Sahib every day, and would play it on my phone every morning and as my bump grew I would balance the phone on my belly so baby would hear too. I started to read Chaupai Sahib too in English first, as I wanted to understand it.

We attended Khalsa Camp for 2 days in 2007 when I was 4 months pregnant. It was mind blowing. Although we only stayed there a short while, we felt a pull from being in that sangat. We bought DVDs from previous Khalsa Camps and when we got home we watched them on repeat for months. We didn't watch anything else as we just wanted to be in that sangat again.

My husbands last hair cut was at his usual barbers. He had a deep conversation with the white hairdresser about Sikhi after she noticed his Kara. Ironically he spoke about kesh (hair) and its importance. At the end of the appointment, she said to him "I don't expect to see you here again". He came home and told me about his conversation and her last words and we felt that Guru Sahib had spoken and that was his command.

My husband was starting a new job and he wanted to go to his new work as a Singh. We agreed, knowing that this would be it, he would remain a Singh from now onwards.

It was only when our baby was finally born in January 2008 that we came to know that she was a normal healthy baby. We cannot put that down to anything but Kirpa from Guru Sahib.

In the first year after our baby was born I started to physically change. Two things really stick in my mind when it came to deciding to make the change in my appearance and follow Sikhi: It was through sangat of other bibian that I found the strength to keep Kesh. I felt if they can do it and look so beautiful then so can I. I started to keep my eyebrows, started to tie my hair back and stopped dying it. It wasn't easy to do this though. I fell a few times, but just kept trying. I think I felt that I owed Guru Sahib something in return for listening to our Ardaasa. Secondly, when our baby was born, when I saw just how perfect Guru Sahib had made her, I thought to myself, I would never want to change her from her perfect natural form, so I had to lead by example. I couldn't be a hypocrite.

My friends and family were very supportive of my change. I didn't get any negative comments from anyone. When my eyebrows were fully grown out and my facial hair had returned to its equilibrium I somehow still didn't feel complete. It was only when sangat came round or we went to Gursikhs houses and bibian showed me how to tie a dastaar, that I felt that I could look in the mirror and everything then seemed to fit in to place. That's what was missing.

Living away from family, and meeting them with my crown on and seeing their reaction was something that I struggled with and was the next hurdle I had to get over. Humans, especially women, especially in the western world, are sensitive beings. We take in too much of what society thinks and says and this is why I struggled. My husband would take pictures of me when I practised tying my dastaar at home and sent pictures to my sisters phones. Their reaction was very positive. So when they did actually see me with my dastaar on they were fine with it, as it was already familiar to them.

By this time, in 2009, my husband was so desperate to give his head to Guru Sahib. He had waited patiently for years now, and he so wanted to take Amrit. For the past year or so since I started to change I kept putting him off, saying I wasn't quite ready. He would get Gursikhs to do Ardaas (pray) for us, so that we could walk on the path together.

I remember after a Kirtan program, on the way home, a Gursikh had travelled with us. He did a little veechaar (Sikhi chat) with me in the car. He knew how desperately my husband wanted to take Amrit as a family, and how long he had waited. The Gursikh said something like "YOU hold the key". It was then that I thought I can’t hold my husband back any more.

Finally, in December 2009, we were blessed with Amrit. It was a wonderful experience. My only regret is that I didn't ask Guru Sahib for Amrit earlier, as this was only the beginning of our journey. I wasted so many years in pursuit of worldly happiness. What I thought was making me happy was the very thing that was pulling me away from Guru Sahib. Of the few things I've learned over the years, one of the key lessons is that as a Gursikh, even the smallest gestures can inspire Sikhi in the most unlikely characters.

Vaheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Vaheguru Ji Ki Fateh


Note: Thank you to Bhenji Rajbinder Kaur for writing her personal story and sharing it with the Sangat.

Bhenji was inspired by Gursikh bibiaa, they guided her towards Sikhi. Bhenji has now been blessed with the Seva of guiding other females towards the blessed path of Sikhi. Guru Sahib ji has blessed bhenji to form and run the "Kaur's Corner" organisation alongside a team of sisters. The Seva they are doing is awesome and has transformed the life's of many!!  


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Story of Bhai Vijay Singh...

As a child I had no interest or concept of religion. My family would attend the gurdwara now and then and I actually had no idea which religion I belonged to. Life revolved around families, which on the surface seemed very close knit. However I have only recently become aware of the differences and disagreements which I was oblivious to 25 years ago. 

Growing up, again I had not interest in religion and would make fun of keshdhari (unshorn hair) children at school. I would make fun of the way they looked, make fun of their names and also make fun of their religion. Members of my close family would regularly get in trouble with the police and many spent time in prison. I still hung around with them and much of their characteristics and persona rubbed off on me. I began behaving, talking, walking like them but one thing I had, which they didn't was a mother who was devoted to Gurbani. She would listen to Kirtan and do paath everyday. I feel that this is one of the main reasons I didn't fall into such bad ways. I know now that she would do ardas for me, that I'm happy and live a successful life. 

I spent sometime studying in Germany and this was really an eye opening experience. As I left, my mum gave me a gutka and wrote a shabad on a piece of paper. She said, "Whenever you feel down read this." It was:
ਅਉਖੀ ਘੜੀ ਨ ਦੇਖਣ ਦੇਈ ਅਪਨਾ ਬਿਰਦੁ ਸਮਾਲੇ ||
"He does not let His devotees see the difficult times; this is His innate nature."
(Dhanaasree M:5, 682)
In Germany was where I began to start the Sikhi journey. Prior to this I had multiple relationships, engaged in smoking, drugs, excessive drinking etc. I also played dhol for a group, my brothers were DJs and we would regularly do gigs across the country. On returning to UK I began a relationship. We decided very early on, that we wanted to get married. As we were engaged, I kept feeling this pull towards Sikhi.

I remember my mum calling me to come upstairs, because there were some young people talking about Sikhi on Panjab radio. The show was 'Sweet Sikhi'. I called the show and said, I played tabla and asked whether they had any programmes coming up. They said, come to Park Avenue Gurdwara on the last Saturday of the month. I arrived there in jeans and a ramaal (head covering). I was given the opportunity to play tabla, which was a great honour. That day I met Bhai Manvir Singh, who became a lighthouse for my journey towards the Guru. A lighthouse directs those towards the safety of the shore and in the same way the Gursikhs direct people to the safety of the Gurus sharan (court).

From there I kept in touch with Bhai Sahib and was introduced to many other gursikhs. They became my role models. I wanted to become like them. I had so many questions and would wait anxiously to ask and give responses. At that time I also learned another valuable lesson. Just because someone dresses religiously or does Kirtan/tabla seva, that doesn't mean they are holy inside. I found some gursikhs (mainly youngsters) to be rude, unhelpful and very dismissive of a Mona (me) trying to come into Sikhi.

As I moved towards making physical changes I realised that I had a huge obstacle, I was engaged to be married. What shall I do? Break off the engagement? We had been dating for 2 years and our connection was very strong, so I made a decision to wait before I make the physical change. I felt that what greater service could it be, for someone to help them come into Sikhi. We got married in a typical panjabi way, although the gyanis who performed the wedding were slightly surprised to see a Mona groom singing the Laavaa as he goes around.

The hurdle now was to try to encourage my wife to build an interest in Sikhi. I would do ardas (pray) many times a day and consult with gursikhs about what to do. Many have differing opinions. I was quite determined for us to change, however recognized that taking Amrit should be a decision someone makes, because they want to, not because they have to, that way the individual is a lot likely to keep their Amrit.

I then tried a different approach by taking the wife to Kirtan programmes and camps so we could build our knowledge and pyaar (love). I could see, that she was moving slowly towards a gursikhi lifestyle. I would ask gursikh bibian to talk to her about Sikhi saroop (image), dastaar (turban) and Kes (hair), so she could feel support in this. I have lost touch with many of the people, who supported us on our journey but I am very grateful and indebted to them for the time and effort they put into us. I would hate the thought of cutting my hair and it became more and more of a struggle for my wife to get me to the barbers. I would put it off, she would eventually stop talking to me. These were very difficult times. I continued waking up at amritvela everyday and did simran (meditate) and Nitnem (daily prayers). I was basically living as an amritdhari (baptised Sikh) but without Kesh.

I recall the final time I went to the Barbers. A Muslim woman was cutting my hair and spotted my Kara. She said, "You're a Sikh!?" I said, "Yes." "Aren't Sikhs supposed to keep their hair?" I replied, "Yes" but felt very embarrassed. From here I began telling her about Sikhi. She was very impressed and she even started feeling guilty about her lack of devotion, for her own faith. By the end of the haircut, she said something which shocked me. She said, "After all you have told me about your religion you seem very much into it, I don't expect to see you here again." It was a WOW moment, where I felt this comment had a driving force behind it. I went home and told my wife what happened and from there she realised that this is a clear sign. From there I kept my Kes. Now the challenge was encouraging my wife to get into it. She had made some progress but was still having the same old demons inside.

The birth of our child Amrita Kaur led to a change in her. A jeevan-vala (highly spiritual) gursikh said to us recently, that you and your wife became gursikhs as a result of your daughter's kamaaee (accumulation of spiritual wealth) from her previous lives. Now our journey towards Amrit was to step up. With Guru's Apaar Kirpa, my wife started keeping her Kes and one thing she noticed was she felt incomplete without a dastaar. She slowly started doing her full Nitnem and in Dec 2009 we were blessed to become part of the Khalsa (pure) Family.

I have no regrets as every mistake, every good decision, all shape our current destiny. Although we still have a huge distance to travel, Guru Sahib, through the Sangat, has laid a clear path ahead. I am eternally thankful to Guru sahib and our Gursikh family for embracing this nobody and bringing him from the dying cold outside, to experience the warmth of the Gurus lap. May guru sahib bless us all with his love.

Guru Sahib Ji has now blessed veer ji, with the Seva (service) of touring the world to educate/inspire many others, on this extremely beautiful spiritual path of Sikhi. Veer ji does this whilst living in girhast (householders life), with a family and a full time job. Guru Ramdas Ji says,
ਹਮ ਰੁਲਤੇ ਫਿਰਤੇ ਕੋਈ ਬਾਤ ਨ ਪੂਛਤਾ ਗੁਰ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਸੰਗਿ ਕੀਰੇ ਹਮ ਥਾਪੇ ||
"I was rolling around in the dirt, and no one cared for me at all. In the Company of the Guru, the True Guru, I, the worm, have been raised up and exalted."
(Gauree M:4, 167)



Note: Thank you to Bhai Vijay Singh jee for writing his personal story and sharing it with the Sangat.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Sinner...

"It is God alone who can judge who is really virtuous and who is really sinner. The greatest sinner can become the noblest saint. Our attitude towards evil-doers should be one of compassion and not of hatred. Only those who are willfully cruel should be severely dealt with or avoided"
- Bhai Sahib Bhai Randhir Singh Jee