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Quiet Time - 2:
The Names We Call God

T. SHER SINGH

 

 

 



 

O Allah! O Ram! I live by Thy name …”
GGS:1349.12


[Allah: the name Muslims ascribe to God. Ram: the name by which Hindus refer to God, but not to be confused with Ram, the mythical King of Ayodhya and the husband of Sita.] 



The other day, I was greeted by a stranger in a shopping mall. He was polite and friendly, and wanted to know if I was a Sikh.

“Yes,” I said, “I am,” I replied.

“You like it here?” he asked.

“Where?” I asked, “you mean this mall?”

“No, no, no!” he laughed. “I mean here in Canada.”

“Yes, of course,” I said, “this is my home.”

He took a few moments to digest my words.

“How long you been here, then?” he continued.

I looked at him, trying to figure where this conversation was going.

“How old are you?“ I asked.

Puzzled by my question, he hesitated, and then slowly muttered, “Oh, some 40 years or so, I guess.”

“Good,” I said, “that means I’ve lived in Canada longer than you have. This is my home.”

Thinking that our conversation had concluded, I tried to walk away but he gently touched my elbow and asked, “Do you believe in Jesus?”

I was not surprised. I’ve been in these exchanges I don’t know how many times with total strangers. I often come across these good souls who want to sort you out and pigeon-hole you as soon as they see you. Kind of trying to determine if you are one of ’Us’ or ’Them’.

“Depends on what Jesus means to you,” I replied. “Do you believe he is God?”

“Of course,” he was quick in his response. “Jesus is God. Is he your God too?”

He’d just made it easy for me.

“Sure. As long as you give God the name of Jesus, he’s my God too. There’s only one God, so your God is mine.”

That seemed to make his day. We shook hands and we parted with a smile.


*   *   *   *   * 

If we believe in One God, the Lord of all creation, then how does it matter what anyone else calls him. (I use the masculine nomenclature for him only because of the limitations of language, not to ascribe a gender.)

I love the free-for-all naming that goes on all around me, not merely between different faith and belief systems, but also within each religious unit.

Muslims have 99 names for him. Christianity and Judaism call him by many others. Greek and Hindu mythologies take different traits they believe an all-powerful being would have and give each a delineated and limited rank, task and role.

One of my favourites is Thomas Hardy’s reference to ‘The President of The Immortals’ in the conclusion of “Tess of the d'Urbervilles”.

And then, how could I possibly ignore the magnificently contemporary flair of ’The Chairman of The Board’?    

There is the simple and straight-forward, all-encompassing ’The One’!

If I could I would use a different name every day. Doesn’t require much work or imagination. It’s easy to find a cornucopia of poetical terms within reach in Guru Gobind Singh’s Jaap Sahib.

For the life of me, I cannot understand how some good souls use the different terms for the very same entity -- in fact, their own Supreme Being -- to fling them at others as weapons.  

Juliet’s argument has got to be the last word on this: "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet".


*   *   *   *   *

 
Monday, January 16, 2017



 

Conversation about this article

1: Sangat Singh  (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia ), January 16, 2017, 2:35 PM.

Bless you, Sher ji, for stories about our Universal Guru to connect with Him in any way you like. The following revolutionary shabad of Guru Nanak comes to mind: “sir nanak loka pav hai balihari jau jetay tere nav hai [GGS:1168] -- “Nanak places his head on the feet of such people who remember you by any names, as many as there are." 'Ram' appears more than 2,500 times in Guru Granth Sahib and is quite often mistaken for the Ram who was Dasrath’s son. The Ram of Guru Granth Sahib is the all-pervading Ram. When there is a reference to Dasarth’s son he is mentioned as Ram Chandar. In this connection allow me to quote a real story: Bhai Vir Singh, then in his early teens, used to go incognito to Harmandar Sahib in the wee hours of the morning. One day he met his father's dear and devout friend, Lala Banarsi Das in Hall Bazaar. He took Vir Singh in his close embrace and said "Kaka ji, come to the refuge of Krishan Maharaj". "Where does Krishan ji live?" asked the teenager, Vir Singh. "He is all pervading," replied Lala ji. "Then, I am already under his refuge." Lala Banarsi Das held him even tighter and said Vir Singh had explained to him the real meaning of the Gita that day! Maharajah Ranjit Singh had acquired a Koran from a calligraphist and then asked Fakir Azizuddin to read out a passage from it. Fakir ji read out the 'Sura Yusuf' and then translated it for the Maharajah. "But, Fakir ji, Guru Granth Sahib says the same thing. What is the difference?" "None, Your Highness," replied Fakir ji, "the goal is the same, only the paths are different."

2: Dya Singh (Melbourne, Australia), January 16, 2017, 4:11 PM.

Allow me to quote a qawwali ... "Allah kaho ya Ram kaho, Naam aik hain. Pyalay juda juda hain, magar jaam aik hain!"

3: Ajit Singh Batra (Pennsville, New Jersey, USA), January 17, 2017, 12:39 PM.

Our Gurus described God as Anami - meaning 'without a name'. They employed all names associated with God, regardless of their religious origin. The Names for God get sanctified by tradition. The seekers get inspired through each usage. Whatever the Name, it activates the human mind for contact with the Universal Soul.

4: Mohan Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), January 18, 2017, 7:29 AM.

Almighty God is known by His countless virtues.

5: Harry Smith (USA), January 18, 2017, 8:04 PM.

You should have also posed the challenge: Does God exist?

6: Mohan Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), January 19, 2017, 4:22 PM.

This human body has been given to you. This is your chance to meet the Lord of the Universe. Nothing else will work. Join the saadh sangat, the company of the holy; vibrate and meditate on the jewel of the naam. || 1 || Make every effort to cross over this terrifying world-ocean. You are squandering this life uselessly in the love of maya. || 1 || Pause || I have not practiced meditation, self-discipline, self-restraint or righteous living. I have not served the holy; I have not acknowledged the Lord, my King. Says Nanak, my actions are contemptible! O Lord, I seek your sanctuary; please, preserve my honor! [GGS:12].

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The Names We Call God"









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