352.The Man in Blue – Pammie Bains & the Sikh Identity

I know several ‘Pammies’ and even more people called Bains, and this column does not target any of them. Most of my Sikh friends will not  call themselves Mrs or Mr Sidhu, Bains, Sandhu or Grewal or whatever, and will also use their full given name, not Pammie Bains but Parminder Kaur.

Not that it is just women who use nick names or abbreviations instead of the name given by Guru through a hukamnama. There is a whole ‘Sikh’ world out there where to be too much of a Sikh is seen as eccentric, maybe even provocative to non-Sikhs or to people who are just of Sikh background.

I went to a consultation about the effects of the Heathrow expansion on the communities in Hounslow. A Sikh woman and man represented a local Gurdwara. They did not introduce themselves as ‘Something’ Kaur and ‘Something’ Singh but as ‘mrs Sidhu’ and ‘mr Bains’ (not their real names).

To me consultations like this are good occasions to project my Sikh identity, and not to hide it by trying to conform to UK customs. I can make a contribution to society and keep my Sikh identity. And most of the time when I attend meetings at government departments, the police or local authorities I get respect for knowing my subject, and for looking like a Sikh, trying to defend Sikh rights and working for the welfare of all.

Of course everybody must make their own decisions in life, but if you want to be a Sikh, if you want to play even a modest leading role in the Gurdwara, you should follow the teachings of Guru. It does not do you any harm not using your last name and it does contribute to the ideal of making us all equals, regardless of caste.

I often hear young people say that keeping 5 Ks, wearing a dastár and using your full Sikh name is too difficult, and they claim that they can be good people without it. Of course wearing the 5 Ks and a dastár is no guarantee for Sikh behaviour, but do not think that living the Sikh way of life is in any way easy. Guru requires from us not just to give up ‘sins’, we should be above them, we should not need them and not want them.

If you cannot keep your hair (no effort is required !), wear the 5 Ks, wear a dastár regardless of your gender, and use your full given name followed by Kaur or Singh, how will you face the challenge of living a Sikh way of life. I am not at all in favour to people rushing into taking amrit, but f you are seriously about trying to follow the teachings of the Guru Granth, you should work in that direction.   

Guru Nanak told us that if we want to play the game of love (God’s love) we should carry our heads on the palm of our hand. Giving your head, without reluctance, is far more difficult than calling yourself Harjinder Singh.

Published in: on December 27, 2008 at 1:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

351.Patna & Nanded

I was travelling by train to Southall and noticed that my neighbour was reading Bhai Randhir Singh’s (founder of AKJ) autobiography. We talked very nicely until my fellow traveller asked me if I had been to Nanded and I answered that I did not visit Hindu shrines like Patna and Nanded. 

My new friend was a bit shocked and mumbled something about mine being an interesting view and about Guru’s weapons that were in Nanded, and then we arrived in Southall, which ended our conversation.


I have this habit of speaking my mind regardless of circumstances. I will not go into the details of this habit, but my particular sin here is that I started a discussion about a complex issue at a first encounter when there was no chance of properly explaining what I meant.


So here goes : we are the followers of Guru, of the Guru of Gurus, or as Guru Nanak explained to the Sidhs, our Guru is the Formless One. I love and admire the spiritual giants that are our Gurus and Bhagats, who are God’s mouthpieces, but that does not mean that the places where they were born or where they died are ‘holy places’ or should be made into Takhats.


I went to Nankana Sahib and loved it, as the centre of the town looks as if Guru Nanak could appear from around the corner any moment. But it is a town like any other, with some good people, some bad people and a lot of people of the in-between type. The same goes for Anandpur or Amritsar.


I stayed in Panjab from 1996 till 2000 and spent a lot of time at Harmandr Sahib. I was not at all impressed by most of the people connected with the SGPC and I met some really good members of the sangat, but there were also good SGPC employees and bad members of the sangat. I had some wonderful experiences at Harmandr Sahib, but also some pretty bad ones.


The Patna and Nanded ‘Takhats’ perform even more unnecessary ritual than ordinary Gurdwaras, where the ‘Dasam Granth’ is put on equal footing with the Guru Granth Sahib, and whose Jathedars have a habit of taking positions based on South Asian culture and not on Gurmat.


Only Akal Takhat was founded by Guru, but even that never meant that the person in charge of this Takhat is the pope or the archbishop of the Sikhs.      


The whole concept of holy places does not stand up in the light of Gurmat. Holiness is connected to deeds, and no doubt Guru Gobind Singh did very good and holy things in Patna and Nanded, but even in his days others did things in those places that were indifferent, not so wonderful or thoroughly bad. Feel free to visit wherever you feel like going, and read whatever book you want to read, but there is only One God and One Guru Granth.

Published in: on December 20, 2008 at 8:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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350.The Man in Blue – I do not believe that …

I do not believe that because I have taken Amrit, wear the 5 Ks and a traditional Sikh outfit, I am in any way better than those who are on a different path.  

I have given up drinking, smoking, using bhang, I do not have a television or a car, I do not own a house but rent a small flat, but I do not believe that this makes me in any way better than others who are on a different path. 


I have been a vegetarian much longer than I have been a Sikh but I do not believe that this makes me in any way better than others who are on a different path. 


Today when I was about to go into the divan of the Southall Singh Sabha a young woman who I know by sight came out. She had a nice smile and there was a sparkle in her eyes. I spoke to her, and asked her the best question I could think of : do you love Guru ? Her answer was yes, I do.


She did not need to ask me which Guru I had in mind. The holy men with whom Guru Nanak had a dialogue in the ‘Sidh Gosht’ did have to ask : who is your Guru, and Guru answered ‘the Formless’.


That still is the only right answer, the Ten Gurus, the Bhagats, the Bhatts, the Guru Granth are all the mouth pieces of The One and Only True Guru.


Every Sikh, every person of any religion, should recognise The One as the Groom with whom all of us are in love, the Paramatma, the All-Soul, with whom all the atmas, all the souls want to merge.


I am a Sikh, I love the ten human Gurus, I love the Guru Granth and I love the Formless Being that is God. I am happy that I am not too attached to Maya, but I know of the danger of becoming attached to not being attached.


One of my early columns is called ‘All you need is Love’, after the famous Beatle song. Our Groom, our Paramatma is the most wonderful husband that we have never seen. Looking at God is like looking into the sun, God is blindingly lovely.


God showed me the way of Love when I started on the Path almost thirteen years ago. Guru’s way is the Universal Way, Guru’s way is the Only Way.


A Sikh hero, a saint-soldier knows no hate. A Sikh hero sees God’s presence in all. A Sikh hero can be surrounded by worldly goods but will stick to the path of love for Creator and Creation. A Sikh hero is humble. A  Sikh hero does not condemn others because they follow a different path to God. Guru said : Be a Good Muslim, Be a Good Yogi, follow the right path in your way.

Published in: on December 14, 2008 at 6:57 am  Leave a Comment  
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349.Man in Blue – Hounslow Singh Sabha Youth Programmes

From October 20 2008 (300 years of the Guru Granth as our eternal Guru) until October 20 2009 the Hounslow Singh Sabha Gurdwara is running a series of programmes for the young members of the sangat, which should lead to a better understanding of the Guru Granth. 

The Prabandhak committee has asked a group of Sikhs to help organise some of the programmes directed at the youth, and the ‘man in blue’, young at heart but getting on in years, is part of this group. Since then we had a youth kirtan darbar with katha in English on Sunday afternoon 23 November.

Between now and the end of 2008 the following youth programmes are planned to take place :
14/12 14.00 – 16.00 Youth Kirtan Darbar

21/12 14.00 – 16.00 Youth Kirtan Darbar with katha in English

27/12 (time to be decided), Lecture followed by questions and answers : ‘Becoming a Sikh’, Gurpreet Singh & Harjinder Singh.
28/12 One Day Sikhí Camp, workshop for the young, lectures and interactive activities.

30/12 Seminar for the young, understanding Guru’s teachings.


More details on the December 27, 28 and 30 programmes will follow.  


We are dealing with an audience that might be as young as 5 or 6 but also with attending parents, grandparents aunties and uncles.


Our main challenge is to go easy on storytelling, and concentrate instead on the teachings of the Guru Granth. Stories can be used to a limited extent to illustrate points made in Gurbaní, but we have to be aware of the fact that South Asia has a rich tradition of storytelling, and no tradition of history.


To give an example of what I mean take the story of Bhai Lalo and Malik Bhago. There might have been such persons and Guru Nanak might have visited them, but we do not know how ‘historical’ the story is. What we do know is that it is a ‘True Story’ in another, much more important sense : the teachings of the story are in line with Gurbaní.


Guru teaches us about One God, One Humanity, making an Honest Living, about not concentrating on Me, Me, Me but instead on seeing God’s presence in ‘All and Everything’. Can we make the youngsters aware of God’s Love for us ? Can we develop their love for God ?


Can we make our sangat understand that a shahíd, a martyr, is the opposite of a suicide bomber, that a shahíd is looking for justice, is defending the oppressed regardless of the consequences ? Can we educate young Sikhs to be Spiritual Heroes, sacrificing all in the quest for truth and welfare of all.

Published in: on December 9, 2008 at 7:20 am  Leave a Comment  
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