Like in many Sikh families, my parents also told me stories of Sikh heroes like Bhai Mani Singh, Bhai Sati Das, Bhai Mati Das, Gur Teg Bahadar, Gur Arjan, Gur Gobind Singh and the Sahibzade when I was a kid. But unlike other families, my parents did not tell me exaggerated miraculous legends (Janam Sakhian). Thankfully, my parents narrated real incidents from the lifes of the Sikh heroes that have been handed over based on eye-witness accounts from generation to generation (Sine Vasine). Alike other kids who grew older, these narrations about the courageous warriors and saints created a curiosity inside me to find such a hero in my life.
The transition from a child to an adult happened during times of extreme political upheavals and violence in Panjab in India in the 1980ies. The Sikh community became so overwhelmed with its survival and the rising terror on both sides, the state and the supporter of the separatist movement, that the public discourse focused more and more solely on the tradition of martyrdom and separatist ideas. By 1984, Gurbani’s message of peace and unity had nearly disappeared. At the same time, a new interest in Sikhi within and outside the community arose.
Like many other Sikhs, I was very hurt by the violence and overall developments of the Sikh community. But I also wanted to understand my roots in more detail. I began reading about Sikh history, its philosophy and link to politics. The more I read, the more perplexed I was to see what had happened with us Sikhs, and what we had done to Sikhi.
During my college years I used to attend religious recitations programmes regularly. When I started working, I could afford listening to Gurbani explanations (Viakhiya) via satellite television. I also regularly took part in what is popularly known as Seva, voluntary work in the Gurdwara. I used to cook and wash dishes and clean shoes with the hope that I find peace of mind. All this gave me initial comfort. However it did not last. I continued to be disoriented and my mind was still embroiled in many questions but with no one to answer them.
After the invention of the internet, I hoped to find answers in the World Wide Web to the questions I still had after reading dozens of books on Sikhi. My confusion even grow as all professional preachers were contradicting themselves and were rarely grounding their views in the original writings of the ten masters and the Bhagat (Gurbani) but in existing interpretations of poor quality like Sahib Singh’s Tikka and miraculous stories. I started participating in many internet discussion forums. It helped broaden my knowledge and perspective. Yet the spiritual vacuum continued to exist and stared me in my face all the time. It became very clear to me that there was a strong gap between what I knew and actually needed to know to reach peace of of mind.
From todays perspective I can say that the year 2009 was a turning point in my life. These were the days, when some Sikhs preachers, especially so-called Sikh missionaries, were emotionally debating whether the “Dasam Granth” was written by Dasam Pita Gur Gobind Singh or not. It was more an ideological war and less a quality oriented debate among humble seekers of truth. No conclusion was in sight.
Against the backdrop that Jaap Sahib and other verses were part of the Khande Di Pahul baptism ceremony of the tenth master, I was inclined towards those preachers and scholars who were in favour of Dasam Granth. However, they were not able to put the controversy to rest with their knowledge and mostly literal approach to Gurbani. I realised that Gurbani was right again by highlighting that it needs much more than academic knowledge and scholars (Vidvan) to solve such huge debates.
In this phase of chaos, I was fortunate to find a video that catched my intention on YouTube. The name of the speaker was mentioned as “Dharam Singh Nihang Singh”. I had never heard of him and was sceptical as the Nihang are mostly known for their qualities as warriors but not as enlightened Gursikh. In the video however, Dharam Singh Nihang Singh Ji was explaining in a unique and unorthodox style the deeper meanings of the metaphors used in Gurbani to a small group of learners in an informal setting. He made it a point that one does not need any other source to understand Gurbani as it is an explanation of itself. He also explained that the Dasam Granth is for those who belong to the Khalsa brotherhood, and someone who has no complete command of the Adi Granth can never explain the Dasam Granth correctly. It struck a chord.
As more videos were being uploaded, I began listening to the discourses of Dharam Singh Nihang Singh Ji regularly. From that day onwards, there is no looking back.
Slowly I began to understand the actual spiritual meanings of Gurbani and realised that all professional preachers had not even touched the surface of Gurbani. I realized that peace comes from within with the help of wisdom, and not through any outward practices and through mechanically following a code of conduct or repeated recitations. When I shared what I had learned with my wife, relatives and friends, they were as amazed about the vastness of Gurbani and Dharam Singh Nihang Singh’s capabilities to explain all key questions of life as I was. Their and my questions were properly answered for the first time in our life. And for all the spiritual insights we got, we did not have to perform a single ritual, leave the house or pay a penny. We only had to invest time to listen, accept and lovingly apply (Gavy-ai, Suny-ai, Man Rakhy-ai Bhau).
My family and me had the opportunity to spend time with Dharam Singh Nihang Singh Ji several times. After these encounters I can say that he is not only a genius when it comes to explaining Gurbani from the heart (and not intellectually). He also exemplifies the simple and humble life-style a Gursikh should have who belongs to Khalsa brotherhood.
The “Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development” is absolutely right by writing in their booklet “The role of religion in development policy” that “Extraordinary people can set extraordinary things into motion. Thanks to their insights and experience, they offer new perspectives on, and answers to, vital questions and global challenges that humankind is facing.”
Dharam Singh Nihang Singh, the founder of Sach Khoj Academy, is such an extraordinary human being. Yet, he is not really popular in the mainstream. The reasons are obvious: He does not preach in a Gurdwara or on a TV station, he criticizes malpreachings and the misuse of religion for business and political purposes fearlessly. For some, his warrior style may sound harsh, but Gurbani says that when bitter truth is spoken, it is sweet speech for those who really want to become a spiritual being (Je Gur Chirhke Tan Mitha Lage). On top of this, unlike all professional interpreters who are dominating the field, Dharam Singh Nihang Singh refuses to earn money in the name of religion in line with Gurmat.
Today, I realize: My parents did not disappoint me. As never before, I feel and know that all the stories of the spiritual warriors and martyrs which my parents told me, are really true.
I am thankful to God that I found the hero I was searching for. And I am not alone. Many other students I came to know in the last years have a similar story to tell. A story of youngsters who were side-tracked by preachers (Parcharak) with a shallow and dogmatic understanding of Gurbani and who are far from a religious way of life themselves. But eventually the youngsters found a Gursikh who helped them to help themselves in understanding Gurbani and live truthfully.
Dharam Singh Nihang Singh’s explanations are those of a spiritual warrior, yet they are full of unconditional love and universal benevolence. They are divine because they are not limited to a community, religion or region.
I have overcome my disorientation and with optimism I say today that Gurmat, if understood properly, offers farsighted answers to answer all our personal questions and solve the challenges we as humankind are facing.
Tejpal Singh, Engineer from Myanmar