Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Story of Love for Guru Ji... (Part 2)


The Story of a White-American falling in love with Sikhi...
(Part 2 of 2)

Now at the age of 38, I had been involved in a happy and monogamous relationship with a very open and also spiritual woman. She had come from a different country and had a difficult upbringing herself. Raised a Catholic like my parents, she too knew that God was so near, yet ideologically too far to reach. We spent a great deal of time traveling throughout the country, admiring God glorious landscapes. We become a strong and mutually inspiring couple.

Though a series of events, we had been illegally evicted from our apartment in New York City. During this time, a friend of ours had opened her door to us. This friend allowed us to occupy her apartment for nearly 3 weeks while we fixed our situation. This friend also had a very spiritual nature about her. Her apartment was adorned with many religious articles of many different faiths.

One item that caught my particular attention was a picture depciting a Sikh Guru hanging upon her wall. Knowing nothing about Sikhi at the time, I simply gazed at the picture, and began to see myself. My beard had gotten quite long, and although it had been a trendy thing in recent times to grow a beard, I was not growing it to find popularity. In fact many people seemed to dislike my untrimmed beard and would occasionally make nasty comments. This spiritual leader that I saw upon my friends wall gave me a certain hope and a clue that I was following the right path. We also happened to discover a CD recording of Gurmantar and Simran. I was mostly intrguiged by the image of an Amritdhari child on the cover. We began listening to this Naam Simran CD everyday. Although I didn't understand the word to the accompanying Mool Mantar, the thought of learning to recite the words gave me a great sense of excitement and bliss. Not surprisingly, the words were accompanied by the familiar sound of the tabla!

What began slowly, turned to a rushing toward the study of Sikhi. The friend gave us the CD when we reurned back to our apartment after solving the rent issue.

We have both been immersed in simran ever since. The kesh (hair) have continued to flow. The Kara (iron bangle) on my right arm is a tireless employee working day and night to clam my anger and encourage me to think before acting with emotion. I prefer to wear a patka (bandana style head covering) over my kesh, but I know that eventually I will accept the cloth of dastaar (turban) with great enthusiasm.

With all these exciting discoveries and revelations, how could anything possibly bring me down?!
The battle continues in a different form. Many people in my home country do not understand Sikhi. Many people are beaten and abused because of ignorance and hatred. 

I have seen many stories of Sikh brothers having their beards cut off, and being beaten or killed because ignorant people have associated them with terrorists. As I walk in the land in which I was born, with an untrimmed beard, head covering, and gutka (Sikh prayer book) in hand, I am being subjected to similar abusive behaviors. Most people just don't know how to deal with me in their minds. Here is me with light skin and light eyes looking like my Guru. Some people may make nasty comments, and some people may smile. Some people may spit, and some people may look away. It is all Vaheguru, and this may be the only thing I knows for sure.

Vaheguru Vaheguru Vaheguru.
Ghar Sukh Vaseyaa, Baahar Sukh Paaeyaa.

Although my transition towards Sikhi has been a true blessing in my life, I have had to make some changes in my career path as well. Most food establishments in my industry frown upon long beards. I have since left food service to seek alternative employment. I  have done some part time truck driving, and currently working part time in a canine boarding kennel. I am steadily looking for a Sikh owned or operated company within New York City that may offer employment.

My situation is unique in that I am sometimes perceived as being stuck between two cultures. Both Americans and Punjabi citizens are either struck with awe when their eyes connect; sometimes a smile, and sometimes an offensive comment. Some may say that I have abandoned my culture for another. When presented with that idea, I must confirm what is "my culture". I am 7 generations into the United States. I have no connection to my supposed homelands. My culture is only that of "American" culture, which from my perspective consists mostly of the freedom to indulge in the many evil vices available such as drinking, smoking, gambling, even prostitution. I find these so-called freedoms to go against everything that I am trying to achieve in this life. The only thing I can support in my country seems to be the freedom to religious expression; something that meant nothing to me as a youth, but has become important to me in recent times. I have only been immersed in the study of Sikhi for six months, but it has already taken my consciousness further than I had ever thought was possible. I would like to state that I am not trying to "be Punjabi". I am not stealing another culture. Sikhi is for every human. I discovered deep love for the teaching of Guru Nanak Dev Ji at even the most cursory glance, and the love continues to blossom while deepening my studies.

The next step in my quest is to find my sangat. I plan to visit the Gurdwara in New York City soon, although I maintain some apprehension because a lot of what I've read about the strife amongst the Punjabi Sikh community. I am studying Gurmukhi script from children's workbooks that I obtained online. I rise for Amritvela, and read Japji Sahib and Jaap Sahib each day from my transliterated gutka. I am seeking my sangat, and friends in Sikh community. I am looking to do seva (selfless service), any seva, but langar work in particular. I would like to find Gurmukhi classes that are free or affordable. My lady friend would also like to join in seva and study.

We praise Dhan Dhan Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji every day in the privacy of our home, but would very much like to join with community for kirtan, simran, etc.

This story has been complied by with the Guru's grace and utmost humility.

Vaheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Vaheguru Ji Ki Fateh!

If any Gursikh reading this is local to New York, and is happy to assist Veer Ji and his friend in linking up to the Gurdwara Sahib and local Sangat, then please write to them at

Sunday, October 09, 2016

A Story of Love for Guru Ji... (Part 1)

Thank you to Veer Dee Dee Mills for emailing me his story to share with the Sangat. Hopefully, it will give inspiration to other newcomers to Sikhi, and remind us all of Guru Ji's love.

The Story of a White-American falling in love with Sikhi...
(Part 1 of 2)

My story begins with me being born near the banks of the Mississippi River in the United States of America. My father had left before I was born and the first three years of my life were spent in a modest accommodation with my mother. During my third year, my mother married the man whom I came to call my father. They have been married ever since. Both parents were brought up in Catholic households, and as a result, neither had any affiliation to religion whatsoever. My family consists of a mixture of Germanic, Irish, and Ukrainian genealogy. From a young age, my mother told and encouraged me to seek and study religion on my own when I was old enough.

My family practiced the typical and confusing traditions of their own background, i.e. Christmas and Easter. Although the baby Christ was never spoken of, they would spend the solstice weeks decorating a fir tree, and eventually exchange gifts on the supposed birthday of Christ of whom they had no knowledge of. As a boy I was utterly confused by this, and my confusion grew more intense with age. The following year we observed Easter, which was nothing more than a candy hunt with a giant rabbit presiding over the games. This was supposed to have something to do with the Christ figure as well, but even the adults knew the connection was obsurd. It was best to just leave it alone and indulge in the sugary treats.

As I grew into adolescence, my relationship to God remained untapped. I was certain that God was phoney (made-up), and religion was for fools. Having no source of spiritual support, as a young man I fell into drug and alcohol abuse. I was content with getting high. It was the closest thing I knew to experiencing another world. But alas, as many others before me had discovered, this high, like so many things in this world, was also temporary and even became painfull. As a young man I battled with what is called depression and anxiety. I always had the support of my mother, but her capacity to guide me was never her strongest point. She herself was slowly falling into the realm of self gratification through cigarettes and gambling. Although I loved her very much, I knew she could not solve my issues.

I immersed myself in music, particularly playing guitar and keyboard. I also grew very fond of eastern Indian music. I loved the long raags of sitar and tabla (drums). I would go to the public library and sift through the international CDs looking for appealing sounds. The fact that I didn't understand the language being sung was of no consequence. The singers voice simply became another instrument being played. In fact, I began to prefer foreign language song because my brain didn't have to contemplate the words. It allowed me to sink further into the music itself, without being interupted by thought cognition. My love for indian music grew, and I bought a tabla set of my own at an Indian bazaar. My tabla playing was rudimentary, having no lessons, but I was so very fond of my tabla. Sometimes I would just sit and stare at them and enjoy their beauty.

One day, at the age of 22, after spending my youth as a devout atheist, I found myself sitting under a tree in a city park. Peering through the branches and leaves of this tree, while taking in the bits of sky blue, I suddenly came to understand that there was more to my composition than mere flesh and blood. It was as if the idea of God came rushing to me from above and I sat up in stark realization. Thus, my search for God had begun.

I spent then next 10 years dabbling in spiritual studies with a passive demeanor. I found the study of Theosophy to be most intriguing. I was still gripped by the influences of alcohol, sex, and other extreme indulgences. God had become an interest, but not yet a hobby. I spent my twenties working in restaurant kitchens learning how to cook and eventually became a chef. I loved my line of work and it took me to many great places, including the largest metropolitan city in my country.

It was in New York City that I continued my pursuit of food knowledge and cooking technique. Now in my thirties I had begun to leave the dangerous vices of alcohol and tobacco behind me. Along the way I met a devoutly Jewish woman, and we kindled a romantic relationship. Although she was very beautiful, I was mostly drawn to her spirituality... she had introduced me to what is known as Shabbat. As we continued our relationship, I joined her congregation of orthodox Jewish observers. I took on an all kosher diet and began learning about and meditating upon the many names of God in the Jewish Kabbalah faith. After two years of observance, I decided to join the congregation on a pilgrimage Israel to visit and pray at many holy site and at the graves of Jewish sages, and I even took ritual bath at the Mikveh of the holy site of Ari.
Entrance to the Mikveh of Ari

My journey did not end there. I left the congregation in Israel and visited a friend in Kiev, Ukraine. The object was to drive to a graveyard in far western Ukraine to pray at the grave site of the Baal Shem Tov. After spending time in Ukraine, I travelled back to New York. Within a couple months, my relationship with the woman had dwindled, and my connection to the congregation had nearly vanished. I felt that even after all I had done with this group, something was not right. I had felt the surge of Light that comes from Kabbalistic meditation and wanted to chase that feeling. The Jewish community had too many rules and regulations as to how and when to commune with the Divine. I knew something was not right.

I had decided in Israel that I would stop trimming my hair and beard. As I left my old congregation behind, I looked forward to the possibilities of finding the truth. I felt it was so close. As my hair became longer, I decided I needed a special comb. I wasn't sure exactly what kind of comb, but I would know it when I saw it... My relationship with knives had always been a strong one having spent my life as a chef. Little did I know that I was soon to discover a deeper truth about myself, and that my connection to my blades and my comb were the catalysts to open the door to Sikhi.

To be continued...

Friday, September 23, 2016

Khalsa Camp UK 2016...

Khalsa Camp UK 2016 took place from 26th to 31st August in Wales. The camp was attended by over 200 campers with Sangat attending from USA, Canada, Europe, and India. Special guests from abroad that shared their knowledge and inspiration with campers at the camp included Bhai Surjit Singh Ji (India), Bhai Suneet Singh Ji (Toronto), Bhai Harpreet Singh Ji (Toronto), and Bhai Vikram Singh Ji (USA).
The theme of this year's Khalsa Camp UK was 'Gursikhi Jeevan'. The lectures and workshops explored questions of life such as "Who am I?" "Why am I here?" "How can I get through problems and challenges?" and "How can I be happy?".

The first lecture, presented by Bhai Vikram Singh Ji (USA) covered “Why am I here...”, reflecting on the purpose of human life and how we got this amazing opportunity to meet and experience VaheGuru. It set set the tone of why Gursikhi Jeevan is important. The second lecture, by Bibi Mandeep Kaur Ji, was about understanding the obstacles on the path of Gursikhi Jeevan and where to get strength from, with examples from Bhenji's personal experiences, Gurbani and Sikh history. The third lecture, by Bhai Suneet Singh Ji (Toronto), was a reflection on the past and thinking about if we had another shot at life then what would we do differently. The fourth lecture, Bhai Harpreet Singh Ji (Toronto), was about the two most important ceremonies in one’s Gursikhi Jeevan – Amrit Sanskaar and Anand Sanskaar. These two rites of passage are the most intimate ceremonies of one's life which inspires, encourages and supports us in our Gursikhi Jeevan. Finally, the fifth lecture was about the preparation for the final destination – death. Accepting death and merging with Naam are the ultimate aims of Gursikhi Jeevan.

Every day of the camp, the whole camp were given two lines of Gurbani from a Shabad that was collectively sung and repeated throughout the day. The aim was that by lovingly singing, reflecting, and repeating these lines, campers would be able to enshrine these lines of Gurbani in their hearts and give everyone motivation and inspiration for the camp and beyond.

Some photos of the camp:

Group ice-breakers

Introduction talk from Bhai Surjit Singh Ji

Amrit-Vela Diwaan

Morning Simran

Giani Kulwinder Singh Ji (Canada)

 Coastal view from camp site

Lecture Bhai Suneet Singh (Toronto)

Lecture Bibi Mandeep Kaur (Army Chaplain)

I wonder why they are playing thumb-wars?


Bhai Jarnail Singh Ji (Leamington) workshop

Group photo during coastal walk

Sangat enjoying the beach

Bhai Vikram Singh (USA) entertaining the Sangat with some magic

Sangat watching magic-show

 Evening Diwaan

Bhai Harpreet Singh Ji (Toronto) doing Kirtan

Bhenji from Toronto doing Kirtan

Bhai Surjit Singh Ji (India) doing Kirtan

Guru Ji's Seva
Bonfire and Saakhi evening

Camp fire night
 With Bhai Jarnail Singh Ji, Bhai Surjit Singh and Bhaji Jagjit Singh
 Satguru Ji leaving camp site at the end of the camp

Video of Kirtan from Khalsa Camp UK 2016:

Monday, September 19, 2016

Anmol Bachan: Points regarding Keertan and coming to the Gurdwara...

Master Niranjan Singh Ji speaking at Khalsa Camp BC in 2010
Master Niranjan Singh Ji (Gurdaspur) was one of Shaheed Bhai Fauja Singh Ji's favourite Keertanis. Master Ji told us some important points about Keertan and entering Guru Ji's Darbaar at Khalsa Camp BC some year ago:
  1. If Sangat is present, never jump on to a Vaja to do Keertan unless requested as otherwise it can boost one's ego, which brings one down. Keertan done in Ego will not be considered Bhagti nor pleasing to the Guru (or Sangat). Keertan in Ego has no Rass.
  2. If Sangat asks you to do Keertan never decline, otherwise you are making the Sangat ask you again which is like pleading that will boost your ego as well.
  3. Listen to the next Kirtani. Do not get up and leave straight after you have done Kirtan. Appreciate Gurbani and other Gursikhs.
  4. When coming to Guru Ji's Darbaar Ji it was important to dress fit to visit the King of kings. A Gursikh should wear Bana (Khalsa attire) and be presentable. Master Ji mentioned the worrying trend of Amritdharis wearing t-shirts, shorts (pants) and jeans to Gurdwara. Wearing Bana can inspire another member of the Sangat.
  5. A Gursikh should be always tyaar-bar-tyaar (ready to go) to do any seva, and therefore ensure they have had Keshi ishnaan (full bath including hair) if they have been for toilet, and wearing clean clothes.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Nashe - Official music video released...

A new music video has been released today by Sikh Youth UK which addresses the drug problem in Punjab and UK affecting Punjabis. The message of the video is that Sikhi saves lives, and Sikhi is solution to saving our youth from drugs. The song was sung by Nirmal Sidhu, and the lyrics was by Sekhon Jandwala. Hopefully such videos will raise awareness in society.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Eaten Out Vs. Eating Home...

ਬਾਬਾ ਹੋਰੁ ਖਾਣਾ ਖੁਸੀ ਖੁਆਰੁ ॥
ਜਿਤੁ ਖਾਧੈ ਤਨੁ ਪੀੜੀਐ ਮਨ ਮਹਿ ਚਲਹਿ ਵਿਕਾਰ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
“O Baba! The pleasures of other foods are false, by eating which, the body is ruined, and wickedness and corruption enters into the mind. ||1||Pause||”
(Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji - Ang 16)

As Gursikhs how blessed are we that Guru Sahib has blessed us with with dietary code of conduct which helps one to remain spiritually, physically and mentally healthy. I am sure most people would agree that Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji would not eat fries at McDonalds, a vege burger at Burger King, or cheese and tomato pizza at Pizza Hut (or any non-Gurmat based Punjabi equivalent).
ਨਾਨਕ ਜਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਨ ਚੇਤਨੀ ਤਿਨ ਧਿਗੁ ਪੈਨਣੁ ਧਿਗੁ ਖਾਣੁ ॥੧॥
“O Nanak! Those who do not contemplate the Naam, the Name of the Lord – cursed are their clothes, and cursed is their food. ||1||”
(Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji - Ang 646)

The Guru made his Khalsa niaaraa (unique) - their dress, their character, their eating, their speech, and their thinking. Guru Ji elevated the consciousness of the Khalsa above the world, to join Infinity. The photo above just shows you the junk in food from the outside, but what about the people cooking such food if they smoke, take drugs, indulge in Kurehats (prohibitions), and void of Naam Simran?

 ਸੋ ਜਨੁ ਰਲਾਇਆ ਨਾ ਰਲੈ ਜਿਸੁ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਬਿਬੇਕ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ ॥੨॥
"Those humble beings who are filled with 'Bibek-Beechaar' (divine wisdom and contemplation to analyse) - even though they intermingle with others (that are false or unrighteous), they remain distinct and do not conform. ||2||" (Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji - Ang 28)
Some things we can undoubtedly not avoid and have no control over, but I wonder how Guru Ji feels when his son or daughter chooses to eat at a restaurant or takeaway knowing the food is cooked by smokers and kurehiti's? Guru Gobind Singh Ji's own Neelaa horse did not step foot in a field because it had tobacco, but today, forget stepping into the area, we "choose" to eat food where we could easily avoid, in order to please our tongues at the price of turning our back on the Rehat that Gursikhs gave Shaheedi (martyrdom) for but never compromised.
ਜਾਕੀ ਰਹਿਤ ਨ ਜਾਣੀਐ ਗੁਰਮੰਤ੍ਰ ਨਹੀ ਚੀਤ ||
ਉਨਕਾ ਭੋਜਨ ਖਾਇਕੈ ਬਿਸਰਹਿ ਹਰਿ ਸਿਉ ਪ੍ਰੀਤ ||

“One who has no Rehit (discipline) and does not meditate on the Gurmantar (given by the Panj Pyaare when one receives khande-di-pahul); If you eat their food, you will loose the love for God.”
(Rehitnama Bhai Chaupa Singh)
For many years I sadly ate out after taking Amrit (McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, wedding parties... you name it☹). Knowing it is wrong for the Khalsa- the mind justifies "but so and so person eats out and has this..." I will be honest that I found fast food and food from restaurants, takeaways and parties tasty at the time, and sadly addictive. However, since Guru Ji blessed the understanding to eat home, eat spiritual, and eat healthy- I personally found that it helps to make you feel much more stronger in your conviction, more contented, more connected with the Khalsa, and also much more healthier (beats diet plans for slimming etc!).
For those who have ever eaten food prepared and served by Beloved Gursikhs who vibrate Simran, Gurbani and love for the Guru and His given Rehat... that food's enjoyment cannot be matched or beaten.
ਸੰਤਨ ਕਾ ਦਾਨਾ ਰੂਖਾ ਸੋ ਸਰਬ ਨਿਧਾਨ ||
ਗ੍ਰਿਹਿ ਸਾਕਤ ਛਤੀਹ ਪ੍ਰਕਾਰ ਤੇ ਬਿਖੂ ਸਮਾਨ ||੨||

“The dry bread of the Gurmukh-Saints is equal to all treasures. The thirty-six tasty dishes of the faithless cynic are just like poison.”
(Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji - Ang 811)

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Eggless Cake Recipe...

Healthy homemade cakes recipe, which is made without using butter, magerine, ghee or oil. The recipe was provided by Bhenji Surjit Kaur Ji (Leamington).
  • 1 cup milk powder
  • 1cup sugar
  • 2 cups self raising flour
  • 1.5 cup milk

Mix the milk power, sugar and self-raising flour. Then add milk and mix. When pouring the cake mixture into a dish, make sure it is not too deep, as it will struggle to rise. If cooking in Sarbloh thaalee (tray), fill the thaalee till half the height. The cakes should be made in the oven in about 10-15 minutes. For decoration you can use badaam (almonds), raisons, walnuts and or omega seeds.