518.The Man in Blue – Sikhí VII

This is the last of the series of ‘Sikhi’ columns. In it I am wrapping up things and am emphasising principles already mentioned.

Nám japo, (meditate) think about God at all times, if you do this it should automatically lead to more ethical and less selfish behaviour.

Kirat karo, (honest work or honest study) Guru does not want his Sikh to be ‘holy beggars’. Sikhs should do an honest job regardless of the type of work they do. If you are a student the same principles apply.

Vand chako, share with others, share money, goods or time.

Before Guru passed away in 1708 he told the Sikhs not to look for a human successor, but to accept the Guru Granth and the Guru Panth, acting under the teachings of the Guru Granth, as their eternal Guru.

This is not practised by many Sikhs, who follow autocratic Pardhans, Jathedars without Jatha, various Babas and other so-called ‘spiritual leaders’ as ‘Guru’. Sant Babas, Jathedars etc are not the Guru Panth.

It is perfectly legitimate to read other books like Dasam Granth, Sarbloh Granth,  Al Quran or the Bible, but our benchmark should always be the Guru Granth.

Transmigration of the soul : in the Guru Granth both the Gurus and the Bhagats regularly refer to the cycle of birth and death. I do not think this is a dogma, in the sense that if you do not believe in it you are not a good Sikh.

I think that it is not the personality that migrates, but the soul. To me the journey of the soul through many existences is some kind of spiritual evolution, where the Godly spark, God’s light that is present in all, travels through different life forms, developing to higher states of awareness on the way.

Harjinder Singh will not be reborn, but Harjinder Singh’s death will lead to his soul going to another life. I think that Sikhs should not believe in avtars as in Tibetan Buddhism or Hinduism.

Shahids. A Sikh should be willing to give her/his life in the struggle against injustice. But this struggle, including giving your life if needed, should be part of your humble seva, and not to make the ‘shahid’ into a hero.

The Guru Granth Sahib tells us not to worship or follow human beings. Our Guru points to God, not to himself as many Sant Babas do. So remember the sacrifices made, but our main effort should go into living a Godly life.

And finally, fighting against people because they do not agree with you is not part of the Sikh dharm, it is not the duty of a sant-sipahi. Throwing bricks through Gurdwara windows or breaking the legs of an old man is the work of thugs !

517.The Man in Blue – Sikhí VI

If you go back to my previous column you will notice that I have not given any specific reasons for having uncut hair, steel bangle, cotton boxer short or wooden comb. This is because authors of books about Sikhí all give different reasons for wearing these 4 Ks, which do not seem to be based on authentic pronouncements of Guru. The Kirpan of course stands for the fight against injustice.

To me the main reason for wearing my 5 Ks is because Guru asked me to offer my head and wear the 5 Ks and the turban. I also see the value of being a visible Sikh. It reminds me that I have committed myself to Guru’s path, and is a signal to others that here goes a Sikh who promised to serve all.

Many religious traditions have rules about not cutting or shaving all body hair, part of the body hair and also of course about having bold heads or shaving part of the head. To me all these have in common that they are signs of commitment.

Rings or bangles are often symbols of unity, unity within marriage, within a group, with God or with God and all humanity.

Guru’s fighters often wore a number of heavy steel bangles from their elbow to their hand to protect the sword arm.

Cotton boxer shorts are very comfortable when worn underneath a traditional long wide shirt (chola), underneath an Indian style pijama or any wide type of trousers. Cotton clothes keep you warm in winter and cool in summer and absorb perspiration, which avoids prickly heat (rash) during the monsoon time.

The wooden comb is useful to comb your hair and pulls out less of it than modern western combs. If you tie you hair in a topknot, as many Sikhs do, you can stick the comb in your topknot, which helps to stabilise it.

The outer five Ks and the turban should go together with a Sikh way of life. The way of life is often associated with the five qualities. They are: Sat (Truth), Santokh (Contentment), Diá (Compassion), Nimratáh (Humility) and Piár (Love).

God is Truth, and Her/His followers should strive to live in Truth. We should be ‘content’, we should accept what is given to us and not constantly look for more, more, more. We should have compassion and care for the poor, the discriminated, the ill etc and we should also be willing to forgive those that have hurt us.

Humility is very important for a Sikh, and even more for an amritdhari (initiated) Sikh. It is so easy to become proud of the fact that you wear the 5 Ks and have given up habits that most people take for granted. Pride leads to ego and where there is ME there God is not !

Just like God is Truth, God is also Love, real Love, unconditional Love. We who claim to be God’s followers should try and nurture this Love, also when those we try to truly Love do not respond with even ordinary human love.

If you thought walking in God’s will would be easy I have to disappoint you, God puts many challenges on our way, but also gives us the strength to overcome them.

Published in: on June 20, 2012 at 11:12 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

516.The Man in Blue – Sikhí V

Vaisakhi 1699, the Khalsa uniform : the Turban and the Five Ks. In 1699 Guru Gobind Rai, the tenth Sikh Guru, asked his Sikhs to come to Anandpur Sahib for the Vaisakhí festival. On the day he stood before the sangat, holding a sword, asking the Sikhs to offer their head.

The first five who came forward are called the Panj Piaré, the five beloved ones. They were the first members of the Khalsa, the order of initiated Sikhs who are totally committed to the Sikh way of life. They initiated Guru Gobind Rai and many more followed. Since then Khalsa men are known as Singh (=Lion) and Khalsa women as Kaur (=Princess). Guru Gobind Rai became Gobind Singh.

This took place during the reign of one of the more intolerant Mughal Emperors, who then ruled most of India. Being a Khalsa involved physical fighting against the oppressors, to achieve freedom of worship for all.

Guru stipulated that the sword was only to be used as a last resort, after all other means had failed. Guru wanted his Khalsa to be Sant-Sipahi (Saint-Soldiers), who do not fight for material gain or out of anger, but who fight against injustice.

As visible signs of their commitment the members of the Khalsa are to wear the turban and the Five Ks.

The 5 Ks are :

  • Kesh (uncut hair, no cutting, trimming or shaving)
  • Kara (a steel bracelet)
  • Kangha (a wooden comb)
  • Kacchera (cotton boxer short)
  • Kirpan (small steel sword)
    The kirpan stands for the fight against injustice referred to above

The Five Ks symbolise dedication to a life of devotion and submission to the Guru. For an initiated Sikh or Khalsa the fact that the Guru has asked the Sikhs to wear the Five Ks is sufficient reason and no more needs be said.

The Khalsa cannot be anonymous. Her/His religion is known to all. She/He stands out among people, and any unseemly behaviour on her/his part would be noted as unbecoming for a follower of the Gurus.

Anybody seeing somebody wearing the Five Ks and the Turban should know that they can go to her/him for help. If you wear the Khalsa uniform you are a visible Sikh. Unfortunately many Sikh ladies, even initiated ones, choose not to wear a turban, and are therefore not easily recognisable as Sikhs.

The Turban (Pag, Pagri, Dastár) was both in the Muslim and the Hindu community a sign of high worldly or spiritual status. Just like the names Singh and Kaur, that before were only used by those of high caste, the Sikh turban is a symbol of the elevation of the low-caste to the same status as those of high-caste.

515.The Man in Blue – Sikhi IV

Kám (lust), Krodh (anger), Lobh (greed), Moh (attachment) , Ahankár (ego). These are the five vices or the five ‘thieves’ of the South Asian spiritual traditions. These vices are all based on natural inclinations.

My understanding is that we should not suppress these, but that we should recognise them and give them a positive direction.

The vices should not rule us, we should rule the vices.

Kám (lust). Sikhs are to live a natural life and having a sexual relationship with husband/wife is part of such a life. But a relation that is only based on sexual attraction will not last. A sexual relationship should be embedded in the mutual respect and true love between wife and husband. We often use the word love when we mean sexual attraction !

Krodh (anger). Anger damages you more than it does those you are angry with. Anger turns against you. But when a Sikh sees injustice she/he should feel anger and use the energy of the anger to take action against the injustice.

Lobh (greed). Greed is like human needs that get out hand. We need food, we need clothes, we need housing and we need a life partner. But we should not eat huge rich meals all the time, we should wear practical, modest clothing, no need to pay over the top for ‘branded’ stuff or for products of the Paris fashion houses, and one life partner is more than enough for us.

Moh (attachment). I think this is a key teaching of the Dharmic religions. To fully understand this we have to start from the notion that both being too wealthy and being too poor leads to an obsession with ‘maya’, with worldly goods.

I think the right way is the middle way. Have enough for a comfortable life. Be not attached to your worldly goods or to your family and friends. You cannot take these with you to your next life or to the All-Soul when you merge with our Mother/Father.

We should also be able to live on when relatives or friends die or when we have to spend less because of the economic malaise that has been with us since the 2008 banking crisis hit us.

I live a simple life and even with that I have to be careful because I should not be attached to my simple life or to my blue chola and big kacchera.

Ahankár (ego). Ego and pride are close companions. I am Harjinder Singh, I am a product of the culture and family I come from. I have good qualities but also not such good ones. Learning to understand myself and accepting both my good and bad qualities was part of my spiritual path.

But being egoistic, only living for me, me, me is not spiritual. Feeling satisfaction when you achieve something is fine, as long as you realise that we cannot achieve anything without God’s blessings. Where there is ME, God is not !

Published in: on June 8, 2012 at 9:09 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,