The Pursuit of Happiness

This story made me chuckle when I first read it. A recent news article from Toronto describes how a scam artist beguiled dozens of people out of $3 million by appearing to pull winning lottery numbers out of egg yolks. u_zodiak.jpg(Yes, I had to re-read that sentence too). “Roshanbhai”, a self-proclaimed swami was able to convince people he was a spiritual healer who could fix their family, health and business problems….and of course help them win the lottery. The catch was that these individuals would first have to invest in a “special ceremony” (I guess this is where the egg yolks come in) and pay large amounts of money – in some cases over $100,000 (this is where I chuckled). I don’t know why, but I continued to read the article, all the while thinking, “who could fall for something like this?” And then I came across this sentence,

Though it sounds far-fetched, Roshanbhai – real name Mohammad Umar Ashrafi, 43 – left dozens of people in the Greater Toronto Area, all members of the Sikh community, embarrassed and broke.

Touch.

Admitting to being duped out of $105,000 is not easy for Paramjit Bhullar, owner of a Toronto trucking firm. “How do I feel? Stupid. I’m coming out front because I want him to get caught so he can’t rob anyone else,” says Bhullar, 42, who went to Ashrafi for help with marital and business problems after hearing a Punjabi radio show ad.

Ashrafi told Bhullar that his problems were the result of someone’s black magic and told him to return with a dozen eggs. After cracking the eggs open, Ashrafi claimed to have “found” a piece of foil in the yolk with lottery numbers on it. The catch was that in order for Bhullar to hit the jackpot, Ashrafi would have to perform a prayer ceremony and to do so, he needed $210,000. How convenient. Bhullar accepted and gave up his entire savings to Ashrafi who subsequently fled the country.

The story is not at all surprising… and yet it baffles me. One of the tenets of Sikhi is that we don’t believe in black magic and don’t partake in unnecessary rituals:

The Sikh will not believe in castes, untouchability, magic, omens, amulets, astrology, appeasement rituals, ceremonial hair cutting, fasts, frontal masks, sacred thread, graves and traditional death rites. [Rehat Maryada]

And yet, I think our community is inundated with these rituals. In some way or another, Sikhs turn to Pundits and astrologers to provide us with direction and “quick fixes” for our problems. While I understand the desperation people feel during difficult times, I have a hard time understanding why it is easier to turn to Pundits and pay enormous amounts of money, wear colorful rings, and fast on certain days as a substitute to looking to the Guru Granth Sahib for direction. Have we become so attached to trendy and ritualistic behaviour that it has replaced the values bestowed to us by our Gurus? Perhaps it’s not so surprising, then, that in our pursuit for happiness and the subsequent distance we have created from our Guru’s teachings, that our community continues to be exploited by 1-800-PUNDITS.


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9 Responses to “The Pursuit of Happiness”

  1. ItsMe says:

    I see it like this that people tend to want the easy how go to Gurdwara on Sunday and all is forgiven. Especially since we've come to Western Hemisphere of the Globe and we have the Sabbath pushed on us in some ways. So cleanse your soul for 50 cents and 50 cents for your buffet. This behavior and thought process will lead to wanting things fast and easy. The fast and easy in our communities seems to be everything but Gurbani, and actually taking the time to reflect upon things and finding answers in those teachings.

    Pundits, Swami's, Babai, Bibi's, etc are the fast and dirty McDonalds of the religious world. You feel sustained but you just taking in a whole lot of crap along with the supposed nutritional foods (advice). But these people got what they deserve they need to learn that no one can fix their problems by throwing money at it.

  2. ItsMe says:

    I see it like this that people tend to want the easy how go to Gurdwara on Sunday and all is forgiven. Especially since we’ve come to Western Hemisphere of the Globe and we have the Sabbath pushed on us in some ways. So cleanse your soul for 50 cents and 50 cents for your buffet. This behavior and thought process will lead to wanting things fast and easy. The fast and easy in our communities seems to be everything but Gurbani, and actually taking the time to reflect upon things and finding answers in those teachings.

    Pundits, Swami’s, Babai, Bibi’s, etc are the fast and dirty McDonalds of the religious world. You feel sustained but you just taking in a whole lot of crap along with the supposed nutritional foods (advice). But these people got what they deserve they need to learn that no one can fix their problems by throwing money at it.

  3. alvindarjit says:

    Agreed. People are just looking for short-cuts. If a 'Baba' or 'Sant' comes to a particular town, the whole sangat would attend for kirtan and katha, but if it's Sangrand or any other Gurpurab, hardly a few families would attend. Plus these so called 'Sants' are taking the role of spiritual-doctors by offering people 'Shabads' as means of easing their pains and difficulties.

    But then again….there are those who justify this. One best excuse i have heard is that : " If these people don't refer to Sants and Babas, they'll end up at the doors of 'Bomohs'(Charlatans).

    damn !!

    it's difficult to convince those who are lost. I'd like to quote a very nice statement by Ali Sina that says :

    "When there are people who want to be followers, there will come those who will claim to be leaders. When people think like sheep, there will be wolves that pose as shepherds. When we are willing to give a free ride, there will come those who will take us for a ride."

  4. alvindarjit says:

    Agreed. People are just looking for short-cuts. If a ‘Baba’ or ‘Sant’ comes to a particular town, the whole sangat would attend for kirtan and katha, but if it’s Sangrand or any other Gurpurab, hardly a few families would attend. Plus these so called ‘Sants’ are taking the role of spiritual-doctors by offering people ‘Shabads’ as means of easing their pains and difficulties.

    But then again….there are those who justify this. One best excuse i have heard is that : ” If these people don’t refer to Sants and Babas, they’ll end up at the doors of ‘Bomohs'(Charlatans).

    damn !!
    it’s difficult to convince those who are lost. I’d like to quote a very nice statement by Ali Sina that says :

    “When there are people who want to be followers, there will come those who will claim to be leaders. When people think like sheep, there will be wolves that pose as shepherds. When we are willing to give a free ride, there will come those who will take us for a ride.”

  5. Sundari says:

    I agree with you both, that going to Pundits and Swamis etc is seen as the faster, easier, better way to getting your desires fulfilled. I personally don't understand that logic, but I think it probably makes sense to all these people who are emptying their pockets. Perhaps if our own Giani Jis could better articulate Gurbani and be a source of advise for us, our community wouldn't be drawn to these men. Often times these men provide immediate validation to these individuals seeking help and provide them with [false] hope. They get solutions and are under the impression that doing these tangible tasks somehow helps their wishes comes true. It's a real shame that people are being taken advantage of, but maybe it's also a reflection of how we're failing as a community to uphold our Guru's teachings…

  6. Sundari says:

    I agree with you both, that going to Pundits and Swamis etc is seen as the faster, easier, better way to getting your desires fulfilled. I personally don’t understand that logic, but I think it probably makes sense to all these people who are emptying their pockets. Perhaps if our own Giani Jis could better articulate Gurbani and be a source of advise for us, our community wouldn’t be drawn to these men. Often times these men provide immediate validation to these individuals seeking help and provide them with [false] hope. They get solutions and are under the impression that doing these tangible tasks somehow helps their wishes comes true. It’s a real shame that people are being taken advantage of, but maybe it’s also a reflection of how we’re failing as a community to uphold our Guru’s teachings…

  7. Maestro says:

    LOLLLL. Great post! I know i shouldn't laugh, but really $3 million? I don't like this phenomenon of using Pundits, but it happens so much in our community. Before a marriage alliance is made, a Pundit is sought out to ensure the birth dates match and when an auspicious date is for the marriage – to me this is following Hindu rituals, something our Gurus made an attempt to steer away from. I won't be surprised when we hear of Sikhs marrying trees and dogs, which is common in other religions as a way to get rid of "najar" and because Pundit Maharaj told you to do it.

  8. Maestro says:

    LOLLLL. Great post! I know i shouldn’t laugh, but really $3 million? I don’t like this phenomenon of using Pundits, but it happens so much in our community. Before a marriage alliance is made, a Pundit is sought out to ensure the birth dates match and when an auspicious date is for the marriage – to me this is following Hindu rituals, something our Gurus made an attempt to steer away from. I won’t be surprised when we hear of Sikhs marrying trees and dogs, which is common in other religions as a way to get rid of “najar” and because Pundit Maharaj told you to do it.

  9. Parents don’t tell their child as to do something or to leave something in their life as it is right and wrong for them and for their own. But they tend to give lesson to their child by making comparison with others.