GURU’s BLESSINGS – VIA AKHAND PATH
It is over a year now. The president of the Gurdwara Sahib of our area in Toronto in Canada 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 dein Khusian le kejao”.- translated as “ sponsor Akhand Path to receive blessings of the Guru”.
Two months later on a Friday evening in the Langar, a friend od 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 hall. As I sat down , my friend came over to serve me. I asked him to join me if he had finished serving others., which he did.
As we sat down, I asked him the reason for the Akhand Path. He said it was to celebrate his son’s birthday. So he sponsored an Akhand path. My next question and the answers are as Under:
Question: Were you able to listen to the recitation of Gurbani and for how long?
Answer: Uncle, to tell you frankly, I tried twice. First day I came early from the Office to listen to the path but the Pathi ji was reading only silently. We sat there for 15 minutes but he continued the silent reading. One cannot sit in a vacuum for long, so we came in the langar to serve others.
Second day, we again came early. The Pathi ji was reading loud enough, but was reading so fast that we could not understand a word of it. So, after half an hour we left for the langar.
Question: If you could not listen to and understand anything, was there any purpose served?
Answer: No. Now that I think of it, it boils down to pure Karam Kand.
He then shot a question at me. Uncle, if it is only a Karam Kand, why does the Jathedar Akal Takhat sahib not put a ban on it.
My Answer: The Jathedar Akal Takhat Sahib does not want to put a ban on it because four interests are interwoven and converge.
1. Devotees or Sangat’s Interest: it psyche has been so tuned (moulded) that they consider getting an Akhand Path done as a matter of great religious merit. Guru Kian “Khusian” in abundance. What else could be easier? One does not have to make any changes to 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 Guru Kian Khushian in abundance.
2. The Pathi Singh’s own interest: They get paid for doing the Path. Forget about Guru Nanak’s dictum “ Thrig tina da Jevia likh likh veche Nao.” Here “it is Parh Parh Vechean Nao”. Most of the Pathis are Kirtnias or Katha Vachaks. They come from India to North America, after spending huge sums of money. Hence, this payment for the Path is a great attraction for them. That is why you will never hear any Kirtanian or Katha Vachak asking the Sangat to do Path themselves, understand Gurbani and contemplate on it. Only then can one have a glimpse of the Divine wisdom contained in Shri Guru Granth Sahib. For them it is “Rotian Karan Puran Tal”.
3. The Giani ji or Granthi ji’s Interest: He also does the Ardas (after receiving (few Dollars). Is da Sacha te Sucha Bhav Flana Singh ji nu milae” He has made divine wisdom transferable in return for money. He is only following the trend and instructions of Gurdwara management.
4. Gurdwara Management’s including the SGPC Interest: Akhand Paths have become a cash cow for them. Hence, at all levels they make every effort to promote this Karam kand. For the Bhog ceremony, we invite all our relatives, friends and acquaintances. Those who generally do not visit the Gurdwara Sahib will also come on that day because of our invitation. The Bhog ceremony has become a social function. Now everyone who comes for the ceremony will put money into the Golak and pay to the Ragi Singh’s. You also are aked to pay for the langar for the invitees. Our Gurdwara Sahib has fixed $ 7 per head. They ask for the number and charge accordingly.
So, we see different interests complement each other. Even if a truth loving and courageous Jathedar of Akal Takhat sahib does issue an edict to ban this unGurmat practice (of paid Akhand paths) he will be running against so many interests, that he is more likely to be moved out than anything happening on the ground.
We have reached a stage where at Shri Harmandar sahib, you are greeted by Pathis saying “ Akhand Path Sahib is ready. Let us go and do the Ardas. So, much is the Sewa. Akhand paths are on sale openly.
All this inspite of Guru Arjan Dev ji dictum in Rag Ramkali:
nw qU Awvih vis byd pVwvxy] nw qU Awvih vis qIriQ nweIAY]
nw qU Awvih vis DrqI DweIAY] nw qU Awvih vis ikqY isAwxpY]
nw qU Awvih vis bhuqw dwnu dy] sBu ko qyrY vis Agm Agocrw]
qU Bgqw kY vis Bgqw qwxu qyrw]
Thou comest not in one’s power, by reading the Vedas.
Thou comest not in one’s power, by bathing at the shrines.
Thou, O Lord, comest not in the mortal’s power by roaming the world through.
Thou, O Lord, comest not in the mortal’s power, through any cleverness.
Thou comest not in man’s power, by giving plentiful alms.
All are in Thy power,
O my Inaccessible and InapprehensibleLord.
Thou, O Lord, art in the power of Thine devoted slaves.
Thou art the strength of Thy saints.
– Guru Granth Sahib, p. 962
Is there any hope for reform from excessive ritualism to meaningful practice?