Dear son of mine

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poothaa maathaa kee aasees
nimakh n bisaro thumh ko har har sadhaa bhajahu jagadhees
O son, this is your mother’s hope and prayer,
that you may never forget the Lord, Har, Har, even for an instant. May you ever vibrate upon the Lord of the Universe.
Guru Arjan Dev Ji, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Ang 496

By Rajnarind Kaur

Who would have known all the love I feel for you?
Will I be able to give you even an ounce of what your naniji and nanaji gave me?
The strength to swim upstream, against the pressures of society
The steadfast faith in Waheguru to protect you and guide you throughout your life
The Khalsa pride in which you tie your turban every day
The chardikala spirit to be above the ignorance of mankind
The gift of Naam in which you meditate to attain peace
The confidence in which you will stand on your own two feet
The kindness in your heart to always help others through seva
The honesty with which your face will light up like a light
The sehaj in which you will fulfil life’s duties
The control and discipline that Sikhism teaches
The love of Kirtan which is my gift to you
You are still so young, but that sparkle in your eye
Believe in yourself and know that Waheguru will protect you
You are my son, you are my love
Always remember, you are a Singh, a son of the Khalsa
So stand strong!

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Hemkunt and the Valley of Flowers

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This a complete reproduction of a booklet published by the Hemkunt Jatha of Kenya that recently marked it’s 21st Annual Yatra to the revered heights of Gurudwara Sri Hemkunt Sahib.

Early History
The natural beauty of the mountains, valleys, rivers, plants and crisp clean air trigger a spiritual awakening. It also embraces the sacred sanctity derived from the mythological beliefs of the Hindus and the Sikhs. Sacred shrines built in the remembrance of them attract thousands of religious devotees every year.

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Located in the Uttakand Himalayas, bordering Tibet and Nepal at the place where seven mountain peaks are prominent, and the rivulet Lakshman and the rivulet Pushpa meet in the area called Ghaghria, there are devotional shrines of great spiritual value to both the Hindus and the Sikhs. For the Hindus it is the Sri Lakshman Mandir and the neighbouring Badrinath which are the most important pilgrimage centers in the Himalayas. For the Sikhs, it is the Gurdwara Sri Hemkunt Sahib (lake of ice) regarded as one of the holiest places at an altitude of 4,329m built on the shores of the lake. The harboring lake has equal significance; it is considered holy water known to the Sikhs as a sarovar. The nectar of this pool is believed to wash away one’s sins and vices. These are the highest temples in India.

Long before the Sikhs started coming to Hemkunt, the lake was known to the people who lived in the surrounding valleys and the Bhotia tribe (Indo-Tibetan people), as Lokpal. It was here that the Hindu God Lakshman is said to have meditated and King Pandu to have performed Yoga. It is also at this mystical spot that the Sikhs tenth Guru, Sri Guru Gobind Singh, is believed to have meditated in his previous life thereby achieving union with God.

hemkunt-valley.jpg Read the rest of this entry »

Why Raksha Bandhan has no place in Sikhi

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As the festival of Raksha Bandhan approaches each year, it’s no longer strange to see Sikhs lining up to purchase these threads to tie on the wrists of their brothers and fathers, in return for blessings and gifts. What was originally a Hindu festival has been ignorantly been accepted in Sikh culture, without prior thought to what it is all about and why our Gurus would never support it. Instead, manmat has only taken lead, with the explanation that it is the day dedicated to the bond of a brother and sister, and an excuse to pamper each other.

According to the Hindus, this is how the day is marked, ‘As per the traditions, the sister on this day prepares the pooja thali with diya, roli, chawal and rakhis. She worships the deities, ties Rakhi to the brother(s) and wishes for their well being. The brother in turn acknowledges the love with a promise to be by the sisters’ side through the thick and thin and gives her a token gift.’

Festivals like these are beautiful, no doubt, but in Sikhi, what we do – or do not do – is sanctioned only by the Guru. Nowhere in Sikh history has any Sikh Guru known to have accepted this Hindu custom. In a painting I came across on a website, Guru Nanak Dev Ji is being depicted to have a raakhi being tied on his wrist by his sister Bebe Nanaki. This is nothing more than a work of fiction.

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The Guru, who rejected the spiritual thread that the Hindu Brahmins consider makes them connected to God, in the midst of all the learned Pandits, Brahmins and his own father, would that same Guru accept the far more earthy thread called a ‘rakhi’? It’s plain logic, he wouldn’t. When asked by his father to go forth and make a profitable bargain in business, young Nanak came back having spent all his given money on feeding starving fakirs. If Nanak could challenge the Brahmins and reject outright the janeu, would he want to contradict himself by accepting another thread? The painting above may have been done by a devotee of the Guru and was only imagining the love between a brother and a sister, but didn’t realise that it is against the Guru’s own philosophy. If the Guru’s life is studied closely, and compared with his hymns, one can deduce for oneself whether the Guru would say something and preach something else. Likewise, no other Sikh Guru subscribed to the rakhsha bandhan ceremony, it was just not a Sikh practice, be it religious or cultural.

‘So what’s the harm in commemorating the day?’, is the usual counter-arguement of those Sikhs that accept the practice. There’s no harm in doing any of these things, but our Guru just did not approve them for his Sikhs. He’s taken us out of all the clutter of all those things that have no meaning in Sikhi and have instructed us to focus more on God than on worldly funfairs that eventually take the mortal away from God. The heritage of the Sikhs is so unique, that the men and women have been given an equal status. Why would a Khalsa Kaur ever need anyone’s protection when they have the power within them to defend themselves? That is why if the Singh was given a Kirpan, so was a Kaur granted the same. When the 40 Sikhs abandoned the Guru in his time of need, their wives took away their mens’ weapons and horses and left their husbands home to take their place. It was a proof of the might of the Guru’s daughters – that they are as mighty, or even mightier, than men. ‘Truth is high,’ Guru Nanak Dev Ji said and, further added, ‘but higher still is truthful living.’ So how can a mere thread prove the love between a brother and sister. Will that thread not wear out too, just like the janeu?

Sikhs were blessed with the roop of the Guru so that they may emulate their example of life and living which would connect us to Waheguru. Ceremonies like rakhsha bandhan are good for those for whom it was made, for the Hindu faith has it’s own valid reasons. Sikhi is a completely distinct faith. And how? Guru Nanak did not accept the janeu; he rejected the offering of water to his ancestors; he did not recite the Hindu Vedas; nor prayed to the 330 million gods, but contemplated only on the SHABAD what was revealed to Him from the Court of the Lord. Likewise, the other Sikh Gurus further developed what Guru Nanak preached, they never contradicted Nanak’s message and way of life.

In conclusion, while the ceremony is a beautiful one, it simply has not place in Sikhi because it is not higher than the Sikh way of life. The simple thread that is meant as a prayer to protect a sister and to seek the blessings of the brother’s long life and wellbeing, is not any higher than believing that it is Akaal Purakh that protects and blesses His beings. A thread is just an illusion, a Sikh of the Guru has no need for it to be reminded of his duty to the world, otherwise our Gurus would have allowed us to adopt it. And what of those who have no brothers? Who will protect them? What of those who have no sisters, who will pray for their long life and wellbeing? It’s all out of logic for Sikhs.

Rakhsha Bandhan is good for the Hindus, the Sikhs have their own beautiful way of life, made as simple as it could ever have been so that we can connect more to the Divine, and detatch more from the illusionary world.

Meditating through his paintings

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“Images keep coming to me, as they are waiting for a call, all those I met with while trekking in the Himalayas, Kenyan deep blue nights and watching the moon nights in my village in Punjab.”

I have known Jaswant Singh for the last 10 years, 5 of which I have lived and worked with him in Nairobi, Kenya. I was lucky to have been his neighbour for about two years, during which time I have had the opportunity to know the man behind the divinely guided brush that has spelled out some of the most deeply spiritual paintings I have ever seen. Though he is now settled in Canada, I continue to admire his progress for I believe that the colours and images spring forth from a man who is himself so immersed in the Words of Gurbani, that they are now etched in his yearning soul, and poured out so beautifully in the colours of his canvas.

In a small village ‘Tung’ in the scenic Punjab region of India, where folk arts, crafts and folk poetry are integral parts of daily life, Jaswant was born in 1960 and raised in this idyllic setting. Following tradition, he continued as a youth to develop his talent by choosing his surroundings as his muse. Even at an early age, Jaswant knew that he wanted to pursue his art both academically and professionally. However, he did not know that his combined love of art, nature and people would propel him to travel extensively in search of inspiring subjects.

His travels began rather close to home in Chandigarh, India where he earned a Degree in Painting at the College of Art. During his five years there, he travelled around Punjab and the foothills of the Himalayas where he painted landscapes in oil and watercolor as well as a series of village life sketches. Upon graduation, he lectured for the Government Polytechnic in Ambala City before leaving for Nepal where, in the mid-eighties, he spent several years painting large murals and paintings for prominent fivestar hotels in and around Kathmandu. In the late eighties he went to Kenya where he painted African wildlife in watercolors, acrylic and oil. Since 1999, he has been living and working in the US, before settling in Canada.

Jaswant has exhibited in over 50 solo, group and art exhibits throughout India, Kenya, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. He has received several awards. His paintings are included in the permanent collections of Galleries, Museums and private collectors throughout the world.
anhad-naad.jpg Read the rest of this entry »

Journey of the privileged soul

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By Bhai Sahib Bhai Harbhajan Singh Ji Khalsa

You must understand. The privileged soul has certain privileges. When the journey begins, the soul leaves in the subtle body. The first privilege of the soul is to say good-bye to all friends and foes equally. I’m talking of the privileged soul. Then the soul travels to all places of reverence – those places which were sacred to it. That’s called “the last journey.” You might have read about this but you never understood it. I am making you understand it now. So the soul visits every place of reverence.

The third privilege is to visit all the places of the altar. That means the Guru’s places. A privileged soul has very exalted manners and a responsibility to say a graceful good-bye before going home. That is why it became customary that when a person leaves, the relatives do kirtan, they do lofty bandagee, praising the Lord for all these days. Some do it for seventeen days, some do it for three days, some do it for four days. You know, the modern world doesn’t want to do anything. But the soul is very ultra-modern. It does its job.

After visiting all the altars, the soul has the privilege to travel in the company of the angelic world. The privileged soul does not go through the normal path of the human. It doesn’t pass through the test and triumph and trials.

After finishing its duties on the earth it travels to the angelic world. In the angelic world it entertains itself into the entire brightness, lightness, humor and glow, and practices forgiveness for the whole universe through which it has travelled many lifetimes.

You must understand – the soul which is a privileged soul has to enter the akal abode, the Infinity. The angelic world is defined. It is all good and masterly wonderful and excellently wonderful, but still it is defined.

After enjoying the privilege of the angelic world, the soul travels into the third blue ether. That is its own great abode of prayer. In its purity, in its piety, it settles its own account. Thereafter it crosses to the fourth blue ether. Chauthe par, the fourth step, is to find infinite salvation.

Therefore, if you join at this time in this journey, it will guarantee your journey in the future.

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