I arrived at Miri Piri Academy in early August after a seven-year hiatus from Amritsar. In the time that I was gone, I spent my time immersing myself in a very different world from the unique place that is MPA. Being outside of the enclave of the school as well as the comfort of the Sikh Dharma world, I was forced to deeply question my own practice and beliefs. I was in college. Though I lived close to sangat, I was very much immersed in the world of the University of Oregon. The bulk of my peer group was from school and the majority of them lived a very different lifestyle from me.
For a while, I found myself in a conundrum; how do I relate to people that live in such a different way? Because they drink and do not meditate, does that mean I should not be in their company? Shall I seclude myself from a majority of the people around me? I decided that I am far too social of a person to do that so I simply drew my boundaries and set out with the mindset to learn.
I won’t lie it was difficult. I found myself confronted by challenges left and right down to where I questioned the very fundamental core of my being. Why am I a Sikh? Why do I do what I do? Do I believe in many of the things that we take as truth in our community? As I began to investigate these questions as well as look at my community, I came to a realization.
Siri Singh Sahib Ji said of the current era that it is a time when people experience first then believe. What I began to do was to divorce my practice and principal from my belief. Belief can be overturned. Whether or not we heed the evidence before us, it does not matter. The sad thing is that when our principles are so tied to our belief that when a belief is challenged we feel that our very principles are being challenged. What I said to myself was: regardless of what I believe, it does not change the fact that I want to be giving, hard working, loving, and empathetic. That way, I can ask questions of myself and of my lifestyle without feeling somehow “heretic” or “negative”.
How does this apply to meditating on Guru Ram Das? Well, at the risk of sounding “heretic” here is what I’ll say. I, personally, do not believe that by meditating on Guru Ram Das that I can heal another person from a distance. There, I said it. If that is your belief, I respect that and do not wish to stomp on it in any way. So when MPA was chanting to Guru Ram Das the other day, I thought: what does it mean to me to meditate on Guru Ram Das?
If I do not personally believe that I can receive external healing power, then why do I meditate to Guru Ram Das? Then I remembered the Harimandir Sahib, the Golden Temple. It is only eleven kilometers away from where I write this article. It was conceived by Guru Ram Das Ji and completed by his son, Guru Arjan Dev Ji. Even before its conception, Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s travels around the whole region, his udasis, often brought him back to this place. Legends going back to Sri Krishna Ji tell of his meditation by this holy pool. Thus it has vast importance to our tradition.
When I remembered the Harimandir, I remembered what it stood for. It was a place of healing. Guru Ram Das was a master ayurvedist and all of the gardens that are now cosmetic were at one time vast gardens of healing herbs and foods. It was like a free hospital as well as a place of worship. There was langar served there and shelter given to travelers. It was a place of total healing: mental, physical, spiritual. It was also a place of learning: philosophy, meditation, mathematics, and more. And the impetus of this place was the Raj Yogi himself, Sri Guru Ram Das Ji.
When I meditate on Guru Ram Das, I meditate on adopting what he stood for: may my presence be healing to the heart, may I look to serve anyone I meet, may I offer sanctuary to those in need, may I be learned in order to teach, may I heal myself, may I heal others, may I be humble. When I say “I” do not mistake: this is not some egotistical thing for me. I am remembering that there is no separation between Guru Ram Das, the Infinite, and me: It is all one. In adopting these principles, may we drop our petty worries and desires.