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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

For a few drops of tears

It is said ‘’It is easier to name an emotion than define it’’.

During my visits to the Harimandir Sahib in late 1990s when I was studying at Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar, I often came across a very familiar scene – Inside the sanctum sanctorum, sitting opposite to the ‘kirtaniyes’, a man in his 30s, in a sense of extreme gush, mesmerized and actuated by the euphoria of the keertan, physically detached from the World around him, his eyes closed with tears flowing down his cheeks and drenching his black flowing beard.

Something conspicuously different from what others were doing- hurling their way towards the sanctum sanctorum, making their own space to bow down and offer their respects, very cautious of the positioning of the cameras, telecasting live images around the world.

Wow! I used to say every time I saw him. I thought, this is what one needs in order to attain a humane connection with that place and the environment. But I also realized that this was something inveterate, which would only come with time, filled with love for the Guru and Gurbani…
hau rih n skw ibnu dyKy pRIqmw mY nIru vhy vih clY jIau]
I cannot survive without seeing my Beloved. My eyes are welling up with tears.
(M4; Pg 94; SGGS)

But I was also a bit puzzled. Why this melancholy? It is said, ‘’how but through a broken heart can Lord enter’’. Was it the environment, the shabad or something else? It was all-in-one I guess. Sitting with crossed legs, closed eyes, listening to the ‘dhur ki baani’ written by our Gurus – this reaction is inevitable if we really concentrate on the shabad, its meaning and environment.

Also, is melancholy a reflection of the Sikhs’ perception of ‘man neevan’ which they utter daily in their prayer, ‘man neevan; mat uchee’? (humble mind and exalted wisdom). It’s such a unique combination of the ‘man’ (mind) being humble but at the same time the spirits being high.

But these unique combinations are not new to Sikhism. Since its initiation Sikhism has been infamously shredding the conventional beliefs and norms. The time when those who ruled the kingdoms (sipahi) and those who ruled over spirituality (sant) came from a totally different social backgrounds, who in his senses would have thought of a personality ruling over both of them?

Though the foundations of such a personality were laid down by Guru Nanak Sahib and later groomed by Guru Hargobind Sahib; Guru Gobind Singh Sahib completed that mission formally – declaring the Sikhs to be ‘Saint-Soldiers’, having full control over the temporal as well as spiritual authority. A saint, if he is only a saint and not a soldier would be incapable of defending his beliefs and other’s faith. On the other hand a soldier, if he is only a soldier and not a saint would be brutal without morality and ethics. And history has proven this to be right on many occasions. The horrific images of the current wars transmitted daily all around the World on the TV screens reiterate this.

Where else can one have an image of a person who has a sword buckled to his waist and offering water and medicines to the injured enemies? Bhai Kanhaiya wearing the robe of a Saint-Soldier laid the foundations of such humanitarian organizations which would only be formally accepted by the World after three hundred years of his initiating efforts.

Sikhs attacked Delhi 17 times, but not even on a single occasion in the history they brutalized the people. There were no instances of women being kidnapped and houses being looted. Where in the history can one find similar examples of warriors with such a high morality?

Again the concept of ‘Saint-Soldier’ can’t exist without the notion of ‘humble mind and exalted wisdom’.

If we talk of the practical ‘advantages’ of religion Sikhism stands on the forefront.

The concept of ‘man neevan; mat uchee’ also beckons religious tolerance. Where in the history would one find the foundation stone of the most pious institution of a religion being laid by a leader of another faith? That norm was shattered when the fifth Master Guru Arjan Sahib invited Muslim Saint, Mian Meer for the foundation of Harimandir Sahib. This is akin the foundation stone of the Vatican being laid by the Dalai Lama and that of Mecca being laid by the Pope. How digestible is it in today’s World, where religious hatred guides most people’s beliefs: where there is more noise of crusades and jihads and less of love and peace.

Sikhi didn’t only invite leaders of other faiths in ceremonial occasions. Sikh Gurus even sacrificed their lives for the beliefs of others, the beliefs which they themselves had strongly rejected.
‘’tilak janjoo rakha prabh taanka’’. It was indeed ‘’keeno bado kalu mai saaka’’. (Guru Gobind Singh Sahib in Bachittar Natak)
But these sacrifices were made not for mere religious symbols but for the right of freedom of belief and expression. How many of us can dare to think about such a sacrifice in today’s World.
"Through whom (Guru Tegh Bahadur) the Lord saved the tilak and sacred thread of these people (Hindus)
For the sake of God's saints, Guru Tegh Bahadur laid down his life.
His head was severed, but not a groan did he utter.
For the sake of righteousness he enacted this tragic episode.
He gave up his head, but not his persistence to do the right...............
No one can excel the pure loftiness of what Tegh Bahadur did;
The world of men was in grief when he left this earth.
But the world of gods was filled with the joy of his great triumph."
(From Bachittar Natak. Translation by Prof. Puran Singh)

Many aspects of Sikh history revolve around the concept of ‘man neevan; mat uchee’. There cannot be something more potent than this which keeps the human psyche in a balance. A warrior who has just returned from the battlefield, adrenalin running very high, now sits in the sangat and listens to the keertan being played in ‘raagas’, and after a while gets so drenched into it that he gets physically detached from his surroundings and all the worries, to be recharged for his next move in the battlefield.

Indeed Sikh history is full of unique examples of morality, tolerance, equality, faith and belief. But is that sufficient? Can we just go on cashing on these events of our history, or do we need to add some new jewels in the necklace.

But how many of us attain this level and dose of ‘humble mind and exalted wisdom’?...Most of us proudly claim to be crème de la crème Sikhs for whom Sikhism serves no more than a status symbol and has become a mere Sunday affair.

Our love for Sikhi has been indurated by the sciolistic writings of the contemporary Sikh ‘scholars’ who see Sikhi in ‘black and white’. Love for Sikhi in grey shade needs to be revived. We need writers of the kinds of Prof. Puran Singh and Bhai Veer Singh – the pantheons of Sikh writings reflecting unchallenging love for Sikhs and Sikhi.

Our individual ‘rituals’ at the gurdwaras do not help in anyways to achieve this. What to wear? Whom to meet and whom to ignore, seizes most of our concentration which otherwise would help us to think something about the keertan, the shabad and the Guru. Not to say that this doesn’t mean that Sikhs should not wear good clothes and drive fast cars.

They should, as long as they can balance this with love and humility.…with a pinch of ‘humble mind and exalted wisdom’.


2 Comments:

Anonymous Tejinder said...

Waheguru ji ka khalsa, waheguru ji ki fateh.
Your blog is really invigorating. Keep on adding such blogs that urge the youth of today follow sikhi that was gifted to us by our Gurus.

Regards,
Tejinder Pal Singh

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very well written article indeed. Enjoyed reading it.

3:53 PM  

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