december 1999 / january 2000
c o n t e n t s
Editor Bhupinder Singh
Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji 1469 - Eternity
Guru Nanak was the first Guru of the Sikhs. Yet to say that he was put here on earth to serve the cause of a select group of people is a misrepresentation of the facts. He was a humble servant of God whose mission was to put forth a message for all humanity …and for all time. Born into a Hindu family in 1469, Guru Nanak cared little for outward, divisive labels: Na koi Hindu, Na koi Mussulman (There are neither Hindus nor Muslims). All human beings regardless of race, religion or gender are equal in the eyes of God.
Guru Nanak preached that the inner temple of the heart was the greatest monument to one’s faith in God: Sunia mannia man kita bhao. Antar-gat tirath mal nao. Hearing, believing and loving the Name of God is like bathing in the true shrine that exists in one’s self (Jap Ji). In this way he gave people the strength to walk away from centuries of subservience to the elite priestly class that claimed that one was either born with God’s grace or without. He emphatically rejected the caste system and all its injustices. As well, he freed people from enslavement to meaningless and wasteful rituals by speaking the languages of logic and love.
He won the hearts and minds of the common folk with sweetness and warmth. But to turn people 180 degrees around from their backward descent at the hands of the Establishment and undeserving authority, Guru Nanak knew that he would also have to instill great courage in the laymen. In Gurbani he states: If you are fond of playing the game of love, enter my path with head in hand. Once you set your foot upon it, lay down your head without any fear or hesitation (Aad Granth 1412). His revolution in essence awoke people from years of sleepwalking and opened their eyes to the inequality and harmful reality that surrounded them: He who acts blindly is truly blind. His heart does neither see nor realize the folly of what he does (AG 1289).
Guru Nanak strove to create an environment of rationality and open and free discussion: As long as we are in this world, Nanak, we should hear somewhat and speak somewhat of the Lord (AG 661). Listening to Gurbani without understanding its profound implications and practical applications is like holding a sumptuous peach without tasting its sweetness. The peach retains its intrinsic beauty but we deny ourselves the rewards and benefits of its flavour and nutrients.
Also, Guru Nanak harboured no religious enmity. However, he strongly denounced religious hypocrisy. Indeed, the true Muslim or Hindu was dearer to his heart than the false Sikh. Two of his earliest disciples were in fact Mardana, a Muslim who accompanied Guru Ji on his many travels, and Bala, a Hindu peasant. Even at the end of his own physical time, Hindus and Muslims wondered whether Guru Ji should be cremated or buried: Guru Nanak Shah Fakeer/ Hindu ka Guru, Mussulman ka Peer. Such was the immense impact of his teachings and the devotion he inspired in all.
Guru Nanak’s basic philosophy can be summed up by the Three Golden Rules: 1) Naam Japna; 2) Wand Chhakna; and 3) Dharam di Kirat Karni. First, remember God’s Name in every single endeavour you undertake. Second, share your earnings with others, especially with those less fortunate than yourself. And third, earn your livelihood through hard work and by honest means. As is evident from these core tenets it is one’s deeds and conduct that Guru Nanak places on a pedestal above all else. Guru Nanak says, Truth is the highest virtue but higher still is truthful living (AG 62). As such he advocated active participation in the daily affairs of one’s community. Guru Ji himself was a householder and denounced the ascetic lifestyle. He knew that true morality could only be gauged in terms of one’s interaction with one’s neighbours and that those who sought to run away from the world’s problems were not immoral but, rather, amoral.
530 years after the birth of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, we the Sikh youth prepare to carry the torch into the new millennium. But, today, there are those among us who would prefer that we divide our faith and go down different paths with different torches. However, such a course of action is blatantly not in accordance with Guru Nanak’s teachings: Nanak, deem that such is the true Guru who UNITES ALL with the Lord (AG 72). Guru Ji preached that God lives in each and every one of us (AG 433). Therefore, achieving union with the Almighty Lord necessitates that we must first come together as brothers and sisters. In this regard it is the youth that must take the reigns and, with the infallible guidance of holy Gurbani, steer us clear of ritualism, hypocrisy, and fragmentation – the very dangers that Guru Nanak sought to eradicate five centuries ago.
Harmohanjit Singh Pandher
What is the future of Sikhism?
|The Sikhs in the glorious
past have had long periods of persecution and suffering. Their faith in
the Gurus and God, and an awareness of the need for voluntary community
service made them face cheerfully, many ordeals. The eighteenth century
witnessed the genocide of the Sikhs, particularly at the two holocausts of
1746 and 1762 called Chotta Ghallughara and Wada Ghallughara respectively,
from which the Sikhs rose like phoenix from the ashes. Their martyrdom has
inspired successive generations of Sikhs to the cause of the Panth and
their belief in Chardi Kala, Dynamic optimism.
Again during this century, the Partition of India in 1947 divided their home-land and dealt them another catastrophic blow, physically and economically. Again they never lost the courage and will to survive. Many of them migrated to the truncated Punjab, others went to foreign countries and established themselves. In the new state of the Punjab, they brought in the Green Revolution (in agriculture) and the White Revolution (in milk) production. Now Punjab has the highest per capita income in India. Though affluence has brought in some evils, the Sikhs have managed to maintain their vitality and leadership in both the economic and political fields by hard work, sociability, resourcefulness and optimism.
The world today is torn by strife and suffering. Even the affluent countries are not free from the fear of war and the dilution of their quality of life. Man has progressed materially but not intrinsically. Disparities in income, the poverty of two-thirds of the world's population, the maldistribution of resources and the exploitation of the weaker sections of humanity, have divided the globe into the North and the South - the industrial nations and the Under-developed nations. The Gurus showed a way forward to the removal of inequality through justice, equality and freedom. Religions in its true sense is not of ritual, but of fellowship and self-discipline. Hypocrisy and double standards crode our character and hinder our progress. A Sikh's recognition of the brotherhood of all ordinary people is illustrated in Sangat (congregation) and Pangat (Free Kitchen. The Gurus' love of humanity made them declare that there was truth in all revelation. Man must follow and practice sincerely, the commands of his own religion.
Today we witness a revival of Sikhism all over the world. Sikhs are discovering the truth of the Gurus' message by studying Gurbani. Non-Sikhs are being influenced by the zeal and dedication of Sikhs to projects of community-welfare and voluntary service. More Sikhs are taking Amrit as they try to become Guru Gobind Singh's saint-soldiers. The growth of Sikhism in the United States of America is a testimony to the relevance and vitality of the Gurus' teachings in this day and age. Not only there is great increase in the number of Sikhs, but also a new enthusiasm to follow the teachings of the Gurus in daily life. Sikhism is now a World Religion, it has a great part to play in building bridges of understanding and friendship between the different nations of the world and in the promotion of global peace.
Late Dr Gobind Singh Mansukhani
Akaal Purkh Ki Fauj
commitment to Sikh youth
By Kanwar Ranvir Singh, Executive Director, International Office, Akaal Purkh Ki Fauj
Last year I moved from the position of National Commander at Fauj UK to establish an International Office to co-ordinate with new units in Australia, Singapore, and the United States. Big job for a 28-year old, but then the Fauj has been giving me opportunities and responsibilities, which I believe that no other Sikh organisation would ever do. It shows at once a certain trust in the youth, a partnership across generations in which young people can benefit from experience, and an investment in the future which belongs to youth, who from their youth are blooming into old age.
I was asked to lay the plaque for the tree selected by the Sub-Committee of the three Fauj Sikh Scout groups to mark the 300th anniversary of the Guru Khalsa Panth. I felt moved not only by the generosity of the Fauj leaders who put in their effort all the time and who worked together to make a fun and memorable event, but also by the enthusiasm of the young people. Apart from the younger children, I had in mind young adult leaders, such as Randip Singh who has taken the responsible position of Group Scout Leader of the Reading Scout group for one year, and all the Southall Venture Scouts who worked so hard to make the Vaisakhi celebration a success( and played very hard too when I took them to the Pathfinder 3 summer camp organised with the Army). The fact that such young people exist is a source of pride for all Sikhs and casts a great light on those who have mentored them, in each of the groups.
This became clearer when in the first weeks of December, I attended the Parliament of World Religions in Cape Town, South Africa. Under 30, I was invited to enter an essay competition to be selected to represent world religious youth as part of the Next Generation. The essay below is a slightly modified version of the one I sent. It was part of a longer piece of which around 900 copies were distributed. I was then asked to read out the first half of the closing statement from the youth to the Assembly of top 300 religious leaders, which included Bibi Jagir Kaur, (President SGPC), Singh Sahib Professor Manjit Singh, Jathedar Keshghar Sahib at Anandpur Sahib, the Dalai Lama, Bishops, Ayatollahs, Acharyas, Swamis and many other leaders. In all, there were more than 7,000 participants from around the world. Next time, I hope to take along a Fauj jatha, made up of at least one person from each country - just an idea, but the point is this: invest in the Fauj (people needed more than money), invest in yourself, invest in the future, invest in the next generation.
In The Next Century
Essay presented by Kanwar Ranvir Singh at the Parliament of World Religions, Cape Town, South Africa, December 1999
The most engaging question of the next century will be, “what does it mean to be a human on this one planet Earth?” Our answer to this has implications for the direction which we as humans will live that time, and what identities are created to express the answers we possess. This is an answer which young people will give, and which they will give inspired by their unique traditions.
Five hundred years ago a man called Nanak started teaching that there was a Oneness in all spiritual traditions, which he called the Naam or Name. This Way of the Name was a perennial philosophy, which existed in all religious traditions, yet he argued that it was, hitherto, a hidden tradition for spiritual elites and now needs to be made available to the masses. This sharing of information meant that mysticism which had previously led to a world-rejection as mystics kept their visions secret, now led to world-transformation for the recognition that God’s Light is in all, meant that to accept injustice or exploitation of another was to blind oneself to God’s Presence within them. This is the Sikh concept of Meeri-Peeri, spiritual in-sight leading to worldly transformation, the double-edged sword of Reality.
“Hear now the Will of God: No one shall coerce another; no one shall exploit another. Everyone, each individual, has the inalienable birthright to seek and pursue happiness and self-fulfilment. Love and persuasion is the only law of social coherence.” (Guru Granth Sahib Ji: 74) Before I come to some of the implications of this belief, I should like to further clarify the bedrock; if you like, firmly establish the tree before I start looking at the leaves, let alone the birds singing on them.
Spirituality is the common currency of all Religions, and spirituality is true religion; hence, the Sikh scripture contains the writings of people of many different persuasions and influences, from Islam to Hinduism to Buddhism. In the specially devised Gurmukhi script it transliterated spiritual gems from five centuries of spiritual life from Iran to the Deccan, from the borders of Tibet to southern India. But also, spirituality is beyond any religion. The tenth Guru writes, “Namastang Amazbe”, I salute the One beyond religion. But even as I use the word “spirituality” I must be careful for that is not the word that the Gurus use - they use the word, “Sat”. It means Truth and it means Reality. Scientists, writers, artists, politicians and journalists are also engaged in the discovery, living and presentation of Truth.
The Gurus did not ask, how to become a Sikh, but rather, “How to become Truth-Full, how to break the dam of ego? By following the Will...this Will (hukm) cannot be spoken.” In Jewish tradition, the “hok(m)” is Divine Will known to be true, but not understandable or utterable by humans. In this way, each person carries on a personal experiment with Life wherein our living and our realisation of the hukm are inseparable.
For the only question is whether we live the True or follow falsehoods from our ego, the dam which cuts us off from the Ocean of Life, the shadow which blocks off the All-Pervasive Light of God. The issue cannot be “who is a Sikh and who is not” for who cares? Buddha does not, for sure. In the Dhammapada he states that “The Sikh shall be the victor in the race of life, the path of which is beset with evil and suffering. The Sikh shall achieve the life everlasting and thus shall garner the flowers of life on earth.” The Sikh literally means a “seeker” and since Guru means “destroyer of darkness” what we are discussing is a seeker after the Light, the Light that pervades each heart. “If you would seek God, demolish and distort not the heart of any individual.” (Guru Granth Sahib Ji: 133)
Such beliefs tie together the humanistic agenda of the makers of the modern world - the business community, the state system, media, education system, and religious groups. For value added in business is through human knowledge and creativity. It is these inputs, rather than raw labour, which are adding most value to commerce in the information age. The ability to add such value depends, in turn, on the educational system. One, which encourages people to find their own co-operative and creative solutions, will add to business flexibility and dynamism. Such educational systems flourish in states which are open and which empower their citizens. Self-determination of the individual is the basis of social freedom and democracy. The media is a way of communicating human stories in a world increasingly drawn together. Religious groups may play the role of reminding us of the special opportunities and potentials of human life. They may also commit violence as they try to develop a monopoly on Truth, which ultimately is the same as monopoly on Life, ownership or copyrighting God.
Peace arises from living in harmony with Life or Nature. Our turning away, our denial of the Light is a source of fear and hatred. We deny Nature rather than feeling a special part of it, and this denial means that we set up ourselves against it. It is not just the environment that suffers but we also. For Love is about Being, not doing. It is recognition of That One, and That One is Love. Love brooks no disruption, no hatred. Love is for ourselves, others, Nature and God and This Love is One. Violence is turning our back to Love and the revolutionary activity Love guides one to.
For permitting exploitation cannot be an act of Love. By exploitation I mean simply the non-use or abuse, rather than use of human potentials. Property rights can never be total or even real, for God is the Owner of the world. Therefore, allocations of property rights are to serve a socially useful purpose. It is on this basis that we can assess the need to re-think the repayment of third world debt, in particular, because of the negative impacts on education and health, which are human resource investments. By reducing such investments there will be less value added to business in future and continuance of ongoing negative terms of trade between the developed and less developed countries. At present, approximately 20% of the world population enjoy 80% of the world’s wealth. Such imbalance makes it difficult to think of one humanity. As Guru Gobind Singh put it, “Recognise the humankind as One.” Yet the environmental and economic problems we face can no longer be solved at the level of the state; hence, regionalism. Moreover, it is arguable that the nation-state was never widespread in the state system; most nations and states did not fit. In addition, the consciousness of one humanity will lead to a transcendence of the nation-state as the dominant identity.
As states no longer view each other as warring tribes, it is possible to adopt non-offensive defence. In such cases the citizenry is armed and investment made in anti-tank defences rather than tanks, and anti-aircraft strategies rather than aircraft. It makes it difficult for any state to invade, while since it is not threatening to them, there is no security dilemma and resulting arms race. The Sikhs were all asked to bear arms for this reason. It maintains the liberty of the individual within the republic and the freedom of the republic against external threats. Reallocating resources from defence to development adds to the human and economic enrichment of all. Moreover, those economically dispossessed are also those politically marginalised. This includes regional or minority groups, women and children. For women, while contributing 52% of the global population only own 1% of world property. As Sikh women were also asked to bear arms, the full rights of citizenship also included them. They were decision-makers in the Sikh polity from its inception in 1699.
God’s Light is in all. This included women and they were consequently given all rights and duties as men. They worked as bishops during the time of the third Guru and today, the most influential religious leader in the Sikh world, the President of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) is a woman. Nevertheless, there is world-wide failure to establish the true interdependence of female and male. Families are riven by battles for dominance or excessive individualism, one that fails to see the self as interconnected with other selves, but imagines a lone, rational mind. Such a mind fixes a value to all things, and sadly older people and children have little formal value. The worth of a life cannot be fixed. What links all the guiding institutions is a concern with human potential. This may be called human rights and indeed, these rights are so widely accepted that they can be held to apply to all bodies - corporate, educational, media and religious, as well as the state parties to the human rights conventions. But we return to the point that the human is intrinsically a spiritual being, whatever external religious or secular label we attach to others or ourselves.
Young people have grown up with the information technologies, which are transforming economic and political life and which have implications for the nature of the educational system and the global media. An engagement in these emerging trends and with each other will project spiritual perspectives into the heart of the future debate on the nature of human life. The youth are the lifeblood of living spiritual traditions. If religious traditions fail to engage the call institutions creatively they will be like a ghost - disembodied from the ongoing Life of the world. Their absence, moreover, will pave the way for a bureaucratic iron cage of formal rationality, a future in which humans are the objects of various technical sciences, not a Divine potential, but a quantifiable and expendable raw material. However, the concept of the “rational” man is a corpse, literally, without Spirit-Life. That Spirit and Life is hukm, unknowable, except to each individual heart and it is this heart which is the True Temple of God and the basis of values in the world. This year marks the 300th anniversary of the revelation of the Guru Khalsa Panth, the spiritual fellowship of the Sikhs. According to Sikh beliefs, it is the human heart, which always has known, knows, and will know the answer to the issues of being human. Whether it lives that knowledge or denies it will depend on whether we ensure that the truths of that age come from the realisation that Truth-Reality-Life lies within each human being or are imposed on some humans by others.
|Khalsa in the New Millennium|
By Mandeep Kaur Thind
So, why do you wear that bangle on your wrist? Have you ever been asked this question and others like it regarding your identity? If so, have you been able to answer the question or have you mastered the art of avoiding answering it directly? I was one of these people. I had answers, but they were vague and really of no consequence.
The situation plagued me especially when it suddenly dawned on me that I was a Sikh, yet I could not hold a conversation about my religion or confidently put across what our Gurus have taught us. I may look like a Sikh, but inside I knew nothing.
I also recall an incident when someone asked me whether I prayed at all. My answer, given honestly at the time, was that I did but only when I needed something from God. At the time I did not realise the error of my words.
However, now I question why I do not pray to thank God for everything He has given me? He has given me a voice, I am not being oppressed or persecuted. I am a healthy individual and only now realise that it is God who has been looking over me all this time. It was then that I was filled with an overwhelming desire and urgency to learn about my faith. I owed it to myself and to the memory of the Gurus and their teachings.
My journey of acquiring knowledge began by joining the Sikh Studies class at the local Gurdwara where I am learning how to do prayers. It has opened many doors for me and sometimes my spirits are raised so high through reciting the Gurbani, that I am beginning to feel that I have been put on this earth for a purpose. I now know what that purpose is. To help bring forward the youth of today who will be a powerful force in the future and hence approach the Millennium in the Gurus Way.
This is no easy task. There are so many young Sikhs out there who have the roots imbedded within them, but like all roots they need to be nurtured and helped to grow. They should be told about the battles fought for us with such vigour and might. Women should be proud of the fact that the Gurus taught equality and recognised us as equal to men. Mai Bhago was testimony to that. This list of achievements by Sikhs are never ending and it is the young who will make the Khalsa the supreme cause that it once was.
Why was the Khalsa founded? Because of the persecution of mankind. A unity was needed to give people a common aim and purpose in life. Hence The Khalsa came into being which was free from any form of prejudice. The Panj Piarae offered their heads for this noble cause at a gathering of 80,000 and soon there were many followers. What is stopping us now in achieving this unity? Then they had the Guru but we still have Him now, maybe not in the flesh, but certainly in the Spirit. Why are we waiting for him to reappear to show us the way He is embodied in Guru Granth Sahib Ji. We need not look any further. Guru Ji is there before us.
Like Martin Luther King, I too have a dream. This dream sees a New Khalsa, which spreads Sikhi like a torrent of fire, destroying all evil in its path. I see children going to school, aspiring to make something of themselves, but with Gods Name in their hearts. An education is nothing if only used for ones own material gains. I have an education and now owe it to God to put that resource back into the community.
In my dream, Vaisakhi becomes like a day whose popularity is like Christmas and everywhere people greet each other with Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh! and say it with such passion and spiritual emotional. They know that they belong to a religion that is so great and that they are not just Sikhs because they were born into it.
Every Sikh shall sit together as equals and have langar, giving thanks to God that He has provided for us. We shall take our place in the sangat and encompass what the Gurus are telling us. We take it all for granted, but I hope there will come a day when people sit in front of Guru Granth Sahib Ji, in the hope of learning and not because parents have dragged us there or they want to learn the latest community gossip.
Still accusing the western culture for bringing ruin in Sikhi? The strength lies within us and it is only we who can make that difference. There are too many things to blame and it is so convenient for us to do that, but the blame lies with us. Only true faith in God can help us through life and its turmoils. By all means enjoy life, but do it according to the Gurus teachings. Make a start and once those initial steps have been made, the rest follows on easily, after all Rome was not built in one day!
We need to see Sikhi as a way of life. I am now beginning to feel that there is so much to do yet so little time for me to become a true Sikh. When you climb a ladder, it is better to do it step by step. The same can be said with Sikhi, slow and steady wins the race. As Sikhs we should question why are things the way they are and what part can we play to make ourselves better Sikhs. And finally, I see myself going back and answering that question I was asked about why we wear the Kara. I say to all you Sikhs out there, Give up the dream, lets make it a REALITY!
Lets make this Millennium the new beginning for the Khalsa!!
Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa
We often speak at length of whence we came but whither are we going?
Will we still be worthy of our middle name once we reap what we’re sowing?
Will our future be full of spirits ever-soaring thanks to Nanak’s grace?
Will we enter the millennium like lions roaring or in silence and disgrace?
Will we honour the fine legacy bestowed upon us or will pride linger in our way?
Will we let a few weeds outshine our many lotus flowers as we ring in the new day?
Will we overcome our differences and live as one or is that too much to ask?
Will we become the images of Gobind and Arjan or is the Khalsa not up to the task?
Tough times lay ahead therefore we must be strong lest we ignore the Guru’s call?
Here’s the choice before us in
2000 and beyond:
Harmohanjit Singh Pandher
I was so moved
Truths most profound
Gurukirn Kaur Khalsa
from Pure Longing Fulfilled, published by Akal Publications