In February the book club discussed the book ‘Discourses on the beyond’ Part 1 by Sant Waryam Singh Ji. The book begins with a summary of Sant Ji’s life, providing some context to the publication of the Atam Marg magazine which he founded. This book was part of an English section of the magazine. The book is divided into five sections, covering different aspects of spirituality:
– The discourses of Sant Ishar Singh Ji of Rara Sahib
– The path of the saints
– The ladder of religion
– Guru Gobind Singh Ji
– Guru Granth Sahib Ji
Some members of the Sikhi Book Club felt that the book lacked structure, whereas others felt that the way it had been written was advantageous, because it was written in an easy-to-read manner which was more flexible for the reader. Whilst there was no doubt that this book included some technical terms, for the most part the readers found that these were explained as the book went along.
All the members felt that this book was a hidden gem full of spiritual wisdom. It was well written and straightforward to read, if deep at times. The start of the book describes a question and answer session with Sant Ishar Singh Ji, and the answers are the ones which Sant Waryam Singh Ji has documented. Questions such as “What are the main barriers on the path of truth?” Each answer was extensive and was related to Gurbani, providing the reader with an overview of the topic from the Guru’s perspective. Some of the answers to the questions asked by the sangat were linked with Vedant dharam e.g. reference was made to Arjun & Krishna’s conversation in the Gita as a way of explaining the difference between the mind, intellect and ego and how these are distinct from Atma.
Sant Waryam Singh Ji’s descriptions were blunt and to the point at times. He describes the different spiritual states we are all in which be a bit of a wake up call to the reader. The importance of Sadhsangat is described and the attributes of Maya are discussed. References are made to other texts such as Sri Suraj Prakash. Sant Ji provides advice on the roles of good deeds, actions and the balance of external worship with inner wisdom. The book does contain some careful critique of the psychology of Sikhs of all shapes and sizes, and can be a difficult pill to swallow but it fulfils its purpose which is to wake the reader from spiritual slumber.
One of the topics in the book was how to recognise a saint, and the book touched on the fact that the world contains many saints who outwardly don’t appear to be saints. These are saints in cognito. The key message here was to treat everyone like they are a saint, and then the saints will come to you. The book club members had a discussion as to how this advice might be adopted on a practical level and how this works when there are negative influencers who use the status of saints in order to compromise the integrity of the Panth.
One of the most important aspects of this book is when Sant Ji outlines the steps that should be taken to do good. This includes the act of self-reflection every day, taking stock of what good has been achieved each day and what seva has been done of others. Unfortunately nowadays we don’t naturally self-reflect and this habit is at the core of leading a spiritually fulfilling existence. Similarly Sant Ji discusses the intentions and the mindset behind straightforward daily tasks such as bathing, eating, living. These things can become a source of contention for Sikhs who argue about differences in Rehat, but ultimately whilst these are important, we shouldn’t become obsessed by them.
In summary this book was well worth reading, and contains some significant pearls of wisdom which were highly valued by the members of the book club. Hopefully in future we will read some of the other books in this series.