Fear of Disruption

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By Hb Singh | Opinion |

Some face a visceral fear of disruption when confronted with arguments by reform-minded parcharaks like Dr Karminder Singh Dhillon. I’ve seen them in social media comments. Some are ugly, indeed.

It’s understandable. It is not at all comforting when your deep and long-held beliefs are challenged. It’s gut wrenching if the arguments move the very rock that kept you steady. All the more when it concerns the emotive subject like religion.

Hence, the violent and angry responses. It’s understandable. All these while, they considered themselves Guru-loving and God-fearing Sikhs. Now, here comes someone who tells them that their understanding of Sikhi is wrong. How dare you!

Changing your worldview is never an easy process. Here, Karminder is doing just that – presenting to you an alternate way of looking at Sikhi. He is not peddling a new way. He believes his version of Sikhi is the way it was supposed to be in the first place. Sikhi has been hijacked, he argues.

In this lecture (flagged here), Karminder explains why he used the word ‘hijacking’ for the title of his book ‘The Hijacking of Sikhi‘. Here, he talks about the effect of the hijacking:

“In Gurmat terms, it means the elimination of the nirmaltaa of Sikhi; it means the destruction of the uniqueness of the Sikhi of Guru Nanak; it means the destruction of the revolutionary elements of the spirituality that was introduced by Guru Nanak beginning 1469….I would venture to say that just about everything that Guru Nanak gave us in the form of Sikhi and Gurmat is revolutionary. The hijackers removed the element of revolutariness; to corrupt it, distort it and to taint it, until there was nothing revolutionary, nothing innovative, nothing different about Sikhi.”

He then takes the shabad, sant jenaa mil har jas gaiyo, to explain what he meant above. “Every word in this verse can be revolutionary, and from every word you can take out the revolutariness and go back to the ordinary, the mundane, to what was.”

This speaker is arguing that Sikh teaching had been manipulated and twisted to suit the nefarious desires of the clergy in the post-Guru period. The clergy had bastardised Guru Nanak’s message, hollowing out reforms that the Sikh Gurus initiated. As a result, we are saddled with a muddled version of Sikhi.

This gentleman has written five books, and is working on his next set of five, discussing various aspects of Sikhi. He has produced numerous video lectures on Sikhi. I’ve been following his work for some years now. See here (Sikhi Concepts: Complete links to videos and lecture notes) and here (Hijacking of Sikhi – The Video Series). And more over here. Does he make sense? I think he does. I find them fascinating and informative. They have altered my Sikhi worldview. I’m grateful to him for that.

But you may disagree.

We must accept the fact that people, groups and organisations are fallible. Sikhs, included. So, Karminder may very well have erred in some of his arguments. If you think so, put forward your arguments. You may even have been moved to share your thoughts as to why you think Karminder is wrong. That’s acceptable. If you do it with decorum and poise, it would be beautiful, actually. A civil discussion is good for the soul. That is the right and proper course of action. No Sikh is infallible. We don’t have a Pope in our midst.

The horrible part is when you get all strung up to bash people like Karminder. You call them names, and you throw flames. You label those with whom you disagree as nindak (slanderer), dushman (enemy) or RSS agents. This is the act of dehumanising. Then there is the age-old tactic of attacking the person instead of his or her arguments. They call it the logical fallacy ad hominem: When one cannot refute the arguments, they resort to attacking the person. You do not like the message, so you attack the messenger.

It can get worse. On the day you let your hair down, you dish out vulgarities. You manufacture lies and spread hatred against them. Barking mad in the name of Sikhi.

I get it that you have strong feelings for your views on Sikhi. You love the Guru, you love Sikhi. However, it is unfortunate if you allow the demon within to reign. Here, you blank out any thoughts that the very people you are haranguing may also love the Guru and may also love Sikhi. The name calling and flame throwing is unacceptable. It’s time we engage, with love and respect, people with whom we are at odds with.

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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Where is the Gurbani translation coming from? (Asia Samachar, 18 Sept 2021)

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6 COMMENTS

  1. S. Inder Singh Jee you have asked for enlightenment. I hope what I write will be of help.

    The article by S.Hb Singh is about civil debate. Its about civilized dialogue. Its about the need for it if we want to learn, share and get enlightened.

    Read the comments of Dr Gurnam Singh, Gurthian Singh Ghotra, Arvinder Singh Paul and Dya Singh and you will realize what civil debate is all about and how it is conducted.

    Labeling people as “obviously he is disowning Guru Gobind Singh,” and “he does not accord recognition of khalsa concept of sipahi concept,” is not the way to contribute to civilized dialogue. It shows a biased and prejudiced mind without highlighting how you came to that conclusion.

    You say you have “read Guru Granth Sahib and Dasam Granth.” After reading them what is your contribution to civil dialogue? Why not tell us what the Guru Granth Sahib and Dasam Granth say about civilized debate? If, after reading both, what you want to say is “why sport kes and beard and then don a turban, they need to clear that” then that is also not civil dialogue. It shows a mind with contempt.

    Every parcharak is trying to get Sikhs to honor and respect their kes. But you are adamant in wanting our progressive pacharaks to remove them? How does this contribute to civil dialogue?

    Maybe you think that your comments will stop people from listening to Dr Karminder Singh Jee or perhaps stop him from continuing to speak and write. If so, read what S. Dya Singh wrote: “These scholars cannot be bullied, insulted or physically attacked into silence.

    Hope u can now see the difference between what is civilized dialogue and what is not and will contribute accordingly.

  2. Very balanced piece. Nobody has a monopoly on Sikhi or understanding Gurbani. We are all on a journey to understanding and that is why we claim to be Sikhs of the Guru. But when we abandon reasoned dialogue and replace it with intimidation, we forfeit our right to claim to be Sikhs. Sadly, what we see amongst some ‘Sikhs’ is an intolerance to diverse views and perspectives.
    As for Dr Dhillon or anybody else who has the courage to write, research and profess, we need to follow the instruction of Guru Granth Sahib ji, which is to ‘share virtues and let vices go’. The truth is sometimes one can learn more from those we disagree with than those who never question our thoughts.
    I do not agree with all of Dr Dhillon’s thoughts, but I have learnt a lot from his original thinking. I also learn for Sanatan and Nirmala Scholars and I also disagree with them. Nobody but the Guru has a monopoly on truth.

  3. I have a few queries which either Karminder or anyone else can address. It is certain that karminder school of thought does not accord recognition of khalsa concept or sipahi concept. Obviously he is disowning Guru Gobind singh ji who created khalsa and his his writings. It is against sikhism as one has to take whole or not pick and choose. If he or so called progressive preacher ghagha does not recognize khalsa then why sport kes and beard and then don turban. They need to clear that.

    I have read Guru Granth sahib and Dasam Granth sahib. Karminder singh and these missionaries that go from India are misinterpreting teachings of Guru Granth sahib ji . They say nam japna is tota rutten ( Parroting). Whereas all guru sahibans core message is nam japna. I can quote verses from SGGS ji to prove what is nam japna.

    I do not give any respect to those so called pujaris or saints who fleece sangat in name of sikhi. At same time we have many maha purakhs in sikhism who have attained chautha pad( enlightenment). Gurbani supprts that. Please answer and enlighten me

  4. Karminder singh is a breath of fresh air, I have always considers our practice against fundamental sukhi. I thank him for his insight and freshness to remove the cobwebs residing within the sikh population

  5. Hb Singh ji, you have made very valid points.
    Those that do not agree with another point of view and react with hatred, have not really understood the basics of Sikhi.

    A healthy discussion of two differing points if view has always been difficult for Sikhs.

    Unfortunately, Sikhs, due to being brainwashed into ritualistic dogma and not developing from within (sant part) but focussing on the external (soldier part) only, have not the patience, the capacity or the intellect to hear another’s viewpoint.

    When reducing the other and dehumanising them, attacking them with words and fists, they only reduce themselves to the mindset of an animal and regress rather than grow.

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we Sikhs begin to practice, tolerance, humility, ability to listen, agree to disagree…maybe then we can use such opportunities to grow from these exchanges.

    Sadly, we miss these opportunities and instead regress, become less human to those in our own community, our own brothers and sisters.

  6. Well balanced view Shotay Vir. I remember a few years ago some members (or perhaps enlisted hoodlums) of a supposedly reputable Sikh organisation in Malaysia, physically assaulted a Sikh progressive scholar, even deturbanning him and pulling out a clump of his beard because of his perhaps controversial views about the Dasam Granth. How shameful and shallow! The time has come to listen to controversial scholars like S. Karaminder Ji, … and then make up your own mind. These scholars cannot be bullied, insulted or physically attacked into silence. They must be heard and if one feels passionate enough, to mount counter arguments. The fact remains that changes need to be made to our ‘leadership’, our gurdwara procedures and rituals. A fresh wind blows and it needs to be felt. Change though, will only happen gradually, not overnight. And such scholars need not be one hundred percent right. But where there is smoke …

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