Saturday, 12 February 2011

Bhagat Puran Singh

Bhai Puran Singh ji in undoubtly the single Sikh Hero of this century who worked totally selflessly all his life to provide the last hope to the mentally and terminally ill patients. Whenever he use to see a deserted dead body (human or animal) immediately he would prepare (by his own hand) a grave and him human/animal a deserving respect of death. He was to Sikhism, what Mother Teresa is to Catholicism. Against the backdrop of violence and poverty in 1947 he established a premier institute which takes care of sick, disabled and forlorn persons. Whatever money and financial resources he could gathered he used it to establish this institute. It is also believed that he was almost nominated to receive Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 but by not giving him prize it was the loss of sick and disabled persons as well as nobel Prize committee. His life story is a saga of grit, determination, faith in the almighty and unending love for the suffering humanity. A very brief sketch of Bhagat Ji's life is given below 

Bhagat Puran Singh, born at Rajewal, Distt. Ludhiana on June 4 1904., at the house of Chaudhari Chibu Mal and Mehtab Kaur. In an interview to Patwant Singh Bhagat Puran Singh discloses how he became a Sikh ,in his early life he use to travel a lot from village to village and would stay at a Hindu Temple. One day when he was staying at a Temple Brahmins told him to clean the temple and then when he was done they sat in front of him and ate the food without offering him., Incidentally next time he had to stay at a Gurdwara and Bhai ji of Gurdwara not only gave him good food but also a cot and a glass of milk afterwards., without asking for any sewa for Gurdwara. After this Bhagat Puran Singh didn't even thought twice and became a Khalsa.
He set out in life for the service of the suffering humanity- the greatest religion. He founded Pingalwara in 1947 with a few discarded patients. He was also a writer as well as publisher and an environmentalist. Pingalwara is a very big home of human service. Bhagat Ji's contribution in spreading awareness about the global dangers of environment pollution, increasing soil erosion etc are also commendable. His dedication was awarded with heaps of honours by many quarters. Prestigious among these was the Padamshri award in 1979, which he surrendered in the wake of the army attack on the Golden Temple in 1984. He left for his heavenly abode on August 5, 1992.
Here are some of the quotes of Bhagat Puran Singh ji
Dignity in death is a birthright of each living thing. 

All Punjabi should at least sow a tree of "Bohar", "Pippal" and "Neem". These trees are essential to our eco system.

At this time Pingalwara is run by Dr Inder Jit Kaur, she is also President of All India Pingalwara Charitable Society(Regd). She has embarked upon a mission to produce a movie on the life of Bhai Puran Singh ji. Please spread this information. 

If you want to contribute, Please send your donations, or for more information contact. Pingalwara G.T. Road Amritsar, Punjab, India. 

Bhagat Puran Singh Ji whose life of selfless service is an example to the world. For many years, he physically carried Piara (an incontinent and mentally disadvantaged person) on his back while he carried out the great sewa for the sick and handicapped. In paying tribute to this, his book was named "Garland Around My Neck".

Bhagat Puran Singh Ji and Piara - the Garland Around His Neck

Bhagat Puran Singh Ji and Piara - many years later
Sikhee is a way of life and believing that is based on Gurmat. Gurmat is the term Guru Nanak used for the religion of the guru's wisdom. Infinite Wisdom (Vaheguru) revealed Gurmat to the founders of Sikh religion and the same wisdom is now manifested eternally in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. 

Soon after the advent of Gurmat, its followers began to acquire an identity of their own. It is through this identity that others would profile them and through which they would become known in history. True Sikhs were those who tested successful to their Sikh identity and who set examples before others to strengthen their own identity. 

Bhagat Puran Singh was one such gur-sikh. He left behind his ancestral religious affiliation to adopt first a Sehajdhari Sikh identity, and then to initiate into the identity of a khande-de-pahul dhari Sikh; leading to becoming a Sikh who would inspire many others about his faith. To many others, today, real Sikhee became known only through the life and mission of Bhagat Puran Singh and his alike. He nourished the roots of Sikhee through living a true Sikh life that was spent in serving others. 

While profiling the people of faith, the Sikh theologian, Bhai Gurdas, considered altruism an important defining characteristic. Further, this is one of those characters that he identified to honor and to popularize some Sikhs of his time. For example, Bhai Gudas described Sikhs of his times in terms of their commitment to deeds of self less service and to rubbing the habit of altruism to others. 

An altruist is a wining trait that nourishes the whole world. This individual is like sandalwood that lives among the vegetation to impart fragrance to the whole forest. - Bhai. Gurdas, Vaar 12, Pauri 13. 

The altruist person undertakes altruistic actions and brings metamorphosis of others to do the same without regards to their kind, caste, or social rank. This Sikh is like a philosopher's stone that makes gold out of all the eight metals (alloys). This adherent is also like a Sandalwood tree that makes all trees fragrant without regards to their fruitlessness and fruitfulness. - Bhai. Gurdas, Vaar 40, Pauri 2. 

Bhai Gurdas considered altruism as the identity for a God's devotee. He wrote. 

The devoted person is identified through their altruism in service to humankind. - Bhai. Gurdas, Vaar 12, Pauri 13. 

Bhagat Puran Singh was true to these descriptions of a Sikh in every sense. He lived a life of altruism and touched others in a way that they too began to engage in service to others. 

Service to Sikh Future 

Those who are familiar with Sikh history know well that the Gurmat principles were those which originated from the Guru's wisdom and to which the Sikh society related, and also those which are there now to always benefit the emerging global village which we will soon inhabit. In history, the true Sikhs were known to be those whose life was a demonstration of the realistic benefits of their faith and, who thereby invigorated urges among their neighbors to learn the Sikhee theology. 

As it was true in the past will it be true in the future? The answer is yes and Bhagat Puran Singh and alike have demonstrated it in the contemporary history. In revival of the true Sikh traditions lies the Sikh future; Bhagat Puran Singh was a bright star in that revival. 

Any religion in the future will survive only when its teachings are proven beneficial and thereby attract recognition. That prediction will be equally applicable to Sikhee. Thus, it becomes incumbent upon every Sikh to realize the beneficent vision of Sikhee aspiration and a possibility to continually define those areas of Sikhee that he or she experienced personally. Bhagat Puran Singh lived a Sikh life and defined, at least, one such area of Sikh traditions. This demonstration was his contribution to the future of his community. 

The Sikhee experiences must be subject to verifiable research and demonstration in today's world. Granted that most of the Gurmat beliefs fall in the invisible realities, there are many whose benefits can be clearly and beneficially demonstrated. Some examples include (listed alphabetically): Altruism, Charity, Compliance with impact of technology on spiritual growth, Compassion, Creativity, Earning truthful living, Environmental concerns, Fanaticism considered as a tool of evil, Forgiveness, Freedom from animosity, Freedom from fear, Freedom from lust and greed, Gratitude, Humility, Intellect, Meditation, Love, Prayer, Spiritual purpose of life, Scope of divinity in life, Sharing, Thanksgiving, Truthfulness in living, and Worship. Undoubtedly the practicing Sikhs will add many more to the global living. 

Bhagat Puran Singh excelled in practicing many of the above Sikhee beliefs. However, he left many others behind in his altruistic practices. This way, Bhagat Puran Singh was in fore front in defining Sikhee to others.
Sikhs are the students of Sikhee; they are identified through their faithfulness to the teachings of their Guru. Their faithfulness is demonstrated in their life practices. To practice Sikhee in their life, they demonstrate many realistic benefits of their faith in real life. This demonstration invigorates urges in others to learn their theology. Bhagat Puran Singh was a real student of Sikhee to the core of the above definition.
Whenever our founding prophets or our theologians referred to the term Sikh, they always described it in term of what a Sikh should do or not do according to their Guru's teachings. They played down, if not completely ignored; any definition of a Sikh based on what people calling themselves Sikhs actually do. Or they only think what they should do. In the Guru's congregations, membership of only the practicing ones counted and not at all any recounting of what some one should do. Bhagat ji applied the Guru's teachings to his own life and attracted many others to do the same. 

Bhagat Puran nourished the Sikh Act of Faith that to him was his deeds of altruism. With Sikhs, all deeds of altruism are acts of faith and altruism has been a Sikh's defining characteristic since its formative days. The altruistic acts include, helping others, serving the needy, taking care of those who need care, treating the sick, standing for justice, and the selfless public service. 

The eternal mentor of the Sikhs, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, considered altruism so essential for a faithful that it bestowed religious authority on these deeds. 

First of all, Guru Arjan, the compiler of the Sikh Scripture went so far as to describe God in terms of an altruist entity, 

The Lord is altruist, generous and benevolent, the beautifier of all, the embodiment of peace; the Blessed Vision of His Darshan is so rewarding. - Guru Arjan Dev, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 533 

Guru Arjan describes his Sikhs as those who engage in altruistic pursuits. 

They wash off their demerits, and get engaged in altruistic pursuits. - Guru Arjan Dev, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 218

Guru Ram Das complemented those who were engaged in altruistic pursuits by saying: 

Blessed are that mortal beings, who share the Teachings with others and engages in altruistic services of doing good to others. - Guru Ram Das, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p.311 

Thus the founding prophets of Sikhee established altruism as an act of faith for their followers. They commended those who were engaged in altruistic deed. Further, they portrayed those who do not serve as losers. 

Worthless is the body that does not do good deeds to others. - Guru Arjan Dev, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 69 

Sikh theologian of the highest repute who was a scribe to Guru Arjan in composing the Sri Guru Granth Sahib illustrated the altruists as the exalted ones. 

I am sacrifice to the one who take pleasure in life of altruism. - Gurdas, Bhai. Vaar 12, Pauri 5 

One who serves and helps others is exalted in the Lord's court; the others who turn away from God by not serving are disgraced. - Bhai Gurdas, Vaar 34, Pauri 1 

Thus, in Sikhism, altruism is a religiously sanctioned practice that is promoted with similar religious fervor.
Bhai Gurdas describes the human body as worthless and even disgusting if it is not engaged in altruism. To him all other actions were nearly fruitless. 

Without being engaged in service to others, these hands and feet are disdainful as any other activity is without any merit. - Gurdas, Bhai. Vaar 27, Pauri 10 

Bhai Gurdas went as far as to say that he considered the occupation of an altruist as the most satisfying one after completing all of the educations that could be obtained. 

After acquiring fourteen educational skills, I found the occupation of altruism as the best and the most satisfying profession. - Gurdas, Bhai. Vaar 25, Pauri 9. 

A Sikh lives out the Guru's teachings when s/he begins to like the good deeds of altruism. - Gurdas, Bhai. Vaar 11, Pauri 4. 

To Serve Others Is to Worship God 

Bhagat ji was very bitter towards the attitude of the Sikh organization that would not allow him to use their premises or their vicinity for establishing pingalwara or other institutions to serve the sick and disabled. He once told me that he would like a program like pingalwara to be established in every gurdwaras and in every other religious place. In proposing this he was only promoting what our Gurus said and did. For example, Guru Nanak described his congregational institution in Sri Guru Granth Sahib as engaged in programs of altruism. 

I have sought the Sanctuary of the Saadh Sangat, the society of the Holy where I have found the Sublime Essence of the Lord. The adherent of this society do good deeds for others, and speak of the Lord's many Glorious Virtues; kindly bless me to belong to the company of these Saints, these devotees of the Lord. - Guru Ram Das, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1326 

The Sikh theologian of highest repute, Bhai Gurdas reported the Guru's injunction on incorporating altruism in its infrastructure in these words. 

Guru founded congregations of the seekers and made them institutions where Sikhs were engaged in serving others. - Bhai Gurdas, Var 9, Pauri 17. 

Bhagat Puran Singh used to ask his visitors to seek God by pleasing and propitiating the indwelling One Spirit. To serve God tangibly is to serve the Divine in all the living and moving temples of Divine. To just praise and glorify Divine in flowery terms is a hollow form of a prayers. 

Keeping your fasts, reciting your prayers, and reading the holy verses of the Islamic creed, shall not take you to paradise. The Temple of Mecca is hidden withinhuman mind, if you only knew it. - Bhagat Kabir, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 480 

Thus, Bhagat ji's mission may be seen also to reform our institutions as he saw them drifting away from their real missions. Altruistic traditions within a gurdwara's infra structures is at least as good a worship as the formal worship of the divine guru preformed. Is not the institution of our gurus known as nithaavia di thaan, ni-otian di ot, nigatian di gat.
In the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, too, the Guru enjoins upon his devotees to worship God by serving the needy..
Those who contemplate on God's Nomenon become the helpers of others. - Guru Arjan, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 263 

Guru Ram Das described altruism as a form of meditation 

The altruists speak of the Lord's many Glorious Virtues and too do good deeds for others. Kindly bless me to meet these Saints, these devotees of the God. - Guru Ram Das, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1326 

We visit our religious places to worship and to meditate. Altruism is a type of meditation; from it you derive all benefits of a true meditation. We find support for the meditation hypothesis of altruism in the Sikh scripture.
The meditation is to connect the mind with the Truth; without serving others, one cannot be a meditating devotee. - Guru Amar Das, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 506 

Those who meditate upon the Eternal One are altruists. - Sri Guru Granth Sahib, M 5, p. 263
Those who sing the Glorious Praises of the Sustaining ONE while engaged in the acts of altruism, their words of praises are priceless. - Sri Guru Granth Sahib, M 5, p. 824. 

Bhagat Puran Singh espoused serving the sick and the disabled as his life mission because he felt that it will lead his life to the Guru - Oriented. He remembered his Guru's teaching that Sri Guru Granth Sahib reiterated infinitum to serving God who dwells in every heart, heart of a needy and heart of a hungry. These hearts are embodiments of the Divine. To discover God in those hearts was a Sikh tenant to him. 

God we worship dwells in all beings. Worshiping God in all beings with reverence and devotion as well as same-sightedness is a religious act in our traditions that Bhagat Puran Singh nourished. Therefore, a Sikh place of worship is there to worship and provide facilities where food should be given to the hungry, clothes to the naked, medicine to the sick and stick to the blind. 

He often felt that he need not go anywhere to seek God. His god was within all the inmates of his Pinglewara. His gods were present all around him. Why not worship them first? Why go offer gold at the temples? This is the very gist of the Practical Sikhism propounded by Bhagat Puran Singh. The successful practice of this salutary doctrine of humanistic Sikhism will result in our own liberation as well as do good to others - or, shall we say, the god of those whom we regard as others but who are in the last analysis, our very self indeed in different forms? 

Those who serve with love get attached to God. - Guru Nanak, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 466 

If you cannot love and serve that which you see (with your physical eyes), Bhagat ji said to me, in effect, how can you love and serve that which you cannot behold with in your arms. The only God to worship is to serve the human soul in the human body. If I cannot worship in that, no other temple will be of any advantage, he once said. 

The moment I have realized God sitting in the temple of every human body, the moment I stand in reverence before every human being and see God in him or her, that moment I am free from bondage, everything that binds vanishes, and I am free. 

In each and every heart, the Lord, the Lord of the Universe, sings.At the Lord's Door, the unstruck melody resounds - Guru Arjan Dev, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 578 

The Word of the Guru's Shabad now taste sweet to my mind. My karma has been activated, and I began to see the Divine Radiance of the Lord, Har, Har, manifest in each and every heart. - Guru Arjan Dev, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1221
Defeating Ego and Attaining Quiescence of Mind 

Bhagat Puran was always seen in a content mood. I sincerely believe that it was account of vibrations of good will that emanated from those he served. There is a lot of evidence that altruistic deeds lead to a spiritual awakening. Specifically, it gives the gift of contentment, blissful feelings, replacement of ego by humility, and simply the awe of divine presence. The Guru Granth gave altruism a spiritual endorsement for these very reasons. 

First of all altruism is a basic motivation of human species and its execution is gratifying, and the gratification is always calming of mind. Secondly, altruism is intimately related to the eternal desire to be in peace, and to the yearning for connecting to the Cosmic Soul. The compiler of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Guru Arjan, cites these urges as: 

All beings and creatures may dwell in the pain free state; the minds of all yearn for this aspiration. Then they continually think and plan of altruism and helping others. They harbor no ill will towards anyone. - Guru Arjan, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, M-5, p. 815. 

Bhai Gurdas further describes the innate urge to do good as very intense and it is satisfied through altruism.
A Sikh gets fired up with an urge about altruism but then is chilled down by indulging in the altruistic actions. The altruistic activity extinguishes the fire and the heart cools down immediately after. - Bhai Gurdas, Vaar 29, Pauri 13. 

Since Gurmat (the path of the Guru) is about active meditation, the meditation means many sequential steps such as getting ready, getting in the mood, and finally engaging in the experience of one's cosmic self in the Absolute Divinity. What this requires is actually letting go of distractions, stress, and pain. It also means to give up hatred, duality, and above all ego from the deep of one's mind. It means, rising above the animalistic instincts and reaching the Cosmic Consciousness. All of these can be seen being achieved during the practice of altruism. If so, then no one can deny that these creeds will not lead to peace of mind and physical health.
Sri Guru Granth Sahib tells us that altruism goes hand in hand with reduction in the ego of the self. Without reduction in ego, altruistic behavior cannot be sustained. Guru Ram Das says, 

One who serves in egotism is not accepted or approved. Such a person is born, only to die again, and come and go in reincarnation. - Guru Ram Das, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1071. 

Further, Guru Arjan says that those who engage in service, their ego is destroyed. 

People can perform the service ordained by the True Guru only when their illness of egotism has been eradicated. - Guru Arjan Dev, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 45. 

Bhai Gurdas explains this aspect of the Guru's teachings by saying. 

Those who practice altruism lose the sense of their pseudo self, meaning that they develop their sacred creative self. - Bhai Gurdas, Vaar 9, Pauri 20. 

By eliminating thousands of bad habits, an altruist lives in the presence of the Divine. - Bhai Gurdas, Vaar 40, Pauri 1. 

The Guru oriented people are fulfilled in their life by practicing altruism and thus maintaining the life of equipoise. - Bhai Gurdas, Vaar 16, Pauri 4. 

Altruism remained a strong drive among the Sikhs throughout the ages because it helped them achieve what they wanted from life. Others were attracted to Sikhism for the benefits they observed Sikhs deriving from their practice of altruism. 

People seek opportunity for altruism and locate those seekers engaged in similar pursuits. They do not run after the paths that create duality or hatred. Rather, they remain untouched by the illusions of Maya. - Bhai.Gurdas, Vaar 6, Pauri 13. 

Acts of altruism reveal the hidden tranquility. People who search for tranquility elsewhere are a bit lost. Tranquility is within but hidden under the pressures of materialistic life. We insist on searching for it outside only in ignorance. Altruism opens the inner door so that the tranquility can enter into our life; then our lives manifest an Inner Light out of a previously hidden Vision. If we serve, we cannot hate; we connect to the Creative Soul, Karta Purakh, within. Experiencing Divine is a purpose for all, for others and for self.
Bhagat Puran Singh in Sikh History

Bhagat Puran Singh is a befitting chapter in the annals of Sikh history. In the Sikh annals, many memorable Sikhs were those who personified and propagated the Sikh identity through service and humanity. It is their impact on rest of the Sikh society that many Sikhs today shape their adult life around finding opportunities to help people without distinction of gender, race, social ranks, religious orientation, or nationality. Bhai Gurdas makes a special mention of those Sikhs. 

There are people who give up their own needs and comforts for the causes of others, and in the process, they are healed themselves. - Bhai. Gurdas, Vaar 4, Pauri 15. 

Bhai Gurdas immortalized many historical Sikhs who excelled themselves in the practice of altruism. He specifically named them in his writings. Let me give you a couple of examples. 

Bhai Lakhoo and Bhai Ladha are two silk traders in town who lead the life of an altruist. (Note: Bhai Ladha once asked the Guru to let him take the punishment instead of Guru's bards who were being disgraced in the congregation for being disrespectful to the holy congregation) - Bhai. Gurdas, Vaar 11, Pauri 25. 

Bhai Singaroo and Bhai Jaita are brave Sikhs who had altruism in their heart. - Bhai. Gurdas, Vaar 11, Pauri 28. 

Further, we have numerous examples to quote from the cotemporary times. Among Sikhs of today who are most famous examples are, Bhagat Puran Singh, Bhagwant Singh Dalawari , Dr. Inderjit Kaur, Sardar Mohan Singh of Nishkam, and many others. Among other religions, Mother Teresa is a prime example. 

In a battleground where Guru Gobind Singh was in war with the rulers to protect the people of faith, a Sikh, Bhai Kanhaiya, attended the troops of the enemy. He gave water to the injured, which revived their strength. Some of them began to fight again. Sikh soldiers became furious, brought Bhai Kanhaiya before the Guru, and complained of his action that they considered counterproductive to their hard work in the battle filed. . "What were you doing, and why?" asked the Guru. "I was giving water to the wounded because I saw your face in them," replied Bhai Kanhaiya. The Guru responded, " Then you should also give them ointment to heal their wounds. You were practicing what you were coached in the house of the Guru." In love of altruism, is there any room for hatred or duality? It was under the tutelage of the Guru that Bhai Kanhaiya subsequently founded a volunteer corps for altruism. This volunteer corps till to date is engaged in doing good to others and continuously trains new volunteering recruits for doing the same. 

Bhagat Puran Singh was another shining star of Sikh history. 


Bhagat Puran Singh began to serve at Gurdwara Dera Sahib at the age of 20. There he learnt and recited Gurbani, but also fed the hungry and took care of the handicapped. He washed cloths of the handicapped, brought medicine to them from the hospital and fed those who could not feed themselves. At 26 he told his dying mother, that he would not marry, and devote full time to serve the crippled and sick orphan baby he adopted. The baby was without limbs and would need care for rest of his life. Instead of showing stress, Bhagat ji was quoted to say, "It gave me immense pleasure to learn that Guru had selected me to serve in his project of taking care of some one not owned by any one else." There, he was true to his Guru's verse,
In the places where the lowly and discarded are cared for, there resides the Blessings of Your Grace. - Guru Nanak, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 15 

Bhagat ji elected his spiritual quest in altruism as it required the surrender of hatred and the sacrifice of the ego self. Altruism reorients human mind. Mind cannot be subdued, only reoriented. God cannot be ordered or bribed; we depend on grace gained through serving God's creation. Altruism is one way to achieve all of those. This may be the ultimate mechanism underlying all of the benefits we receive by helping others. 

Thus, Bhagat Puran Singh was considered a bright luminary of the Sikh identity. His outside deeds were commendable, but more commendable were his inner motivation that was so effective to draw others towards the Guru's teachings of doing good. His deeds would shine for posterity for their inner commitment

If you want to contribute, Please send your donations, or for more information contact. Pingalwara G.T. Road Amritsar, Punjab, India.

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