Oh, They're Not Real Sikhs

Shabd Singh reports from the European Yoga Festival in Mur de Sologne, France

We create the world around us. Nowhere is that more evident than at the European Yoga Festival in France. People from all over the world flock here for ten days of learning and fun. A pastiche of languages and cultures colors the festival. As I write this, a dozen Spaniards are singing traditional songs accompanied by classical guitars and syncopated clapping.

DSC00978No one here is perfect and that is something that maturity is teaching me is okay. The reason I mention that is because it is not that the people at this camp are magical or special—but they strive. They are faithful- not in any one religion per se, but they are faithful in enlightenment. That faith and intention makes this place a unique one full of potential for personal growth and learning.

Someone once described the relationship between Kundalini Yoga and Sikh Dharma as that of a multi storied home. Kundalini Yoga is each step in the march to the top floor of human consciousness and Sikh Dharma is the roof. Sikh Dharma is so expansive and inclusive. It consists of every human who is willing to bow their head in order to learn and grow. It is that very faith in enlightenment that makes one Sikh.

It has been ten years since my last EYF. I was fifteen at the time and lacked the wherewithal to really benefit from camp. As I recall, I was more interested in a pretty German girl than in expanding my spiritual practice! But time has passed and what I desire is different. Morning sadhana was refreshing followed by Chardi Kala Jatha at their best singing the Guru’s bani in the morning gurdwara.

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Gurdwara  was a wonderful experience again with so many cultures and communities coloring the stark white room. Of note to me was the ardas. Satya Singh, a leader in the European community, gave a beautiful, heartfelt, and experiential ardas that connected the stories of the Gurus and the history of the Sikhs. He spoke of the principles of Khalsa and how they connect to our day to day lives. I loved hearing the ardas said in that way; as a reminder of how our history and cosmology can influence our temporal lives and said in the language of the sangat (well in English, so not exactly!).

I am looking forward to seeing how the week progresses. My time here has been both enjoyable and challenging. Heat, travel, and a long days have forced me to take a step back and relax. But the feeling camp keeps bringing me back to is humility before forces beyond your control. I hope to meet many people and discuss their experiences and, in turn, share them with you.

The weather at the yoga festival has shifted back and forth from blazing heat to cool rain. Contrasts have been a theme throughout camp both in class and in life. Without the heat and humidity, we may not be able to appreciate the cool rain. But life is a dance between polarities and it is only through duality that we can experience singularity. Without doubt, we would not be faithful. Without fear we could not know courage. We wouldn’t even understand the concept of victory without having known failure.

I had a discussion this evening with a new friend after writing the above paragraph. I felt our conversation embodied the sentiment of polarity as a way to learn.

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“I’ll admit, when I first discovered all of this, I just didn’t know what to make of it. I am from a Punjabi Sikh family in England and when I saw these white guys doing yoga in Sikh saroop, I just didn’t know what to make of it all. I thought what you hear from a lot of Punjabi Sikhs. ‘Oh, they’re not real Sikhs. They’re just some yogis.’”

“Then one of my friends just said, ‘go check it out! Worse comes to worst, you got some exercise and said some mantra.’ I thought it was such a simple answer. So a few years ago I came out here and I’ve been coming back since. All of my fears were allayed. But, I’ll be honest. There are times when I recoil and question it all. When I am at camp, everything is wonderful. The second I leave and things don’t go my way, I step back and ask ‘why isn’t this working!’”

He shook his fists and a glowing smile appeared through his massive black beard. I told him that I could relate. I had not lived my amrit vows for some time. Not so much because things didn’t go my way, but because at a certain point it all felt like a chore and I saw so much hypocrisy around me.

“You know, it’s great that you feel that you can be open about that. Growing up, I can’t think of how many of my peers, including me, would just suck it up and do it while they built inner resentment. I learned to drop guilt and just relax into my practice. Now I don’t have to read Jap Ji Sahib, I get to read Jap Ji Sahib. I think you’ll find your own way to that kind of attitude.”

I guess sometimes we have to fluctuate between polarities. And the ultimate goal is to go beyond duality into wholehearted absorption in Nam. But that’s not something you can really write about in a blog post. So to end this post:  close your eyes, look at your brow point, and meditate on ‘Waheguru’ until you become desire-less.

Good night!

 

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