Aside from a few words exchanged at Summer and Winter Solstice in passing, I didn’t really know Hari Simran Singh Khalsa. With that being said it may seem odd that I am writing this, but something magical happened at the time of his death that made me feel compelled to write this. Perhaps it’s more a story about my experience or perhaps it’s about sangat, community.
You see growing up I never felt like I was part of a community. People lived in these isolated family units that would every so often meet and share space to play or chat. Now whether this was in Finland or in the good ol’ US of A, it seemed all the same. I felt far removed from others and stories of communities sharing grief or something else just seemed like someone else’s drama on TV.
I’ll admit that although Hari Simran Singh and his wife Ad Purakh Kaur had quite the presence at Solstice I always felt some sort of antagonism about them. Perhaps their light was so bright that it made me jealous or their incessant optimism irritated my cynicism. So it was quite a surprise the amount of emotion I felt at the news of Hari Simran’s disappearance. Perhaps I’ll give you some back story.
When I began my Kundalini Yoga and ultimately Sikh path, I heard about the concept of community, but never had I experienced it. I thought I understood community and in joining Kundalini yoga and the Dharmic path I knew I wanted to belong to a community, but seemed to always feel outside of it. When I began to wear a turban, I felt fervently that I wanted to be a Sikh. I did all the right things I felt a Sikh was supposed to do, read banis, grow my hair and eat certain foods. I’ve always had a penchant for perfectionism. When I took Amrit, Sikh baptism, I felt I was a Sikh and that felt good, I didn’t have to try anymore and I felt some sense of belonging to a spiritual community. It felt like people were more open to talking to me, or perhaps I was more open to talking to them. This past Winter Solstice 2014 Siri Deva Singh and I got married. I expected that it would make us feel closer to each other, but I didn’t realize how poignantly the feeling of community would come through. We wanted our marriage to start amidst our community of spiritual brothers and sisters and it was an incredible blessing to experience the love and light of the Solstice camp.
Although I felt such a huge sense of the sangat after our wedding, I still had not had a full understanding of the depth of community until the events that unfolded after that faithful day Hari Simran Singh went missing. Upon hearing the news, I had overwhelming amounts of emotion towards someone I only knew by sight as well as his family.
This might seem unrelated, but when my grandmother was in her final months of lung cancer, none of us knew. In hindsight my grandfather (who had passed years earlier) seemed to be warning me about her coming passing. How do I know this? For two or three months before her passing, my bathroom smelled like my grandfather after he had used the bathroom. It is a smell that is a mixture of human waste, scented soap, toothpaste and cigarettes. I wondered for months what in God’s name my boyfriend at the time was doing to stink up the bathroom. One night when my grandmother was already in hospice, I went into my bathroom and noticed that the smell had disappeared. I didn’t make much of it until my father called me the next morning to tell me of grandma’s passing. Why am I telling you about the smell of my grandfather’s stool? After I realized how the smell in my bathroom was linked to my grandfather, I expected that this smell was reserved for family members who might pass, if I ever smelled it again.
The night Hari Simran went missing (and ultimately it was the day he passed) I went into our bathroom after Siri Deva and the smell of my grandfather’s stool overtook me and scared me half to death. This wasn’t subtle like it had been with my grandmother, it was all of a sudden and in my face. I must have seemed nuts when I began to pace the hallway to release the pent up adrenaline coursing through my veins. What could be wrong, which member of my family would I lose next? I let it slide with a few deep breaths and some assurances from Siri Deva. There was nothing I could do aside from prayer, the call would come when it was meant to. I wondered how long I would have to wait for it.
That night came and went and I learned of Hari Simran Singh’s disappearance and we joined the next morning in spreading the message and supporting the search efforts from our home. We didn’t know Hari Simran Singh, but there was a force pulling us and calling us to help the community. We watched in awe as the hours and days passed in slow motion and this starburst of energy spread like wildfire to people who had not met Hari Simran Singh and yet joined in to spread the news. The amount of money raised for the search efforts, over $80,000 in 17 hours, was amazing to watch. The selflessness of folks and the deep sadness felt for the family had a life of its’ own.
The day as it came when Hari Simran Singh’s body was found, we did as much as we could as we waited news of the search. When I saw on facebook that his lifeless body had been found, I couldn’t tell Siri Deva. I paced the halls and rooms trying to find a way to pass it forward and when I finally did, it was only that he was found, followed by forceful sobs and only a headshake to answer whether he was alive. The tears streamed for several minutes and several times during that day through all that we did. It occurred to me later that this was the smell in my bathroom a few nights prior. This was a brother on a deep level and this was our family that was hurting and in grief. The sangat of Sikhs and Kundalini Yogis had truly become our family. It wasn’t just on an intellectual level now or even a vague feeling. There was a timelessness in the energy that rose through the sangat and greater community that brought people together like in no way I had seen before. As we head to Solstice twice a year, it is the smiles and bright lights of our family that touch each of us that make us feel at home wherever we are throughout the year.
I never thought I would be a member of an organized religion or understand the degree of community that we’ve experienced this past week. I’ve been on the other side, watching with a confused look on my face as to why people care about some news story of some random person dying and blah, blah, blah. It’s now that I’ve seen the other side, the side of love and family, God and community that I can see the difference. The community in wishing well not only to Hari Simran Singh’s family, but in the Sikh tradition of chanting Akal, sending Hari Simran Singh the best vibes possible for his journey home, elevated the whole community. It’s that knowledge that he is in fact going home and that we are not so much losing a brother as gaining a heavenly ally that comforts us and elevates us so that we are not dragged into a pit of darkness.
Yet, there was Hari Simran’s face winking in and out and making light of it all. His smirk seemed follow us to tell us to lighten up, he certainly had. I kept remembering a quote by Yogi Bhajan:
Can you believe that I am never going to die? And do you know this body doesn’t mean anything? This body is not me. I have no identity as a body. Absolutely no identity. – Yogi Bhajan
There was great comfort in knowing that Hari Simran Singh had reached a level of union that we all long for in our own way. In many ways I felt it was unnecessary to feel loss and it was Hari Simran Singh’s father who expressed it so beautifully that the sadness we feel is the sorrow we feel for ourselves, feeling as if we were missing out on something while the feel joy for Hari Simran’s transition.
I may not know each of you personally and I’m still learning to see God in All, but I feel truly blessed to be part of this family with all my brothers and sisters, daughters and sons, mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles.
Wahe Guru ji ka Khalsa! Wahe Guru ji ki Fateh!