By Chetandeep Singh – January 22nd 2015

Respect – a revered word, used multitude of times especially when the conversation involves our Gurus or Guru Granth. A quick look at the definition explains respect – a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.

Respect is usually shown – as in the case of Guru Granth – by wrapping the Guru Granth in specially sewn, high quality fabric like silk or wool & taking utmost care while handling Guru Granth so as not to disrespect. We wash our hands & feet before entering Gurdwara as a measure of hygiene & also respect. We keep Gutkas – small & specialized versions of Guru Granth containing few related hymns – also wrapped in special clothes & take utmost care not to disrespect them by keeping them out of reach of small children.

We do “Prakash” & “Sukhasan” of Guru Granth. We do “Chaur” on Guru Granth. We have “Chandoa” on Guru Granth. We use words like “Chavar Chattar de Maalik” for Guru Granth. All in the name of respect & tradition. Every time we pass by Guru Granth at home or Gurdwara we fold our hands (Think of how many times Gurdwara Bhai Sahib does that in a single day). Not only Guru Granth, we really respect all the photos & pictures of Guru’s that we have in our homes.

We wash Harimandar’s (Golden Temple, Amritsar) floor with tons of Milk every day in the name of respect. We don’t allow women to do Kirtan in Harimandir because women are unclean & there is a risk of disrespect. Talk about Equality in Guru Nanak’s world view !

We also show respect to 5 Kakars. We also show respect to Turban – often by keeping Turban on the ‘right’ side of other lower caste fabrics like socks. Of course socks are worn in the feet & Turban on the head. They aren’t mean to be together.

We show respect to Nanak by referring him as Guru Nanak Dev Sahib Ji. Siri Sahib Ji. Amritsar Sahib Ji. Everything remotely related to Sikhi should have Sahib at the end. Singh Sahib Ji. Nishaan Sahib. Rumala Sahib. Akhand Path Sahib !

Does Guru Sahib – see, how intuitively I am programmed to call Guru Sahib – intend or expect any respect from us? If he does, in what way, shape or form that respect is expected. More broadly, Does God expects respect from us?

The common answer we all know is that the real respect is by actions & not by words. If we don’t follow what Guru Granth says, what’s the point of respect – ਸੀਸਿ ਨਿਵਾਇਐ ਕਿਆ ਥੀਐ ਜਾ ਰਿਦੈ ਕੁਸੁਧੇ ਜਾਹਿ ||੧||

Going back to the definition of respect – a feeling of deep admiration – if we really respect Sikhi ideology then the real respect is to improve our lives in the way Guru intended us to.

As far as the addressing of our Guru’s by first name goes – we can remain mired in the “Sahib” world or we can progress & show what Nanak was & what Nanak did to the entire world. We are scared & afraid of disrespecting by calling Nanak by his first name. By engaging in the fake notions of respect we are loosing an opportunity to showcase Nanak to the world.

Fundamentally, respect and more so, showing respect is irrelevant. Respect has close ties with Ego. Respect & Ego are two sides of the same coin. One expects respect because of ego. Since God or Guru are free of Ego, they don’t expect us to respect them.

Even in our daily lives, at work, social circles, we respect someone either due to fear or due to greed. We respect the Vice President of our company because of his position & in the hope we can get closer to him so that we can benefit from the close ties. We make friends or connections with the people where we anticipate our benefits. Who wants to be friends with a low achiever? Who wants to just connect at a human level? Who sees every human, irrespective (ir-respect-ive) of color, figure, looks, position, money, connections? Who said it more clearly then Kabir:-
ਨਿਰਧਨ ਆਦਰੁ ਕੋਈ ਨ ਦੇਇ ॥ ਲਾਖ ਜਤਨ ਕਰੈ, ਓਹੁ ਚਿਤਿ ਨ ਧਰੇਇ ॥1॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

ਜਉ ਨਿਰਧਨੁ ਸਰਧਨ ਕੈ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਆਗੇ ਬੈਠਾ ਪੀਠਿ ਫਿਰਾਇ ॥1॥

ਜਉ ਸਰਧਨੁ ਨਿਰਧਨ ਕੈ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਦੀਆ ਆਦਰੁ ਲੀਆ ਬੁਲਾਇ ॥2॥

ਨਿਰਧਨੁ ਸਰਧਨੁ ਦੋਨਉ ਭਾਈ ॥ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਕੀ ਕਲਾ ਨ ਮੇਟੀ ਜਾਈ ॥3॥

ਕਹਿ ਕਬੀਰ, ਨਿਰਧਨੁ ਹੈ ਸੋਈ ॥ ਜਾ ਕੈ ਹਿਰਦੈ ਨਾਮੁ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥4॥8॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 1159}

Most of our life is spent taking care of “respect”. It’s time we change the paradigm & what can be a better paradigm than Honesty – Brutal Honesty with yourself. Am I being honest with myself? Are my actions in line with what Gurbani is teaching us? Am I still entangled in the web of society, respect, honor, ego, position, power, money? Or I have the vision to realize the ephemeral nature of stuff & have the courage to look inside.