About a month ago I had a transformational experience of receiving the Guru’s Amrit at the end of the Summer Solstice Camp. The reason you have not seen me write anything about it here earlier is that I felt it was a very personal thing for me and that by showcasing it online it might be mis-construed.
Many of you who have been reading my blog for a few years know that I share my life and experiences on here like an open book. My hardships, my celebrations, my sicknesses, my joys, my family, etc. My hope is that by sharing these thoughts, pictures, and videos that people will learn something and hopefully make a change in their own life. We can all learn from each other’s experiences.
In 1979 I was almost five years old and was in Amritsar with my mother and a group of other Sikhs from America on a yatra. I only have small faint memories of that time. My mother tells me that during that visit I took Amrit, though I have only a small re-collection of it. In hindsight I think It was too early for me to understand what it really meant (especially since I can’t remember it!).
I have gone through quite a bit in my life since then (especially as a teenager), and in recent years have felt the longing to take Amrit again. I was already "mostly" living as an Amritdhari, though I wasn’t all the way committed (wearing the K’s all the time and doing all the banis). As with any commitment I knew it would require discipline, and with my busy life I wasn’t sure if I could maintain that. I seemed to settle in the comfort of not "having to" do all these things. I would tell myself, "One day when the time is right I will take Amrit again". Every year would pass by and I kept telling myself this. Somehow it always seemed like a HUGE commitment.
I think for many of us there is this impression that if you take Amrit then you all of a sudden have to be perfect and can’t be yourself anymore. I have even gotten emails from people who ask if they need to re-take Amrit because they didn’t do all their banis or made some mistakes. Many of us are still pounded with guilt from others about Sikh practices or "wrong doings". It is so common to receive criticism and judgements every step of the way when living as a Sikh. So, it’s no wonder that some people are hesitant to take this step.
My experience of this is that by taking Amrit you are offering your head to the Guru in total surrender. Just as when we say "Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa, Wahe Guru Ji Ki fateh" – The Khalsa (pure one) belongs to Waheguru (God) and Victory belongs to Waheguru (God). It is a state of surrender to the infinite. Letting go of all ego. All achievements, all challenges are not yours…but God’s.
As Sikhs of the Guru we are here to learn and follow the path that our Gurus have laid down for us. I think it is natural for us all to make mistakes and get off the "path". What is important is that you recognize this and bring yourself back again to the "path".
This past year I have had many occasions where I felt this deep longing and some deep memory that I could not recall. It was an intense feeling of emotion that would sometimes hit me at times like at the end of Gurdwara when the sangat would shout "Boleh So Nihal, Sat Siri Akal" and the Nagara drum was beating loudly. It was that feeling of being in the court of Guru Gobind Singh. It felt like remembering some feeling from a past life.
This feeling continued at different times over the past few years and I kept going on with my life as usual, struggling to fit a daily spiritual discipline into a busy life and daily family affairs. Then last month on the second last morning of the Summer Solstice camp I was sitting with the Sangat during Gurdwara and I felt that emotion and longing again and knew right then that I had to "Just Do It" and take Amrit. It wasn’t a mental/logical thought process. I hadn’t even thought about it or considered taking Amrit this year. It was something that just came from the heart and I knew that I had to make this commitment.
Looking back on it I relate to this decision like thinking about having a baby. It’s a huge commitment and responsibility. A couple who has not had any children yet and is wanting to have a child might feel like they have to get everything ready and figured out. It is this feeling of pressure and wanting to make sure the timing is right so you have all that is needed. In my experience there is no perfect time. You never have everything figured out. At some point you have to "Just Do It" and figure out the rest along the way. For me this was how my decision to take Amrit was. I knew my commitment was there, and that I had to stop letting my rational mind do it’s thing and I just take the plunge! How do you think the five beloved ones might have felt when Guru Gobind Singh asked for a head? How about all the people watching as Guru Gobind Singh came out of the tent with a bloody sword and asked for more heads? It’s not a type of thing that you can relate to in your relation mind. It is much deeper then that.
Just after making the decision that morning, I went to find out if I could take Amrit during the ceremony that night/morning. All those who wish to take Amrit have to be interviewed by the Panj to make sure they are ready and committed. So, I spoke with one of the Panj for a while and then he instructed me how to prepare and be ready for the Amrit Sanchar early the next morning. From then on it was like a meditation, mentally preparing myself. That night was the all night Rensabai Kirtan so I sat and meditated to the beautiful kirtan for a while and then went back to my tent for a few hours of sleep. I woke up around 2:30 AM and headed to the cold showers to wash myself and my hair in preparation of the Amrit Sanchar. I dressed myself in the Guru’s Bana and walked down towards the Gurdwara where I could still hear Kirtan being played. Some friends who have taken Amrit before, suggested that I not to drink water after the night because once the Amrit ceremony started that you couldn’t go out of the room to go to the bathroom. So I heeded this advice and avoided drinking water when I woke up. Depending on the number of people taking Amrit, the whole ceremony can be quite a few hours.
I walked to the side entrance of the Gurdwara and saw others sitting there meditating, chanting waheguru. I sat down and joined them. We continued to sit there chanting Waheguru, with Gurbani kirtan from the ransabhai going on in the background. Some people had not yet been interviewed by the Panj Piaray so we sat for almost an hour chanting together. There was this deep bond between all of us and the anticipation of what we were about to partake in. A sevadhar stood at attention next to the Gurdwara door holding a sword as if on Guard while the final preparations were made for the ceremony.
We were then called inside the Gurdwara, and we filed in one by one to the side of the small Gurdwara awaiting instructions. Ardas was done and then we listened to the Guru’s hukamnama. The Panj Piaray then poured water into the iron bowl (bata), Patasis (sugar parshad) into the water and placed the large iron Khanda (sword) in front of the bowl. The Panj Piaray then recited the different banis in turn with a deep focus and unisoness, as the Khanda was continually stirring the Amrit; Infusing the vibration of the bani into the Amrit. All of us stood the whole time keeping a meditative focus. After about an hour the first person was called by the Panj Piaray to receive the Amrit. It was such a beautiful thing to watch everyone become transformed.
I was one of the last of the 15 or so of us that took Amrit that day. Thinking back now it feels some what like a dream. It was kind of like an "out of body" experience. It’s one of those things which I can’t really describe in words. I remember each of the panj saying to me "Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa, Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh" and then putting some amrit into my cupped hands as my focus was straight towards Siri Guru Granth Sahib. I drank the Amrit and then repeated it back to the panj. Then each panj in turn said "Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa, Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh", but this time sprinkled Amrit into my face. It was like being cleansed by the Amrit as it hit my face and and in a sense "shocked" me to a different state as my gaze was kept focused straight ahead at Siri Guru Granth Sahib. After that the panj piaray placed a hand on the top of my head and all together chanted the the Gur mantra "Wahe Guru" (Wah-Hey-Guru) and I was intructed to repeat after them. This was done five times and then I bowed to the Guru and did a final "Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa, Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh" to the Panj Piaray and the Sangat that was in the room. This was like my initiation into the brotherhood of the Khalsa. I now relate to this all so much differently after having received Amrit, and feel that brotherhood when greeting another Khalsa in this way. I’m sure other Amritdhari’s can relate!
In previous years my mother, father and brother have all been part of the Panj Piaray for the Amrit Sanchar. They normally take part in the Amrit Sanchar and help with Gurdwara related things. This year my parents were not there, but I was happy to see my brother Dharam as one of the Panj. He is such an inspiration to me. He is my "Bhai Dharam Singh" :)
I remember being surprised to see quite a few people who were taking Amrit that I was either close to, or had recently gotten to know. It’s as if we were all planning to take Amrit….but didn’t know of each other’s plans. There were a few of the people that I kept "bumping" into many times every day and we kept joking with each other about how funny it was that we kept crossing paths. Then when we all saw each other the early morning by the Gurdwara we understood. I guess we are siblings of destiny, meant to be brothers and sisters of the Khalsa :)
If you have taken Amrit, I would love to hear your experiences related to taking Amrit and how this changed their life. Hopefully these stories will encourage and inspire some of you to give your head to the Guru and receive the Amrit.
Philosophy of Baptism Into the Khalsa
"Through taking of Amrit, a Sikh qualifies him/herself as a recipient of Kamai of Akal Moorat or earnings from service and devotion to God. Through receiving Amrit, the consciousness is tempered and fear is substituted with Akal or deathlessness. In this way, a Sikh is prepared to experience Ajuni Saibhong, or a state of completion of the cycle of birth and death and an illumination of the light of the soul, while yet living in the world.
Through daily practice of sadhana, or spiritual discipline, one establishes his or her spiritual bank account by continually cleansing the mind and keeping pure of heart through the recitation of the Banis and by remembering Wahe Guru with each breath throughout the busy activities of the day."
Here are some more pictures from the morning that we took Amrit:
After the Amrit Ceremony the Panj Piaray talking to us about our roles and duties as Khalsa.
My brother Dharam Singh was so inspiring. I suppose he is right for this being that his name is Dharam Singh…and he is my brother. He is my "Bhai Dharam Singh" :)
Afterwards the huge main door to the Gurdwara opened up and we greeted the full sangat with "Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa, Wahe Guru Ji Ki fateh"…..and then some people played kirtan.
I was feeling so emotional here and happy to see my parents who greeted me with smiles and huges. My father said "Happy Birthday"…which I didn’t get at first and then realized he was referring to being reborn after taking Amrit.
One of the Khalsa ji’s was from Mexico and his friend greeted him with smiles and love.
One of the Kaurs who took Amrit with her son afterwards.
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