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Can the modern mind comprehend gurbani?

Discussion in 'Sikh Sikhi Sikhism' started by BhagatSingh, Aug 30, 2010.

  1. BhagatSingh

    BhagatSingh Canada
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    http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/sikh-sikhi-sikhism/9096-reincarnation.html#post132441

    Narayanjot Kaur ji
    I agree ultimately when the Gurmukhi words are processed through our brain, what we come know and understand is from our own intellect and filters within that intellect. By keeping in mind historical context, knowledge of mankind in th 15th century, etc etc... by keeping in mind these variables, I think they will reduce those filters that tend to give a scientific spin to these texts. And even though, its our intellect that has determined the meaning, we will know that we are getting closer and closer to what it actually meant by them. We will get close to their essence.


    Um... that would be Dr. Singh with the Theory of Evolution. And have you forgotten about Project Naad? Their "Sikh Dharma, Science and Quantum Physics" pamphlet? We may not hear those exact words, but that is what is being implied.

    Narayanjot Ji, I am glad you mentioned this. Its not about limiting it, its about being honest.

    I have no problem with interpreting verses with a modern spin and with scientific integration BUT when these interpretations are muddled up with the original and are further credited to Guru Nanak and such... that is just dishonest - whether intentional or unintentional.
    I mean can we really applaud Guru Nanak for what he has done if we interpret his work to describe string theory? What will the upcoming generations think of this?

    I am saying that there is no need to muddle it in, in order to keep Guru Nanak's message relevant. They could be kept separate, while maintaining the authenticity of the historical interpretations, we could do modern interpretations as time changes. I am asking for some clarity as well here.


    IMO Sikhism is not really a religion. Religion is like the Abrahamic Religions. Sikhism is a tradition, like the other Eastern traditions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism. Just look at how religions were/are in India (excluding Islam)...
    IMO let's leave these ISMs to the west where they belong. Let's keep Sikhi as Sikhi.

    Sikhi is a unique tradition that made an attempt to integrate spiritual, social, political and martial practices in an attempt to get the society to progress. Spiritual practices are available in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. The others, social, political and martial, we find in history. Guru Sahibs building proper housing and villages, and setting up farm land. Amardas ji starting a langar tradition to enforce social unity through equality. Political stance was eventually taken up by Guru Hargobind Sahib, and then came the martial practices. To everyone I have known so far, only a complete bundle of this historical period could ever be considered Sikhi. Sri Guru Granth Sahib alone is not Sikhi. Langar alone is not Sikhi.
    Rehit maryada alone is not Sikhi. Gatka alone is not Sikhi. Only these practices together are known as Sikhi. Does that sound like a religion to you? It does not. It sounds like an awesome tradition!

    Ok so why am I talking about this? What is the relevance of considering Sikhism a tradition, at least in formal discussions?
    I think a religious framework (like that of Abrahamic Religions) leads people to attribute their own beliefs to the religion (unknowingly) because they want to be "Sikh", they want to be part of the religion but cannot believe in some of its beliefs. I mean times change and beliefs change, there is nothing wrong with that... but wait, is that how we work in religion?... No at all, in religion there is something wrong with it... and no doubt, there are consequences for professing different beliefs.
    SO In an attempt to reconcile their own beliefs with the religion, they attribute their own beliefs (with some compromise) to it (again unknowingly), which leads to (unintentional) dishonesty.


    However, if we view Sikhism as a tradition (even if only in formal discourse), then we can mentally rest assured, and study Sikhi with a clear view. Remember, in a tradition, there can be no fanatics.



    Well if everyone chimes in and gives a modern version of Guru Nanak's work, then no doubt we will have many more than just 2!
     
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    #1 BhagatSingh, Aug 30, 2010
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  3. Randip Singh

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    Hold on Bhagat Singh,

    You are making HUGE assumptions. You are assuming the Guru's never were aware of science, the planets, or even came into contact with such people.

    Guru Nanak travelled through the Middle East where science and culture were at its zenith. The Guru's themselves were ALL highly educated probably equivalent to doctorates and proficient in several languages.

    They were highly intellectual.

    Also why do you have a problem is some one understands God or the concept of God in terms of a scientific phenomenon? Surely the concept of "God" is one of our own understanding?

    For example for me reincarnation makes sense in terms of scientific laws. Matter cannot be created or destroyed, it merely changes form. That's a basic scientific law. For a lay person the concept of matter not being destroyed would be difficult to understand because they would say, that "when something is burned it is destroyed". Why cannot this be explained to them in another way?
     
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  4. BhagatSingh

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    Randip Singh ji, I am not making that huge assumption at all. I am very well aware that Guru Nanak knew of planets and so on. I am asking that to be kept in mind when I say:
    You say:
    Firstly, you are confusing "understanding through analogy" with "modern interpretation". I have no problem with either. I haven't even mentioned analogies so thanks for bringing that up.

    You say:
    Hmm.. If you mean to say that you can explain reincarnation better by giving an analogy to matter then I have no problem with that.

    But if you say that reincarnation is radioactive decay or matter chainging forms as seen here in Asa Mehla 1, Raga X... Isn't that inaccurately representing reincarnation and dishonest? This is the kind of thing I am talking about.
     
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  5. spnadmin

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    Bhagat ji

    I am wondering why you would infer that comparisons with radioactive decay or matter changing forms is "dishonest." I personally do not see reincarnation as a matter of radioactive decay; however, I am intrigued that someone else does. What is the standard or yardstick of honesty that you are using to make a judgment of dishonesty?
     
  6. BhagatSingh

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    Look at traditional views of reincarnation, and how Guru Nanak relates to them. Does he say anything to contradict those views? Does he explicitly state his difference of opinion?
    If the answer to those two questions is no. Then Guru Nanak's view of reincarnation is probably the same as those philosophers of his time. They (Guru Nanak and Philosophers) have (no doubt) learned from philosophies that existed before them. So then we would need to look at the philosophers and philosophies and see what they are saying.
    WARNING: It would be considered disrespectful by the wider Sikh community to say that Guru Nanak's knowledge came from something other than a divine source. Their feelings are sincere but to understand Guru Nanak we need to shun this assumption.

    Looking at a wider context gives us a better understanding of Guru Nanak. If one looks at Guru Nanak in a vacuum (with just Guru Nanak and God) then one runs into a problem "how do we interpret this?"
    The common thing to do is interpret it using the knowledge and philosophies you have learned... the knowledge and philosophies which were not present during Guru Nanak's time... but when you look at history, the knowledge and philosophies of the time, you are using a good strategy to see what Guru Nanak is actually saying. and that's the bottomline, I want to know what Guru Nanak is actually saying, and the closer I can get to that the better.


    We know what Radioactive Decay is, we know what Evolution is, we know what Big Bang is and so on... but no one from around the 15th century(or before) is going to know anything about those recent discoveries. So to say that "what a person from 15th century takes X to be Evolution, Radiactive Decay or Big Bang" comes off as dishonest whether it is done intentionally or unintentionally.

    Saying that "a person from 15th century takes X to be Evolution, Radiactive Decay or Big Bang" is not the same as understanding X through analogy or comparisons.

    ---------------------------
    It's always easier to see things when talking about other religions. So here's an example: (Now Bible is even older than Sri Guru Granth Sahib so there are fewer things known at the time of the Bible)
    If a Christian wants to compare a historical interpretation of Genesis with Big Bang. we would see (at least) the following being pointed out:
    God directly creates the Earth through his Word (Historical Interpretation)
    vs
    after Big Bang... billions of years later... a supernova explodes and our solar system was formed from the left over particles of the dead star (Modern Science)

    That's fine! Agreed?

    But if that Christian instead claims that Bible means to say the following [when it says "he then gathered the waters (particles) and created land (solar systems)]:
    "after Big Bang... billions of years later... a supernova explodes and our solar system was formed from the left over particles of the dead star"

    No he's wrong, that's not what the Bible means to say, that's a modern interpretation of the Bible.

    And as long as this modern interpretation is regarded separate from the historical interpretation (which is below) it's fine by me.
    In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth. He then gathered the waters (on Earth) and created land.

    Muddle up the two and it comes of as dishonest. get it?
    -------------------------------
     
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  7. Randip Singh

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    My dear young and extremly talented friend. You made another assumption and have not understood anything of what I have written here.

    I have always contested for many years that Bani must be read in:
    1) It's Sociological context
    2) Economical context
    3) Historical context

    Based on this I read Bani. I am not looking at it through todays eyes at all. Fools Wrangle over Flesh is testimony to that.

    Also, I am not saying reincarnation is the same as seing it through as radioactive decay, but if someone chooses to understand it like that, let them. There are many concepts in Bani, which today we ould find hard to imagine. How many of us know what a Pipal tree is in the West? and yet at the same time there are Universal concepts eg Greed, Lust, Anger, Materialism, Egotism.
     
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  8. Randip Singh

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    Actually it is/was radically different.

    Wheras Hinduism, and Guru Nanaks contemporaries saw reincarnation as some sort of order, rock to plant to animal and then human, Guru Nanak saw only human life as being most important and precious and the rest of reincarnation he saw as random, i.e. people can just from rock to human etc.

    With regard to contemporay philosophers Nnak and the follwoing Guru's only included Bhaghat Bani's they agreed with eg shaloks where Bhaghat Kabir describes woman as a black Cobra are ommited and that of Shaikh Farid stating Islam as the only way are ommited.

    Nanakian philosophy was his own and very unique. NO doubt he learnt from those around him, but his thoughts and ideas were his own and extremly radical.
     
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  9. BhagatSingh

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    Randip Singh ji,
    Let me state once more for my own satisfaction that I made none of the assumptions you have suggested in your posts. I was aware of the fact that Guru Sahibs knew about planets and I was aware of the fact that you have advocated for gurbani to read in context. Also, I have no problem if someone chooses to understand reincarnation as radioactive decay. If you carefully read my posts, it should conform to these statements.

    I am taking up your second post over in the reincarnation thread.
     
  10. jasbirkaleka

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    Guru Fateh
    ,
    Bhagat Singh Ji,

    Exactely my thoughts.But I coud never project them in such an aloquent manner as you did. Thank you.:redturban:
     
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  11. findingmyway

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    I'm really confused as to what is being said here. To fully understand the poetry and analogies used in gurbani we must have an understanding of the historical context. Agreed. However, transferring those principles into modern day thinking is not acceptable? Must we stay in the past? A lot of the confusion seems to be caused by struggling to understand when something is literal and when an analogy is being used to improve understanding.
     
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  12. BhagatSingh

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    Yes this is very important.


    Yes this is also very important. I think this will become more and more important as time goes on.

    All I am saying is that let's keep the distinctions, between those two, between the historical and modern interpretations, in place.


    Now my question to everyone: Is keeping the distinction a problem in your opinion?
     
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  13. findingmyway

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    To understand the message historical knowledge is helpful. However, we live in a very different world so to apply the message to our lives we need to have a modern understanding of that message. I don't think the 2 perspectives are mutually exclusive as without applying what we learn in our lives, we are not following Sikhi.

    My additional question is how do we tell when Guru Ji is being literal and when is he using analogies?
     
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    #12 findingmyway, Sep 2, 2010
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  14. spnadmin

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    jasleen ji

    Strange is it not that we make distinctions between past present and future. The Present is born from the Past, and the past is the crucible from which the problems and realities of the present are formed.

    Just as the mix of a new compound retains its connection with its original ingredients, so the past transforms into the present and the present becomes the future. We can't understand our present without understanding how past threads continue from past eras, just as we cannot understand the life forms of today without understanding the forms from which they evolved.

    And I think that is why we are reminded aad sach, jugaad sach, hai bi sach in Jap ji Sahib. There is no easy way to cut through and say this is past and this is present and this is future and still have a moral truth. A moral truth is not true if it is contingent on this or that time-bound reality. So we have an eternal and everlasting Guru, for all times, and for all humanity.

    Unless of course we chose a materialistic understanding of truth.

    So in my opinion knowledge of history aids our understanding of the conditions and context under which our Gurus pondered the human conditions. It enriches us in that way. Nonetheless their truth is here for all of us and in each generation to grasp, even 100 years from now. Thanks for motivating my thinking along.
     
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  15. Tejwant Singh

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    Narayanjot ji & Jasleen ji,

    Guru Fateh.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Please allow me to pitch in my 2 cent worth.

    The title of the thread is very intriguing to me and I have been thinking about it since it started. The reason it is intriguing is that Sikhi is not an ism like many floating around like helium balloons and many of them deflating.

    It is very unique from its concept to its core. It does not label us as sinners. It is not an external imposition like many other dogmatic religions but it instills an internal manifestation which makes us give ourselves time out when we are wrong even before someone yells at us about our own shortcomings.

    When I was living in London at the age of 16 and working with my brother in the clothing business, I loved to sell by conversing to people who came to our stalls at Petticoat Lane on Sundays or to our other boutiques on Portobello road and other places. This was in the early 70's. I bought a book from a known book store called W.H. Smith about salesmanship.

    One thing that stuck into mind from the book was this:

    "A salesman's duty is to create a desire in the customer's mind".

    This is what in nutshell our Gurus did. They created a desire in us to breed goodness from the within which can be shared with others. They gave us the tools through Gurbani in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, our only Guru to become the flowers of this Gurmat garden that emit their scent in all directions, irrespective of anyone's hue, creed or faith. The concept of Sangat and Pangat is one of its many manifestations. The four doors of Darbar Sahib is one more.

    Now, coming back to the title of the thread, all present minds are modern during the present times. Our Gurus' minds were modern during their times and the proof is in the treasure we are left with.

    Let's check the meaning of Modern so that we can grasp the matter in hand in a better manner.

    <SUP>1</SUP>mod·ern

    <INPUT class=au title="Listen to the pronunciation of 1modern" onclick="return au('modern01', 'modern');" type=button> adj \ˈmä-dərn, ÷ˈmä-d(ə-)rən\
    Definition of MODERN

    1
    a : of, relating to, or characteristic of the present or the immediate past : contemporary b : of, relating to, or characteristic of a period extending from a relevant remote past to the present time

    2
    : involving recent techniques, methods, or ideas : up-to-date

    One more word we confuse ourselves with which is discussed in this thread by Bhagat Singh ji that is based on the writings of Dr. Baldev Singh is scientific. Science is nothing but an observational tool.

    Let me ask my learned friends a couple of questions.

    1. When Guru Nanak rejected to wear the Janeiu, was he being modern or scientific, or both?

    2. When Guru Nanak started throwing water towards the west rather than towards the Sun in the east, was he being modern or scientific, or both?

    One can ask the same question about the concept of Langar, 4 doors of Darbar Sahib, Miri Piri, life of a household etc. etc.

    One can also give many examples from Gurbani- Sidh gosht, for example, and also from the traditional history as given above to show the same.

    Bhagat Singh ji writes:


    Nothing can be looked in a vacuum because there is none. Our past is strung together like beads in a necklace and our present keeps on adding more beads to it. So, the beads of the past are still intact, that is the reason we can add beads of the present.

    So, the answer to the question, "Can the modern mind comprehend gurbani?" is re soundly, YES, because we can not escape from our modern mind as the definition above indicates. It is modern now because of our past. And the same would be true for the future generations.

    The question may arise, why and how? The answer is in the uniqueness of Gurbani. It is a tool box that would be a dream come true for Freud, Carl Jung,, Bertrand Russell, Blaise Pascal, Issac Newton, Einstein, to name a few.

    Gurbani makes us rediscover things about ourselves everyday. A Sikh's journey is about learning, unlearning and relearning, daily. That is the reason we do Nitnem everyday. If we do not find new gems daily in this limitless ore, then there is something wrong with us. This would show that we have become mere ritualistic parrots with one ugly plumage.

    Tejwant Singh
     
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    #14 Tejwant Singh, Sep 2, 2010
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  16. Seeker9

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    Dear Tejwant Singh Ji

    Many thanks for this

    I have learned a lot in my few short months here and have gained new insights via a number of threads to the extent that I think I now disagree with some of the things I may have posted myself in the past!!

    So my understanding is changing and I am a much better person for it!
     
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  17. Tejwant Singh

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    Seeker9 ji,

    Guru Fateh.

    We are all in this together. Learning from each other is the true sadh sangat. This sadh sangat is the inspiration that makes people like me to think aloud. We all have the same tool box, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, our only Guru.

    With the help of Gurbani we become the anthropologists of the selves but with one difference, and that is, that the fossils we discover within are the dormant ambers which can be lit with the help of Gurbani. This is the true redisocvery.

    So, thanks goes to all because sadh sangat, when intuned becomes the mirror of each other and helps us see our inner nakedness without any shame.

    Thanks and regards

    Tejwant Singh

    PS: As you live in Glasgow. Do you know Parduman Singh Kohli?
     
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    #16 Tejwant Singh, Sep 3, 2010
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  18. Seeker9

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    Dear Tejwant Singh Ji
    Thanks again

    Re Mr P S Kohli, I am certain my Dad knows him - my Dad knows a lot of people in the community and they all know my Dad!!!

    That said, if it is the P S Kohli I am thinking of, his 2 sons are local celebrities and are well regarded. They have appeared in comedy shows on both Scottish and UK television channels.

    May I ask how you know Mr Kohli and if you know anyone else in Glasgow?
     
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    #17 Seeker9, Sep 3, 2010
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  19. Tejwant Singh

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    Seeker9 ji,

    Guru Fateh.

    Mr. P.S. Kohli belongs to the same town as I do, Ferozepore. He is a family friend and was a very close friend of my eldest late brother Harbhajan Singh Malik who lived in Osterley, near Hounslow. My sister in law still lives there. Mr. Kohli's younger brother, Capt. Charanjit Singh Kohli is my buddy from school. If you happen to meet him, tell him that Teji said hi and ask him to come and join this forum. I am sure he will enjoy it.

    Thanks & regards

    Tejwant Singh
     
  20. spnadmin

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    Tejwant ji


    The only mind you have is the one you now have, circa 2010 with all the learning and experience gained from the day of your birth. A khalsa in 1699 was in the same shoes, only a few hundred years earlier.

    If - to understand gurbani - you must be an historian, a psychologist, a linguist, a sanskrit scholar, a sociologist, a philosopher, any of these alone or in combination, or in combination with life experiences that I have left out - GIVE UP!

    Don't even try. There is no point to it. It that is required then the granth has failed as Guru.

    Now I come to my main question. When Guru Arjan Dev began the project of compiling the Aad Granth, what was his purpose? Could it have been to compile a book of moral guidance and spiritual inspiration which only a small percentage of the population would benefit from?

    What was he up to? Was he on the same path as Lord Rama who would have a Shudra put to death for even listening to the Vedas?

    And what was Guru Gobind Singh up to? Could the Guru Granth be understood only by scholars? Or was it eternal guru for the masses of unwashed and illiterate too?

    I am trying to imagine a poll to be put before the panth in 1699 - as a kind of thought experiment. Khalsa ji, what knowledge is required to understand gurbani? Check all that apply.

    a. Sikh history before 1699
    b. Sanskrit language
    c. Science, in particular knowledge of joons and their transformations
    d. The 6 schools of philosophy
    e. Knowledge of other religions
    f. The ability to decode metaphors
    g. Biographies of Nanaks 1 though 5
    h. Familiarity with Hindu myth and legend
    i. Other. Please tell the panth about it

    My choice is "i" Other



    ਤੀਰਥਿ ਨਾਵਾ ਜੇ ਤਿਸੁ ਭਾਵਾ ਵਿਣੁ ਭਾਣੇ ਕਿ ਨਾਇ ਕਰੀ ॥
    theerathh naavaa jae this bhaavaa vin bhaanae k naae karee ||
    If I am pleasing to Him, then that is my pilgrimage and cleansing bath. Without pleasing Him, what good are ritual cleansings?


    ਜੇਤੀ ਸਿਰਠਿ ਉਪਾਈ ਵੇਖਾ ਵਿਣੁ ਕਰਮਾ ਕਿ ਮਿਲੈ ਲਈ ॥
    jaethee sirath oupaaee vaekhaa vin karamaa k milai lee ||
    I gaze upon all the created beings: without the karma of good actions, what are they given to receive?

    ਮਤਿ ਵਿਚਿ ਰਤਨ ਜਵਾਹਰ ਮਾਣਿਕ ਜੇ ਇਕ ਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਸਿਖ ਸੁਣੀ ॥
    math vich rathan javaahar maanik jae eik gur kee sikh sunee ||
    Within the mind are gems, jewels and rubies, if you listen to the Guru's Teachings, even once.


    ਗੁਰਾ ਇਕ ਦੇਹਿ ਬੁਝਾਈ ॥
    guraa eik dhaehi bujhaaee ||
    The Guru has given me this one understanding:

    >ਸਭਨਾ ਜੀਆ ਕਾ ਇਕੁ ਦਾਤਾ ਸੋ ਮੈ ਵਿਸਰਿ ਨ ਜਾਈ ॥੬॥
    sabhanaa jeeaa kaa eik dhaathaa so mai visar n jaaee ||6||
    >there is only the One, the Giver of all souls. May I never forget Him! ||6|
     
    #19 spnadmin, Sep 3, 2010
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  21. Tejwant Singh

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    Narayanjot ji,

    Guru Fateh.

    I totally agree with you. We do not have to hop from one time capsule to the other in order to understand Gurbani. The interesting part of Gurbani is that it is for all, no matter how many degrees one may have tucked under his/her arm or none, like myself.

    Guru Nanak, the visionary gave us the 3 rules of thumb no matter what level of education one had and they are:

    1. Naam Japnah- Remember The Source of all so the connection is never lost.
    2. Kirat Karni- Work in an honest manner no matter what one does, from a student to an executive.
    3. Vand kei Chaknah- A Sikh shares.Only Ik Ong Kaar gives. So, share whatever one can. A helping hand, a shoulder to lean on,a smile or anything tangible.

    If we follow the above rules, and everyone is capable of doing that, then we have practiced what is in SGGS, our only Guru, no matter if we know how to read or we have read/studied it several times.

    This is the beauty of Gurbani. It creates a metamorphosis within by making us princess and princes from paupers.

    Regards

    Tejwant Singh
     
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