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India Missing Sprituallity, Mental & Chardhi Kala

Chaan Pardesi

Oct 4, 2008
London & Kuala Lumpur
Missing Sprituallity

'I believe there is a spirituality in every body', says a Granthi from
the stage of Gurduara Sahib Seven Kings, London.But the mental health
services of most western nations do not agree.The spiritual needs of
people experiencing mental health problems can often be overlooked or
even pathologised.

So where does that leave those for whom religion is a way of life,
asked a Sikh patient once, who I met while conducting a forensic
assessment of crime and health for his possible discharge and on going
care.This made me think, any one of us attempting to find some meaning
behind a traumatic life experiences would be asking and feeling.It made wonder for a long time; and
thereafter any time, I came across a Sikh [for that matter a muslim, hindu or of
any religious persuasion] clientale in my professional capacity, I always
beared that in mind; However, quite concerned that they were stuck
into a system like that seen in the film , "ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S
NEST"; I always offered that extension of spirituality choice, when I
come into contact during such assessments.
In the Oxford English dictionaries Spirituality is defined as

1] relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to
material or physical things: I’m responsible for his spiritual welfare
having a relationship based on a profound level of mental or emotional
communion: he never forgot his spiritual father
(of a person) not concerned with material values or pursuits.

2]relating to religion or religious belief: the country’s spiritual

Other defintions from other dictionaries say the same more or
less.Spirituality is important for most, and many of us, when
experiencing distress.It can provide a sense of belonging and hope, as
well as enhancing coping strategies and a sense of control.For a
Sikh,the path of Sikhism is 'a way of life'as it encompasses an whole
holistic life journey,actions and experiences; so it is not hard to
imagine the typically "western approach falls short for many
religiously orientated people.

"It's what motivates them to help themselves", I told a meeting of
senior managers, during a National conference in Brighton ;because my
experience tells me that if we explain for
example what the Gurbani says in terms of depression then it reasonates
so much more, for example for a Sikh.

I believe Sikh communities in the western countries need an intergrated
approach to mental health care.Currently, there is no such Sikh service
that can try and combine both western interventions and specialist Sikh
counselling.Typically the Sikh side of treatment could involve
references to the Shabad Guru, Guru Granth Sahib; to take comfort or
guidance from, and /or offering of specific prayers[patth]like
SUKHMANI Sahib,that can , through the practice of recitation, give the
person a feeling of solace and peace.

In Sukhmani, 'Prabh Ki Simeran Pooran Ki Asa, Prabh Ke Simeran Man Ki
Mal Jaye' offers that by remembering the Lord, the desire is
fulfilled,the mind's filth is removed, and the ambroisal Name is
absorbed in the heart- goes a long way in strengthening the mental faculities
of any person with spiritual leaning.

From my experience and statistics shows people recover much quicker as
they use a combination of medication, cognitive behavioural therapy
aand counselling based upon Sikh Values; as this move recognises and
actively encourages the SPIRITUAL that is so integral and central to
the daily Sikh life.

The question, can a spiritual aspect to treatment really be of benefit
then?A Muslim patient, Zainab, a rethink mental illness supporter and
practising Muslim says that prayer allows her to "clear ,her.mind
".When she experienced depression a few years ago, it was CBT aand
talking to her Imam that helped her .She points out the similarities
between mindfulness and prayer; just another patient, Tarmninderjeet
Virk, a Sikh also found the similarities in the prayer and
mindfulness.Mindfulness is often recommeded for mental health
problems.Tarminderjeet says "They are very similar, and when I realised
I already had this "tool" [prayer] available to me as part of my

Accepting the lesson

But for some Sikh/Muslim Communities it is not just about tailored
treatment, it goes deeper then that.In the Koran it states that 'no
calamity befalls but with the leave of Allah[Surah at-taghabun 64;11,
the Koran]

In Guru Granth sahib,the prayers of Jap Ji Sahib;Rehraas sahib;Kirtan
Sohila,Sukhmani Sahib are all pillars of strength and faith for the
Sikhs.Jap Ji sahib is a sacred bani from Five that Amritdhari Sikhs
should recite every day.The banis are Word of God-deseminated by Guru
Nanak - and his ten Forms of Enlightenment to humanity.Most Sikhs, if
they cannot recite the Gurbani themselves,would be content to listen it
being recited by someone who knows and join in the Ardas jointly.Ardas
is a suplicatory prayer, conducted at the end of any prayer at any time
of the day.

In Nanak's Jap Ji Sahib, one recites 'Mannai tarai Gursikh'- for having
firm faith, belief and devotion, the Guru himself has achived salvation
and will make his Gursikhs [followers] the same,injects a strong bond
of faith in the bani.

So unlike the western point of view that looks to genetics, biology and
medication to understand and treat mental illness, for many Sikhs[and
other followers of eastern religions] the reason is simple, it is the
Will of Waheguru[God Almighty].

'Life is a test'explains another Sikh Ajay Ganda, who runs a small
mental health recovery project for Sikhs in Kent; and it's about "how
we deal with hardship aand how we learn to move forward".from the Sikh
perspective , it is less about trying to "fix" the problem and more
about the acceptance or endurance of a " lesson"-Guru Da Bhana- the
will of Guru; agya Bhai akal ki-order of the God Almighty.
For Sikhs patience means to keep close to Guru-Guru Angh sangh sahaii
hove- and to accept calmly the trials He sends , without complaining or
feeling sad-Tera bhana mitha lage!

However,on the other side of the coin, after having worked with Sikh
and other minority groups, I feel this attitude can sometimes prevent
people from seeking help.In many cases the family as a whole sees the
mental illness as a burden, given to them by the Karta Purakh [the all
prevailing Mighty, or Allah for Muslims].

This can of course have devastating effects, and it is why, my
experience says we need a all inclusive holistic approach and treatment
that takes into account the role of God ion a person's understanding
of the world.In my presentation most of the senior managers present at a
national conferance agree.It is a case where people need to address
"what does God say about this experience I am having"

Missing the spiritual

An in depth report by the Mental Health Foundation, called Keeping the
Faith, concluded that spirituality represents" an expression of an
individuals's sense of humanity providing meaning and direction " and
that spiritual activities , as part of an integrative approach can
support the mental health and "healing of individuals".
Crucially they found that it applied equally to those who were
connected to an established religious faith, but also those that
weren't.The report blamed the lack of spirituality in Mental health
services on a " traditional science discipline "where religion and
spirituality are seen as something "undefined and indefinable, that is
outside of the professional's sphere of influence and interest.So
where does that leave the western mental health services ?
It is no wonder , the current set up of services fails often to address
the needs of the Sikhm Muslim or Hindu or any person with a religion.It
is just not about the Muslim or Sikh or Hindu communities,perhaps it is
also about the whole communities that do believe in spirituality of
some sorts.What if the mental health services were not only geared to
encompass a persons faith, but actively sought out the meaning behind
symptons and then asked what can this teach us?After all, if we
position spirituality as whatever gives an individual's life meaning,
purpose and fulfilment, then surely SPIRITUALITY is need by all ,
irrespective of any religious back ground or atheists, included,in fact
is it not fundamental?

Sikh communities need greater awareness about mental health and the
connection with spirituality and seek their rights to spirituality.t is
important that we stay in Chardhi Kala- healthy mental state and share
the daswand-one tenth of sewa with the world.
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