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Photos of Gurus – Aesthetic Experience or Distorting Sikhi?

Photos of Gurus – Aesthetic Experience or Distorting Sikhi?

Karminder Singh, PhD.

The following comment on social media provides a seemingly valid argument pertaining to portraits of our Gurus. My response follows.

An artist is able to express what philosophies cannot. An Artist has an aesthetic experience in which he/she surrenders to “it” with no other intention than the beauty of that experience in itself. Given, our Gurus were human beings and expressed likewise doesn’t mean they’re belittled or have become icons of murti pooja (idol worship), but rather part and parcel of our everyday lives. And just as photos of our loved ones are displayed in our homes so too are the portraits of our Gurus.

My Response.

The argument is defective when it comes to a philosophy (Gurmat) that strives to draw a line between the message and the messenger. In Sikhi, the philosophy is paramount; the philosopher reduces himself to nothing. The message is supreme, the messenger desires a status of non-entity. The value and belief is everything; the messenger reduces his position to nothing-ness. This notion is found all over the philosophy of Gurbani and within the messages of the Shabd.

ਹਉ ਆਪਹੁ ਬੋਲਿ ਨ ਜਾਣਦਾ ਮੈ ਕਹਿਆ ਸਭੁ ਹੁਕਮਾਉ ਜੀਉ ॥ Haon Apho Bol Na Jannda Mein Kaheya Sabh Hukmao Jio. SGGS 763.

ਮੈ ਨਾਹੀ ਕਛੁ ਹਉ ਨਹੀ ਕਿਛੁ ਆਹਿ ਨ ਮੋਰਾ ॥ Mein Nahi(n) Kach Hao(n) Nhi Kich Ahe Na Mora. SGGS 858.

ਸਭਿ ਗੁਣ ਤੇਰੇ ਮੈ ਨਾਹੀ ਕੋਇ ॥ Sabh Gunn Teyrey Mein Nahi(n) Koey. SGGS 4

ਮੈ ਨਾਹੀ ਕਛੁ ਆਹਿ ਨ ਮੋਰਾ ॥ Mei(n) Nahi(n) Kach Ahe Na Mora. SGGS 337

ਤੂੰ ਕਰਤਾ ਕਰਣਾ ਮੈ ਨਾਹੀ ਜਾ ਹਉ ਕਰੀ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥ Tu Karta Karnna Mein Nahi(n) Ha Hao(n) Kree Na Hoyi. GGS 469

ਜਬ ਹਮ ਹੋਤੇ ਤਬ ਤੂ ਨਾਹੀ ਅਬ ਤੂਹੀ ਮੈ ਨਾਹੀ ॥ Jub Hum Hotey Tan Tu Nahi(n) Ab Tuh(n) Mein Nahi(n). SGGS 657

ਮੈ ਨਾਹੀ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਸਭੁ ਕਿਛੁ ਤੇਰਾ ॥ Mein Nahi(n) Prabh Sabh Kich Tera. SGGS 827

From the above sampling of verses, one gets the clear message that Gurmat is a philosophy that strives hard to obliterate the status, position and standing of the messenger. Mein Nahin –I am not, I am nothing, the messenger is of no significance.

None of the 35 writers of Gurbani left even the faintest of clues as to their full names, that of their parents, their spouses, their families, their place of birth etc. None of our Gurus indulged in having their portraits created. Surely amongst their followers, there would have existed many a good artist as there were poets, musicians and skilled persons in other arts to record details of their physical likeness. It is not that they could not. But that they were disallowed.

It is the tragedy of Sikhs that instead of linking with the messages, we have strived to link with the physical identity of the messengers – the identities they sought so hard to obliterate. They sought to obliterate their own personal human identities so that we could learn to do the same to ours and not indulge in the egoistic inflation of our own.

In our own desire for self-indulgence and self-grandiose, we have sought to transfer the same to our Gurus. In our own egoistical desire for portraits, pictures, paintings and drawings of our own selves, we have sought to create the same for our Gurus. To the extent that we have accepted artists’ impressions that are as fake as the one artist who created a self-portrait and passed it off as Guru Nanak’s. All of us Sikhs. including our premier institutions such as SGPC were fooled into giving this fake portrait a place in our homes, gurdwaras and psyche.

Guru Nanak as painted by artist Sobha Singh or a Self Potrait of Sobha Singh passed off as Guru Nanak?

The statement that “an artist is able to express what philosophies cannot” needs to be examined to expose the falsity of the premise. In the case of our Gurus, our artists have expressed what our philosophy did not want to express. The portraits of Guru Nanak are shown ordained with rosaries, offerings and ornamentations that have been critiqued in their messages. The portraits of Guru Nanak tell the lie of a non-existent companion Bhai Bala. The wide acceptability of these portraits help establish the lie of the Janm Sakhis under the name of Bhai Bala. The eventual outcome is a philosophy that exists within the message of the Gurus side by side a contradictory philosophy that the artists have created for us in their portraits.

The statement that “an artist has an aesthetic experience in which he/she surrenders to “it” with no other intention than the beauty of that experience in itself,” holds the biggest lie when it comes to Sikhi. What aesthetic experience can an artist have – if he has not read or understood the crux of the messages of the Guru that he paints? What kind of surrender can one talk about in the act of an artist painting the image of an individual who expressly forbade such in the first instant? The only intention that remains is either a monetary reward from the sale of such fakery or a purposive one to corrupt the philosophy of Gurmat.

Gurpurab: In the story of Guru Nanak and his companion Bhai Mardan ...

The mythical entity in the person of Bala was made into a “historical reality” – thanks to the “aesthetic” experience of the artist. The acceptance of the non-existant Bala led to the acceptance of another heretical and blasphemous text called Bhai Baley Wali Janm Sakhi.

To say that our Gurus have not been “belittled or become icons of murti pooja given that our Gurus were human beings,” is an expression of ignorance of what our Gurus said, preached and wrote out for us – as human beings. A study of Gurbani in relation to morti pooja will point out the fallacy of such a view.

The statement that “and just as photos of our loved ones are displayed in our homes so too are the portraits of our Gurus,” is defective because it is the case of comparing apples with bananas. We want our photos to be displayed, and we understand that our loved ones wanted them to be. We go to great lengths to create our own photos to leave behind, so that they can be displayed. Such is the essence of our fallible human-ness; one that is centred on our innate ego.

On the other hand, our Guru have told us amply – both through their messages and their own conduct – that they wanted no such thing. And if our Gurus did go to great lengths to do anything – it was to ensure their pictures, paintings, and sculptures were never made.

 

An artist is able to express what philosophies cannot? This is one case of an artist expressing what Sikh philosophy DID NOT want expressed. While Gurbani tells us that God is Within us, this artist has been able to imitate a portrait of another prophet depicting our Guru “praying to a God sitting high up in the heavens”!

Here is another case of an artist who has relied on a propaganda poster of Napoleon Bonaparte to express something Sikh philosophy never needs. Napoleon’s portrait is an attempt by a 5 feet tall general to give himself a false stature of height and power. The picture of him on a horse with its fore limbs up gives him just that. He had an artist paint the background showing dark clouds – to show he was leading France away from dark times. He had his finger pointed upwards to show he was leading France into the future.

Do we need such a “philosophy “to be associated with Guru Gobind Singh? Be we have, thanks to the “aesthetic experience” of a plagiarist artist.

Finally, if painted portraits of our Gurus are fine, then what do we say of stone, metal or wooden statues of them. Going one step further, what about human beings who claim to be embodiments of our Gurus?

 

 

PUNJABI ARTICLES

The Goal Of a Sikh – Piri or Miri ?

ਕੀ ਹੈ ਸਿੱਖ ਦਾ ਟੀਚਾ? ਪੀਰੀ ਜਾਂ ਮੀਰੀ

Sardar Moninder Singh

ਕੀ ਹੈ ਸਿੱਖ ਦਾ ਟੀਚਾ? ਪੀਰੀ ਜਾਂ ਮੀਰੀ

ਹਮੇਸ਼ਾ ਕੁਝ ਸੱਜਣਾ ਅੰਦਰ, ਇਕ ਖਿੱਚ ਰਹੀ ਹੈ ਨਾਨਕ ਦੇ ਦੱਸੇ ਸੁਨੇਹੇ ਨੂੰ ਇੰਨ੍ਹ-ਬਿੰਨ੍ਹ ਸਮਝਣ ਦੀ, ਬਾਬੇ ਨਾਨਕ ਦੇ ਦੱਸੇ ਰਾਹ ਉਤੇ ਚਲਣ ਦੀ, ਆਪਣੇ ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਵਾਲੇ ਵਿਰਸੇ ਨੂੰ ਸਾਂਭਣ ਦੀ ਜਾਂ ਸਿੱਖੀ ਦੀ ਨਿਰੋਲਤਾ ਨੂੰ ਢਾਹ ਲਾਉਣ ਵਾਲਿਆਂ ਸ਼ਕਤੀਆਂ ਨਾਲ ਨਜਿੱਠਣ ਦੀ। ਸਿੱਖ ਅਤੇ ਸਿੱਖੀ ਦੇ ਅਜੋਕੇ ਹਾਲਾਤਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਲੈ ਕੇ ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਦਾ ਦਰਦ ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਕੋਈ ਨਾ ਕੋਈ ਹੰਭਲਾ ਮਾਰਨ ਲਈ ਮਜਬੂਰ ਕਰ ਦਿੰਦਾ ਹੈ। ਪਿੱਛੇ ਝਾਤ ਮਾਰੀਏ ਤਾਂ ਪਤਾ ਲਗਦਾ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਕੋਸ਼ਿਸ਼ਾਂ ਦੀ ਕਦੇ ਵੀ ਕਮੀ ਨਹੀਂ ਰਹੀ। ਸਗੋਂ ਵੱਡਾ ਮੁੱਦਾ ਇਹ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਕੋਸ਼ਿਸ਼ਾਂ ਵਿਚੋਂ ਕੁਝ ਹੀ ਸਾਰਥਕ ਸਾਬਤ ਹੋਈਆਂ ਜਦੋਂ ਕਿ ਬਹੁਤੇ ਉਪਰਾਲਿਆਂ ਵਿਚੋਂ, ਵਧੀਆ ਅਤੇ ਨੇਕ ਇਰਾਦਿਆਂ ਦੇ ਬਾਵਜੂਦ ਵੀ ਉਹ ਸਿੱਟੇ ਨਹੀਂ ਨਿਕਲੇ ਜੋ ਨਿਕਲਣੇ ਚਾਹੀਦੇ ਸਨ। ਸਗੋਂ ਕਈ ਵਾਰ ਤਾਂ ਭਲਾ ਕਰਦਿਆਂ-ਕਰਦਿਆਂ ਕੌਮ ਦਾ ਵੱਡਾ ਨੁਕਸਾਨ ਵੀ ਹੋਇਆ ਹੈ। ਗਲਤੀ ਸ਼ਾਇਦ ਟੀਚਾ ਮਿੱਥਣ ਸਮੇਂ ਹੀ ਹੋ ਜਾਂਦੀ ਹੈ।

 

Continue reading “The Goal Of a Sikh – Piri or Miri ?”

Articles

SIKHISM AND MIRACLES

A Saga of Mythological Stories and Misinterpreting Gurbani.

Karminder Singh, Phd.

 

SIKHISM AND MIRACLES

A Saga of Mythological Stories and Misinterpreting Gurbani

Karminder Singh, Phd.

A recent article titled Sikhism and Miracles[1] calls for a response. The basic argument by the author of that article Bhai Manjit Singh is that “miracles abound in Sikhi; these miracles must be understood in the context of Gurbani, and for those with Nam, the laws of nature are changed by God.”[2]

The basic argument of this response is that the foundation stone of Sikhi is Hukm. Guru Nanak’s command on page 1 of the SGGS establishes this. ਹੁਕਮਿ ਰਜਾਈ ਚਲਣਾ ਨਾਨਕ ਲਿਖਿਆ ਨਾਲਿ ॥ ੧ ॥ Hukm Rajayee Chalnaa, Nanak, Likhiya Naal.[3]

Naam for a Sikh is to acquire the ability to understand His Hukm, Internalize His Hukm, to Abide by the Hukm and to Live His Hukm.

To say that “for those with Nam, the laws of nature are changed by God” is not only anti-Gurmat and anti-Gurbani; it is boloney propagated by our dera sants and babey who make false claims that their sants and babey can perform miracles because “they have Nam inside them.”

Bhai Manjit Singh says: If the Sikh facing the crisis has Naam in him, God Himself appears to rescue him. The ordinary laws of physics do not apply to Him. He can do anything. Strange logic this is. Didn’t Guru Nanak say Hukmey Ander Sabh Ko, Bahar Hukm Na Koye? Funny that first God creates a crisis, then God appears to rescue him? If the Sikh had “Nam in him” why was there a crisis in the first place?

Didn’t Guru Nanak tell us God is WITHIN us? So from which heaven up there does this God “appear to rescue him.”?

Guru Nanak says on Page 144 of the SGGS: ਸਚਾ ਤੇਰਾ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਜਾਣਿਆ ॥ ਗੁਰਮਤੀ ਆਪੁ ਗਵਾਇ ਸਚੁ ਪਛਾਣਿਆ ॥ Sacha Tera Hukm Gurmukh Janeya. Gurmutte Aaap Gvayey Sach Pehchaneya. The verse makes clear that Hukm is in permanent in existence – Sacha Tera Hukm. This means Hukm cannot be changed or violated. The entire notion of Miracles KRAMAAT is anti theis to Hukm at its core. The words “Gurmukh Janeya” establish that the Guru himself realized the permanence of Hukm. The words ਆਪੁ ਗਵਾਇ Aaap Gvaey establish the fact that Guru Nanak is diminishing his own identity to come to this realization of the permanence of Hukm. All of these points collectively establish that the Gurus REALIZED the permanence and perpetuity of Hukm and thus did not venture to go against it under any circumstances.

GURU NANAK AND MIRACLES

The Sidhs who had gathered at Shirvat da Mela at Achal Batala in March of 1539 asked Guru to perform a miracle. The request is recorded by Bhai Gurdas in Pauree 42 Vaar1 as follows:

ਸਿਧ ਬੋਲੇ ਸੁਨ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਤੁਹਿ ਜਗ ਨੂੰ ਕਰਾਮਾਤ ਦਿਖਲਾਈ। ਕੁਝ ਦਿਖਾਈਂ ਅਸਾਨੂੰ ਭੀ ਤੂੰ ਕਿਉਂ ਢਿਲ ਅਜੇਹੀ ਲਾਈ। Sidh Boley Sun Nanaka Tuhe Jug Nu Kramaat Dikhlayee. Kujh Dikha(n)yee Asanu Bhee Tu Kion Dhil Ajehi Layee.

Show us your ਕਰਾਮਾਤ Kramaat miracles – why are you causing delay?

Guru Nanak’s response is in the next pauree of Bhai Gurdas – Pauree 43 of Var 1.

ਬਾਬਾ ਬੋਲੇ ਨਾਥ ਜੀ ਸ਼ਬਦ ਸੁਨਹੁ ਸਚ ਮੁਖਹੁ ਅਲਾਈ । ਬਾਜਹੁ ਸਚੇ ਨਾਮ ਦੇ ਹੋਰ ਕਰਾਮਾਤ ਅਸਾਥੇ ਨਾਹੀ Baba Boley Naath Ji Shabd Sunho Sach Mukho Alahee.Bajho Sachey Naam Dey Hor Kramaat Asathey Nahin.

Guru Nanak makes it clear: “Listen O Nath, Beyond the Realization of Divine Virtues, I have no ਕਰਾਮਾਤ Kramaat miracles” and calls on the Sidhs to engage in a dialogue based on the Shabd (Shabd Sunho) pertaining to the Creator (Sach).

Since this event happened six months prior to Guru Nanak’s demise in September of 1539, are we saying that till the very end of his life, Guru Nanak did not have Nam in him? -the kind of Nam that causes God Himself to appear and rescue him?

Are we saying that miracles did not “abound in Guru Nanak”? That God could not or would not “change the laws of nature” for Guru Nanak? That the dera sants and babey “with Nam inside them” are able to do what Guru Nanak could not?

But there in the second verse Bhai Gurdas is saying Guru Nanak replied Bajho Sachey Naam Dey Hor Kramaat Asathey Nahin. Meaning: Other than NAM, I have no Kramaat? So Guru Nanak DID have NAM in him, but no miracles?

This one single fact rubbishes the claim of Bhai Manjit Singh that If the Sikh facing the crisis has Nam in him, God Himself appears to rescue him. Why didn’t God appear to rescue Guru Nanak from the Sidhs’ demand then?

(MIS) FITTING GURBANI INTO FALSE CLAIMS OF MIRACLES.

Of particular interest in Bhai Manjit Singh’s article is the claim that “miracles must be understood in the context of Gurbani.” When someone says “statue worship must be understood in the context of Gurbani” or that “bathing of teeraths must be understood in the context of Gurbani” or that “cheating and lying must be understood in the context of Gurbani;” then one can rest assured that Gurbani is going to suffer a process that involves (i) being presented as half verses; (ii) misrepresented; (iii) twisted in meaning; (iv) jumbled with mythological stories; or (iv) plainly misunderstood.

How else does on use Gurbani to “prove the existance” of something that is rejected within the FIRST and most basic principles of Sikhi – Sacha Tera Hukm and Hukm Rajayi Chalna.

This part about the use (and misuse) of Gurbani needs elaboration. One principle worth knowing about how to understand and interpret Gurbani is known as ਪ੍ਰੋਢਾਵਾਦ Prordawad in Sanskrit (and Punjabi). Its English equivalent is “Speaking or Writing in the Vernacular.”

 

ਪ੍ਰੋਢਾਵਾਦ PRORDAWAD OR VERNACULAR WRITING.

 

ਪ੍ਰੋਢਾਵਾਦ Prordawad is defined as the USE of prevalent language, idioms, mythological stories to make one’s OWN point. All 35 writers in Gurbani have used this technique.

The prevalent stuff is used by our Gurus and Bhagats because the stuff is popular, in common usage, and people identify with it. Our Gurus and Bhagats do NOT agree, accept or believe in the prevalent stuff. They are merely USING it to MAKE and deliver their OWN UNIQUE spiritual messages.

In other words, they are saying: You people believe that MYTH. Let us tell you WHAT we accept. You people have YOUR MYTH. But this is OUR SPIRITUAL MESSAGE.

Our task as Sikhs of Gurbani is to search, discover and LINK with the spiritual messages; NOT indulge in the prevalent mythological stories.

THE MYTHOLOGY OF PREHLAD

The Sikhism and Miracles article begins with a shabd of Bhagat Namdev on page 1165 of the SGGS to “prove that miracles exist in Sikhi.”

The article quotes this one verse ਗਿਰਿ ਤਰ ਜਲ ਜੁਆਲਾ ਭੈ ਰਾਖਿਓ ਰਾਜਾ ਰਾਮਿ ਮਾਇਆ ਫੇਰੀ ॥੩॥ Gir Tar Jal Juala Bhaey Rakheyo Raha Ram Maya Feri and translates is as “He was thrown off a hill (gir), drowned in water (tar jal), hurled into fire (joala) and frightened (bhaye rakhiyo). But he survived.

Now this is the MYTH that Bhagat Namdev is USING. Mentioning the myth is NO proof of any miracle. It is not proof that Bhagat Namdev accepted the “miracle” of Prehlad. It is THE MYTH that is being stated.

Applying the principle of ਪ੍ਰੋਢਾਵਾਦ Prordawad or Writing in the Vernacular we know that Bhagat Namdev is using the PREVALENT MYTH to deliver his own unique message.

Where is that UNIQUE message of Namdev? In the Rahao Verse of course. AND in the FINAL verse too.

The Rahao verse is ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮਾ ਜਪਿਬੋ ਕਰੈ ॥ਹਿਰਦੈ ਹਰਿ ਜੀ ਕੋ ਸਿਮਰਨੁ ਧਰੈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ Ram Nama Japbo Karey. Hirdey Har Ji Ko Simran Dhrey.

The word NAMA in the Rahao verse refers to Namdev HIMSELF and indicates that this is WHAT NAMDEV did.

Bhagat Namdev is effectively saying: How Prehlad survived and what Prehlad went through is YOUR myth. YOUR story, YOUR belief, YOUR faith. YOUR miracle stuff. LET ME TELL YOU WHAT IS MINE.

And that’s the Rahao Verse; translated it means” Namdev (Nama) Realized the Ominipresent Creator (Ram). I Keep (Dhrey) the Remembrance (Simran) of the Omnipresent Creator (Har Ji) in my Mind and Heart (Hirdey).

In the FINAL verse, Namdev says: ਕਹਿ ਨਾਮਦੇਉ ਹਮ ਨਰਹਰਿ ਧਿਆਵਹ ਰਾਮੁ ਅਭੈ ਪਦ ਦਾਤਾ ॥ Keh Namdeo Hum Narhar Dhiavey Ram Abety Pad Daata. Namdev says, I Contemplate on God (Narhar) the Omnipresent (Ram) WHO IS MY PROTECTOR.

 

THE PREVALENT MYTH

BHAGAT NAMDEV’S MESSAGE

ਗਿਰਿ ਤਰ ਜਲ ਜੁਆਲਾ ਭੈ ਰਾਖਿਓ ਰਾਜਾ ਰਾਮਿ ਮਾਇਆ ਫੇਰੀ ॥੩॥ Gir Tar Jal Juala Bhaey Rakheyo Raha Ram Maya Feri

He was thrown off a hill (gir), drowned in water (tar jal), hurled into fire (joala) and frightened (bhaye rakhiyo). He survived it all. What a miracle!

ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮਾ ਜਪਿਬੋ ਕਰੈ ॥ਹਿਰਦੈ ਹਰਿ ਜੀ ਕੋ ਸਿਮਰਨੁ ਧਰੈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ Ram Nama Japbo Karey: Hirdey Har Ji Ko Simran Dhrey.

Namdev (Nama) Realized the Omnipresent Creator (Ram). I Keep (Dhrey) the Remembrance (Simran) of the Omnipresent Creator (Har Ji) in my Mind and Heart (Hirdey).

ਕਹਿ ਨਾਮਦੇਉ ਹਮ ਨਰਹਰਿ ਧਿਆਵਹ ਰਾਮੁ ਅਭੈ ਪਦ ਦਾਤਾ ॥ Keh Namdeo Hum Narhar Dhiavey Ram Abety Pad Daata.

Namdev says, I Contemplate on God (Narhar) the Omnipresent (Ram) WHO IS MY PROTECTOR

What we DON’T want to link with

What we WANT / NEED to link with

Bhai Manjit Singh wrongly translates the Rahao verse as “Prehlad kept on reciting Ram’s Name; and in his heart he focussed upon the Lord. The Lord intervened and changed the laws of nature. Water could not drown, fire could not burn, falling off a mountain he was unhurt. Why? Because the Lord changed the nature of the elements. Is that not a miracle?

This is a clear case of confusing the MYTH and the MESSAGE to prove a false premise of Miracles.

The Rahao Verse CLEARLY says it was NAMDEV who Realized the Omnipresent Creator (Ram). I Keep (Dhrey) the Remembrance (Simran) of the Omnipresent Creator (Har Ji) in my Mind and Heart (Hirdey).

The MYTH says Prehlad was saved by the MIRACLE.

The MESSAGE of Bhagat Namdev is “ I DON’T NEED NO MIRACLE.” I have the Creator’s Remembrance Within Me at All Times.

The MYTH says Prehlad was protected by the MIRACLE.

The message of Namdev in the FINAL verse is “My Omnipresent Creator is My Protector.

I need no miracle. I need no Kramaat. That is YOUR MYTH.

If each and every verse that is quoted in the Miracles and Sikhism article is put the test of proper interpretation (including applying the principle of ਪ੍ਰੋਢਾਵਾਦ Prordawad or Writing in the Vernacular – we will come to the following TWO conclusions

First, the miraculous stories being mentioned are PREVALENT MYTHS.

Second the MESSAGES being delivered WITHIN the same shabd tell us that those prevalent myths of miracles are REJECTED.

We cannot confuse the MYTH and the MESSAGE.

PROVING POINTS WITH WRONG CONCEPTS.

Bhai Manjit Singh quotes this verse from Asa Di Vaar.

ਏਹ ਕਿਨੇਹੀ ਦਾਤਿ ਆਪਸ ਤੇ ਜੋ ਪਾਈਐ ॥ਨਾਨਕ ਸਾ ਕਰਮਾਤਿ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਤੁਠੈ ਜੋ ਮਿਲੈ ॥੧॥ Eh Kinehi Daat Aapas Te Jo Paaiye. Nanak Sa Karmat Sahib Tuthe Jo Miley. SGGS Page 474.

The translation that is provided is “What great gift is there if we take it ourselves; O Nanak it is indeed a miraculous gift when the Lord gives as He is Pleased. The word “karmaat”, (miracle) is used here.”

The verse is indeed correct, but the word is ਕਰਮਾਤਿ (Karmat); NOT ਕਰਾਮਾਤ (Kramat).

There is a world of difference between the two. Karmat (which is the word used in the verse) is a Persian word that originates from ਕਰਮ Karm – meaning GRACE or BLESSING, the Punjabi translation of which is ਕਿਰਪਾ Kirpa, ਮੇਹਰ Mehr, and ਬਖਸ਼ਸ਼ Bakshish. That is why the word ਦਾਤਿ Daat (Gift) is used in the first part of the couplet. That is why ਸਾਹਿਬ ਤੁਠੈ ਜੋ ਮਿਲੈ Sahib Tuthey Jo Miley is used in the second part to mean Grace is received (Jo Miley) when the Master (Sahib) is Gracious (Tuthey)

These two verses do not prove that Gurbani supports miracles, or that miracles happen in Gurbani. As a matter of fact, these two verses have NOTHING to do with miracles. The word MIRACLE is not even used in these verses.

USING SIKH MYTHS.

There were PREVALENT MYTHS that the 35 writers of Gurbani roped in to deliver their UNIQUE Spiritual Messages. We were supposed to link with the Messages and to steer clear from the myths.

That we DIDN’T quite do. What’s worse, we created additional myths of our own. Bhai Manjit Singh relies on a few of these home grown myths to establish the point that miracles exist in Sikhi. He says: when we hear the sakhi of Vali Ghandari hurling a huge boulder at Guru Nanak, it is not surprising that the hard rock becomes soft like wax and the imprint of the hand gets set in the rock as it hardens again. Is that not a miracle in the context of what Gurbani says?

This entire Vali Ghandari tale is a myth. Our myth. Someone carved out a palm print on a rock, created the myth in a sakhi, and built a structure around it. The Sikh world bought the fake tale lock, stock and barrel and donated well. What we got was one of the biggest and richest gurdwaras in Pakistan. And Sikhs bowing to that rock.

Sane people have asked – if the rock was hurled from the top of a mountain and stopped midway by the Guru’s hand, then where is the mountain top now? Where is the mountain? Why isn’t the stone stopped midway? Why is it lying flat on the ground? Why would people go up a mountain to get water when water always runs down on its own? A whole bunch of questions, but no answers.

The question at the end of the para by Bhai Manjit Singh is interesting: the hard rock becomes soft like wax and the imprint of the hand gets set in the rock as it hardens again. Is that not a miracle in the context of what Gurbani says? Certainly NOT, because Gurbani does not say anything about this rock turning into wax and hardening again against the Hukm of the Creator.

Then there is another Sikh Myth being used. Bhai Manjit Singh says: In this context, when we look at Paunta Sahib, we notice the Yamuna river raging and flowing behind the Gurdwara. But Guru Gobind Singh Ji had declared “Yamuna, ethey shaant ho ke jaya kar”As you can see for yourselves the river Yamuna flows quietly for the distance of the Gurdwara and gushes forth after that.

The Guru commanding a river to flow quietly? Really? A Guru who was the tenth embodiment of the Guru who declared Hukm Rajayi Chalna, Nanak Likhya Nal and Scha Tera Hukm? Aren’t we insulting our Guru’s spirituality? How do we know the exact words: Yamuna, ethey shaant ho ke jaya kar were uttered by the Guru? Were they recorded in the SGGS?

Aren’t we unknowingly putting down our Guru to the level of the mindless Don Quixote who ordered the windmills of Holland to calm down?

The one river that needed to be calmed was Sarsa. Guru Gobind Singh, his family and thousands of Sikhs crossed it in the middle of the night on 6th December 1704. The wild and rough waters of the river took the lives of thousands of Sikhs, swallowed up tons of Sikh literature and treasure that was being transported, and caused the family of Guru Gobind Singh to be separated and eventually sacrificed. Why didn’t the Guru say Sarsa, Tu ethey shaant ho ke jaya kar? Sarsa, flow calmly and let us all cross?

Bhai Manjit Singh also says The turning of the mandir in Bhagat Namdev Ji’s case and so many other miraculous events are stated in Gurbani.

The Bhagats of Gurbani were revolutionary spiritual seekers. This are the four things they stood for. (i) The total rejection of the then existing clergy. (ii) The complete discarding of all clergy-sanctioned ritual. (iii) Repudiation of the clergy-sanctioned idol worship, and (iv) The wholesome rejection of the primary institution of the clergy – the mandir, dehora, maseet and temple as the “pathway to spirituality”.

In any case, the mandir was out of bounds to the bhagats on account of their ‘low’ caste. The mandir’s doors were secured shut to the “castes” of weaver, cobbler, tailor and other shudras that our Bhagats were. The doors did not open for those bhagats who were not shurdras either – the mandirs were shut to them as well – as pay back for their stinging criticism of the custodians of these places as frauds and pretentious beings.

So what was Bhagat Namdev (a Shudar by brahmin standards) doing in a Mandir?

Let’s ask Namdev himself. He says on page 875 of the SGGS as follows: ਹਿੰਦੂ ਪੂਜੈ ਦੇਹੁਰਾ ਮੁਸਲਮਾਣੁ ਮਸੀਤਿ ॥ ਨਾਮੇ ਸੋਈ ਸੇਵਿਆ ਜਹ ਦੇਹੁਰਾ ਨ ਮਸੀਤਿ ॥ Hindu Pujey Dehora Musalman Maseet. Namey Soee Seyvia Jeh Dehora Na Maseet.Meaning. The Hindu Seeks Him through the Worship at the Dehora and the Musalman in the Maseet. Namdev Has Realized the One Who Is Neither in The Dehora Nor Maseet.

The inference is clear. Namdev NEVER went to the Dehora (Mandir) nor the Maseet. Why would he go someplace where he says he KNEW God did NOT reside?

So what is left of this fictitious tale of Namdev going to a mandir to pray and the idols in the mandir all miraculously turned 180 degrees to face him?

The MYTH is created by writers of Bhagat Maal. The primary objective of Bhagat Maal is to corrupt the legacy of the bhagats. Its method is to embroil the bhagats in brahminwaad and portray them part and parcel of the bippar clergy.

If the bhagats undertook a damning denunciation of the existing clergy, the Bhagat Maal portrays the bhagats as relying on the clergy for their enlightenment. If the bhagats enunciated a total rejection of all clergy sanctioned ritual, the Bhagat Maal shows the bhagats as having reached God through ritual. If the bhagats repudiated the clergy sanctioned idol worship, the Bhagat Maal portrays bhagats worshipping idols; albeit with full faith and love. (The fake story of Bhagat Dhanna extricating God out of a stone is case in point).

And if the bhagats announced their wholesome rejection of the primary institution of the clergy – the mandir, dehora, maseet and temple as the “pathway to spirituality” the Bhagat Maal narrates stories of bhagats praying at mandirs. The fake story of bhagat Namdev ji going to a mandir to pray, being ejected by the Brahmins there, and causing the mandir to spin around miraculously to face the bhagats is case in point.

APPLY ਪ੍ਰੋਢਾਵਾਦ PRORDAWAD OR VERNACULAR WRITING, AGAIN.

When we apply the principle of Vernacular Writing then we know the “spinning” that Namdev is talking about IS A PROCESS THAT HAPPENS WITHIN OUR MIND-SETS – not to some statutes in some mandir.

When we apply the principle of Vernacular Writing then we know the “dead cow that Namdev revived upon being put under torture by a cruel king was not a “four legged milk-providing cow.” But a “cow” that is defined in Gurbani by Guru Nanak on page 1329 of the SGGS. ਦੂਧੁ ਕਰਮੁ ਸੰਤੋਖੁ ਘੀਉ ਕਰਿ ਐਸਾ ਮਾਂਗਉ ਦਾਨੁ ॥ 3 ॥ ਖਿਮਾ ਧੀਰਜੁ ਕਰਿ ਗਊ ਲਵੇਰੀ ਸਹਜੇ ਬਛਰਾ ਖੀਰੁ ਪੀਐ ॥ Dudh Karm Santokh Ghio Kar Aisa Mango Dan. Khima Dhiraj Kar Gaoo Laveyri Shejey Bhachra Kheer Piyey.

Namdev brought to life the Cow of forgiveness and Compassion (Khima Dheeraj Kar Gaoo Laveyri). This was the “Cow” that was dead in the cruel king’s heart and mind.

This “Cow of forgiveness and compassion is Laveyri – meaning its gives milk aplenty. But not the milk that we drink. The milk of Grace (Dudh Karm). This was the milk that came out of the cow of forgiveness and compassion that came to life in the king’s mind. He was full of grace for the same Namdev that he wanted tortured and killed.

And from the Milk of Grace came the butter of Contentment (Santokh Ghio).

All the above happened not by any miracle, but by Namdev’s discourse with the King.

You see Pyareo. The miracle is truly in the way both Guru Nanak and Bhagat Namdev are teaching us such superior spiritual messages pertaining to Divine Virtues.

It would be sad indeed, if we were going to MISS these messages and hold on instead to myths and so called meaningless miraculous tales that Gurbani is trying to reject in the first place.

WHAT THEN IS THE POSITION OF MIRACLE IN SIKHI?

Gurbani’s position on “miracles” can be distilled from the following verse on page 1103 of the SGGS. ਰਿਧਿ ਸਿਧਿ ਜਾ ਕਉ ਫੁਰੀ ਤਬ ਕਾਹੂ ਸਿਉ ਕਿਆ ਕਾਜ ॥ ਤੇਰੇ ਕਹਨੇ ਕੀ ਗਤਿ ਕਿਆ ਕਹਉ ਮੈ ਬੋਲਤ ਹੀ ਬਡ ਲਾਜ ॥ ੧ ॥ Ridh Sidh Ja Kao Furee, Tab Kahun Sio Kya Kaaj. Terey Kehney Kee Gutt Kya Kho, Mein Bolat He Budd Laaj.

Ridh Sidh is the term for miracles. The damning critique in the second verse is worth pondering – “The claim about miracles is absolutely embarrassing and shameful (Budd Laaj) within the parameters of genuine spirituality.”

Sikhi is not about waiting for miracles to happen. Sikhi is not about expecting miracles to take place.

Sikhi is about BECOMING the miracle. Being Divine in the ugly world we live in is to BECOME the miracle. Gurbani tells us repeatedly – acquire Divine Virtues. BECOME Divine Virtues.

Love is a Divine Virtue. Service to Humanity is another. Courage is yet another. Contentment yet another. The SGGS speaks of many other Divine Virtues.

The world we live in is full of hatred, animosity, and abhorrence. To live in such world with Love for Humanity is to LIVE the Miracle of Sikhi, to BECOME the Miracle of Divine Virtue.

Humanity – of which we are part of – is full of selfishness, self-centredness and self-regard. To live within such conditions with the Virtue of Service to Humanity is to LIVE the Miracle of Sikhi, to BECOME the Miracle.

Similarly, to SPEAK UP and STAND with the downtrodden within society WITH COURAGE; and to LIVE with CONTENTMENT in a world full of greed and self-indulgence is to LIVE the Miracle of Sikhi, to BECOME the Miracle that our Gurus and Bhagats within Gurbani teach and want us to become.

END.

  1. Bhai Manjit Singh Malaysia, Sikhism and Miracles https://manjeetsinghmalaysia.com/sikhism-and-miracles/ March 26, 2020.

  2. Paragraphs 18 and 19 of the article.

  3. Meaning: The Way to Realize the Creator Within Is to Remain Within the Confines of and Abide in Sehej (Chalna) Of His Hukm, As Contained Within Me.

Articles

The Sikh Nishan Demystified.

The Sikh Nishan Demystified.

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Karminder Singh Dhillon, PhD (Boston). Email: dhillon99@gmail.com

The Kesri / Bhagwa (deep orange, saffron) colored flag that Sikhs respectfully call the Nishan Sahib and seen flying at Gurdwaras is to the Sikh place of worship as Sikh Dastaar or Turban is to Sikh identity.

A few points on its origin, function and manner of respect may be as useful to the reader as much of some commentary on worship-like rituals that have sprung up in recent times in relation to the Sikh flag.

Sikh scholar cum historian Kahn Singh Nabha writes that the Nishan was originally called Jhanda (flag) Sahib and that it was founded by Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji. Folks who get offended when someone refers to the Sikh flag as “Jhanda” can take note of this fact.

In the village of Fagwara in Punjab, there is a historic Gurdwara marking the transit of the seventh master Guru Har Rai Ji during one of his travels from Kartarpur to Kiratpur, called Gurdwara Jhanda Sahib, lending credence to the fact that the term “Jhanda Sahib” had come into existence then.

THE SIKH REHAT MARYADA AND NISHAN SAHIB

The Akaal Takhat sanctioned Sikh Rehat Maryada (Sikh Code of Conduct) or SRM has the following stipulation relating to the Nishan in Section 3, Chapter 4, Article V (r):

Image result for Nishan Sahib

“Every Gurdwara should install a Nishan Sahib at some high location. The cloth of the flag should either be Basanti (light yellow, xanthic) or Surmayee (greyish blue) in colour. At the top of the Nishan there should either be a Bhalla (spearhead) or a Khanda. “(a double edged straight sword, with convex sides leading to slanting top edges ending in a vertex.

One is hard pressed to find a Gurdwara flying the Nishan in the the Surmayee colour (or even Basanti) these days, even if Surmayee was the standard color of Nishan Sahibs flying in the Gurdwaras in townships where I grew up.

The Nishan could not escape the impact of the hijacking of Sikhi by the Nirmlas who controlled Sikh gurdwaras, takhats, institutions, literature, and psyche for some 200 years. The currently most prevalent color of our NishansBhagva – (Saffron) was introduced by the Nirmlas. They had brought this color with them from Benares – their alma mater cum religious headquarters.

FUNCTION OF THE NISHAN SAHIB

It is clear from the words “at some high location” in the SRM stipulation above that the primary purpose of the Nishan Sahib was to act as a sign board and a symbol of the Gurdwara.

If one reads Kahan Singh Nabha’s writings of the original functions of the Gurdwara, one can see the logic of the Gurdwara needing a symbol that was visible from afar for Sikhs and especially for non-Sikhs.

Beyond being a primary place for the teaching and practice of Sikh Spirituality, the Gurdwara was to have a number of other functions.

The Gurdwara was meant to serve as a sanctuary for the protection of dignity of women. If such a function sounds odd it is because we Sikhs have terminated this function for so long, that it is no longer part of our collective memory. I doubt our modern Gurdwara parbhandaks are even aware of this primary function of the Gurdwara.

I further doubt that a battered, displaced or otherwise needy woman seeking protection in our modern Gurdwaras would be accommodated in any meaningful way!

The Gurdwara was also meant to serve as a resting place for the weary traveller. Again, if this function sounds strange, it is also because we have stopped accommodating travellers in our Gurdwaras from a long time.

The Gurdwara was further to serve as a “meal-house” for the hungry. The key word is “hungry”. Serving meals to the well fed or those who have better cooked meals waiting in their houses does NOT fall in this category even if this has become the standard practice of langgar in our modern Gurdwaras.

All the above functions were meant equally for the Sikh and non-Sikh. It is on these functional grounds that Section 3, Chapter 4, Article V (k) of the SRM reads:

“No person, no matter which country, religion or cast he/she belongs to, is debarred from entering the Gurdwara…”

This then is the primary function of the Nishan Sahib. It is located high as a beacon of hope for any woman seeking to protect her honor, as a light house for a weary traveler seeking a place to rest, and as a welcome sign for a hungry/displaced/homeless person seeking a meal. The Nishan Sahib is, for all intents and purposes a sign board that stands tall and calls out for those who need protection, solace and a meal. It is inviting them, in the name of the Guru to come to the Gurdwara and be served.

TALL SIGN BOARDS BUT DYSFUNCTIONAL GURDWARAS.

Gurdwaras have perfected the art of building taller and sophisticated Nishan Sahibs – complete with lights, pulleys, and other electronic display systems. Some are visible from tens of miles. Such would be wonderful if the Gurdwara actually provided the appropriate services to those it did attract from afar by its 100 feet tall flag pole.

But if the Gurdwara fails to provide the basic functions as mentioned above, then its tall Nishan is akin to a defunct hospital that has a huge sign visible from ten miles, but tells patients who show up that there really is no doctor, no treatment and no medicine there. Or worse, that other than the sign, there really is nothing remotely connected to a hospital in the premise.

WORSHIPPING THE SIGN BOARD

But Sikhs have by and large, turned the Nishan Sahib into an article of worship. Sikhs are seen walking around the flag pole in parkarma (circumambulation style), folding hands to metha tek or bowing down to the concrete base of the Nishan repeatedly, rubbing their noses on the base, tying pieces of cloth or ribbons to the flag pole and then taking them home a few days later as blessed material, and much more.

Those who consider such practices as respect or reverence ought to think a little.

One does not respect road rules by metha tek or bowing to road signs. One does not display any reverence to a welfare home by circumambulations of its sign board. One does not satisfy one’s hunger by standing with folded hands before the sign board of a restaurant.

One does not acquire health by trying ribbons to the hospital’s sign board and then taking the ribbons home as equivalent to medicines. One does not become educated by doing repeated parkirma of, or by rubbing ones nose repeatedly on the school sign board.

If only everything was this easy! What then makes us think that we can acquire the Shabd Guru’s enlightenment by doing all the above to the Gurdwara services sign board that is the Nishan Sahib but by doing nothing to ensure that the Gurdwara actually functions the way it was supposed to function?

A Sikh ought to consider his or her head as priceless to only bow in awe before the Enlightenment of the Shabd Guru. Bowing before just about everything within the precincts of the Gurdwara – gate, steps, stairs, mats, photos, shoes of the sangat, base structure of the Nishan Sahib etc – even if they are all part of the Gurdwara’s physical structure – is to suggest that they are all equal in stature to the enlightenment of the Shabd.

MEANINGLESS PRACTICES AND RITUALS RELATING TO THE NISHAN SAHIB

Sikhs are known for their penchant to slide down the slippery slope of rituals. Where we cannot steal from others, or make worse the bad rituals of others, we invent our own.

One wonders where the idea of dressing up the flag pole came from. The logic of it is dumbfounding. The Gurdwara I attended regularly did not have such dressing and one dera literate but Gurbani illiterate parcharak from India took it upon himself to berate the parbhandaks and the sangat openly for allowing the “Guru’s Nishan” to stand “naked.” He went on to call the dressing “chola sahib” (literally: holy dress) and said the covering was akin to the “kachera” and that its function was to protect the “dignity” of the Nishan Sahib. I asked him after his pseudo katha if the Nishan Sahib should also be adorned with the remaining three kakars – kirpan sahib , kra sahib and kanga sahib!”

Gurdwaras are known to change the Nishan Sahib on Gurpurabs. There is no mention in the SRM of such a requirement. Logic dictates that the Nishan Sahib ought to be changed when it is torn or appears faded. No need for any fanfare. No need for any reference to a code of conduct either. What ever happened to common sense, I wonder.

One would have surely witnessed the Nishan Sahib change being done in worship type rituals that can take a couple of hours and is witnessed by entire sangats.

Some Gurdwaras have constructed fulcrum type flag poles which allow the flag pole to be laid horizontal. Hours are then spent washing the pole in pails full of milk or yoghurt or lassee. The entire pole is then towel-dried and dressed up in cloth with tie backs.

Members of the sangat are seen pushing forward to get a share of the washing and towel drying. If only they showed a tenth of such eagerness when it came to sitting through a discourse on Gurbani.

Some Gurdwaras use cranes for the same purpose. Other have ladders.

Doing such is munmat, or deviant practise, plain and simple. It is waste of milk, lasee, cloth, time and energy. It is not supported by the maryada or Gurbani and there are no historical records of Sikhs doing this in previous eras. Above all, doing such is an affront to the thinking faculties of an average human being,

One can appreciate if the purpose of the Nishan changing ceremony is to educate or inspire love within the sangat for the Nishan Sahib. But the only “education” that takes place is the inculcation of self-constructed and wasteful rituals.

Kahn Singh Nabha writes that the two majestic Nishan Sahibs that stand in the doorway of the Darbar Sahib were first put up as wooden poles in 1775 by the Udasi Babas who ran the place then. They were broken up in a storm in 1841 and one was rebuilt by Maharaja Sher Singh and the other by Desa Singh Majithia. Both the flags are made of iron but adorned with copper plates. The high base was rebuilt in 1923.

Such facts illustrate that the Nishan Sahib can and has taken a variety of forms – wooden poles and flags of iron included. Nowhere however is the practice of covering up the pole with a “chola sahib,” or washing it in milk or kachee lassee shown as a practice except in recent times.

HOISTING THE NISHAN TO THE ANTHEM OF GODESS DURGA

Many gurdwaras take false pride in reciting obeisance to Durga, the consort of Shiv during its hoisting on certain ocassions. They call Deh Shiva Bar Mohe (Grant Me this Boon, Shiva /Durga) the national anthem of the Sikh Nation that must be recited when the national flag of the Sikh Nation is hoisted. We seem to prefer to recite a song from Chandi (Durga) Ki Vaar from the Markandey Puran instead of one of the 5,800 plus shabds that 35 spiritual beings composed for us in the SGGS. One wonders how much of national pride, say, an Indian group can garner – singing God Save the Queen or worse, the Pakistani National Song – while hoisting the Indian Flag.

THE SIGN MUST FIT THE FUNCTION.

A Nishan Sahib is just that – a Nishan, a symbolic sign board. We can make it tall, big and visible from as far as the eye can see so that it attracts those who are in need of Sikh sewa towards humanity to come to the Gurdwara. But then, it is our duty to ensure that our Gurdwaras are functional to serve such needs. What are we doing about creating truly functional Gurdwaras, is the question.

Having sign boards that are the tallest, bowed to, circumabulated, washed in milk regularly – but having nothing true to offer to those who show up in response to these sign boards is deception – fraud even. Worshipping and undertaking ritualistic practices involving a sign board is to miss the point all together. Worse, it displays our own spiritual hollowness.

 

 

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20 Questions About the Nishan Sahib Answered

20 Questions

About the Nishan Sahib Answered

Karminder Singh Dhillon, PhD (Boston).

1. Question: Where do we refer to on matters regarding the Nishan Sahib?

Answer: To The Akaal Takhat sanctioned Sikh Rehat Maryada (Sikh Code of Conduct) or SRM. Every Sikh should have a copy of this booklet.

2. Question: Where should the Nishan Sahib be located in the Gurdwara Sahib?

Answer: The Akaal Takhat sanctioned Sikh Rehat Maryada (Sikh Code of Conduct) or SRM has the following stipulation relating to the Nishan Sahib in Section 3, Chapter 4, Article V

“Every Gurdwara should install a Nishan Sahib at some high location.” It can be on the ground, on the roof or on a structure of the Gurdwara. The idea is that the Nishan Sahib as a sign board that says “here is a Gurdwara” ought to be visible from as far as possible.

3. Question: What is the function of the Nishan Sahib?

Answer: Very basically, the Nishan is inviting everyone, in the name of the Guru, to come to the Gurdwara and be served. It is our sign board. It is our light house.

4. Question: What does the SRM say about the colour of the Nishan Sahib?

Answer: Section 3, Chapter 4, Article V (r) of the SRM says it must either be Surmaee (Dark Blue) or Basanti (Xanthic) which is yellow.

5. Question: But most Gurdwaras today are seen flying the Bhagwa / Kesri (Deep Orange, Saffron) colour. When and why did this happen?

Answer: Kesri is the colour of the Nirmalas.

Nirmalas were people with Bhramanic, Hindu and Vedic mindsets who originated from Benares but together with other deviant / rejected Sikh groups such as Udasis and Mahants – had control of Sikh Gurdwaras for a long period beginning with the Period of Persecution of Sikhs from 1715 after the fall of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur. This was the time when Sikhs were hunted and they thus lived in the jungles and mountains – leaving control of their Gurdwaras to others.

The control of Sikh Gurdwaras came back into the control of the SGPC after the Singh Sabha Reform Movement beginning the 1920s. By this time, major Gurdwaras in Punjab were already flying the Kesri (color or Nirmalas).

In 1925 even though our Gurdwaras were freed from the control of Nirmalas, Mahants, and Udasis – they left their legacy behind. Much of their practices continued to be done in the Gurdwaras even by genuine Sikhs who took over.

Many of the deviant / rejected groups went on to open up their own deras. Some of them did not have the Nishan Sahib at all. Others hoisted the Kesri one.

6. Question: Are there any Gurdwaras that did NOT follow the Kesri (color of Nirmalas)?

Answer: Yes three groups of Gurdwaras did not adopt the Kesri colour.

First, the Nihang groups and their Gurdwaras flew the Blue Nishan. The Nihangs were the official Nishan Sahib bearers in the wars that Guru Gobind Singh ji conducted during Guruji’s period. They have thus maintained the original colour.

Second, Gurdwaras outside Punjab continued to fly the deep blue colour till the 1950. But the influence of Punjab soon spread to them too.

Third, Gurdwaras outside of India. They carried on flying the deep blue till the 1960s and 70s. But the influx of granthis from Punjab soon persuaded them to follow the Kesri / Bhagwa (Nirmala) colour.

7. Question: Why are some Sikhs now calling for the Nishan Sahib to revert to deep blue – the original colour of the Nishan Sahib?

Answer: Three reasons can be given.

The First is that Jagerti (awakening) that has come about amongst Sikhs that the colour bestowed by Guru Gobind Singh ji is deep blue (Surmayee). And that the colour was changed by the Nirmalas.

Second, these awakened Sikhs feel it is the RIGHT thing to do.

Third, Sikhs want to preserve their unique identity. The Kesri (Nirmala) colour can be seen across India in Hindu mandirs.

There is no reason for Sikhs to adopt this colour especially since our own Guru gave us deep blue colour.

8. Question: Will such a move split up the Sangat – some wanting Kesri and others Blue?

Answer: It should NOT split the sangat. The sangat must be made aware of the fact that deep blue is the colour that was given to the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh Ji.

The Nihangs are living proof of this as they have preserved the deep blue colour.

Once explained properly, the sangat will be inclined to do the right thing to get the blessings of our Guru.

Every member who is reading this ought to talk about it with family and friends.

9. Question: What other deviant practices relating to the Nishan Sahib were introduced by the Nirmalas, Udasis and Mahants during the 200 years that they controlled Sikh Gurdwaras.?

Answer: They turned the Nishan Sahib into a deity / statute meant for Pooja.

They introduced the WORSHIP of the Nishan Sahib. The practise of washing the pole, the base or the area around it with milk and lasee; offering flowers, metha tek to the Nishan Sahib, adding the pole covering (chola), doing parkarma (going around) of the Nishan Sahib, tying of ribbons to the Nishan Sahib for a few days to convert them to lucky charms etc – were introduced by these deviants.

10. Question: Should the Nishan Sahib be washed with milk or kachee lasee.

Answer: No. Doing so is against Gurmat. Deities / statues are washed in milk and lasee. The Nishan Sahib is not a deity. Deity worship is not part of Sikhi.

Doing such is munmat, or deviant practise, plain and simple. It is waste of milk, lasee, cloth, time and energy. It is not supported by the maryada or Gurbani and there are no historical records of Sikhs doing this in previous eras.

All washing including the place and the base can be done with water as regularly as necessary.

11. Question: What about Metha Tek.

Answer: A Sikh ought to consider his or her head as priceless to only bow before the Guru Granth Sahib. Bowing before just about everything within the precincts of the Gurdwara – gate, steps, stairs, mats, photos, base structure of the Nishan Sahib etc – even if they are all part of the Gurdwara’s physical structure – is to suggest that they are all equal in stature to the SGSS.

There is NO equal of the SGGSJI and nothing higher either.

12. Question: What about other practices and rituals pertaining to the Nishan Sahib.

Answer: Sikhs have by and large, turned the Nishan Sahib into an article of worship. Sikhs are seen walking around the flag pole in parkarma (circumambulation style), folding hands to metha tek or bowing down to the concrete base of the Nishan repeatedly, rubbing their noses on the base, tying pieces of cloth or ribbons to the flag pole and then taking them home a few days later as blessed material, and much more.

None of these are sanctioned by the SRM or Gurbani.

13. Question: Is it necessary to cover up the pole with a Chola.

Answer: No it is not.

The ‘chola” came about as a result of the Mahants’ desire to turn the Nishan Sahib into an article of worship.

Deities in mandirs are usually covered with a kesri / bhagwa colored cloth.

14. Question: What is the right time to Change the Nishan Sahib?

Answer: Whenever the parbhandaks or sangat feel necessary. Whenever it is torn, discoloured, faded or otherwise damaged.

For convenience sake and to make the change into a ceremony, Gurdwaras normally change it during selected Gurpurabs, including Vesakhi.

15. Question: What is the procedure for the Change of the Nishan Sahib.

Answer: It is a simple and straight forward ceremony. First the old one is taken down. Then an ardas is done. Then the new Nishan is hoisted up.

While the Nishan is being hoisted, the sangat may sing some shabads from the SGGS ji.

A Jaikara may be let out once the Nishan reaches the top if the pole.

16. Question: Why do most Sikhs sing Deh Shiva during the Nishan Sahib ceremony?

Answer: Deh Shiva is NOT from the SGGS ji. It is NOT Gurbani. It is NOT written by Guru Gobind Singh Ji.

It is a song that is taken from a Hindu book called Markandey Puran. Shiva refers to the wife of Shivji – also known as Durga, Parbati, Shera Walee, Parbatee etc. Sikhs do not pray to any of these persons.

There are 5,800 plus shabads in the Guru Granth Sahib. Sikhs should sing any of these in order to get the blessings of the Guru.

Read more about Deh Shiva here: http://www.sikhivicharforum.org/?tag=deh-shiva

17. Question: What do I do if the Gurdwara I go to insists on singing the Deh Shiva

Answer: A Sikh does not take part in any rituals, singing or activities that are anti Gurmat. Lots of awakened Sikhs stand silent when others chose to sing songs that are NOT from the SGGS.

Many Gurdwaras sing shabads from Gurbani when performing the Nishan Sahib ceremony.

Click here to listen to some of them. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SefHkm9eYIE

And https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhpSJTgWB80

18. Question: What is the brief history of the Nishan Sahib.

Answer: Sikh scholar cum historian Kahn Singh Nabha writes that the Nishan Sahib was originally called Jhanda (flag) Sahib and that it was founded by Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji.

Guru Gobind Singh ji used it in the same way. Today the Nishan Sahib is found in all Gurdawras.

19. Question: What is the brief history of the type of Pole that is used?

Answer: Kahn Singh Nabha writes that the two majestic Nishan Sahibs that stand in the doorway of the Darbaar Sahib were first put up as wooden poles in 1775 by the Udasi Babas who ran the place then. They were broken up in a storm in 1841 and one was rebuilt by Maharaja Sher Singh and the other by Desa Singh Majithia. Both the flags are made of iron but adorned with copper plates. The high base was rebuilt in 1923.

Such facts illustrate that the Nishan Sahib can and has taken a variety of forms – wooden poles and flags of iron included. Nowhere however is the practise of covering up the pole with a “chola sahib,” or washing it in milk or kachee lassee shown as a practise except in recent times.

20. Question: Can you state the exact paragraph pertaining to the Nishan Sahib in the SRM?

Answer: The Akaal Takhat sanctioned Sikh Rehat Maryada (Sikh Code of Conduct) or SRM has the following stipulation relating to the Nishan Sahib in Section 3, Chapter 4, Article V (r): “Every Gurdwara should install a Nishan Sahib at some high location. The cloth of the flag should either be Basanti (light yellow, Xanthic) or Surmayee (greyish blue) in colour. At the top of the Nishan there should either be a Bhalla (spearhead) or a Khanda. “(a double edged straight sword, with convex sides leading to slanting top edges ending in a vertex.

Read more here: http://www.sikhivicharforum.org/?tag=nishan-sahib

End.

Articles · Shabad Vichar

Aath Pehr Nikt Kar Janeiy. ਆਠ ਪਹਰ ਨਿਕਟਿ ਕਰਿ ਜਾਨੈ ॥

Karminder Singh Phd (Boston)

Shabd Vichar

ਆਠ ਪਹਰ ਨਿਕਟਿ ਕਰਿ ਜਾਨੈ ॥ Aath Pehr Nikt Kar Janeiy.

Karminder Singh Phd (Boston)

The complete Shabd as composed by Guru Arjun ji and recorded on page 392 of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) is as follows:

 

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