The vast majority of us in this room today will be familiar with what this means, because as Sikhs we have had it ingrained into us from birth.
Chardhi Kala is the Punjabi term for aspiring to maintain a mental state of eternal optimism and joy, even during times of great adversity.
A positive mental attitude.
An ascending energy.
To be in constant high rising spirits.
A state of mind in which a person displays no negative emotions such as fear, jealousy or enmity. Instead the mind is filled with positive feelings including joy, satisfaction and self-dignity.
But what if I told you that Chardhi Kala was a load of nonsense?
Some of you are probably now wondering who on earth invited me up here to talk such nonsense?
How can a so-called Sikh not believe or even practice Chardhi Kala? This man is no Sikh? He doesn’t even look like a Sikh?
Well I’ll be honest with you. I do believe in Chardhi Kala. The only reason I said it was nonsense was because I wanted you to reflect on how we judge others.
You see, what if I was diagnosed with a mental health condition? What if my mind was corrupted by a mental illness that prevented me from practising Chardhi Kala?
Would you still judge me the same? Might you even abandon me because I could not live according to the Khalsa spirit.
Sadly I think there are too many within our community who readily reject those who cannot fully practice this aspect of living in Chardhi Kala. As a community we are seriously letting our people down. They deserve better.
It is the Sikh way to defend and protect those that are vulnerable or who have fallen on hard times. It is not the Sikh way to abandon them.
Two years ago I released Part One of my book, ‘My Father & The Lost Legend of Pear Tree’. Part Two will be released within the next month.
My story deals with the stigma of mental illness and how it continues to ruin lives. It was always my intention to share my father’s story as well as help others in our community who have also been similarly bereaved by suicide.
Suicide stops people talking. That was definitely the case with my father and it almost became the case with me. But as time went on I realised that the longer I refused to speak up about my father the greater the possibility that he could be forgotten in time. That was not fair on him, nor all the other good people in this world who have ended their lives by their own hands. I refused to be silenced by suicide. Their stories deserved to be told. They deserved to be remembered.
12 Years ago when my father died by suicide I could never imagine that one day I would be here talking so openly about my father’s passing. But I am Sikh and that is exactly what a good Sikh should do. To help others who have also been bereaved by mental illness.
As I continue to speak out I no longer feel afraid. I no longer feel any embarrassment or shame. I feel alive with high rising spirits and overcome with a feeling of great happiness.
As us Sikhs would say.