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!


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

537.The Man in Blue – Nám Karan

Sikh Rehat Maryada (SRM) – Ceremonies pertaining to Birth and Naming of Child

In a Sikh’s household, as soon after the birth of a child as the mother becomes capable of moving about and taking bath (irrespective of the number of days which that takes), the family and relatives should go to a gurdwara with karhah prashad (sacred pudding) or get karhah prashad made in the gurdwara and recite in the holy presence of the Guru Granth Sahib such hymns as “parmeshar dita bana” (Sorath M. 5 ,Guru Granth Sahib p. 628 ), “Satguru sache dia bhej” (Asa M. 5 , Guru Granth Sahib p. 396 ) that are expressive of joy and thankfulness.

Thereafter, if a reading of the holy Guru Granth Sahib had been taken up, that should be concluded. Then the holy Hukam (command) should be taken. A name starting with the first letter of the hymn of the Hukam (command) should be proposed by the granthi (man in attendance of the holy book) and, after its acceptance by the congregation, the name should be announced by him. The boy’s name must have the suffix “Singh” and the girl’s, the suffix “Kaur”.

After that the Anand Sahib (short version comprising six stanzas) should be recited and the Ardas in appropriate terms expressing joy over the naming ceremony be offered and the karhah prashad distributed.

This is from the English translation of the SRM, as found on the SGPC website.

The first thing that struck me is that there is no fixed time span given for the day on which the ceremony is to take place. Go to the Gurdwara as soon as the new mother has sufficiently recovered. I also like the idea of making the karhah prasad at home. Why leave it to the Gurdwara if we can do it ourselves.

According to this clause of the SRM you can give the child any name, as long as it starts with the first letter of the vaak. When I got my name the Granthi told me that the first word was Har, and asked if I knew a name starting with Har. I told him to choose a name for me and he suggested Harjinder.

Recently in Belgium the Granthi and I did the ceremony in the Sint-Truiden gurdwara as the hospital wanted a name straight away, and again ‘Har’ was the first word of the vaak, and I texted that to the parents.

Going by all the names starting with Har, Gur, Man, Jag etc this is what most people practice. If you just go by the first letter than you can choose any name, whether this name has a spiritual meaning or not.

There is no need to restrict ourselves to ‘Indian’ names. If Devdata (God-given) is acceptable then Deodatus (Latin) and Theodorus (Greek), names that have the same meaning, should be acceptable too.

Sikhs should obey Guru’s order and not use their family names but instead use Singh and Kaur. No more Gills, Sidhus, Sehmis or Kalsis, just the name given by the Guru Granth Sahib followed by Singh or Kaur.

I often call myself Harjinder Singh Amritsar, to avoid confusion with the other Harjinder Singhs. My Sikh ‘birthplace’ was Amritsar. This type of addition is acceptable as long as it is not used to make you more important than others!

533. The Man in Blue – The Vote in Gent (Ghent) Council

I have lived and worked in Belgium from June 2010 till June 2013. In that period a lot of time and energy was spent by Sikh activists on trying to get more access to secondary schools for those of our youngsters who wear patkas or turbans.

In 2010 there was only one secondary school that allowed students wearing religious ‘headgear’ in Sint-Truiden. When I left in 2013 there were none. When I arrived most primary schools allowed patkas, now only the ‘free’ (Roman Catholic) primary schools allow them.

Instead of going forward we have gone backward. The history of Belgium is quite different from that of France and the Netherlands. Belgium only became an independent country in 1830. During the time when what is now Belgium was ruled by the Spanish and later the Austrian Habsburgs the state, and therefore education, was dominated by the Roman Catholic Church.

Initially after independence the same condition applied and it was only after a long struggle that ‘neutral’ state schools were founded, and there is still in the state school sector a tendency to keep all things ‘religious’ outside the schools. The schools are not really neutral, they are humanist or agnostic schools.
Add to this the modern factors of xenophobia/islamophobia and you understand why there is such a strong movement for neutral schools and neutral government services.

But it is not all bad news. The current chair of the socialist party of the Dutch (Nederlands) speaking region has proposed abolishing of bans on the wearing of religious symbols. This was followed up in Gent, where employees of the city who in any way deal with the public could not wear religious symbols.

Since the last local election the city is ruled by a coalition of Socialists, (conservative) Liberals and Greens. They had agreed to leave the ban in place, but their hand was forced by a petition against the ban. The petition had sufficient signatures to force the council to have a debate followed by a vote.

As Greens and Socialists have a majority in the council and there was also some support from others (but not from the Liberals) the ban on the wearing of religious symbols was abolished.

The Liberals indentify strongly with the fight for neutral state schools, but also many members of the Socialist members identify with it. The debate in the socialist party is far from over, although even its Antwerpen branch has come out against the ban.

But the political reality in the Dutch speaking part of the country is that there is a good chance that the nationalist NVA will win up to 40% of the vote in the 2014 elections. And that party is totally against the wearing of religious symbols in ‘neutral’ schools and government buildings.

528. The Man in Blue – Caste, Gotra, Jaat

Hinduism is a conglomerate of beliefs and practices, some of which go back to the ancient Aryans/Indo-Germanics who trekked from the Caucasus to both Iran and to the South-Asian sub-continent.

Amongst modern Hindus I have found people who do not believe in caste, who do not do rituals, who believe in One God, and who think that you have to look after all fellow human beings. There are even more Hindus who believe in ‘Manuvád’, are very keen on rituals, believe in 33 crore Gods and only work on personal liberation. Just like ‘The Indian’ does not exist, so does ‘The Hindu’ not exist.

Caste is described as the four traditional groups. These groups might have existed before the arrival of the Aryans in India, and be adjusted to the circumstances found in the subcontinent, or might be a product of the South Asian soil. Interestingly Iranian Aryans do not have such a system.

When ‘Hinduism’ was making progress amongst so-called tribal people and the people of South India, the approach of the Brahmins was as follows : They shared their knowledge with the ruling class of the ‘tribals’ and South Indians and said : If you join us we will make you Kshatriya and the rest of your people will be Shudras, and they can no longer challenge your authority.

The Brahmins were supplied by the Aryans. The Brahmins had not just knowledge of (useless) rituals and of how to divide and rule, they also knew about irrigation, veterinary medicine etc.

In essence the caste system was, and still is, a racist system, a form of apartheid invented long before this word was used in Suid Afrika. There have always been groups that left ‘Hinduism’ or were on the fringes of ‘Hinduism’ who either did not practise caste or actively opposed to it.

Within Sikhism there is widespread discrimination, not so much in the name of the 4 castes but more based on gotra or jaat. Just as is the case with caste, those looked down on tend to have darker skins than those that are looked up to.

But there is no Jat caste, Ramgharia caste or for instance Mazhbi caste. I do not know if these divisions pre-date caste or not.

I am against caste or gotra discrimination just like I am against racial or gender discrimination. As a Sikh I feel upset when I hear my fellow Sikhs talk in a derogatory way about people of other nationalities, social groups or caste. Honour killings are of course totally abhorrent, but they also happen in our community.

I am a Sikh, I have been taught as a first principle that Humanity is One, but people who also claim to be Sikhs kill their daughters because they are disobedient and want to marry outside caste or gotra. We have to join with organisations like Castewatch UK, and fight the Guru’s fight for One Humanity, for the sister and brotherhood of man. Blaming the Hindus is just not good enough.

524.The Man in Blue – Turban problems in Belgium

Many have written and spoken about France and its laïcité policy and the resulting ban on the wearing of religious symbols in schools. Not many people seem to know that there are similar problems in Belgium.

The anti-discrimination laws in the UK are based on EU directives, but in Belgium the interpretation of these directives is ‘creative’. Here the excuse for discrimination is neutrality. To give an example: as part of a neutrality policy religious symbols are banned for all those who work for the city of Antwerp.

Of course the neutrality principle also applies in the UK: whether you work for a local council, a police force, a supermarket or whether you are a judge, those wearing a turban should not show any preference for people of their own tradition.

This is how creative Belgium works: a store employed a lady who wore a híjáb, and she was dismissed because of it. The lady took her employer to court and won her case. Since then store has adopted a neutrality policy which makes it legal to discriminate people who chose to wear religious signs.

Trying to explain that neutrality is in behaviour rather than in the presence of religious signs seems to be a waste of breath.

The situation in primary and secondary education is pathetic. The community schools in the Dutch speaking part of Belgium have adopted a neutrality policy and from 01/09/2013 new students are not allowed to wear hijábs, turbans or patkas.

Many of the Catholic schools have an anti head-cover policy, which was meant to stop pupils wearing hats or caps in schools. This is now also used to ban the wearing of híjáb, turban or patka. Although these religious symbols also ‘cover the head’ they clearly do not belong to the same category as caps and hats.

Although both in the community schools and in the Catholic schools we have found good people who are against discrimination of people who wear religious symbols, they are powerless to stop the widespread islamophobia/xenophobia that seems to be at the root of the problem.

We have been campaigning together with other groups asking schools to allow people to wear their religious symbols under the condition that all students fully take part in the school curriculum.

Many of the Moroccan and Turkish Muslims in Belgium are villagers like many of the Sikhs that live here. They are natural conservatives who do not like their girls to go swimming or take part in school excursions. This is less of a problem amongst the Sikhs, but some Sikh girls in secondary schools also opt out of the swimming lessons.

There is one little light shining in our darkness: those that want to wear a turban or a patka on their ID cards or passports can do so if they produce a letter from their Gurdwara stating that they are part of the Sikh community.

521.The Man in Blue – Sat Nám

On the ‘Sikh News Discussion’ yahoo group some members are discussing Nám and although the participants are meant to be ‘learned’ gentlemen, they all seem  keen to narrow down Nám to either one word or to specific texts.

I am only a sixteen year old Singh and do not claim to fully understand God and his or her nature. I also do not have a handy exact definition of what Nám means, just like I am not arrogant enough to even try to define God.

But I will explain my understanding of Nám without entering in the dialogue of the deaf that goes on in the ‘Sikh News Discussion’ group.

Nám is introduced to us by Guru Nanak on page 1 of the Guru Granth Sahib and is the third word after the figure one, the word Ongkár and the word Sat. This opening line, which Bhai Gurdas named the Mul Mantr, contains nine words/ combinations of words that all point to God.

Seven of those highlight aspects of God, but I think that the first two are more comprehensive. Ongkar is often explained as highlighting God who is both All-pervading and Almighty, both Imminent and Transcendent (inside all and over and above all) or Nirgun and Sargun (no qualities and all qualities).

Sat Nám is an even more all compassing statement. Sat of course means true, but it has been explained to me that in this context it is as if you are saying with much emphasis: Nám IS. So What or Who IS ? There is of course only one possible answer in a spiritual context: God IS, God IS the Absolute Truth.

I think that Nám is something like the Godly essence, the Godly principle and/or the Godly constitution of the Universe. Nám is present in all Gurbaní and in all other truly spiritual writings. Like God Nám is infinite and all-pervading, present on and in the planet Earth, in our solar system, our milky way and other milky ways, in the entire universe.

You and I are part of that system and therefore are part of Nám, and equally words like Vahiguru, Nirankar. Saibhang, Mukande, Paramatma and other descriptions of qualities of God are part of Nám, but they are not Nám.

You can do Nám simran using such words, you then do what is also mentioned in Gurbani, you sing God’s qualities. As we are only humans it is highly unlikely that we would come to a full understanding of all that is contained in Nám, or of all the different qualities of God.

Instead of trying to restrict God to one word we should be happy to have in the Guru Granth Sahib a guide that shows us the awe inspiring greatness of The One ! In the Gita Krishan showed Arjun the image of God, but God has such radiance that Arjun could not see God, just like you cannot look straight at the sun.

Our highest authority is the Guru Granth. This article reflects my understanding of our Guru. I hope I have not made too many mistakes.

520.The Man in Blue – Benti Chaupaí

According to the Sikh Rehat Maryada we should as part of our nitnem daily read Tav Prasád Svayé, Jáp Sahib and Benti Chaupaí. These are texts that are found in the ‘Dasam Granth’.

I think that Tav Prasád Svayé and Jáp Sahib are in tune with the teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib, but I feel uneasy about Benti Chaupaí.

In this article I will highlight words or phrases in Benti Chaupaí that I do not understand. I hope that others will help me to come to a better understanding. I would prefer a dialogue about facts over a debate on opinions.

I will restrict myself to the discussion of the 25 verses that are specified in the Sikh Rehat Maryada as being part of the nitnem banis.

Hamré dust sabhai tum ghávho – Destroy all my enemies – 1st line of verse 2
Does dust mean wicked and ghávho stab ? Stab all the wicked ?

Sabh bairan ko áj sanghriyai – Destroy all my enemies today – 2nd line of verse 3
Sanghriyai = companions ? Bairan = alien ?

Chun chun satr hamáré máríhi – Kindly kill all my enemies after singling them out – 4th line of verse 4

The above translations are by Harban Singh Doabia. I am not convinced that he has translated correctly, and I wonder about these ‘enemies’ and the ‘killings’. These verses, whether they are written by Guru Sahib or not, date from the period when the Mughal regime saw the Sikhs as their enemies.

But Gursikhs see God’s presence in all, and have no enemies. Of course when those that see us as their enemies attack us or other communities we have not just the right, but the obligation to protect ourselves and others.

But even then, as the Bhai Ghanaya story illustrates, we keep seeing those ‘enemies’ as our fellow human beings.

Another way to look at these quotes is to consider the enemies as the five ‘thieves’ that steal away our balanced state of mind. Please let us know what you think.

I am not interested in a debate on whether these verses have been written by Guru Gobind Singh or by person or persons unknown.

I want to come to a better understanding of Benti Chaupaí, and want to establish whether it is in tune with the Guru Granth Sahib.

As we all should know it is Guru Gobind Singh who emphasised the key role of the Guru Granth as the eternal Guru of the Sikhs.

To react to this column either use the comments button underneath or send an email to

Published in: on August 10, 2012 at 9:12 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , ,

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: , ,