Thursday, 27 December 2012

On the Way to The Gurdwara !

What I saw on the way to The Gurdwara !

(Photos by Baldev Singh Dhaliwal of SEWA OZ)
Click on the photos to enlarge

Sorry ! Wrong clue !

Yes!  Definitely on the way !

Another interruption & wrong signposting!

with Baba's Full Kirpa !!!

Remain in Chardhi Kalaa!


 Do NOT forget your heritage !

  Be adventurous & see the world !  (Where is Blinman ?)

& Always be Waheguru-Aware! (in Naam Simran) !

Baldev Singh Dhaliwal JP
©Baldev Singh Dhaliwal

Please acknowledge this blogspot if any items are used.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

A Portrait of Courage !

Author's "Spectrum" Column in The Sikh Times UK:  2 October 2009

Sardar Harbinder Singh Rana

"Not to be stronger than the other, but to be stronger than self*"  is the essence of the Sikh martyrdom (shahidee) tradition. That also is the secret of Sikh invincibility in battle for the righteous cause, when Guru Gobind Singh announced  "My single Sikh shall take on thousands" (Sava lakh** se ek laraon).

(*J P S Uberoi        ** Literally “sava lakh” is 125,000, symbolic of impossible odds. )

A Sikh, unhesitatingly, offers sacrifice of self,  while treading the path of truthful conduct in God’s Will.  For a Sikh, that is the meaning of dharma (dharam nibhaona).

Sikh martyrdom is an expression of love for the beloved Creator Being while surrendering self in the service of His creation.

Countless Sikh sacrifices and martyrdoms are remembered collectively in the daily Sikh Ardaas (supplication).

However, while Sikh martyrs are remembered in gurdwaras, there have been few initiatives which tell the world about them. One such outstanding initiative is the annual “Portraits of Courage” lecture hosted by Anglo-Sikh Heritage Trail (ASHT) in association with the Imperial War Museum.

This year’s lecture on 29 September, 2009,  “A Tradition of Valour” by Harbinder Singh Rana, Honorary Director of ASHT, was the tenth in the series. It summarised the main themes of the series to an attentive mixed audience of leading representatives from diverse fields.

Enthralled, the audience heard of the Saragarhi 21 and other martyrdoms in the Sikh military tradition.

Looking around at the Imperial War Museum background and the mixed audience including many UK VIPs, I was reminded of the African proverb quoted by Harbinder on an earlier occasion, "Until the lions tell their own history, history will always glorify the hunter."

Here, we heard the lions’ side of the story! Other more recent events in the Sikh calendar like 1984, were mentioned. There was also a reminder of the Sikh aspiration to keep Sikh military tradition alive in the UK. The issue of setting up a Sikh regiment, fighting as part of the British troops in Afghanistan, remains a live issue. We were reminded that the battle of Saragarhi was fought in the same area where the British troops are in action today.

General Sir David Richards, Chief of General Staff concluded with closing comments. He accepted, that the issue of a Sikh regiment which has support from friends of the Sikhs like Prince Charles, remains on the agenda.

The background to the related ASHT nationwide initiatives, of which this lecture series is an annual milestone, provides an outstanding example of Sikh professionalism in taking Sikh identity, tradition and issues to the British establishment at high levels.

A rather nostalgic sounding limited initiative which started in 1993 as the Maharaja Duleep Singh Centenary Trust (MDSCT), achieved a major milestone when on 29 July, 1999 Prince Charles unveiled a life-size bronze statue of Maharajah Duleep Singh at Thetford, Norfolk. The Maharaja spent his years of exile at the Elveden Estate near Thetford. MDSCT expanded in scope into The Anglo Sikh Heritage Trail (ASHT) in 2004.
Prince Charles with Harbinder Singh Rana at Thetford

My own keen interest in these heritage related activities goes back to the unveiling of the Maharaja Duleep Singh’s statue by Prince Charles in 1999.  That was also the year when youngest brother, Dya Singh of Australia, was touring UK with his world-music group. Somehow we managed to secure invitations for the Thetford event and continue to follow Anglo-Sikh heritage developments with a close interest.

Initiatives in 1999 stressing Sikh tradition in the context of Vaisakhi 300 celebrations, also provided a watershed between 1984 events and re-emergence of Sikhs as a global community: the beginning of globalisation of Sikh identity. Dya Singh’s own Sikh “world music” initiative is a part of that positive projection of the Sikh identity and universal message to mixed world audiences.

“From Jawans to Generals” exhibition opened at Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner on 1st May 2002 by Prince Charles was another important achievement by ASHT led by Harbinder Singh Rana. It also gave me an opportunity to write something about the Sikh military tradition for inclusion in the information pack of the exhibition.

ASHT is now nationwide. It “highlights items of Anglo-Sikh heritage held in museums and at heritage sites” and reminds the visitors and audiences of the great heritage shared by the Sikh nation and Britain. The ethos of ASHT exhibitions and functions is that of Anglo-Sikh partnership through mutual respect. The Sikhs lost the two Anglo-Sikh wars of the 18-forties, but they were never subdued by colonial rule. The mutual but watchful respect continued until the independence of India a century later, again led by the Sikh martyrdom tradition, which made a lion’s share (!) of contribution to the Indian independence movement.

As His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester said when visiting the Imperial War Museum (IWM) in London on June 2 2006, “The interesting thing about the Heritage Trail is that it can be found in different points of the UK and therefore it catches people by surprise. It arouses curiosity and hopefully it will entreat people to try and find out a little bit more about the history of the way the Sikh people and the British people have come together in a significant way.” He was unveiling the latest plaque in a UK-wide scheme which highlights items of Anglo-Sikh heritage held in countrywide museums and heritage sites.

“Portraits of Courage” lectures in the UK are part of the process of globalisation of Sikh identity started in a positive spirit in 1999. International Sikh icons like Dr Manmohan Singh the Indian PM and sportsmen like Monty Panesar (who attended the lecture) have taken the Sikh identity to the world.

Monty Panesar front row (nearest)

Author with Monty Panesar (centre) & Jaswinder Singh Nagra

The 9/11 “mistaken identity” challenge can be met if the Sikh contribution to the defence of human rights is explained to the world. Every Sikh who carries his identity with pride, represents the portraits of courage which fill the pages of Sikh history.

Gurmukh Singh

Sikh Education Welfare & Advancement (SEWA) network
©Gurmukh Singh
Article may be published with acknowledgement.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Guru Nanak Sahib's Revolutionary Ideology

Article based on a presentation by the author to a mixed Sikh and non-Sikh audience, following the opening of Shaheed Bhai Amrik Singh Lecture Theatre at Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara complex, Gravesend (UK), on Sunday 2 December 2012.
(Quotations from Sri Guru Granth Sahib give Ank or page number as “SGGS number” )
Photos by Jagdev Singh Virdee

Aad Niranjan hai Gur Nanak, Dhaar ke Moorat hai jagg aayo.
The Guru Jyot, the Guiding Light of the Perfect Lord has arrived on this earth, as Guru Nanak. (Poet historian, Bhai Santokh Singh 1787-1843)

The topic is presented under four main headings:

1. The political, religious and social conditions of the times, including one important incident, which would have influenced Guru Nanak Sahib’s teaching mission.

2. Some relevant quotations from Guru Nanak’s Bani – holy hymns.

3. His Founding Precept called the Mool Mantar & its significance.

4. Main features of the Guru’s teaching.

“When I set my eyes on the priceless treasure left for me by my ancestors, then my heart was filled with great joy !” (SGGS 186)

That is a reference to the great Sikh heritage, the Sikh virsa.

“The narratives of the forefathers, guide their descendants and make them worthy of their heritage; i.e. make them “spoot”, meaning good sons and daughters.” (SGGS 951)

Guru Nanak was the first popular leader of the people of Panjab.

Prof Satbir Singh, professor of Sikh history, used to ask his 1st year students when starting a new class, “Name some famous Panjabis before Guru Nanak Sahib. “ Some brighter students would mention, Porus (a Punjabi king, who showed great bravery when opposing Alexander the Great in 326 BC); Anangpal (about 1100 CE and also 1st ruler of Delhi), and maybe one or two others.

But all hands would go up when asked to name famous Panjabis after Guru Nanak.
Students would even start with the Sikh Ardaas – supplication – naming the ten Gurus starting with Guru Nanak !

The point is that the history of Panjab started with Guru Nanak Sahib. Prof Puran Singh wrote, “Punjab is neither Hindu nor Musalmaan; Punjab lives in the name of the Gurus”
Panjab na Hindu na Musalmaan, Panjab jeenda Gura(n) dey naam te

Panjab is the land of the Gurus.
Panjab, Gurua(n) di dharti hai.

Why was there a need for introducing an independent system? The “Tisra Panth” or Third Path (religious system) after Islam and Hinduism?

From Guru Nanak’s holy hymns, His Gurbani, it is clear that there was very little in the political, administrative and religious practices of his time, that he found commendable.

Yodhan execution (1499)
(From Sardar Harbans Singh Noor’s book , “ Connecting the dots in Sikh History”)

But first, let us look at this incident which took place in 1499, mentioned in Islamic historiography called, Tarikh-e-Farishta.

Farishta was a leading Muslim historian of the time. He records the execution of a Hindu youth called Yodhan of village Qateen. Yodhan was tried by the Ulema of Northern India i.e. the Muslim scholars versed in Islamic law.

So, what was Yodhan’s crime ?

One day, in discussion with a Muslum, Yodhan said
“The religion of Musalmaan is true; and the religion of Hindu is true also.”
The Muslim did not agree and felt that such a statement was an insult to Islam. It amounted to blasphemy.

He reported to the local Quazi Pyare and Sheikh Badar. The Quazi took a very serious note of the “offence”, whilst the Sheikh was prepared to ignore the matter. The dispute was referred to the local ruler of Lakhnauti, Aazam Humayun. He could not decide either, and, as it was a matter which concerned Islamic law, referred the three to Emperor Sikandar Lodhi at Delhi.

Sikandar Lodhi was fond of listening to intellectual religious debates. So he invited most well known Ulema of NW India to hold a seminar. The scholars included Ulema from the Royal Court in Delhi. All gave the same verdict: “Yodhan must either convert to Islam or be put to death.”

Yodhan chose death.

Farishta says that it was a famous event of the time. The news would have reached Guru Nanak Sahib. From his sacred hymns (Shabads), like those written after the cruelty of Babar the invader, one can well imagine the impact of such news on his gentle nature.

Farishta does not give the reasons for the verdict. However, according to Harbans Singh Noor, various participants in the seminar would have used typical Islamic arguments often used to mistreat Hindus; and to establish that Hinduism is not a true or righteous religion. Arguments such as: that Hindus are polytheists and idol worshipers; that Hindu deities are based on myth, while Islam was revealed to Prophet Mohammad; that it was the duty of Islamic rulers to protect Islam. They would have followed the doctrine of “Deen Panab” propounded by an Islamic religious scholar, Mubarak Ghaznavi.

About the political and religious conditions in those days:

Let us now see, what Guru Nanak Sahib wrote about the rulers, the administration, men of religion and about the public. The following are some quotations from Guru Nanak’s sacred hymns (Gurbani or Shabads) in the Sikh Holy Scripture, Guru Granth Sahib:

The dark age of Kalyug is the knife, the kings are the butchers, and dharam has taken flight i.e. there is no justice or righteousness. (SGGS 145)

Greed and sin are the king and minister and falsehood is the revenue collector. (SGGS 468)

The kings are tigers and those who do their bidding, are dogs. They go and harass people at all times; regardless of whether people are resting or sleeping. (SGGS 1288)

The Kaji, sits as the Muslim judge to administer justice
He repeats the name of Allah as he keeps count on the beads of the rosary (tasbi)
He takes bribes and deals out injustice.
If questioned, he quotes some convenient religious text. (SGGS 951)

Man eaters do the Namaz prayers.
Those who wear the sacred thread wield the knife. (SGGS 471)

The public is blind and without wisdom and feed the greed of the officials with bribes (equated to carrion – murdaar) (SGGS 469)

According to Bhai Gurdas, the truth, or the righteous path was abandoned; and Brahmins and the Mulanas were going for each other’s throats !
Sach kinaaray reh gia kheh marday Bahman Mulaanay.

Those were the conditions, when, according to Sir Mohamad Iqbal:

A clarion call for belief in One Creator Being was heard in Panjab;and a perfect (spiritually accomplished) man, woke up India from a (bad) dream.
Phir akhir sada utthee toheed ki Panjab se
Hind ko ek Mard-e-Kamal ne jagaya Khwaab se.

Guru Nanak’s Mission:

Guru Nanak began his mission by describing the nature of the Creator Being, the Source of Reality, as revealed to him, so that human beings, the created, would aspire towards those qualities and establish a direct connection with the Source without the need for a human guru to intercede. The Guru Jyot (Light or Guide), is the Word Guru of which Guru Grath Sahib is the embodiment.

Ik Oankaar – The indivisible One, so that all creation is withim that One. There is no “other”. There is only One and no “other”.

Satt Naam: True is the Name of that One (by whatever Name remembered). All our existence is within that One ultimate Reality. Naam is our total awareness and experience. Naam is the totality of our existence.

Karta Purakh: The One is The Creator Being of all, Who is within and without our perception of Creation.

Nirbhau: Without fear and Nirvair: Without animosity – He has no enemy.

These two qualities, Nirbhau – without fear - and Nirvair – without enemy, give the Sikhs their civic code.

Akaal Moorat: The One IK Oankaar, is Timeless form.
(According to respected UK scholar Subedar Bhai Dharam Singh Sujjon, Guru Gobind Singh further clarified Akal Moorat as Achal Moorat : Self-aware unlimited Source of Energy which exists in potential (Niurgun) and motion or kentic (Sargun) forms.)

Ajoni: Never born, outside cycles of birth and death.

Saebhang: Self existent. Ever fresh, Self renewing.

Gur Parsaad: Only through the Grace of the Holy Preceptor can one be united with the One, and this falsehood of duality between the Creator and the created, removed.

Sikh Dharam is also called the Naam Marag, the Path of Naam.

Main features of Guru Nanak Sahib’s revolutionary ideology

(Some headings like the Sikh martyrdom tradition, are suggested as topics for seminars in future.)

Sikhi is the preferred word for Sikh religion.

Three linked Sikh concepts of Naam, Guru and Sangat express the unity of the Ik Oankaar, the One Creator and the created.

All creation is manifestation of Sat Naam. The Guru is the Guiding Light, the Jyot, the Guiding principle of Naam;. and Sangat teaches us how to live in accordance with the Guru’s teaching. Sangat, the holy congregation, interprets the Guru’s Word and teaches us the Jugat or Jeevan jugat, i.e. how to live our lives.

So, Jyot and Jugat go together in the Sikhi Naam Marag. The Path of the Naam.

All Sikhs have direct access to the Holy Scripture, Guru Granth Sahib. There is no intermediary between a Sikh and Ik Oankar, Waheguru, the Wondrous Giver of Knowkedge, the Dispeller of Darkness. That is the Khalsa connection, the direct link.

It follows, that there is no ordained priesthood in Sikhi.

Sikhi is God loving monotheism. God love is expressed in many ways:
Through the twin concepts of sewa with simran.

Sewa means serving all without distinction, while doing simran i.e. remaining immersed in God love and God awareness. Active sewa is a pre-condition for salvation.

In that same spirit of love and a desire to serve humanity, a Sikh also works tirelessly towards a just society. Sometimes, as the ultimate solution, a Sikh resists oppression and injustice with own life and, if necessary, through armed struggle.

Closely linked are the Sikh saint-warrior and shaheedi i.e. martyrdom traditions.

Says Guru Nanak: If you wish to play the game of love, be prepared to give your life for the righteous path/cause (i.e. be reborn in this life as the invincible mar-jeevra.). (SGGS 1412) Every person has the right to die the death of a warrior fighting for the righteous cause. (SGGS 580)

Sikhi rejects every excuse for any form of discrimination.

Sikhi raises the status of women by treating all as soul-brides of the Lord Creator.

Sikhi promotes participative family life, so that constant God remembrance (simran) is combined with honest living and sharing. (Naam japna, Kirat Karni and Vand shakna).  These are the three pillars of Guru Nanak’s ideology.).

Therefore, Sikhi rejects monasticism and opt-out eastern ideologies, which make religious practitioners dependent on working householders.

Sikhi promotes the path of udham, ghaal and Nadar. Action and initiative; sustained effort with total belief in Waheguru’s Grace (Nadar) which can instantly break the cycle of Karma. In short, look after your “here and now”; and “hereafter” will look after itself.

Therefore, Sikhi rejects traditional karam (karma) philosophy of Indian systems.

Sikhi makes freedom from fear a human goal i.e. cultivates the Nirbhau quality - - so that a Sikh remains in positive spirit or chardhi kalaa in Waheguru’s Will or Bhana.

Starting with Guru Nanak Sahib, the Guru Jyot and Jugat, passed through nine successor Guru-persons, and “created a productive, fearless and honest nation out of powerless downtrodden people, at the fringes of society.” (Dr I J Singh)

By the final Command of the Tenth Master, Guru Gobind Singh, the Jyot resides in Guru Granth Sahib, the Word Guru, and Jugat is in the holy congregation, the Sangat, represented by Guru Khalsa.  The distinction between the Guru and the Gursikh, the Khalsa, following in the Guru's footsteps, was removed (Aapay Gur-Chela principle).  

Sikhs were given a new religious order: which we can truly say is “of the people, by the people and for the people”

Gurmukh Singh

Sikh Education Welfare & Advancement (SEWA) network
©Gurmukh Singh
Article may be published with acknowledgement.

Main Sources:

Sada Ithaas (Punjabi) by Prof Satbir Singh
Sikh Sikhi atey Sidhaant (Panjabi) Dr Taran Singh
Connecting the Dots in Sikh History (English) by Harbans Singh Noor
Sau Sawal (Punjabi) Prof Satbir Singh (also English translation by Dr Hakam Singh.)
Sikh Religion & Islam by G S Sidhu & Gurmukh Singh (UK)
Essays by Dr I J Singh published in The Sikh Review and also as books by A paper "A Sikh view of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hiduism, Budhism and Natural Faiths..." collated by Dr K. Ranvir Singh for the Parliament of World Religions, Cape Town 1999, makes interesting reading regarding the Naam. Guru and Sangat concepts in Sikh thought.


Saturday, 8 September 2012

Saints, Prophets, Leaders, and Enlightened Beings

Conversation Community & Connectedness

(MFA South Australia 2012 Interfaith Symposium
9 September, 2012)

Talk by Sardar Baldev Singh Dhaliwal JP (ex-Cllr Riverland)

For today’s topic, "Saints, Prophets, Leaders, and Enlightened Beings", I would like to start with a quotation from the hymns of Guru Nanak, the Founder of Sikh religion:

"O’Nanak, the True Guru (i.e. Enlightener or Prophet-teacher) is one who unites all."
(Guru Granth Sahib, Sikh holy Scripture page 72)

According to Sikh thought, that is the main criterion for truly enlightened beings:
they bring all humankind together.

A prophet, in the Sikh tradition, is the Guru, who guides by divine inspiration.
The inspiration is through the received Word, or Shabad.

Sikhism calls this divine inspiration the Guru or Satguru, the True Guru.
Says Guru Nanak:
“Even if there be hundreds of moons and thousands of suns, there will still be darkness without the Guru.” (GGS p.463)

Therefore, the word Guru also means one, who removes the darkness of ignorance, and illuminates the path of righteous conduct. In this sense, the Guru is equated to divine Light or Jote. The Guru is also, the interpreter through whom the divine will – Hukm or Rza - is expressed.

The Sikh belief is that the same Divine Guru Light passed through 10 human forms, from Guru Nanak, the Founder of Sikh faith to the 10th Master, Guru Gobind Singh, over a period of over 200 years from 1469 to 1708. That light now resides in Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Scriptures, compiled by the Guru personalities themselves.

Each Guru personality taught by own example.

Of the ten Guru persons, two gave their lives for speaking the truth, and for treading the path of righteous conduct. This is leadership by example.
The 9th Guru Tegh Bahadur, gave his life for the religious freedom of others while saving another religion from extinction.

In the Sikh religious tradition, the Guru or the prophet-teacher, walks the path, and invites others to walk with him. He enables others to learn. The word for learning is “sikh” – a verb as well as a noun.
That is the reason why we are called “Sikhs”, those who are prepared to learn from the Guru and through own life experience.

Briefly about the word "saint": The Punjabi word for “saint” is “sant” derived from Sankrit.
Sant means “Shaant”, that is “calm” or “tranquil”
Sant refers to one who remains in a state of calmness and equipoise. It also means one who has conquered his or her five vices:  lust, anger, self-centred vanity, excessive attachment and greed.

We believe that a Guru, Prophet, an enlightened God-being, or a Saint can pray for the wellbeing of all, and can show the path to self discovery and inner enlightenment.
However, a very interesting point and worthy of note is that the concept of a God-being [Guru or Prophet] interceding or intervening on behalf of people on earth is missing in Sikh thought.

We are all responsible for our own destiny.
What we sow, so shall we reap.

However, the True Guru can break this cycle by enabling a human being to discover the inner self, which is equated to the Divine Spark, the Guru-Light, the Jote, which resides in every human being, regardless of gender or race.

Over the ages, saints, prophets and good leaders have guided the human society to face the challenges of this human life.

On the question of a leader, there are many passages in Guru Granth Sahib, and other Sikh religious texts where the qualities needed in rulers and leaders of men are well defined. .
If I may quote some of them:

Only one well qualified to lead should be a leader.

The real test of a good leader is that no one inflicts pain on another under his or her leadership.
A leader should have good advisers and must not act alone, or for selfish reasons.
A good leader should be just and impartial and act according to Dharam i.e be able to decide what is the right direction to take under any given circumstance.

Thus for the Sikhs “Society and religion go together” .
The world needs good leadership and guidance.

More so in the run-away material consumerism of today, which is leading to yet more lust, greed, discord, social problems, rich/poor divide and irresponsible attitudes to world problems like pollution and nuclear proliferation.

Worldly pursuits for comfort, status and security need to be balanced by the quest for spiritual harmony. Attachment and preoccupation with the “here and now” need to be balanced by a detached worldview and continual reflection on the purpose of life itself.

To sum up:

In Sikh thought:

Guru or Prophet-teacher unites all, is the enlightener and removes the darkness of ignorance, is the interpreter of Divine Will or Rza, he shows and walks the path and invites his Sikh to walk with him.

Guru shows the path, prays for the well being of all, but does not intercede.

A saint or sant remains in a state of calmness and equipoise and is one who has conquered his or her five vices: lust, anger, self-centred vanity, excessive attachment and greed.

A leader should have the right qualities and ensure that no one inflicts pain on another under his or her leadership.

Baldev Singh Dhaliwal JP with His Excellency Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce AC CSC RANR, the Governor of South Australia, receiving Community Service Award 2012

Posted for:
Baldev Singh Dhaliwal JP,
Sikh Eduacation Welfare & Advancement (SEWA) Network
Adelaide, South Australia
©Baldev Singh Dhaliwal
Item may be published with acknowledgement.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Late Sardar Gurbachan Singh Sidhu (9 June 1930 to 26 August 2012)

Founder Member of the Sikh Missionary Society UK.

Sardar Gurbachan Singh Sidhu MA; FIL (London) departed for Sach Khand on Sunday 26 August, 2012.

He was born on 9 June 1930 in village Kaonke, District Ludhiana, Punjab. His parents went to Malaya before World War II, while he stayed on with his family in Panjab to complete his school and university education.

He arrived in the UK in 1965. In 1967, he was in Nottingham University when he first conceived the idea of starting The Sikh Missionary Society. His main concern was the religious education of Sikh children. At that time there was very little literature available on Sikhism in the UK.

He had started writing articles on Sikh religion and tradition, which were published regularly in “The Sikh Courier”. In 1969, together with some colleagues, he founded The Sikh Missionary Society UK, which was registered as a charity. The present building was purchased by the Society in Southall in 1978-79 and was further developed in later years.

Religious education for children was the main concern of the Society. As a first step Sardar Gurbachan Singh Sidhu wrote literature for Primary school children. He then produced other educational publications for the Society to cater for the needs of older age groups.

Over the years, his well researched comparative studies of religion and other books on Sikhism, have been gratefully received by the Sikh diaspora.

From 1968 to 1979 he worked for the Pingalwara (Amritsar).

Later, when he moved to Nottingham he set up Sikh Sewa International. This organisation has been actively engaged in free social service since 1979. Services include, free eye operations, aid to Pingalwara, free artificial limbs to limbless people, care for orphans and elderly people, education for poor children, drug de-addiction, producing Gurmat literature for free distribution and Sikhi education in villages

Books authored by Sardar Gurbachan Singh Sidhu include:- Brief Introduction to Sikhism, Sikh Religion and Christianity, Sikh Religion and Islam (Co-authored with S. Gurmukh Singh UK), Sikh Religion and Hinduism, Sikh Religion and Women, Sikh Religion and Science, Sikh Religion and Hair, Panjab and Panjabi, Martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev, A Challenge to Sikhism (edited by S Gurmukh Singh UK), Concepts of Sikh Religion, and Sikh Marriage Ceremony.
(Most publications are available on the Sikh Missionary Society website under “publications”:

Sardar Gurbachan Singh Sidhu’s life is aptly summed up by his colleague, Sardar Gurmel Singh Kandola, Secretary General, The Sikh Council UK, as follows:
“Sardar Gurbachan Singh Sidhu was a prolific writer and speaker. Like a true Sikh he never tired of searching for truth. He published a whole string of well researched book on a voluntary basis and did a great deal of charity work in India in areas such as eye camps and provision of artificial limbs and mobility aids. His legacy will live on through the library of published books he leaves behind and the inspiration he provided to so many, including myself.”

The management and membership of The Sikh Missionary Society UK pay tribute to late Sardar Gurbachan Singh Sidhu for his dedicated and selfless community seva, and for his scholarly contribution to Sikhi literature.
He has truly earned a place of honour in Sach Khand.

Gurmukh Singh
for Advisory Panel
The Sikh Missionary Society UK.

©Gurmukh Singh
Items may be published with acknowledgement.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Sikh Council UK: A Sangat Forum

Below are two items:

1.  Article based on my columns in UK's Panjab Times of 16th and 23rd August, 2012 (Issues 2431 and 2432)
2.  Dr Gurnam Singh's response and further thoughts about Sikh Council UK and related issues.
(Dr Gurnam Singh leads UK's "Sikh Think Tank" and is a Sikh Channel presenter.)

1.  Sikh Council UK : A Sangat Forum (Panjab Times Issues 2431 & 2432)

All are welcome in the gurdwara. The Sangat is fairly representative of all shades of Sikhs and non-Sikhs, who have come to the Guru’s Darbar with faith in the Guru’s universal Message in their hearts, as they bow before the Jagat Guru.

However, few have ever argued that the management of gurdwaras should not be in the hands of those who, ideally, are Amritdhari Gursikhs i.e.those who have willingly accepted Sikh initiation to the Order of the Khalsa Panth, and practise the Sikh way of life, of constant God awareness, hones living and sharing with those in need.

Two types of seva (service with humility) is required of those who run Gurdwaras. First and foremost, it is the seva of Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji: the recitation of Gurbani and the seva of Kirtan and Katha. That means, the singing of Gurbani and, as necessary, explaining the Message of the Shabad (Guru’s Word) to the Sangat. Only a practising Gursikh scholar is capable of doing that, while visibly projecting the Guru given Sikh identity.

The second type of seva is the management of the Gurdwara, which, for reasons to do with Khalsa miri-piri (temporal-spiritual) ideology, institutions and Panthic identity, must remain in Gursikh hands.

However, the Sikhi miri-piri ideal and activism is not confined to gurdwaras only. It is also very much an extrovert twin track concept, which has been practised by the Khalsa Panth for centuries. It is interpreted into Khalsa socio-political activism extended from the gurdwara as the local focal point of Sikh life, to outside local, national and international activities and forums.

Gurdwara management in Gursikh hands is extended to participation in Panthic forums for the achievement of Panthic jathebandi (corporate) aims and objectives of a just and tolerant society.

To my mind, Sikh Council UK is an expression of Sangat representation, extended from local to national level.

It is the first next step to international level Sikh representation and revival of the Sarbat Khalsa tradition. Recent challenges to Sikh identity also pose a challenge to gurdwara managements to revive the spirit of Sarbat Khalsa. To quote from own article in the August 2012 issue of The Sikh Review, “Sarbat Khalsa is an expression of Panthic solidarity” which is translated into an uniting decision making process at global Panthic level.

Due to the dedicated voluntary seva of some individuals, Sangat (grassroots) based organisations have achieved much over the years. However, recent events have shown that these organisations, no matter how ably led, cannot resolve the issues, concerns and challenges faced by Sikh ideology and identity. Only gurdwaras, represented on a national level platform, can make an impact on governments and agencies.

UK Sikhs have the critical mass to provide a lead in the diaspora. The only way to ensure that all viewpoints are represented on the Sikh Council UK and the constitution of the General Assembly and the Executive Committee, is to join in and not remain outside. Sikh Council UK is the business of every gurdwara and Sikh organisation in the UK.

The Council strengthens the role of well established Sikh organisations by providing them a common reference point and a common platform. The Council’s own role must remain above organisation/jathebandi agendas and biases, while pushing in a common Panthic direction, so that Sikh presence, presentation and negotiating position in the UK and in Europe is strengthened.

If the Council is to provide a platform for well established organisations, then it is clear that it cannot start taking over their activities or diverse roles.

The Council cannot behave like yet another “jathebandi” or an extension of another existing jathebandi. Its role will remain supportive, encouraging and advisory in areas of Sikh identity, religious matters, education, preservation and promotion of heritage (including Anglo-Sikh heritage), social and cultural advancement, welfare including Sikh aid, and human rights.

Excellent work is already being done in most of these areas by many existing organisations. Nevertheless, with the Sikh future in mind, the Council should promote or even undertake those neglected activities, which gurdwaras and current organisations are unable to pursue.

The Council remains inviting to all. The Council does not interfere with the work of others. However, only affiliated organisations subscribing to uniting principles of the Council, can claim Sikh Council UK “support” in public announcements and “Press releases”. That is not fair and gives the impression of an organization claiming the same or even higher standing than an umbrella body like the Sikh Council UK, which is shown in a “supporting” role!

Sikh unity needs a more mature approach. The hope is that all organizations would sit around one table and agree common strategy to be then able to claim Sikh Council support in any “Press Release”, which, in any case, should be joint, on major Sikh issues. Otherwise claims should be limited to own achievements only.

The only way to ensure a “balanced” representation is to join the Sikh Council UK. The only way to present a “united front” to governments, departments and the media, is to join the Sikh Council UK. Only then can the Council become a “Sangat Forum” at national level in the spirit of the Sarbat Khalsa

A Sikh scholar wrote, “Like a new born infant I always felt that the first phase of the Sikh Council UK.would be the most challenging and all credit to all the gursikhs that are meeting the challenge with humility, courage and intellect in the true Sikhi tradition.” (Dr Gurnam Singh of UK)

I agree with you wholeheartedly Doctor Sahib!

Gurmukh Singh

2.  Dr Gurnam Singh's response and further thoughts about Sikh Council UK

(Dr Gurnam Singh leads UK's "Sikh Think Tank" and is a Sikh Channel presenter.)

--- On Mon, 13/8/12, Gurnam Singh wrote:

Dear Gurmukh Singh ji and Others


As usual it is wonderful to read such words of wisdom. Sikh Council UK (SCUK) is, I believe, coming of age fast and will go from strength to strength. I think both the London Olympics and the US shootings have posed major challenges for SCUK - and other active Sikh bodies such as United Sikhs - and it is pleasing to see them come though with flying colours. Like a new born infant I always felt that the first phase of the SCUK's short life would be the most challenging and all credit to all the gursikhs that are meeting the challenge with humility, courage and intellect in the true Sikhi tradition.

That said, I do think the coming years will not be easy, not least because we have raised expectations amongst both the Sikhs and the wider authorities about our ability to provide coherent professional representation for Sikhs at the highest level possible. Along with the many practical challenges, I feel biggest challenge facing us now is to have a paradigm shift in which we break free from the Panjab centric thought processes when thinking about the future of Sikhi. By this I do not mean we should abandon the Panjab, but that we see the problems in the Panjab in the context of the socio, cultural and political environment of India. For example, when we talk about the drugs problem we seem to think that this is simply due to the your going away from religion. Even if this were the case, there is very little evidence that I have seen to show the causal link. I would say that the genesis of this and other problems is much more complex linked to globalisatiion of culture and finance, the broader Indian culture, rapid urbanisation in India and demise of traditional forms of social solidarity leading to a state of psychological confusion, what sociologists have called anomie.

Likewise, I feel the way we should address the Khalistan issue, which has so far been so divisive amongst the Sikhs, is to take a neutral stance on it, but to offer broad support for Panjabi Sikhs or Indians in other states for that matter that want to exercise their democratic right to demand their own country. state or autonomous region. The reality is that even if Khalistan is created, then its primary purpose will be to serve the people who live there, and that includes Sikhs and non Sikhs. Again, just as we have a devolution debate in the UK then let the Indians have their own discussion about their future as a unified nation or a confederation of nations of whatever.

So, what we need is political maturity and we need to move away from the village mentality that is so outdated. We need to break free of both the orientalist colonialist mind set and its mirror image which implies that everything 'western' is 'bad' or 'dirty' and by default everything 'non-western' or Panjabi or Indian is 'good' or 'pure'. We need to purge ourselves of the racist mindsets that we have allowed through our uncritical adherence to what is essentially feudalistic Panjabi culture.

If there is one thing that the London Olympics has taught me it is that the British still reign supreme when it comes to organisation and in reproducing British Identity. The fact that India, a country with a population of over 1 billion people has only managed to achieve a paltry 5 medals is I believe a testament to the self delusional corrupt mentality that many in power have there.

The fact is that Indian, and Panjabi culture in particular, is deeply problematic and, astonishingly, this is something that Guru Nanak identified 500 years ago. I think the reaction of compassion and care towards the Sikh community that the US public and the UP state to the shooting in Milwaukee contrasts so vividly with the mindless protests held by some RSS inspired Sikhs in Delhi. SO, I feel we have to stop giving the importance we do to Sikh leaders from India, not because we should be unkind to people at a human level but because there is very little that these people can do for us. They are not part of the solution but part of the problem!

Last, on the issue of revising the Sarbat Khalsa tradition, you will be pleased to know that the Oxford University event that SCUK organised in conjunction with the Sikh Think Tank and SikhRI is to be broadcast this Thursday evening on Sikh Channel [16.08.12], so please spread the word.

I personally think it was a historic event and it will be interesting to see what kind of response we get to the broadcast.

Bhul Chuck Maaf

Guru Fateh Ji

Dr Gurnam Singh, Sikh Channel Presenter.
Gurmukh Singh
Sikh Education Welfare & Advancement (SEWA) network
©Gurmukh Singh
Items may be published with acknowledgement.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Photo Speak III: Malaya: Sangats, Gianis etc

(In progress)
E-mail me if you see a familiar face from the past
Pass on this webpage to Malaysian friends & publications.

Personalities, memories, milestones, adventures etc etc from family "Bassian albums" started by Bapu ji, Giani Harchand Singh Bassian of Malaysia. Recent prompt by youngest brother Dya Singh of Oz when visiting UK July 2012.  Dates & captions to be completed in due course. Still learning how to manage scans.

Click on photos to see full images.

Photo taken about 1926 Baba Munshi Isher Singh Bassian (Bapu ji's chacha ji) seated 2nd from right facing photo.

First Giani/Granthis Samelan in Kuala Lumpur 1953 (Click on photos to see full image).

Bapu ji, Giani Harchand Singh Bassian of Malaysia seated 5th from left facing the picture.

Raub Gurdwara 1951 (Spot Dya Singh of Oz !)

GS standing 1st right facing photo (wearing spectacles): Taiping (Malaya) Sangat 1957. 

Late Baba Fauja Singh, Taiping.  Owe much to prominent Sikhs like him and Taiping Sangat for encouragement during senior school years.  

Changing times half a century ago: Arrival of new generation gurdwara managers (teachers & baboos) with new ideas.
Replace giani/granthi  "Babay da vazir" answerable to Sangat, by obedient granthi sevadar working for gurdwara managers. Usually replaced by next change in gurdwara management team. Start of gurdwara elections in Malaysia.
One example of the new trend below. Another well known case of a scholar Giani with family, put on the ship by Seremban gurdwara managers.
The sacking of a "Babay da Vazir" who refuses to allow the flag of a country to be hoisted on the same flag post as Gurdwara Nishan Sahib. The Giani/teacher, married with three children, two in school,  given 12 days notice to leave Gurdwara accommodation:

"Directed by" whom Gurdwara Secretary Sahib or Pardhan Sahib? Not the Sangat!  

 No reason given. Maybe, sacked for disobedience ?

 Bassian brothers August 1950

 Prefects Board (Mahmood School, Raub) 20.09.53 - My last photo at Raub: Schooling interrupted when Bapu ji sacked a month later on 19.10.1953 as Giani/Panjabi Teacher after serving at Panjabi school and gurdwara for 6 years.

Moved to Klang where Bapu ji worked as bus conductor. Family of 5 lived in a small one room wooden hut, where prominent Sikh scholars  including editors of "Malaya Samachaar" (KL) and "Navjeevan" used to drop in to meet Bapu ji. Continued with Kirtan seva at Klang Gurdwara.  The most challenging years for the family. My first article in Panjabi in Malaya Samachar headed "Laik Sajjan" that year, questioned what sort of "Laik Sajjan" (with reference to Bapu ji's experience, and advertisements for "Qualified Giani/Granthis"), the new generation Gurdwara managers were looking for?
Those years saw the end of traditional scholar kathakaar/kirtania Granthis.

However: "Jis da Sahib dhaadha hoey........."

"Jis da Sahib Dhaadha hoay...."  Sant Fateh Singh's favourite Shabad  (Kirtan by teenager Dya Singh & Bapu ji playing Tabla) 7.09.1976

The journey continues: From village Bassian to Berri, Riverland, South Australia  
(Missing: Bapu ji, Giani Harchand Singh Bassian from 17.11.1975.  Sister, Bibi Sarandeep Kaur in this photo departed on 15.02.2012) 
Photo at farm residence of  middle brother, ex-Cllr Baldev Singh Dhaliwal JP; South Australian Ombudsman Referral Justice;  State and National awards for community service. 

Gurmukh Singh
Sikh Education Welfare & Advancement (SEWA)
©Gurmukh Singh

Items may be published with acknowledgement.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Photo Speak II: New Gurdwara, Malaysia (KL) 1964

& Giani/Granthis related
Work in progress

Personalities, memories, milestones, adventures etc etc from family albums started by Bapu ji, Giani Harchand Singh Bassian of Malaysia. Recent prompt by youngest brother Dya Singh of Oz when visiting UK.  Click on photos to see full images.

Baba Sohan Singh (Malaca) & Giani Harchand Singh Bassia 
Gurdwara foundation laying ardaas (23.08.1963)
Click on photo to see full image.

Swari of Sri Guru Granth Sahib being
taken from old gurdwara building to the new gurdwara.
Giani Harchand Singh Bassian leading Sangat. (1 March 1964)

Kirtan Giani Harchand Singh Bassian with young Dya Singh

Baba Sohan Singh of Malaca (Malaysia)
A pat for young Dya Singh (now of Australia)

New Gurdwara:

A Giani/Granthis Samelan Malaysia

Local Sikhs celebrating a national event in Malaysia

Penang: 1955 (Bapu ji, Giani Harchand Singh Bassian seated 1st left facing the photo.)
Click on image to see full photo.

 Gurmukh Singh
Sikh Education Welfare & Advancement (SEWA)
©Gurmukh Singh
Items may be published with acknowledgement.