Tuesday, May 19, 2009

From a Sikh Brother

Brethren all, as I keep telling you, the Masonic community in Thailand has to be the most diverse in the world. The following is a description of the Sikh religion and how it links to Masonry from one of my dear friends and brothers. Sorry its a bit long, but I think you'll enjoy it.

Jim.:

From a Sikh Brother

I was born in Myanmar (Burma) in a family which at the time was earnestly practicing a monotheistic religion based upon the philosophy of Sikhism.

The year of my birth saw the beginnings of the WWII, which eventually engulfed most of Asia in the 1940’s. This forced my family to move from Burma to our ancestral home in Northern Pakistan (then India) near Peshawar, then to Nasik (near Bombay) and eventually back to Burma in 1946., From 1946 to 1949 I lived with my family in the small district town of Minbu. Then I was packed off to Rangoon, the capital, to continue my education at the best school in the country run by Catholic Missionaries. Before arriving at this Christian School, I had spent various number of years at a predominantly Muslim school in Pakistan, a Hindu school in Nasik, and a Buddhist Monastery plus a Buddhist Public school in central Burma.

This might explain why in my late teens I was coldly aloof and not particularly influenced by any religion. I refused to accept any religious teachings merely because people in my surroundings believed it to be true. I could not persuade myself to imagine that I had a religion because everybody whom I might trust believed in its value.

Thus my mind was brought up in an atmosphere of freedom – freedom from the dominance of any creed that had its sanction in the definite authority of some scriptures, or in the teaching of some organized body of worshippers. Now I profess to practice a form of the Sikh religion that, fits my up bringing, education, and the life I have been exposed to.

The Fundamental Sikh Commandments


The Beliefs

1. The belief in One God

2. The belief in the Guru

3. The belief in the Guru Granth Sahib

4. The belief in freedom

5. The belief in democracy


Rules of Conduct

1. Life of honesty

2. Life of truth

3. Life of restraint

4. Life of householder

5. Life of piety


Truthful Living

1. Kirt Karni –to earn one’s livelihood through creative, productive and honest labour.

2. Nam Japna - to be in tune with the Infinite through meditation on divine qualities, so that the believer becomes filled with HIS NAME.

3. Wand Chakana - to share the fruits of earnings with the needy.


Self – Discipline. To be able to control

1. Passion - Kam

2. Anger - Karod

3. Greed - Lob

4. Attachment - Moh

5. Pride - Hanker


You will note that most of these commandments are common with other religions. But some are a bit different.

In the section on beliefs, THE BELIEF IN THE GURU, the Supreme Teacher is given an importance because we do not have a God that we can give a form to.

We had ten Gurus who were elected to that position because of their qualifications (not their heritage). The tenth Guru installed the Sikh’s Holy Book, containing the teachings of the ten Gurus (and also some inputs from the Hindu and Muslim faiths) as “Sri Guru Granth Saheb” as “The Guru” being the visible embodiment of all the Gurus. Thus you’ll find in our Gurdwaras (temples), the Holy Book installed on the Palki (Palaquin) with a canopy, as if it was a person. The Sikh religion is the most modern religion in India being just over four hundred fifty years old. It is also considered the most universal because our sacred book contains not only the Hymns of the Sikhs but as mentioned before, also those of the Hindu and Muslim faiths.

In the section on rules of conduct, you notice item 4 encourages one TO BE A “HOUSEHOLDER” That is to get married and raise a family. There was a belief amongst Hindu Saints that to achieve communion with God, (for the Sikhs, “NAM” – “THE WORD” ) we had to shed the worldly life and retire into the mountains or some cave in a far away place. Sikhism does not believe in this.

In the section on Truthful living item 2 – NAM JAPNA – literally “recite the holy scriptures”, should bring to mind the Hindu and Buddhist philosophy where one endeavors to merge completely the personal self with an impersonal entity which is without any quality or definition, to reach a condition where mind reaches the purest state of consciousness without any object or content. This is considered to be the ultimate end of this recitation, to completely identify ones being with the “INFINITE BEING” - “NAM” that is beyond all thoughts and words.

Item 3 WANDH CHAKNA is not only charity in the normal sense but also sharing your wealth and food with the poor and the needy. This is practiced in most temples where one can get the three meals of the day simply by showing up at the right time. This is called “Guru ka Langer” or Guru’s kitchen” In fact this communal kitchen was used by our founding Guru - “ Guru Nanak” - to break down the cast system that was practiced then. Every person partaking of this meal had to sit together on the same level – the floor! Unfortunately you can still find the cast system being practiced today amongst some Indian communities.

I would like to touch upon the general appearance and dress code of the Sikh’s. During the time of the first nine Guru’s the Sikhs were not much different in appearance from the believers in Hinduism. At that time India was ruled by the Moghul Emperors who were Muslim. The founding Emperors like Akbar were good but then came Emperor Aurong Zeb who resorted to converting the population to Islam by the sword. The present day Sikhism started at that period to counter this threat. The tenth Guru, Guru Govind Singh, anointed five volunteers who had offered to be sacrificed as the “PANCH PAYARE” - the “five loved ones”, as the core of this movement to guard our Faith. To distinguish them from others, they were to wear the five KS at all times. These are

1. Kase - Long Hair

2. Kanga - Small Comb for the hair

3. Karpan - A four foot sword

4. Kara - An Iron wrist Band

5. Kucha - Long underpants (something like Bermuda shorts)

The turban is a common form of head gear in Northern India and all the three religions wear them, the only difference is in the shape and the way it is tied. The Sikhs have to keep their heads covered when in the temple and in public places.

In closing I would like to touch upon the Indian and consequently the Sikh view of man’s life in this world.

As the day is divided into morning, noon, afternoon and evening the Indians had divided life into four parts. The day has the waxing and waning of its light, so has man the waxing and waning of his bodily powers.

First came BRAMACHARYA the period of discipline in education, not limited only to learning of books and things but being in discipline whereby both enjoyment and its renunciation would come with equal ease to the strengthened character.

Second the GHRHASTHYA that of the world’s work – the life of the house holder – for wisdom does not attain completeness except through the living of life with discipline.

Third the VANAPRASTHYA, the retreat for the loosening of the bonds when man though aloof from the world still remains in touch with it while preparing himself for the final stage of complete freedom namely PRAVRAJYA when even such free relations have their end and the emancipated soul steps out of all bonds to face the Supreme Being.

Being a Freemason these three / four stages remind me of the lessons I have learnt from our three Masonic Degrees


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1 comment:

harry said...

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