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Justice Khehar hails Guru Gobind Singh in Birmingham

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Justice J.S.Khehar, Former Chief Justice of India delivering the key-note address at the Seminar on the Life and Philosophy of Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji at the University of Birmingham

A grand concluding event of the year-long celebrations of the 350th Birth Anniversary of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji was hosted at the historic Great Hall of the University of Birmingham. The highlight of the event was the Key-Note Address by Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, former Chief Justice of India. The event consisted of a Seminar on the ‘Life & Philosophy of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji’. Justice Khehar spoke on the current relevance of the revered tenth Sikh Guru’s message for the world….reports Asian Lite News

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From left to right – Shri D.P.Singh, Counsellor (Consular) High Commission of India, London, Bhai Saheb Dr Mohinder Singh , Chairman – Nishkam Guru Nanak Sewa Jatha, Dr. Aman Puri, Consul General of India, Birmingham, Justice J.S.Khehar, Former Chief Justice of India, Ms Mandeep Kaur, Sikh Chaplain to the British Armed Forces, Dr. Andrew Davies, Director, Edward Cadbury Centre for the Public Understanding of Religion, University of Birmingham

Key-note Address by Justice J.S. Khehar:

Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs, has been described as a spiritual master, as a warrior, as a poet, and even as a philosopher. I am going to speak to you today on his description as a warrior. Before I begin, it is my duty to inform you that in 2009 I had the privilege as a Judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court to author a full bench judgement on one little facet of Sikh religion, namely, the importance to Sikhs of wearing their hair unshorn. I had acknowledged in that judgement, as I acknowledge today, that I am not possessed of any deep or authoritative understanding of the Sikh religion. The views that I expressed today are my personal views, and are not intended to hurt anybody’s faith who may understand the matter differently.

Before I describe the warrior capacity of Guru Gobind Singh, I would like to refer to some background of historical facts. The assassination of Guru Arjun Dev, the fifth Guru of the Sikhs in 1606, represented the low water mark of Sikh history. It was a point when the Sikh community faced a threat of dispersal. A decision had to be taken whether the Sikhs to henceforth disavow themselves of all forms of politics and emerge as a purely religious group. The discussion stood rested when the sixth Guru Hargobind appeared before his followers, dressed as a royal, wearing a turban with aigrette, and with two swords one hanging on either side. He had taken the bold decision of militarization of the Sikhs to preserve and defend their faith. From that low water mark, the fortunes of the Sikhs had turned by the time of the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1839. Maharaja Ranjit Singh was the undisputed Maharaja of the entire Punjab including the lands to the east of Indus. By that time the militarization of the Sikhs had reached its pinnacle.

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Esteemed speakers of the event from L-R: Shri D.P.Singh, Counsellor (Consular) High Commission of India, London, Bhai Saheb Dr. Mohinder Singh Chairman – Nishkam Guru Nanak Sewa Jatha, Justice J.S.Khehar, Former Chief Justice of India and Dr. Aman Puri, Consul General of India, Birmingham

When the British came to the Punjab, the Sikhs had achieved the distinction of the belief that they were a martial race. Along with this background of the historical facts, something about the Guru which you all know. Guru Gobind Singh sacrificed the life of his father, and he sacrificed the life of his four sons, fighting against the forced conversion of Hindus into Islam, and also for the cause of the Sikh faith. It is this background, and with this just a little prelude to communicate to you the basis of my understanding. As children, we were told to pray to God for whatever we wanted, and my father would often recite to us: Jo Mange Thakur Apne Te, Soi Soi Deve.  Whatever one asks of God, God gives to you. Just so simple. Jo Mange Thakur Apne Te, Soi Soi Deve.

All my life I have practiced this, for a long time, I have prayed to God for strength and perseverance to do my job as a Judge right. I prayed and I prayed and I prayed. This after realising the pressures and the tribulations of Judgeship. And what did I pray? This is what I prayed!  Deh shiva bar mohe eh-hey subh karman te kabhu na taro. Na daro arr seo jab jaye laro nischey kar apni jit karo. Arr Sikh ho apne he mann ko, eh laalach hou gun tau ucharo. Jab aav ki audh nidan bane att he rann me tabh joojh maro.

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Justice J.S.Khehar, Former Chief Justice of India and Dr. Aman Puri, Consul General, Consulate General of India, Birmingham presenting a memento to Bhai Saheb Dr. Mohinder Singh, Chairman – Nishkam Guru Nanak Sewa Jatha as a gesture of appreciation.

This is the verse which was spread by Guru Gobind Singh. I recited it hundreds and thousands of times, all the time as I served as a Judge, and after all this, eventually my understanding which crystallised of this verse was that the Guru’s description as a warrior was limited to his defence of Subh Karman. Subh Karman is good causes and righteous means. The Guru’s warrior was limited to, and aimed at the capacity of living a virtuous life with dignity and dying with courage. The warrior of the Guru was not for land or territory, not for valuables and riches, not for the glory of the conquests but simply for truthful righteousness. But what is this truthful righteousness? All faiths understand and accept the truth is the ultimate, but the Guru wanted the Sikhs to understand it slightly differently, and what did he say – Sabbe Uppar Sach, Highest of all is Truth, Uppar Sach Acahaar, but higher than truth is Sach Aachaar.  Truthful living, righteous living and truthful righteousness. This was the philosophy of the Guru – of Khalsa – the pure. It is my understanding that the warrior in the Guru was limited to fighting for truthful righteousness.

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Justice J. S. Khehar Former Chief Justice of India and Consul General of India, Birmingham Dr. Aman Puri viewing the exhibition at The Great Hall of University of Birmingham

The Zafarnama is one illustration of demonstrating exactly what I am trying to tell you. The Zafarnama was a letter written by Guru Gobind Singh to the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb after the battle of Chamkaur. The Sikhs suffered tremendous human losses in that battle, but the Guru while writing this letter to the Mughal Emperor informed him and told him that today’s battle has been a victory for the moral forces. So the battle was not aimed for anything else but for moral victory. And so also, one of the composition, the prayer composition of Guru Gobind Singh, Chandi di Vaar. Chandi di Vaar is a description of a battle fields scene. It is a description of the fights between Gurmukshs and Manmukhs, believers and non-believers, Gods and Demons. And what the Guru prayed for that time was the arousal of divine power to help in fighting the evil forces. So even Chandi di Vaar is a demonstration of the fact that Guru’s warrior capacity was never aimed at anything else, but for truthful righteousness. That is my understanding of the Guru’s warrior capacity. It is this description which is timeless. It was relevant before the birth of the Guru, it was relevant during the time of his life, it remained relevant after his death, it is relevant now, and it shall remain relevant in future as well. If we follow the footsteps of the Guru and try to be truthfully righteous, all disparity between man and man, between religions and religions will be over. That is the future that we need to look at. That is why the teachings of the Guru are as relevant today, as they were when he wrote about them, when he experienced them, and when he demonstrated them.