Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Kee Fateh.
“Prabh Ka Bhana Sat Kar Saho” Accept the will of god as true.
These were the last words I whispered into my mummy's ear before she passed away.
5 months of surgery. Three phases of chemo. Once weighing at 165 pounds, she now weighed a mere 85 pounds.
Throughout the treatment process, her ability to do Nitnem continually declined, so every day for eight months, I used my transliterated Gutka to sit by her side in the hospital and do the Nitnem I saw her do everyday of my childhood.
I know that there’s some kind of magic in Kirtan--my mother knew of that magic--that just can’t be described by the mere words I type. I recited Kirtan and Nitnem like a ritual- desperately trying to understand what I was reciting; but the truth was that I had no understanding and therefore no connection with Gurbaani.
The summer after my first year at UCLA, I found out about a program called Sidak: a two week Sikhi camp held in Texas that tried to incorporate bānī (scripture), tvārīkh (history), and rahit (discipline) into its sessions.
I chose to take Sikhi 101, the series of classes that focused on the Guru Khalsa Panth, Siri Guru Granth Saahib Ji, Bhai Gurdaas, Bhai Nand Laal Ji, Asa Kee Vaar, and Contemporary History.
To learn about the extent of Bhai Gurdaas’ love, or to see the word “Naad” comes before “Vedh” throughout Gurbaani ( eg: Vismaad Naad, Vismaad Vedh; Gurmukh Naadang, Gurmukh Vedhang, etc), pointing out that the first step is love and connection with, for a lack of better words, music, and knowledge is secondary, was simply transcendent.
As Sidak progressed, I began to realize a change in my understanding of Gurbaani. Something that was once so obscure no longer seemed so daunting. All of the little steps taught at Sidak added up. From learning daily Gurbani vocabulary words, to discussing Kirtan and Rehraas Saahib after each Diwan, to learning about the first Nanak’s Asa Kee Vaar, I started to slowly become closer to Gurbaani.
Reading, learning and discussing our Guru Saahibs at Sidak made me realize it takes architects, engineers, and leaders to build cities like Kartarpur. I’d heard about Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s Udaasi, but it wasn’t until discussing Asa Kee Vaar in our Sikhi 101 class that I visualized Guru Ji's views on our janams. Asa Kee Vaar was just a glimpse of what Gurbaani has to say, but it was a smack in the face about how I was going about things in life. It was the day we learned that the Siri Guru Granth Saahib Ji was strategically organized that I realized, “Wow, our Guru Ji’s were geniuses.”
The classes weren’t like camps where I usually found the teacher is talking on the side and most of the kids either not paying attention or falling asleep. At Sidak, students had to come to class prepared, ready to discuss the assigned material. This mandatory preparation was helpful because it gave us the background information necessary to understand the subject at hand. Everybody started on the same level instead of some trying to catch up to others who had previous knowledge coming into the program.Reference:: Sikh Philosophy Network http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/showthread.php?t=24708
My favorite part of Sidak were the Diwans. Everyone, regardless of whether they had ever done Kirtan or not, was to learn one Shabad during their personal development time and share it at Diwan; and by sharing, I don’t mean just sharing the shabad by singing and playing it on the harmonium, but actually discussing the baani and having a dialogue with the sangat.
For the first time, I looked at one of my favorite Shabads and reflected about what the words meant --what was the Guru’s message to me? These introductory addresses became a dialogue with the Sangat and Kirtania. At times, this Vichaar of Guru Saahib’s Word delved deep into emotions and brought tears to not only my eyes, but in the eyes of the people listening to these words.
After doing Rehraas Saahib, Kirtan, and the first Six Pauris of Anand Saahib at evening Diwans each day, we took a Pauri from Rehraas Saahib and as a Sangat, discussed its meanings.Reference:: Sikh Philosophy Network http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/showthread.php?t=24708
Sidak was the first time I took Hukam and wasn’t afraid of messing up. It was a learning experience. No one was going to ridicule me if I made a mistake. After every Hukam, we tried to decipher what Maharaj Ji was telling us.
In addition to learning about Baani and discipline, I learned how to make some great Deg. A rotating group of three-four students were taught how to prepare Deg at Amrit Vela before Maharaj Ji’s Parkash, and were responsible for making Deg ourselves for the evening Diwan. These students were also responsible for knowing how to follow proper Sikh Rehit Maryada (protocol) when distributing parshaad.
At the end of the two weeks, each student was to present a speech on any subject of their choice related to Sikhi- everything from the evolution of the style of Dastaars to topics like Khalsa Boli. There were thought provoking speeches on human rights issues, health in the Sikh community, Kirtan in Raag, the importance of Sangat and even a disorganized impromptu speech on mithai. (One guesses as to which was mine).
Sidak was not a camp, rather a leadership development program that inspired me to take what I learn, apply it to myself, and then share it. Filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard once said, “It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.”
To have spent two weeks completely devoted to Sikhi and nothing else was bliss. What I found especially helpful about this program was that due to its intensive nature, I managed to gain a lot of knowledge, (or rather- how little I knew and how much more I had to learn) in a short period of time that would have probably taken me all my college years to gather because of daily time constraints. Furthermore, not only did it present me with so much information, it was also an awakening experience. I think it’s because of what I learned that summer that I care so much about being dedicated and having courage to step up to the plate and being a leader in serving my sikh community.
When I got back from Sidak, I used what I learned in San Antonio and applied it to not only my academic studies, but UCLA’s Sikh Student Association as well. We recently held a student initiated Diwan night where all the Sikh Students of California came together and worked as a Sangat to take on the responsibilities of Diwan (preparing langar, to doing Simran, Kirtan, Rehraas Saahib, Anand Saahib, Ardaas, taking Hukam, and preparing Deg) themselves.
Sidak was an experience unlike any other. Not only did I learn about the ten Nanaks, Siri Guru Granth Saahib Ji, the Khalsa Panth, about Bhai Gurdaas and Bhai Nand Lal, about Punjab post-partition, about Asa Kee Var (vaiyakya and santhiya), but I also picked up values and ideals about living a life filled with contentment all centering around Sikhi.
Now, when I do Rehraas Saahib alone, I remember the things shared at those Diwans and feel so much closer to my Guruji because I understand the Baani in front of me. I am not as erudite in Sikhi gian as some of the members in my Sangat, but going to Sidak has inspired my inquisitive mind to continue learning. I once had this modern framework of thinking that ‘Waheguru” is somewhere in the sky, but Kudrat is right here, RIGHT NOW.
Discussing, reading and learning more and more about Sikhi gives me an unexplainable high. Experiencing Gurbaani gives me a new prospective each day. It makes me think, it makes me act, and it makes me love. I am so grateful to Waheguru Ji for having access to a wonderful program like Sidak which has helped me immensely in becoming a better person. The knowledge I have gained through exposure to such valuable information has blossomed my relationship with Sikhi and Akal Purakh.
I’m still learning, I’m still inquiring, and I’m still discovering more and more things each day but I've found that
hir ky nwm kI vifAweI ]
har kae naam kee vaddiaaee ||
Such is the glorious greatness of the Name of the Lord.
kImiq khxu n jweI ]1] rhwau ]
keemath kehan n jaaee ||1|| rehaao ||
Its value cannot be described. ||1||Pause||
With His Kirpa, I've discovered that love and joy my mother had when she did Nitnem or listened to Kirtan. It no longer remains a mystery to me. And for that-- I am forever thankful.
Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Kee Fateh.