365.The Man in Blue – Respect the Guru Granth Sahib !

There used to be a group called ‘respect for Guru-Ji’, and maybe there still is, although I have not heard from them for a while. The group’s main focus was on ‘Sikh’ weddings in hotels and other ‘polluted’ venues. I argued that the problem is not so much ‘polluted’ venues as ‘polluted’ sangats.

A group of real Sikhs practising Sikhí as taught by the Guru Granth Sahib will not be affected by wherever they are. Some Sikh students from the Midlands used to visit the Student Union bar, drinking non-alcoholic drinks, not using bad language, showing all present that it is possible to have a good time without drinking, smoking or using drugs.

When travelling I sometimes have lunch in a pub, as pubs almost always offer a vegetarian option and have user friendly prices. It is all a question of being like the Lotus Flower, which grows in mud but keeps clean.

I agree with the campaigners in this respect : people who want to have a wedding (which for many is what you do before the serious business of drinking starts) in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib should normally have the wedding in a Gurdwara. This is based on the hope that in a Gurdwara there might be some restriction on Panjabi or Western practices that are not in tune with the Rehat Maryada and the teachings of Guru.

As Vaisakhi is approaching fast we have been preparing for the annual Nagar Kirtan. The Hounslow Nagar Kirtan is on the 5th of April, the Southall one is a week later and I think Slough Nagar Kirtan follows a week after that.

If you look at Nagar Kirtans from the point of view of ‘respect for Guru-Ji’ they should be banned ! In spite of people with brooms going ahead of the procession our streets are just dirty. Loads of non-Sikhs with uncovered heads will be about, smoking, drinking, using foul language and walking in front of the Guru Granth Sahib. We will not even consider what goes on between Sikhs/ people of Sikh background during the Nagar Kirtan.  

I have been involved in organising the Sikh part of the Vaisakhi on the Square event. Looking at it from the ‘Respect for Guru-Ji’ point of view, you see Trafalgar Square surrounded by drinkers and smokers and an afternoon session entirely devoted to bhangra and no doubt involving ladies who should really cover up a bit more.


The choice we have to make is between protecting the ‘respect’ of the Guru Granth Sahib and taking the Guru out of the Gurdwara and showing it to the non-Sikhs. Sikhs who are seriously trying to be on Guru’s path can go anywhere without being polluted. I do not believe it is in any way possible to ‘insult’ God or the Guru Granth. I believe we should go out of our way to share the Guru’s teachings with all.

364.The Man in Blue – Gurdwara Sikh Sangat, Bow, London, UK

It is not good news to hear that a Gurdwara has been set fire to, and that the fire was started from the sach khand, destroying birs of the Guru Granth Sahib and doing very serious damage to the building. 

Even so, a building, even a building that has been a Church, a Synagogue and then a Gurdwara, is at the end of the day only ‘bricks and mortar’. The burning of birs of the Guru Granth Sahib is very sad and very regrettable, but the arsonist has burnt paper, cardboard and bookbinding, not the Shabad, not the word of God, which is eternal and indestructible.


The Indian media have widely reported the fire as a racist attack. Apparently Sikhs in Hyderabad burnt the UK flag during a protest. In reality we do not know the motives of the arsonist. Some of the rumours doing the round suggest a worse possibility than a racist attack.


I heard from three different sources (who might all have heard it from one source) that there is a conflict between committee members and within the sangat over a possible sale of the present building. Some are very strongly in favour of selling and building a new Gurdwara elsewhere, others are very strongly against it.


Apparently a very acrimonious debate on this issue took place the day before the fire. I know that conflicts in Gurdwaré are often taken to extremes, and I know that in the past crimes have been committed as part of Gurdwara conflicts. You never know of course, but I would think or sincerely hope that Sikhs, however misguided, would not set fire to a Gurdwara, would not set fire to the sach khand.


It is of course possible that there is a racist or ‘religious’ motive behind the attack. But here too there are doubts : which non-Sikh group or individual would know the meaning of the sach khand and know where it is located ?


If the arsonist is an individual acting on his own, and if he does not start talking about it to family and friends, it is going to be difficult for the police to find the culprit. If he is part of a right-wing racist group or a Taliban or RSS type outfit, it should be easier for the police to track him down.


The police might know far more than even Harmander Singh, and surprise us all by arresting a criminal who does not fit any of the speculations that are doing the rounds.


Once we know why the arsonist set fire to the Gurdwara, we should not burn flags or hate all people of the same background as the criminal. Sikhs should at all times seriously try to practice the teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib, as per the hukam of Guru Gobind Singh.

Published in: on March 21, 2009 at 4:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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363.The Man in Blue – The Five Freedoms

All Sikhs and many non-Sikhs know about the 5 Ks, but the 5 Freedoms that Guru Gobind Singh has given us are much less well known. That might be because the 5Ks are easy to adopt, but to enjoy Guru’s Freedoms you have to become a ‘born again’ Sikh, a new woman, a new man, which is far more challenging.


1)   Dharm Nash : Freedom from the teachings of your previous religion.
This does not mean that you should now be bound by a new religion, it means that you should serve God by walking the path of righteousness valid for people all faiths and beliefs as taught in the Guru Granth Sahib.  


2)   Karam Nash : Freedom from your earlier deeds.
As it says in the Guru Granth Sahib, you carry your bad deeds of this and previous lives with you, but God can liberate you from them.


3)   Kul Nash : Freedom from caste, race, clan, heritage.
This is a big challenge for many Panjabis. You do not have to forget your background, but you should not be determined by it. A Sikh should look at all ideas, all ‘values’ in the light of Gurmat.


4)   Bharm Nash : Freedom from taboos, customs and rituals.
This is linked to the above. Most Sikhs think that we should exchange Hindu, Christian or Muslim taboos, customs and rituals for Sikh ones. Obviously that is not what the Guru had in mind.


5)   Sharam Nash : Freedom from distinctions based on job or profession.
In the South Asian context this is connected with caste. I think it means that every job done well, in the spirit of serving others, is worth doing and the person who does the job is worthy of respect.


I want to emphasise two things. The first one is, as I have already indicated above, that it is absolutely counterproductive to exchange Christian, Hindu, Muslim etc religion, taboos, rituals, and prejudices for Sikh ones. This is difficult for people of all backgrounds, but people brought up in India it particularly difficult, as the Indian culture is dominated by prejudices, rituals, taboos etc.


Secondly, our dharm, our religion is not a closed system. Sikhí, Khalsa is not about them bad, us good. The Khalsa is not about holy hair or holy kacchere. Good thoughts, good deeds, as the Buddha taught, as Jesus taught, as our eternal Guru teaches are universal.


The Biblical Good Samaritan was a good follower of Guru, the Sikh Bhai Ghanaya was a good follower of Jesus. In my Dutch Reformed Church I was taught to stand up against unjust governments, just like I am as a Sikh. 

Published in: on March 16, 2009 at 6:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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362.The Man in Blue – Two Claims, One Country

The recent conflict in the Gaza made me think about approaches that might  lead to a better understanding of the position of the ‘others’. I decided to have a look at the arguments of the hard-liners on both sides.

The hard-line Israeli argument runs like this : This land is ours, it was given to Abraham (Ibrahim) and this was reaffirmed in the time when the Jews under Moses (Musa) returned to Israel after their stay in Egypt. Not only did God reaffirm that Israel was the land of the Jews, but also encouraged the Jews to chase out and even kill the non-Jews living there.

The same applies to the present situation, the Jews have returned to their land and the Palestinians (hard-line Israelis do not recognise a Palestinian identity) either can live in the Jewish state of Israel, which in the hard-line view includes the West Bank and Gaza, or if they are not willing to accept this they should move to one of the thirty odd Arab states.

The Palestinians simply say that this was their land before the United Nations gave it away to the Zionists/Jews/Israelis and they want it back. Just having the Gaza and the West Bank is not good enough because all of Palestine belongs to the Palestinians.

Hard-line Israelis want to chuck out all Palestinians from all of Israel, Hard-line Palestinians want to chuck out all Israelis from all of Palestine.

Most Palestinians insist on the right of all Palestinians living in exile to return to Palestine, many Palestinians think that all Palestinians should have the right to return to those parts of Palestine/Israel where they originally came from. Most Israelis insist on the right of return of all Jews to Israel, for hard-line Israelis that includes Judah and Samaria, historical regions of Israel that roughly coincide with the present West Bank.

For the hard-line Israelis the present Israel is not big enough to allow all Jews outside Israel to return, which is the practical reason why they claim Judah, Samaria and Gaza. For the Palestinians, hard-line or otherwise, the West Bank and Gaza, even without Jewish settlements and with the parts of Jerusalem that are part of the West Bank given back to them, will not accommodate the return of Palestinians living in exile.  

The arguments on both sides are mostly secular, and make sense within the frame of mind of each party in the conflict. If each party could bring itself to recognise the validity of the argument of the other side, we might end up with peace in the Middle East. This kind of conflicting claims on the same area of land is not unique. Northern Ireland is another example and if we do not strictly follow Guru’s teachings of seeing God in all, we might end up with a similar conflict in a future Khalistan.

Published in: on March 8, 2009 at 11:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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