We’ve all sat through it before…or…stood through it, that is.
As Anand Sahib ends, we stand for Ardaas and collectively reflect on the lives and accomplishments of the Gurus and the 18th century martyrs who gave their lives to preserve our Sikh way of life. Somewhere in between this reflection, and wishing for “Sarbat da Bhala”, we take a bizarre detour in to the “ins and outs” of our community.” Yes…I am referring to the lengthy list of births, birthdays, graduations, anniversaries and other milestones we find in the middle of our Ardaas.
I’m not sure when this practice started; where a member of the sangat would make an offering to the Gurdwara so an “Ardaas” can be done on their behalf. Birthdays are most common week to week, but I have heard more creative ones – celebrating a new job, new car, first mother’s day, wishing someone well on an upcoming exam, or safe travels for someone’s trip to India. Some even taken advantage of this process, by doing an “Ardaas” on behalf of their business week after week – essentially advertising their local store, while they have the entire community’s ear. I’ve raised this issue to the committee that perhaps there needs to be a better way to handle these “community announcements” rather than during Ardaas…I mean, seconds after we recount the martyrs who were cut limb by limb and scalped, we collectively thank Waheguru for Tinku’s new Benz? It just doesn’t seem right.
So what should we do an Ardaas for? What should be allowed? What rules need put be put in place? Looking at the Guru for guidance, there are many references to Ardaas, but to quote a few:
In Guru Raam Daas Patshah’s Ardaas, he asks to be in the company of those who praise/seek Naam:
thin kee sangath dhaehi prabh mai jaachik kee aradhaas
Grant me their company, God – I am a beggar; this is my prayer.
Bhagat Ravidas Ji, a cobbler and tanner who at the time was considered of low social status only had one request in his Ardaas…His darshan:
sagal bhavan kae naaeikaa eik shhin dharas dhikhaae jee 1 rehaao
O Lord of all worlds: reveal to me, even for an instant, the Blessed Vision of Your Darshan.
Guru Angad Patshah explicitly states in Asa Ki Vaar:
naanak hukam n chalee naal khasam chalai aradhaas 22
O Nanak, no one can issue commands to the Lord Master; let us offer prayers instead. 22
So what does this tell us? Should we really be doing an Ardaas for mundane issues, material things, or trivial matters?
Rather than asking for a bigger house, should we be asking for compassion instead? Rather than asking to ace an exam, should we not be asking for humility? And instead of asking for our problems to go away, should we be asking for the strength and courage to deal with our problems?
Even with such “academic” understanding of all this…in my most troubling of times, I too have asked for such mundane and worldly things in my Ardaas. Is this a measure of how little I’ve progressed on the Guru’s path? Perhaps.
But then there’s another perspective to all this…
One of the many things I love about being a Sikh is there is no priest, intermediary, or holy man that stands between me and the Guru. Although there is a community element to that Sikh-Guru relationship (through Sangat), there is also a deeply personal and individual relationship a Sikh has with the Guru…and I for one, do not like to place any restrictions on that.
I do not belong to a God-fearing religion, but instead, a God-loving religion – and I feel my Guru accepts me for who I am, with all my strengths and weaknesses. And so my dialogue with the Guru should be open, honest, and unapologetic. So if that means in my Ardaas I ask for help in achieving a personal milestone, or for a sick friend to feel better, or for a prisoner of conscience in Rwanda to be released, or offer thanks for a new car…so be it.
Furthermore, I should be able to ask anything and seek guidance for whatever question or challenge I have…as long as I’m willing to seek his Shabad for answers.
To some extent, I still feel my Ardaas is indicative of my relationship with the Guru. And perhaps through seva, simran, and reflection, that connection will become stronger, the gaps in understanding will dissipate, and my Ardaas will no longer be filled with requests, but merely an expression of what my Guru has given me…Love.