Wednesday, January 4, 2017

On the fourth day of sabbatical...

Success! I completed the first part of the Punjabi program through Instant Immersion. Like a kid, I printed out the first certificate and put it on the refrigerator with magnets. Gold star!

I must say that today's Instant Immersion lesson is much harder. Somehow I went from basic vocabulary to long phrases and sentences. So I'm not loving day two. I feel like I missed something.

I finished reading Culture Shock! India by Gitanjali Kolanad. It's a good overview book. Interestingly, I feel like she gives one of the best succinct summaries of early Sikhism I've ever seen. She writes: "Guru Nanak (1469-1539), the founder of Sikhism, after three days of silent meditation, revealed, 'There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim.'

"Sikhism began as a spiritual, monotheistic and ethical faith which called God simply ikk, meaning 'one'. But that message existed already in the philosophy of the Upanishads. What was new was Guru Nanak's concurrent awareness of the diseases of society, and his concern to find an effective cure. Although Guru Nanak may have been influenced by the bhakti saints and Sufi mystics, his message of love, faith, and equality arose out of his own upright nature; he neither denied any religion nor mixed together opposing faiths. Rather, he rejected the division of people by reason of caste or religion and provided a way for his followers to break down those barriers....

"Guru Nanak has been called the first Marxist, for the religion he founded is egalitarian. All men and women had equal status, and all could become priests. All decisions used to be made by the whole congregation in an open forum. Everyone was called Sardar (leader), so everyone was elevated to the same position. Even now, the priests and management of the temple are elected, everyone eats together in the community kitchen, and social and political actions are not separate from spiritual life." (Gitanjali Kolanad, Culture Shock! India, Marshall Cavandish Editions, 2012, pp. 33-35).

This is why I sometimes describe myself (in part) as "Nanakpanthi" (or "Nanak Panthi"), meaning that I aspire to follow the path of Nanak. (It is a term that a non-Sikh can claim without necessarily misappropriating.) I suppose in a similar way it feels more correct to call myself a "Jesus Freak" to suggest that I aspire to follow the teachings of Jesus, rather than to apply the term "Christian" to myself, as "Christian" has come to represent (for many) a particular set of creeds to which I do not subscribe. In each case, I very much admire the founder (Guru Nanak) or central figure (Jesus) even if I am not a Sikh nor a traditional "Christian" in the sense of the Nicene Creed and other "orthodox" theologies.

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