The smokes from the B.C. wildfires had found their way to our ground - Khalsa Centre in Mission, Miracle Valley.
“It smelt like Punjab, this time around”, I reply, as I vividly remembered the profound bonds I had formed the year before.
Vismād. Awe-struck. Wonder-struck. That feeling, in the moment and process between reunion and separation.
ਵਿਸਮਾਦੁ ਸੰਜੋਗੁ ਵਿਸਮਾਦੁ ਵਿਜੋਗੁ ॥ vismādu sanjogu vismādu vijogu (Guru Nanak, Asā Ki Vār).
And here I was again. For two weeks, I immersed myself in an experience of a lifetime – sharing stories, moments, learning, and seva with fellow Sidakers.
My path brought me to Sidak once again. So, I could connect with my Guru, deepen my understanding of sabad and gurbani, in ways I could never in my intellectual work. Nor at a gurduara.
If vismād is the word of the year I learned at Sidak 2016, this time I was mesmerized by sarṇāī. What is this sanctuary? Where is this sanctuary?
I think of So Daru and its musical exposition of where is That Door - that place, or that gateway of the primal entity.
On the last day, we went on an afternoon hike to Cascade Falls in the Fraser Valley. The region is also known as Solh Temexw, traditional lands of the Sto:lo First Nation (Stó:lō means river).
While those dared for an adventure to dive into the falls, I was thrilled at the possibility of drinking to relieve my thirst and fatigue. I could not recall when I last drank fresh water. I thanked the land and water of the First Nations peoples that allowed me to return to the Pacific Northwest region. In that moment, I fondly recalled vismād. As I drank, my mind was filled with the countless imagery in Gurbani of oceans, water, and rivers – often invoked with a desire to cross over to divine’s sanctuary.
Sidak changed the way I see and experience this world.
(a) Gurbani 101
This time, I immersed myself in Gurbani 101 stream of Sidak, eager to expand my language training and my vocabulary. Gurbani 101 gave me more than that.
At the beginning of the summer, I started preparing some flashcards to work on my literacy and comprehension. I had made flashcards of the most common words. I had made flashcards of So Daru from our evening Rehrāsi. These flashcards were in many ways my goods and capital for the Sidak journey.
Over the course of two weeks, I had the pleasure to learn from the facilitators and educators of Sikh Research Institute. Surender Pal Singh – a linguist and theologist, helped me understand the basics of Guru Granth Sahib’s grammar, structure, phonetics, languages and musical rag.
It took a lot of endurance to sit through grammar classes, breaking down each example in terms of what form the nouns, pronouns, and adjectives occur in. At the same time, I’ve never been so fascinated with grammar. Suddenly, words start moving, dancing and singing in front of my eyes.
What I took away was a tremendous foundational skill – how knowing the form of words can aid in making sense of sentences and the feeling that gurbani ignites in us.
Salok, Guru Arjan Dev:
Your creation is unmeasurable. You made me realize your vastness.
I am of no merit, I had sung no praises. Yet, you took pity on me.
With your pity and compassion, I re-unite with Eternal-Guru companion.
O Nanak! Through Nāmu, I live, only then my body and mind flourishes. 1.
On the evening of Friday 28 July 2017, I performed this sabad of Guru Arjan Dev ji.
Gurbani 101 taught me how verbs and pronouns can conjoin to formulate a word in the form of pronominal suffix. In this sabad, kīṯā (doing) and ṯoī (yours) join to form kīṯoī (ਕੀਤੋਈ). Kīṯoī then can be understood as the creator’s doing. I learnt this occurs in the Lahiṁdī language – a mixture of Poṭhohārī, Multānī and Jhāṁgī language.
As we can never fully grasp the creator and creation given their unmeasurable vastness, it is through the creator’s doing that enables opening of the space for appreciating. In that realization, when one finds the Eternal-Guru companion and rejoices, in the immersion of divine’s Nāmu, that life of the body and mind can truly thrive. Flourishing, blossoming, radiating. Seeing the all-pervasive life and energy in self, everywhere and in other beings.
On Monday 31 July 2017, I sat by the lotus-feet of Guru Granth Sahib to undertake my first Hukamnama.
Gopāl Rāi, [etymology: Go means earth, Pāl is carer] refers to cherisher of earth. Gopāl in Hindu traditions is a major deity and incarnation of Viṣṇu – preserver and caretaker.
The verse invokes the cherisher of earth to realize divine sanctuary on this land. In the here and now.
Gurbani is dazzling. There is no bounded, or perhaps tangible, final destination in Sikhi that one may say is a sanctuary as a heavenly abode. Yet, there is always a possibility of sanctuary. In the enchantment of sabad. Or the temporary moment of experience of vismād. The body and mind seeking a spiritual refuge, finding a way to survive during a mental anguish. Sanctuary is that desire and longing to merge back with the One.
I hear Inni Kaur’s words: “Sanctuary is a place where I connect to the deepest part of myself. A gateway, to get me to the place of being neutral, gives me the neutrality, the clarity, and that is the place where transformation takes place” (Sikh Cast Episode 45).
Sanctuary comes from within. Beyond duality.
It’s a calmness that flows and carries one to and through what one needs.
For who is this sanctuary? Sanctuary is a possibility for all.