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Siddh Gosht: Class Notes

by MEETA KAUR

 

'SIDDH GOSHT' CLASS NOTES & PERSONAL REFLECTION

From a Course on the Siddh Gosht conducted by Harinder Singh, Executive Director of the Sikh Research Institute, between December 2008 and January 2009, as a discussion in four parts.

 

The following notes and reflection have been organized according to themes of thought presented by the debate of ideas in the Bani known as The Siddh Gosht (Dialogue with the Siddhs) and Harinder Singh's reflections on this Bani. While Harinder Singh's discussion was extremely detailed with engaging historical information, philosophies, linguistics, and cultural, historical, and political contexts, I felt that his personal reflections on the information he presented were the most practical strategies for how to live our everyday lives.

I chose to look at these broader themes in his personal reflection to illustrate how deeply this educational experience has penetrated my thought process.

It is a true pleasure to learn from Harinder Singh. He is a teacher in the truest sense and embedded in his ability to teach is a reminder that we are lifelong students when it comes to learning about the greatest parts of ourselves.

The following quote comes to mind: "The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind." ~ Khalil Gibran

 

 

CLASS NOTES

Siddh Gosht: A dialogue cited in the Guru Granth Sahib between Guru Nanak and the Siddh Yogis that took place sometime between February and March 1539.

The first meeting took place at Gorakhmata, the second at Sumer Mountain, and the third at Achal Vatala. The main debaters from the Siddh Yogis were Charpat, Loharipa and Bhangarnath, along with many others.

According to Harinder Singh's research, the following account from Bhai Gurdas describes the context for these debates:

Hearing about the shivratri fair, Guru Nanak came to Achal Vatala, where the Siddhs were also present. People thronged to have darshan of the Guru. To distract the crowd, they hid the money pot belonging to a group of the dramatists. The dramatists started pleading with the Siddhs. Guru Nanak revealed the pot. The Siddhs were upset by this and confronted him with the question, "Why did you spoil our game and why have you given up that dress of a mendicant and introduced the custom of worldliness (householder's life)?" The Guru replied: "You have given up the householder's life but go back to the same people for alms." Upon hearing this, the Siddhs were furious and tried to frighten Him by performing miracles, and asked Him to reciprocate if He had any power. But the Guru refused by saying that He does not have anything to show to the Siddhs. "I have no refuge, other than the Guru's sangat and Bani." Thus the Guru started his discourse.

Bhai Gurdas' account is like a summary, so you cannot tell how exactly it happened, but this is the most reliable source. So all we can say is that something of this sequence happened!

The Siddh Yogis aimed to achieve mukti, the ultimate freedom, through mastering several physical challenges through yoga positions, breath-control and meditation - all in the wilderness. They practiced within the kaivalya religious system in the wilderness, to achieve this union with God.

These debaters employed all the techniques and strategies of traditional debates, which we recently witnessed in the presidential debates.

The Siddh yogis were skilled at asking Guru Nanak direct questions, while Guru Nanak was able to provide powerful responses that quickly ended multiple lines of questioning. The Siddh yogis employed debate strategies such as questioning character, switching topics, finding contradictions between speech and action, all in the spirit of debate and proving that their methods reigned supreme.

Guru Nanak tolerated these rhetorical games for a while, but then cut to the heart of the debate and directly asked the Siddh Yogis if they were going to focus on the important questions, the real questions in this critical exchange of ideas.

PERSONAL REFLECTION

I love that Guru Nanak engaged in and encouraged learning through conversation, dialogue and debate. It gives meaning to our on-going conversations with family members, professional peers and friends. The conversations that take place at dinner tables, before bedtime, over e-mail, over coffee, at the gurdwaras, are all vital and necessary; they are vital to mutual learning and support, a deeper understanding of one another, and creative openings in thought and action. When the quality of the conversations focus on how we can support one another and encourage one another to reach for our higher selves, they become as nourishing as daily food and drink.

CENTRAL IDEA that is debated: How do we obtain mukti, freedom? How do we stay in sehaj, the highest spiritual state?

Harinder Singh extrapolates from this central question on the idea of freedom, which leads to a series of necessary questions to answer the central question of obtaining freedom:

What are we going to spend our time on?

What are we going to focus on?

How do we become free?

What do we focus on when we are enslaved by career, money, ambitions, family and desires?

We are asked to examine the architecture of our own characters and what they are made of.

PERSONAL REFLECTION

To examine the architecture of my own character, I developed a two-step process for myself. I pictured the first step as an invitation to de-clutter the front porch of my mind, so I could step onto the porch, find the front door, and enter that deeper part of myself. To clear away the mental clutter, I looked at all of these mental boxes labelled "worry", "stress", "money" , "doubt" , "relationships", "time", "procrastination", "time", "possessions" ,"schedule".

Some of these boxes are downright worthless and just eating up mental space. Boxes such as "worry" and "stress" defeated the very purpose of having a trusting relationship with Waheguru, because if I whole-heartedly believe that my wants, my desires, my needs are taken care of by this greater force, then there was no room for worry and stress in my life. I am human and I realize I will re-visit these boxes, look in, and rummage around, but gently reminding myself that there is no need to have these mental boxes in my head helps me sincerely feel the trust I want to have for Waheguru and his creation. Other boxes such as "procrastination" and "doubt" also became worthless because embedded in a sense of trust is a sense of courage and fearlessness that pushes us to live authentically and powerfully because we carry internal support. The other mental boxes such as "money" and "time" were deeper questions that needed more time to ponder. I realize that I have to make room in my mind, being, and physical environment for a sense of wealth and balance. I have to trust that my desires are heard and that while there is no limit to wealth and time, what is needed for true happiness will be delivered at the right time.

The other boxes had to be unpacked, sorted through, and closely examined for content and the purpose they serve. If we take time to deal with whatever our own cluttered mental boxes are and remove them from our mental porches, it will make room for the items that make the porch of the mind a source of refuge, a source of rejuvenation, a place where quality conversations can take place with our Teachers.

Pauris 7-11: The yogis focus on their outward garb and appearance as a pre-requisite for attaining the highest state of mind. Guru Nanak responded by saying that we must concentrate on our internal world, making deep meditation our "earrings" and detachment as the "begging bowl".

Harinder Singh further extrapolated on Guru Nanak's notion by turning the challenge inward. He stated looking like a Sikh is not enough. Our ideas and behaviour need to be in line first and foremost. Symbolism in the form of the five Ks is not enough for the very reason that they can become empty emblems that are not activated by pure internal intentions. The best way to change internally is by developing a relationship with Waheguru.

Conclusion: Looks are useless if there isn't a good thought process backing up the uniform, the presentation.

PERSONAL REFLECTION

This is a critical observation for our current society. When we put too much stock into the physical appearance or having a sense of privilege because we are in line with the uniform, the code, the dress, at the cost of our internal alignment with the Gurus' teachings, we do ourselves a disservice by not cultivating the most glorious part of being a Sikh - the inner world. And with the privilege of this external appearance, hierarchies start to form of who is a "good Sikh" and who is a "bad Sikh", defeating the very purpose of the Gurus' revolution to dismantle any sort of hierarchy in society. Taking the journey to discover, cultivate, and align our inner world with our outward actions presents the opportunity to be better, grow into our highest selves. When we manifest our inner world into our external environment, we are truly aligned. Our physical environments, our relationships, our experiences and response to our experiences are a direct reflection of what is happening in our inner worlds.

To honour the gifts Guru Gobind Singh gave to us on Vaisakhi in the form of kesh, kara, kanga, kacchhera, and kirpan, our inner worlds have to be transparent in our action, idea and thought. We have to earn these gifts of kesh, kara, kacchhera, kanga, and kirpan. We have to earn them or truly embody them by having complete alignment with our thoughts, ideas and actions, so that wearing the Guru's uniform has complete transparency. There should be no question about how we will act because we are representing Gurus' thought process. At the same time, we have to carry our unique physical uniforms with pride and courage. We cannot let popular culture dictate how we should look.

Again, this becomes an internal test; when we are strong enough to carry the Gurus' saroop, our minds and bodies will not want to go in any other direction except towards the Guru.

The Siddh Yogis question Guru Nanak because he is not at home as a house-dweller, but in fact wandering in the world outside.

Harinder Singh determines that Guru Nanak is wandering around because he is looking for like-minded individuals who are becoming Guru-oriented. He wants a sangat to share ideas, to create synergy collective development, collective empowerment.

Harinder Singh summarized that we have to work together to change our reality.

PERSONAL REFLECTION

This is an engaging idea because it re-affirms that we are not alone in this world and with like-minded people surrounding us, we can conquer any challenge that we face. The power behind multiple minds/multiple people brings about change that is much swifter. And that change, in turn, sets new groundwork for the collective; everyone benefits. In sangat, there is also an equalizer that positions everyone shoulder to shoulder, we are mirrors of each other striving for the same purpose and in seeing the greatness in others, we can acknowledge the greatness within ourselves. It is also an interesting idea in that we are all born to separate containers, our bodies and yet it is our ideas, our thoughts, our actions that bound us to one another which further proves that we are ultimately attracted to one another's internal divinity.

Pauris 21-23: God is present in everyone.

Harinder Singh asks: Do we really feel this? Do we really see this? Do we genuinely look out into the world and see that presence everywhere?

A participant asked how can we see the Divine in someone who lies, who manipulates, who cheats?

Harinder Singh stated we have to separate the "performer" from the "performance". The performer is divine, while his/her performance may stem from corrupt thinking and ideas, so we can challenge the ideas.

PERSONAL REFLECTION

This framework eliminates words like "hate" and "enemy" from the Sikh vocabulary. This framework demands that we see each other for our divinity, our strengths and patiently ignore our faults. It demands that we cultivate a deeper connection with our own divinity to truly see it reflected in everyone and everything outside of us. Judgment and critical assessment of each other does not serve a purpose in this framework. We are asked to make the relationships in our lives work regardless of differences. It doesn't mean we become martyrs for one another, but strive to understand one another in deeper ways.

Vismadh: Divine Order/Divine Will - you have to feel it, feel the wonderfulness of Waheguru.

PERSONAL REFLECTION

It isn't an intellectual experience or an analytical one. It is experiential, emotional, one we experience in our bodies. It may be the same feeling we have when we walk through a sea of redwoods near the coast, or listen to our favourite song, read poetry, play with our children, or taste the natural sugar in a fresh strawberry.

Pauri 37-38:

Nothing is tough when we have a relationship with Waheguru.

Submit to the Guru - receive great understanding, then become busy with life - with this greater understanding of the world in the world. Let this wisdom drive thoughts, ideas, and actions.

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Need a roadmap.

Joining a culture of Naam.

Culture of Naam connects us to see Waheguru in everyone. We can move to bigger and better things. Action becomes anything that connects us to Waheguru.

We are asked to look at the divinity in everyone, within the culture of Naam.

Submit to understanding that "I" do not have all the answers. Surrender the mind.

How can we be householders and be liberated?

When wisdom is within - we are acting upon those higher principles, we experience the greatness in life.

With our sense of freedom, are we responding in the real world as Sikhs?

Achieve clarity and harmony with life when we have relationship with the Guru.

Sense of balance - pain and joy become the same.

Life becomes difficult when we focus on the "I"

Learning has to be translated into lifestyle - how we live, how we apply this to the real world.

Centered in love for everyone - no matter how another person acts, we cannot change our own agenda to be centered in Gurus' love, love for everything around us.

Practice instructions of the Guru.

Pauri 72: Identification with Naam

Freedom is obtained with reflection/introspection/questioning/asking the right questions. Operate beyond fear to conquer things that limit/constrict you. Develop a deep love for creation. Examine the questions. Ask the right questions, so the time is used wisely.

PERSONAL REFLECTION

The culture of Naam sounds so inviting and so inclusive, it makes me feel good just thinking about it. It makes me feel that our truest state of being is one that is grounded in happiness and joy.

When we face ourselves and ask ourselves the important questions, the questions that will make a difference in our lives, I believe that it creates positive momentum towards our highest selves and in this incredible spiritual state of mind, we can truly change the world.


April 6, 2009

Conversation about this article

1: Guravtar Dhaliwal (Johnson City, U.S.A.), April 08, 2009, 5:36 PM.

Very good personal reflections in the class notes. A few comment: 1)Guru Nanak travelled not to seek the sangat or followers. He went to religious people and places particularly to expose their superstitious rituals and more so to promote Truth and Truthful living. 2) Guru Nanak, however, not naming any particular title for God, used "Ik Oankaar-Satnaam"; and supposedly applied the term 'Sat Kartar' in his salutations. 3) Since the Siddhs were extorting resources for their survival from the domesticated people, they had to be exposed and Guru Nanak did it. 4) Please, do look into the background history of these Siddhs and you will be surprised by their origin and cultist ways.

2: Kanwal Nain Singh (Lindsay, Ontario, Canada), April 13, 2009, 1:55 PM.

I have no doubts on the scholarship of Sardar Harinder Singh, and his research on 'Siddh-Gosht'. The article does explain how the philosphy of Guru Nanak's answers can be applied to us individuals, in order to refine our daily actions. If at all, the explanations have been used in a verbose style, rather than simple English, which might be more meaningful to the layman reader like me.

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