343.My Copper Jubilee

I have not had an alcoholic drink, I have not used any recreational drugs since 9 January 1996 and I have not used any tobacco since 10 January 1996. I started on the Sikh path on 19 January 1996 and took Amrit (was initiated in the order of the Khalsa) on 14 July 1996.


Your copper jubilee in Dutch tradition is when you have for instance been working for the same boss for 12½ years. I am now more than 12½ years away from January 1996, and I am only a couple of months away from being a Khalsa for 12½ years.


If I talk in terms of being with the same boss than I have recognised God as my only real boss for the required period. I have also been trying to get nearer to the Groom, the Paramatma for 12½ year.


I want to talk to you about how I was liberated from my addictions. It is difficult to share this with people who have not been through this process. The best way to explain it is to use the term applied by Guru Gobind Singh : I have been liberated of the desire to use any type of drug.


I was not the sort of drinker that you find sitting on park benches with a bottle of cheap plonk or cider. I have never injected myself with anything. I have always kept eating, and even mostly ate quite healthily. But in spite of being in some kind of control, ultimately the drugs and drink were in control. If I did not get my daily dose I would be very uncomfortable.


In Amritsar in 1996 it took me about three months and loads of help from God to overcome my addictions. But from the day I started on this path I started feeling happier, started to have inner peace even when my body was still crying out for alcohol, drugs and nicotine.


God also helped me to overcome my biggest problem that dated back to my early adulthood when my wife died of a heroin overdose, which left me with a mixture of anger and guilt feelings. Anger because she preferred a junkie and heroin over me, guilt because I introduced her to the junkie and to a lifestyle where drug taking was the norm.


I can now talk or write about this quite easily and accept my responsibility, while realising that it was her decision to go with the junkie, not mine. I know that being depressed over this does not do anybody any good, and that my only real option is to go forward on the Guru’s path.


This summer I went through a difficult and challenging period. I am not claiming that I got everything right, but putting my trust in God I faced the challenges and came out feeling more committed to Guru’s way. Guru’s way is not easy, but Guru’s way is wonderful, even when we make mistakes.

Published in: on October 26, 2008 at 6:47 am  Leave a Comment  
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342.The Man in Blue – The Báz is dead, long live the Sher

I am happy that the Sher (Lion) group has won the Southall Singh Sabha elections. I am happy because it is healthy that after 12 years of being dominated by one man, H S Sohi, there is a change of personnel. I am happy that after 12 years of no involvement in Panthic issues and too little prachár the new group has the chance to improve the record.  


What I am hoping for, but where I am least confident, is that there will be an end to one-man rule, that the new twenty male and one female prabandhaks will operate as a team, and that there will be regular meetings with the sangat to discuss both current issues and new policies.


I hope that the new prabandhaks will follow the Guru Granth/Guru Panth principle. Our ‘Pope’ is Vahiguru, Our ‘Archbishop’ is the Guru Granth and the Panth under the guidance of Vahiguru and the Guru Granth. The Panth, the Sarbat Khalsa is not made up of just one pradhan, the Sarbat Khalsa is not made up of 21 elected prabandhaks. Sarbat Khalsa means all the Khalsa.


The 18th century Sarbat Khalsa used to be led by panj piaré who negotiated between groups and tried to achieve as big a majority as possible. No 51% is right, 49% is wrong. Having such panj piaré in place would be a great help in conflict resolution ! It would be wonderful if these panj piaré were selected in such a way that also Tír and Báz supporters can accept their guidance. 


What I am hoping for is that the Gurdwara will become less of a theatre in which stars perform katha, kirtan and path, and more of a place of training where all get the chance to play their part. There is a wealth of talent amongst British Sikhs, why are we still totally dependent on foreign workers who do not know our language and who do not understand the challenges we face in the UK.


If I can go on about my hopes a bit more, I hope that three teams, made up of prabandhaks, ‘paid’ and ordinary sevadars will be formed in charge of running Park Avenue, Havelock Road and the Norwood Hall. I especially hope that the ‘Sikh school to be’ will get a separate organisation where parents  of pupils-to-be play an important role.


I keep hoping that more women of all ages and more young people will be involved in all aspects of Gurdwara life. I also hope that the Gurdwara will become less of a Panjabi club and more open and welcoming to all, as symbolised by the four doors of Harmandr Sahib. It is not anti-Gurmat to address sangat in the language of the country we live in.   


I hope that from now on all prabandhaks will stop using their family name and just be ‘Something’ Singh or ‘Something’ Kaur in line with the Guru’s command. I am doing a lot of hoping, will I hope in vain ?

Published in: on October 19, 2008 at 6:23 am  Leave a Comment  
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341.The Man in Blue – Bachitar Natak

I now narrate my own history. How God sent me in this world, when I was absorbed in penance. There is the mountain of Hemkunt. Where there are seven peaks. (1).


That place is called Sapat Saring, where King Pandav practised yog. There I performed many austerities. I worshipped Mahakal. (2).


In this way I continued performing penance, and became united with God. My father and mother also worshipped the Unseen one; and strove in many ways to attain God’s Union. (3).


As they served God with devotion, the Godly Guru was pleased. When God gave me His order, I assumed birth in the age of Kal. (4).


I did not want to come. My mind was fixed on God’s Feet. God remonstrated with me earnestly, and sent me into this world with these directions. (5).


I have read this translation by Harbans Singh Doabia many times, but it still does not make any sense to me. What it does make clear is that the absolutely stunningly beautiful place in the Himalayas that we call Hemkunt can have nothing to do with this story.


I do not know where we are before birth, but I do not believe that we are in the Himalayas before coming into the world. I also do not think that performing austerities or penances is part of Guru’s teachings.


So this ‘wonderful story’ tells us that Guru was in some unknown mythical place before his birth, where he performed penances and austerities and worshipped ‘Mahakal’ (The big death ?). He was working on union with God, but it was not to be, God sent him to Kal Yug, and God remonstrated (argued, bickered or squabbled) with Guru about it. 


There are two possibilities. Either the translator made a complete mess of his job, or this Bachitar Natak is completely and utterly out of tune with the teachings of our eternal Guru, the Guru Granth Sahib.


Think about it. Is there any indication in the Guru Granth that we can remember our previous lives, or even that the cycle of death and birth involves the continuation of one’s personality ?


I have heard tales that in between two lives we spent some time in an in-between place, but this is not part of Sikh teachings as I understand it. Unless somebody can explain what the real meaning is of these verses I choose not to believe that they are written by Tenth Guru ! 

Published in: on October 14, 2008 at 5:44 am  Comments (3)  
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340.The Man in Blue – A Simple and Healthy Life

Since I moved to Southall I have tried to improve my lifestyle in a number of ways. My first priority was more discipline in my time of going to bed and getting up. Secondly I am now eating less and more healthily and I am avoiding unnecessary spending on lunches and drinks when I am travelling.


The result is that I sleep better, have no more stomach problems and save money. It helps me to be a more effective Sikh activist. I have been dealing with a number of challenging (voluntary & paid) work situations in September which will go on till mid-October, and so far am on target.


A regular life and eating simple & healthy food also makes it easier to remain in spiritual balance. My diet is a mix between Panjabi and European food. I always have porridge (which I make with 50/50 water and milk), whole-wheat bread, rye-bread and multi-grain crackers in store.


All of these are high in fibres and contribute to your protein needs. By using oats (porridge), wheat and rye I have a varied intake of grains. In the morning and early evening I make Panjabi style tea (not too much sugar, not too strong). I eat about half of the bread with cheese.


When I have langar I will have one roti, avoid kír and if there is a ‘feast’ on offer I will include dehie (natural yoghurt) and dal and avoid sarson and palak da saag because these are usually cooked with too much butter.


At home I cook brown rice or whole-wheat pasta (the long skinny ones) with a modest amount of sabzi and a little olive oil. I also eat at least one orange a day, and when in meetings or in the langar fruit is on offer I’ll have it.  


I am not saying that all should eat like I do. No two human beings are the same, what suits my stomach might make you feel very uncomfortable. But general principles like low on fat, low on sugar, some dairy products but not too many, will agree to most. Eat modest portions and reduce car travel, walk more, even if it is just to the bus stop or the rail station, sell your TV and do not sit in front of your computer for hours without a break.


If you are living on your own or if you are a couple without live-in children you do not need a big house or a big car. If you live in an urban area you do not need a car at all. Big houses mean big heating bills, high council tax and loads of cleaning, big cars are awkward to manoeuvre in city traffic, difficult to park, guzzle petrol and cost more in road tax and insurance.  I am not even mentioning global warming.         


And for God’s sake, if you use drugs, including alcohol and nicotine, please stop it now ! Finally, I am happy that the Rehat Maryada does not forbid the eating of meat, but my body feels healthier on a strict vegetarian diet.   

Published in: on October 4, 2008 at 7:45 am  Leave a Comment  
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