Monday, January 12, 2015

Remembering Bhai Sahib Jeevan Singh Jee...

ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਜਨਮੁ ਸਵਾਰਿ ਦਰਗਹ ਚਲਿਆ ||
ਸਚੀ ਦਰਗਹ ਜਾਇ ਸਚਾ ਪਿੜੁ ਮਲਿਆ ||
"Spending this life fruitfully, the Gurmukh goes to the other world. There in the True court (of the Akaal Purakh) they get their True place."
(Bhai Sahib Gurdaas Jee, Vaar 19: 14)
On January Wednesday 7th January, Bhai Sahib Jeevan Singh jee of Akhand Keertani Jatha, left this world to go to the lap of the Guru at the worldly age of 88. Bhai Sahib was known for his humility and saintliness not in India but around the world. He devoted his life to the Panth and helping others. He was a highly respect personality in the Sikh Panth. He was a close companion of Bhai Sahib Bhai Randheer Singh jee. Bhai Sahib lived up to his name "Jeevan" and was a living image of what it means to be a Gursikh. Those who knew Bhai Sahib reveal that Bhai Sahib knew all of Sri Guru Granth Sahib jee by memory, although epitomising humility he never claimed or discussed it. Bhai Sahib is a gem of the Panth who inspired countless people, including those who had not physically seen him.  

Guru jee blessed my mother and I with Bhai Sahib's darshan at his residence in Amritsar in February 2009. Although Bhai Sahib's health was poor at the time and he was unable to speak, his presence alone brought tears to the eyes. My mother gave him a cardigan which he hugged and stroked (because it was soft). He then struggled to put his arm down the bed. We thought he had dropped something and trying to pick it up. We then realised he was trying to touch my mum's feet! My mum is not Amritdhari and seeing such humility from Bhai Sahib made both her and I emotional. Waheguru. The dust of the feet of such Gursikhs is priceless.


(Collected from Gursikhs and from the Internet)

Bhai Sahib was born on 15th March 1926 in the village Kot Rustana, district Jhang, now in Pakistan. His parents were Mata Kishan Kaur jee and Bhai Mehtaab Singh jee. He had three sisters - Bibi Lachhmi Kaur jee, Bibi Raaj Kaur jee and Bibi Sant Kaur jee, and one younger brother - Master Sher Singh jee. In 1942 he did Paatth seva for Akhand Paatths held at Sri Hamandir Sahib, Amritsar. He impressed everyone wit h his flawless and melodious recitation of paatth. In 1943 his Anand Kaaraj was done with Bibi Joginder Kaur jee in a nearby village. Thirteen years later Bhai Sahib was blessed with a son, named Jaspal Singh. From 1945-46 Bhai Sahib began keertan seva at Baoli Sahib Gurdwara, Sri Goindwal Sahib. But then in 1947 he began to do keertan at Sri Darbaar Sahib, Amritsar, with a Gursikh from Sindh province.

Meeting Bhai Sahib Bhai Randheer Singh Jee
In 1947 Bhai Jeevan Singh jee met Bhai Sahib Bhai Randheer Singh jee of Narangwal, Ludhiana. Bhai Sahib Bhai Randheer Singh jee was one the leading freedom fighters of the Gadar Movement, hero of the Lahore conspiracy case, first prisoner of the Gurdwara Reform Movement, and who was honoured as the 'Golden Sparrow' of the Panth. He had spent more than 15 years in prison and was a great mystic and keertani. When Bhai Jeevan Singh jee met Bhai Sahib Randheer Singh jee a spiritual relationship form and Bhai Jeevan Singh jee got inspiration and direction. From this point Bhai Jeevan Singh jee began to do selfless keertan with Bhai Sahib Randheer Singh jee's Jatha (group) which later became known as the 'Akhand Keertani Jatha'. 

Career as a Raagi
Some years later Bhai Sahib began to accompany Raagi Surjan Singh jee to do keertan from 1953 to 1954. Afterwards Bhai Sahib returned back to Ludhiana where Bhai Sahib Randheer Singh jee instructed him to do keertan at Gurdwara Singh Sabha, Model Town, Ludhiana. Bhai Sahib did keertan seva at this Gurdwara Sahib for some time. Here, he settled with his wife and son and his brother-in-law Bhai Iqbal Singh jee and sister, Bibi Sant Kaur jee began to do sangat here. The fragrance of Bhai Sahib's keertan spread far and wide. The management committee of Takht Sri Patna Sahib were taken aback by Bhai Sahib's sweet voice and beautiful keertan and as a result he was made a Hazoori Raagi at Takht Sri Patna Sahib in 1972. Bhai Sahib's keertan changed the atmosphere. At the time Bhai Sahib would return to Panjab every year for 2 months and return back to Takht Patna Sahib with wheat donations for the Langar and other monetary donations he had collected from Panjab to give to the Takht Sahib. Bhai Sahib's seva led to his further respect.

Meetings with Giani Baba Kartar Singh Jee (Bhindran Wale)
Bhai Jeevan Singh jee used to be invited by Giani Baba Kartar Singh jee Bhindranwale to do keertan at Mehtaa. It has been said that Baba jee would wait at the train station for Bhai Sahib and the Akhand Keertani Jatha Singhs to come. When Bhai Sahib jee used to get off the train Baba jee would rush to the train to greet Bhai Sahib. When they would meet they would embrace one another with so much pyaar (love). Baba jee held Bhai Sahib jee in great regard. Baba jee himself would serve Bhai Jeevan Singh jee langar with his own hands. Whenever Bhai Jeevan Singh jee would enter the Diwaan where Baba Kartar Singh jee would be doing Kathaa, Baba jee would stop the Kathaa and request Gurmukh pyaare Bhai Jeevan Singh jee to do keertan for the Sangat.

Tour to Propagate Sikhi
In 1976 Takht Sri Patna Sahib management committee sent Bhai Sahib to Canada for Dharam Parchaar (propagation of Sikhi). This was his first foreign tour. At the time not many Parchaariks had travelled abroad. However, Bhai Sahib's unique point was that he was the first Parchaarik visiting the West that did not take money for himself. In the 1970s people living in the West had grown away from their Sikhi roots. Bhai Sahib decided that Sikhi education is fundamental and is importantly needed in the countries outside of India. His gentle sweet approach inspired thousands to stop drinking alcohol and eating meat and begin Nitnem, keep Rehat and take Amrit from the Guru-roop Panj Pyaare. At that time in Canada, it was difficult to find five Amritdhari Sikhs to do Amrit Sanchaar. So Bhai Rama Singh jee and Bhai Amrik Singh jee went from England for this purpose. The first Amrit Sanchaar in Vancouver was held in Tatt Khalsa Gurdwara. People came from faraway, including Sikhs from America. Eighty people were ready to receive Amrit. The Amrit Sanchaar programme started at 2am and ended in the afternoon. When the procession of eighty Sikhs who had received Amrit came out with the Panj Pyaare into the sangat, everyone was impressed. Many others were inspired to take Amrit.

The bloody Vaisakhi of 1978
On Vaisaakhi 1965 Bhai Fauja Singh jee's marriage took place with Bibi Amarjit Kaur jee and on this occasion Bhai Jeevan Singh jee performed the keertan. On 13th April 1978, the day of Vaisaakhi, about 125 Singhs, led by Bhai Fauja Singh jee, went to peacefully protest against the Nakli-Nirankari procession in Amritsar and against the cult leader Gurbachan's insults against the Sikh Gurus. The Nakli-Nirankari army fired at the unarmed Singhs, and Bhai Fauja Singh jee and 12 other Singhs became Shaheeds and 70-75 Singhs were wounded. On 22nd April 1978, Bhai Jeevan Singh was honoured with performing the Antim Ardaas (prayer for the last rites) of the 13 Shaheeds. The Ardaas was attended by all the main Panthic leaders.

Touring UK, Europe and other countries
Bhai Rama Singh jee requested Bhai Jeevan Singh jee to come to England and bless the sangat. So on his return from Canada to India, Bhai Sahib came to England for a week. He took part in a Rainsbaaee Keertan, and the sangat was deeply moved by his keertan. Bhai Sahib retired from his duties at Takht Sri Patna Sahib and dedicated his life to Gurmat Parchaar and Amrit Sanchaars. In this way the Akhand Keertani Jatha movement spread in Canada, America, UK and other countries. His wife, Bibi Joginder Kaur jee was supportive of his Parchaar and always accompanied him. Bhai Sahib's keertan was a greatly admired by youngsters at the time. Bhai Sahib performed Amrit Sanchaars with Gurmukh Pyaare Bhai Rama Singh jee and Bhai Rajinder Singh jee, in countries where Parchaariks had never visited such as Australia, New Zealand, Holland, Germany, Sweden, Italy, Philippeans, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore etc. He encouraged and inspired children towards Sikhi by started the tradition of giving religious gifts such as through giving away gifts like Kirpaans, Vaajay, Tablay, Cholay, Khanday for Dastaars, Gurbani Pothis and Soora religious magazine etc. Bhai Sahib inspire youngsters to give up intoxicants, and joined them to Sri Guru Granth Sahib jee and the Guru Khalsa Panth. Bhai Sahib would sit with children and do Nitnem with them. He would teach young and old to do Keertan without charging for anything.

Freedom Fighter and Supporter of the Panth
In June 1985 Bhai Sahib gave a bold speech at a Khalistan rally and protest against the Indian government for the attack on Sri Harmandar Sahib and killing thousands of Sikhs. After all the "leaders" had made their lengthy speeches, Bhai Saheb Jee was invited to the podium and at the US Capitol steps said: "Khalistaan Mangan Vaaleyo, Khalsey Bano!" ("Those asking for Khalistan, become Khalsa!"). Bhai Jeevan Singh jee used to tell the Sangat that we all have responsibility for the Panth. He gave encouragement to many Singhs who joined the freedom struggle and supported the families of Shaheed Singhs. Bhai Sahib used to donate the money he was given by the Sangat on his foreign tours to the Shaheed Bhai Fauja Singh Orphanage and other projects that aided the families and children of Shaheed Singhs. Whenever the Singhs would go on a mission they would ask Bhai Jeevan Singh to do Ardaas in front of Sri Guru Granth Sahib jee. When speaking on the phone to Jhajaaroo Singhs, Bhai Sahib would say: "Let me kiss your feet Guru Pyaario." 

Khalsa Schools & Education
Bhai Sahib was the first to establish the idea of Sikh ethos run schools in the West. In 1986 Bhai Jeevan Singh jee suggested the idea of a Khalsa school in Vancouver, Canada, and agreed to support it financially by giving offerings made to him by the Sangat for the school. The Satnam Education Trust was set up and then in 1987 the school was built and made world history. Bhai Sahib was a firm believer that the Khalsa's future laid in the new generation and through Gurmat orientated education. Under Bhai Jeevan Singh jee's guidance and blessings, the Satnam Trust further progressed to form the first Sikh cooperative bank and later it was followed by Satnam Sarab Kalyan Trust in India, which has 300 schools in India that give Gurmat-orientated education. Children are taught Gurbani, Sikh history and Panthic Sikh Rehat Maryada, and Trust organizes Gurmat Competitions every year.  Khalsa School in Surrey now have five campuses, which covers from pre-school to high school. These Khalsa Schools have inspired other communities throughout Canada and UK to start Sikh ethos schools. Bhai Jeevan Singh jee also supported the schools run by Bhai Dharam Singh Khalsa Charitable Trust and Shaheed Bhai Fauja Singh Charitable Trust (Amritsar).

Bhai Sahib and Amrit-Velaa
There was a young Singh in England who had taken Amrit for about a year. His Amrit-velaa (habit to wake up early) started getting slack. He used to do Amrit-velaa with Gursikhs regularly at a Gursikh's house but he gradually stopped attending daily. One day, early in the morning at Amrit-velaa, the Singh was asleep and hadn't woken up for Amrit-velaa. His father was at work on the night shift and his mother was up doing her paath when suddenly the phone rang. Bhai Jeevan Singh jee said, "Is bhaji there?" The Aunty jee replied, "No, he is working on a night shift." Bhai Sahib said, "No, I am not talking about Pita jee. Is Bhaji there." (Bhai Sahib always makes himself out to be the youngest, such is his humility). The Aunty jee rushed up to wake up the young Singh and tell him to answer the phone. The Singh shared the Guru's Fateh over the phone with Bhai Sahib and then Bhai Sahib said, "Bhaji, you haven't done kirpaa (mercy) on me today, it is Amrit-vela, and you forgot to wake me." There was a silence. The Singh felt so embarrassed for missing Amrit-vela. The Aunty jee and son looked at one another wondering how Bhai Sahib living in Canada knew that he had missed Amritvela that day.

Accepting Akaal Purakh's Will
Bhai Sahib visited a family in England in the late 1980s and stayed at the house for Akhand Paath sevaa. Bhai Sahib listened the Paath for many hours and corrected the Paathis (readers) when they made a grammatical or pronunciation error. Seven or eight years later Bhai Sahib came back to England and was invited to the same family. Several years earlier the Singh whose house it was had passed away. When Bhai Sahib jee asked the lady about her husband she became emotional and as soon as this happened Bhai Sahib jee went upstairs in Sri Guru Granth Sahib jee's room and stayed there. He never came down and after a good 4-5 hours the bibi asked her daughter to ask Bhai Sahib jee to come down. The girl went upstairs and found Bhai Sahib jee sitting in smaadhee (meditative pose). She asked them to come downstairs, to which Bhai Sahib replied that she should tell her mum that he will only come downstairs after her mum accepts the Bhaana (Will) of Akaal Purakh and not to become emotional about her husband. The Bibi agreed and Bhai Sahib jee came down and later did keertan at the house.

Bumping into a Mona
One evening, the Gursikhs had just finished doing kirtan at Gurdwara Singh Sabha, Slough (England). A Singh phoned and said that had booked kirtan in Hounslow, and that the Gursikhs should come straight away. Bhai Jeevan Singh jee said, "Lets go quickly, we should always be on time". As Bhai Jeevan Singh jee, his singhni (wife), and two other Singhs walked downstairs into the shoes section, a mona (man with hair cut) was walking in to the Gurdwara. Accidentally, he bumped into Bhai sahib. He said "sorry," and looked into Bhai sahib's face. Those who know Bhai sahib know how enigmatic his smile is, and how his face always shines. Bhai sahib said to him, "I came here especially to see you, I have something for you." Bhai sahib then took off his dastaar (turban) and handed it to the youth. The mona youth could not believe his eyes; Bhai sahib said these words to him with so much honesty, pyaar (lovingness) and humility that from that day on the boy kept his kesh and came into Sikhi.

Respect from all Panthic Leaders
In 1995 Professor Manjit Singh, the then Jathedaar of Sri Akaal Takhat Sahib called a World Sikh Samellan (conference). Every Gurdwara, Sikh organization and jatha (group) from around the world was invited and many days were spent discussing Panthic (Sikh national) issues affecting Sikhs. Thousands of Sikhs gathered, including all the big leaders and personalities within the Panth. Many people such as political leaders were centred on themselves and wanted special treatment, but everyone was treated equally. No dignitary received special attention. However for some reason the Panj Jathedars of the five Takhats sat on a sofa in the complex where this was happening. As the A-Z of Sikh leadership sat in the sangat on the floor, a simple Gursikh walked into the complex building. He walked in humbly, did matha tekh, and went to sit in the sangat. However straight away, the Jathedaars got up and ran over to him, and said to him, he must sit on the sofa. Totally embarrassed he refused. But they brought him over and sat him on the sofa. He sat uncomfortably because he was not one for that kind of attention. That Gursikh was Bhai Jeevan Singh jee. It goes to show how highly Bhai sahib, his jeevan, his seva, and his nimarta is respected in the Panth, that only he was singled out for such attention. It is the virtues of Guru, such pure humility, that pulls at peoples hearts.

Great humility A Muslim man passed by Bhai Sahib somewhere and he stopped and looked at Bhai Sahib's face. The man goes up to Bhai Jeevan Singh jee and says "I can see 'Allah Da Noor' (the Light of God) in you". Bhai Sahib folded his hands and humbly said, "O great man! Can you please give me your wonderful eyes with which you see such wonderful things." Another time, there was Sangat sitting in Canada and someone approached Bhai Sahib with a question in front of others. He said, "Bhai Sahib, you tell us - as you have met God." Bhai Sahib replied with a humble and astonished "Achhaa? (O really?)" and walked away.

Despite ill-health
Bhai Jeevan Singh jee lived 5-10 minutes away from Sri Darbar Sahib in Amritsar. Bhai Sahib would occasionally go and do keertan seva there whenever it was his turn/duty. One day his wife locked the door of his room to make sure he didn't go to do keertan seva that day because Bhai Sahib was very sick and she knew that Bhai Sahib would still want to go to Sri Darbaar Sahib. When his wife turned on the television she saw Bhai Sahib doing keertan (I think it was Aasa Kee Vaar keertan). She brought someone else to the television and showed them and they said it's probably a recording. Still in doubt they opened the locked room and went in and found that the window was wide open and Bhai Jeevan Singh jee no where to be found. He had jumped out of the window somehow and went to do keertan seva even though he was really sick. This was the dedication of a beloved Gursikh for his Guru.

End of Bhai Sahib's earthly journey
Bhai Sahib's last wish to hear the keertan of Sri Harmandir Sahib before he dies. His wish was fulfilled because the last part of his life he lived in an apartment across the road from Sri Harmandir Sahib. Bhai Sahib became old and frail and suffered health problems. He was cared for by Bhai Balwinder Singh jee and his wife. Bhai Balwinder Singh jee thousands of blessings from the Sangat for caring for Bhai Sahib. On Wednesday 7th January Bhai Sahib breathed his last breaths. On Thursday 8th January Bhai Sahib's last rites were performed. His body was cremated at crematorium of Chattiwind. Sangat in their thousands sang Gurbani loudly as they carried Bhai Sahib's body to the crematorium. The funeral was attend by former Sri Akaal Takht Sahib Jathedar, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti who led the recital Japji Sahib. Singh Sahib become emotional and had tears in eyes at the funeral. He told the media, "Bhai Jeevan Singh was the last sevadaar of his stature. He could do keertan for hours together without looking at a Pothi. There are still some Sikhs who have memorised Gurbani to a great extent, but there was none who could match him."

ਵਿਚਿ ਦੁਨੀਆ ਸੇਵ ਕਮਾਈਐ ॥ ਤਾ ਦਰਗਹ ਬੈਸਣੁ ਪਾਈਐ ॥
vich duneeaa seva kamaaeeai. ta dargeh baaisan paaeeai.
"In the midst of this world, do seva (selfless service), and you shall be given a place of honour in the Court of Waheguru."
(Ang 26)

Dhan Guru, Dhan Guru Ke Pyaare.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Vaheguru, thanks for posting. I didnt know very much about Bhai Sahib Jee before this, but am thankful I have read this. I hope we can all strive to be like Bhai Sahib Jee.
-Please forgive any mistakes I made here.