“It is something within the positive life philosophy and optimism within our [Sikh] ‘way of life’ that contributes to this phenomenal material and spiritual success, and sense of well being that I wish to capture and relay in this book……Attitude towards life in general and towards fellow human beings has to change. The mind and heart have to be trained to ‘be’ happy.” (Dya Singh, Sikh-ing Success & Happiness)
The editor’s note about the title of this book clarifies that ‘the word ‘Sikh-ing’ coined by Dya Singh, simply means ‘seeking, the Sikh way’. The book is based on Dya Singh’s own family background and life experience in the East and the West.
He would agree that his interpretation of Sikhi, or his delivery of the Guru’s Word (Gurbani) in his pioneering revolutionary ‘world-music’ style, has attracted some controversy over the last two decades. In fact, Dya Singh seems to revel in ruffling the feathers of strict traditionalists. He calls them ‘dharam de thekedaar’ or self appointed custodians of religion. On occasions, he has annoyed those who blindly follow strict religious codes regarding ceremonies and rituals.
So, what is ‘Sikh-ing Success & Happiness’ about? Dr Bhajan Singh of Singapore informs the reader in his ‘Foreword’ that these are ‘Concrete steps and strategies as to how an individual can attain happiness with a judicious balance of the material and spiritual world.
It becomes clear from this excellent summary of the book that the main focus is the universal message of Truth and Truthful Living, the central theme of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. This is the message Dya Singh has passed on to global audiences through his musical performances during his extensive tours. The multi-cultural composition of his musical group has visibly added meaning to that message.
So I started reading, albeit, not without a certain amount of scepticism about such a ‘nasukha’ (potion) for ‘success and happiness’. (Somewhere in the book Dya has mentioned ‘My brothers and my ‘biggest critics’ – Principal Gurmukh Singh and S Baldev Singh Dhaliwal’!)
The first two introductory short chapters sounded more like a ‘sales pitch’ not uncommon in such ‘quick-fix’ books. Maybe, I have now forgotten Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’, the best-seller in the 1950s, which so influenced my own thinking at an impressionable teen age. However, Dya Singh’s ‘originality of style’ mentioned by the editor at the outset and which is so popular with audiences, compelled me to read on.
Highlighted passages like ‘if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail’ made eminent sense.
He talks about the best of ‘both worlds’ and I realised that this is a reference to ‘East’ and ‘West’ and not ‘here’ and ‘hereafter’. To quote Dya, “I was born in the ‘East’ and brought up by staunch Asian Indian-born Sikh parents, but have lived all my adult life in the ‘West’….Western influences have diminished our ability to ‘feel’ over our ability to ‘think’. The ability to ‘feel’ is what helps us to be happy.”
Dya Singh then builds around the twin Sikhi concepts of ‘mun’ and ‘muth’. The ‘mun’ feels, while the ‘muth’ depends on tangible proof. ‘Mun’ is the doorway to the soul. Thus:
Mun too jyot seroop hain. Apna mool pehchan (SGGS p44)
O mun you are the passage to God in embryo within you. Recognise thyself.
Dya Singh’s advice is that “The mun/emotion should be the master and muth/intellect the astute advisor which serves the ‘mun’. One needs to keep raising the level of knowledge of the ‘muth/intellect’ to better advice the ‘mun/emotion.”
Yet, the tendency is to control or suppress the emotions so that ‘muth/intellect’ is always the master. In the West, the stress is on intellect as the driving force for success. The Sikhs too refer to the relationship between ‘mun/emotion’ and ‘muth/intellect’ in the Sikh Ardaas (daily supplication). They pray “Sikhan da mun neevan, muth ucchi” (literally, the ‘mun’ of the Sikhs should be ‘low’ and the muth ‘high’). Most understand that to mean that the wandering mind (‘mun’) should be disciplined and controlled by the intellect or, rather, wisdom.
Therefore, Dya Singh’s suggestion that ‘mun’ should be the ‘master’ needs to be understood in its proper context for, not the finite muth (intellect) but the infinite ‘mun’ is the doorway to the soul, reaching which the final equipoise or Sehaj Anand is achieved. Mun as jyot seroop is the passage to God.
‘Muth infuses discipline, which is so necessary for any form of achievement including happiness.’ Yet, advises Dya Singh, “Do not allow the ‘muth/intellect’ to dictate but to advise…Enjoy this revelation of being able to switch from the time-bound, worry-bound, restrictive, disciplined, space bound, and even form-bound ‘muth’ to the ecstasy and sheer freedom of the ‘mun’ – the path to your soul, the silent observer within you. You had just had a glimse of eternity.”
He recommends ‘a few readings’ of the relevant chapter to fully understand why the stress is on ‘mun’, albeit, served by muth/knowledge and intellect. Mun ‘is the God in embryo within us’. Also, the ‘mun’ and ‘muth’ twin track approach to success and happiness, gets the best of the ‘East’ and the ‘West’. Yet, ‘Sometimes ‘easterners’ outdo ‘westerners’ in being ‘westernised’ and vice-versa!’
The positive spirit – the ‘chardhi kalaa’ – of Sikhi, the key to Sikh success as a global community, too can be traced back to this twin-track approach to life.
The above would be a revelation even for many Sikhs.
In the following chapters, one is taken systematically through informed discussions (Dya Singh style) under some typical headings like ‘God’, understanding ‘happy-ness’ and the Sikh concept of ‘santokh’, understanding of the ‘five vices’, and the Sikhi concept of ‘detachment’ .
‘The Sikh Mool Mantr (primordial Invocation) that appears at the first page of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, provides a wholesome interpretation and my take on God.’ Building on the Mool Mantr interpretation of ‘God’ Dya Singh writes, ‘God is a universal consciousness, a cosmic library, so to speak, of universal intelligence. It is an energy source, which pervades all existence and into which we, humans, can tap into, if we are open to that through mindful meditation, which we call simran.’ It is ‘An intelligent energy which is formless, but can assume form; a collective cosmic library of universal intelligence which we, as human beings, as part of creation can tap into, if we know how.’
For Dya Singh ‘spirituality means the need to come to grips with one’s mortality and some awareness of what exists beyond the limitations of our intellect.’
About ‘Religiously motivated violence and wars on this earth.’ He writes with passion, ‘Heinous, evil deeds are done in the name of God…. Religions have found a convenient invention of the ‘devil’ to blame the evil upon….It is quite interesting how ‘custodians’ of different monotheistic religions speak on behalf of their ‘God’…. One wonders how their God(s) relayed His/Their messages to these ‘custodians’ of religion.’
About gender war he quotes Guru Granth Sahib: Is jag meh, purakh aik hai, hor segeli naar sebayi, Sabh qat bhogvai alepat rehai alakh n lekhena jayi (SGGS p591/2).
In this life , there is one eternal ‘male’. The rest of creation is ‘female’. He enjoys within all, yet remains aloof. He is formless, beyond time and space, and is beyond human comprehension. This quotation firstly solves the gendar ‘war’. All of creation is female including humankind. Secondly, it infers that one can only ‘feel’ His presence but cannot comprehend Him or ‘it’, if you like intellectually….with the ‘muth’.’
Some other examples of memorable passages are given below:
‘Absence of both ‘happy-ness’ and sadness is a state of spiritual equipoise called Sehaj Anand (infinite ongoing bliss).
‘Constant regret for what happened in the past, or worrying about the future, does not bring a happy present state.’
The saying that ‘harbouring feelings of anger or rancour against someone else is like consuming poison expecting the offending party to die’, rings true to Sikhi sentiment.
‘Do not allow the notion of ‘karma’ or a defeatist resigned attitude from stopping you to strive for bettering yourself.’
‘Service is the rent we pay for the space we occupy on this planet and the spiritual bounty that we attain from it, in this human life form.’
Dya Singh feels that children have no opportunity to benefit from family relationships.
About children brought up by modern parents: ‘In short, the children are paid in materialistic wellbeing to compensate for the time that parents should spend with them. This leads to disharmony and breakdowns within families, as money cannot buy family values, family love and family happiness.’
‘How can we have a ‘human family’ or the whole of humanity being one family’ when we are allowing ‘family values’ and the whole concept of ‘family togetherness’ at grassroots level, to break down?’
Dya Singh’s pioneering Gurbani-Kirtan in the ‘language’ of world-music did take the universal message of Guru Granth Sahib to thousands around the world.
The book concludes with some informative ‘Supplementary Chapters’ about the Sikh way of life and institutions in the historical context. Dya Singh’s ‘Devotional music and meditation’ workshops, meditation for Sikhs and an appendix which gives useful tips about Sikh divine music.
It is possible that, together with the meditative exercises which focus on the concepts discussed under each chapter, Dya Singh’s ‘Sikh-ing Success & Happiness” can change lives for the better.
This is a book recommended for the family coffee-table.
Gurmukh Singh OBE, a retired UK senior civil servant, chairs the Advisory Board of The Sikh Missionary Society UK. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
Dya Singh comes across original, practical in his latest work (Asia Samachar, 12 Aug 2017)
A journey in the diaspora (Asia Samachar, 16 Aug 2017)