Visiting Ragis – Parchaar or Business?

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Dharig tinaa kaa jeevi-aa je likh likh vaycheh naa-o.
Cursed are the lives of those who read and write the Lord’s Name to sell it.
khaytee jin kee ujrhai khalvaarhay ki-aa thaa-o.
Their crop is devastated – what harvest will they have?
sachai sarmai baahray agai laheh na daad.
Lacking truth and humility, they shall not be appreciated in the world hereafter.
-Guru Nanak Dev Ji, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Ang 1245

We are immensely blessed in this age where we have access to immense sources from where we are able to get attracted to Gurbani (Guru Granth Sahib Ji). The internet is awash with several wonderful websites from where we can dowanload as much Kirtan and Katha we can to satiate our appetite for listening to and singing the Word of the Guru. Included in this is the bliss of getting to listen to some of the most blessed voices by inviting well-known and popular Ragi Jathas from around the world. Not only do they bring to us the message of the Gurus through their soothing and vairaag-filled vocals, they also inspire our coming generations that get a taste of the sugar-sweet Word of the Guru that turn around our life and destiny, and help focus our conscious towards the one Akaal Puarkh.

houmai vich gaavehi birathhaa jaae
In egotism, they sing, but it is wasted uselessly.

A sudden, but gradual, turn that is taking place is beginning to cause an opposite effect. To attract Sangat, some Gurudwaras around the world are inviting Ragi Jathas that are popular with the masses and even instruct them to avoid talking about facts about Sikhi that majority of Sangat do not like (no wonder they cannot be called Sadh Sangat). This is what corrupts our Ragi Jathas when many of them place a price that determines whether they accept the invitation to travel to other countries to sing Gurbani Kirtan for the Sangats there. There are only a select few of Ragi Jathas who have no lust for money as they are awake to the pricess message of Gurbani. Besides money, some of them engage in contests of whose style, voice and subject is better. The sole purpose of Gurbani Kirtan is to attract the soul to the nectar of Naam, as singing Kirtan itself is not Naam, it leads to Naam if what is sung is being understood and absorbed. Read the rest of this entry »

Why Raksha Bandhan has no place in Sikhi

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As the festival of Raksha Bandhan approaches each year, it’s no longer strange to see Sikhs lining up to purchase these threads to tie on the wrists of their brothers and fathers, in return for blessings and gifts. What was originally a Hindu festival has been ignorantly been accepted in Sikh culture, without prior thought to what it is all about and why our Gurus would never support it. Instead, manmat has only taken lead, with the explanation that it is the day dedicated to the bond of a brother and sister, and an excuse to pamper each other.

According to the Hindus, this is how the day is marked, ‘As per the traditions, the sister on this day prepares the pooja thali with diya, roli, chawal and rakhis. She worships the deities, ties Rakhi to the brother(s) and wishes for their well being. The brother in turn acknowledges the love with a promise to be by the sisters’ side through the thick and thin and gives her a token gift.’

Festivals like these are beautiful, no doubt, but in Sikhi, what we do – or do not do – is sanctioned only by the Guru. Nowhere in Sikh history has any Sikh Guru known to have accepted this Hindu custom. In a painting I came across on a website, Guru Nanak Dev Ji is being depicted to have a raakhi being tied on his wrist by his sister Bebe Nanaki. This is nothing more than a work of fiction.

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The Guru, who rejected the spiritual thread that the Hindu Brahmins consider makes them connected to God, in the midst of all the learned Pandits, Brahmins and his own father, would that same Guru accept the far more earthy thread called a ‘rakhi’? It’s plain logic, he wouldn’t. When asked by his father to go forth and make a profitable bargain in business, young Nanak came back having spent all his given money on feeding starving fakirs. If Nanak could challenge the Brahmins and reject outright the janeu, would he want to contradict himself by accepting another thread? The painting above may have been done by a devotee of the Guru and was only imagining the love between a brother and a sister, but didn’t realise that it is against the Guru’s own philosophy. If the Guru’s life is studied closely, and compared with his hymns, one can deduce for oneself whether the Guru would say something and preach something else. Likewise, no other Sikh Guru subscribed to the rakhsha bandhan ceremony, it was just not a Sikh practice, be it religious or cultural.

‘So what’s the harm in commemorating the day?’, is the usual counter-arguement of those Sikhs that accept the practice. There’s no harm in doing any of these things, but our Guru just did not approve them for his Sikhs. He’s taken us out of all the clutter of all those things that have no meaning in Sikhi and have instructed us to focus more on God than on worldly funfairs that eventually take the mortal away from God. The heritage of the Sikhs is so unique, that the men and women have been given an equal status. Why would a Khalsa Kaur ever need anyone’s protection when they have the power within them to defend themselves? That is why if the Singh was given a Kirpan, so was a Kaur granted the same. When the 40 Sikhs abandoned the Guru in his time of need, their wives took away their mens’ weapons and horses and left their husbands home to take their place. It was a proof of the might of the Guru’s daughters – that they are as mighty, or even mightier, than men. ‘Truth is high,’ Guru Nanak Dev Ji said and, further added, ‘but higher still is truthful living.’ So how can a mere thread prove the love between a brother and sister. Will that thread not wear out too, just like the janeu?

Sikhs were blessed with the roop of the Guru so that they may emulate their example of life and living which would connect us to Waheguru. Ceremonies like rakhsha bandhan are good for those for whom it was made, for the Hindu faith has it’s own valid reasons. Sikhi is a completely distinct faith. And how? Guru Nanak did not accept the janeu; he rejected the offering of water to his ancestors; he did not recite the Hindu Vedas; nor prayed to the 330 million gods, but contemplated only on the SHABAD what was revealed to Him from the Court of the Lord. Likewise, the other Sikh Gurus further developed what Guru Nanak preached, they never contradicted Nanak’s message and way of life.

In conclusion, while the ceremony is a beautiful one, it simply has not place in Sikhi because it is not higher than the Sikh way of life. The simple thread that is meant as a prayer to protect a sister and to seek the blessings of the brother’s long life and wellbeing, is not any higher than believing that it is Akaal Purakh that protects and blesses His beings. A thread is just an illusion, a Sikh of the Guru has no need for it to be reminded of his duty to the world, otherwise our Gurus would have allowed us to adopt it. And what of those who have no brothers? Who will protect them? What of those who have no sisters, who will pray for their long life and wellbeing? It’s all out of logic for Sikhs.

Rakhsha Bandhan is good for the Hindus, the Sikhs have their own beautiful way of life, made as simple as it could ever have been so that we can connect more to the Divine, and detatch more from the illusionary world.

The shame of ‘Passport Weddings’

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A story that comes as no shock to anyone any more. What a tragedy!

‘Dreaming of a good life in Britain, Satwant Kaur landed at Heathrow to start her new life with her husband, far removed from her village in Punjab. She found him waiting at the airport entrance. Visibly happy, he took her suitcase and passport telling her to wait while he fetched his car. He never returned. The distraught bride waited and waited. In tears, she sought the help of some Sikh staff at Heathrow. She had no idea of her husband’s address. Nowhere to go, the Sikhs took her to the nearest gurudwara at Southhall. The community tried to locate her husband without success. Then they re-applied for her passport, raised money for her ticket and arranged for her to return home. For no fault of hers, Satwant Kaur is abandoned. This is just one of the 15,000 marriages of NRI grooms and Indian brides that turned dreams into nightmares. The often repeated tragedy: an NRI boy lands in Punjab, marries a local girl, pockets the cash dowry and leaves for Britain – never doing anything to get his wife over who waits in vain. Often, these new brides find after their arrival in Britain, the US or Canada that their husbands have already got a local ‘live in’ or a wife and children too. When challenged, they claim their parents forced them to marry an Indian hoping he would give up his live-in partner or divorce his wife. The anguished NRI widows and their furious parents suffer with NRI marriage frauds.

The NRI marriage racket also involves Indian grooms. Many young men see their marriage with an NRI girl a passport to the good life abroad. These growing numbers of ‘passport weddings’ enjoin an Indian and a NRI holding British, American and Canadian citizenships.’

If there is one who I feel sympathy for in this case, it is the bride. Imagine the innocence of her dreams and joy getting married to settle down. We cannot imagine under what circumstances her parents decided to marry off their girl into a family away from their motherland. Just what criteria was considered to have placed the trust in the groom and in his family that they handed over their precious girl into the hands of a con who has not even considered the respect of the Sikh Panth and done all this in the lust for money. What a shameless deed and what karam to carry on his head! Read the rest of this entry »