Acceptance and Chardi KalaJOGISHWAR SINGH
I am presently in a situation where the strength of my belief in Sikhi has been put to the strongest test so far in my life (I am 61 years old, hence no spring chicken).
I have had despair follow intense joy within a matter of days, giving me the occasion to live moments of intense faith, with flashes of doubt in moments of weakness. I am still not out of the woods as yet but my attachment to the Guru’s word has got stronger.
Two days after the marriage of my elder son to his school sweetheart, I slipped on the staircase of my home (I am a teetotaller!), fell and badly dislocated my right shoulder, suffering excruciating pain. Was taken to an emergency clinic where my dislocated shoulder was put back into place but scans showed a fracture with two detached bone fragments as well as damage to the rotator muscles.
Life had literally taken a 180° turn.
From being a totally autonomous Sikh, I had been turned into a Sikh with a right arm immobilised in a sling, not even able to tie up his hair, leave aside tying a dastaar or even a patka. It is difficult to describe the sheer despair that arose in me at the idea of not being able to tie my dastaar which is such an integral part of my being.
I was examined by the best shoulder specialist who advised waiting for a month or so to see what further measures might be called for. Both my wife, a medical doctor herself, and the shoulder specialist, finally left it to me to decide whether to go in for an operation or not.
That night I prayed to Waheguru to help me reach the right decision. The next morning, I told my wife of my decision: I would go in for an immediate operation.
A Sikh friend telephoned me. By chance, he was that day at the only proper Sikh gurdwara in Switzerland ... at Langenthal. He put me on the speaker phone while he did “ardaas” in the gurdwara. The “vaak” which came was from Guru Angad.
It was so clear that all lingering hesitations in my mind got cast aside.
I telephoned the shoulder specialist to confirm that my damaged shoulder could be operated on at once. The operation took place two days later. The Guru’s word was so clear that I felt myself in chardi kala.
My right arm has now remained immobilised for two weeks, with another two weeks to go before the shoulder specialist decides when I could begin physiotherapy to restore movement to it. Confined to forced rest, I have at no stage at all been tempted to run to any dera or baba for some magic mantar of instant salvation. I have been reciting the Japji Sahib every single morning, taking the time to read the meanings of words or phrases that I did not understand.
I now understand better the line “hukmé andar sabh ko / baahar hukam na koyé”. Now, if I do not recite this exalting baani in the morning, I feel as if something essential is missing. I wonder if such a shock as the one I have had was not the only way to make me realise the spiritual exaltation arising out of a better understanding of the Japji Sahib.
My wife, a Swiss woman, has been a pillar of strength and affection, tying my hair every day, tying my patka, helping me with daily routine chores which we otherwise take for granted, and never really think about. We have gone to our village hairdresser every Saturday so that my hair could be washed, dried, oiled and tied up.
The hairdresser tells me she has never seen such silky and beautiful hair. Such is one of Dasam Padshah’s gifts to me.
I have always valued the five articles of faith bestowed by Guru Gobind Singh to us Sikhs. My present handicap has brought starkly home to me the feeling of how much it means to even imagine being deprived of one of such blessings: my hair.
Agnostics, rationalists or others can dismiss such sentiments as self induced hallucinations. Their opinion matters not a bit to me. Thanks to my wife’s care, I am able to keep the articles of my faith. This induces a state of chardi kala since the Guru is allowing me to stay within Sikhi in spite of my present condition. I thank Him innumerable times during the day and night.
My initial reaction after my accident was to question why all of this was happening to me. What had I done to deserve this? Repeated reading of the Japji Sahib every morning since then has converted such questioning into a willing acceptance of His design. The descriptions of the Almighty’s limitless attributes help me to see the insignificance of my questioning. I am left awe-struck by the Almighty’s attributes as narrated in this baani.
My agitated questioning has thus turned into a grateful acceptance.
I am firmly convinced that even this accident has been a boon conferred by the Almighty. I already know that it will teach me even more humility since I used to poke fun at much younger colleagues for missing work due to health problems.
This is the first time I have had to miss work in 30 years in Switzerland. Humility is not a sign of weakness. Only the truly strong can be truly humble. Arrogance is a sign of weakness. No more shall I make spiteful remarks about others’ illnesses or weaknesses.
Listening to the divine verses from Guru Granth Sahib, I am filled with happy acceptance of His will in a state of chardi kala. When we have such a treasure of wisdom available to us, why do we stray to charlatans posing as saints or holy men promising quick remedies? What can such people provide over and above what the Guru Granth offers us?
By Waheguru’s grace I had never been attracted to such quick fixers even earlier but my accident has further opened my eyes to the limitless knowledge condensed in the Japji Sahib.
Every evening, I have been starting Rehraas Sahib with the line “dukh daaroo sukh rog bhayaa / jaa sukh taam naa hoee”. My present state has really enabled me to develop my own proper understanding of these words. A state of material well being had lulled my senses sometimes to not regularly reciting the Gurus’ divine message.
Such negligence, fostered by the blossoming of superfluous preoccupations was, indeed, a “rog”. The present “dukh” of my damaged physical condition has refocused my mind on the blessings of the Gurus’ words, acting like regenerative medicine - “daaroo”. The fog of being mired in the trivial, ignoring the essential, has begun to lift from my eyes.
The Gurus’ words keep me in Chardi Kala.
I accept that it has come as another benediction. I do hope to fully recover quite rapidly by Waheguru’s grace but shall not allow the perceptions generated by this entire episode to fade with time.
[Dr. Jogishwar Singh was with the IAS (Indian Administrative Service) before leaving India in 1984, the year of cataclysmic events for Sikhs in India. With an M.Sc. (Hons School) in Physics and an M.A. in History from Panjab University, Chandigarh, he did his D.E.S.S. at Sorbonne in Paris, followed by a Ph.D. from Ruprecht-Karls University in Heidelberg, Germany. Now a Swiss citizen based in Le-Mont-sur-Laussanne, he is serving as a Managing Director with the world famous Rothschild Group in Geneva, having earlier served as Senior Vice-President, ING Bank, Switzerland and Director with the Deutsche Bank Switzerland. He is fluent in eight languages and has basic knowledge of two others.]
July 27, 2012
Conversation about this article
1: Ari Singh (Burgas, Bulgaria), July 27, 2012, 1:51 PM.
I agree with you. There is strength, inspiration, knowledge in Guru Granth Sahib. No need to consult yogis and other charlatans. And thank you for this article; it inspires and strengthens my own beliefs.
2: Simranpal Kaur (Peterborough, Ontario, Canada), July 27, 2012, 2:06 PM.
Powerful story. Thank you for sharing it while it's still raw. My prayers for you to recover soon from your adventure. And for your wonderful wife.
3: Yuktanand Singh (USA), July 27, 2012, 2:15 PM.
Dr. Jogishwar Singh ji, while convalescing, you may as well watch "Fierce Grace" by Ram Dass. (Search it on youtube for full movie.) It offers insight into why "bad things" happen to good people. As for the shoulder injury, be careful not to strain it too soon, something people often do as soon as they are pain-free. This causes a relapse requiring longer rehabilitation. Get well soon!
4: Daisy (Faridabad, India), July 28, 2012, 2:18 AM.
Dr. Jogishwar Singh ji, I am so glad to have a chance to go through this story. It is so inspiring. My sister who is going through some tough times has sent this to me. I am happy for her and sure that she will learn from this that "Nohing can scare you if you just believe in Waheguru". He himself is the strength and power and you can fight any battle by just keeping faith in him. Jo bole so nihaal, Sat Sri Akaal.
5: Dr Gurnam Singh (Warwick, United Kingdom), July 28, 2012, 5:32 AM.
A truly inspiring and uplifting story. Reminds me of the following phrase from Japji: "hukme likh dukh sukh payeeay ..." which invokes us to accept both pain and pleasure with equanimity.