Greetings from the Land of Enchantment: Guru's Bani

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Guru's Bani

Response from a Reader re: Women and Sikhism

The larger question this raises for me is to what extent is Bani metaphor and to what extent divine inspiration. I think it's clear to most Sikhs that the SGGS is not taken as a literal document, which is in direct contrast to how some/most evangelical Christians view the Bible . . . Sikh Dharma and its numerous teachers including the Siri Singh Sahib (SSS) commonly have stated that the SGGS is a "living Guru" and we certainly attempt to treat it as such, with much respect and decorum. The implication of this is that we should also revere the Guru's Bani as divine inspiration. The SSS oft said, "The Word is God, and God is the Word." This latter concept tends to argue that the Guru's Bani should be taken as literal, though not necessarily to be un-examined or even un-questioned. Conversely, the SGGS is also explicitly composed of bani from different saints, sages, and Gurus, and even of the writings of the six Sikh Gurus that are included show a progression of thought over almost two centuries.

After having performed many paats of the SGGS, I have wondered whether the reason that the writings of saints other the Sikh Gurus were included was to accentuate the concept that Sikh Dharma in particular and spirituality in general should be an evolutionary paradigm rather than static. This is the anti-thesis of fundamentalism, whether of "the Book" (i.e., Jewish, Christian, & Muslim) or other faiths including Sikhism.

I've also thought of the SGGS as being haiku-like. Reading in Gurmukhi, much of the Guru's bani provides only a framework with which to contemplate many different levels of meaning. This is why each time I read the SGGS it seems different to me. Of course, it's not different, but I am (hopefully), and so I keep seeing it with new or evolving eyes, and hence learning new ideas. This also fits in with the concept that the purpose of the Bani is to challenge our thinking or wake us up from sleep-walking through our day. So, in that sense, encountering something offensive (like a passage denigrating either gender, or other religions) is like a Zen stick thunking you on your shoulder to keep you awake during meditation. Similarly, encountering a transcendent passage is exhilarating and stays with you long into your day (or night).

Sat Purkh's Reply:

I can't read the gurmukhi yet (this next year's resolution) but in studying with Ek Ong Kaar I've recognized how much of it is, like you say, a framework that is open to many interpretations, just as English translations of the bible can vary so greatly. Even here at KRI where I work, there are so many issues raised about translating Yogiji's teachings.

But seeing it as a living guru speaks to me not so much as a 'literal' understanding but a relationship. And so, as someone who's done many paats, you can speak to how you relate to it differently each time you read it because you are changing. I haven't finished my first sahaj paat yet but I know the same is true for me with my favorite works of literature--each time I read them there is something new that speaks to me in a different way because I'm in a different place in space and time.

But yes, I believe that the evolution of thought is definately implicated by the different voices in the SGGS. Even by the 10 gurus themselves....Nanak bowed to Angad; Angad in turn bowed to Amar Das, etc. There is one light, but all the voices and perspectives make the light brighter. A friend here had a lovely way of putting it, she said to me, You carry the naad, I carry sukhmani (which she reads every day), others carry seva, others carry bana, etc. Together we can contain the entire practice. I liked that. So, the many voices in the SGGS can represent an evolution of thought but also simply the facets of the diamond mind. And the bits that we don't like can act as the whip to wake us up as you say.


Post a Comment

<< Home