Tuesday, July 26, 2011

sneak peak into a blog interview

I was recently contacted by a blog editor, who interviews people to know more about their faith and spiritual practice. I agreed on doing this interview and I soon realized that reflecting on my practice and articulating it, in itself is quite an experience. It's almost like meditating upon the ideals you strive to live by, without thinking/ worrying about how far you are in that journey. It is interesting also because, it gives you the chance to see "what you are be-ing" vs. "who you want to become" or "who you really are at this point- where do you wanna land up with this" ....

I'll let you know when the interview is published (apparently it'll be in March 2012) but for now, I can share little bits and pieces of it, just for you all to read and evaluate/comment on what you think about my perspective of Sikhi and about my personal practice/ goals in terms of spirituality.
Here's some bits and pieces of the interview (This is not the complete interview, but just the Q/A's I think which attempt to define my practice):

Thank you all, for stumbling upon this page, I hope you'll enjoy reading it. I want to let you all know that I am toddling on my path towards God and that I am by no means a perfect portrayal of a Sikh girl. I am trying, struggling, hoping and gradually evolving in this path; I therefore wanna apologize for any mistakes that I might have made in showing a clear picture of the Sikh way of life. I feel that the essence of spirituality and faith cannot be put into words and there is not enough power in my words to measure or explain spiritual bliss. This questionnaire is based on my path, how I perceive Sikhism from my lens. It might not be universal, but it is my humble attempt at reflecting on my practice and expressing it for the readers of YMR. While answering these questions, I felt the blessing of clarity and knowing myself better- to me, it was a meditative exercise, to see if I can justify for myself, what I try to live by.

What religion do you practice? 
I practice the Sikh way of life. I don’t claim to be perfect in my practice, but I try and seek to become better every day of my life =).
The Sikh faith is a way of life, not a religion per say, because in many ways Sikhism (Sikhi) does not entail any rules and regulations, it has to do more with the willingness to learn and grow and to seek truth, rather than praying or believing in a certain specific kind of God. Sikhs believe in one God, who can be addressed by different people with different names, and who is the creator of all and is omnipresent and omnipotent. Sikhs do not believe that they are better than anyone else nor do they think that people of other faiths are lost.

Are you a convert/revert or were you raised within this religion? If you converted, what did you need to do to convert? And what did you practice prior to converting? 
I have always been (from as far in my childhood as I can remember) interested in theology, religion and the idea of a supreme being such as God, directing the world that He/She/It has created.
However, I haven’t been practicing any religion in particular, for most of my life. It would be okay to say that I have been raised within Sikhi. However, I have been raised in a family that practices Sikhi to a very casual moderate level. As children, my siblings and I went to a Catholic school in India from where I picked up a lot of my core values and beliefs. We grew up where most people around were practicing Hindus, we also spoke in Hindi (instead of Punjabi- the language that Sikhs usually speak) and watched TV shows based on stories of Hindu Gods and about Hindu mythology. Our granny used to tell us stories about Hindu gods and goddesses as well as about the Sikh Gurus. There wasn’t a lot of influence of Sikh lifestyle on us; I guess we thought people only practice religion when they are old, because my granny used to pray, from what I remember. It was quite the Indian culture (India is a Hindu majority nation with a lot of cultural practices based on the Hindu faith) that we were living in; in fact I believe that we were distinctly withdrawn from Sikh practices or lifestyle.
I therefore have core beliefs that are very spiritual yet not religion specific. Sikh ideology has helped me condition those beliefs and grow deeper and more integrated with my core values of humanity, equality, loving all, earning an honest living and giving back to the community, which overlap with Sikh beliefs. I therefore already even when I didn’t know much about Sikhi, held some values and beliefs of the Sikh lifestyle. About 2 years ago I started attending the Gurdwara (Sikh Temple) and soon was initiated into the Sikh faith.
Initiation (/baptism) in Sikhism is a ceremony where one makes the commitment to live the Sikh way of life, and wears 5 articles of faith (Kakkars), which all are physical reminders of their practice: staying intact in the Creators form (Kesh- uncut hair), remaining organized and clean (Kanga- a wooden comb), maintaining absolute surrender to Gods will/ having faith- making an unbreakable bond with the God and Guru (Kara- an unbreakable steel bracelet), maintaining continence and a high moral character (Kacchera- a white slightly longer cotton underwear) and courage & power to stand for the rights of the weak and the oppressed impartially (Kirpan- a small blade dagger).

Within your religion are there degrees of observance (ie. Orthodox, conservative, moderate, liberal)?  What are the defining differences between the degrees of observance?
Sikh, literally is the Gurmukhi (the language of the Sikh Scriptures- a kind of old Punjabi) word for ‘student’. Therefore, from that perspective, anyone who seeks to learn could be called a Sikh. However, from the religious perspective, one could be an orthodox, conservative, moderate or liberal Sikh; but we as human beings do not have the faculties to judge another persons’ Sikhi status (or for that matter: superiority based on caste, creed color, religious affiliations, gender, sexuality, or other ideas that separate us as humans), only God (creator) can decide who is better or worse.
A usual distinction that can be seen among Sikhs is based on whether or not they keep their hair and whether or not they have been initiated and whether or not one eats meat (most Sikhs are vegetarians); which, like I said before cannot be clearly established as better or worse by any of us. The tenth Sikh Guru (prophet) - Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaaj established the idea of initiation (baptism) which is a ceremony where one makes the commitment to formally live the Sikh way of life which requires disciplining ones life to specific kind of observance of the Sikh lifestyle, which was and still is purely a choice that one might make- an initiated Sikh does not necessarily live the lifestyle in a better or more effective way than an uninitiated Sikh. Initiation was presented by Guru Gobind Singh Ji, purely as a choice one could make if one wished to, it can be looked at as a leap of faith, a commitment, but not as a recommended lifestyle. Therefore, this might just be a physical distinction (because of the observance of 5 articles of faith stated earlier and daily discipline) for some people, but does not draw a line between levels or degrees of practice.
Therefore, Sikhism is all about making choices which help one walk on ones path of life. Everyone has their own path- some people would rather be baptised and committed, some people will choose to eat meat or cut their hair- hence, my point that Sikhi is not a set of rules and regulations (or religion per say) but a kind of lifestyle based on faith in one supreme creator God. The command (order/ hukam) that all Sikhs have been given is to accept the Sikh scripture- Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji as ones Guru (commander/ leader/ prophet), ones ultimate source of inspiration, knowledge and guidance- that is the one thing that defines a Sikh. Most of us strive to make a personal connection- a relationship with our Guru and give the scriptures utmost respect.

What is the Afterlife within your religion?  For example:  what happens when a person dies?  Are there places for reward/punishment? (such as a Heaven/Hell concept) 
Sikhs believe that there are 8.4 million living species, and each living organism has a soul, which has the light of God within it (that is why Sikh lifestyle is so much about equality and humility). Soul is the living part; the bodies are just material elements. We therefore believe on a Karma based theory- wherein all our souls travel from one life to another completing a cycle of 8.4 million lifetimes, before being blessed with human life. Human life, by no means is superior than the life of any other living being (which is why most Sikhs are vegetarians and eat only the bye-products of plant sources, which usually fall off after a certain point of ripening- fruits and vegetables), but when ones soul is given a human life, it is blessed with a chance and the choice to do good deeds (Karma) and merge back into the One Ultimate God (which can be thought of as Light). The idea is that the tiny light of God in our souls can be made better and purer by good deeds (Karma) and has the potential to ultimately merge with the ultimate Light of God. So we all just need to love each other and do good to be free from the cycle of births and deaths – the 8.4 million lifetimes over and over again. 

What makes your religion a good fit for you?  
I am a free-bird, slightly non-conformist i.e. I do not go with the flow, I live what I believe in, regardless of what others feel about me. I personally believe that we as humans are a manifestation of love; we are all born out of love and we live, seeking love, all through our lives. To me, my practice is all about love, the love for God and for other humans (the bearers of the light of god). At the same time, I have the concept of holding space if I don’t agree with what others are doing, but I can still love them – the idea of “Live and let live”. I also believe in always remaining calm and peaceful, regardless of the circumstances- looking at pain and pleasure alike (I’m an optimist). Therefore, in all these practical ways, Sikhi is the perfect fit for me. One of the greatest things that I particularly adore about the Sikh way of life is the humility aspect, wherein we respect all other beings and faith or ideologies, and we are free to (in fact advised to) read any other faiths scriptures (which as a keen theologist, from my childhood years, I really enjoy). Having faith in one God has a very grounding effect on me, it is almost as if I just love God and my soul wants to merge into him, therefore I try to maintain the specific discipline and practice of a baptised Sikh- and try to love all and see God’s light in all. I love this Love relationship with the God and the Guru; I feel that for me, there is freedom in surrender and bliss in meditating onto the feet of the Guru (The Sikh Scripture- Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji). Hence, It works very well for me to live the Sikh lifestyle.

Does your religion give you peace of mind?  
Yes, when I read the scriptures and prayers- I feel that all my problems have faded away in the background and I suddenly have the strength to accept them and deal with them. Meditation has its own blissful feeling. I also think that practicing Sikhism has made me a whole lot calmer and peaceful person, perhaps even more humane and loving. =)

Alrightie, so that's it for tonight =)

Wahgeuru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh =)
Have a good night

PS.  Just a thought I'm sharing and reflecting on for myself, today:
Stop swallowing your words. Don't worry about what others think- Do what you wanna do. Go for a midnight drive, forget that you have work next morning, Live today, this very moment

Love and Light <3 Hugs and prayers 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Miracle~ GurParsaad

I am struggling,
struggling courageously ~
There is pain, despair, anguish,
But then there is this constant backing,
For I know that He is there for me.

I am struggling,
but you know, I love being happy, regardless
Sometimes, I get frustrated at people
But I love them, regardless- 
I reflect back and figure a few reasons why they should be frustrated on me instead =P
I made a mistake, and someone had to wait for me, I was stupid....
and they were nice to me regardless, It touched my heart...
I think I'm starting to fall in love with this life, this struggle and this happiness, that prevails regardless! 
I'm probably taking it easier and lighter than before~ but I see great value in this brighter part of the struggle.

I wanna struggle- but genuinely- so I find myself 
I am waiting for a miracle, 
A GurKirpa/ GurParsaad moment, 
But then I realize that such moments happen to me in every breath that I take!
Oh boy! Life is all miracles dude!

There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.    – Carl Jung  

 Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh
Dear Blogger family! 
Firstly, I wanted to congratulate one of my blogger friends & super inspiring soul sister, Sirgun Kaur for her wedding. I'm very happy for you and I am so inspired by your commitment   to the Jap Ji and how it has brought everything together for you. Its truly a story I couldn't help but share with my Kaurs mentorship group as well (I'm so inspired by you!) =P. And Congratulations also, for the release of your new album! I got a chance to listen to your awesome music- I love it =)Now the second thing I wanna share with you today is this little something I found very interesting :Symptoms of inner peace:
  • A tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than on fears based on past experiences.
  • An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment.

  • A loss of interest in judging other people.

  • A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of other.

  • A loss of interest in conflict.

  • A loss of the ability to worry.

  • Frequent, overwhelming episodes of appreciation.

  • Contented feelings of connectedness with others and nature.

  • An increasing tendency to let things happen rather than make them happen.
  • -http://nirvikalpa.tumblr.com/post/7506211541/symptoms-of-inner-peace
Okay, so today, I am turning 22, and I wanna declare that:
  1. I love Guru Ji, regardless of the struggle in spirituality that I experience, if ever =) I shall love myself, The God and The Guru and invest a lot of time in these fundamental relationships that fuel  my soul =)
  2. I shall enjoy every bit of life and try not to burn myself with overwork =P (This one is so hard LOL) 
  3. I am a tourist in my own town, I love touring on foot,  exploring new places, neighborhoods, and people & I'll do more of just that~ I shall never give up on Public transit, as it is the best place to spread your love to people you would never get to know otherwise ;) [I should get my driving licence though =P, just for emergencies and stuff]
  4. I am going to stay tuned into love of nature and people and I strive to be always positive, happy and as loving as I can =)
  5. I shall spend more time with people I love and strive to maintain zero-criticism (honesty in what I feel, making interactions feelings oriented, instead of criticism and blame) relationships with all people- and make lasting friendships and have fun in every moment =)
"When you look upon another human being and feel great love toward them, or when you contemplate beauty in nature and something within you responds deeply to it, close your
 eyes for a moment and feel the essence of that love or that beauty within you, inseparable
 from who you are, your true nature. The outer form is a temporary reflection of what you
 are within, in your essence. That is why love and beauty can never leave you, although all
 outer forms will." — Eckhart Tolle

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Wahgeuru Ji Ki Fateh =) Love and light <3 Hugs and prayers