The Ballad of Father Gilligan

Another beautiful poem that I recall from my school days is the Ballad of Father Gilligan, especially the last stanza:


The old priest Peter Gilligan
Was weary night and day;
For half his flock were in their beds,
Or under green sods lay.

Once, while he nodded on a chair,
At the moth-hour of eve,
Another poor man sent for him,
And he began to grieve.

‘I have no rest, nor joy, nor peace,
For people die and die’;
And after cried he, ‘God forgive!
My body spake, not I!’

He knelt, and leaning on the chair
He prayed and fell asleep;
And the moth-hour went from the fields,
And stars began to peep.

They slowly into millions grew,
And leaves shook in the wind;
And God covered the world with shade,
And whispered to mankind.

Upon the time of sparrow-chirp
When the moths came once more.
The old priest Peter Gilligan
Stood upright on the floor.

‘Mavrone, mavrone! the man has died
While I slept on the chair’;
He roused his horse out of its sleep,
And rode with little care.

He rode now as he never rode,
By rocky lane and fen;
The sick man’s wife opened the door:
‘Father! you come again!’

‘And is the poor man dead?’ he cried.
‘He died an hour ago.’
The old priest Peter Gilligan
In grief swayed to and fro.

‘When you were gone, he turned and died
As merry as a bird.’
The old priest Peter Gilligan
He knelt him at that word.

‘He Who hath made the night of stars
For souls who tire and bleed,
Sent one of His great angels down
To help me in my need.

‘He Who is wrapped in purple robes,
With planets in His care,
Had pity on the least of things
Asleep upon a chair.’

This is by WB Keats. I personally do not believe in something that is visibly a miracle. God does not reveal Himself, in my opinion. Still this is an interesting way to say that He helps His followers.


Religion = Science

Guru Nanak Dev Ji

There are many groups of people which claim that there is a disconnect between science and religion. I do not however see any disconnect – I will start from a scientist’s point of view.

Albert Einstein did not believe in God. However, attributing to quantum mechanics he did say “God does not play dice.” He was refuting the quantum theory (which is based on chance). We can “normalize” that to mean that even if God exists, He is not actively involved in running the world (does not interfere with what is happening according to His laws). The same thought is expressed by the tenth Guru in Jaap Sahib: aalisiay karm, aadirsay dharam which means “O Lord, You do not need to make any special efforts to do what You want to do”.

Science has made much advances, and will continue to do so. However, its a challenge as of today to define exactly when the universe was created: scientists believe that its impossible to find out what existed or happened before the big bang. Also, its not known how the universe will end: depending on the total mass of the universe, one of the following three things will happen:

  1. The universe will continue to expand for ever, like it does today
  2. The universe will, at a certain time, stop expanding and start contracting
  3. The universe will continue to expand and contract as in the above two options, but infinitely for ever

Which one of these will actually happen can be predicted if we knew the total mass of the universe, however – we currently don’t.

Exact same thoughts are echoed by the Guru:

  1. About never being able to find out when the universe was created:

    ਥਿਤਿ ਵਾਰੁ ਨਾ ਜੋਗੀ ਜਾਣੈ ਰੁਤਿ ਮਾਹੁ ਨਾ ਕੋਈ ॥
    ਜਾ ਕਰਤਾ ਸਿਰਠੀ ਕਉ ਸਾਜੇ ਆਪੇ ਜਾਣੈ ਸੋਈ ॥
    Neither the yogi nor any one else knows the lunar day, week day season and the month. The Creator who creates the world, He Himself Knows (the time).

  2. About never being able to find out the total mass of universe:

    ਕੇਤੀ ਦਾਤਿ ਜਾਣੈ ਕੌਣੁ ਕੂਤੁ ॥
    How much the Creator has Created, who can know?

  3. About the fact that the universe has been created many times (each time a new expansion after the previous contraction):

    ਕਈ ਬਾਰ ਪਸਰਿਓ ਪਾਸਾਰ ॥
    Many times, the universe has expanded by Him.

I also find it more than a coincidence that while scientists call the moment of creation big-bang (having to do with sound), the Guru has the following to say:

ਕੀਤਾ ਪਸਾਉ ਏਕੋ ਕਵਾਉ ॥
You created the vast expanse of the Universe with One Word

which has also to do with the uttering of a sound.

Another similar thought from the Adi Granth:

ਤੁਮਰਾ ਲਖਾ ਨ ਜਾਇ ਪਸਾਰਾ ॥ ਕਿਹ ਬਿਧਿ ਸਜਾ ਪ੍ਰਥਮ ਸੰਸਾਰਾ ॥੩੯੩॥
The limits of Your creation cannot be known, nor how in the beginning You created the Universes.

Update Dec 30th 2009: I recollected another thought this morning:

ਪਹਿਲਾ ਪਾਣੀ ਜੀਉ ਹੈ ਜਿਤੁ ਹਰਿਆ ਸਭੁ ਕੋਇ ॥
First, there is life in the water, by which everything else is made green

Darwin’s theory was not promulgated until 1858, which agrees: life started in the sea.

Update from 8th Nov 2012: Perhaps I have missed one of the most important facts. Scientifically, for around 1 billion years after formation – the universe was filled with gases (Hydrogen and Helium). The Guru echoes the same:

ਅਰਬਦ ਨਰਬਦ ਧੁੰਧੂਕਾਰਾ ॥
अरबद नरबद धुंधूकारा ॥
For endless eons, the universe was only dark gases.

Update from 14th July 2015: This page is probably the most revisited post of this blog. Another evidence:

ਸਾਚੇ ਤੇ ਪਵਨਾ ਭਇਆ ਪਵਨੈ ਤੇ ਜਲੁ ਹੋਇ ॥
साचे ते पवना भइआ पवनै ते जलु होइ ॥
Sācẖe ṯe pavnā bẖaiā pavnai ṯe jal hoye.
From the True Lord originated the air, and from the air came water.

ਜਲ ਤੇ ਤ੍ਰਿਭਵਣੁ ਸਾਜਿਆ ਘਟਿ ਘਟਿ ਜੋਤਿ ਸਮੋਇ ॥
जल ते त्रिभवणु साजिआ घटि घटि जोति समोइ ॥
Jal ṯe ṯaribẖavaṇ sājiā gẖat gẖat joṯ samoe.
From water, He created the three worlds; in each and every heart He has infused His Light.

In 1780s, Cavendish found that water is made of Hydrogen and Oxygen, both constituents of air. Guru Nanak wrote this verse above prior to the year 1539.


Koi Bole Raam Raam

The hymn and its translation to English:

ਰਾਮਕਲੀ ਮਹਲਾ ੫ ॥
Raamkalee, Fifth Mehl:

ਕੋਈ ਬੋਲੈ ਰਾਮ ਰਾਮ ਕੋਈ ਖੁਦਾਇ ॥
Some call Him, ‘Raam, Raam’, and some call Him, ‘Khudaa-i’.

ਕੋਈ ਸੇਵੈ ਗੁਸਈਆ ਕੋਈ ਅਲਾਹਿ ॥੧॥
Some serve Him as ‘Gusain’, others as ‘Allaah’. ||1||

ਕਾਰਣ ਕਰਣ ਕਰੀਮ ॥
He is the Cause of causes, the Generous Lord.

ਕਿਰਪਾ ਧਾਰਿ ਰਹੀਮ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ॥
He showers His Grace and Mercy upon us. ||1||Pause||

ਕੋਈ ਨਾਵੈ ਤੀਰਥਿ ਕੋਈ ਹਜ ਜਾਇ ॥
Some bathe at sacred shrines of pilgrimage, and some make the pilgrimage to Mecca.

ਕੋਈ ਕਰੈ ਪੂਜਾ ਕੋਈ ਸਿਰੁ ਨਿਵਾਇ ॥੨॥
Some perform devotional worship services, and some bow their heads in prayer. ||2||

ਕੋਈ ਪੜੈ ਬੇਦ ਕੋਈ ਕਤੇਬ ॥
Some read the Vedas, and some the Koran.

ਕੋਈ ਓਢੈ ਨੀਲ ਕੋਈ ਸੁਪੇਦ ॥੩॥
Some wear blue robes, and some wear white. ||3||

ਕੋਈ ਕਹੈ ਤੁਰਕੁ ਕੋਈ ਕਹੈ ਹਿੰਦੂ ॥
Some call themselves Muslim, and some call themselves Hindu.

ਕੋਈ ਬਾਛੈ ਭਿਸਤੁ ਕੋਈ ਸੁਰਗਿੰਦੂ ॥੪॥
Some yearn for paradise, and others long for heaven. ||4||

ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਜਿਨਿ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਪਛਾਤਾ ॥
Says Nanak, one who realizes the Hukam of God’s Will,

ਪ੍ਰਭ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਕਾ ਤਿਨਿ ਭੇਦੁ ਜਾਤਾ ॥੫॥੯॥
knows the secrets of his Lord and Master. ||5||9||


Coffee table religion

Coffee table
Coffee table

I think I have just coined a new term. I was pondering on this for the last 2-3 days but the term wasn’t taking shape – this morning it dawned on me all of a sudden. I didn’t find anything googling for this term, although the term ‘Coffee table Buddhism’ did turn up.

Coffee table religion is simplified, ready-to-use religion which is home delivered to you. It has a list of simple tasks that you can carry out, feel good about having done something positive and talk about it over coffee.

Consider as an example charity. Charity is good if you loose your desire to resort to foul means to get something: if I donate $1 today, I will not steal someone’s $1 tomorrow. However, charity is bad if it becomes just a way to increase your ego. I have talked about this in my podcast.

Almost all the tenets of coffee table religion is just a way to boost ego. To meet the Lord, we need to obtain the path from the Guru: waking up early and following the rules of the Creation. The ultimate aim of true religion is to inculcate a love for the Creator within yourself. So far as that does not happen, there is no reason to boost your ego.


Sikhism – a distinct religion

Many people propagate the view that since Sikhism was born out of Hinduism, Sikhism is not a distinct religion. This is not correct – Sikhism is a distinct religion, as there are certain Hindu ideas that are not acceptable under Sikh dictates. The primary among these, being idol worship. As the fifth Guru quotes Saint Kabir:

You tear off the leaves, O gardener, but in each and every leaf, there is life. That stone idol, for which you tear off those leaves – that stone idol is lifeless. In this, you are mistaken, O gardener. The True Guru is the Living Lord.
Brahma is in the leaves, Vishnu is in the branches, and Shiva is in the flowers. When you pluck these leaves, three gods are torn off – then whose service are you performing?
The sculptor carves the stone and fashions it into an idol, placing his feet upon its chest. If this stone god was true, it would devour the sculptor for this!
Rice and beans, candies, cakes and cookies – the priest enjoys these, while he puts ashes into the mouth of the idol. The gardener is mistaken, and the world is mistaken, but I am not mistaken. Says Kabeer, the Lord preserves me; the Lord, my King, has showered His Blessings upon me.

This hymn is on YouTube, beautifully rendered.

Also, in the words of Saint Kabir, quoted by Guru Arjan Dev ji in Shri Guru Granth Sahib, the distinction of Sikhism from both Hinduism and Islam is clearly enshrined:

I do not keep fasts, nor do I observe the month of Ramadaan. I serve only the One, who will protect me in the end. The One Lord, the Lord of the World, is my God Allah. He administers justice to both Hindus and Muslims. I do not make pilgrimages to Mecca, nor do I worship at Hindu sacred shrines. I serve the One Lord, and not any other. I do not perform Hindu worship services, nor do I offer the Muslim prayers. I have taken the One Formless Lord into my heart; I humbly worship Him there. I am not a Hindu, nor am I a Muslim. My body and breath of life belong to Allah – to Raam – the God of both. Says Kabeer, this is what I say: meeting with the Guru, my Spiritual Teacher, I realize God, my Lord and Master.

Why do I consider this distinction important enough to be discussed? Because, we should understand the differences and not indulge in copying of mindless rituals. We can respect all religions – but follow only one.


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