Bhai Gurbaksh Singh Kala Afghana, an author who has challenged many of the ideas underlining the Sikh masses’ understanding of their faith, has passed away. The Vancouver-based controversial author was 96.
To some, he was an illuminated mind who provided clarity to the Sikh teachings mired over the years in Vedantic practices. To others, he was out to do mischief by side-stepping long-held Sikhi interpretations and misrepresenting Gurbani (the word of the Guru).
In 2003, Gurbaksh was excommunicated by the Akal Takht, a key Sikh institution.
“It is clear his agenda is to break Sikhs with their heritage and thus weaken them enough to be easy to pick off by the RSS and other Hindu fundamentalists,” reads a comment on the social media critical of him. There are many more such comments, some openly voicing their contempt for the retired policeman who hails from the village Kala Afghana.
On the flip side, those influenced by his work mourn his death.
“The Sikh world has lost one of its most illuminated minds. He contributed immensely to Tatt Gurmat while exposing the corruption of Sikhi by our corrupted clergy – deras, sants, babas and Taksalees. He influenced a great many minds – Sikh parcharaks, writers and thinkers. He wrote profusely and his revolutionary ideas will live on,” wrote Dr Karminder Singh, a senior Malaysian government civil servant who plays an active role in Sikhi parchaar (preaching) in Malaysia.
Sikh commentator Prof I.J. Singh described Kala Afghana’s passing away as a ‘great loss’.
“I treasure his courage and independence of thought. As also his wit that I enjoyed when I met him here in New York some years ago — spent several hours together,” he said in a note to Asia Samachar. The New York-based writer and speaker on Sikhism in the diaspora is a Professor of Anatomy.
Gurbaksh, whose most influential work is Biparan Kii Riit Ton Sach Daa Maarag (From the Practice of Ritual to the Path of Truth), has been involved in writing about Sikhi since retiring from the Punjab’s police force.
In an earlier article, Puneet Singh Lamba writes: “He [Gurbakhs] believes Sikhism, like Buddhism and Jainism, would have been absorbed into Hinduism were it not for the unambiguous and consistent delineation of Sikh theology provided by Sikhism’s primary scripture, the Adi Granth. In an interview with The Sikh Times, Kala Afghana stated that his only rahit maryaada (code of conduct) is the Adi Granth. He confirmed that he doesn’t believe in the official Sikh Rahit Maryaada, approved by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (S.G.P.C.), an elected body responsible for managing India’s major gurdwaras.
“His most influential work is the multi-volume epic titled Biparan Kii Riit Ton Sach Daa Maarag (From the Practice of Ritual to the Path of Truth). The series expounds in great detail on the astonishing number of rituals and mythologies that have gained currency in contemporary Sikhism. This essay highlights the primary themes.”
See full article, entitled ‘Gurbakhsh Singh Kala Afghana: An Adi Granth Purist‘, (Puneet Singh Lamba, The Sikh Times, Jul. 10, 2004), here.
What is the basis of his Sikhi interpretation? Gurbakhsh goes back to Gurbani as enshrined in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
“When putting forth a view, he backs it up with at least five Gurbani quotations,” Calgary-based Punjabi journalist Harcharan Singh Parhar told Punjabi Radio (Canada) hosted by Manjit Singh Piasa.
“For those who want to condemn or contradict his views, he asks them to back their view with three Gurbani quotations. If they can make their case, he has said that he would be happy to retract his views,” added Harcharan in the programme in memory of Gurbakhs. Both have met Gurbakhs in person.
YOU CAN VIEW THE RADIO DISCUSSION HERE
In the social media sharing quoted earlier, Dr Karminder continues:
“The clergy and our corrupted institutions including the AT left no stone unturned to lock his soul up – they excommunicated him in exile, harassed him, threatened him and prayed profusely for his death.
“He has passed on but not before creating uncountable thinking and questioning minds. He will live on in their minds and in the minds of many more to come.
“The corruptors and hijackers of Sikhi are naturally overjoyed that they have one less threat to deal with. It’s a reflection of their small mindedness.
“The SGGS linked Sikh world will feel blessed in the enlightenment that Kala Afghana shared with all. His loss will be deeply felt but the passion for Sikhi truths that he ignited will burn bright for generations to come. May Guru ji bless strength to his loved ones to bear his loss.”