Thursday, February 23, 2006

my story...how my journey towards sikhi started

So there....after about five months of getting myself a blogger account and thinking of words and ways to start it with, I have to begin with the same two words with which i had started my diary, a long time ago, when an urge had arisen within to write about thoughts, feeling and stuff my universe consisted of......so there.....not very creative i know, but then....

what is this blog going to be all about?? i honestly don't know, but at the moment, it is a platform, a place from where i want to tell my story, about my experiences with sikhi, with sukhmani sahib.......my story which started with my first visit to Hazur Sahib. why do i want to tell my story? i don't know how best to answer this one, but apart from the reason that i want to tell it, i feel it is worth telling. will it be worth reading? i don't know, but i hope so.

and now that the "what" and "why" are out of the way, i'll get on with it. before i actually begin, i will just give a very brief background about myself. i was born in bombay (now called mumbai, i prefer bombay) in a middle class sikh family, my mom was a school teacher and my father was employed with a private limited company (both are now retired). i have lived all my life in a place called powai, and for this i consider myself fortunate, for our home is right opposite the i.i.t campus, which is one of the very few of the fast diminishing green zones of the city. yes, i consider myself very fortunate, its bliss having a forest, hills and two large lakes within walking distance of your home, where you can be alone. although i was born into a sikh family i never identified with myself as a sikh or with sikhi in any way. one reason might be that my parents were both working fulltime and though they were regular with their 'paath' and visits to the local gurdwara, they never really forced me or my two elder sisters to do the same. so there was never really any connection with sikhi, and by the time i entered college i wanted to get rid of my hair and i did, after two years of trying to obtain permission from my mom for it. i have used the word trying because i never really succeeded and my mom though she gave in to my demands was never really happy about it and i in my teenage brashness could just not understand why there was such a big fuss over such a small thing. anyway, i was happy. right from the first year of my college i almost everyday used to go to the i.i.t library, which is huge and very well stocked with thousands and thousands of books, mostly technical and engineering ones but it also had a well stocked section on philosophy....and it was there that my 'i don't know what to call it' began....the first book i had chanced upon was called 'the first and the last freedom' by j.krishnamurty, it took me ages to finish it but almost instantly it opened up a dimension i was completley unaware of. the second book i read was a small one but i still cherish it, 'the prophet' by kahlil gibran and i was like mad with joy after reading that......and then followed so many, western philosophers like descartes, jung, freud, so many books on zen....i was a voracious reader. and i prided myself that at an age when boys were busy chasing girls and stuff, i was into something so much higher and loftier, i don't know how much knowledge i gained but ego definitely got bloated. sikhi i started studying only after my visit to hazur sahib in 2001 and now i will get on with it, my story i mean.

it was november 2001, and my life was plain miserable, though there was no reason on the surface for it. i was working as assistant to one of india's leading photographer, i was acquiring all the skillsets to make it in the higher echelons of the advertising and fashion industry, i was also working on a documentary film as assistant writer and director......in short future looked good. but i was depressed, very depressed, at both personal and proffessional levels, at a personal level my life seemed to be goiung nowhere, i was like forever at loggerheads with my family, proffessionally i was having a hard time coping with the cut throatedness of the fashion and advertising industry, all the beauty and glamor that one sees is only on the surface, and when one gets behind the scenes it doesn't take very long for all the glitter and dazzle to wear off.
my brother in law, who had been planning a trip to hazur sahib for quite some time had managed to get a few days leave from his work decided to go and for some reason was very insistant that i go along with them, with them i mean him, my sister and my twin neices. my natural reaction was to resist and i did, i had no idea what hazur sahib was and i was least interested in knowing. but i gave in after a few arguements thinking that all i had to do was sit in a car, go to this place and come back, only bad thing?? being that i might not be able to smoke for a few days. we started early in the morning and reached nanded at about 7.30pm. after depositing our luggage in our rooms at ranjit singh sarai, we went to gurdwara takhat sachkhand sri hazur sahib......memory of my initial reaction is still fresh within me, i actually stopped in my tracks, and stared, and stared...i really don't have appropriate words to describe it so i won't even try, in an instant i was humbled and as we climbed up the steps to the gurdwara i bowed down and touched my forehead on the first or the lowest step, with the thought that i am lowest of the low...no idea where this thought came from, all of this had happened in what seemed like seconds. after langar, as we were walking back to the sarai, i was busy trying to find some reason for what i had experienced, beautiful architecture i had seen before, beautiful places i had been to before....what was it? what had happened? i never found out. at this point i want to talk about something very important. importance of this will reveal itself as my story proceeds. as we were entering the gate of the sarai, i was overpowered by a very strong sweet fragrance, after a bit of sniffing and some deep breaths i asked my jijaji what it was, 'raatrani' or 'queen of the night' i was told. i loved its fragrance so much that every night for the remainder of our stay i would walk near about that tree for quite some time, deeply inhaling its fragrance. we stayed there for three days and visited the other gurdwaras in nanded. on the final day of our stay, which also happened to be diwali, we went to the sachkhand gurdwara in the evening, it was jijaji's wish that we all sit there and do a paath of sukhmani sahib. i couldn't read punjabi so i got myself a hindi gutka and it took me almost an hour and a half to complete it. when we came out we found that there was some kirtan about to happen right there, and again something happened for which i was totally unprepared. i don't remember any of the shabads that raagi bhais sang, but for almost three hours i sat entranced, experiencing a joy, a bliss that i had never felt before. i was all charged up, and i remember thinking that i had never felt this way even at the best rock concerts i had been to. for some reason i wanted to cry, and this was the difficult bit, trying to hold back the tears. it really would have looked very silly to my jijaji and my sister, like here was this jerk who had never been to a gurdwara, knew nothing of devotion and going wonky at the first kirtan he was hearing. anyway, we returned home the next day, and my life, about which i have said was quite miserable, got worse. i was losing interest in my work, and used to worry myself sick over what i would do if i lost all motivation to continue in my field of work. and there were other strange things happening also, like i found that i could not smoke or drink anymore, though i tried my best to sustain these habits. every drag of a cigarette would make me feel like my chest was on fire, every drink made me nauseous....and eventually i concluded that something had gone wonky with my heart, as i thought i had most of the symptoms. so off i went to see a cardiologist, got all kind of tests done and found out that there was nothing wrong with me, apart from slight high blood pressure which was the result of the depression i was in. and here i also must add that i was lucky to have the doctor that i did, a gentle gursikh lady. she handled me really well, on some occasions she would actually start laughing as i described my symptoms. anyway, i was still not convinced about my health and was not at all happy about being under medication, which consisted of one pill for high b.p and a certain dosage of alprazolams. and i just could not understand why i could not smoke or drink, things i used to enjoy so much. i actually felt sick every time i tried to smoke. by february 2002 i was sick of getting sick and i quit smoking and never ever felt the urge or need for it. at about the same time i connected with what i call my lifeline. one day i went to my mom's room just as she was completing a paath of sukhmani sahib, we got talking and from a small booklet she read out the importance benefits of sukhmani, and one which caught me the most was that by reciting, reading the sukhmnai, one gets freed from mental and physical ailments, for some reason i accepted this and resolved to do one paath of sukhmani sahib everyday. it used to take me forever to complete it and it got tedious at times but i stuck to the routine, though with my set of doubts....does it work?.......how does it work?......will it really bring any benefits? and most of all, how will i know if it is working? i wanted proof, something, anything that would remove my doubts and so my one way conversation with god (i call him babaji) began. i wanted proof, and i would beg, plead, implore demand proof of his existence. its human natue i guess, when one does something one wants to see the results...so i was doing the paath of sukhmani and i needed to see results, needed to see something happening. well, nothing happened, for quite some time, but my life sort of revolved around sukhmani......and then it happened. it was sometime april end or first week may 2002, i was in the kitchen in the evening when all of a sudden i was overcome by a strong fragrance....yes it was the same fragrance i had fallen in love with at nanded, the fragrance of 'raatrani'. puzzled, i came out of the kitchen to try and locate its source, and when i came out onto our small balcony where we have many potted plants, i saw that a slender stem with many offshoots had sprouted from the top of a plant and all the offshoots were filled with small white flowers which were emitting that fragrance. i was stunned and there was instant acceptence in my heart that babaji had provided the proof i had been seeking. the flowers lasted for about four days and every evening i would climb up the railing of our balcony just to inhale their fragrance as deeply as i could. and then it ended, the flowers withered and the stem became dry and brown, and i was sad when it happened, but i was so so happy. and some three days later i again felt this fragrance, i rushed to our balcony and i was delighted to see the flowers once again, but this time round they had sprouted out of a plant of a completely different variety. i stood there transfixed, looking in turns at the new flowers and at the dried out stem in the other vase. these flowers also lasted for about four days, and i was well and truly humbled, if there was still any lingering doubt in my mind that too was gone. i needed no further proof, babaji is there, very much there, everywhere and at all times...i was also ashamed at my behaviour...for asking for proof.
now i bring my story some months forward, though my life was improving at a decent pace, i still needed to have my medication and i needed an alprazolam to get myself to sleep at night. by this time i had become a regular visitor at our gurdwara and i especially enjoyed going there in the evenings, doing a paath of sukhmani sahib and then staying for rehras. every year, at our gurdwara there takes place a 'ladiwaar' or serial akhand paaths in memory of martyrdom of younger sahibzadas of guru gobind singhji. it was a nice time for me, i used to spend almost all my free time at the gurdwara, one akhand paath would end and another would begin. one day i was asked if i would stay the night for doing sewa, which just meant making tea for the paathi singhs and waking them up when it was time for them to sit for the paath. i said yes and came home for dinner. it was around 8.00pm, i decided to lie down for a while before going to the gurdwara, i closed my eyes and all of a suddenn i saw guru gobind singhji, the image was a bit wavy, and i actually asked what he was doing there. sometime later i went to the gurdwara and there i met a couple of guys who had also come for the sewa. they suggested that i go to sleep and they would take care of things. i said cool and was about to reach in my pocket for my alprazolam when something made me stop, i lay down, drifting in and out of sleep....and never did have to take it again. about three days later i was walking towards the gurdwara in the eveing when i remembered that i had not had my blood pressure pill that day, and along with this came the thought that what need do i have for medicine, the place where i am going will take care of me....and that was it, i never did have to take my medicine again ever. i visited my doctor again a couple of months later and even she was surprised that i was not in need of any medication...your grace again babaji...who else can remove afflictions in an instant.

so this is my story....actually just the first part of it...how it all began...i will forver be grateful to my brother in law for taking me to hazur sahib....and babaji, what can i say about you?....even a lowly underserving creature like me you touched with your grace......how long did it take, not even six months, in november2001 i visited hazur sahib for the first time, in feb2002 i was free from my vices and started doing the sukhmani sahib, and by the month of may you had removed all my doubts and made me your devotee for life.

much has happened in life since then, i won't say that life now is all hunky dory...i have my share of trials and tribulations, worries and insecurities, but its all right, i have with me sukhmani sahib, my lifeline, i am in good hands.
so this is it for now, i will post more of my experiences and things later, to anyone who has spent time reading this, thank you, all kinds of comments are welcome.

6 Comments:

Blogger SikhsRus said...

Great post and thanks for sharing! I believe your experience and whatever you have stated. Some things have changed my life as well, but no images of Gurus or anything like that. May Waheguru bring you more and more comfort and peace! Here is an interesting thing I read in the religion section of San Francisco Chronical Newspaper a few months back and I saved it. I hope it shows up!



FINDING MY RELIGION
After a mystical experience, a Berkeley seeker returns to her Catholic roots
David Ian Miller, Special to SF Gate
Monday, July 18, 2005

· Printable Version · Email This Article
David Ian Miller
Finding My Religion Archives What's It All About? FINDING MY RELIGION - After a mystical experience, a Berkeley se...07/18/2005 FINDING MY RELIGION - Kelvin Sauls shares the divine lessons of ...07/11/2005 FINDING MY RELIGION - Filmmaker Roger Manley on the power that r...07/05/2005 FINDING MY RELIGION - Reverend Jeremy Taylor on how dreams are a...06/27/2005 FINDING MY RELIGION - Music leads pianist to a life of Catholici...06/20/2005


Spiritual journeys sometimes take people in circles of faith, denial and sacred exploration, eventually leading them back to where they began. So it was for Denise Carrigg, who grew up Roman Catholic, became an atheist in college, then dabbled in Buddhism before returning to Catholicism in her late 20s.
An experience she describes as mystical led Carrigg, 45, to rediscover her Catholic roots. Then another spiritual awakening prompted Carrigg, who lives in Berkeley and sells books for a San Francisco publisher, to choose a celibate life as a way of deepening her faith.

What role did religion play in your life growing up?
I was raised in a strict Catholic home. My parents were very religious. In fact, we moved to Fatima, Portugal -- a Catholic pilgrimage site -- when I was 11 years old because my father wanted to raise us in a more traditional Catholic environment. We came back to the states when I was 14.
When you got older you rebelled against your upbringing. Why did you leave Catholicism?
I became an atheist after I got into college. Some of my professors there introduced me to different philosophers and thinkers with an atheistic perspective, and I became convinced that God wasn't real. To me religion seemed like a lie, a projection of human desires and fears. Still, I remained interested in existential questions about why we're here and the meaning of life. I was always reading philosophy and looking for answers. Then, when I was 21, I had a mystical experience.
What happened?
I was hitchhiking with my brother through Europe, and when we got to Paris I decided to stay a while. It was a pretty dark period in my life. I didn't have much money. I was living in a tiny room on top of a building on the Left Bank, wondering what to do with my life and feeling pretty depressed. One night around 2 a.m., when I was coming back from seeing a movie, I was walking up the usual eight flights of stairs to my room. I reached into my pocket for my keys and they weren't there. I was shocked and figured they must have fallen out when I was running to catch the last train home. When I realized I was locked out, I immediately flashed on a passage in a book called "A Sense of the Cosmos" by Jacob Needleman, which I'd read a year or so earlier. The passage had haunted me because I had the feeling that I almost understood what he meant by it -- but not quite.
What was troubling to you about it?
In the passage, he talks about running out of money in a foreign country. The banks are closed for three days because it's a holiday. He is in a residential neighborhood and is hungry, and he realizes that he will have to beg for food. He notices that at first people seem open to helping him, but then they almost immediately close their minds -- he can see it in their faces -- and turn away. It's as if he's just another homeless person, and they've already decided they don't feed the homeless. That experience showed him how we adopt a habitual stance towards things. Only rarely do we break out of those habits and see reality as it is. Something happened to me on the stairs that night -- I don't know how to explain it, but it was as if the veil parted for a moment and I was given a glimpse of the ultimate reality behind all things, the reality that is always there but that we are too caught up by habit to perceive. I felt like I experienced God's presence then, and I had the realization that everything I had been taught as a kid was true.
Everything you had been taught about what?
My understanding of God, that there's this deeper spiritual world behind things, that I wasn't alone like I thought I was. I ended up walking the streets of Paris all night long because I couldn't get into my apartment. It was Easter Sunday and everything was closed! But I felt very deeply happy, freed up in a certain way.
Did that experience alter your life in some way?
It did in the sense that then I knew that there was such a thing as the spiritual world. I felt like God had reached out and touched me in this period of my deepest existential loneliness. At first I thought about going back to the Catholic Church, but that didn't feel right because of some problems I had with the liturgy. Then I ran across this book "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind," which kind of started me on a Buddhist path.
So you became a Buddhist?
Not exactly. I studied Buddhism and other religions at S.F. State, and I spent a lot of time at the Tibetan Buddhist center in San Francisco. But I never actually became a member. It felt close to what I was looking for, but it didn't feel totally right. And about three years later I became interested in Catholicism again.
Often you hear stories about people starting out as a Catholic and leaving Catholicism behind after getting into Eastern religions. But you went back to it. What do you make of that?
Three things came together for me at this point. One was that I was in Jungian analysis, and I had heard that Jung said to Catholics that if they could find it in their hearts to go back to the Catholic Church that he would advise they do so because all of the elements were in place in Catholicism in terms of helping bridge the relationship between the conscious and the unconscious worlds.
At the same time, I also happened to find a book at a New Age bookstore called "Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism." It was a very powerful book for me because the author had also spent time searching around and ended up delving into esoteric spiritual ideas before converting late in life to Catholicism. It helped me see that there wasn't a contradiction in being a Catholic and living the path that I wanted to live [seeking out truth in various spiritual traditions].
On top of that, I happened to overhear these two guys talking at a restaurant in the Castro, where I lived at the time, about a priest who performed the Mass entirely in Latin at a church down the street, so I went to hear him. There was something really moving to me about the way he said the Mass, the kind of consciousness that he embodied, his tenderness, the way he kissed the altar in the middle of the Mass.
Somehow these three things coalescing around me convinced me to return to the Catholic Church.
What does being a Catholic entail for you these days?
I am always trying to penetrate the deeper mystery of it. I just try to work on my own character, to pray, to ask God to become more and more who I really am. I go to Mass on Sundays, and I try to make it there one or two other weeknights if I can get off work on time.
You mentioned something to me the last time we talked about having a "kundalini awakening"? What happened?
It was very surprising. One night I came home and thought I would lie down for a little while. All of a sudden I felt this energy moving through my body in a different way than I had ever experienced.
Yogis and other spiritual teachers have described such experiences. What did it feel like for you?
It was kind of like this blissful state that lasted for about four hours. It was strange, because it felt like a different energy from me was moving through my body. It was a little like the energy had a knowing quality, like it knew where to move, like there was some kind of intelligence.
How do you interpret this experience as a Catholic? Was there a contradiction for you?
Intellectually it seemed problematic to me. I never heard about anything like this described in my tradition. Later I read about Catholic mystics like St. Teresa who described something similar. I figured there must be some reason for the experience. I've also read that a kundalini awakening can be healing, removing blocks so that a deeper consciousness can emerge. To be frank, I can't quite understand it, but at the same time I have to stay open and trust the process.
Did the experience affect your spiritual life in some way? Was that why you became celibate?
After the kundalini awakening my faith was deepening. I had an evolving sense that it was my calling to open up to God in a more direct way. Celibacy was part of that.
How long have you been celibate?
Ever since I went back to the Church, since 1989.
That's a long time for someone who does not take a monastic vow. Did you ever consider that route?
I've never felt drawn to join a monastic order. I don't feel that's where my strengths and gifts lie. I'm convinced I belong in the world. I am trying to follow my own path and witnessing my own religion as best I can.
Is this something you tell people about? Does your family know?
No, I haven't told my family. I have mentioned it to a few friends. I haven't announced anything formally. There hasn't been so far a real need for it. It's something I'm living. I don't see how it affects anyone else.
Did you have any nonreligious reasons for becoming celibate? Were you a person who had relationships before that you were happy with?
I had relationships with people in my 20s, but even as a kid I never saw myself as becoming married. I never thought of that as something I would want or like to do. I think that even from the beginning I was supposed to be on this path. It just kind of feels right to me.
You mentioned before that as an atheist you were still thinking about what your life meant, what it was all about. Do you feel like you've gotten answers to those questions?
I do, but I don't know if I can quite put it into words. I feel a deeper sense of integration and peace, like there is a plan for me, a purpose of some kind. I feel like I am honoring God by living as authentically as I can. I would like to find some way of helping people in a more direct way than I'm currently doing [in my job]. However, even with the job that I have, I find opportunities just come to me where I can help people if they are having a problem and give my heart to them.
When you imagine God, what comes to mind? Do you get a particular image?
Benevolence comes to mind. And just this kind of permeating, loving, intelligent spirit over and above and through everything. We normally don't get it because we're in the way of it. Our egos prevent us from accessing God and reality as it is, but it's this underlying reality that's there. And sometimes we tap into it, whether it's through grace or some other way.

10:52 PM  
Blogger simran singh said...

thanks sikhsrus...good to feel that someone has seen my blog, thank you...and thanks also for sharing this story../
gur fateh.

9:39 AM  
Blogger Manvir Singh Khalsa said...

Sat Naam.

First I visited your blog. Very moving to read your story. May Guru jee place his hand on your head and keep forever in Chardikala.

3:14 PM  
Blogger simran singh said...

manvir singh thanks...for your good wishes..
gur fateh.

6:05 PM  
Blogger Rajesh said...

Simran,

You are blessed and lucky that your life transformed, and Babaji took direct control of you.

I am happy to hear about your experiences, and hope that you would have made steady progress on your spiritual path.

May GOD bless everyone with the Naam, and HIS love.

11:54 AM  
Blogger Harpreet Soman said...

SSA Satbir,

Jeda insaan apni galtiya nu mankar sache rahe te chaal da hai , apne aap nu poori tarha de naal waheguru de hawale kar da hai sache pita waheguru usde sahiyta zaroor karde ne.
Guruji ne kayehai,
Charan Saran Gur ek Pande Jaye Chal satguru kot penda aage hua let hai.
Je tusi ek paul chukoge datta hazaar kadam age aha ke tawada hath pakdange.
You gave up one vice for another the vice which you always help you and and keep you in chadikala and under his wings of love, wisdom and peace.

Harpreet

1:54 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home