Author Archives: RP Singh

About RP Singh

Writer. Reader. Runner. Thinker. Seeker

Nitnem [Spoken Word]

Before I even open my eyes each morning
My mind is racing
I’m dreading to even look at my phone

What transpired at work overnight?
What the hell happened in the world in the last 7 hours?
I doom scroll through Twitter, scan through my social media

My wifi connection is strong, but my Guru connection is weak
I am drifting into the darkness even before I‘ve gotten out of bed

After a quick shower, my nitnem begins
And I’m reminded, today is not about me
Slowly releasing me from my ego and setting me free

Waheguru has given me this breath today so I can break that wall of falsehood


My Guru reels me back in…

Inspiring me with His song
He let me drift away
But showed me he was with me all along

My nitnem serves as the guard rails for my day
Keeping my discipline tight so I won’t go astray

And when I think it’s enough just through the words that I say
He tells me my actions through love is the only way


Nitnem is the song of love
Pulling me through the fiery ocean, helping me rise above

Japji starts my day
Sohila ends my night
Giving me the strength for another day to fight
Keeping me focused with with my goals in sight
Pushing away the darkness inside so I can flip on the light

I try to slow my paath down, not take it for granted
Watering the seeds my ancestors planted

But truth be told
There are some days when I just don’t feel it
When my nitnem just feels like an empty ritual, going through the motions

Sometimes I finish my paath and a few minutes later, I can’t remember if I did it or not
Or sometimes I’ll start with Japji Sahib and next thing I know I’m doing Sohila Sahib
Sometimes I wonder, what’s the point?

But I do it anyway

Because for every hundredth time I rattle through my Japji Sahib, I’ll catch a line that I remember hearing in a shabad or discussing with a friend and it will move me to tears

Every now and then, I’ll lose myself in the rhythm of Jaap Sahib and find myself on horseback riding alongside my Guru

It is these moments that Guru Sahib has gifted us with nitnem

Even when it feels like it’s all in vain
Like a soldier, it’s how we train
When we wake up, we train, we go to sleep we train
We train until Guru-like actions are ingrained
We train through our nitnem to keep us cool and steady
So when it’s time for battle
We always stay ready

Trapped in the fears and anxieties of my day
Nitnem illuminates the path and guides me the way

When I’ve lost direction and don’t know where to go
My nitnem helps bring me back into Waheguru’s flow

When I’ve drifted too far and feel lost and alone
I know I can open my gutka and it will lead me back home

Ang [Spoken Word]

guru-granth (1)

(A reflection during sehaj paath, a complete reading of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib)

Finding my rhythm
Finding my rhythm
Sounds become syllables
Syllables become words
Words become poetry
And poetry becomes magic

As I began my journey, I struggled through each page
focusing on grammar and pauses, finding it hard to engage

I need to read it right and treat it with respect
Making sure I get my sassas and jajjas correct

But days later, several pages in, I started to find the rhythm within
The words strung together, forming beautiful art
I was reading less with my eyes and more with my heart

I was lost in the rhythm, baani rolling off my tongue
Blinded by the beauty of Waheguru’s rang

The more pages I read, my body would sway
Like my ancestors did back in the day

I guess that’s what it’s like to be in the zone
When you lose yourself in baani you are never alone
While I am reading, thousands all across the world are reading along with me
There is an uncle starting off his day with parkaash before he goes to work
There is a young Kaur finishing sukhaasan before she goes to bed
There are sehaj paaths, akhand paaths out of gratitude or sorrow
Thanking the divine for today and wishing for a peaceful tomorrow
Right now, somewhere a Khalsa is taking hukam to start her day
For direction and purpose, and to guide them the way
I am them and they are me
Deep in the rhythm, there is only we

This journey has been like a trek through the desert
Where sometimes I’m confused or not sure where I’m going
But every now and then I’ll find an oasis that will quench my thirst and soothe my soul

A shabad would arrive with overwhelming nostalgia

The first shabad I ever read
The shabad I sang before going to bed
The shabad my family would recite before we drove anywhere, across the country or across the street
The shabads my kirtani friends would sing every time we would meet
Every theme shabad from every camp I’ve been to
I’d be thrown back to every lesson I taught, every activity we led, beautiful memories popping into my head
Shabads I heard in times of joy
Shabads I heard in times of grief
Shabads when I was in pain…looking for relief
Shabads that have felt like the touch of Guru’s grace
And shabads that felt like a slap in the face

It’s all here

Baani has been the soundtrack of my life
Every milestone from marriage to the naming of our children to the losing of a loved one
My history lives within these pages
Maybe that’s why it is called an Ang
Because each page is part of me

Guru Sahib says “Pyoo Daday Ka Khol Ditaa Khajanaa”
When I opened it up, I gazed upon the treasures of my father and grandfather
This sehaj paath has made me catch a glimpse of that experience
Discovering the treasures of my Guru

Navigating my way through each ang links me to my past and my future
It is the story that’s been told and the story yet to be told

Reflecting on the baani is a like mirror to my soul
It helps remind me that I am part of the whole

I’ve learned so much on this journey, I don’t want it to end
But I feel blessed knowing when it’s done, I can start over again

The Problem With Diljit


On my recent trip to Punjab, I noticed the Coca-Cola ads of Diljit Dosanjh everywhere.  Twelve years back, I remember Daler Mehndi was on those same Coke ads, and the discussions I had then are starting to resurface now…about how it’s so great to have a Sikh role model like Diljit wearing a dastaar, “but” it sure would be nice if he were a “saabat surat” Sikh with a full dhari.

On the one hand, I get it.

Although I don’t really watch his movies or listen to his music, my time in Punjab clearly showed the influence Diljit has on pop culture.  Majority of the young Sikh boys I saw wearing dastaars worked hard to emulate his look – there were Diljits everywhere.  There is no doubt he is a role model to many.  So naturally, as a Sikh parent, wouldn’t I want my child’s role model to reflect the look I want my child to have? Of course!

On the other hand, doesn’t this put a lot of pressure on Diljit?

He is an entertainer – a singer, an actor.  And I don’t know where Diljit may be on his personal journey of Sikhi (if at all), but I’m pretty sure he didn’t sign up to be our children’s Sikh role model.  I’m reminded of Charles Barkley’s “I am not a role model” Nike commercial from the early 90’s.

But all this made me question a few things…

Why is it that so many young Sikhs flock to Diljit and other singers and actors, but do not connect with parcharaks that inspire them toward gurmat?  Has the model of parchar in Punjab (or American for that matter) failed to evolve, to the point where youth do not resonate with them at all?

Or has the model evolved just fine?  Personally, I did not grow up in a time where YouTube videos were readily available, and institutions like Basics of Sikhi, Nanak Naam and so many others worked hard to make baani and history accessible (in english) and consumable to all.  Every few weeks I see a new resource online like The Sikh CastThe Story of the Sikhs, and a treasure trove of archived webinars from SikhRI or Khoj Gurbani.  And on any given Sunday, I can go on to facebook and watch live streaming keertan and katha from just about anywhere.

So maybe it begs a bigger question?  As a parent, how much time are my children watching Diljit movies and listening to his music?  And how does that fair in comparison to the time my children are listening, watching, and engaging in meaningful conversation about gurmat?  Don’t get me wrong, I have not perfected this either and I know I could be doing a lot more as a parent to expose my children to more gurmat-oriented resources – but I’m not making excuses for it, and I’m surely not blaming Diljit.

So perhaps the problem is not with Diljit after all…maybe it’s with us.

Bricks [Spoken Word]


Today we walked through the town of Fatehgarh Sahib
Our daughters have read books for years on the lives and deaths of our beloved Sahibzade
But as parents, the books were not enough

We wanted them to walk the same ground that Baba Zorwarar Singh walked
To touch the same soil where Baba Fateh Singh’s blood fell
To feel the warmth of Mata Gujri’s presence while standing in the Tunda Burj
We wanted them to see the wall with their own eyes
To run their hands across the bricks
To hear the story those bricks tell
I wish I could rip those bricks right out of the walls and put them in their backpacks so they will alway feel the weight of their sacrifice in every step, in every mile they walk for the rest of their lives
Our history cannot just be told
It must be felt

As we sat in Gurdwara FatehGarh Sahib
The guru’s shabad was flowing all around us
But as parents, feeling the presence of the chotay sahibzade around us
Listening to the shabad wasn’t enough
It wasn’t just the shabad I wanted them to hear
I wanted them to feel that the guru was near
I didn’t want them to just listen to the raag and the reet
I wanted them to hear the guru’s heartbeat
They already know our baani is a gem
But I want them to know that the guru is speaking to them
I don’t want the shabad to just flow through their ears
I want the shabad to move them and bring them to tears
Our baani cannot just be sung
It must be felt

Standing in FatehGarh Sahib, armed with baani and history
I wanted them to feel that they are invincible
That they have the inspiration to move mountains and they stood in the very place where our heroes showed us how
I wanted them to feel the rush, that divine thrill
That calm and cool feeling of acceptance of guru’s will
That the price we pay for the guru’s setting us free
Is that they have to live a life that’s bigger than “me”
That when injustice is near and you’re not sure where to begin
That they hear the call of the khalsa panth from within
That they never be a bystander, always stay true
And when the world needs an ally, know that ally is you
When armed with baani and history, you can face any attack
Because your guru’s always with you, and he’s always got your back
And when the weight of the world’s problems brings them down
They know their sangat will be the net that will help them rebound
I want them to know the life of a gursikh is rare,
The path is sharper than a sword, and finer than a hair


Our path cannot be explained
It must be walked

Sitting steps away from where our chotay sahibzade gave their lives
I knew that as a parent, I cannot let
Gurmat be a subject we learn like math and science
Or something we take our kids to on Sunday
Or that extra checkbox we need to make our kids well-rounded
But instead, gurmat must be the lens in which they view the world
The way in which they approach everything else in their life
Because when it comes down to it…it is our everything

It is our Sikhi that determines what we give and what we take
It is our Sikhi that guides us in the decisions we make
It is our Sikhi that helps us know right from wrong
It is our Sikhi when in fear, will help us stay strong
And when our conviction is tested, it will not matter what we’ve been taught
It is our Sikhi that will show us how much courage we’ve got
Not just that tough-guy courage
But the courage in our actions when no one else is looking

I want them to know

That a seven and nine year old
didn’t give their lives so we can reminisce and cry
They gave their lives so we can hold our heads high
So when the Wazir Khans of the world put us to the test
We stand up, brave and fierce, and let Waheguru handle the rest


Photo Credit:  Taken by RP Singh; original preserved brick of Qila Anandgarh Sahib, at Anandpur Sahib, Panjab


IMG_8341 2017-12-01_22-03-17

once I dreamt that I met my Guru face to face

he walked over and hugged me
it was the kind of hug that old friends do
lasting for minutes
silently reminiscing of all the ups and downs we’ve been through
it was a warmth I had never felt before

i woke up

bonds like that do not happen overnight
relationships that close and that powerful take time to build

i better hurry

Sikhi Is Dying In Punjab

IMG_0120On a Sunday night, we visited Gurdwara Shaheed Baba Deep Singh Ji in Ludhiana
It was not gurpurab, or any other special occasion
But in our hour there, the flow of sangat entering the darbar hall never stopped
An all-female jatha was leading the sangat in keertan
At one point, I looked around to see the sangat
All different kinds, all at different stages in their journey with the Guru
Half the sangat was engrossed in the keertan
While the other half had gutkae in their hand quietly finishing their paath
I started to think about the conversations my friends and I would have back in the States
About how Sikhi is dying in Punjab
But my thoughts were interrupted by the jatha asking the entire sangat to join in simran
As I closed my eyes and let the Guru take over
Shaheed Baba Deep Singh whispered in my ear and said
We’re going to be just fine…worry about yourself



If you know me well, you know I love hip hop.

Not sure whether it was the time period I was born or how it lined up perfectly with the heyday of hip hop music, but nevertheless, it was the soundtrack of my childhood.  And although much has changed since then, my affinity towards the genre has stayed consistent to this day.  So you can imagine how thrilled I was when Netflix notified me of a new documentary called “Hip Hop Evolution.”  Of course, I watched it that night.

I would often get in debates with other enthusiasts about rap legends and argue for hours over who the real pioneers of the movement were.  Was it the Sugarhill Gang?  Grandmaster Flash? Run DMC? Kurtis Blow? But after I watched the documentary, I learned the origins of hip hop came from somewhere else.  While most of America was obsessed with disco music, wearing fancy clothes in the hottest clubs, teenagers were going to parties held in rec rooms hosted by DJ Kool Herc on the West side of the Bronx.  Kool Herc refused to play records with the popular music of the time and instead went back to the roots of soul and funk.  And when songs would get to the breakdown, he would extend the break beat, sometimes playing two copies of the same record going back and forth to extend it, almost to the point where he was creating a new song.  Pair that with Coke La Rock who hyped the crowd with the mic, and lo and behold…a movement was born.

Where I had thought rap was born when Run DMC busted into the Top 40, it was actually a DJ and MC I never heard of going against the grain at house parties in the Bronx, with unique sounds and innovative techniques that would set the foundation for a revolution.

Revolutions are kind of like that.

Often times what makes the headlines or hits the history books are those prolific leaders and the milestone events, but that’s rarely where revolutions begin.  When I think of the Civil Rights movement, I think Dr King, Malcolm X, the March on Washington, and Selma.  But if you peel back the layers, I believe there would have been none of it had Rosa Parks not refused to give up her seat on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama or Ruby Bridges not gone to class that day to desegregate an all-white school in New Orleans.  In the larger scheme of things, these may not seem like momentous acts, but they were simple acts of courage that paved the way for the revolution to come

Even when I look at some of the most powerful moments in Sikh history –  Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib’s shaahedi, the first Parkash of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji or the establishment of Khalsa Panth to name a few – I know all of this began with Guru Nanak Sahib refusing to wear a janeeoo, or having dialogue with the siddhs, or splashing water the other direction in Hardwar.  Simple acts of courage…this is how revolutions are born.

And the revolution within is no different.

One definition of a revolution, is “a fundamental change in the way of thinking about or visualizing something :  a change of paradigm.”  Personally, as I strive towards gurmat, I have no doubt it requires a revolution.  It requires a fundamental change in the way I look at the world.  To stop looking through my own lens, and to start looking at the world through a guru-centered lens.  It requires me to minimize the “I” and see Waheguru’s wonder in everything.  To live a “happy” life not through the standards of social norms, but based on Guru Sahib’s paradigm for living.

But like most revolutions, they do not happen overnight.  In fact, those revelations that happen quickly are often the first to fizzle out.  Revolutions are not born through grand gestures, they are seeds that are planted, and cultivated over time through simple acts of courage.  For a Sikh those simple acts can range from embracing the physical form, to following the discipline, or passing the most subtle of tests that I find myself running into so frequently.

It’s the decision I make to say something or not after I hear a misogynistic comment with friends.  Or the racist comment I hear people of color make.

Isn’t it enough to just walk away?  After all, I didn’t say it.

Or is that extra effort I could take to make sure a marginalized person is heard?
Or deciding whether or not to be an ally for someone in need, even if it puts myself at risk.  Or making the unpopular decision that I know is right, at the risk of losing friends.

It’s these small decisions when no one is looking that hangs my Sikhi in the balance.

Simple acts of courage.

I often read these “good parenting” articles, that tell me I should stop asking my kids “how their day was” and ask them something different:
“What did you do that was compassionate today?”
“What did you do that was courageous or brave today?”

I’ve started doing this.
And also requested they ask me the same.
It is a daily measure that tests whether I am really part of the movement or just watching it pass by.

As I take a stock of where I am and how far I need to go to join Guru Nanak’s revolution, I am often disheartened.

But my Guru, in his impeccable timing, reminds me to worry not…for Spring has come.

Shabad 1 Shabad 3

Glory Days

the-khalsa-serving-langar-in-jungles-in-18th-century-v2When I was assigned to teach a history class at a Sikh youth camp this Summer, I was nervous.

For years, I’ve been trying to focus on learning and teaching gurmat, so the idea of going back to memorizing names and dates was intimidating.  But after dusting off a few books and re-learning about our 18th century heroes – Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, Bhai Mani Singh, Bhai Taru Singh, and so many more…I was captivated.  And although part of me re-read history with the same excitement and curiosity as a child, another part of me read it through the lens of our current day challenges.

As far back as I can remember, I would teach Sikh history with an immense sense of pride…perhaps even with a touch of entitlement. I would speak about how honor and valor were traits we inherited directly from our Guru and all of the shaheeds that followed.  I would speak of the lineage of bravery and courage that we came from, where our ancestors stood up to the most heinous of oppressors. I spoke about Sikh history as though heroism ran through our blood.  As though by growing up in a Sikh family, we’ve inherited a trait of fearlessness that somehow made us more special.

These days…I’m not so sure. Reflecting on the Khalsa of the 18th century has given me pause.

From living day to day with a price on your head, from surviving life in the jungles with nothing, to sleeping on horseback – all while fighting tyranny and remaining in a state of chardi kalaa…it’s overwhelming. After the vada ghalugara, where historians quote one-third to nearly half of the Sikh population was completely wiped out, it would only be a matter of months before the Khalsa would capture Sirhind, then Amritsar, and ultimately Lahore, all while carrying out campaigns to free thousands of men & women from slavery.  Even in our most difficult of times with the most limited of resources, we were defending the defenseless. I am fascinated by their resilience.

If we look at the lives and sacrifices of Bhai Taru Singh, Baba Deep Singh, Mai Bhago, and so many others, it is clear to me – they earned their right to be in the pages of Sikh history.
They earned their right to be displayed on the walls of our gurdwaras and homes of Sikhs all over the world for centuries.
They earned the right to have their lives memorialized in bedtime stories for every Sikh child.
They earned it.

I, however, have earned nothing.

I believe that our shaheeds did not give their lives so hundreds of years later we could bask in their glory, instead, they gave their lives so we can create our own glory…today.

And today, when I read sad and depressing news, I often think, ”What would the Khalsa do?”  I don’t know for sure…but history tells me they would be at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline
History tells me they would be on the ground in Aleppo
History tells me they would be aiding refugees stranded across Europe.
History tells me they would be arm in arm with #BlackLivesMatter protestors throughout the US
…and so many more struggles, the worst of them, which will never make international headlines. If there’s one thing I’m convinced of, it’s that the world needs the Khalsa now more than ever.

When teaching Sikh history, I focus heavily on the time Sikhs organized themselves in misls, made tough decisions and resolved conflict through Sarbat Khalsa.  And how the commitment to Guru Granth & Guru Panth moved us forward as a nation.  This is a time where we seemed invincible.  I often refer to it as the “glory days.”

But I wonder, how long will I have to keep bringing up slides of 18th century Sikhs to talk about how spirited we were?

A hundred years from now, I hope my great-great-grand children are not pointing at those same slides that I do today.  Instead, I want them to talk about the early 21st century Sikhs and how they transformed the panth.  I want them to say…

They were the generation that wiped out drugs in Punjab
They were the generation who stood side by side with minority communities in protest all throughout the US
They were the ones who freed all the Sikh Political prisoners
They were the ones who showed up first when natural disaster struck
They were the generation that ended farmer suicides
They were the generation who opened their homes to refugees when the rest of the world turned them away
They were the generation that re-instituted the Sarbat Khalsa
They were the generation that made gender equality in Sikhi more than a principle, but a practice, the way Guru Sahib intended
They were the ones who put the architects of the 1984 pogroms in jail
They were the ones who ended the global water crisis
They were the ones who ended the ban on women doing keertan and seva at Darbar Sahib
They were the generation that reminded us…that we were sovereign
…those first few decades of the 21st century were an inflection point for the Sikh qaum, and the Sikhs of that generation answered the call.  Those were the glory days.

When I shared these thoughts with my class and asked, “what it’s going to take for us to be the generation that turned things around?“…a hand went up, and the answer was “We need to educate!” And for the first time ever, I said that answer was wrong.  Truth is…it’s going to take more than education.  It is going to take more than awareness.  For Sikhs to rise to the challenges that stand before us, both as a qaum and to solve broader problems in the world…we need ideas, we need creativity, we need action, we need grit, and most of all…we need to hold one another accountable.  We may not have inherited courage and bravery from our heroes and sheroes of the past, but our Gurus and champions of Sikh history surely set an example. They have cleared a path for us…now all we need to do is walk it.

What’s On Your Playlist?


A few days ago, I came across a shabad that gave me pause.  Guru Arjan Patshah shares in his experience:


In the simplest of translations, Guru Sahib says, “Many will follow Him…but few will connect.”

I immediately had this image of the hundreds of thousands of Sikhs I’ve seen at nagar kirtans, the throngs of Sikhs elbowing their way in to the Harmandir Sahib, and all the Sikhs past and present who have bowed before the Guru, all displaying so many external forms of respect.

Amongst all of them…few will truly meet Him.

It is not because the Divine is elusive; it’s because of the wall we create that separates ourselves from Him.  For me, it’s a wall constructed of kaam, krodh, lobh, moh, and ahankar.  Despite my efforts to chip away at it, I sometimes wonder if I will ever be one of the lucky ones…or will I just be a follower?

But with every challenge Guru Sahib puts before us, he gives us the tools to overcome it, he says:


In discussing this shabad with the family, I very matter-of-factly explained to the kids that it is through naam simran and reflection that brings us closer to Waheguru.  Our 7 year old was skeptical, she asked, how does reciting Waheguru’s name bring you closer to Him?  It occurred to me that I sometimes give these knee-jerk responses without truly understanding what it means myself.  Perhaps it’s been hard-wired in to my brain to a point where I regurgitate what I’ve been taught without even thinking about it anymore.  Luckily, children see right through that 🙂  So I needed to give a better explanation….and needed to reflect on it more.

Another image came to mind.

I thought about a time on vacation once when I plugged in my earphones, kicked-off my playlist and went for a run.  It was new territory for me, so I tried not to stray too far, but at one point the path split and I had to make a decision which way to go.

I believe many of us hit that proverbial “fork in the road” in our lives too, where we have a choice to follow the guru’s path or our own.  And although it may seem obvious, sometimes the guru’s path is uphill and the weather looks bleak.  And our own path is a downhill coast and can appear much more scenic.  Some of us reach this crossroads at a major turning point in our life, while others face it several times a day.  But the question is, when you hit that fork in the road on your own personal run, what’s on your playlist?

What are you listening to?
What soundtrack is going on in your mind?

Is it filled with doubts, fears, worries, greed, and anger?
Are there tracks of jealousy, one-upmanship, revenge, or ego?

Or does it sound like this…Waheguru, Waheguru, Waheguru, Waheguru…

Does your playlist encapsulate virtues of the Divine?
Do your tracks inspire you to embrace qualities that are pleasing to Him:

Waheguru, Waheguru, Waheguru…

There are no guarantees that the soundtrack itself will ensure I take the right path, but it sure does increase my odds 🙂

So I’m putting my faith in simran
And my ardaas is that the simran becomes more than just tracks on a playlist and keeps playing in my head, long after I remove my earphones
I pray that it no longer becomes a recitation
But instead a state of mind
A state of being
Carrying me across
Leading me to Him

The Guru’s Own


I call you to form the Saviour-people, the Khalsa, the Guru’s own, the fragrant companionship of the Knights of Heaven. – Prof. Puran Singh

It was around 3:30am on November 10th aboard Amtrak to NYC that I was finally able to connect to the live stream Sarbat Khalsa being held in Chabba village on the outskirts of Amritsar.  Immediately, the sights and sounds of the gathering took me in, reminiscent of the 1986 Sarbat Khalsa video I had watched dozens of times before.  And as each of the resolutions were announced, I had whispered a jakara to myself and felt a sense of hope and optimism for the panth that I hadn’t felt for a long time.  I was overwhelmed.

But as the day passed and the euphoria wore off, I began to wonder how so many of the views I held in minority over the years and debated endlessly with other Sikhs all of a sudden became the views of the global panth.  It made me wonder how representated the deliberations were leading up to the Sarbat Khalsa – not only by gender and geography, but also schools of thought.  One of the beautiful ideals of the Sarbat Khalsa that I’ve grown to admire is the ability for Sikhs with different views to come together and deliberate for as long as needed in the presence of the Guru and reach a consensus to move the panth forward.  With 30 years in between Sarbat Khalsas, how much deliberation and debate could have taken place in matter of a couple days?

Like many of you, I spent the next days and weeks having discussions with anyone I could about the Sarbat Khalsa.  Some I spoke to felt it was perfect.  It was the voice of the Guru and anybody who dare criticize it is anti-panthic and anti-Sikh.  Then some on the other side of the spectrum felt the numbers were far lower than reported, the protocol fell short of a true Sarbat Khalsa, and politicians seeking votes hijacked the entire event. Some felt it was too political, others felt it was not political enough.  And as you can imagine there were a myriad of opinions in between, all from well-intentioned and panthic-minded Sikhs.  I think I felt a little of all these views over the past month, but surprisingly, the one feeling that has never left, is that sense of hope.  Having seen more Sikh movements fail than succeed over my years, it is easy to be cynical, but this time…I couldn’t be.

While the Sarbat Khalsa might have fallen off most of our Facebook feeds and Twitter timelines, a handful of young Sikhs from the DMV (DC, MD, VA area) have been consistently meeting to establish a local Misl where Sikhs will discuss, deliberate, and pass resolutions on panthic matters all per the Sarbat Khalsa tradition and protocol.  Last Saturday, I attended a meeting where the DMV Misl gathered to review the guidelines on how it will function – from how issues/ideas will be submitted, how they will be discussed, how people can raise objections, and how they will be resolved. We spent over 6 hours reviewing every word of the guidelines to make sure everyone in attendance was in agreement.  The meeting was made up of representatives of different gurdwaras (something only youth can pull off), different Sikh institutions, and of everyday Sikhs – men, women, young, old, Punjabi, not Punjabi, Amritdhari, and not-Amritdhari.  And as painful as it was for an old-school guy like me to sit through hours and hours nitpicking a document, it made me wonder about the early days of the Singh Sabha lahir, or what those early discussions might have been like when the rehat maryada was drafted.

Reflecting on the uprising we’ve seen in Punjab over the last few months, it dawned on me how important this exercise is – this is what is missing!  As a panth, we have voiced our discontent with the status quo, the imbalance of justice, lack of economic opportunity, the corruption of politicians, and so much more…but how do we organize and move forward?  The establishment of the Misl gives us the platform to do so at a local level.  And with Guru’s grace, these Misls can be replicated elsewhere, and hopefully connected to a global network so we can truly revive the Guru-gifted tradition of Sarbat Khalsa that has guided us through our darkest of times.

During the meeting, I was reminded of a passage of one of my favorite books “Up From Slavery” by Booker T. Washington.  In this autobiography, Washington speaks from the unique perspective as a child near the abolishment of slavery in the US.  He recalls the actual days leading up to the day they were freed.

“As the great day drew nearer, there was more singing in the slave quarters than usual. It was bolder, had more ring, and lasted later into the night. Most of the verses of the plantation songs had some reference to freedom. True, they had sung those same verses before, but they had been careful to explain that the “freedom” in these songs referred to the next world, and had no connection with life in this world. Now they gradually threw off the mask, and were not afraid to let it be known that the “freedom” in their songs meant freedom of the body in this world.”

Similarly, the idea of “Panth Ki Jeet” has always held special significance to me.  But it was a concept that was either deeply embedded in history or somewhere far out in the future, almost to the point where it is purely symbolic. But as the meeting ended and we stood for Ardaas, I reconnected with these words, they sounded different to me…they were bolder, had more ring.  A wave of emotion came over me; it fell like Guru Sahib’s hand was on our shoulder, reminding us that our time is now.

Several of the youth in the DMV Misl were my students at one point or another at various camps, retreats, and khalsa schools.  But on Saturday, I was the student.  And what I learned from everyone there was the power of Guru-inspired dialogue and what it allows us to achieve individually and as a qaum.  I learned that through perseverance, patience, and humility – our potential is limitless.