By Karminder Singh Dhillon
By now most Sikh readers of Asia Samachar would agree that Moshi Moshi and respect for Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) cannot be put together into the same sentence or paragraph even. After all one is a night club promising the “craziest Bollywood experience” and the other the article of highest spiritual reverence for Sikhs. What on earth was the sensibility (or lack thereof) of a cigarette, liquor and entertainment associated establishment bringing in the SGGS, a renowned ragi jatha, a serving granthi and kirtan into their set up?
Surely that is not what Moshi Moshi meant by the “craziest experience,” one hopes, even if craziness may indeed be an apt description for the event. Yet the purpose of this piece is not to comment on the sensibility of the debacle, but to draw some lessons from it relating to veneration of the SGGS. And in the process help ensure that ignorance would not become an excuse for such disrespect to Banee and all things associated with it – kirtan included.
The Panth accepted and Akaal Takhat sanctioned Sikh Rehat Maryada (SRM) lays down a variety of guidelines for reverential treatment of the SGGS. Some relevant ones may be worth discussing.
Article 4(e) states that “the SGGS must be installed, read and closed with reverence. For installation, it is crucial that the place/location be clean /cleansed…and a canopy installed…”
The meaning of “clean and cleansed” is obviously more than just physical cleanliness. Such intent of the framers of the SRM is clear from the eight succeeding Articles which list out a whole gamut of acts that are clearly prohibited in the presence of the SGGS. These are acts that are contrary to Sikh tenets, Gurmat and the Sikh way of life. It is also clear from reading all these Articles above that the environment into which the SGGS is being brought and installed must be given due attention not just from the physical but spiritual point of view as well.
But it falls upon Articles 4(kh) and 4 (gh) to give us Sikhs a true interpretation of the utmost reverence that comes into play particularly when the SGGS is being transported outside of its normal place of installation, namely the Gurdwara.
The first Article stipulates that “An ardas be conducted when the SGGS is being transported from one place to another.” One would be hard pressed to find such a stipulation for the transportation of sacred scriptures of most other faiths in the world. An ardas on such an occasion is basically an act of seeking permission from the SGGS for its transportation.
The second part of this same article puts the burden of reverence on the individual carrying it by requiring him/her to “carry it on his/her head” and “be bare-footed except in unforeseen circumstances.”
But it is perhaps Article 4(gh) that puts the reverence of a transported SGGS into a pinnacle. This article reads “when the SGGS is brought in into an environment wherein there already exists a SGGS in installation state, every Sikh should rise in reverence.” For all practical purposes, this means that if someone brings in a saroop / swaree of the SGGS into a diwan whereby the sangat is seated and listening to Kirtan / Katha being performed, all these activities must be temporarily stopped for the sangat to stand up and pay their respects to the SGGS that is being transported.
Is it any wonder then that Sikhs put the respect and reverence of the SGGS above all else?
A couple more issues from the SRM that relate to the issue at hand are worth discussing even if for the purposes of enlightenment. Chapter 3, “Institutional Sikh Life” is titled “The Procedure of Tankhah (punishment) determination,” and it reads as follows:
- In the event a Sikh commits an error in the Sikh Way of Life, then he/she should appear before the nearest sangat and admit his/her error.
- The sangat should select the Panj Pyare in the presence of the SGGS who should then discuss the nature of the error and present their suggestion of the tankhah to the sangat.
- The sangat should not be fussy in forgiving. The error committing Sikh too should not argue / oppose. The tankhah should take the form of sewa, especially that which can be done with one’s self/hands.
- Finally, an ardas asking for corrective behaviour should be undertaken.
Given the raw sentiments of some Sikhs, as observable from the readers’ comments section of Asia Samachar relating to the Moshi Moshi debacle, I consider it relevant to make a few observations based on the above four articles of the SRM.
It is worth noting that the word “tankhah” is being used which only loosely (for lack of a proper word) translates into “punishment.” It is further worth noting that jurisdiction of the Panj Pyare (and sangat too) is by submission, not by law. The process can begin; only and only if the Sikh appears before the sangat on his own accord. Finally it must be noted that the tankhah must be in the form of sewa that the apologetic Sikh can do with his own hands.
The consequence of reading the above together is as follows, in my view. First, there ought to be no retribution, revenge, vengeance, or severe punishment of any kind whatsoever once the error committing Sikh has appeared before the sangat.
It is understandable when readers say things such as “they ought to know,” or “that the ragi, granthi, parbhandaks should have known better,” etc. It doesn’t help knowing that another renowned ragi, Bhai Jasbir Singh Ji Paonta walle, was caught up in a situation where the sangat got up and started dancing in the presence of the SGGS. It cannot be that the ragi and granthi in the Moshi Moshi case are unaware because Paonta walle posted a videotaped apology and appeared before the Akaal Takhat for his Tankhah.
Yet, such sentiments cannot come into the equation of the Tankhah process. The spirit and essence of the framers of the SRM is one of forgiveness, betterment of everyone involved and love (as symbolised by the need for the final ardas).
In the decision of the Panj Pyare in the Moshi Moshi case, asking for the setting up of the SGGS Satkar Committee, I see two other positive messages. First is the need to learn from our errors so as not to repeat them. This article is written in that light. The second – relating to the creation of the Satkar Committee – will perhaps best be brought to life by the Malaysian Gurdwaras Council. Over to you MGC.
Karminder Singh Dhillon, PhD (Boston) writes on Gurbani and Gurmat issues in The Sikh Bulletin, USA. He also conducts Gurbani Katha in local Gurdwaras. He is currently running a Understanding Sohela Class at Gurdwara Sahib Petaling Jaya on Sundays 7 – 9 pm
[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. Please inform your friends of this new portal. Go to www.asiasamachar.com] – Asia Samachar (12 Jan 2015)
Moshi Moshi debacle and Sikh Reht Maryada (Asia Samachar, 12 Jan 2015)
5 lessons from Moshi-Moshi farce (Asia Samachar, 11 Jan 2015)
Parties admit to mistakes in Moshi-Moshi prayer fiasco (Asia Samachar, 5 Jan 2015)
Moshi-Moshi prayer fiasco (Asia Samachar, 5 Jan 2015)