Saturday, January 03, 2015

Rose Parade Features First-Ever Sikh Float

Monday, July 05, 2010

Jaap Sahib
Jaap Sahib, sound vibration, kundalini and translation
July 1, 2010 by Brijdeep Singh Bhasin Source:
Jaap Sahib morning prayer of Sikhs by Guru Gobind Singh, is an Ode to Ek Ongkar, One Divine light. These are my experiences and thoughts on the bani and recitation together with an attempt at translation and transliteration of it.

As Khalsa Sikhs we are advised to do certain prayers on a daily basis, some in the morning and some in the evening and night. For the longest time, bringing myself to wake up earlier than usual and reading the banis seemed like a major task and I would get lazy. More so, I considered it almost a chore, a ritual to be performed because it was “required”. However, a part of me always said that there was a lot more to bani or composition than is immediately apparent and it will take some sincere effort to figure it out. So, a little while back I started waking up earlier than usual and after the daily meditation, started reciting the Japji and Jaap Sahibs.

A lot of times I have seen that the bani is read or recited quickly without really understanding or even listening to the words and felt that this gave it a ritualistic flavor. Determined not to fall into that, I started reciting slowly, enunciating each word and letting the sounds linger. Not only was I able to grasp the meanings of certain words, the sound vibrations reverberated in my head, so much so that sometimes I could feel it for hours after the recitation. Now, I still don’t understand most of the bani, but figured it will come over time and in the meantime lets enjoy the sounds, tempo and rhyme. More details and description of Jaap Sahib can be found here. What I found interesting is that the introduction of each major part has a line which in my opinion partly indicates its rhythm, for example, the Bhujang Prayat Chaand which I think refers to the way a Snake moves or the Madhubhar Chand, or Sweet Honey stanzas that should be read lovingly. Then there are words where the tongue touches the palate creating the sounds of “tng”, “twng”, “bhng” etc. which I can feel have a special reason but haven’t fully understood it yet.

Also, I feel that this is one of the prayers, bani, path that needs to be read in it is original form to get its essence as the sounds and vibrations are so important. This is just personal experience and maybe other people have experienced this too. During and after the recitation of Jaap Sahib, I feel a heat wave through my spine and it varies based on my state of being that day and how engaged I’m in the bani. The closest I relate this feeling to is the movement of prana in Kundalini Yoga where it is said there there are 7 energy centers concentrated at different spots along the spine. A little while back, there was a feeling of intense heat at the back of neck, so much so that my skin developed a boil that lasted for weeks. The other downside is that I sweat more sometimes. Ok seriously, but I do feel a difference in my energy levels during the day when I did recite Jaap Sahib in the morning and the days I didn’t. An investment of 25 minutes in the morning probably saves me at least an hour during the day in thinking and action time. Again, I haven’t gotten this down to an exact science, but it seems all very rational and is getting there.

For people who don’t read or understand Gurmukhi or Punjabi, I do recognize that some words can however, be very complex and difficult to pronounce as they are drawn from languages like Sanskrit, Brij Bhasha, Urdu and Arabic. Below is an attempt to transliterate and translate the Jaap Sahib in easy to read English so that a wider audience can enjoy it. Please follow these rules, to aid in the correct, phonetic pronunciation of the transliteration from Gurmukhi to English below:

* The characters “tng”, “twng”, “bhng” are used to denote 'sound syllables' and not letters and are pronounced by touching the back of the tongue to the back of the throat and producing something like “anngg” sound.
* Some letters have no equivalent in English, for example, “adh” is pronounced by flipping the tongue by touching the palate and then slamming it down
* The characters “tt” signify a strong “Tea” like sound where the tongue rolls and touches the palate. However “th” is pronounced by touching the tongue to the teeth and not the palate.
This is just the beginning, I realized it will take me a lot longer than originally thought as I really want to make sure the translation is correct and have to consult with my Grandfather who lives in Delhi. Do let me know what you think, any feedback is welcome.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

IIGS Holds Sikh Youth Camp at Sealy

CAMP SEALY, CA - The one week 71st IIGS camp held at Camp Sealy August 16-22 in the San Bernardino Mountains in Southern California, left participants yearning for more, promising to come back next year and saying teary good byes to new and old friends. Over 150 new and old participants came from different states in the US. India, Japan and Canada.

In the morning and evening Dewans, campers experienced Nam Simran, enjoyed Kirtan and participated in various aspects of the service. Sardarni Gurpreet Kaur’s singing and Sardar Ranjit Singh’s tabla accompaniment regaled the campers with melodious and inspiring Kirtan.

During the day, a plethora of elective classes made it possible for attendees to explore areas of specific interest to them: Meanings and recitation of Nitnem baanies, Shabad Kirtan, Tabla, Punjabi, Sikh history, Sikh Art and Gatka. Mind- Body Fitness classes were also offered along with recreational swimming.

An entire afternoon was set aside for picnic where the Indian game of Pithu was a big hit amongst the older campers. It was a time to relax, enjoy and have fun and games galore. Kesh Darshan, an integral part of every IIGS camp designed to encourage campers to develop love and appreciation for beautiful long uncut hair, had enthusiastic participation. All counselors and campers washed their hair and attended a lecture on ‘Khande di Pahul’ and importance of the 5 K’s by Capt Harbhajan Singh, fondly called Papa ji. .

Senior participants attended inter-active sessions led by Sardarni Jessi Kaur (author of Dear Takuya) where they explored the concept of Mind according to Sri Guru Granth Sahib and the structure and significance of the Sikh Ardaas.

Guest Speaker Sardarni Ruby Kaur, a certified Covey trainer, presented a couple of modules from the Seven habits. Sardar Jagjot Singh of the Bay area gave an inspiring talk on Chardikala.

Dr. Jaswant Singh Neki, renowned author and Sikh luminary from India, addressed the campers on the importance of discipline and obedience in a Sikh’s life.

The lectures, interactive sessions and DOST combined with the elective classes made the camp a truly rich experience for all.

Sardars Ranjit Singh, Gurbux Singh, Ajmer Singh, Sardarnis Manjit Kaur, Prem Kaur and Sukhwinder Kaur, worked hard to provide delicious meals.

The Camp Administrative Team included Sardars K. Daljit Singh, Kavi Raj Singh, Tejinder Singh, Kanwarbir Singh, Karan Raj Singh, Sardarnis Payal Kaur, Guninder Kaur, Jaskiran Kaur and Manjit Kaur KBS.

While Sardarnis Leena Kaur, Sanjam Kaur and Prabhneet Kaur maintained the Camp Office, Drs. Gurpreet Singh, Jasjit K. Singh, Harsohena Kaur and Kaval Kaur, RN looked after the Medical needs of the camp,
The Camp’s 15 member Junior Counselors Team that worked most dedicatedly was led by Sardarni Birpal Kaur. Sardar Jasdeep Singh and Sardarnis Navi Kaur and Puneet Kaur performed the roles of Camp Adjutants. Sardars Harvinder Singh, Kavan Singh, Gurdayal Singh, Sarabdayal Singh, Monty Singh , Jaspreet Singh, Bir Ishwar Singh, Hunar Singh, Sardarni Manjeet Kaur and Amrita Kaur, Jyoti Kaur and Simi Kaur provided immense assistance.

As in all previous camps at Camp Seely, Coach expenses were borne by Sardar Arvinder Singh, who also escorted the campers to the camp. Sardar Ranjit Singh took care of the drinking water for the campers.

A special Camp Dewan (A sort of grand finale) was held on Sunday, August 23 at Gurdwara Buena Park, in which about 200 campers, counselors and their families joined the huge Sunday Sangat. In addition to Shabad Kirtan rendered by three newly trained campers’ groups and the main IGS Jatha, almost 20 campers shared their exhilarating camp experiences with the Sangat. This was followed by an impressive Nishan Sahib Salutation Parade, led by five Singhs and five Kaurs dressed in the traditional Khalsa attire. Anup Harji Singh played the trumpet. Anhad Singh, a UCLA Film School student who facilitated the Mind-Body fitness class at the camp, commanded the parade.

IIGS retreats are purely religious and are known for providing an environment that inspires, educates and, fosters Sikh pride and universal brotherhood!

In the past 37 years, IIGS has organized 86 camps - 71 Sikh Youth Camps, 10 Sikh Mothers/family camps, 4 mini camps and one local city camp in India at Vijayawada.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Letters from a Sikh kid

Letters from a Sikh kid

Sikh parents living in the Diaspora have for a long time felt the need of a book that would explain the message of Sikhi in simple terms to the friends and teachers of their school going children. Recently I picked up a lovely book, Dear Takuya, Letters of a Sikh boy at the local Gurdwara. The protagonist of the book Simar is a nine-year-old California kid who during his summer break shares his story as a Sikh boy with Takuya, a pen friend in Japan.

In sixteen, simple and tenderly voiced letters, Simar sums up his own struggle for acceptance as well as the principles of tolerance, forgiveness and love for everyone that he learns at a Sikh youth camp. Reading Simar's letters is like reading the journal of your own child. Jessi Kaur has shown a keen understanding of how young boys think. September 11th has changed United States in many ways. It has particularly impacted the Sikhs who live here.

Numerous Sikhs have been targets of misdirected hate and violence. Sikh children are particularly vulnerable to discrimination and bullying in schools. It is of utmost important to educate the students about cultural diversity and religious tolerance. Cultural awareness cultivates understanding and friendship between children. Simar, in one of his letters shares with Takuya that he was bullied by a big kid in the school playground.

A girl named Patty reaches out to him. She ties his patka and makes him feel cared for. Patty has felt the pain of being teased herself on account of being chubby. The author Jessi Kaur is not unknown to the community. She has often been heard at Darbare- E- Khalsa, the largest gathering of Sikhs in South land. Those who have attended the camps held by International Institute of Gurmat Studies have come to know Ms. Kaur as an inspired teacher and counselor. Perhaps it is her experience gained through her association with these camps, that has given her book an authentic voice. She is also a frequent speaker at Interfaith Conferences and a strong believer that multicultural understanding is the cornerstone of harmony in the world.

In 'Dear Takuya' Ms. Kaur's desire to share the basic principles of Guru Nanak's teachings to the Sikh children in the Diaspora is obvious. This book is not only a simple and powerful tool for the Sikh parents to meet the challenge of teaching their own children about Sikhi and instill pride about their heritage; but it also makes a wonderful gift to their non-Sikh friends to acquaint them with Sikh values and culture. In an exclusive interview with India Post Jessi Kaur said that it tears her inside out when she hears news stories of the harassment of Sikh boys. Recently in New Jersey a Sikh boy's patka was set on fire in by a fellow student.

In another incident in a New York school, a Sikh boy was punched in the face. "These assaults underscore the importance of educating the mainstream about the identity and history of the Sikhs, she said. As parents of Sikh boys, many of us have visited their schools and made presentations on Sikh Culture and history and even demonstrated the hair beneath the patka to demystify the appearance of our boys. (Kesh Darshan.)Dear Takuya will make the task of the parents on such missions easier. With reference to the letter format of the book, which incidentally, works beautifully, Ms. Kaur said that she wanted to have Simar's voice speak to the children at a personal level.

The success of Dear Takuya lies in the fact that it shares Simar's learning about his culture without getting preachy at any point. It comes across more as a dialogue with a friend. I mentioned to Ms. Kaur that I would love to hear the story of Jasmine Kaur, Simar's sister as a sequel to the book. She said that for right now she is putting her energy in spreading the word about Dear Takuya and hopes that it makes the passage of Sikh children in the Diaspora easier in their elementary years.

Nikki Merrick, a High School teacher's trainer and an erstwhile High School English teacher, is amongst several educators who have endorsed Dear Takuya as a valuable tool for teachers, "I think Dear Takuya would be a valuable addition to classrooms and libraries as it demystifies a culture that many people don't know much about.

Kids are quick to judge on outward appearances and make fun of what they don't understand; Dear Takuya provides insight and understanding." The beautiful illustrations by Brian Johnston and flawless editing by Manjyot Kaur make this book one that you will want share. As a parent of three children, I strongly recommend that each Sikh family buys multiple copies to give as gifts to their children's teachers and friends. All proceeds from the book shall go to International Institute of Gurmat Studies, a non- profit organization.
- Manjit Kaur KBS

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Back to school or Back to schedule?

Back to school or Back to schedule?

It is almost mid of September, schools have started and our families are settling in to this year's schedule. Two of our older children entered High and Junior High school. Even if our children are in the same school as last year, the timetable is always slightly different. Maybe classes start earlier this year, or later. Or maybe it's the before and after activities that are different.
For the 7th and 9th grader, the night before registration, I spent a chaotic evening filling out two cards each and several other forms, all asking for exactly the same information. It was just like last year, and all the years before, even down to the part where my fingers begin to hurt and I begin to talk to myself, "Don’t they have good programmers like me at this school district who print the auto filled forms for parents from the school system and have them make the changes if necessary?"
On the day of the registration, first I took my daughter to her Junior High. Everything was just perfect until I decided to go to attendance office instead of multi-purpose room where the registration was supposed to be. My daughter was upset for getting late due ot my early morning confusion & I was thinking how could I confuse the high with Junior high after doing all that hours of paper work just last night. The lady on the registration desk made my day when she carefully looked at the folder I was holding and smilingly said “You are too organized for me; wish I could be you”. My daughter looked admiringly on me and already forgave me for being late. Well, we were out of there in 15 minutes after checking out heavy books for her, which she is supposed to keep at home this year. That took my whole attention to re-organizing our children’s rooms so I can help them find the books and supplies when my dinner, their home work and some after school activity clashes. BTW that happens often under our roof.
Now it was time for my son to register as freshmen. As opposed to morning experience we stood in a long queue here in front of attendance office. His schedule did not show the Jazz Band and Tennis period. My son and I went to his counselor's office to modify his schedule for this year. He looked very pleased & made a quick change from PE to Jazz band, until my son announced that he wanted to play tennis in addition to all the required courses for Pre-IB program. The counselor commended him for having been selected on the Tennis Team and then adjusted his glasses to look carefully on the computer screen. After careful long thought he disappointed my son by suggesting that he has to drop Human Geography(which he can take in summer) in order to keep Tennis. I bombarded him with questions following that suggestion till he printed the final copy of his schedule. He explained to us the courses for his freshmen year, sophomore year as well as summers following those. After almost 30 minutes, I left the office thinking “I hardly had him home this summer, when is he going to have any summer vacation?’, though my son was very happy, hardly concerned about his ‘so full’ schedule. He quickly left for his band camp smiling on those who were so patiently waiting outside the counselor’s office but without saying a word to me. Is it all normal for a teen?
This school year is busier than ever. My youngest daughter though still in elementary school, but her school starts 10 min earlier than last year. Both the older ones go to zero periods staring 6:42 for Performing Band and 7:15 am for Honor Choir. So we all wake up at Amrit Vela…children to get dressed for schools and me to cook & pack lunches and enjoy school trips until 8am. How is your Amrit Vela?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

THEN and NOW..... I took the plunge exactly 11 months ago. I remember those days like it was yesterday. I quit my career of 15 years and accepted the world's most splendid full-time job. While beginning his farewell speech, CIO said "A person should only do what he/she likes the most and here we have Ms. Kaur who made her choice". I was not so sure if I made a choice or I ran out of options to continue to juggle through two full-time jobs. I said good-bye to all with tears, broad smiles, hugs and promises to stay in touch. It was beginning of June 2007, children were getting out of school for summer and here I was ready to welcome them home.

The beginning of my new job (Stay-at-home mom) was just like my first real job; enthusiastic, smashed with happiness and daily accomplishments. Just as in my then job, I often worked in my dreams through out night to figure out a new logic for my project and in the morning ran to work to put it in and feel my heart swell with pride when it worked; here in my this job I did something similar. I had made schedule for every thing that I have been setting aside due to my work. Children were as excited and they learnt all what I had to teach with equal fervor in nutshell we had a ball through out summer.

Three months went fast, came along September, children were off to school, hubby went to work as usual and here I was left alone at where to go, no project list to start with, no schedule to follow. My house was mess, but that is not the job I did. It was house keeper's job who I did not have any more. It was 'reality check' time.I took refuge in front of computer, began to play with numbers to figure out our budget. To my surprise, we needed a big shift in our life style to make the things work for us. Well, that was the beginning of my withdrawal symptoms from my career. There were days when I simply wished to be in the quietness of my cubicle and then there were days when I wanted to quit this new job. I knew I could not be fired from this job as my new boss is a saint, so he put up with my 'not-so-good' performance for many months until one day when he gave me green signal to look for part-time job to fill in my 9am-1pm hours and fill my idle mind with the world's problems. He was so right in doing so, I soon found out that I was dreaming and I need these hours for my benefit and do justice to my this new job.

So spring followed the fall and we are near summer again or should I say, summer is already here. With all this I have successfully completed my probationary time in my new job and that makes me my kid's mom and my husband's girl-friend. Children are as happy as they can be. I can't begin to count their accomplishments of this year. I definitely would not dare to share their after-school activities that make me so tired that I look forward to my 4-5 idle hours of next morning to recuperate myself. My house is not a mess any more; we have learnt to live within our budget and always leaning on Waheguru ji who is The Provider for all.

My daughter's 6th grade teacher was praising my daughter's progress in this year. When I shared my secret with her, she told me to spread the word. So here it is for the moms/parents who wonder why they have to make this tough choice -

For you: Children are Waheguru's blessing, watching them grow is miraculous. You'll know your child better than anyone else. My chidlren in their teens often ask me personal questions. While I answer them so carefully, I often wonder what a child-care provider might have answered to that; had I not been there?

For your Chidlren: Having mommy first to roll out of bed every morning, ready for duty is a cozy setup for the children. Even the sweetest sitter can't replace that. There are no shifting gears in the morning, no daily anxiety if things are ready before mom leaves for the office, no confusing inconsistencies in routine. Children feel secure and happy when they know in their hearts that they have mommy to count on any time of the day.

Most importantly for your marriage: You and your spouse won't butt heads over whose turn it is to miss work when a child is running fever. And having all day to do chores and errands means that when he comes home, you can be off-duty, too.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Daughter of the Khalsa

Sahib-e-Kamaal Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji adorned The Khalsa with 5 K's. These were the gifts that most of us value and protect with our life, though they mean different to different people. Here is the article from a 'Daughter of the Khalsa' that I found very inspiring. Please read on to relate to her sentiments on 5 K's.


The date of this year's Vaisakhi, April 13, makes it even more of a meaningful gurparab for me.

Not only can I participate in commemorating the Birth of the Khalsa - that incomparable moment when Guru Gobind Singh founded the Sikh nation - but I can also celebrate the first anniversary of my rebirth in the House of the Guru, when, exactly one year ago, I formally embraced Sikhi through the immense blessing of taking Amrit.

Becoming a daughter of the Khalsa was an essential way for me to make a solemn public commitment to living according to the tenets of the Rehat Maryada and trying my best to revere, understand, and incorporate into my daily life the teachings of Guru Granth.

Coming from a non-Sikh background, I felt that Amrit Chaknaa was absolutely necessary to my being truly considered, in both an individual and a corporate sense, a fully-fledged member of the Sikh people, legitimately and permanently linked with Sikh history and heritage, including that utterly pivotal day of 1699.

So, after having been an only child all my life, I finally got my wish for brothers and sisters fulfilled by becoming part of a spiritual family and benefitting immeasurably from the experience and insights of my "elder siblings" who walk ahead of me along the Path. They are my cherished Sadh Sangat, whose fellowship helps me to attain greater levels of love and devotion to Sikhi.
Like many small children, I try to be "just like Mom and Dad" - but in what I hope is a somewhat more serious-minded manner.

Regarding my spiritual mother, Mata Sahib Kaur, this entails my striving to even remotely approach her sense of total devotion to the Guru and her astuteness in knowing that adding a personal touch of sweetness is necessary in all experiences of life, even the ones that are most weighty and fraught with significance.

Emulation of my spiritual father, Guru Gobind Singh, is even more difficult and complicated for me. When I contemplate his immortal greatness and true magnificence, I wonder how I could possibly have the unmitigated hubris to think I could ever be even a bit like him.

Among the countless splendid attributes of the Tenth Master, the one that I most admire is his seamless blend of empowerment and humility. He evinced this trait to complete perfection on that first Vaisakhi, when he inducted the Panj Piare - those five brave Sikhs who volunteered to give their heads to the Guru - as the first members of the Khalsa, by giving them Amrit and, in turn, requested to be initiated at the hands of his disciples.

So, I have come to believe that perhaps it would be acceptable for me to think I might emulate him, albeit in an infinitely small way, through my own personal balancing act: consciously trying to experience the strength that comes from being a daughter of the Khalsa, while knowing all the while that it is not I, but Guruji who is great and important.

As I learn and grow as a Sikh, and find meaningful ways of being part of and serving the Panth, I try my best to keep in the forefront of my mind that my talents and accomplishments come through me, not from me: they are all manifestations of His Grace. I need to be ever-vigilant that my feelings of personal gratification never insidiously morph into smug and preachy self-righteousness.

And, speaking of gratification, although I know that becoming Amritdhari is a significant milestone along the Path but not its end or pinnacle, the events of that day, April 13, 2007, remain beyond compare for me.

Besides the exultation I felt when, during the Amrit Sanchaar, it became my turn to actually receive the Ambrosial Nectar, I will never forget the utter jubilation that filled me in the pre-dawn hours of that morning: the moment when I wore all of Guru Gobind Singh's "Gifts of Love" - the Panj Kakkaars - together for the very first time. I felt totally whole and complete, as well as, I must admit, quite tyaar-bar-tyaar!

This attitude is at the core of my conception of what being a Saint-Soldier is all about. I seldom think of this term applying to me in a martial sense, although I do derive tremendous inspiration from visualizing and reflecting upon iconic female personages such as the brave general Mai Bhago, the fictional Sundri of Bhai Vir Singh, and many other real-life Kaurs who fought heroically in the struggles that have marked our history.

Since I am light-years away from bearing the merest whiff of sanctity, and my meager attributes certainly do not include expertise in horsewomanship and sword-wielding skills, how do I think of myself as a Sant-Sipahi?

To me, being a Saint-Soldier lies in continually striving to uphold the ideals to which Guru Gobind Singh, in his divinely-inspired wisdom, gave tangible form in our five Articles of Faith.
Here is what the Kakkaars mean to me.

Keeping Kesh is accepting my body, with all its hair intact, as Waheguru's creation, and valuing it in the complete form which He deemed fit to give to me.
Having been born and raised as a non-Sikh and imbued since early girlhood with society's expectations of how a well-groomed woman should look, this acceptance requires frequent rejection of my previously-inculcated notions of femininity, in order to fully embrace a concept of inner and outer beauty that is in alignment with the Divine Will.

The Kara signifies my wearing His ring because I am His and He is mine. It is a visible sign of my desire to be inseparably attached and totally committed to Him. But, whenever I futilely attempt to make my own puny will be carried out as opposed to His, it turns from a "wedding band" into a "handcuff" that tells me (yet again!) who is truly in control of my life.

The Kirpan enables me to remind myself that, because I have been blessed to serve His purposes and do His Will, remaining on the sidelines with good intentions is not sufficient. I must be courageous enough to actualize them in concrete ways, and be willing to stand up for my beliefs, instead of just paying them lip service. I must remember that, while it is wonderful to think lofty thoughts, they mean very little unless they are actually put into practice in ways that serve His Creation.

With the Kangha, I acknowledge the importance of living a clean and orderly life (as well as the need to have neat and tidy hair!). Adhering to a lifestyle befitting a Khalsa is my active responsibility; I cannot mindlessly go along with the whims and trends others might indulge in, even "just once", if they do not correlate with what I believe is the appropriate behavior for me.

The Kachhera helps me to admit that constant vigilance is necessary over my all-too-human mind and heart, requiring self-control and self-restraint from thoughts and actions unbecoming of a daughter of the Guru. Since I have been blessed with the discernment to distinguish between what is right and what is not, it is my duty to make decisions for myself that are in line with this knowledge.

Through His Grace, I have never transgressed the injunction to keep Kesh, the pre-eminent Kakkar. However, I must confess that I often fall short of totally fulfilling all the other above ideals.
I feel that Waheguru, as our loving Creator, understands our human weaknesses and failings. I do not think it is a rationalization or an abdication of responsibility to believe He only expects us to always try our utmost to uphold these ideals, not that we must perfectly and perpetually succeed in embodying them.
As I celebrate Vaisakhi 2008 and begin my second year of "living in the House of the Guru", I hope and pray that I will always be worthy of the awesome privilege of being a daughter of the Khalsa!
April 9th, 2008