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New Kartarpur Community


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New Kartarpur Community

Bhupinder Singh

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Recently I turned fifty-six years old and some one asked me if I was planning to retire. I told him no because in USA early retirement age is sixty-two and a half, and the age of regular retirement is sixty-five. It really dawned on me that youth, of which we are all proud and desire it to last for ever, was really over. I remembered these words of Gurbani:

iKsY jobnu bDY jrUAw idn inhwry sMig mIcu ]

“Kheesai joban bdhai jarooa, din neeharae sang(h) meech.â€

(SGGS, p. 458)

My youth is wasting away, old age is approaching, and death, my companion, is counting my days.

But, it did make me reminiscence about the prospect of retiring and wonder as to what I would do with all the time that I will have at my disposal and what type of life will it be? It also made me wonder about the retirement times of older times. I realized that at 56 most people would retire and some were on the verge of retiring. Now times have changed and the retirement age has increased due to longevity of life. However, there is significant change in the way families live now and joint families are becoming a thing of past. Earlier, seniors upon retirement took a back seat and let life roll by at a leisurely pace. I have seen many senior Americans live active retired lives; some even purchase a Recreational Vehicle (RV) and embark on a journey exploring the countryside, visiting new places, and meeting interesting people. Although it is an attractive proposition, however, I am not convinced of the appeal of this venture. Neither I am thinking of living a sedentary life. While exploring the various possibilities I remembered that Guru Nanak established the city of Kartarpur in the year 1521, after returning from his journeys called Udassees. So, the only fruitful option for me is to model my life after the Guru and invest the remaining years in search of deathlessness. It is a drastic change in that will need serious adjustments in my lifestyle.

Guru Nanak was fifty-two when he settled down quietly to live in peace at Kartarpur, almost for the rest of his life. He worked largely in the fields farming wheat crop. But the early morning and evening hours were reserved for Sangat, for congregation to have Holy Communion. Gradually the Guru’s disciples, the Sikhs, began to gravitate towards Kartarpur where Guru Nanak also wrote many hymns he had already sung elsewhere earlier during his journeys. He preached to the crowds who came daily to see him, teaching them to live a worldly life, while still remembering God and seeking His grace. I believe that this is a practical model that the Guru demonstrated for us. He showed us a new way of living a productive and fulfilling life style. His lively speech, in the words of Puran Singh, "radiated love and faith and attracted men as light gathers moths". So, with this model to follow the last phase of life will not be a slow wait of impending death.

Guru Nanak Dev laid down a practical framework that can be easily replicated to suit with changing times. I envisage the model of New Kartarpur Community as a “hub and spokes planâ€. At the hub is the center of spiritual activity or Gurudwara, which is like other Gurudwaras but is more like a Dharamsal or a place to learn about Dharam. Bhagat Kabir has defined Dharam in Guru Granth Sahib as:

kbIrw jhw igAwnu qh Drmu hY

“Kabiraa jehaa giaan theh dhharam haiâ€

(SGGS, p.1372)

Kabir, where there is spiritual wisdom, there is righteousness and Dharam.

I have used the term Dharamsal that was originally used by Guru Nanak because a Gurudwara these days, besides being place of worship, is also a place to socialize and propagate political views. Gurdwaras are no longer places of learning. The Dharamsal being the hub, residences for the inmates, a gym, workshops, and class rooms will be the spokes extending outwards together with land for a beautiful garden and an area to farm. The houses here are not big or extravagant; they are simple and yet comfortable. Each resident will enjoy the quietness of solitude and a healthy place to meet other like-minded people with similar interests. The synergy of like-minded people with a common goal can unleash such vibrations that can charge an entire community with loving and caring emotive power. I visualize everyone meeting in the morning for keertan of Asa De Waar, followed by recitation of Japji Sahib, and other Nitnem banis. Then after the Diwan, there is community breakfast. The early morning Simran or meditation is left to each individual to be done at their own place of residence or out in the open as per their preference and temperament.

Between breakfast and lunch each resident take part in different activities based on the community needs and the individual’s ability, training and expertise. All residents interested in farming can enjoy growing grains, fruits, and vegetables for the community kitchen with surplus food to be used in the fight against hunger or as an aid for disaster victims. Retired accountants could manage accounts of this institution and provide services to those in need. In addition, there will be classes conducted by resident or hired experts in new areas where the residents seek to gain proficiency like computers, physical exercises etc. Furthermore there will be classes to teach and discuss Gurbani in a class room environment. This is essential because although many of us are highly successful professionals and accomplished businessmen our understanding of our scriptures is almost negligible. Many times our understanding is not in line with the Guru’s teaching.

Lunch at the New Kartarpur Community will be a community effort in cooking, serving, cleaning, and enjoying the meal together. Although there will be time to socialize, I hope it will not be used bragging about our past accomplishments and reliving that past; but it should be used constructively to gain new insights. Afternoons are spent in activities that promote individual growth, community growth, and support the larger growth of humankind. Medical clinics, medical camps, publication of books and other outreach programs can benefit the community and world. In the evening hours there is keertan diwan starting with recital of Rehras Sahib and culminating with Sohela. All activities are to be conducted under the guidance of accomplished individuals who act as mentors and coaches for the rest of us. For example the mentor for life style choices will be a “Gurmukh†as defined in Gurbani:

gurmuiK AMqir shju hY mnu ciVAw dsvY Awkwis ]

“Gurmukh anter sahaj hai, mun charreya dasvek aakash.â€

(SGGS, p. 1414)

Within the Gurmukh is intuitive peace and poise; his/her mind ascends to the Tenth Plane of the Akaashic Ethers.

Gurmukh is not one who wears a particular kind of clothing; it is a state of mind. After all, only a true Gurmukh can inspire, mold, and coach like Guru Nanak who transformed countless lives. The entire concept of this community is centered on this objective so the choice of a true Gurmukh is essential. Similarly other mentors will also be accomplished person in their respective field and who are willing to inspire, guide, encourage, and teach new skills. The Saadh Sangat will provide residents with an invigorating and stimulating regimen that will foster spiritual growth. The Gurus’ have emphasized the significance of Saadh Sangat in these words:

swDsMig imil nwmu iDAwvhu pUrn hovY Gwlw ]

“Saadsang mil naam dhi-aavahu pooran hovai ghaalaa.â€

(SGGS, p. 617)

Joining the Saadh Sangat, the Company of the Holy, meditate on the Naam, the Name of the Lord; your efforts shall be rewarded.

vfBwgI swDsMgu prwpiq iqn Bytq durmiq KoeI ]

“Vadbhaagee saadsang paraapat tin bhaytat durmat kho-ee.â€

(SGGS, p. 617)

By great good fortune, one obtains the Saadh Sangat, the Company of the Holy. Meeting them, evil-mindedness is eliminated.

Guru Nanak’s life in Kartarpur is a true model for both the mentors and the mentored. The Guru led a life of humility, inspiring and guiding Sikhs to become not only productive citizens but also spiritually uplifted. The environment in Kartarpur was woven in the reverent faith of the Creator. The flavor of the environment is to be found in the shabads that we even sing today and will continue to sing in future. His humility was so great that he never claimed any extraordinary greatness for himself in spite of his vast influence, and the respect that people had for him. He always considered himself as an ordinary man among men, mortal and sinful as they were, though he was always in union with God. His personality is reflected in these words of Guru Angad who took his training from him:

hau ikAw swlwhI ikrm jMqu vfI qyrI vifAweI ]

“Hau kiaa saalaahee kiram ja(n)th vaddee thaeree vaddiaaee.â€

(SGGS, p. 792)

I am a worm - how can I praise You, O Lord; Your glorious greatness is so great.

Research suggests that mental activity fights off dementia, and in my mind New Kartarpur Community is an ideal environment for those who seek physical and spiritual health. Times are changing and joint families that spanned three generations under one roof are gradually becoming a thing of the past. On the other hand nucleus families are fighting to survive as a family unit. With these societal changes where else can one find a place to engage the mind, to keep the body fit, and to gain spiritual enlightenment? The New Kartarpur Community will inspire creative talent and ignite the zeal to rekindle a connection with the soul. Guru Amar Das came to Guru Angad Dev at a ripe age of sixty-two and achieved the objective for which we are all here on this earth. There is no better example of inspiration than this. According to Guru Amar Das:

Anµdu BieAw myrI mwey siqgurU mY pwieAw ]

“Anand bhaeiaa maeree maaeae satguru mai paaeiaa.â€

(SGGS, p. 917)

I am in ecstasy, O my mother, for I have attained the True Guru (inside me).

One essential requirement of good life is a healthy body. In younger years this aspect is frequently compromised as other events and issues become more significant. As we progress in life it is imperative that daily regimen of exercise is strictly implemented. Regular exercise improves sleeping, boosts energy level, improves body immune system, reduces stress, and strengthens muscles as well as bones. Another important aspect is to keep the mind engaged. Not only will it prevent dementia and depression but it also keeps us sparkling with enthusiasm. In fact trying to explore the depths of Gurbani, its poetic nuances, its mystical love, music and lore is so invigorating that it keeps everyone mentally captivated. Gurbani has the capacity to transform us.

Human life can be compared to a three legged stool with each leg representing the body, mind and soul. If one leg is missing then the consequences can be easily predicted. We have discussed about two aspects, the body and mind earlier, and now let us talk about the third and the most vital of the three- soul. Gurbani is the food for soul and singing, and listening to it provides the soul with nourishment, just as food provides nourishment to the body. Gurbani bring joy and bliss to our lives. During the early phases of life -education and the working phases - we generally neglect this aspect and now is the time to compensate for that deficiency. The experience of joy can only be obtained by connecting with the soul.

The potency of this soul food has been tested by Guru Nanak against the meanest characters as-Kauda, Sajjan and Nur Shah, etc. and we know that it is magical. The uplifting hymns of the spiritual food, with dedicated sessions on understanding and exploring the depths of its emotions, will be harbinger of a new state of consciousness. Hence, all three areas will be explored and our lives will be enriched, because each of these three besides growing individually also provide the requisite impetus for the growth in other two, thus creating a chain effect. In this realm we will be connecting with our own soul at each moment, so that we are not lonely in our aloneness. The loneliness that affects the lives of many in their last days can thus be eliminated. In fact if we can create a cascading effect the potential for achieving the “purpose of life†is there. Guru Granth Sahib Ji has defined it as:

jIvq pwvhu moK duAwr ]

“Jeevath paavah mokh dhuaarâ€

(SGGS, p. 343)

You shall attain the Gate of Liberation while yet alive.

The time spent in such invigorating, communal, and healthy environment will be uplifting for the soul. What better concluding chapter to our own autobiographical account can be written? The lives of our Gurus’ have provided us with a blueprint not only for joyful lives, but also for joyful departing from this world.

jrw mrw qwpu sBu nwTw gux goibMd inq gwvhu ]

“Jarra marra taap sabh naathaa gun Gobind nith gaavahu.â€

(SGGS, p. 611)

The pains of old age and death shall all depart, when you constantly sing the Glorious Praises of the Lord of the Universe.

If we can create a New Kartarpur Community in our own town, and it becomes the seed that replicates in every town and country it will bring a quantum change in society. This Community does not need to big. A small community will be more cohesive, focused, and efficient. In the strife torn world of cut throat competition, where seniors are relegated to the roles of waiting on the sidelines can we create this alternative? I believe we can. With the Guru’s grace this is indeed possible.

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