430.The Man In Blue – Maryádá

Today we are not discussing the Sikh Rehit Maryádá (SRM) as published by the SGPC in 1945. The word maryádá is here used in its original meaning of practices or traditions. We talk for instance about the maryádá of Akál Takhat, where there are different traditions than in Darbar Sahib.

As long as these traditions are not against the letter or the spirit of the Guru Granth Sahib or against the SRM, it is absolutely fine that one Gurdwara has a different way of going about things than others.

Problems arise when for instance members of the sangat or granthis, giannis, ragis etc get too involved in ceremonies, which they think show respect for the Guru Granth Sahib. The essential respect due to the Guru Granth Sahib is of course reading, understanding (using all your faculties) and applying the teachings.

Saying or writing ‘Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji’ means that you add three honorifics to the two key words that mean ‘Teacher Book’. Saying or writing Jap-Ji Sahib obscures the fact that the opening shabad of the Guru Granth is simply called Jap. If that was good enough for Guru Nanak, why is that not good enough for us ?

I understand, but do not think it is essential, why people want to have a separate vacuum cleaner for the area around the Guru Granth and the palki, but to have a special washing machine for the ramál of the Guru Granth goes towards idolising the object. I think that washing the ramál separate from other cloth/clothes used in the Gurdwara is more than respectful enough.

These traditions or practices would all be fairly innocent but there are three clear drawbacks. The first one is that it diverts attention from the real purpose of the Guru Granth, as our Spiritual Teacher, our signpost to God.

These practices create a fear in the mind of our sangat. The Guru Granth sits on the palki to be read by any member of the sangat. Reading to the sangat should be done by an initiated Sikh, otherwise it is available to all. But many Sikhs are too afraid of ‘doing something disrespectful’ while reading the Guru Granth. The Guru Granth has become like the Sikh equivalent of a Hindu Idol.

The Guru Granth is our eternal teacher, our pope and our king. It is right that it sits on a throne under a canopy and that we wave the flybrush over it as was done with kings. This is good practice and it shows how important our Guru is to us.

But please read the wonderful tool that Guru gave us. The Guru Granth will send you on the path of dharam, gián, saram and karam. On this path you will experience God long before you reach sach khand. You will come to know that God is !

397.The Man in Blue – Inspiration or Dictation

I have started to do katha in English on every last Friday of the month in the Hounslow Singh Sabha. This is aimed at younger members of the sangat but everybody is welcome.

During my first session I spoke about the definition of a Sikh as found in the Sikh Rehat Maryada, on the 27th of November I started talking about Rahras, beginning with So Dar.

During this katha session I told the sangat that the So Dar appears three times in the Guru Granth, first as pauri 27 of Japji Sahib (pana 6), then as the opening verse of Rahras (pana 8) and finally under Rág Asá (pana 347).

The version in Japji Sahib is slightly different from the one found in Rahras and Rág Asá. The main differences are that Japji Sahib is not in rág and that   ‘tudhno’ appears as ‘tuhno’. I think that the slightly different words give a better rhythm to the text and make it easier to sing.

Rahras is a compilation of sabads that all can also be found under their own rágs (Asá and Gujri). It includes 5th Guru’s sabads which makes it likely that the Rahras was compiled by him when Guru Arjan compiled the Ádi Granth.

It is possible that Guru Nanak wrote two versions of the So Dar, or that it was Guru Arjan who made the changes. The important thing to keep in mind is that whoever made the changes did not in any way change the meaning.

This is where a Singh who daily does seva in the Gurdwara took exception, and although I did initially not understand his objections, I now worked out what is issue was.

This Singh thinks that the Guru Granth Sahib has come about by divine dictation, the Guru’s mouth spoke God’s words, the Guru’s hand wrote God’s words. And I agree, based on my understanding of the Guru Granth.

But I think that God dictated meanings, not the actual words. Guru writes about humans not being able to describe God. He writes that even if we had hundreds of thousands of lives and all the paper, all the pens in the world, we still would not be able to describe God.

In other passages in the Guru Granth Sahib, Guru (the collective of all authors of the Guru Granth), describes the same using different images, different words. The ideas are from God, and were absorbed by our Gurus and Bhagats whose minds and souls were very close to God. From these wonderful human beings blessed by God, come creative images to make us understand God’s message. Our ultimate Guru is God and God is in the writings of the Bhagats and the Sikh Gurus, in the Guru Granth Sahib.

Published in: on December 8, 2009 at 7:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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378.The Man in Blue – Bhagat Ravidas Panthis I

In view of the recent tension between Sikhs and the followers of Bhagat Ravidas I want to clarify the position between us Sikhs and the followers of Bhagat Ravidas. Forty sabads of Ravidas are included in the Guru Granth.

‘Guru’ Ravidas

The followers of Ravidas call him Guru, which means ‘teacher’ or ‘bringer of light into darkness’. For Sikhs the word Guru has a specific meaning, but we should not pick a fight with those who use the term in the more general Indian way. The sabads of Ravidas that are included in the Guru Granth are part of our eternal Guru, and as such Ravidas is part of the Sikh Guru.

The teachings of Ravidas are in tune with those of the Guru Granth Sahib.

Sudras & Jats

The followers of Ravidas and Kabir tend be people of low caste. When I visited a friend of mine in a village near Hoshiarpur whose family were of so-called low caste, the Sikhs from the local Gurdwara dominated by Jats would not greet me, as I was staying with Ravidas panthis of low caste.

Saying to each other that Guru teaches unity of mankind is not relevant for the Ravidas panthis, as long as Sikhs do not practice what Guru teaches. When we start practicing Guru’s teachings we can reach out to the Ravidas panthis and share the sabads of our eternal Guru.

Guru Granth Sahib

Because of our ‘respect for the Guru Granth’ Sikhs love to fight with those groups that do not give the same importance to the Guru Granth Sahib as we do. Instead of being happy that non-Sikhs read the Guru Granth and see it as an important source of teaching and inspiration, we want to take the Guru Granth away from Ravidas or Námdhari Gurdwaré / Temples.

I am very happy that we do not set out to convert others in the way that Christians and Muslims do. But the attitude of many Sikhs is not very open-minded either. The Guru speaks to everybody, the Guru considers everybody who is a serious student of the Guru of Gurus to be a sikh. The way of life set out in the Guru Granth Sahib can be followed by all of all ‘dharms’.

Think about these three definitions : 1) a ‘sikh’ is someone who is a serious student of God. 2) A ‘Sikh’ is someone who recognises the leadership of the Guru Granth & Guru Panth as ordained by Guru Gobind Singh. 3) A ‘Khalsa’ is someone who is totally committed to Guru’s teachings and as a sign of that commitment has taken amrit and wears the 5 Ks.

To be continued

Published in: on July 1, 2009 at 3:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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369.The Man in Blue – No Khalsa without the Guru Dasam Granth

I was very shocked when I saw a young man during the Southall Nagar Kirtan wearing a jacket with the above slogan printed on the back. The problem is that this kind of slogan which goes directly against the directions given to us by Guru Gobind Singh will be believed by many Sikhs.

The ten Gurus did not each teach their own Sikhí, they were all Nanak, they all carried forward God’s light that was given to Guru Nanak. That light is present in the Guru Granth Sahib, our eternal Guru, and in the lives of all the ten Gurus. There really is only one Guru and that is God.

Guru Nanak wrote that if you want to play the Game of Love you have to carry your head on the palm of your hand. Some two hundred years later Guru Gobind Singh asked for exactly that same commitment. Guru Gobind Singh told us that the True Khalsa serves all, and serving all, seeing God’s presence in all, is what the other nine Gurus taught and practised.

Guru Hargobind took up the sword, Guru Teg Bahadur took up the sword before he became the Guru, Guru Teg Bahadur gave his life defending Hindus. The principles on which Guru’s Khalsa is based are in the Guru Granth Sahib, Guru Gobind gave these principles a new form.

On Vaisakhi 1699 there was no Dasam Granth, when Guru before he passed away declared the Guru Granth to be the eternal Guru of the Sikhs there was no Dasam Granth.

The above does not mean that it is wrong to read the Dasam Granth, and I have not said anything about the authorship of the Dasam Granth. I do not know who wrote the Dasam Granth, and I am not getting involved in a debate that cannot be won, as nobody knows who wrote the Dasam Granth.

There is a lot of interesting material in the Dasam Granth, and also some writing of which I cannot understand what it has to do with any religion. But whatever I think is irrelevant, Guru Gobind Singh taught us to follow the teachings of the Guru Granth, and that is what I concentrate on.

No Khalsa without the Guru Granth, no Sikhí without the Guru Granth. That is not my personal interpretation, it is what Guru taught us. The irony is that many people who claim to be ardent supporters of Guru Gobind Singh  try to make him out to be more important than the other Gurus, and try to make a Granth that did not even exist in Guru’s lifetime equal or even more important than the Guru Granth.

Guru Gobind Singh like the other Gurus did not want to be worshipped, Guru Gobind Singh wanted us to follow the Guru Granth.

Published in: on May 1, 2009 at 6:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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365.The Man in Blue – Respect the Guru Granth Sahib !

There used to be a group called ‘respect for Guru-Ji’, and maybe there still is, although I have not heard from them for a while. The group’s main focus was on ‘Sikh’ weddings in hotels and other ‘polluted’ venues. I argued that the problem is not so much ‘polluted’ venues as ‘polluted’ sangats.

A group of real Sikhs practising Sikhí as taught by the Guru Granth Sahib will not be affected by wherever they are. Some Sikh students from the Midlands used to visit the Student Union bar, drinking non-alcoholic drinks, not using bad language, showing all present that it is possible to have a good time without drinking, smoking or using drugs.

When travelling I sometimes have lunch in a pub, as pubs almost always offer a vegetarian option and have user friendly prices. It is all a question of being like the Lotus Flower, which grows in mud but keeps clean.

I agree with the campaigners in this respect : people who want to have a wedding (which for many is what you do before the serious business of drinking starts) in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib should normally have the wedding in a Gurdwara. This is based on the hope that in a Gurdwara there might be some restriction on Panjabi or Western practices that are not in tune with the Rehat Maryada and the teachings of Guru.

As Vaisakhi is approaching fast we have been preparing for the annual Nagar Kirtan. The Hounslow Nagar Kirtan is on the 5th of April, the Southall one is a week later and I think Slough Nagar Kirtan follows a week after that.

If you look at Nagar Kirtans from the point of view of ‘respect for Guru-Ji’ they should be banned ! In spite of people with brooms going ahead of the procession our streets are just dirty. Loads of non-Sikhs with uncovered heads will be about, smoking, drinking, using foul language and walking in front of the Guru Granth Sahib. We will not even consider what goes on between Sikhs/ people of Sikh background during the Nagar Kirtan.  

I have been involved in organising the Sikh part of the Vaisakhi on the Square event. Looking at it from the ‘Respect for Guru-Ji’ point of view, you see Trafalgar Square surrounded by drinkers and smokers and an afternoon session entirely devoted to bhangra and no doubt involving ladies who should really cover up a bit more.


The choice we have to make is between protecting the ‘respect’ of the Guru Granth Sahib and taking the Guru out of the Gurdwara and showing it to the non-Sikhs. Sikhs who are seriously trying to be on Guru’s path can go anywhere without being polluted. I do not believe it is in any way possible to ‘insult’ God or the Guru Granth. I believe we should go out of our way to share the Guru’s teachings with all.