Guru Gobind Singh ji composed Benti Choupai for times of great duress, and it still carries the power to help us.

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Will you keep Gurbani Kirtan free?

Mallika Kaur was an invited keynote speaker at this year’s Parliament, the theme for which was “Opening Our Hearts to the World: Compassion in Action,”

Mallika began by sharing a recent experience hearing a community member utter the common expression of pity “tsk tsk tsk” regarding victims and survivors of gender-based violence,

“An internal tsk-tsk-tsk-tsk is understandable perhaps,” said Mallika. “The reality of people all across the globe, and all around us being subjected to gendered violence—1 in 3 women according to the World Health Organization—and that too most often being hurt by someone those they know, is a truly devastating reality. It should shake us all.”

But, she explained, why merely stopping at such an expression of pity is not enough.

“Tsk-tsk-tsk allows us to think ‘I am a good person,’ ‘I feel bad for someone else.’ But it does not always move us to action.”

She shared various examples to illustrate that being limited to our mere reflexive reaction to situations and things that immediately revolt or sadden us necessarily limits us to our personal experiences as well as personal prejudices:

‘Take the Judge who denied a petition brought by a woman claiming domestic violence and then later privately turned to her law clerks in judicial chambers to say “I’ve done this a long time, and that woman was too loud and too angry to be a victim. Asians are not that loud!’

“Or take the policemen in an emergency room who told me that the teenage rape victim was not to be believed because ‘girls from rough Black neighborhoods like hers do not freeze, they fight.’

“Or take the teenager who could not believe his favorite mentor had harassed female classmates because ‘well-educated family men don’t do that.’

“Take the son who can’t believe his elderly mother has been committing violence against others in the family. ‘She’s pious, gentle, she’s my rock.’”

Instead, she encouraged the audience to travel to a “shindig of the season,” a long time ago. The feast by Malik Bhago, in the well-known saakhi from Guru Nanak’s life. Of Guru Nanak’s thoughtful and pointed choice to break bread with the humble Bhai Lalo instead of the wealthy and powerful Bhago.

“This story reminds us of the transformative power of faith in action, and challenges us to consider:

“How can we re-direct our tsk-tsk-tsk to those who abuse power and use our action to challenge attitudes, policies, beliefs that are unjust and unfair?

“And how do we do this consistently: regardless of whether those who are in power, those who are abusing, are of the same faith background, the same skin color, same gender, sex, etcetera as us? 

“And can we then also have it in our heart to embrace others should they truly wish to change and take responsibility for their actions?

“Like many spiritual leaders, Guru Nanak and the nine Sikh Gurus who followed him  exemplified upliftment for all. Not as pity. Not as charity. But as a right.”

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