by SS Guruka Singh Khalsa, Espanola NM
On the first day of Khalsa Council in October 2009, we worked in small groups to identify projects that furthered the current Khalsa Council 2009-2011 agenda on the topic Sharing the Teachings: Kundalini Yoga, Shabd Guru, Women, Healing, and Family.
In one of those small group sessions, Sardarni Sahiba Sat Mohine Kaur remembered an assignment that the Siri Singh Sahib had given to the women attending Khalsa Women’s Training Camp (KWTC). During the summer of 1983, the Siri Singh Sahib had requested each camp participant to translate some pages of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib.
That “hukam” from the Siri Singh Sahib provided the seed from which this current project started 27 years later. Sat Mohine found some quotes from that July 1983 camp and printed up a sheet which she handed out to the Khalsa Council.
The Siri Singh Sahib told the women at KWTC on July 6, 1983: “You have to learn to do one thing for your own children. You have to translate the Siri Guru Granth so that they can live with their Guru in their own language.
“You are over three hundred here. If everybody decides to translate five pages, that’s it. You think it’s a big task? Not at all. Don’t misunderstand. Understand the purification. You want to test it? Everyone line up according to your missal; each one decide to translate five pages. We’ll have the whole Siri Guru Granth translated in one week.”
He continued: “You don’t need a dictionary. It is simple. There’s already an English translation by Manmohan Singh. It is almost word for word. Sit down in groups and read it. It is only that his English is not sweet.
“Just put yourself into it, understand it, and translate it. It will be the sweetest dish you can prepare. It is not the ingredients. Ingredients do matter, but it is the cooking and how you serve it. Add that art. It will be done!”
“Everybody should participate. Then the list of the translators will be the biggest we have ever had! It will be one of the most novel things in the universe.”
“Will you do it? It’s worthwhile.”
“Naa(n) satrai naa(n) mitrai. There is no distinction. It’s all in one. Some know more, some know less. But there is no less or more. A big drop and a small drop, it’s all the ocean. This is the ocean of wisdom and intelligence. This is ‘Bhagwati’.” (KWTC, July 6, 1983)
The Guru’s Translation Project
I immediately volunteered to facilitate the project, confident that if the Siri Singh Sahib Ji had felt we could complete it in a week, then we would certainly be able to complete a translation as a group project by the end of 2009 and then consolidate, edit, and format the output in time to deliver it at the Baisakhi 2010 Khalsa Council meetings.
Well, now it is 10 months later and I can say that I was very optimistic. But hey, you knew that about me, didn’t you?
At the October 2009 Khalsa Council meeting, we originally got 100 volunteers and I thought, “Wow, okay we have a big group! 13 pages per person and we can do this very quickly.”
Within a few days, I received an email from Bibiji saying “we should have 108 team members.” I agreed and sent out an email asking for additional volunteers. We reached 108 team members within a couple of days.
Having already translated the Japji in 1987, I grabbed the first 25 pages and submitted my completed pages to the team on November 16, 2009. We had begun! I assigned all the remaining pages to the team members and emailed out the page assignments.
But things proved not to be so easy after all.
I goofed up the page assignments and assigned Dr. Gurumittar Kaur over 30 pages by mistake. She called me and gracefully asked if she could ask other team members to take some of her pages. Many team members started. but could not complete their assignments, turning in only 4-6 pages of their assigned 12 or so pages.
I was exhorted to open up the team to Sangat members as well as Khalsa Council members and did so by inviting the entire Espanola Sangat to participate. Some volunteers simply changed their minds and dropped out of the project.
Then the word began to spread. People somehow heard about the project by word of mouth or via email from a friend and they then emailed me or messaged me on Facebook to ask if they could be on the team.
I added lots to people to the team to take up the pages that original volunteers said they would not be able to complete. The new team members included Punjabi youth from Canada and the UK (who came through with flying colors!). We now have around 130 people on the translation team.
Many team members asked that other team members take some or all of the pages assigned to them originally. I moved deadlines back to January 2010, then to March and then finally realized that each team member had developed his or her own relationship to the Guru and to the assignment and that we would finish whenever we finished.
I formed a Yahoo! SGGS Team Translation eGroup to coordinate the project, thinking, “‘Great! We can all connect in one place. That’ll make it easy.” By the end of November 2009, we had 54 members online in the eGroup.
We now have 79 members in the eGroup which leaves over 50 team members that require individual email communications. I sent out monthly emails encouraging people to complete their assignments.
Over the course of the project, I have received emails from many team members recounting what amazing personal experiences they had working on their translation. Quite a few team members said that they felt that they had received exactly the pages that catalyzed deep transformation within themselves.
Several members told of being brought to tears as their hearts opened and they experienced the Guru in a way they had not experienced before. We have been progressing in fits and starts, but despite everyone’s best efforts, a lot of work still remains. As of August 2010, we have about two-thirds of the pages completed.
If you would like to join the project and help bring it to completion, just email me at [email protected] and I will send you an invitation to join the team and pick up some available pages.
About the Author
MSS Guruka Singh Khalsa is an ordained Sikh Dharma Minister. He is a teacher, writer and loves telling stories. His love of poetry and Gurbani have led him to translate Yogi Bhajan’s Gurmukhi poems in Furmaan Khalsa as well as translating Japji Sahib and other Gurbani. The original founder of SikhNet, he now lives under the blue skies of New Mexico with his beloved Khalsa family.