Precepts-Related

There are two numbers that are associated in Gurbani [and in most religious thought] with God – Ek and anant, agant or one and infinite.  Both apart from conveying specific numerical sense in common parlance are also the shared symbolism for the very unique, incomprehensive-able Divine power.

Transcendent is associated with ek and immanent with anek, even anant.  Whether this happens through division or divine ability to expand and retract is in the realm of conjecture but the concept explains the Guru’s thought on the way the Divine is both karta and bhugta. The state of sunya, or nothingness, is not zero but another expression for an infinite void.

But if we want to play with numbers, 1 divided by zero is infinity and if divided by infinity the result is accepted as zero. Infinity is not just one set – any subset of infinity is also infinite. Infinite therefore is infinitely divisible and shunya is not quite the zero we think. Extending mathematical analysis may not add to our comprehension of God as we accept it but presents some interesting insights into how early metaphysical thought may have influenced.

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Jagjit* ji is right provided we have a clarity on what constitutes the sangat. Gurdwaras have several enclosures and different activities go on separately in them. That is a common practice. If by sangat we mean all within the larger precinct of the Gurdwara, this practice can be faulted but if it is associated with each enclosure, then there is no reason for raus.

The situation gets even murkier when we envision a nagar kirtan – multiple activities, with fluid flow of devotees and tamashais between them. Is sangat only a body of devotees sitting in an enclosure or those who are in a mobile mode are included.  How about the Palki aagman situation at Darbar Sahib – is it one sangat inside, outside and in between and how many concurrent liturgical activities are going on.

I submit that the problem in this case is not two activities in one sangat but the activity that in terms of its liturgical importance is considered more sacrosanct was relegated to another smaller enclosure so that kirtan may proceed in the main hall.  This kind of practice is common in the Diaspora especially when akhand path is being conducted in the main hall and for that period all other activities are carried out in makeshift enclosures.

*Jagjit Singh is a Delhi based author. His publications include ‘The Sikh Tree’.

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Gurtej ji said in response to Gurmeet ji’s observation “However I did not find anything in support of ‘japna‘, ‘dhiyana‘, ‘simarna‘ as mentioned by you.”

To me also such stages do not seem to be evident from gurbani. Gurbani approach is holistic, multi dimensional, growth in spiritual understanding as one dwells on naam as it pervades all around, not just a word or phrase and ponders over it and tries to live by it in the light of one’s evolving understanding of hukam.

I would not dissuade any body from naam jaap the way it is commended by Gurmeet ji and some others but would hesitate in suggesting it as the norm. The reason is that if we do it, it may soon become like yoga with its own rigor in observance rituals. I also wonder if all of us who ritualistically recite Banis daily find the practice helpful in understanding the Banis or promoting khoj and veechar. Committing to memory and ability to recall does help khoj and veechar but daily recitation – I am not sure. There is another factor too. If naam jaap as it is being promoted now were the intent of Gurbani, the tradition would have had some elements that point to that understanding by the sangat.

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We may also remember that the number of vaaks or hukams that we may read per SRM tradition is very finite. A sampling can be seen in the work of K S Duggal’s book Guruvak [UBSPD 1999]. Guru’s vaak cannot be circumscribed as finite. Guru is infinite. He is always ‘nava niroa‘. He never becomes ‘purana‘ and that infinite ever newness happens in our consciousness the way we receive and grasp the message in our evolving consciousness and the reality of our temporal life.

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The differences of opinion between Virinder ji and Kulbir ji have come up for some comments from our fellow members. Madho Singh ji made a comment intended to put a stop to the acrimony addressed to Kulbir Singh. Jodh Singh, Kirpal Singh and Parminder Singh have spoken about the learning value that they have found in the various write ups circulated by Virender ji. Charan Singh has talked of the learning he has seen in the writings of both Virinder Singh and Kulbir Singh.

I had no intention of intervening but feel compelled to share some perspectives. I think our internal attempt at scotching acrimony is a mature response by a group because all said and done intervention by moderators should be rare if at all needed. Though for those of us who have been participating in these forums, such instances were there.

The question however that is important to me is to try and understand what may be at the root of this divide. I am not sure if the responses we have witnessed give an indication of that. For this we may have to look back into the writings of both these participants on GLZ and also Sikh Diaspora in case of Virinder ji. There is a major ideological divide that separates the two. My sense is that beneath the veneer of his very logical and refined writings Kulbir ji believes in the composite of Sikhi that includes bana and bani. Virinder ji on the other hand has been very vocal about the futility of bana and even though he has moderated his writing of late, the sub text in his writings continues to be that, now presented using words like spirituality, sabd guru says etc.

I do believe that both Kulbir ji and Virinder ji have a deep sense of piety. Both have contributed to our discussions and in their own ways enriched them.  Possibly both have served the community through their activism. And yes both have love and respect for gurbani. But they do seem to have different view of praxis and tradition that makes for their conflicted views.

It is not my intent to bring back an extended debate on bana and what sabd guru says or does not say on the subject. At the same time it is for members to make out what is the message individuals are trying to convey.

The adage that memories are short is true. Also true is the fact that anything if repeated again and again begins to sound like the accepted and shared wisdom. These are the risks inherent in the real world and also in the virtual one. If Deras are doing so well as compared to mainstream Sikhi proponents, and what we are seeing is the dominant expressed view in this divide, our gullibility perhaps goes beyond the villages of Punjab.

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