Sunday, July 28, 2019

How Writing Saved My Sikhi

March 2017. That was when I wrote my first journal entry. I don’t remember where the idea of keeping a journal came from, but if I hadn’t done that, not only would I not be the blogger I am today, I would also not be the Sikh I am today. But it was exciting to think of the prospect of it being filled over time with all sorts of things. What exactly? There were no limits. 

In it, I could write my dreams. My dream to one day be a granthi and to help run a Sikh learning center here in North America (particularly for Sikh converts). My dream to have a mini-jhatka farm one day, where Sikhs (vegetarian or not) could purchase ethically raised or grown food. My dream to have a graduate from UT and have a career somehow revolving around Sikhi. I personally believe that one day, these dreams will become reality, but that’s not the only stuff I include in my journal. In my journal, you can find poetry, pictures, rants, newspaper clips, important events, and random stuff printed from the internet. You can say, it’s sort of like a scrapbook (except better). Who knew that this would eventually end up saving my Sikhi. 

Let’s rewind back to earlier this year. Maybe even to as far back as last fall. I was tired of Sikhs looking down on each other (inwardly, outwardly, or both). I was tired of Sikhs looking down on each other because some Sikhs do this, while others do that. Because some Sikhs practice this while others practice that. Because some Sikhs eat this while others don’t eat that. Because some Sikhs end their Mool Mantar at Gur Prasad, while others end it at Nanak Hosee Bhi Sach. Sadh Sangat ji, where is the Ek, the Oneness, in all of this? I have Sikh friends from all up and down the spectrum. And though I might disagree with them on some issues or concepts, they are still my brother/sister at the end of the day. As far as I’m concerned, as long as you are following YOUR interpretation of Gurbani to the best of your ability, you are a Gursikh. 

This all became overwhelming for me. I wanted to walk away from being Amritdhari, walk away from being a Singhni, and walk away from being Sikh altogether. Many do. That’s when I decided to take refuge in my journal. I had just finished my initial journal and was about to start in the new journal that my friend Manjit had given me for my birthday. While I wrote, my clarity of thought became better and I began to establish my own identity/idea of what being a Sikh meant and more. Writing gave me an outlet to talk about my frustrations. Whether it was about religion and my family, religion and university life, religion and my race, my Sangat, the online Sangat, etc., I could tell my journal(s) without being judged.

Eventually, with the help of 2-3 people, my journal, and the Guru, I bounced back. I decided that what I believed in is what I believed in. And if anyone had a problem with it, they could walk themselves out of my life. No longer would I be feeding into the divisions within the Sikh community, but keeping focused on the seva that I was meant to do. 

In conclusion, I say this. Writing can be healing. For people like me, we write better than we speak. And like I stated earlier, a journal can’t judge you or even tell your secrets. So are you frustrated? Write! Are you happy? Write! Are you sad? Write! Are you unmotivated? Write! Do you feel like someone might have licked the bucket of ice cream that you had just purchased from the store? First, report this to the proper authorities. But then, write! You just don’t know what might come out of it as a result. 

Authors Note: Yes, that is my dog. Yes, that is a Pug. And no, she was not supposed to be in the picture 😂. Also, check out our latest project Sevadars are welcome.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

How do you practice? (Toronto Singh's Camp, Final)

"I have been searching for the Saints; I have seen so many Holy and Spiritual people
The Hermits, Sannyaasees, ascetics, penitents, fanatics, and Pandits all speak sweetly

I wandered around lost for a year, but no one touched my soul.
I listened to preachers and teachers, but I could not be happy with their lifestyles.

Those who have abandoned the Lord's name, and become attached to duality - why
should I speak in praise of them?

So speaks Bhikhaa:  The lord has let me to meet the Guru.  As you keep me. I remain:  
As you protect me, I survive." SGGS

I know this may be hard to believe but until I went to camp I had never stepped foot in a Darbar Sahib.  No Gurdwara near me and no other Sikhs in my area made my Sikh practice very personal.

I often thought to myself that I was doing it wrong or I was missing a message somewhere.  The one thing I did have was a couple of years of studying without the weight of religious politics and million different points of view.  It allowed me to find my feet and foundation before setting off into the world.
The first night of camp everyone was busy getting the Darbar Sahib put together, you could see the care and intent in everyone's eyes as they were working.  When it was finished...I mean it was beautiful!  Guru was coming and I was clueless as to what to do, how to act..It was complete sensory overload.  The kind you see in the movies where time slows down and vision gets fuzzy.  I vaguely remember being present for Guru's arrival.

I went back to my room and changed clothes if I remember correctly after Guru's arrival.  Somewhere along the line I ended up back at Darbar Sahib and there was this beautiful music playing, washed my feet and hands and walked into the Darbar...I was stuck...couldn't move hardly.  I had watched live feeds on the internet and thought for sure I knew how to act but in the presence of Guru I couldn't remember how to Matha Tteykna.  I knew I was supposed to, honestly did but I was at a total loss.  I walked a little further and Mandeep was standing there.  I looked at him and remember asking him what to do...I heard him say approach and then give me some hand gestures and I walked forward to the Guru, I was intimidated and at peace all at the same time.  I performed a Matha Tteykna dn took a seat in the back of the Darbar Sahib.  What an awesome experience.

You can listen to all of the Kirtan all you want on the internet but it will never hold a candle to being in Darbar and feeling it in person.  Yes I said feeling it, not listening to it.  I lisgtened to it on the computer semi regularly before camp but the first time I experienced it in person it was life changing.  That's not an exaggeration, to hear the music and the extraordinary voices being performed with such conviction was an experience I'll never forget and hope I'll be able to find it again.  I was standing outside the Langar Hall one morning and the kitchen window was open...Kirtan was playing in the kitchen and all I could think was how beautiful is that!  These men are doing Sewa and listening to Kirtan...what a blessing.

Speaking of Sewa, I'm not sure what my expectations were or what anyone else's expectations were of me.  What I did learn was Sewa in a lot more than just volunteering.  I have volunteered all of my life and there is always some sort of self satisfaction but when I was with the Singh's it was completely different experience.  It wasn't abut  me at all, it wasn't work at all, it just wsa.

I say all of this to say...I found my faith and started building a new practice based on what I knew and what I learned.  Individual faith is an evolutionary process and in my experience will change and develop over time.  What my practice was before camp is not my practice now and my practice now won't be what my practice will be a year from now.  As we learn we grow and friends...I have grown.