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The Guru Granth Sahib that graces my nuclear family is one that my ancestors preserved and passed forward. My grandfather brought his family’s Guru Sahib from India and gave it to my father when he settled in the United States. Although we weren’t able to delegate a separate room for Guru Sahib in our two-bedroom condominium we respectfully housed it in my bedroom closet. The act of prakash would transform my room into my family’s collective sanctuary. A sense of tranquility emanated from the room amidst the majestic palki hanging over and brightly colored and sparkling rumaals decorating Guru Sahib. Sukhasan and ardas concluded Guru Sahib’s public presence, and my room converted back into its former setting with stacks of video games, books, and art supplies sprawled over my bed and shelves.

I may get slammed for admitting the above as some would say that the Guru Granth Sahib is to always be in the setting of an open throne and presence of the sangat and certainly not tucked away in a bedroom closet. Perhaps this is true. When I read about folks like Pritam Singh who build second homes for the sole purpose of meditation and prayer, my description of our keeping of Guru Sahib appears terrible. I guess I can limit the amount of negative mail I receive by adding that the next home we lived in included a private room for Guru Sahib with a large custom designed colored-glass window with Waheguru in Punjabi etched into a portion of it.

Or maybe I can’t prevent your negative feelings from rushing in. And I’m okay with that. Why?

In each of the aforementioned instances the Guru Granth Sahib is a physical presence of one’s personal sanctuary and a source of guidance for her current life and eventual connection with Waheguru. In each setting it is read with purpose and held with reverence. More importantly, the ideas and content within the spoken word of the Gurus infiltrate our conversations and daily activities. The spirit moves within a Gurmukh no matter what setting he is in, be it at work, the gurudwara, a restaurant, or a concert. Waheguru surrounds every living being in all moments, thoughts, and locales, and to be able to remember and translate his message into practice is what makes us truly blessed.

Do you keep a personal gutka? A Guru Granth Sahib? In a closet? A separate room? In your heart? Please share your thoughts.

I was this close (yes, this close) to tearing the media (the Times in particular) apart to shreds. I nearly got sucked into the drumbeat of outright war. CBS, however, prevented the escalation (and my own public embarrassment from future regret) from coming to light with the documentary “In God’s Name” premiering tonight at 9 PM EST.

The Jathedar of the Akal Takht, the Sikhs’ highest authority, is one of twelve spiritual leaders interviewed. Personal moments of prayer and family are included in promotional photographs as seen below:

jathedar1.jpg

The directors describe him as “speaking out strongly for women’s equality in the Sikh faith.”

jathedarfamily1.jpg

So let me get this straight: a major media outlet interviewed, photographed, promoted, and reflected positively on Sikhi and its leaders. Yes, the photos above are placed at the end of the slideshow on the site and perhaps some of the other spiritual leaders will get more air time, but unlike other news that is supposedly fit to print, CBS acknowledged Sikhism as one of the world’s major religions. Although we may be a young faith, they recognize that more folks practice Sikhi than Judaism.

Someone deserves a high-five. Thank you for helping to initiate a temporary halt to my media bashing.

Addendum: As per sikhswim, I should be thanking United Sikhs. Take a look at the promo here.

Bowne Street in Queens, New York makes my inner spirit smile. Three places of worship lie within feet of each other: a gurudwara at one corner, a Buddhist temple directly across the street, and a Hindu temple next door. The sights, smells, and sounds that erupt on that corner during weekends or on holy days lure people of all faiths together. I love seeing the distinct but common beliefs of bald men wrapped in red robes swirl together with long bearded men wielding kirpans.

The sweet nectar of community and remembrance of God that attracts the hungered soul was described in a recent article in the travel section of The New York Times. Why, there’s more to the holiday season than just the birth of Christ. We musn’t forget the devotees of other faiths: Hindus, Jews, and Muslims.

Oh, but wait. Let us opt to not mention the Sikhs. Even better, let us describe the Hindu temple on Bowne Street in painful detail but not reflect on the gurudwara that neighbors it.

This article is screaming letter to the editor. Okay, maybe not screaming. Perhaps just a gentle nudge that Sikhs make up a large proportion of the multifaith milieu as well.

Many like to joke that mini-Punjabs exist in some Canadian cities. It’s understandable when you review the stats: of the roughly 64,000 South Asians in Brampton, Ontario, 34,000 speak Punjabi. According to census data, 135,000 Sikhs reside in Vancouver alone. Sikhism also constitutes the largest religion in Surrey, Vancouver, making up 16.3 percent of the population. Numbers alone, however, aren’t enough to attract influence. The growing Canadian Sikh community garners significant political support because it is able to organize effectively, raise substantial funds, and contribute to its local and national economy.

In 2005, it was announced that a new hospital, the William Osler Health Center, would be built for the Brampton community. Under the public private partnership (P3) funding formula used to build the new hospital, Bramptonites were required to raise 30% of the building’s total cost of $536 million. Canadian Sikhs, along with local Hindu and Muslim communities, eagerly came together to show their commitment to the future of local health care. Canadian Sikhs generously pledged $10 million for the hospital. A “Better Health Radiothon” broadcast on Punjabi radio stations raised more than $3 million (nearly $1 million in the first 90 minutes!). The Sikh community in particular was recognized when officials announced the name of the Emergency Department as Guru Nanak Emergency Services Department. The Guru Nanak Emergency Services Department greeted its first patient in July 2007.

It appears that Guru Nanak Dev Ji is causing a stir not only in Brampton but in hospitals across the land of the maple leaf. The Guru Nanak Healing Garden, at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton, occupies the fourth floor of the Alberta Heart Center.* Two weeks ago, Surrey Memorial Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia announced that Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s name “will adorn the main entrance of the new emergency centre in recognition of the importance of Surrey’s South Asian community and its support of hospital fundraising efforts.” “By naming the entrance of this Surrey Memorial Hospital centre after Guru Nanak Dev Ji, we are saying this is a place for everyone,” said Premier Gordon Campbell after making the announcement.

Which hospital in the United States will be the first to jump onto the movement? A better question may be which proactive American Sikh community can foster enough support on the outside and camaraderie from within to move forward with such a proposal.

*Note comments below.

Working in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) absorbs me both mind and soul. The ICU is not only a sanctuary for those who are critically ill; it is my tent within the camp of caring for others. It has propagated my desire to capture the spirit of Khalsa: to be selfless, noble, and brave while in constant meditation of Waheguru. I am a strong, spirited and optimistic soldier protecting the sick. My ego, however, is tamed as I see Waheguru’s expression in every thought, decision, and action that is made by both myself and others. Although my attending may believe otherwise, I kindly obey the orders of my guru to assist in both the processes of restoration and death.

The ICU can be terrifying and stressful to both young doctors and patients alike, yet it is a place where miracles often happen and it always manages to tug at my Sikhi strings without fail. I feel the rhythm of Khalsa enrapture my senses when I enter the unit. I hear it bounding against me as I make my rounds through each patient’s room. I hear it in the beeps of the telemetry monitors and ventilators. I hear it permeate through the chaotic motions of a resuscitation. I hear it softly emerge behind conversations of end-of-life care. I hear it shout gloriously when a person leaves the ICU alive and well.

“When the Khalsa runs, he is in trance. On the bed of thorns, he lies on roses. Outside is immaterial; it is the aim of life that matters. The Khalsa is he who has found the centre of life and has enshrined God in the temple of his heart. The Khalsa looks at the world from a supreme height, blessing all, helping all, loving all, with his beautiful looks from the inner self of all life.”1

I often yearn to leave my Sahajdhari status and live as a Khalsa, and it usually reaches its zenith when I’m in the ICU. Recently, however, I have noticed the rhythm of Khalsa pulsating within my consciousness even when I’m outside of the ICU. I remember singing “we are the Khalsa, mighty mighty Khalsa” when I was a child and wondering whether a modern Sikh could truly invoke Khalsa and live in a similar fashion. Funny how opinions change over time. Perhaps feeling the rhythm inside oneself is the first step to realization of its possibility.

1 Creation and the Purpose of Khalsa, Puran Singh