Harinder Singh is back on our show again. He serves as the Senior Fellow, Research & Policy at the Sikh Research Institute (SikhRI). He is a widely respected educator, activist, author, and thinker. His current focus is on developing critical thinking for Sikh institutions via the State of the Panth report series and developing open-source decoding of Guru Granth Sahib in contemporary Panjabi and English for a global audience. He has also authored Emperor-Prophet: Guru Gobind Singh Sahib, Guru Granth Sahib: Its Language & Grammar, and Sikhi: Faith & Followers. Harinder Singh holds a BS in Aerospace Engineering, MS in Engineering Management, MPhil in Guru Granth Sahib, and a Diploma in the Persian Language. He currently resides in the United States with his family.
If you haven’t checked out our previous blog with Harinder Singh, please check it out.
Guru Granth Saheb
“At Kartarpur, Guru Nanak ji was training people, and Guru Angad Dev ji was being trained by him. Guru Nanak says Guru Angad Dev ji got deeper knowledge which we call wisdom”
” The image that we see of Guru Nanak Ji is not his real image. Real Guru Nanak was a farmer and was traveling around.”
“Guru Granth Saheb is not in Punjabi. Guru Nanak developed a new script. Guru Nanak utilizes all the letters from the Guru Mukhi. He studied and became a teacher. King Babur’s son Humayun lost to Sher Shah Suri, who was Babur’s advisor. Eventually, Humayun got the throne back. But when he lost, he went to meet Guru Angad Dev was teaching, and Humayan walked in. He was stopped at the door, and in anger, Humanyan pulled out his sword. But Guru Angad says you didn’t pull it where you were supposed to pull in. He had that level of communication. It is part of Gyaan Khadak”.
“In the word Guru, gu stands for darkness, and Ru is light. Guru is an enlightener. Every Guru of the ten gurus is the same light. In the Sikh paradigm, it is said the light and the teaching method were the same. The only thing that changed was the body.”
When you go to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, when you walk around the temple, there is a pathway. Classes used to run there. Gurudwara was a learning place. During the period of emergency, people of the opposition went to Gurudwara and stayed. It was created as a safe place”
.”The idea in the Guru Granth Saheb is about becoming the lover of the divine. We are told that lover only loves. It is mentioned in the Guru Granth as well. It is more about experiencing.”
“The way Guru Granth Saheb came, it was a collection of what Guru Nanak gave to Guru Angad. Guru Angad passed it on to Guru Amar Das he passed it on to Guru Ramdas. Guru Arjun came in and complied all these Vaani, now known as Guru Granth Saheb. Guru Arjun’s contribution to the world was Guru Granth Saheb and the Golden Temple for everyone to visit.”
Visiting Golden Temple
“It is emotional for many people who visit. For many, it is a historical thing and rebuilt many times. It has been destroyed many times. Sikhi doesn’t have an idea of a sacred place. We believe all places are sacred, so for us, it is historical. It is a complex that has many Gurudwaras.”
“80% of the people sent to life imprisonment to Andaman and Nicobar were Sikhs. You can paint any picture you want, but we listen to our guru’s learnings, so they free the gurudwara first. The Sikhi was fighting the British in the early 20th century, and this is not spoken about.”
“I was angry seeing what was happening in 84. After ten years, when I left, I thought of never returning to India. But when I did, I knew I wanted to do something in education and channel my anger. It is not a Hindu Sikh thing, or I don’t hate India. But nothing happened to save us. Sikh narrative is not about vengeance. It only talks about justice. There is a battle of trauma in the memories of Sikh people. But with the right conversation, things can be solved.”
“Our job is to become a lover. A warrior who is a lover. Baba Deep Signh fought to protect the Golden Temple. But people don’t know that he did that at age 82. At 24, he met Guru Gobin Singh. The world had not seen a scholar fighting like that. The Sikh narrative is we are a warrior. But, we are poets, lovers, and warriors.”
Guru Gobind Singh
“Guru Gobind Singh was coaching Sikh. It was a preparation for Khalsa. Even women were being trained. Sikh women fought a battle and defeated the Marathas. They were always trained. Guru Gobind Singh revealed the Khalsa. There are 30 million Sikhs, but not every Sikh is a Khalsa. But they aspire to become one. Your internal should be centered, and that is meditation for us. We believe in embarrassing women and people of all gender. We don’t know much about Guru Gobind Singh.”
“Guru Gobind Singh was born in Patna. He had his journey to Punjab. He writes about the Ganga Valley civilization. His vocabulary is rich. He understood all the traditions. We don’t hear about this. Guru Gobind Singh called Khalasa to be his guru. Sikhs called him Badshah. Guru Gobind Singh inaugurated Khalasa and bowed down to be a part of the Khalsa. Anytime the Sikh community goes with single leadership we fall. So on the board, we believe in having the odd number of people.”
The 5 K’s
“The 5 Ks of Khalsa can’t be explained. Guru Gobind Singh has not given any explanation. People try to give, but it will never make sense. It is said they are gifts. The value of the gift is between the one who gives it and the one who receives it. So people just give their own meaning. The work K became known because, in Punjabi, the name of each gift starts with the K sound. The day you get initiated, there is a ceremony. From that day, your father is Guru Gobind Singh, and you belong to Anathpur from that day onwards. This remains the order of Khalasa. K says uncut hair and a comb are used to keep them clean. Then there is Kadha. I don’t know the explanation. Then there is Kirpan. He didn’t call it a sword. It translates to something that is used to protect honor. The last is a piece of clothing. The person who goes through the ceremony only knows about the feeling.”