Below is a summary of the discussion from our first meeting on January 15th.
The article discussed was Brahmgyan by Sant Singh Maskeen. A copy of the article can be found here.
- Can knowledge be divided into only two categories?
- Is acquisition of material knowledge a bad thing or is it necessary?
- What mindset do we have when acquiring any type of knowledge? Is it one of ego or one of humility?
- How do we look inside ourselves?
- What does Gurbani say about how to go about doing this?
- How can we still the mind?
- Is time relevant in Sikhi?
- Are human timelines meaningless or important?
- How can we use the concept of time to our advantage?
- Is it wrong to adopt or celebrate other faiths’ festivals?
- Are we being influenced by Christianity at the cost of our own culture?
- Why do we feel we can accept some religious festivals such as Christmas but not others from different faiths?
- Antarmukhi and Baharmukhi
- What is the difference between inward facing and outward facing?
- Was Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s mission to enhance our identity or to break it?
- Where does our sense of self/identity come from?
- Is there a difference between Simran and Naam Japna?
- Do we limit ourselves by considering these two concepts the same?
There was some debate about different types of knowledge, and whether it is even right to divide knowledge into only two categories (materialistic and spiritual). Some felt that materialistic knowledge was no better or worse than spiritual knowledge and that Sikhism encourages us to learn all types of knowledge. We all agreed that acquisition of knowledge isn’t a bad thing, but that the mindset which accompanies such knowledge is more important. For example, if acquiring knowledge only brings about ego then one’s mindset should be altered to prevent this.
Someone raised an interesting point about how humans are the only animals on the planet who suffer with ego and that this is the biggesgt downfall of humanity. We later realised that some animals also do demonstrate egos (like gorillas who beat on their chests to maintain their dominance) but this is probably besides the point!
We went on to talk about how we look inside ourselves. The hardest thing to do is reflect upon ones own actions and thoughts. Someone mentioned that humans in general do things because they think they are correct in whatever they are doing. If they didn’t feel it was correct then they wouldn’t do what they’re doing. There was a brief discussion about whether reflecting within oneself is actually feeding one’s ego (as you are focusing on yourself). Gurbani obviously encourages simran as a way of avoiding this, focusing on the light within, rather than one’s body or mind or ego.
Regarding time as a concept, time is relative. The word Akaali means timeless/deathless, because even through death the light/soul continues. Do we even know how old we are? Every woman is born with all her eggs already inside her. Therefore, a piece of us existed even inside our grandmother. Yet we think we know everything about ourselves, including certainty about our age. In reality we are all much older than we think we are. Time from a spiritual point of view is probably irrelevant, but it can act as a strong motivator i.e. life is running out, remember Waheguru.
Is it wrong to adopt other cultures’ celebrations and dates? Are we all Christianised to some extent? From a wordly point of view it is important everyone has a similar timeline in terms of organising national economies, trading etc. There was some lively debate about whether New Year should be celebrated or not, and whether it really means anything. From a spiritual point of view these dates are arbitrary. However it was recognised that as a Sikh nation we all know important Christian dates (like the birth of Jesus) but we don’t know our own Guru’s stories or Gurpurabs. So it might be alright celebrating non-Sikh festivals, but if this comes at the cost of forgetting our own history then maybe we need to think again. Interestingly it was mentioned that we feel Christian festivals are ‘ok’ to celebrate because they are widely accepted, but a question was raised as to who would be just as willing to celebrate Eid? Why do we feel some cultures are acceptable and others aren’t?
Antarmukhi vs Baharmukhi (inward facing and outward facing), these concepts are similar to Manmukh and Gurmukh. Before looking internally, you have to lower your ego. Or maybe looking internally is actually what lowers your ego in the first place. We talked about how Guru Nanak’s mission was not to enhance our sense of identity, but to smash it completely. Using the analogy of building a brick wall, we attach importance to every aspect of our identity. For example, I’m a student (add a brick), I’m a daughter (add a brick), I’m male, I’m female, I’m a doctor, I’m a driver etc. All of these are bricks which we place around us, and we use this wall to build our identities. But take away every single brick and what’s left? What’s left is the atma, the light that binds all of us and Akaal Purakh. So by talking about Ik Oangkaar, Guru Ji wasn’t trying to cement our identity, he was trying to smash it.
We finished off by briefly talking about whether there is a difference between doing Simran and Naam Japna. Someone said that this was similar to deciding whether to call a turban a Pagh or Dastaar. Others felt that Naam Japna is something which you consciously make an effort to sit down and do for periods of time, whereas simran was more of a constant remembrance in every day life, or having an awareness of Waheguru (rather than physically saying the word Waheguru with your eyes closed).