LOVE IS THE VICTORY! – Kamalla Rose Kaur’s Story

 

kamalla-torso-2.jpg

Kamalla Rose Kaur

“I’m actually preparing myself to live in environments where I have to do nothing but sit down once in awhile and say a few things. I want to live for the children and their children and their children and I want you to help me and make it possible that I can do that.That can only happen if you stop misbehaving; that’s the condition. You just don’t make sales, don’t make deals right, mess up left, mess up right, then it’s very difficult. You have to come out of this pensive mood, get to a humorous healthy situation, start living healthy, happy, holy, and very consciously. If everything in the family goes on alright, we have to go out in the market, in the other world, the outside world, and teach them kundalini yoga. Do you know you’re the only few people who even can say that you can teach it? You have not valued that blessing. You have not understood that grace. You have not followed the exploit, that bountiful beauty which is with you. That’s very discouraging, isn’t it? I mean, you work the whole winter, and when spring comes only a few trees blossom, do you know what a heartache that is?”

Yogi Bhajan (1987)

As a teenager, 1966-1973, I was part of a mass conversion experience. This was an extremely well-documented event during which thousands of young Westerners embraced Eastern religion. Many of us moved into communes and/or ashrams. Simultaneously, many of us were also studying astrology, mysticism and Western High Magick, and we talked about a New Age coming. Others of us became religious studies professors, anthropologists, sociologists and psychologists, and focused on studying Eastern religions and practices.

During those years, I embraced the teachings of Alan Watts, Ram Das, Timothy Leary, Carlos Castenada, Joseph Campbell, and Yogananda. At age 15, my favorite was Aldous Huxley’s treatise on world religion; “The Perennial Philosophy” which I remain faithful to to this day.

A couple years later, age 18, my first real boyfriend, just 21, became my first husband, and soon we decided to take a yoga class together. It was a Kundalini Yoga class. Suddenly, we were deeply involved in the teachings of Yogi Bhajan and we joined his group, called 3HO (Happy, Healthy Holy Organization), and moved into an ashram.

Sikhi was a very, very small part of Yogi Bhajanism when I joined in 1973. Rather, Yogi Bhajan instructed his students to read Pantajali’s Yoga sutras, and in our ashram, at least, we read Vivekananda’s wonderful little red yoga books. However, I did learn that Sikhs believe the Creator and the Creation are One – Ek Onkar. I heard the story of the creation of the Khalsa Knighthood for the first time and I read the Sikh prayers badly translated to English.

But what I recall most of 1973, was the long periods of fasting, and being on “silence” for most of each day for that year and the next. I “remember” existing on less than 5 hours of sleep a night and doing extremely difficult yoga sets for two or three hours a day, and then teaching yoga classes in the evenings. I remember getting used to wearing all white and a turban out in the “real” world and “working on myself” and trying to “Keep up!” and trying not to “Freak Out!”.

In my case, at least, I was acting. I was trying very hard to be “As Taught By Yogi Bhajan” at all times, but I kept going off-script, thus I was failing from the start.

From Dr. Connie Elsberg’s book “Graceful Women, Gender and Identity in an American Sikh Community”:

“Prabhupati Kaur (my pseudonym used for the book) once described herself as not fitting into the 3HO mold. Grace was not her strong suit. “I have red hair and a temperament to match. My turban was always a bit askew.” When she said that I had an instant image from a book that I loved as a child. It was called “The Littlest Angel” and was about a very young angel with red hair and freckles whose halo was always crooked.In spite of the fact that she never quite fit in, and…in fact, occasionally misbehaved or rebelled when faced with rules and expectations, Prabhupati Kaur now thinks that as a 3HO member she tended to repress her feelings (nature). This tendency to repress aspects of the self, she would argue, takes some of the spark out of 3HO life: ‘You know, it takes lots of energy to deny or ignore parts of the self.’

In retrospect it seemed she spent years trying to accept the discipline of those who sought to shape her behavior.”

By 1975, Yogi Bhajan’s students were being told to hold the Siri Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh scripture, the SGGS) as our only Teacher, Guide and Guru, yet we kept so busy doing Yogi Bhajan’s various chants, meditations and mind control exercises, selfless seva (service), and hard labor that many of us didn’t read or study the Sikh scripture. English translations of the SGGS are inaccurate and awkward, with sexist language actually added in where it doesn’t exist in the original. Thus the SGGS sounded too Christian and patriarchal to me, so I avoided reading it while I was Yogi Bhajan’s student. I actually believed, in my New Age innocence and stupidity, that Yogi Bhajan was the redeemer of the Sikh Way and that Sikhs of Punjabi descent would get the True Message soon.

Khalsa Women’s Training Camp was created to teach Yogi Bhajan’s women students to become a strong part of the Khalsa, and stand as equals with Sikh men. 3HO women were encouraged to be publically powerful teachers, healers, business women and speakers. Yet, it just wasn’t “graceful” to disagree with your husband, and we didn’t even think about disagreeing with our spiritual teacher, who was Yogi Bhajan, not the Sikh Guru.

I think most of us believed that Yogi Bhajan was Guru Gobind Singh reincarnated.

For 10 years, I represented Kundalini Yoga, as taught by Yogi Bhajan, in Silicon Valley, California. This was during the booming 1980s. I honestly had no notion while in Yogi Bhajan’s group that the Sikh Guru Granth preaches against Kundalini Yoga, yet Yogi Bhajan was not ignorant. He knew he was disobeying the teachings of the Sikh Guru and in one of his more truthful moments he confessed:

“…my idea to teach you Kundalini Yoga was a personal risk. Kundalini Yoga has never been taught as we do. I broke the rule. I had read the scriptures and it is prohibited. When I came, I talked to myself and then I said, “Okay, what is the risk? Let us do it. If I die within one year… and blah, blah, blah, whole thing… it matters nothing. When I came in this country I was not Mahan Tantric. I didn’t have any power. And I didn’t lie.”

Yogi Bhajan


Believe Nobody, But Trust God, 6/22/89 (
www.sikhnet.com)

It wasn’t until I entered San Jose State University, at age 30, that I began to understand that I wasn’t really a Sikh. I was practicing Californian-style New Age-ism. I had become an excellent astrologer down through my 20 years of association with Yogi Bhajanism. I knew all about color therapy, crystals, foot reflexology, past-life regressions and extreme forms of water therapy – specifically cold showers at 3:30am each and every day.

Shamefully, I had taught all of this as part and parcel of the Sikh religion, grossly misinforming California audiences, for many years.

My religious studies professors thought poorly of the ignorant messing with the doctrines of major world religions, so they confronted my New Agey ways. They encouraged me to read the Sikh Guru and study what others had to say.

I need to note here that within Sikh history and lore, there are famous lost souls who conveniently tried to change a mere word or two of the Guru Granth for political and/or egotistical reasons. They are Judas-type figures within Sikhi.

Here is what the Sikh Guru told me about Yogi Bhajanism:

“They read and contemplate scriptures, they practice the inner cleansing techniques of yoga, and control of the breath. But they cannot escape from the company of the five passions (lust, rage, greed, pride and attachment). They are increasingly bound to egotism.

This is not the way to meet the Supreme One and Only. I have performed these rituals so many times. Finally I collapsed, exhausted, at the door of my Creator and I prayed to the Beloved One, ‘Please, grant me a discerning intellect'”.

Siri Guru Granth Sahib, page 642

2. Now THAT Was An Interesting Experiment!

After leaving Yogi Bhajan’s group, many ex-3HO women turned to our husbands and said, “Now THAT was an interesting experiment!”

Divorce was common. However, two friends, who I will call, Sally and Sky, managed to stick together and heal. But it was not easy. Sally and Sky had been married by Yogi Bhajan himself in the early 1970s and they had raised their three children in Yogi Bhajan ashrams.

“By the time we finally left Yogi Bhajan and 3HO in the early 1990s, I was going through Men -O- PAUSE” Sally shares. “It all seemed to come down to the issue of tea for me. How many cups of tea had I served Sky over the years? And how few times (even during my moontime!) had Sky thought to make a cup of tea for me? Hmmmmmm?”

It wasn’t right. Sally knew a change needed to happen and she decided that a toll needed to be paid. She prayed and meditated and decided that if her husband was willing to go on a 40-day, 3HO-style sadhana (regime), and be her servant, nay even her Zombie Love Slave for that period, that she would feel EVEN, free of resentment.

“40 days!” Sky yelped.

This was not a good response, given that “HOW MANY YEARS DID I SERVE YOU?????” was hanging in the air.

So Sky agreed (what could he do?) but he decided to wait 40 days before starting the program.

“That was a big mistake.” Sky tells me, “I had 40 days to think about all the ways my wife had made herself a slave to me while in Yogi Bhajan’s group. I had 40 days to wait for my well-deserved punishment. It wasn’t pretty.”

Sky loves his wife and he understood that a mere 40 days of being her chela was getting off easy for all those years of her devoted service. He was determined to be the best student/soldier/devotee he had ever been for Sally. His pride depended on it. He wanted to be a feminist.

The morning of the first day of Sky’s slavery dawned, and after their morning meditation Sally gave Sky his first order.

“Today I want you to go write down a list of the things you still want to do before you die. Get your own food and wash your own dishes and clean something extra as well, I do not care what.”

In the evening, Sally took the list that Sky had sweat blood over all day, and she set it aside.

“Now let us talk about sex.” she began. “Do not do anything until I order you to, understand?”

The next day, Sky, devoted chela, was told to pick something on the list and accomplish it. He was to check in daily with progress reports and he was required to wash some dishes, do some laundry and clean something each day.

That was it. But in the evenings, she ordered him around for hours.

“After 40 days of being my wife’s servant, I was so humbled and ashamed of men in 3HO and men everywhere. I was very happy. My wife gave up being the boss easily enough after 40 days, but I remain her eternal and devoted love slave.”
3. Ten Years Later – Becoming a Sikh

In fall 2000, age 45, I posted my first article about Sikhi to a Sikh internet forum. I left the Yogi Bhajan (YB) cult a decade before, under threat, after I unwittingly stumbled across a great deal of evidence about the criminal activities of Yogi Bhajan’s inner circle. By the year 2000, I had joined with other ex-Bhajanites to get that evidence published on the internet.
www.rickross.com/groups/3ho.html

http://yogibhajan.tripod.com/2/

http://forums.delphiforums.com/KamallaRose/start

Knowing I had been mistaught while a member of YB’s group, I sought editorial help with an article about the differences between Yogi Bhajanism and Sikhi, which I planned to publish on an anti-cult website. After studying the names of the various Sikh e-groups, I decided to post at one called “Sikh Youth”. I was looking for an informed Sikh Mom, or maybe an elementary school teacher, to answer my questions and tutor me. Or maybe the Sikh children could help me. But Nanak had different plans for me. I posted my article and suddenly I found myself surrounded by Sikh males, no women in sight, and they ripped my article to shreds.

“Oops!” I thought. “I seem to have crashed into some sort of teenage pro-Khalistan gang forum!”

I was a mother with grown children and I was not afraid of a bunch of rude punk kids. And being a writer, and wishing to be a journalist, I could smell a story. I kept posting.

Those Sikh youth weren’t polite, but they were knowledgeable. My article talked about how Sikhs revere Baba Siri Chand, and I called Sikhi “Sikh Dharma”, I assumed everyone did. Still, something wasn’t right. I couldn’t believe that Sikh teens were so different from teens I knew from other cultures. They were so serious and intense and sexist. So I asked them about this and finally it came out that the Sikh “youth” who were posting on that forum were in their 30’s and older and I was crashing their Sikh men’s club.

I should have just excused myself and left, but by then I was hooked on Sikhi. I was intent on figuring out what True Sikhi taught as distinct from what Yogi Bhajan had taught. I was going through a delayed conversion experience as I suddenly found, to my surprise and at times horror, that I had extremely passionate opinions about Sikhi. Meanwhile I was shocked at how I was being treated by Sikh men out on the internet. I fought back by wrting a Sikh women’s liberation sermon. I called it “Prem Ki Jit!” which means “Love is the Victory!” or “Let Love Win!”. My article quickly published all over the world. I was flooded with fan mail.
4. Prem Ki Jit! Love is the Victory!

As far as I can see, Sikhi is the only major religion in this world that is universalist, non-sexist, not-racist, anti-caste and class, and set up, by Guru Gobind Singh (who installed the Guru Granth as the only Sikh guide and Guru) to be non-authoritarian, meaning it is an anti-cult movement as well. Guru Nanak, through Guru Gobind Singh, fought against Baboon Troop social dynamics (authoritarian hierarchies) way back in a time and place where this was still hopeless. Yet, because of them, women do NOT sit in the back of Sikhi.

Meanwhile, I was raised in a Protestant Christian culture where the basic dogma IS highly sexist, exclusive, non-universalist, etc. Yet, Protestant Christians are way ahead of every other religion in empowering women into equal authority with their men. Paradoxically, at the level of core belief, women in the West are constantly fighting Eve’s battle yet Christianity is the best choice for women in a practical sense. We can speak from the pulpit within Christianity.

Of course, throughout the ages women are generally more religious than men. Women pray and meditate more, attend temples and churches more, do more seva, and we keep the charities going. Women are far less likely to misuse power when we attain it, far less likely to sell our souls for sex, $tuff and/or power. We have, worldwide, better statistics when it comes to resisting the urge to murder and rape and every other criminal activity. Women start fewer wars.

This is not to say that women are better than men in all areas, but in the area of ethics, the data is clear and profound. And the reason for this has to do with Baboon Troop mentality as much as anything else. Men, to be good men, need to give up the urge to be Alpha Male, King of the Castle, Guru and CEO. Women, in order to help our planet, to help Sikhi, help ourselves and our children, and men, need to give up the idea that we NEED men and that we are in competition with other women for men’s attention.

This is distinct from whether women WANT men – we do – or rather most of us want our ONE man. Yet we want men, fathers, brothers, husbands, uncles, nephews, and sons who are “good guys”, men who disband the authoritarian hierarchies, for the sake of Sikhi and the planet.

Sikhi is on a world stage now, and it is embarrassing to say that Sikhi is a universalist, non-sexist, not-racist, anti-cult, anti-caste and anti-class movement when the truth is that Sikhi looks like a regional, traditional sect from the Punjab, India – prone to cults, stuck with arranged marriages (the ultimate caste/class game), sexist and with a tendency to sound mighty racist quite a lot of the time.

Sikhi needs a unifying, pro-active cause, something we can all get behind and work together on. We need something to show this world (that has forgotten our incredible history and ignores our present persecution) how amazing Sikhs are!

And what better cause than Sikhi itself? What better way to share our tradition and our strength and our huge capacity to fight for the right, than to declare that Sikhi is a universalist, non-sexist, non-racist, anti-cult, anti-caste and class, religion, and then PROVE it?

The world doesn’t believe anything like this is possible. To go quickly from a traditional male-dominated, superstitious, authoritarian Baboon Troop society, to being the kind of culture Guru Nanak was dreaming of. To transform into being the kind of religion that women can feel excited, supported, empowered and happy to join. To be the kind of movement that teaches that change and transformation are possible. To have Sikhi suddenly show its stuff and take its place as a major world religion and force.

My Western friends think I’m totally crazy and most of the Sikh men I deal with have a “there, there, child” tone in their responses to me. But to quote a very famous and beloved Western visionary, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…”.

Sikhi has a tradition of doing amazing acts of righteousness. Only Sikhi has the Sikh tradition. Who else but Sikhs can teach the lesson that only Sikhi teaches? Mind you, I am not interested in converting the world to Sikhi. That is NOT what is important at all. Yet this planet desperately needs Sikhi. This planet needs Sikhs to do what Sikhs do best – for the glory of universalism and the love of the human potential, more than for the glory of Sikhs and Sikhi.

Only Sikhs have ever run into battle screaming PREM KI JIT! Before materialism and Baboon Bosses succeed in conquering Sikhi and the planet, and destroying good, simply for their own ego-gratification, why not fight?

Prem Ki Jit ! Love is the victory!

5. The Carrie Nation of the Sikhs

I often send prayers of thanks for the unnamed Silicon Valley heroes who launched the internet because, among other great results, the internet has helped to save Sikh spirituality and culture. I admire how Sikhs practice town-hall meeting debates and discussions on the internet. Drastically opposing views volley around freely, and tempers rise, but generally speaking, Sikh men devolve into personal attack less than I expect them to. This is especially impressive, given that the Sikh religion often appears to be undergoing their period of Great Schism.

Having crashed one all-Sikh, all-male internet discussion forum, I quickly crashed many. Initially, this was because my article was posted from site to site, and also because Sikh forum moderators, eager to increase readership, often sign you up for their e-groups without first gaining your permission.

That said, my personal motivations for invading male-dominated Sikh internet groups were many and mixed. First and foremost, I was eager to learn about Sikhi and the Sikh forums were a vast interactive classroom where I could observe Sikh debates, ask questions and receive a variety of learned responses.

I was also eager to meet Sikh women. I was sure that there had to be at least one Sikh forum where Sikh women felt comfortable posting, and I was determined to find it. Of course, there was the intoxicating lure of a “great story” and finally getting “published” and becoming a “real writer”. Ultimately, I felt that the Sikh Guru had dropped me into a challenging opportunity to finally become an emancipated woman. I disappearred into Yogi Bhajan’s group in 1973 at age 18, and stayed there for 20 years. Thus I had missed much of the USA women’s movement. Suddenly, age 45, I was receiving training and education from Sikh patriarchs who were consciously, and unconsciously, complete sexists. Younger Sikhs, especially those born in the West, are far less sexist but they are too busy with their careers and families to spend hours each day involved in internet religious and political debates.

Soon I accepted that I needed to train the elder Khalsa Panth in basic cross-cultural manners and media awareness. I reminded Sikh men to talk to me directly rather than in the third person. I instructed Sikh men not to ignore me or shun me completely. I insisted that my name be spelt the way I spell it, rather than the way they would spell my name, which is “Kam’la”, and I did not accept being called diminuatives, like “Bibi” (Sister), from strangers, especially when these men weren’t adding affectionate titles to each other’s names. I even went so far as to state that I would prefer to be called “Bhai” or Brother Kamalla Rose Kaur, because “Bhais” have more clout than “Bibis” in Punjabi culture; just like being a “Master” is better than being a “Mistress” in the West.

By the start of 2001, my writings were controversial and popular enough for me to get picked up by Global Sikh Daily News @ Sikhe.Com as their first staff writer. During the three years I wrote for them, we became the most popular Sikh website and newspaper going. My fellow columnists were Anju Kaur, Patwant Singh, I. J. Singh, and Harbans Lal, among others.

6. Sexism and Sikhi

The truth is, as a whole, Sikhs and Sikhi are extremely macho. Back in the time of the living Sikh Gurus, sexism was a cultural absolute. Women had no power at all, and they were judged to be good women or bad women by how well they could surrender to, and serve, the men around them, particularly their husbands. At the level that women could exercise some mundane power within their households, having sons and eventually becoming the “mother-in-law” was as good as it got. In spite of this, there are many heroines in Sikh history – women who fought battles, ran everything, were martyred, took part in ceremonies and taught Sikhi.

From the beginning, the Sikh Gurus took a stand against both sati and the veiling of women, and they wrote hymns to their sisters, taking the voice of the “soulbride”. The Sikh Guru reminds Sikh women that God is our REAL husband, not that strange human male we are happily or unhappily, married to. Christian women may only access God through their husbands if you believe that St. Paul is canon. The Sikh Guru teaches otherwise:
“Come, my dear sisters, my spiritual companions; hug me close in your embrace. Let’s join together, and tell stories of our all-powerful Divine Husband. All virtues are in our TRUE Master”

Guru Nanak page 17

Men are soulbrides too.

I have asked many Sikh men over the years if the Sikh religion is sexist and every time Sikh men have told me, “No! Women have equal rights and status in the Sikh religion.”I admit it gives me joy to hear macho Khalsa men assert that Sikhi isn’t sexist. It also makes me grateful that I am married to Ken, my brilliant, and genuinely feminist, non-Sikh husband.

When “Romantic Mists” published, l was again flooded with fan mail. It is a true story, about a real walk, and an actual conversation with my husband, but it reads like a Sikh “Guideposts Magazine” tale. Many wrote, “I have sent this article to everyone in my office!”
7. Romantic Mists

What do I like best about the Sikh religion, better than the other world religions?” My husband Ken repeated my question back to me while we were out taking a walk around a pretty lake.”I like that Sikhi doesn’t actively promote harmful practices.”

“What?” I asked in surprise.

“Sikhs don’t out and out advocate abusive practices like celibacy, caste, circumcision, sati, authoritarianism, sexism and racism. This is unique, the other religions do.”

“You are right” I mused, much struck, “that is tremendously inspiring.”

Yet, realistically speaking, I knew that Ken figures Sikhs to be about 150 years away from establishing gender equality, doing away with the Hindu caste system completely and accepting multiculturalism into their midst as a good thing. Right now, Sikhs seem pretty separatist in the West, deep in the throes of culture shock. I know Ken wonders why I bother to expect Sikhs to be able to drop their own internal concerns enough to become leaders on the modern world stage.

Joggers were out and a few people were walking their dogs. Cedar trees, soft-barked and fragrant, with their branches reaching downwards, seemed to me to be dancing in the forest, partnered by the extremely rough-barked Douglas Fir trees, which are ever so tall, their branches lifted upwards. The lake was slate blue with dark green shadows and the mists on the lake were just thick enough to make visibility of the other side difficult.

“Sikhs have done amazing and surprising transformational acts in their history. It could happen again” I reminded Ken as we rested for a spell on a bench to study the beautiful fog on the dark lake. Then I sighed in frustration and added, “But so far, all I’ve experienced is Sikh men out in public forums declaring that the Sikh religion isn’t sexist or racist, but obviously these Sikh warriors are not declaring any such thing in their own Gurdwaras. Wouldn’t it be exciting if they did?”

“Yes, it would be,” Ken laughed, “and you are romantic beyond belief!”

“I think that is why I always come back to Sikhi.” I admitted with a shrug, “I keep expecting great Khalsa Knights to arrive and do something dashing just because it is the right thing to do.”

Just then, a chilly breeze swept over the lake and we shivered as the mists began to swirl. Soon the fog was blown away completely and we saw the dark green forests across the lake clearly and our eyes lifted to the wooded mountains beyond that shore. They were dusted on top with snow.

“That is the other thing I like about the Sikh religion,” Ken responded after a while, “It inspires people.”

“But you will believe it when you see it, right?”

Right then, across the lake, a flock of Canadian Geese lifted off the waters and flew into the sky in their V formation, honking encouragement to one another.

“Yes, I will” Ken promised easily.

8. My Cross-Cultural Clown Act

Participation in present-day Sikhi is tremendously difficult for non-Punjabi converts. Sikh gurdwaras are male-dominated. English and other local languages are not spoken, and Sikhs of Punjabi descent do not seem to know how to run their PA systems. There are simply too many male voices broadcasting Punjabi too loudly for Ken and I to feel comfortable, much less meditative and devotional, while visiting most Sikh Gurdwaras.

Thanks to the internet, I have become a Sikh preacher, comedian, and possibly even a Sikh fundamentalist. Mind you, Sikhs don’t proselytize, except to other Sikhs. And Sikhs don’t have “priests” much less “high priests”, but then again, that isn’t true either. Sikhs are tolerant of other faiths and embracing of multiculturalism, but actually Sikhs are separatists. The truth is most Sikhs aren’t really Sikhs at all. They bow to their Holy Book and throw money at it, and claim it as their only master, but they haven’t read it, much less tried to follow its teachings.

To date, I have been invited to attend only one Sikh Conference, a roundtable discussion, in California in 2000. I was the only woman invited there, surrounded by highly respected and terribly well-educated Sikh men – most of them over 60. I wrote about this experience in my one my weekly Sikh newspaper columns:
9. A Change of Mind, Sort Of…

I wish I had a video of what happened when I questioned the longevity of the idea of “arranged marriages” within Sikhi.Whoa back! Those men went off like rockets. They defended arranged marriages, of all things, loudly and all at once! What the???

“Your divorce rate is 50% and ours is only 2%!”

“No fair!” I countered, “Allow Sikh women to gracefully divorce and then we can see how many Sikh women go for it!”

Oooops. This was NOT great diplomacy on my part.

Yet, out of the explosion of sound that followed, slowly a few wise paternal voices reached out to me, across the yelling. These men were speaking about the process of helping their daughters find the right mate, about there being something precious here – something I know nothing about having been raised in a totally different culture.

I listened, I really did, and I sensed that there was a story of love being transmitted to me and I decided to pull back and not decide so quickly.
However, this isn’t easy. My whole European culture took a big stand against arranged marriages once upon a time, long, long ago. When the Great Knight Tristan refused to let the Catholics put the fear of eternal damnation into him, he chose to love Isolte in the face of hell’s fire and being burnt at the stake. Way back then, many moons ago now, Westerners fought for “romantic love” and against arranged marriages, and we lived through the Christian Inquisition holding onto our right to love freely.
So frankly, I can never forget that arranged marriages are the very mechanisms of all class and caste systems and they are a way to promote racism and cultural in-breeding. Also, they are a way to control young women.

But truly, I tried to back off and reconsider, to really listen to what these wise Sikh Papas were trying to tell me.

Yet I failed. When I heard one of these men speak about considering the “status” of a good suitor for his daughter, I was the one who went off like a rocket!

“There is no reason to arrange a marriage for your daughter other than to ‘marry UP’!” I exclaimed, “That is the way caste works!”

I am right too. Caste and class systems need arranged marriages. Just try to convince a Westerner like myself that Sikh women REALLY need any help from Papa, and other family members, in following their hearts and finding their beloveds! Absurd notion, totally ridiculous! Get out of God’s way and let Divine Nature lead.

“It is inevitable that in a generation or two, Sikh women will choose mates for themselves.” I added for ‘good’ measure, “They will not wish to be protected or controlled anymore!”

Again, a diplomat I’m not!
In the end I completely changed my heart, although I still have all the same opinions. And trust me, I am grateful my parents didn’t have much say in my love life!

Yet what I was shown was a possibility for having a sense of family and community and support that is truly helpful to single people. This revelation happened in a wonderful way. One of the Sikh elders, a radiant sweetheart of a retired judge from the Punjab now living in the USA, made me smile and laugh a lot during the days of that conference. In a private conversation one afternoon, this Sikh man took a fatherly tone with me and I replied, “Now Papaji, you know I respect what you are saying but…”

“You called me Papaji!” he exclaimed, and then he adopted me. I now have a Sikh Papaji who brags and laughs and he glows when he presents me to all his friends.

And I must admit, if I weren’t already extremely happily married to my husband Ken, Papaji would probably be the first person I would trust in setting me up with an interesting date or two!

10. The Sikh Women’s Movement

In the last few years, Western Sikh women writers are publishing articles, and unlike Sikh men, who are constantly arguing about Guru Gobind Singh’s writings or engaged in the hair debate, Sikh women writers are in perfect agreement:

“Sikh women have been denied equal rights for a long time, even at Darbar Sahib. I would have found it unimaginable if I hadn’t experienced this discrimination first hand”.

Anju Kaur “Rude Awakening”

“Our Gurus did their utmost to make Sikh women equal partners. Guru Amar Das Ji sent out Sikh women to spread Sikhi. Alas, we have lost trace of those women. The worst situation now is that some of the Sikh women have lost their right to accept Will of the Creator when they are forced to abort female fetuses. The Sikh women need to come forward and express themselves as they did in our Guru’s days and become mentors to the Global women.”

Satnam Kaur, politician, London UK

“It’s awful to think that just because women raised a voice for their equality, when they were liberated by Guru Nanak Dev Ji many hundreds of years ago, our Singh brothers in power think they know better. The leaders of the Khalsa Panth are more ready to argue with their sisters and brothers, than to implement the teachings of our Gurus. They are more concerned about power and politics than they are about the Panth. It’s a shame.”


Dalveer Kaur “In Search of a Role”

“My faith represents a number of things for me personally. Primarily, there is the implicit gender equality and independence for women – I have never really had to think of my beliefs as a religion but rather a way of life practised every day and incorporated in day-to-day living, not separate from myself and something which I do just on Sunday´s or special days.”

Indie Lall, journalist

Suddenly, in February of 2003, two British Sikh women, Mejindarpal Kaur and Lakhbir Kaur, made Sikh women’s liberation history by jumping in to assist carrying the Siri Guru Granth to its nightly resting place at Darbar Sahib (the Golden Temple, central Gurdwara of the Sikh faith, located in Amritsar, India).

“Gender discrimination came to the fore when two England-based Sikh women were allegedly ‘assaulted and insulted’ by S.G.P.C. sevadars during sukhasan (ceremony of carrying Guru Granth Sahib in a palanquin) at the Golden Temple…Bibi Mejindarpal Kaur said that she had never experienced such a rude behaviour. She alleged that when she along with Bibi Lakhbir Kaur tried to touch the palki, they were pushed back and the S.G.P.C. employees shouted that women were not allowed to perform this seva…Meanwhile, Bibi Kiranjot Kaur, former general secretary, S.G.P.C., has condemned the incident and urged the Sikh clergy to ensure that there should not be any gender discrimination in the Golden Temple as gender discrimination is against the tenets of Sikhism.”

The Tribune, Amritsar, Feb. 15, 2003

It is now years later, and Sikh women are still denied the right to sing and serve at Darbar Sahib. I wrote at the time:

“Remember, Creator/Creation gave us all human rights. Humans may, by the exercise of power, prevent people from exercising those rights, but they cannot take them away. Social change happens as fast as corrupt people can be educated or replaced. If a society decides to accomplish something, people in power can be replaced very quickly.Reform can happen very quickly. The Beloved One is full of miracles when we are doing the Siri Guru’s seva. Meanwhile in women’s studies departments and religious studies programs of universities, scholars are reading over our shoulders and starting to study the grand history of the Sikh Women’s Movement.Because Khalsa women are inspiring – they always have been.”

11. Being a Sikh

Yogi Bhajan used to challenge his students to “fake it to make it!” The Sikh Guru teaches the opposite. You can’t fake being a Sikh.
The word “Sikh” simply means “student” and it is by taking the Sikh Guru Granth as your teacher, and obeying Guruji’s guidance that you become a true Sikh. When you read the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, you encounter Nanak. You will read the actual poems written by Nanak, and through these writings, Guruji teaches anyone interested how to be a Sikh.

Again, Sikhi is set up very simply. The way you become a Sikh is through Guruji, and you are not Khalsa if you break the Khalsa vows no matter what you claim.
12. Culture Is Maya

European and USA cultures are mostly maya. Maya is the world that we humans create and get all wrapped up in and attached to. The stock market is maya, and so is money, and fame and status and media; actually, most of what we call civilization is maya. Maya is made up of all those things we can’t take with us.

Punjabi culture is mostly maya. Punjabi culture has many wonderful customs with great food and art and much beauty. Western culture also has produced some good writers, musicians, and painters and some excellent food.

Still, human social constructs everywhere are considered by the Sikh Guru to be maya (illusionary).

By reading the Siri Guru Granth and by attempting to integrate the Sikh Guru’s instructions into my USA lifestyle, I am slowly able to rise above and live detached from the maya of my culture. Day by day, Guruji questions my basic motivations and training and asks me to try a new and different approach.

Historically, the Sikh Gurus taught Hindus and Muslims how to transcend the maya of their cultures (the false beliefs and fantasies and egotisms). In these modern times, the Sikh Guru is still at it. At the level that Punjabi culture is supportive of caste, racism and sexism, the Sri Guru is training Punjabis to be Sikhs. Nothing has changed. Maya remains maya, and it is only by the Grace of the teachings of the Sikh Guru (and other teachers of universal truth) that any of us can break free of worldly illusions and the falsehoods and sins of popular culture.

Ready or not, the Sikh Guru challenges each of us to be much better, far more inspiring, than we actually are.

It is only by Grace that people from India can suddenly drop caste, or racism, or sexism. It is only by Grace that someone born and raised in the USA can drop class-ism, and racism and sexism and materialism – different cultures, same maya.

The Sikh religion challenges us all to love and celebrate the finer sides of our cultures and backgrounds, but we are to live as Sikhs. It was a miracle when Guru Gobind Singh inspired a bunch of frightened and oppressed people of the Punjab to rise up and fight the maya of their fear and superstitions, and to stand strong for the human rights of all beings. It will take the same sort of miracles for Guru Gobind Singh to inspire Punjabis and people from other cultures, to do it again and again!

The Sri Guru teaches that we must study daily and comprehend and act on universal and true teachings. We must surrender our egos to Creator/Creation, and give our lives to the glory of the Beloved One. We are instructed to sing praise, invoke the Naam (Name of God) and become aware that the Supreme Being is witnessing our lives and we humans are witnessing the Creator/Creation as well.

“The Beloved One created the world with many colors, species of beings, and the endless variety of maya. Having created the creation, the Beloved watches over it. Creator/Creation does whatever Creator/Creation pleases. No one can issue any order to God.The Creator is the Sovereign of Sovereigns, the Supreme One and Only, our only real Master.
Nanak remains subject to God’s Will only.”


Sri Guru Granth Sahib, page 9

Advertisements

15 Comments

Filed under Fighting Authoritarian Groups, Kamalla Rose Kaur's Writings, Multicultural, Sikh Women's Movement, Sikhi

15 responses to “LOVE IS THE VICTORY! – Kamalla Rose Kaur’s Story

  1. Julie C

    Hi Kamala,

    Just took a look around your website and read about your history & article above. Good for you for publishing and challenging. Remember we all used to echo “Question Authority?” I like the “Assume Authority” approach, and you exemplify it perfectly here. You are both a great “student” and in the fullness of your power, also a great “guru.” Thanks for sharing. Cheers.

  2. kamallarosekaur

    Hi Julie!

    I am so happy to see you here!

    Thanks so much for the praise. I appreciate it very much.

    A Sikh trying to say what you said, would call me a good Sikh. Sikhs only seek to be “students”. The word “Sikh” means “student”. In Sikhi the role of Guru is played by no other than the Sikh scripture, the Siri Guru Granth Sahib.

    I just visited with Guruji out on the internet (http://www.sikhs.org/english/frame.html), prayed and meditated a bit and then asked for a message for you. Then I edited the sexist language out of the translation and banished the “Lords”.

    Guru Tegh Bahadur
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guru_Teg_Bahadur

    SGGS Page 536

    In this world, I have seen love to be false.
    Whether they are spouses or friends,
    all are concerned mostly with their own happiness.

    (Pause and consider this teaching)

    All say, “Mine, mine”, and they attach their consciousness to you with love.

    But at the very last moment, none shall go along with you.

    How strange are the ways of the world!

    My foolish mind has not yet reformed itself,
    even though I have grown weary of continually instructing it.

    O Nanak, we cross over the terrifying world-ocean,
    by singing the Songs of the Beloved One.

  3. Dr. Doris Jakobsh

    You’ve gone and done it again, Kamalla Rose Kaur Ji. Thanks for the teaching.

    Doris Jakobsh

  4. kamallarosekaur

    Hello Dr. Doris Jakobsh!

    “It” gone and done me again, you mean? Thanks for your friendship.

    Kamalla yer Rose Kaur

    http://www.sikhtimes.com/bios_111306a.html

  5. Kamalla, I much appreciated this particular article of yours. It gives me the clearest picture to date of this aspect of your life to which I have heard you refer so many times. I honor and admire your courage in tackling such old-boys clubs! I also appreciate the ground you are forging between East and West, between cultures and religions. I imagine a lot of people would like to know more about Sikhi, as I know I do, and I would like it if Sikhs were more interested in educating the rest of us about what they are about, what is meaningful to them, what their history is.

    I still find your views of feminism a bit dated, as I know you are still making up for essentially missing out on the whole thing. I’m sure your brand of feminism is cutting-edge amongst the patriarchy, any patriarchy, but as someone who was very involved in feminism at the time, it sounds outdated. I don’t know if this gap is one that is important to bridge, because I don’t know who your intended audience is for your writings. However, I guess I am part of your intended audience, since you send me links to your articles. Thanks for breaking down the difference between cultural sexism and religion, though I think it could help to state that outright: The sexism is cultural, and Sikhi is clearly against this oppression of women.

    On a similar note, there are Sikh terms I’d really like defined. Perhaps your site could contain a “glossary” of terms and people you refer to, so you don’t need to define them anew with each article. For example, “Guru” is a word that has seen much use and abuse, but what do you mean when you use that word? I think you’ve told me before, but I’d like to hear it again.

    Throwing money at and declaring devotion to, but otherwise ignoring one’s religion, isn’t that every religion, and most supposed adherents? So true. Oh, and I loved the Papaji story! “Love is the Victory!” is such an inspiring battle call. I would love to hear more about that.

  6. kamallarosekaur

    Hi Heidi,

    I pray Satnam Kaur and Manpreet Kaur and Harjinder Singh and Harmander Singh, and/or others, will help me with some of these fabulous questions.

    A Sikh’s only Guru (spiritual teacher) is our scripture the Siri Guru Granth Sahib. Sikhs bow to no other authority. It is 1430 pages of songs written by the members of the lineage of historic Sikh Gurus and also Hindu and Muslim Sants.

    As for being old fashioned; I am, rather – as you know. But independent of me, the Sikh Women’s Movement feels more like Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s movement than it does like the 1970s USA or since.

    Sikh women don’t want to be like American women, they look back into their own tradition for their role models. They are very “old fashioned” in other words; circa 1500s-1699.

    The Khalsa Knighthood arose to fight the Muslim Inquisition in Indian in 1699. The Khalsa Knighthood of the Sikhs is and was a very unusual group because both men and women belong, and because the Khalsa Knighthood is “defense only”. A Khalsa Knight is under vow to never attack anyone. They must never fight out of fear or anger or revenge. They can only defend the oppressed from oppressors. This they vow to do but that is it.

    Thus Sikhs fighting in WW2 did NOT fight against Hitler. Rather they fought on behalf of Jews and Jew’s right to practice the Jewish faith.

    Not all Sikh men and women belong to the Khalsa Knighthood. And, unfortunatlely, not all Sikhs who you see wearing the 5 symbols of the Khalsa Knighthood – uncut hair, comb, sword, steel bracelet, and underwear – are keeping the 5 Khalsa vows that these symbols represent.

    1. Kesh, uncut hair: Khalsa Sikhs vow to keep their bodies natural and live wholesome lives. No intoxicants, no smokes.

    2. Kanga -comb: They bathe daily and keep clean.

    3. Kirpan – the sword: Khalsa Knights vow to defend the innocent and/or oppressed. A Khalsa Knight is under vow to jump in and help those being oppressed or attacked. They feed the poor too.

    4. Kara – the bracelet: They vow to defend the Divine Ideals, and again never to attack. Khalsa Knights vow to be ethical, to shun corruption, to live truthfully.

    5. Kacchera – underwear: Khalsa Knights wear underwear (rather like simple boxer shorts). This symbolizes the 5th Khalsa vow. Khalsa Knights treat all men and women as brothers and sisters, as equals. They vow to not view the opposite sex as sex objects or romance objects, or practice any sort of rock-star-itis.

    In Sikh history, a history that Sikhs remember, Sikhs have fought in battles to defend the rights of Hindus and also Muslims to practice their religions in peace. Sikhs are proud of this. Sikhs are a proud people with a glorious (study them) past. Only Sikhs have ever run into battle yelling “Sat Siri Akal!” which means “Truth is Undying” or “The Truth Will Out!”.

    That said, most Sikhs are ordinary folk. Most are not Khalsa, and some who think they are Khalsa, are breaking Khalsa vows. Basically Sikhs are just as messed up, at times more messed up, than other humans. They are a tiny minority everywhere. Before 1984, Sikhs had politically clout in India (they were the swing vote between Hindus and Muslim in a small, but very prosperous, part of Northern India) since then they don’t. All their historic Gurdwaras (temples) are in India and also in Pakistan, and those two countries are full of hotheads (mostly Hindu, Muslim; also Sikhs, Jain, and Christian Missionaries) and those two countries have the bomb.

    Sat Siri Akal and thank you, again, for asking!

    Kamalla Rose Kaur

  7. kamallarosekaur

    Hi Heidi,

    I just visited with the Sikh Guru/scripture (the SGGS) and asked for a message for you. Here is what I got:

    Page 366 SGGS

    by Guru Ram Das 1534-1581

    Some form alliances with friends, children and siblings.

    Some form alliances with in-laws and relatives.

    Some form alliances with chiefs and leaders for their own selfish motives.

    My alliance is with the Cosmic One, who is pervading everywhere.

    I have formed my alliance with the Beloved One; who is my only support.

    Other than my Beloved, I have no other faction or alliance;

    I sing countless, endless, glorious Praises.

    (Pause and consider this teaching)

    Those with whom you form alliances, shall perish in time.

    Making false alliances, we mortals repent and regret in the end.

    Those who practice falsehood shall not last.

    I have formed my alliance with the One and Only; there is no one more powerful.

    All these alliances are mere extensions of the love of Maya.

    Only fools argue over Maya.

    They are born, and they die, and they lose the game of life in the gamble.

    My alliance is with the One, Creator/Creation, who embellishes all, in this world and the next.

    In this Dark Age, the five thieves instigate alliances and conflicts.

    Sexual obsession, rage, greed, emotional attachment/addicitons and self-conceit
    have increased.

    One who is blessed by Grace, joins the Sat Sangat, a True Congregation.

    My alliance is with the Great One, who has destroyed all these alliances.

    In the false love of duality, people sit and form alliances.

    They complain about other peoples’ faults,
    while their own self-conceit only increases.

    As they plant, so shall they harvest.

    Servant Nanak has joined
    the Beloved One’s alliance,
    which shall ultimatley conquer the whole world.

  8. satnamkaurkhalsa

    Dear Heidi,

    Lets start with:

    Vahiguru Ji ka Khalsa
    Vahiguru Ji ki Fateh

    Cry of the Khalsa Knight to another Knight.
    Vahiguru Ji= The wonderful Guru (The Almighty God)
    Ka (Male)= Belongs to
    Khalsa = Those who are under the wing of Vahiguru Ji.

    Ki (feminine)= Belongs to
    Fateh = Victory

    Guru Nanak’s Guru is Vahiguru and Vahiguru is God of all creation )whether they like it or not.)

    Ponder on the One God, think about the One God, find out the address of the One God and get there as soon as you can without delay. This is the main aim of Sikhs.

    What is the nature of God?

    God is one without equal.
    Nothing is without God as God is the essence of matter, anti -matter…what ever you can think of and much more.

    Has created everything.

    Without fear.
    Without enemy.
    Outside Time.
    Does not get into birth and death.
    Stands alone and is not dependent on any one.
    Can only be known through God’s blessing.

    I think this is enough to get you going.

    Satnam Kaur

  9. thank you, kamalla and satnam kaur for your thoughtful replies. i am giving these words my mindful consideration.

    kamalla, i certainly did not mean to suggest that i think sikhs should imitate western-style feminism. i do not deign to know what sikhs ought to do, and i am excited at the thought of sikh women finding their own way to rectify the discrepancies between culture and faith. i hope to learn from their examples. my concern had more to do with the language you use when speaking of feminism, and wondering who, exactly, your intended audience is. it may only be me who is put off by 1970s-style western feminist language, but i suspect a number of post-modern western feminists might feel this way. i don’t assume it is your intent to bridge this gap, but wonder if you can say more about how you feel about that.

    i also wonder if there is a glossary on sikhi already in existence on the internet. in my limited forays, i have not found one. would be great to have the sikhi community create one, so that there is (hopefully?) some agreement about the definition of terms in english, along with brief histories of important sikhs in the world.

  10. kamallarosekaur

    Hi Heidi,

    Here is a glossary: http://www.sikhs.org/glossary.htm

    I will add it into my sidebar under SIKHI.

    You know that I depend on your help and Ken’s help and all my friend’s help on catching me up to date. I was “gone” in YB’s group from 1973-1993 and it shows, of course. Ken and you have been pouring modern music into me for a decade now, and I get the historic drift finally – but don’t test me on names and dates yet!

    Speak more to me about what you are experiencing and please help.

  11. ishi

    Very interesting insight. As for arranged marriages, I wanted to share my experience. There were no sikh men around in the college campus or where I worked. Although, I did fall in love, I felt I wanted to have a husband who looked like my hero, Guru Gobind Singh, also I wanted my children to grow up in a Sikhi atmosphere at home.

    My father was very clear, since I was well educated he would find equally qualified sikh boys for me regardless of caste. I would talk to him and it would be my decision not his. He had to find 9 before the 10th one and me just clicked and we have been married for 14 years and I am soooo happy I made the right decision

    • kamallarosekaur

      Thanks Ishi for sharing your experience of how a daughter and father might work together to find a good husband and son-in-law.

      Guruji blesses you for sure.

      What is your advice for Sikh women (and nonSikh women) whose father’s fail to live ethically this life? How do you avoid getting married off by an alcoholic to someone unsavory? Many Sikh and nonSikh families are wounded, crippled by poverty and trauma, and/or still going through PTSS, and don’t get help for it.
      Many wealthier families fall into pits of social climbers and they are scrabbling over each other (caste and class) trying to be top insect. And/or the rich get distracted by all the other sorts of endless Maya and they aren’t really Sikhs. Most Sikhs I interview were not really raised Sikh.Their parents simply come from Sikh families.

      So in those families the children must rebel against the family to practice Sikhi.

  12. P.Kaur

    Great post…just stumbled across it and ended up reading it all. I’m glad that you have documented your experiences, thoughts and feelings so that others may learn and share as well. Thank you 🙂

  13. Nirmal

    i really wish more ppl would be so brave and not be afraid to tell the truth like you have. we need to work on getting people out of thr fantasy land ideas that the 3ho and others similar have caused and help get people back on track…and you know, if others could embrace sikhism as you do today – sticking with their own culture, yet having genuine respect for sikhism and other eastern cultures, instead of taking a bender to crazy land, it woul;d create amazing things. you rock kamalla. i hope to one day work with you in person on fighting this cult and getting things back on track!

  14. kamallarosekaur

    Blessings Nirmal Kaur,

    I’m a grandmother now. Can I just be your follower?

    I think the most exhausting thing about Sikh men, nay all men, is how they assume women wish to be leaders. Feels like Sikh men out on internet forums spend WAY too much time assessing whether I am a good Sikh or not, whether I fit their pictures of someone who should lead Sikhs.

    Lead Sikhs? Yikes! I know nothing. What??? And anyway I thought Guruji our leader.

    Truly, I only advise Sikhs on matters of Western media and PR, because I am a journalist.

    Me team player.
    Me fight authoritarian hierarchies.
    Me no Alpha.
    Me getting old and tired.

    Nirmal Kaur, I need a hug and can we pray together? Maybe I can start a new discussion here where Sikh women, at least you and me, can simply hang together and not be important. Not one bit important. No need to impress or act like good little Sikh girls. Might we simply be ourselves?

    A very relaxed sort of fighting, I know, but it would get ME back on track.How about you?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s