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Wisdom Newsletter - August 2018
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In this issue:

  1.  New Video- Memory in Sikh Religious Life
  2. Elijah Summer School 2018- Bibliodrama on the Life of Guru Nanak
  3. Invitation: My Encounter with Hinduism- New Theological Horizons
  4. Sharing Wisdom- Reflections on the Ardas Prayer


1. New Video- Memory in Sikh Religious Life.

Elijah is pleased to announce the release of a new video,
 featuring an interview with Cal Lutheran Professor of Sikh Studies, Rahuldeep Singh Gill. The video, produced in preparation for the 2018 summer school, focuses on the role of Memory in Sikh religious life.

Purifying Memory - Perspectives of Faith Traditions


  • Dr. Gill identifies Memory as a key component of the Sikh religion both in terms of the individual’s and community’s spiritual life. It has multiple meanings: “Memory” relates to the recounting of historical events and the sense of a shared history; it also is an ongoing exercise of renewing one’s awareness of God’s presence and benevolence.
  • Memory can bind the community together in terms of the shared narrative and shared rituals.
  • When it comes to ritual and recitation of prayers, there is a need to commit practices and texts to memory.
  • God also “remembers,” which is more about the assertion of a positive relationship than about the absence of “forgetting.”
  • All memory is selective and Dr Gill acknowledges that there is not a single strand of Sikh historical memory. Different Sikhs communities place emphasis on different formative events or prioritise different things to remember. The choice of memory is likely to determine the type of religious life or at least its prime expressions. Sikhs who prioritise the stories of the Gurus, particularly stories of the founder of the religion, Guru Nanak, will use this memory to cement the values of compassion, hospitality and respect for the religious other. Those who give more importance to Twentieth Century  historical events may be more wary of the religious other and more inclined to emphasise the character of God as protector and defender.
  • A problem that the Sikh community faces (along with others) is the challenge of adequately transmitting memory to the younger generation. There are questions of language – the need to learn the Punjabi language and the Gurmukhī script in order to read and understand the sacred text - the Adi Granth (First Scripture), more commonly called the Guru Granth SahibSikhs do not regard this as their "holy book" but as their perpetual and current "guru", guide or master. Although available in translation, the lessons of the master are best learnt in their original language.
  • Rahuldeep shares his frustration at the challenges of transmitting memory in a “diaspora” community and also his personal commitment to purifying memory by turning the lessons learnt from a history of persecution into opportunities to behave differently.
2. Elijah Summer School 2018 – Bibliodrama on the Life of Guru Nanak

Participants from Germany, Austria, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, India, Canada, the Netherlands, the United States, Egypt, Belgium, Italy, the Czech Republic and the UK joined the Elijah Interfaith Summer School in August to study the topic of “Memory in the Religious Life.” The first week of the program was devoted to studying how each of six world religions incorporates memory into religious life and practice. Our first subject was Religion in the Sikh Religious Life. Bibliodrama is an important part of Elijah’s toolkit. Participants engaged in a bibliodrama study of the life of Guru Nanak, founder of the Sikh faith.

The technique of bibliodrama enabled participants to feel some of the challenges that a
Religious Genius may do – the sense of alienation from the dominant culture, the moment of revelation and transformation, the desire to influence others and the appreciation or otherwise of the new message of the Religious Genius by others.

Guru Nanak (1469 – 1539), Guru Nanak was the founder of Sikhism and the first of the Sikh Gurus. According to Sikh sources, he started displaying his brilliance from a young age. He became interested in spirituality and divine subjects when he was just five. Even as a young child, he rejected the caste system and played with children of all backgrounds, whether Hindu or Muslim. Nanak would often debate with religious pundits about the nature of God and true religious practice. He started attending school when he was seven years old. One day, he astounded his teachers, when he described the symbolism of the first letter of the alphabet in Persian, which resembles the mathematical version of one, to represent the unity or oneness of God.
In Bibliodrama, we asked the question about what it feels like to be a child who is different. Speaking in the voice of the young Nanak, we explained why we rejected the caste system and what we gave or gained by playing with children from all backgrounds. We also imagined what his parents, sister and teachers felt about this child.
The technique enabled us to explore Nanak’s transformation from a brilliant child to a religious genius. In his case, there was a specific moment of enlightenment.

After leaving his parental home, Nanak became friends with a Muslim minstrel named Mardana with whom he used to pray and meditate. They would go to the Black River every morning in order to bathe and meditate. One morning when he was about 30, he went to bathe; he walked into the river and disappeared beneath the water. There was no sign of him and everyone believed that he had drowned. Three days later he miraculously appeared. He looked like a man possessed and did not utter a word. Eventually, he began to speak and told everyone that he had been taken to God’s court. He said, “There is no Hindu and no Musalman.” These words were the beginning of his teachings which would culminate in the formation of a new religion.

As a result of his transformation, Guru Nanak, as he was now known, lost all interest in worldly affairs and soon quit his job. In 1496, he left his wife and children in the care of his parents and told his family that God had called him to spread His divine message and he had to abide with the Almighty’s wish. Nanak set out on a set of spiritual journeys through India, Tibet and Arabia that lasted nearly 30 years.
Once again, through bibliodrama, we were able to go on the journey with him, learning at each stage what Nanak learnt and discovering through re-enactment how he appeared to those who encountered him. Cynicism by some participants was replaced by appreciation for the struggles, authenticity, consistency and faith of the sincere religious personality.

The bibliodrama concluded with a Sikh legend regarding the death of Nanak. A day after appointing his successor, Nanak died on 22 September 1539 in Kartarpur, aged 70. After his passing, there was controversy, with Hindu and Muslim followers wishing to bury him each according to their own customs. The legend says that when the cloth was removed from Nanak’s body, hundreds of flowers were discovered and both groups were able to take flowers and remember Nanak in their own way. Participants reflected on what “flowers” they could take from closely studying his life and principles.
Through bibliodrama, participants shared some of Sikh religious memory, appreciating the unique contribution of Guru Nanak to theology and to instilling moral virtues into his community. Guru Nanak and his successors are remembered by Sikhs for modelling the correct relationship to God and, because of this, correct behaviour.  Memory in the Sikh religious life centres on learning and applying their
3. Invitation: My Encounter with Hinduism – New Theological Horizons
4.   Sharing Wisdom – Reflections on the Ardas Prayer

The Ardas is a fundamental prayer of the Sikh faith, recited daily and before undertaking any significant task. It is a prime example of how memory is maintained by a religious community and of the place that memory occupies in communal liturgy, itself a form of maintaining and shaping collective memory.

The Ardas :
There is one God. All Victory belongs to God. May the dynamic power of God help us. 
The poetic verse of Sri Bhagauti, composed by the Tenth King.

Having first involved the dynamic power of God, call on Guru Nanak.
Then on Angad Guru, Amar Das and Ram Das, may they ever protect us.

Then call on Arjan, and Hargobind, holy Har Rai.
Remember Holy Har Krishan, whose sight dispels all sorrows.
Then remember Teg Bahadur by whose remembrance the nine treasures come hurrying to one’s home. 
Be ever with us O Masters.

May the tenth king, Guru Gobind Singh be ever on our side.
Let us now turn our thoughts to the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib, 
the visible embodiment of the ten Gurus and utter, O Khalsa Ji, Waheguru! (glory be to God).

The five Beloved Ones, the four Sahibzaade (sons of the tenth Master), the forty emancipated ones,
the martyrs, the true disciples, the contemplators of God, 
and those who remained steadfast on the path of Dharma, 
remember their glorious deeds and utter O Khalsa Ji, Waheguru!

Those who dwelled on God's Name, shared their honest earnings with others, 
wielded sword in battlefield, distributed food in companionship, 
offered their heads at the altar of Dharma, were cut up limb by limb, skinned alive, boiled or sawn alive, 
but did not utter a sigh nor faltered in their faith, kept the sanctity of their hair until their last breath,
sacrificed their lives for the sanctity of Gurdwaras; remember their glorious deeds and utter O Khalsa Ji, Waheguru!.

Turn your thoughts to the five seats of Sikh authorities
and all the Gurdwaras and utter O Khalsa, Waheguru!

First, there is supplication for all the Khalsa Panth.
May the Lord bestow upon His Khalsa the gift of His remembrance, Waheguru, Waheguru,Waheguru, 
and may the merit of this remembrance be happiness of all kinds.
O God, wherever are the members of Khalsa, extend Your protection and mercy on them; 
let the Panth be ever victorious, let the sword be ever our protector. 
May the order of the Khalsa achieve ever-expanding progress and supremacy. Utter O Khalsa, Waheguru!

May God grant to the Sikhs, the gift of faith, the gift of uncut hair, the Kesh, 
the gift of discipline, the gift of spiritual discrimination, the gift of mutual trust, 
the gift of self confidence and the supreme gift of all the gifts, the communion with Waheguru, 
the Name, and the gift of bathing in Amritsar, May the administrative centres, banners, the cantonments of Khalsa ever remain inviolate.

May the cause of truth and justice prevail everywhere at all times, utter O Khalsa, Waheguru!.
May the minds of Sikhs remain humble, and their wisdom exalted. Waheguru! 
you are the protector of wisdom. Almighty Lord! Our helper and protector ever, restore to us the right and privilege of unhindered and free service 
and access to Nankana Sahib and other centers of Sikh religion from which we have been separated.

God, the Helper of the helpless, the Strength of the weak, the Supporter of the fallen, the true father of all.

Forgive us O Lord, all our faults, extend Your helping hand to everyone. 
Grant us the company of those who may help keep Your Name fresh in our hearts.

Through Satguru Nanak, may Your Name be exalted 
and may all of mankind prosper according to your Will.
The Khalsa belongs to God and to Him belongs the victory.

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