Wednesday, August 23, 2006: Sikh Student Camp

Wahe Guru Ji ka Khalsa, Wahe Guru Ji ki Fateh!

Here it is the fourth day of Sikh Student Camp and everyone has settled in to a delightful comaderie.  This sadh sangat here is full of love, grace, devotion, sport, awesome keertan and playful bantering. Ravinderpal Singh says this is the best Sikh Student Camp ever! After the violence perpetrated against the camp sevadars early Saturday, we went to get the hukum from Harimander Sahib for Saturday and it began:

Those who serve the True Guru, O Beloved, their companions are saved as well. No one blocks their way, O Beloved, and the Lord’s Ambrosial Nectar is on their tongue…" – Wahe Guru!

The day begins at 4:45am with a meditation I’ve been teaching in my meditation workshop – Sahaj Sukh Dyan, followed by Japji Sahib, Kundalini Yoga and morning Gurdwara, then breakfast langar. Every morning there’s a lecture followed by discussion groups where we discuss the questions raised in the lecture.  This morning the Singh Twins led the workshop. They are incredibly inspiring, and beautiful as well. They wore identical lavender pantsuits and dupattas along with identical jewelry. In fact, they look and talk like one person in two bodies. How wonderful! We saw slides of their incredible artwork and heard the story of how they kept up in the face of many years of discrimination by the art and academic communities. Their art is beautiful, moving, personal as well as highly courageous and political.

The Singh Twins

After the discussion groups we have morning workshops. The groups rotate through the four workshops: Meditation (that’s the one I’m teaching), Gurudwara 101 (Gurdwara protocol and procedures), Art and Expression, and Music (keertan class.) Most of the Sikhs here have never meditated before and so are experiencing it for the first time. Today we had a panel discussion instead of morning workshops. Navleen Kaur, the Singh Twins along with the female Sikh Chaplain of the British Army and myself were the panel members. We took questions – no holds barred – and the campers asked great questions like, "If you’re not Amritdhari, can you still go to Sachkhand?", "How can I marry someone who is my brother since I call all the boys ‘Bhai Ji?" and "How do you think Sikhs will be integrated into society?" To the last one I replied, "We won’t!  They will integrate with us!"

Panel for a Camp Discussion

Morning Guest Lecture
Above picture taken during one of our morning lectures. We have a different guest lecturer every day. On Monday it was Roop Singh.  He was hilarious and had everyone in stiches with his candid stories of his life.

Next comes lunchtime langar. Today we had mung daal, rajma daal, rice, yoghurt and roti. Tomorrow is saag panir. Yum!

In the afternoon there are activities. Today was the football match – Camp Sevadars against Campers.  The Sevadars won (hey, sevadars always win ;-) but that was payback because the campers won the Benchball match on Monday. Benchball seems like a more polite (read "British") version of Dodgeball.

Sunday Afternoon Checkin

Picture taken on Sunday afternoon during our group check-in on the huge playing field in front of the school. We are divided up into four groups of campers. During this check-in we were each talking about why we were here at SSC.

After afternoon activities is Rehiras Sahib in the Durbar followed by evening Langar and then the ambrosial evening Diwan that goes from about 8:15 till 10:00 PM.  The evening Diwan is magical!  The keertan is sweet beyond words to express and the Darbar is lit by candlelight. Ravinderpal Singh and Gurcharan Kaur are the lead singers and their voices lift everyone up to heaven sitting at the Guru’s feet. Last night Ravinderpal Singh invited me to do the katha. It’s the first time I’ve ever done it. We did the camp theme shabd: "Jaag Saloonariay Boolay Gurbaani Ram" along with a beautiful heartfelt prayer by Bhagat Ravi Das, "Mohi Na Bisaru" that has a full stop in the refrain as if Bhagat Ji’s heart is caught in his throat. It’s so beautiful. I will try to upload the audio as soon as possible.  You’ve got to hear it! After the keertan we were treated to a classical Raag on sitar by Raju Virdee. That was awesome. I was transported to the stringed instrument music of the Guru’s Darbar 300 years ago.

Evening Kirtan

Kirtan with Sitar

What I’m realizing is that these Punjabi kids learned all about Sikhi and Sikh history as kids, but most didn’t have a real deep experience of the Guru till recently, whilst we in the West had the direct experience first and then we learned about Sikhi. So we are walking through the same door from opposite directions. As I look around me here I see the same light in everyone’s eyes that I see in our Sadhsangat in Espanola. The Guru’s light is bright and everyone is filled with Cherdi Kala! Wahe Guru!

More Pictures, Audio and Video to Come in the Future!

 

Reciting Ardas

Aardas in Darbar Sahib. Anyone can do aardas at the camp, and people who haven’t done it before are helped along so they feel confident. The camp participants are encouraged to be involved in the different Gurdwara ceremonies, and learn them in a way that may not not normally happen in Gurdwaras. Many of the youth felt very included and inspired because they had a great experience doing these things. 

Camp Participants

Above picture taken on Tuesday (yesterday) in the langar hall after the afternoon British Army exercises. Jag Raj Singh is an officer in the British Army and he brought along the army recruiters who put us through some fun problem solving exercises including a huge inflatable obstacle course that had everbody falling all over themselves.

Roop Singh

Roop Singh doing the katha during Sunday evening’s kirtan at the evening diwan.

Morning Yoga at Camp

Morning Kundalini Yoga class