ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂਜੀਕਾਖ਼ਾਲਸਾ ॥ ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂਜੀਕੀਫ਼ਤਹਿ ॥
The term has just started, and faces old and new are looking to either adjust or readjust to the infamous “Cambridge Bubble.” It is easy to get lost and give in to that talk — treating Cambridge as some sort of 8-week-long island retreat that shuts you off from friends, family, and the outside world. You get lost in the shuffle, moving from deadline-to-deadline on a day-to-day basis, when, all of a sudden, it’s December.
For those who have recently joined our mailing list, we send out monthly bulletins each month on Sangrand (the first day of a new month as per the Nanakshahi Calendar) on topics relevant to the month.
With today marking Sangrand and the arrival of the month of Kattak, the Guru reminds us that it’s just as important to keep ourselves grounded on what’s actually real. (Spoilers: it’s not the Cambridge Bubble). Guru Arjan Dev Ji’s “Barah Maha” composition, a poetic form that elaborates on each month in the year, sets out that Katak is not just a time of doing good, but also a time to stay connected:
ਕੀਤਾ ਕਿਛੂ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਲਿਖਿਆ ਧੁਰਿ ਸੰਜੋਗ ॥
Keethaa Kishhoo N Hovee Likhiaa Dhhur Sanjog ||
By one’s own actions, nothing can be done; destiny was pre-determined from the very beginning.
ਵਡਭਾਗੀ ਮੇਰਾ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਮਿਲੈ ਤਾਂ ਉਤਰਹਿ ਸਭਿ ਬਿਓਗ ॥
Vaddabhaagee Maeraa Prabh Milai Thaan Outharehi Sabh Bioug ||
By great good fortune, I meet my God, and then all pain of separation departs.
(Ang 133, SGGSJ)
There seems to be an interesting paradox at play. On the one hand, doing good, keeping your karma in check, and, on the other, recognising that destiny — everything really — is completely pre-determined. Good deeds and pre-determination. Karam and Hukam.
How can we, as individuals, have any accountability or any real self-determination if every decision we’re ever going to make has already been determined for us? Do we have free will? There’s no clear-cut answer — just interpretations. One way to see it is that, although every individual is accountable to themselves to be good and to do good, the Guru is teaching us that these decisions are not made in isolation. We’re deeply interconnected to everyone and everything in this world. There is no “I” did this, or “I” suffered that. We all emanate from the same source, and we all express ourselves within that too. In that sense, the Guru is not teaching us to just do good on an individual level, but to move beyond the idea of “individualism” altogether.
The last pangti (line) of this particular verse highlights that:
ਕਤਿਕ ਹੋਵੈ ਸਾਧਸੰਗੁ ਬਿਨਸਹਿ ਸਭੇ ਸੋਚ ॥੯॥
Kathik Hovai Saadhhasang Binasehi Sabhae Soch ॥9॥
In Katak, in the Company of the Holy, all anxiety vanishes.
It’s only in Saadh-Sangat, in the company of good people, that anxieties wash away. The idea of a “Cambridge Bubble” reinforces the stereotype of Cambridge as a place where all you do is knuckle down for 8 weeks, shut yourself off from the outside world and simply focus on yourself. The reality is that, for the health of our own mind, body and soul, we need human interaction. We need to do good together. We need Sangat.
Teer Kaur, “A Kirpan Is A Weapon Against Oppression and Tyrannical Empires”, Baaz (https://www.baaznews.org/p/kirpan-weapon-oppression-empires)
“Jagtar Singh Johal: Trial date for Scot facing terrorism charges”, BBC News (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-63269870)
Videos & Podcasts
“Do we have free will? Hukam vs. free will”, Nanak Naam
“Hark1karan — PIND: Portrait of a Village in Rural Punjab”, Hark1karan
“The Rise & Fall of the Sikh Empire | Dr Priya Atwal”, Ramblings of a Sikh Podcast
Kirtan & Dharmik Geet
The following are compositions by Guru Ram Das Ji. Less than a week ago, we observed the Prakash Purab (the earthly birth) of Guru Ji.