413.The Man in Blue – Darshan Singh Ragi & the Southall Miri Piri Gurdwara incident – An appeal to stop the use of violence

I have made my position on the Dasam Granth quite clear in previous articles. I belief that we should follow Guru’s instruction that after his passing away the ‘Guru Granth – Guru Panth’ would be the Sikh Guru.

Sikhí is a liberal dharm, we are allowed to read any book from the Sikh and other traditions, as long as the Guru Granth is our benchmark.

Nobody can prove that the ‘Dasam Granth’ was/was not wholly/partly written by Guru Gobind Singh. We can carefully look at each part of the ‘Dasam Granth’ and see if these parts are in tune with Guru’s teachings.

We should ignore the irrelevant and invalid ‘hukamnama’ from the ‘Badal Panth’ on not discussing the issue of the Dasam Granth. We should discuss with passion and respect. I feel strongly that those who want to give the Dasam Granth equality with the Guru Granth Sahib are badly mistaken, but I do not assume that they are dishonest.

I appeal to all UK Gurdwaré, Sikh organisations and informal Sikh groups to undertake to never again use violence to settle differences of opinion. Guru used violence to fight against injustice, Guru did not use violence because of a difference of opinion.

The use of violence against people you disagree with is anti-Gurmat and is very damaging to our position in the UK. At the same time that we are making real progress in getting more recognition for our right to wear the kirpan, misguided Sikhs were wielding their talwars in Southall.

Guru Hargobind, Guru Teg Bahadur (before he was Guru) and Guru Gobind Singh fought against injustice and oppression. Guru Nanak’s sons and Guru Angad’s sons strayed from the path. Guru Har Rai had to ban his son Ram Rai from his darbar. But violence was not used and later Gurus had good relations with Sri Chand and Ram Rai.

All UK Gurdwaré, Sikh organisations and informal Sikh groups should say Ardás and promise solemnly not to use violence in internal disputes, however bad the provocation.

All UK Gurdwaré, Sikh organisations and informal Sikh groups should undertake to respect the other side in the Dasam Granth dispute, realising that their convictions are as strongly felt as ours.

The present hukamnamé are not issued on behalf of the ‘Guru Panth’ guided by the ‘Guru Granth’ and are therefore not valid. If a Sikh gets banned from the ‘Badal Panth’ she/he should feel honoured !

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412.The Man in Blue – A Sikh is …. (II)

Normative Definition: A Sikh is someone born to Sikh parents. A person may also convert to the Sikh faith, and feel himself/herself a Sikh, if accepted by the Sikh Panth. Such a person must change his or her name by deed poll to Singh or Kaur as the second or last name. If desired such a convert may accept Amrit and join the Khalsa Panth as defined in Sikh Rehat Maryada. Sikh faith does not encourage conversions. It is not a proselytising religion. All religions are equal in Sikh ideology.

In Sikh faith, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity, the religion of the father decides the automatic faith of the offspring, but a Sikh mother may decide to bring the child as a Sikh and follow the naming ritual as in Sikh faith. The Sikh Panth will readily accept such a child as a Sikh.
The Sikh Courier, volume 56 No 108, page 11

In the first of the two articles on the above definition of a Sikh I discussed it in more general terms, this time we will have a look at the detail.

Being born of Sikh parents does not make you a Sikh. Not only is this against the Sikh Rehat Maryada (SRM), but it is also not true. Guru Nanak’s father was not a Sikh, Guru Nanak was a Sikh, Guru Nanak sons’ were not Sikhs. In the 2010 UK sons and daughters of real good Sikhs follow a different path, and not so wonderful Sikh parents have very good Sikh children.

I do not think you convert to Sikhí, and Sikhí is not a faith but a dharm, a way of life. How you get accepted by the Panth I do not know.

Only when you want to take amrit (undergo Khande di Pahul) you have to add Singh or Kaur to your name and adopt a first name that starts with the fist letter of the Vaak taken. Changing your name by deed poll is only possible in countries that have adopted the Anglo-Saxon law system.

People are very welcome to join the Sikh Panth, but we do not believe that you go to hell if you do not become a Sikh or do not take Amrit.

The sentence about various religions and fathers makes no sense, and neither does the second part about mothers bringing up children as Sikhs. This sentence is based on South Asian cultural practices, not on Sikhí.

You are not a Sikh because your parents were Sikhs, you are not a Sikh because you come from Panjab, and you are not a Sikh because you have a brown skin. Sikhí is about some very basic beliefs (like One God, One Humanity) and practising Guru’s teachings in your daily life. From the Sikh point of view it makes no difference whether you were inspired to become a Sikh by your father or mother, by other family members, by friends or by the Guru Granth Sahib.

411.The Man in Blue – A Sikh is …. (I)

Normative Definition: A Sikh is someone born to Sikh parents. A person may also convert to the Sikh faith, and feel himself/herself a Sikh, if accepted by the Sikh Panth. Such a person must change his or her name by deed poll to Singh or Kaur as the second or last name. If desired such a convert may accept Amrit and join the Khalsa Panth as defined in Sikh Rehat Maryada. Sikh faith does not encourage conversions. It is not a proselytising religion. All religions are equal in Sikh ideology.

In Sikh faith, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity, the religion of the father decides the automatic faith of the offspring, but a Sikh mother may decide to bring the child as a Sikh and follow the naming ritual as in Sikh faith. The Sikh Panth will readily accept such a child as a Sikh.
The Sikh Courier, volume 56 No 108, page 11

Since I became a Sikh I read many articles on the definition of a Sikh. Most people taking part in these discussions agreed that being a Sikh is not about being born into a Sikh family, being a Sikh is about beliefs and behaviour.

The controversy in the discussions was the status of the Khande Di Pahul initiation ceremony, about being a Mona, Keshdhari or Amritdhari. It is clear that the above ‘normative definition’ is wrong, is against gurmat.

The Sikh Guru speaks to all, regardless of caste, creed, race or nationality, the Sikh Guru does not favour people with certain names over those with other names, the Sikh Guru does not favour uncut hair over shaven heads.

The definition of a Sikh in the Rehat Maryada could do with some more clarity but it does have the basics right. It talks about believing in One God, believing in the ten Gurus and the Guru Granth Sahib and about believing in the Khande Di Pahul of Guru Gobind Singh.

Anybody is welcome in the Gurdwara, anybody can be a sikh, a student of the Wonderful Bringer of Light into darkness, and you do not have to change your name to be such a sikh.

I heard Guru’s call, and wanted to give my head. I changed my name, I adopted the 5 Ks and the turban and I seriously try to follow Guru’s teachings in my daily life. I am a Khalsa.

I think that we should admit that ‘sikh’ as used by Guru is a general term which applies to all who are true ‘students’ of The One. We could introduce three different terms: sikh, Sikh and Khalsa. The sikh is anybody who follows the general principles laid down in the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh is somebody who is working towards undergoing Khande di Pahul, and the Khalsa are those that have undergone Khande di Pahul.

410.The Man in Blue – Should Family come first ?

I remember seeing statistics on the values believed in by members of different faith groups. I have forgotten all other details, but what still sticks in my mind is that Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, most of whom were of South Asian background, all put family as the most important thing in their life.

In the South Asian context family is not just Mum, Dad and the children, but includes a whole range of people of both sides of the wider family. Just like Eskimos have different words for snow, Panjabis have different and more specific words for grandmothers, grandfathers, uncles and aunts according to being on the father’s or the mother’s side of the family.

I will not try to describe the position of the family within Islam or Hinduism, but I am going to be my usual disagreeable self about the position of family in the Guru Granth Sahib.

We are all aware that Guru told us not to live in deserts, jungles, ashrams or on mountain tops, but to live the life of a householder. I do not think that this necessarily means that you have to be married, but most Sikhs are convinced that I got that wrong.

The Sikh householder is to make an honest living and is to play a positive role in society. In the dialogue ‘Sidh Ghost’ Guru Nanak taught the Sidhs that they were wrong looking down on the people living in villages and towns while going to them to beg food when they were hungry.

Guru also makes it clear that although the householder should live with her/his family, attachment to family is as bad as any other attachment Guru writes about.

As I understand it real love, love that does not want to own the objects of the love, love that is unconditional, is part of Guru’s teachings. But love of family as it usually manifests is not like this love at all. This love tends to be possessive, this love is all too often conditional.

The family is like the rest of the world. We should live in the family but we should keep clean (unattached), just like the lotus flower keeps clean in the muddy pool. Equally we should do honest work and work hard, but we should not be attached to work.

As I understand it we should not make our dedication to work and family stop us from doing seva in our own and in the wider community. If all the people who are so busy watching the box every night spend one evening a week to work in their local community the world would be a better place. Throw out that awful box and instead go to your local neighbourhood meeting, do voluntary work for a charity and/or help in your Gurdwara.

Published in: on March 6, 2010 at 7:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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409.The Man in Blue – He or She, the Lord and Vahiguru

From the Roman Catholic area of the Netherlands where I grew up I remember two images of God. One was the traditional old man-in-white-beard, a bit like a Guru picture without a turban. The other image was a big eye in a triangular frame, which portrayed God as the All-Seeing One.

As Sikhs we agree to the concept of the All-Seeing God. But God is neither an old-man-in-beard nor an old-woman-without-beard.

The Guru repeatedly refers to Mata and Pita, but this does not mean that God is sometimes a man and sometimes a woman. God is not either this or that; God is ‘Everything’ at all times. God is the Groom and we are all the brides, but God is also the brides, as God is All and All is God.

God is the One, God is the True Name, God is the Creator Being, God is the Wonderful Teacher, God is the Nourisher, God is the Liberator, God is the Biggest Giver, God is Limitless, God is not He, She or It, God is He-She-It, all of these and many more at the same time.

Most translators of the Guru Granth have been males from a patriarchal society and therefore used ‘He’ in all references to God. They also too often ‘translated’ the various words used to describe God’s qualities as ‘Lord’.

Of course if the original text uses a word that means ‘He’, we should translate ‘He’, if the text uses a word meaning Lord we should translate as Lord and if the word used for God is generic then we should translate God.

Panjabi does not really have a word for he or she. For instance ‘he is a granthi’ would be something like ‘this (a) granthi is’ in Panjabi.

According to Bhai Gurdas and Bhai Randir Singh Vahiguru is the Sikh word for God. I respect both and am very happy that they got spiritually uplifted by reciting ‘Vahiguru’. But this does not mean that it is a good idea to translate words like Prabhu, Har or Nirankar as Vahiguru.

Prabhu is I think a generic (general) word like God, and definitely has not got the specific meaning of ‘Wonderful Teacher’. Har has a specific meaning, but it does not mean ‘Lord’ or ‘Wonderful Teacher’, and where Guru repeats : Har, Har, Har, Har I just translate God, God, God, God.

Translating the Guru Granth is never easy because we are dealing with poetry that uses rhyme, metre and rhythm and poetic language. But we make things unnecessary difficult by getting even the simple things wrong. I plan to write more about translating the Guru Granth in the coming months, mainly stressing how it is not to be done and hopefully also giving some positive directions and examples.