Khoj Gurbani at two

Columnist Prof I.J. SIngh talks about KHOJ GURBANI, a Sikh portal that conducts online video-based discussions

I.J. Singh | Opinion | 29 April 2016 | Asia Samachar |

KhojGurbaniBy I.J. Singh

The Sikh portal Khoj Gurbani is now two years old. Even though I was not quite a midwife to it, I remember writing a welcoming note for the site at its birth.

When the founders of the site first called me with the news of a birthday for the site my instinctive reaction was of joy but intermixed with a steady note of warning and troubling alarm.

What does it mean to turn two? In humans, the behavior at this age is pretty universally branded “The Terrible Twos.” How much trouble, if any, can a two year old be, I wondered. And what’s so special or fearsome about being two or near about?

That took me to my textbooks on developmental neuroanatomy. It turns out that the development of the nervous system gives us some pointers. The brain, as one of the earliest systems to develop, makes its primitive appearance in about the third week of gestation. By the second year of its postnatal development, its visual cortex is almost complete. The human brain has about 100 billion cells; it functions by connecting with many cells.

By the ripe old age of only two years the brain shows peak activity in developing interconnections and the cerebral cortex has developed over a hundred trillion synaptic connections. Higher cognitive connections also show peak activity at this age.

Most significantly the process of mylenization of neuronal fibers is also at its peak activity around 2 years of age. Forget not that brain size is 75 percent complete by age 2 when at birth it was only a quarter of the adult size. Brains of newborns contain little myelin. This myelin covering of cell fibers determines the speed of electric transmission of information along the neurons. In the second year of development some infantile reactions like the Babinsky reflex are no longer seen except sometimes when adults are in a drunken stupor.

It is fair to say that these developmental changes in its earliest years allow this young tot much purposefully directed activity, including speech and rapidly developing muscular control in every direction. The child must experiment with its newly discovered skills and the variety of possibilities at his/her command. To most of us, sedate adults, it is like a whirlwind and a young person run amok until it gets tired and, for the adults watching the show, mercifully collapses.

Expect not a whirlwind from Khoj Gurbani but be assured of further sure-footed activity.

But again I point out a fact that struck me as noteworthy when the site was launched. The object is to attract a small group that is serious-minded about interpreting and understanding Gurbani. This is no play. The program runs weekly; access is by computer link. Participants are volunteers; adults seriously interesting in exploring how Gurbani defines the pleasures, pitfalls and mechanics of a well-lived life. These adult Sikhs (students in meaning) are from all over the world – Australia, Canada and many parts of the United States; the number is limited, everyone gets to listen, cogitate and speak.

Proceedings are moderated but never with a heavy hand.

Khoj Gurbani’s purpose captures the idea in Gurbani “Munn pardesi je thiyae subh des parayya” (p. 767).  It is an inner journey to explore and understand the self. The process is essential

The discussion is often mellow and the hour flies. Sometimes we get through just a page of the Guru Granth but not always. Keep in mind that 1430 pages comprise the Guru Granth Sahib.

I still wonder how many years or generations would it take to complete the reading once. Note that reading four pages a day, seven days a week takes almost a year for one complete run.

This project deserves a lifetime and that’s what it would take. The reading of Gurbani would likely complete but its integration into a life would continue beyond generations in a never ending process.

I offer you a marathon race as the metaphor of our journey as Sikhs where all are on the same path, but are not at the same place on the path at any given time. We will encounter all types of Sikhs on the trek – from the Amritdhari who doesn’t just look like one, but lives the mandated lifestyle. Then there is the Sikh who looks like one, but has little idea of what it means to be one. And let’s not forget the Sikh who has but a very flimsy notion of or connection to the history, traditions and teachings of Sikhism, except perhaps that he might have been born as one. There will be many who will not fit any of these categories very neatly. Square pegs in round holes, are they?

The program is a gift and as Virginia Woolf said: “I do not believe that gifts, whether of mind or character, can be weighed like sugar and butter.”

Remember that a two-year-old is expected to stumble.

Khoj Gurbani will increasingly serve to knit Sikhs worldwide in a complex but connected web, even while many of us continue to have diverging opinions. It is an ambitious agenda, but this variety means that our tapestry is indeed that much richer.

Are little people and institutions really so terrible at two? Surely, these are nothing more than the inevitable growing pains. As they say, “no pain, no gain.”

Two years after its birth I greet Khoj Gurbani with great hope and greater expectation. If I were to assign it a mission statement, it would be the words attributed to Thomas Mann: “Even the most contradictory word preserves contact; it is silence that isolates.”

Khoj Gurbani is moving right along – quite nicely. At two, Khoj Gurbani has arrived. We have brought it to a point in the journey. But it is young; it has miles to go before we sleep and then others will carry it on, and on, and on ….  Or should I say that the process of Khoj Gurbani will carry us until we sleep and then it will carry others, and others, and others …. along on an endless journey to the end of time.

Becoming two is a significant milepost in a life of purpose.  Light up the candles. Let the joy flow.

IJsingh-mugshotI.J. Singh is a New York based writer and speaker on Sikhism in the Diaspora, and a Professor of Anatomy. This article was dated 28 April 2016. Email:

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