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.

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478.The Man in Blue – You’ll Never Walk Alone

This article is not about the song adopted by the fans of Liverpool Football Club. Those that know me will have guessed that what I am writing about is that if you walk with God you never walk alone.

This morning I met with my friend Joseph in the Southall Park Avenue Gurdwara and we talked about meeting with God. I told him about the first time that I experienced God, the first time that I had ‘darshan’.

God is always present in and around us, we are all part of the physical expression of God and our soul, our atma comes from the Paramatma, the All-Soul.

Many of us are like the blind who do not see the beautiful colours of creation, or like the deaf who do not hear the wonderful music of nature. God is inside us and all around us, but our ‘spiritual eye’ is firmly closed.

Only when we go on the path to Guru, when we try to live the Gursikh way of life that I wrote about last week, can our third eye open. To better understand the requirements on the path to God you should have another look at those ‘khands’ that Guru Nanak writes about in the Japji Sahib.

Guru’s His message is clear, it is not just the good deeds, or the knowledge with understanding that will get you near to God; you have to practice dharm, gian, sarm and sach in order to get near the full unity with God.

And when you are making the first hesitant steps on the way to The One, you will begin to get an awareness of God, you will feel Her/His presence.

And from the first time you experience God you will ‘never walk alone’. It is not just that from then on you will know that God is always with you, you will also develop an awareness of all the life around you, plants, animals and fellow humans.

God is One, Creation is One. There is no difference between God and Creation. ‘She/He’ is me; I am ‘Her/Him’. This is a difficult concept to understand, but once you are doing true meditation, when you become aware of the Nám, the all pervading True Godly Essence, you will start to feel what this means.

Remember that simran and path are both ways of ‘stimulating’ the thinking about God, but getting nearer to God does not depend on the quantity of the simran or path, it depends on the quality.

It is quite possible that you will experience the Formless after saying ‘Vahiguru’ or any other word from our or from any other tradition only once.

You could read one shabad and be hit by the power of God’s revelation in it. And, repeating myself, without righteous living, knowledge with understanding, humility and truth spiritual progress will not be made !

Published in: on June 25, 2011 at 9:07 am  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.

361.Nám

Cháchrí Chhand Tav Prasád

GubindéMukandé Udáré Apáré (94)

Haríang Karíang Nirnámé Akámé (95)

 

Many Sikhs think that they are the followers of a God called Vahiguru. In reality our eternal Guru teaches that God has no name and that the many names of God are given by humans who speak different languages and who are of different faith and cultural traditions.

 

The God of the Jews (Jhvh) is the same as the God called Allah by the Muslims, or by the 99 names of God discussed in Al Qur’an. The names of God mentioned in the Guru Granth Sahib, in the Hindu tradition or in any other religion or language are all names for The One.

 

In the Guru Granth Sahib God is often called Har or Rám but also Aláh and every possible other name you can think of from the South Asian tradition. God, Aláh and Jehovah (or Yahweh) are generic words for God without a specific meaning. In our tradition, in the tradition of the Guru Granth, most of the ‘Names’ used are descriptions of aspects of God.

 

Vahiguru is the Wonderful Bringer of Light into Darkness, Har the One who makes things bloom, and if we look at verse 94 and 95 of Jáp Sahib (see above) Gubindé is the World Nourisher, Mukandé the Liberator, Udáré the Biggest Giver, Apáré the Limitless One, Haríang the Destroyer, Karíang the Creator, Nirnámé the One without Name, Akámé the One without Lust.

 

All these are names for God, all are valid and all try to describe God.

 

Nám as in Nám Simran is what confuses especially many AKJ followers most. As the Jáp Sahib says, God is Nirnámé, without a name, so what is it that we are meditating on ?

 

As a theological concept Nám is similar to the ancient Greek concept of ‘Word’ (Logos) which is also used in the Gospel of John in the New Testament of the Bible and by the Dutch Jewish philosopher Baruch de Spinoza who calls it ‘Substance’. What I think it stands for is the essence of God, or possibly all the qualities of God put together.

 

And that links it to the sort of Nám that you find in the ‘Gurmantr’, the ‘Mulmantr’ or in Jáp Sahib. All these manmade Names trying to describe aspects of God, qualities (guné) of God, put together might just get near the essence of God.

 

That makes Nám simran the thinking about aspects of God, and through the simran understanding the multi-faceted and indescribable nature of God, understanding that God is the cause of all and present in all. 

Published in: on February 27, 2009 at 9:31 am  Comments (1)  
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350.The Man in Blue – I do not believe that …

I do not believe that because I have taken Amrit, wear the 5 Ks and a traditional Sikh outfit, I am in any way better than those who are on a different path.  

I have given up drinking, smoking, using bhang, I do not have a television or a car, I do not own a house but rent a small flat, but I do not believe that this makes me in any way better than others who are on a different path. 

 

I have been a vegetarian much longer than I have been a Sikh but I do not believe that this makes me in any way better than others who are on a different path. 

 

Today when I was about to go into the divan of the Southall Singh Sabha a young woman who I know by sight came out. She had a nice smile and there was a sparkle in her eyes. I spoke to her, and asked her the best question I could think of : do you love Guru ? Her answer was yes, I do.

 

She did not need to ask me which Guru I had in mind. The holy men with whom Guru Nanak had a dialogue in the ‘Sidh Gosht’ did have to ask : who is your Guru, and Guru answered ‘the Formless’.

 

That still is the only right answer, the Ten Gurus, the Bhagats, the Bhatts, the Guru Granth are all the mouth pieces of The One and Only True Guru.

 

Every Sikh, every person of any religion, should recognise The One as the Groom with whom all of us are in love, the Paramatma, the All-Soul, with whom all the atmas, all the souls want to merge.

 

I am a Sikh, I love the ten human Gurus, I love the Guru Granth and I love the Formless Being that is God. I am happy that I am not too attached to Maya, but I know of the danger of becoming attached to not being attached.

 

One of my early columns is called ‘All you need is Love’, after the famous Beatle song. Our Groom, our Paramatma is the most wonderful husband that we have never seen. Looking at God is like looking into the sun, God is blindingly lovely.

 

God showed me the way of Love when I started on the Path almost thirteen years ago. Guru’s way is the Universal Way, Guru’s way is the Only Way.

 

A Sikh hero, a saint-soldier knows no hate. A Sikh hero sees God’s presence in all. A Sikh hero can be surrounded by worldly goods but will stick to the path of love for Creator and Creation. A Sikh hero is humble. A  Sikh hero does not condemn others because they follow a different path to God. Guru said : Be a Good Muslim, Be a Good Yogi, follow the right path in your way.

Published in: on December 14, 2008 at 6:57 am  Leave a Comment  
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348.The Man in Blue – Not Being Well …

I have come to the end of a busy period which lasted from the end of September till the ‘Faiths & Beliefs in Further Education’ (fbf) London Region Forum of the 25th of November. I was involved in work for fbfe, my main client, for what is now the Slough Equalities Commission and did prachár in Bristol, St Truiden en Hounslow.

My work is a mix of voluntary and paid for activities, and everything I do fits in with my vision of ‘doing Sikhí’. This does not mean that all is up to Guru’s high standards, I am human and therefore likely to make mistakes. 

As I wrote before and hopefully will write again : I am sixty-one, I have never been happier, and have never been more successful in making a  positive contribution to Sikhí and to the wider society while  earning enough money to finance my simple way of life, and even save quite a bit.

And then I got ill, and made it worse by going to a morning meeting in Uxbridge while I knew that I had a temperature and made matters worse by trekking to Guildford for a meeting that evening while knowing that my temperature had gone up.

Wednesday night I got home at about 10.30 pm, having the hots and colds and feeling knackered. I stayed in bed for most of Thursday feeling miserable, on Friday there was only a slight improvement, and on Saturday I felt I was on the mend. The cold and damp weather did not help of course, and even going to bed wearing kacchera, long john (!), thick sweat shirt and sweater still did not really make me feel comfortable.

So there you are, the very picture of human frailty. I worked hard, achieved most of my targets, and I thought that I was on top of the world. But of course I had been overdoing things, I was tired and vulnerable and a horrible beasty called the common cold virus jumped in and got hold of me.

I am still tired but my nose is almost clear, I have done hardly any coughing today, and I reckon the temperature has come to the conclusion that it is time to pack its bags. Everything is under control, I know how to deal with these bouts of ‘flu’.

A math teacher I know took early retirement and started teaching at a Christian institute in Africa. She is a good Christian, a true sevadar, but that did not save her from being hit by a stroke that affected her speech and general mobility. She was lucky, she could still communicate, could get about again, but was not able to go back to teaching in her beloved Africa.

 

I might live many more years, I might be dead next week. But a balance between work and rest is part of being in spiritual balance.

Published in: on November 30, 2008 at 5:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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343.My Copper Jubilee

I have not had an alcoholic drink, I have not used any recreational drugs since 9 January 1996 and I have not used any tobacco since 10 January 1996. I started on the Sikh path on 19 January 1996 and took Amrit (was initiated in the order of the Khalsa) on 14 July 1996.

 

Your copper jubilee in Dutch tradition is when you have for instance been working for the same boss for 12½ years. I am now more than 12½ years away from January 1996, and I am only a couple of months away from being a Khalsa for 12½ years.

 

If I talk in terms of being with the same boss than I have recognised God as my only real boss for the required period. I have also been trying to get nearer to the Groom, the Paramatma for 12½ year.

 

I want to talk to you about how I was liberated from my addictions. It is difficult to share this with people who have not been through this process. The best way to explain it is to use the term applied by Guru Gobind Singh : I have been liberated of the desire to use any type of drug.

 

I was not the sort of drinker that you find sitting on park benches with a bottle of cheap plonk or cider. I have never injected myself with anything. I have always kept eating, and even mostly ate quite healthily. But in spite of being in some kind of control, ultimately the drugs and drink were in control. If I did not get my daily dose I would be very uncomfortable.

 

In Amritsar in 1996 it took me about three months and loads of help from God to overcome my addictions. But from the day I started on this path I started feeling happier, started to have inner peace even when my body was still crying out for alcohol, drugs and nicotine.

 

God also helped me to overcome my biggest problem that dated back to my early adulthood when my wife died of a heroin overdose, which left me with a mixture of anger and guilt feelings. Anger because she preferred a junkie and heroin over me, guilt because I introduced her to the junkie and to a lifestyle where drug taking was the norm.

 

I can now talk or write about this quite easily and accept my responsibility, while realising that it was her decision to go with the junkie, not mine. I know that being depressed over this does not do anybody any good, and that my only real option is to go forward on the Guru’s path.

 

This summer I went through a difficult and challenging period. I am not claiming that I got everything right, but putting my trust in God I faced the challenges and came out feeling more committed to Guru’s way. Guru’s way is not easy, but Guru’s way is wonderful, even when we make mistakes.

Published in: on October 26, 2008 at 6:47 am  Leave a Comment  
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340.The Man in Blue – A Simple and Healthy Life

Since I moved to Southall I have tried to improve my lifestyle in a number of ways. My first priority was more discipline in my time of going to bed and getting up. Secondly I am now eating less and more healthily and I am avoiding unnecessary spending on lunches and drinks when I am travelling.

 

The result is that I sleep better, have no more stomach problems and save money. It helps me to be a more effective Sikh activist. I have been dealing with a number of challenging (voluntary & paid) work situations in September which will go on till mid-October, and so far am on target.

 

A regular life and eating simple & healthy food also makes it easier to remain in spiritual balance. My diet is a mix between Panjabi and European food. I always have porridge (which I make with 50/50 water and milk), whole-wheat bread, rye-bread and multi-grain crackers in store.

 

All of these are high in fibres and contribute to your protein needs. By using oats (porridge), wheat and rye I have a varied intake of grains. In the morning and early evening I make Panjabi style tea (not too much sugar, not too strong). I eat about half of the bread with cheese.

 

When I have langar I will have one roti, avoid kír and if there is a ‘feast’ on offer I will include dehie (natural yoghurt) and dal and avoid sarson and palak da saag because these are usually cooked with too much butter.

 

At home I cook brown rice or whole-wheat pasta (the long skinny ones) with a modest amount of sabzi and a little olive oil. I also eat at least one orange a day, and when in meetings or in the langar fruit is on offer I’ll have it.  

 

I am not saying that all should eat like I do. No two human beings are the same, what suits my stomach might make you feel very uncomfortable. But general principles like low on fat, low on sugar, some dairy products but not too many, will agree to most. Eat modest portions and reduce car travel, walk more, even if it is just to the bus stop or the rail station, sell your TV and do not sit in front of your computer for hours without a break.

 

If you are living on your own or if you are a couple without live-in children you do not need a big house or a big car. If you live in an urban area you do not need a car at all. Big houses mean big heating bills, high council tax and loads of cleaning, big cars are awkward to manoeuvre in city traffic, difficult to park, guzzle petrol and cost more in road tax and insurance.  I am not even mentioning global warming.         

 

And for God’s sake, if you use drugs, including alcohol and nicotine, please stop it now ! Finally, I am happy that the Rehat Maryada does not forbid the eating of meat, but my body feels healthier on a strict vegetarian diet.   

Published in: on October 4, 2008 at 7:45 am  Leave a Comment  
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339.The Man in Blue – The Guru Granth is the Benchmark

I was asked by somebody in relation to a discussion on Námdharis, who it was that told us that the Guru of the Sikhs after Guru Gobind Singh was the Guru Granth – Guru Panth. The answer is that it was Guru Gobind Singh himself. I have been told about this many times when I lived in Panjab, and I have written about it many times since I came to the UK, but I am not sure if there is any document recording Guru’s statement.

 

As long as nobody contradicts us with evidence, we can safely assume that this statement is correct. I will first say something about the combination and then narrow it down to the Guru Granth in relation other publications.

 

Guru Granth – Guru Panth means that the worldwide Sikh community taking guidance from the Guru Granth is the highest authority in Sikhí. That sounds wonderful, but there are difficulties with the application of this idea in the Sikh Panth as we find it today.

 

Think about it : It does away with Jathedars, Pardhans, Babas and of course ‘Satgurus’ as authorities in Sikhí. What bliss, it sounds too good to be true ! The Yogi has passed away but post mortem I want to tell him that he never was the leader of the Sikhs in the western hemisphere and I am sorry Bhai Mohinder Singh but you are not the spiritual leader of the Sikhs in the UK.

 

‘Jathedar comes and Jathedar goes’ of the Akal Takhat, your coming and going is irrelevant. Not only do you have you no Jatha but also you have no authority. We will not even discuss the Jathedars of the other four Takhats.

 

The problem is with the Guru Panth. The members of the Panth have been ‘informed’ about Sikhí by these Jathedars, Pardhans, Babas and jathabandis. These ‘authorities’ have confirmed the members of the sangat in their sub-continental mindset, instead of adopting the revolutionary mindset that the Guru teaches. The above ‘authorities’ failed to teach Sikhí to the sangat in order to be able to call them ignorant ‘pindus’ and then assume authority over them. Changing the Sikh world order includes a massive effort at education, otherwise things would get worse instead of better.

 

The Guru Granth will also deal with the discussion about the ‘Dasam Granth’ or any other Sikh publication. The discussion about who wrote the ‘Dasam Granth’ is useless, as it is impossible to decide either way.   

 

Any publication should be judged by the benchmark of the Guru Granth. Stories about avtars of Hindu Gods or erotic stories are not in tune with the Guru Granth but Jaap Sahib is wonderful. Judging the many different works that make up the ‘Dasam Granth’ by the benchmark of the Guru Granth is not going to be easy, but at least we have some hope to come to a peaceful conclusion that way !

Published in: on September 28, 2008 at 10:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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337.The Man in Blue – Gurdwara Elections II

In my first article I tried to describe and analyse the problems around the Gurdwara elections in Southall. Some outsiders are suggesting that there is a struggle between ‘radical Sikhs’ and ‘the peaceful establishment’.

 

There is an establishment, but I am not impressed by the ‘peacefulness’ of either party and/or their followers. An important part of the motivation of the followers of both the Baaz & the Sher party seems to be power and money. The Sher party is definitely not made up of dangerous Sikh radicals.  

 

There are many stories doing the round on how friends and relatives of the present Gurdwara management profit from money spent or visas sponsored by the Gurdwara. I am not interested in these stories, but it is undeniable that being a member of the Prabandhak Committee is a prestigious position, which will impress friends and relatives in the UK and abroad.

 

I appeal to both ‘Baaz’ and ‘Sher’ to fight a clean election, to undertake in public that a maximum of openness and fairness will be exercised before and during the election and that both parties will not resort to either shouting and screaming or violence at any stage.

 

Both the ‘Baaz’ and the ‘Sher’ group should address the following issues :

      Who qualifies for Gurdwara membership ? The first time I became a member the person in charge was hesitant to enrol me because of my Dutch last name, although I am a visible Sikh. People with ‘Hindu’ last names who did not even wear a kara were accepted without questions.    

      I analysed the last set of accounts of the Singh Sabha Ltd and could not find any fault with them. The accounts were presented in a professional manner, but the Gurdwara should also produce a simple profit & loss account and a balance sheet for the benefit of ordinary members.

      It is not acceptable in a democratic organisation that the same persons can be officers of the executive like Chair, Secretary and Treasurer without any time limit. Maximum period in office should be three years followed by a period of three years in which such persons could be committee members but not officers.

      It should be clear that the authority within the organisation is with the members and that the officers and committee members execute the decisions of the AGM and other general meetings and run ‘current affairs’ but do not have the authority to make policy decisions. 

      It is a great shame that sangat’s money is spent on hiring a security firm during the elections. Both parties are at fault.

      Baaz & Sher should come together and agree Panj Piaré who will act as mediators between the two groups, as was done during the Misl period.


I will make sure that both Dr Parvinder Singh (gen secretary), and Gurmail Singh (Sher group) will receive a copy of Gurdwara Election I and II. 

Published in: on September 15, 2008 at 9:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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