Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Homework Issues

I have had it all; as one of our three children entered Kindergarten every other year in span of 5 years. The oldest one was fully organized and shared it all – from what happened at school, what teacher said, what mama has to see and sign….to what that little girl with purple jacket did in the class. He would not eat or play until the homework was finished and that reminded me of my childhood. I thought I gave birth to my replicas. Well that dream of mine was broken soon when our middle child, daughter, entered her kindergarten. She was not only distracted with short attention span but also treated class room as park where she could catch butterflies if one came along. Boy! I still remember those evenings when it took me an hour to have her sit and have her complete her 10 minute homework. This bundle of my joy ruled over my all winter vacation when we learnt and tried all methods in the world to harness her energy and put that creative mind into doing academic work. She is fifth grader now! Thanks to all teachers & friend’s tips that we are in a routine where all home work gets done in the early evening; leaving enough time to do rope skipping, riding bike, playing tetherball and playing house with Carley(the 4 yr old girl next door). With the third one entering kindergarten; I guess I was experienced mother or stopped to panick over small stuff; may be learnt many relaxation techniques to avoid heart attacks. The youngest most was born ‘budhi’ (aged woman). She certainly understands a hell of a lot more than other girls her age. I truly believe Waheguru ji knew that I could not survive motherhood if this one joined her older sister in all the creative things distracting her from the goal. Sure I have to think of ways to encourage her to go out and play; when she quietly transition from home work to her art work or little notes that she often writes to warm my heart every day.

Here are some tips that worked for these little tornadoes in our home -

  • Have a set time and place (well lit, quiet and away from the television) for homework. (I used kitchen table (for one needing mom’s help while she is preparing dinner), study room (for the Mr. Independent ) and family room (most organized who is not distracted with mom’s occasional trips there with laundry loads).)
  • Have your child do his homework early enough in the evening so that he/she will have some down time before bed. (Playing after home work also gets them ready for dinner, they eat well and sleep well)
  • Be available to help your child with his homework if he has questions, but don't do your child's work. Appropriate homework is a lesson in responsibility.

The amount of homework assigned varies greatly from school to school and from teacher to teacher. As a rule of thumb, the National Education Association and the Parent Teacher Association recommend that children in elementary school spend approximately ten minutes of homework per grade. For instance, a first grader would be expected to do 10 minutes of homework while a fifth grader would spend 50 minutes. However, the time it takes to complete homework will depend on a child's ability to buckle down and concentrate; his ability to do the work, and his level of perfectionism.

While it's difficult for parents to see their child frustrated by inappropriate homework, doing too much of your child's work is likely to lead to an overly dependent child who may be convinced that he cannot accomplish anything on his own. If you feel as if your child is unduly overloaded with homework that is either too difficult or lengthy, don't try to solve the problem by doing his work.
If your child has problem completing the homework, or is a perfectionist who spends an undue amount of time doing it, work closely with your child's teacher. One of the purposes of homework is to begin to teach responsibility and for it to serve its purpose, a child must receive appropriate homework assignments.

In the upper elementary grades, other issues may determine the amount of homework a child brings home. Also, teachers begin to give their students longer assignments, expecting children to budget their time and work all week towards completing it. This leads to problems for a child who procrastinate and attempts to complete a week-long assignment in a single night.

If your child has a tendency to put off his homework until the last minute, you need to be aware of his assignments. That way, you can help him to consistently chip away at a large project.
Don't allow excessive homework to interfere with your child's sleep Remember, getting a good night's sleep is the most important assignment of all!

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Spiritual Strength of Woman

Shanti Kaur KhalsaIn this article Shanti Kaur Khalsa assesses the spiritual position and strength of Sikh women. Drawing from both Sikh philosophy and personal experiences, she demonstrates the importance of being a Sikh woman in today’s world…

"As we enter the change of the millennium, the role of the woman has changed and will continue to change dramatically. Striving to maintain ourselves in the age of technology, we find years pass with such speed and anxiety that sometimes we do not know what maintains us except the blessing of God’s companion. A woman carries the responsibility of the physical, mental and spiritual well being of her family. This is a serious job that can reap great rewards, but also carries dire consequences when not done successfully. In addition to that, many women have added the weight of work and career. When there is constant pressure and no relaxation, when there is no outlet, when there is a constant deficit in our mental and physical capacity, it results in a shattered mind and the loss of happiness and inner peace. We suffer as women, and our generations suffer as a result. This is a dilemma that is shared by women in every country, of every religion, on every continent.

With the tri-centenary of the Khalsa, we find that Guru Gobind Singh gave us the answers to these modern age problems more than three hundred years ago. Woman is strong by nature. Woman is spiritual by nature. By fine-tuning our uniquely feminine attributes with the Guru’s Rehat, Guru Gobind Singh assures us purity. We become not women, not men, but something far and beyond…we become KHALSA! In these difficult times, it is required that a woman should not only be pure. She needs to be purifying. Her very presence should create an effect on her surroundings that uplifts and illuminates those with whom she comes in contact The formula is clear, the solution is simple in nature, and success is guaranteed. This is the simple strategy of Bana, Bani, Simran, and Seva.

  • BANA (The Khalsa Uniform)

Bana is our own flag. Bana is our nishan that states unequivocally who we are. If we have the dress and fashion of a movie star, that makes a statement as to who we are. If we wear the clothes of a beggar, that also tells the world what our status is. And if we wear the bana of the Khalsa, this makes a statement of strength that cannot be ignored by the hardest of hearts. Bana is the image and dress of grace. Bana is the five K’s of the Khalsa: Kesh, Kacherha, Kanga, Kara, and Kirpan. Each one of these beautiful accoutrements gives us strength and beauty. Bana is a statement that says, with a look, that I belong to Guru Gobind Singh, and He belongs to me.

I belong to the Khalsa and Khalsa belongs to me as the drop of water forever merges into the ocean. - Guru Gobind Singh

I would like to share with you my own story and experiences in relation to the bana of the Khalsa. When I first became a Sikh, twenty-three years ago, I had never seen an Indian Sikh woman. I knew only American Sikhs, and in fact, very few of those. But I knew that Kesh and Dastar were part of the 5-K’s of Guru Gobind Singh. And I knew that Guru Gobind Singh promised:

If the Khalsa maintains the distinct path, I shall give them all my strength. But if the Khalsa leaves this path, then I will withdraw my recognition. -Guru Gobind Singh

Well, as a young woman of 18 years, full of the spirit of life and the excitement of discovering the teachings of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, it never occurred to me to not wear a turban. The Khalsa of Guru Gobind Singh wore the dastar, and that was who I wanted to be. So it was with great sincerity that I tied my first turban.

As you can imagine, the most dramatic effect of wearing a turban is not physiological, but rather it is social. Wearing a turban gave me pride and confidence. My parents and my friends were stunned. They thought they had lost me, but of course they had not; Rather the experience of being distinct has made me more committed to the welfare of those around me, because everything I do is highlighted and examined by others.

Now that I have lived my life experiencing the benefits of the turban, I can tell you honestly that you are missing a great advantage by not doing so. I have been given the respect and the status of a spiritual woman, even when I myself have been filled with self-doubt and misgivings. This I see as Guru Gobind Singh Ji fulfilling his promise, giving me strength even when I do not have strength myself. This beautiful dastar proclaims to the entire world that I belong to Guru Gobind Singh and that is a reality I will never deny.

  • BANI (The Word of God)

By the Grace of God, we are Sikhs of the Shabd Guru. We bow to no man. We worship no images. We bow to the Word, the Shabd, the sound current As women, we cannot underestimate the power of our own words and language. Our words contain the power of love and hate, and we should be mindful of how to communicate with all of God’s children. How do we do this? Through exercising the daily recitation of Nitnem and Gurbani. The daily prayers of the Sikh are a beautiful form and format that rearranges our neurological processes to provide us with a direct connection with the infinite creative energy of the universe. This is the heart of the Guru’s teachings. And if we do not experience this ourselves, we will most likely deny this experience to our children.

Siri Guru Amar Das ji tells us about the power and projection of the Bani:

"Great! Great is the Bani, the Word of the Formless Lord. There is no other as Great as He is."

This is why we say that our Guru is the Shabd Guru. The Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji is not a "book," it is not a "bible;" it is a ‘living Guru’ that guides us, protects us and enlightens us. The whole science of Gurbani has the power to make a person divine just in its recitation. It does not require a deep and scholarly understanding or interpretation for an impact on our consciousness because Bani is understood by the heart, not the head. The entire Siri Guru Granth Sahib is the calling out of the Beloved. A woman does not need to be dependent on sants and preachers, being led around like a donkey with a string in her nose. All that is needed is the inner experience of God that can be brought to us from our own Guru, the Living Guru, the Shabd Guru. That is the miracle, the science, and the blessing of Bani.

  • SIMRAN (Remembrance of GOD)

In the first line of Sukhmani Sahib, Sin Guru Arjun tells us:

To the one who meditates on Him, there comes a perfect peace. And all pain and sorrows depart. Meditate on Him, who contains the universe. Whose Holy Naam is the whisper on the lips of the entire creation.

Simran provides us with the answer to maintaining our balance and equilibrium. Naam Simran is the use of the Gurmantra; the meditation and recitation of Waheguru. How do you do simran? There are as many answers to that question as there are people to ask. The simply answer is: simran is not a technique but a process. At any time that is peaceful, but especially in the early morning before dawn, sit and concentrate on the Holy Naam. Project out with focused clarity. If you beam the signal out, you will get a clear signal back. This cleanses the subconscious mind, clarifies the conscious mind, and gives us the experience of bliss and peace. In the divinely human experience, we understand our depth and dimension, gaining access to our inner strength, direction and intuition.

Don’t you wonder about yourselves sometimes? You are born with no claws, no hoofs, and no superior strength. As a human being it appears we have been born with no defense mechanism. Have we been created by God as the only defenseless creature in His creation? No. Our strength lies in our intuition. When you can intuitively sense what is going to happen, then you can avoid entering a wrong sequence and you will not end up with an unwanted consequence. That is the best defense we could possibly have. And what gives us intuition? The mind. How does the mind develop intuition? Through meditation. Intuition works when there is no fear involved, no greed involved, no attachment involved and no lust involved. The subconscious mind has to be a clear channel and then the conscious mind perceives the information that is coming from the intuition.

We all have that power as human beings because every mind is part of the universal mind. However, women are created with an enhanced subtly, an accentuated sensitivity, which gives us great depth and dimension. For women, simran is an essential tool of life, a quintessential feminine strength. To ignore this aspect is to not water the most beautiful flower that grows in our garden. Simran gives us the key to know ourselves and the ability to know and love God.

  • SEVA

If the strength of one is great, the strength of the many is even greater. Seva is the knot that ties us to each other, ties us to our Guru, and transcends us from our own individual consciousness to the expansive nature of universal consciousness. No matter how great our stature, no matter how vast our authority, if we separate and isolate ourselves through the definition of ego, then we are far less than what our potential could be. Service to each other and service to Guru Ji, when done with a loving heart, with no desire for reward, breaks the bonds of ego and frees the soul.

Fruitful is the True Guru’s service, if anyone performs it by engaging his mind in it Heart desired boons are attained and ego departs from within.- Guru Amar Das Ji

Throughout Sikh history, women have displayed a seemly endless capacity for seva. Service to others is in our nature, the very bones of our being. It is part of our beauty and part of our strength. By doing seva, we lose the limitations of our finite self, and expand into the infinite strength of the body of the Khalsa. Through seva we remain humble, for seva is an activity that is not recognized as an individual action. The heavy and enormous burden of appreciation and recognition is not a factor in the performance of seva. It is personal, anonymous and deeply expansive. We become part of a whole that is unbreakable and unparalleled. Seva is actually our physical link to the Guru. By serving the Khalsa, we have the experience of serving our Guru, touching that great wisdom with our own hands.

Of all the things I have learned in this life, of all the things I wish to teach to the children of is the blessing of living the Rehit (Code of Conduct). This beautiful path, laid down by the Tenth Master, will carry us into the 21st Century with direction and strength. It is the this way of life, and that I pray that they will teach to their children, the most important key to the future, the solution to today’s problems, and the answer to tomorrow’s questions. As women it is our sacred responsibility to understand it, live it, enjoy it, and teach it to our children - the next generation of Khalsa!

Waheguru Jee Ka Khalsa Waheguru Jee Kee Fateh

by Shanti Kaur Khalsa

Source: MrSikhnet Blog

Friday, January 12, 2007

Mai Bhag Kaur

In her childhood, Mai Bhag Kaur was called Bhag Bhari, which means “fortunate”. On being baptized, she was named Bhag Kaur. In the Sikh history, she is known as Mai Bhago. She was born in a well known village, Jhabal, near Amritsar. She was the daughter of Malo Shah, son of Bhai Pare Shah. Her grandfather and Pare Shah’s brother, Bhai Langaha, had served under Guru Arjan Dev and Guru Hargobind. Bhai Langaha had helped Guru Arjan Dev in the construction of Harmander Sahib and was one of the five Sikhs who accompanied Guru Arjan Dev when he went to Lahore for martyrdom. It shows her two generations were closely involved with the Sikh Gurus.

As a young girl she had heard about the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev, the wars of Guru Hargobind, injustice done to the Sikhs and their harassment by the Mughal army These left a deep impression on her tender mind. Sad news of the martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur and his companions —Bhai Dayala, Bhai Mati Das, and Bhai Sati Das – touched her heart. She made up her mind to stop such injustice and violence against the Sikhs. She had inherited from her family ideals of bravery and courage. Faith, truth, and fearlessness were her ornaments. She had a well built body and looked like a soldier.

She, along with her family, visited Guru Tegh Bahadur twice. She also visited Anandpur with her father in 1699 when Guru Gobind Singh created the Khalsa and was baptized along with other members of her family. She wanted to stay there to learn the martial arts and become a saint soldier, but her father brought her back because she was a woman and women did not take part in the Sikh army in those days. However, she longed to join the Sikh army and started learning the art of warfare and horse riding from her father. She made a top knot of her head hair and covered it with a small turban. She had a spear in one hand, sword in the other, a shield on her shoulders and other small arms in her belt. She had fiery eyes on her bright face. In the beginning she aimed at small bushes outside the village with her small spear. Then she started piercing trees with her spear and learnt horse riding. Soon she became a staunch saint soldier.

She was married to Bhai Nidhan Singh of village Patti near Amritsar. She came to know that some Sikhs of her area had deserted Guru Gobind Singh at Anandpur Sahib and renounced his guruship in writing. The Mughals had betrayed Guru Gobind Singh and the governor of Sirhind was planning a big attack on Guru Gobind Singh at village Dina where he was staying after the Battle of Chamkaur. She could not hold herself, as she was zealous to serve the Guru. Boiling with rage, and moved by love for the Guru, she, the great heroine, said to her husband, “Guard up your lions and let us lay down our lives for the Guru who has sacrificed his father, mother and four sons for the Sikh faith. We must not sit idle when innocent lives are being bricked alive.” She was determined to wipe out the badge of infamy from the face of her area.

She, along with her husband, went from village to village and told the people the reality of deserters to them. Ladies of the deserters did not talk to them when they came back, cursed and taunted them. These ladies dressed themselves as soldiers and wanted to proceed with Mai Bhago. She said to the deserters, “Guru Ji has sacrificed his family and comforts for our freedom. We must stand up and protect our rights and faith. We should not hide ourselves like cowards. Everybody has to die. Why not die like a brave person? If you don’t join me, I shall take a party of women and die for the Guru.” She exhorted the ladies not to entertain the deserters and not to allow them to enter their houses. Her sharp and frank words pricked the conscience of the deserters and awakened their souls. She challenged their vanity and made them regret. She displayed manly spirit and courage.

They, along with their leader, Mahan Singh, marched to help the Guru and seek his forgiveness. They got armed and they took the oath to die fighting and not to retreat from the battlefield. They meant to make amends for the apostasy.

On their way, they came to know that the Guru was camping at the lake of Khidrana, near Mukatsar. In those days, the whole area was a desert and the full control of the lake was very important for the fighting forces. They were also informed that the Mughal forces, under the command of the governor of Sirhand, were proceeding towards the Guru. Mai Bhago and the party decided to check the army proceeding towards the Guru. They realized that the Mughal army was huge and they were only forty. She thought of a plan and asked the Sikhs to spread their white shirts on the bushes so that they look like tents of the Sikh forces. A shrine called Gurdwara Tambu Sahib, or the Place of Holy Tents, stands on that spot even to this day. They raised slogans of Sat Sri Akal – Bole So Nihal to overawe the enemy.

A battle with the Mughal forces took place and Mai Bhag Kaur fought in the front lines. The mercenary soldiers could not face the devoted Sikhs. The Guru from the mound near the lake supported the Sikhs with showers of arrows. The army generals took to their heels and retreated to save their lives. They even left their wounded and dead soldiers back. It happened in 1705.

After the battle, the Guru came down from the mound and found that every member of Bhag Kaur’s party was either dead or wounded. He took care of them. Mai Bhag Kaur was lying badly injured. She was treated and soon she recovered fully. Bhai Mahan Singh was dying when Guru Ji reached him. Guru Ji put some water in Bhai Mahan Singh’s mouth and said to him, “I am proud of you all. What is your last wish?” Mahan Singh requested the Guru to forgive all the deserters and restore the snapped relationship so that they might die in peace and obtain salvation. The Guru agreed before Mahan Singh could breathe his last. The city of Mukatsar (Pool of Immortalization) was built at that place. ‘Mukat’ or ‘Mukti’ means salvation and ‘sar’ means a pool. These forty Muktas are remembered daily in the Sikh prayers (Ardas). Later on, a Gurdwara was built at the site of the cremation of these martyrs. A great fair Maghi is held every year in January in memory of the Guru’s arrival there and redemption of the disunited. Pilgrims come from all over the country and attend that function.

The Guru praised the bravery of Mai Bhago. She told the Guru how the forty deserters had fought bravely and laid down their lives. The Guru asked her to go back to her village as her husband and brother had also died in that battle. She expressed her desire to become an active saint-soldier and stay in the service of the Guru. Her wish was granted and she stayed with the Guru as a member of his bodyguards. She accompanied the Guru to Damdama Sahib, Agra, and Nanded, a city in the South of India, and lived there until the Guru left this world. After the Guru’s death, she left Nanded for Bidar, an important city nearby. She lived there for some time and preached Sikhism. She died at Bidar. There is a Gurdwara built in her memory near the main Gurdwara Sachkhand at Nanded. Her spear is still preserved at the Gurdwara along with the arms of Guru Gobind Singh. She was a symbol of bravery and courage. Her life story and skill in organization against odds will always be a milestone in Sikh history. Her example inspired many brave Sikh ladies to face death with honor. She is really the Joan of Arc of Sikh history.
-By Sawan Singh in his book 'Noble and Brave Sikh Women'

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Sikh Virsa in Western Countries

Disturbed by the News in Outlook India, back in October of 2006, I kept looking for something positive that somehow erases the memory of that picture in the news.
With His Kirpa; since then I have witnessed so much positive going on in US Sikh community that now I can read this news without my eyes getting wet and in my heart I know that it is the Guru's will. One of events I recently attended is 'Sahibjada Rememberance Day' observed by Gurdwara Riversidein which children of IIGS school participated. I consider myself blessed for being able to do sewa of teaching these students. Here are the pictures and small report on these children's Chardi Kala.
Los AYNjls (AmrIkw) iv`c is~K ivrsw sMBwldy hoey b`cy

dsMbr 2006- Los AYNjls dy b`icAW ny 23 dsMbr, 2006 nUM swihbzwdw fy iek vwr Pyr, srihMd dy swky nUM Xwd krdy, cmkOr dI gVHI nUM isjdw krdy, swihbzwidAW nUM SrDwjlI idMdy hoey mnwieAw [gurduAwrw irvrsweIf dw ieh qIjw swl sI, ijs iv`c vIh swl qoN Coty 140 b`icAW ny, v`K v`K mukwbilAW iv`c Bwg ilAw[ ieh mukwblw sn - gurbwxI kIrqn (ivAkqk qy j`Qw); qblw, gurbwxI kMT; spIc qy kivqw; is`KI svwl jvwb Aqy dsqwrbMdI [ cwroN swihbzwidAW dI Xwd iv`c 500 fwlr nkdI cwr skwlriS`p vI auhnW b`icAW nUM id`qy gey jo ik gurU srUp nUM kwiem r`Kdy hoey, Awpxy skUlW qy kwljW iv`c A`vl AwauNdy hn Aqy kOm-syvw iv`c vI ih`sw pwayNdy hn [ies mOky qy iek AmrIkn isMG, fwktr s. gurjoDw isMG ny b`icAW nNUM nw isrP ienwm hI id`qy, sgoN is`KI-srUp nUM kwiem r`Kx dy gur vI d`sy[

iehnwN Bwg lYx vwly b`icAW iv`c sn – AweI. AweI. jI. AYs sMsQw dy b`cy jo ik AwpxI inSkwm syvw nwl ies pIVHI nUM gurm`q nwl joV rhI hY [AweI. jI. AYs skUl dy b`icAW dI tIm ( AnUphirjI isMG, blmIq isMG, AsIseISvr isMG Aqy AWcl kOr) jo ik 9 qyN 12 swl dI aumr dy hn, ny is`KI svwl jvwb mukwbly iv`c, s`q tIMmW iv`coN, dUjw ienwm ij`iqAw[is`KI svwl jvwb mukwbly iv`c sRI guru AMgd dyv jI Aqy sRI guru qyg bhwdr jI vwry svwl pu`Cy gey[

gurbwxI kMT mukwbly iv`c A`vl Awx vwly AweI. jI. AYs skUl dy b`cy sn - AnUphirjI isMG (aumr 12 swl), joqsuKmnI kOr(aumr 10 swl) Aqy hrjp kOr(aumr 8 swl) [AnUphirjI qy joqsuKmnI nUM, siqgurU dI mhwn ikRpw duAwrw, ies CotI aumr iv`c hI, inqnym dIAW swrIAW bwxIAW kMT hn[ieh donoN BYx-Brw ny 10-12 swl dI kYtygrI iv`c pihlw qy dUjw ienwm hwisl kIqw [ AweI. jI. AYs skUl iv`c gurm`q klws dOrwn, iehnW b`icAW nUM gurbwxI sMiQAw Aqy gurbwxI ivcwr nwl joiVAw jWdw hY [ ieh hI kwrn hY ik b`cI hrjp nUM nw hI isrP sMMpUrn jpjI swihb, qv pRswid sv`Xy, sMMpUrn rihrws swihb Aqy soihlw dy pwT kMT hn, blik ausny AwpxI spIc ijsdw ivSw sI “gurbwxI dI rozwnw ijOdgI iv`c shwieqw”, inqnym dIAW bwxIAW iv`coN hvwly dydy ky, sMgq nwl Awpxy ivcwr sWJy kIqy[ ieh b`cI XkInn hI ienwm dI h`kdwr bxI[AnUphirjI isMG ny gurbwxI, is`KI svwl jvwb mukwbiLAW dy nwl nwl kIrqn iv`c vI pihlw ienwm ij`iqAw[

Friday, January 05, 2007

Birth centenary of Guru Gobind Singh Ji

"Na Baat Kahoon main ab ki
Na baat kahoon main tab ki
Agar Na hotay Guru Gobind Singh
Tau Sunat hoti Sab ki"