405.The Man in Blue – The Guru Granth is our Guru

My great-cousins Ilja & Liesbeth Veltman

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The Guru Granth is our Guru

I am a follower of the teachings of the ten Gurus and of the Guru Granth Sahib. I took amrit on 14 July 1996 (at the Damdami Taksal) and I have never had doubts about that important step in my life. Guru Sahib taught us that after he passed away in 1708 we should follow Guru Granth/Guru Panth, and this has always guided me when writing about the Sikh Qaum. 

In the present debate over the Dasam Granth there are Sikhs who tell people like me that we do not respect Guru Gobind Singh and Guru’s Amrit or Khande di Pahul, because we do not respect the Dasam Granth.

How intelligent and good people cannot see the flaw in this reasoning is beyond me. Guru told us to follow the Guru Granth as our Guru, in Guru’s day there was no Dasam Granth, so there can be no misunderstanding.

I am an Amritdhari Sikh who seriously tries to follow Guru’s teachings in my daily life (while making mistakes). I am accused of having no respect for Guru, while it is my ‘accusers’ who ignore Guru’s teachings.

I have spent very little time on studying the ‘Dasam Granth’, the writings of Bhai Nand Lal or of Bhai Gurdas. I read every day from the Guru Granth Sahib, I go as often as possible to the Gurdwara to listen Guru’s shabads and I find that I keep discovering better, deeper insights.

I make no grand statements about who has written what or what is in tune with the Guru Granth Sahib and what not. When I write about these aspects I give the opinion of Harjinder Singh, who is a fallible human being. But what I have written above is based on Guru’s teachings, not on mine.

Whenever I read any book with spiritual teachings, whether those are related to the Sikh tradition (Dasam Granth, Sarbaloh Granth, Bhai Gurdas, Bhai Nand Lal) or from outside our tradition (the Bible, Al Qur’an, the Gita), the Guru Granth Sahib is the benchmark to measure these writings against.

The Guru Granth Sahib is our eternal Guru, there can be no debate over that. Námdharis can be excellent people with the most wonderful behaviour of whom the Guru would be proud, but they are not Sikhs as they follow a human Guru.

The same goes for those who put another ‘granth’ on the same level as the Guru Granth, or who follow babas, jathedars, taksals rather than our eternal Guru, the Guru Granth. They can be excellent people, they can have Godly behaviour, but they are not Sikhs.

Obviously those on either side of the debate who threaten the other side with violence have no Godly behaviour and are neither sikhs nor Sikhs.

Published in: on January 31, 2010 at 7:55 am  Leave a Comment  
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404.The Man in Blue – Sikhi and Equality

To me Sikhí is not really a religion with dogmas, but a dharm, a ‘righteous’ way of life, where you do not just stop doing the deeds that are useless or harmful, but change to doing positively good things.

If there is a Sikh ‘dogma’ then it is ‘One God’ & ‘One Humanity’. This ‘dogma’ takes us right back to ‘righteous living’. Seeing all mankind as the children of the One Mata/Pita is the basis of true Sikh behaviour.

That is why our Guru’s always spoke to all people of all backgrounds, stood up for the rights of all, felt comfortable at the court of Patna and in the hut of Lalo, and saw only the ‘high’ and ‘low’ of being near or far from God.

Understanding equality and acting on it is not easy. Mankind seems to be expert at ‘them’ and ‘us’, where ‘them’ are bad, or at least not as good as ‘us’. We love retreating into our own little box and look outside with fear or contempt to those from other boxes.

I come from the Netherlands, a country with less class and gender discrimination than the UK, a country less obsessed with sex and therefore more open to those with different sexual preferences. Amsterdam has a substantial number of refugees from homophobic Britain.

On this scale of things the UK is less equal than the Netherlands and Panjab less equal than the UK. The Netherlands has become at least as intolerant towards other cultures as the UK is, but still less so than the Panjab.

Recognising that truly seeing God’s presence in all is difficult for all of us, regardless of our background, it is more of a challenge for people from the subcontinent than for most Europeans.

Equality is the Guru’s value, it is the Buddha’s value, it is the value of Jesus and Mohammad, but the ancient values of Brahminical Hinduism are still dominant in the subcontinent. Being equal does not mean that we are all the same. We look different, have different genders, different abilities, cultures, philosophies and faiths.

Sikhs should truly treat their sisters, wives and mothers as equals, Sikhs should not have caste based Gurdwaré or caste based marriages, Sikhs should not think in terms of ‘the Muslims’, ‘the Hindus’ or ‘the Christians’. Sikhs should judge, if judge they must, on the acts of individuals. Equality means saying with Guru Nanak : be a good Muslim, a good Hindu, a good Christian and a good Sikh !

Let’s pray to God and ask Her to liberate us from prejudices and preconceived ideas of our cultures. Let’s all adopt Guru’s values !

Published in: on January 25, 2010 at 7:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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403.The Man in Blue – The Nanakshahi Calendar

I do not believe that Sikhí needs a calendar of its own in order to prove its identity. The reason why we should support Pal Singh Purewal’s calendar is because it brings the dates of the gurpurabhs in line with the solar calendar, which is used by the vast majority of mankind.

I am not bothered by the fact that we celebrate Guru Nanak’s birthday in November, although he was probably born in April. I am bothered by the fact that the date of Guru Nanak’s birthday is not a fixed date according to a solar calendar.

I think that a solar calendar, where the same seasons fall in the same months of the year every year, is more practical than a lunar calendar, but if the majority of mankind used a lunar calendar I am sure we could live with that too.

The problem with the Vikramí calendar, which the Sikhs used in the past, is that it is a bit of both, a lunar calendar with extra days to bring it more or less in line with the solar year. It is this aspect that makes it difficult to calculate the dates of gurpurabhs according to Vikramí.

What we had after the agreement between the IOSS and the SGPC was fixed solar year dates for most gurpurabhs plus the moveable dates for the birthday of Guru Nanak, for Divali (which has nothing to do with Sikhí) and for these strange things called massia, sangrand and puranmasi.

What we need is a Sikh calendar with fixed dates for all Gurpurabhs, including Guru Nanak’s birthday, the day that Guru Hargobind left the prison in Gwalior and without Divali, massia, sangrand and puranmasi.

What the Sant Samaj and the SGPC under the instruction of Badal Sahib and his BJP cronies have agreed to now is a calendar with more moveable dates instead of less. If they really think that this is in line with Sikhí Badal & co are even more stupid than I thought. If it is for political reasons they are even greater cowards than I thought.

In Sikhí every day is Guru’s day and every calendar is a way to name the days, weeks, months of God’s year. Most people in the world use a solar calendar, let’s be practical and use a solar calendar which follows the seasons as given to us by God’s creation.

Let us NOT fight with each other over such a fairly trivial issue, let us ignore the ignorant cowards who pose as ‘panthic’ leaders. Let us decide on a fixed date for Guru Nanak’s birthday and for BandiChhor Divas and then get on with the business of following Guru’s Dharm. Let us listen to and apply the teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib in our daily life.

Published in: on January 16, 2010 at 11:53 am  Leave a Comment  
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401.The Man in Blue – End Caste Discrimination in the UK !

The New-Labour Government is trying to get a ‘single equalities bill’ through parliament before the election, which will be held at the latest in May 2010. The legislation bundles all anti-discrimination laws and seeks to apply the same terminology, the same principles and the same types of discrimination (direct/indirect etc) to all equality strands.

The equality laws specifically relevant for Sikhs are the Race Relations Act 2000 and the Equality Act 2006, Chapter 3, part 2 Discrimination on Grounds of Religion or Belief. Sikhs are recognised as a religious group and as a race.

During the passage of the bill through the House of Commons MPs Rob Marris and Jeremy Corbyn tried to introduce caste as a ‘protected characteristic’ which would give caste groups the same protection against discrimination as race or religious groups enjoy. Their attempt failed and we are now trying to convince the House of Lords to adopt the amendment.

Last month the Sikh Study Forum UK organised a meeting with CasteWatch UK, Sikhs in England and SCS Heathrow. Most of the people present agreed that caste discrimination was against Guru’s teachings.

I started a discussion on Sikh News Discussion and also forwarded my emails to other e-groups. There were some really good reactions. Nobody wrote that Sikhs should practice caste discrimination, but many ‘ducked’ the subject and others seemed to try to avoid having to take a stand by concentrating on CasteWatch UK instead of on the issue.

I am not concerned about organisations or individuals. What motivates me are Guru’s Teachings of One God and One humanity. I do not think that you can be a true Sikh and practice or condone caste discrimination. Many people of Sikh background insist that their children should marry somebody of the same caste, we have caste based Gurdwaré and even many Singh Sabhas are dominated by a particular caste.

Guru taught us to just call ourselves Kaur and Singh but many insist on using their last names which in most cases will tell to which caste they belong. In areas with many South Asians, children sometimes use caste as an excuse to be horrid to each other. Sikhs from villages are often more ‘attached’ to caste than Hindus from the cities and towns of Panjab.

All individual Sikhs, all Sikh organisations should support the amendment proposed by Rob Marris and Jeremy Corbyn, which was also supported by other MPs, like Lynne Featherstone. Guru teaches that we should fight against injustice, and discrimination based on who your parents are is a gross injustice. Caste discrimination and Race discrimination are equally foul, if Sikhs speak out we can win this battle !

Published in: on January 4, 2010 at 2:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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