Dust of the Dust of the Dust….

Over the years I have observed some characteristics that some Sikhs have taken on regarding an effort to reduce ego/pride. As Sikhs we are taught to not get attached to the five "challenges" of Lust, Anger, Greed, Pride and Attachment. In an effort to prevent these feelings I have seen some practices by Sikhs which I think are unnecessary.

The first routine is the overly humble guise. It goes something like this: "I am just a lowly sinner…" , "I am the dust of the dust of the dirt"…  "I am a das of the das", "I know nothing…", etc. Most of the time when I hear this type of thing from people it feels just like a cover to try to negate any ego. In reality for most people it feels like a false routine to portray ones self as humble. I know in Gurbani Guru Nanak and other Gurus have used similar words as this…but this was our Gurus expression. It’s one thing if you say this to yourself as an internal thing in your mind…..but to say it to other people is very different. It’s as if you have to say it out loud to prove, or make sure that people know you are humble. It’s sort of a false humbleness. If you are humble people will see it in your actions, words, and in your presence (not by words and statements about your humbleness).


There is the "Please forgive me" Maafi routine ("Bhul Chuk Maaf) – That one starts out apologizing and then getting really heavy. As if by apologizing it makes everything that is said ok.

There is the "I know nothing" routine – Someone gives a lecture for two hours and then ends with something like "I know nothing and am just a servant of you all."

Another routine is the "anonymous sevadhar". This is by far the most common I have seen these days. I think many Sikhs have been taught that in order to prevent ego from coming into your mind that you should remain hidden and unknown when doing seva. While this might work and be great in some situations, I think quite often this is taken to extremes for everything.

  • Example 1: My friend Gurujot Singh went to a Samagam out of town and was doing lagar seva. Later on a Sikh was telling him that he should not do seva in Bana, he should dress very simply and do seva that no one knows about. The person’s impression probably was that by wearing bana and doing a seva in public that it was being done out of ego to show people how servicefull and how "spiritual" you are.
  • Example 2: In the world of the internet it is easy to remain anonymous, so the "anonymous sevadhar" is very common online. Many people that run Sikh websites or do various seva online go to great lengths to stay anonymous. I can email back and forth with someone tens of times and have no idea who I am taking to except for the name "sevadhar" that is signed at the end. I have no idea who I am dealing with.

Bana, Clothing, jewelry, etc – This is another one where people think that if you are wearing bana that you are showing off and trying to look holy. So they say you should wear very simple clothes that don’t stand out. This routine also relates to jewelry and people feel that by wearing jewelry that you are getting caught up maya. We all talk about being Khalsa Raj, Kings, Queens, princes and princesses. So…are we paupers or are we kings/queens? This is another case of trying to shelter ourselves from feeling ego/pride/etc.

The point of all this is more about finding a balance. As Sikhs we are householders that live in this world. We are not sadhus hiding up in the mountains to escape from all the Maya. Trying to shelter or protect one self from feeling these things is not the answer (in my opinion). We as Sikhs should deal with it head on. God gave us a mind and intellect to feel these things and to be able to deal with them. Beating around the bush trying to hide from it can only work for so long. When you have a feeling of pride/ego/lust/etc….you have a choice. You can dwell or act on it…or you can be conscious of this feeling and "cut" it and change the direction of your thoughts. I think the problem is when you are not conscious of these feelings. 

Being a Leader and Examples for others to Follow
Another thing in relation to "anonymous seva" is that there is a need for leadership and good examples for everyone around us. It is a good thing to have role models and be able to see people who are doing good things for the community. If all these people are "hiding out" they might not be available to share and help inspire others to do the same. I think it is great to be out there and help others in a public way. I deal with this all the time being the so called "Mr. SikhNet". Lots of people know me, and I serve and share very publicly. Am I full of ego and pride? I don’t think so. The service isn’t about me…it’s about being of service and helping others. It’s just a medium. It’s not to say I never feel pride or ego, but I watch my mind and catch it if it tries to go astray. It’s just part of the territory. I choose to face these things head on. Some people do this and may fall victim, but this is just part of life and learning. We learn by overcoming these challenges and controlling our mind, not by hiding out.

There is something good about being very personal with people, being honest, and sharing who I am. Having nothing to hide makes one also more conscious of things that they do and say, because you have to take responsibility for everything, which isn’t always easy. On the internet lots of people (Sikhs included) choose to hide behind anonymous names and say/do things that they would never do publicly as "themself". There is a certain character I think in being you, and taking responsibility (good and bad) for your actions and words.

Hopefully all this makes you think about these topics and become more conscious about how you deal with it in the future.

Here is a short video by SSS Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji during some question and answer session with Sikh Youth in Surrey, Canada (March 19th 1996) on the topic of Humbleness and Jewelry.

Download: Audio / Video 

You can also watch a video with Guruka Singh on the similar topic of "The Five Challenges". In this video Guruka Singh shares his thoughts on this and gives suggestions as to how to deal with these feelings.

70 Responses to “Dust of the Dust of the Dust….”

  1. Balwant says:

    Nobody should judge who is smart and who is dumb. Nobody should judge who is humble and who is egotistical. All will be shown by the actions. Gurumustuk Singh you did not include the Guru’s bani in your message. Therefore it will be flawed. If you take the support of the Guru’s bani to show your message, you will see the truth and be the "light-house" the yogiji talks about. Judgement hurts but if judgement is fair then don’t worry. If you are following guru’s bani then don’t worry about complainers. But if any of your individual concept is in your post, then you are making unfair judgement. Some people are truly humble, and do not like jewelry, and also say apology for any mistake. That’s fine. Some people are not humble, and do not like jewelry, and also say apology for any mistake. That will be wrong. Intention cannot known by action alone. Intention can know by studying man’s character, habits, actions, emotion, voice, intuition, expression. Don’t judge some man’s intention if you did not meditate on his character to understand his soul. If you understand his soul then your words will always be true. God bless.

  2. ujjalbir says:

    I think Gurumustak  has been  totally misunderstood by the those reading the blog on this site .  Iam not being partial but allof those who  have  not only travelled but have actually interacted with the internationnal community at  an intelluctual level and has a wide exposure will perhaps realise that whilst writing the author is reflecting the American psychology and thinking which can be often amount to calling a spade a spade  and could be quite blunt .  It is also to the fact that such an approach has brought America to the level of a super power . How many British goras have taken up the Sikh way of life .  What about the French look what has been happening to the Sikhs in France.   Whereas in America there is a full fleged   community of western Sikhs in America . Besides the spread of Sikhism  the credit also  goes to the liberal thinking  of the Americans like Gurumustuk and many more who have have not hesitated to embrace the principals of  the most modern religion of Sikhism . Gurumustuk has only tried to highlight that  the challenges of the five devilish forces and why cant we be different . I would only request the readers to please give leeway to the Sikhnet team and possibly the Sikhnet team could kindly consider that as many people as many views . MAY GOD GIVE THE PERSRVERANCE TO THE SIKH NET TEAM TO KEEP IT GOING .

  3. SPSA, you have publicly written comments that show you as a bigot. How do you feel?How can you comment on ALL western Sikhs? I know some Western Sikhs who have more spirit in the clipping of their toe nail than entire sangats that I’ve been with. People like you are the reason people like me, have to watch out for other Sikhs rather than embrace them.It saddens me that I can no longer trust "Sikhs." Before the internet and before I left Espanola I only saw greatness amongst Sikhs. WaheGuru bless me to live in the same bliss that ignorance affords. Let me concentrate on the blessings of the worldwide Sikh community and some day see us all as one.

  4. Jaskooner Singh says:

    Things are a lot more formal in the east. You have to show a lot of respect in public and when you make such statements it is like you have to follow the format of a legal letter.You have to aim your statement to your respective audience so if they are Western you would be different from those from the East.For example when I discuss such matters with my peer group it is very direct and "American’ but when I make a public announcement at my local Punjabi Gurudwara I have to couch my language differently.If there are any problems arising it seems to be from cross cultural confusion.Gurmustuk and Sikhnet are not talking against Indian Sikhs, I personally believe we Punjabi’s should "increase our comfort zone" and realise the world is a lot bigger than India and take advantage of this opportunity.If you want the Guru’s message to prosper then you have to accept that we must help our host country make Sikhism ‘their own’.

  5. ProjectNaad says:

    Great article brother!

  6. Gurinder "G" says:

    SPSA,   You said, "Showing humbleness repeatedly brings it in you. if our great Guru Sahiban used to do this, "   Showing your humbleness will not begin to come out of your heart and mind, rather it would increase more of our cunningness nature.  Then you said that " our great Guru sahiban used to do this"  What a degrading remark you have made towards the Guru ji.  Whatever they had inside of their minds and hearts it also showed outwardly, they were not pretenders like us!  The more you pretend or fake your emotions it will not bring good qualities in you rather make you an expert in cunningness.Then you went on to make a comment on Western Sikhs, Any sikh who divides sikhs on the basis of region, color, caste is not a sikh.  I don’t really think that people like you really have admitted themselves into sikh school.  People like you are just hovering around school without making an effort to learn something.  Being born into sikh family does not makes you a good sikh because every individual have to earn their own degree, and how they do it is between that person and his Guru. 

  7. Gunneeta says:

    Your article was great and from the heart, but I felt it had signs of frustration(if not anger) as well. I agree that many people just say a lot of things that they don’t really mean, "I know nothing, I’m sangat’s servant" or "I’m a lowly kookar" etc but I don’t think one needs to go to the extent of judging of whether he/she is lying about his words or just using those words to promote a false sense of humility in himself and outsiders. If that way pleases him/her, then so be it.  They are just trying to do what helps them and if Guruji could say those words, then some Sikh trying it out is not such a sin after all! Its all about perception. The Truth only God knows. Similarly, if someone wears a bana, and another person perceives it to be a non-humble act of proclaiming to be "holy", then well, its quite possible that the truth is just that! Or it may well be someone’s genuine intention to respect the Guru’s bana and God only knows the Truth! Why are we so worried about how people speak, or how people dress, what they portray outside and what they are on the inside, when we oursleves are lying to ourselves all the time! As a Sikh, I lie to myself every moment and God knows the Truth! We ourselves pretend all the time!

    You are quite upset up about "anonymous sevadhars", but I find it a refreshing change from the 45 minute ardaas ceremony that we have to endure in UK Southa;ll Gurudwara every Sunday, where the entire money contribution of each "named person" is read out and even broadcast on the radio! In an age, where I see signs like "this brick and this wall contributed by S. XYZ" and "the mezanine floor donation of Rs. 1 lac done by S. ABC" , I think its great if I hear, "anonymous sevadhar" has done it! Are you saying that you would rather her those long winding list of names of who-dunnit??? That is far more detrimental to the values of humility in Sikhism in my opinion. I agree you could face some operational difficulties but it doesn’t take more than writing to them and saying that you would be pleased if you had a proper name attached as you are probably going to talk again. At the same time, I like the fact that you share your life with us, and I don’t think its an act of ego, so you must continue to do what you think gives you peace and joy and feels right to you. Each one to his own.

    I’ve realised that human perception is a strange thing. What feels right to us, may not seem right to another. As long as its not an act totally against the values of Sikhism, let us just give each other space to have do what we feel is right and not worry too much about them.

  8. ujjalbir says:

    It is strange that the issue continues to be contentious. It is simply an observatio made in the blog certainly not adegradtion of anyone in particular. Bertrand Russel statement needs to be recalled as often as possible that the Sikh religion is most relevant in modern life but the Sikhs are guilty of not spreading the GURU S MESSAGE.  The primary reason for this is  because  some of the Sikhs in Punjab are not yet mentally at peace with themselves and actually have not been able to relate to the international community as intensively as required and there are not providing the due patience required . It is also an emotionaal anomaly that GURU NANAK DEV JI in those old times overcame such mental hurdles and geographical obstructions travelling far and wide to spread the message and here we are unable to accomodate a view of a follow SIkh because he is American in origin . It only shows the thinking of the writer who is commenting on his blog and shows his inabilty to connect up . Please give the latitude to people of different backgrounds.Instead of spending making Gurudwaras at every road the sikhs should spread the message of GURU NANAK DEV JI something that Sikh net is endeavouring to do. We need to learn from GURU NANAK DEV JI and reach to all nooks and corners of the world but this can only can be done by patience understanding the fact that a westerner has to cover a large distance emotionally before he can imbibe the tenents of Sikh ethos. There a lot accomodating attitude is requested otherwise even after 50 years in the States and Canada UK we are still fighting legal battles for wearing a turban . MAY GOD BLESS THE SIKH NET TEAM.

  9. Singh16 says:

    I think that some, if not most, of the issues raised in this article relate to cultural differences and practices. The "humble guise," "please forgive me," "I know nothing," and "anonymous sevadar" are not being faked by people, they have been raised to at least act this way as they have adopted their cultural norms of acting in a humble manner. The cultural practices of acting humble are common in eastern societies. In the east, the individual is taught, through the expected cultural behavior,  not to stick out in the crowd, attempt to do the best for the group, make self sacrifices.On the other hand, western culture stresses the importance of the individual and individual accomplishment. These two cultures, east vs west, are very different. I feel that the differences noted in the above article speak to a difference in cultural upbringing, rather than people feigning fake actions.

  10. Gurinder says:

    Dear Brothers,

    Sikhi or Gurus are not so small to dicuss on the internet, it is a path shown by 10 Gurus, why are you trying to dig out.    

  11. Hari Singh Khalsa says:

    For those who read my comment, I have to say that Bharat Vir Singh Ji’s comment made my point quite well.  I have decided to become much more careful with the spell-checker’s suggestions to avoid using the word tenant when I mean tenet.  This is a helpful bit of information coming within a comment that is quite unflattering and unpolished.  Bharat Vir Singh ji, I could spend way too much time responding to your accusation of Beadbee, but instead I’ll just request you to reflect on that kind of statement.   If you have, and you don’t see anything wrong with it, then ask others for their thoughts.  Also note that I view this type of behavior as one intended to limit people’s freedom of expression, belief or speech and that this is no different than the behaviors of the oppressors of Sikhs going back to the Guru’s times, when the state was trying to enforce it’s religion and viewpoint onto others violently.

  12. Harsharen says:

    Have you considered that when people say those things, they are not actually saying it to the person but to the light within him/her and the other? Sometines you go off on a tangent talking about something, and at somepoint you "come back" to your consciousness which says "who do you think you are?" and hence the ‘apology’ or reply that ‘i am nothing’ etc. etc. just comes out naturally. Because ultimately i understand that i am nothing, although at the same time ultimately i am ‘har da roop’, ironic because if ‘i am’ then i cannot be har da roop lol. "jab tum hothai tab mai nahee…." i.e. "when you are there i am not, now i am not, you are"

    People go through different stages, and use different techniquies at different stages, i guess what matters is the sharda and bhavana they do it in – i.e. you don’t know what the person is feeling or thinking at the time they say it.  On the otherhand it may be very obvious that the person is being false.

    Bottom-line – we shouldn’t make value judgements/blanket judge everyone who falls into the ‘catergory’ that does this.  

  13. Harsharen says:

    By the way, that quote is probabley incorrect, lol, but you may know which one i’m talking about.

  14. Snowflake says:

    Love the posts bro – keep up the good work!

    On the whole i agree but regarding the critique of doing Sewa anonymously however i agree with the others before me that it’s probably not best to judge others at the very least until we know more about their life.

    People do Sewa anonymously all the time across the world, they don’t get noticed whilst working in the Langar or elsewhere but they are more than just cogs in a machine or potential leaders shying away. By merely doing Sewa they are leaders whether or not they choose to do so formally or not. In fact in our community is full of too many "leaders" and "preachers" and too few practisers and followers of the Guru.

    As Kuldip Manak once sang:
    Singh Sewadar Bano Sikh Qaum De Na Bhaalo Jathedariaan

    Guru Angad Dev Ji got GurGadhi by doing sewa with humility. He never got noticed much whilst being Bhai Lehna but the Guru certainly rewarded him for his Sewa. Same with Guru Amar Das, etc. Those who do Sewa formally in Bana are also good, there is no wrong here.

  15. Diljeet says:


    Great posts by everyone.  Very enlightening! 

    Does anyone have any insight on how to deal with anger?  I know we’ve reflected on ego/pride, but just wondering if there is anything on anger?    I know Gurbani speaks alot about reflecting on God, doing simran,  I do feel great listening to kirtan and having discussions about God.   But more and more reflecting on His glory is becoming rare. Folks sometimes just tune you out..and then before you know it..you’ve stopped altogether.  However, that inner soul still seeks that soul food..and I think that’s what is bringing about restlessness in my own life..which then leads to anger..then sadness.

    How do we as humans make that transition, from discontent to content,  so every step and action we take in life is of a peaceful fufilling one?  Has anyone experienced that? 

    I know I should do path (Nitnam)?…I know that…but how does one  motivate oneself to get up early and do that?  I try my best to listen to it in the car on my way to work, or whenever I’m able to, but I know I should be doing more.  Just don’t know where to start again.  Any pointers and sources of inspiration out there would be much appreciated :)
    I’m glade I found this site.  Maybe I will find something insightful here.  

    Thanks for sharing!

  16. Diljeet, there is a lot you can do to deal with anger and different people do different things. My son tends to get frustrated and angry often about things and it is my job to help him move this anger and emotion so that he doesn’t get stuck in it.

    First off, early on I learned that we all have a choice of how we feel. When you feel upset or angry you can give it energy and let your mind suck you into that feeling or you can consciously choose to shift that energy. The next time you feel this way watch your mind and how it loves to “soak” in the emotions. It’s as if it is hungry and you want more and more. Then shift your focus and consciously tell yourself that you have a choice and that you don’t want to feel this way. Don’t give it attention. This is one aspect of controlling your mind that might help. It helps me.

    The other thing I do is meditation. Your emotions and feelings are related to your breath. When you are angry or upset you breath fast and shallow. Take 3-11 minutes and sit in a quite place. Straighten your spine and close your eyes. Focus your eyes at the point between your eye brows and very consciously breath in and out. Do this very long and deep. One inhalation can take 15 seconds or more. Exhale out slowly the same. When you inhale you can mentally chant “Wahe”….and exhale “Guru”. When you finish….take a deep breath in and hold it for about 20 seconds, then exhale and repeat two more times. See how you feel!! It’s pretty simple….but you’ll be a different person.

    Dealing with Anger and other feelings is all about controlling your mind. Meditation is a tool that trains you to stay in control of your mind. This way when you might normally react….you stay composed and calm.

  17. molly says:

    WAHE GURU JI KA KHALSA, WAHE GURU JI KI FATEH,The article everyone is discussing so heatedly has been written in a very positive spirit and points towards the humility lacking behind the high flying humble words used by most of the people uttering those words.Instead of criticism, it calls for introspection by all of us, if it is being used by us just to gain a false image then it should be dropped as soon as possible.Criticizing for the sake of criticizing is not appreciable.Lets not use this spiritual site for creating controversies.                                I personally feel that american sikhs are spiritually more evolved than us, we should take a lead from them and drop the pretensions and appericiate each others good qualities.Thank you Gurmustak Singh & Prabhu Singh.GURU RAKHA

  18. R Singh says:

    vjkk vjkf




    nicAY tipAY Bgiq n hoie ]
    nachiai ttapiai bhagath n hoe ||
    By dancing and jumping, devotional worship is not performed.



    vjkk vjkf

  19. Gurpreet says:

    Well … that certainly shut everyone up *grin*

    What I remember from a hukumnama weeks back, in my interpretation, "you can read loads of books, etc but nothing compares to the word of the guru. Then I ask, what am I doing here educating a bunch of nitwits when the time can be better spent with simran or seva or sangat (this is NOT sangat-ing, believe me). Its my EGO, I grin, and it wants to have some fun – knowing full well the climb I have to take to eradicate the effects of my "fun". Sliding is SOOOO easy, and that is why it is fun. Imagine giving up alcohol for 2 years – a glass of wine as a reward? Well, this is my glass of wine.

    Humility is linked to Guru and grace. He provides it. You don't EARN it. I respect that enough to know to shut up when I PERCEIVE a non humble being pretending to be humble. I just thank Guru for granting his grace in removing my sin(s) for yet another day. This makes me feel even more humbled and treasured, I want to crawl into a hole, I feel so humbled.

    I thank Him for me KNOWING when I myself pretend to be humble and not liking the taste of it and practising humility free and easy because I don't have to TRY to be humble.

    People try. Is that so bad?

    They may not know what falsehood tastes like because they haven't tasted truth.

    but they try. They are scaling that mountain or even observing it.

    Is that so bad?

    Where are YOU in that climb? Scaling high or in a valley somewhere? Are you high or low? Here is the scoop. You don't know. Only Guruji knows.