Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Story of Faith...

ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਸਿਖ ਕਾ ਹਲਤੁ ਪਲਤੁ ਸਵਾਰੈ ||
ਨਾਨਕ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਸਿਖ ਕਉ ਜੀਅ ਨਾਲਿ ਸਮਾਰੈ ||੧||
"The True Guru arranges this world and the next for His Sikh.
O Nanak, with the fullness of His heart, the True Guru mends His Sikh. ||1||"

(Gauree M:5, 286)
During the first week of this month there was a Sikh family camp held in Copenhagen, Denmark. During the camp, the wife of Bhai Lakhdeep Singh (pictured in photograph at the end) asked to share a short personal story about the power of Guru Ji just before I left the Gurdwara to catch my flight back to the UK. Bhenji shared, "I come from a Gursikh family. My mother has great faith in Guru Ji and also told us not to falter in our Sikhi, Guru Ji will help us everywhere, and turning away from the Guru is greater than death."
Bhenji's brother migrated to Australia from India for the purpose of studying. He had a job to pay for his rent, food, and university fees. One day Bhenji received a phone call when she was in India from her younger brother, saying: "Dear sister, it has been 3 months and I have lost my job. I have not told mum as she will worry. It is becoming difficult to pay for the rent, food and university fees... It is difficult to get a job and I am struggling." Bhenji sensed that her brother was perhaps considering turning his back to Guru Ji by cutting his hair, in order to get a job.
Bhenji got emotional and responded back to her brother, "Dear younger brother, please promise me you will not turn your back to the Guru. The Guru is great and will take care of all. To cut your hair and shun Sikhi will mean that you have died for us. You will kill your mother whilst she is alive if you give up your Nitnem and cut your hair. Younger brother, promise me you will not cut your hair or give up your Nitnem. The Guru is great and will look after you, as long as you stay strong your faith in the Guru."
When her brother got off the phone, he realised that his flat mate, who had cut-hair, had overheard the phone conversation. The flat mate, said to him, "Dear brother, I will pay your rent, food and university fees until you get a job, as long you promise as your sister says that you will not cut your hair, give up Nitnem and turn your back to Sikhi. You don't have to worry about anything."
Bhenji's brother didn't find a job for one full year, and during the full year, his flat mate who had cut hair himself, paid for his rent, fees, and food with no strings attached other than the condition that he doesn't turn his back to his Guru.
Amazing story of keeping faith and how Guru Ji looks after all our affairs.

ਸਲੋਕੁ ਮਃ ੫ || ਧਰਣਿ ਸੁਵੰਨੀ ਖੜ ਰਤਨ ਜੜਾਵੀ ਹਰਿ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਮਨਿ ਵੁਠਾ ||
ਸਭੇ ਕਾਜ ਸੁਹੇਲੜੇ ਥੀਏ ਗੁਰੁ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਤੁਠਾ ||੧||
"Salok, Fifth Nanak: Like the beautiful earth, adorned with jewels of grass - such is the mind, within which the Love of the Lord abides. O Nanak! All the affairs of the individual are easily resolved when the Guru, Satguru Nanak, is pleased. ||1||"
(Gauree M:5, 322)

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Practice to read Gurbani in Larreevaar (ਲੜੀਵਾਰ)...

Bhai Harpreet Singh from Delhi has made a website that is a simple tool to encourage people to read from Larreevaar Saroop. It is just for practice and giving them at-least the experience of reading Larreevaar Saroop.
I would encourage the Sangat to please check the website out and also pass on the link to others are interested in reading Gurbani from Larreevaar Saroop which Guru Gobind Singh Ji blessed us with.
Related post:

Friday, June 10, 2016

Remembering the Past & Seeking Freedom: Reflection on June London Rally...

Last Sunday, after the London 1984 remembrance march and freedom rally held in Central London. For the me the event is important as it an acts as a testimony to India and the world that the Sikh community is undefeated and still proudly standing, despite attempts of holocausts, genocides, killings and attacks on Sikh ideology and beliefs. On the way back home from the event, I was reflecting on the day. Various thoughts came to my mind. Later in the week, Bhenji Navrup Kaur was sharing her experiences and observations about the event. Both of our observations were similar, so Bhenji requested for me to share some thoughts with the Sangat...

During the Hyde Park speeches, an elderly gentleman with a colourful orange Dastaar and white beard came on the stage. The person was introduced as "Mr. Patel". I thought it was a slightly strange to have a Singh with the name 'Patel'. Anyway, the gentleman began talking and he was speaking Hindi. I thought that was even more strange! Then he introduced himself with the following: "I am a Hindu. I a not a Sikh. However, I respect Sikhs because if it was not for the ninth Guru, Guru Teg Bahadar Ji, and the bravery and sacrifices of the Khalsa, today Hindus would not exist and thousands of our Hindu sisters and mothers would been forcefully taken and sold in Afghanistan and Iraq. For this reason, when I heard that the Indian government attacked Sri Harmandir Sahib in June 1984, I was deeply saddened. How could the Indian government be so ungrateful to the Sikhs? If it had not been for the Sikhs, there would be no India! In response to my Sikh brothers being killed, having their Dastaar direspected, and Kes forcefully cut in India, I decided out of solidarity to my Sikh brothers to stop cutting my hair and wear a Dastaar. It is not just me, but I know lots of other Hindus that stand by with Sikhs and support Khalistan." It was a short but very inspiring speech, and I hope that our brothers and sisters who have Sikh roots but are not yet keeping their Kes or wearing a Dastaar, may be inspired to stand and be counted for in solidarity with our brothers who fell down with bullets in 1984, by keeping their Kes and wearing a Dastaar with pride.

Whilst walking with the march, I noticed a man with cut hair and his head covered with a Rumaal pushing a wheel chair. A young boy wearing a blue Dumallaa (turban), a blue Chola (khalsa dress) and Kirpaan worn over his clothes, was by him. I thought it must be a nephew or someone that he knew. But then the Khalsa child, when speaking with the man, said, "Dad." It put a smile on my face and I thought 'wow.' The Indian State and anti-Sikh forces wished to destroy the Sikh identity and existence, and yet today, despite the middle-aged man who for whatever reason doesn't have Sikh identity, but his next generation are proud Khalsa and living proof of the legacy of the Shaheeds and those who laid their lives down for the sake of Sikhi. That's powerful! This illustrates the Sikh story of defiance, surviving holocausts, and remaining in Chardikala.

But I also noticed a growing trend of men and women wearing Western clothes instead of their traditional Sikh dress, and some dressed as if they were going to soak up the sun on the beach, and others as if they were going for a workout in the gym. The Shaheeds that we are remembering died wearing their cholas and traditional dress, wearing their kirpans with pride over the clothes, and wearing the beards flowing like lions. Anti-Sikh forces despised the identity of the Khalsa, and for them to see a sea of dastaars, men and women adorned in Khalsa dress and wearing their Kirpaans over the clothes with pride, would send a strong message to them that would make them think twice about how successful they have been in the campaign destroy the Khalsa.

Some people complained it was too hot, and had forgotten how hot it must have been in the Sri Harmandir Sahib complex in June 1984 when the army had shut off the electricity and water supply and the Sangat had to endure 40 degrees temperature for all the days the attack continued. It made me think, have we really understood why we are here?  Bhenji Navrup Kaur shared that before they left home, she asked her young 7 year old daughter that she can wear a t-shirt instead of Bana (Khalsa dress) because it was going to be  hot. Her daughter replied, "No mum, I wish to wear Bana, as we are remembering the Shaheeds."

Gurleen Kaur and Mansimar Kaur proudly dressed with Dastaars, Kirpaans and Bana last Sunday

When marching through London I also observed that people who came to attend the remembrance event were entering shops to go shopping, restaurants and cafés to have some lunch, others were enjoying ice-cream, having a laugh with their mates, and taking selfies at tourist site attractions that were on the route of the march. Are we taking this event seriously? Or has it become a day trip and an opportunity to go shopping and site-seeing in Central London for free (using the coach paid by the Sangat or Gurdwara)?

Bhenji Navrup Kaur wrote on her post that she shared on the Internet: 
"The day you see or hear me referring to this event as a day out in London, a day to pop into Primark en-route to the event, wearing my western clothes, getting myself a nice coffee and sarnie from Pret, not bothering to go to listen to the speeches or the videos, meet the Sangat, and support and remember this day and all that it stands for... That day is the day my heart would have gone stone cold and my being there will make no difference to the cause."
Bhai Gurpreet Singh and Bhenji Navrup Kaur with their children last Sunday

Monday, June 06, 2016

6 June 1984: Shaheed Bhai Avtar Singh Parowal...

6 ਜੂਨ ਦੀ ਸਵੇਰ ਸ੍ਰੀ ਦਰਬਾਰ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਅੰਦਰ ਕੋਈ ਕੀਰਤਨੀਆ ਨਾ ਜਾ ਸਕਿਆ ਤਾਂ ਅਖੰਡ ਕੀਰਤਨੀ ਜਥੇ ਨਾਲ ਸੰਬੰਧਿਤ ਕੀਰਤਨੀਏ ਭਾਈ ਗੁਰਦਿਆਲ ਸਿੰਘ ਹੋਰਾਂ ਨੇ ਕੀਰਤਨ-ਹਾਜ਼ਰੀਆਂ ਭਰੀਆਂ। ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਦੇ ਇਕ ਹੋਰ ਸਾਥੀ ਭਾਈ ਅਵਤਾਰ ਸਿੰਘ ਪਾਰੋਵਾਲ 6 ਜੂਨ ਨੂੰ ਸਵੇਰੇ ਕੀਰਤਨ-ਹਾਜ਼ਰੀਆਂ ਭਰਦੇ ਹੋਏ ਗੋਲੀ ਲੱਗਣ ਕਰ ਕੇ ਸ੍ਰੀ ਦਰਬਾਰ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਅੰਦਰ ਹੀ ਜਾਮ-ਏ-ਸ਼ਹਾਦਤ ਪੀ ਗਏ ਸੀ।

On the 6th of June 1984, when no other Kirtanis could go to peform Kirtan at Sri Darbaar Sahib due to heavy firing and bombardment by the Indian army, Bhai Gurdial Singh and his companions associated with Akhand Kirtani Jatha performed Kirtan duties. On the morning of 6th June, Bhai Avtar Singh Parowal had had a bullet fired at home whilst during Kirtan and attained martyrdom inside Sri Darbaar Sahib. 

Bhai Avtar Singh was born on 1st April 1950 in village Parowal, near Batala, Gurdaspur district. His parents were Sardar Gurbaksh Singh and Mata Bhagwant Kaur. Bhai Sahib was the fifth eldest of 8 brothers and sisters. From a young age, Bhai Sahib was attached to Sikhi and passed time by reciting Gurbani. While Bhai Sahib studied in 8th grade, the family had Parkaash of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Maharaj in their house and Bhai Sahib would do seva both times of Parkaash and Sukhaasan. In 10th grade Bhai Sahib had grown a beard and his friends would jokingly called him Giani (Priest). Bhai Sahib complained about this to the principal, who replied back to him, "If they call you Giani, then show them that you can be a Giani."  From then on Bhai Sahib made up his mind on attaining the happiness of Guru Ji and ignoring the attachments of this world. 

Sangat of Gursikhs from Akhand Kirtani Jatha
In 1966, Bhai Sahib passed his 10th grade from Lala Mussa Higher Secondary School in Fatehgarh Churian. Soon after Bhai Sahib opened a shop and earned an honest living. Bhai Sahib would regularly go to Sri Amritsar to the wholesalers and during these trips Bhai Sahib would also do darshan of Sri Harimandir Sahib. It was on these trips Bhai Sahib would meet Bhai Satnam Singh of Singh Brothers and Bhai Inderjit Singh Kirpana Wala. After which Bhai Sahib started doing sangat with the Akhand Kirtani Jatha, a group of devout Sikhs dedicated to Kirtan without worldly gain or money. In 1972, Bhai Sahib took Amrit from the Panj Pyare at the Vaisakhi Akhand Kirtani Smaagam in Amritsar. Bhai Sahib then stayed in Amritsar and learnt Kirtan from Bhai Inderjit Singh Kirpana Wala and Bhai Pala Singh, son of Baba Labh Singh Kaar Sewa Anandgarh Sahib. After the 1978 Amritsar bloody massacre, which resulted in 13 Gursikhs being shaheed by the Narakhdharis, Bhai Sahib continued to do sewa with the Chalda Vaheer group started by Shaheed Bhai Fauja Singh Ji.  

Hearing of the army attack on Sri Harmandir Sahib
Soon June 1984 came, government of India sent in tanks and cannons to demolish Sri Akaal Takht Sahib, the throne of the Sikhs. Bhai Sahib's father, Sardar Gurbaksh Singh was paying respects to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji in the Sri Harimandir Sahib complex at the time of the attack. On 3rd June 1984, news reached Bhai Sahib's family that an old man had been killed on the complex. Bhai Sahib quickly got ready and headed towards Sri Harimandir Sahib. On that day the Indian army did not allow Bhai Sahib to enter the complex due to a curfew, but the next day on 4th June 1984, Bhai Sahib managed to squeeze past the curfew and entered the complex. Bhai Sahib managed to locate his father who was still alive and made their way together to the room of Bibi Amarjit Kaur, wife of Shaheed Bhai Fauja Singh Ji which was situated near Sri Akaal Takht Sahib. 

Maintaining the Maryada of Sri Darbar Sahib
The Indian army was showering the Sikh pilgrims in the complex with a rain of bullets. On the evening of 5th June 1984, Granthi Giani Puran Singh, accompanied with Bhai Avtar Singh, made their way to Sachkhand Sri Darbar Sahib to do seva of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Maharaj. On 6th June 1984, Raagi Bhai Amrik Singh had finished the seva of Aasa Ki Vaar and just as he returned he was shot by the Indian army and made shaheed. Due to heavy firing no other Raagi Singh managed to make their way to Sachkhand Sri Darbar Sahib to do Kirtan sewa. During this time, keeping in mind the Maryada of Sachkhand Sri Darbar Sahib, Bhai Gurdyal Singh of Akhand Kirtani Jatha started doing Kirtan and after him, Bhai Sahib continued to do Kirtan to maintain the Akhand Kirtan (continuous non-stop Kirtan) Maryada of Sri Darbaar Sahib. 

Martyrdom of Bhai Avtar Singh Parowal
It would have been roughly 8 o'clock in the morning.  As Bhai Sahib did Kirtan, a bullet came and went through Bhai Sahib's right leg and into the left leg. Bhai Gurdyal Singh took the bullet out with his Kirpan and tied a cloth around both of Bhai Sahib's legs. After some time Bhai Sahib sat down and rested against a wall. On the evening of 6th June, when Giani Puran Singh touched Bhai Sahib, whose eyes were shut, it was realised that he become shaheed. Bhai Sahib attained shaheedi as he maintained the Maryada and respect of Sachkhand Sri Darbar Sahib. Giani Puran Singh wrapped Bhai Sahib's body in a sheet and bought it to Sri Akaal Takht Sahib. Some months before the attack on Sri Darbar Sahib, Bhai Sahib's sister had a dream in which an old man asked her, "If your brother attains shaheedi in Sachkhand Sri Darbar Sahib, would you accept it as an act of Waheguru?" Bhai Sahib's sister remained quiet but when asked the same question for the third time she answered, "Even if my son attained shaheedi in Sachkhand Sri Darbar Sahib, I would accept it as an order of Waheguru."

ਕਬੀਰ ਮੁਹਿ ਮਰਨੇ ਕਾ ਚਾਉ ਹੈ ਮਰਉ ਤ ਹਰਿ ਕੈ ਦੁਆਰ || 
ਮਤ ਹਰਿ ਪੂਛੈ ਕਉਨੁ ਹੈ ਪਰਾ ਹਮਾਰੈ ਬਾਰ ||੬੧|| 
"O Kabeer! I long to die; let me die at the Lord's Door. I hope that the Lord does not ask, "Who is this, lying at my door?"||61||"
(Salok Kabeer Ji, 1367)