As the world celebrates the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism and the first of the ten Sikh Gurus this month, a look at one man’s mission to spread the message of Guru Nanak Dev in his own small ways. The works of Jatinder Singh Uppal aka Paul Uppal is far from small. Paul has been working for 30 years to pave the divine path for others.
It was in 1984 that Paul moved to Thailand from Australia to open an office there. He admits the business was not at its best financial health. But life took a turn when he met a holy man by the name of Gyani Arjan Singh, who imparted a lot of wisdom and guided him thereon.
Prior to meeting the holy man, Paul had never prayed much in his life, but he felt the desire to do so after meeting him. He asked what he should pray and was told to chant the Mool Mantar, which is the words first spoken by the spiritual master Guru Nanak after enlightenment and is the first composition in the Sikh holy text, the Adi Granth. Paul began praying in 1985 and has not stopped since.
After he started praying, Paul believes he got a clear message in English: ‘Make God your partner’. He admits he was not on the ‘divine holy track’ and was perplexed by the message. When he thought deeper, he decided to open an account in God’s name. On the Gyaniji’s next visit home, Paul took him along to open an account for God, whereby he decided to put every 5 cents or one Thai Baht for every garment exported, he being in the textiles and fashion business. So, every month Paul put in 5,000 baht for every 5000 garments. The business began doubling and by the time he realised, he had accumulated 16 million baht or 650,000 dollars in God’s account. He would use that money to buy the Blackburn gurudwara in Melbourne, which was eventually transferred to the congregation on Guru Nanak’s birthday in 1994.
But the philosophy that guided Paul was simple and something he lives by. “This is the 10 per cent factor that every religion/faith believe in. If you give God 10 per cent of your income, you have done the right job. So why are we successful is because we are his partner.”
The 10 per cent factor in his life has armed Paul with the resources and good will to carry on with many projects to help the poor and the needy and to guide them on to the spiritual path in India and around the world. On this milestone 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, Paul shares an insight into his work, life and philosophy with G’day India.
What is the significance of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev ji?
Guru Nanak Dev ji came to this planet for one reason: to tell us human beings not to create divisions. We all have the same blood; we may have different skin colours but everything in our body is created by one Creator. We split ourselves into religions and millions of people have been killed, so God sent Nanak to stop the killing and bring peace to this world. Nanak came to tell us ‘na Hindu, na Musalmaan’, there is no religion but one religion – the religion of mankind.
When Nanak passed away, both the Muslims and Hindus claimed ownership of his mortal remains. To avoid a fight, the warring factions decided they will leave Nanak’s mortal remains, cover it with flowers and a sheet of cloth and discuss the funeral rites next morning.
The Sikh, Hindu and Muslim devotees returned the following morning on September 22, 1539 A.D. They carefully removed the sheet but were amazed and astonished to discover that no trace at all remained of Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s mortal body. Only fresh flowers placed the night before remained and not a single bud had wilted of any blossom.
The Sikhs, Hindu and Muslim devotees responded by erecting two separate memorials to commemorate Guru Nanak Dev and revere him as their own. Two shrines, one built by Sikhs and Hindus and the other by the Muslims, were placed side by side on the banks of the River Ravi in Kartarpur, a part of Punjab located in modern day Pakistan. So, Nanak’s birthday is an event that is celebrated by everyone.
How do you build your personal divine wealth?
You need to enjoy, otherwise you can never do this. I have projects in India, England, Australia and other countries. I feel I have all the time in the world and I ask Him for more, but He will only give that much because he doesn’t want you to get stuck or be in danger.
How has the Sikh community in Victoria changed over the past 30 years?
It is very sad to say that not only the Sikhs, but everybody is moving away from religion. People are not connecting to God. There is a big shift away from religion and the divinity. That is because the negative energies are greater today, so you have to be very lucky to remain in the divine circle. You have to fight to remain in the divine circle. It will only get worse as time goes by because we live in the age of Kaljug (age of downfall), where other things such as money, property and building fortunes are more important than building our personal divine wealth.
What is your message to younger Sikhs?
If you can read the scriptures, please do. Those who want the scriptures can call me, we send them out to anybody in the world. Guru Nanak ji laid out three principles: Naam Japna, Kirat Karna and Vand Chhakna. It means, keep God in mind at all times, earn an honest living and share your wealth. If you live by these rules, you are on the path to meeting God.
Why did you start your projects with India and not elsewhere?
Punjab is the land of the gurus and home to the Golden Temple. Unfortunately, it is also a land with the greatest poverty along with the problems of drug addiction, high number of suicides and worse living conditions. I began by supporting an organisation and distributing over millions of copies of the Sacred Nitnem, but somehow it didn’t work out well because there was no honesty in what was being done. So, I started on my own and set up a small office with two staff. But soon my staff grew, and we eventually bought our own office.
Most of our staff are on the road going to schools, colleges, temples etc., telling people to do the right thing: make your birth a reason to meet the Creator. The kids who have started to pray won’t drink or do drugs because their conscience has been awakened – not by us but by them reading the scriptures through which they find the strength to adopt the three principles of Nanak and become successful in their lives. We have surpassed 500,000 children so far.
Some of our projects are Save Our Sikhs and Save Our Souls. The latter is a long-term project because we are looking at one family to adopt a child and we are targeting 250,000 families to educate 250,000 children and help change lives.
Other projects include Sewa (service), joining people with God through the scriptures. We are successful in that. In Divine Dastar, we have a team of 30 volunteers who teach people how to tie turbans and the reasons behind it. For Guru Granth Sahib ji Ki Sewa, we have eight staff in Patiala go to temples every day to clean the Guru Granth Sahib. They have covered around 2000 temples to date and it’s a very difficult sewa. Then we have Kriya Guidance programs in schools where we ask the children to dream big and emulate successful people from all walks of life.
But our crown sewa is the distribution of the Guru Granth Sahib which I started on July 12, 1994. This is a program where families come to take the Guru Granth Sahib to their homes from our Melbourne house. I believe, all other sewas I undertook started from there. They are branches of one tree. When God needs more money, he increases the business. Now that the grandkids are coming, we pray that they join this path and make this grow.
(As told to Gday India)