COVID-19 and Gurmat

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By Dr. Kala Singh

The World Health Organization announced that COVID-19 is officially a pandemic. Reported illnesses have ranged from mild to severe, and it can result in death. Elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions or suppressed immunity are especially susceptible.

While it is important to recognize the gravity of COVID-19, we must also take care to not succumb to panic. Share factual information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other reputable health agencies. It is also critical that we monitor recommendations made by local, state, and national government agencies, because that information is ever-evolving and is specific to our local community. WHO Director General cautioned that rumour mongering is as dangerous as COVID-19.

These are recommendations for all of us and for Gurdwaras to follow:

  • Stay home when you feel sick, and seek medical care if you have a cough, fever, or shortness of breath.
  • Avoid sharing food or drinks.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Refrain from hugs and handshakes as much as possible; address one another with Fatehs with folded hands.
  • Keep bathrooms, sinks, railings and the Gurdwara clean.
  • Be extra mindful of elders and very young children as related to exposure and symptoms.
  • Langar and parshad should be prepared and distributed after proper hand washing. Serve parshad with an ice cream scoop or spoon.
  • Disinfect all surfaces including the Divan hall, kitchen, Langar hall, and bathrooms, before and after every divan. Alternatively stop Langar and Divan.
  • Put up signs on how to wash hands in both English and Punjabi.
  • Keep clear bins for clean and used rumals (headscarves), and wash all rumals every day.
  • Keep hand sanitizer, food-grade gloves, tissues, and trash cans easily available, and use disposable paper towels.
  • Invite healthcare professionals who can provide the Sangat advice and answer questions and conduct hand washing demonstration.
  • Share CDC information and ask people to refrain from impulsively forwarding Whatsapp messages that contain unverified claims.
  • Monitor recommendations made by your local health departments, as well as state and national government, regarding large gatherings including Vaisakhi Nagar Kirtan and other functions.

WHO Director General stressed the importance of taking care of mental health. Stress and panic is a normal response to this situation. It impacts our physical environment, relationships, financial, work, domestic life situations. To avoid stress we should learn to live in harmony with Lord’s Will (Hukam). Acceptance of the situation on which we have no power is very important to live stress free life. Children are affected most. Some children might ask questions about their own safety, while others might start behaving differently. They need to be reassured that they are safe and the most important thing is to reassure children that you are available to help them. Others might react with generalized agitation or inappropriate behavior. It is important to watch them carefully. They may have nightmares, poor sleep, or poor appetite. They might be frightened or in shock. There is no need to get angry at them. The best way to help them is by asking questions gently and explaining them. Children get upset when they see their parents in shock, rage or anger. So control your feelings in the presence of children, or explain them properly why you are feeling that way so that children do not get frightened or upset. Because of continuous coverage of effects of COVID-19 on TV it is necessary to monitor what your children are watching. If you and children have to watch, it is helpful to discuss what is going on. If the coverage is overwhelming, turn TV off.

Now let us discuss what Gurmat says about all these measures.

ਚਿੰਤਾ ਤਾ ਕੀ ਕੀਜੀਐ  ਜੋ  ਅਨਹੋਨੀ ਹੋਇ ਇਹੁ ਮਾਰਗੁ ਸੰਸਾਰ ਕੋ  ਨਾਨਕ  ਥਿਰੁ ਨਹੀ ਕੋਇ ॥੫੧॥ SGGS 1429

Chinta Ta Kee Kejeai Jo Anhonee Hoe || Eh Marag Sansar Ko Nanak Thir Nehee Koe ||51||

People worry and become anxious, when something unexpected happens. In fact nothing is unexpected in this world. Everything is expected so is COVID-19. So we should be prepared to accept this change as will of God (Hukam). Nanak says nothing is stable or permanent in this world so is COVID-19. It will be controlled as HIV, H1N1 in the past.  We should not worry unnecessarily. Instead we should learn how to get over the problem.

Rumour mongering is as dangerous as COVID-19. So get proper information.

ਗਿਆਨ ਅੰਜਨੁ ਗੁਰਿ ਦੀਆ ਅਗਿਆਨ ਅੰਧੇਰ ਬਿਨਾਸੁ ॥ SGGS 293

Giyan Anjan Gur Deea Agian Andher Binas ||

Guru gives spiritual wisdom which dispels the darkness of ignorance and teaches how to live a perfect noble life. Gurmat says obtain true information (Gyan) from proper sources. In this case it is CDC and reputable health agencies rather from social media.

ਕਬੀਰਾ ਜਹਾ ਗਿਆਨੁ  ਤਹ ਧਰਮੁ ਹੈ  ਜਹਾ ਝੂਠੁ ਤਹ ਪਾਪੁ ਜਹਾ ਲੋਭੁ  ਤਹ ਕਾਲੁ ਹੈ  ਜਹਾ ਖਿਮਾ ਤਹ ਆਪਿ ॥੧੫੫॥ SGGS 1372

Kabeera Jeha Giyan Teh Dharam Hai Jeha Jhooth Teh Pap || Jeha Lobh Teh Kaal Hai Jeha Khima Teh Aap ||155||

Bhagat Kabeer says where there is spiritual knowledge and wisdom, there is righteousness and Dharma. Where there is falsehood, there is sin. So we should get true information (Giyan) rather listening to wrong information and rumour mongering on social media and spread it.

ਕਰਿ ਇਸਨਾਨੁ ਸਿਮਰਿ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਅਪਨਾ ਮਨ ਤਨ ਭਏ ਅਰੋਗਾ ॥ SGGS 611

Kar Isanan Simar Prabh Apna Mann Tan Bhae Aroga ||

Gurmat says, after taking bath remember the God (Get spiritual knowledge and wisdom), your mind and body shall be free of disease. Keeping proper hygiene including proper hand washing is the most important part of preventing COVID-19 as prescribed by Gurmat.

ਸਰਬ ਰੋਗ ਕਾ ਅਉਖਦੁ ਨਾਮੁ ॥ SGGS 274

Sarab Rog Ka Aukhadh Naam ||

 ਨਾਮੁ ਨਿਧਾਨੁ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਸੁਣਾਇਆ ਮਿਟਿ ਗਏ ਸਗਲੇ ਰੋਗਾ ਜੀਉ ॥੨॥ SGGS 99

Naam Nidhan Satguru Sunaeia Mitt Gae Sagle Roga Jeo ||2||

Naam is living life according to code of conduct prescribed in SGGS i.e. knowledge and wisdom from the Guru. Gurmat says we should get proper knowledge and wisdom to prevent illnesses of body and mind. That means we should be getting knowledge from CDC and reputable health agencies rather from social media if we want to help ourselves and others. That way we can prevent illnesses.

ਕਿਵ ਸਚਿਆਰਾ ਹੋਈਐ ਕਿਵ ਕੂੜੈ ਤੁਟੈ ਪਾਲਿ ॥ ਹੁਕਮਿ ਰਜਾਈ ਚਲਣਾ ਨਾਨਕ ਲਿਖਿਆ ਨਾਲਿ ॥੧॥ SGGS 1

Kiv Sachiara Hoeeai Kiv Koorrai Tuttai Paal || Hukam Rajaee Chalnaa Nanak Likhia Nal ||1||

To live a perfect truthful life we should live life according to the code of conduct (Hukam) of the Lord. We should not expect anything from anyone, not even the Lord. We can hope from others and the Lord but not expect. When our expectation is not met we get anxious and angry even at the Lord. We then try to fulfil our expectation by other corrupt means and get into a vicious circle and always are in pain and stress. To avoid stress we should learn to live in harmony with the Lord’s Will (Hukam). Acceptance of the situation on which we have no power is very important to live stress free life. There is no need to get panicky and worry about COVID-19. Best is to take proper measures to prevent it.

ਦੁਖੁ ਦਾਰੂ ਸੁਖੁ ਰੋਗੁ ਭਇਆ ਜਾ ਸੁਖੁ ਤਾਮਿ ਹੋਈ ॥ SGGS 469    

Dhukh Daaroo Sukh Rog Bhaeia Ja Sukh Taam N Hoee ||

 Suffering is the medicine, and pleasure the disease, because where there is pleasure, there is no desire to learn and improve. According to Gurmat in this time of COVID-19 we need to introspect and learn so that situation like this does not repeat in future. It should be considered a learning exercise.  

 ਅਉਖਧ ਮੰਤ੍ਰ ਤੰਤ ਸਭਿ ਛਾਰੁ ਕਰਣੈਹਾਰੁ ਰਿਦੇ ਮਹਿ ਧਾਰੁ ॥੩॥ ਤਜਿ ਸਭਿ ਭਰਮ ਭਜਿਓ ਪਾਰਬ੍ਰਹਮੁ ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਅਟਲ ਇਹੁ ਧਰਮੁ ॥੪॥੮੦॥ SGGS 196

Aukhadh Mantr Tant Sabh Char||Karanhar Ridhe Meh Dhar ||3||Taj Sabh Bharam Bhajou Parbreham || Kahu Nanak Atal Eh Dharam ||4||80|

All undocumented remedies, mantras and tantras are useless. Enshrine knowledge and wisdom of the Creator Lord within your heart. Renounce all your doubts, and act on the knowledge and wisdom of the Lord. Says Nanak, this path of Dharma is eternal and unchanging.

Now let’s discuss perspective of faith in the form of rituals and prayers in Gurmat. There are different stories going around that illness including cancer has been cured by listening to Path etc. Social media is full asking people to do Jap of certain Shabads. When we look at Sikh history, even, Gurus suffered. Fifth Guru Arjan was boiled in a pot of boiling water, made to sit on hot plate with hot sand poured on his head, but no miracle was done by the Guru. He accepted it as God’s “Bhana” and lived in Its “Rja”. Not only the Guru, Sikh history is full of atrocities being committed on Sikhs but no miracle happened. They all accepted it happily as God’s “Bhana” and lived in Its “Rja”. That is Faith in Sikhism. Even the prayer (Ardas) is to help us live in God’s “Rja”. If good health is God’s blessing then illness is also the blessing. We are supposed to take treatment and pray the Lord to give us wisdom to live according to your “Bhana”. We do not pray to cure my illness. If illness is cured it is because of our effort to take proper medication. 7th Guru Har Rai started Ayurvedic hospital and research centre at Kiratpur Sahib and gave medication.  He did not perform any miracle to treat illnesses. He sent medication to treat Dara Shikoh, elder son of Emperor Shah Jahan. He did not instruct him to meditate on Allah, do Jap of certain Shabads or take bath in Sarovar at Darbar Sahib Amritsar. 5th Guru Arjan made hospital at Taran Taran to treat leprosy patients. 9th Guru Harkrishan looked after smallpox patients in Delhi. So, Faith in Health in Sikhism is to live in God’s “Rja” and do not believe in superstitions and misinformation. Sikhs are prohibited from consuming alcohol, tobacco or other intoxicants and do not fast for any religious reasons. COVID-19 cannot be prevented and treated by alcohol, fasting, Yoga, bathing in holy rivers or cow dung, drinking cow urine, eating or drinking herbs or other religious rituals. Many people died in Iran by drinking alcohol to prevent COVID-19. Gurmat  prohibits all such rituals.

ਕਾਮ ਕ੍ਰੋਧ ਮਾਇਆ ਮਦ ਮਤਸਰ ਖੇਲਤ ਸਭਿ ਜੂਐ ਹਾਰੇ ਸਤੁ ਸੰਤੋਖੁ ਦਇਆ ਧਰਮੁ ਸਚੁ ਇਹ ਅਪੁਨੈ ਗ੍ਰਿਹ ਭੀਤਰਿ ਵਾਰੇ ॥੧॥ SGGS 379

Kam Krodh Maya Mad Matsar Ea Khelat Sabh Jooai Hare || Sat Santokh Daya Dharam Sach Eh Apnai Grih Bheetar Vare ||1||

 When we are indulged in sexual desire, anger, temptations, jealousy like vices we lose our peace of mind. To live stress free peaceful life we should adopt voluntary service, contentment, compassion (dharma), spiritual wisdom and truthfulness.

There are two aspects of Sikh living. Personal discipline and development of a strong family life and other is

involvement in the communal life for community wellbeing and support for the weak in the community locally and globally. This is practical aspect of three pillars of Sikhism: Earn an honest living (Kirat Karni), Share earnings with others (Wand Chakna) and Naam Japna.

Seva:

ਸੇਵਾ ਕਰਤ ਹੋਇ ਨਿਹਕਾਮੀ   ਤਿਸ ਕਉ ਹੋਤ ਪਰਾਪਤਿ ਸੁਆਮੀ SGGS 286

Seva Karat Hoe Nihkame || Tis Ko Hot Prapat Suamee ||

 ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸੇਵਾ ਪ੍ਰਾਨ ਅਧਾਰਾ SGGS 229

Gurmukh Seva Pran Adhara ||

 ਆਪੁ ਛੋਡਿ ਸੇਵਾ ਕਰਨਿ  ਜੀਵਤ ਮੁਏ ਰਹੰਨਿ ॥੨॥ SGGS 233

Aap Chod Seva Karan Jeevat Mue Rehan ||2||

 Three types of Seva are sanctioned in the Sikh way of life. Rendered through the corporal instrument (Tan), rendered through the mental faculties (Mann) and through the material means (Dhan).

TAN: Service (Seva) in Langar, cleaning utensils, cleaning Gurudwara, shoes and serving water.

MANN:  Seva through the mental faculties (Mann) lies in contributing one’s talents – creative, communicative, managerial, etc., to the corporate welfare of the community and mankind in general. It also lies in sharing the pain of others. That is why the Sikh prayer said in unison ends with a supplication for the welfare of all. Seva of this kind is motivated not by the attitude of compassion alone, but primarily to discover practical avenues for serving God through Mann.

SHARING: Seva through material means (Dhan) or philanthropy was particularly sought to be made non-personal. The offerings made to the Gurus and dasvandh contributed by the Sikhs went to the common coffers of the community. Personal philanthropy can be debasing for the receiver and ego-enhancing for the giver, but self-effacing community service is ennobling. Selfless service (Seva) is the life style for a Gur-Sikh. Selfless service (Seva) according to Gurmat must be without desire, in humility, with purity of intention, with sincerity and in pure selflessness.

So it is not only in our acts of service at the Gurudwara, or our involvement in charities, helping the homeless and infirm, housing the earthquake victim, old people’s homes, hospitals that we perform Seva. We can worship God, and perform Seva in our everyday activities. Every single mundane activity can be an act of Seva. Herein, God is present in our lives, and we can extend the concept of Seva to include all what we do. Everything is a manifestation of the truth, and our very lives become an affirmation of that. Even if you do not pray every day, and cannot visit the Gurudwara as often as you would like, keep the Guru’s name in your mind (Mann) and perform the best you can. They are all part of the holy life we lead. Help those in your vicinity. You will be touching the Divine. Do not hoard food and share with others. While dealing with others remember God is present in them also. So help others in the time of need. Take care of elderly who cannot help themselves in this time of need. Gurmat says help anyone in any way in need in this time of COVID-19.

Conclusion:

ਅਕਲੀ ਸਾਹਿਬੁ ਸੇਵੀਐ  ਅਕਲੀ ਪਾਈਐ ਮਾਨੁ ਅਕਲੀ ਪੜ੍ਹ੍ਹਿ ਕੈ ਬੁਝੀਐ  ਅਕਲੀ ਕੀਚੈ ਦਾਨੁ SGGS 1245

Aklee Sahib Seveeai Aklee Paeai Maan || Aklee Parr Kai Bujheai Aklee Kechai Daan ||

Serve the Lord with wisdom; through wisdom, honor is obtained. With wisdom we should read and we should give charity with wisdom. Gurmat says our all actions should be with wisdom.

Precautions to protect ourselves from Corona virus are no different such as frequent hand washing and social distancing. Sikhs have been practicing all the measures prescribed by CDC and other relevant authorities including hand hygiene, social distancing by greeting each other with folded hands rather shaking hands. Voluntary service (Seva) to help others is an integral part of a Sikh. Gurmat says we should get actual facts (Gyan) and wisdom (Akl) from relevant sources and act accordingly (Gurmukh) rather from social media and acting accordingly (Manmukh). We should not hoard food but share with others. Virus stays for 5 days on plastic, glass, wood and paper, 48 hours on steel and 8 hours on aluminum. When we cough virus can drop on the carpet or surface in the Gurudwara where we bow our head (Matha Teko) or sit and stay there for about 9 hours depending upon humidity and temperature. When another person bow the head (Matha Teko) or sit there virus can be transmitted to that person. So the best practice is to close Gurudwaras till the crisis are over as has been done in Canada and USA. It is time to act on creating Sangat at home and through social media to get Gyan we get from Gurudwara.

ਘਰਿ ਘਰਿ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਧਰਮਸਾਲ ਹੋਵੈ ਕੀਰਤਨੁ ਸਦਾ ਵਿਸੋਆ। Vaar 1 Pauri 27 Bhai Gurdas

Ghar Ghar Andar Dharamsal Hovai Keertan Sada Visoa

Every home has to be a place of Dharma where the knowledge and wisdom of the Lord is discussed.

Some people are asking to do Jap of this Shabad on social media to avert Corona virus effects. There are many other Shabads also circulating on social media.

ਜਗਤੁ ਜਲੰਦਾ ਰਖਿ ਲੈ ਆਪਣੀ ਕਿਰਪਾ ਧਾਰਿ ॥ ਜਿਤੁ ਦੁਆਰੈ ਉਬਰੈ ਤਿਤੈ ਲੈਹੁ ਉਬਾਰਿ SGGS 853

Jagat Jalanda Rakh Lai Aapnee Kirpa Dhar ||Jit Dhuarai Oubarai Titai Laihu Oubar ||

ਸਤਿਗੁਰਿ ਸੁਖੁ ਵੇਖਾਲਿਆ ਸਚਾ ਸਬਦੁ ਬੀਚਾਰਿ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਅਵਰੁ ਸੁਝਈ ਹਰਿ ਬਿਨੁ ਬਖਸਣਹਾਰੁ ॥੧॥

Sathgur Sukh Vakhalia Sacha Sabad Beechar ||Nanak Avar N Sujhee Har Bin Bakhasanhar ||1||

According to Gurmat never ever Gurus preached to do Jap of Shabads at the time of difficulty. 7th Guru Har Rai started Ayurvedic hospital and research centre at Kiratpur Sahib and gave medication and sent medication to treat Dara Shikoh. 5th Guru Arjan made hospital at Taran Taran to treat leprosy patients. 9th Guru Harkrishan looked after smallpox patients in Delhi.  None of them preached to do Jap of a Shabad. In this Shabad Guru is saying the world is suffering because of indulgence in worldly desires (Maya). Only those who contemplate on knowledge and wisdom from the Guru and act on it (Shabad Vichar) are saved and are in peace. Nanak says I can’t think of any other way than this (Shabad Vichar).

In conclusion Gurmat and advice of health professionals is same. Let us all practice it in full to control COVID-19.

On positive note whatever we have learnt about personal hygiene, social distancing and Seva we should continue after the crisis are over. Dasvandh contributed by the Sikhs to the Gurus went to the common coffers for social projects of the community. Let’s start contributing our Dasvandh for social projects including more hospitals than beautifying Gurudwaras and religious places of worship with gold. There have been no cases of rape, robbery, break in and other crimes reported anywhere because everyone is afraid of contracting the virus and death.

ਹਮ ਆਦਮੀ ਹਾਂ ਇਕ ਦਮੀ ਮੁਹਲਤਿ ਮੁਹਤੁ ਜਾਣਾ SGGS 660

Ham Aadmee Haan Ek Damee Muhaat Muhat N Jana ||

Let’s remember even after the crisis are over that we are human beings of the briefest moment; we do not know the appointed time of our departure, so we should keep away from committing crimes.

Dr. Kala Singh did MBBS degree from Delhi University India. He worked as Psychiatric Doctor in Africa and in Vancouver Canada. He gives Sikh religious and spiritual counseling and psychotherapy to clients with stress, depression, anxiety and other mental health problems. For more information he can be contacted at 604 327 5253