503.The Man in Blue – Walking in Belgian Limburg

I have decided to return to Southall in July of this year and that makes me want to look back at two activities that I enjoyed very much in the area where I will have lived for two years by the time I move to the UK.

For practical and safety reasons I do not think I want to even try to cycle in the London area. Walking is of course possible in London, and walks along the Thames and the canals belong to my favourites.

But living close to the historic centre of Sint-Truiden and equally close to the countryside makes it easy to go for modest walks in the neighbourhood and longer treks in the countryside, and this is not possible in Southall.

I recently walked and photographed in the Sint-Truiden area, both a longish walk on a sunny and relatively warm day and closer to home on a cold and snowy day. Pictures taken on previous walks are already on my flickr account and the recent ones will appear there after I finally finish posting the many pictures I took during my Christmas and New-year visit to the Netherlands.

Walking and cycling are good for your health and walking is the most natural way to get from a to b.

I have seen wolves walk and wonderful dogs like Irish wolfhounds and compared with those we are clumsy and inefficient. But walking with Nihangs in Panjab showed me that humans can be efficient movers on their two feet. There is a simple law that applies both to walking and cycling: If you want to walk or cycle over any distance you will have to find a constant rhythm to move your legs in.

This does not mean a constant speed because that depends on the road surface and whether you are in a more or less flat or a hilly area. There are some good hills around here but nothing like what you find in the south of Netherlands’ Limburg or in the Belgian Ardennes.

The hills here are not challenging for walkers. The ‘dirt-roads’ offer a more serious obstacle after heavy rains, especially if you like to keep your feet dry.

Walking, just putting one leg before the other again and again has a great calming effect. Even walking through the man-made landscapes of North-West Europe you will after a while start feeling at one with your surroundings.

Guru teaches that God is everywhere, in all creatures and all plants, in rocks, in sand and clay, in the water of the rain (or the hail and snow) and in the water of streams, lakes and canals. And of course apart from the obvious animals like birds (including birds of prey), cattle, horses and donkeys there are also myriads of little ones from the insects down to invisibly small one celled creatures.

The skinny, 6 foot 3 ‘man in blue’ in Guru’s rúp strides through the landscape and feels at one with ‘The One’, the ‘Omnipresent’. But he misses Southall, and he misses his soul-brothers/sisters, and 7 days-a-week kirtan instead of Sunday only !


502.The Man in Blue – Jáp Sahib (II)

All Sikhs should follow the Sikh Rehat Maryada as published by SGPC in 1945. That does not mean that we cannot consider or propose changes, as I do below.

 On the first 13 pages of the Ádí Granth Guru Arjan gave us his nitnem: Japjí Sahib for the ‘amrit vela’, Rahras, from So Dar till Asa M 5 (bhaí prápat mánukh dehuríá) for the late afternoon/early evening and Sohilá for before going to bed.

There is a story in which Guru Gobind Singh teaches that if you fully understand ‘Ik Ongkár sat gur prsád’ you understand all of Sikhí. If this story is historically true I do not know, but there is certainly truth in the statement.

To make sure you get full understanding It might to be a good idea to read the full múl mantr as it appears on page one of the Guru Granth and at the start of most rágs. If you also read 5th Guru’s nitnem you will receive a good overview of the different themes discussed in the Guru Granth.

Japji, Rahras and Sohilá offer you verses praising God and verses that teach basic principles, like living in hukam and ‘listen & apply’ in Japji Sahib. At the end of Rahras and Sohilá are beautiful verses summing up essential Sikhí.

Guru Arjan’s nitnem gives you all the tools you need for you daily life. Guru gives you the opportunity to do quality reading, with time to think about what you read or to check meanings from a dictionary or stík.

In the final version of the Guru Granth, Guru Gobind Singh added 9th Guru’s verses, but no other changes were made. No shabads were added to the nitnem, although the Guru Granth was finished after Vaisakh 1699.

For reasons that are not clear to me we now have all these additions to Japji and Rahras, even in the Rehat Maryadá of 1945. Adding Jáp Sahib and Tav Prsád Svaié to your morning routine leads to speed reading without vichár, and the same goes for all the additions to the beautiful, well balanced Rahras of 5th Guru.

The problem is not that a lot of the additions are from the ‘Dasam Granth’, as these are in tune with Guru, although I am a bit concerned about the references to enemies in the Chaupaí Sahib, which seem to contradict the Sant-Sipahi concept.

Why this emphasis on quantity, which leads to a lack of quality ? There are 1430 pages in the Guru Granth Sahib, why should we have to read only a limited number of shabads where there is such a rich source of beautiful spiritual poetry ?

Most Sikhs think that every day we should repeat the verses recited on Vaisakh 1699. The problem is not that various 18th century authors have different ideas about which shabads were recited on the day. I just do not think that Guru’s Amrit depends on the reciting of certain shabads at the exclusion of others. On the 14th of July 1996 I have given my head to Guru, and since then I try to live up to that commitment. To help me stay on that path I listen to any shabad in tune with Guru and join the company of true people, regardless of their background.

Published in: on February 21, 2012 at 10:43 am  Leave a Comment  
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501.The Man in Blue – Jáp Sahib (I)

Recently anonymous troublemakers posted a message on Facebook, which was made to look like it came from a Professor Tundha and a local Sint-Truiden Sikh Surinder Singh. The posting claimed that Jáp Sahib was against Gurmat. It soon became clear that neither Surinder Singh nor Professor Tunda had anything to do with the posting.

There are people and organisations, both within the panth and outside it, who like it when Sikhs quarrel with each other. And unfortunately we are too often acting just like these mischief makers want us to act.

The simple solution of the wider ‘Dasam Granth’ issue is to compare whatever is contained in this collection with the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib. Whatever agrees with the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib can be part of the Sikh tradition.

Whatever does not agree is not part of our tradition.

We cannot prove that Guru Gobind Singh is the author of any of the texts included in the ‘Dasam Granth’; neither can we prove that Guru Sahib is not the author of some or many of the texts in the Dasam Granth.

The fact that some verses from the Dasam Granth agree with the teachings of our eternal Guru does not prove that these are written by Guru Gobind Singh. Bhagat bani agrees with and is part of the Guru Granth, but these shabads are not written by any of our Gurus.

I do not know much about the writings of Bhai Nand Lal or Bhai Gurdas, but if they wrote poetry or prose that agrees with the Guru Granth Sahib, it does not follow that this poetry or prose is written by one of the ten Sikh Gurus.

Please consider the points raised underneath, not as proof one way or the other, but just as facts to take into account.

Both the verses by the Bhagats and those by the first five and ninth Guru use end phrases like ‘Says Nanak’ or ‘O Nanak’, or ‘Says Kabir’ ‘Says Farid’ etc.   In the Nitnem verses from Dasam Granth that are often considered as writings of Guru Gobind Singh neither ‘Says Gobind’ nor ‘Says Nanak’ is used.

The Guru Granth uses mostly ‘Vaishnava’ language and images. God is often referred to using words belonging to this tradition like Rám, Har, Krishan, Harsingh and Madhsudan.

Going by what I have seen the Dasam Granth much more refers to Shiva, either directly or to avtars, consorts etc.

The parts of Dasam Granth I have seen, with only a few exceptions, do not use the rágs that we know from the Guru Granth Sahib. Finally if Guru Gobind Singh had wanted a ‘Dasam Granth’ why did he not start this project after he and Bhai Mani Singh finished the final version of the Guru Granth Sahib ?

500.The man in blue – Anand Sahib pauri 20

My 500th Man in Blue column !

jíhu nirmal báharhu nirmal ||
No-dirt inside and no-dirt outside.
báharhu t nirmal jíhu nirmal satgur te karní kamání ||
Having no-dirt outside and no-dirt inside, through the true Guru, they do good deeds.
kúrr kí soi pahuchai náhí mansá sach samání ||
No falsehood touches them; their desire is to merge in Truth.
janam ratan jiní khattiá bhale se vanjáre ||
Those who earn the jewel of this birth, are noble traders.
kehai nának jin ma(n)n nirmal sadá rehehi gur nále ||20||
Says Nanak, those whose minds have no-dirt, stay with the Guru forever ||20||

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.

I have translated ‘nirmal’ throughout as ‘no dirt’, not because I think this is the best translation but because I want to show that ‘mal’ of nirmal and ‘maile’ (dirty) come from the same root.

We see in the second line that having no-dirt inside or outside leads to good deeds. The third line is also logical, persons who are nirmal must live in Truth, and God Truth, with whom they want to merge.

I would like to translate the fourth line as ‘Noble traders will earn the jewel of this birth‘. I think it is more logical to say that through being a noble trader you earn a ‘janam ratan’ than the other way round, but as Guru seems to put it the other way round my understanding must be faulty.

The last line, starting with ‘kehai nának’, is again pretty straightforward.

Those that have met me know that I do not only wear the 5 Ks and the turban but also usually wear a blue Panjabi style outfit. Through my bana I want to tell the world that I am a committed follower of Guru, trying to be Guru’s sant-sipahi (saint-soldier).

I am realistic enough to know that I am not perfect. I am on the way, I do make progress, but there is a long way to go before I can call myself a ‘puran gursikh’.

Everyone who thinks about her/himself as a Sikh, everyone who even wears just a kara (steel bangle) should be on the path to the Guru, the path shown in the Guru Granth Sahib.

It might be only faltering steps that you put on that path, you might repeatedly fall of that very narrow cutting edge of the sword, but Guru will love you for it.

Wearing bana, wearing 5 Ks, doing your nitnem without fail is not enough. If that is all you do you are only clean on the outside. You have to listen to Guru, you have to work on understanding Guru, and then you must apply the teachings in your daily life.

Look like a Sikh, Be a Sikh !

Be clean inside and outside !

499.The Man in Blue – Anand Sahib pauri 19

jíhu maile báhrhu nirmal ||
Dirty inside and no-dirt outside.
báhrhu nirmal jíhu t maile tiní janam júai háriá ||
no-dirt outside and dirty inside, these lose their birth in the gamble.
eh tisná vaddá rog lagá maran manhu visáriá ||
These contract the big disease of desire and in their minds forget about dying.
vedá mehi nám utam so sunehi náhí firehi jiu betáliá ||
In the Vedas the exalted objective is Nám, but they listen not and come again and again like demons.
kehai nának jin sach thajiá kúrre láge tiní janam júai háriá ||19||
Says Nanak, those who renounce Truth and cling to falsehood, lose their births in the gamble. ||19||

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.

The forty verses of the Anand Sahib, composed by Guru Amar Das are not too difficult to understand. We should use these verses as tools : listen to them, understand them  and apply their teachings in our daily life.

Being dirty inside and having no-dirt (nir-mal) outside is quite useless. If you are only concerned about your looks, about the impression you make on others, you will waste this birth as human being, this chance to find unity with The One.

You are dirty inside when you are controlled by the five desires, when you forget that you have only a short lifespan, which should be used efficiently.

The Vedas say that the objective of your life is ‘Nám’, the Godly essence, but people listen not and keep being born again and again like demons. Says Nanak, if you do not go for Truth and stick to falsehood, you gamble away this birth.

Many people think that following the ‘Shabad-Guru’ is no ‘fun’. No drinking, no smoking, not going for luxury but living a simple life, how boring !

Since I started to follow the Sikh way of life I do not need outside enjoyments anymore. I do need sadh-sangat, people of various backgrounds with whom I can fully share what I am trying to do. Here in Belgium I have not enough ‘soul-mates’.

But I am happy doing seva, living in my studio flat, studying, writing, listening to shabad Kirtan on my lap-top, listening to my radio to keep up with what happens outside Sint-Truiden and cook a simple meal when I do not eat from the langar.

Some weeks ago the weather was cold but sunny and I enjoyed a two hour walk. I regularly go on my bicycle to Gingelom, south of Sint-Truiden. This is only a 30 minute ride but it can be challenging in winter and I enjoy that. There is no need to become ‘maile’ (dirty) in order to enjoy life !