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Talking Stick

True Religion:
The Talking Stick Colloquium # 93

Convenor: AMRIT KAUR




joge na khintha joge na dandey
Joge na bhasam chadhaeeai

Religion lieth not in the patched coat the yogi wears,
Not in the staff he bears,
Nor in the ashes on his body.
Religion lieth not in rings in the ears,
Not in a shaven head,
Nor in the blowing of the conch-shell.
If thou must the path of true religion see,
Among the world’s impurities, be of impurities free.

Religion lieth not in visiting tombs
Nor in visiting places where they burn the dead
Not in sitting entranced in contemplation
Nor in wandering in the countryside or foreign lands
Nor in bathing at places of pilgrimage.
If thou must the path of true religion see,
Among the world’s impurities, be of impurities free.

[Guru Nanak, GGS:730.11]


One of the things that wows me about Sikhi is that it steers away from religiosity, even though it is oft described as a ‘religion’ because of the lack of better terminology and the human need to pigeon-hole things for convenience.

If anything, Sikhi is anti-religion.

If Sikhi is to be followed truthfully -- the shabad above offers a few clear guidelines -- there is no room for ritual, mindless repetition of meaningless practices, pilgrimages, austerities …

And there are no grounds to justify hiding oneself from worldly challenges as a strategy to deal with life. Running away from battle is no victory … it is defeat.

“Among the world’s impurities, be of impurities free”! We as Sikhs can't flee the field.

I see my role as a Sikh clearly laid out in front of me. There are no ambiguities.

The road is simple, if I take it  and follow it slowly, steadily, with the ultimate goal steadfast in my mind’s eye.

It gets complicated if I stop en route and start taking detours and diversions, because all they do is lead me astray. Sooner or later, I have to find my way back … which in itself is a pain: it takes up so much time and spiritual energy.

I love the directness of Guru Nanak’s message. I never feel any need for an interpretation of his words. No parsing, no dissection, no analysis.

That’s what makes the journey so pleasurable for me.

If I had to resort to popular terminology, I would call Sikhi “true religion” … resistant to any form of institutionalization.

Just look at the shabad again.

No ostentation.

No ritual.

No dogma.

No cleverness.

No loop-hole.

No short-cut.

No broker.

No pilgrimage.

No fasting.

No austerity.

No guilt.

No punishment.

*   *   *   *   *

Only choices.

And consequences.


[Translation of shabad by Khushwant Singh]

October 19, 2012

Conversation about this article

1: Balbir Singh (Germany), October 19, 2012, 9:20 AM.

One who seeks the true religion, should he say 'no' to these things?

2: Prakash Singh Bagga (Indore, MP, India), October 19, 2012, 2:02 PM.

I personally strongly disagree with the concept of Sikhi to be referred to as a rReligion. In fact, the term is not at all appropriate for Sikhi. It is the most simple, ritual-free way of getting united with God.

3: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), October 19, 2012, 4:16 PM.

The words of the shabad are awesome! Especially the total condemnation of the clergy of all the ideologies, religions, faiths ...

4: Yuktanand Singh (USA), October 20, 2012, 2:29 PM.

I like the list above, but we could fall into the trap of oversimplification. The shabad above condemns meaningless acts, but I am sure we can find an occasion for each of the above items. The definition of a 'true' path will continue to vary according to the individual's understanding. So, let me simplify it further. There are no 'choices', only one choice: whether or not to be sold as a slave to the Guru. Once we are sold, then, everything belongs to the Guru. "mera baid gur govinda" [GGS:618] - "The Guru, the Master of the universe, is now my healer. He cuts the noose of death by feeding me the naam elixir". I dislike calling Sikhi a religion or an "-ism" also, because this height of relationship between the Guru and a Sikh is as old as humanity. It is the essence of all religions. "sarab seel mamum seelum" [GGS:1357] -"My religion includes all religions".

5: Prakash Singh Bagga (Indore, MP, India), October 22, 2012, 2:29 PM.

The messages from gurbani for understanding are very articulate. In this shabad there is a specific message in the tuk of rahao: simply by talk one cannot attain union with the Lord. Who then is a jogi? The first three stanzas give the answer as to how union with the Lord can be attained, while avoiding the prevailing practices which are expressly rejected. The last stanza states how then union is attained.

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The Talking Stick Colloquium # 93"

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