Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Be careful when driving...

Last month I was driving to East London. I was on the M25 and turned off at junction 27 to turn on to the M11. There is a sharp bend as the road curves around. On this bend, I saw what seemed to be a broken down vehicle. I couldn't see too clearly, but it seemed a light-skinned Pakistani or perhaps Eastern European man and I assumed his family was with him. 

He was waving towards the traffic and seemed to be flagging for help. I thought perhaps someone is having a heart attack or perhaps he doesn't have a mobile phone and needs urgent help with ringing emergency services or something. So I decide to pull up on the hard shoulder about 30 yards away from the broken down car. Seeing me slow down, the man ran towards the car. 

Having read a few news items about car jackings, I pressed the central locking system so the doors were locked. I then put my window down just enough so I can hear him but not enough for someone to put their arm through the window. The man came right up to the window and said, "Hello Sir! Please help me." I replied, "What help do you need?" He said, "Can you please give me £10. My car has ran out of petrol and I am stuck."

I thought, hold up, how is a £10 note going to get his car going when he has ran out of petrol on the motorway? Thankfully I had my phone on and on display in the car as I was on the phone to another Singh when this was happening. I said, "If you have ran out petrol, you need to get to a petrol station and get petrol - not ask for money on the motorway!... Ring your breakdown people or shall I call the police for you?" He quickly responded, "No, no... no police... just £10. You give me and help me.... I can get home... I have my family... You good man."

Something inside me made me look into my rear mirror, and guess what... he didn't have a family with him. Instead a black guy who was standing to a side (on the hard shoulder of the motorway) got in this car and was about to drive the car towards me (proving the story false that the car had ran out of petrol). I thought this looks like a gang trying to get me to stop and have me pass over money and then have the rest of the gang steal my car. I said "I will call the Police for you now..." He said, "No its okay and ran off." I quickly drove off before they could get close with their car.

It said that criminals are taking advantage of people's good will and more dangerously it is important to say safe and keep your car doors locked when driving.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Toronto Singhs Camp 2018...

This year's Toronto Singhs Camp camp was attended by around 100+ campers. The camp is aimed at people aged 16 years and above, however it had some younger children who also benefited from the Sangat, Seva, and Simran. It is a great opportunity to experience Sikhi in a relaxed, friendly and spiritually charged environment. This year, Toronto Singhs Camp took place at Pearson Williams Christian Center in London, Ontorio. The beautiful natural surroundings helped to connect with and appreciate the Creator and creation.

This year's workshop facilitators and speakers included Bhai Sukhwinder Singh (UK) and Bhai Harman Singh (Calgary). The theme of the camp was based on topics taken from Japji Sahib.  Each year the camp organisers pick thoughtful topics that are relevant to the daily lives of campers.

Some photos from the camp taken by Bhai Ranjit Singh:

Satguru Ji arriving with grandeur and style to the camp site. 

The local Sevadaars have a great set up in doing Satguru Ji's Seva. Very inspiring. 

Satguru Ji's Darbaar looking amazing. 

 Singhs Camp dedicated Langar team. Langar is an integral part of the camp! #LangarCamp

Veer Ji Harman Singh's lecture was on Hukam. What Hukam means and why and how a Sikh should follow Hukam.  

 Sangat listening to the talk.

 During Toronto Singhs Camp 2018, Bhai Sukhwinder Singh (UK), aka Sukhi Baba, did the grand launch of his new charity organisation called 'Basics of Sukhi'. His strap line is 'Harm yourself with knowledge'. I think Veer Harman Singh (Basics of Sikhi) has got some healthy competition going on!

Bhai Sukhwinder Singh's talk was on on how Gurbani deals with Dukh (suffering). What is suffering, how we suffer, what is true suffering and how to overcome suffering. 

Evening divaan. 

Bhai Jagjit Singh (Melbourne) doing Kirtan in the evening darbaar.

 Sukhaasan Seva led by campers

Daas' workshop was on using Mool Mantar to explain Sikhi to non-Sikhs and ideas of how to do Parchaar.

 Sangat doing group work during discussions.

 You cannot escape Big Brother's camera at Toronto Singhs Camp (aka known as Veer Jaspaul Singh. His dedication to Seva is inspiring)!

 Pool party (without the party).

When war breaks lose in the camp!

 Some campers took things more seriously than others!
 Evening Kirtan in the open.

Sangat doing Kirtan.

 When someone decides to make a Parshaada that is bigger than their face!

Sangat making Langar

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Eye-Opening Speech!

Note: Sikhi diet is not vegan because gheo and milk has been a part and parcel of Langar and Degh Maryada. However, the Sikhi diet is supposed to be ethical, compassionate, cruelty-free, environmentally-friendly, and spiritualised. Although Sikhi allows consuming dairy products, modern-day industrial milk farming is far from the ethical or compassionate.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Primary school children learn about Sikhi... (Part 2)


Some people grow their hair long, and some people have their hair short. Put your hands up if you have long hair or have not cut your hair? [Clearly one child didn't understand the question because he had short cut hair but had his hand up!]

Well! As a Sikh we believe that God has made this body as a gift and we look after it. We don't cut our hair because it helps us to stay connected with God's vibration and feel his holy presence. It always give us spiritual strength, similar to a story in the Bible. To prevent us looking really messy or having your hair go all over the place, we nicely tie it up on top of our head. It looks really cool.

Put your hand up if you are against animal cruelty? [Everyone put their hand up]
Now, what is the most cruelest thing you could do an animal? [Someone put their hand up and said "kill it".]

Well done! As a Sikh we are are against cruelty and believe an animal's right to live is more important than someone taste. 
As humans we can still survive without eating animals. Being caring, compassionate and kind to all living beings is really important if we want to stay connected with God's holy presence.

What do you find in a garden? [Children said - vegetables, plants, flowers...]
Now, what do you find a grave yard? [Children said - grave stones, dead bodies...]

Well, as Sikhs we treat our body like a beautiful garden, rather than a grave yard. So we don't eat dead animals. Instead we eat vegetables, lentils, pulses, wheat and fruit. 

As a Sikh I am supposed to have pure thoughts and see everyone as part of my family. So I treat all elderly women with the same respect as my mum. Everyone the same age as me, with the same respect as a sister, and anyone younger than me with the respect of a daughter. And the same the other way around.

Can you drink and drive? [A student said "No."]
Why not? [A student said, "Because it is effects your mind and you can have an accident]

Well done! The body is a temple or house of God. Just as you cannot drink and drive because its dangerous and not good for your mind. As Sikhs we do not drink, smoke or take drugs. We always want our mind to stay focused and able to connect with God's vibration and feel His presence.

Lastly, you may be thinking why I look like this. 

The Guru has given us a special uniform to remind me to stay connected with God.

We wear a turban to cover our hair. The turban is a crown. But not any old crown. It is a crown with special jewels. Can you see them? [They looked confused and said no].

My turban is a crown. Just like a king or queen wears a crown and they have responsibilities and duties. A Sikh wearing a turban has responsibilities and duties. The jewels of my crown are values taught by our Guru, a bit like your school values. The jewels are - being fearless, not hating anyone, respecting all, standing up for others, being of service to others, being kind, being fair, etc. 

On my wrist I am wearing these. What do you think they are made of? [Someone said silver].
They made of iron. Just like God is strong like iron, Sikhs wear an iron bracelet to remind us to be strong in our faith. They also look like handcuffs. It reminds me that I am handcuffed to God and God is always with me, and with these hands I should do good and help others.

Inside my turban, I have a small wooden comb which is used to comb my hair. Just like we keep our hair tidy, we are reminded to keep our mind and thoughts tidy each time we comb our hair.

You can't see, but I am wearing some long white shorts. They are really wide.... not that I am that fat. There is cord-string which you pull and makes the shorts look like a curtain that goes around my waist. It is really comfortable and it means I can do anything and always be covered and looking respectable. It is white colour and reminds me to behave like a saint and always be careful with my thoughts.

Lastly, this is called a Kirpaan! Can you say "Kirpaan" for me. [They all repeated after me].

This a gift by the Guru worn to protect and stand up for others. It is not something to be scared of. Just like you wouldn't be scared of your school cook with a knife, because you know she is going to use for cutting vegetables. You would not be scared of a doctor with a knife, because you know he is going to use it save someones life in surgery. You would not be scared of a Sikh wearing a Kirpaan, because you know that he or she is wearing it for protecting others. Sikhs are God's Police. We have a duty to protect and serve others just like the Police.

To end with... as Sikhs we get together and pray in a place called a Gurdwara. There is a special room where the Guru sits on the throne and we read, sing and pray. Then there is a special dining room where everyone can come and eat food. Wherever Sikhs are in the world, we give free food because our Guru taught us that no one should go hungry. So if you ever see a Gurdwara, feel free to go inside and visit.

The children gave a very positive response. Afterwards I went to the classrooms where students got an opportunity to ask questions. Their questions were really sweet. Hopefully the write-up can give some ideas and confidence to others to do seva in schools and share the message of Guru Nanak Dev Ji with the world and prevent intolerance and racism.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Primary school children learn about Sikhi... (Part 1)

Last Monday I was invited to Bishop Carpenter Primary School. It is a small village school where many of the children have not seen a Sikh before. The school is a Church of England school and has only 100 students. 

The day started with the school assembly. The students began with their usual Christian worship and singing of hymns. I was then given 15 minutes to speak to the children about Sikhi. All the children were really respectful and listened very carefully. Afterwards I had an opportunity to talk to the children during their break time and then after the break there was a questions and answers session with the two elder classes. 

Below is a short write-up of what was said in the assembly for the benefit of those who wish to have some ideas of what to can say when given the opportunity to speak about Sikhi with young school children from a non-Sikh background.

"Good morning everyone! Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you! 

Put your hands up if you have heard of a Sikh before? [Some hands go up]

Today I am going to share with you about my faith. 

God made the world and wants to see us happy. However, people became fed up, frustrated, angry and behaving in a not so nice way because they didn't realise how to work the mind and body that God has given. So God decided to come to earth as a special teacher, called a Guru. Can you say "Guru" for me? [They all said Guru]

God decided I will tell you whats inside your mind and body and how to use it wisely so you can be happy. The name of the Guru was Guru Nanak. Can you all say Guru Nanak for me? [They all repeated after me]

Guru Nanak taught us that there is one God. Different people in the world call different names like Raam, Allah, God or Vahiguru. Does anyone know different words for water? [Someone said H2O, wasser, and agua]. If someone said that they wanted H2O, but not water. Or that they wanted agua but not wasser, would that sound right? [Children said no]. At the end of the day, it is the same thing but with different names. Similarly, there is one God but people call Him different names. 

Guru Nanak taught us that God made this world by saying a Word. The vibration from that Word made all the world and that vibration vibrates in everything that was created. It's pretty cool and amazing! That vibration vibrates in everything you see around you - inside me and you. 

When you are tuning the radio, it makes some sounds and eventually you tune into the radio station and you can hear the words. Similarly, the vibration of God when tuned into make a word, that is the Name of God.  So to connect with God, we use the Name of God to feel that special vibration of God or the Holy Presence of God. It similar to the Holy Spirit in one sense.

In order to connect with the Presence of God, this amazing vibration of God that is within us and around us, we follow a special way of life that Guru Nanak has shown us. 

Who likes sleeping? [Everyone's hand went up] I do as well! I love my duvet and like sleeping. But Guru Nanak taught us that we can give God a very special gift. That gift is giving up our sleep time and waking up to remember Him and connect with Him. So Sikhs wake up before sunrise, when all the iPads are still off, when most people are not watching TV, and people are not up working. It's really quiet and lovely. But its not just Sikhs waking up that time, you can hear the birds and other animals waking up around the same time. It's really peaceful.

So when we wake up, we have a shower, wash our hair, and then we sit down and chant God's Name. By chanting God's Name we feel connected with God's vibration and presence. It's really relaxing and gives you lots of energy and positivity to have a nice day. We then say some special prayers which we read everyday.

During the day we are supposed to remember God in everything we do, and see God's presence and vibration vibrating in all. Then when we come back home from school or work, and say a special prayer to make sure our scattered mind becomes nice and focused and ready for the evening. We sing prayers, go to the Gurdwara - the special place where Sikhs pray with others, and help others. In the evening before going to sleep, we sit on the bed and say a special prayer to make sure our mind is really focused and we are ready for a nice sleep, ready to get up for the next morning....

To be continued...