Kids Corner


Read Between The Lines





As a Sikh today, one often encounters questions and doubts that don’t seem to be addressed directly in Gurbani.

The world is ever changing and brings along with it new issues and problems with every generation – issues our forefathers could not even fathom, let alone pass along their wisdom to address. When we seek the solace of gurbani to face such issues, one may not always find the answers written in plain text to consume easily.

One is left with two choices at such times. The easiest one is to approach 'godmen', mahants, babas and similar charlatans, for their narrow versions and interpretations of gurbani.

The other – requiring a little more effort, but far more fruitful – is to gain a deeper understanding of the gurbani and its basic philosophy and try to seek the answers ourselves. It might be a tougher path to follow, but it is definitely worth it. And the lessons you will learn from it will stay with you forever.

Similarly, one can build upon the basic concepts of Sikhi to gradually apply to one’s daily life as a way to avoid the aforementioned issues in the first place.

For instance, Sikhism prohibits the consumption of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs harmful to our bodies. But is this just the list we should stick to diligently, and no more? What about the greasy fast food – pizzas, burgers, fries - we drool over and consume every chance we get? What about the sodas and coffees we are potentially addicted to? The desserts we won’t give up, even though our medical conditions won’t allow them?

 For me, personally, the message would be - anything that affects our health negatively in the extreme should be shunned outright and the lesser culprits eased out of our diets gradually (or consumed in moderation).

We are asked to maintain our kes intact and take good care of them by grooming them properly. Kes are considered a gift from Waheguru and hence the need to be maintained. But what about the rest of the body – is it not a gift too?

A Sikh should also strive to keep his entire body clean and healthy, while keeping his mind pure. After all – a healthy mind can reside only in a healthy body. Apart from a good diet, good exercise and an active life is also implied for Sikhs.

And what about nutrition for the mind? We do have the Guru Granth Sahib to take care of all our spiritual needs. But do not let it stop you from reading and analyzing books, texts and scriptures from other religions and cultures to further broaden your horizons. You may feel the need to be multi-lingual to be able to achieve this, which would be an added bonus. You may feel the need to travel to other parts of the world for greater understanding and clarity, so be it.

If you trace the history of Sikhism from Guru Nanak, all the way to Guru Gobind Singh, you will find that our Gurus were well read, well traveled and well informed members of their society. They analyzed multiple points of view and gave references from various texts in their gurbani. It is only by following their example that we can aspire to get any closer to their philosophy and teachings, and enhance our lives in myriad ways in the process.

When it comes to charity, the concept of Dasvandh is familiar to all. It prescribes giving away 10% of your income to charity. But nothing stops us from giving more if we can – one can raise the bar in accordance with one’s capacity. At the same time, one should research about causes or charities close to one’s heart to donate hard earned money, rather than blindly handing it over to any named charity that appears on the horizon.

Furthermore, why limit dasvandh to just money – why not to our time, our skills or our expertise? Time spent volunteering at an orphanage or a seniors’ home over a weekend, is arguably more effective than a few dollars you give away. If you hardly make rent and cannot put aside money for charity, you can still spend time teaching kids from underprivileged neighborhoods. Surely, such dasvandh is of equal value.

When asked about the status and rights of homosexuals in Sikhism, we seem stumped! We struggle to find exact references to the subject or come up with muddled theories based on obtuse references in Sikh literature. Is it very difficult to understand the basic concept - that Sikhism affords equal rights to all - irrespective of their cast, creed, ethnicity, gender - and expand the definition to cover sexual orientation too? 

Why does it have to be explicitly mentioned in the Guru Granth Sahib or Rehatnamas for it to apply, can’t we do some thinking for ourselves?

I could go on and on about this, but I think you get the point.

Anything and everything we need answers to, can be found in the Guru Granth Sahib. Even if not directly, perhaps a deeper understanding of the basic principles espoused within it, should steer us to the right path. Furthermore, the lives of our Gurus and their loyal gursikhs are a shining light and the epitome of what we should strive for.

Given this broad framework, I would be very surprised if one were still left confused over any of life’s problems and choices.

A Sikh’s journey of learning never ends. But it is only when a Sikh truly starts applying his mind, given this vast treasure house of knowledge available to him, does his journey truly begin.

[Having earned his Master’s degree from Virginia Tech, the author now lives and works in Washington, D.C., USA.]

July 27, 2014

Conversation about this article

1: P Kaur (New York, USA), July 28, 2014, 8:55 AM.

Thank you for writing this. This is how I feel and this is why I love our beautiful religion that has not boxed us, and has given us infinite freedom to search for the truth and use the text as a guide. But there are many moments I do wish we had more conclusive answers, there were more Sikh scholars who had broken down the text, verified our history and there was an active sangat for the ones seeking deeper answers.

2: Harinder Singh (Punjab), July 29, 2014, 6:56 PM.

A Sikh is a life-long learner.

3: Dalvinder Singh Grewal (Ludhiana, Punjab), August 04, 2014, 9:29 PM.

Gurbani is a store of knowledge of life and universe. It however requires understanding. It is good to have rote learning but more important is understanding what all it means and most important is living the way we are guided. It is often seen that we get stuck at the first step and do not try to understand and live gurbani. Living gurbani is capable of liberating you from all problems and help get attached to the One and the Only One. Being with Him is real bliss and this is what we get through gurbani.

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