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I leave my body as the kirtan reaches my ears and rushes through my veins. The human in me dies every time I listen to a verse from the Guru Granth Sahib, and for that moment I dissolve into the infinite. Nothing matters, I am free and unbound by the fake facade of maya, the materialism, around me. The presence of an infinite creator overcomes my consciousness and I merge with content. My soul reaches a state of equilibrium and for that moment, there is no need to strive for anything else. All hunger dies. I listen with my ears not to mere words, but sacred truths revealed through the vibration of cosmic love. There is no language that can translate the ecstasy which overcomes my being. I am a Sikh, a learner, of the true source of creation, God.

I believe in the hukam, will, of Waheguru and pray for His grace and mercy in the lives of all. I am not perfect, but I strive to be a more understanding and compassionate soul. I try to listen and recite the Japji Sahib, Rehiras Sahib, and Kirtan Sohila daily. I understand the importance of implementing the teachings transcribed in the Guru Granth Sahib into my everyday life. I try to gain more knowledge regarding Sikhism by referencing Sikh history, movies, documentaries, and books. I listen to Katha from great Sikhs like Sant Giani Maskeen Ji for inspiration and understanding. I do not intoxicate myself with alcohol or drugs of any kind, and I am a student in medical school with an intent to help others in their time of need. However, some may say that I am not a true Sikh. I have short hair and a trimmed beard. I am not Amritari.

We went to dinner at Uptej’s dorm suite today, and we were joined by another Sikh medical school student, Bhavneet. Uptej is an Amritari Sikh woman who keeps her hair neatly wrapped in a dastaar. Bhavneet also keeps her hair covered and has been waiting to take Amrit for many years now, because she believes it is the most important part of Sikh Rehat, discipline. However, she went a little further saying that only an Amritari Sikh could claim Sikhism their path, because without Amrit a follower is not a true Sikh. However, the Gurus believed that all are created equal and that there is no such thing as a Sikh, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, or Jew because all life is One. Many Hindus and Muslim saints are also included in the compilation of the Guru Granth Sahib further illustrating that all humanity is one regardless of race, religion, caste, or creed. We all come from one divine light.

Sikhism is based upon the universal oneness of the universe and its creator, God, who is infinite and without form. No mortal has the tongue nor the ability to fully describe the intensity of God’s power, benevolence, and beauty within every single atom of the universe in which His grace resides.

Avil Alh nUru aupwieAw, kudriq ky sB bMdy ]

“First God created the Light; by His power he created all people equal.”

eyk nUr qy sBu jgu aupijAw, kaun Bly ko mMdy ]1]

From One Light came the entire universe. So who is good, and who is bad? ||1||

logw Brim n BUlhu BweI ]

“O people, in doubt wander not, my brothers,”

Kwilku Klk Klk mih Kwilku pUir rihE sRb TWeI ]1] rhwau ]

“Creation in Creator, and Creator in Creation, Totally filled in all places. ||1||Pause||”

mwtI eyk Anyk BWiq kir swjI swjnhwrY ]

“The clay is the same, but various ways by the Fashioner.”

nw kCu poc mwtI ky BWfy nw kCu poc kuMBwrY ]2]

“Nothing is wrong with the pot of clay – nothing is wrong with the Potter. ||2||”

sB mih scw eyko soeI iqs kw kIAw sBu kCu hoeI ]

“The One True Lord abides in all; by His making, everything is made.”

hukmu pCwnY su eyko jwnY bMdw khIAY soeI ]3]

“Whoever realizes the Hukam of His Command, knows the One Lord. He alone is said to be the Lord’s slave. ||3||”

Alhu AlKu n jweI liKAw guir guVu dInw mITw ]

“God is unseen; He cannot be seen. The Guru has blessed me with this sweet molasses.

kih kbIr myrI sMkw nwsI srb inrMjnu fITw ]4]3]

“Says Kabeer, my anxiety and fear have been taken away; I see the Immaculate Lord pervading everywhere. ||4||3||”

I understand the importance of the Sikh Rehat of Guru Gobhind Singh Ji and the vital attributes of the Khalsa brotherhood. The Khalsa kept Sikhism strong through the Mughal raj when there was a small bounty for the head of a Sikh. The sacrifice of Guru Gobhind Singh Ji’s sons who would rather die than lose their faith and convert to Islam at such young ages. Sikhism has sacrificed thousands upon thousands of lives for justice, freedom, tolerance, and understanding of God. I cannot even begin listing all the sacrifices in Sikhi. Baba Deep Singh once said, “Sir jaave ta jaave, mera Sikhi sidhak na jaave” (If my head is severed, let it be, but don’t severe my Sikh way of life). These sacrifices cannot be forgotten for the love of God was so strong in these souls.

During the volatile contextual history of Guru Gobhind Singh Ji, it was highly important to distinguish a Sikh from a Muslim or Hindu. If the religion and the message of Sikhism were to survive, a new identity of fearless warriors was to be created known as the Khalsa. However, in a new world of globalization and cubicles that identity is becoming harder to keep especially in Western countries. One must make a harsh decision now, either live and assimilate in the West or keep the roots of the Khalsa and its bana with prejudice. Does Sikhism reside so much in the look or is it more concentrated in the heart and faith of the mind? I personally know the attachment I have to Sikhism in my heart and the relationship that I hold with Waheguru in high regards. There is a very powerful and intrinsic love I have for my people, religion, and faith. If the time ever came to shed my life for  a greater cause, I can most certainly say that Sikhi would be the infinite force behind my passion for justice and truth. No matter if I do not have a pugh or a long beard, in my soul I am a Sikh of the Gurus. I know my relationship, what is yours?

Many Sikh youth question the religion they have inherited, and see it as beautiful but too restrictive. Too many black and white rules, rehats, guidelines, and strict regulations. The passion dies inbetween the thirst for God and the rules and regulations laid by panthic associations such as the SGPC. The relationship between a human soul and God is an extremely personal and inner one, because God is indeed within all creation. We are apart of His divine glory, so who can tell us that this is the way and that is not. The Gurus understood the unbiased lens of spirituality and thus expelled all notions of this way and not that. We are a people lost in a world of trial, and God is the only hand that can guide us but is everypresent if we just take the time to look. I am not going to let society, organized associations, or any giani tell me that my Sikhi does not follow the rehat when indeed my love is only growing for Waheguru everytime I utter His praise or contemplate His glory. No one can take my faith from me, so I follow the path of the Gurus who understood my desperation to surrender. Everysingle atom is Khalsa by birth, and so everyone is joined by a brotherhood blanketing all creation. A Sikh is one who is supposed to understand when he recites, “Nah Koi Bari na he Beganna,” (There is no stranger or enemy).

Guru Nanak believed, “Truth is HighHigher Still is Truthful Living”. In the Japji Sahib, Guru Nanak says that God only understands the language of love and that comes from the heart with true devotion. We must not branch, divide, and corrode the message of compassion in the Guru Granth Sahib but instead we must unite and accept with love all who walk the path of the Guru and those who do not. Sikhism has many enemies like the RSS, and many fear that a more liberal perspective of Sikhism will create dangerous Hindu influences, but we must not forget that the journey to God is a personal voyage and not a political one. In terms of spirituality and personal growth, we must stand united as a sangat to different views and accept the appeal of the Gurus who opened the door to oneness without a need for rituals, superstitions, castes, creeds, and such. They understood Waheguru’s depth so they were open-minded for they comprehended the vastness of His creation.

Every human reaps what he sows within the reason and will of Waheguru’s will. Those who do good will be taken care of in this life and that after, no matter if the person is a Sikh, Muslim, Christian, or Jew. All men are created one and all the labels that have been created just build more walls hindering the light of divine’s present within the heart and mind. We must learn to see the stars we lay under as everyone’s all the same. I make it a spiritual practice to respect every soul no matter the view or the ideals. Within all resides His creation, so who am I to judge.

Sikhism should no longer be exclusive but rather all inclusive as it was meant to be. Maryada is a must, but tolerance which preaches righteousness and truthful living is more important. Let people follow the path as they will without judgement, lest you be judged by your own actions. Lets stop dividing and instead begin uniting as humanity with justice, valor, integrity, courage, and love within our hearts.

What do you think? Who gets to be a Sikh? What if someone is not ready for Amrit? Many shaheeds during 1984 came from the West with cut hair and died in the fields of Punjab for justice, were they any less brave or Sikh? Will loosening the definition of a Sikh make Sikhism weaker as a panth? How do you see the future of Sikhism? How do we prevent secluding Sikhs without kesh by current Sikh definitions?

I believe these questions must be answered in a changing world desperately in need for the words of the Guru Granth Sahib appealing to a universal truth. Ek Oankar, God is One.

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A Grim Economic Outlook

The economy in America is worsening, and it seems like everything that could have gone wrong is going wrong. I am not an economist nor do I have much experience in the field, but whatever knowledge I do have is obvious and conclusive. I understand that the economy is a vastly complex and intricate system, so I will try to touch on the surface of how I view the economy with my limited knowledge in hand, and the way it is affecting most Americans today. I innately approach the issue with my own bias and a cynical view of government, particularly the Bush administration. However, it is vital to understand that both Democrats and Republicans are the wealthiest men and women in the country, and it is no surprise that the elitist politicians are immune to the turbulent economy. The economy becomes a hot button issue on the campaign trail, and patching up economic problems with temporary bandages happens so often under the intense watch of lobbyists. The government is now run by the rich for the rich. Do not get me wrong though, because I believe in keeping America as capitalistic as possible, because I truly believe that less government is more government. Although I believe this to be true, it is unfair to lie and deceive the American people with monopolies, cartels, price gauging, high gas prices, credit crunch, home foreclosures, Social Security, healthcare, taxes, regulation, unions, outsourcing, and the decline of the US dollar. The harbingers of disaster are here, and the forecast ahead looks grim and dreary.

America is addicted to gasoline, and the addiction makes America especially vulnerable and dependent on dangerous suppliers like the Saudis in the Middle East. The world is growing at a phenomenal pace, and the universe is no longer revolving around the United States of America. Europe, India, and China are the biggest consumers of gasoline and in developing countries the need for gas is growing exponentially with each passing year. Strained relations in the Middle East and raging wars against Islamic nations have cast a dark shadow in our fragile links to oil rich countries. Sanctions against dangerous countries like Iran become impossible due to other strong countries dependent on Iranian oil production, and this begins to create suspicious alliances connecting countries like Russia, China, and Iran. With oil being a finite resource and the demand only growing, war in the coming years over oil rich nations may become a cause for another world war. Gasoline is used as energy in every single aspect of American life and consumerism. As goes the gas price, so goes the price of just about everything else. Today I am paying four dollars and twenty cents a gallon for my car, and four dollars and seventy cents for one loaf of buttermilk bread. If this is not insanity what is it. Fortunately, the head of our government is run by oil company investors like Bush and Cheney and I am sure that the record high profits by oil companies is not hurting them. This is a scary thought indeed. Gas directly hikes up the bottom line of all companies and is then passed down to the consumer in the form of higher prices. Gasoline consumption also ruffles the feathers of green house gases and the effect on the environment in terms of global warming.

I am not sure if global warming is a reality in its entirety, but there is no question that pollution has damaged the environment beyond repair, and greenhouse gases are to blame when fossil fuels are burned. The environmental burden of industry transitions straight into intensive regulation limiting and raising the cost production of companies, and this too trickles down to the consumer. Any company that must produce a large quantity at low prices frets over the proposition of any regulation or union empowerment. When the government pushes regulation, capitalism collides with intervention. In addition to regulation, unions force companies to pay high wages, prepare safer conditions, and cater to profit stripping demands by the workforce. Regulation plus unionization leads to a harsh atmosphere of minimal profit thus propelling the longevity of outsourcing. Outsourcing allows American companies to move their low skill manual labor to developing nations where unions and regulation are nonexistent. Bigger profits become the stimulant for leaving America to more fertile grounds for cheaper production. Are unions and environmental regulations to blame for outsourcing? The simple answer is yes, but there needs to be more incentives for American companies to keep America a producing nation, and not a dependent one. The world becomes a dangerous place when everything we buy reads, “Made in China.” It is fatal to think that the brain will reside in America, and the operation in other countries. Not being a self-sufficient and independent country makes imports the pumping heart of our country’s economy as exports no longer create a superpower presence in the world. The only solution to once again reclaim America’s powerful production lies in the innovative advancement of technology and alternative fuel.

Ethanol is the new alternate fuel bandwagon which many want to get on to make a quick buck on hype, but the crux of the problem lies in its inefficiency and the impossibility to change the infrastructure to make it work. It still does not hold the golden ticket to salvation, because it would take millions of acres to supply the country’s demand, and that would turn the crop from food to fuel. In the face of a world food shortage that could mean higher food prices and more unavailability of food on the global scale. In countries where food becomes a problem and rationing occurs, food can easily become the log of revolution and the flames that ensue the cause for mass chaos. There is little doubt in my mind that the oil special interest groups are poking holes in the alternative fuel debate for their own benefit, and that stains the glass of objectivity and future change quite a bit. This is where the government needs to utilize its grand power to pour money into research and development, because this task may be too risky for private companies to fund.

The collapse of the housing market bubble has also lead to a decline in consumer consumption and confidence. Government seems to regulate where it causes harm, and oversees regulation where it may help. The home and credit markets were a huge oversight on the government’s part as sub prime loans were being handed out to everyone just for a profit although many were not in a position to sustain the home. Then when the equity on their homes dissolved with the collapse of the housing market, so did the bank’s need to reclaim their money in bad investments. Now home foreclosures are skyrocketing and people are losing their homes left and right, so what does the government do to help the people? The answer is simple, they bail out big Wall Street companies like Bear Stearns and let the people scamper into rental and foreclosure. A government for the rich by the rich indeed. People who speculated or bought a house although they could not afford it are to blame, but so is the government for allowing this to blindly happen.

The future for the new generation also looks meek as we will continually pour our money into a sinking social security scam, and not even receive a cent. Retirement is now becoming a distant dream, because for many it will never even exist. Those who procrastinate and prolong keeping a private savings account for retirement will repent as they will find themselves working into their seventies and beyond. The economy is becoming less and less humane and individually supportive as globalization is creating a fast paced epidemic, and liquid cash goes astray in numerous credit lines and frays. Taxes continue to keep chipping away more and more by every year, because the government cannot keep a lid on its enormous spending and eventual waste. I believe that the fair tax should be enacted to keep a level playing field, so corporate and illegal loophole can be curbed with a blanket sales tax excluding necessities like food and clothing. People must pay a higher price for gas, groceries, retirement, taxes, mortgages, and now healthcare can also take all of one’s work away in an instant. For an uninsured person in America, one heart attack or car accident can get so expensive that it can cause one to lose everything.

The most important issue affecting the future health care delivery in the United States of America is the large number of uninsured individuals who put themselves and their families in harms way. The high cost of American healthcare has left many helpless individuals vulnerable to big corporate insurance and pharmaceutical companies who accumulate enormous profits through inflated costs. This uninsured dilemma prevents over forty million American citizens from receiving regular check-ups and preventive treatments, leaving millions at risk of developing many complications that could have been prevented. Families are forced to pay huge mounds of bills at the expense of their family member being uninsured. This problem is increasing with the passing of every year and will surely pose a problem in my future medical practice in the United States of America. Healthcare should be affordable and accessible for all, and those who cannot manage to afford it should be helped by the government and the more fortunate. Until the uninsured obstruction is patched up the United States healthcare system will remain broken and insensitive to the needs and wants of the people who rightfully strive for a healthier life. No one should be denied the right of health and happiness. It should not be a political or economic issue, but a humane one.

On a global level America has even dropped in status with the dollar plummeting in its rate of exchange. The European and Canadian currencies have soared above our own, illustrating just another example of how America is slowly losing its shimmer of supremacy in the world today. The dollar losing its value also has a direct affiliation with higher gasoline prices as well as soaring consumer goods prices. We are indeed in a sticky economic time, and the swells of a bad tide are steadily rising toward the shore, and when some economic analysts use terminology like recession or depression it often angers me. On CNN Special Investigation Unit, an economic analyst made a good point by saying that a recession is when your neighbor loses his or her home, and a depression is when you lose your own home. The terminology may be hazy, but the truth is far more powerful that America is indeed venturing down the wrong path, but I am reassured with the innovative and resourceful American attitude. Every country has its ups and downs, but it is vital to acknowledge them and move forward as quickly as possible with permanent and sustaining solutions.

My buddy, Spenser, and I were watching the movie, Untraceable, at about midnight last night. He had already seen the movie, and told me to pay-per-view it. Towards the beginning of the movie, he hinted at some clues that I would have missed if it were not for him so keenly highlighting them. I was entranced in the movie, reality melted away. My fears were real, my anxiety visible, and my frustration evident with the suspenseful plot. For example, the feeling one gets when the main character walks into a fatal situation they could have easily escaped if not for an innovative script writer.

As the protagonist walked up to her car with the killer obviously in it. I cussed at the actor saying, “that bitch deserves to die,” but inside I felt scared, worried, and anxious at what was to come. Then a thought hit me. It was sort of like life itself, when looking in retrospect, some decisions just seem plain stupid; however, the consequences are real. I turned to look at my buddy laying on the couch behind me – he was asleep. Things never changed.

I had known Spenser since the third grade when I had first moved to the little old town in California’s central valley. More than seventy-thousand people now, but I always saw it as a quiet little town. He was the popular one in the class for he was rich, good looking, and had everything any little kid ever wanted. His father was a well-known business man in town, and he had an intimidating quality about him. He owned a few restaurants, and had just remodeled a gorgeous contemporary home. Spenser’s mother was a very generous, homely mother, who put the world at his finger tips. The all American family I suppose. On the other hand, here I was a little insecure Indian boy in the third grade catapulted into a whole new environment where everything was so foreign and new. New kids, new town, new people, new lifestyles. I had always liked stability and routine. Our friendship began on a long rocky start in Ms. Wilsey’s third grade class.

He avoided me, and I him. He bragged about all he had, and I had nothing to brag about. My parents had always tried to give me everything and then some more. When I would tell my friends about the new Pokemon card I got in my booster pack, Spenser would interject and say he had five of the same kind. Everyone would flutter to him, and I would stand there embezzled of my two minutes of fame. I was used to being the blessed kid in class especially after living in Madera, a low income town in the lower part of the valley. My father, a physician, had just started his own practice when we decided to move. We rented a small house in an okay neighborhood which was practically missing a backyard if it were not for the three feet of grass separating the back sliding door from the fence. It was going to be our house until we found a home suitable in town.

I would wake up in the morning and walk in front of our little house in the morning for the bus to come alongside my mother, and there he would be looking out of the window – happy. Yeah I knew I had nothing and back then, to be honest, I really did not mind, but he just had so much. Inside I wanted to have more in life like cooler friends, nice cars, a big house, a pet dog, and a lifestyle worthy of envy. Yet who was I to change my own destiny. Until that day came, if it ever did, I would enjoy a mediocre life just like the rest, and the green Ford Windstar van overwhelmed by the mile meter.

Then within a few months of saving and looking around, we bought our first house in a nicer part of town, the Peacock Estates area. It was not a mansion from Beverly Hills by any means, but it was one of the bigger houses in town. A little over three thousand square feet and a roomy two story layout, but a tad bit too dark. It was huge at first. I now had my own room, and a backyard that captured my imagine. It reminded me of a scene straight out of the Jurassic Park. A jungle landscape neatly kept with ferns, maple trees, and beautiful ground-cover. We were finally living life the way it should be lived from a small child’s perspective. My dads’ friends’ houses were still much larger and fancier, but for us it was a great enough change. Life began to change as money beckoned on our door as my father’s practice began picking up. Friends were easier to woo, and anything I wanted was in my grasp. People began to notice me at school. I was fitting in.

My sister, Simran, and I buckled up our bikes the day after moving in and headed toward the end of the cul-de-sac when out of nowhere Spenser showed up with his older cousin Jessica. He looked at me, surprised, and then I knew that we were going to be friends for years to come, and many stories would since be minted in our minds. We soon became very close friends and we often joked to Spenser himself about adopting him for he had become part of our family. He lived at our house. We did mischievous things to piss of the neighbors, got into loads of trouble, lit things on fire, and always found new adventures in the different seasons of the year. So many stories and tales unfolded and always Spenser was there – a great friend. Our bond grew thick threw Elementary and into Junior high. High School came and cliques were born, but we still managed to keep our friendship afloat.

During my Junior year in High School we finally completed our dream home in an acre lot, surrounded by ten acres of luscious almond trees. The house was a dream come true started from paper to foundation. It was gorgeous at about nine thousand square feet with a pool, tennis court, prayer room, two gates, three dogs, an exercise room, game room, office, and so much more. I had money now, and people knew it. I was changed not only by the money but also by the new image it brought, and I soon forgot about the old. Memories seemed strange and foreign; my thoughts then seemed like someone else’s.

As I lay last night at the age of eighteen, I turned to look at Spenser sleeping on the couch behind me in the moon lit playroom, and the memories came flooding back. That guy next to me encompassed so many memories that I have had in my life. It felt like a time machine laying there so old, so many new worries, college on the horizon, new born insecurities, woman, and all. Back then we were so free, but now so much had changed. He was different – older, mature, and independent. I lay there thinking about how much life had given me, and many thing that I would have never have even expected nor imagined. I had been through some tough ups and downs in my life prior, but now life had reached a golden age where peace and prosperity had hit my family with overwhelming force, and I was thankful for everything, but I also missed so much.

I missed the simplicity and innocence of growing up without worry and leading a life of mischief without severe consequences. A life given to childhood. Not heeding many responsibilities, and dreaming of futures unshackled by the scathing blunt of reality. I was free, and now as each year passes I change. I am beginning to see black and white, habits are beginning to harden, relationships are becoming more fragile, egos are overcoming character, and my life is now a resume to persuade others. Do not get me wrong I am still young and happy, but compared to the openness and confidence I had then – I am missing a lot today.

Another thing that scared me while I lay on the couch that night was the depth by which I remembered such simple memories. Perhaps, things I would have never found worth remembering as I was doing them so many years ago. They brought smiles, grins, and frowns to my face in that dark room as I lay there staring at the ceiling fan flying by in circles just as my life seemed to be going. Life was speeding forth in what seemed to be a pre-planned circle, but the precision and predictability of life is much more bleak for it can change for the best or the worst in a instant. I knew the chance of a bolt flying of the fan was close to none, but I was not so sure about life. What scared me most were the memories that were beginning to get damaged by the strain of time for they were beginning to fade to darkness. I wanted to keep them. I wanted to live some moments as a child undisturbed again. I never wanted to grow up as a child, but now it was not an option. My reality of being eighteen was no blind shot into the future imagining what life would be as I graduated sixth grade, it was now my reality. Time did not wait for me to grow up.

I sat there thinking about the inevitable future of me being twenty-five, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy. I should add a big “if” in front of all those dreadful numbers, because life is just an “if” surrounded by a “l” and an “e.” I knew I would be different and in the future, I would wish to have my youth back again. I would wish to think back to when I was eighteen, and then wonder how could I have been so free, unrestricted, dumb, stupid, optimistic, negative, and so on. How could life be so good? Would I be a good father? Would I achieve my goals when I grew up to become a successful physician with money growing on trees? A beautiful wife with little boys well rounded and pre-accepted to institutions like Yale and Harvard. Would I leave behind a legacy? Would some event take my life in my early years? Would some devastating circumstance hinder my mental stability and rob me of who I thought I am? So many variables decide my fate and future, but I find my trust in putting my destiny in the hands of He who makes it all happen, God. In his mercy I trust.

My future is unknown and that is the part that frightens me the most. For my past has become a sheer breeze in my mind that blows every so often to rekindle frozen moments in time. However, one day my reality will be my future sitting back, and looking at a fading past I call my present.

I am here, and I am now. Tomorrow this man who is typing these keys will be dead forever, and only resurrected by the powerful whims of the past. When I try to resurrect and recall the man who is typing these very keys in the future, I will never be able to fully recreate the thoughts, emotions, and present feelings that were once here as I wrote this story. I will become a stranger to myself for every second that passes a new conscious is born, and another memory is murdered to the depths of the mind. Some will breeze back many years from now, and others will never be retrieved nor recalled. Hence, the death of a mortal is forever a cycle of life.

The past is just a horribly sketched fantasy, and the future a grimmer reality projected by the mind as accurate as the script of a movie. Live in the present for that is the only time you are really you.

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