December 4, 2020

Vadbhagee

(c) J. Singh, 2016

From the late fifteenth century until the late eighteenth century, a resplendent light manifested on this Earth in the form of ten spiritually enlightened beings that came to be known as the Great Gurus of the Sikhs. They walked the Earth amongst us, in human form, each one succeeded by the next, until the last one, the Tenth True Sovereign, after which there were to be no more human Guru's.

They brought healing to an ailing world, the light of divine wisdom and mercy, and showed people the path from suffering to peace. They revealed the secrets of Universe and the meaning of Life, and taught us to love, honor and serve mankind. They upheld the values of justice and equality and taught people to be free. It is said that even a glance from the Guru can redeem a hell-bound soul and deliver emancipation from slavery. To this day, Sikhs the world over maintain the highest reverence and deepest respect and love for their beloved Guru.

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Gurpreet Kaur was beaming. It had been several weeks since the ceremony, and she still couldn't stop smiling. She was sitting in her cubicle at work, typing an email on her laptop. But her mind was preoccupied. Since the ceremony, her life had felt completely different, even though nothing tangible had essentially changed. She still worked at the same job, drove the same car, and lived in the same house. But it felt like everything had changed in way that was indescribable. Colors seemed brighter, the air seemed fresher, food tasted more delicious, and she felt more energetic. It seemed like she had been asleep all her life, and had only just woken up to realize the beauty and joy of life all around her.

At first, she thought that the exhilaration would eventually dwindle and fade away, and she even had a sense of dread about how she might react when it did. But here she was, weeks later, and she still felt as if she was floating on air. Never in her life had she had such a sustained feeling of euphoria. She eventually decided that she would give herself fully to this feeling, and surrender to it. If it stayed, she would welcome it. If it faded, then she would also accept that without disappointment.

Immediately before, during and after the ceremony, she had felt a varied mixture of feelings: fear, panic, peace, calm, joy, bliss, happiness, excitement, and overwhelm. Even now, so many weeks later, she still felt herself often times tearing up, unable to contain the immense feelings that kept welling up and surging inside her. In the days and hours before the ceremony, she had felt that her entire life had been preparing her for this. When she had stood with head bowed, surrounded by the fellow abhilakees, enveloped in the yearning sounds of simran , and the doors had finally opened, she had felt that her destiny was finally being fulfilled.

And now, everything was different in her life. She was forever changed. She had received a wide variety of reactions from everyone in her life. Most of her friends were happy for her, others were confused, and a few derided her choice. Her family was very pleased, with her parents being especially delighted. They made it a special point to announce her new status to every family friend that happened to visit.

While she didn't speak much about it with her immediate family or friends, Gurpreet did share her enthusiasm with her newfound sangat, who were very welcoming and loving. At times she felt wistful, wondering why she hadn't taken this step years ago. But she was glad that she was finally here now.

It would be another several weeks before she started to talk about her experience and articulate her feelings, even with her new sangat. One of the members of the sangat, Harpal Kaur, had been especially helpful to her before the ceremony and had stayed in touch afterward. Gurpreet and Harpal had become friends and would often speak. She felt she could confide in her, and ask for advice. She had encountered challenges in adopting her new lifestyle and Harpal was the one person she could turn to for help. Harpal had been through these challenges and she could relate to Gurpreet and what she was going through. She listened with empathy and always offered practical advice. Most important to Gurpreet, though, was Harpal's warm and non-judgmental nature. It felt to her like she was talking with the older sister she never had. She was so grateful for having such a friend. But then again, since the ceremony, her life had been full of gratitude for so many things.

Gurpreet sighed and looked at her watch. It was almost time to leave the office. She finished typing the email and clicked on the "Send" button, then shut down her laptop and packed it into her bag. As she stood up, she heard the familiar chime from her phone indicating that she had received a text message. She glanced at it and saw that it was from Harpal.

Come over for dinner. Gurcharan is cooking! Bring Uncle and Aunty. The kids have been asking to see you :-)

Gurpreet smiled. She loved visiting Harpal's family. As she was heading out the door, she rang her Mom.

At Harpal and Gurcharan's house, it was the usual chaos with three young children giggling and playing, chasing each other, and causing the general ruckus that only children can create. As Gurpreet walked in the front door with her parents, she could smell the delicious hot food being cooked in the kitchen. All the spices and flavors reminded her of her Mom's cooking and distant memories of childhood and home in India, before her family had migrated to the United States.

Harpal and Gurcharan were splendid hosts, even with the distraction of all the children. Or perhaps because of it. The whole family seemed to have a knack for making visitors feel welcome and immediately at ease and relaxed.

After dinner, her parents and Gurcharan sat on the comfortable couches in the living room and had tea and talked, while the kids played and watched cartoons. Harpal and Gurpreet sat in the relative quiet of the dining room and talked.

"I guess I thought this feeling would pass," Gurpreet said, "I mean, not immediately, of course, but eventually. But, it hasn't. And I'm really grateful."

Harpal smiled warmly. "You're blessed."

"I keep thinking about it," Gurpreet said. "When we were all waiting, how nervous we were. And then those big double-doors opening. Walking inside...just remembering it, it makes me feel so emotional."

Harpal nodded, listening.

"I still remember the Panj Pyare. They looked so amazing in their bana. And the sevadars were so helpful. I don't think I could have made it through without all their support. They're all members of the local sangat, aren't they?"

"Yes, all of them are," Harpal mentally counted the sevadars who were present during the ceremony. "You've probably seen all of them at the Gurudwara at some time or another. Of course, you wouldn't have noticed them before."

"I feel so grateful, I feel like thanking them for all their support and help."

"You don't have to do that."

"I know, but still. At the very least, I want to say thanks and show my appreciation."

"You can do that by helping others."

"I knew you were going to say something like that!" Gurpreet laughed. "Maybe this weekend I will see some of them at the Gurudwara?"

"Yes I'm sure. Harmit Kaur will be there."

"She was the one wearing the blue dastaar, right?"

"Yes, and the tall, slender one is Prabhjot Kaur."

"She was so sweet. She got me some water when I was thirsty."

"Let's see, there was Sukhjeet Singh..."

"Yes, with the gol pagri!"

"Yes, and Ravneet Singh was also there."

Gurpreet furrowed her brows as she struggled to remember the details. Then she asked, "What about that other Singh?"

"Which one?" asked Harpal, counting the sevadars mentally again.

"He was the one who helped the older Uncle when he was too tired to stand. He brought him water, and helped him to get up and sit down again. I'm trying to remember his face but I can't."

"Hmm...that wasn't Ravneet?"

"No. I can recall everyone else's faces. It wasn't Ravneet. I just can't remember exactly what he looked like..."

Harpal looked around for her phone. "Let me check," she said, "be right back."

While Gurpreet waited for Harpal to return, she tried to remember more details about that day. She clearly remembered how she felt, but it was proving more difficult to remember the exact details of what she saw. She remembered sitting down immediately after being initiated, feeling overwhelmed. And then a voice whispering in her ear, 'Bol Vaheguroo!' Then her eyes closed, and she began speaking Vaheguroo, Vaheguroo, Vaheguroo. Eventually, that meditation was in her thoughts, that simran kept going on in her mind, even until this moment.

After several minutes, Harpal returned with her phone in her hand. She seemed to be restraining herself. She seemed visibly shaken. She sat down and quietly asked Gurpreet, "That Singh you saw, what else did he do?"

"I'm not sure. He just seemed to be helping everyone. I remember that his clothes were so bright, it seemed almost like he was glowing, he was so radiant! He was so graceful. You really got a sense of peace and comfort, like everything was going to be ok. He had a very calming presence. Very warm."

Harpal was looking at Gurpreet very intently now. "Did he speak to you, or say anything to you?"

Gurpreet thought for a moment. "I think so, but I can't remember what it was. He was helping everyone, and I remember when it was my turn to be initiated, I was trembling and hesitant, I was really scared. He said some words to me, I can't remember what he said, but I felt warm and safe and knew that I would be protected and that even though I was scared, I would be taken care of. And that everything was going to be okay. It gave me the confidence, you know? And then I took my first step. After that, all my fear was gone."

Harpal was staring at Gurpreet.

"What?" Gurpreet asked, taken aback.

"Gurpreet bhenji (sister), I called Harmit, and also Ravneet, and all the other sevadars. I talked with all of them, and they all said that there was no one else there that day. Nobody saw anything like what you have described. There was no-one like who you just described."

"Then who---" Gurpreet stopped mid-sentence, confusion and hesitation showing on her face.

Harpal laid her hand on Gurpreets arm.

"Bhenji," she whispered, her voice trembling and full of emotion. "You are indeed blessed!"

Tears welled up in Harpal's eyes.

"What do you mean?" asked Gurpreet.

"I've only heard about this, but never knew anyone that it actually happened to. That Singh you saw--" Harpal took a deep breath. "You had Darshan of Kalgidhar Patshah! (The Tenth Sovereign)"

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