334.Man in Blue – Sarbat da Bhala

At the very end of the Ardás we find this wonderful phrase ‘Sarbat da Bhala’, usually translated as ‘welfare for all’.


The aim of every Sikh, should be to be the servant of all, regardless of caste, faith, ethnicity, gender or any other human category. Sikhs should go beyond giving handouts, Sikhs should help people in need to look after themselves. We should come up for the rights of victims of discrimination or persecution and we should fight against injustice.


All the Gurus followed this way of life, culminating in Guru Teg Bahadur sacrificing his life to protect the pandits of Kashmir, and Guru Gobind Singh’s struggle with the Mughals and the Hilly Rajas for the rights of all to follow the religion of their choice.


The Guru campaigned against purdah (hiding women from men behind the purdah=curtain) and sati (cremation of widows with their deceased husbands), the Guru asked the emperor to lower land taxes for farmers during a period of bad harvests, the Guru made everybody eat together in the langar to demonstrate the oneness of humanity, and included low caste Bhakti Bhagats in the Guru Granth Sahib because of their brilliant spiritual poetry and to demonstrate the equality of all.    


One of the reasons why I am not quite happy with the present Ardás is that there is so much text on our history, our institutions, and that only at the very end we pay attention to what Guru said was the main business of the Khalsa, the welfare of all, in what is admittedly a powerful one-liner.


I live in Southall, and feel mostly very comfortable here. But I am not here because I am hiding from the non-Sikh world outside. I hope that as long as my mind and body will sustain me, I will go out into the wider society and be an ambassador for Sikhs and Sikhí and a servant to all.      


This is not always easy, there is lot of ignorance and prejudice out there. But Guru does not mean our life to be easy. Living in Amritsar and spending most of my time in or around Harmander Sahib and other Gurdwaré, it was easy to concentrate on things spiritual. When I moved to Chandigarh it became more difficult. Here in the UK, where most people, including most Sikhs, firmly worship Maya and my lifestyle is seen as eccentric, you are under even more pressure to conform to this Maya worship.


I live a simple life, and am very blessed earning about £ 1000 (before tax) a month doing work which contributes to better understanding between people of different ethnic and faith backgrounds. I am no spiritual genius, but I try to make a contribution to make society a better place for all. We should all make a contribution, just being law-abiding is not good enough.

Published in: on August 26, 2008 at 7:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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333.The Man in Blue – Spiritual Living

How to live a spiritual life? It seems easier to describe what is not spiritual rather than what is. Obviously being ruled by the ‘five thieves’, kam (lust), krodh (anger), lobh (greed), moh (attachment) and ahankar (pride) is not spiritual and doing meditation, service to all, believing in One God and One Humanity and loving God and opening yourself up to God’s Love is spiritual.


I think the start of everything is honesty. Making an honest living, is very important but also honesty with your spouse, your children and other family members, honesty with everybody is absolutely essential. Be very weary of those little white lies, because once you start with even the smallest of lies, you run the risk of getting caught up in ever bigger ones.


Believing in The One All-Pervading, All-Doer and seeing God’s presence in all and everything is a second and more difficult job. I know that God is, because I have experienced God, I had God’s darshan. In order to have God’s darshan you have to open what Guru calls the third eye, but if you are in doubt about God you are likely to keep that third eye firmly shut.  


All I can advise is to start on the path and pray to God with utter humility, saying something like : I am stupid, this is too difficult for me, God please, please help me ! If the prayer really comes from the heart I guarantee that God will help and more than likely in an unexpected way.


Simran, meditation, and Seva, service to all, are very powerful spiritual tools. If you see God in All, if you think of all humanity as your sister and brother you want to be the servant of all. God has no needs, God is self-sufficient, so service to God has to be service to God’s creation. Thinking of God at all times will put you in the right frame of mind, and practising service to all will become an extension of this thinking about God.


The panj chor (five thieves) have to be dealt with in a creative manner. They are based on desires which are essential parts of our nature. Without lust mankind would cease to exist, but as we are not animals who instinctively do what is right for their species, we have to make sure that we are in control and not the lust.


If your wife or husband is also on the path to God you can work together towards true unconditional love that will make you into ‘Two bodies, One soul’. In such a context sexuality will be a tool to get closer to this unity. Similarly you can deal with pride. It is good to feel satisfied with a job well done, and as long as you realise that nothing is done outside God’s Will, you can at the same time be suitably humble.


Any questions ? What is spiritual living ? Spiritual living is living as God’s loving bride, just like we are taught by our eternal Guru !

Published in: on August 16, 2008 at 3:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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331.The Man in Blue – Ardas (3)

The last three lines of the Ardás do not need detailed comment. Even before knowing the meaning I loved to recite : hé  nimánia de mán, nitánia de tán, niotiá di ot, sache pita Vahiguru !


I am not at all happy with the custom of ‘reciting’ long lists of people who have given 101 Pounds, Euros, and Dollars etc to the Gurdwara as part of the Ardás. Going by Gurmat, boasting about your good deeds takes away their spiritual value, so the Gurdwaré do a disservice to the kind donors.


Before summing up my conclusions I want to make one last remark about our practices around the Ardás. Reciting the Ardás in the Sach Khand before taking out the Guru Granth and then reciting the Ardás again after installing the Guru Granth seems to me exactly the sort of ritual behaviour that our Guru speaks out against.


I would be in favour of a more concise Ardás, and I also think we should use the freedom that we have to use different prayers, as long as their content is in tune with the Guru Granth.


I discussed the three first sections of the Ardás. The first section is part of the compilation known as the Dasam Granth, of disputed authorship. I do not believe in a God called Sword, or in a sword being God. But other interpretations of Bhagautí are possible and fit into Sikhí.


I do not think that there is a need to mention each of the 10 Gurus by name, as they are all the same Light, which is God’s Light, but the first line of the next section which refers to the Guru Granth as the Light of the ten Gurus does put everything in the right context.


As I wrote in my first article on the Ardás, I do not think that we should have five Takhats. Guru Gobind Singh is one of the ten Sikh Gurus in human form. If we have a Takhat at his place of birth and another Takhat where he passed away we should do the same for the other Gurus. Otherwise I do not think there is anything wrong with the second section apart from the fact that there is too much detail.


We should remember and thank God for the 10 Gurus, and those Sikhs who gave their all in the struggle against oppression, against injustice. But we are praying to God who we rightly call the ‘All-Knower’. By going into detail we are bound to leave out some very worthy people and include some ‘historical’ figures who might not have existed, or who might not have played the role we think they have.


As I wrote in my second article I cannot understand why the choirs (people who walk around the parkarma of Harmandr Sahib lead by somebody holding a ‘Sri Sahib’ to whom everybody does mata tek), banners and bungé get a special mention and I do not want to give anybody the impression that by taking bath one becomes holy or that our uncut hair is more important than the other 5 Ks !

Published in: on August 11, 2008 at 6:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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332.The Man in Blue – I am from Amsterdam


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.

Published in: on August 11, 2008 at 3:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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