498.The Man in Blue – Anand Sahib, Pauri 14

bhagtá kí chál nirálí.

The devotees’ manner is different.

Chálá nirálí bhagtáh kerí bikham márag chalná.  

The manner of the devotees is different; they follow a difficult path.

Lab, lobh, ahankár taj trisná bahut náhí bolná.

They renounce desire, greed, pride; they do not talk much.

Khannihu tikhí válhu nikí et márag jáná.

The path they go on is sharper than a two-edged sword, and finer than a hair.

Gur parsádí jiní áp tajiá har vásná samání.

By Guru’s Grace, they abandon the self; their desires merge in God.

Kahai nának chál bhagtá jughu jug nirálí. ||14||

Says Nanak, the manner of the devotees, throughout the ages, is different. ||14||

For the above translation I consulted the Nitnem Gutka of Harbans Singh Doabia and the ‘Sikhitothemax’ website. I checked the meanings in the ‘Dictionary of Guru Granth Sahib’ by Surinder Singh Kohli.

Nirálí is I think the key word in this pauri. This word was also used by Guru Gobind Singh when he said that the Khalsa should look different and be different. This compares with pauri 19 and 20 of Anand Sahib, where Guru writes about being ‘nirmal’ outside and inside.

In this pauri ‘different’ is explained as going on the path where one controls the five passions and does not talk too much. The ’bhagtá’, the devoted ones, follow this very narrow path, they give up the self, their desires become one with God.

I am not sure about the ‘lab lobh’ of the third line, as my dictionary translates both words as greed. I decided to follow the other two translations and use the word desire for ‘lab’. The last three words of that line are simple to translate, but there might be a meaning within a meaning.

There is often mention in Gurbaní of not getting involved in useless controversies. Is that what Guru has in mind here or is it just what it says: bahut, nahí bolna. After all even talking much about Sikhí can be a waste of time. What will convince people is good practice, not a lot of words.

For me, an ex-Christian, there is a pitfall here with the narrow path. Jesus talks about the narrow road to God, but that narrow road is often interpreted as a narrowly defined set of beliefs. Sikhí has a very simple belief system and emphasises good behaviour. That way of life is Guru’s narrow path.

Go on the narrow path, give up your ego and you will merge with God. Where there is ‘me’ there ‘You’ is not. As with much in Sikhí, this is easy to understand, but not easy to practice.

Remember what I wrote before: we are human and make mistakes and we will easily off the cutting edge of the sword. When that happens do not despair, just climb on again and try again to get nearer to God. Be in chardikala, do not give up ! Even after my first hesitant steps on this path I started feeling happier.

497.The Man in Blue – The Khalsa Principles

I think that Guru Gobind Singh laid down the Khalsa principles in order to make sure that the Sikhs, although using violence to fight against injustice, would not leave the narrow path that leads to God.

If you want to understand Guru Gobind Singh’s concept of Sant Sipahi (saint-soldier) you only have to look at the example set by Bhai Ghanaya, who cared for  all the wounded after the battle.

In spite of hardship suffered by the Sikhs caused by the Mughal government, Bhai Ghanaya kept seeing God’s presence in all. Bhai Ghanaya had just been part of fierce fighting, but he was not possessed by ‘krodh’ (anger), and served all the wounded, whether Mughal or Sikh.

Many Sikhs these days are angry. They are angry with the Muslims because of the terrible things that happened during partition in 1947 and they are angry with the Hindus because of what happened in India in the seventies and the eighties.

I understand why they are angry and it is of course easier for me not to be angry.  I did not have to leave my home and lost many relatives in 1947 and neither I nor any of my relatives suffered during the attack on Harmandar Sahib or during the anti-Sikh pogroms after the murder of Indira Gandhi in 1984.

So if you feel that I am criticising you for failing the Guru’s very high standards, know that I understand your anger and know that I too make many mistakes. I can write nicely about kám (lust), krodh (anger), lobh (greed), moh (attachment) and ahankar (pride), but I struggle with these human inclinations like everyone else.

Let us not forget the past, neither the good nor the bad things, but let’s not look back in anger, as anger will damage us more than it will damage those who think that they should be our enemies.

A Gursikh, a Khalsa should be somebody who sees God in All, who will not judge a person on their label, but will judge only on their actions. Remember that there are plenty of rotten apples amongst us before we judge the Muslims or the Hindus.

Remember that in 1947 many Muslims were massacred or forced to leave the homes in which they had lived for generations. Remember that in the days of Mughal persecution and during partition some Muslims stood up for humanity. Equally in 1984 in Delhi there were Hindus who stood up against injustice.

And let us not be naive about the eighties in Panjab, we cannot blame all crimes against humanity on others. To me it is clear (and understandable) that many acted in anger against ‘the Hindus’ or the ‘Government agents’. We should not use suffering as an excuse for not being Guru’s Khalsa. Khalistan can only be achieved if we practise Sikhí, otherwise it will just be another corrupt South Asian state.

Published in: on January 13, 2012 at 9:37 am  Leave a Comment  
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496.The Man in Blue – Follow only our eternal Guru III

The problem we face is that most Sikhs neither read nor truly listen to our Eternal Guru, the Guru Granth Sahib. Article I of the Rehat Maryada defines a Sikh as somebody who believes in the One and who follows Guru’s teaching and the example set by our Gurus in their lives.

What is the source of Guru’s teachings ? It is the Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Gobind clearly pointed the way to this source when he appointed the Guru Granth and the Guru Panth as our eternal Guru.

The ultimate Guru is God, the Guru of the Gurus. The Gurus and Bhagats whose writings we find in the Guru Granth Sahib are the mouthpieces of God. God used their tongues and lips to speak and their hands to write the Shabad.

Guru Nanak writes in pauris 8 to 11 of his Jap ‘suniai’ (listen). This means true listening, using all the faculties, the listening (or reading) whereby the Word enters mind and heart, is understood and then applied.

The Sikh is the person who is the student of God, and the Guru Granth, the Teacher-Book is what Sikhs study.

In pauri 20 of Guru Nanak’s Jap we are told that we wash our hands, feet and body with water, our clothes with soap but that when our mind is dirty we wash it through love of ‘Nám’. We can find Nám through meditation, through thinking about God, and a very effective way to think about God is through reading Guru’s Word in the Guru Granth Sahib.

High speed repetition of words or phrases will not work. Whatever you do, whether reciting or listening to shabads, or repeating words that describe aspects of God, we will have to ‘listen’ to the meanings of the Word.

A Sikh needs to walk in God’s will, as mentioned in the last line of the first pauri of Guru’s Jap. The second pauri emphasises that all that happens is in God’s will, and that those who understand this will not speak or act in ego.

If the panth follows the path of listening, understanding and applying, it will become the panth that in humility walks on the Guru’s way and that will accomplish the great deeds that people on their own never can attain.

Sikhs must begin with the beginning, Sikhs must be truthful. Sikhs must make an honest living, share and always keep God in mind. Sikhs cannot live in peace when surrounded by injustice, Sikhs must stand up against injustice, by peaceful means in democracies, if necessary resorting to the ‘sword’ under a dictatorship.

Sikhs should not live for ‘me, me, me’ and ‘more, more, more’. Be different, not just by wearing Guru’s rúp, but by seeing God in all and by being the servant of all.

World religions pie-chart

Sikhs being a tiny minority anywhere (apart from in Panjab, Brampton, Surrey and Southall) are barely visible on this pie-chart. On what the percentages are based I do not know. Even in the UK guestimates vary from 500.000 to 1.000.000 !

Man in Blue

Published in: on January 7, 2012 at 7:29 am  Leave a Comment  
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495.The Man in Blue – Follow only our eternal Guru II

In Man in Blue column 494 I wrote about Guru Granth – Guru Panth, explaining  my view on other ‘granths’, and on for instance the Bible or Al Quran. In this column I will write about the Guru Granth as our leader.

On the 20th of November I was in London’s Shepherds Bush (Khalsa Jatha) Gurdwara where a Sikh Channel reporter was asking people’s views on the leadership of the panth.

The Tenth Guru told us that the Guru Granth is our eternal Guru and that the Guru Panth (those on Guru’s path) is to act under the Guru Granth’s guidance.

Jathedars without jathas are not the Guru Panth, 5 amritdhari Sikhs are not the Guru Panth and the general house of the SGPC is also not the Guru Panth.

The only time that Guru Granth – Guru Panth was practiced was during the misl period in the 18th century. The Sarbat Khalsa of those days was not perfect, but it was closer to Guru’s teachings than the present rule by the Badal Dal.

The meeting of the Sarbat Khalsa was mainly a meeting of the misl leaders. They were not Jathedars without jathas as we have today, and the misl members could try to influence their leaders or switch to another Misl if they were not happy with the leadership.

In the Sarbat Khalsa the decisions were not taken by a simple majority, serious efforts were made to get the misls as near as possible to consensus. When an agreement was reached it was called Gurmatta and it became a Hukamnama when it was proclaimed from the Akal Takhat by the Jathedar of the Budha Dal.

If we were to apply this to the UK we should have regional open forums where Sikh individuals and representatives of organisations and Gurdwaras come together to discuss Panthic issues. Decisions should be made through trying to find consensus. If there are serious conflicts, the opposing groups should constitute mutually agreed Panj Piaré to mediate between them.

The regional forums would send delegates to an UK forum, and the UK forum would send delegates to a global forum that could meet anywhere where it is free from political interference. This rules out India as it is now.

In countries with fewer Sikhs you could have just one national forum, or you could have for instance a Scandinavian or a Benelux forum. These forums acting under the guidance of the Guru Granth can only ‘rule’ those that accept their authority.

Guru Nanak wrote: ‘Truth is high, and higher still is truthful living’. People taking part in these forums should follow the Guru’s teachings of truthfulness, compassion and humility. Me, me, me should not be on the agenda.