379.The Man in Blue – Bhagat Ravidas Panthis II

I have been trying to find out what exactly happened in the Ravi Das Gurdwara in Vienna, but neither I nor the people charged to do this by a meeting at the Singh Sabha Gurdwara in Southall succeeded in this. It is clear that people were wounded and killed, but it is not clear whether the ‘men of violence’ were Sikhs, Ravidas panthis or both.

Babé, our common problem

The baba involved is controversial amongst the followers of Ravidas. I heard that the majority of the Ravidas Gurdwaré in the UK do not like this baba (which of course is no excuse for killing or wounding him or his cronies).

We have to recognise that we have common problems. Fake holy men can be found amongst all traditions in South Asia, even amongst Muslims in West Panjab or amongst Syrian Christians of Kerala.

I do not want to start a rant about sants, but I do think that Ravi Das panthis and Sikhs of good will should join forces and take a stand against the plague of the fake saints.

Caste, the scourge of the sub-continent

I was disappointed by most of the Sikh reactionsto the news from Vienna. It is true that a Ravidas Gurdwara is not a mainstream Sikh place of worship, and caste is not part of the teachings of the Sikh Gurus. But Sikhs do not fully realise that Ravidas is part of the Sikh Guru and do not want to admit that caste still plays an important negative part in the ‘Sikh’ community.

Caste in some shape or form is practiced amongst followers of almost all religious traditions on the subcontinent. Many of our brothers and sisters of Panjabi background fail to translate ‘seeing God’s presence in all’ in treating all as equals.

Equality is also a problem in the UK, where we struggle with the legacy of its rigid class structures and with the present situation where many people are doing quite well, but where there is a growing ‘underclass’.

Sikhs, in the light of Guru’s teachings, should see people of low caste, from sink estates, gipsies and travellers or any other group as their sisters and brothers.

If we really practice this we will become better Sikhs and there would be no more need for Ramgarhia or Ravidas Gurdwaré. It is now more than five hundred years after Guru Nanak taught us about One God and One Humanity, are we actually going to adopt these teachings in 2009 ?

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Published in: on July 11, 2009 at 5:22 am  Comments (1)  
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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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