Ritual is an integral part of every organised religion. To the extent a ritual regulates worship in a uniform mode for all the followers of the religon, it serves a certain purpose. But as most of the rituals get commercalized, they lose their intrinsic spiritual stance. Practice of non-stop reading of the Guru Granth Sahib euphemistically called ‘Akhand Path’; with the practice of holding multiple Akhand Paths at the same time and same place or getting ready made Akhand Path has robbed it of its spiritual benefits and has reduced it to a mechanical ritual. This article expresses the genuine anguish of a devout Sikh and his legitimate concern for the community’s religious vigour and its proper channelization. We certainly need to re-evaluate some of our practices. – Editor
It is over a year now. The President of the Gurdwara sahib announced from the stage that they were planning to have 25 Akhand Paths, one every week, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Gurdwara sahib at its present location. He was exhorting members of the sangat to sponsor these Akhand paths. The slogan was “Akhand Path Karao, te Guru Dian Khushian lae ke Jao” – simply translated as “Sponsor Akhand Paths to receive the blessings of the Guru.”
Two months later on a Friday evening in the langar, a friend of mine asked me to join him for the bhog ceremony of the Akhand path, next Sunday morning, to be followed by Kirtan and langar. After the ceremony was over, I went to the langar. As I sat down, my friend came over to serve me. I asked him to join me if he had finished serving, which he did.
As we sat down, I asked the occasion for the Akhand Path. He stated that it was to celebrate his son’s birthday as also to sponsor an Akhand path. My next questions and his answers are as follows:
Question: Were you able to listen to the recitation of the gurbani, if so, for how long?
Answer: Uncle, to tell you frankly, I tried twice. On the first day I came early from the office to listen, but the Pathi ji was reading only silently. We sat there for fifteen minutes but the pathi continued his silent reading and one cannot sit in a vacuum for long. So we came to the langar to serve others.
On the second day, when we came, the pathi ji was reading loud enough; but was reading it so fast that we could not understand it. So, after half an hour, we left for langar.
Question: If you could not listen or understand anything, was there any purpose served?
Ans: No. Now that I think of it, it boils down to pure ritualism (Karamkand). He then shot a question at me, “Uncle, since it is only a ritualism, why does Akal Takhat Sahib not put a ban on this practice.”
Ans: The Akal takhat Sahib does not want to put a ban, because four interests are interwoven and converge.
1. Your interest. Your (Sangat) psyche has been so tuned (moulded) that you consider getting an Akhand Path done as a matter of great religious merit. Guru kian Khushian in abundance. What else could be easier? You do not have to make any changes in your life style or attitude to life. No effort is required to try and live a truthful and ethical life. Just spend a few hundred dollars and you have the Guru kian Khushian.
2. The Pathi singhs’ own interest. They get paid for doing the path. According to Gurbani cursed are those who trade in the sacred word. Most of them (Pathis) are kirtanias or Katha Vachaks from India. They come here to North America after spending huge sums of money. Hence, this payment is a great attraction to them. That is why you never hear any Kirtania or Katha Wachak asking the sangat to do path themselves, try and understand gurbani and contemplate on it. Only then can one have a glimpse of the Divine wisdom contained in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. For them it is “Rotian karan puran tal” they recite path only for money.
3. The Giani ji or Granthi ji is no better. He also does the Ardas “ Hai sache Patsha, is akali bani the akhand Path sahib ji da sacha te sucha bhav flana singh ji nu milae”. He has made divine wisdom transferable in return for money without any effort. He is only following the trend and management instructions. He adds the superlative of “Guru Ghar de Tahliae”
4. The last is the gurudwara managements including SGPC. Akhand Paths have become a cash cow for them. Hence at all levels they make every effort to promote this karam kand. You invited all your friends, relatives and acquaintances for the bhog ceremony. Even those who normally do not attend the Gurdwara will come on that particular day because of your invitation. It has become a social function. Now everyone who comes to the ceremony will put some money in the golak and to the ragi singhs. You also paid for the langar for your invitees.
So you see different interests compliment each other. Even if a truth loving and courageous Jathedar of Akal Takht Sahib does issue an edict to ban this anti-gurmat practice (of paid Akhand Paths) he will run into so many self interests that he is more likely to be moved out than anything happening on the ground.
We have reached a stage where at Sri Harimander Sahib in Amritsar, ready made Akhand Paths are available for sale. Just go and get Ardas done by Granthi ji in return for some amount of money.
All this, inspite of Guru Arjan’s dictum in Rag Ramkali at Ang 962 “ Nan tu avain vas Ved parhavne.......”
Is there any hope?
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2014, All