494.The Man in Blue – Follow only our eternal Guru I

Both this column and the next one start from Guru Gobind Singh’s instruction that after him the Sikh Panth should be ruled by ‘Guru Granth – Guru Panth’.

Somebody explained to me that the 10 Guru’s were like ten classes of a school, and that entering Guru Gobind Singh’s Khalsa was like matriculation. Under Tenth Guru the people who were always ruled from above by various Maharajas and Sultans were fully emancipated and were able to rule themselves under the guidance of the Guru Granth Sahib.

But ‘Guru Granth – Guru Panth’ is not just relevant when you discuss leadership in Sikhism. If it was adhered to by the Sikhs it would end the silly discussion over the Dasam Granth. Sikhism is a liberal tradition and we are free to read any book, both from outside our own tradition, from the margins of Sikhism or from within it.

Our Guru is the Guru Granth Sahib. We do not have sufficient evidence to decide who the author is of the various elements that make up what is now known as the Dasam Granth. But we can study the Dasam Granth and see which parts are in tune with the teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib and which are not.

We should bear in mind that Guru might have collected or retold some of the stories, without seeing them as sources of Sikh teachings. Many scholars have collected or retold Greek, Celtic, Germanic or Nordic ancient stories without seeing them as sources of eternal truth. These stories, like the puránas, can give you important clues to the culture and the history of their times.

The writings of Bhai Gurdas and Bhai Nand Lal are not included in the Guru Granth Sahib, like the shabads of our bhagats, but they are seen as sources of Sikhism. These two authors were contemporaries of our Gurus and were close observers of Sikh history. They are important sources of information about our Gurus and their time, but they are not part of the eternal Sikh Guru, the Guru Granth Sahib.

Bhai Gurdas writes about the mul mantr and the gur mantr, terms that are not found in the Guru Granth Sahib. What Bhai Gurdas calls the mul mantr is given prominence in the Guru Granth Sahib, both in its full version (Ik Ongkar to Gurprasad) and in various shortened forms. The ‘gur mantr’ (Vahiguru) is only found four times in the Guru Granth Sahib, and is not called gur mantr’.

The conclusion from this evidence is clear. We can do simran on all ‘God Words’ that we find in the Guru Granth Sahib or in other sources, as long as their meanings are not in conflict with the teachings of our eternal Guru.

What Bhai Gurdas calls the mul mantr is a very important statement of Guru’s vision of God, and of course we should meditate on it. But meditating means ‘thinking about’ and not mechanical repetition of a word or combination of words.

493.The Man in Blue – Guru Nanak Nagar Kirtan, Sint-Truiden 23 October 2011

I do not think that there is a religious obligation to organise Nagar Kirtans on or near Vaisakhí or the birthday of Guru Nanak. But Nagar Kirtans can be used to make non-Sikhs more familiar with our beliefs, practices and traditions. Most countries in continental Europe do not have a long shared history with Sikhs, and their populations are not aware of the ‘what and why’ of the beards and turbans.

All occasions outside the Gurdwara should be used to manifest our values. This applies to the Levensloop fundraiser and the Kamal Nath demonstration that I have described in my two previous articles. It also is relevant for our annual trip to Ieper, where we remember all the young men who gave their lives in World War I, and to the Vaisakhí and Guru Nanak Nagar Kirtan.

During the Levensloop fundraiser and the 11 November Ieper parade and ceremony the emphasis should be on our visible presence and the joined remembrance of the dead of all nationalities of World War I.

During a Nagar Kirtan or a demonstration we should have banners and handouts in the local language, which make clear why we are ‘singing of Guru’s hymns in the town’, or why we are demonstrating. In this context the shouting of Khalistan slogans instead of Kamal Nath slogans was not helpful.

In the period preceding the Nagar Kirtan we used the experience of last year to get the ‘official’ part of the organisation sorted out in time and equally to get all the materials and vehicles needed in place for the day.

Last year the Nagar Kirtan was held mid-November, and it was a dark and dreary day, although it stopped raining shortly after we left the Gurdwara. This time it was a brilliantly sunny autumn day, which helped to bring more locals out of their houses.

It was a pity that the French Gatka group was not able to come, but we managed through the efforts of some of our older members, who did manage to demonstrate some of the skills involved in Gatka.

The Sint-Truiden Sikh community always honours non-Sikhs with whom we have a good relationship, varying from the mayor, someone from the local police to a representative of Masala, a group of volunteers who do their utmost to help newcomers in this country and a lady from the Naamsesteenweg who is always happy to help new residents in her area.

We honoured our mayor, Ludwig Vandenhove together with the visiting mayor of Sint-Truiden’s sister city in Nicaragua. Last year another visiting group from Nicaragua came to the Gurdwara, and asked us very good questions, showing a real interest in our faith and culture. Even in Nicaragua the awareness of Sikhí is increasing through our activities in Belgium !

492.The Man in Blue – Kamal Nath in Leuven 13 October 2011

Kamal Nath is one of the Congress politicians who in November 1984 encouraged the anti-Sikh pogroms in New Delhi.

These pogroms were not spontaneous outbursts of anger after the murder of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh body guards.

All independent observers agree that the pogroms were organised and encouraged by the ruling Congress party. And none of the Congress politicians responsible had to answer for their actions in court.

The police made no effort to protect the victims of mass murder, rape and arson. The few police officers who were willing to do their duty were threatened with dire consequences. As the law and order situation was totally out of control it would have been appropriate to call in the army but that also did not happen.

Anybody who wants to know more about 1984 and the Sikhs in India can send me an email (harjindersingh.amritsar@yahoo.co.uk) and I will email you a copy of the Kristallnacht report that deals both with June and October/November 1984.

On the 13th of October the EuroIndia Centre, the Confederation of Indian Industry and the City of Leuven organised the 5th EuroIndia City Summit. The conference was no doubt a useful event, discussing the sustainable development of modern cities.

It also made sense that a relevant member of the Indian Union government would be amongst those who addressed the conference during the opening session. But that people like Kamal Nath are part of the Indian government and that they are sent abroad to represent India, is totally unacceptable.

I know that there are members of the present Congress government who genuinely want to make India more democratic, more just. How these people can allow fellow-ministers that promoted mass murder I cannot understand.

Our Kamal Nath demonstration in Leuven was mainly made up of Sikhs from Belgium, with about 20 from Germany and some individuals from countries like Switzerland, France and Italy. In total there were about 300 people.

We achieved both that the Leuven authorities and the University have become more aware of what happened in Delhi and in Congress ruled states in November 1984. They have all recognised that the protesting Sikhs had a very valid point. There was also reasonable press coverage.

We achieved that Kamal Nath now knows that there are very few countries left where he will not be denounced. We had relevant banners in English and Dutch, but the slogans shouted were mostly in Panjabi and more about Khalistan than about Kamal Nath. We should be more focussed during this kind of manifestations, more aware of the impression we make on non-Sikhs.

491.The Man in Blue – Levensloop, Sint-Truiden 1 and 2 October 2011

‘Levensloop’ (walk for life) is a fundraiser to help people suffering from cancer. The walk started at 4 pm on Saturday and finished 24 hours later. Participants could walk or run, and the idea was that throughout the 24 hours each team would have at least one member running or walking.

Palwinder Kaur, who works in the Sint-Truiden town hall, appealed on the Sunday before to the Gurdwara sangat, which resulted in more than 50 volunteers coming forward. We wanted to support the charity but we also saw this as an excellent opportunity to show that Sikhs want to work together for the common good with our fellow human beings of whatever background.

We demonstrated that Sikhs, with and without turban, are not people who only are concerned about their own group issues.

The main ‘events’ of the ‘Levensloop’ were the opening and closing rounds, when all team members, including VIPs, took part. Seeing so many Sikhs wearing turbans walking through the park around the ‘Speelhof’ buildings was very good and we had many positive reactions from fellow participants.

Sint-Truiden is a small market town and it is blessed with some very nice parks and around it are many country lanes which are ideal for people like me who like walking and cycling. Although I have taken part in the ‘Sikhs in the City’ relay marathon, I am not a runner.

It enjoyed taking part and to notice that due to my daily cycling and walking I was in good condition. I found it easy to walk several rounds, take a little rest and start again. The response from other participants was mostly positive, but when I walked early on the Sunday morning I felt a bit uncomfortable as some of the younger walkers were not quite sober.

Apart from fundraising through walking or running we also raised money through selling parkoré. Nanak Singh, the Gurdwara cook, and his volunteers had been busy and we had enough to serve both our own people and the more adventurous Limburgers. We also offered tea and free cola. Even I drank coke, not because I like it, but because I was thirsty and there was nothing else available.

When we walked the last round the sangat started doing simran, which was wonderful.

Sikhs would do themselves an enormous favour if they were to do more seva outside the Gurdwara. The true Sikh, the true Khalsa is she or he who serves all.

Guru told us to fight against injustice, nowadays we specialise in fighting each other. Guru told us to serve all, we prefer to serve only fellow Sikhs.