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John Martin Honigberger - Maharajah Ranjit Singh's Doctor

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dallysingh101    1,583

Originally posted in 2010 on sikhawareness.com:

 

The maharajah’s European doctor

honig.jpg

 

John Martin Honigberger, a native of Kronstadt in Transylvania (no Dracula jokes please!), was a medical man. He spent 15 years at Lahore, as a physician and a Director of a gunpowder mill in the service of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. He was at Lahore at the British ‘annexation’, after which he was made to relinquish his former position on receipt of a pension.

 

His published work, Thirty-Five Years In The East, was released in two volumes with part 1 being an autobiographical narrative and volume 2 concentrating on medical matters. That being said, in volume 1 the author frequently refers to the medicine he used and encountered during his travels.

 

The work is a fascinating one, for many reasons. In addition to the references to both traditional eastern and early western practices in combating disease, there are also brief but interesting accounts of some of the religious behaviour he witnessed. His thoughts towards the then emerging field of pharmacology are also documented and he often contrasts eastern and western practice.

 

Honigberger’s status meant he was also privy to, or at least in close proximity to the bloody political intrigues that took place after the death of the popular monarch. Here too he provides his own version of events.

 

I will be posting extracts purely out of itihaasik interest which should hopefully make the work more accessible to any interested brothers and sisters, especially the younger generation. I hope some of you enjoy. Personally I love these glimpses into our past.

 

dalsingh101

 

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Shia-Sunni animosity at Urugurd [somewhere in Middle East]


We saw fakirs and dervishes, with tiger-skins round their bodies, their long black hair hanging down and covering their faces and backs, beating themselves with iron- headed clubs, till the blood flowed down their bodies. They ran like savage beasts, or maniacs, through the streets and bazaars, howling, " Ya Ali !"

One of our friends, a native of Bagdad, told us, that if any of the Sunits [sunnis], to which sect he belonged, should venture that day to acknowledge his religion, he would run the risk of being immolated by the fanatical Persians ; so inveterate is the hatred between these two sects, though they are both Mahomedan ; and this is not the case in Persia alone, but in every place where Shias and Sunits are living together. Great animosity prevails between these two* sects in India, also on the day on which the Shias expose the Tabut ( coffin ) in procession. In Cashmere, on these occasions, the Mahomedans burn each others' houses and shawl manufactories.

 

 

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Honigberger's desire to reach Lahore and witnessing the selling of children in Bagdad due to famine

 

I received some good news from Lahore, through a Persian who had been in the service of General Avitabile, which induced me again to attempt going there at the commencement of the favourable season, i, e. the early part of the winter ( 1829 ). I felt the more inclined to do so, as the plague was already raging at Mosul, and the inhabitants of Bagdad were fearful that it might extend as far as their own city, a thing which occurred soon after. In the year 1828, there had been at Mosul and its environs, a famine, in consequence of the crops failing, and numerous families went down the Tigris to settle at Bagdad, selling, their children for a mere trifle, owing to the want of means to support them. I myself saw a beautiful Christian girl purchased for twenty grush ( four shillings ).

 

 

 

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Travelling disguised as Muslims and staying at a mosque.

 

Our camel driver advised us to lodge in the mosques, in order to be taken for Mahomedans. By so doing, we were provided with food gratis, by the hospitable Musselmans. I and my servant were dressed in the costume of the inhabitants of Bagdad ; we could speak the Persian, Arabic, and Turkish languages, had long beards, and addressed each other as Hajee, i. e., pilgrim. Our carpets, which constituted our beds, were quite similar, and were placed close to one another. We ate together, according to the eastern custom, using our fingers instead of knives and forks ; in fact, we played our parts so well, that none recognised us as Christians. Having our quarters in the mosque, it was very annoying for us to see the Musselmans come five times in twenty-four hours, to offer up their prayers. They thought it strange that we, as pilgrims and their guests, did not join in their devotions. It is true, we could easily have done so, but knowing how to excuse ourselves, we did not like to push our dissimulation any further. We had only to whisper into the ear of one of them that we were unclean. From that expression they inferred that we had the gonorrhoea, which excuse became a public secret ; and we thus got out of the difficulty.

 

Honigberger-Martin_Portraet_Stefan-Reis.

Honigberger in native dress

 

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dallysingh101    1,583

 

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Reaching Lahore

 

From Mooltan to Lahore we went on horseback. The journey from Bagdad to Lahore occupied four months; i.e., two by water, and two by land. On my arrival at Lahore, I found that the king, Runjeet Sing, with his army and the four French officers, was absent, having gone towards Peshawur.

 

 


 

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Nihangs and corporal punishment under Ranjit Singh

 

I introduced to our distinguished guests. Col. Wade and Dr. Murray, an Akalee or Nahung, whose nose, ears and hands had been cut off by order of Runjeet Sing (he had even deserved the gallows ), and whose nose had been so well restored in the mountains that we were all surprised,and confessed it could not have been better done in Europe. As we know, from history, this operation was even in the remotest antiquity, practised by the Hindoos ; and they fermed the nose out of the cuticle of the forehead, which proceeding is now, and always will be the same. In Europe, where cutting off of noses is only in use, in exceptional cases — as when ulceration or other circumstances make it requisite — this operation is usually performed with the cuticle of the arm, and judiciously too, as, according to our custom, the head mostly is uncovered, and a scar on one's forehead, with a new nose on the face, makes rather an ugly appearance ; whilst, in the East, the scar remains hidden beneath the turban.

 

In time of peace, the Nahungs gave a great deal of trouble to Runjeet Sing. On one occasion, he was even forced to place two pieces of cannon outside the Delhi Gate of Lahore, in the vicinity of Seidgenj, where the robbers congregate, because this band dared to intercept the communication of that city. They shut themselves up in Meea-Meer, five miles distant from Lahore, thence they made their appearance as rebels, but they were defeated, and forced to depart, and from the town also, to Umritsir.

 

The individual just alluded to as deserving the gallows, had cut off the arm of a sentinel, for having prevented him from entering the tent of the king by a private entrance. The Nahung had a servant with him, who underwent no punishment, because he did not behave in an aggressive manner ; but the offender, by the order of Runjeet Singh, lost his ears, nose, and hands, by the same sabre with which he had so skilfully cut off the arm of the soldier on royal duty. After the sad execution, he ran to drown himself in a well, but was prevented by the people who were accidentally present. When the king was informed of the fact, the culprit was sent to me, and put under my care and medical attendance, with strict orders to watch him, to prevent his committing suicide, and to present him, when cured, to the king. According to his own statement, he was drunk with bhang ( hemp ) when he committed the crime, and his only intention for intruding on the king had been to ask a gapa ( gift ). These robbers do not like to enter military service ; they prefer begging, and living by pillage.

 

 

Edited by dallysingh101
Tidying up text

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dallysingh101    1,583

 

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Food prohibitions of Sikhs and Hindus.

The spirit produced from Cabul grapes, for the use of Runjeet Sing, was distilled in that place in my presence, by his own people, because everything eatable or drinkable, destined for Sikhs and Hindoos, must be prepared by their own hands, no Christian or Musselman being permitted to touch it, lest they should pollute it.

 

 

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dallysingh101    1,583

 

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Unflattering description of Ranjit Singh

The king of England had at this time sent five immense horses as a present to Runjeet Sing. Alex. Burnes had brought them up the Indus*, and they were much admired for their size and uncommon height. One of them was lost on the way, and another became the famous riding-horse of the Maharajah, who, being of a very low stature, appeared, when on the back of the animal, like an ape on an elephant.

 

*Burnes was probably spying for the English during this 'delivery'.

 

 

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Avitable hangs Muslims for beef eating

General Allard told me that the Maharajah once reprimanded him for having executed some musselmans ; whom General Avitable had ordered hung because they were of opinion, that, under the protection of a European governor they might be at liberty to eat beef! The opinion of Runjeet Sing was that he ought to have imprisoned the criminals, and then allowed them to escape.

Paolo+di+Avitabile+Abu+Tabela.jpg

The Italian, Paolo di Avitable known as Abu Tabela (corruption of Avitable) by the Pastoons

 

 

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Further description of Ranjit Singh

Runjeet Sing was a man whose talents and prudence had acquired for him a great reputation, whose memory is honoured, and whose name will long occupy a glorious place in the history of India. Although descended from a noble family, being the son of a sirdar, he could neither read nor write. He had lost one eye in his childhood, in consequence of the smallpox. His external appearance was not handsome, being remarkably short, delicate, and with indifferent features, which were, counterbalanced by his talents. He had an extraordinary memory. The prominent trait of his character was, that he rarely did what was required of him, and acted often contrary to what he said. In general, no one was informed of the place he intended to go, nor of the time appointed by the astrologers for his departure.

 

The dark side of his character, was his extreme devotedness to sensuality, spirits, and opium by which he shortened his life. I was an ocular witness of the spectacle, when he was married at Umritsar, to the Goolbegoom (rose-lady). She had been for the last few years a kenchinee (dancing girl) in the service of Runjeet Sing, and she knew so well how to ingratiate herself with her patron, that he did not hesitate publicly to celebrate his nuptials, and declare his marriage a legal one ; for he cared not for public opinion, deeming that a sovereign ought to have the highest authority, and an independent will. She forsook the Mahomedan religion, continued to drink spirits, and she ate pork, just like Runjeet himself, and afterwards lived a retired life. She ruled the country, but only for a short time, and she actually caused (in concert with himself) her own husband Runjeet to be imprisoned, taking, however, advantage of that opportunity to extort money from the minister, as he was ready to ransom his lord and master at any price. The whole affair was, in fact, a plot, concocted between her and Runjeet Sing.

 

 

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jkvlondon    3,419

Honigberger was trained in homeopathy also ...and is credited with bringing the medicine system to India. It is clear just how far from an ideal sikh Ranjit Singh was ... or do you think he is editing for European audiences to denigrate the foreigners?

Edited by jkvlondon

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dallysingh101    1,583
Just now, jkvlondon said:

Honigberger was trained in homeopathy also ...and is credited with bringing the medicine system to India. It is clear just how far from an ideal sikh Ranjit Singh was ... 

Okay, but for all his vices Ranjit Singh was a brilliant leader who brought security and economic prosperity to the Panjab. Badal probably follows rehat more closely than Ranjit Singh ever did, but he's still an infinitely bigger tosser.  

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jkvlondon    3,419
3 minutes ago, dallysingh101 said:

Okay, but for all his vices Ranjit Singh was a brilliant leader who brought security and economic prosperity to the Panjab. Badal probably follows rehat more closely than Ranjit Singh ever did, but he's still an infinitely bigger tosser.  

but Badal never was a Singh , he has always been a keshadhari hindu ... unashamedly so ..

reading history it seems that without Sada Kaur he would never have established the kingdom, and got so many misls to co-operate under the Khalsa banner . He was surrounded by people who were solid in their views, ethical  and intellectually sharp, until he made the mistake of giving power over the army and treasury to the Dogras .

Edited by jkvlondon

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dallysingh101    1,583
Just now, jkvlondon said:

but Badal never was a Singh , he has always been a keshadhari hindu ... unashamedly so ..

If that is true (and I don't think it is btw), then it just shows you how dumb our rural brethren back home are, to repeatedly vote someone like that in. You're copping out in my opinion, he is from amongst us. We have to take responsibility for him. You're just doing that typical apna thing of mentally jettisoning any unsavoury characters from amongst us from the panth, to alleviate dissonance from the fact that that our society does produce our fair share of ar5eholes like Badal, KPS Gill, Beant Singh etc. etc. Don't be so weak minded. 

Besides, if you went by that, going by some of his religious practices M. Ranjit Singh was more 'Hindu' than Badal's ever been. 

Anyway, we are missing the point. I personally don't judge judging Ranjit Singh by the standards of religiosity in the community today. He is more of a political and military leader than a spiritual one. And in his field he was brilliant. 

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 or do you think he is editing for European audiences to denigrate the foreigners?

Even though he may be doing this (possibly subconsciously and writing in the wake of Sikh defeat), he obviously admires the man. I think he might simply be being honest?  In the work he points out a few instances when the Sikhs were doing things better than the Brits that later took over, so he isn't blinded by white supremacism like others who wrote in that period.

Anyway, you need to take off your judgemental lens on Ranjit and the period. If it weren't for characters like him (with all his flaws) we'd probably had another century of  Afghan hordes raping and pillaging Panjab at will. We should respect his ability to bring security to a region that had rarely experienced it for centuries.  

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jkvlondon    3,419
10 minutes ago, dallysingh101 said:

If that is true (and I don't think it is btw), then it just shows you how dumb our rural brethren back home are, to repeatedly vote someone like that in. You're copping out in my opinion, he is from amongst us. We have to take responsibility for him. You're just doing that typical apna thing of mentally jettisoning any unsavoury characters from amongst us from the panth, to alleviate dissonance from the fact that that our society does produce our fair share of ar5eholes like Badal, KPS Gill, Beant Singh etc. etc. Don't be so weak minded. 

Besides, if you went by that, going by some of his religious practices M. Ranjit Singh was more 'Hindu' than Badal's ever been. 

Anyway, we are missing the point. I personally don't judge judging Ranjit Singh by the standards of religiosity in the community today. He is more of a political and military leader than a spiritual one. And in his field he was brilliant. 

Even though he may be doing this (possibly subconsciously and writing in the wake of Sikh defeat), he obviously admires the man. I think he might simply be being honest?  In the work he points out a few instances when the Sikhs were doing things better than the Brits that later took over, so he isn't blinded by white supremacism like others who wrote in that period.

Anyway, you need to take off your judgemental lens on Ranjit and the period. If it weren't for characters like him (with all his flaws) we'd probably had another century of  Afghan hordes raping and pillaging Panjab at will. We should respect his ability to bring security to a region that had rarely experienced it for centuries.  

look  Dogras took amrit only to cement their aspirations for power in Ranjit's court , same Badal had amrit to grab power from unsuspecting folks , he's never been a sikh because he's never followed even the SRM definition , he kisses <banned word filter activated> everywhere and even embraces murderers of our people wholeheartedly. Just because someone is born into a household which has links to sikhi  doesn't make one a sikh , you have embrace it on an individual level. Besides this there is the fact that his father poisoned the well that killed the gursikhs that were on the Jaito Morcha so his ancestors show that they also were antisikh also...

he has been stealing from golak so long he's gotten used to thinking of the Gurdwarey as his property to do with as he pleases, thus the land grab and sale of jameen donated by Guru Sahiban's well wishers for growth of crops for langars amounting to over 30 crode rupees on top of the yearly ripoff charge for PTC coverage of Harmandir Sahib .

I appreciate that Ranjit brought many good things to Punjab , education, wealth, fair administration , peace  but it was never just him , it was the excellent gursikhs like Akali Phoola SIngh , Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa  who were instrumental in bringing the khalsa army together and having magnificent successes with few men that these days multibillion operation cannot achieve.

Edited by jkvlondon

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dallysingh101    1,583
4 hours ago, jkvlondon said:

look  Dogras took amrit only to cement their aspirations for power in Ranjit's court , same Badal had amrit to grab power from unsuspecting folks , he's never been a sikh because he's never followed even the SRM definition , he kisses <banned word filter activated> everywhere and even embraces murderers of our people wholeheartedly. Just because someone is born into a household which has links to sikhi  doesn't make one a sikh , you have embrace it on an individual level. Besides this there is the fact that his father poisoned the well that killed the gursikhs that were on the Jaito Morcha so his ancestors show that they also were antisikh also...

The Dogra example is like comparing cheese and chalk.Dogras were the products of a Rajput Hindu upbringing. People like Badal, and other Sikh villains are not. Plus where did you get this information about the Jaito Morcha? These things seem to crop up whenever required? If people have known this for so long, why didn't they warn people about it previously. Badal's been around from way back, he was around in sant jis time too. Did sant ji not know about this?

I hear the same about Indira Gandhi, like her actions didn't speak loud enough for her, but then this story about her descending from Gangu Brahmin comes out of nowhere - the first place I read it is in Sangat Singh's book Sikhs in History, where the hell are the sources for these things? Do people make them up as they go along or something? 

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he has been stealing from golak so long he's gotten used to thinking of the Gurdwarey as his property to do with as he pleases, thus the land grab and sale of jameen donated by Guru Sahiban's well wishers for growth of crops for langars amounting to over 30 crode rupees on top of the yearly ripoff charge for PTC coverage of Harmandir Sahib .

Overfed, greedy peasant. What do you expect. Another one who thinks Sikhi is some basket from which to to enrich and feed yourself instead of sharing. 

 

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I appreciate that Ranjit brought many good things to Punjab , education, wealth, fair administration , peace  but it was never just him , it was the excellent gursikhs like Akali Phoola SIngh , Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa  who were instrumental in bringing the khalsa army together and having magnificent successes with few men that these days multibillion operation cannot achieve.

Asides from some contention from Akali Phoola Singh, notice how the majority of prominent sardars submitted to his rule (those that weren't compelled to in any case).

Anyway, you'd better brace yourself - if you think the above posts put Ranjit Singh in a negative light (according to your own perspective), there is much worse to come for people who think like that. 

Edited by dallysingh101
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jkvlondon    3,419

I know that many misl leaders are guilty of breach of rehit and unfair treatment of the populace including severe taxation etc of the poor ... human nature in power is always bound to be corrupted unless the vikars are reigned strongly by gurmat  rehit and constant working at staying true to Guru ji .

 

The reason why people mention the ancestors of the main players in sikh politics in Punjab is because it shows that the character of the people passing down the generations as Guru Sahiban warned/told us e.g. General Shahbeg SIngh ji is descendent of Bhai Mehtab Singh ji, Sant ji was decendent of the branch of Brar clan who stayed true to Guru Sahib and achieved his blessing and General Brar is from the branch of the clan that chose golak's paise above Guru ji and got his displeasure. Yes Nehru is from Gangu's descendents literally not just a say so ...this is from research into the Hindu birthcharts/records going back through the generations . 

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Not2Cool2Argue    345
23 minutes ago, jkvlondon said:

I know that many misl leaders are guilty of breach of rehit and unfair treatment of the populace including severe taxation etc of the poor ... human nature in power is always bound to be corrupted unless the vikars are reigned strongly by gurmat  rehit and constant working at staying true to Guru ji .

 

The reason why people mention the ancestors of the main players in sikh politics in Punjab is because it shows that the character of the people passing down the generations as Guru Sahiban warned/told us e.g. General Shahbeg SIngh ji is descendent of Bhai Mehtab Singh ji, Sant ji was decendent of the branch of Brar clan who stayed true to Guru Sahib and achieved his blessing and General Brar is from the branch of the clan that chose golak's paise above Guru ji and got his displeasure. Yes Nehru is from Gangu's descendents literally not just a say so ...this is from research into the Hindu birthcharts/records going back through the generations . 

So we believe in the sin of the father/ancestors continues to haunt the children? 

Then if one is born into a bad family, why try?

And i thought in kalyug, karma involves only the individual.

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jkvlondon    3,419
2 minutes ago, Not2Cool2Argue said:

So we believe in the sin of the father/ancestors continues to haunt the children? 

Then if one is born into a bad family, why try?

And i thought in kalyug, karma involves only the individual.

there is a scientific genetic theory which proposes it is not just physical but also behavioural traits pass down , referred to as meme theory , Many cultures have noted that the child of a person who has negative/positive traits is more likely to display the same traits whether it's nuture or nature not sure the proportions . In India people used to shun earnings of dodgy business coming into the home as it would taint those fed with it, especially the kids . 
We try or rather we pray for deliverance from our karmic load through Guru ji's grace , we have no power to change by ourselves 

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dallysingh101    1,583
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there is a scientific genetic theory which proposes it is not just physical but also behavioural traits pass down , referred to as meme theory ,

And there is Sikhi 'theory' which suggests that with karams (action) and nadar (grace) all is possible and even the most degenerate person can be redeemed.

I've seen uncountable apnay and apneean from foundation, respectable (even Amritdhari) families act so lowly and deceptively despite a comfortable and loving upbringing, it's unreal. Conversely, I've see apnay and apneean from the most effed up of families go on to be some of the most decent people around (having learned from their parents kartootaan), so I would vehemently disagree with what you are saying. What I have also noticed is that the deviants from 'respectable' families with all their promiscuity, whoring and drug/alcohol issues get covered up by their families who are obsessed with keeping up appearances. Conversely, someone from the opposite background gets vilified for infinitely less than what the former often does. All in all, it just works to keep some conservative hierarchy stable, nothing else.  

Edited by dallysingh101
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dallysingh101    1,583

 

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Provisions for ill prisoners in Lahore jail.

......................................I received an order from the Durbar to establish an hospital in the jail of Lahore also, which was on the same spot whereon, a short time before, I had erected the powder-mill. During the last two years of my office (1848 and 1850) out of 800 prisoners, only twenty-one patients died in the space of twelve months and they, of severe wounds, marasmus, or, dysentery.

The jail, with its hospital, is situated outside the city, in one of the filthiest quarters, where all the wells of the neighbourhood fountain contain briny or bitter water; and notwithstanding all my endeavours and remonstrances, I could not obtain from the government any better nourishment for my patients, than the usual jail diet, so that I was obliged, in several cases, to have recourse to a part of the unemployed funds of the public hospital of the Durbar, in order to provide such comforts as were necessary. Taking these circumstances into consideration, my management was peculiarly fortunate; for, during a period of two years from the foundation of that hospital, not a single patient died of an acute disease — such as inflammation, fever, cholera, serpent bites, &c. of which I had many cases ; some of them so dangerous, that I had to visit the patients three or four times a-day. My successor was less fortunate ; for, during the first six months after the annexation (from May till October 1849) while I was still in the country, he lost upwards of sixty patients out of 1 ,000, not to mention those who were dismissed as incurable. I may state, with regard to the latter, that the experiments I made on similar diseases had often been crowned with success. It was thought that the great mortality during  these six months was caused by the small and unhealthy situation of the hospital, in consequence of which a larger was built, on the opposite side of the jail. The prisoners received better nourishment, were not so oppressed by hard labor, and were permitted to use tobacco, opium, poppy-heads, hemp, churrus, &c. which had been prohibited. I afterwards learned, that these changes had not been of much use ; and I believe the mortality is still greater than that of the first two years.

 

 

Edited by dallysingh101
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