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Sikh Superhero Agent Deep Singh

My friend Supreet Singh and Eileen Aldenand have teamed up for a fun SEVA project, to create a Sikh Superhero for kids to enjoy in the form of a comic book. Check out the details on this project and donate generously on their Kickstarter page.

Here are a few words from Supreet about the project: 

Sikh Coalition statistics show how our kids ( especially boys) are bullied 3x national averages and we decided to do something about it. We created a Sikh superhero who is a Gursikh, fun, modern and appeals to children. He especially espouses many values in action (we talked with over 500 kids to get their feedback).

Comics and Animation go to great lengths to attract and fuel kids imaginations’ and help them dream and grow. We wish that this small step will help many of them develop courage and curiosity.

In this process I don’t know if you know the depth of Eileen’s personal passion. Eileen embraced Sikhi and stands a role model who now has learnt Gurmukhi and is learning Gurbani to better understanding the Guru.

Supreet

PS: We are taking no monies for ourselves in this.​ Its our Seva.​

Once again Thank you so much for your support and please keep sharing.

Find out more about the project on KickStarter

Related Links:

  1. Taking The Turban Back From The Taliban ~ Exclusive Interview
  2. Sikh Comic Changes a Life pt.1
  3. Sikh Comic Changes a Life pt. 2

Universal Sikhi – Across cultures, religions and continents

This blog post is about my personal experience as an American-born Sikh with parents from Christian and Jewish backgrounds; the changing world of Sikhi, and how people from different cultures and continents are connecting with this lifestyle, along with some lessons I have learned, and how I personally apply the teachings of Gurbani and Sikhi in my life and through SikhNet. 

The universal message of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib has spread through the hearts of people all over the world from all religions and cultures. This article shares a little bit of my story in this tale of inspiration, the challenges, and also tells my experience of how the Guru continues to inspire seekers in places you might not know through many different avenues.

Most Sikhs come from families born in India. However, during the past 40+ years, many small “sprouts” have grown in various parts of the world, from other cultures and backgrounds. Like ripples in the water they are spreading further and further out. With Guru’s blessings, and the lifetime seva of Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji, countless people have been exposed to the teachings of Guru Nanak.

Yogi Bhajan with Bibiji

What most Sikhs don’t understand is what attracts these souls to this path. It’s quite different when you are born into a Sikh family and culturally are raised in this environment. However, when you are born in a different culture, with different language and religious beliefs there are many more bridges that have to be crossed to relate to Sikhs and this lifestyle. If “Joe American” were to walk into an average American Gurdwara and ask questions, there are major communication challenges in explaining Sikhi in a way that the western mind can understand and relate to.

Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji had a way of relating and communicating to westerners that really connected with the American youth of the time. He originally came to America (from India) in 1968 to teach yoga at Toronto University, and during a visit to Los Angeles,  though virtually unknown, Yogi Bhajan met a number of young hippies, the “spiritual seekers” of that era. He immediately recognized that the experience of higher consciousness they were attempting to find through drugs could be achieved by practicing the Science of Kundalini Yoga, while simultaneously rebuilding their health and nervous systems.  People becoming Sikhs was an unintended “side-effect.”

 Yogi Bhajan - September 1970

So while most of you probably do not practice yoga, for countless other people Kundalini Yoga was THE way they got introduced/exposed to Sikhism and the teachings of Guru Nanak. These people would likely never have been exposed to Sikhism or even considered it their spiritual path.  Ultimately the Guru can work through all of us. For whatever reason Guruji guided SSS Harbhajan Singh Khalsa to come to the west (America/Canada) and start teaching Kundalini Yoga, meditation, and a healthy, happy and holy lifestyle.  These “seeds” were planted and they are still growing and flourishing today. 50 years from now I can only imagine what these “seeds” will have grown into, and how they will have spread far and wide. It gives new meaning to the the slogan we recite after Ardas “Raj Karega Khalsa…Aaki rahe na koe, Khawar hoe sabh milainge, bacheh sharan jo hoe.

 

Gurumustuk Singh and familyI am a second generation Sikh born in the mid 1970’s in Los Angeles, California with the name “Guru Mustuk Singh Khalsa.” My parents’ generation were some of these “pioneers” embarking on a totally new journey on this Sikh path. Both came from mixed religious backgrounds; with my mother from a Jewish family and my father from a Christian family. They were some of the early western/non-Indian people to adopt the Sikh path. My mother was just a teenager when she met Siri Singh Sahib/Yogi Bhajan. She was like many others who were inspired by the universal message he shared, and she yearned to learn more.

 

Many Sikhs underestimate the hardship and challenges that are the result of someone NOT from a Sikh family becoming a Sikh. I know of many friends who have been disowned by their parents because they changed their religion and gave up the “family name.” Just imagine if none of your friends and family that you grew up with were Sikhs, and if many of them didn’t support your choice of wearing a turban, growing your hair and living this lifestyle. It takes real courage to make these choices and adopt the Sikh lifestyle which is very different from your upbringing.
 

Gurumustuk Boarding School - Guru Nanak Fifth Centenary School

When I was about 8 years old, I started my own adventure by going to boarding school in Mussoorie – India and I continued school there in India till I graduated from high school. Those 10 years really shaped who I am as a person and gave me the cross cultural understanding which helps me serve through SikhNet in the role of a bridge builder. Coming from multiple religious and cultural backgrounds has helped me be much more open, compassionate and understanding to other people. It helps me truly appreciate the path of Nanak who preached of One God, many paths, and all of us being from the same Creator.

Gurumustuk Boarding School - Guru Nanak Fifth Centenary School

I still get questions from people shocked that I (a white person) am Sikh and wondering WHY??? As if they missed something, or just couldn’t imagine that the Guru’s message and practices would be of value/interest enough for someone not born into it. For me it just shows how disconnected many Sikhs are from the value and message of the Gurus, and the gift that this lifestyle is.

 

Even though I was born to a Sikh family, It was difficult being a “white” Sikh youth. Everywhere I went I would get stares. We were clearly different. In India, it was such a novelty for people seeing a “white sikh” since it was not very common. In America the stares were there as well with people wondering who/what I was. So everywhere I went I would stand out like a sore thumb. Most kids want to fit in, NOT stand out. It didn’t help either that many “Heritage” Sikhs from Punjabi background would pre-judge and generalize me and the actions of any western born Sikhs into a single “3HO” entity, as if we were the same person and all the same. Most often this was out of lack of understanding about who we were, what we were about, and little or no real understanding of this community of seekers.  All that was required was someone to have an open heart and look deeply to see the same longing for the Guru, and to get to know me and others as real people. 

We Are all One

To this day I and other “White Sikhs” are generalized and lumped into a category of “3HO people” (typically when being criticized) as if we were not “real” Sikhs. These sort of labels and categorizations are inaccurate and only divide us. Definitely not what Guru Nanak Dev ji had in mind, since he always embraced diversity and accepted everyone.

 

I don’t make any apologies to others for who I am or my daily practice as a Sikh. Whatever tools I can use to become stronger and connect to the Guru I will use. Every morning in the amrit vela when I wake up, I start my Sadhana (daily discipline) with some Kundalini Yoga – to stretch and wake up my body and mind, so that when I recite the banis and do Waheguru simran I’m fully alert. My body becomes “tuned up” for the day. It’s how I stay healthy and handle the stresses of everyday life and working on a computer all day for SikhNet.

 

One God Many FaithsWhether you practice yoga or not, It’s a good idea for all of us to put more emphasis on exercise, healthy body and healthy living (through whatever means you prefer). If I have all kinds of health problems my energy and focus are not there; I then may not be able to sit in Gurdwara, I can’t focus or meditate or will be focusing on my own pain and discomfort. Are we really following the Sant Sipahi (Soldier Saint) lifestyle that Guru Hargobind started and Guru Gobind Singh  embodied? There are many tools and things that can be done and it is up to each individual to practice what works for them. What works for me may not work for you, but there is the blessing that we have many options for each of us to choose from.

 

Detractors will try to tell me how yoga is against Sikhi without even understanding what I practice and the practical benefits of it to a householder. Then there are some people who have so much anger or hate inside themselves that they have made it their “mission” to slander, spread false and misleading information, making every attempt to put down SSS Harbhajan Singh Khalsa and Sikhs from western origin, in a supposed attempt to “save” others from us, as if they know THE right way. They spread false info saying we regard yogi bhajan as our “Guru”, or “worship idols”, do “hindu pujas” and all sorts of random things that are so far from the truth; and people blindly believe it! I only wish they would come and see the reality for themselves. There is so much “Hindu-phobia” that anything someone posts online that triggers that “itch” is believed, and the negativity then spreads. Such is the disease of Ninda (slander). God gave us limited energy on this earth and we can choose it to uplift or destroy.

People can be so close minded that they fail to understand that there is no “One way” or the “right way”, and so many ways to look at something. It all just depends on your frame of reference. It’s important for us to open our minds to other perspectives. Without doing so, I think we become stuck and don’t grow spiritually.

 

The reality is, that when someone from a different religious and cultural background is learning about Sikhi, they do so from a very different frame of reference.

 

When my parents and others were first learning about Sikhism and adopting this path, they didn’t have an instruction manual. There was (and still is) a lot of learning and mistakes along the way. There was the language and cultural barrier that was very real. Everything from how to tie a turban, organizing a Gurdwara, taking a hukam, why we wave the chauri sahib, making prashad, taking shoes off, concepts of langar, doing nitnem, everything was a blank slate and had to be learned. It wasn’t till much later that printed materials like the “Victory and Virtue – Sikh Dharma Ministers Manual” were created to be references for the sangat to learn about some of the basics.

 

Before the digital age of Gurbani our community relied on “shabad sheets” that were given out during Gurdwara that had English translations and romanized versions of the Gurmukhi so the sangat could sing the kirtan and understand the shabad. Ardas was most often recited in English and even Akhand path was read by individuals in either English or Gurmukhi (depending on their ability).  For us it was a necessity to have some understanding and connection to the Guru in the language we understood. It made the Guru more accessible to new seekers discovering this path.

 

First Amrit Sanchar in Chile South AmericaProbably the most frustrating thing I have found on this path is the tendency for so many Sikhs to be extremely closed minded and judgemental. Especially in this digital age where we see or hear about people from afar, and don’t really know them. This is a challenge for new people coming into this Dharma or youth finding their identity as a Sikhs. I grew up listening to the stories of the Gurus. The stories of compassion, gender equality, acceptance, courage, openness and acceptance of all. In reality what I see too often is far from this picture of Sikhi.  Why would anyone want to become or stay a Sikh if they were judged and criticized about what others thought they were doing wrong?? Why not give the person some help or try to understand what they are going through by seeing from their perspective. It’s as if our minds are trained automatically to find fault in anything that someone is doing, instead of seeing the God and goodness in the other person. It’s a self destructive path that only divides.

 

To illustrate this point: In 2001 on SikhNet we posted a news article with some pictures and story about the first Amrit Sanchar in Chile (South America). When I read the article and saw the pictures, It was so inspiring for me seeing the faces of these new Khalsa in this far away place having the gift of receiving the Guru’s amrit. I could see their love and longing for the Guru. When reading the comments on the page I was surprised to see a number of people picking out various things and criticizing. It’s as if they had not noticed that a monumental thing had happened (despite any shortcomings). The beauty of what had happened appeared to have been totally missed. I could go on and on with examples such as this, but you get the point.

 

This same issue applies to youth (from Punjabi families) growing up in the west who feel less connected to Sikhi, and who, during their ups and downs of trying to find their identity as a Sikh, are “cast out” of the community and Gurdwaras instead of being supported during their “down times.”

 

When I was a teenager and finding my way, I went through a phase of experimentation with drugs, alcohol, smoking, partying, etc. If my family, friends and community cast me out during this time then I would be a very different person than I am today. For me that low part of my life was necessary for me to understand and appreciate the value of this path. It gave me the passion and drive to devote my life to serving through SikhNet. It helped me be compassionate to others and more understanding, since I have no idea what their destiny is and what lessons they need to learn to become a better person. It’s not for me to judge. Just for me to see the God and light in that person. I try to see below the surface, the hurt and pain that is showing up on the surface for that person. You can watch the Youtube video where I share a more detailed account of this and the beginnings of SikhNet.

 

[box type=”shadow”]Inspiring quote by Marianne Williamson:

 Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

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New Amritdharis after Amrit Shanchar at 2013 3HO Summer Solstice Camp

New Amritdharis after Amrit Shanchar at 2013 3HO Summer Solstice Camp

 

Experiencing the Guru Through Music

Gurbani Kirtan and music is such a part of our lifestyle and daily practice. Many musicians have joined their love of the Guru and their love of music as a way to inspire and uplift people. We are used to seeing ragis play kirtan in Gurdwara or sell CDs in the market, but it’s not the norm to see the audience of Gurbani Kirtan be people who are NOT Sikhs.

With the popularity of Yoga and growing spiritual awareness in the world, many musicians have come forward sharing kirtan style music to the masses. This has led to a new uplifting genre of New Age music that is meant to be sung and chanted. Gurbani is unique in that the recitation of these words and mantras has the power to heal and change a person even if one doesn’t understand the meaning. It becomes a tool for upliftment and change to all people (Sikh or not).

Over the past 10 years musicians like Snatam Kaur, Satkirin Kaur, Chardikala JathaNirinjan Kaur and many other musicians are reaching a huge audience of people who are getting exposed to Gurbani and indirectly the Sikh faith. These musicians are like ambassadors for us, sharing the values of the Sikh path. There are also large events like “Sat Nam Fest” which is a music festival that draws people from all walks of life and is quite popular.

Snatam Kaur

 

Snatam Kaur is probably the most well known musician of this genre. Her recent Barcelona, Spain concert attracted over 3,200 people in a giant auditorium. I saw a video clip from the concert of these thousands of people (mostly people of other faiths) chanting “Waheguru” all together, full of joy and excitement. Snatam Kaur and other musicians have been an inspiration and role model for so many people spreading the message of Nanak that is accessible to people of all faiths and backgrounds.

 

[box type=”shadow”] Excerpt from Snatam Kaurs Facebook page:

“Snatam Kaur’s albums have topped New Age Retailer’s Top 20 lists every year since 2004. She was the only artist to have 3 albums in the Top 20 in a single year. Her albums have consistently ranked in the top 20 in both Indie New Age and Indie World Music on Amazon throughout 2009 and 2010. Her music can be heard around the world in venues from yoga studios to schools to Hollywood films and in the homes of her fans worldwide.

An international favorite with fans across the U.S, Europe, Asia, South America and the South Pacific, Snatam Kaur performs at over 60 venues each year, from the Bahamas to Russia. One fan spoke for all when he admitted, “We come to Snatam’s concerts to experience the beautiful atmosphere her voice creates, to heal and grow.”

Dressed in distinctive Sikh clothing, Snatam Kaur embodies the Sikh message of strength through inner serenity. Snatam plays the harmonium and violin, and along with her voice delivers a universal message of peace. Accompanied by Todd Boston, a gifted guitar player and musician, her band is an alchemy of eastern and western musical sounds. While traveling the world on tour she also teaches yoga and meditation to children and adults alike, as a part of her commitment to give people tools for a daily experience of inner peace.”

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Sikhs in Brazil

Sikhs in Brazil

 

New Beginnings Around the World

Just as my mother and others in the early days began this spiritual path, I now see more and more people beginning this path in their own way. This time from further and further out places like China, Iceland, All across South America (Chile, Brazil, Paraguay, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Argentina) Mexico and Europe. There is a new generation of seekers coming with so much love and innocence.

 

As Sikhi spreads, so does the need to share the message and wisdom in people’s own language, and presented in the context of the local culture, so they can understand and relate to it.

Sikhs in Chile

Sikhs in Chile

 

Spanish Translation of Siri Guru Granth Sahib Completed

Babaji Singh Khalsa

Babaji Singh Khalsa (Mexico)

The Sikh community in Mexico has grown over the years since the 1970’s when SSS Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji traveled out to Mexico and many places around the world. This community of Sikhs primarily speaks Spanish, so the importance of translating things into Spanish was high. Out of love for the Guru and longing to understand the Guru’s bani in their own language came the lifelong task of some sevadars to translate the full Siri Guru Granth Sahib into Spanish. The translation was started in 1975 by Singh Sahib Babaji Singh Khalsa.  Six years had passed since Siri Singh Sahib Bhai Sahib Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji came to America. He was then teaching Kundalini Yoga and inspiring thousands of students who were then becoming inspired in Sikh Dharma.

 

A lot of people began to live in the Sikh Dharma lifestyle. They all wanted to understand the words of Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, but there was no Spanish translation available.

 

When Babaji became 28 years old a very strong cancer invaded his body. It was then that the Siri Singh Sahib ordered him to translate the Siri Guru Granth Sahib. Babaji Singh was cured. He survived not only that cancer, but 3 more. He died of a fourth, 31 years later, happy grateful, and blessed.

 

In translating the Siri Guru Granth Sahib to Spanish he found the sense and purpose of his life. The Guru gave him courage, wisdom, patience and grace to go through the physical pain without suffering from it. Babaji Singh was a happy man.

 

When his wife, Guru Amrit Kaur Khalsa met him – she found him a happy man in 1999. He told her that he was not going to die until he finished the complete translation and transliteration in Spanish. It was his destiny. He wanted to honor Yogi Bhajan’s words.

 

He translated the Siri Guru Granth Sahib from Dr. Gopal Singh’s English translation over a period of 30 years. He was working at the same time, teaching yoga in the evenings and spending long periods of his life in hospitals or at home in bed.

 

In the last 3 years of his life, he worked with his wife in the early morning translating. She remembers him writing with so much devotion and love, researching the exact meaning of every word, hoping the Spanish speaking community could be able to read and understand the beauty of each word.

 

In 2006, he was diagnosed with the cancer again. After one of the several surgeries he had that year, he said to his wife, he wanted to die at home at the Ashram. At that time the translation had gone to print. His agony lasted 6 days. Because his kidneys were not working, he began to lose consciousness the third day.

 

The day prior, he had asked for the printed translation as he wanted to see it in finished in print. He had asked for the best imported Spanish fabric for the cover and wanted to be sure that the printing was well done. A group of his devoted students were in the Print House in prayer to the Creator to be able to bring this to him before he passed away. They knew that their spiritual teacher was losing consciousness and if late, he would not be able to see it.

 

Siri Guru Granth Sahib with Spanish Translation

Siri Guru Granth Sahib with Spanish Translation

That night Babaji went into a coma which brought a great sadness to all around him. The next day all the community gathered with chanting and prayer until the Spanish translation of the Guru arrived with the students.

 

Babaji Singh woke up for a moment, read the Mul Mantra at the start of Japji, with difficulty but with a spark and light in his eyes. He lost consciousness after this blessing and died two days later with the Mexican community reading to him for the first time from the Siri Guru Granth Sahib in Spanish.

Spanish translation of  hukam being read from the Siri Guru Granth Sahib

Spanish translation of hukam being read from the Siri Guru Granth Sahib

The first Akhand Paath, the traditional Sikh non-stop reading of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, was performed in Mexico the 17th of November 2006.

 

Guruka Singh recounts visiting the ashram in Mexico City and seeing a small alcove at the back of the yoga classroom where the Spanish translation of the Guru sat in prakash and available to be read. Outside the curtain over the doorway were signs instructing people to wash their hands, bow and do a prayer before entering and reading. He remembers seeing students who had come for the yoga class, who had no knowledge of Sikhi nor of the Guru, going into the alcove to read from the Guru and watching them emerge later with tears streaming down their cheeks as the Guru’s words touched their hearts.

Hukamnama printed in spanish from SikhNet’s Daily hukam / Shabad printer

Hukamnama printed in spanish from SikhNet’s Daily hukam / Shabad printer

 

 Spanish Translations on SikhNet in Digital Form

The seva from this effort now ripples out and serves all the Spanish speaking countries.

  • Now every day people can read the Daily Hukamnama in Spanish on SikhNet.
  • While listening to Gurbani kirtan in the SikhNet Gurbani Media Center people can read and understand the Gurbani being played on their computer or smartphone.
  • In Gurdwaras all over South America the sangat has the option to take a hukam or participate in an Akhand Path in Spanish using the printed version produced by the Mexico Sangat.
SikhNet Gurbani Media Center - Spanish Options

SikhNet Gurbani Media Center – Spanish Options

Printed Siri Guru Granth Sahib 5 volume Set

One of the needs of native English speaking countries is to have a physical printed version of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib with modern English translation easily available. Most people who are new to Sikhi don’t understand Punjabi/Gurmukhi and so it is important for communities to have printed versions that can be used in Gurdwara or Akhand Paths.

 

In the past, acquiring even a multi-volume Siri Guru Granth Sahib set with English translation has been very difficult for Sikhs in small communities that don’t have connections to India, since they are not available online and hard to find. In addition, the available printed options from India include old translations that use antiquated English words and Judeo-Christian concepts which people don’t understand or relate to. 

Siri Guru Granth Sahib with English Translation

Siri Guru Granth Sahib with English Translation

SikhNet used to frequently receive emails from people asking how they can get a printed copy of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib which includes a good English translation. To serve this need SikhNet published a beautiful new 5 volume set which includes the more modern English translation of Dr. Sant Singh Khalsa, and have made this available online for people to order. This is done as a pure seva to assist with making Gurbani available to growing Sikh communities that I have spoken about in this article.

 Siri Guru Granth Sahib with English Translation

To illustrate the use of the 5 volume Siri Guru Granth Sahib set, we have seen how various small communities have already started to benefit from this  by having first ever Akhand Path in those countries.

 

First Akhand Path held in Iceland

First Akhand Path in Iceland - Aug 5 2013On August 12th, 2013 a small group of seekers finished the very first Akhand Path done in Iceland. Here is an excerpt by Guru Suraj Kaur about the experience:

 

Bringing the Guru to Iceland started out as a deep need in my being that I could not ignore. Once that was settled it became very clear that we needed to start with an Akandh Path. If you ask me why, I have no tangible answer; it was just something that needed to happen. The steps from committing to installing the Guru to finishing the Akhand Path were many and I had really solid backup – from Sikh friends in New Mexico and London and great help from my husband and yoga friends – but the strongest element in all of this was faith. Faith that we should and we could, and we did!

 

It is a very young Sangat here in Iceland, no Sikhs but many seekers. About 40 people were willing to answer the calling of their soul and participate, more wanted to join once word got out about how great it was. Everyone reading and doing seva felt on some level that this was a true blessing for them personally as well as a blessing for the community as a whole. It was a really good feeling to sit and talk with all the people that came to read or just to be; it elevated our Sangat and brought us closer together.

 

The calling is still strong and now more people feel it – the need to meet the Word of the Guru in this powerful way. Our 2nd Akandh Path will start on October 31st. If you feel the calling, you are welcome to join!”

 

First Akhand Path held in China

 Another small and growing community is in Shenzhen – China. They have been introduced to Sikhi through the practice of Kundalini Yoga and the teachings of SSS Harbhajan Singh Khalsa.

 Here are some details shared by Atma Singh who is one of the persons involved with the Ajai Alai Kundalini Yoga Community Center in China.

Kundalini Yoga students from China on their yatra to Punjab

Kundalini Yoga students from China on their yatra to Punjab

Last January, with a group of 16 Chinese Yoga students, we went to Punjab. We visited the Golden Temple, Anandpur Sahib and also did the 84 steps in Goindwal. The coldness was challenging but most of the students kept going, bathing in the water after reading the Japji. They had a profound experience and felt a deep connection to the place, to the Guru, to the Shabd. From that Yatra, bringing the SGGS to China was obvious, and this Akhand Paath was a natural following up. I was really surprised to see so many people who were willing to read the SGGS. The SGGS is universal and allows people to connect back to their essence, to the essence. One love to all.

 

First Akhand path in China

Jap Ji in Chinese

Most of the Chinese ladies cried reading the Guru. After decades of communism and atheism the need to experience spirituality is so strong that emotions overflow. 

Now, at Ajai Alai Center, we are doing prakash of the Guru every morning and sukhasan every evening. Also, the prashad recipe is now part of the newborn 3HO Chinese community. Satmukh Singh, who started all this process in China six years ago must be honored for the mission.  

These are the comments of some of the Chinese ladies who participated to the Akhandh Path.

 Saibhang Kaur : “Reading the Guru was indescribable, and sometimes feeling taken over”

 Ramdev Kaur : “It felt like a new beginning, an opening and I am honor to be here for the first of what may be many to come”.

 Devinder Kaur : “A Divine and Miraculous experience. I feel really close to God.”

 Ajeet Dev Kaur : “Moving. When you make some mistakes, you feel guilty but someone didn’t judge you and saw the good part of you and treated you gently, just like the Guru’s love.”

 Sukh Meher Kaur : “Amazing experience. When I was reading… I entered a space where I was worry free, care free. I could leave everything behind. I felt protected. I got much deeper understanding about the Sikh religion. In that space, I feel very comfortable, I just wanted to stay by the Guru. Also, one time, reading the Guru, I was crying.”

Chinese students learning Gurbani Kirtan

Chinese students learning Gurbani Kirtan

Video of the Chinese students practicing Gurbani Kirtan

Global Sikhi and Youth of Today

Where do we go from here? It starts with me and you. My hope is that this article has helped show a picture of the emerging new generation of spiritual seekers. In order to serve these people and our younger generation, there is a strong need for every one of us to become more aware of the things we think and say. Our words and actions can either support or divide. They can put someone down or lift them up. It’s all a choice of where we focus our attention.  Mistakes are part of the journey and a way to learn. Our common goal should be to support everyone and stop the habit of tearing each other apart. It is time for us to stop judging something because it differs from your own frame of reference. I strive to use the example of Guru Nanak in my life who was ever compassionate, understanding and open to all.

Let’s all work on this together…

Ps. If you like the work of SikhNet, please consider giving your support by making a donation. I’m so grateful for your help – Thank you!

Related Links Worth Checking out

 

Sikhs from Brazil, Los Angeles, New York and other places after receiving amrit during the 3HO Summer Solstice event in Espanola, New Mexico

Sikhs from Brazil, Los Angeles, New York and other places after receiving amrit during the 3HO Summer Solstice event in Espanola, New Mexico

 

First Amrit Sanchar in Chile (South America)

First Amrit Sanchar in Chile (South America)

Gurdwara in Brazil

Gurdwara in Brazil

 

Miri Piri Academy - Brazil. Students practice Gatka

Miri Piri Academy – Brazil. Students practice Gatka

Kaurs in Mexico City

Kaurs in Mexico City

Sikhs in Mexico City

Sikhs in Mexico City

Gurdwara in Mexico

Gurdwara in Mexico

 

“Izzat De Punjab 2010” - Group from Espanola, NM who practice Bhangra & perform at special events

“Izzat De Punjab 2010” – Group from Espanola, NM who practice Bhangra & perform at special events

 

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Dignity of the Mother

For those tuning into the news in the United States, a Senator in the Texas Legislature launched a 13 hour filibuster blocking the passage of a drastic anti-abortion bill a couple weeks ago. The Senator’s name is Wendy Davis. Despite her heroic efforts to protect women’s health issues, the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, has called a special session of the Texas Legislature to get the bill passed. This week, that special session convenes. Thousands of people are descending on Austin, the capital city of Texas, to protest the bill. This legislation has reignited one of the most painfully contentious issues from the legacy of the civil rights movement in the United States. Namely, the question of how much control a women has over her own body when it comes to having children.

The Siri Singh Sahib of Sikh Dharma, also known as Yogi Bhajan, spoke very pointedly and eloquently about this topic. For him, the issue was never about the unborn fetus. He focused on the dignity of the mother. Here is what he had to say,

“If it is medically or socially required that an abortion should be performed, it should be done. We are not going to lower the status of motherhood. It is not the woman per se, it is the status of the mother which matters, and if that pregnancy lowers the mother’s status, we do not want the mother to deliver a child. Period.

The cry of ‘right to life’ is religious nonsense. What do you mean by ‘right to life’? Tomorrow the State may pass a law that every woman who becomes 24 years old must adopt a child or bear a child. They don’t want any abortions because they want their membership to outnumber that of every other religion. It is a neurotic approach, a tribal approach, and is inappropriate for more highly civilized cultures. It is no more than a ridiculous ritual. It is a direct disgrace to women. God does not place the soul in the fetus until the 120th day. There is a reason for that. Even God wants to have planned parenthood. This nonsense of ‘right to life’ is being laid down in the name of God. 

There is no reason why you must bear a child if you are mentally, socially, economically, and religiously unprepared. Don’t bring anyone to this earth if you cannot handle it. It is most unrighteous. As a human being it is your responsibility to deeply search yourself to know the capacity of your nervous system, the depth of your ability to love and understand, and the degree of balance between your inner thoughts and values and their expression in your environments. If everything tabulates in the positive, then plan for a child.”  From the “Ancient Art of Self Healing”

For me, this position has two very important aspects to it. First is the notion that a mother should be absolutely ready, on every level, to bring a child into the world. She should know that she has the capacity to serve that child – economically, socially, spiritually and consciously. It is a deep responsibility and profound duty to bring a soul to the earth.

Motherhood is not an accident of biology. Somebody has sex with somebody. Somebody gets pregnant. And look – there is life! Birth is the beginning of a very long process. A child needs values. A child needs love. A child needs time and attention. And if a woman honestly does not feel capable of giving those things, then it is better for her to not have children.

When a child is raised without values, without love, or without adequate resources, it creates suffering. It is possible with the grace of the Divine for any soul to overcome any handicap. But a vast majority of souls do not overcome them. They stay trapped in misery and poverty their entire lives. The health of the human race depends upon the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of the child. And the health and strength of a child begins with the mother. A woman should have the freedom to enter into motherhood with the same conscious choice that she has pursuing any vocation, because motherhood is a lifelong proposition. Marriages may fail. But any child born to a woman will be part of that woman’s life until she takes her last breath. Let the woman be prepared to accept that responsibility. And if she is not prepared, it is better for her to never have children and contribute to society in other ways.

The other important point from this quote is this notion that the soul does not come into the fetus until the 120th day from conception. This is not just a traditional Eastern view of life. It is actually quite an old and ubiquitous idea. If you research the history, even in the Catholic Church, in centuries past, people believed that the soul did not come into the body until the “quickening.” The quickening is the time when a pregnant woman’s body goes through rapid changes. Her belly gets big very fast. It occurs between three to four months after conception. The quickening was considered a sign that the soul had arrived.

In the Middle Ages in Europe, infant mortality was so high that children often did not receive a name until they were at least two years old. They were not accepted as recognizable members of the community until they had survived for a couple years outside the womb. So this idea that life begins “at conception” is a very young cultural idea, based on a highly technological society. It does not align what people have culturally believed for thousands of years.

These issues are highly personal, and highly charged. Any individual has the right to believe what he or she wants to believe about the beginning of life. The problem comes in attempting to legislate these issues. In Texas, as well as other places, there is a segment of society who has reduced women to being vehicles for babies, regardless of what having a child will do to the woman’s physical, mental or spiritual health. Having children for the sake of having children, and disregarding the dignity of the mother in the process, is blindness. It refuses to acknowledge the humanity of the woman in question. It blocks her from exercising decision making power over her own body.

Motherhood is a sacred institution. When the Divine wishes to incarnate, It must do so through a woman. Therefore, there is a profoundly private and spiritual agreement that must happen between the soul of the woman and the soul of the child in order for this to happen. These soul agreements need to be respected. If the woman is not ready for the responsibility, she needs to be honored for that decision. Not shamed and humiliated for it.

When I was young, and first understood that my life was the result of my parents being together,  I remember pestering my father with questions. I asked him, “But what would have happened if you and mommy had never gotten married? Would I have never been born?”

My father got this funny look in his eyes. He paused and then he said to me, “If we had never gotten married, I think you would have been born. You would still exist. Just in a different family.”

It was not a very Catholic thing to say. But it was a very wise and universal thing to say.

A soul that wishes to take birth on the earth has a lot of avenues to choose from. Better for the choice to be voluntary and mutual. Better for the mother to be prepared for it. That is what will give a soul the best chance to enjoy its right to life.

If this essay has offended anyone, please know that was not the intention.

With Divine Light,

Ek Ong Kaar Kaur

 

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Prabhupati: Becoming the Master of the Divine

“I tell you today and I’ll tell you tomorrow and I’ll tell you every day: You have only one friend – your discipline which will give you all that you need. The rest are all promises. After studying every scripture of every religion and through my own experience, I have found that there are three words: sadhana, araadhana and prabhupati.  Sadhana means discipline, araadhana means perfecting the discipline and prabhupati means you will become the Lord Master of God Itself. Now, should I bring you any other news?”

(Siri Singh Sahib, Yogi Bhajan, from The Master’s Touch. July 20, 1996.)

For a few weeks, I have been thinking about this term, “Prabhupati.” And I realize that I cannot explain to myself what it means. It is one of those spiritual words like “enlightenment” or “shambala.” It points to this incredibly refined state of human consciousness that some rare and blessed people have achieved, but that remains almost mythological to everyone else. Is it truly possible for a human being to be in command of that Universal Creative Consciousness? Is that what the ultimate human potential really is? That the Creator serves the human?

Whenever there is something I do not understand, I always look to the root of the word. Not the word, itself, but its origin. Why, in the history of human evolution, would a group of people decided to name something? Prabhu is one word describing the Unknown Infinity that in English we call God. It comes from Prabh. In the 16th Shalok of Sukhmani, Guru Arjan describes Prabhas being separate from the three qualities, with no form, no color, and no designated markings. In other words, that Vast Consciousness behind the creative play, which does not identify with any particular form, is Prabh.

Pati means, “husband, lord, or master.” A commanding energy. A protective energy. A sovereign energy. Somehow, the sages discovered that by having a very deep and consistent sadhana, a human being could reach that state of consciousness where a person could become master of the Formless One. In that state, the Consciousness behind creation would organize itself in alignment with the pure projection of the human spirit.

Prabhupati, as a term, describes how the soul can direct the Formless Consciousness into creative expression. This makes the word a little more concrete for me. I believe many of us have had moments of Divine Alignment or Graced Synchronicity in our lives. Where events arrange themselves in the most amazing ways – giving guidance, opening doors, showing a path to a more expansive and positive reality. I can count many times in my own life where that has happened, even during challenging situations. The Divine is present and watching, like a friend. Ready to subtly move the energy of my life if I am sensitive enough to see and allow It.

But the challenge is to stay in that profoundly receptive space with every breath, in every moment. When I look back over my own life, I have to laugh. The Divine Will will bring something into my life. And my response tends to be, “Wow. Thanks so much for this gift. I can take it from here.” My ego asserts itself. It takes over. It has its agendas and plans.

Love is a very interesting power. We talk about it all the time. But what is, love, exactly? In one sense, love is the ability to see what someone needs – for their security, for their development, for their coziness, or for their happiness and then to silently, selflessly give it to a person, or a child, or a tree, or an animal. Love needs nothing back. The act of seeing and the act of giving is its own self-fulfillment.

The Guru often talks about the Divine Gaze. How the Divine sees into the very depth of what is happening in our lives. There are no masks that can fool this Gaze. No deception that can hide our self from it. The Gaze comes from a deep, deep love that the Creator has for Its creation. In that Infinite love, which has no beginning and no end, the Divine sees exactly what we need on the level of the soul. And It is there, wanting to give to us, if we can only receive.

The ego is a very protective energy. There is a purpose for it. It defines our boundaries, our sense of self and our territory. We each have been given an ego for a reason. But the ego is not meant to be in charge of what happens in our lives because the ego does not operate from a love of the spirit. It only relates to its own limited existence. When the soul and the Divine establish a conscious and loving communication with each other through sadhana, then the ego can slowly relax its need to protect and control its tiny domain.

There are these moments of Divine Alignment, where, out of love, the Creator sees what we truly need. Sees what we cannot see for ourselves and brings it to us. It seems to me that Prabhupati is the state of consciousness where the ego has become so surrendered through sadhana, that a person could live in the flow of that Divine Love with every breath. There would be no other reality. There would just be a dance of love. A person would constantly and continually receive what the Creator brings, in total trust and faith that the Creator is loving and nurturing the highest destiny of the soul.

This is perhaps what Pati refers to. We become the focus of love, the focus of service, through that Divine Gaze. And it this way,Prabh takes total care of our lives.

By writing this essay, I feel I have come understand the notion of Prabhupati better for myself, although it is all still a little theoretical. I have experienced moments of that mastery. But I have never lived a 24 hour day in that consciousness. Still, Prabhupati is good ideal to keep on the altar of one’s inner horizon, a touchstone to return to.

Am I the doer? Or am I getting out of the way and letting the One who knows and loves me the best be the Doer? It is a good lens through which to view the world. And like any ideal, it is something to strive towards without beating ourselves up when we slip. Prabhupati calls us to remember there is One behind the creation who is there to move things on our behalf, and do things on our behalf, if we can let go of the control of our ego and allow It to. 

With Divine Light, 

Ek Ong Kaar Kaur

 

Previous articles in this series: 

1. Sadhana: http://www.sikhnet.com/news/what-my-amrit-veylaa-sadhana-gives-me

2. Araadhana:  http://www.sikhnet.com/news/aaraadhana-acting-divinely

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Aaraadhana – Acting Divinely

 

 

Aaraadhana araadhan neeka Har Har naam araadhana.

Meditating and remembering. It is so beautiful to remember the Divine Identity.

-Guru Arjan Dev ji. Ang 1081, Siri Guru Granth Sahib

 

This line comes from one of my favorite shabads in the Siri Guru Granth Sahib. I am not sure what it is about this particular shabad, but from the first time I heard it, it has held a special place my heart.

This word – araadhana – is so difficult to understand in English. It has no equal in the English language. When you look in the dictionaries, you see the different facets of what araadhana points to. Meditation. Remembering. Worshiping.

The Siri Singh Sahib, Yogi Bhajan, used to talk about araadhana as a progression of sadhana. He said,

“I tell you today and I’ll tell you tomorrow and I’ll tell you every day: You have only one friend – you and your discipline which will give you all that you need. The rest are all promises. After studying every scripture of every religion and what I went through, I have found that there are three words: sadhana,araadhana and prabhupati.  Sadhana means discipline, araadhana means perfecting the discipline and prabhupati means you will become the Lord Master of God Itself. Now, should I bring you any other news? “ (From The Master’s Touch. July 20, 1996.)

After so many years of contemplating this term, araadhana, it is only now beginning to become clear to me. I used to think that perfecting the discipline meant getting up every single day at 3:30 am, taking a cold shower and doing a flawless 2.5 hour amrit vela sadhana; an absolutely perfect execution of form. This vision of araadhana would be reserved for those extraordinary people who never miss a day or even a minute of sadhana; in other words, not me.

But as I have gotten older, that notion of perfecting the discipline has gone through a quiet shift. It is no longer so much about the form of sadhana, but about its effect.

When we wake up in the ambrosial hours and meditate, it is a very special time for the soul and the mind to speak with each other. The deepest, most sensitive voice within us is our Infinite self. During sadhana, we measure our past, our actions, and our intentions for the future against that vast inner sensitivity.

Sadhana is like taking a plane to a higher altitude, where we see the journey of our life from a wider and more detached perspective. And in that height, our mind evolves. It can break through its blocks, or recognize a trap, or have an intuitive insight about what to do.

But as the sun rises, and our focus turns back towards the earth, these etheric insights from sadhana can evaporate like the morning dew. In the hustle and bustle of every day life, our habits pull us along. Something in the depth of our spirit may whisper, “Make a different choice,” but the mind may not be able to do it. Then, the next morning in sadhana, the review begins again. We realize, “Oh – I could have done that this way, instead!” We go to the height. We are reminded of how to behave and how to walk through life. We are called to remember.

We are called to araadhana.

Araadhana is the blessed moment when, in the midst of worldly pressures, we can access that meditative consciousness, remember what we saw or heard or felt in our sadhana, and act in alignment with it. Ultimately, that is what worship means. Worship is not an internal admiration of the Divine, but an expressed love that is the Divine in action.

When we access the clarity of our sadhana during the day, and we demonstrate what we learned in sadhana through our actions, this is worship. This is the true Simran — meditation and remembrance. This is, in my humble view, what araadhana means.

Araadhana refers to the play of heaven and earth, of bringing the wisdom of sadhana into every moment of life. In this respect, it does not matter how “good” or “bad” one’s daily practice is. What matters is the commitment we have within us to bridge the consciousness we access in sadhana to the consciousness with which we live our lives.

Araadhana can happen for a moment here and a moment there. Over time, it can happen for an hour or a morning. Eventually, if one is very blessed by grace, it can become perpetual. Morning and night, every moment, remembering our Divine Identity and living in accordance with it.

It takes time. It takes practice. It is a way of progressing through life. But as Guru Arjan Dev Ji explains, being in this state ofaraadhana creates a very beautiful life.

With Divine Light,

Ek Ong Kaar Kaur