Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Christian Lady who does Nitnem...

When I went to New York last year to attend Camp Chardi Kala 2014 I was fortunate to meet Bhai Jatinder Singh who does seva with UNITED SIKHS in New York. He was a sevadaar the camp. Bhai Jatinder Singh shared some really inspiring personal stories about Sikhi with me. I have previously shared one story and now wish to share another.

Bhai Jatinder Singh was visiting the Home Depot store in New Jersey. When he entered the store a white American lady saw him and said, "Vaheguru Jee Ka Khalsa, Vaheguru Jee Kee Fateh!" Bhai Sahib was pleasantly stunned by the random white American lady saying Guru's Fateh. 

Bhai Jatinder Singh asked the lady how she knew the Guru's Fateh and about Sikhs. The lady picked up her phone and showed her phone screen. The phone screen had a picture of Sri Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar. The lady explained that her father had passed away, and after his death she had reoccurring dreams of her father. Her father would come to her in a dream and whilst looking at her would say, "Nitnem!" Every day she would have her father visit her dream and say "Nitnem" as if he was telling her to do something. 

Being a white American Christian lady, she was not sure really sure what her father was saying and thought perhaps her father is saying 'Nitwit' (which means a 'fool' or 'dumb'). However, her father was clearly saying "Nitnem" time and again.
The lady had attended some Yoga classes when she was nine years old, where she was exposed to the sounds of Gurbani, but she left the classes short after. At that time she didn't know about Gurbani and the Sikh religion. She didn't think much of her father's reoccurring dreams at first, however, over time after meeting different people and different things happening in her life she kept thinking why her father was repeatedly telling her "Nitnem".

On the Internet she discovered 'Nitnem' refers to the Sikh daily prayers. She downloaded a special Gurbani Nitnem application on which she can listen to Nitnem. Now, she listens to full morning Nitnem when waking up, before she goes to work; listens to Rehraas Sahib in the evening after work; and listens to Sohila Sahib before going to bed.

The lady's father was a Christian, however in the reoccurring dreams he repeatedly told her daughter "Nitnem" as a signal for her to do Nitnem. Perhaps the father was signalling to do the daughter that in the world beyond only Nitnem-Gurbani will take you across, so he wanted her to do Nitnem.

ਕਹਤ ਕਬੀਰ ਛੋਡਿ ਬਿਖਿਆ ਰਸ ਇਤੁ ਸੰਗਤਿ ਨਿਹਚਉ ਮਰਣਾ ||
ਰਮਈਆ ਜਪਹੁ ਪ੍ਰਾਣੀ ਅਨਤ ਜੀਵਣ ਬਾਣੀ ਇਨ ਬਿਧਿ ਭਵ ਸਾਗਰੁ ਤਰਣਾ ||੨||
"Says Kabeer, give up the pleasures of corruption, or else you will surely die of them. O Mortal! Remember and meditate the Lord through the Gurbani, which shall give you eternal life. In this way, shall you cross over the terrifying world-ocean. ||2||"
(Siree Raag Kabeer Jee, 91)

After hearing this amazing story, Bhai Jatinder Singh pulled out his camera phone and asked the lady if she would mind saying something about the story of her father's dream and Nitnem for him to record. See video below:

ਮਤ ਕੋ ਭਰਮਿ ਭੁਲੈ ਸੰਸਾਰਿ ||
ਗੁਰ ਬਿਨੁ ਕੋਇ ਨ ਉਤਰਸਿ ਪਾਰਿ ||੧|| ਰਹਾਉ ||
"Let no one wander in doubt in the world. Without the Guru, no one can cross over. ||1||Pause||"
(Gond M:5, 864)

I hope this post is encouragement to those brothers and sisters who have not yet began to do any Nitnem to introduce Gurbani to their lives and allow Gurbani to lighten up their life here and beyond. Vaheguru!

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Speaking Panjabi amongst Gursikhs...

Author: Bhai Kulbir Singh Ji

Ones who are from Punjabi background but don't think in Punjabi and converse in a language other than Punjabi, they are very unfortunate. Sikhs who are not from Punjabi background can be excused if they don't speak Punjabi but Sikhs from Punjabi background ought to speak in Punjabi because not knowing Punjabi is detrimental to their Sikhi.

Often it is seen that youngsters brought up on UK, USA and Canada, converse in English when they get together. When they get married, they continue their habit and this results in their children totally becoming Goray. Already the youngsters born here speak in English and can't even speak one sentence of pure Punjabi and imagine who their children will.

Then they complain that their Sikhi is not good and that they can't focus etc. Punjabi is important to learn because our scriptures are in Punjabi. Our Gurbani is in Punjabi. How can we understand the message of Gurbani if we don't speak and understand Punjabi?

The ones who are handicap in Punjabi, have to rely on translations done by someone else, to understand Gurbani. These unfortunate people can never receive message from Gurbani directly. How sad...

Instead of fixing their problem and trying to learn and speak Punjabi, these people pass on their handicap-ness to their children by speaking pure English with them. This results in their children remaining totally devoid of comprehension of Gurbani.

For the sake of their children and for their own sake, the young couples who are brought up in these Western countries, should try their best to only speak in Punjabi with each other. It's not that hard. It is hard in the beginning but later on it becomes natural.

Punjabi Sikhs lived in Kashmir (a non Punjabi state) and Afghanistan for hundreds of years and they spoke the native language with fluency but they never lost touch of Punjabi and continued to speak Punjabi as well. God knows what happened when Punjabi Sikhs moved to English speaking countries. Why did they totally abandon Punjabi?

There is nothing wrong in mastering the native language of the country you are living in and as the matter of fact, one must be fluent in the native language but why should that be done at the cost of your mother-tongue?

The problem is not that the youngsters here know English very well but the problem is that they don't know Punjabi at all. In Punjab, from childhood, Punjabi, Hindi and English languages are taught and kids can understand and converse in these languages. Why should the kids in English countries totally become handicap in Punjabi and speak only English. The little Punjabi they speak is horrible since they can't speak most alphabets.

It is good time to realize our folly and make earnest efforts to bring Punjabi back into our lives, so that our Sikhi jeevan and our Gurbani understanding does not suffer.


Friday, May 01, 2015

Saakhi: Countless worlds and planets...

ਫਿਰਿ ਬਾਬਾ ਗਿਆ ਬਗਦਾਦ ਨੋ ਬਾਹਰ ਜਾਇ ਕੀਆ ਅਸਥਾਨਾ||
ਇਕ ਬਾਬਾ ਅਕਾਲ ਰੂਪੁ ਦੂਜਾ ਰਬਾਬੀ ਮਰਦਾਨਾ||
"From Mecca, Baba went to Baghdad and stayed outside the city. There was the Baba himself, the form of Timeless, and secondly there was his companion Mardana, the Rabaab player."

Guru Nanak Dev Ji arrived in the outskirts of the city of Baghdad in Iraq. He sung the shabad with Bhai Mardana Ji:
ਪਾਤਾਲਾ ਪਾਤਾਲ ਲਖ ਆਗਾਸਾ ਆਗਾਸ ||
pataalaa pataal lakh aagaasaa aagaas.
"There are worlds upon worlds and many hundreds of thousands of them and hundreds of thousands of skies."
(Japji Sahib, ang 5)

Some onlookers heard and went to Pir Dastgeer and told him, "There is a holy man come with a white turban, he is transfixing the local people with his music. He is singing that there are are not only 7 under worlds and 7 skies, there are in fact hundreds of thousands."

The Peer became enraged and said, "This is the worst kind of kaafir (non-believer). He comes to our Islamic land and questions our Quran. Get the people to stone him to death!"

The group gathered a crowd of people in the city armed with stones to kill Guru Nanak Dev Ji.

Bhai Mardana said to Guru Nanak Ji, "They are bringing big stones to come and kill you." Guru Nanak Dev smiled and said, "Mardana, if truth never dies, then those that speak the truth never die also."

ਦਿਤੀ ਬਾਂਗਿ ਨਿਵਾਜਿ ਕਰਿ ਸੁੰਨ ਸਮਾਨਿ ਹੋਆ ਜਹਾਨਾ||ਸੁੰਨ ਮੁੰਨਿ ਨਗਰੀ ਭਈ ਦੇਖਿ ਫਰਿ ਭਇਆ ਹੈਰਾਨਾ||
"The Baba gave his version of the call of prayer, listening to which the whole world went into absolute silence. The whole city became quiet and Lo! to behold it, the Peer (of the town) also got wonderstruck."

As they attempted to throw their stones, they grew stiff and couldn't move.
The Peer heard what had happened and came to investigate. He said to Guru Nanak Dev Ji, "What are you talking about, hundreds of thousands skies and worlds?" Guru sahib asked, "How many do you say?" The Peer said, "There are 7 skies and 7 under-worlds." Guru sahib said, "Have you seen these 14?" He replied, "I have seen 14." Guru Nanak Dev Ji said, "I've seen hundreds of thousands." The Peer said, "Can you show me?" Guru Sahib replied, "Sure."

The Peer was asked to look in to Guru Sahib's eyes, and was shocked with what he saw. Before he went any further he became scared and said to Guru Ji, "Here is my son! You can show him instead as my health is not to good..." Guru Sahib said to the son, "Are you ready?" He anxiously said "Yes." Within an instant he left his body and a few seconds later returned.

His father said, "What happened?... What did you see?" He was very shaken and wasn't speaking properly. Then son explained, "I saw millions of worlds and millions of skies, everywhere we went they rejoiced and were overjoyed because Guru Nanak had arrived. They all bowed down to Guru Sahib and came begging to him..."
ਕੋਟਿ ਬ੍ਰਹਮੰਡ ਕੋ ਠਾਕੁਰੁ ਸੁਆਮੀ ਸਰਬ ਜੀਆ ਕਾ ਦਾਤਾ ਰੇ ||
"The Lord and Master of millions of universes; He is the Giver of all beings."

(Sorat(h) M:5, 612)

The son went on to say, "I believe Guru Nanak is Khuda (God) himself."  

Guru Nanak Dev Ji even brought some karhah parshaad for Peer Dastgeer from the another world. Seeing and hearing this all, Peer Dastgeer fell at the feet of Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
ਪੁਛੇ ਫਰਿ ਤਕਰਾਰ ਕਰਿ ਏਹ ਫਕੀਰ ਵਡਾ ਅਤਾਈ||
ਏਥੇ ਵਿਚਿ ਬਗਦਾਦ ਦੇ ਵਡੀ ਕਰਾਮਾਤਿ ਦਿਖਲਾਈ||
ਪਾਤਾਲਾ ਆਕਾਸ ਲਖ ਓੜਕਿ ਭਾਲੀ ਖਬਰੁ ਸੁਣਾਈ||
ਫੇਰਿ ਦੁਰਾਇਣ ਦਸਤਗੀਰ ਅਸੀ ਭਿ ਵੇਖਾਂ ਜੋ ਤੁਹਿ ਪਾਈ||
ਨਾਲਿ ਲੀਤਾ ਬੇਟਾ ਫਰਿ ਦਾ ਅਖੀ ਮੀਟਿ ਗਇਆ ਹਾਵਾਈ||
ਲਖ ਅਕਾਸ ਪਤਾਲ ਲਖ ਅਖਿ ਫੁਰਕ ਵਿਚਿ ਸਭਿ ਦਿਖਲਾਈ||
ਭਰਿ ਕਚਕੌਲ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ ਦਾ ਧੁਰੋ ਪਤਾਲੋ ਲਈ ਕੜਾਈ||
ਜਾਹਰ ਕਲਾ ਨ ਛਪੈ ਛਪਾਈ ||੩੬||
"The Peer debated and came to know that this Fakeer (Guru Nanak) is much more powerful. Here in Baghdad he has shown a great miracle. Meanwhile he (Guru Nanak) talked about countless netherworlds and skies. Peer Dastgeer asked (the Guru) to show him whatever he had seen. Guru Nanak Dev taking along with him the son of the Peer, melted into thin air. And in a wink of eye visualized him the upper and lower worlds. From the nether world he brought a bowl full of Prashaad and handed it over to Peer.
This manifest power (of the Guru) cannot be made to hide.(36)"
(Bhai Gurdaas Ji: Vaar 1, Pauri 36)

Monday, April 27, 2015

Newcastle Vaisakhi Camp 2015...

When I was first invited to Newcastle Upon Tyne by Bhai Jaswinder Singh and Bhenji Satinder Kaur in October 2014 for doing seva at their Gurdwara camp, I was dreading it thinking "why on earth would someone live so far away in the middle of no where!". I checked on the route planner on the Internet and it was well over a four hour car journey! I nervously accepted the seva, whilst thinking how I was going to drive so far without falling asleep. With Guru Sahib's kirpaa I cut the journey time down by staying a night at Derby Gurdwara Sahib.

When I arrived outside Newcastle Gurdwara Sahib, I was stunned by the beautiful and proud Gurdwara Sahib building. Entering the Gurdwara had an amazing uplifting feeling. There seemed to be so much positivity, welcoming feeling and love. The Sangat in Newcastle were so down to earth and had so much pyaar that it left a lasting impression. I was surprised to see so many non-Sikh children and adults attending the Sikh camp and helping out with seva, who had been welcomed and inspire by the local Sangat.

This April, I had the second opportunity to attend Newcastle Gurdwara camp. This time, I didn't dread the journey (as much)! The camp was held from 3rd to 5th August. The theme of the camp was Vaisakhi. Bhenji Jaspreet Kaur, a Beligum white Singhni, was a speaker at the camp as well as Bhai Sukha Singh, Bhai Harkirat Singh (Northampton), and Bibi Pritam Kaur, wife of Shaheed Bhai Rashpal Singh (PA of Baba Jarnail Singh jee Bhindranwale). The camp attracted many children and families that are new to Sikhi. There was great enthusiasm and spirit shown in the camp. May Satguru jee bless the sevadaars with more seva and may Sikhi in Newcastle grow stronger and stronger.

Some photos of the camp taken from Veer Joojhaar Singh's Facebook:

Morning diwaan

The theme shabad being sung by sevadaars and campers

 The theme shabad for the camp

Veer jee doing annoucements

Bhai Jaswinder Singh showing how to make Degh

Children being taken outside for fun activities

Rescuing a bhenji from a tree (joke!) 

Children patiently their turn ("patience is a virtue").

 Climbing instructor

 Gatka class

Bhai Sukha Singh's class with the younger children

 Children concentrating in their class

 Child learning how to do Chaur Sahib seva.

Bhenji Jaspreet Kaur's class

Adults and parents class

Bibi Preetam Kaur jee telling her life story to the Sangat.

Bhai Jaswinder Singh doing a class (looks like a drama class perhaps)

Langar time. Children look well behaved (and not hyper!)

 It was great to hear Vaheguru Simran being continuously played in the kitchen area. I saw that all the Sangat cooking and doing seva spoke very little or not at all and were instead chanting Vaheguru.

 Newcastle Gurdwara Sahib is one of the only Gurdwara Sahibs I have seen that has a large picture of Bhagat Puran Singh jee up (and in a prominent area!). 

Dhan Hai Guru! Dhan Hai Teree Sikhee!

Friday, April 24, 2015

17 Reasons to Prevent Sri Darbar Sahib From Being UNESCO Heritage Site

There are a number of long term implications of applying for this status:

  1. The application can only be made by the country. Therefore the Indian government will assume primary responsibility for management and protection of Sri Darbar Sahib. A future Indian government can easily side step the SGPC, or reduce its role and set up a new body to look after ‘protection of heritage’ issues. The Sikhs will not be able to do anything legally to stop this.
  2. To ensure that buildings are not harmed by erosion etc, a future government committee can impose limits to the number of people who can go into Sri Darbar Sahib at any one time. This will ensure that structures are no damaged by having too many people in the complex!
  3. The Government can ban any political meeting taking place within Sri Darbar Sahib by claiming that it is necessary to avoid any possible ‘violence’ taking place.
  4. The government through its body can ban a Surbutt Khalsa taking place in Sri Darbar Sahib.
  5. The Sovereignty of Sri Akal Takht Sahib will be lost as India’s sovereignty and right to protect as well as manage the Darbar sahib will have been conceded by the Sikhs through this application.
  6. A future Indian government can install a police post within Darbar Sahib under the pretext of ‘protecting’ the heritage.
  7. The focus and emphasis of Sri Darbar Sahib will change from a deeply spiritual place where people of faith and longing go to a place of cultural tourism where mass tourism will be catered for.
  8. There are many misrepresentations in the Application dossier which give a misguided description of Sikhi. The document will become an international document of reference. It is important that its contents are sound and portray a true account of Sikhi.
  9. The application transfers ‘religious’ decisions concerning maryada, from Sri Akal Takht Sahib to the SGPC, a body of the Government.
  10. The Sikhs already seem to have lost some control. The application cannot be withdrawn by SGPC. Only the Indian government can withdraw the application.
  11. A future government will introduce legislation to over ride any restrictions in Gurdwara Act in order to fulfil its international obligations as required by article 153 of the Indian constitution.
  12. A future government can impose restrictions on the type and number of arms held in the Darbar sahib precinct, including the length of the kirpan when dignitaries visit.
  13. A future government body can impose new rules to ensure security for important leaders visiting Sri Darbar Sahib. These can over ride any Sikh maryada.
  14. In the present dossier, there is already a provision for a body consisting of two representatives of Central government, two from State (Punjab) government and four experts chosen by the government and only ONE SGPC members, to supervise management and protection of the site for heritage purpose.
  15. the representatives from central and state government do not have to be Sikhs, they can even be Radhaswamis or anyone the government nominates.
  16. Any future development in the complex will need the permission of this body.
  17. Any decisions taken by SGPC or Sikhs that could reflect on the heritage status or have direct or indirect effect on the buildings, can be vetoed by this body. For instance if the Sikhs decide to hold a month long event to celebrate the anniversary of Sri Akal takht sahib, the body can over rule this.

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: