Questions Responded by Jasmine Kaur (38th WRC)
Questions Responded by Jasmine Kaur
Organizer for the Sikh Youth Federation and a doctorate Student at Toronto
Representing Sikh Faith
Question 1: As a scientist, how do we respect humanity while incorporating ideas like genetic modifications? By Frank T Asheri
Answer: Scientific discoveries have the potential to change our lives for the better or worse depending on how we choose to use them. For example, it is evident how useful the invention of the light bulb or the small pox vaccine has been, but it is also just as clearly horrifying to know how humans have decided to use nuclear science to create thousands of nuclear bombs. Scientific discoveries are inherently neutral, but it is human driven desires that can shade scientific ideas positively or negatively. It is then important to solve the problem at the level of the human psyche. Through the spiritual process, underlying patterns of reckless desires, anger, greed, attachment, and ego can be unwoven first at the individual level gradually leading to shifts in mass psyche. Through the spiritual process, inherent human qualities that are evident in childhood and buried over time such as honouring the truth, contentment, compassion, love, and humility will start to manifest again at which point great scientific progress can be made in a state where humanity innately knows how to respect itself.
Question 2: How can one perform service without desire? You’ll always end up desiring to have no desire. It seems impossible. By Enzo Guerra
Answer: Service is something we feel joy doing, not to gain an object, or help someone with the expectation they will give something back. Desires arise from a place in ourselves that is lacking and needs to be filled. Selfless service arises from a place that is already full and positioned to give. Just like a mother tends and loves her child without expecting anything back from her/ him, she is giving from a place of intense love, a place full and positioned to give. For anyone who wants to experience selfless service, they should find a place inside them that is full, intense, and positioned to give with joy, whether that’s at your local soup kitchen, helping your elderly neighbour, or something else. Sikhs practice devotion towards God and by extension everything that has the God energy within in it. We are encouraged to serve humanity and as a part of our daily prayers ask for the wellbeing of all human kind. When one enters a state of God consciousness, service doesn’t seem like a chore, rather becomes nature like that of a mother while she tends to her children. A truly selfless person serves others while seeing their self (aatma) inside all people, seeing that the pervading base reality is the same everyone.
Question 3: You touched briefly on correlation between science and oneness. The connection is bit confusing. Science and oneness contradict. Can you explain more on that? Thank you. By Anurag Anand
Answer: There is a quality of science that does not match the definition of God. Sikhs define God as an entity that is ultimate and only One. But, science by nature is observational and observation can only happen where there is more than one. Where there is an object, there must be an observer, and the clause of oneness is broken. Science is a dualistic approach to analysing reality and thus by its very nature, science cannot analyse God. In fact, you cannot analyse God at all. God cannot be attained or met as if it were an object since the presence of an observer would break the oneness clause. God cannot be experienced in its most fundamental form in the dimensions of time and space. We only know time has passed if we compare one moment to another. And we can only perceive space when there are at least two points of reference. For time and space to be experienced, there needs to be at least two points of measurement. But again, this breaks the oneness clause. In a place without objectivity, without space, and without time, that place can only be experienced existentially. It is at the level of your existence where the object and observer collapse, and you just simply exist. When Sikhs meditate, we do not do so to focus the mind, we do so to access a dimension beyond the mind. The scriptural form of our Satguru, the one that guides our spiritual lives, starts not with a word, but with a number – a definition of God, One.
Question 4: Wonderful talk! What is the difference between your faith and Buddhism’s non-duality?
Answer: By definition, non-duality can only be one, so fundamental non-duality must be the same no matter the methods used to reach it. Sikhs believe God exists and use inclusive methods and meditation techniques to reach enlightenment. When we meditate, we do so with assurance that there is a destination to be reached within us. Buddhists disregard belief in God and use exclusive methods and meditation techniques to reach enlightenment. When Buddhists meditate, they search for a place of ‘sunn’, a state of emptiness. The start points and paths are different, but the endpoint of God realization/enlightenment is the same.
Question 5: What is the Sikh viewpoint on the theory that Guru Nanak converted to Islam? By Bill
Answer: Guru Nanak Dev Ji did not convert to Islam. In fact, Guru Nanak Dev Ji condemned the actions of the Muslim leader, Babur, who attempted to convert the citizens of 13th century India who were primarily Sikh and Hindu into Islam. If they refused, Babur would have them killed or tortured. Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s condemnation is recorded in the scriptural authority of the Sikhs, Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji.
Furthermore, when Guru Nanak Dev Ji journeyed to the middle eastern countries, He met with the quazis and maulvis (Muslim religious workers) who asked Guru Nanak Dev Ji about whether the Hindu faith or Muslim faith is better. The following answer is recorded: “Baba aakhai hajeeaa, subh amlaa baajhahu dono roee. Hindu musalmaan doe, dargeh andar lehan na dhoee. Kacha rang kasumbh da, panee dhotai thir na rahoee. Karan bakheelee aap vich, raam rahim ik thaae khaloee. Raahi saitanee duneeaa goee.” (Vaaran Bhai Gurdaas, 1, 33). Guru Nanak Dev Ji states that without good deeds, both Hindus and Muslims will weep. Just by calling yourself Hindu or Muslim doesn’t mean one gets accepted in the court of God. Just like the impermanent color of safflower washes away in water, the colors of religiosity are also temporary. Followers of both faiths are constantly bickering amongst each other to see who is better, while forgetting to follow the ways of God. The entire world is under the influence of reckless qualities such as anger, greed, attachment, and ego.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji addressed a systematic method where every human being could unlock God potential within by transcending not only the limitations of the body and mind, but also shedding every denominational label including religion. Upon mergence with God, you become the same omnipresent reality pervading millions of universes, how can such an identity be defined by an impermanent and trivial religious label? Furthermore, when Guru Nanak Dev Ji went to mecca, he placed his feet towards the kaaba. When the qazis objected and remarked how disrespectful it is to place ones feet towards God, Guru Nanak Dev Ji replied by asking the qazi to place his feet where God isn’t. The qazi fell to the feet of Guru Nanak Dev Ji who explained that God is not exclusive to a place of worship rather an all-pervading entity. Guru Nanak Dev Ji was not Muslim but when he came across Muslims, he gave them the correct guidance as to the reality of God and our existence, as he did with any other religious or non-religious person on his travels.
Question 6: Why do Sikhs wear turbans and keep their hair uncut?
Answer: The Sikh faith is a meditation intensive faith. When meditating, energy is channelled to the top of the head and where hair becomes critical to the energy channelling process. Furthermore, all the Sikh Gurus and Saints had kept their hair uncut and covered it with a turban to keep the hair protected and as a sign of respect towards it. Before the Sikh faith was established in the 1400s in North India, people faced rigorous religious discrimination. Women were not allowed to participate in reading or hearing religious prayers because they were considered “dirty” since they menstruated. In fact, it was common belief that women could not attain salvation. People that belonged to low caste lineages, were socioeconomically poor, or disabled, were not allowed to practice common religious rituals. When Guru Nanak Dev Ji established the Sikh faith, He addressed the message of Oneness, and abolished discrimination based on gender, caste, creed, or any other socially defined denomination, since these definitions belong only to the body and not the soul. Every human being has a right to connect with God. With the advent of the 10th Satguru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the faith was formalized with its own dress code which included wearing a turban. The turban was a sign that a person’s previous socially defined identities were now abolished, and they were to be known as just a Sikh, or a seeker of the Absolute Truth or God. Sikhs realize that they stand out in the crowd which means they conduct their actions more responsibly. In addition, the turban allows a Sikh to be recognized from afar so that if someone is in trouble, they may ask a Sikh for assistance. Since Sikhs come from a service centred faith, they are honoured to be of service to humanity.
Question 7: “Saying water doesn’t eliminate thirst” can you elaborate on that quote? By Zainab Suhail
Answer: Just by saying the word ‘water’ doesn’t mean your thirst is quenched. Just by describing what water is doesn’t quench thirst. You must drink the water – this is the real experience of water. Only the one who drinks water truly knows what water is and how it is capable of eliminating thirst. At that point it doesn’t matter whether you call water ‘water’, ‘the blue shiny thing’, ‘the wet clear liquid’ or anything else. Just by hearing the word God or listening to descriptions of God does not mean we have realized or experienced God in its most fundamental form. We must take educated steps in transforming ourselves into a portal capable of experiencing the Absolute Truth or Base Existence or God. If you don’t ever have the experience that so many Avatars, Saints and God Messengers have had, then this whole talk about God will just end up being a nice story. Your desire to experience the reality of existence or God will remain unquenched. What you learn and hear matters if you can experience the inner Oneness for yourselves. No one else can have the God experience for anyone else. Spirituality is an individual journey. The name Sikh means to seek. Under the guidance of the Satguru and the Enlightened Beings, we are encouraged to seek the Truth within ourselves as that is what makes us Sikhs.
Question 8: How would you explain about the differences among people (i.e. some poor, some rich, some beautiful some ugly) in regard of God as the creator?
Answer: Differences amongst people is largely explained through Sikh Karmic philosophy which is much too difficult to explain in a few words. Every single action we do bears a result. Humans are free to choose their actions or deeds, called karam. However, we do not have the freedom to choose the consequences of these deeds. There is a store house of deeds accumulated in previous lifetimes called sanchit karam. There are certain deeds that we are accumulating as we live this life that are called kirimaan karam which will be added to the sanchit karams. There are certain qualities that we did not decide for ourselves such as where we were born, who our parents are, how we look, congenitally decided issues etc. These are pre-decided trajectories called pararabd karam chosen from the sanchit karam. So whether someone is rich or poor, among other differences is largely a result of their karma bearing fruit. The universe is a massive energy system which aims to maintain balance. Every action is like pulling a rubber band. The band has potential energy stored in it which needs to be released at some point. If someone decides to help someone cross the street, this action gets stored. If the same person ends of dying in a car accident the next moment, the action remains stored until it can bear fruit in another body. The consequence of the deeds depends on the type of deeds. If you plant an apple seed, you will get apples. If you plant an orange seed, you will get oranges. Virtuous actions will bear favourable results and bad actions will bear unfavourable results. However, the Sikh Gurus tell us that there is a realm beyond karma, where action and result dissolve and you become God realized. The Sikhs aim to practice selfless service and meditate so that they can reach a state that stops creating karma altogether. This happens when one realizes that they are not the senses, body, or mind, but an externally blissful existence within. Once our identity is not associated with the body and mind, previous karma is rendered obsolete and new karma cannot be created.
Question 9: What is the nature of Homo sapiens? From Francis Tuntu Asheri
Answer: The name homo sapiens is latin for “wise man”. If you compare the human existence to that of other animals, the human stands out for its self-aware and developed intellect called the ‘buddhi’. So if we are speaking about just the outer human body, as amazing as it is, its nature is no more different than the body of any other animal – to maintain an energetic equilibrium, eat, sleep, and procreate. But the human has a buddhi which allows it to be self aware and make decisions concerning more than just the preservation of the body. Because of this buddhi, the human can ponder its existence, where it came from, where it will go, and why it is here. The Sikh teachings state that the very core of the human being is an existence that is beyond the body, the senses, and the mind. This existence’s nature is an all-knowing and eternally blissful base reality – the absolute truth called “aatma’. Humans have difficulty realizing the said identity due to a veil of ignorance that encourages us to think that we are a five sensed body, with a certain level of intellect, money, superiority and inferiority complexes etc. However, a discerning and properly refined buddhi under the guidance of the Satguru and Enlightened Beings has the potential to crack the veil and thus realize its true nature.
Question 10: Although our understanding of God may differ, are we all looked after and received by the same God?
Answer: If it’s really the ultimate God we are talking about, then yes. To be ultimate, there can only be one of it. If God was a human like form, then it is possible that such a God could hold bias for whom he claims to take care of. But would that make it much of a God? Perhaps a very powerful ruler, but not God. Sikhs believe that God is an ultimate entity and is the basis for all life irrespective of their beliefs. We believe that the purpose of life is to break the limitations of the mind and body under the guidance of our Satguru, Guru Granth Sahib Ji, and the Enlightened Saints to unlock the God-potential within and merge with that ultimate entity. Just like a drop of water merges with the ocean, a Sikh’s goal is to drop the barriers that define it as a drop and realize it was the ocean all along.
Question 11. How do you respond to Fredich Nietzche quote, “God is dead”? by Frank T. Asher
Answer: God would die if it was born. Sikhs believe God is an unchanging base reality that is an existence beyond the realm of time, space, birth and death. God is not an entity with a certain form that can be accessed via the senses. God is not only the very basis of all existence, rather from an ultimate perspective, is existence. If you could block all your senses, quiet the mind of its voices and thoughts, and even stop breathing for a short while, you would still exist. When this identity is searched you can find the base existence within you. You can deny that there is a God sitting somewhere far away, you can deny what others claim God is like, but you cannot deny your existence.