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Dasam Granth Convo Continued….

30 Jul

Sarbjeet was correct in that this session led to more questions than answers! In my view, some of the most important questions that we left with were:

  • How well do we (or atleast I) understand those Banis of Guru Gobind Singh Ji that are not controversial (i.e. Jaap Sahib, Chaupai Sahib, and Svaiyay)?
  • Are their messages any different than the controversial parts?
  • Can I comfortably and confidently recite the most controversial ones in public?

I left the meeting with the embarrassing discovery of how limited my understanding was of the widely accepted Banis of Guru Gobind Singh Ji….And three of those Banis are supposed to be recited everyday!: Jaap Sahib, Svayai, and Bayntee Chaupai (which is part of Rehras Sahib)

This self-realization forced me to take a step back and try to understand the theme of each of these Banis. After CAREFULLY listening to the Banis (ok not on an everyday basis like I am supposed to) and after tapping into my dad’s knowledge of Gurmat, I really came to appreciate these Banis in a new light!

To me, Jaap Sahib, for example, is an expression of awe, love and admiration of the ONE almighty spirit and of HIS (or you can say HER) attributes. It makes me wonder, just how rarely have I said or thought “Vahiguru, you are simply awesome.”?  I know, that sounds corny, but its true! My interactions with Vahiguru mainly consist of me asking for something and on occasion thanking the Giver. But admiring or being amazed by Vahigguru, hardly ever! Guru Sahib’s bani is full of passion where he goes on and on about HIS greatness and feeling humbled by it.

On the flip side, the Guru Sahib focuses on our own minisculness in Svaiyaa and even more, about how the ONLY way to establish a relationship with the powerful ONE Vahiguru is through this love and passion, literally spelling it out for us “Jin Prem Keeo Tin Hee Prab Payio.” Actually, Svaiyaa I think is very relevant to our lives, though on the surface it seems it is no longer applicable to our culture. I mean, why would I care for having tons of elephants and bands, BUT in todays world, our definition of success is still determined by worldly possessions and accomplishments…(ie…money, best job, crazy huge weddings, etc) Or we follow rituals…by not understanding why we believe or doing what we do.

And then, there is Bayntee Chaupee, another bani that is recited everyday. Again, Guru Sahib is being humble, revering the one, but mainly in this Bani, showing how Vahiguru is that BEING from which we can find friendship and protection (not literal necessarily).

So, it appears that each Bani is centered around revering, loving, fearing, and befriending that one Spirit. The language of the Bani was composed with great vigor! I think that it is these aspects that make Guru Gobind Singh’s bani. It is this criteria by which we need to determine which sections of Dasam Granth are authentic. (and of course historical evidence should be considered)

Bhul Chuck Maaf! Feel free to let me know what you think!


Sikh Research Institute’s Response

17 Mar

Sikh Research Institute’ Response:

Sikhs Appreciate Comprehensive Sojhi Curriculum

Mandhir Singh, principal of Bridgewater Khalsa School, NJ, speaking of the Sojhi curriculum says “Several of our teachers and separately parents have studied the Sojhi coursework over the past year and a half and have been very pleased thus far. We intend to continue implementing Sojhi at Bridgewater Khalsa School.”

Recently, Sikh Research Institute (SikhRI) and its Sojhi curriculum have been questioned by a handful of individuals who may not have had an opportunity to understand the facts and the spirit behind the development of this curriculum. Unfortunately, misinformation has been circulated saying that SikhRI has changed the ardas and modified the Dohre. There have also been allegations that parents of children at Khalsa School Gurdwara Sahib Fremont, CA have removed their children from the school because of opposition to the Sojhi curriculum. There have been remarks circulating about SikhRI’s facilitators not respecting the Guru and not being open to questions. None of these allegations are true.

Jasmine Kaur, Sojhi’s project lead and SikhRI’s Director of Education states “we neither have the authority to change the Ardas nor have we done so. SikhRI maintains the integrity of all its documents through applying Gurmat-based inspiration and developing them in line with the Panthic Sikh Rahit Maryada”.
Continue reading

Time for an open discussion

7 Mar

Recently, I received an email regarding an excerpt of a book that is part of the syllabus taught to sixth and seventh grade children during Sikh Sunday School. This section was written by the Sikh Research Institute, a leading think tank that presents research, views, and education to the Sikh community at large. This chapter has attracted some controversy. It covers the historical context in which dohre (Aagiya Payee Akaal Ki) was composed and its significance. Here are the links where you can find the excerpts:

We invite you to share your knowledge, articles, and views on this topic. This post is intended to be a platform for open discussion on this issue that has recently emerged. Given the nature of this topic, we humbly request you to submit only NON-judgemental feedback. However, we sincerely welcome differing views and would love to hear from you!!

Next Reading: A Bitter Harvest

16 Feb

We have selected “A Bitter Harvest,” written by the Institute for Food and Development First/Food First, an organization that analyzes “the root causes of global hunger, poverty, and ecological degradation and developing solutions in partnership with movements working for social change.” This paper provides an excellent introduction as to the origins and causes of the current agricultural crisis in Punjab. Some of you may have heard about the rise in farmer suicides in India, which I suspect is a problem in other countries as well. What many people do not know is that this is a SIGNIFICANT problem in Punjab and has been overlooked. We will be looking at how factors such as debt, decreasing crop yields, decrease in prices, and dowry are significant contributors to farmer suicides in Punjab. What’s interesting is that the author of this paper is not a Sikh! The supplemental readings include some news articles that refute these assertions. You can download the paper and the supplemental readings below. A Bitter Harvest is not a long reading, so we encourage all of you to read this paper and even better, come to the meeting! Please feel free to give your feedback via online! Let us know if you have any readings to recommend.

This Month’s Reading:

Supplemental Readings (Optional)

Punjab Agriculture

Farmer Suicides in Punjab (Background Information)

Farmer Suicides and Agriculture in India

Pesticides and It’s Effects

Water Crisis

Female Infanticides

One of My Favorite Quotes

8 Jan

There is no question that Professor Puran Singh has a gift for words, not to mention he is considered one of the greatest spiritual geniuses of his time. Here is just one of the his quotes (among many) that I love:

“Thus, to the Guru’s mind, man is normally and frankly physical, transcending which is he purely intellectual, brilliant, creative, artisitic, aesthetic. Transcending all this intellectual self of his he is mostly intuitional, spiritual. The highest type is he who has body and mind as mere shadows left, using them as mere instruments, tools or energies of his. And he is the one who, above all has the illumined soul with its revolving Universe with the Guru in the centre and shining in him is that wonder-woven starry universe of his own, separate, beautiful subjective world of gods. ….Those who, in their minds, even thing of a greater God than the Guru, do not know what personal passion for the personal God is.” [pg 48]

What are your thoughts on this quote? Any takers? Any quote that you would like to share?

Finally, a serious disagreement!

2 Jan

Finally, a serious disagreement!

While Sarbjeet’s blog regarding Professor Puran Singh’s skepticism of analysis is quite impressive and compelling, I must say that I cannot disagree with him more! From my understanding, Professor Puran Singh is not questioning analysis itself, but rather the kind and purpose of analysis that most of us do.

In fact, Professor Puran Singh did do his fare share of analysis. He at first courageously rejects the faith that he inherited from his parents, searches other religions to quench his spiritual thirst, and comes back to square one: Sikhi. His actions clearly showed a personality that questions traditions, beliefs, and even religions. However, it was his journey of soul-searching and acquiring knowledge that leads him to a simple yet deep discovery:

“Saach Kaho Sun Layo Sabhai, Jin Prem Keeo Tin Hee Prabh Payo.”

This is the simple truth that he repeats again and again in this book. So, what kind of knowledge and thought does he deem as worthless?

Arbitrary beliefs and analysis for the sake of analysis: (i.e. How the world was created or what exactly happens to the soul after death –heaven, hell, reincarnation? Even the smartest Sikhs will admit on not knowing what Sikhi says, and the smarter ones will not even care.)

Actions performed for the sake of actions. (Fasting, ritualistic behaviors, etc)

A man who has acquired a depth of knowledge on other religions only presents and praises those religious figures which have a loving relationship with God. The kind of love that is inexplicably sincere and deep. All knowledge stems from this truth and all other knowledge is discarded.

You had mentioned the importance of analyzing and understanding bani. That is very true, but the purpose of analyzing bani is not to gain knowledge, but to build a relationship with Vaheguru the only way we know: understanding and reciting His bani. It is the feeling that we are striving to ignite and keep alive. If you notice, all of the shabads and saloks do two things:

  1. Only through love (and hence — feeling) can we attain Vaheguru
  2. How some our actions or beliefs either reject or support this

Our first meeting: Fun and Insightful

10 Dec

I have to agree with Sarbjeet here, the book club was definitely fun and insightful. Who knew the people I would be conversing with are actually smart? Sorry Sarbjeet, I just could not help myself !

So anyways, like any conversation, there were views that were agreed or disagreed upon. The most agreed upon view was that completing this book was a greater laborious task than we had expected. More than the sheer density of information contained in this book, the writing style is based on 19th century British English. However, during our discussion, it became quite evident just how enriching this book was. Cunningham’s perspectives as a Western author puts a fresh look on our Sikh past and forces us to question the very fundamentals that we take for granted. At the same time, we could not ignore the fact that many of his assertions were based on information provided by potentially biased individuals.

Here are some points raised and conclusions drawn that I found most interesting:

1.        Similar to other literature, Cunningham describes Maharaja  Ranjit Singh as bringing glory and prosperity to Sikhs, specifically by unifying the Sikh groups and expanding the empire. But why send out Sikhs and other people to conquer other lands in the first place? The literature does not support any theory that Maharaja’s intentions for conquering states was to relieve their people from unjust kings.  Furthermore, Guru Gobind Singh Ji only used arms for defensive purposes. Does that mean that Sikhs during that time lost sight of the Gurus’ purpose of teaching us to take up arms?

2.        Cunningham portrays Sikhs as illiterates and plunderers, while being awed by their devotion to God, Khalsa, and the welfare of the people.

3.        Our glorious Sikh past, filled with many martyrs, also includes Sikh leaders who were similar to many politicians and kings with the motive of acquiring power and money.

Our meeting ended with us deciding books that we can possibly read and when we should meet. Here are two books that we are considering for the next reading:

  1. Spirit Born People by Prof. Puran Singh.
  2. Role and Status of Women in Sikhism by Dr. M.K. Gill

We would love your input in helping us choose one of these books!

Do Good Intentions Equal Accuracy?

18 Nov
Among the many Western writers who have written about Sikhism, Cunningham is undoubtedly considered to be one of the most creditable and venerable. And for good reason too. His historical accounts and corresponding footnotes are comprehensive and meticulous. Even more, the facts and perspectives that he presents are not based on any political agenda. So naturally, I embarked on this book with high expectations and very little knowledge of the post-Guruship era.

As expected,  I was really impressed by the extent to the details of events and references were provided. However, I began to question the reliability of the information regarding the Guruship era, an area which I am a little more familiar with. I am referring to the following sections:

Quote 1:
“Nanak had sanctioned or enjoined secular occupations, Arjun carried the injuction into practice, and the impulse thus given speedily extended and became general. The temper and the circumstances of Har Gobind both prompted him to innovation; he had his father’s death to move his feelings in surpassing the example of his parent even the jealous dogma of the Hindu law…” (pg 50)
According to my interpretation, this section could mean several different things:

1. Guru Har Gobind took Sikhism in a very different direction. Many people believe in the teachings of the first five Gurus, but not from Guru Hargobind and on due to their military approaches. Is Cunningham agreeing with them in this stage and saying that Guru Har Gobind took Sikhism in a very different direction? Does it simply mean that during Guru Har Gobind Ji’s contribution to the development of Sikhism was great?  Interestly, I have read how this military approach was in the development even with the earlier Gurus. For example, Guru Angad Dev Ji actually promoted the sport of wrestling and physical strenth amongst his Sikhs. (Please correct me if I am wrong about this. )

2. Part of his motivation was to simply do something different.

Quote 2:
“but the adventorous Har Gobind became a hunter and an eater of flesh and his disciples imitated him in these robust practices. The genial disposition of the martial apostle led him to rejoice in the companionship of a camp, in the dangers of war, and in the excitements of the chase, nor is it improbable that the policy of a temporal chief mingled with the feelings of an injured son…” (Pg 50)
To me, this seems more like he was into a military approach partly for hte wrong reasons. “An injured son”, this makes it seem personal. More like this was about the death of his father, rather than the revered Guru.  What do you think? Am I reading too much into all of this?

Quote 3:
“Har Gobind appears to have admitted criminals and fugitives among his followers, and where a principle of antagonism had already arisen they may have served him zealous without greatly reforming th practice of their lives; and, indeed, they are stated to have believed that the faithful Sikh would pass unquestioned into heaven.” (Page 50)
Is this saying that Guru Har Gobind did not reach this group of people on a deeper level?

Quote 4:
“Har Gobind became a follower of the Emperor Jahangir…On the death of Jahangir in 1628, Har Gobind continued in the employ of the Muhammadan Government”” (Page 51)
Please tell me that I am completely misunderstanding what he is saying!
So if indeed I am not misunderstanding his quotes, then this makes me question the other facts and opinions that he presents in the book, especially when he explains the motives for many Sikh, Hindu and Muslim rulers.  I searched for any online literature that refutes the accuracy and reliability of Cunningham, and have not found much. So what do you guys think..have I completely taken his statements out of context? I would love to hear from you!

About Us

29 Oct

The theme of this book club is Sikhism.

It is aimed for individuals who have a passion for reading and who are keen to also catch up with their reading on ‘Sikh books’. Though one need not be a Sikh to join the book club, one must know that the books we choose to read will be on the theme of Sikhism.

By Sikh books, we mean books on Sikhism written from various aspects such as historical, political, social, cultural, theological or philosophical. Books will be academic, novel, memoir, collection of essays, fiction, etc and will be chosen to cover a wide range of topics, with all members having a say in the selection of books. Where possible, each book may also have accompanying readings such as biography of the author, or critiques of the book in case of a controversial book. (read more on topics of books …)

Our goal is to read one book each month, and then get together once a month to discuss the book and gain a deeper understanding of that book. As a group, we will decide the location and time of meetings. We will take turns hosting the discussions each month. In case someone cannot host the discussion at his or her place, we will get together in a cafe or library. We intend to keep it a small group so as to have a meaningful discussion where all can participate.

We believe this book club will:

  • give us a structure to aid our reading (at the end of year, we will have read and discussed at least twelve books)
  • bring us in touch with other avid readers in Sikh community
  • broaden our understanding of Sikh community and religion
  • through our discussions, give us different perspectives on the same book
  • help us explore and discuss difficult topics in a friendly environment
  • provide us with information (titles, summaries, reviews) about the Sikh books out there

By joining the book club, you will be committing to reading the monthly book, attending the monthly meetings and participating in the discussion of the book.