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Tapping Into God:
Experiencing The Spiritual Spectrum

Extract from an Essay by JESSI KAUR

 

 

 

"Tapping Into God" is sikhchic.com's Book of The Month selection for March 2012

 

 

TAPPING INTO GOD: EXPERIENCING THE SPIRITUAL SPECTRUM, Edited by Debbie Belmessieri. Balboa Press, U.S.A., 2011. Paperback, 309 pp, $22.95. ISBN: 978-1-4525-3525-8 (e), 978-1-4525-3523-4 (sc), 978-1-4525-3526-5 (bc).  

 

Exactly what does connection to God look like in our daily lives? The following is an extract from the chapter titled "The Sikh Way of Life" by Jessi Kaur, from the book, which contains essays contributed by members of the six world religions and some of their many denominations.

 

 

Growing up in India in the sixties and seventies was a confusing time for me.

The largest democracy of the world that called itself a “secular” nation was unable to maintain peace within its citizens of different faiths. Corruption at all levels, from the low-salaried official to the leaders in the highest echelons, was rampant. Naked poverty that stared one in the face was heart wrenching. Religion was touted by the pundits and politicians to serve their personal ends.

The only child of doting parents, while I felt blessed and indulged, I was restless within.

I wanted to change the world and strip the hypocrisy I saw all around. Raised by moderately religious parents, I visited the gurdwara only on special holidays. I studied "moral science" every day at school; it was a euphemism for Christian theology taught in a private school run by an American educator.

I was told, by the very fact of being born, I was a sinner and that my ancestor, an erring human, was driven out of paradise for eating an apple.

As a student of English Literature and Philosophy, I was exposed equally to the mathematical logician, Bertrand Russell and the spiritualist poet Walt Whitman. One day I reveled in the lyrical bounty of Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” and the next I was pounded by the irrefutable logic of Russell’s, “Why I am not a Christian”.

How could I deny Russell’s powerful allegation that religion is not only false but also harmful when my country which was made up of a Hindu majority was constantly at war with Pakistan, a Muslim nation? Furthermore, blazing headlines which reported frequent riots, fueled by religious differences within India, added to my cynicism regarding religion.

I saw larger than life idols of Hindu goddesses being paraded and worshipped by men prostrating on the streets to show their devotion. I heard of the same men beating their spouses after a drunken brawl in the evening.

Each year when the searing heat of Delhi was cooled by the gentle fanning of October breezes, everyone sauntered out in the evenings to watch a ten-episode enactment of the epic Ramayana staged in neighborhood parks. The story of Hindu god Rama, the epitome of goodness, pitted against the evil King Ravana who stole god Rama’s wife never failed to draw
huge crowds year after year.

In the final episode, god Rama vanquished the multi-headed Ravana and thousands of people cheered gleefully as the 100 feet high effigy of Ravana burst into fireworks that deafened the night proclaiming the victory of good over evil. Very often in the days that followed religious riots escalated as they invariably did during festivals of each religious group.

My search for meaning in life continued as did the arms race between India and Pakistan.

Bertrand Russell's logic prevailed and I turned away from all religions. I started accepting that God was a crutch for the blind and the weak, and all religious posturing was humbug. But the emptiness in me yearned to be filled. In the seventies, Marxism held a strong appeal for the idealistic youth searching for answers.

I started attending rallies of the Communist party. But there was something too sinister about the Marxist’s plans to burn buses as a protest against government policies.

One day in answer to an unspoken plea, someone presented to me a biography of Guru Nanak, the first Guru of the Sikhs.

Reading about this great messiah gave me the soul food I had been seeking. It seemed as if I had come out of the shadows, and a new dawn was breaking. A world of fresh possibilities opened up. I experienced a deep belonging. My hunger was appeased and awakened at the same time. I wanted to know everything Guru Nanak and his nine successors had taught.

In one blessed moment my spiritual exile snapped.

I learned that India had gone through its own dark age a little over five hundred years ago. The nation that was once known as “the golden sparrow" was raped, plundered and looted by ruthless conquerors like Timur and Genghis Khan who came from Afghanistan. They destroyed Hindu places of worship, forcibly converted thousands to Islam and sold local women as slaves in Afghanistan. A river of blood flowed in the country.

The birthplace of sages had become the cradle of death.

Their descendent, the first Mughal Emperor Babur established the Mughal dynasty in India in 1526 and committed horrific atrocities on the subcontinent.

India was totally fragmented, both politically and socially. The rigid lines drawn by the Hindu caste system gave Brahmins, the priestly class, spiritual authority to oppress the lower classes. Like the feudal system in Europe in which the lords ruled the serfs, the Brahmins exercised their power to deny civil rights to women and Shudras (people from the lower caste). Neither women nor Shudras had any right to education, religious instruction or upward social mobility.

It is said in many traditions that when the hour is the darkest, a prophet is born.

Guru Nanak was born in India in 1469. He was pained by the state of the world. He depicted what he saw in the following words:

The age is a knife, kings are butchers, justice hath taken wings and fled
In this completely dark night of falsehood the moon of truth is never seen rising
…”

The great mystic, poet, and peaceful revolutionary brought the message of equality and oneness to a world dichotomized by two opposing faiths: Hinduism and Islam. He spoke of a profound connection between the Creator and creation. He taught that the Divine is not trapped in a special holy place. No rituals are needed to evoke the presence of the Divine, no pilgrimages are necessary to seek it because every being, every crevice and every corner of the universe vibrates with the omniscient and omnipresent energy.

The Divine cannot be portrayed in an image or form. It is the invisible and yet immanent force that moves the universe and sustains myriads of galaxies. It is the primal sound that holds the universe together. It is the creative energy that makes the mountains rise and the oceans surge. Every breath and every grain contains the essence of the force that is called the True One because all else is transitory and thus false.

This Power existed before time and shall always exist. The Creative Force is not subject to birth or death; it is fearless and foe less. It is beyond time and is self-illumined. It dwells within each one of us, making us all siblings because we come from the same parental energy, so to speak!

Guru Nanak referred to this Force lovingly as the Light, the Truth, and the Wonder. He taught that no one has any monopoly over light or truth. No one has any monopoly over the Sun or the Moon. How can anyone have any monopoly over the Creative Force?

No one is born superior to any one because everyone is fashioned from the same clay by the Master Potter.

There is only one breath; all are made of the same clay; the light within all is the same. [GGS:96]

When Guru Nanak was asked if Hindus were better or Muslims, he unequivocally said that both will repent without good actions.

The following story from the Guru’s childhood illustrates his message beautifully.

It was a momentous day in the family of Mehta Kalu. Their son Nanak had come of age and it was time to endow him with the sacred Hindu thread. [Nanak was born into a Hindu family.] It was the most auspicious of Hindu ceremonies and family and friends had gathered to bless the child. The thread was to symbolize the child’s superior lineage and spiritual inheritance. A high priest had been invited to conduct the ceremony. A magnificent feast would follow to celebrate the great occasion.

With a smile on his face and a sparkle in his wise eyes the child walked to the sanctified spot where the priest awaited him. The priest began to chant Sanskrit verses, at the same time attempting to put the sacred thread around the child.

The child raised his hand and stopped him.

Everyone was shocked and dismayed. An interruption in the holiest of holy ceremonies! In the hushed silence, his beautiful young voice broke out:

What is this strange ceremony?
The Brahmin spins a thread
Out of cotton and twirls it into shape,
When it crumbles a new one is put in its place.
If the thread had any virtue, why would it break
?”
[GGS:471]

The priest had never encountered such insolence. “Pray what kind of thread do you seek”, he asked with writhing sarcasm. The young Guru Nanak stood tall and confident, and facing the large gathering of guests said:

From the cotton of compassion,

Spin a yarn of contentment

Making knots of continence

Twirl it with truth

Spin such a sacred thread for the mind 

That neither breaks nor gets lost

Nor burns nor gets soiled

No less a thread will I accept

The man who wears this is blessed”.

[GGS:471]


The words he uttered during the sacred thread ceremony were a continued theme in his message to the world. True spiritual heritage lies in having spiritual qualities. A true superior lineage is one which prompts superior actions. No one is born high or low.

Guru Nanak came into the world to awaken people to their own destiny, to set them on the path to realize their Divinity. The awareness of the Divine within us brings forth the lushness of spring; the absence makes our life a barren dessert.

The miracle of our existence is that we can choose. We can choose the wholeness of a loving heart or the splinters of hatred. The only contingency is our willingness.

Guru Nanak traveled far and wide to Hindu temples and Muslim mosques and spread his message of the unity of creation, equality of mankind, of acceptance and tolerance for diverse faiths. He rejected any theology that endowed superiority to its practitioners.

He gave his followers three golden principles to live a simple life style: righteous livelihood, sharing of one’s gifts, and living in Divine consciousness. Leading a householder’s life, working hard, helping and sharing with fellow human beings and remembering the Divine in everything is in essence the core of the Sikh way of life.

The Guru said that what we sow is what we reap, and therefore we should think long and hard before performing each action. In fact, we need to monitor our thoughts as thoughts lead to actions.

Guru Nanak sang rapturously of the beauty and the wonder of the Creator. He enjoined his followers to wake up in the early hours of the morning and meditate upon the benevolence and munificence of the Creator. Through a regular practice, he assured that each one of us will take on the positive qualities of the Divine and shed our negative propensities.

While all of us carry the spark of the Light within us, the lure of the transitory pleasures of the world makes us forget our true nature of being one with the universe.

Guru Nanak spread his message with utmost kindness, compassion and humor, changing the hearts and lives of people wherever he went. He said that the human soul is separated from the Creator and has gone through many cycles of birth and rebirth. At its core, the soul longs to merge back with the Beloved Creator from whom it has been separated.

Both Hindus and Muslims became his followers. They came to be known as “Sikhs” meaning “students” or “learners”. 

 

[Edited for sikhchic.com]

The book can be purchased at www.TappingIntoGodBook.com

March 1, 2012

 

Conversation about this article

1: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), March 01, 2012, 6:53 AM.

Jessi Kaur is to be commended for putting the House of Nanak to the fore in literature after initially having grave doubts about 'faith' itself. What she describes in the article above is the alchemy of spiritual base metal turning into gold!

2: Ravinder Singh (Mumbai, India), March 01, 2012, 8:57 AM.

The essentials of the Sikh way of life have been so well mentioned in the above article. The article clearly brings out that Guru Nanak's way is meant for the common man and the masses. Guru Nanak's teaching that one should never forget that there is only one Provider for all the beings and all of mankind is His, is what is so desperately needed to be learned by the world as a whole.

3: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), March 02, 2012, 11:57 AM.

sikhchic.com has a huge potential readership around the globe. If we all share this article with our friends, acquaintances and loved ones, we can make a real difference.

4: Ajit Singh Batra (Pennsville, New Jersey, U.S.A..), March 03, 2012, 12:35 PM.

Guru Nanak's simplest and most practical message: We have to abide in the Pure One amidst the impurities of worldly life. GGS:730: "anjan maahi niranjan raheeai-ai jog jugat iv paa-ee-ai."

5: Harbans Lal (Dallas, Texas, U.S.A.), March 23, 2012, 12:03 PM.

Jessi has a style and knowledge that she can convey to the readers the universal gurmat that our Gurus intended to disseminate. We can learn a lot from her and free ourselves from rituals and superstitions.

6: Veronica Sidhu (Scotch Plains, New Jersey, U.S.A.), May 12, 2012, 5:41 AM.

What a wonderful contribution! Every soul is called by God to find a path. And as you have illustrated so beautifully in your own life and the life of Guru Nanak, the answer for each person requires a receptive heart, awake to the eternal, creative energy. The life of Guru Nanak is filled with his amazing solutions for seemingly intractable problems. His bani is the "university" which we enter daily as humble students, ever receptive to Waheguru's hukum.

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