Kids Corner


A True Bargain



Books have always been one of my greatest loves. I feel truly blessed that I have no memory of a time, even in my earliest childhood, when I did not possess a collection of my own.  For many years, I have been fortunate enough to be able to give full vent to my bibliophilia, in both my personal and professional lives.

Since my very first steps along the Sikh Path, I have found, to my enormous delight and satisfaction, that this lifelong passion could not be more compatible with Sikhi, whose name itself implies continual learning and study. Two of my very dearest friends, both dedicated practitioners of the faith as well as keen book-lovers, have, over the course of time, amassed formidable home libraries of works on Sikhi, further stoking my ardent desire to start the process of building my own comparable collection.

So it should come as no surprise, that during a recent vacation in the Toronto area, one of the major highlights of my trip was a shopping excursion to "Sacha Sauda"  -  a store specializing in things Sikh, and a veritable "Biblio-Begumpura". With the benefit of my friends' expert guidance, and assistance from the store's knowledgeable sevadars, I celebrated my discovery of this "heavenly" emporium by purchasing a substantial number of tomes, on various aspects of Sikh history and heritage.

But by far the greatest treasure I acquired there that day cannot in any way be equated to a "regular" book.  Although it has the physical form of a printed work on paper, Guru Granth, as all Sikhs are well aware, is infinitely more than that. It is our eternal, living Guru, the absolute core of our faith. Given the difficulty often associated with obtaining a copy, I was very grateful to find exactly what I was looking for  -  a four-volume set, in a tripartite format, comprising the original text in Gurmukhi script,  a Roman transliteration, and an English translation.

This version was my choice for two reasons.  

Firstly, while I can read Gurmukhi script, my comprehension level is still low, necessitating my dependence, at least for now, on an English translation.  For how can the Guru's Word be incorporated into daily life without understanding it, albeit on a level that only skims the surface of its immeasurable depths?  

Secondly, I needed to take into consideration the fact that, at present, I do not have the necessary space and appropriate
accoutrements to properly accomodate Guru Granth Sahib in its usual complete form. I felt comfortable with the idea of housing the four-volume translation set by itself, carefully wrapped in pristine, white cloth, on the top shelf of a bookcase wholly dedicated to works on Sikhi.

Although doing paath from a Gutka, partly in the original, partly in English, is a totally normal and firmly-entrenched part of my day-to-day activities, I was absolutely certain that what awaited me in this case would be an extremely different type of experience. Previously, I had only read and studied a translation of Guru Granth online, sitting at my computer.

To acknowledge the step that I was, with the Guru's Grace, about to take, I decided to create for myself a very simple, but still meaningful, version of Gurcharni-lagna.  Literally meaning "being attached to the Guru's feet", this time-honored Sikh ceremony is performed when someone, often a young person having gained the requisite skills, reads from Guru Granth for the first time.

After reciting Ardaas, I tried my best to express, in my own words, my deepest gratitude to the Guru for the myriad of immense blessings that had been showered upon me, asking that my thirst for Sikhi never be quenched, and giving thanks for all the people and experiences that had brought me to this milestone.

Although it may sound trite, it is nonetheless true: there are no words capable of adequately describing the utter bliss and elation that filled my mind and heart at that moment.

Then I started the process that has since become an integral part of my daily life. 

First, I read aloud a page or so of the original text, without consulting the transliteration. In my opinion, stopping to glance at this section would completely interrupt the magnificent sense of rhythm, so evident in every line of Guru Granth. Although many words cause my tongue to stumble, it greatly adds to my enjoyment if I try to maintain as steady a cadence as I possibly can. Also, I do not think the Guru is offended by my mispronunciations and atrocious accent.  

Then I study the English translation, and attempt to reflect upon its meanings and how I might incorporate its teachings into my life in a relevant way.

It is true that a translation, no matter how skillful, can never be a wholly-satisfactory substitute for the original. This particular rendition, in my opinion, is often stilted and awkward, with little of the original's incomparably beautiful poetic qualities. Thanks to a very close friend who is a master of positive thinking, I have learned that, strangely enough, the mechanics of contemplative vichaar can actually be aided, rather than inhibited, by the translation's shortcomings. Continually asking myself, "What do you think the Guru is really saying here?" and trying to arrive at personally-acceptable interpretations, is a most valuable and mind-stretching exercise.

This ongoing task is not the only one that I am faced with.  I know I must also be constantly vigilant that the enormous gratification and satisfaction I derive from reading Guru Granth does not insidiously morph into haumai, an inflated sense of ego and pride. I need to permanently keep at the forefront of my mind that this is not an accomplishment or achievement by me, but the Guru's Grace being manifested through me.

At my unadvanced spiritual level, simply being aware of this potential danger is not enough.  I must always remember to ask the Guru to please  -  gently, but firmly  -  assist me in "remaining in my proper place", and request His divine guidance on how to imbibe His Word with a humble and receptive mind and heart.

With the Guru's Grace, my first Sehej Paath, or complete read-through of Guru Granth, will be followed by many more. It will surely take me several years to complete this one.  

But time is not of the essence in a labor of love.  Day after day, my foray into the infinite treasure-chest of Guru Granth is a journey of joy.


Images:  Top of the page  -  The Palki Sahib at the new Gurdwara at Southall, England; designed by Sonia Dhami.

Bottom of the page: A historical Chaur Sahib  -  a ceremonial fly whisk which forms part of the accoutrements of royalty around the Guru Granth Sahib. 

Second from bottom: From painting by Gagandeep Singh. 

Conversation about this article

1: Harbans Sandhu (Columbia, SC, USA), March 24, 2007, 10:53 AM.

I was very happy to see your comments about the "Sikhi" process. I, myself, am a devotee who is at the initial steps of seeking enligtenment. I was just thinking, as I was doing my new beginning of the "Sukhmani Sahib", how I could take myself further in exploring the feelings and commitment of trying to read the Guru Granth Sahib. I have never used the net except to listen to the kirtan. But today, just out of curiousity, I went exploring, only to find the answer that I was seeking. Thank you so much for your information on acquiring the set from which one can learn. Again, I am humbled and grateful.

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