The commentaries and graphics appearing
on this Web site are presented as an open and
free source for
the enlightenment of visitors. However,
our primary aim is to stimulate
critical thinking and support for the subsequent resolution of diversity issues.
"Question is, are we mature enough to sit down and
discuss issues of diversity, including religion and race?"
"The process of self-discovery is not pretty or comfortable. This is
why White people resist conversing on the subject. But think of the
discomfort People of Color have endured for centuries while awaiting the
evolution of White people to experience the epiphany of their self-discovery".
"Are there even occasional conversations between White eyes and Colored eyes regarding the issues of diversity and racism and
their impact and complexities within the American community today?
Issues to do with diversity are not going away just because we deny
their existence, or because they cause us discomfort to discuss. We
must promote pluralism as did Guru Nanak Dev throughout his ministry. Sikh Dharma's tent needs to be as big as the Cosmos."
"The human mind was created to discriminate, e.g., make choices between
up and down, in and out, black and white, etc. We must remain aware of our
tendency to use our discretionary abilities in order to marginalize and repress
people with whom we differ. We need to constantly see to it that we advocate for pluralism, against tribalism, in the interest of justice as taught by Guru Nanak Dev.
Our choices are to live for each other, or to live at each other." Hari Singh Bird Khalsa
Sat Nam. Some thoughts regarding where I see today's 3HO/Sikh Dharma as an organization.
It is obvious, given the Awtar Singh Khalsa family being the one-and-only-of-its-kind married in the Dharma Black Couple in 3HO/Sikh Dharma after 48 years, that our organization needs to look at how we can make meaningful changes in our outreach. This can occur only if we seek adequate exposure to the life experiences of People of Color. The process may prove to be uncomfortable. This is why White people resist conversing on the subject. But think of the discomfort People of Color have endured for centuries while awaiting the evolution of White people to experience the epiphany of their self-discovery. See The Obama Phenomenon. See What Diversity Is. See What Diversity Is Not. See Tribalism For Those Who Dare. See Example of Tribalism.
"The fool will persist in his folly until he becomes wise." William Blake
"I get it!"
Guru Nanak's teachings regarding caste, class, women, inclusion and tolerance were considered extremely radical in his day and it appears these ideas remain just as radical today. 3HO/Sikh Dharma must engage itself in a meaningful introspective process of self-examination (Sensitivity Summit) when it comes to understanding diversity sensitivity. It's an important conversation for White people and People of Color alike to have in our progression of consciousness. That is, it is an opportunity for both 3HO/Sikh Dharma and Persons of Color to learn and practice tolerance, compassion, pluralism and service, towards each other. Guru Nanak's message to all people of the Earth is, "Recognize the Divine light within all. Do not consider social class or status; there are no classes or castes, hereafter." --
"It's with curiosity, astonishment, and some degree of sadness
that I experience expressions of antipathy, even disdain for
my commentaries by family members, while unrelated people
respond with affinity, even affection." Hari Singh Bird Khalsa
Sat Nam. I have a question here regarding this article of September 2, 2016, posted at the Learning Zone titled, 'Christian Preacher Admires Sex Equality in Sikhism'.
Christian Preacher Admires Sex Equality in Sikhism
Rev. Shannon O'Hurley
In this brief but powerful video, Reverend Shannon O'Hurley talks about women and gender equality from the pulpit. Her congregation learns about Sikhism and applauds.
"Sikhism was the first major world religion, that not only supported gender equality, but actively encouraged it. In their sacred holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, there are many scriptures that equalize men and women. It talks about the strengths of women, and there is even a passage, that refers to the fact that women give birth to kings, so how could they be any less than. This was 500 years ago people. Isn't that impressive. It was revolutionary. It still is revolutionary. In Sikhism, women are equal to men in role, status and power.
Thank you, S. Hari Singh Ji, for raising the issue (farce) of women's equality in the Sikh Society and Sikh culture.
We Sikhs have become very adept in deflecting the social issues by quoting Gurbani and not talking about how Sikhs behave in real life. Punjab had the highest infanticide rate in the world, but we turn a blind eye to it by reciting the lines from Asa Di Var, "So Quion Manda Aakhey Jit Jame Rajan".
Same is the response when talking about atrocities against Dalits in Punjab. We have the ex-President of SGPC who was convicted of an accessory to her daughter's murder, but she was given Sripaos in jail.
Regarding, 'Christian Preacher Admires Sex Equality in Sikhism' (as seen above):
Yes, of course Sikh Gurbani teachings are the best for female gender equality, but how many Sikh people practise what they preach? For the past 15 years of running a group called Sikh Women's Alliance, I have not seen many changes, which give me hope.
In fact the inequality pressures on women have become greater, what with expensive weddings and keeping up with your peers, i.e., who does the most over the top wedding and reception party at £100,000 venue, which is then the talk of the community? And what about the rising statistics proving female Infanticide is still rife, gender selected abortions, celebrations of boy births in Gurdwaras, parties, ladoo distributions, and sponsoring of programmes on radio stations to show off, and the reading of a long list of extended family names?
Parents of girls are still expected to give gold and gifts to the boy's family to show off how rich they are, and fake Balle Balle. How many women are on Gurdwara Management Committees or Sikh organisations? Female voices are silenced, as the Sikh community does not want to openly admit how badly some of them treat their daughters-in-laws and wives. (See The Case of Samia Shahid.)
A majority of Sikh organisations are mainly fronted by fierce looking men who see women as inferior, and only good for cooking langar or reciting Gurbani in Gurdwara buildings, which do not provide them with safe community centres, or disability facilities.
The SGPC of Darbar Sahib in 2016 is still not treating Sikh women as equals by allowing them anywhere in the inner sanctum of their control. No hukamnanas or edicts coming out from Amritsar, which decree that women must be treated equally, and not killed in the womb.
Domestic violence from drug and alcohol related addictions of many Sikh boys who are not working and able to look after there wives and children. Women get blamed for everything wrong that happens in a marriage.
Last year, when we held a conference on the theme, 'Why Asian women are still not getting equality in the 21st Century' in Ilford Gurdwara, we asked the Granthi in charge of that Gurdwara to say a few words from the stage as to what Gurbani says about gender equality, as people do listen to his discourses.
He refused, saying that our Sikh community does not listen to what is said from the stage, and that elderly women will carry on making younger women feel inferior if they do not give birth to boy babies.
He said that no amount of preaching that people should celebrate Lohri and distribute pink Ladoos on birth of baby girls will make any difference. This Granthi left before we started our conference, and we women talked to each another about inequality.
I was not surprised at this Granthi's attitude, as years earlier, when that Gurdwara first opened, I visited with my two daughters. This Granthi was giving a sermon that women are sapnis (snakes) who turn themselves into different forms, i.e., money, courtesans, chandi, etc., to corrupt the man.
I was glad my two daughters could not understand his deep Panjabi as they would have been offended. I verbally complained to one of the Trustee Advisors who told this Granthi that some women had objected to his sermon, and also at the fact that he was expecting everyone to touch his feet and treated him like God. This Granthi has now toned down his sermons, but every now and then we still get preachers coming into Gurdwaras saying that women are impure, as they menstruate.
Why do all these rules only apply to women and not men, some of whom stink of alcohol and tobacco? But they are allowed to give shoulder to Palki at the Golden Temple. But God help any Sikh woman who dares to touch the Palki, as the sevadaars will yell at them, and tell them to move away from the Palki.
No wonder my two daughters married non-Sikh husbands, as they are very happy that they do not have to contend with the gender inequality in the Sikh faith.
Do not blame the girls. Look at the way the community and rival relatives are denigrating our own daughters and women? Why are our youth marrying out of the faith in droves? SWA logo is 'Love and Value the Daughter' and make her feel she is a Princess, not a burden.
I find I very much appreciate the letter by Mrs. Balwinder Kaur Saund of the Sikh Woman’s Alliance.
The frustration and disillusionment is clearly felt. These traditions, the over the top weddings, the double work load and lack of appreciation for the value of women in the family – it all exists and we see it daily.
The emphasis on boys is all too real.
You have my 100% agreement there. Last week, our local Gurudwara elected a new board: out of the 150 candidates listed, only one woman. I don’t think she made it.
And the list goes on… you stated it all. But where do we go from here? These deep seated cultural ways have little to do with Guru Nanak’s revolutionary message to us but everything with the old ways, brought from the home country.
But it is not always bad. Sometimes, when done right, these traditions produce strong family bonds that weather economic challenges; they produce strong families, secure children, with young parents that get a head start at life with a solid degree, no debt to their name, a nice home and often a spouse well suited to make a good partner and mother to the young. Elderly parents help where they can and are provided for and honored.
But many times that is not so. How can this be turned around? What can we do to bring about a change, a new day? Since we have so little control over others, we need to start with ourselves.
My thoughts goes like this: If every woman who gives birth teaches her child the reality of this inequality, the reality about the pain it causes that will eventually affect them, speaks about the beauty of Guru Nanak’s message… I am convinced it is only when we go that deep that a change will come about.
And just like in Guru Nanak’s times, it took tremendous courage in the face of adversity, it took going against long held traditions that had lost their meaning… The times are calling out for us to stand up.
And those of us who are older can use our wisdom to support those that are younger. As a wise teacher once said, “Unless every woman becomes a sister to every other woman there will be tears on this earth.”
In this brief but powerful video, Reverend Shannon O'Hurley talks about women and gender equality from the pulpit. Her congregation learns about Sikhism and applauds.
Rev. Shannon O'Hurley with Sikh ladies
"Sikhism was the first major world religion, that not only supported gender equality, but actively encouraged it..."
A lecturer made a similar comment when I was studying at a local University. But then, S. Hari Singh has raised a very pertinent question:
"How many Sikh women experience genuine and total gender equality in their respective Sikh communities?"
Bibi Balvinder Kaur has written a powerful missive (above) about the lack of gender equality in our society and Gurdwara managments. Let us hope that a president or a general secretary of a Gurdwara or Sikh Association will come forward and tell us how gender balance is maintained in his/her Gurdwara.
In view of the command by Guru Gobind Singh, -- Manas kee jaat sabhaae aekaae pehchaan bo -- Recognise the whole of human race as one -- We should be in the forefront, not only in talking about Equality and Diversity, but in practising the concept, also.
Otherwise, I fear that we shall be labelled as 'hypocrites' by academics and preachers of other faiths.
The following missive is by my friend Phil Andre who is a lecturer of Religious Studies at two different universities. In my humble view, this is an observation of a dispassionate observer 'looking in', and we Sikhs should pay heed to what he has to say.
Very wise words, Sohan, about Sikhism’s stated commitment to gender equality and whether gender equality really exists, for example, in relation to the composition of Gurdwara management committees.
I remember hearing someone important in the U.K. religious community once suggest that religions exist primarily/above all to meet people’s spiritual needs (but the term “spiritual needs” was not defined. A pity, because the term/concept is an important one, but amenable to so many interpretations, and not always interpretations uniquely/specifically religious), and religions don’t therefore exist to change the world as in the laudable endeavour to ensure that, for example, gender equality prevails -- because that would mean that religion/religions are trespassing into the political domain.
However, all/most religions have things to say about politics/the appropriate governance of society and the human relations that exist within society, and for a religion such as Islam it is almost impossible, if in particular you pursue the orthodox Sunni interpretation of the faith, to divorce religion from politics. (Islam is meant to be a total way of life affecting every aspect of existence).
But I would argue: ALL religions have within them that all-enveloping potential, for good or ill). Moreover, Sikhism IS special in how it speaks so keenly about how equality exists/should exist within humankind, no matter issues such as gender, race/ethnicity, beliefs, etc., and Sikhism is as keen about promoting gender equality as it is to rid the planet of that dire Hindu-originated (?) concept of caste with all that caste implies in terms of a sort of rigid class system in which one’s life chances are shaped/ruined forever by a ludicrous accident of birth.
So: Sikhism puts at its heart the highly commendable idea that life must be improved for people now and not only in the hereafter (you cannot get more political than that, perhaps), so a drive toward real and not only rhetorical gender equality is much needed, not just because gender equality is necessary for moral and intellectual reasons, but also because gender equality IS something that marks Sikhism out as special within the religious domain. But, sadly, some expressions of Judaism and Christianity, and many expressions of secularism, have done more to promote gender equality than Sikhism in the last 100 or so years. It really is time for good men and women to act.
Any decision to arrange a peaceful protest outside a Gurdwara where women’s rights and opportunities are not the same as men’s has my full support! I am available most days of the week.
Yes: Sikh history is instructive about how the emergence of Sikhism initially enhanced women’s opportunities, etc. (as did the emergence of Christianity and Islam initially enhance women’s opportunities). But did such enhancement of women’s opportunities persist, or, as in the case of Christianity and, even more so, Islam, did men reassert their power and influence as the religion got older, and traditions emerge that were not in accord with the highest principles of Sikhism? What we need now is evidence to show that such enhancement of women’s opportunities was sustained beyond, say, the first 100 years of Sikhism’s existence -- and is sustained in the modern era.
I would imagine one of the litmus tests of such enhanced opportunities would be to ask: how many women are Granthis? And, if women have yet to emerge as Granthis, how far has the process gone to encourage/allow women to become granthis? The same might be asked about how many gurdwaras (in the Punjab as well as in the Sikh diaspora) have a woman as their president (or whatever title is used to describe the person with ultimate/overriding power/authority in a Gurdwara). And: how many women even belong to Gurdwara management committees? Do they yet constitute 25% of such committee members?!?
BTW: An astoundingly perceptive article about authority in Sikhism, and how young Sikhs respond to authority (and matters such as caste and gender equality), can be found here.
My Sikh Sense By Devinder Singh Chahal
Dear S. Sohan Singh,
I am pleased to read the comments of your friend, Phil Andre:
<< So: Sikhism puts at its heart the highly commendable idea that life must be improved for people now and not only in the hereafter (you cannot get more political than that, perhaps), so a drive toward real and not only rhetorical gender equality is much needed, not just because gender equality is necessary for moral and intellectual reasons, but also because gender equality IS something that marks Sikhism out as special within the religious domain. But, sadly, some expressions of Judaism and Christianity, and many expressions of secularism, have done more to promote gender equality than Sikhism in the last 100 or so years. It really is time for good men and women to act. >>
Dear Mr. Andre,
I would add that Hon. Justin Trudeau, PM of Canada has done much better about gender equality than any other secular government in the world.
It is unfortunate that some principles of Nanakian Philosophy are being accepted by sensible followers of Judaism and Christianity, and some scientists and politicians, like Mr Trudeau, but not the followers of Sikhism, not even in the Gurdwaras.
"Corruption occurs when a person in a position of power and
authority acts to enhance their status at the expense of the common good."
Sat Nam. I think it is interesting that only one SDI woman responded above to the issue of gender inequality among the Sikhs. And Balvinder Kaur Ji is the only Punjabi woman to speak up. Where are the women of Sikh Dharma? Thisgender inequality issue lacks much needed outcry, especially from women representing Guru Nanak's teachings to the world. Sikh Dharma international women leaders especially should be out front and vocal.
BTW: Ek Ong Kar, One Creator of Creation. In other words, God and me, me and God are one, there can be no gender inequality. Let us practice what Guru Nanak Dev taught. Let us pracitce what we teach.
The expectations of women in our Sikh and Punjabi community are endless: from behavior to clothing, from cooking to cleaning, from careers and child raising. One in particular I have noticed is that of women being expected to wear jewelry. Many mothers and mothers-in-law, especially after marriage, pressure their daughters/daughters-in-law to wear gold and exhibit their possessions. In this pursuit, some families face financial and logistical difficulties in getting these “ornaments” for their daughters. This tradition continues over generations despite having heard the common refrain of contemporary women, "No I will not wear all these. I am not into gold."
I understand that many want to give gold and jewelry as a gesture of love or goodwill. But many women do not wear gold that often. For instance, one of my relatives never wore her real gold jewelry for over 20 years. So, what purpose did it serve her? Apparently, it’s an asset; an asset to the point where they were a point of contention during her divorce.
What is the use of these external ornaments? What about those whose outer selves are adorned with gold but their inner selves are unadorned with Divine virtues?
Gurbani addresses this very topic of inner versus outer beauty. The Gurus wrote many verses about what it means to be a truly beautiful person or a pretty Kaur, and we we can learn from theses shabads. I will share some simple, yet succinct messages with regards to the true adornment of a woman. I will also talk about the symbolic meanings of some ornaments in gurbani, such as necklaces, bracelets, rings and eyeliner.
"If the mind becomes the ornament of pearl and every breath the string... one becomes pleasing to the Divine and enjoys Divine love." -- Asa, Ghar 6, Mehala 1, Guru Granth Sahib, 359
We spend a lot of money, time, and effort on ornaments and accessories to enhance our physical beauty. But what about our inner selves - do we do the same to beautify our mind? Here, Guru Sahib states that it is our mind that needs to be the pearl. To become a pearl, it requires a persistent effort to adorn the mind with good values such as humility, compassion, and forgiveness. Only when the mind is steady and beautiful, do we attain bliss.
"If she wears the necklace of the Divine's Name around her neck and makes the Divine's remembrance her toothbrush... then she revels in Divine union." -- Asa, Ghar 6, Mehala 1, Guru Granth Sahib, 359
The best ornament that we can constantly wear around our neck is the one of consciousness of the Divine. It ensures that the Divine is always in our mind and such an embellishment truly enhances our beauty. Having the Divine Name always on our lips and in our hearts will ultimately beautifying our lives. It helps us to notice and appreciate the beauty surrounding us. and not dwell on the negatives of others.
"If she makes the awareness of the Creator her bracelet and wears it around her wrist her mind becomes steady." -- Asa, Ghar 6, Mehala 1, Guru Granth Sahib, 359
When we are mindful of the Creator's omnipresence and lead a life with this awareness, then our mind is steadied and free. If we conquer our mind, we are able to overcome life’s challenges and adversities. Driven by our consciousness of the Omnipresent, we will start performing good deeds with our hands. Such deeds beautify our hands, not expensive bangles. We go on to attain Divine grace and are endowed with eternal happiness --- these hold more value than external beauty which, is never everlasting.
"If she makes Divine-remembrance her ring for her finger and takes Divine-consciousness as her silken clothes... then she attains union with the Divine." -- Asa, Ghar 6, Mehala 1, Guru Granth Sahib, 359
We sometimes receive a ring at our betrothal ceremony and it remains on our finger, a constant pleasant memory and reminder of our loving engagement with our soul mate. The beautiful clothes further enhance our consciousness of the relationship and bring us joy. Similarly, by leading our daily lives in Divine memory and awareness, we embrace the Divine values and enrich ourselves spiritually. This will enhance our happiness. Love for the Divine in our hearts and living with such consciousness in our minds is the most exalting beautification for our souls. This is what leads to internal harmony and bliss.
"If she makes patience the weaving of her braids and applies the eyeliner of Divine love... then she delights in the embrace of Divine union." -- Asa, Ghar 6, Mehala 1, Guru Granth Sahib, 359
The Divine virtue of patience imbued in our way of life and in our daily routine enhances our beauty more than the ornamental materials we use. Simplicity supported by virtues is the way advocated by gurbani. Similarly, the vision of love towards the world is the element that will add the sparkle of Divine beauty to our lives. Patience and love bring inner stability.
Through a symbolic expression of beautification of a bride, these verses shed light on how we need to spiritually decorate our lives rather than focusing on external beauty. External beautification does not help us to enlighten our beings, nor does it prepare us to embrace the Divine and receive life’s blessings. Divinity and bliss dawn upon us only when we beautify our minds and purify our hearts. This is not to say we should not wear any jewelry or abandon it all, but it should not become our obsession or all consuming. We should remember that our real goal in life should be to adorn our soul and mind with Waheguru.
My dear sisters, let us try to tread on this path and pave the way for our generations ahead. We are the voices of today and tomorrow. We are the beautiful daughters of the age. -- Source.
Thank you, Balbir Singh Ji, for your comments below raising the point, "There was no difference between Hindus and Sikhs."
The very fact that this issue of mixed faith marriages in Sikh temples is so robustly discussed online is an indication of how immersed into tribalism Sikhs have become. I recall that Guru Nanak Dev Ji taught the opposite of tribalism, which is pluralism.
Respected members. I may be confused a little. Can someone please explain when Guru Ji first wrote the LAVAN, and witnessed the first marriage? Were the couple SIKHS? Were they baptized before wedding? Intermarriages we're performed in the time of Guru Ji and after, openly, until India's partition in 1948.
There was no difference between Hindus and Sikhs. Even in Khalsa Raj, the intermarriage was accepted fact. Guru never differentiated between any religion. If anyone came to Guru he was welcome. The first that came to attend, no one was asked who he was? That custom is followed even today. Anyone can come visit, listen to Gurbani, take prasad, and take part in lunger, and any other facility, or serve. Why now, has this issue come up?
To me, anyone who comes to Guru, respectfully bows, and quietly sits, listens or acts as per law of the place, cannot be denied any service. Maybe my thinking is wrong. But what has been practiced from Guru's time to 1948 Is not accepted now.
I do not think anyone has the right to change the Guru Maryada practiced from Guru Nanak Dev Ji. NO ONE IS ABOVE GURU. No one has authority to change or amend the tradition laid by the ten Gurus.
Balbir S. Basi, USA
Well said, Sardar Balbir Singh Ji!
BTW: I see the mixed faith marriage and gender inequality issues as related in that both involve the marginalization of persons who represent OTHER. And as stated previously, I think it is interesting that only one Indian Sikh woman responded to the issue of gender inequality among the Sikhs in a recent Learning-Zone commentary. And only one American Sikh woman chose to speak up. Where are the women of Sikh Dharma? Their silence is deafening. (Note: This missive may not be posted at Learning-Zone given the sensitivity of the male ego.)
Sat Nam. An important, historic interfaith event took place September 4, 2016, in Lakewood, Colorado at the Mile Hi Church. Introduction by Rev. Shannon O'Hurley and Dr. Roger Teel. Please watch this video.
Sat Nam, my dear friend! Your views are based upon your life experience. My views are based upon my life experience. My views are also inclusive views, inclusive of yours and every person in our organization.
I expect the majority of folks within the 3HO/Sikh Dharma organization to favor your views more than mine and to perhaps even reject my views for reasons that I indicate in My Sikh Sense piece. Looking in the mirror is never easy. I don't know anyone who sees themselves as racially insensitive. Too painful and requires more humility than most have. See Americans Still Lie About Slavery.
To be honest, I think the big difference, at least in how I see things, is that my life experience is similar to that of my brothers and sisters of color, which of course cannot be truly or completely shared with 'White eyed' folks. "You had to be there!"
"It's with curiosity, astonishment, and some degree of sadness
that I experience expressions of antipathy, even disdain for
my commentaries by family members, while unrelated people
respond with affinity, even affection." Hari Singh Bird Khalsa
However, this is the issue ACT is addressing. The closest the people in our organization can come to being there is to permit a platform to be created for People of Color to share their experience. (See Sensitivity Summit.) This is for them apparently a heavy load and a long carry for all kinds of reasons. I think it's the reason the Siri Singh Sahib never really got into it. His life was too short.
"Recognize the Divine light within all. Do not consider social class or status; there are no classes or castes, hereafter." Guru Nanak Dev
Again, at some point, hopefully sooner than later, our organization must come to grips with this reality, the issue of the one and only all Black Couple with progeny after 48 years. The starkness of this reality is going to require some real courage to deal with. "If not us, who? If not now, when?" See The Obama Phenomenon. See Back to the Beginning.
The problem with, "The rule of communication is tied to reception. We have to adjust our projection to match the ability of the receiver," is that you are assuming (not a good idea) the receivers' ability does not match our projection. And from what I am hearing, some of you think you know with certainty what the receiver's ability is. Not so!
ACT needs to look, listen and learn as students and observers of this process. I urge you not to project ahead of the reality. As you know, reality is not always what it seems. My advice: Do not believe everything you think.*
There is no evidence I know of, other than your imagination, that Sensitivity Summit will be found to be unacceptable. Let's not become a bunch of naysayers and project a naysayer thought form on the mission.
I remind that Guru is in charge, not you, me, the Khalsa Council or anybody else. Do not second guess Guru!
And to any of you who may have thoughts about abandoning Guru's mission, I say, rise above your ego and let Guru! 98 percent of success is attributed to showing up. Or as the Master taught, "Keep up and you'll be kept up!" This is the Khalsa way. Bring it! --
"How can it be a virus?
It says, 'I love you.'"
not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe
anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe
anything simply because it is found written in your religious books.
Do not believe
in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do
not believe in
traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.
observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with
reason and is
conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and
live up to it. Siddhartha
Thirty-five years ago, I chose my teacher based on his words, "Do not accept what I say, check it out for yourself."
Do not assume that you understood what someone said or meant until you clarify it, by asking them, to make sure that you understood them. But to do this consistently, you need to be trained in it.
I think that is why the 'Non-Violent Communication' program is so interesting. And, I think a lot of people do not get involved in this program because they think that they are not violent and therefore neither are their conversations. But that is not true. All of our conversations are 'violent' to an extent by the way that we express ourselves. Our conversations are closed-ended and do not always get to the bottom reasons (we beat around the bush a lot). We don't express ourselves well enough. And we don't ask the other person if they are 'with us'.
Many years ago, I was on the phone with Krishna Singh and he was talking away, when suddenly he asked me if I was 'with him' and I so surprised that answered with the truth, 'No'. He had gone off on some tangent that was boring, but we are trained not to tell people things like this, we just 'take it'. Krishna changed the subject immediately and then told me about NVC. I was impressed then and now.
I took part of a course, had to drop out, so this is based on my memories and may not be totally correct.
The NVC program teaches a person how to 'tune into what 'they' want at that moment', and how to express this in a way that opens the conversation to the other person involved. Therefore, allowing them to express back in the same way. And you get right to the point of the conversation.
I had a situation when I first started taking classes in Kundalini Yoga in 2007. Two teachers were saying that there was a Kundalini Yoga community (where we were) and I said there was not. They both made assumptions about me and what I was saying. It was a terrible experience for me. I never wanted another Kundalini Yoga Teacher again. It could have been easily resolved, if either teacher had asked one question. 'What are you basing your comment on'?
No teacher that I have ever dealt with has ever asked that question or similar questions. In class, when I asked questions, the teacher gave me an answer and then walked away without finding out, if my question was answered or if I had any more. it is a total lack of communication. The NVC training and practice communications takes care of all of this. And it does take practice, it is a different way of talking, a different way of communicating.
So to make sure that I am communicating correctly here, I went to Amazon and looked at some of the reviews of the NVC book.
"Initially I thought this book wouldn't be relevant to me since I didn't consider myself a "violent" communicator. A few pages into the book however, it became evident to me that despite my easy-going nature, I had much to learn about communication. Dr. Rosenberg identifies learned communication that disconnects us from each other and is at the very root of violence. He then offers a simple yet powerful 4 step model that leads to respectful and compassionate communication. One catch - while the model is simple, it can be challenging to apply, especially when we're upset. That's because most of us have learned to blame others when we're upset and it's hard to unlearn this behavior. However, use of the model deepens our awareness and it becomes very clear how destructive our habitual knee-jerk reactions are to both ourselves and others. The Nonviolent Communication model helps us to become conscious and choose to respond differently - that is in ways that are more likely to lead to positive and satisfying outcomes for everyone. If you'd like to transform your relationships, for example: learn how to really listen to others while not taking anything you hear personally (what a gift!), learn how to give and receive in ways that are deeply gratifying, and much more, this is a must read. Also, this model is applicable in all relationship types - perfect for couples, parents, teachers, managers, executives, counselors and anyone else interested in relationship building."
"This latest edition of Dr. Rosenberg's book has a completely new chapter called, "Connecting Compassionately with Ourselves." It's about what he calls, "self-compassion." He writes, "When we are internally violent towards ourselves, it is difficult to be genuinely compassionate towards others." I enjoyed this chapter because it helped me translate my self-judgments into statements of my own unmet needs. I now see that when I am angry with myself it is because my actions were not in harmony with my values. Seeing things from this perspective helps me mourn my action and move into self-forgiveness by connecting with the specific need I was trying to meet when I used a strategy that I now regret. I particularly enjoyed the section on translating "have-to" into "choose-to." The exercise showed me how to locate the choice in what I do, by connecting with the need, want, or value each activity serves. I find I have more energy, more compassion when I experience choice in my life."
"Rather than saying "you never clean the !@#$ kitchen," the NVC approach would be to say something along the lines of: "When you do not take out the trash in the kitchen, I feel __________." And so on. NVC also encourages you to be receptive to what other people are saying and feeling, even if (or perhaps especially if) they do not word things with as much precision and care."
"NVC in more than simply communicating without violence, it is a technique or rather process that reframes conflict and enables us to communicate in a clear compassionate way that can dissolve the conflict causing anger, frustration and other emotions that would otherwise prevent us from getting our needs met.
NVC has even been used to diffuse tensions between groups that were at war for decades! We’ve been socialized to categorize and label people, especially when they are doing behaviors we don’t like or approve of. When these labels are expressed whether verbally or through our non-verbally, it puts the other person on the defensive and they are unable to hear feedback. When we stop our moralistic judgments and no longer compare ourselves with others, we can observe behavior without putting evaluations on it. That is the first step to NVC.
The second step is being able to define and take responsibility for our own feelings. We learn that our reactions are often unique to our own wounds and stories. When we don’t take what others are doing personally, we can see them and their behavior in a new light.
Then we focus on the 3rd step, figuring out what our needs are. Why are we upset in the first place? How can this need be met? So part of NVC is understanding how we really feel when our emotions may have been triggered.
The 4th step is to give the other person a specific request that will meet the need. Throughout the book, Rosenberg shares many examples from workshops and groups he’s facilitated so you can see what words are being used, how dialoguing and asking the right questions gets to the heart of what people are trying to express and how this can create true empathy and understanding."
Sat Nam. Today in the Eugene Newspaper Arts section. Article on a famous sculptor. He was asked to do a bronze statue of a cowboy to stand in prominent placement in the downtown of Pendleton, Oregon. He thought not another cowboy sculpture. Then heard the story of this particular cowboy, a story steeped in rodeo, racial injustice and the changing face of the American West. It changed into the top project he has ever done. "George Fletcher, the cowboy was such a neat character. People can really relate to him.” The sculpture was completed ahead of schedule so it would be in place for this year’s Pendleton Roundup. The city wants this sculpture to represent the world famous Rodeo. How can that be? George was of African descent. The story was that he had won the entire day, but the prize (expensive Saddle) went to a White guy. The crowd booed the decision. George was decidedly the winner. The Sheriff took George’s hat and cut it into small pieces and walked through the crowd selling the pieces for $5. And presented the cash value of the saddle to George. That day in 1911 the West thought about itself.
When I was doing the work on the Garb Law in Oregon I kindly asked the older volunteer guide for the capital did they have any People of Color in the building. She said that they have someone in the basement. I said, "Oh!" She looked at me with eyes of sudden awareness. The next time I visited the capital there was an African descent male guard front and center in charge. She was still there and gave me a sly little smile while looking over to her burly security officer. She knew how right her action was. I wondered just how she made that happen. When my son and I visited once together, she was very much a take care of anyone person. I think she used persuasion and not confrontation to get her way. The right way. Remember, this is 2009.
Harsh language is always rejected. Anger in someone’s face does not feel good. Especially a group that has been through an Enron experience. Getting taken by a scam is hard to face. Stolen from feels awful. No matter the color. And feeling righteous in one’s “consciousness” is a relief of that. Following the teachings of a spiritual teacher in so many ways feels empowering. But that spiritual teacher left the most important job to be taken care of by those who studied with him. And understand those teachings. He never did anything he was not conscious of. Even the seemingly horrible Enron of Golden Temple Foods. One could see it all coming. I did far ahead of anyone else. It was plain to me what was coming. And I expect the Siri Singh Sahib did as well. And how many White folks in Turbans have been subjected to all forms of bias just because of clothing that isn’t the norm. Even hippie clothing is fine and in style. But Turbans represent something the world just doesn’t want to face.
In India those Turbans caused so many to be clubbed, burned and tortured. If one removed the Turban they looked the same as the distractors. Why would anyone want to take the same abuse as inflected on People of Color. As the old White lady in Vancouver, BC asked me “why are you doing this, you’re White.” Why am I? Good question. If I took off my Turban right now and walked out the door, life would be drastically different. My second wife did. And she has more work and more respect then ever.
I still get change on the counter. And looks away in the park. Lonely when you stand out. People of Color know this. And say well you could just take off your Turban and be fine. And that is correct. But why do us White folks wear something that makes us into feared, hated, laughed at, discriminated against and sometimes reviled? To do something perhaps dangerous. Why? It would be so much easier not to. Perhaps it’s so we can “walk in the shoes” of everyone else who were born into being different. And take down the last barrier by simply being the ruling color in the garb of the underdog.
My work for Kundalini Research Institute involved creating books and manuals. How many times did we look and look for models of color? That were willing and able to take yoga poses. How many times did I look at an African descent person and wonder if they could be a good model, but they thought a request like that from a Turban wearing dude was weird? How many times did we try to find someone? For the men's book, I had to use neighbors on the cover. And Punjabi, Asian and Hispanic inside. The IAAW book was the most successful with Krishna Kaur and friends, including the daughters whom we featured because they were so cute. Take a look. Not easy finding People of Color. For the last book Kriya word sent out in the Espanola, NM community yielded what we got. Only a week to shoot it. We had the darkest we could find. On the cover. But it’s been very hard to do. It was volunteer and get what shows up. And that’s the point. Showing up.
I know when people of African descent show up, they get special attention. I took my insurance agent to Rotary. He said people where looking at him. I asked him if maybe it was he was a very tall, a very handsome, well dressed Black man. Oh, he said. Maybe people would love to have him in the club. There is a man from Kenya who is very popular. And another member, the former school superintendent of schools, is a highly respected Black man in Eugene. He retired. But they keep asking him back to help. He was recently put in charge of the County. To make things better. His name is George as well. Nationally respected and honored for his work. This in a town where there was an old Ku Klux Klan cross on the hill above the train station. That was finally taken down and moved to the Christian College – which is another story.
I have experienced some interesting discrimination. By White, Black, Brown, Yellow, Red and Blue humans. Equal opportunity discrimination. I have had slurs, slings, arrows and shuns from all colors. Equally. I am the new thing to discriminate against. Easy for so many. He’s White, so it’s OK. I could just take if off and slip my Austrian aristocratic White self into place and everything would shift back to “normal.” I would be lauded for coming to my senses.
Why don’t I do that? Because I care. And I am grateful I can “walk in the shoes.” But most People of Color say that I don’t get it. And they then discriminate. So let’s look at the Khalsa Council and all the rest of the ruling party of the day in the Dharma. They found a safe haven in New Mexico. And can operate out of it in relative safety. And feel good about themselves. But that involves being cloistered with all the pitfalls of that. And being cloistered long enough causes groups and exclusivity to evolve. Look at the Vatican. But that doesn’t mean they are not good people. When all you see is White around, that becomes your world. And old habits die hard. But what if a cowboy shows up that is really good? And is a “neat” guy, treats everyone well. Equally. It rather wakes people up. And gets the crowd to pay him due even when the ruling folks decided for the White guy.
The most important thing has been showing up. Being a Black face in a White crowd. And then another. And another. Courage to walk up to the rodeo commission and sign up for the event. To participate. To be discriminated against and then find out the majority of the crowd actually supports you. Losing didn’t matter as much as the crowd standing up. And that was not confrontation. That was just doing the job the best and being recognized. It’s being of Native American descent and standing up for it. In spite of 48 years when no-one had any idea they were a person of “color.”
Hari Singh Bird could have said nothing. And not be seen as a person of color. But he stood up. And showed up. And proclaimed it. That takes courage. Rather like putting on a Turban. Now he has two things going on. But look at Solstice and Peace Prayer day. We all know who is in charge, eh? Or do we. The important event of the day is to walk the spiral. And who is in charge of that, wiping auras with Eagle Feathers only they are allowed to have? And blessing each person as they move into this sacred space. The Siri Singh Sahib recognized who had come to him to tell the story of the Solstice Site. To this day an event many religions might consider pagan is conducted on that sacred land. And it was the “Native American” who made it happen.
Black Elk, Lakota Medicine Man
"Peace comes within the Souls of Men
when they realize their Oneness with the Universe.
When they realize it is everywhere.
It is within each of us."
And Krishna Kaur is the spoke person for the Yoga. Look at the KRI website. Daily quotes. Who is the face of KRI? It is a Black woman. She was called all kinds of things. Went through hell with all of this. But who is the number one respected person in the Dharma. A Black woman, who simply showed up. Because her teacher told her to just keep showing up.
And this organization is on the verge of either showing up and guiding the world into pluralism, or reacting to anger and harsh words, to shelf probably the most important decision this Dharma can make. Of course, the Siri Singh Sahib didn’t teach it. Of course, he didn’t leave instructions behind. Of course, most don’t “get it.” Because he left the most important job to us, left behind. To do or die. He left behind a legacy of himself. But gave us the biggest job of all. To go right back to the beginning and take Guru Nanak's message of pluralism to the world. He left behind the biggest test of all. And in that we will prove ourselves or die the slow death of being unaware. He left behind people like Krishna Kaur, Gurumukh Singh, Hari Singh Bird, Awtar Singh, and Siri Avtar Kaur to show up. Be the face of where we need to be. He left behind all the teachings and examples to work from. To show the way, not demand it. To be the diversity sensitivity, not demand it from folks who may not be aware of it. To be the guides. The most compassionate about it. To show the light. And confrontation here does not show the light, doesn’t guide. Full of anger and resentment, that never makes anybody feel well. I had a real feeling of joy about this effort. So, did Shiva Singh and other’s who have left – because it became about anger and resentment? Words of accusation and belittlement? These Khalsa Council, Siri Singh Sahib Corporation folks are my brothers and sisters, too. I don’t want to tear it down. I want to find joy in making it right. Joy will win the day. Joy and brightness. Awareness and teaching. Guiding. Being the example in the face of everything. Look to Krishna Kaur for the way. She was personally taught by the Master to be that example. She is the one single person of color that has taken everything she has endured to become a Saint. And not by confrontation, but work. sweat, confidence, and always a guiding hand. If I personally wanted advice from anyone in this Dharma – I would fall at her feet to get it.
Want to see the face of God? For me it’s Black. And Hari Singh Bird is Native American. I didn’t know that. I want to know more about that. I want stories that will inspire me. I want to know about Coyote, and the colors of the directions. I want the teachings of Guru Nanak kindly taught from the perspective of one who has walked the Red Road. If Hari Singh showed up at Khalsa Council he should wear the Eagle Feather. It is his right to have. Krishna Kaur shows up in the colors of Africa with her Dharma Whites. And a Turban that looks more like an African Queen"s crown. Where is it written about the African Turban. That will be different because the hair is different. Who has come up with that beside Krishna Kaur?
Colors of the Directions Colors of Diversity
We (White folks in Turbans) are all waiting for you of color and culture to teach us. Guide us. But we react to anger just like everyone else. We don’t mind seeing our shortcomings, but please be gentle, our White egos are fragile. Yours are stronger and they frighten us a little. When your words are harsh we are taken aback and in comfort, do nothing. We want to be your brother and sister, but don’t know how. We know you are angry and would like to do something. But we would like to be respected. We still are told by society that we are superior, but suspect that is not true. We are drawn to like faces, but would like to try being better. We feel that wearing the Turban has given us some experience in living like you have. But know it’s not quite the same. Will you teach us? Please be gentle, our White egos are fragile. More.
Sat Nam. If you want to learn from us, know that we had cruel tutelage.
Conveying its lessons truthfully, generates all kinds of emotions. The emotions generated in you by those lessons, may not be the one's we feel..."laughing to keep from cryin'".
Think of us like Samuel Delany's Lll (Empire Star). A war has devastated millions of planets, killing billions of people. The Lll are a slave race (large, dark, and shaggy), hideously expensive, they are capable of rebuilding not only the destroyed ecosystems, but every aspect of civilization from ethical, religious systems, to infrastructure, including of course star travel. The Lll will only work as long as their owners are awake, and as long as their owners are awake they feel incredible unbearable blinding sadness. No one knows what the Lll feel, but they keep building while their owners are awake. Delany, a Black Gay Sci--Fi writer, posits a world in which the "masters", feel bad about slavery, but economic necessity (Even though you have to be incredibly rich to own them, and the price grows exponentially the more you own, as well as the emotional intensity of the sadness) keeps them enslaved.
I bring this up because of the last part of your excellent "rant".
"We (White folks in Turbans) are all waiting for you of color and culture to teach us. Guide us. But we react to anger just like everyone else. We don’t mind seeing our shortcomings, but please be gentle, our White egos are fragile."
Your ego's are sensitive, but such is the nature of them.
Yours are stronger and they frighten us a little.
The ego is not threatened by strong ego's but strong spirits, which threaten the validity of the ego's assumptions.
When your words are harsh we are taken aback and in comfort do nothing.
And we adopt adages to cope, "I went to the rock to hide my face, and the rock cried out, NO Hiding Place, there's no Hiding place down there." "The cavalry ain't comin', and if the cavalry is comin' it ain't comin' to rescue you. Best to make friends with the Indians (Feather, not Dot)."
Guess who is the cavalry, coming to those who have circled the wagons against the hostile Indians?
Hmm, 3HO circling the wagons... against the restless natives.
"We want to be your brother and sister, but don’t know how. "
Speak our language, then know our anguish. Don't add to it.
"We know you are angry and would like to do something. But we would like to be respected."
"We still are told by society that we are superior, but suspect that is not true."
If it were true, if we were inferior all the ISM's wouldn't be necessary to hold us back. When we stopped believing we were inferior and our own infinity, that would be scary. You gave up your beliefs in Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, White Jesus, and all men are created equal, too.
"We are drawn to like faces, but would like to try being better. We feel that wearing the Turban has given us some experience in living like you have. But know it’s not quite the same. Will you teach us? Please be gentle, our White egos are fragile."
Its not about what you can put on, and take off, or how you wear your hair. Its what shines through...
Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter." Yoda
I know of course George, and our insurance agent, who is from a family who have faced Klan threats, and other violence over the years that I have helped document and bring to light.
The anger is not necessarily directed at anyone personally, but when you hear of injustice, or a difficult story how can one not be angry at the injustice? Or know that it exists? Or know what truths we know and take for granted, that are revelatory to you.
Just like the Roman's persecuted and killed Jesus, and hijacked his religion, and made it into a weapon of war...
So, did the United States, persecute Martin, and Malcolm, and definitely had Martin killed (Federal Lawsuit won by his family, proved he was killed by an Army sniper, not James Earl Ray, but apparently you never heard that on CNN) and a holiday made in his honor.
Turtle Island is a term used by indigenous
tribes for the continent of North America.
I love my country...that is to say Turtle Island...I'm not so sure about my government. I guess I trust them not to push the button, only because they haven't figured out a way to make money from doing so.
History is a weapon, I do not dispute your contention to watch Lincoln, or Amistad, or any number of Steven Spielberg films. Spielberg, is a great film maker, but he tells a constructed history that is palatable to America, and glosses over or omits the real history, and the story that we Black people would tell ourselves. The reason Negro History Week (bookending Lincoln's Birthday and Frederick Douglass' birthday), later Black History Month, is in February, is because it reminds us of the difference between Lincoln and Douglas.
Before and after the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln's stated solution first articulated at the first meeting an American president called of Free Black Leaders, was not to listen to their concerns or solutions. It was to tell them his solution. To keep the country from going into Civil War over slavery, send all Black people free and slave, out of the Country, into... Costa Rica, which the U.S. didn't even control. Okay, I could see it, great surf, rich in minerals, food, tropical... but wait... we built this country... now you want us out.
He proposed this to Douglass et. al., and their response was not positive. He said it again, a few months before his assassination (which Spielberg doesn't even mention in his film). One of his generals told him... we don't have the ships, but even if we used all the ships in the Navy, all the commercial ships, we couldn't fit everybody, and by the time you got everybody you could fit shipped off, the remainder would simply repopulate with new births, the one's you shipped.
Thaddeus Stephens is my second favorite Republican, a Radical Republican, and this is what he, Sumner, and Douglass, proposed as a solution to slavery... Free the Slaves, make them American Citizens, with the vote, compensate them for their labor, give them education, and 40 acres and a mule to work the land if they don't want to go to college... make them equal to Whites in every respect... because... THEY ARE!
That was what was Radical. An immediate, total, and complete end to White Supremacy (excuse my vernacular but I'm worked up)... RIGHT FUCKING NOW! And that was in 1860. If the South loses, and they will lose, we give the slaves their 40 acres out of captured Southern lands... in fact a few generals did just that.
Spielberg accurately described the compromise Stephens made... and accurately depicted his mistress (masquerading as his housekeeper, because he couldn't marry her), but left out the fact that he had himself buried in an all Black cemetery, when cemeteries were segregated.
That's what I describe as a good White man, just like I would describe a good Jew... A good Jew makes trouble for the "Romans" always. A good White man has the courage to disrupt White male supremacy... always.
And I'd have to say, we have a few in our ACT midst. I would simply question, not only is your sword sharp... but do you listen to Geronimo, Nzingha, and Nanny, as well as Nanak? --