- Life works in funny ways – it was hukam that I got here so late and you were all able to have a discussion without an outsider here. Whilst that wasn’t what was planned I’m sure it was full of valuable contributions. Before coming at all today, I had been wondering what role I was to play in leading the discussion: would my presence stifle conversation, might I speak too much as I commonly do, would participants feel impeded by the baggage of whatever they know of me? Two delayed trains, one cancelled train, and a rerouted tube have settled that question for me. So now, for my part I will speak for a short time on the discussion question, and then we can all address what you raised by way of discussion having had time to digest.
- I have experienced caste discussed many times over the last two decades in various formats and have repeatedly heard the same arguments presented, with little impact on both the individual or at a societal level in terms of practice. The reasons for this, I think, is that there is no depth given over to the topic, that it is seen in a binary sense, and that modern notions of humanism or egalitarianism are conflated with how the Sikh Way of life deals with caste. Because of this we are left in a halfway house – generally, we appreciate not to be Casteism, but are some way from knowing what that means in practice.
- Casteism in the Sikh Diaspora has a specific dimension, namely how Sikhs outside Punjab treat the issue of caste. Although this touches upon caste in the sub continent, that is not within the confines of this discussion; what is, are questions such as:
a. What defines a Sikh?
b. Where does a Sikh gain their values?
c. How do Sikhs organise their society in the Diaspora?
d. Is the Sikh Diaspora a singular entity?
e. If not, what are the differences from region to region?
f. What do we understand by caste?
g. Is the legal definition of caste different to this interpretation?
h. How is caste discussed in the Sikh Diaspora?
i. What are the broader topics that relate to caste in Sikhi that might create an impact on bringing about change?
- Answering these questions is vital to grasp what is needed to engage with the topic, and it is imperative that it is done by each individual – not spoon-fed to the masses or consumed in passing. It is in that way like anything in Sikhdom: the individual must break free of the bonds that tie us to this lifetime, the confines of our perception, and ultimately the reality in which we reside, and this can only be done by placing ourselves wholly before the Guru, delivered by his grace.
Dismantling identity – Saarang M:5 Laal laal mahan…
Permanence v impermanence in life – Gaund M:4 Jithne saah patshah…
Divine connection – Salok Bhagat Kabir Jiyo ke…
Shabads from a different talk:
Dukh… Shabad 1: ਬਾਲੀ ਰੋਵੈ ਨਾਹਿ ਭਤਾਰੁ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਦੁਖੀਆ ਸਭੁ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ॥
Truthful living… Shabad 2: ਸਚਹੁ ਓਰੈ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਉਪਰਿ ਸਚੁ ਆਚਾਰੁ ॥੫॥
Reet (customs)… Shabad 3: ਜਾਲਉ ਐਸੀ ਰੀਤਿ ਜਿਤੁ ਮੈ ਪਿਆਰਾ ਵੀਸਰੈ ॥
Seva… Shabad 4: ਸੇਵਾ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਸਬਦਿ ਵੀਚਾਰਿ ॥ ਜਪੁ ਤਪੁ ਸੰਜਮੁ ਹਉਮੈ ਮਾਰਿ ॥
Seva… Shabad 5: ਐਸੀ ਕਲਾ ਨ ਖੇਡੀਐ ਜਿਤੁ ਦਰਗਹ ਗਇਆ ਹਾਰੀਐ ॥
Seva… Shabad 6: ਸਤ ਸੰਤੋਖਿ ਰਹਹੁ ਜਨ ਭਾਈ ॥ ਖਿਮਾ ਗਹਹੁ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਸਰਣਾਈ ॥
Powerful vs weak… Shabad 7: ਕਰਤਾ ਤੂੰ ਸਭਨਾ ਕਾ ਸੋਈ ॥ ਜੇ ਸਕਤਾ ਸਕਤੇ ਕਉ ਮਾਰੇ ਤਾ ਮਨਿ ਰੋਸੁ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
‘Dabba’ (box)… Shabad 8: ਗੁਣਾ ਕਾ ਹੋਵੈ ਵਾਸੁਲਾ ਕਢਿ ਵਾਸੁ ਲਈਜੈ ॥
Everything… Shabad 9: ਜਾ ਤੁਧੁ ਭਾਵੈ ਤੇਗ ਵਗਾਵਹਿ ਸਿਰ ਮੁੰਡੀ ਕਟਿ ਜਾਵਹਿ ॥