This guy makes sense

Not everyone is on the same page when it comes to deciphering Gurbani. Not everyone is always agreeable as to how to interpret this or that verse. There is a divide when it comes to interpretation of Gurbani. 

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One of diwan’s of Nirvair Khalsa Jatha (NKJ) at Gurdwara Sahib Tatt Khalsa, Kuala Lumpur – Photo: Screen grab from SikhInside/ NKJ video
By Hb Singh | OPINION | MALAYSIA

This guy is good. He makes sense in his preaching. His kirtan is not bad to boot. But let me start with a warning: he is not everyone’s flavour of the month.

Nirvair Khalsa Jatha (NKJ), led by Harinder Singh, will be conducting their final session in Kuala Lumpur tonight (2 June 2018). They then head for a programme in Ipoh tomorrow before heading for home in the UK.

The youthful jatha has been attracting large crowds. They had full-houses at the recent Malacca annual programme in the memory of Baba Sohan Singh. And now they are conducting kirtan and katha (discourse) at Gurdwara Sahib Tatt Khalsa as part of the gurdwara’s 100th anniversary. You can expect a big turnout tonight.

Thanks to the live streaming by SikhInside, I caught their programme yesterday, while nursing a fever and flu. The group does good kirtan. They know how to maintain the momentum – not too wild, and not to slow. The youth will love it. So will the elders, I think.

In between kirtan, he shares his thoughts on day-to-day issues, backed by Gurbani. The other day, he talked about how people try to achieve cleanliness/purity or suchamtaa. You can wash your hands and body a thousands times, but you cannot ‘purify’ yourself. Guru Sahibs talk about purity of the mind, and not of the body, as being the more important aspect of life. He spoke about how some of us are still busy trying to ‘cleanse’ ourselves physically.

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He addresses the questions from the Gurbani standpoint, backed by logic and sense. And here comes to play my warning above that what he dishes out is not everyone’s cup of tea.

NKJ was still mid-way of their Malacca programme when some quarters began sharing, via the social media, their criticism of the jatha’s take on certain issues. How could he say that? How could he define so and so in such a way? And so on. They threw a challenge. This is not the first time, and it won’t be the last, that this band of Sikhs have put forward such views and challenges. At times, some are brave enough to stake their names to the items published. At other times, some produce anonymously nasty attacks on the preachers that they don’t agree with. In Malay, we call them surat layang (poison pen letters).

Harinder Singh (middle) and a NKJ team member with a member of the Sanggat wanting to take photographs after the diwan (programme) at Gurdwara Sahib Tatt Khalsa in Kuala Lumpur – Photo: Asia Samachar

I was surprised that Harinder decided to address the issues raised in his subsequent sessions at Malacca. Many of the Sikhs involved in Sikh parchaar in Malaysia have actually got tired and weary of entertaining some of these attacks. Some of the perpetrators look harmless in person, but somehow, they can get pretty nasty on the social media. I guess its like road rage lunatics. They are nice and fine looking blokes until they get behind the wheels. Suddenly, the beast in them emerges!

The NKJ decided to respond. And respond he certainly did. See here.

But let us understand the deeper issue at play. However they respond, and whatever they say, chances are that it will not cut ice with the die hards on the other side of the block.

What other side? This is what we need to understand and appreciate. Not everyone is on the same page when it comes to deciphering Gurbani. Not everyone is always agreeable as to how to interpret this or that verse. There is a divide when it comes to interpretation of Gurbani.

It’s an old divide. It has been there all the while.

In general, there are two streams of thought out there. Each does not agree with the other on certain issues. Harinder seems to be one side, the attackers on the other. Hence, never the twain shall meet, on these few issues. But the good news is that both sides actually agree on a good many things which get drowned in the quest for one-upmanship.

So, what is the way forward? Simple. Live and let live. I’m happy with Harinder and his brand of Sikhi parchaar (preaching). I will listen to it. If you are not happy, tune out. You wait for the next parcharak with whom you are comfortable listening to. I believe one is coming soon. But don’t go around town – nowadays its via the social media – assassinating the character of the people with whom you disagree. Put forth your views, but hold the slander and underhanded attacks.

You can also write and share your thoughts on how you think this dude is wrong or deluded or way off the mark. But you must respect his right to his interpretation of Sikhi, guided by his understanding of Gurbani. Some of the eager critics need to cease their unethical attacks, and do it soon. We’ve had plenty of them in the last two years or so. It zaps energy on all fronts. It does not promote Sikhi parchaar one bit!

We must also not allow the Ipoh incident to repeat itself. That’s when a group of Sikhs took it upon themselves to do a ‘simran attack‘ to disrupt a programme. It was planned. In the course of it, someone unturbanned the elderly Sikh preacher. That was probably the first time such an incident had happened in Malaysia, and possibly Southeast Asia, as well. Sad day for Sikhi parchaar in Malaysia. That should not happen again!

So, later today, feel free to listen to NKJ and Harinder. If he’s not your cup of tea, then go ahead and listen to whoever else you are comfortable with. Whoever it is, remember, they are merely part of the message. At the end, put your mind to good use and try to understand what Guru Sahib is trying to tell us. Whatever you do, don’t stop learning. Sikhi sikhia gur vichaar!

Hb Singh is a Kuala Lumpur-based journalist with some experience in dealing with Sikh organisations, both from within and outside. 

* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.

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