by Guruamrit Kaur Khalsa, Bowling Green, Virginia
2023 (Fourth Quarter)
When I think about growing up in 3HO, I am overwhelmed with memories. I remember my Mom waking me up during the Amrit Vela when I was a young girl. Walking across the street together to go to Sadhana, while it was still dark outside, and there were birds singing and dew on the grass. I remember making prashad in the Ambrosial hours in the kitchen with my godmother. Chanting the Mul Mantra while we stirred together at the stove. I remember sleeping on my sheepskin in the small and cozy Sadhana room in the ashram, while the Aquarian Sadhana chants played.Then, waking up for morning Gurdwara, and feeling the love and devotion of the Guru permeating each heart in the room.
I remember Guru Ram Das birthday celebrations and Guru Gaddi Day in Herndon, with a “wish and a dish”—yummy potluck suppers! All the children placing our heart-filled wishes and prayers written on special pieces of paper as we bowed before the Guru. Exchanging little gifts after Gurdwara. The fragrance of roses filling the Gurdwara as flower petals showered down at the end of the Bhog ceremony.
I remember Solstices—sitting in long langar lines, eating mung beans and rice and drinking yogi tea. Camping under the stars; waking up before Sadhana and going to shower while the moon was still high in the sky. Gravel under my feet. Feeling the Guru in the air, a hair’s breadth away. Sometimes the group energy during Solstice meditations rose so high I felt like I was flying over the Tantric shelter.
I remember the music of Guru Dass Singh and the Khalsa String Band. I remember Guru Ram Das chanting and ashram group birthday parties—eating together, laughing, blowing out candles, singing “chug-a-lug a mug of yogi tea” and the 3HO birthday song.
I remember my wedding day—the ashram in Herndon showing up full of sweetness and love at the Gurdwara. Circling the Guru and bowing, my husband and I embarking on this new chapter of our lives in surrender to the Divine, come what may. I remember all of us letting loose together at the reception and dancing the night away.
This has been an unimaginably difficult time for our community—from COVID to the allegations; to the divisions that have emerged. I have had very challenging moments and days. Tough nights. I have wrestled deeply with questions like—What is worth sticking around for? What is worth staying together for?
And the answer I always come to in my heart—the feeling that brings me back from the brink—is: times like these.
Times when the love of the community comes through. Times when devotion and love of the Guru washes through the sangat, overwhelming the senses and bringing out an energy in all of us that is bigger than each one of us—beyond thought and reason, beyond time and space. Times when my eyes fill with tears, when my heart is overwhelmed with love of the Guru, and the only thing to do is to surrender and bow.
As in Death, So in Life
gobi(n)dh charanan kau balihaaree ||
bhavajal jagat na jaiee taranaa jap har har paar utaaree ||1|| rahaau ||
“I am a sacrifice to the Feet of the Lord of the Universe.
I cannot swim across the terrifying world ocean.
But chanting the Name of the Lord, Har, Har, I am carried across.” ||1||
~ Guru Ram Das Ji, Siri Guru Granth Sahib, Ang 1198
Life on this earth can be burdensome. So often, we are plagued with duality, loss, illness, anxiety, and all nature of challenges. Since COVID, the world ocean has at times felt more terrifying than ever before. But I have come to realize that it is the Guru that has carried me across the terrifying world ocean during these times—and that without the Guru, I would have sunk.
Hari Simran Singh’s death in 2014 served as a profound wake-up call for me. I have always felt like an outsider in the 3HO second generation social scene. I was never a “popular kid” during my time at MPA. I was never a part of any of those cliques. And for a long time, my anger and embarrassment about this caused me to distance myself from the community.
But when Hari Simran passed away, somehow everything changed all at once. It was one of those rare “lightning bolt” moments of sharp clarity in the midst of all the fog. My love for Hari Simran reopened a part of my heart that had closed long ago. I remembered deep within that even though Hari Simran was a “popular kid,” and I wasn’t, he was still my brother. My ego seemed to dissolve instantly. All the bullying, the bad memories, the heartache, the exclusion, became meaningless. The call to come back, to surrender and give my head to the Guru, was undeniable.
My Mom and I were very close and had the type of mother-daughter relationship that could be described as “best friends.” When she died in 2016, my grief was so overwhelming that at times I didn’t think I could go on. It was during those days that I could feel the Guru holding my hand…carrying me along. During the weeks following her death, the Herndon ashram community was also there for me and my Dad in the most beautiful way. The connection and support we received daily was so touching, so profound, so sweet, so poignant, so heartfelt…
Since the allegations, I have heard from many ashrams that the passing of beloved community members has brought everyone together again, in a way that nothing else has.
Can we come together again, from the heart, in the fullness of life, even with those whose views are different from our own, before it is too late?
The Guiding Light of the Guru
takhhat baalaa zer gur gobi(n)dh si(n)gh
laamakaane sair gur gobi(n)dh si(n)gh || 143 ||
bar tar az har kadhar gur gobi(n)dh si(n)gh
jaavidhaanee sadhar gur gobi(n)dh si(n)gh || 144 ||
aalame rauashan z gur gobi(n)dh si(n)gh
jaano dhil gulashan z gur gobi(n)dh si(n)gh || 145 ||
“The elevated throne of the sky is under Guru Gobind Singh,
And He strolls in the eternal atmosphere. (143)
The worth and value of Guru Gobind Singh is the highest of all,
And He is the master of the indestructible throne. (144)
This world is bright because of Guru Gobind Singh,
And, due to Him, the heart and the soul are pleasant like a garden of flowers.” (145)
~ Bhai Nand Lal Ji, Ganjnama
I believe that our relationship with the Guru has always been the guiding light of our Dharma. If we can collectively stabilize, solidify and crystallize this relationship with the Guru in our hearts and keep pure love and devotion to the Guru at the center of our community, I believe that our Dharma will thrive into the future. Under Guru’s banner, we will be victorious in service, light and love. And our legacy will live on.
Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa! Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Guruamrit Kaur Khalsa is blessed to serve as the Executive Assistant for the Office of the Secretary of Religion, as well as the Ministry Newsletter Editor. She is also the Dharmic Education Coordinator for Sikh Dharma International. Previously, she was a Foreign Affairs Officer with the U.S. Department of State (Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs). She lives in Virginia with her husband and dog.