Saturday, July 01, 2006

Some basic issues: A wonderful discusssion between Bal and Prabhsharanbir Singh


Prabhsharanbir Singh said...

what do u mean by sikh studies. is studies here is used as a verb? o u want to a show a sikh studing? or u want point toward a specific academic discipline called sikh studies. the notin studying implies an objectification of what is being studied. can sikhi be studied objectively.or is it right to make religion an object of study? is it not a repition of orientalist stance?
these questions may seem bitter to u. but it is always necessary deconstruct the hidden assumptions of the activity in which u r going to take part if u really want to advance in that field.studying a religion is very problematic. the question is how do we relate ourselves to sikhi.or how do we engage with it? the most important of all questions is this:
what is the relation of sikh studies to sikh practicing and sikh experiencing?
perhaps this will work as an excellent point of departure for the discussions which u r anticipating.

Bal said...

Sikhs studies. ummm. Non-Sikhs studying Sikhs (orientalist anthropology). Sikhs studying Sikhs (resentment or glorification, or perhaps therapy). Sikhs Gurus studying God. Sikh Gurus Sikh-ing God. I could see how this enterprise of Sikhs Studies could be problematic - but your post, which I found most entertaining and illuminating, misses an obvious point: a Sikh is a learner, a student of gurashabad (the Guru's Word or simply life). Were not all the Gurus and their disciples, students (of life)? Isn't any institution, any university, any Gurudwara, any event really, a place, a location for learning? Jaha dekhaa taha diin diaalaa (wherever I look there I see the compassionate Lord). The artificiality that you are concerned about, exists everywhere (Gurudwara, University, family, friend, teacher, with oneself) - which seems to locate the problem of studying in the mode of its doing; it could be done, as with any activity, "with the Name" (nondually, transformatively), or it could be done "without the Name" (dualistically, where the ego remains untouched/unchallenged). So I don't think it is a case of rejecting or accepting academia, but studying in such a way that the tradition of academia is itself transformed through one's own transformation. Surely the arena of the farm, the battlefield, the market place, the household, the work place, the university just form the fabric of one's life - and there, right there in the inherent multiplicity of that thereness (Heidegger's facticity of Dasein)is where the Word is to be "found", "lived", "engaged with", "sung". Can Sikhi be made into one sytle, one genre, one praxis, one mode? If not, then what is Sikh-ness? What is the special flavour of Sikhi - is it merely a result of historical accident, a type of punjabi-ness within a broader Indic-ness? Or does Sikhi speak beyond the boundaries of its historical genesis? The Guru Granth (Sikh Scripture) seems to attest to the latter, with its multivocity, many authors and ragas; as though a key lesson of the Word is how easily and well it resonates with the Other the world over. I think I'm rambling now, to end with then. How do we relate to sikhi or engage with it? What is the relation of sikh studies to sikh practicing and sikh experiencing. Well, hopefully the above lays a beginning to answer your important questions. We need to ponder the term "experience" and "practice", since both theory, or intellectually reflection involves a kind of practice and is certainly an experience. If the Guru is everywhere (at least as a possibility), is it not problematic to say: well everywhere but the university. Perhaps it would be better to refer to gradations rather than black and white categories. Something like, it is more likely to meet the guru when the self is put into question, than when not; it is more likely to meet the true in a soup kitchen than a church etc. Open-ended formulations like these seem to reflect the Gurus own openness. I don't have the time now to speak of a specifically "religious" practice of say nit-nem (Sikh "prayer/recital/chanting"), but obviously the argument I'm making is simplistic and the issue is much more complicated... In short I don't think the name needs changing. (I like the tension and challenge and maybe even resonance it creates/makes with official Sikh Studies that is guarded by phds and other institutional boundaries.)

Prabhsharanbir Singh said...

my intention was only to provide a starting point fot our discussion amd with your remarks that task seems to have been done with some degree of success. i think it is always necessary to break through the encrusted layers of signification of a given tradition o academic discipline in order to achieve real advancement in its understanding. u ve quoted heideger, look at his destruktion of the history of ontology. without accomplishing this task, it would have been impossible for heidegger to advance his own original insights about the nature of Being.
you ve stated that it is also possible to study "with the Name" i. e. non-dualistically and transformatively. but do remember that Name does not reside where ego has its sway.
haumai naavai naal virodh hai, doe na vsaih ik thai.
so egoistic procedures of studying must be destroyed before a transformative and non dual study can begin. sikhi denotes learning which is receptive whereas academic learning process is akin to anatomy. heidegger also substantiate this claim when he says that the task of true thinking lies in attentively listening to the call of Being and not in technologically manipulating the world of beings(entities).

Bal said...

Prabhsharanbir good to 'meet' and exchange/share ideas with you. It would be great to meet you in person (in 2007)...

Forgive me for getting stuck right in, but time is of the essence. In all due respect, I think there is something formulaic and therefore fairly predictable in your reply to my post - which was trying to point out that the black and white categories the mind craves are the very ones that delude, that we have to live by a different order - as we both recognise an order that is nondual (not two) in its orientation. Or as you/Heidegger say to "listen to the call of Being" and not get lost in the beings in this world. So towards the end of your post you remind me of something I have not stopped thinking about ever since I decided to study the Guru Granth, and that is: not to forget where there is ego, then god/name/guru/word disappear and when the ego disappears then there is god/name etc. As your quote goes, the ego and name cannot reside in the same place. But actually my initial post was questioning this very duality - as though we know what is ego and what is led by the Name, as though Name 'naturally' opposes certain things. From my reading of Sikh "Scripture" it is never entirely clear what is and is not the Name, if everything is the Name, what could possibly be its opposite? In other words, what I think is being "argued" for (albeit poetically), as I said in the first post, that there needs to be a existential shift in our mode of perception/action to something incalculably and unpredictably beyond the dualistic mind. Therefore egoist procedures of anything not only studying must be destroyed. And since the ego has to be destroyed - in a manner of speaking, since the AG also states whilst it is the disease it is also its own cure, a different "logic" is being proposed for the solution. It is as though the Gurus are saying the solution to the problem cannot be found at the level of the problem - hence the need for the 'transformed ego'. This is why they chose to sing their poetic songs. That is where, possibly, one solution exists. They also give others relating to action, but again not normal ego-action, but to act without acting (as in other traditions), see without eyes, walk without feet, serve without self etc.

In sum, just saying remember god, or the Name, or 'listen to the call of Being', does not get us very far. How do we know we are listening to the call of Being and not a very devious ego?

The relation and orientations of the ego and the Name need pondering (in one's daily lived experiences). Perhaps, like the Buddhists, what you hear as ego, I hear as Word, and what I see as Name, you may see as ego. That is to say, they may be fluid and shifting notions. The point I think the Gurus were making is that we can never be sure, or at least we can never legislate the difference, and then for all time claim good apart from evil. Unlike other traditions the Gurus did not explain themselves; they did not write commentaries, for they knew, I think, that that would lead to rules and ideology wherein clear distinctions between the self-centred manmukhs and the self-less gurmukhs can be legislated. But, as we all know, no human being is wholly good and no one wholly evil, life just isn't that easy nor simple. No human being, the Gurus say, can (fully) know nor write hukam (God's Command/Order), let alone the Name or God.

Therefore Heidegger's attempt to destroy the history of ontology fails. He still has his God and wants to tell us His Laws; he still wants to tell us what this life all means, whether through the poet Holderlin, or the poet-philosopher.. (philosopher as secular 'enlightened' revelation). Heidegger's claim is that at least he hears the call of Being and tells us what it means. But it can't be done - translation is always involved.

The gurus rather than see this 'failure' of the human mind to name the Name (once and for all) as negative, actually view it positively, as a possible beginning to a new ego-less departure and language - if the mind recognises its limits/delusions. Nor were the Gurus speaking specifically as 'poets'. They were in sahaj - and the 'song' of the Name (I think) can speak in any language, even if there seems to be a hierarchy of genres, with musical 'poetry' (rather akath-kathaa) at the top (and most spontaneous) and then philosophy near the other end (of cool, slow and deliberating prose), with statistics at the very extreme (of delusion). I think that is why your brother finds the shift troublesome; for him the slowing down of pace means a moving away from spontaneity and no mind of the Name/Word/Guru.

I assume that since this is a public forum we should translate our gurbani quotes and jargon - to be as inclusive as possible...


Prabhsharanbir Singh said...

i am also eagerly looking forward to meet you because i am very much inspired by your work on the sikh hermeneutics. although i have not read much of your work.
i have also chosen a related topic for my phd. thesis. it is this:

The Singularity of Sri Guru Granth Sahib: Locating a Hermeneutics.

i have read your article 'questioning hermeneutics with freud' . you have mentioned gallagher's book hermeneutics and education in which varius approaches to hermeneutics are discussed i. e. conservative, moderate, critical and radical. i want to know more about these approaches. i dont have that book but i am trying to get it. meanwhile, can you suggest me anything else in which different approaches to hermeneutics are discussed. or if you have soft copies of related content , can you please e-mail it to me at the following address: