Here are some of the remarks by my friend Bal. These remarks are part of an ongoing discussion, but can be read independently too. These remarks leave one utterly speechless, so, here are they:

It seems to me that the world is not a problem to be solved. Nor is it a puzzle to crack open a secret code. THe world is not a place that someone can get an angle on - no sianpa aids. There are no secret passageways that the wise or elite know, no specific techniques that the religious know, no principle such as “reason” can ground our projects, no unmatched bravery that the “warriors” know. etc.

It seems to me the world is a place of contestation - ceaseless problems that never resolve finally. The world is an undecidable - and here I am in complete agreement with Prabhsharandeep - it is not a place where absolutes can grow - for it is too closely tied to our imaginations.

In other words “the world” is something that is in very important ways unsayable, unthinkable especially given its layers and immeasurability. The world is not separate from me - from identities. World and Self are complex unsayables - na ko hindu no ko mussalmaan… there is an unremitting interdependency at work, at play…

It seems that we can THINK “solutions” (theoria, sophia) and then act. OR we could ACT “solutions” (praxis, phronesis) and our thinking evolves case be case. The knowledge that derives from thinking is different to the knowledge that derives from acting - no doubt. BUT, if both modes of being (and there are others) call them intellectual and pragmatic, intelligentsia and mass mobilization, elitist and popular, idealist and pragmatist, etc. are imbued by the same discourse of identity and world politics then it matters little whether we start “entry point” Jakara movements or pursue “academic conferences”.

We need to think AND act in radically different ways. First - why is this whole debate revolving around the assumptions that “Sikh” is something that we are all fighting to protect, grow, enrich?
Better, how is Sikh being understood? My fear is that it is being utterly consumed by an identity politics that arises out of the discourses of multiculturalism - be they the melting pot or the mosaic - which have their genesis in anthropology and colonial discourses. What if identity is NOT ONE? I do not think we should follow others in protecting their “rights” and copy their nationalistic notions of sovereignty. What if I cannot be a Sikh without the other, the woman, the stranger, the monster? What if Sikh atrophies the “purer” it gets? What if Sikh is always a relation to the Other, to life, to diversity, to otherness? That essential heterogeniety brings up a profound kinship with all, a profound notion of sovereignty that defends diversity as that which promotes life itself. Life dies when anyone part of it suggests it can only exist when some other part has to be exterminated. We as Sikhs are a not a religion, nor a nation, nor a philosophy of ONE people, ONE language, ONE nation, ONE history (the discourse of the metaphysics of the one). OUR traditions are full of very healthy relations to others - that is our collective wisdom - we are ek-anek. Asankh. Our motto of the ONE is always inclusive of the other: Many is its other face. Yet because we have a very poor grasp of gurbani we immediately fall into more popular and powerful modern discourses of world, self, exclusive individual one-ness. To be a Sikh I have to promote the cause of the other, not only defend and think of my own.

Maybe the whole project of trying to revive Sikhi is wrongfooted if only “sikhs” are involved. Perhaps the “project” (?) of Sikhi can only thrive by connecting with people from every and any shade of life. Perhaps operating under the banner of Sikh is in some ways a hindrance. I act with honesty, integrity, intimacy, honour, beauty and love, not because I am a Sikh (and need to tell everyone that is why I act thusly), but because my very humanity and animality demand it thus.

We need to include the alien in our work. And we need to appeal to others not from the call of Sikh but from the call of what is required. Join others in projects. Our identity should not be primary. The more we try maintain it as a priority the more we are likely to displace it. We are not Sikhs - we are people in love. All people that can remember they are in love - treat identity as secondary and the action that love demand ALWAYS as primary. What else did our ten gurus demonstrate? and many others besides?

The problem is, of course, LOVE as a primary mode of response to the world, to others, can not be mandated. This is the problem of religion: I cannot legislate you to love me. I can only act lovingly. That is why the world is ceaseless contestation: samsara.

The Gurus did not write political ideologies, nor vast commentaries on their works, nor explain exactly what a Sikh is and what they should do. No absolute lists, no absolute laws, no absolute injunctions. Songs of Love. Songs of Praise. Songs of Wonder. Songs of Yearning. Songs of Time, Pain, Happiness, Loss.

The point of this debate here I hope is not to reach a manifesto. Love is the only manifesto - and its laws cannot be written — in specifics - but love cannot exist beyond the specific act. The vision of the gurus was very demanding and so much higher than the squabbles of reason, and the passions of the warrior, and the intrigues of the King.

There is no one identity to defend. Life needs defending. The Gurus can act to save others as easily as they would save their own. Fear none and inspire no fear — otherwise love all and inspire love.

OF COURSE it is too easy to answer the question - what should we do with Love all - the Gurus were not the beatles. They acted creatively and variously to life’s unfolding challenges. The answer is many. Many projects - but all should be under the name of an inspired relation to the other.

P.S.- I have a suspicion that the Gurus never really nor seriously entertained the question of what needs to be done. Ok Guru Tegh Bahadur and others to the contrary, but there was so much else at work something close to sublime indifference and fearlessness - that what is happening is all good. Jo tudh bhavai saii balee kaar. That free utterly open spirit is hard to grasp. and this is why those deeply in love come across to us as insane for it is clear that to them nothing much matters apart from that love…

apologies if I’ve wandered far into the wilderness - but I think we need to wonder — wonder if there is a problem and if there is what is its nature.


  1. I have a suspicion that the Gurus never really nor seriously entertained the question of what needs to be done. Ok Guru Tegh Bahadur and others to the contrary, but there was so much else at work something close to sublime indifference and fearlessness - that what is happening is all good.

    HAHAH That's the most ridiculous thing I have ever read. I guess Akal Thakt, Miri Piri, and the social justice inherent within Sikhi is lost on this person.

  2. P.S.

    Sounds like a yogi to me.


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