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PostPosted: Mon Sep 11, 2017 10:42 pm 

Joined: Mon Oct 20, 2014 11:11 pm
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In Search of a New Understanding of Sikhs’ Responses to Academic Research
By Kamalla Kaur

You may read and read loads of books;
You may read and study vast multitudes of books.
You may read and read boat-loads of books;
You may read and read and fill pits with them.
You may read them year after year;
You may read them as many months are there are.
You may read them all your life;
You may read them with every breath.
O Nanak, only One thing is of any account:
Everything else is just useless babbling and idle talk in ego.
(Guru Nanak “Asa Di Vaar”, Guru Granth Sahib, 467) 1

Many Sikhs treat Sikh studies academics with open hostility, protesting with signs, writing copious articles, denouncing Sikh scholars across internet websites and forums, petitioning universities to fire Sikh studies professors, waging email attacks, calling them before high councils, and death threats have been reported. W. H. McLeod, emeritus professor at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, warns scholars, “it must not be thought that the religious wars of such periods as the Reformation are behind us” (McLeod, “Discord in the Sikh Panth” 389).

Writing for Sikh newspapers and magazines, while participating in discussions and debates on Sikh internet forums for close to a decade, I can attest to the fact that Sikhs are quick to fight when they feel called to defend their Guru/scripture. And they will also defend their Guruji’s absolute authority to define Sikhi and what it means to be a True Sikh. McLeod reports that the cry “the Granth is in danger” can ignite a “whole-heartedly” popular cause which “ordinary members of the Panth” (ordinary members of the community) can “easily approve and support” (387). Ready to manipulate simple Sikh’s devotion for their Guruji/scripture, certain Sikhs and Sikh sects are attacking specific scholars (McLeod, “Discord”). While this is true, what W. H. McLeod and other Sikh studies academics consistently overlook is that the Sikh Guru/scripture also commands Sikhs to fight Western dualistic reality. 2 Later in this discussion, the Guru Granth’s viewpoint on duality and non-duality will be further elaborated.

Non-Sikh scholars can and should simply present Sikh teachings and beliefs without believing or practicing them. But failing to mention that the Sikh Guru Granth insists that non-dualistic consciousness is the first step to solving every problem – personal, Sikh and global – misses the most basic and primal teaching of Sikhi. The first words of the Guru Granth remain Ek On Kaar – the Creator and the Creation are One.

Arguably no religion is more devoted to its scripture than Sikhi. All Sikhs revere the Guru Granth Sahib as their living and breathing guide and teacher. Many Sikhs bow and submit to no other authority. In a 1992 article, Verne Dusenbery, an anthropologist at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, notes that Sikhs take their scripture “to be their eternal Guru, the source of divine benefits and the central focus of Sikh worship” (386). Sikhs open the Guru Granth in the morning and put it to bed each night. It is kept wrapped in beautiful fabrics. Sikhs ask their Guruji questions and receive guidance from the Guru Granth Sahib each day. It is carried on the head, and placed on a throne/altar, and kept fanned. Sikhs keep feet bare and heads covered when around the Sikh Guru/scripture (N. Singh, 35).

“Sikhs seek its presence for all their rites and ceremonies” asserts Nikky Gurinder Kaur Singh (Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Colby College in Maine, USA), yet she wonders that, “for whatever reasons then, be it their personal proclivities, religious ideologies, or academic methods, non-Sikh scholars have been unable to surrender themselves completely to ‘the special call’ of the Sikh text” (35). Non-Sikh scholars, particularly historians and anthropologists, often ignore scriptural studies simply because it is not their department. Yet considering the volume of attention given to the study of other scriptures, Dusenbery remarks, “it is surprising that so little attention has yet been paid to the main Sikh scripture…especially to its use in Sikh worship in India and in the diaspora” (386)......

From Says Nanak

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 11, 2017 10:44 pm 

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Kamalla Rose Kaur

Van, can you look up in your notes the day I noticed you, and started attacking you for calling me, and folks like me, and you too, Gora? I am so sorry. I was wrong. You were just the messenger.

I didn't know you started out studying Sikh Dharma/ 3HO too. I didn't know that you would come to deserve a Nobel Peace prize. You probably won't get one, but hey, neither did Pete Seeger.

I am adopting you, and as your sister, I worry about your soul ji. You must stay humble. I know you have done pretty well so far, for a Gora guy at the top of his game, receiving world acclaim but still.

Thankfully by Divine Grace I suspect you are incorruptible because your are so Gora and nerdy. I may sing you other songs, in these next flow of posts of praise and thanks to you, but for starters:

White and Nerdy

Van Dusenbery replies: Being a Sikh or being an Anthropologist means always being a learner/student. The term "Sikh" comes from the Sanskrit for "learner". Cultural anthropology is "the study of" human cultures. So, humbleness about the limits of our knowledge are required in both.

Kamalla Rose Kaur Van, You are so wonderful.

Far as I know, the Great Guru Granth is the only Holy Book that talks about scholars/pundits. Certainly no other scripture talks nearly as much about, well academics (media hosts, and anchors), and how to be a good-un vs. being a "talking head" - a manmukh. Guruji takes a hard line with manmukhs,

The manmukhs stand there and dry up;
They do not bear any fruit,
And they do not provide any shade.
Don’t even bother to sit near them-they have no home or village.
They are cut down and burnt each day;
They have neither the Shabad (the teachings)
Nor the Naam (non-dualistic consciousness)
(Guru Amar Das, Guru Granth Sahib, 66)

Guruji loves skeptics but warns Sikhs to run run run away from cynics. Flee, flee. When in your studies into Sikhi did you awaken to the fact that the Sikh scripture/Guru has very strong opinions about people in your trade? Did it spook you?

Last edited by KamallaKaur on Sun Sep 17, 2017 8:40 am, edited 4 times in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 9:48 pm 

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Culture Bridging

A conversation between Dr. Verne A. Dusenbery, Hamline University and Kamalla Kaur,

KRK: You have been studying Sikhs and Sikhi academically for decades now. What do you find most interesting, personally and professionally, about Sikhs and Sikhi?

Van Dusenbery
: Personally, I find appealing the Sikh emphasis on multiple paths and steps to enlightenment (e.g., Guru Nanak's "there is no Hindu; there is no Muslim"; the Adi Granth containing works of non-Sikh sants as well as Sikh Gurus; the various ways of being Sikh), on direct personal engagement with the Divine (without gatekeepers), and on ethical living (Nam japo, kirat karo, vand chhako).

Professionally, I have found it interesting to see how Sikhs living in different places and coming from different backgrounds understand what it means to be a Sikh and to practice Sikhi.

KRK: And you have studied Yogi Bhajanism for years too.

Van: I actually started studying 3HO in 1972 when I spent the summer in the Portland (Oregon) ashram doing “fieldwork” for my senior honors project at Stanford University (“Why would anybody join…? A Study of Recruitment and the Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization”). Then, in summer 1974, I received a National Endowment for the Humanities Youthgrant to attend the summer solstice gathering in New Mexico and to visit ashrams in the western US and Canada. That research informed my MA at the University of Chicago (“Straight -> Freak -> Yogi -> Sikh: A ‘Search for Meaning’ in Contemporary American Culture”). It also made me aware of the somewhat strained relationship between 3HO/Sikh Dharma and the Punjabi Sikh immigrant community. Hence, my dissertation research in Vancouver, BC, in 1978-79 looking at Punjabi Sikh-Gora Sikh interactions. In my dissertation (“Sikh Persons and Practices: A Comparative Ethnosociology”), I tried to analyze the reasons for the mutual misunderstandings over what it means to be a Sikh then affecting relations between Punjabi Sikhs and Gora Sikhs in North America. Subsequently, although I have kept in touch with some 3HO/Sikh Dharma folks and have lurked online, most of my research has been conducted with Punjabi Sikhs in various parts of the world (Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, India). My book, Sikhs at Large: Religion, Culture, and Politics in Global Perspective (Oxford University Press, 2008), includes articles that touch on 3HO/Sikh Dharma as well as on the Punjabi Sikh diaspora.

KRK: I was raised in Pacific Northwestern USA academic atheist family of Irish descent, all militant feminists, Unitarian Universalists. Joining an authoritarian group, Yogi Bhajanism, at age 18, disappearing into what my family and my UU community fully believed and understood to be a “cult” for 20 years caused great harm.

Mind sharing what your personal religious/spiritual beliefs/practices are?

I was raised in the Episcopal Church, and my wife and I had a joint Episcopalian-Quaker marriage ceremony. But I don't claim any particular religious affiliation now. As an anthropologist, I've come to appreciate peoples' search for meaning through various paths, and I tend to be skeptical of people who claim exclusive paths.

At my dissertation defense, I was asked whether I had become a Sikh. I rather defensively answered "no." But, given my own understanding of what it means to be a Sikh, I should have said "more than any of you" -- since I have, over time, incorporated the Guru's words (gurbani) and leavings (gurprashad) through the course of my attendance at gurdwara functions and gurpurbs. I've certainly attended more Sikh services than Christian services over the past 35 years!

KRK: You are more Sikh than I am. I consider myself a complete beginner Sikh. While in Yogi Bhajan's group I was a devoted and popular Kundalini Yoga teacher, a gifted astrologer, and I didn't really relate much to the “Sikh” part.

What I like best about Sikhi is Guruji, the Great Guru Granth. I love the Teachings, I love the poetry, and I love how the Guru Granth is the ONLY Alpha for Sikhs, and the rest of us are Soulbride Sisters. I am not Khalsa, but I admire greatly those Khalsa vows.

Last edited by KamallaKaur on Tue Sep 12, 2017 10:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 9:51 pm 

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Kamalla Rose Kaur: And Van Dusenbery. How many times in Sikh history has anyone apologized to the Khalsa Panth for past abuses? I know your mind computer went twirl and pop, and lights blinked, first time you read this question. Back in 1532, Nabob Such and Who, wrote a please forgive me note and sent many many elephants to Nanak (whichever Nanak, it was then...) - am I warm?

Doris Jakobsh: Not to the Khalsa in particular, but to the larger Sikh community.

Komagata Maru apology: Ship's story represents 'dark chapter' of Canada's past
Justin Trudeau to apologize for Canada's 1914 decision to turn away steamship carrying 376 migrants

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 9:56 pm 

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One day, back in 2012, Van Dusenbery and other professors surprised former students of Yogi Bhajan. No one had told us about an academic journal called Sikh Formations. They forget to tip me about how Vol 8 of the journal is all about Yogi Bhajan and Sikh Dharma/3HO, Kundalini Yoga and Humanology - as taught by Yogi Bhajan.

The whole journal published so many fascinating things we former students didn't know about yet. The journal starred a newcomer, Philip Deslippe, who blew us AWAY. We haven't stopped babbling about him since. After honoring Van Dusenbery, I will babble on.

But I am still making a fuss over Dr.Dusenbery. If Philip blew the collective Wacko World of Yogi Bhajan forum's mind, then I have got to say that Van took our breath away, and healed our hearts.

Amusingly, I was reading Van's academic paper and having to translate it to former students because academic papers belong to the Academy (don't get me started). You are not allowed to copy them, or cut and paste more than a few words at a time.

There I was giving an on-the-fly overview of Van's paper (typing like mad) and he was WATCHING me. Yep, lurking. Reading my words.

I was typing a much longer, drawn out, rap that went something like:

"Dr. Dusenbery is instructing scholars that they need to do lots more research into the Yogi Bhajan, Sikh Dharma, 3HO and Kundalini Yoga. He is telling them that scholars need to study the teaching of YB and apply various models, the history of the group, also YB's writings, and the writing of his early students. More study into the businesses, trials, crimes. More study into the Punjabi Sikh connection, and issues, with Bhajanists. More research is needed exploring those born into the group, and the ever growing number of Kundalini students who are not affiliated with Sikhi (other than taking Sikh names). We need to do more research into those who had left, how and why and more research is needed in...."

(Pause and reflect on this transmission.)

I seem to remember I wrote something at the time like, "ARgghhhh, wait everyone. Wait Van. I have to go sob for a spell. This is getting messy. I will be back soon as I can. "

Truly, Van went on and on, praising the work of Connie Elsberg and Doris, sharing what he himself has learned studying the group and what he thinks of Sikh Dharma/3HO literature and on and on and on....
Some issues for consideration

"This paper reviews published literature on Yogi Bhajan/Siri Singh Sahib Bhai Sahib Harbhajan Singh Yogiji and the main organizations that he founded in North America in the early 1970s – the Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization (3HO) and the Sikh Dharma Brotherhood (now, simply, Sikh Dharma or Sikh Dharma of the Western Hemisphere). I focus particularly on the way that Yogi Bhajan's and 3HO/Sikh Dharma's teachings, practices, and history intersect with wider Sikh teachings, practices, and history. Woven into the paper are suggestions on areas where further scholarly attention might be merited." Van Dusenbery

Last edited by KamallaKaur on Sun Sep 17, 2017 8:50 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 9:57 pm 

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Van? You remember when I looked at the bibliography of the Sikh Formations Vol. 8 article and started hopping around on one foot while typing, " I am cited! The Wacko World of Yogi Bhajan is cited in the bibliography! I'm cited. We are cited! CITED!!!!! Do you guys have any idea what this means to me?"

I actually don't think they really got my bliss. But you did. Such a little thing for someone like you who has an advanced degree (and more!) and gets cited in bibliographies of academic journals so often, you don't even notice.

I once had a famous reporter let me investigate the Yogi Bhajan Empire with him. Maybe he will write the story someday too. Miracles can come slow but they are worth it, Nobody can take these peak experiences away from me. Thanks.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 9:58 pm 

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This last song is actually everyone's favorite Youtube Flash Mob and it is me honoring you Dr. Van Dusenbery - sure - but actually all the academics and scholars down through my life - like my parents, like Dr, David T. Mason, like Dr. Bob Keller. Like Dr.Jakobsh, and Dr. Elsberg, who have worked so hard to educate me and others.

As you say, you are (and Sikhs are) forever students (the word "Sikh" means student), we are committed to be forever learners.

But you, Van, and others reading my words here, are also really really great teachers too. Keep up, jis. I know you will.

Ode To Joy

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 15, 2017 5:07 pm 

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Philip Deslippe, hell no, I am not going to honor a young buck like you. You can wait until you are old - and anyway you are too busy, and I would need your help to do you justice, and that could harm your delicate ego structure,

I may toss some rose petals at your feet, and I am bound to thank you bunches. Actually I'd love to linyhop with you, but I don't know how. (yet).

The Lindy Hop

So far, we can thank you for showing us who Yogi Bhajan patterned himself after, who his real teachers were, as distinct from what YB claimed.

From Maharaj to Mahan Tantric by Philip Deslippe

Humanology - Yogi Bhagvan 1927

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 19, 2017 7:40 pm 

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7 Forgotten Early Yoga Teachers in America - Philip Deslippe

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 20, 2017 1:28 am 

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What a nice dog, Philip. He loves his daddy...

I'd rather be hated for telling the truth, than loved for telling a lie.

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