To put the remaining post into a perspective, I need to give a brief introduction about me.
I am an Amritdhari Sikh. I wake up early morning (before 5AM), do my nitnem daily, visit Gurudwara twice daily (morning and evening). It is now close to 12 years since I have been going to Gurudwara regularly. So, as far as the ritualistic practices go, I am not very bad.
The question that I always ponder on is:
Is Gurbani actually true?
I have never raised this question to anyone in person.
But I remember, once I commented on a post by Anita Moorjani, thanking her for sharing her story and telling her that knowing her story increased my faith in Gurbani. A Sikh replied to my comment saying that he did not agree with me on increased faith in Gurbani. Gurbani is true and has come directly from God, he said, so we don’t need anyone’s experience to increase our faith in Gurbani.
I don’t know about the life of that Sikh, so I cannot comment on his understanding. But as far as my life goes, I generally have a hard time accepting Gurbani to be true. I enjoy listening to Gurbani, but when it comes to practical life, I don’t think I believe Gurbani to be true.
ਮਨ ਤੂੰ ਜੋਤਿ ਸਰੂਪੁ ਹੈ ਆਪਣਾ ਮੂਲੁ ਪਛਾਣੁ ॥
ਸਭ ਮਹਿ ਜੋਤਿ ਜੋਤਿ ਹੈ ਸੋਇ ॥
O my mind, you are the embodiment of the Divine Light – recognize your own origin.
The divine light is within everyone; You are that light.
It means that I am the embodiment of divine light.
If it is so, do I need to worry about anyone or anything in life? If I accept this to be true, shouldn’t I be free of all worries?
If it is true, shouldn’t I be fearless? Whom should I fear from, when I am the divine light myself?
If it is true, whom should I blame or crib or complain? Everyone else is also divine light.
If it is true, shouldn’t I love everyone and see that divine light manifesting in different forms and shapes?
But I don’t do that. I do worry about future. I do fear about happening of different circumstances. I do get angry.
Every time, I do any of these things, I question myself “Don’t I believe Gurbani to be true?”.
I have a hard time trying to push myself to believe Gurbani to be true. When I am angry at someone, I rarely try to see the divine light sparkling in the eyes of that person. If I believe in Gurbani, shouldn’t I always, at least, try to see the divine light in the other person?
And if I just try to see the divine light in the other person, would I still remain angry? Wouldn’t just an act of trying eliminate the anger from within?
A life full of anger, frustration, worries, greed, needs, fear cannot be the life of a person who believes in Gurbani.
All of us just shout that Gurbani is true. We have heard it from different sources and are shouting that out, without knowing the implications on our life if we actually believe it to be true.
Rather, we are even innocent about our ignorance. We don’t even know that we don’t believe Gurbani to be true. We believe that chanting Gurbani or shouting out that it is true means we believe in Gurbani.
I am sorry. It doesn’t. By simple logic.
If you believe in Gurbani, you have to believe that you and everyone else you meet is the divine light him- or herself. And if you believe so, there is just no place for anger, greed, frustration, violence, cruelty, contempt. And if you or I have any of these things in our life, then we need to accept that we don’t believe Gurbani to be true. Mere shouting cannot mean that we believe in Gurbani. Won’t Kabir ji’s verse apply to us in today’s times?
ਕਬੀਰ ਮੁਲਾਂ ਮੁਨਾਰੇ ਕਿਆ ਚਢਹਿ ਸਾਂਈ ਨ ਬਹਰਾ ਹੋਇ ॥
ਜਾ ਕਾਰਨਿ ਤੂੰ ਬਾਂਗ ਦੇਹਿ ਦਿਲ ਹੀ ਭੀਤਰਿ ਜੋਇ ॥੧੮੪॥
Kabeer: O Mullah, why do you climb to the top of the minaret? The Lord is not hard of hearing.
Look within your own heart for the One, for whose sake you shout your prayers.
Only if we are living our life on the principles of Gurbani can we say that we believe in Gurbani.
Till our life fully reflects the divine light that shines through Gurbani, we need to accept that we are “trying to believe” in Gurbani. A mere acceptance that, we don’t believe in Gurbani but are trying to believe in it, can make huge differences in our lives.
The reality of ourselves: The first and the foremost difference this acceptance would make is show us the real picture of ourselves. We have accepted that going to Gurudwara or chanting Gurbani is enough. Accepting that we don’t even believe in Gurbani would show us that we stand nowhere. We haven’t even started yet. If we have to measure our lives in terms of the line of Gurbani “Man Tu Jot Sarup hai”, where do we stand? 60% or 50% or 1% or NIL? I bet no one would pass. A mere acceptance of just line of Gurbani can upturn our entire life. It can uproot the very foundations on which we have built our lives. The line is very easy to chant but excruciatingly difficult to accept. The Gurbani line would force us to see Guru Nanak in the eyes of our worst enemies. Whereas in reality, we are fighting with even our parents and siblings over property, money and whatever or killing people in road rage. Can we see the contrast between what a belief in Gurbani would mean and where we stand in our lives? Or are we all blind? Gurbani says:
ਅੰਧੇ ਏਹਿ ਨ ਆਖੀਅਨਿ ਜਿਨ ਮੁਖਿ ਲੋਇਣ ਨਾਹਿ ॥
ਅੰਧੇ ਸੇਈ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਖਸਮਹੁ ਘੁਥੇ ਜਾਹਿ ॥੧॥
Do not call them blind, who have no eyes in their face.
They alone are blind, O Nanak, who wander away from their Lord and Master. ||1||
End of fanaticism: The second and another very important difference this acceptance would make is eliminate the fanaticism that is seeping into Sikhism. Just as my Sikh friend had problems with my “increased” faith in Gurbani, we have problems with people not comfortable with aspects of Gurbani or with younger generation who is not open to accepting Gurbani on blind faith. I don’t support that we question Gurbani just for the fun of it or for intellectual stimulation. But people who genuinely want to understand Gurbani but can’t accept it without logic – they should be allowed to question aspects and find out answers from Gurbani or from other sources. Just because we think there can’t be logic behind religions, it does not mean that there is no logic. It just means that we haven’t gotten it. We are Sikhs, which means seekers. If we don’t have any questions, what are we seeking? Questions are the first step to discovery. If we kill questions themselves, where is the scope of discovery? Why can’t we let people find out their own answers to the big questions of life? Why do we have to force our limited and mostly incorrect understanding of Gurbani on them? When we ourselves don’t believe in Gurbani, who are we to force others to believe in it?
The major cause that the younger generation is turning away from Gurbani is the fanatical preaching that is going on everywhere. We ourselves don’t know the essence of Gurbani, but instead of accepting our ignorance, we are confidently forcing our incorrect interpretations down the minds of the younger generation. If the younger generation can’t accept those incorrect interpretations and in turn, moves away from Gurbani, whose fault is it? It’s our fault! We are the culprits, the so-called religious people, whose religion is limited to wearing articles of faith and going to Gurudwara and chanting Gurbani but whose lives are completely hollow. We are fools to assume that people will just listen to us without looking at our lives. People are not blind. We are blind. Others can look through our lives and see that we are not any better or even worse than people who have never entered the premises of Gurudwara.
There is an immense need for us to revisit the way we have been preaching. But we can’t revisit our way of preaching until we accept our ignorance. Unless, we accept that we are blind. But accepting this is tremendously difficult. At the same time, accepting that we are in the dark is the first step towards the light. Gurbani says:
ਜਾ ਕਉ ਹਰਿ ਰੰਗੁ ਲਾਗੋ ਇਸੁ ਜੁਗ ਮਹਿ ਸੋ ਕਹੀਅਤ ਹੈ ਸੂਰਾ ॥
He alone is called a warrior, who is attached to the Lord’s Love in this age.
Clearly, accepting our darkness, the first step towards love and light, requires immense courage of a warrior.
Reduced focus on rituals: Anyone who has even faint understanding of Gurbani knows that we are not these physical bodies. Then, why all these rituals of wearing five articles of faith and going to Gurudwara or doing anything with this body? If we are not these bodies, then why have any rituals at all? The answer is that these rituals constantly remind us of our true self. There is a spirit behind these rituals, which make them spiritual (spirit + ritual). Rather, the only purpose of these rituals is to remind us of “Man tu jot sarup hai” i.e. our essence, in different ways. But now, we have completely forgotten the spirit and are just holding onto the rituals. Without the spirit, the rituals are dead. Not only are we ourselves clinging onto these rituals, we are forcing others to accept them. And the rules surrounding these rituals are becoming more and more stringent. I remember one of my friends cried in front of me because her in-laws were forcing her to wear “Keski” (turbans that Sikh girls wear around their head) of only a specific color. The in-laws somehow felt that Keski of any other color would be against the tenets of Sikhism. What was the purpose of Keski? Why does color matter? How would forcing someone to wear a specific color help her spiritually evolve? Don’t we know that spiritual evolution cannot come through force? Don’t we know that it can come through only choice?
If we don’t know these things, how innocent are we!
I hear in Gurudwaras these days all the time asking people to take Amrit or become Amritdhari. I am surprised: people don’t even know the basic tenets of Sikhism, how can we ask them to take Amrit? It is like asking a company to start spending on branding their shoes even when the company doesn’t know how to make shoes. What would happen if a company keeps branding even when it doesn’t know how to produce shoes? Won’t people gradually lose their faith in the brand? Hasn’t the same thing happened with Amrit? My grandfather used to tell me that about a century ago, in courts, if there were ten people saying one thing and one Sikh saying another thing, the judge would believe in Sikh. Why? Because there was a brand associated with being a Sikh. Now, are Sikhs valued any more than others? Clearly, No. Why? Because branding does not help. The product has to deliver its quality. If the product is not as good, the people will ignore the branding and judge the product by its actual quality.
If more and more people become Amritdhari, it won’t help Sikhism. Clearly, it hasn’t in the last 100 years. But if more and more people understand the essence of Gurbani, it will definitely help us.
We need to introspect where we are going wrong. But to even introspect, we need to accept that we are indeed going wrong. We need to accept that our belief in Gurbani is superficial. We need to accept that our understanding of Gurbani is incorrect.
Brotherhood of the humanity: Gurbani unequivocally talks about the brotherhood of humanity and fatherhood of God. I don’t even need to quote Gurbani here. There are so many lines of Gurbani that talk about this. But we, who are ritual-followers and carry incomplete and incorrect understanding of Gurbani, look down on other people, who are not as ritual-oriented as we are. We consider ourselves as accomplished people who are considered better in the eyes of God or Guru Nanak. How fool we are! By looking down on others, we are just boosting our ego and living our life against the tenet of brotherhood as preached in Gurbani. Rather, every time we consider ourselves better than others in our belief in Gurbani, we are disbelieving in Gurbani. Can we see this contradiction? Or are we all just blind?
Lastly, I would like to say that I am neither against rituals nor against preaching. Rather, our Guru Sahibs have asked us to follow these rituals and share with others our understanding of Gurbani. But we need to reflect on the spirit behind these rituals. We need to introspect on our understanding of Gurbani. We need to accept the truth of our belief in Gurbani. Without doing these things, our lives would go waste and all our preaching would be counterproductive, pushing away people we wanted to attract.
May Guru Nanak give us the power to reflect and change!