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    Article on Vaisakhi


    by Sunny on 12th April, 2008 at 2:17 pm    

    Monday (can someone please confirm?) is VAISAKHI! I’m sure Southall Gurdwara said it was on Sunday. Anyway, I’ve written an article for the Guardian about it - Sikhs should remember the gurus’ warnings against meaningless rituals.



      |     |   Add to del.icio.us   |   Share on Facebook   |   Filed in: Religion




    124 Comments below   |  

    1. Gurpreet — on 12th April, 2008 at 4:12 pm  

      I think it’s the 14th this year…as declared by my mum! (and who am i to argue;)

    2. Gurpreet — on 12th April, 2008 at 4:14 pm  

      and some fair points raised in the article

    3. Sunny — on 12th April, 2008 at 6:27 pm  

      thanks Gurpreet.

    4. gurjinder — on 12th April, 2008 at 6:29 pm  

      great article - you’ve highlighted the discords within religion(s) that are caused by interpretations of texts and the conflicts that arise with the divergence of culture and religion.

    5. Dalbir — on 12th April, 2008 at 11:56 pm  

      ————-
      Sunny:
      But its particular emphasis on outward signs of faith, each with specific reasoning, creates a tension that isn’t necessarily explored by adherents today.
      ————-

      Lets explore this Sunny. Can you expand on this a bit more?

      Happy Vasakhi everyone BTW!!

    6. Sid — on 13th April, 2008 at 2:08 pm  

      Great article amigo.

      Vaisakhi (or Boishakhi as we Bongs call it) has been celebrated by Muslims in Bengal since time immemorial. I believe the tradition is observed as far away as Indonesia. Much to the chagrin of local Islamists who view it as a throwback to pre-Islamic ritual and therefore suspiciouly impure.

      Liked the way you used the article to highlight the conflict between legalist form and spiritual/ethical substance in Sikhism. It’s the same everywhere and it has ever been thus. Somewhere in the last millenium mainstream Islam too has turned into a todo list of outward ritual. It’s become more busy with headscarfs, body hair and ritual bathing than the spirit itself. Conspiciuous outward symbols have become increasingly important.

    7. Sunny — on 13th April, 2008 at 3:40 pm  

      But its particular emphasis on outward signs of faith, each with specific reasoning, creates a tension that isn’t necessarily explored by adherents today.

      Ok, let me elaborate.

      I think there are several examples that can be highlighted here:

      1) The way that Amritdhari sikhs strive to drive non-Amritdhari Sikhs out of conversations or directions on what Sikhism means or should mean. I used to go to Sikh society events at uni and quickly got annoyed because certain ‘practicising’ Sikhs used to want to dominate the conversation about what it meant to be Sikh and what was allowed or not allowed.

      I’ve heard other stories of when well-meaning Sikhs organised events or had discussions, then the hardcore crew like the AKJ used to come in and try and disrupt it.

      2) There emphasis on celebrating Vaisakhi like a street festival…

      3) My broader point is that Sikh “leaders” now want to define every aspect of the religion when the Gurus intentionally kept it vague.

      For example:
      a) That infamous edict against homosexuality in Canada, when its not raised in the Guru Granth Sahib.

      b) Not allowing Sikhs to marry non-Sikhs in the Gurdwaras

      c) Having pictures of Gurus in houses

      d) Getting obessed by the SGGS not as a source of knowledge but as a book that is a Guru itself. Like, its just book with words written on it. The book itself is a symbol of the knowledge. Yet its treated as an idol in itself. If the SGGS is published in a CD, would you then sit in front of a CD and pray? You see what I’m trying to say? The book itself has become an idol rather than what should really be idolised - the knowledge contained within. This is why I got told off for bending down to receive parshad while in the Gurdwara.

      e) The obsession with the idea that you’re a good Sikhs if you have the 5 Ks and not one if you don’t.

    8. Gurpreet — on 13th April, 2008 at 4:55 pm  

      Why was Mcunty’s post deleted? I thought this post pretty much summed up your article. Someone who is ignorant of what day vaisakhi falls is teaching us about our gurus.

      a)Now im not a baptised sikh myself but from what i see around me in everyday life and experience its pretty obvious that baptised sikhs have a greater devotion towards the practice AND understanding of gurbani itself. So its only common sense that baptised sikhs would dominate conversations regarding sikhi.

      d) This point is quite ignorant considering gurbani itself says “Bani is Guru…Guru is Bani” SGGSJ Ang 982

      Recall the sakhi of when Guru Arjan Dev ji himself placed Adi Granth on a bed while he himself slept on the floor to show his love and respect for Gurbani. What was this, the guru idolising himself? Give it a rest. To someone who has little love for gurbani this will seem like idolising but to people who love gurbani it is the form of the guru himself.

      The problem here is not amritdharis, more of self obsessive non-practising sikhs who like to try and justify their self willed behaviour using the guru’s teachings. They don’t want to accept submission to their guru and instead try to elevate themselves to a position of the guru as they have so much pride in their false intellect. This is not a new phenomena. The example of Ram Rai comes to mind. Ram Rai was the guru’s son who was excommunicated from sikhi by his own father so the distortion of gurbani to fulfil his own false intellect.

      People like you do more damage to sikhs getting closer to understanding gurbani simply because you portray your own self willed thinking as the guru’s thinking.

      You serve the destructive purpose of spreading misinformed views on sikhi amoung not only ’sikhs’ but non-sikhs too. True hearted people can see through your lack of knowledge and wisdom and this is even the good points you have to make (as rare as they are) will always fall on deaf ears.

    9. Dalbir — on 13th April, 2008 at 5:00 pm  

      Interesting points. Here’s my perspective:

      ——-
      1) The way that Amritdhari sikhs strive to drive non-Amritdhari Sikhs out of conversations or directions on what Sikhism means or should mean. I used to go to Sikh society events at uni and quickly got annoyed because certain ‘practicising’ Sikhs used to want to dominate the conversation about what it meant to be Sikh and what was allowed or not allowed.
      ——-

      The rahit or the code of conduct for a Khalsa Sikh is a hot topic. What I think happens sometimes is that people try to ascertain exactly what the original rahit entailed. The plain truth is that Guru Gobind Singh did give out some directions on what conduct is expected of the Khalsa. Yes, in the interest of both history and for those who practice, we should endeavour to establish exactly what these rules were. Simple fact is, inspite of any perceived shortcomings, what the Khalsa achieved in the first hundred years of its birth, was no mean feat. It is actually awe inspiring.

      Sikh leadership has always been a contested business (even in the lifetime of the Gurus. The problem you seem to be referring to I believe concerns a definition of the “panth”. Clearly some people are trying to make this an exclusive concept (as opposed to the Guru’s clearly inclusive message). I see this as a community trying to establish what are called normative rules of behaviour. This is something EVERY community does. Ultimately the question your asking will be answered when a clear community wide consensus takes place on the definition of panth. Will the Sikh panth be a spectrum of different people or will it shrink to a much smaller size who are relatively homogeneous. Only time will tell. Personally I think discussion is taking place with regards to this issue (not enough though) and you have to remember that the most vocal members of the community will not have the ultimate say in the matter, whatever they think. But one important point is that there is sometimes an attempt to bend things to a degree that tries to bring Sikhism in line with far left thinking because of Sikhisms inherent liberality. Yes there are common areas which both touch on, but it should always be remembered that they are different things in the end.

      It was sad to hear about your experiences at uni. Personally I found that Sikhs were generally united and open minded back when I was there - this included both monay and amritdharis. Hell I even remember an AKJ guy! Shame things seem to have gone downhill since then. I can see that clearly though. I think issues like 1984, the activities of groups like HUT in uni campuses played some part in stopping Sikhs bicker back then. Shame the younger guys can’t learn from this. What makes me laugh is the notion that todays Sikhs (of whatever background) can walk in the shoes of the original Singhs who showed unparalleled bravery, discipline and political acumen.

      As for celebrating Vasakhi like a street festival - people have voiced concerns over the years about people having a Khanda flag in one hand and a bottle and fag in the other. I don’t know if this has had any impact though. I haven’t been to one in years now.

      —————
      3) My broader point is that Sikh “leaders” now want to define every aspect of the religion when the Gurus intentionally kept it vague.
      ————-

      This is a big one. Personally I see nothing wrong with this. The only problem I see is with the “leaders”. My belief is that if their was a genuine, educated, barev, open minded and circumspect leaders, who followed the policy of consulting the wider panth when making an important decision (just like our ancestors did - remember Gurmattas), we could actually benefit. But right now it seems that vested interests (caste and Punjab politics wise for instance) hold the reins of power. Who knows, this may change in future - probably not but we live in hope.

      ——-
      b) Not allowing Sikhs to marry non-Sikhs in the Gurdwaras
      ——-

      If self preservation is a sin then Sikhs are guilty. Behind this (I think) was the fact that poor parchaar was/is created some dumb people of Sikh background who are easily converted by more cunning people. There is historical precedent in extant rahits about Sikhs marrying Sikhs (as politically incorrect as it may sound to many here). Also conversion of nonSIkh partners to Sikhism. So this doesn’t come as a surprise to me.

      ———
      c) Having pictures of Gurus in houses
      ———

      I love art and creativity. I know art has been used extensively to relay important historical ideas/incidents in Sikhism. It played it a subtle but big part in my own upbringing. Whilst I am against any sort of worship of such images, I really hope Sikh people continue to develop their artistic skills in this area. Check this Canadian guys art work as a modern example.

      http://artofpunjab.com/gallery.html

      ————
      d) Getting obessed by the SGGS not as a source of knowledge but as a book that is a Guru itself. Like, its just book with words written on it. The book itself is a symbol of the knowledge. Yet its treated as an idol in itself. If the SGGS is published in a CD, would you then sit in front of a CD and pray? You see what I’m trying to say? The book itself has become an idol rather than what should really be idolised - the knowledge contained within. This is why I got told off for bending down to receive parshad while in the Gurdwara.
      ———-

      I agree. But more and more people are studying the contents these days. This should grow significantly (unless people become indifferent!)

      Sikhs are a MAJORLY symbolic people. I think the SGGS represents A LOT to them in may spheres (you know in the old days they would take birs to battles don’t you? - so it also represents a standard for Sikhs as such. Hence the respect. But yes, some people seem to have taken the Guru status of the granth too literally. That being said, I am as lapse a Sikh as you will find but even I seriously dislike the idea of SGGS in a party hall. SO I guess it will continue to be symbolic and a source of wisdom for Sikhs. Keep SGGS in Gurwaray, that way the “respect the granth crew” wont have an excuse to go on a tear up! lol

      Damn, here’s me talking like some sort of authority…..shame

      Sunny - As it’s vasakhi - talk about something that you do like about the Khalsa, past or present!

    10. Gurpreet — on 13th April, 2008 at 5:15 pm  

      i should not that i am a different gurpreet to the one who first posted on the thread! My apologises if he/she feels a victim of identity theft! Nice name though!

    11. Gurpreet — on 13th April, 2008 at 5:16 pm  

      i should say that i am a different gurpreet to the one who first posted on the thread! My apologises if he/she feels a victim of identity theft! Nice name though!

    12. Sunny — on 13th April, 2008 at 5:18 pm  

      Oh Muzumdar (Gurpreet no. 2), give it a rest will you?

      Now im not a baptised sikh myself but

      So shall we wait from someone more informed than you?

    13. Sunny — on 13th April, 2008 at 5:20 pm  

      Oh Muzumdar (Gurpreet no. 2), give it a rest will you?

      Now im not a baptised sikh myself but

      So shall we wait from someone more informed than you?

      Bani is Guru…Guru is Bani

      I’ve not disputed that. I’m talking about the difference between the bani and the physical product - book!

      True hearted people can see through your lack of knowledge and wisdom and this is even the good points you have to make (as rare as they are) will always fall on deaf ears.

      Cry Muzumdar cry! Or write on your own dead blog. I can’t be asked to host your rubbish on here.

      Dalbir, will respond to you in a bit.

    14. Gurpreet — on 13th April, 2008 at 6:03 pm  

      Muzumdar?

      Wow, I really did steal someone’s identity and I didn’t even know about it!

      Its ok Sunny, I understand that the truth is often harsh but accusing me of being someone else won’t distract people.

      But yeah, there are plenty of people better informed than me. How many of them will waste their time like me responding to you, I do not know.

    15. Uttam Singh — on 13th April, 2008 at 6:28 pm  

      I did not realise you, Mr Hundal could look into Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj’s mind and determine that the beautiful Panj Kakkars were made for a limited period of time. Seeing as you are not an amritdhari there no way whatsoever that you can understand the spiritual and physical benefits of them, but those “hardcore” sikhs such as AKJ and other wonderful groups are reaping the benefits without the need for questioning the Guroo.

      Mr Hundal, why dont YOU give it a rest mate and stop trying to be some authority on Sikhi. If you think your puny little article makes a difference to the Guru’s sikhs then you are simply deluded. We will carry on follwing Maharaj’s hukam as best as we can, rather than breaking it to bits saying it is not really his order.
      The truth is only the person living the life can truely comment on it, so I once again suggest to you to give it a rest.

      Good day

    16. Uttam Singh — on 13th April, 2008 at 6:32 pm  

      Furthermore your point about Guru Sahib making Sikhi vague is laughable. People like you pick apart Sikhi until we are nothing more than humanitarians.
      How about you read and LIVE bani first. You could learn alot from those “hardcore” sikhs.

    17. Nandeep — on 13th April, 2008 at 6:33 pm  

      Sunny,

      e) The obsession with the idea that you’re a good Sikhs if you have the 5 Ks and not one if you don’t.

      In reality you are only a sikh if you have taken amrit and given your head to the Guru. You cannot call your self a sikh of the Guru’s if you do not observe the 5 k’s. Its as simple as that. Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the tenth master, himself took amrit, before he could take on the name singh. As the Guru he had no need to do so, he could call the shots. But he showed the way for the Panth.

      Too many folk nowaday come up with the excuse “dil saaf hona chaida” (as long as you have a pure heart - no need for amrit). If these people have a cleaner heart than the tenth master then i will take everything back.

      Sunny - in reality i don’t think you are in a position to write about vasakhi, or indeed Sikhi. Because if you had truly understood Sikhi, then my friend, you would now have been a khalsa.

      As the one person has already stated, you look at the SGGS as scriptures and nothing more. To a GurSikh, it is his Guru- Just like Guru Arjan Dev Ji sat on the floor whilst the adhi Granth was placed on a manji - are you saying that Guru Arjan Dev Ji was wrong???

      Guru Gobind Singh Ji was probably a bit more far sighted than me and thee, and therefore to say the symbols were a need for that time only, i feel is a poor assesment of the Guru.

      The anand karaj is the time for a sikh couple to take blessings from the eternal Guru, but in reality if we do not follow the gurus teachings - why do we require his blessings??? We must build a relationship with the sat guru before taking such steps. On the flip side you get blokes who were pissed the night before, still stinking of booze, wearing a temporary turban for the ceremony, asking for the blesings of the Guru - again why??

    18. Rumbold — on 13th April, 2008 at 6:49 pm  

      Nandeep:

      “Guru Gobind Singh Ji was probably a bit more far sighted than me and thee, and therefore to say the symbols were a need for that time only, i feel is a poor assesment of the Guru.”

      I am not a Sikh, but it surely is important to place a few symbols in their historical context, especially the kirpan. The kirpan was needed because of Mughal-Rajput persecution, but it is more difficult to justify a 14- year old carrying it round now (or maybe not, given the violence).

    19. Rumbold — on 13th April, 2008 at 6:50 pm  

      Oh, and happy Vaisakhi everyone.

    20. Nandeep — on 13th April, 2008 at 6:56 pm  

      How many cases have there been when a baptised Sikh has used his/her kirpan in the uk?? I don’t have the exact figures. The only incident i recall is the one at the vasakhi event at brum last year - however its not clear wether those using the swords were baptised…

      I refuse to accept that Guru Gobind Singh Ji was basically giving us the 5 kakkars for a few years, after which we no longer required them. If that was the case then we may aswell disregard everything the gurus said.

    21. Muzumdar — on 13th April, 2008 at 7:02 pm  

      Hi Sunny et al,

      Just thought I’d say, that wasn’t me in post two or whatever.

      Guru Rakha everybody,

      PS - Sunny, are you getting bored of watching the tumbleweed stutter across your blog these days?

      Still, nice to know that you’re thinking of me in my absence.

    22. Rajvinder Singh — on 13th April, 2008 at 7:37 pm  

      I am intrigued by Sunny’s article. It reminds that when you ask a young person which lessons he likes. the answer might be,” I like PE and Music”. What about other you ask. “Oh they are for nerds etc. and the teachers are rubbish anyway.”

      Just a thought. Comparing his misdemeanour to Guru Nanak’s example is not only churlish but suggests that he has not entirley understood the significance of the event both poitically and spiritually. Guru Nanak was not just a spiritual leader he was political leader. And just to remind people the name of the tenth Guru is “Guru Gobind Singh Ji” is added for respect.

      Every school in every country has a uniform, I wonder why do not people say. ‘They are just symbols’.

      I agree the rituals that Guru Nanak and all the Gurus’ after him damned have made a come back but lets not throw the tub with the bath water. There is a purpose to the Five K’s and other aspects. Learning about Sikh Philosophy and understanding it requires time and effort rather than empty and recycled ideas about rituals.

      Let’s discuss what is the philosphy of Sikhism and not just the bits we like or that agree with our world view. People often raise questions and a message from the teachings and lives of Guru’s enshirened in the Guru Granth Sahib is to seek who disagree’s but not argue just for the sake of it.

      Learning only works/ happens when one is willing to recieve rather than when the mind is already made up.

    23. curious? — on 13th April, 2008 at 7:44 pm  

      Guru’s teachings are aad sach jugaad sach hai bhi sach nanak ho si bi sach.

      the 5 kakkars (articles of faith-each with its own identity and use) bestowed to us by Guru Sahib are as relevant now as they ever were.

      Raaj Karega Khalsa

      Happy Vaisakhi everyone

    24. Rumbold — on 13th April, 2008 at 8:08 pm  

      Nandeep:

      “How many cases have there been when a baptised Sikh has used his/her kirpan in the uk?? I don’t have the exact figures. The only incident i recall is the one at the vasakhi event at brum last year - however its not clear wether those using the swords were baptised…”

      I am not saying that Sikhs are prone to use their kirpans if angered, but you can see why (for example) schools wouldn’t want children walking round with daggers. Even if the Sikh themselves never used the kirpan, it could quite easily be stolen by bad children and used by them.

    25. Gurpreet — on 13th April, 2008 at 8:18 pm  

      ^you mean in the same way a knife can be stolen from the canteen or brought in from a kitchen at home. These kitchen knifes are generally sharper than kirpans, so forgive me if i find that point of view as silly.

    26. Rumbold — on 13th April, 2008 at 8:31 pm  

      Gurpreet:

      “You mean in the same way a knife can be stolen from the canteen or brought in from a kitchen at home.”

      Exactly. You don’t want people carrying round knives/daggers, even if they don’t intend to use them.

    27. Gurpreet — on 13th April, 2008 at 8:47 pm  

      come on then lets start a campaign to ban school dinners and no one under 18 is allowed into any kitchen where a sharp knife is kept.

    28. Rumbold — on 13th April, 2008 at 8:54 pm  

      Gurpreet:

      I am talking about the school environment specifically. Can you see the potential problems that knive-carrying children may cause, even if it not their fault? To take a silly example, what if some person’s religion mandated that they carry a flamethrower everywhere? Would that be acceptable? Should children be allowed to carry guns to school, if their families have been involved in clay pigeon shooting for three generations?

    29. Gurpreet 1 — on 13th April, 2008 at 9:03 pm  

      (this is gonna get messy-I am the original Gurpreet from the 1st post)

      I agree with Rumbold, whatever it’s symbolic value the kirpan at the end of the day is a knife/sword. And if it is purely for symbolic purposes then can you not keep a small replica on a chain/in your wallet etc on you. (I remember some of the kids at school doing this)

    30. curious? — on 13th April, 2008 at 9:12 pm  

      a flamethrower? what religion is that

    31. Amrit — on 13th April, 2008 at 9:17 pm  

      Ah, just as I thought, this has turned into one big babies’ cry-fest!

      I like the way, when somebody tries to criticise Sikhism (or Hinduism for that matter) from a respectful and inquisitive point of view, the only responses received (here, not on the CiF original post, thank God), are infantile and reactionary shrieks to the effect of ‘You don’t know eno