Gentbrugse Meersen

Gentbrugse Meersen
26 January 2020

De Schelde

De Scheldedijk

This settlement belongs to Heusden, not to Gentbrugge

Much more water than in most of 2018 and 2019

The building with the tower is a posh Thai Restaurant

And more water …

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

548. The Man in Blue – The Sant Sipahi

Sant-Sipahi or Saint-Soldier is a concept conceived by Guru Gobind Singh. Tenth Guru was not the first Guru to keep an army, and I think that for instance the armies of Guru Hargobind or Guru Har Rai were based on similar principles.

When Guru Teg Bahadur went to Delhi to ask Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb to grant religious freedom to the Kashmiri Pandits his four companions were tortured and murdered and the Guru Sahib was beheaded.

That demonstrated to Guru Gobind Rai that it was impossible to negotiate with Aurengzeb. He felt that Sikhs had to stand up for the right to be different and that due to the emperor’s bigotry they had to use the sword.

But using violence is dangerous. There are plenty examples of historical and modern movements which were forced to use violence against dictators, but who ended up losing sight of the ideals they started out with. They became warriors and oppressors like the rulers they fought against.

This is the context in which I understand the Sant-Sipahi. Guru Teg Bahadur tried the peaceful way and that did not work. Guru Gobind Singh felt forced to use the sword, but he wanted his soldiers to remain faithful to the Sikh ethical principles.

Saint-Soldiers should first look for a peaceful solution but when that is not possible armed struggle is justified. The Saint-Soldier should remember God with everything he/she does, should not fight out of anger or because of wanting to take what does not belong to him/her.

The Guru’s principles worked for his army. How well the principles were maintained in the period between the Guru’s death until the advent of Maharaja Ranjit Singh is another matter.

There are stories from that period about Sikhs who did not fight out of anger or greed. But there are also stories that show the opposite, like Misl fighting Misl over the land that was under their protection.

And it is obvious that Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who took over the areas protected by other misls, who was greedy for costly jewels, costly horses and costly women, was not a Sant-Sipahi. That does not mean that he was all bad, but his professional army was not an organisation that a Sant-Sipahi could feel at home in.

Most of the Misl soldiers that he inherited despised him, but in spite of that they were the ones who during the Anglo-Sikh wars remained loyal to the Lahore Kingdom and gave the British army a very hard time. Many of the people connected to the Lahore darbar betrayed the kingdom to the British.

Since then many Sikhs have served in the British Indian Army and fought in both World Wars. The British saw the Sikhs as a ‘martial race’. But is being ‘martial’ enough to be a Sant-Sipahi ? There are also many Sikhs who only do the Sant bit, not the Sipahi, which is not what the Guru wants from us. Guru’s teachings are not difficult to understand, but practising them is challenging.

To see my katha on the Sant Sipahi and Miri Piri click on the link below

Published in: on April 26, 2015 at 7:16 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

546. Akal Takht & it’s Jathedar

In 1606 Guru Hargobind and Baba Buddha built a platform which was 12 feet in height in defiance of a decree Mughal Emperor Jahangir that no one but his own royal personage be allowed to sit on a dais over three feet in height.

Guru Hargobind called it the Akál Takht, the Throne of the Deathless One (God). Inside Harmandr Sahib the Ádi Granth, the first version of Guru Granth Sahib, was installed as the Shabad Guru, the Teacher of the Word (of God).

There was no building, there was no institution with its own Maryada, nor was there any suggestion that whoever was in charge of this Takht was the ruler of the Sikh panth.

When Guru Hargobind lived in Kartarpur (Jalandhar) and Kiratpur, and during the the Guruship of Guru Har Rai, Guru Har Kishan, Guru Teg Bahadur and Guru Gobind Singh the Harmandr Sahib complex was in charge of non-mainstream Sikhs. These ‘sikhs’ never thought that because they were in charge of the Akál Takht they could issue Hukamnamas that had to be followed by the panth.

The Akál Takht as a concept went with the Guru Sahib to Kartarpur, Kiratpur and Anandpur.

Guru Gobind Singh ordained that after his passing away the Sikhs would be ruled by the Guru Panth (Sikh community) under the guidance of the Guru Granth. He did not say that any power was vested in Jathedars or in any building.

The missal system, established after the death of Banda Singh Bahadur consisted of 11 fighting missals (guerrilla groups) and one group of veterans, the Buddha Dal. Their Jathedar played a role in the functioning of the Sarbat Khalsa, which was the meeting of all the missals.

Decisions were made by the Sarbat Khalsa while striving for unanimity. A decision taken in this manner was called a Gurmatta. The Jathedar of the Buddha Dal would then make this Gurmatta official by announcing it from the Ákal Takht.

This is comparable with procedures that exist in many countries where decisions made by parliament are made official by the signature of a head of state.

I am not suggesting that during the missals period Sikhs were always sensible, and only fought for the values laid down by the Guru Sahib, selflessly serving the wider interest of all peoples of their areas of influence.

But If we want to practice Guru Gobind Singh’s Guru Granth/Guru Panth we should copy elements of the arrangements that existed in the missal time. Gurdwaras and Sikh organisations would be the missals, and sarbat khalsas could meet discussing Sikh issues on the level of countries, continents and world-wide.

What we don’t want is Jathedars without jatha who instead of serving the the panth serve corrupt political masters.

547. Man in Blue – Enough for all, enough for ever

547.b.DodoThe Dodo

Enough for all, enough for ever, I think this is a good summing up of Guru’s teachings. God the Giver, who never stops giving, supplies the Universe with enough resources to last for as long as the Universe exists.

If we narrow it down to the planet earth, it has enough resources to feed, clothe and house the billions of people that live on it in the 21st century.

But the people who are living by the grace of God’s generous gifts are too greedy, consuming too much and polluting our beautiful and productive planet so that it will end up feeding fewer and will ultimately run out of resources.

There are many examples of how we destroy the food sources given to us by the Creator. The demise of the dodo is a good illustration of how wasteful man is.

The dodo was a flightless bird that lived on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. After the Europeans discovered the sea route to South and South-East Asia via the Cape of Good Hope (South Africa) it became one of the stops where the ships would take on fresh water, fruit and vegetable and anything else edible.

And the dodos were edible. They were not afraid of humans and could not fly away, so many ended up in the cooking pots on board European merchantmen.

You do not need to be a genius to work out that if you kill more birds than are born, you end up with a diminished number of birds, who produce less off-spring and soon enough you end up with no birds at all.

The demise of the dodos was speeded up by the introduction by Europeans of pigs, dogs and rats, all of which developed a taste for dodo eggs. As far as I know the dodo was first described by Portuguese sailors around 1500 and became extinct in the late 17th century.

You can put a lot of the blame on enterprising fellows from the Netherlands, who on their way to their settlements on Sri Lanka and in the ‘Dutch East Indies’, now Indonesia, caused a good bit of environmental damage.

These days we are more subtle. We claim more and more land for cities, towns, motorways and agriculture, which leaves less land for the natural resources that our forefathers used to live on.

We are steadily working on the pollution of the oceans, which could be an incredible rich source of food that could feed us for a long, long time if we treated it with more respect.

We are also the masters of waste, in the rich western countries thirty percent of the food produced is thrown away. We grow soya which can easily be eaten by us, but we feed it to cattle and then eat the cattle. Not very efficient at all.

Living in Hukam includes respect for the creation of which we are part. Nature is not something outside us, we are part of it. If nature dies, we will die with it. Abusing nature will be punished by death of all and everything on the planet.

545. The Man in Blue – If you want to play the game of love

If you want to play the game of love
then step onto My Path with your head on the palm of your hand.
When you place your feet on this Path,
give Me your head, and do not listen to what others say ||20||
Guru Nanak, Guru Granth Sahib page 1412

I am not a great kathakar, I like it much better when what I say is part of a dialogue and when I am not obliged to make a long speech. But listening again to the katha that I did for Sangat TV, starting with the above slok, I feel that I did a reasonable job on that occasion.

The slok is well known, and is often compared with Guru Gobind Singh’s question on Vaisakhi 1699: Who wants to give their head? The circumstances were different, but the meaning of giving your head or carrying your head on the palm of your hand is the same. It means total dedication, total commitment to God.

The meaning of ‘game of love’ should also be clear to those who are familiar with the Guru Granth Sahib. It is about the love that God pours out over us, without limit, without condition, and the unconditional love that we should try to develop for God. We are all brides of God, God is our groom.

The strength that you can see in real Gursikhs comes from that mutual love. Of course the Sikh warrior-saints of the past trained their bodies and worked on their skills with various weapons. But without the love for God and without experiencing God’s love, they would just have been warriors, not Saint-Warriors.

The game of love is played when you always keep God in mind, whatever you do, when you make an honest living and when you share money, goods or time with others.

The game of love is played by those who are in control of their lust, anger, greed, attachment and pride and instead are full of Truth, Contentment, Humility, Love and Compassion.

We should realise that the five ‘thieves’ which take away our peace of mind are based on natural inclinations. Sexual desire is part of our nature and can be a force for the good within a loving relationship, but we should not be ruled by it.

We should feel anger when we see injustice, and use that anger as a motivator for positive action. Greed is there where the natural desire to have our basic needs fulfilled changes in lust for more, more and more again. We should not be attached to our cars, our families or to branded clothes that are unnecessary expensive. It is good to feel satisfied with a job well done, as long as we realise that our talents are gifts from God. Where ego is, God is not!

If you don’t see God in all
you won’t see God at all.

544. The Man in Blue – Simran – Meditation – Thinking about

I have written about meditation before and made a YouTube video in which I meditated and explained the meaning of the words of the meditation.

The first word I meditated upon was ‘Vahiguru’, followed by ‘Ik Ongkár, Sat Nám, Kartá Purkh, Nirbhau, Nirvair, Akál Murat, Ajuni, Saibhang, Gurprasád. Finally I sang a short passage from the Jáp Sahib : Gubinde, Mukande, Udáre, Apáre; Hariang, Kariang, Nirnáme, Akáme.

Although these meditations are by different authors, and have slightly different ‘positions’ in the Sikh tradition, they are all about qualities, aspects of God.

Words like God, Allah, Har or Prabh all mean the same: God. They are generic words for God. Words like Vahiguru, Gobinde, the Merciful or the Allmighty represent different qualities of God. Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Sikhi are monotheistic traditions, they all believe in the One, but they all use words that describe qualities of God. God is One, but She/He has many aspects.

If you were to know and understand all the words used in the different spiritual traditions to describe aspects of God, you might begin to understand something of the greatness of God.

Nám simran, meditation on Nám, remembering Nám, is about getting nearer to God by understanding and repeating words that try to describe aspects of God.

Wonderful bringer of light into darkness
Ik Ongkar – Satnám – Kartá Purkh – Nirbhau – Nirvair – Akál Murat – Ájuni – Saibhang – Gurprasád
One Omnipresent, All-powerful – True Name – Creator Being – Without Fear – Without Enmity – Undying – Does not die, is not born – No Needs – Guru’s Blessing

Gobinde – Mukande – Udare – Apare;
World Sustainer – Liberator – Keeps Giving – Without Limit.
Hariang, Kariang, Nirname, Akame.
Destroyer – Creator – Without Name – Without Lust.

Simran, Meditation, thinking about God is not a question of saying certain words as often as possible, as fast as possible. Slowly saying a word, in a loving manner, tasting the sweetness of God on your tongue is what I try to do. It is essential to understand what you hear, Guru tells us again and again that we should do vichár.

Nám, godly essence, is in all the shabads of the Guru Granth Sahib. Reading, listening to, trying to understand the shabads and applying what you learned, is also meditation. Think about God with everything you do and you will be honest, you will share and you will see God in all, without which you will not see God at all. It is that simple and that complicated. But it works, results guaranteed!

543. The Man in Blue – Open Masjid day in Southall

On Sunday the 1st of February it was Open Masjid (mosque) day. I knew that this was not something that all masjids had signed up to, but I wanted to go to the local mosque anyway in view of the bad news from France and Belgium recently, showing that I knew that not all Muslims are with Islamic State.

Together with a friend I went to Montague Way and on our arrival it was soon clear that no arrangements were made to receive non-Muslim visitors. A man spoke to us and I explained what we had in mind and he told us to sit in the wudu (ritual washing) area and wait for a committee member.

When I tried to explain that if he came to the Gurdwara he would receive a different treatment, he made it clear that he had no reason to ever do so.

After that I decided to leave, as it was obvious to me that we were not welcome and that the concept of people of other faiths visiting the masjid was alien to him and to a few other people who by then joined in the conversation.

I have to stress that the people we spoke to were not rude, and also that there are enough ignorant people amongst people of other faiths than Islam.

I am convinced that the way forward for multi-cultural societies is to have more dialogue, more visits to each other’s places of worship, more saying to people of other faith: this church/gurdwara/mandir/masjid/synagogue/vihara is also your church/gurdwara/mandir/masjid/synagogue/vihara.

And it is even more wonderful when communities work together on projects in their local area. There is nothing better than cooking together, cleaning up a park together or bring food and warm clothing to the homeless together.

It is good when ‘faith leaders’ meet, but that should result in meetings of the ordinary members of those communities.

I remember a group that came to the Belgian gurdwara where I did seva for three years. One of the members of that group refused to enter the premises.

In the UK an enlightened Human Resources department of an establishment with many clients of non-Christian backgrounds sent new employees as part of their training on a tour of west-London to visit a mandir, a masjid and a gurdwara.

In this case none of trainees refused to enter the Hindu or the Sikh place of worship. But about one third of them did not want to enter the masjid.

There is a lot of work to do, on the level of ‘faith leaders’, on the level of local government and amongst the grassroots of all faiths. I do not think that all faiths are the same, but we have enough in common as human beings, as people who want to live a life based on ethics, to make dialogue and cooperation fruitful.

Central Jamia Masjid, Montague Waye, Southall UB2 5PA

542. The Man in Blue – The Sikh Manifesto

The Sikh Manifesto that was launched on Saturday 31 January 2015 in the Havelock Road Singh Sabha in Southall, is a logical follow-up on the 2001 Sikh Agenda.

The main difference between the Agenda and the Manifesto is that the latter is specifically written with the 2015 elections in mind. And it is aimed both at the politicians and at Sikh voters and their friends.

Our message to the politicians is that those that commit support on all or on a good number of the issues raised, can count on our support. The message to the Sikh sangat is, mind less which party the candidates belong too, look for commitment to the Manifesto.

Many people of religious or ethnic minorities almost automatically vote Labour and that is understandable, because historically that was the party that was more interested in human rights and equality issues.

But there have also been individual Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs who were champions of the minority interest, and in recent years both the Greens and Scottish Nationalists have been very supportive.

There also were, and still are, Labour MPs who want the minority vote without being a true representative of the Sikhs or other minority groups. Some of these MPs are of South Asian background. Mostly the Sikh community has been best served by ‘white’ MPs.

As far as the 2015 vote is concerned we are looking for politicians of any background who are committed to at least part of the Sikh Manifesto. Just coming to the Gurdwara and talk about the wonderful contribution of the Sikhs to the UK is not good enough.

We would like to see more Sikhs in the House of Commons, and preferably at least some who look like Sikhs and whose behaviour is in tune with the Guru’s teachings. But for all sitting MPs defending their seat and for all new hopefuls to be MPs the same goes: help us to implement the Sikh Manifesto.

Like with the 2001 eight point Sikh Agenda we do not ‘demand’ politicians to sign up to all ten points of the Manifesto. But if there are more candidates who promise support, we should look at their past record and at the number of issues they subscribe to.

There are Sikhs who are mostly interested in issues belonging to living in the UK, there are others who identify more with the South Asian issues of self-determination and rights of minorities.

Both are welcome, we are interested in their views, in challenges faced by them or their family in South Asia or in Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia or other parts of the world.

If you are interested in receiving a copy of the Sikh Manifesto, please send an email to

542. The Man in Blue – The Sikh Manifesto

During this year’s National Sikh Convention in Wolverhampton it was decided to launch a Sikh Manifesto, just like the political parties are putting together manifestos for the 2015 General Election.

But the Sikh Manifesto is not like the manifestos that political parties publish. Our Sikh Manifesto is not a document that the Sikh Community or UK politicians have to accept in full or reject.

If you are a Sikh or a politician you can decide that you agree with one of the points of the manifesto, and campaign on that. Others might feel happy to join on two, three, four or on all the points raised.

We have been told that some of the points in the draft manifesto are controversial, like campaigning for the right of self-determination. But ‘self-determination’ is a human right. Countries that lock up people because they campaign peacefully for more autonomy or independence of their state, have no right to call themselves democratic.

The people involved in the Sikh Manifesto are ‘Sant Sipahi’ who want to fight for their rights and those of others peacefully and through working with politicians, governments and international bodies.

We have been consulting Sikhs in areas with substantial Sikh populations, asking for suggested changes in the draft manifesto, and whether we should leave out some issues or include new ones.

We also encouraged Sikhs from England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland to react via the internet (Facebook, email) in order to get opinions from all over the UK.

This Manifesto is written with the 2005 general election in mind, but some ssues can also be raised with members of the assemblies or parliaments of London, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and with members of the House of Lords and the European Parliament.

It looks likely that in 2015, just like five years ago, neither Labour nor the Conservatives will have an overall majority, and both these big parties and smaller ones like the SNP, UKIP, Lib Dems and Greens will compete strongly for every vote.

With the manifesto we can test the commitment of politicians to the Sikh community and we can advise the Sangat to vote for certain parties or for specific MPs, if they have a good track record in looking after the interests of the Sikhs or if they committed to work with Sikhs on points raised in the Sikh Manifesto.

More of us vote than people of other communities, but to make this vote count we should not blindly give our vote to one party or one candidate, but go by their record and by their commitment to the Sikh community.

If you want an ‘electronic’ copy of the Sikh Manifesto, please email me at

541.The Man in Blue – Sikhs and other traditions

I have noticed that many Sikh authors who write about other traditions compare the bad practice of others with the wonderful teachings of Guru.

Many people who have come into Sikhi from ‘outside’ notice how little of these wonderful teachings are practiced by present day Sikhs, regardless whether they are amritdhari or not.

The person who ‘honour killed’ Amritpal Kaur from Sint-Truiden, Belgium, was an amritdhari Sikh, the people responsible for the killing of Jagdish Singh’s sister from Coventry were amritdhari Sikhs.

In both these cases there were many voices in the community who stressed the disobedience of the girls killed, but not the disobedience to basic Sikh teachings of those guilty of murder.

Those who broke the legs of Jasvir Singh thought they acted on behalf of Guru.

Christians who claim to be the followers of that wonderful enlightened person Jesus, the son of Joseph, have persecuted those amongst their own who did not agree with the ‘main stream’, in a most horrible manner.

In the late 16th century, Philip II, husband of (bloody) Mary Tudor, who was amongst other things the Lord of the Netherlands, punished protestant males with being burnt alive and protestant females with being buried alive.

You should read about the crusades in East Prussia and the Baltic, in the Middle East or in the south of France where non-main stream Christians were massacred. And yet Jesus gives not even the slightest excuse for such behaviour.

I have read Al Quran from cover to cover more than once, and could not find any excuse for Al Shabab, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, Taliban or the present ‘Islamic State’.

Through my interfaith contacts I know that many Muslims want nothing to do with any of the organisations that I mention above.

I was recently in East London at a meeting about Gaza, mostly attended by Muslims of Bangladeshi background. There was a lot of anger, which is unfortunate, but nothing was said against Jews or Israelis that would be punishable by law.

They, like Sayeeda Warsi, like me, just cannot understand why so many in the west do not condemn the appalling way in which the people of the West Bank and Gaza are treated by Israel.

The Shoa does not give Israel the right to lord over the Arab inhabitants of Israel/ Palestine. Injustices by westerners are no excuse for the behaviour of above mentioned Muslim organisations, who often kill more Muslims than ‘unbelievers’.

We should be like Guru and look for good people of all faiths !