By Dya Singh | OPINION |
What an exciting time to be Sikh! The euphoria is rising. We hear of exciting developments commemorating the 550th birth anniversary of our beloved Baba Nanak Shah Fakir – Guru of the Hindus, Sufi Pir of the Moslems….and everything for Sikhs! A deserving global celebration of the ‘Messenger of the age of Darkness – Kalyug’.
I believe the biggest achievement crossing political barriers is the ‘Kartarpur Corridor’ allowing Sikh devotees from India to pay their respects at Baba Nanak’s final residence – Kartarpur.
No other founder of any religion or faith established a township, donned the clothes of a simple farmer, tilled the soil and encouraged enterprise with regular dawn and dusk prayers – nitnem and sermons (sikhiya) in his final years. He was not only a prophet, saviour or messenger of the ‘religious’ kind but more importantly, he showed us how to live this human life.
For us, the ‘Kartarpur Corridor’ comes close to the bringing down of the Berlin Wall! And initiated by two international cricketing friends – Imran Khan, now the Prime Minister of Pakistan and Navjot Singh Sidhu, now an Indian politician. This is arguably the biggest breakthrough of Indo-Pak diplomacy since 1947. And once again, we Sikhs are in the middle of it and the catalyst – the life-long job Baba Nanak always prepared us for. To be of service without any prejudice wherever possible.
Everyday I receive news of celebrations – different types of celebrations, from the most wasteful, like thousands of gallons of oil for lighting divas at Darbar Sahib and other Sikh places of worship especially in India but also overseas, nagar kirtans, multiple Akhand Paths and kirtan marathons of different kinds to more innovative and productive celebrations like growing thousands of trees, blood donation drives, food and even clothing for the destitute, and greater involvement of other community and religious groups.
The Indian government is jumping on the bandwagon by allowing ‘Ik Oangkar’ signs being painted on some Air India airliners. Modi has given a fine speech on what Guru Nanak stood for. Most commendable. Captain Amarinder Singh, premier of Punjab, is trying to score political points, and being thwarted by Shrimonai Gurdwara Parbhandhak Committee (SGPC) for prime celebrations in Punjab. All fun and games!
Pakistan and Nepal have issued commemorative currency coins in honour of Baba Nanak.
Canada is celebrating yet again, with 18 Sikh politicians being elected this time into the federal parliament in elections held a couple of weeks ago. NPD leader Jagmeet Singh could hold the balance of power in a hung parliament. And once again, possibly having a Sikh, Harjit Sajjan as the Defence Minister, besides other Sikh ministers.
A group of Sikhs is driving overland from Singapore to Nankana Sahib in a jeep. Earlier, a group of bikers made a similar trip from Kuala Lumpur.
Closer to home, in Malaysia celebrations are being staggered throughout the month of November so that Sikhs can celebrate for a longer period at various gurdwaras. Exhibitions on Sikhism and especially Baba Nanak are being mounted in various parts of the globe including Malaysia and Australia.
In Australia, the iconic Opera House in Sydney was lit up a week ago, but it appears that was more for Diwali rather than for Guru Nanak. In Melbourne, the main Central Business District (CDB) area called Federation Square and Flinders Street will be lit up on Nov 10. There is also talk of raising a monument to Baba Nanak.
In Canberra, we witnessed the first parkash of Guru Granth Sahib Ji in the Australian Parliament House and a speech in the Senate by one of the senate members from Victoria. The premier of state Victoria, too, gave a fine speech on Nanak and the Sikhs a couple of weeks back.
In Sydney, Sikh Youth Australia (SYA) has planned a one day ‘Divine Steps Festival’ promoting the ‘udasis’ (travels) of Baba Nanak with a huge exhibition. The festival also actively involves various religious and faith groups. There is a goodwill walk, a bike ride from Canberra to Sydney, initiatives to assist two charities run by Christian denominations, and of course, plenty of food! The highlight is a multifaith music festival – the first of its kind in Australia, with church choirs, Jewish singers, Sufi groups, bhajan singers and numerous other spiritual music groups. This will probably become an annual affair backed by the New South Wales government.
The Divine Footsteps Festival was officially launched in October by another cricketer, former Australian captain, Steve Waugh.
Khalsa Ji, we have this amazing opportunity of not only raising the global Sikh profile, but more importantly, educating ourselves further and also spreading the empirical life message of Nanak, not just the ‘religious’ part.
Akhand Paths, multiple Akhand Paths, rolling sehaj paths, kirtan, feel good tales about our Guru Sahibs, nice kavetas about Nanak, marathon simran sessions, marathon gurdwara programmes, langgars and other celebrations shall always be ongoing even otherwise, but this is a lifetime opportunity of thinking outside the box as to how we can increase the frequency of spreading the theo-political life philosophy of Nanak and in the process raising the positive global profile of Sikhs.
First of all, we need to look within and become better adherents of this great way of life ourselves.
“Dithai mukt n hoveyi, jichar shabad n keray vichar”. (My interpretation of this pangati is that just reverence, obeisance, worship and treating the Sri Guru Granth Sahib as a human ‘Guru’ does not bring emancipation. Shabad vichar – translation and interpretation of what is written within, ‘gurbani’ – the real Guru, brings greater knowledge, elevation and wisdom.) As one’s greater knowledge of what is written within is revealed to you, it floors you, in terms of the extent of the wisdom within.
The wisdom within engulfs not only one’s spiritual progress through this lifetime, personal protection and well-being through Naam (God/Guru remembrance and acceptance of His Hukm), but also selfless service towards fellow human beings, care for the environment, political activism, family and societal responsibilities, economic well-being, material progress and of course pride in being a Sikh.
A Hindu friend extolled the triple elevatory progress of Sat, Chit and Anand (Truth/Consciousness/Bliss). I informed him that Guru Nanak went further. Truth itself is not good enough – truthful living is a higher virtue. Secho orai sabhko, upper sach achar. (Truth is the highest virtue, but higher still is truthful living.) Truthful conduct or full truthful, active participation in the civic, political and welfare needs of the society we live in is more important. Nanak believed in inner detachment but complete involvement in human life.
We also need to understand and accept that ‘Nanak’ is a package deal – Das Patshah and Desan Patshahian dhi jot, Sri Guru Granth Sahib. (Ten Guru Sahibs in human form culminating in the light of the ten Guru Sahibs, the Guru Granth Sahib.)
My understanding is that Sikhi as Nanak envisaged is inclusive. There is a place for faith, even blind faith (shardha), but one needs to keep in mind increasing one’s knowledge of Sikhi not only as a tool for self-progress but also with pointers of how we need to involve ourselves in bettering the lot of others – our social, civic and political responsibilities within the countries we live in. Sewa, and our now globally renowned ‘langgar’ plays just as significant a part as reading and singing Gurbani, simran and ‘religious’ activities. We are the ‘servants and sentinels of God’ (Sevak Sikh sebhai Kertara).
There are those amongst us who probably remember the 500th celebrations in 1969. Truly, there was nothing significant about that. There was no global impact. We went to gurdwara, there were some nagar kirtans, we listened to kirtan and some speeches, we ate good langar with plenty of kheer, jalebian, barfi and so on. There were Amrit Sanchar ceremonies. There were many Akhand Paths and five jekarays and we went home none the wiser.
But these 550th celebrations are building up to something very exciting. Firstly, we need to capitalise on that and learn something more about ourselves. Secondly, we need to let the world know who Sikhs are, what Sikhi is, and what Sikhi stands for.
A most fulfilling and uplifting 550th Gurpurab of Baba Nanak to all.
Note: Dya Singh will be performing kirtan hajri with the Dashmesh Jatha in Guru Nanak Gurdwara Sahib, Shah Alam, Malaysia on Sunday morning 17 Nov 2019.
He is also conducting a ‘Sikhing’ workshop for youth at the same gurdwara on the following Sunday 24 Nov 2019 at 2pm, after kirtan at 11am.
Malaysian-born Dya Singh, who now resides in Australia, is an accomplished musician and a roving Sikh preacher. The Dya Singh World Music Group performs full scale concerts on ‘music for the soul’ based on North Indian classical and semi-classical styles of music with hymns from mainly the Sikh, Hindu and Sufi ‘faiths’. He is also the author of SIKH-ING: Success and Happiness. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
* This is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
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