Mother's Day, which started as a meeting of grieving mothers of the Civil War, has now become a celebration of the role of mothers in our society. We are used to being taken care of and nurtured by our mothers from our birth. So we sometimes take our mothers, our selfless caregivers, for granted. Mother's Day is an occasion to recognize our debt to them and to show our gratitude and appreciation.
Sikhs are members of the faith founded by Guru Nanak (1469-1539 CE) in Punjab. Guru Nanak was followed by a succession of nine other gurus. Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th guru, declared that after him the scripture shall be the guru. Sikhs refer to it as Siri Guru Granth Sahib and regard it as their eternal guru.
There were very few Sikhs in this country until relaxation of immigration laws in the 1960s when many highly educated Sikhs came to the United States. The Sikh community has grown significantly since 1980 due to family reunions and persecution in India following the Indian army's attack on their most sacred place of worship, the Durbar Sahib (sometimes called the Golden Temple). Currently, there are approximately half a million Sikhs in the United States mostly living in California, the East Coast and large metropolitan areas.
Sikhs do not cut their hair and Sikh men wear turbans. For women, the turban is optional. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks on our country, Sikhs have been victims of numerous hate crimes, including several murders, due to the mistaken belief that we are Muslims and associates of Osama Bin Laden. In reality, very few Muslims in the United States wear turbans.
Mother's Day is not a religious occasion and there is no specific "Mother's Day" in the Sikh faith. Every day should be filled with love and respect for the mother. However, American Sikhs have joined enthusiastically in this annual reaffirmation of the important role of mothers in our lives.
Even though Mother's Day is a new idea, mothers occupy a very special position in the Sikh faith. In the Sikh scripture, God is often addressed as a parent, mostly as mother and father -- the two parents being equally important. For example: "You are the mother and the father; we are Your children. In Your mercy we find profound happiness." Similarly: "God is my mother, God is my father; God nurtures me. God takes care of me; I am the child of God. Patiently, He feeds me; He never fails. He does not remind me of my faults; He hugs me close in His embrace."
The Guru is also referred to as a parent. For example: "My dear, most beloved, the True Guru, is my protector. We are helpless children, O God, have mercy upon us. My mother, my father, is the perfect True Guru. Upon meeting my Guru, my soul blossoms as a lotus flower upon being in water."
The love between a devotee and God is described as the bond between a child and its mother. "Just like the love between a child and its mother, my mind is attuned to God."
A mother's qualities are described in many ways. Mothers are kind and merciful and constantly provide for their children. No matter how busy a mother is, her mind is constantly on her children and their well-being. Her caring role is highlighted in this prayer: "O God, care for me just as a mother brings up her son" and "God provides for all His creatures just like a mother cares for her son. The Master, the destroyer of all troubles, the ocean of joy, provides for everyone."
A mother is forgiving. A verse in Siri Guru Granth Sahib reads: "A mother does not keep note of the transgressions of her son. O God, I am Your son. Why don't You destroy my sins?"
A mother is also a spiritual guide. A verse in Siri Guru Granth Sahib includes: "Always remember the boundless, limitless God, remembering whom all our sins are destroyed. My son, this is a mother's prayer for you. May you always remember God and never, even for a moment, forget Him."
Emphasizing the importance of women and mothers to all life, Siri Guru Granth Sahib teaches: "From woman, man is born; within woman, man is conceived; to woman he is engaged and married. Woman becomes his friend; through woman, the future generations come. When his woman dies, he seeks another woman; to woman he is bound. So why call her bad? From her, kings are born. From woman, woman is born; without woman, there would be no one at all. O Nanak, only God is beyond a woman." It was women who gave birth to the prophets, the Gurus, and devotees of God of all faiths.
Today, and indeed every day, let us all show our gratitude and celebrate our mothers who have given us so much and have worked so selflessly to make us what we are.
Happy Mother's Day.