Sunday, January 29, 2012

Out Of Respect

When going to the gurdwara as a child, I would always sit at the very front of the darbar hall. And as my mind would wander off (like most kid’s do), I would observe the people in line to "mutha tek." Being the curious kid I was, I would notice the peculiarities in the way people bowed before the Guru. Although everybody may have the same reason for it, nearly everybody had a slightly different way of doing it. Some would quickly press their head against the floor and in one quick move bounce back up and spin the other way, others would kneel for nearly a minute before bowing, some would press their heads or rub their noses on the floor repeatedly, or touch the ears and eyes as they stood up - and the most intriguing to me, were the ones who would walk backwards, sometimes 30 or 40 steps exiting the hall so they would never “turn their back” to the Guru – fascinating!

As I’ve gotten older and visited many gurdwaras and homes, I still see many of the peculiarities I did as a child – mostly around how we keep Guru Granth Sahib Ji. The rehat maryada outlines a very basic protocol of how to keep Guru Maharaj in our homes, yet what I’ve seen is a lot more elaborate. Some use space heaters and lay heavy blankets over Guru Sahib in the winter or place fans nearby in the summer, some wash and change rumaalay every day, others cover their mouths and bodies up so much when near the Guru, so that no pollutant from their body could mistakenly touch a page. When I’ve asked people, especially those with very time-intensive routines, as to why they do the things they do, the answers are always the same...”I do it out of respect.” Years ago, I remember at the end of a gurmat camp, all of us campers followed Guru Sahib’s procession outside as Maharaj was being transported from the main hall to someone’s car. The space around the car was tight so many of us kids crowded around the hilly areas nearby. An Uncle scolded us for standing at a higher level than the Guru, and ordered us to “show some respect”. I thought to myself, huh? When the car drives downhill from the campsite, are we supposed to run alongside it, so we don’t remain higher? And what about gurdwaras with balconies (like darbar sahib) where sangat sits, would this be considered “disrespectful?” There was once a time where I would argue that much of this is out of ritual than respect...but not anymore. As I’ve matured a bit, I’ve learned that people’s relationship with the Guru is quite personal, and after all, who am I to stand in the way of their respect?

I can understand why someone would create an elaborate environment and routine for Guru Sahib - He is our king, so shouldn’t the setting and protocol be that of a king’s court? Or does caring so much about the external aspects drive us away from what’s important? Could this be a reason why Guru Gobind Singh Ji did not name one physical successor?

We come from a part of the world where there is an abundance of holy men, where one can serve their spiritual leader through gifts, luxuries, comforts, and service towards him. In a sense, it is long as you labor your way through the physical routine and pay your forms of ‘respect’ - you’re done. In return, the spiritual leader provides you the answer to life’s mysteries.

The Guru’s paradigm (as I understand it), is quite different. The answers lie inside you...and through baani, you will realize it. We serve our Guru when our every day actions line up with baani...not just through ritual. So if we truly want to respect him, then start with baani – read it, understand it, reflect on it, and live it!

Then what now becomes disrespect toward the Guru? There are all kinds of finger pointing these days about individuals and institutions doing “beyadbi” toward the Guru...and some of that may be true. But in my opinion, the single-most disrespectful thing I can do to the ignore Him. When I choose to tune out the hukamnama at the gurdwara or on my drive home when I cannot remember what the hukamnama was...or if I choose not to look up a translation when the hukamnama was unclear to me.  These are the things I do that are most disrespectful…this to me is “turning my back” to the Guru.

What I love most about being a Sikh, is that outside a few boundaries in the rehat marayada, I am free to define my own relationship with the Guru, so if that means I change rumaalay every day or my mutha tek routine takes 15 be it. That said, Guru Sahib challenged us, not to be mere devotees...but to be students (Sikhs). And as we all know, no matter how much you impress or praise your teacher or how many gifts you give the end of the day, it is how well you studied and understood what your teacher taught you and how you apply it to your life that counts...this is where respect begins.


  1. I agree with your take on being 'disrespectful'... I always had this point in my mind about people who just read, sing, recite the 'path' religiously every morning.. But whats the point if you dont know the meaning behind it and dont imply the same in your life..

    its nt abt churping the same tune like birds eeryday... its about reminding ourselves what we are suppose to do and working on it..

    Great passage Mr Singh. I can relate to it

  2. very true thanks for sharing waheguru ji

  3. Very interesting article.

  4. At the end of the day, how well you study, understand & apply is what counts, beautifully said.

  5. I the liked the Sikh page on Facebook, just because I am a Sikh, but now I'm thinking am I a Sikh? Just being born in a Sikh family doesn't give me that prestigious right ...... I am always too busy thinking of quirky new status's and writing on friends walls to even bother looking at the Sikh Page posts or eveb glance at the articles published. Today after reading your article I can now see I have been ignoring WaheGuru Ji, I guess I knew that deep down inside too. I go Gurudwara every week, I do seva, I sing along shabads and Choupai Sahib and Anand Sahib as much as I can, but its all useless when I cannot understand the Hukamnama thus I learn nothing, therefore I gain no knowledge which means everything else is a waste of time!

    Thankyou for sharing your article! I will definately try to became a Sikh before a become a better one ! :)

  6. Beautifully written....I've had similar realizations the end of the day, sikhi learned is only as great as sikhi applied.

  7. "But in my opinion, the single-most disrespectful thing I can do to the ignore Him."

    Well put.

    The same Guru who teaches us about the uselessness of idol worship is being worshiped like an idol. I'd say we're pretty bad students :)

    Also, the word "respect" just sounds like a shortened way of saying "I've been doing this for as long as I can remember, I don't know why, so don't ask".

    At the end of the day, I don't have a problem with the way a person expresses their love, love is fluid, not calculated. However, I do have a problem with a person who tries to impose their form of expression onto others.

  8. I agree. I am a white american female and I found Sikhism and have been following it truly. Yet when I go to the Guruwara I still get looks and sometimes people will get up and sit elsewhere. I do not understand it.
    Great article. Well written.

  9. dear satsangat ji wgjkkwgjkf
    i like your opinion .but i would like to add that if child starts going to school he is not a scholor from day one. he has to learn abc without knowing the meaning of it .it is with the time he realize after few years where he can implement theseknowldge in his life .so reciting a paath with right frame of Mind is must meanings and adapting to it in your life will come along

    satnam shri whahe guru ji

  10. My thoughts all the way. Proud to be a sikh and all for " Akaal Purkh di ustat". Always wondering at the perfect creations of that One master creator. We should only try to get closer to that Almighty one through Bani, by understanding Gurbani. Only then we will understand that despite all differences we all are perfectly created and how everything and every creature is in perfect harmony. There is a purpose for this life... think about it!

  11. An awesome post, I thoroughly enjoyed and related with it! Would keep visiting again. Fateh.

  12. Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh!!

    Thank you all for taking the time to read my post and share your comments. All your feedback and encouragement is very much appreciated! It's nice to know I'm not alone in these thoughts. Narinder Singh, as usual, I agree with your point about having other people's expression of love forced upon you. Anonymous (6th comment from top), don't be disheartened :) Many Sikhs go through their whole life without having such a realization that you've just had...that in itself is a great accomplishment. I'm right there with you trying to learn how to be a Sikh before becoming a better one (well said!). Kskhohli ji, you are right too, there is absolutely value to ritual, even if all the understanding is not there yet...especially with children. As a parent though, it is my responsibility to foster that "curiosity" about baani with my children. It's funny, my kids ask "Why?" about everything else, except Gurbani...they rarely ask what a shabad means. That's my fault. If I continually try to explain them shabads (to the best of my knowledge) at their level, perhaps they will ask for more meanings. A child who is inquistive about baani, is more likely to be an adult who is inquisitive about baani.

    Faith can be very comforting...many can go a whole life feeling "happy" just by going through these comfortable actions day in and day out without any understanding...but what a shame it would be, to go through a whole lifetime without getting to know the Guru...

    Akaal Sahai!

  13. I really enjoyed reading your article. I think it lit a few sparks. Thank you.

    I wish I could hold my thoughts long enough to write like that.

  14. your article is so awesum you have enlightened us about those that do change rumalay everyday, those that do matha tek for 10 min or walk back 30-40 steps without turning back, those ignorant fools that put kambal on guru saheb in the winter, those religious idol worshipers that cover their mouth when doing paath or wear hajooriye to make sure no pollutants are on guru saheb.

    Thank you your doing a great job with this kind of sewa - its very typical nature today of "blogger Sikhs" and katha vachaks on stage to point the finger at people who they may consider ignorant or doing things anti gurmat according to them. They almost feel like they are Guru Nanak and the rest of the world are the Sidhs.

    If being a student and learning was what respect was then you would not have posted this - you should apply what you share here that your relationship with your guru is personal - why my grandmother and her grandmother did kesi ishaan before they did paath every morning was their personal relationship with their guru and not one for you to ridicule and conclude your article by saying that these people did not understand the lesson correctly.

    Bhul Chuk Maaf but I hope you find some love in your heart for such ignorant fools who are not as enlightened as you are.

    1. Thank you Anonymous for reading the post...and your criticism. As I stated in the post, "What I love most about being a Sikh, is that outside a few boundaries in the rehat marayada, I am free to define my own relationship with the Guru, so if that means I change rumaalay every day or my mutha tek routine takes 15 be it"

      Clearly, I have no problem with the rituals we do in the Guru's presence (within the boundaries of maryada). I believe these rituals and routines come from a good place and are a genuine expression of faith and love. The specific rituals both you and I mentioned are also the things some of my family members do, and from time to time, I might do myself. My point in the post was that the rituals alone are not enough...understanding and action must follow. This is not the creative idea of a "blogger Sikh" :) This is my understanding of baani. If you're saying that Guru Sahib tells us that ritual is perfectly fine without understanding or action...then please elaborate...perhaps I need to be educated. As with anything comes with practice and learning...I agree with you. That is the path I am on too.

  15. I have always enjoyed the posts I have read here. While I have never gone on to understand the meaning or the reason behind a rituals I have always enjoyed doing it and seldom felt the need to question any so far. For instance when parshad is made, or the daily sewa of parkash and sukh asan. The only thing that ever drove me to do these was that they give me a deep joy. But reading this post makes me think that it would be even more beautiful to understand why a certain ritual is performed :)

  16. Nice Article! Thanks for sharing with us.

    Hindu Saint

  17. SGGS, P982,Guru Ramdas
    " Bani Guru, Guru hai Bani, vich Bani Amrit sareh" !

    The written Granth Sahib in itself isn't the Guru, the Guru's Bani within is the True Guru, the Fourth Guru's statement clarifies it clearly.

    The Guru Granth Sahib can today be written into a Word document on a CD/DVD, or a Acrobat Reader pdf file or be displayed on the net as a website page, laptops, PC, TV, DVD player, even smart phones or tablets, all these don't become The Guru do they? Are you going to 'mattha tek' these now out of respect?

    What next, are we going to parkash/sangasan a CD/DVD, a website page, laptop, PC, TV, DVD player, a smart phone or tablet, put a chandola to cover and chaur to wave, not forget to take some Amrit, parshad, find some pyaares? God might as well destroy us All, if we end up going that far....

    You could 'mattha take' all these....but for sure, you will need hospitalization in a mental institution soon after, lock & key thrown away.

    The 'mattha tek', be it anywhere, is an egoistic show of the person's body falling before the Guru's Shabad. The truth of the matter to say is that, we like showing off that we are all so 'godly, whiter than white', but mentally we are impure and black, filled with millions of Sins inside our dirty, filthy minds.

    P85, SGGS, Guru Nanak)
    "Mannu kusuda kaliya bahare chitviah" !
    In mind, they are dirty, filthy, impure and black, but outwardly, they appear white.

    The body & head keeps relentlessly falling b4 the Guru, but the mind's mentality remains the same, black with sin, dirty, filthy with Maya. What's the point of bowing before Anything or Anyone, if mentally you are so impure, dirty, filthy and black?

    Change your mind The Guru's Shabad with your mind, then you will truly fall b4 the Guru's Shabad. Any other deed done is a false show, lies, a deceitful gimmick, a 2 faced egoistic existence which leads to ruin and death at the end.

    The Bani is The True Guru, thats Divine Truth, read that and for sure you easily will find The True Guru !


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