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Talking Stick

The Lamp of Knowledge:
The Talking Stick Colloquium # 87

Convenor: AMRIT KAUR




deeva balai andhera ja-ai baid paatth mati paapa kha-ai

When a lamp is lit, darkness is dispelled
Where scriptures are read, evil thoughts are expelled.
When the sun rises, the moon is not seen
When knowledge comes, ignorance is dispelled.
The reading of the vedas is now a worldly trade
O Pandit! You read much, but without thought,
Without understanding this reading is a loss …
[Guru Nanak, GGS:791.2]

In this shabad, Guru Nanak starts off by extolling the virtues of turning to scriptures for guidance. He encourages us to pursue knowledge in our spiritual journey.

But he hastens to add that mere reading of scripture, no matter how much or for how long, is not fruitful.

Investing thought into it and understanding what you read, he reminds us, therein lies the benefit. Otherwise, it all comes to nought.


How does this shabad apply to our current practices, such as paatth and nitnem, for example?

Or akhand paatth?

The pandits Guru Nanak chides had indeed turned their vocation into a worldly trade. Are we in danger today of going the very route Guru Nanak warned us about?

What can we do, what should we do, to avoid the obvious traps?

[Our regular convenor, S. Ravinder Singh ji, is taking a break over the summer from Talking Stick. In his absence and until he returns, Amrit Kaur will stand in his shoes.]

Translation of the shabad is by Khushwant Singh from "Hymns of The Gurus."

July 17, 2012

Conversation about this article

1: Jagjit Kaur (Amritsar, Punjab), July 17, 2012, 10:28 AM.

I do my daily nitnem. But I also devote about 30 minutes every day to checking out the translations and interpretations of a shabad - a new one every day. Step by step, it is transforming my enjoyment of nitnem to the point that it is no longer a chore ... which it used to be in the beginning. Now it's easy ... and it's pleasurable.

2: Prakash Singh Bagga (Indore, MP, India), July 17, 2012, 11:37 AM.

One can see that what we refer to as paatth and nitnem is not advocated in gurbani. From gurbani, one can see that the clear message is for contemplation on the shabad. Regular reading of gurbani is a very good activity which every Sikh should be doing. As far as possible, such a reading should be from the Guru Granth. It's a different experience and pleasure.

3: Ravinder Singh (Mumbai, India), July 17, 2012, 12:25 PM.

I feel gurbani compels one to think, to reason, to understand and to gradually and naturally live it. The emphasis is to live a normal, truthful life, both individually and socially. It keeps everything so simple. Gurbani is the complete Guru and the code of conduct for the Sikhs in the written form, as ordained by the Guru himself. The supremacy of gurbani regarding everything has to be fully accepted by the community.

4: Labh Singh (London, United Kingdom), July 17, 2012, 5:21 PM.

Can you please give us a brief back-grounder on our new convenor?

5: Amrit Kaur (Chandigarh, Punjab), July 18, 2012, 5:29 AM.

I am a housewife based in Chandigarh, Punjab with no claim to scholarship. I have studied both English and Punjabi for post-graduate degrees, and am a student of gurbani at home. I have three children, with none left in the nest. My husband is retired, and we travel a lot between our children (and grandchildren!) who live on three different continents.

6: Prakash Singh Bagga (Indore, MP, India), July 20, 2012, 4:36 AM.

I am impressed by the background of our new convenor. I look forward to interesting and fruitful deliberations on various aspect of gurbani.

7: Ravinder Singh (Mumbai, India), July 22, 2012, 10:34 AM.

I feel our insecurities are making us fall into traps which we want to break free from. The ardaas of Guru Gobind Singh to Akal Purakh - 'deh shiva bar mohe ihai shubh karman te kabhon na taron' should be the compulsory ardaas in the gurdwara. The ardaas itself has all the power to put the sangat on the right path of life.

8: Prakash Singh Bagga (Indore, MP, India), July 22, 2012, 12:24 PM.

I think it would be worthwhile to also follow the message of Guru Gobind Singh as - "jo prabh ko milbo chaahen khoj shabad mein lehen". One must first know the Waheguru from within gurbani, it is then that one's insecurities start to disappear. Insecurities are due to ignorance and knowledge is the lamp that dissolves them.

9: Ravinder Singh (Mumbai, India), July 23, 2012, 1:09 PM.

Many of us do not know the names of our Ten Gurus. I feel their names, alongwith a brief description of each, should be inscribed in every gurdwara. The mention of the Guru Granth as the present Guru should also be made. The sangat should be reminded regularly of the fact that we are bowing down to the Guru in respect and not worshiping like an idol. I also feel that the majority of us who are supposed to guide the community at large are happy and have developed a vested interest in the worship of the shabad Guru as an idol. Maybe we have turned the revolutionary thought processes of Sikhi into an organised religion like any other. As a result we have become as good or as bad as any other religion.

10: Prakash Singh Bagga (Indore, MP, India), July 24, 2012, 12:23 AM.

I think it would be best to propagate the concept of 'one Guru' and that is the Shabad Guru - which is the intent of Sikhi.

11: Ravinder Singh (Mumbai, India), July 24, 2012, 5:57 AM.

Gurbani describes the Guru as "brahm mein jan / jan mein parbrahm / ekai aap nahi kich brahm". Gurbani also asserts that there does not exist another. I do believe that we worship the Guru who is God the One, all pervading, the truth, the creator, without fear, enemy to none, beyond time, not in the cycle of birth and death, self existent and Grace. He is the Guru of Nanak who is one with him. I however feel that we are taught an institutionlized concept that God and the Guru are distinct. God seems to have all virtues and forms except that of the Guru. The shabad Guru has to be bowed to. It suits everyone's convenience. A deep yearning for a personal Guru can arise. The growth and the importance given to sants, babas, deras and various kinds of charlatans in today's world may be the result of it.

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The Talking Stick Colloquium # 87"

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