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At Hardwar
Living Sikhi - Lesson Twenty Three





Lesson Objectives:

1   To appreciate Guru Nanak's gentle method of teaching.

2   To understand the reason people get attached to rituals and superstitions.

3   To understand the power of peer pressure and how it is different from the power of the Sadh Sangat.


Teachers, ask the students to say the Sikh greeting with you; then fold hands and do simran with the students.


Homework Review:  Praying for others and doing good for others is called "seva". Seva gives you good karam. The Law of Karam means that what you do come's back to you. Have you, your family, or your class thought about what seva you can do? (Pause for answers.)

Read pages 69 - 74.

When the people in the river at Hardwar threw water to the East, what mistaken idea did they have? (Pause for answers.) Guru Nanak felt sorry for the people who had mistaken notions. He wanted to help them. But how do you help people who cling to a wrong idea? Most people are afraid to think about an idea in a new way. Most people, if you point out that their notion is wrong, will come back even stronger to prove that they are right. They want to hold on to the idea they have been taught because it is more comfortable. They might even think that, by changing their minds, they would be insulting the people who taught them - maybe a beloved parent or a respected teacher.

In this story, we see another wonderful example of how Guru Nanak teaches. First of all, let's look at what he did not do.

He did NOT start yelling: "You people are stupid!" or something to that effect.       

He did not talk at all; he waited until he was spoken to.

He did not try to look or sound smart or holy, in fact he risked looking silly.

What was the point of being quiet? (Pause for answers.) Right! No matter what Guru Nanak would say, the people would fight with him about it.

What was the point of throwing water in the other direction and looking quite silly? Right! First the people would laugh and then they would be curious. "What is this madman doing?" they might ask. What did Nanak say he was doing? Right! He said he was watering his fields. Since no one had taught them to water their fields in this way, they could use their own minds and reasoning ability. They understood that it was impossible to water their fields from that distance. And so they understood also that by throwing water to the East, they could not help their dead relatives (ancestors) either. This is the most important thing Guru Nanak was trying to teach them and us - to use our God-given mind to reason what is true and what is false.

What the people in the river were doing is called a "ritual". A ritual is an act that people do in the same exact way over and over again, without reasoning or thinking, and without understanding why. If they think that this action will influence God or some thing else to help them, it is called a "superstition". A superstition is an act that makes no sense, is irrational to most people who do not follow the superstition and rely on common sense. People follow rituals and superstitions for two reasons:

  • The practice has been taught to them by someone in authority, someone they believe in more than in their own reasoning mind.
  • The practice makes them feel better in some way:

a   They feel less anxious and more in control of their own lives.

b   They feel more good or pious when they perform rituals.

c   People who feel guilty about something they did wrong, may feel better when they perform a ritual. It is an easy but ineffective way out.

Why do you think people would want to send water to their dead parents or grandparents? (Pause for answers.) Right! It made them feel they were helping them in the after-life.

Did you notice that the people of Hardwar were following what the other people were doing? Guru Nanak was laughed at when he dared to do something differently. Do you wonder if some of them were throwing water just because everyone else was doing it? This is called "peer pressure" and it is a powerful way of getting most people to do something that they would not do otherwise.

Your "peers" are the people who are your age who you hang out with or are around you. They may or may not be your friends. Peer pressure may be a very good thing. For example, in some classrooms, there is pressure to study and be a good student. In other classrooms, some good students are made fun of if they study. Which practice do you think is most rational and better for you? Why?

Can you think of any other times "peer pressure" may be good or bad? Guru Nanak wanted us to break free of superstition and bad peer pressure, to examine our actions and to live our best life.

Homework: Take some time to sit quietly and examine your own actions. How much of your life is conforming to superstition and peer pressure?  Are some pressures doing you good or are some pushing you in a direction that will do you harm in the long run?


Shabad: (Last week for practicing this shabad. Teachers, please give students an opportunity to sing it in the sangat.)

Thakar tum sarnaa-ee aaya


October 11, 2010

Conversation about this article

1: Karan Singh (United Kingdom), October 13, 2010, 7:46 AM.

Thank you, Bhenjee ... you don't know how much I appreciate these teaching aids! Keep up the amazing seva!

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Living Sikhi - Lesson Twenty Three"

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