Kids Corner


The Roundtable Open Forum # 141






(oo) What you want
(oo) Baby, I got
(oo) What you need
(oo) Do you know I got it?
(oo) All I'm askin'
(oo) Is for a little respect when you come home (just a little bit)
Hey baby (just a little bit) when you get home
(just a little bit) mister (just a little bit)

[from a song by Aretha Franklin]



Respect is a revered term used a multitude of times in our lives, especially when the conversation involves our Gurus or Guru Granth Sahib or most aspects of Sikhi.

A quick look at the definition of the word reveals that it consists of a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.

Respect is shown, in the case of Guru Granth Sahib, by surrounding it with regal accoutrements and following the protocol usually reserved for royalty. We even wash our hands and feet before entering the gurdwara, bare-footed and head covered, as a measure of our respect.

We keep gutkas - small volumes consisting of selected passages from gurbani for daily readings -- carefully wrapped in a piece of cloth, often silk or satin -- as our way of showing respect to its contents.

We do "parkash" and "sukh-aasan" -- (opening and closing protocol) for Guru Granth. We ply the "chaur" (fly-whisk) around the palki (throne) and Guru Granth Sahib. We have a "chandoa" (canopy) above the Guru.

Every time we are in the presence of Guru Granth at home or at the gurdwara, we fold our hands. (Think of how many times the attending Bhai Sahib or granthi does that in a single day).

We wash the floor of the Harmandar Sahib in Amritsar with tons of milk every day.

All of the above and much, much more, to show our respect and devotion to The Word. 

But then, we don’t allow women to do kirtan in the same Harmandar.

Pray, why? In Nanak’s abode?

Talk about equality in Guru Nanak's world-view!

We also show respect to the kakaars (the five articles of faith of the Khalsa). We show respect to dastaar (turban). Even when not worn or folded or stored, the turban is always placed in a special place, reflecting its status as a crown.

We show respect to Nanak by referring to him as Guru Nanak. Some of us add ’Sri”, ’Dev”, ’Sahib’, “Maharaj’, ’Ji’, and many more honorifics, in various permutations and combinations.

Same goes with all our Gurus. And the Gurdwara. Amritsar too. The kirpan -- “Sri Sahib”! Nishaan Sahib. Even 'Singh Sahib', when referring to an elder. And Sardar Sahib. Sardarni Sahiba …

Does Guru Sahib -- see, how intuitively I am programmed to call him Guru Sahib? -- expect any respect from us? If he does, in what way, shape or form is that respect due?

More broadly, does God expect or demand respect from us?

The common answer we all know is that the real respect we are to show is by our actions, not merely in lip-service. If we don't follow what the Guru Granth actually says, what's the point of the other ‘respect’ we shower so freely?

Going back to the definition of respect - a feeling of deep admiration - if we really respect Sikhi, then the real respect we can show is by improving our lives in the way the Gurus intended us to.

As far as addressing our Gurus by name, we can call him by the first name -- Nanak! -- or by surrounding it with one or more honorifics. Most of us are reluctant in calling Nanak by his first name. Some of us even find it abhorrent.

By engaging in these motions and notions of respect, and doing little more, are we not hiding Nanak from the world by burying him under mere superficialities?

Fundamentally, I believe that merely showing respect is irrelevant. Respect has close ties with the Ego. Respect and Ego are two sides of the same coin. One expects respect because of the ego.

Since God and Guru are free of Ego, they don’t expect us to respect them. It is our own need that we express through our ardour.
Even in our daily lives, at work, social circles, we respect someone either due to fear or due to greed. We respect the Vice President of our company because of his position and in the hope we can get closer to him so that we can benefit from the close ties. We make friends or connections with the people where we anticipate benefits.

Who wants to be friends with a low achiever? Who wants to just connect at a human level?

Who sees every human, irrespective (ir-respect-ive) of color, figure, looks, position, money, connections?

Who said it more clearly then Kabir?

No one shows reverence to the poor man.
Though the poor man may make umpteen efforts, but he, the rich man, minds him not.
ll Pause ll
When a poor man goes to the rich man, the latter turns his back on him.
When a rich man goes to the poor man, the latter respects and welcomes the rich man.
The poor and the rich, both are brothers.
The Lord’s design cannot be set aside.
Says Kabir, he alone is poor, within whose mind the Name abides not.
ll 4 ll 8 ll [GGS: 1159]

Most of our life is spent taking care of “respect”. It’s time we change the paradigm. What can be a better paradigm than honesty –- brutal honesty with yourself.

Am I being honest with myself? Are my actions in line with what gurbani is teaching us? Am I still entangled in the web of society, respect, honor, ego, position, power, money?

Or do I have the vision to realize the ephemeral nature of stuff and have the courage to look inside?

Now, that would be R-E-S-P-E-C-T worth singing about!

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We invite our readers to share with us your thoughts on the issues raised hereinabove, by posting your comments here.

January 26, 2015

Conversation about this article

1: Ravinder Singh (Mumbai, India), January 26, 2015, 10:42 AM.

Gurbani asserts that divine or truthful or righteous living alone is true religion.

2: Ajit Singh Batra (Pennsville, New Jersey, USA), January 26, 2015, 2:47 PM.

Sikhi respects the Truths that put a purpose into life for mankind. The greatest Truths are always the simplest and confer inner peace and spiritual power. Our Gurus never accepted the airy-fairy philosophy for nurturing the mind and intellect as practiced in Hinduism. Only the philosophy that leads to a practical bearing on life. Guru Nanak said: "Truth is the highest of all things, but higher still is Truthful Living [GGS:62].

3: AJ Singh (San Francisco, California, USA), January 26, 2015, 5:20 PM.

Respect cannot be expected - differences in age, social status, education, etc. ensure that it is just relative and ephemeral. Respect cannot be commanded either - if it is, then the removal of force (fear) will ensure that the pendulum swings back into "disrespect". Respect can only be given freely; those who do so choose to respect different sets of things, and for different reasons. The question that one should evaluate then becomes - What is deserving of our respect? If Gurbani be a guide, the only respect worth anything is "Truth" for everything else is a creation of our own illusions.

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The Roundtable Open Forum # 141"

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