I was born in the province of Limburg in the south east of the Netherlands, and my father’s family is from the province of Zeeland in the south west. My mother came from Amsterdam and I lived there from 1967 till 1996 with an interruption of three years in Dublin.
The Netherlands is known as a liberal country, but compared with Amsterdam the rest of the country is rather conservative, or at least that is what we from Amsterdam like to think.
I came to Amsterdam in the late sixties, a time when Amsterdam and San Francisco were competing for the title of the most ‘hip’, the most ‘where it all happens’ place in the world. It was all sex, drugs and rock and roll, flowers in our long hair, and a revolutionary change from the hard working but rather boring time of reconstruction after the Second World War.
That was then, and to be honest I do not think that we achieved the ideals of peace and love that we talked about so much. But we did gain one thing, and that was that it became possible to talk openly about taboo subjects like death and sexuality.
Since I became a Sikh I gave up on free sex, drink, drugs and more of those things. I did not give these up because I was forced to, but because I had already discovered that none of them made me happy. Guru gave me the strength to be free of them.
Most Panjabis, Sikhs or otherwise, are arch-conservatives and suffer from the same obsession with sex as the Christian conservatives. I have no interest in having affairs, I am faithful to my wife in every possible meaning of that word and I have no intention of changing that.
But sexuality is not a taboo subject for me. We all have sexual feelings even when we are 61, and there is nothing wrong with that. The vast majority of us will have sexual relations of some sort in the course of our lives.
Sexual desire is part of our nature, it is a gift of the Creator. It does not do us any good to deny our sexual desires, or to make sexuality into a taboo. Denying reality is counterproductive, we should acknowledge its existence and try to use it as a force to the good.
A spiritual way of life deals with lust, wrath, greed, pride and attachment in a positive way. These are based on legitimate desires, our job is to make sure that these do not rule our lives. The modern western way seems to be to give in to desires, the Panjabi way (and the old western way) is to deny them. The spiritual way, the Sikh way, is to acknowledge these desires and use them in a positive way.