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Kala Afghana - An Adi Granth Purist

Discussion in 'Hard Talk' started by plamba, Jul 22, 2004.

  1. plamba

    plamba
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    GURBAKHSH SINGH KALA AFGHANA: AN ADI GRANTH PURIST

    By PUNEET SINGH LAMBA

    The Sikh Times, Jul. 10, 2004

    INTRODUCTION

    In the years that followed Martin Luther's excommunication on January 3, 1521, Luther's anti-establishment ideas caught fire and mushroomed into what became the Protestant Reformation movement within Christianity.[1]

    A number of progressive Sikhs, particularly among the diaspora[2], are hopeful that Gurbakhsh Singh Kala Afghana's excommunication, announced by the Akal Takht (the supreme Sikh temporal authority, analogous to the Vatican) one year ago today, will spark a similar reform campaign within Sikhism.

    MISSION

    Kala Afghana has devoted the past twenty (or so) years of his life, since retiring from Punjab's police force, to dispelling the ritual and mythology that has gradually contaminated Sikhism over the years since its pristine birth in 1469.

    He believes Sikhism, like Buddhism and Jainism, would have been absorbed into Hinduism were it not for the unambiguous and consistent delineation of Sikh theology provided by Sikhism's primary scripture, the Adi Granth. In an interview with The Sikh Times, Kala Afghana stated that his only rahit maryaada (code of conduct) is the Adi Granth. He confirmed that he doesn't believe in the official Sikh Rahit Maryaada, approved by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (S.G.P.C.), an elected body responsible for managing India's major gurdwaras.

    His most influential work is the multi-volume epic titled Biparan Kii Riit Ton Sach Daa Maarag (From the Practice of Ritual to the Path of Truth). The series expounds in great detail on the astonishing number of rituals and mythologies that have gained currency in contemporary Sikhism. This essay highlights the primary themes.

    AMRIT SANSKAAR

    The fifth volume in the series lays out the Vancouver-based author's controversial views on amrit (sweetened baptismal initiation water). Although twice-baptized[3] himself and a strict observer of the amrit-dhari (orthodox) form required of baptized Sikhs, he raises several compelling questions regarding the origin and state of amrit sanskaar, Sikhism's institution for initiation into the orthodox[4,5] Khalsa order.

    When Sikhism's tenth Guru (preceptor), Gobind Singh, announced an end to the line of personal human Gurus, he awarded Guru status jointly to the Adi Granth (or Guru Granth, a book of spiritual hymns) and the Guru Panth (the collective will of the Sikh community). Therefore, Kala Afghana contends that only the hymns contained within the Adi Granth ought to be read during the baptism ceremony.

    In it's current state, however, the initiation ceremony consists of the reading of five hymns, of which three (Jaap, Ten Savaiyaas, and Benatii Chaupaii) are from the Dasam Granth and only two (Jap and anand) are from the Adi Granth.[6] The Dasam Granth is a body of work of disputed authorship, traditionally attributed, in whole or part, to Guru Gobind Singh.

    Traditionalists claim that Guru Gobind Singh read from the Dasam Granth during the pioneering baptism ceremony performed during the 1699 founding of the Khalsa. In rebutting such claims, Kala Afghana reasons that if Guru Gobind Singh wished to elevate the Dasam Granth to the position of Guru, he would have done so by including it into the Adi Granth.

    DASAM GRANTH

    Whereas the Adi Granth consistently stresses its patently religious message of liberation through meditation on the divine Name, the Dasam Granth, in contrast, consists primarily of legends from the Hindu Puraanas and anecdotes that have little to do with religious belief.[7,8] It is, therefore, difficult to accept the contents of the Dasam Granth as either sacred or scripture.[9] As one scholar put it, the 'Sikh Rahit Maryaada illustrates the general ambivalence toward the Dasam Granth by omitting all reference to it.'[10]

    According to Kala Afghana, reading hymns from the Dasam Granth during the baptism ceremony is tantamount to according Guru status to the Dasam Granth. His challenge to the current incarnation of the institution of amrit sanskaar is rooted in a strict refusal to treat the Dasam Granth as sacred scripture. He insists that by not doing so explicitly, Guru Gobind Singh sought to draw a clear distinction between the two, a distinction that appears to be lost on those who insist on treating it as scripture.

    And yet, Kala Afghana's odds seem poor when one considers the historical evidence pointing to the prevalence of reverence for the Dasam Granth and Hindu scriptures throughout Sikh history.[11] Present instances include the installation and recitation of the Dasam Granth at two of the five Sikh Takhts (seats of supreme authority), namely Takht Hazoor Sahib (Nanded, Maharashtra) and Takht Patna Sahib (Bihar), as well as in gurdwaras (Sikh places of worship) 'managed by the Nihang Sikhs.'[12] The Kukaas, a Sikh sect founded by ex-Naamdhaarii Ram Singh, go one step further and require their adherents to treat the Dasam Granth as scripture in exclusion to all other religious texts including the Adi Granth.[13]

    AMRIT

    Kala Afghana also challenges the stockpile of mythologies surrounding the institution of amrit. He refutes as completely baseless, for example, the traditional mythological claims that amrit can revive the dead. Traditionalists claim that the amrit sarovar (pool of nectar) surrounding the Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple) in Amritsar, Punjab possesses the power to revive the dead. Kala Afghana contends that if this were true we would not have witnessed the numerous dead bodies floating in the pool at the conclusion of Operation Blue Star[14] in 1984.

    GUR-BILAAS CHHEVIN PATSHAAHII

    It should be noted that although Kala Afghana had been writing since 1993, the Akal Takht did not move to ban him and his writings until after he unmasked the mythological and ritualistic content of the 1999 reissue of Gur-bilaas Chhevin Patshaahii, co-edited by the Akal Takht's jathedar (head priest), Joginder Singh Vedanti.

    The anonymously authored book, often 'attributed to a poet called Sohan,'[15] is a 'hagiographic treatment'[16] of the life of Sikhism's sixth Guru, Hargobind. It 'portrays Guru Hargobind as the twenty-fourth reincarnation [avatar] of [the Hindu god] Vishnu'[17] and asserts that the Darbar Sahib's four entrances represent not egalitarianism but 'the four arms of Chatarbhuji (a Hindu god).'[18]By October 2000, the objections originally voiced by Kala Afghana had gained sufficient momentum to compel the S.G.P.C. to ban[19] its own publication.

    However, despite the withdrawal of the book, the rituals prescribed in it continue to be practiced at the Darbar Sahib, the holiest shrine of the Sikhs. These rituals include the nightly bathing in milk of the floor that provides the Adi Granth's daytime setting, keeping a ghee jyoti (oil lamp) lit at all times, and the provision of a cot and quilt for the Adi Granth at its nighttime resting place.

    Although Vedanti wrote a disclaimer in his preface to the book acknowledging the book's numerous anti-Sikh aspects, paradoxically he also expressed the desire to see the resumption of its recitation in gurdwaras. He justified his role in promoting the book by characterizing it as 'a primary source on the life of Guru Hargobind.'[20]

    In the above backdrop, Vedanti's action against Kala Afghana appears vengeful. Furthermore, it is an irresponsible abuse of power contributing to the lowering of the prestige of his august office.

    NOTES AND REFERENCES

    1. Karolides, Nicholas J., Margaret Bald and Dawn B. Sova, 100 Banned Books: Censorship Histories of World Literature (New York: Checkmark Books), pp. 228-229, 1999.
    2. The Sikh Bulletin (Roseville, CA).
    3. Interview with The Sikh Times, June 1, 2003.
    4. Singh, Khushwant, A History of the Sikhs, Volume 2 (New Delhi: Oxford University Press), pp. 293 and 320, 1999.
    5. McLeod, W. H., The Sikhs: History, Religion, and Society (New York: Columbia University Press), p. 53, 1989.
    6. McLeod, W. H., Sikhs of the Khalsa: A History of the Khalsa Rahit (New Delhi: Oxford University Press), p. 398, 2003.
    7. McLeod, W. H., Textual Sources for the Study of Sikhism (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press), p. 6, 1984.
    8. McLeod, Hew, Sikhism (Penguin Books), p. 177, 1997.
    9. Oberoi, Harjot, The Construction of Religious Boundaries: Culture, Identity and Diversity in the Sikh Tradition (New Delhi: Oxford University Press), p. 98, 1994.
    10. McLeod, W. H., The Sikhs, p. 135.
    11. Oberoi, Harjot, The Construction of Religious Boundaries, p. 99.
    12. McLeod, W. H., The Sikhs, p. 92.
    13. Singh, Khushwant, A History of the Sikhs, Volume 2, p. 129.
    14. Operation Blue Star was the code name given to the Indian army's offensive into the Darbar Sahib, aimed at the epicenter of the armed movement for Sikh autonomy in the Indian state of the Punjab.
    15. Mcleod, W.H., Textual Sources for the Study of Sikhism, p. 12.
    16. Mcleod, W.H., Textual Sources for the Study of Sikhism, p. 161.
    17. Oberoi, Harjot, The Construction of Religious Boundaries, p. 102.
    18. Singh, Jasvinder, The Sikh Sentinel, July 11, 2003.
    19. The Tribune, May 11, 2003.
    20. The Tribune, August 3, 2003.

    http://sikhtimes.com/bios_071004a.html
     
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  3. Tejwant Singh

    Tejwant Singh United States
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    Dear Puneet ji,

    Guru Fateh,

    I discussed the above at length in different Sikh Forums last year.

    When I read that some sikhs encouraged by Giani Vedanti were burning Kala Afghana's books , I posed the following question:-


    1. How is burning or banning books of any kind Gurmat?

    2. Does Gurbani teach us to ban or burn anything that we donot agree with?

    3. Did our Gurus burn any literature they thought was ungodly? To the contrary. Guru Teg Bahadur ji gave HIS head so that Hindus could worship thier God in their way although HE did not agree with it.

    4. Hitler was the cruelest man of the century and he burnt books. Is there any difference between his mentality and the mentality of the people who call themselves GURU KEI SIKHS who indulge in this?

    5. The Iranian Ayotollah did the same to Salman Rushdie's book "The Satanic verses" and also he put the price on his head (remember something like this from our history?). How many of you thought that it was ok to do that?

    I donot agree with Kala Afgana on many things but this is NOT the Gurmat way to resolve any matter.


    Tejwant Singh

     
  4. Arvind

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    I agree 100% with Tejwant ji. Burning books seem to be going to old ages to protest something, and this actually gives more visibility. As rightly said - Keep both or all the views (agreeable and disagreeable), and then able people will be able to pick up and understand the things with more depth with their own prudence.
     
  5. plamba

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    Thank you for supporting freedom of expression and civility in the face of disagreement.

    I am interested in hearing your objections to what KA has written.

    Puneet Singh Lamba/Boston
    http://sikhtimes.com
     
  6. Tejwant Singh

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    Dear Puneet Ji,

    I have only read snipets of his thought process in several Sikh Forums. I would like to get hold of his books to further my knowledge in this matter.

    In what I have read, I do not disagree with his view of questioning what creates doubts in a seeker's mind about the peripheral events which are not mentioned in SSGS as we all know only SGGS is our benchmark.

    Before I write about my disagreements, I would like to ask you the following:-

    1.Did Kala Afghana use a term in his books which translates as ORTHODOX sikh or ORTHODOX Khalsa order? If he did, then I would appreciate if you can indicate the site where I can read that portion where orthodox is mentioned.

    If it is you who wrote it then can you please give me your meaning of the word ORTHODOX and how it relates to a Sikh and Khalsa Panth in your point of view?

    2. Did Kala Afghana use the word 'DASAM GRANTH' in his books? If he did, then did he also mention that theres no such book as DASAM GRANTH?

    3.Your wrote:
    <<Kala Afghana also challenges the stockpile of mythologies surrounding the institution of amrit. He refutes as completely baseless, for example, the traditional mythological claims that amrit can revive the dead. Traditionalists claim that the amrit sarovar (pool of nectar) surrounding the Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple) in Amritsar, Punjab possesses the power to revive the dead. Kala Afghana contends that if this were true we would not have witnessed the numerous dead bodies floating in the pool at the conclusion of Operation Blue Star[14] in 1984. >>

    If you could also give me the references where he refutes what you wrote above about reviving the dead, I would be greatful.


    For a Sikh, the journey is not physical but spiritual. As it is ONLY SPIRITUAL then the death is also spiritual NOT PHYSICAL and I am sure being a seeker himself Kala Afghana is aware of that.

    In other words if Kala Afghana has mentioned about the physical death without explaining that it is NOT physical but ONLY spiritual, then he is dead wrong. No pun intended.:)

    Peace and Love

    Tejwant
     
  7. Tejwant Singh

    Tejwant Singh United States
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    Puneet Ji,

    Guru Fateh,

    Are you comparing Kala Afgahna to Martin Luther, the founder of protestant faith in Christanity?

    As you are. Can you pls enlighten me about your conclusion?

    Thanx

    Peace & Love

    Tejwant
     
  8. plamba

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    To read GSKA's books, please visit:

    http://www.sikhbulletin.com/downloads/index.php

    KA hasn't, to my knowledge, used the term "orthodox" or similar.

    As indicated in footnotes four and five of my essay, my usage of the term has been borrowed from other historians (Khushwant and McLeod). According to McLeod, "The Khalsa may be regarded [as] an elite or as the 'orthodox' version of the Sikh identity, but the Rahit need not be regarded as a code which automatically excludes all who do not meet its strict requirements."

    KA has indeed used the term "Dasam Granth" (vol. 5, p. 133). I'm not sure what you mean by there being "no such book." Please elaborate. I am well aware of the existence of such a book.

    KA does indeed make the distinction between physical death and spiritual death. However, he critiques versions of history (e.g. "Gurmat Rahit Maryada" by the Bhindranwale seminary) that claim that on Vaisakhi day in 1699 Guru Gobind Singh had indeed severed the heads of the five beloved and that their heads were restored to their bodies upon the sprinkling of amrit. In this context, given that Guru Gobind Singh had a blood stained sword in his hand, the severing of heads can only be assumed to be physical, not spiritual (vol 5, pp. 213-218).

    Thank you for the excellent discussion.

    Puneet Singh Lamba
    Boston, MA
    http://sikhtimes.com
     
  9. plamba

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    Martin Luther revolted against "the decadence and corruption of the Catholic pope and clergy" (see footnote one in my essay).

    KA is similarly protesting corruption within the Sikh leadership that has resulted in Vedanti promoting a brahminical text (Gur-bilass Chhevin Patshaahii).

    As happened in KA's case, Luther's books were burnt with the blessings of the pope.

    There's always a trigger point that causes movements to catch fire. I am arguing that KA's excommunication might be such a point in Sikhism.

    Puneet Singh Lamba
    Boston, MA
    http://sikhtimes.com
     
  10. Tejwant Singh

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    One more interaction regarding KalaAfghana

    Forwarded Message:
    Subj:Re: [gurmatdiscussions] Re: [Khalistan] Kala Afghana was beaten up in londan ... Date:6/1/04 12:17:34 PM Pacific Daylight TimeFrom:RoadRunnr123To:gurmatdiscussions@yahoogroups.com, news@sikhhelpline.com, akj@yahoogroups.com, AmericanSikhs@yahoogroups.com, khalistan@yahoogroups.com, learning-zone@yahoogroups.com, learning-zonenews@yahoogroups.com, naujawan-academy@yahoogroups.com, snamembers@yahoogroups.com, Lsingh4




    <<In a message dated 6/1/04 9:16:33 AM Pacific Daylight Time, lsingh4@cs.com writes:
    Tejwant ji


    Kala afghana is no longer a sikh.he is excommunicared from sikh
    panth.Before that, at best, he was an atheist,corrupt agent of hidden
    forces.

    If he writes trash about sikh scriptures and history with a view to
    distort sikhism,what else you expect sikhs to do.

    Gur ki ninda sunne na kaan---

    Ajit >>

    Ajit Singh ji,


    Guru Fateh,

    Only IK ONG KAAR knows who is a Sikh and who is not. You and I will never find out. Hence it is naive to play ONE GOD by judging people about thier spirituality.

    We must remind ourselves as often as possible about our relationship with IK ONG KAAR and how it is obtained, when we read the following verse in ANAND SAHIB everyday.

    'Non davaerei purgut keeyei, Dasvan gupt rakhaaeiyah.'

    'ONE GOD has given us 9 visible 'PORTALS' in our body and the 10th is the hidden one, our spiritual PORTAL, which is given to every individual and through this 10th door one finds the path to seek IK ONG KAAR.'

    If this is the only path as prescribed in the GURBANI, then how can you and I judge who is a sikh and who is not??!!

    Now let me not deviate myself from subject of Kala Afghana whose books were burnt and also banned by the members of our panth. I would like to know how would you define those people!!! Please let me know when and which of our Gurus beat anyone up, banned and burned the books whom they did not agree with?

    To the contrary, our Gurus gave thier lives to defend the innocents who were being raped and killed by the fiends even though they did not agree with thier spiritual path.

    I myself do not agree with lots of things that Kala Afghana has said. But is that the reason to beat the guy up because he has offended IK ONG KAAR from our FINITE benchmark?

    Ajit ji,

    Please enlighten me,

    1.How can one insult, criticise or be blasphmous to the CREATOR?

    2.How can we measure the INFINITE with our FINITE yard stick?

    The answer for the above 2 is NO. As it is NO then we should find the Gurmat way to resolve this.

    My point is that by showing our anger rather than outrage we are making a success out of his books. Had the books been ignored, the matter would have settled and the books would be still collecting dust in the publisher's warehouse.

    I have no idea why we have turned a flop movie into a box office hit.

    As sikhs it our duty to contest ANTI GURMAT with GURMAT by giving examples from SGGS ( which has already been done by various scholars of Sikhi) not by beating, by banning or burning his books nor by ex-communicationg someone.

    Talking about ex-communication, what does the Panth achieve from this action? Do you think by doing this we have been able to close Kala's 10th PORTAL which can only be bestowed by IK ONG KAAR? NOT POSSIBLE in anyway or form.

    By ex communicating anyone from the PANTH is the same as trying -without success-to close one of the 4 doors of Harimandir Sahib hence running away from Gurmat Ideals.

    Let's combat ANTI GURMAT with GURMAT not by using violence the way the marauders did in India.

    Let the amber of GURMAT light itself from our inner manifestation. Sikhi can not be imposed. It is manifested eternally through our 10th PORTAL which each of us has been blessed with by ONE GOD'S grace. You and I can not even take a peek from someone else's 10th Portal.

    My 2 cent worth.

    Tejwant Singh
     
  11. Arvind

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    Well said Tejwant ji.

    Burning books, beating up is not the right way. Honestly, since childhood, I find tankhahiya system somewhat odd due to my limited information about the topic, and find this something similar to be playing God by humans (SGPC).

    Anyway, coming back - Resolving issues by Gurmat, certainly is. Actually, this freshens up a psychological training - Six Thinking Hats by Dr. Edward Bono. The technique emphasizes looking at an issue and resolution from different points of view, without pointing at a person. Measuring the result analytically with all sort of parties involved, results into constructive conclusion too.

    But somehow, I get the feeling, that we tend to lose focus of discussion sooner, shift focus to the person, and get offended really fast. However, with Gurmat, I find these tendencies dying within me.

    (((( Ik Ong Kaar ))))
     
  12. Neutral Singh

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    I agree every bit with you Tejwant Ji.
     
  13. plamba

    plamba
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    That's starting to sound like rhetoric given that there hasn't been much actual discussion of KA's writings on this thread.

    Can we please get down to discussing his writings?

    Puneet Singh Lamba/Boston
    http://sikhtimes.com
     
  14. Tejwant Singh

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    Puneet ji,

    Guru Fateh.

    I had no idea that for you interacting about justice being served or not is mere rhetoric.

    The way it seems you want to argue with people who think differently than you do. I am not here for the argument. I am here to interact so that I can learn from the SADH SANGAT :).

    Before we go any further on the subject I would like to know the following from you.

    1.What/who is a sikh for you?

    2. Is Baana important for a person to be called a sikh?

    3.Would you call a person a sikh without the baana ?

    4. Is Khande de pahul must for a person to become a sikh?

    5. Are you a baana wearing Sikh? if yes then are you in favor of taking amrit?
    pls give me your reason either way.

    In the sikhi spirit of full disclosure I took amrit about 17 years ago and I do not consider myself orthodox as sikhi can not be put in a box of orthodoxy.Well that's my point.

    Secondly and more important thing is that you think very high of KG and because of this you are ready to defend him with tooth and nail no matter what. Thats why you have made him 'a protestant messiah' of Sikhi, which for me is quite far fetched.

    I would only compare GURU NANAK with Martin Luther as we know what Guru Nanak did no one on this face of the earth could have ever done. KG or no one else can be compared to MArtin Luther from our faith but GURU NANAK. However KG does have some good points and As I said they should be discussed openly by sikh sangat. However parochial minded people refuse to talk about it and also will not even let him enter the Gurdwaras where he could express himself about his viewpoint. This is more due to insecurity and passing the buck to the Akaal Takhat mentality.

    Regarding Rehatnaama, please check the follwoing thread:-

    http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/threads/sikhism-a-religion.264/

    I would also urge you to go through all the threads about Sikhi here, if you have not doen so already, so that you can have some kind of idea about the sikhi thought process of the sadh sangat in this forum.

    Puneet ji, Your greviance lies with the Akaal Takhat and SGPC, and the religio politicos, sitting crossed legged on high chairs claiming to be the caretakers of the panth, not with me.:)

    Peace & Love

    Tejwant
     
    #13 Tejwant Singh, Jul 28, 2004
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 4, 2015
  15. plamba

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    Are we discussing KA's writings or my beliefs?

    As someone quite rightly commented earlier on this thread, is it up to us to decide who is a Sikh or a good Sikh?

    Puneet Singh Lamba/Boston
    http://sikhtimes.com
     
  16. Tejwant Singh

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    Puneet ji,

    We are discussing Sikhi which is a belief and this belief includes yourself,KG and myself and many others who may be interested in.

    In your belief what I wrote was rhetoric. So thats why it is must to know your belief and concept about Sikhi before we can discuss about KG. It is also your belief that KG is Martin Luther, a sikh protestant messiah.

    I fail to understand one thing that first you give your opinion based on your belief and when asked further, you want to change the subject. I thought we were talking about Sikhi concept based on SGGS.

    Puneet ji, so tell me how we can find a common ground when what you say is not rhetoric but well thought belief and what I say is a mere rhetoric.:) although we are talking about the same from several different angles.

    We have to know where we are coming from so that we can meet at the common path called Sikhi.

    Peace & Love

    Tejwant
     
  17. Tejwant Singh

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    Puneet ji,

    Could you also share with us any correspondence from your side to the people who were criticising KA in Sikh forums?


    I would appreciate that.

    Peace & Love

    Tejwant
    PS:- I have some more correspondence which you blatantly call rhetoric defending KG. If you are interested, I can post some more for you pleasure.:)
     
  18. etinder

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    just want to make one point here that whether the baani that we read everyday as nitnem or the baani that is recited at the time of amrit ceremony ,
    whether that baani is taking as towards Akal purakh or its making us "bemukh"
    baani saanu us supreme sovereign naal jorh rahi hai yaa todh rahi hai.
    as per my lilttle knowledge goes the baani that we recites daily takes us towards Him, so does it make it worthwhile to quibble over it.
    lots of regards
     
  19. Critical Singh

    Critical Singh
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    If Sikhs are to be excommicated on utilising their freedom of expression then I think 100% of the sikhs should be excomminicated from Sikh Panth because every Sikh who raises questions on Sikhism is a Tankhayiah according to a Sikh religious body, I would not name. damn !!
     
  20. S|kH

    S|kH
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    Haha, the Kala-Afghana debate again ;).

    I've never read a book of his, yet I've been called a Kala Afghana follower and worshipper numerous amounts of times.

    I am a part of the same movement, to take out the trash that punjabi culture bestows upon Sikhism. (Rituals, Myths, etc. etc.)

    I've read some exceprts from his books, and although I do not agree with him on every point, I do believe in his movement.

    "From the path of the ritual, to the path of truth"

    I'll look at his books tommorrow, thanks for the links.
     
  21. Arvind

    Arvind
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    Sikh ji,

    The mission is understandabe to some extent. Instead of making KA's discussion (be being right or wrong), Do share with sangat about agreeable and disagreeable points. As I feel, once we get hold of the points put forward, and apply logical thinking supported by facts and Guru Granth Sahib ji, then truth is definitely going to churn out.

    With humble request.
     

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