(Fortnight Feb 1, 2010 to Feb 15, 2010)
(Interview conducted by Narayanjot Kaur Ji)
(Interview conducted by Narayanjot Kaur Ji)
Username : Balwinder Singh
1. Please tell us about your first experiences of Sikhi (either in your family or as a convert).
My father was a Granthi in Army and later in a civilian area Gurudwara. I lived in a Gurudwara for about eight years.
2. What events and experiences inspired you to continue on your journey learning about Sikhism, and deepening your understanding?
My parents never insisted on following the rituals for the sake of doing it. They followed the first principle of not forcing anyone, even their own kids. In fact they always advised people from our neighbourhood to follow a practical path to any problem, either physical/ medical or spiritual. My father never promoted doing an Ardaas for someone only for getting a job or when someone is ill. He always advised them to take practical steps to achieve the desired results. Maybe he never believed in magical powers but only faith healing. He spread this message without actually saying so, thereby keeping the faith of the person intact.
It was after 1984 that I really started looking at our religion as a totally separate entity. It may be due to my age. I was about 22 years and had completed the bachelors degree. In a way, I was ready for the next phase of life and looking out for other matters of life.
But the evens of 1984 did make a significant and decisive difference. Even afterwards, our main source of information was India Today, Newspapers and radio, as I had no link with Punjab. I had almost nil idea about life in Punjab. My link started from June 1984 when I first started to work. As a matter of fact my first visit to Chandigarh was on June 3, 1984. It was a great feeling to taste a Chhabeel in the sector 22 residential area. Two kids had put a stall and did not let me pass without having one. I had never come across such things in Uttar Pradesh where I grew up. It was really a new experience.
3. If you could name one thing about Sikhism that is most important to you (something that you would never give up) what would it be?
Its simplicity and uncomplicated approach. Its emphasis on three pillars: Naam Jaap , Kirat Kamaai and Vand Chhakna. One has to just follow these rules and all other rules are secondary .Its incusiveness. It welcomes people of all faith, in real terms.
4. Were there individuals who were role models, who taught you how to be and live as a Sikh?
None in particular, but my parents’ influence is obvious. My mother shaped my future by promoting disciplined life. Not a strict one; but she never let us stray, as a shepherd takes care of his herd.
5. Who may have motivated you to learn more about Sikhism?
The Khalistan Movement. Otherwise, I may have never had any questions in my mind. Once, in Canada, someone equated Sikhs with dacoits and “shoodra;” and it remains inscribed in my mind. There is a good principle I have noticed: you can not achieve much in life without a need/shock. It is like a rich person's kids being spoilt because they never “need” to work to get what they have in life. A lottery winner almost always looses the money most of the time.
6. Did you ever experience barriers as you continued on your journey?
People are always voicing concerns. In our community people are pointing out small matters of doing things, in the “so-called” Right way, and people from another community are always speaking about Sikhs being a part of Hindus or Guru Nanak Dev Ji being a Muslim!
7. Thinking of yourself today as a Sikh, how do you live Sikhism in your own way?
Being truthful. I noticed that people find me helpful and dependable. If I am not able to give a monetary dasvandh, I have given more by providing my time. Time has value, especially in the western world.
8.How do you understand Seva to the Guru and to the panth, in your own words and in your own experience?
Some people have taken undue advantage of my nature, but I continue to be a provider of help. I am sure we can change the community even if a minority of people follow the basic points of being truthful and help others. It is not difficult. A positive competitiveness is good, but a gain by stealing from others is more prevalent. We need to be competing in a positive fashion in the community and at the workplace. For example, buying a bigger house is not serving the community in anyway. It just increases stress and reduces community wealth, which is needed for community development. Help the community in spite of it members’ beliefs. That is true “seva” without a desire of returns.
9. What is the most difficult part of being a Sikh?
To maintain the 5 K’s in today's life and work culture. I know it is a taboo, but I think this is the most difficult part and its effects are visible everywhere. In my view, this is also a reason for our youth trying to avoid following the religion altogether. Many people take this easy way out. They think that if they went to Gurudwara, someone would ask them uneasy questions. Then they end up avoiding Gurudwara. We have to remain inclusive at all times and for all people.
10. Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers?
Already said too much. When you are going to bed, just think if you have made anyone sad for your personal gain. That is negative competition and should be avoided the next day.
11. What are the top 5 critical things that you would like to see for SPN Members?
- Be truthful.
- Always be helpful.
- Do not point out others' mistakes unless you have a real solution.
- Using a last name has become a necessity. I never used a family name till I had to apply for Canadian immigration. My family members still do not use our family name as they are still in India. We should focus on real equality than name equality.
- Understand and follow the reason for providing a single last name by our Gurus. In the present context we can not implement it. It is similar to insisting on keeping a long kirpan which can not be allowed, or like veil for Muslim women. To implement the irrelevance of a last name, we should not insist our kids to use our own family name. Give them freedom to choose. Make it redundant.
- Organise our community in order to have religious schools to churn out our Granthis, Sewadaars, raagis. Make this job a respectful one and make it more rigorous so that people aspire to attain a feeling of achievement when they complete the course. It also requires higher and regular compensation.
- Do not close your doors to people of other faiths and people who have strayed from your own faith.
- Even though it may be too idealistic but... Naa ko bairee Naahee begaanaa.
On Ang 432 by Guru Nanak Dev ji, in Raag Aasaa
ik oankaar sathigur prasaadh ||
One Universal Creator God. By The Grace Of The True Guru:
sasai soe srisatt jin saajee sabhanaa saahib eaek bhaeiaa ||
Sassa: He who created the world, is the One Lord and Master of all.
saevath rehae chith jinh kaa laagaa aaeiaa thinh kaa safal bhaeiaa ||1||
Those whose consciousness remains committed to His Service - blessed is their birth and their coming into the world. ||1||
man kaahae bhoolae moorr manaa ||
O mind, why forget Him? You foolish mind!
jab laekhaa dhaevehi beeraa tho parriaa ||1|| rehaao ||
When your account is adjusted, O brother, only then shall you be judged wise. ||1||Pause||
eevarree aadh purakh hai dhaathaa aapae sachaa soee ||
Eevree: The Primal Lord is the Giver; He alone is True.
eaenaa akharaa mehi jo guramukh boojhai this sir laekh n hoee ||2||
No accounting is due from the Gurmukh who understands the Lord through these letters. ||2||
oorrai oupamaa thaa kee keejai jaa kaa anth n paaeiaa ||
Ooraa: Sing the Praises of the One whose limit cannot be found.
saevaa karehi saeee fal paavehi jinhee sach kamaaeiaa ||3||
Those who perform service and practice truth, obtain the fruits of their rewards. ||3||
n(g)ann(g)ai n(g)iaan boojhai jae koee parriaa panddith soee ||
Nganga: One who understands spiritual wisdom becomes a Pandit, a religious scholar.
sarab jeeaa mehi eaeko jaanai thaa houmai kehai n koee ||4||
One who recognizes the One Lord among all beings does not talk of ego. ||4||
kakai kaes punddar jab hooeae vin saaboonai oujaliaa ||
Kakka: When the hair grows grey, then it shines without shampoo.
jam raajae kae haeroo aaeae maaeiaa kai sangal bandhh laeiaa ||5||
The hunters of the King of Death come, and bind him in the chains of Maya. ||5||
khakhai khundhakaar saah aalam kar khareedh jin kharach dheeaa ||
Khakha: The Creator is the King of the world; He enslaves by giving nourishment.
bandhhan jaa kai sabh jag baadhhiaa avaree kaa nehee hukam paeiaa ||6||
By His Binding, all the world is bound; no other Command prevails. ||6||
gagai goe gaae jin shhoddee galee gobidh garab bhaeiaa ||
Gagga: One who renounces the singing of the songs of the Lord of the Universe, becomes arrogant in his speech.
gharr bhaanddae jin aavee saajee chaarran vaahai thee keeaa ||7||
One who has shaped the pots, and made the world the kiln, decides when to put them in it. ||7||
ghaghai ghaal saevak jae ghaalai sabadh guroo kai laag rehai ||
Ghagha: The servant who performs service, remains attached to the Word of the Guru's Shabad.
buraa bhalaa jae sam kar jaanai ein bidhh saahib ramath rehai ||8||
One who recognizes bad and good as one and the same - in this way he is absorbed into the Lord and Master. ||8||
chachai chaar vaedh jin saajae chaarae khaanee chaar jugaa ||
Chacha: He created the four Vedas, the four sources of creation, and the four ages
jug jug jogee khaanee bhogee parriaa panddith aap thheeaa ||9||
- through each and every age, He Himself has been the Yogi, the enjoyer, the Pandit and the scholar. ||9||
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