Bhai Fauja Singh
& Protector of the Khalsa
by S.S. Sat Kirpal Kaur Khalsa
This is the story of the beginning of the association of the Khalsa of the west with the Bhai Sahib Bhai Randhir Singh Jatha of India, and is intended as a tribute to those Thirteen Martyrs of Amritsar. Let me begin by sharing the essence of the Hukam which I received when I went to the Siri Guru Granth Sahib for support upon hearing of Bhai Fauja Singh's death.
Nat Fourth Channel of Light ( pg. 983)
0 my mind, meditate thou on the
inaccessible and Infinite Lord.
I am a great sinner and virtueless;
the Guru has mercifully emancipated
The current of avarice is all like the dog's madness; this rabidness has spoiled everything.
When the news reached the court of my Lord,
Then taking up the sword of Divine e Knowledge, the Great God did slay it.
Save, save, save Thou me, 0 my Master and rescue me by showering thine benediction.
Nanak, I have not any other support; the Great True Guru has ferried me across.
In the spring of 1973, I made my first trip to India and the holy Harimandir Sahib. Early one morning as I meditated within its gold and marble walls, I felt myself being pushed a little this way and that way as more people entered the temple. I tried to make myself take up as little space as possible and also not to break my mental concentration upon the Gurbani Kirtan. But finally when I felt some pressure upon my knees, which I had pulled up to my chest, I opened my eyes. There I encountered the eyes of a girl of about twelve years old looking up at me. More surprising though was that she was wearing a turban! I had never seen an Indian Sikh female in a turban and I myself had just started tying one. For the next few mornings, she (Sat Nam Kaur) was always in the Golden Temple very early and would immediately seek me out. After many requests from her, I went to meet her Khalsa uncle and aunt, Bhai Fauja Singh and Bibi Amarjit Kaur. It was quite an adventure for me to follow her down the narrow streets of the city and up a darkened stairway, because we were kept very cloistered in those early days due to certain elements of the political climate. That was the start of my association with the Bhai Sahib Bhai Randhir Singh Jatha.
In later conversations, Bhai Fauja Singh said that even though most of us had not taken Amrit and we were not in full Khalsa bana, he recognized in us the prophecy of Guru Gobind Singh that the Khalsa would flourish in the west. He asked many questions about how we became Sikhs, our relationship to Yogi Bhajan, what we were taught, and what we believed. That quality in him remained throughout our friendship, as he continually asked me to explain all the foundations and facets of our understanding of Sikh Dharma, its relation to yoga and 3H0, exactly how we meditated, and what our plans were for the future of service to humanity. We corresponded after I left India. His letters were always a source of inspiration and a reminder of the humility of a true Gursikh.
In 1975, I returned to Amritsar. At that time Bhai Fauja Singh was in jail due to his participation in the Guruka Mail incident. It was he who led the way against those who had insulted the Siri Guru Granth Sahib and a Gurdwara. I spent a lot of time with Bibi Amarjit Kaur learning more about the details of the beliefs of their Jatha.
As S.S. Sat Kirpal Kaur sat meditating in the Golden Temple she found herself looking into the eyes of a young Sikh girl and was surprised to see her wearing a turban! Sat Nam Kaur is pictured here and was the young lady who introduced S.S. Sat Kirpal Kaur to Bhai Fauja Singh and S. Amarjit Kaur in 1975.
They have patiently watched us grow as the teachings of Sikh Dharma have been unfolded to us. They always maintained that the Siri Singh Sahib was teaching us correctly but we simply didn't follow closely enough. Sometimes we laughed over the changes we went through. For instance, Amarjit Kaur and Bhai Fauja Singh had told me earlier that the women should not leave any hair on the forehead when tying a turban. I insisted that it was scientifically sound, that that was the way the Siri Singh Sahib liked it, etc. Within a few months of that conversation, our hairs had disappeared beneath the turban per instruction of the Siri Singh Sahib. From the other side, a time came when the Bhai Sahib Bhai Randhir Singh Sikhs learned to respect our practice of yoga and even to participate. These things seem insignificant, but it is out of this kind of mutual understanding and acceptance that unity is built.
It was a joyous day on the same trip when I learned Bhai Fauja Singh had been released from jail. By this time, I felt that he and Bibi Amarjit Kaur were my Khalsa brother and sister of old times past, and it gave me great joy and a feeling of contentment and upliftment to be with them. We talked of God, Guru and Gurbani and of the Khalsa Panth. It was so wonderful to be in the company of the Sadh Sangat in the true sense, and, I am sorry to say, this was not the usual experience I had had among Sikh Sangats in general. These people were totally, honestly, and devotedly committed to living and dying as Khalsa and to teaching others about the Dharma and the Siri Guru Granth Sahib.
Up to this time, I had never been to any of their kirtans. Bhai Fauja Singh and Bibi Amarjit Kaur asked if a few of us could attend an all night kirtan and Amrit ceremony in Ludhiana. They had told us of the way in which their Panj Piare gives Amrit and we very much wanted to experience that. Much to my disappointment, the over-all opinion of those supervising us was that we should not attend. However, we arranged that we would try to meet in Patiala, because I was to visit the University there and they had friends in that city; but it was only tentative. I can tell you that 1 prayed that we might meet again. God and Guru brought us together at the Gurdwara there. I was so happy, the smile would not leave my face. I recently saw others of our western Khalsa with those same smiles when we joined that Jatha in the village of Butala. I'm going into this detail because perhaps the reader can also experience the joy born out of the meeting of old souls and to give an impression of the Dharmic projection of these people and Bhai Fauja Singh in particular.
We stayed with the family of Bibi Kirpal Kaur in Patiala. For the first time, I heard their inspiring kirtan. Then I had a long lesson from Bhai Fauja Singh in how to recite the Jaap Sahib. In the morning, we arose early and recited the banis. Then we went to Babaji's room and he did Parkash. They showed me to what extent a person can assuredly, respectfully, devotedly and lovingly relate to and care for the Siri Guru Granth Sahib through Prakash. I was deeply moved, humbled and grateful to be an observer and participant in that vibration. There were hours more of kirtan, playing gatka, discussion of Gurbani and meeting other members of their jatha before I traveled on to New Delhi.
A month or so later, I returned to Patiala for a few days to do kirtan at a wedding. I went to the place of the wedding, bowed before the Guru and sat among the Sadh Sangat. After a while, I opened my eyes. I couldn't believe what I saw. There was Bhai Fauja Singh. My heart lept in appreciation to the Guru for letting me meet my Khalsa brother again.
This 'group snap' was taken during the 1977 tour, on the roof of S. Amolak Singh's parents house, just after kirtan and langar. From left are pictured his parents, S.S. Sat Nirmal Kaur, S. Harkrishan Kaur, S.S. Nirbhao Kaur, S.S. Guru Meher Kaur, S.S. Siri Sadhana Kaur, S.S. Sat Kirpal Kaur, S.S. Karta Singh, S. Amarjit Kaur (wife of martyred Bhai Fauja Singh, and directly behind her is S. Kaval Singh who was also martyred on Baisakhi Day, 1978.
After another month in New Delhi, I returned to Amritsar where the three of us and S.S. Soorya Kaur Khalsa spent many, many educational, inspiring warm hours together. One day, I remember Bhai Fauja Singh took me to meet several friends of his. After leaving the home of a woman he called his mother, I remarked about the beauty of the simple rough brick floor because it was so clean. A few days later, I had dinner at Bhai Fauja Singh and Bibi Amarjit Kaur's home. Because of his active nature in opposing any wrong-doing among Sikhs, it was difficult for them to find a home. People were afraid to rent to them; they were afraid they would draw trouble. From the time in 1973 that he had decided to devote his life for the preservation of the Khalsa in India, they had gone from a modest upper story flat in view of Akal Takht to a pantry room atop the roof of a building that was in great disrepair and located some distance from the Harimandir Sahib. As I entered that room, I felt totally humble; the brick floor of that small and simple room was spotless and still damp in places. Bhai Fauja Singh had scrubbed it three times. We fondly and lightly called that room their "broken house". We also looked forward to the day when I would be able to share that "broken house" with them. As of then, however, we were not able to move so freely among the Sikh community.
It was at that time that Bhai Fauja Singh explained the political nature of many Sikhs and the vast amount of missionary work that was needed in India. I didn't want to hear about Sikh politics or Indian politics, but now I understand that it is political entanglements which created the massacre on April 13, 1978. `Fauja' means soldier, and certainly he lived to his name. He was totally committed to defending the purity of the Guru and the Khalsa, and his wife was there to serve and support him in that mission.
When I returned to Amritsar in 1977, he was again in jail, this time awaiting trial on charges of murder of a man who had beaten a young woman who was a member of their jatha. On the outside of the jail Amarjit Kaur had been working very hard to prove his innocence. Inside the jail, he was also working hard. He was doing his missionary work and many of the inmates had become Sikhs, as well as the young son of a Hindu man who was in charge of the jail. By this time, Bhai Fauja Singh was no longer wearing western style suit and black turban, but was in the white bana of Guru Gobind Singh. At first he had been content to remain in jail, meditate and continue his work, but he had recently come to the realization that his leadership was needed beyond those jail walls.
The fall of 1977 was the celebration of the 400th anniversary of Amritsar. About 100 of us had come for this function and to travel to other cities and villages to do kirtan and participate with the Sadh Sangat. Had it not been for the Bhai Sahib Bhai Randhir Singh Jatha, particularly Bibi Amarjit Kaur, we would never have traveled to any villages or cities because the S.G.P.C. was much too busy to make these arrangements.
There were several memorable visits to villages, times of kirtan and gatka, Sangat and Pangat. I'm sure those buses in which we rode have never heard so much kirtan. We would return late at night, contented, inspired and still singing with our Khalsa brothers and sisters.
During that time period in India, there was a campaign underway to slander the Siri Singh Sahib and Sikh Dharma of the Western Hemisphere. Bhai Fauja Singh sent me pages of questions. He wanted each and every detail and reading material so he could formulate his position and communicate it to the presses and the Indian leadership. He came out in complete support and recognition of the Siri Singh Sahib and his work and challenged those who had not transformed even one Indian Sikh and who would yet criticize the Siri Singh Sahib.
Toward the end of our stay, about forty of us went to Gurdaspur jail for Gurdwara and kirtan. We were totally humbled by what we beheld there. A man all in white and with a radiant face and humble nature greeted each one of us with `Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa, Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh.' We could tell he, too was excited by our joining there. Bhai Fauja Singh won the hearts of everyone. The walls of the courtyard bore beautiful and simple placards of Gurbani and in the center was the Gurdwara and the Sadh Sangat. The only way to distinguish those Indian Singhs who had come with us from those who live within the jail was that the latter could not wear their kirpans.
We were graciously served langar within the cell confines and then moved back into the courtyard. Sitting there doing kirtan, I was bounced back and forth between two realms. At one moment I would look at the Sangat and feel physical and mental pain at seeing these men in turbans sitting in a jail and then I would think, "No, our bodies are also jails, but for our souls." Most of those men were in turbans because of the efforts of Bhai Fauja Singh. The peace and joy he was experiencing from kirtan and Nam Simran spoke to my inner being. Later he pointed out to me that this time he could clearly understand our kirtan, where in the past, he had to listen carefully before he could be sure what shabd we were reciting. After kirtan, he spoke out strongly in support of the Siri Singh Sahib and Sikh Dharma of the west.
About two weeks later, Amarjit Kaur, Swami Singh Khalsa and myself went to visit him again. The jail authorities openly expressed their great respect, trust and love of him. As some other Sikh prisoners have done before, he had refused the facilities open to him because of his education and profession, and had instead requested lesser quarters in order to be with more men, those men who needed the teachings he carried. At this final meeting of ours, he urged me to push for the Khalsa of the west to work more directly with the Khalsa of India. The ice had been broken now. He urged me to ask the Siri Singh Sahib to send over small groups which could live among their jatha, learn the language and our Khalsa history and heritage in depth, and travel with them to systematically do missionary work in cities and especially in villages. He felt that the building blocks of the future of the Khalsa in India lay in the village masses.
He was more universal in vibration than I had ever seen him before, and was absolutely one-pointed on the unity of Khalsa of east and west and upon his responsibility to help the Khalsa ofIndia. He stated it was up to God and Guru to free him from his current abode and firmly believed Guru Gobind Singh had given him that time to meditate, regain his health (they cooked their own meals as Bhai Sahib Bhai Randhir Singh had done when he was in prison), and to create Khalsa among those men. As we parted, I knew that the hours we had spent together in the past, light-hearted, warm and personal, would never come again. He, in particular, was detached from that now and looked instead to each of us having a much broader relationship with the Khalsa. He, as a brother had planted a seed, and wanted to see the fruit born as unity of Khalsa and the salvation of the eastern Sikhs.
Khalsa brothers of the East and the West share the experience of living the practical life of a soldier/saint. M.S.S Livtar Singh Khalsa on the left receives a practical lesson in 'Gatka' (Indian sword fighting) techniques.
The Siri Singh Sahib carries the arrow presented by S. Amarjit Kaur as he crosses the Pakistan border during his visit in 1977.
At this time, he also assured us that we need not worry about the safety of the Siri Singh Sahib when he came to Amritsar for the 400th anniversary celebration. He gave Bibi Amarjit Kaur a list of Singhs who could be counted upon to come at a moment's notice and who would die to protect the Siri Singh Sahib. Ultimately, it was their jatha which was called early one morning to offer the Siri Singh Sahib safe passage from India to Pakistan. They were the only group that openly and unreservedly came to our aid. At that time, Bibi Amarjit Kaur greeted the Siri Singh Sahib and presented him with an arrow, and he in turn took the dust of the feet of her and Bhai Joginder Singh, another member of their jatha.
When our group left Amritsar for New Delhi and our return to the United States, the Bhai Sahib Bhai Randhir Singh Jatha met us at the railway station loaded with baskets of fruit. They were the only Indian Sikhs to see us off. This was a change from the S.G.P.C. participation of the past. `Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa and Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh' rang back and forth among us. There were tender hugs between Singhs. It was about to end, and then Bibi Amarjit Kaur suggested they ride with us to the next train station about an hour and a half away. We enthusiastically voiced our approval Many of them boarded with us. As our train pulled away, some of those remaining ran beside the train, giving us kirpans and iron karas. We spent the next 11/z hours in Gurbani Kirtan. That ride none of us will ever forget. There was one really amusing thing. Bhai Joginder Singh was playing tabla and someone put the stereo headphones of their tape recorder over his ears. He was totally delighted as his surroundings were nothing but the sounds of Gurbani Kirtan. People had one of two appearances at that time: either eyes closed and meditating and singing or eyes open, singing and smiling. Then at the city of Jullundar, we shared our last `Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa and Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fatehs'; and now history has shown that for some, it was a final parting on this plane and our last voiced farewells.
Within a month, Bhai Fauja Singh had won the right to appeal his sentence of life imprisonment and was released until the courts would consider his case. He immediately resumed his missionary endeavors, especially working to lay a foundation to unite some of the Sikh factions into a common Khalsa Panth and teaching about the meaning of Gurbani.
In the end, Bhai Fauja Singh led a group of Singhs on Baisakhi Day to peacefully protest against those Sant Nirankaris who were slandering the Sikh Gurus and insulting the Siri Guru Granth Sahib. Though they went with no attitude of aggression toward any people, each also went with the attitude that it is the Guru's blessing to give one's head in defense of the honor, dignity and purity of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib and its teaching as manifest in the Sikh Gurus and the Khalsa.
In April of 1978, when I returned to Amritsar, it was to pay respect to the Thirteen Martyrs of Amritsar on behalf of the Khalsa of the Western Hemisphere. I shall never forget the experience of seeing those dear brothers of the Bhai Sahib Bhai Randhir Singh Jatha in the Sadh Sangat of Manji Sahib and Bibi Amarjit Kaur sitting near the Guru. Visiting those wounded Singhs in the Guru Teg Bahadur hospital, seeing their physical state and their soaring spirits, taught me once again what Khalsa spirit is, what a saint-soldier is, and what it means when we say "When things are down and darkest, that is when we stand tallest." God and Guru know Their ways.
At our last kirtan before leaving Amritsar, I sang the shabd that Bhai Fauja Singh sang when we visited the home of the parents of the young girl who first brought us together. He had his arm around her father and both were shedding tears of joy.
Sri Rag, First Channel of Light (17-18)
Come my sisters and dear comrades,
clasp me in thine embrace. Meeting together, let us tell tales of
our Omnipotent Spouse.
In the True Lord are all merits; in us
O my Creator, all are in Thy power. I contemplate over the One Name,
when thou are mine, 0 Lord, What more do I require then?
Just as we are attracted to and pick the most beautiful and perfect flowers in a garden and bring them into our homes, so God took Bhai Fauja Singh and those other great Singhs and let them lay their heads at His lotus feet in service to their dharma.
Yet God does not want the garden to go untended. For each Gursikh that was plucked that day, hundreds should blossom forth in full beauty to carry on the mission of the Khalsa that others may experience the divine fragrance of the Nam.
Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa, Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh!