Monday, December 21, 2009

Human Being or Human Doing?

The bell sounded as always. It was three in the morning. There was a great commotion as all the monks hurried to the freezing water that awaited the start of their bathing ritual. If one may call it bathing. But today instead of the usual chatter they heard a melodious voice. It was soothing, unfazed by the chill of the early morning and the bite of the water.

All eyes turned to the new student. Enraptured by the melody he created so effortlessly, the monks did not know what to make of this child. A singing monk, they sneered. But the singing child was free of all care, seemingly mocking the world which did not appear to touch him. He sang, as he slowly poured the melted ice over his thin frame, savoring these sensations. 
Those who flow as life flows know
They need no other force
They feel no wear
They feel no tear
They need no mending
No repair

A few hours they sat in meditation, trying hard to still their mind. Later, during discussion, the Teacher asked the monks if they had worked hard enough at quieting their mind. “What”, asked the Teacher, “was uncovered in the infinity of silence? What saw you in that clearing? Think clearly and answer.”

The blank faces stared at each other. Some embarrassed, looked intently at the floor, as though they would  uncover the answer from within the cracks that lined the floor. Some giggled, but  everyone was too afraid to speak, lest they risk ridicule by their peers. Unexpectedly, a soft voice arose… 
The wise man does not strive
The ignorant man ties himself up

Every head turned to witness the sacrificial lamb. The student had the undivided attention of the gathering, as well as of the Teacher. 
If you work on your mind with your mind
How can you avoid an immense confusion?

The Teacher was not used to hearing wisdom from one so young. To know required years of toil. The Teacher smiled. He would enjoy making an example of this impolite child. He would bring the boy in line with their monastic ways. A tradition of a thousand years was testimony to the fact that it required struggle, arduous struggle, for one to clean off all the dirt and grime of this world.
He smiled patiently and baited the young student. 
The body is the Bodhi Tree
The mind like a bright mirror standing
Take care to wipe it all the time
And allow no dust to cling

The other monks looked to each other and seemed quite satisfied. Then glancing over at the new student they whispered silent insults and shook their heads in rejection of his seeming rebellion. 
There never was a Bodhi Tree
Nor bright mirror standing
Fundamentally, not one thing exists
So where is the dust to cling?

The Teacher was speechless.

The student continued, “The whole idea of purifying the mind is irrelevant and confusing because our own nature is fundamentally clean and pure. Our true mind is not an object to be grasped or controlled. And to attempt it is to go around a vicious circle.”

“To try to purify the mind is to contaminate it with purity”, said the student with quiet authority. “It is obvious that a person is not genuinely free, detached or pure when his state is the result of an artificial discipline. He is just imitating purity, just faking clear awareness.”

The Teacher, clearly ruffled by now implored, “To have knowledge one needs to struggle, work extremely hard for years. Then, can one know the truth.”

The student responded, 
All knowledge studies others
Wisdom is self-known

The deep silence that followed created a listening for the student to continue. 
There is no need to run outside
For better seeing
Nor to peer from a window
Rather, abide
At the center of your being
For the more you leave it
The less you learn
Search your heart and see
If he is wise who takes each turn
The way to do, is to BE

All attention was on the student. Eyes that condemned him mere minutes earlier, now implored. The Teacher felt a deep silence within his core and waited for the boy to continue.

The Teacher also began to recognize that his years of toil were mere practiced actions, ritualized gestures without meaning. He saw that his religious value was but a cheap imitation of a pioneering feat reached over a millennium ago by an authentic seeker. He saw now that senses must be sharp and the wit quick enough to pierce the Universe and become insight. But all his years of training were akin to an invalid being spoon-fed. It had dulled the experience, as well as the one experiencing. What wisdom was going to be come upon, when one does not even crave the insightful experience of Truth?

The student asked everyone “why have you shunned society and isolated yourself? Has it truly helped you rise above the dirt and the grime of the world? 
It is not a question of living in the world or above it
But one must find the way to be in both and love it

With great compassion the student added, 
A sound man’s heart is not shut within itself
But is open to other people’s hearts
And I find good people good
And I find bad people good
If I am good enough;
I trust men of their word
And I trust liars
If I am true enough;
I feel the heartbeats of others
Above my own
If I am enough of a father
Enough of a son

Softly, the student started towards the large wooden gate that shut out the world. The other students, who once were monks, watched overwhelmed. Then slowly, one by one, they ventured out of the confines of the monastery. Outside, an unpredictable world waited.

Note: I shall not claim originality as this was written during moments of inspiration, having read many great works and after significant ontological realizations. This was from around 1997/98.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

“Dasam” Granth - A Look At The Core Problems

By Gaurav Singh

Like so many other issues that contemporary Sikhs choose to deal with, this issue is contrived and, indeed, a red herring (in that, it is meant to divert attention). I largely agree with Sardar I. J. Singh’s take on things and would like to make some further distinctions that may help separate "the wheat from the chaff".

Rather than getting into minutiae, historical or otherwise, it is sometimes more helpful to understand the basis, the fundamentals, the core, the Tat of the issue under consideration. In my understanding the fundamentals under concern here are:

1) Who/what is Guru?
2) Who has the right to decide the status of what is and what is not Guru?
3) In light of the above, what is the status of the so-called Dasam Granth?

Sardar I. J. Singh has shed light upon this by exposing, quite simply, the hypocrisy practiced by those who believe in any real relation between Guru Gobind Singh and Hemkunt (as a historical GurAsthan). Of course, if Sikhs give no credence to the Hindu pilgrimages visited by Lehna ji (later became a Sikh, and then, Guru Angad) and Amar ji (later became a Sikh, and then, Guru Amar Das) in the same life which saw them first become Sikhs and then the Guru, then how can a GurSikh deign to validate an alleged previous life of Guru Gobind Singh?

The Gurmat here is that we are engaged with and get our guidance from the Guru, and the actions of Nanak II & III prior to their ascension to the status of the Guru do not have the sanction of (what I term) Guru-authority. So, any validity to an alleged previous life of Nanak X is beyond baffling and, certainly, not Gurmat.

Now back to the core. Who is the Guru?

The Guru existed prior to Guru Nanak and shall always exist, as long as there is existence, since the Guru is Shabad. This fact is also apparent because of the inclusion (within Guru Granth Sahib) of the Bani of Sheikh Farid and Bhagat Kabir, etc. who preceded Guru Nanak Sahib.

At this time, I should make clear the distinction between Guru and, what I term, Guru-authority. When Guru Nanak sanctioned Guru Angad as the Guru going forward, he himself lived for some time thereafter. No sane person would suggest that the Guru within Guru Nanak suddenly left him and went into Bhai Lehna. When Guru Angad becomes Guru it does not mean that Guru Nanak is not Guru. Guriai is not a zero-sum game. Rather, it is akin to a Jot (en)light(en)ing another Jot.

Therefore, what Guru Nanak passed onto Bhai Lehna was the Guru-authority. Bhai Lehna was, in fact, indistinguishable from Guru Nanak, hence his Ang(ad). What they had in common was the enlightenment from Shabad Guru!

So, at the same time in 1539 CE existed Guru Angad Sahib (Guru-authority) and Guru Nanak. In a smaller sense this could be understood through the concept of Presidency in the United States. Barack Obama is the President, while George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush and Carter are also Presidents. All but Obama, however, are not charged with the authority to make executive decisions for the 50 states in the union.

The difference here is that the de jure authority for Presidents is conferred by the constitution and, loosely speaking, by the people. Whereas, the Guru-authority is conferred upon Guru Nanak by the 1 and this authority is further recognized by the people with the ability to make that distinction – the Sikhs (and I would distinguish them from the “Sikhs”, for instance, Sain Mian Mir was a Sikh of the Shabad Guru, yet not a “Sikh”). The de facto and moral charge of the Guru is given by the people whose commitment is to themselves be transformed by the Mat of the Guru.

The transfer of Guru-authority continued 9 more times when it came to Guru Gobind Singh. It was Guru Gobind Singh’s charge, as it was of every Guru-authority before him, to decide what is and what is not Guru(bani). With this established, I shall point out a fact:

Not every word communicated by the Guru-authority, whether spoken or written, is Gurbani or Guru!

For instance, if the Guru (Nanak I-X) asked a mundane question – the address to someone’s home – it is not Gurbani. Only that which the Guru confers with the status of Gurbani is such. This is obvious, yet clearly not understood by many.

There is not a single word of Nanak VI-VIII in what was to become Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS). Of course, in their lifetime each Guru Sahiban spoke and, no doubt, wrote words.

But mere words, no matter how powerful, do not Gurbani make!

Word(s) becomes Shabad Guru, only when it is given such status by the Guru-authority.

But more relevant to our issue, Guru Gobind Singh (who completed the authorship of what was to be SGGS) consciously chose to include Guru Tegh Bahadar Sahib’s Bani and also made a conscious decision not to include any of his own Bani within SGGS.

I ask for your patience in looking at further implications and urge the readers to keep their emotional responses and mental discomfort in check as they read on.

Whether one word or the entire so-called Dasam Granth is written by Guru Gobind Singh Sahib himself, it is not Gurbani or Shabad Guru, on its own. The Guru himself decided that by not including a single word of his own within SGGS.

So, are the supporters of the “Dasam” Granth then challenging the Guru by conferring the status of Gurbani to parts of the so-called Dasam Granth? Yes and No!

Yes: Because of the pervasive ignorance of the reasoning above, on its face – Yes, these “Sikhs” are in a way challenging the Guru’s decision. They are doing so under the garb of Sharda (faith), which is in fact Anni Sharda (blind faith). They claim to do so out of respect for the Guru. I say claim, because they do not respect the Guru sufficiently enough to accept the Guru’s Hukam.

Before I get to the "No", I want to clarify another matter. Just as Guru-authority was passed from Nanak I - X, in 1699 CE Guru Gobind Singh (Nanak X) passed Guru-authority to the Guru Khalsa Panth, when after administering the Khande-ki-Pahul to the Panj Piare he asked them to initiate him into the Panth Khalsa. At that moment, the Guru-authority was passed onto the Guru Khalsa Panth. Hence, by the reasoning presented above, the supporters of the so-called Dasam Granth may not be directly opposing the Guru.

No: Since, in part, the status of Gurbani or Shabad Guru can be conferred only by the Guru-authority, the Guru Khalsa Panth does presumably have the authority to confer the status of Gurbani or Shabad Guru. This is where some complexity arises.

The Guru Khalsa Panth, drafted a widely circulated document, the final draft of which, has henceforth been accepted as the “Sikh Rehit Mariada” and published by several organizations, including the SGPC’s Dharam Parchar Committee. In it are some Banis which are included in the Nitnem – Jaap, Sawaiye, and a carefully chosen portion of Chaupai. No other portion of the writings within the so-called Dasam Granth has been included in the Panthic Rehit, with the exception of portions in the beginning of the formal Ardas and the previously mentioned Bani as a part of Amrit Sanskar, or during administration of the Khande-ki-Pahul (initiation into the Khalsa collective).

The folks, whom I shall refer to as the ominous “they” going forward, who are now forwarding the legitimacy of the so-called Dasam Granth and some of whom are displaying it in parallel with SGGS are also generally opposed to the Panthic Rehit Mariada. They have two problems and neither of these problems is insubstantial.

If they say they call the writings within the so-called Dasam Granth "Gurbani" because they claim it is, in part or wholly, Guru Gobind Singh’s, then they dismiss the Guru’s own decision and Hukam that only that which is within SGGS is sanctioned by the Guru-authority as Shabad Guru or Gurbani. These people become Guru-dokhi (Detractors of the Guru)!

The other issue is that the Guru Khalsa Panth can and has already made decisions as the Guru-authority. But by disavowing or working actively to undermine the credibility and authority of the Guru Khalsa Panth, they (the blind supporters of the so-called Dasam Granth) become Panth-dokhi (Detractors of the Panth)!