Thursday, September 11, 2014

Camp Chardi Kala 2014 (New York, USA)...

This summer I was privileged to be invited to Camp Chardi Kala in the USA. Camp Chardi Kala has been running for the past 35 years. It was set up by a small group of Sikhs in the 1970s who were concerned about the upcoming generation and didn't want them to lose their Sikh identity and spirit in the wave of Westernisation. These elders sacrificed their time and put every effort into providing a religious experience for young Sikhs in USA which reinforces the Sikh spirit and pride.

 Camp organisers - Bhai Livleen Singh and Dr. Sandeep Singh. Bhai Livleen Singh's father was one of the founders of the camp. He was at the camp and is a very inspirational character who has a great love for Sikhi and the Panth.

At Amrit-vela, some campers and sevadaars would do Aasa Kee Vaar keertan. Some campers showed some real dedication for Amrit-vela and Aasa Kee Vaar. At 7am the camp began with Nitnem of Panj Banian. The very young campers did a shortened form of Nitnem separately. Afterwards campers have breakfast followed by intensive training for learning a particular Nitnem Bani the camper chooses. Following on from this, all the campers would congregate around the Nishaan Sahib to sing shabads and sometimes there would be Gatkaa performed. A short divaan was held afterwards in the Darbaar Sahib where campers do Keertan and the morning Hukamnama is explained. There were Gurmat classes where campers rotated between the different speakers, followed by lunch. The afternoon was for sports and activities. At 4.30pm campers would gather in the Darbaar Sahib for Simran, Keertan and Rehraas Sahib. After evening dinner the campers would gather again in Darbaar Sahib for Keertan and evening activities.

Three particular things stood out for me in the camp. Firstly, the morning Nishaan Sahib salaamee, where the campers gather outside in front of the Nishaan Sahib to sing the shabads - "...Jai Tegun" and "Deh Shiva..". The campers do loud jaikaaray and raise their arms and it helps to instil a feeling of pride of great and rich history of sacrifices and bravery. Secondly, it was so nice to see all the campers able to do keertan and so many campers knew Raag keertan. The Raag keertan was sung so well and some young campers beautifully sang Dasam Bani shabads which otherwise are difficult to pronounce for youngsters let alone sing wonderfully. Thirdly, in the evenings before retiring back to the cabins to sleep, the sevadaars would sing a Sikh lullaby based on the Sikh Gurus, followed by some Simran and Sohila Sahib. It was a really nice way to unwind for the day and go to sleep thinking of all the Ten Gurus and Sri Guru Granth Sahib jee.

 Morning divaan

Hukamnama vichaar by Bhai Jasdeep Singh Texas

Campers being trained to do Ardaas

 Intensive training in learning a Nitnem Bani. This group was learning how to recite Tav Prasaad Svaiyye. Groups then moved on to the meanings of words and the message of the Bani.

Intensive training in how to do Maharaaj's Seva.

Singing outside before Nishaan Sahib

Campers doing Jaikaaray

Gatka being performed in the morning

 Gatka being performed in the morning

 Photo with Bhai Jasdeep Singh Texas. A very inspirational speaker who does Sikhi Parchaar in English and Panjabi.

Morning Gurmat class for elders

Morning talk by Bhai Jasdeep Singh Texas with elder campers

Younger campers learning Gatka

Younger campers presenting what they have learnt in their class

Afternoon activities

One day there was a carnival where campers and sevadaars were plunged into a pool

Some people at the camp took "Thandaa Ishnaan" (cold shower) maryada too far. lol

Camp fire
 Camp fire Saakhi by Bhai Jasdeep Singh Texas

Camp fire bedtime lullaby

Evening Divaan

Young camper taking Hukamnama

Evening presentation on 30 years of 1984

Late night group discussion
Simran and Keertan before bedtime by Bhai Kavitoj Singh.

 Talent show - young Singh sang a rap about wearing a Dastaar. A well thought it rap.

Sangat watching talent show

Veer jee sang a rap about 1984 in memory of 30 years

Keertan from camp be listened/downloaded from the following link:


Dhan Hai Guru! Dhan Hai Teree Sikhee!

Monday, September 01, 2014

Trip to New York (Part 2)...


I was very privileged to be able to stay at Bhai Sahib Jasjit Singh jee's house, a very Chardikala Gursikh in Carteret in New Jersey. I was very inspired by the family's dedication to Amrit-vela, Gurbani, Naam and Rehat. On Sunday 17th August, before going to Camp Chardi Kala Bhai Sahib took us to a children's keertan programme. 

One Sunday every month children get together from far and near at someone's house and are encouraged to do keertan and seva. Some people live in areas where the Gurdwara Sahib is not near to them. The programme is held at a different person's house every month. There are parents who have a rota and children to sign up to do seva. The seva includes: playing tablaa, singing a shabad, doing chaur sahib, reciting Ardaas, reading Hukamnama, and distributing Degh. The programme tries to encourage children to become confident to do seva of the Sangat and do things that perhaps otherwise they would not get an opportunity in a Gurdwara. 

The particular day I attended the children's programme, there was not much Sangat as most of the elder children had set off to Camp Chardi Kala. I was very impressed by the children and the local Gursikhs dedication to encourage children to get involved and learn about Sikhi. The sevadaars have taken a pro-active approach in doing something for the new generation. A lot of times we have so many ideas and talk, but little action. These Gursikhs take their time out and are investing in the future. There were some very blessed souls and their parents are very blessed. It shows that parents have dedicated to raising their children according to Gurmat and surround their children with as much Sikhi influence.

Some photos from the programme:

 A young bhenji doing keertan
 These are the daughters of the bhenji at whose house the programme was held. I think the young girl doing keertan must be 3 or 4 years old.
 Blessed 4 year old girl doing keertan and her brother playing Tablaa
 Blessed young Singh doing keertan 

Bhai Jasjit Singh jee's younger son doing keertan. I think the tablaa player must be 5 years old.

Young bhenji doing keertan with Bhai Jasjit Singh sitting nearby

Children ready for Degh seva.

 Children doing Chaur Sahib seva
 Hukamnama seva by a young boy. I think his age must be 6 or 7.

 Degh being distributed by children
Children playing after the programme

 Dhan Hai Guru! Dhan Hai Teree Sikhee!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Trip to New York... (Part 1)


Last week I went to New York to attend Camp Chardi Kala. When I arrived at Heathrow Airport I was standing in the United Airlines queue for checking-in my luggage and noticed some people looking at me. I thought they must be Americans and looking at my clothes and Dastaar as they have probably never seen a Sikh before. 

One white American man slowly walked pass me in the next queue. He smiled and pointed towards my Khanda that I had on my dastaar, and said, "Hey, I just wanted to say it looks amazing. You look wonderful sir." Vaheguru. I was very humbled by the compliment and said, "Thank you." How amazing is Guru Gobind Singh Jee that he has blessed his Khalsa with such a distinct and beautiful appearance.

A minute or so later, the lady in front of me, turned around and said, "I just heard that guy give you a compliment about your appearance and badge... hope you don't mind me calling it a badge... I just wanted to say that I wanted to say the same thing." The lady was born in the Philippines and had a young daughter with her. She went on to ask me, "Can you please explain what your badge means?" I replied, "This is the sign of the Sikh religion. The double-edged sword in the middle represents that there is One God.  The the circle (chakr) in the middle represents that God alone is eternal and timeless. The two swords on each of the sides reminds a Sikh that they are a Saint-Warrior. One sword represents to fight spiritually with your mind and vices to become a beautiful person and radiate God's glory. The second sword represents fighting for society and humanity and recognizing ones duty to stand up for others and help to make the world a better place for me and you. A Sikh's mission given by God is to serve humanity and spread goodness in the world, as God's spark is contained in all and to serve God is to serve His creation."

The lady had a huge smile on her face, and said, "That is wonderful." I asked her, "Have you seen many Sikhs before?" She said, "No." I was surprised as she lived and worked in San Francisco. She explained that she had not heard of the Sikh religion and explained that she was from a Christian Catholic background but she doesn't believe her religion is good because all she remembers from going to church is the over-emphasis on sin and fearing the hell fire and constantly be told  about sins. She said, "There must be something more to religion." I replied, "My Guru says that the Path to God is through love. My Guru teaches me to love all and to love God." I just left it at that. I didn't want to talk too much as I didn't want to overwhelm her. 

The lady went on, "I am surprised I have not come across your religion. I love researching different religions." I replied, "The Sikh religion is a revealed religion that worships and follows one God. The Sikh religion originates from northern Indian and was revealed through Guru Nanak just over 500 years ago. We believe that God's spark is within all and the Guru helps us to experience God. We are Saint-Warriors and dedicated to serve God and humanity and keep spiritual discipline. We do not drink, smoke, or eat meat and follow a simple, healthy and God-orientated diet and way of life. We believe in the soul evolves through the cycle of reincarnation and that in the human body we can experience and unite with the Creator. The key principles are to always remember and meditate upon God, to live and work honestly, and to share with others." She smiled and said, "That's really nice." They then went on to talk about their family and their trip to London. Before I left, the lady and her daughter smiled and said "Good bye" to me.

I must say that I was expecting Americans travelling to New York to be very ignorant and react negatively to me wearing a Dastaar (especially with a Khanda on it) and wearing Bana (Khalsa dress) because of 9/11 and a lack of knowledge of who Sikhs are. However it was quite the opposite. When I arrived at the airport in USA, the staff were really friendly and I had no problems. I have learnt over time that if you project positivity that others will respond back with positivity. I had so many people at the airport take the effort to smile at me and give a welcoming look.

When I got out of the airport, I couldn't find Bhai Sahib who was supposed to pick me up and my phone didn't work so I decided to sit on the bench and read Japji Sahib. It was amazing that I spotted a Singh taxi driver. An elderly Singh with a flowing beard and white dastaar, wearing a kurta pyjama, was sitting in the car. I thought he may have come for me but I realised he waiting for a South Indian family. He very kindly helped offer to drive me to the Gurdwara Sahib and rang Bhai Sahib who was supposed to pick me up. Bhai Sahib was at the airport but was on the upper-level and very shortly I got picked up. It was nice that wherever a Sikh goes in the world Guru helps to find another Sikh. Vaheguru.

To be continued...

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Amazing Vichaar - Reality Man....

Amazing vichaar by Bhai Paramjeet Singh Khalsa Anandpur Sahib wale:


Dhan Hai Guru! Dhan Hai Teree Sikhee!

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Gurmat Perspective on Nindya (Slander)...

ਗਉੜੀ ॥

ਨਿੰਦਉ ਨਿੰਦਉ ਮੋ ਕਉ ਲੋਗੁ ਨਿੰਦਉ ॥
Slander me, slander me - go ahead, people, and slander me. 
ਜਗਤ ਬੇਸ਼ੱਕ ਮੇਰੀ ਨਿੰਦਾ ਕਰੇ, ਬੇਸ਼ੱਕ ਮੇਰੇ ਔਗੁਣ ਭੰਡੇ;

ਨਿੰਦਾ ਜਨ ਕਉ ਖਰੀ ਪਿਆਰੀ ॥

Slander is pleasing to the Lord's humble servant, 
ਪ੍ਰਭੂ ਦੇ ਸੇਵਕ ਨੂੰ ਆਪਣੀ ਨਿੰਦਿਆ ਹੁੰਦੀ ਚੰਗੀ ਲੱਗਦੀ ਹੈ,

ਨਿੰਦਾ ਬਾਪੁ ਨਿੰਦਾ ਮਹਤਾਰੀ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥Because slander is the humble servant's mother and father slander is my mother (meaning, just as parents wish to see their children's virtues grow, similarly slander exposes demerits and aids good virtues). ||1||Pause|| 
ਕਿਉਂਕਿ ਨਿੰਦਿਆ ਸੇਵਕ ਦਾ ਮਾਂ ਪਿਉ ਹੈ (ਭਾਵ, ਜਿਵੇਂ ਮਾਪੇ ਆਪਣੇ ਬਾਲ ਵਿਚ ਸ਼ੁਭ ਗੁਣ ਵਧਦੇ ਵੇਖਣਾ ਲੋੜਦੇ ਹਨ, ਤਿਵੇਂ ਨਿੰਦਿਆ ਭੀ ਔਗੁਣ ਨਸ਼ਰ ਕਰ ਕੇ ਭਲੇ ਗੁਣਾਂ ਲਈ ਸਹਾਇਤਾ ਕਰਦੀ ਹੈ) ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

ਨਿੰਦਾ ਹੋਇ ਤ ਬੈਕੁੰਠਿ ਜਾਈਐ ॥If people slander me and expose my demerits, only then I go to heaven; 
ਜੇ ਲੋਕ ਔਗੁਣ ਨਸ਼ਰ ਕਰਨ ਤਾਂ ਹੀ ਬੈਕੁੰਠ ਵਿਚ ਜਾ ਸਕੀਦਾ ਹੈ,

ਨਾਮੁ ਪਦਾਰਥੁ ਮਨਹਿ ਬਸਾਈਐ ॥
(Because this way, letting go of demerits) the wealth of the Naam can abide within the mind. 

(ਕਿਉਂਕਿ ਇਸ ਤਰ੍ਹਾਂ ਆਪਣੇ ਔਗੁਣ ਛੱਡ ਕੇ) ਪ੍ਰਭੂ ਦਾ ਨਾਮ-ਰੂਪ ਧਨ ਮਨ ਵਿਚ ਵਸਾ ਸਕੀਦਾ ਹੈ।

ਰਿਦੈ ਸੁਧ ਜਉ ਨਿੰਦਾ ਹੋਇ ॥

If whilst having a pure heart someone slanders us (meaning, if we listen to our demerits being exposed with pure intentions),
ਜੇ ਹਿਰਦਾ ਸੁੱਧ ਹੁੰਦਿਆਂ ਸਾਡੀ ਨਿੰਦਿਆ ਹੋਵੇ (ਭਾਵ, ਜੇ ਸੁੱਧ ਭਾਵਨਾ ਨਾਲ ਅਸੀਂ ਆਪਣੇ ਔਗੁਣ ਨਸ਼ਰ ਹੁੰਦੇ ਸੁਣੀਏ),

ਹਮਰੇ ਕਪਰੇ ਨਿੰਦਕੁ ਧੋਇ ॥੧॥Then the slander helps to wash the clothes of my mind. ||1||  
ਤਾਂ ਨਿੰਦਕ ਸਾਡੇ ਮਨ ਨੂੰ ਪਵਿੱਤਰ ਕਰਨ ਵਿਚ ਸਹਾਇਤਾ ਕਰਦਾ ਹੈ ॥੧॥

ਨਿੰਦਾ ਕਰੈ ਸੁ ਹਮਰਾ ਮੀਤੁ ॥
(For this reason) one who slanders me is my friend; 

(ਤਾਂ ਤੇ) ਜੋ ਮਨੁੱਖ ਸਾਨੂੰ ਭੰਡਦਾ ਹੈ, ਉਹ ਸਾਡਾ ਮਿੱਤਰ ਹੈ,

ਨਿੰਦਕ ਮਾਹਿ ਹਮਾਰਾ ਚੀਤੁ ॥
the slanderer is in my thoughts (meaning, we listen very carefully to the slanderer speak).  

 ਕਿਉਂਕਿ ਸਾਡੀ ਸੁਰਤ ਆਪਣੇ ਨਿੰਦਕ ਵਿਚ ਰਹਿੰਦੀ ਹੈ (ਭਾਵ, ਅਸੀਂ ਆਪਣੇ ਨਿੰਦਕ ਦੀ ਗੱਲ ਬੜੇ ਧਿਆਨ ਨਾਲ ਸੁਣਦੇ ਹਾਂ)।

ਨਿੰਦਕੁ ਸੋ ਜੋ ਨਿੰਦਾ ਹੋਰੈ ॥(In reality) the slanderer is the one who prevents my demerits from being exposed.
(ਅਸਲ ਵਿਚ) ਸਾਡਾ ਮੰਦਾ ਚਿਤਵਣ ਵਾਲਾ ਮਨੁੱਖ ਉਹ ਹੈ, ਜੋ ਸਾਡੇ ਐਬ ਨਸ਼ਰ ਹੋਣੋਂ ਰੋਕਦਾ ਹੈ।

ਹਮਰਾ ਜੀਵਨੁ ਨਿੰਦਕੁ ਲੋਰੈ ॥੨॥
The slanderer wishes that our life improves. ||2|| 

ਨਿੰਦਕ ਤਾਂ ਸਗੋਂ ਇਹ ਚਾਹੁੰਦਾ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਸਾਡਾ ਜੀਵਨ ਚੰਗਾ ਬਣੇ ॥੨॥

ਨਿੰਦਾ ਹਮਰੀ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਪਿਆਰੁ ॥
As our slander happens, so does love and affection for the Vaheguru come inside of us. 

ਜਿਉਂ ਜਿਉਂ ਸਾਡੀ ਨਿੰਦਿਆ ਹੁੰਦੀ ਹੈ, ਤਿਉਂ ਤਿਉਂ ਸਾਡੇ ਅੰਦਰ ਪ੍ਰਭੂ ਦਾ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ-ਪਿਆਰ ਪੈਦਾ ਹੁੰਦਾ ਹੈ,

ਨਿੰਦਾ ਹਮਰਾ ਕਰੈ ਉਧਾਰੁ ॥
Because our slander saves us from demerits. 

 ਕਿਉਂਕਿ ਸਾਡੀ ਨਿੰਦਿਆ ਸਾਨੂੰ ਔਗੁਣਾਂ ਵਲੋਂ ਬਚਾਉਂਦੀ ਹੈ।

ਜਨ ਕਬੀਰ ਕਉ ਨਿੰਦਾ ਸਾਰੁ ॥

So, slander (the exposing of one's demerits) is the best thing for servant Kabeer. 
ਸੋ, ਦਾਸ ਕਬੀਰ ਲਈ ਤਾਂ ਉਸ ਦੇ ਔਗੁਣਾਂ ਦਾ ਨਸ਼ਰ ਹੋਣਾ ਸਭ ਤੋਂ ਵਧੀਆ ਗੱਲ ਹੈ।

ਨਿੰਦਕੁ ਡੂਬਾ ਹਮ ਉਤਰੇ ਪਾਰਿ ॥੩॥੨੦॥੭੧॥

But the (poor) slanderer (whilst talking about the demerits of others) drowns  (in his own demerits), whilst we are saved (by having an awareness of our demerits). ||3||20||71|| 
ਪਰ (ਵਿਚਾਰਾ) ਨਿੰਦਕ (ਸਦਾ ਦੂਜਿਆਂ ਦੇ ਔਗੁਣਾਂ ਦੀਆਂ ਗੱਲਾਂ ਕਰ ਕਰ ਕੇ ਆਪ ਉਹਨਾਂ ਔਗੁਣਾਂ ਵਿਚ) ਡੁੱਬ ਜਾਂਦਾ ਹੈ, ਤੇ ਅਸੀਂ (ਆਪਣੇ ਔਗੁਣਾਂ ਦੀ ਚੇਤਾਵਨੀ ਨਾਲ ਉਹਨਾਂ ਤੋਂ) ਬਚ ਨਿਕਲਦੇ ਹਾਂ ॥੩॥੨੦॥੭੧॥

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How a Swedish person found Sikhi... (Part 2)


The Swedish Bhenji took Amrit during the Vaisakhi Smaagam in Sweden. The Panj Pyaare instructed her that she must marry a Sikh as per Gurmat Maryada (code of conduct). Bhenji accepted the Hukam (instructions). In the past she had boyfriends but they had moved away from her as she got more into Sikhi. Taking Amrit sealed things. However, Bhenji began to worry how she will find a marital partner living on a Swedish island that had no Sikhs! Furthermore she didn't know of any Sikhs who could find her a suitable partner. Someone in the Sangat advised Bhenji that she should try and find a suitable Swedish man who she is normal friends with and gets along with, and if the man agrees to happily become a Sikh then they should get married.

Bhenji shared that many of her male friends distanced themselves from her because they didn't find her "fun" anymore. She had stopped drinking, stop eating meat, stopped going to nightclubs and adopted a spiritual lifestyle.  However, one friend took an interest in his friend's transformation into a Sikh. That friend was the Swedish man who came with the Bhenji to the camp and is Bhenji's husband-to-be.

I asked the Swedish Veer jee, how he came into Sikhi. He said, "My journey to Sikhi was not over night. It was a slow process. I used to smoke over 20 cigarettes a day, drink, cut my hair, eat meat and go to night clubs. I didn't give this all up suddenly. Guru jee slowly changed me and transformed me." Veer jee shared that he was very inquisitive why his friend had began to tie a turban and live differently and he was impressed and moved with the responses he got from her. Bhenji decided to give Veer jee a copy of Japji Sahib in romanized and English. "When I first heard Japji Sahib, I found it so peaceful and beautiful. I started to recite and chant it every day in the morning. I still smoked, drink and ate meat, but read Japji Sahib every morning. As I recited over and over Japji everyday, I gradually realised that I had cut down on the amount of cigarettes I was smoking, I had cut down on the meat I was eating and was slowly giving up alcohol. From 20 cigarettes, I went to 15, then 10, then 5 and eventually I stopped. I got over all my bad habits by reciting and chanting Japji Sahib. I stopped cutting my Kesh, started to tie a Dastaar and now wear all the Panj Kakkaar." Veer jee now daily recites Panj Banian Nitnem (complete daily prayers) in the morning, Sodar Rehraas in the evening and Sohila Sahib before sleeping. He has a romanized Gutka Sahib that he keeps with him. During the camp Bhenji and Veer jee had a one-to-one lessons learning how to read and write Panjabi with one of the local sevadaars.

I asked Veer jee, "Have you taken Amrit?" He replied, "No. Unfortunately, there is only one Amrit Sanchaar in the whole year in Sweden and that is during Vaisakhi. I have sadly missed it. However, whenever the next Amrit Sanchaar is I wish to take Amrit. I may travel to Delhi some time soon to take Amrit. She will re-take Amrit with me and we will get married in accordance to the Sikh religion."

Dhan Hai Guru! Dhan Hai Teree Sikhee!

Thursday, August 07, 2014

How a Swedish person found Sikhi... (Part 1)

During the Sweden Sikh Family Camp I met a young Swedish man and woman wearing a Dastaar and Kirpaan. I was able to talk to them and ask how they found Sikhi. Bhenji told me that she lived on one of Sweden's islands. She had never seen or heard of a Sikh or the Sikh religion. Bhenji was an average young Swedish woman who cut her hair, drank alcohol, had boyfriends and liked clubbing. However, that soon changed.

One day Bhenji said an inner voice told her to stop cutting her Kes (hair). Bhenji began to keep her Kes and felt it was natural and the right thing. An inner voice and strong internal urge then made her give up eating meat and so she became a strict vegetarian. Then she had an inner urge to give up alcohol and she realized how meat and alcohol were bad for her body and mind. Following on from this her inner voice told her to tie up her hair on top of her head and wrap something around her head. She didn't understand what a Dastaar (turban) was and used a scarf to wrap around her head. She felt at peace with herself looking this way. Without knowing, Bhenji had began to look like a Sikh and behave like a Sikh.

Bhenji then began to attend a yoga class. The yoga class was not taught by a Sikh and nor did he use Sikh Mantras. However, one day the yoga teacher decided to use some materials made by Bhai Harbhajan Singh Khalsa (Yogi Bhajan) for teaching yoga. The teacher decided to recite and chant Japji Sahib. Bhenji was a given a romanized version of Japji Sahib to read in the class during yoga. When Bhenji heard Japji Sahib for the first time, she connected straight away. She said, "It was as if I had gone back home and connected back to my roots." 

Since that day, Bhenji began to recite Japji Sahib every day from romanized text. She would get great peace and sanctification hearing Japji Sahib.  Eventually, one day she came across a Sikh couple walking somewhere and as soon as she saw them she went up to them and hugged them. She said "When I saw Sikhs for the first time in my life, I thought - Wow! They are my people!" Bhenji immediately identified with the Sikhs and felt at home and at peace being around Sikhs. 

The Sikhs invited bhenji to the Gurdwara Sahib just outside Stockholm city (where the camp was held) which was some distance from her home. Bhenji attended the Gurdwara and said, "I loved being around the Sikhs. It didn't matter whether I could understand the language or know what was happening, I was just happy sitting amongst them and feeling like I had been reunited with my people. I feel that I must have been a Sikh in my past life and was reincarnated as a white Swedish lady."

To be continued...

Dhan Hai Guru! Dhan Hai Teree Sikhee!