Every person has his own values of life. When the circumstances change, our outlook on life and values of life also change. What one loves very much today may be of no significance to the same person the next day. I learnt a unique value system in my early life from Sant Teja Singh of Mastuana, Sangrur.
I joined as a lecturer at the Panjab Agricultural University (then Government Agriculture College), Ludhiana in 1956. I was chosen for special training in agricultural implements to be conducted at Udaipur, Rajasthan. I considered it a great honor and, therefore, thought that I must wear a befitting officer's dress for that training program. Accordingly, I purchased costly British suiting cloth and got it stitched from a high class tailor. This was the first time I was to put on a suit, let alone a costly one.
During my studies, I went to college wearing a kurta pajama (traditional Panjabi outfit) while all other students used to wear pants. I never felt inferior or embarrassed. Maybe, because I could not afford to have pants. For my postgraduate work, I was granted a research scholarship. Now, being an M.Sc. student and having money in my pocket, my outlook changed. I purchased my first pair of pants. Of course, it was a low cost pant and I had it stitched from a tailor whose charges were not high. Later, having become a professor, wearing of a costly suit was considered by me a requirement.
Being conscious of wearing an expensive suit, a new personality overtook me. The person, who I had been until then, no longer existed. I felt superior and found myself walking two feet above the ground. When I went to the college I heard unspoken words, "What a great suit! How superbly it is stitched! It must be very costly." In the class, my own assumptions made me feel that all students were looking at my suit and appreciating it in their minds. Nobody, of course, talked about it at all. All teachers were wearing suits, some even better ones. I could see only my suit moving about the whole day and did not notice myself absorbed in the suit. It was the British suit in my mind and in my thoughts.
The same day I got a message from Sant Teja Singh to meet him. I was happy that he would also be able to see my new suit and be very appreciative of it. I met him in the evening. Observing me engrossed in my suit, he said, "Gurbakhsh Singh, your suit is very nice. It looks very good on you." Having heard this admiration of my suit, a fast stream of words started flowing from my mouth. I described in detail the quality of the cloth and its fine stitching by a costly tailor. The Sant continued listening to me patiently. When the speed of my words slowed down, he asked a very simple question totally unrelated to my suit, "Did you recite Jap Ji in the morning?" I replied with pride, "As required of a Sikh, I regularly recite all the five Gurbani hymns. In addition, I also recite Asa Ki Var and Sukhmani Sahib, every day orally."
I was stung and got immediately cooled down when Sant Ji asked, "Did you enjoy the same happiness when you recited Jap Ji in the morning, which you are feeling now by wearing this suit?" I became completely silent and the changed expression of my face reflected my regret for living with low values of life. I felt that I recited Gurbani mechanically as an obligation, not as something holy to enjoy and get guidance from it.
Observing this change in my mind and finding me in a receptive mood, the Sant gave his valuable sermon in very sweet and affectionate words, "Gurbakhsh Singh, so far you are a 'Sikh' of your suit. Can you imagine how happy you will be when you become a Sikh of the Guru, and feel the honor of being the son of Guru Gobind Singh. That should be the goal of your life. Remember, God values our virtues and not the wealth we possess or the clothes we wear."
After that, I got rid of the slavery of the suit (clothes). Now, with my kurta pajama I travel all over the USA and Canada to attend local, national and even international meetings, fully relaxed without any embarrassment. I live with my self-esteem, and people respect me as such everywhere. Thanks to the guidance given by the professor who was a great scholar as well as a sant. Teja Singh did his M.A., L.L.B. in 1902. He was chosen for civil service in Panjab but he gave it up soon to join as Vice Principal, Khalsa College, Amritsar in 1904. He joined the University of Cambridge for his Ph.D. in 1906, and was the first student with turban to study there. One term short of getting the degree, he joined at Columbia, New York, USA, where he was granted a scholarship. However, he had to leave his studies half way to go to Vancouver to help Indians to continue to stay and work in Canada. After winning the legal battle there, he obtained his A.M. degree from Harvard University in 1911, and returned to India where he continued his educational career. His journey in this world was completed in 1965. Even today, I enjoy the true values of life told by him.