VAND SHAKNAA

One who truthfully works for what he eats, and gives some of
what he has - O Nanak, he knows the path (sggs 1245).
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As Sikhism is a way of life, Sikhs are to remember and emphasize three practices in their individual and corporate life: (1) Kirat Karnee (ਕਿਰਤ ਕਮਾਈ), (2) Vand Shaknaa (ਵੰਡ ਛਕਣਾ), and (3) Naam Japnaa (ਨਾਮ ਜਪਣਾ) . First, "Kirat Karnee" is the right way of living which includes honest or truthful way of labor and work side by side with the search of the Truth. Second, "Vand Shaknaa" - also spelt as Shakna or Shakanaa etc. - is giving or sharing with others in the society who are less fortunate. And third is "Naam Japnaa", which is to engage in unbroken remembrance or contemplation on God (meditation or Naam-Simran).

This Gurbani Reflection will attempt to reflect on one of these golden rules - "Vand Shaknaa". As indicated above, "Vand Shaknaa" is essentially giving or sharing in selfless love and the spirit of self-sacrifice. This is the true sacrifice. Often when we hear this word sacrifice, the first thing that comes to our mind is killing an animal as an offering to God (Muslim particular associate this word with killing an animal as an offering to God, specially during the Hajj pilgrimage). But in spiritual traditions of India, actually the word sacrifice has nothing to do with killing. It simply means selfless sharing (Vand Shaknaa). It is sacrificing one's own comforts and selfish desires in order to develop the spirit of Vand Shaknaa or selfless sharing with one and all. Thus, in the deeper sense, Vand Shaknaa helps bring about and then maintain harmony in the world. Simply put, it is casting off one's personal likes and dislikes for one another.

  • ਗਿਆਨ ਵਿਹੂਣਾ ਗਾਵੈ ਗੀਤ ॥ ਭੁਖੇ ਮੁਲਾਂ ਘਰੇ ਮਸੀਤਿ ॥ ਮਖਟੂ ਹੋਇ ਕੈ ਕੰਨ ਪੜਾਏ ॥ ਫਕਰੁ ਕਰੇ ਹੋਰੁ ਜਾਤਿ ਗਵਾਏ ॥ ਗੁਰੁ ਪੀਰੁ ਸਦਾਏ ਮੰਗਣ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਤਾ ਕੈ ਮੂਲਿ ਨ ਲਗੀਐ ਪਾਇ ॥ ਘਾਲਿ ਖਾਇ ਕਿਛੁ ਹਥਹੁ ਦੇਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਰਾਹੁ ਪਛਾਣਹਿ ਸੇਇ ॥੧॥: Giaan vihoonaa gaavai geet ...: The one who lacks spiritual wisdom sings religious songs (for the sake of earning bread). The hungry Mullah turns his home into a mosque (or he also goes to mosque for the sake of bread!). The lazy bum has his ears pierced to look like a Yogi. Someone else becomes a panhandler, and thus loses his self-respect. Someone calls himself a guru or a spiritual teacher, while he goes around begging for bread - don't ever touch their feet. One who truthfully works for what he eats, and gives some of what he has - O Nanak, he knows the path ||1|| (sggs 1245).
  • ਅਣਹੋਦੇ ਆਪੁ ਵੰਡਾਏ॥ ਕੋ ਐਸਾ ਭਗਤੁ ਸਦਾਏ ॥: Anhode aap vandaaye. Ko aisaa bhagat sadaaye: Share with others, even when there is almost nothing to share. Only such a rare one is called a true devotee (sggs 1384).
  • ਜਉ ਲਉ ਭਾਉ ਅਭਾਉ ਇਹੁ ਮਾਨੈ ਤਉ ਲਉ ਮਿਲਣੁ ਦੂਰਾਈ ॥: Jou lou bhaaou abhaaou ihu maanai taou laou milanu dooraaee: As long as this (mind) believes in love and hate (i.e., likes and dislikes), it is difficult (for this mind) to meet (its Mool, Prabh, Source...). (sggs 609).

Therefore, "Vand Shaknaa" certainly does not seem to be limited to "Langar - ਲੰਗਰ" only (in English, a Langar is often indicated by many terms such as "common kitchen", "open kitchen", "free mess", "Sikh community meal", "free communal kitchen of the Gurdawaaraa", and so on). The Langar symbolizes Sikh belief in the community spirit, the duty to selflessly serve others (particularly those who are less fortunate such as poor, destitute, hungry, etc.), and the equality of all people of diverse backgrounds (regardless of family of birth, color of one's skin, caste, creed, gender, religion, rich or poor) as they all belong to the same One God. However, it appears that, nowadays, the Langar has more or less become a competition in offering of elaborate feasts to each other expecting to outdo the other for the sake of status (or showoff) with ever-expanding and pricey menu of extravagant dishes! On top of that, many times the host is seen distributing gifts (e. g., a box of Indian sweets, silver coin etc.) at the end of the Langar!

In addition to providing food, other aspects of "Vand Shaknaa" may include but not limited to "sharing" or "giving" money, Naam, virtues, education, spiritual knowledge (Aatam- Giaan), time, efforts, special skills or expertise, protecting the environment or nature, charity (Daan), providing health services, etc. For example, one can go to and remove the pain of those who are sad or suffering by simply speaking kind and consoling words to them or attentively listening to their problems. Thus, every one of us - the rich and poor can "give" every day. In this way, through good thoughts and actions, humans should be able to remove the darkness of selfishness and hatred and, thereby, create real peace, harmony, brotherhood and friendship in the world.

  • ਸਾਝ ਕਰੀਜੈ ਗੁਣਹ ਕੇਰੀ ਛੋਡਿ ਅਵਗਣ ਚਲੀਐ ॥: Saajh kareejai gunah kaeree shodi avagan chaleeai: IShare Virtues; (in this way, one can) walk (on the Path of Spiritual Life by) abandoning faults (from within himself). (sggs 766).
  • ਨਾਮੁ ਦ੍ਰਿੜਾਵੈ ਨਾਮੁ ਜਪਾਵੈ ਤਾ ਕਾ ਜੁਗ ਮਹਿ ਧਰਮਾ ॥: Naam drirraavai naam japaavai taa kaa jug mahi dharamaa: Implant the Naam, and inspire others to chant the Naam; this is Dharma, true religion, in this world (sggs 680).
  • ਫਰੀਦਾ ਜੇ ਮੈ ਹੋਦਾ ਵਾਰਿਆ ਮਿਤਾ ਆਇੜਿਆਂ ॥ ਹੇੜਾ ਜਲੈ ਮਜੀਠ ਜਿਉ ਉਪਰਿ ਅੰਗਾਰਾ ॥੨੨॥ : Fareedaa je mai hodaa vaariaa mitaa aairriaaan. Herraa jalai majeeth jiou oupar angaaraa ||22||: Says Fareed, if I hide from my friends who come to me (when I do not take the opportunity to serve when they come to my house), (then) I feel as my flesh is burning red on the hot coals. ||22|| (sggs 1379).

Thus, in a broader sense, service to God is seeing God in every individual and serve that God with the spirit of Sevaa (selfless service). Such service is worship of God in man and by developing this outlook all our work can be transformed into worship of God. When service is performed with this awareness (God in every man) it is possible to experience one's True Nature (Joti-Svaroopa) as Pure Consciousness as the spiritual seeker begins to see God in all. In this context, consider the following story of Bhai Kanhaya.

This story reminds us of the true spirit of selfless service in Sikhi. During a battle between the army of Aurangzeb (the Mughal emperor) and Sikhs, Bhai Kanhaya served as a unique soldier. He would provide drinking water to the wounded in the battlefield and would bandage their wounds. He was blessed with such an even vision, love and the spirit of service that he did not see any difference between his own Singh soldiers and the wounded soldiers of Aurangzeb. Some Sikh soldiers complained to the Guru (Guru Gobind Singh Jee) about this. Upon asking him by the Guru why he was doing what he was doing, he submitted to the Guru that he could see only the Image of his Guru in all the wounded. The Guru was pleased with the answer and blessed him for his true Sikh spirit of service.

In regard to "giving", if it's done in Haume or conditioned consciousness - lust, anger, greed, attachment, pride, selfishness, and so on - the SGGS says that God cannot be won over by such act. Our false sense of "I, Me, Mine" (Haume) will be thinned out only if we act selflessly in love, compassion and the true spirit of self-sacrifice, which is essential in realizing the real aim of human birth - Realization of God. Second, the SGGS reminds us not to brag about "giving". Because such arrogance or the feeling of pride is a sign of one's foolishness; similar to the act of an elephant, who takes a bath, and then rolls in the dust!

  • ਨ ਭੀਜੈ ਦਾਤਂ​‍ੀ ਕੀਤੈ ਪੁੰਨਿ ॥: Na bheejai daateen keetai punn: He (God) is not won over by giving donations in charity (sggs 1237).
  • ਜੇ ਕੋ ਹੋਇ ਬਹੈ ਦਾਤਾਰੁ ॥ਤਿਸੁ ਦੇਨਹਾਰੁ ਜਾਨੈ ਗਾਵਾਰੁ ॥: Je ko hoi bahai daataar. Tis denahaar jaanai gaavaar: One who brags about giving to charities, the Great Giver (God) will judge him to be a fool (sggs 282).
  • ਤੀਰਥ ਬਰਤ ਅਰੁ ਦਾਨ ਕਰਿ ਮਨ ਮੈ ਧਰੈ ਗੁਮਾਨੁ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਨਿਹਫਲ ਜਾਤ ਤਿਹ ਜਿਉ ਕੁੰਚਰ ਇਸਨਾਨੁ ॥: Teerath barat ar daan kar mann mai dhari gumaan. Nanak nihphal jaat tih jiyu kunchar isnaan: Those who make pilgrimages to sacred shrines, observe ritualistic fasts and make donations to charity while still taking pride in their minds - O Nanak, their actions are useless, like the elephant, who takes a bath, and then rolls in the dust (sggs 1428).

— T. Singh
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