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Twentyfirst century and khalsa
— Reflections on Mental Health —

Harpreet Kanwal

It is true that we are standing at the crossroads of time once again as one century merges into the next. We happen to be placed in a privileged as well as a precarious position where it is our duty to reflect upon history, to give direction to the coming generations as well as to put on record the commentary on what we are doing. We shall have to place a few mirrors around ourselves in order to produce objective data. Also, in order to be systematic we shall have to proceed with reference to the context.

Going deep down into the history of civilization we encounter the first milestone of primitive beings in terms of physical strength — acquired to overcome basic need problems and resulting in the motivation to survive as well as the side effects of ‘might is right’. The next and the longest milestone was that of moral strength. In accordance with its abstractness, symbols assumed a paramount importance here. This phase, incidentally, was the phase in which after a long struggle of brainstorming of various ideas, ideologies, struggle and chaos, Sikhism took birth. This way of life was based on a new kind of literature and philosophy — Gurbani; a new kind of social get-together — saadh sangat and was based on glorification of moral issues and ethical living. In other words, a few rules, once again, became part of human living and became reference points for decisions, leading to less confusion. This created vision and hope as in charhdi kala. The symbols of strength as in kakkars, also served as motivators. Inner discipline and living within Hukam lessened depression and frustration prevalent at the time.

The third and the present phase carries convictions of material strength, in terms of money accompanied by its manifestations, erosion in terms of double standards, manipulations, benefits of anonymity, experimentation without a thought for the consequences, need to run the race without either moral entropy or spiritual faith. The effects are many and ironically this very complex syndrome has shown very clear symptoms thereby scarring the civilization where values are being sacrificed, family system is being hit, wars seem the only permanent solutions where irresponsible decisions and carelessness leads to suicides and chaos. Life is just a long wait for death, with fear of death being called risk-taking of which incidentally, is called a step towards successful personality making. What actually happens is that human beings sitting in rudderless ships of their own making are tossed on the seas of turmoil, fighting as we used to, but not for any causes, just for issues. Something like winning the argument and losing the case.

Many times, I feel that on looking from without, God must be viewing an essentially insecure mass of humanity which has broken up its shelter of moral courage, as well as environmental protection. In times when mental survival has become the basis of physical survival and abstract challenges lead to duels of ideas resulting in nuclear warfare, we better sit up and look around for hope. Hope, it is said, is a matter of belief and attitudes. Incidentally, both these grow up with us in the form of convictions which we draw from our faith more popularly called religion.

Sikhs are lucky in that theirs is a faith that has more of logic and less of rituals, more of examples of jeewan jaach as well as maran jaach and no mental dependence on miracles. Guru Gobind Singh has made us self sufficient in the physical as well as the spiritual sense. Sikhs are considered harbingers of cheer and zest, the world over. Against this backdrop, the relevance of the Khalsa in the coming century becomes quite outlined. Amidst so much chaos, we have something that gives us clear yardsticks for living.

Many people today, especially the younger generation question the relevance of kakkars. Noticeable here is the fact that these are the ones who take pride in calling themselves Sikhs. What they need is guidance in their own language, as Guru Nanak guided people in his times in their own language. All the Gurus did it all through. If it is the Guru who has done it in Sikhism all through, then our Guru, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, holds the solution to the problem. The issue that comes up now is that in Sikh households there is a need of at least one person who understands Gurbani in the right perspective and who devotes time to sit and talk to the children in first person. Cassettes and other audio-visuals are at best aids and not communicators. Earlier, this role was carried out by the grandparents who beautifully blended Saakhis and Gurbani and went daily to gurdwara with the grandchildren. The direct fall-out of the breaking up of families is this ignorance resulting in uncertainty and attraction of children to new ways.

If the children today are told by a comfortable and relaxed cheerful father-figure that there are similarities in today’s times and the time in which Sikhism took birth, if they are told saakhis in the afternoons or at night before they go to sleep, if the relevance of Sikh symbols and way of life is discussed with them, they shall realise !

The problem is not that the children do not realise the value of the Sikh symbols. The problem is that the parents do not realise that the children absorb the images around them, e.g., if a father professes to be a Sikh and looks worried most of the time or is often irritable and drinks to do away with worries, charhdi kala has no meaning for the child. If you, as a parent-figure, are all the time busy earning money and hoarding it in banks, the child will know that you are evading taxes, and kirat karo vand chhako (do honest labour and share the fruits with others) has no meaning for him. If the parents shunt out their parents in the name of independence, the child will not realise, that its parents have limitations in terms of patience and are panicky at the idea of looking after the ill and the old all alone, because of cracks in society, he will simply absorb this as a way of life. He will be forced to destroy the tenet of,

fjnkT[ B e?jh mkfJ wkDe ;G nw'bt/ .. p. 1384
Break thou not anyone’s heart as invaluable are all these jewels.

Besides this, he will destroy you later on, as you are not all that good, for what child does not love his or her grandparents. I have given this example because we are talking of looking up at things and people. Faith and Gurbani are above human relationships, but they definitely deal with the repercussions of the same in terms of mental problems.

We are here today to compare the two ages when Sikhism matured into Khalsa patterns and how. Here, we find that both the ages can be termed as fast ages where fast has to be defined with reference to the facilities available as well as the need to accomplish. Yes, then the invasions pronounced economic insecurity, and insecurity of life, where a few people realised that they needed to adopt a life style where others are reassured by their presence and the enemy can be kept at bay. Inherent in this was a cult of hard work where you worked to allay the fear of poverty and death. Quick decisions were needed then as well as they are needed now. Yes, people did not have as much money then but the need for money earning has increased and not decreased over the times. In fact the same physical problems exist in the society and mental problems are an added burden now. Only vehicles of conveyance vary, communication channels vary, but the magnitude of the problems as felt is more and definitely on the same latitude. So, if the malaise is the same, the medicine too has to be similar. Only the doctors have changed. Here, lies the problem.

Coming back to the question raised about kakkars, the children need to be explained with day to day examples of how kes are the strength of a living organism from the health point of view, how pagri is needed to protect the hair from environmental influences besides adding to the grace of a Sikh. They have to be explained the symbolic significance of the kakkars which assumes importance when a human being is surrounded by so many temptations. The soul, the psyche, the mental set of a person is under constant stimulation from many sources all around. Then, is it not apt to keep some automatic repellants in hand ? It is true that we feel the pressures only some times like when faced with deceit or grief, etc., but we, even in today’s jet set age, cannot rig up personalities in a moment ! The way we face the world shows on our face, is a psychologist’s truth. Do we create facial expressions out of nothingness ? Our automatic first reactions are conditioned by a series of similar situations as well as our alertness ! Alertness comes when you are reminded of what thought pattern of yours is most effective. These kakkars are our constant reminders; they can help in succeeding where success would mean a cheerful, secure, clear and anatomically stable human being, who has the right decision making mental set attributing to him a uniqueness in success as well, for so many people are successful, but do not look successful.

In Sikhism’s spiritual sense, mental health is nothing but staying as close to your origin as possible. This gives happiness, sense of belonging, reduces tension, reduces greed and enmities as in

;op o'r ek nT[yd[ Bkw .. p. 274
Lord’s Name is the panacea of all the ills.
Mental as well as physical health accrues from :
efo fJ;BkB[ f;wfo gqG[ ngBk wB sB GJ// no'rk .. p. 611
Take bath and remember thou thy Lord;
Thus thy soul and body shall be disease-free

Sikhism considers ideas as precursors of action and ideas close to God lead to actions of godliness and vice versa. We all tick in the same clock, call it biorhythm, call it the innermost truth. Again, what we do not know of, we do not speak of, but is it true nowadays ? Are we all, not only bluffing, but indulging in double speak as well ? Is our vidya for this only ? Can we not make our way of living and our way of dressing as well as interacting with other’s consonant ? Double standards are needed when you need to hoodwink others because you are insecure. But when you have the moral strength and courage, you just need tact to add to it to be used in furthering your interests. Tact is a sign of intelligence. At the same time, morally strong people have interests based on positivity and not insecurity, their needs are simple. Their formula for success is :

wB[ ihs/ ir[ ihfsnk...... .. p. 1103
Conquering his mind, man conquers the world......

Twentyfirst Century Khalsa needs to be morally alert and strong, not to subdue others, but to be the lone example of peaceful courage and intelligent tact in the prevailing scenario.

The inner battlefield where you fight against your own temptations or vikaar and thus gain the skills to lead an effective, useful life, needs to be attended to first. Such should be the direction of a mentally healthy human being, who aspires to be called a Sikh in the next century.



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