By Ramandeep Kaur
The first day of the Nanakshahi calendar (March 14) has just passed us by. As the new year unfolds, I thought I would offer up some suggested Sikh New Year resolutions to help you make your year a productive one!
1. Learn how to read Gurmukhi
Start slow, learn the Panthi akhria (letters), and then move on to small words. Ask your friends who know Gurmukhi if they have a good beginner’s guide to Gurmukhi book that may help you. When you’re ready to begin reading Gurbani, I would recommend starting with JapJi Sahib. This is the best investment of your time that you can make. It took me about two weeks of focus to learn. Remember to be patient with yourself. Here’s a great iPad app I’ve grown to love: Gurmukhi Phonics
2. Learn how to use SikhiToTheMax.com
Click on the “Search Engine –To The Max,” check the “first letter anywhere” option and then type in the first letters of each word in the shabad you’re searching for. For example, if you want to look up “Gur Merae Sang Sada Hai Naale” Enter, “gmsshn.” There are also several Gurbani apps that you can download on your smartphone, such as “iGurbani” and “Gurbani Anywhere”. These come in handy if you’re listening to kirtan and want to follow along.
3. Learn how to take Hukam.
You never know when you’re going to be placed in a situation when you’ll have to take Hukam. Being able to take Guru Sahib’s Hukam comes in handy all the time: a new birth in the family, birthdays, or funerals. And what if you feel like being close to Gurusaahib and want to do chaur sahib seva and the bhai saahib asks you to take hukam? Better to be prepared than not.
But of course, the real value in being able to take Hukam is that you can do it anytime you want—anytime you feel like you need Guru Saahib for guidance or support.
4. Pick a short shabad you really like, memorize it.
It can be as simple as this salok.
Learning a shabad is like carving bits and pieces of a marble slab. Each piece reveals something new, a new shape, a new mood to the final masterpiece. Memorizing it allows the artist to always carry their art with them.
By memorizing a shabad, we can bring Guru into our consciousness at any time, and really embody what it means to have Guru Ang Sang.
gur maerai sa(n)g sadhaa hai naalae ||
My Guru is always with me, near at hand.
When we memorize, through repetition, we can then begin to really understand the Guru.
5. Pick something you really enjoy about your local gurdwara.
Maybe there are weekly keertan classes you would like to attend, maybe you really enjoy going to Gurdwara Sahib when it’s quiet in the wee early mornings, maybe you want to dedicate your Monday mornings to mopping the floors or washing dishes. Maybe there are discussions every Saturday that you enjoy participating in, or maybe your Gurdwara has a garden that needs tending. Once you have mastered #2 above, maybe you can pick up the seva to change the SikhiToTheMax slides at your Gurdwara. Maybe you can make friends with a youth and become his or her mentor.
Whatever the Seva, pick something that you can be consistent about completing. There’s a huge difference between going to Gurdwara and actually becoming involved. Our Gurdwaras were meant to be focal centers for the Sikh community—so envision it as such a place, and create a space at your Gurdwara for yourself and for others, so that you feel like you truly belong there.
6. Read at least three books pertaining to Sikhism.
You can search for some here: Sikhbookclub.com. Part of being a Sikh is also being engaged with your Sikh history and Sikh philosophy. Our Guru Sahibs stood for revolutionary ideas. They promoted gender equality, spoke out against the caste system, bridged socio-economic divides with institutions such as langar. Learn your history. It will help you prepare yourself to take on the challenges in your own community.
7. Find a style of keertan that soothes your soul.
iKirtan.com and http://www.sikhnet.com/gurbani are great places to start. Once you know which keertanee and/or style you like, you can move on to more specified websites like gurmatsangeetproject, akj.org, http://www.japtapsamagams.com and my favorite: http://gurmatsangeetcollection.org.
8. Celebrate your favorite Sikh holidays.
With so many Gurpurabs and celebrations to choose from, do a little research and find out what makes your favorite Sikh event special to you. Is it the Guru Gaddhi of Guru Granth Sahib, is it the birthday of Guru Nanak Dev Jee, is it the shaheedee Gurpurab of the Chotey Sahibzaadey, is it Vasakhi or Bandi Chhor Divas? Find out the history of each event and share why you celebrate it with those around you! Also, if you ever get confused about whether or not there is a Gurpurab today, consult this handy website.
9. Learn three good jokes.
Just for fun.