Saturday, April 13, 2024

Celebrating Vaisakhi: A Beginner's Guide

Spring's Renewal: Festival of Vaisakhi

In South Asia, the month of Vaisakh is a time of celebration for many cultures and faith traditions. The first day of the month of Vaisakhi, known as Vaisakhi, is a major Sikh festival observed in mid-April that celebrates a colourful blend of nature's renewal, spiritual connection, and commitment to community and faith.

Three Reasons Sikhs Celebrate Vaisakhi

(1) A Time to Reflect on Nature and Our Spiritual Connection:

Vaisakhi coincides with spring, a season of nature's renewal. In the same way that spring brings the earth back to life after a long winter, Vaisakhi serves as a reminder to Sikhs about the constant hope and possibility of finding springtime joy within themselves. Sikh scripture (gurbani) relates the natural world to our inner spiritual state. Just as a flower withers in autumn and winter, we can become disconnected from the Ultimate Divine Power, the source of our existence, leading to a loss of hope and inner peace. However, just as spring brings new life to a flower and makes it blossom again, a Sikh is reminded that with the Guru's teachings and spiritual practice, one can overcome hopelessness and enjoy a spring of spiritual joy throughout the year through connection with the Divine Creator – the source of life, peace and true happiness.

(2) An Opportunity for Deepening Connections:

Vaisakhi's roots lie in ancient South Asian harvest festivals. Guru Amar Daas Ji, the third Guru of Sikhs, however, made the festival more meaningful. Vaisakhi, the first day of the month of Vaisakh, along with two other popular holidays, Diwali and Maghi, as three special days Sikhs would gather to hear the Guru's instructions. Since then, Vaisakhi became a time for Sikhs to strengthen their bonds with each other through acts of selfless service (Seva), deepen their connection with their souls through meditation (Simran), and gain wisdom from the holy congregation (Sangat).

(3) Khalsa: Becoming Ambassadors of the Divine:

Vaisakhi holds particular significance for its role in Sikh history. In 1699, on this very day, the Tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, established the Khalsa, a community of faithful disciples dedicated to leading by example. Free from worldly fear and ego, the Khalsa were envisioned as saint-soldiers and ambassadors of holiness, justice, and peace. In the Amrit initiation ceremony, an oath to serve & protect others, while remaining grounded in prayer and spiritual connection is made. This community would be instilled with courage and fortitude, ultimately becoming worthy of self-governance and the embodiment of the Guru's spirit. Vaisakhi becomes an annual call to self-reflection, urging Sikhs to embody these ideals and become beacons of truthful living.

Celebrating Renewal

Vaisakhi celebrates new beginnings, connection, commitment, our divine potential & living a life that inspires others, as exemplified by the Sikh Gurus. Through musical worship, prayer, parades, martial arts displays, and the sharing of food, Sikhs come together to celebrate the essence of their faith. Spring is an important time of year for the Sikh community. It's a call to action, urging us to recognise our responsibility to create a beautiful world for everyone, regardless of background, through building inner spiritual beauty. This uplifting message inspires us all to rise to the occasion and make a positive difference.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

MPA in Faith Based Leadership

I have been honored to be a part of the University of Birmingham MPA in Faith Based Leadership. The University of Birmingham MPA in Faith-Based Leadership offers a globally-unique approach to faith leadership development. It combines insight into organisational, administrative, managerial and leadership skills, from negotiation to social entrepreneurship, decision science to ethical purchasing, and leading volunteers to intercultural engagement, with a commitment to faith-sensitive application of these core principles in faith communities across the world. The MPA is a two-year, part-time programme designed for senior and emerging senior leaders from across a variety of faiths, from faith-based organisations and from governmental and non-governmental organisations that deal with faith-based issues as part of their everyday life. Below is a video made to introduce the programme:


Below is a link to an interview I was asked to give in regards to the programme:

Thursday, February 08, 2024

Serving God through serving humanity: Photo of Sikh man feeding a disabled Muslim man

A disabled Muslim gentlemen who has no arms, was walking through a park in Bradford during the annual Sikh festival celebration of Vaisakhi. The Sikh community had set up a stall and distributing Langar (food cooked by the Sikh community kitchen) to the public. The Muslim man who was unable to eat himself, was offered to be fed by the Sikh volunteer. A true glimpse of the love of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and humanity.

ਸਭ ਮਹਿ ਜੋਤਿ ਜੋਤਿ ਹੈ ਸੋਇ ॥
Amongst all is the Light, which is the Divine Light of the Creator.

ਤਿਸ ਦੈ ਚਾਨਣਿ ਸਭ ਮਹਿ ਚਾਨਣੁ ਹੋਇ ॥
All living beings shine and radiate light through the Divine Light.

ਗੁਰ ਸਾਖੀ ਜੋਤਿ ਪਰਗਟੁ ਹੋਇ ॥
But knowledge of the Divine Light shining within all living beings comes through the Wisdom of the Guru.

ਜੋ ਤਿਸੁ ਭਾਵੈ ਸੁ ਆਰਤੀ ਹੋਇ ॥੩॥
The true worship of the All-Pervading Divine Light is to be pleased with the Divine Will. ||3||
(Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji - Guru Nanak Dev Ji - Ang 12)

Saturday, January 20, 2024

ਜਦੋਂ ਇੱਕ ਈਸਾਈ ਆਦਮੀ ਨੇ ਮੈਨੂੰ ਕਿਹਾ: "ਮੈਂ ਤੁਹਾਡਾ ਧੰਨਵਾਦ ਕਰਨਾ ਚਾਹਾਂਗਾ ..." । When a Christian man said to me: "I want to say thank you..."

I had boarded a plane from Melbourne to Auckland. I had a window seat and was the first in my row to sit down. As evening approached, I began reciting Rehraas Sahib, the daily Sikh prayer. As I quietly recited Gurbani (the Guru's Holy Word), an elderly couple approached the row and began loading their luggage on the shelf above. The lady then looked at me and then her husband and said, "Look! What an honour, we get to sit next to a Maharaja today." After hearing this, I decided to pause reciting Rehraas Sahib and start again once I had engaged in a conversation with the couple. I looked at the elderly lady who was coming to sit next to me and her husband, who sat on the next seat, and smiled. They both smiled back, returning my hello.

The lady introduced herself as Loraine and her husband was Stuart. I asked about their trip and they shared they were from New Zealand but were visiting their daughter in Australia. They asked about my trip and then asked what I do for a living. They were interested in my job role as a chaplain and said they enjoyed talking to me. Loraine said, "You wouldn't approve of my husband's dad. I'm sorry." I thought, what on earth could this man work as that I would disapprove of? Stuart replied that he worked as a computer technician (to my memory). I thought, "What's wrong with that?" Then Loraine said, "Your work is not just that... tell him the full thing...." She then continued, "My husband is also a wine taster." Both Loraine and Stuart apologized to me. I was so surprised that they would apologize and show me so much respect that I didn't drink nor promote alcohol.

They then went on to share the grief of their daughter's recent tragic death. Stuart said, "I'm angry with the man upstairs." He was referring to God. I kept quiet and just listened. What else could you do when someone is angry and grieving? No words at this point in their bereavement journey could console them. So I just listened. I then asked them to excuse me from the conversation and that I was going to do my evening prayer. After reciting Rehraas Sahib, Stuart said, "I would like to say thank you." I was thinking "Thank you for what?" He went on to say, "You Sikhs are such lovely people... you are disciplined, and the duty you do is remarkable and commendable. I have sheer respect for the way you live your lives to such high standards and everything you stand for." In my mind, I thanked Guru Gobind Singh Ji for the Sikhi that has blessed me and all Sikhs. 
He then said, "I feel peace sitting next to you. I've enjoyed talking to you. Can we please stay in touch.. I would love to talk to you and talk through a few things that trouble my mind." The peace he felt wasn't because of me. It stemmed from the power and peace of the holy words of Rehraas Sahib. The peace he felt came from the Dastaar (holy turban), holy beard, and Bana (holy dress) blessed to us by Guru Gobind Singh Ji. I shared my email address with them. Before leaving, they again thanked me. It made me think that when traveling some Sikh brothers and sisters feel they have to wear Western clothes and Sikh brothers have to tie up their beards. However, being comfortable with who you are, embracing your identity, and radiating Sikhi through your external experience, can bring peace and comfort to others, even in the most unexpected moments.

Friday, December 15, 2023

Must watch movie: Agaaz

The true story of two brave Sikhs who defied all odds in the 18th century in the admist of genocide:

Sunday, October 15, 2023

A beginner's guide to Japji Sahib: End Salok (Epilogue)

ò (Epilogue or ending verse):
In the conclusion of Jap Ji Sahib, a summary of the purpose of life is given.

pavan  gur-oo,  paa-Nee  pit-aa,
maa-taa  Dharat  m-hat.
For our existence, Vaheguru has given us air that is important as the Guru,× water that is important as a father, and the great earth that is as important as a mother.
Air, water and earth are the essentials of existence given to us in this game of life. Just like for a Sikh their Guru, father, and mother are important. Just as one is spiritually dead without a Guru (i.e. in utter darkness), similarly, the body is dead with air/breath. Father protects and provides for the family, similarly, water protects and provides for our body. Mother is considering the highest for giving birth and its virtue of being nurturing. Similarly, the earth produces life and nurtures our existence by providing for us.

ivas  raat  du-e,  daa-ee  daa-yaa,
ey-lai  sagal  jagat.
The world is playing the game of life in the laps of day and night, just as nannies help a child to play and sleep.

ang-yaa-ee-yaa(n),  bur-yaa-ee-yaa(n),
vaa-chai  Dharam  h-door.
(Within this world-play, every action we do is recorded and) the record of our good and bad deeds is read out in the presence of Dharam-Raaj (the appointed judge of the next world).

kar-mee  aa-po  aap-Nee,
key  ney-Rai  key  door.
According to our own actions, some are drawn closer, whilst others go further away from Vaheguru.

jin-nee  naam  Dhi-yaa-yaa,
ge-ye  m-shak-kat  ghaal.
Those whose fix their attention on the Divine Sound (Naam), make their hard work worthwhile.

, tey  mukh  uj-ley,
key-tee  shhu-tee  naal.  ||1||
(Guru) Nanak (Ji says) - their faces glow with glory, and they also free many others (from falsehood)! ||1||


ò In Sanskrit, Salok means ‘sound,’ ‘song of praise,’ ‘praise,’ or ‘stanza.’ Salok is a chief verse that consists of two verse lines of sixteen syllables each or four half lines of eight syllables each.

× Air, our breath, is the most important. Through air, the Sound of God and the Name of God is uttered and one can connect with inner sound and vibration. Without air, i.e. breathing one is dead. The air when linked to the Divine Word as revealed by the Guru, our life becomes fulfilled and worthwhile. However, most humans waste this opportunity of life by giving over attention to the body and bodily desires.


Friday, September 22, 2023

A beginner's guide to Japji Sahib: Pauri 38


jat  paa-haa-raa,  Dhee-raj  sun-yaar.
Make self-restraint one’s senses & organs (i.e. moral discipline) the furnace, and patience the goldsmith.
This line and the following lines in this verse describe seven qualities needed for enlightenment and to reach Sach Khand, the realm of Truth. The process of manufacturing a coin by a goldsmith has been used as an example to highlight these seven qualities that a person requires for Sach Khand, the realm of Truth.

ah-raN  mat,  vey’d  hathee-yaar.
Make intellect the anvil (the strong block on which the object is placed and struck), and spiritual knowledge the tool for striking.
The Guru stresses the need to re-programme ourselves with the holy wisdom. Just like a mark is left when a hammer strikes a surface, when the mind is hit with God’s holy wisdom through listening, reading and contemplating the Guru’s Wisdom, it leaves a positive mark.

au  khal-aa(n),  ag-gan  tap  taa-o.
Make the holy-fear of Vaheguru the bellows (the device that produces air when squeezed together with two handles) to fan the flames of practising devotion.
Just as iron becomes malleable or bendable with heat and can then be easily shaped when the mind becomes easy to mould and transform with holy fear (respect and awe) of God and continuous devotion.

aa(n)-daa  bhaa-o,  amm-rit  tit  Dhaal.
Make love the
vessel in which the life-giving (Amrit) Name of the Lord is melted.
Love for God is like a vessel that holds or keeps together the spiritual treasures one earns and collects on the pathway to God. When our heart melts with the love of God and Their creation, then God’s Name (i.e. constant remembrance) becomes imprinted in the heart.

aRee-yai  sh-bad,  sach-ee  tak-saal.
The ideal spiritual lifeò is formed this way in the mintâ of Truth.

jin  kau  nadar  karam,  tin  kaar.

Whoever gets Their Glance of Grace, obtains the (true) work (of shaping their spiritual life).

, nad-ree,  nadar  ni-haal.  ||38||
(Guru) Nanak (Ji) says- such people become happy with the Graceful Lord’s look of kindness. ||38||

ò The word ‘shabad’ has multiple meanings. Although it is frequently used to mean the ‘Word’, ‘Guru’s Word’, ‘Lord’s Name’, etc., in this particular context the word means ‘the ideal spiritual life.’

â A mint is a place that manufactures coins.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

A beginner's guide to Japji Sahib: Pauri 34 to 37

Note: In the following verses the five inhabitable spiritual realms (Khands) are described, which gives a glimpse of the unseen creation beyond this world. These spiritual realms are where souls can go in the world beyond. These realms are not only the journey of the soul in the world beyond but also indicates the soul’s spiritual development in this world. The souls in the different spiritual realms reflect the individual’s stages of consciousness whilst alive. For the purpose of beginners the translation of the Khands given below relates the Khands to five spiritual stages of spiritual seekers.

raa-tee(n)  ru-tee(n), thit-ee(n)  vaar.
(In the first spiritual stage of
living the righteous path - Dharam Khand - one accepts) Vaheguru created the nights, seasons, moon cycle, days,

pavaN  paa-Nee,  ag-nee  paa-taal.
wind, water, fire, and regions belowâ.

is  vich  Dhar-tee,  thaap  rakh-ee  Dharam saal.
They accept that within this, the Earth was set up as a place of spiritual learning and growth.
A ‘Dharam-Saal’ refers to a place where people learn about Dharam (spiritual living), as well as a place of accommodation and rest without a fee. Similarly, the world is like a rest house and spiritual school for us to develop and grow into beautiful spiritual beings.

is  vich, jeea  jugat  key  rang.
Within it, they accept Vaheguru made various forms and colours of species.

in  key  naam  a-ney’k  a-nant.
They recognise that there are unaccountable names of created life.

kar-mee  kar-mee,  ho-e  vee-chaar.
They accept that each and every action of theirs is judged Vaheguru,

sach-aa  aap,  sach-aa  dar-baar.
Vaheguru True (i.e, just), and True is Their Divine-Court.
Vaheguru is just, and Their Divine-Court is also just. Vaheguru does not do injustice to anybody.

ith-ai  so-han  pann’ch  par-vaaN.
There (in Vaheguru’s Court), the saints who listened and obeyed the Guru’s Wisdom look beautiful and are accepted.

nad-ree  karam,  pav-ai  nee-shaaN.

They (the saints) are marked with the sign of the Merciful Vaheguru’s Grace (blessing).
With the blessings of Vaheguru, the saints shine with glory and greatness.

kach  p-kaa-ee,  oh-thai  paa-e.
The ripe (i.e. good) and unripe (i.e. bad) are judged there.

naa-nak  gayaa
(n),  jaa-pai  jaa-e.  ||34||
(Guru) Nanak (Ji) says- when you will arrive at this place (in the world beyond), you will get to know this. ||34||
There is an afterlife without a doubt and a place of judgment (the court of Dharam Khand). Everyone will come to experience it. The spiritually wise listen to the Guru’s Wisdom and prepare for this eventual reality.

aram  khann’d,  kaa  ey-ho  Dharam.
This (i.e. the above narration) is what happens in
Dharam Khand, the spiritual stage of living the righteous life (the first spiritual stop on the journey towards Vaheguru).

gi-yaan  khann’d,  kaa  aakh-hu karam.

And now what happens in
Gian Khand, the stage of knowledge, (the second spiritual stop on the journey towards Vaheguru,) is narrated.

key-tey  pavaN  paa-Nee  vai-sann-tar,
key-tey  kaan  m-hey’sh.

In the second stage, one gains awareness of –
numerous winds, waters, and fires, as well as numerous Krishnas
â and destructive forces (i.e. invisible forces and powers);

key-tey  bar-mey  ghaa-Rat  gha-Ree-eh,
roop  rang  key  vey’s.

numerous creative forces fashioning different kinds of forms, colours, and appearances;

key-tee-yaa  karam  bhoo-mee
, mey’r  key-tey,
key-tey  Dhoo  up-dey’s.

numerous worlds for acting karma, numerous mountains, and numerous exemplary saints like Dhru

key-tey  inn’d  chann’d
, soor  key-tey,
key-tey  mann-dal  dey’s.

numerous skies, numerous moons and suns, and numerous galaxies and lands;

key-tey  siDh  buDh
, naath  key-tey,
key-tey  dey-vee  vey’s.
numerous Sidhs (spiritual achievers) and Buddhas (Buddhist monks), numerous masters of Yoga, and numerous feminine forces of nature of various kinds;

key-tey  dey’v  daa-nav  mun  key-tey,
key-tey  ratan  s-munn’d.

numerous godly-minded and demon-minded powers, numerous sages, and numerous jewels and oceans;

key-tee-aa  khaa-Nee,  key-tee-yaa  baa-Nee,
key-tey  paat  n-rinn’d.
numerous ways of how life is born, numerous ways of communicating, and numerous dynasties of rulers;

key-tee-yaa  sur-tee,  sey-vak  key-tey,
naa-nak  ann’t  na  ann’t.  ||35||

numerous conscience beings and numerous selfless servants. (Guru) Nanak (Ji says) – (in this stage one becomes aware that) Vaheguru’s limit has no end! ||35||
In the stage of knowledge, one gets spiritual awareness of the vastness of the creation and realises that despite the diversity and vastness of the creation, there is a Oneness within it all, i.e. Vaheguru.

gi-yaan  khann’d  meh,  gi-yaan  par-chann’d.
In Gian Khand, the stage of spiritual knowledge, one is completely filled with spiritual knowledge.
One living in the stage of spiritual knowledge is fully aware of what has happened and what is going to happen.

tith-ai  naad  binod, ko’dd a-nand.
In this stage, one experiences the melody of the universe, amazing wonders, and joy.

saram  khann’d  kee,  baa-Nee  roop.
Saram Khand,
the stage of effort, (the third spiritual stop on the journey towards Vaheguru,) is where spiritual beauty is formed.

ith-ai  ghaa-Rat  ghaRee-yai,  b-hut  a-noop.
In this stage, many forms of matchless beauty are fashioned.

aa  kee-aa(n)  gal-aa(n),  k-thee-yaa  naa  jaa-eh.
Talk about this stage cannot be described.

jey  ko  keh-ai,  pishh-ai  p-shhu-taa-e.
One who tries to describe it regrets the attempt (as it is impossible).

tith-ai  ghaRee-yai,  su-rat  mat  man  buDh.
In this stage, awareness, intellect, thoughts, and wisdom are moulded (i.e. they are elevated and shaped to become beautiful).

tith-ai  ghaRee-yai,  su-raa  siDh-aa  kee  suDh. ||36||
In this stage, one’s awareness becomes that of angels and spiritual achievers. ||36||

karam  khann’d  kee,  baa-Nee  jo’r.

(The fourth spiritual stop on the journey towards Vaheguru,) Karam Khand,
the stage of Graceâ, is made of spiritual strength.
When one receives the Grace or one receives the blessings of Vaheguru, they develop such inner strength that they can overcome their desires and vices and ensure they don’t come under their influence.

ith-ai,  ho’r  na  ko-ee  ho’r.
Other than the spiritually strong, no one else lives in this stage.

ith-ai,  joDh  m-haa-bal  soor.
Those in this stage are warriors of great power and spiritual heroes,

in  meh,  raam  reh-yaa  bhar-poor.
because within, they are totally filled with Vaheguru’s presence.

ith-ai,  see-to  see-taa  meh-maa  maa-eh.
In this stage, the souls of the devotees are firmly woven with Vaheguru’s Praises.

aa  key  roop,  na  kath-ney  jaa-eh.
Their spiritual beauty is beyond description.
The faces of such blessed souls radiate and glow with light.

naa  oh-eh  mar-eh,  na  T
haa-gey  jaa-eh.
Neither death (of conscience) nor deception comes to those,

jin  kai  raam,  vas-ai  man  maa-eh.

within whose minds Vaheguru abides.

ith-ai  bhagat,  vas-eh  key  loa.
There are devotees of many worlds living in this stage,

k-reh  a-nand  sach-aa  man  so-e.

who rejoice because the True One fills their heart.

sach  khandd  vas-ai  nirann-kaar.

Sach Khand, the ultimate stage of union with Vaheguru, (i.e. the final stop to Vaheguru), the Formless Lord Themself comes to abide within,
When one’s ego and falsehood leave them, what is left is Vaheguru alone. This is the ultimate stage of union and also describes Vaheguru’s House beyond this world.

kar  kar  vey-khai,  nadar  ni-haal.

who having created the creation, watches over it and with Their Glance of kindness.

ith-ai  khann’d,  mann-dal,  var-bhann’d.
In this stage, one can see numerous planets, galaxies, and universes.
Before the invention of telescopes and satellites, many spiritually progressed holy mystics and saints had knowledge of the stars, planets and galaxies through inner-knowledge gained from God.

jey  ko  kath-ai,  ta ann’t
, na ann’t.
If one were to speak about this, there would be no limit to its end.

ith-ai loa loa, aa-kaar.
In this stage, one sees many universes.
Alternative translation: In this stage, one sees all forms of creations and forms of the divine-light.

jiv  jiv  hukam,  tiv-ai  tiv  kaar.
(In this stage,) as Vaheguru commands, so do they act and behave.
A person in this stage does not act on ego or follow their own way, but instead acts and lives in accordance with Vaheguru’s way, as prescribed in Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.

vey-khai  vig-sai,  kar  vee-chaar.

(In this stage one sees that) Vaheguru thoughtfully watches over (i.e. cares for) all and is happy.

, kath-naa,  kar-Raa  saar.  ||37||
(Guru) Nanak (Ji) says- it is as hard as steel, i.e. very hard, to describe this stage. ||37||

â ‘Paataal’ refers to regions below, which is also known as the underworld. ‘Paataal’ refers to the area or region below the surface of the earth.

ò Alternative translation: “With the Grace (blessings) of the Merciful Lord, their forehead is marked with the sign of approval.”

â In the Hindu tradition, Krishan, also referred as Krishna, is a personification of the Divine.

â Grace (Nadar or Prasaad) is the opposite of karma, which is all about getting what you deserve. Grace is getting what you do not deserve. It is one of the most important concepts in the Sikh tradition. Grace is the unconditional love of God shown to the unlovely; the peace of God given to the restless; the unmerited favour of God; God’s favour toward the unworthy; or God’s kindness to the undeserving. In Their Grace, God is willing to forgive us and bless us, even though we fall short of being perfect.