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Books

Sikh-ing Success And Happiness

A Book Review by GURPAL SINGH BHULLER

 

 

 

 

 

SIKH-ING SUCCESS AND HAPPINESS, by Dya Singh, Partridge (Penguin), Singapore. English, pp 248. ISBN: 1482866374, 9781482866377.






Thomas Merton once wrote: 'My soul does not find itself unless it acts ... stagnation and inactivity bring spiritual death".  

Although Merton was a devout Christian, his words apply to Sikhi as well. There are however, writings by contemporary Sikhs of their own journey along the same lines.  

This new book by Dya Singh is the story of his acts, and how he has travelled the spiritual path of Sikhi and what he has learnt.

In the Sikh tradition, there are of course writings of great and accomplished Sikhs (brahm-gyanis) who describe their own journey and struggles. For example, Bhai Randhir Singh, Sant Isher Singh, Sant Sohan Singh, et al. Most are written in Punjabi. They are dense and require much time, ample powers of concentration and a deep knowledge of Punjabi and Gurmukhi. Exposure to gurbani concepts is also needed to understand these writings. Their stories are of those who had intense devotion and were written 75 – 200 years ago.

The new volume though is totally different, even as it treads a similar path. This is the journey that Merton describes but written from the perspective of a Sikh from the diaspora.

Dya Singh is a child of the diaspora - his father grew up in Punjab and then migrated to Malaya (now Malaysia). Dya grew up in Malaysia where he received his initial teachings of gurbani and Gurmukhi. After finishing his schooling, he left for England where he took up studies in accountancy. He ended up moving to Australia where he now lives with his children and grandchildren.

His writing is thus suffused with the experiences of those who have grown up in the Sikh diasporic environment.

The book starts with the exploration of the two words, “munn” and “mut” and moves on to his understanding of God. Here he does not follow the standard “mool mantar” definition but the universality and goodness that the terms imply.  

Then he goes on to tackle the current fascination with “happiness”. He follows the path of Sikhi and explores the concept and includes “santokh” as a form of happiness (although it is traditionally ‘freedom from desire‘). He concludes this section on happiness with a discussion of Chardi Kalaa – the positive state of wellbeing which is part of the Sikh ethos.

How do you get to that?  

Dya uses meditation and mindfulness as a tool in getting to that state. He also uses exercises throughout the book to encourage the reader’s involvement. He concludes with reflections on how he has tackled Eastern and Western values and links detachment to eventual happiness.

The book concludes with supplementary chapters that are meant for those not familiar with the Sikh Faith. These are his takes on Sikh History, and the concepts of Kirtan and Naam Simran. These chapters detract from the general tone of the book and perhaps could have been part of a second volume.  

Sprinkled throughout the book are anecdotes that he has picked up and uses them to illustrate some points. There are many quotes from gurbani with transliteration and translations provided, together with citations from the Guru Granth Sahib. (The transliterations are not standard and may have served better if the original gurbani quote in Gurmukhi had been provided alongside.)
 
Despite this, it is a refreshing book and it will be a wonderful guide to all those exploring the spiritual side of Sikhi. Records of these personal journeys are important and relevant to Sikhs who have grown and flourished in the diaspora.

Reading Dya Singh’s book is like being part of a sangat. It is an important story of how we, being children of the diaspora, record our experiences as we form our own perceptions of Sikhi. These stories are going to light the path we travel.  

David Brooks, the popular New York Times columnist, writes: “The best life is oriented around the increasing excellence of the human soul”.  

This book is an example of how that is done in the Sikh way, and deserves to be read by all those interested in personal growth.


January 22, 2017

Conversation about this article

1: Bikram Singh (Ludhiana, Punjab), January 22, 2017, 9:28 AM.

I love Dya Singh's kirtan compositions. And I have followed his occasional insightful opinions and observations right here on sikhchic.com with pleasure. I'm glad that he has put his ruminations together in the form of a book. Really look forward to getting a copy.

2: Inderpal Singh (Wisconsin, USA), January 22, 2017, 10:20 AM.

He's long been my favourite kirtaniya. Can't wait to read his book and find out more about the man and his ideas.

3: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), January 23, 2017, 12:10 AM.

I have my personal hand-delivered copy with the compliments of the esteemed author himself. It is packed with all the ingredients to make it to the bedside - not an aid to sleep, especially if you start the chapter on "Munn and Mutt", never mind the spellings. You might lose some sleep though. I liked how the highly talented daughters joined Jackson to sing with him. Still reading and will come up with more stories, I'm sure, as I discover them one by one.

4: Mohan Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), January 23, 2017, 7:22 AM.

The origin of the word 'simran' lies in the meaning, ‘remember’. It does not translate simply into 'meditation'. It is also not repetition of Naam or any mantra.

5: Arvinder Singh (New Delh, India), January 23, 2017, 8:46 PM.

The book is a refreshing look at Sikhism. It aims to deliver to the young generation what has been missing for all these years and that is, how to view and achieve success and happiness through a life in Sikhi. It is not only for Sikhs but for anyone who wants success, peace, harmony and happiness in life. A well written book with a definite purpose in mind.

6: Avatar Singh (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), January 24, 2017, 2:55 PM.

I have been a long-time fan of Dya Singh's kirtan and his views. I am privileged to have read 'Sikh-ing Success & Happiness'. It was actually released in December in Delhi by Jagdeep Singh of Sigma Group of Companies. They hosted Dya Singh ji's jatha for some mesmerizing kirtan in Delhi and one private program in Jalandhar. The book is vintage Dya Singh. It is a great read for non-Sikhs and, as he says, those 'young at heart'. Personally, I do not think Gurpal Singh ji has done justice to this ground-breaking book which deals with Sikhi as a 'tool for self-improvement', not a 'religion'. This book should be promoted in schools and universities as to how a 'way of life' which has become a 'religion' in the Abrahamic sense with, sadly, a growing list of practices amongst some members which the Gurus clearly tried to stamp out), is actually a deep and meaningful methodology for self-improvement. I recommend this book for all.

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