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A Taste of Infinity

by DILPREET KAUR

 

Recently, I participated in the Sikh Research Institute's "Saneha: Becoming Guru-Centered" event held at Guru Nanak Foundation of America in Silver Spring, Maryland, U.S.A.

The saneha, or message, of the workshop was "Sabad Asgah: Experiencing Infinite Wisdom".

The day began with the introduction of participants, along with sharing why each of us had come to the workshop. In response, participants' answers included wanting to get over the fear of making mistakes or committing a transgression while reading Guru Granth Sahib, wanting to learn more in order to teach their children, and the desire to move beyond the darshan of the Guru to creating a genuine relationship.

Whereas I had expected a lecture-style presentation, I was surprised by the dialectical and dynamic structure of the presentation, which facilitated discussion and the sharing of views. A comfortable, inquisitive atmosphere was set so that the diverse group of high school and college students, young professionals, and mature individuals, could all effectively engage in dialogue and learning.

Harinder Singh of Sikh Research Institute ("SikhRI") began by sharing the intent and aim of the workshop. He stressed the necessity of interpreting Gurbani for ourselves and moving away from spiritual dependence on so-called religious leaders. In this way, spiritual empowerment and the development of a personal relationship with Guru can take place.

To that end, the workshop served to introduce practical tools for further study of Gurbani. The profound importance of Guru Granth Sahib was emphasized by describing it as a khajana, a treasure house of the absolute perfection of ideas and thoughts.

The first session, presented by Jasmine Kaur, was titled Guru Granth Sahib: Origin and Message, in which the compilation of the Guru Granth was historically contextualized and its contributors, organization, and message expounded upon.

The opening lines of Guru Granth Sahib that manifest the attributes of the Divine (the Mool Mantar) were likened to a thesis. The subsequent revelations in Guru Granth Sahib then further expound upon these attributes and detail how to attain these qualities to become like the Divine. In this way, the message of Guru Granth Sahib is a universal one that provides guidance and morality, regardless of time, space, or location.

The second session, presented by Mandhir Singh, centered on Raag: Music of the Soul. That Guru Granth is organized according to Raags points to the importance the Gurus placed on music and its role as a mode of delivery. Music serves as a vehicle for imparting the experiential and emotional and is a potent method for relaying internal and transcendent feelings to the common person. Music also places the listener in a reflective and receptive mood.

Thus, music surpasses the limits of language and becomes an essential delivery mechanism for the Gurus, especially as a medium to reach the masses and cross all demographic boundaries. In setting all Gurbani in Raags, the Gurus sought to instill cultural and artistic appreciation in the masses.

The session that follwed, Gurbani Viakhia Pranaliam, discussed the features, strengths and shortcomings of the various schools of thoughts of Gurbani interpretation.

This session provided extensive information on the motivations, intentions, and context of the different systems of Gurbani interpretation. Seven major systems of Gurbani interpretation were elaborated upon in order to suggest that perhaps the best approach is to develop an integrative one. This entails identifying the verse's context and potential cultural barriers that may affect understanding, learning the meanings of words and accompanying connotations, and, if needed, examining grammatical patterns.

The last session of the day was a "Question & Answer" forum, in which participants could ask any question of the presenters, including clarification about the content of the workshop and the role and projects of SikhRI.

The presenters consistently and deftly used the confluence of bani (scripture), tvarikh (history and tradition), and rehat (discipline) to develop and present their views from a Gurmat perspective, from which they relayed relevant examples for further clarity.

Along with the abundance of information and resources presented, I especially appreciated the encouragement of critical thinking, an essential skill that is unfortunately often disregarded or dismissed as irreverent in the study of scripture today. Unlike other workshops I have attended in which presenters adamantly insist upon on the accuracy of their own views, the presenters motivated the participants to seek out further information and guidance on their own through the Gurmat tradition.

All in all, the day was reflective and thought provoking and instilled an ardent desire to continue my journey of learning and development of a relationship with Guru Granth Sahib.

 

[Established in 2003 and located in San Antonio, Texas, U.S.A., SikhRI is a non-profit, faith-based initiative whose mission is to "facilitate training and development while inspiring Sikh values, create global awareness of Sikhi, and deliver solutions to the key challenges faced by the Sikh community."]

July 2, 2009

Conversation about this article

1: Dharamveer Singh (Mumbai, India), July 02, 2009, 12:55 PM.

I have read a few things about SikhRI in other articles as well but this article has made my perception about SIKHRI clear. What I seem to have understood is that SikhRi is doing an exemplary job. Keep up the good work. Kudos to sikhchic.com for providing me such a varied cuisine to quench my thirst for all aspects of Sikhi. I wish I could have been related to sikhchic.com in some way.

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