Violence: The ‘new’ book guru of Sikhs.

Letter to the Editor, Toronto Star.

Now, that’s a pretty controversial statement. I compare this with the subjects I took while attending high school. Some are mandatory for obtaining the high school graduation diploma and there are others that can be taken just to acquire credits.

Violence can be a subject of study to learn from. But for those who do not learn, we have the system of criminal justice that merely incarcerates. When a community collectively encourages violence, the criminal justice system is powerless.


During the time when Sikhs were being oppressed by the British, thousands went to jail. See: “The Gurdwara Reform Movement and the Sikh Awakening, 1922.” Today, to combat Sikh violence, thousands need to challenge it. This can include Sikhs and many others, too. But you will never hear or read in the press, any Sikh organization that is holding  Sikhs accountable.

Violence is a curriculum of study for those who choose it. It has many lessons to learn from. Until the lessons are learnt, it continues to teach.

For Sikhs, it offers a special curriculum.

Contrary to everyone’s beliefs about the book guru* being the teacher of the Sikhs, VIOLENCE is their new ‘GURU’ and it is not the only one!

This particular ‘guru’ teaches via the lessons that utilize pain, anguish and suffering. And, these lessons can only be learned in the flesh and that for Sikhs, equates to a “Deh-Dhari Guru”.

Sikhs use the word “deh-dhari guru” in a derogatory sense. The word refers to a living human being who according to the Sikhs, proclaims to teach spiritual knowledge but is actually, an imposter.

Sikhs are taught to regard their book guru as the only teacher for them. They strongly resent anyone who proclaims him or herself to be a living teacher. The reason is that they believe all of the spiritual knowledge was left to them by their teachers and recorded in the writings of their book guru.

When I say violence is the new ‘guru’ of the Sikhs, I am saying there is a direct connection between the teacher and results of such teaching. This connection is a literal one. Violence is a “deh-dhari guru”!  The reason for this is that the first part of the word ‘Deh’ refers to a body and the second part ‘dhari’ means someone who had agreed to learn from a living human being.

Books do not act with violence upon books! But only the living, flesh and blood people who deem themselves to be the ‘followers’ of such books, invite violence into their lives.

Despite the thousands of years of religious tradition of India which stipulated a ‘guru’ could only be a living teacher and not a book, the Sikhs have gone against all of that. Not only have they gone against thousands of years of tradition but they have chosen to ignore how their book guru came into being.

Every book that is considered to be ‘holy’ has always come about through human hands. But those hands may not always be the hands of an inspired original teacher. They can be the hands of anyone who had been inspired.

People, who listen to lectures, are always free to take notes. Also, consider the notion that not everyone is a good writer. Those who understand the lesson do not necessarily need to write out what they understood. Some do and some don’t.

Sikhs always utilize the word “deh-dhari” in a derogatory sense. This is rather ironic because the original teachers were living men and this word fits them exactly. When challenged with logical arguments like the fact that their original teachers were in the flesh and had they not been alive to begin with, none of the writings would have emerged, they refuse to acknowledge the validity of this argument. Instead, they consider such logical arguments as a threat to the survival of their religion!

So when violence is the teacher, it teaches through wounds inflicted on the body of a man or a woman. Violence is a brutal teacher. For those who choose to learn well and do not intend to repeat the grade, there are gentler ways of learning than that of violence.

The fuel for violence is usually anger. Anger itself is neither good nor bad. It is just an emotion.

People feel angry only when they are hurt first. If the hurt is not acknowledged and resolved, then they act like wounded animals.

Just look at what happens when someone tries to help a wounded animal. The animal is in a lot of pain. When in pain, an animal cannot distinguish who will help or hurt it. When one makes an attempt to help, the animal lashes out. There is nothing wrong with lashing out. Anyone who has been hurt that deeply, will lash out. But there are ways to deal with a wounded animal. Once a remedy is applied upon the wound , the animal will feel better. Once it feels better, it will stop lashing out. The pain will eventually subside and the wound will heal over time.

When anger becomes a habit, then it can lead to high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks.

Everyone must learn from his or her lessons. There is no way out. There are no shortcuts.

Though the book guru is considered by Sikhs to be their living teacher, so far, it has never intervened in their affairs. If it were a mundane school teacher, the first thing that would happen, it would place a call to 911.

Notwithstanding the four hundred years that Sikhs regard it to be their “living teacher”, it always stands mute.

Since 1973, there have been numerous incidents of violence in the Sikh community of Toronto and other cities. It does not always occur in Sikh temples. But when it does, it usually makes the headlines.

For the incidents that have occurred in the Sikh temples, I cannot help but draw a parallel between a King and his Servants.

If the book guru were an actual man, then like a king in the days of old, he would never tolerate any such disrespect. He would never become a willing participant in any violence let alone any other form of disrespect. The king would give an order to his servants and have the people that dishonoured his presence, sent to the dungeon. After that, the punishment might include torture and ultimately death.

In the times of our gurus, the analogy of a king to his kingdom probably made a lot of sense. Though I do not have specific historical information, I can only imagine how our gurus conducted their courts. I am sure they never let any acts done against their honour and safety, go unpunished.

In the Sikh community, while violence is on a rampage and with no end in sight, I cannot help but draw the parallel between the helplessness of the book guru and the anguish of its followers.

If it were a living man or woman and did not act to stop the violence, these days, it would face criminal sanctions. And, those sanctions would also extend to the sangat (congregation) of many gurdwaras. Those sanctions could encompass a wide variety of offenses ranging from assault, uttering threats, aiding and abetting, and, to murder.

* – Commonly referred to as “Guru Granth Sahib”; literally, “Guru” means teacher, “Granth” means book, and “Sahib” is an honorific.

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A letter from a reader of The Toronto Star in response to my letter.

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