478.The Man in Blue – You’ll Never Walk Alone

This article is not about the song adopted by the fans of Liverpool Football Club. Those that know me will have guessed that what I am writing about is that if you walk with God you never walk alone.

This morning I met with my friend Joseph in the Southall Park Avenue Gurdwara and we talked about meeting with God. I told him about the first time that I experienced God, the first time that I had ‘darshan’.

God is always present in and around us, we are all part of the physical expression of God and our soul, our atma comes from the Paramatma, the All-Soul.

Many of us are like the blind who do not see the beautiful colours of creation, or like the deaf who do not hear the wonderful music of nature. God is inside us and all around us, but our ‘spiritual eye’ is firmly closed.

Only when we go on the path to Guru, when we try to live the Gursikh way of life that I wrote about last week, can our third eye open. To better understand the requirements on the path to God you should have another look at those ‘khands’ that Guru Nanak writes about in the Japji Sahib.

Guru’s His message is clear, it is not just the good deeds, or the knowledge with understanding that will get you near to God; you have to practice dharm, gian, sarm and sach in order to get near the full unity with God.

And when you are making the first hesitant steps on the way to The One, you will begin to get an awareness of God, you will feel Her/His presence.

And from the first time you experience God you will ‘never walk alone’. It is not just that from then on you will know that God is always with you, you will also develop an awareness of all the life around you, plants, animals and fellow humans.

God is One, Creation is One. There is no difference between God and Creation. ‘She/He’ is me; I am ‘Her/Him’. This is a difficult concept to understand, but once you are doing true meditation, when you become aware of the Nám, the all pervading True Godly Essence, you will start to feel what this means.

Remember that simran and path are both ways of ‘stimulating’ the thinking about God, but getting nearer to God does not depend on the quantity of the simran or path, it depends on the quality.

It is quite possible that you will experience the Formless after saying ‘Vahiguru’ or any other word from our or from any other tradition only once.

You could read one shabad and be hit by the power of God’s revelation in it. And, repeating myself, without righteous living, knowledge with understanding, humility and truth spiritual progress will not be made !

Published in: on June 25, 2011 at 9:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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477.Man in Blue – Gursikh jivan / Gursikh life

What does it mean to live a Gursikh jivan ?

A Gursikh is a sikh of the Guru. A sikh is a learner and the Guru of the Gurus, the Prophets is God. God gave his light to the ten living Sikh Gurus and that light is also present in the Guru Granth. This proves the point that the Guru of the Gurus is the Almighty, All Pervading One.

Any sikh, any spiritual learner, regardless of their faith, can be a Gursikh. The Gursikh jivan of a Christian, Buddhist, Jain, Muslim, Jew and Zoroastrian (just to mention a few) should be based on the same principles as that of a Sikh.

What is the difference between a sikh and a Sikh ? A sikh is any learner studying the teachings of God, the Wonderful Teacher. A Sikh studies with the same Teacher, but also stands in the tradition of the ten Sikh Gurus and should believe in Guru Gobind Singh’s amrit (initiation in the Khalsa).

Who can live a Gursikh jivan ?

Bhai Mardana and Sheik Farid were Sufi Muslims. According to the stories Mardana honestly tried to keep on the guru’s path and if Sheik Farid lived according to his own teachings he was also travelling in the right direction. The same applies to people of (Bhakti) Hindu background like Bhai Nand Lal and Bhagat Kabir.

The Guru Granth Sahib addresses both Muslims and Hindus telling them to be good Muslims and good Hindus. I think it is safe to assume that Guru means to tell them to live a Gursikh jivan.

What is the Gursikh to do ?

I have an image that depicts what a Sikh (and a sikh) is to do. Core values are shown as Truth, Compassion, Love, Humility and Contentment. Outside the circle are the five ‘thieves’ : Ego, Lust, Anger, Attachment and Greed, which are to be overcome or given a positive direction.

Underneath the picture are Honest Work, Think always about God, Share with others and underneath that : Simran & Seva, which means meditate and help others. Guru’s Sant-Sipahis (saint-soldiers) are part of Seva, of helping others.

This image does not offer a detailed instruction on how to live your life, it is not a spiritual GPS. Reading the Guru Granth Sahib (something many Sikhs don’t do) will enhance your understanding, but our Guru also does not supply you with detailed instructions on where to turn right or left.

The Sikh way of life leaves the Gursikhs with the responsibility to apply the Guru’s principles to their day to day life. We have to listen and apply or a the Guru says :  sunnia and mannai. Taking this responsibility is an important part of living the life of a Gursikh.

476.The Man in Blue – Must we or Can we ?

Many Sikhs like to talk in terms of : Sikhs must do this, must do that. Of course Sikhs have to make an honest living, share with others, think about God and more of those things that follow from the teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib.

But the ‘must do’s’ that most Sikhs talk about are for instance what not to eat or drink or what to wear or not to wear. Underneath in italics are some of these must do’s and underneath them my thoughts, which I think (hope) are based on gurmat.

A Sikh must not use intoxicants like alcohol, tobacco, marihuana or opium.
A Sikh who practices Guru’s teachings does not need to use any intoxicants. Artificial stimulants do not give you real happiness; the real happiness comes from God, who gives inner peace and lasting happiness.

A Sikh is not allowed to eat meat.
Although there is no absolute rule against eating meat, either in the panthic Rehat Maryada (code of conduct), or in the Guru Granth, a Sikh’s happiness should not depend on the eating of meat. Panjabi style vegetarian food is tasty and supplies sufficient proteins through milk, panir (fresh cheese) and dehie (natural yoghurt) and through a variety of pulses.

Sikhs should not eat beef.
There is no such rule, the only restriction regarding eating meat is on the eating of meat of ritualistically slaughtered animals (halal, kosher).

Sikhs must wear a turban.
The Guru has given us the right to wear a turban, has given us the gift of the turban.

Sikhs must not cut or shave their hair (Kesh), should wear a wooden comb in their hair (Kangha), wear a steel bangle on their right arm (Kara), a (small) sword (Kirpan) and an Indian style boxer short, called a Kachhera.
In 1699 the Guru asked us, and still daily repeats this question, to give our heads. This means that we should commit ourselves to the Guru’s way, even when others mock us or discriminate us or when that is dangerous. The 5 Ks are Guru’s gifts to those who give their heads. If you are not seriously trying to walk on Guru’s path, to walk in God’s will, you should not wear the 5 Ks. The Sikh or Khalsa identity is a spiritual identity; the 5 Ks and the turban are a spiritual uniform.

The Sikh Guru, the Guru Granth, the word of God as it comes to us through the writings of 6 of the 10 Sikh Gurus, and through the writings of other contributors to the Guru Granth, emphasises a positive approach, pointing to liberation.

Do you want to be liberated or do you want to be the captive of the prejudices of your culture, do you want to be the slave of your possessions ? The Guru’s way will make you truly rich, but walking on that path will be full of challenges.

Published in: on June 10, 2011 at 5:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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475.Man in Blue – The Mughal & Habsburg Empire

I have written in previous articles about similarities between Phillips II, the second Habsburg King of Spain and ruler of a huge European and South and Middle American Empire, and the last Great Mughal, Aurangzeb.

Phillips II was a bigoted Roman Catholic who because he could not allow any form of accommodation with the Protestant rebels of the Netherlands, did enormous damage to his empire. The Kings who ruled after him inherited a debt-ridden country and Spain never recovered its former strength.

Aurangzeb was not willing to accommodate the defeated Hindu rulers of the south of India, and was therefore forced to fight the same battles again and again as the southern royal families kept producing able commanders to lead

rebellions. This also gave an opportunity to rebels in the north (not just the Sikhs). Aurangzeb exhausted the resources of his mighty empire and after him it went all the way down until its inglorious end during the 1857 mutiny.

In the five columns that precede this one I have given the readers who are interested in matters not directly related to Panjab or the Sikhs a fuller account of the rebellion in the Netherlands and the reaction of Phillips to it.

One thing that struck me was the ‘apology’ that Willem van Oranje wrote for the rebellion. Willem’s reasoning, simplified, is that there is a contract between the ruler and the ruled. That contract is partly formal; various groups within the 17 semi-independent states that made up the Netherlands had formal rights, which that the ruler promised to respect at his swearing-in.

But there is also an underlying idea that the ruler has to be a just ruler. What made a just ruler during the 17th century in Europe is not what we would now expect, but this reasoning contradicts both the concept that the lands ruled by the high noblemen are their personal property, to dispose of at will, and the idea that the rulers have absolute power granted by God.

I do not know whether such an idea of a compact between ruler and ruled existed in Central Asia, where India’s Mughal rulers had their origin. But within the Hindu Dharm there are notions of just rulers. Again I must emphasise that these notions would not lead to the sort of government that would be acceptable in 2011.

I think that most of the Great Mughals had a notion of being just rulers, but that Aurangzeb, because he thought that he had unlimited absolute powers, did not show any care for the vast majority of the people in his empire.

One final note: in Muslim countries religious minorities were often better respected than in Christian countries. Aurangzeb was not the only intolerant Muslim ruler, but Akbar was most definitely not the only tolerant one. Too many people’s view on Islam is distorted by Osama bin Laden, but he was not a Muslim.