May 18, 2012 § Leave a comment
Guru Piarey Jio,
When we look around at our local Gurdwaras, we ask ourselves this question, “What will change in one year?” Nothing…maybe a famous kirtani or two will come and go, a nagar kirtan or two, (crowded masses jostling for space feeling Gurpurbs have been ‘celebrated’.
One thing will have changed. The 10 year old is now off to secondary school, the 17 year old is now off to university. The 21 year old is now off to work. Basically, whole lives are changing but the western Gurdwaras continue failing to fulfil even the basics it’s supposed to provide, Sangat and Pangat.
Pangat: It’s food for the fed. Its not designed for the poor and homeless. You will not get offered a bed, nor a shower and clean clothes. If you have problems and want some counselling, you’re on your own.
Sangat: If you’re interested in Sikhi, there is no introductory course to learn the basics, no leaflets to take home, little or few regular Punjabi/santhya classes, no videos you can watch, no regular youth darbar with English katha (discourse). If you want to learn Kirtan, there are no full time teachers, no Raag ustaads, no tabla maestros, nothing to get you to become part of the renaissance in Sikh music happening around the world.
Sangat for the future (Youth): Kirtan programmes (if they exist) are shunted to the periphery after the normal Sangat leaves. The Gurdwara committee will require all projectors, leaflets etc to be provided for by the youth, but insist that all ‘bheta’ (donations) will go the Gurdwara fund.
Current Gurdwara experience
If you’re born into an average Punjabi Sikh family, this is roughly what your Gurdwara experience is like. Go in, Matha tek to something you’ve never read or looked at, listen to music you dont understand whilst sitting and eating tasty parshad and checking who else is in the Sangat that you know. Sit mainly still whilst texting, playing on the phone or whispering to your cousins until the parents decide they’ve sat for long enough and then it’s time to go to the Langar hall. This bit is fun, langar always tastes good plus depends who’s sponsored it this time. You long since learnt to ignore the paintings hanging around the langar hall as they seem brutal and no one ever explained them to you. Once you’ve had langar and enjoyed the sweet pudding of that day, you can chat to your cousins, play with nephews and nieces and wait until the parents decide enough time has been spent doing the family religious obligations and it’s to head home. During this time, if you’re lucky, you may have wondered, what is the music being sung or paat being read, and perhaps even about what is the philosophy of Sikhi, but mostly you’ve stopped asking that because no one answers those questions and as far as you know, just be a good person and be proud of your Punjabi warrior past.
We often wonder what Guru Nanak or Guru Arjan would think if they walked into a Gurudwara nowadays. Most of all, I think they would be appalled that we never even had a vision of what the Gurudwara is meant to be. Here is our vision of what Gurdwara could be like.
Gurudwara Vision and Ideas
Imagine a Gurudwara where before you even enter, outside the Gurdwara are some large posters with some beautifully presented quotes of gurbani translation, like “Why do you call woman low, from whom kings are born”, or “The best religion of all is pure actions and meditating on Gods name”, “Listen everyone one, I speak the truth, only those who love will get to God”. Then when you go inside the Gurudwara, you see an information desk, where you can take a number of leaflets free of charge, you can ask for a tour of the gurudwara. If you wish, there is a TC and headphones to view a short video introduction to the Gurudwara and also to Sikhi. You’re already surprised, then you go upstairs to darbar hall and you hear beautiful raag kirtan, on stringed instruments with mesmerising tabla beats. The sound is so so amazing and the atmosphere so peaceful and blissful, you feel like you’re in a small part of heaven. The sangat is singing the words and you can see the translations above. The kirtanees don’t look like a professional jatha, just local sangat and you can see they are doing this purely from love. Then another layperson explains the deep meaning of the shabad in English and Punjabi, and then she says that today, right now, through this raag kirtan and sangat, you are meant to have a spiritual experience and awaken your soul. You feel excited and a little scared, but the music starts and you start singing with it and soon those glorious words of love begin to feel real and you can feel the love around you and there…the bliss and joy and love start pouring through you, you eyes start to weep, you feel so blessed, you feel like a huge part of you that you never knew existed has suddenly come to life and its so beautiful. Then the kirtan ends and everyone does ardaas. The person leading the ardaas tells everyone that this is the time to ask for Guru’s guidance and that the hukamnama that will come after will contain Guruji’s answer. You beg for some guidance and wisdom in your life and then when they read out the hukamnama, its explained in English as well and you can see that your Guru heard your pleas and he blessed you. You feel full of tears and hopes and love and bliss. Suddenly Guru Granth Sahib ji feels like your Guru and it can respond to you. When you bow to Guru Granth sahib ji now, you feel so thankful, so blessed and when your forehead touches the ground, you feel a profound desire to throw yourself at your Guru’s feet, to give yourself to Guru. A relationship of servant and master, of teacher and disciples has just been born.
When you go downstairs to langar, you pop into the library and see lots of books on Sikh spirituality, and posters for courses in Punjabi, in kirtan, tabla, and also an introductory course in Sikhi. You sign up for those times that fit, wanting to learn more and then you’re told there is also a Sunday darbar and a longer monthly darbar where there will be such kirtan and katha. You borrow a book for the course. You then see that there is a big seva board up. You can see that there are langar runs to the homeless, an actual homeless shelter that the Gurdwara runs, drug counselling, a small medical centre, women’s shelter, volunteers places abroad with charities, education for people to improve IT and English skills, opportunities if you want to help kids study in evenings and also classes on self-defence at the Gurdwara gym where you can work out too. You can see so many people getting involved with the Gurdwara, doing seva of society. You can feel the buzz in the Gurdwara and it’s infectious, you can see so many non-punjabis who are involved in learning about Sikhi and doing Seva. You don’t know where you are, you feel like you’ve just been transported to planet SachKhand. Through the Guru’s door you walked, not knowing what joy you were to receive…..”
Guru Piarey jio, if the vision above inspired you, ask yourself why isn’t every Gurdwara like this? Our next post will be our most ambitious. May Vaheguru bless the panth and the panth sing of Vaheguru.
May 11, 2012 § 13 Comments
Guru Piarey Jio,
Across the world next month, a lot of Sikhs will be getting together and marching, shouting slogans, making speeches and holding up Placards saying “Sikhs want Justice”, “India stop killing Sikhs” and “Freedom is our Birthright”.
Conversely, many young, educated, practising Sikhs born and brought up in the West who are leading lights in their communities will be shunning these same demonstrations and marches and will state “I don’t do rallies”. What’s going wrong here?
This maxim applies here “If what you are doing is not working, Change what you’re doing”. Can we be honest about these rallies. They are not working. Don’t get us wrong, it’s a great day out, lovely to see all the sangat together, united in their pain. But let’s face it:
(1) We are not achieving Justice.
(2) We are not getting Freedom.
(3) We’re not even spreading awareness. Most of the people are Sikh Punjabis who already know what the march is about. The speeches are in Punjabi and even if we told a few hundred people, we would have been better off buying a double page spread in a national newspaper stating the facts of 1984.
(4) In spite of knowing the above facts, we keep on spending time and money on doing these marches. We have no definition of what would be success.
(5) The problem facing us is so big, we either run away from it, or stick to what is easy, i.e., demos. There are no large scale debates about what would be better. Becuase there is no definition of success to be achieved by a rally for 1984, then we cannot have an action plan that actually achieves that.
If we can just address the main point here, its that we are not thinking or approaching this in the right way. Let’s address the approach and then lets come up with a few better ideas.
Firstly, ‘Sikhs’ should never ‘Want’ Justice. Can you just imagine Dhan Guru Gobind Singh ji, on his blue horse, with his plumed turban, weapons overflowing, saying that he ‘wants’ justice? No, we cannot. Justice is something that Guru ji would ‘Deliver’. To want is to be left wanting. Applying the principle of “Vand ke Shako” to Justice would be to give everyone else Justice and get it for yourself. For the Khalsa to be walking around like beggars asking for justice is a shame, shame upon us that we think this is what the Guru’s own body should be doing. The Khalsa for which Sarbans Daani (the 10th Master) sacrificed his mother, father and all four beautiful sons and he did so with a smile, what is that Khalsa doing now walking around asking others to give it justice. We are the deliverers of justice, “Sri Sahib ji Sahae”, let the respected sword always remain by our side. Never ask for Justice O beloved Khalsa. Don’t be offended O Khalsa jio, please read on. We would kiss the feet of the Khalsa, drink the water after washing them, put our heads on the ground for it to walk upon, please let that Khalsa never bend its head to anyone else but to Vaheguru or Guruji.
Lets ask ourselves, What is this ‘Justice’ that we seek? Do we expect that the Western Governments, after putting pressure on India, and even if the Indian Government suddenly decided to prosecute those have killed, raped and destroyed Sikhs in 1984, do we honestly expect that at the end of those trials that we would get Justice? No, we won’t and we shouldn’t. It would not be the justice that we seek and at the end of that process, we would be marching again. The ‘Justice’ we seek should always be that of our own choosing and that which is done in line with the principles and actions of our Gurus and the Granth and Guru Panth. True Justice can only be delivered by Vaheguru and since the Khalsa Panth is the form of Akaal Purakh (see Puratan Rehitname) upon the earth, then it should work out what would be justice and then work to deliver that justice.
If you read our post on ‘Why does India persecute Sikhs?’ you will see that it’s pointless to ask India to ‘stop killing Sikhs’. As long as Sikhs do what they are meant to do, the 1% that control India will always try to kill Sikhs. The real answer of ‘When will India stop killing Sikhs?’ can only ever be, ‘When the Sikhs are in charge of India’. When the Guru’s army itself sits on the throne of Delhi, then will India stop killing Sikhs and everyone be reconciled to the rule of the Khalsa.
It’s also pointless to say Freedom is our birthright. Freedom is our aim, it’s what we plan to deliver to the world, not just ourselves. The price of freedom has always been paid in blood. It’s not our birthright, its our ‘death cry’. We need to be the Braveheart crying out Freedom as they chop us from joint to join and saw us in half. Freedom needs to be lullaby we sing to our kids, the whispering chant in our head when we awake and the constant throbbing in our heart. Freedom. To be free of falsehood, to be free of Fear and Hate, to be free of the shackles on the mind, to be free of caring what others think, and to be free to do what is right and required and to that ourselves. Freedom. Fiercely Free and Fiercely independent. To Death. Even Death will not part us from Freedom.
What then of 1984? What would be the right approach?
Perhaps we should start by not moaning about all those that died? Who died and where did they go? The eternal soul, which migrates, doesn’t die. Why would a Sikh cry about death? We are wedded to death and it must consume us all, but very few live immortal lives. Lives such that Guruji himself comes for them at the end. As much as we ourselves have cried about the sorrows of 198 and after that, the fact is that this is simply our mind talking, not the Guru. Injustice needs to be destroyed but once someone is dead, we can do nothing for them. Our job is to serve the living, not to bemoan the dead. Celebrate the dead, the fact that they gave their life for Guru. They will all either come back into Sikhi or go onto Eternity.
So why cry for them and yet ignore all those who are living? Surely at every rally, we should be getting all the sangat to pledge big. A minimum amount of £100 each to up to £1000 each towards those loved ones that were left behind by the shaheeds and now need help. A multi-10’s of millions pound/dollar fund, supporting orphans, single mothers, old parents, through education and illness. Just like a Son, Daughter or Parent would want to themselves. That should be our first approach. If every person who gives a speech at an 84 rally starts off by first pulling out a £1000 wad of cash and says,” I pledge this money for the living victims of 1984 and I ask that you do too”, they would have said enough. As they say, put your “money where your Mouth is” or also, ‘put your offerings to the Guru, in the mouth of the poor and needy’. This would bring much respect to the Panth and would alleviate the guilt that is endemic in the Panth. The guilt that makes us turn away when we see the photos of these families suffering in India. The guilt that we are not doing what we should be doing. So let’s start.
Let’s turn to the right approach for Justice. As we said, let’s deliver justice, but how. Here is a proposal. Why dont we set up a Sikh International Criminal Court (SICC) and then set up trials of all those named as the perpetrators of 1984 and after. We have so much evidence readily available regarding the Nov 1984 killing sprees. Let’s prosecute Sajjan Kuman and Jagdish Tytler ourselves. With all the lawyers, solicitors and judges in our Panth, we are fully able to run such a trial. Put the evidence and trial on youtube and if these people are found guilty, let the Panth and Punj Piare judges give them a sentence. Such a sentence should only refer to Sikh history for precedents and not pay any heed to what the world may think about it. If such a sentence is death, then the hukamnama (order) should be given that any Sikh, where they may be, has been commanded, that if they are able to kill those sentenced to death by the Panth, then they should do so straight away.
Before everyone starts with the “oh that just sounds nuts” let us cover some points.
(1) Trials can be run in absentia. We assume that most of these will have to be since I doubt they will come willingly. Many governments run trial in absentia. The best example is that of Israel. They have held many Nazi War Criminal Trials and having examined the evidence in front of them, sentenced people to death. These deaths have been carried out by Mossad.
(2) This does not violate the sovereignty of India. These people being prosecuted are Criminals and Murderers. If the Indian political and judicial system is unable to deliver justice for Sikhs that are citizens of India, then the Sikhs have already been guaranteed their rights in the speeches of both Nehru and Gandhi (the founding fathers). We have the sword and we shall be using it. Killing criminals doesn’t change the politio-social democratic system of India, affect its economy or its education system. All it does is deliver Justice for Indians. In this way it is a force for good and one that acts against corruption. All Indian Independence fighters, now national heroes did the exact same thing. Even now we can look at the USA, launching missiles against Al-Qaeda leaders, no matter what country they are in. They do this, because they see these people as enemies of liberty everywhere. Why shouldn’t we Sikhs also see things this way?
(3) Why do we need the permission of the SICC? Just get on with it. We know they are guilty so if you want to do it, just go and kill them. Indeed we are sure that some readers will claim that we should do it ourselves rather than writing about it. This approach misses the point somewhat. Look at the killing of Osama Bin Laden by the US Navy Seals. The whole of the US and Obama administration are able to hold their heads up high that they killed Osama just like they said they would. The Navy Seals carried out their job but the fact that it was ordered by the US president, acting with the authority given by the US people, means that its not just a lone bunch of Navy Seals that killed Osama, its bigger than them. If you wanted to launch an investigation into Bin Laden’s death, you would start from Obama, not from the Seals.
Effectively what we are saying is that if the SICC found Jagdish Tytler or Sajjan Kuman or KPS Gill or Sumeedh Saini guilty of crimes again humanity/Sikhs and sentenced them to death, then any Sikh who carries out that death sentence can simply point to the SICC and say, ‘I was just following the orders of the Panth’. Otherwise, that individual becomes a terrorist and criminal. If we do it through the SICC then that Sikh is a soldier of the Khalsa Panth, doing his duty as per the hukamnama of the punj piare. He/She will not need to be eloquent in their own defence rather they can point to the SICC trials as their main motivation for the killing. Effectively it would mean the Panth would be on trial, the evidence used in the SICC hearings would be on trial and the decision making process of the SICC would be trial. If the SICC was watertight in these, it would become a very interesting debate about sovereignty, justice and international law.
Plus, just imagine the media flurry that would happen if the Punja Piarey of the SICC were citizens of western Countries and thus were able to use those rights of citizenship.
(4) This is tantamount to inciting terrorism or ordering murder: Not terrorism, this is merely Justice but yes, it may mean ordering Murder. But when Guru Gobind Singh ji put to death all the masands who were stealing the sangat’s money, what was that? When the Khalsa Panth gave Sukha Singh and Mehtab Singh the order to go bring back Massa Ranger’s head, what was that? The Khalsa has to administer its own justice. This is what all sovereign nations do and exactly what Obama did by making the killing of Osama Bin Laden one of his key priorities. You need a good justification of this, one that can stand up to scrutiny. I cant think of one much better than a bunch of educated, qualified Sikhs, critically examining the evidence and then passing judgement whilst giving the historical justification for that order. Especially when all the evidence and deliberations are on youtube.
(5) The SICC judges will be arrested and prosecuted! What better seva that to get prosecuted for something so chardikala? Something that achieves both Justice and great awareness of the injustice in India. The Indian press are not going to print this stuff, so the western press will have to cover it. The SICC judges will get to defend themselves in Court. Again the debate will have to focus on their justification of judging an individual who has committed heinous crimes and walked scot free. The funny thing is that Pandit Nehru himself was a lawyer who defended the Indian Liberation Army soldiers that were being prosecuted by the British. The arguments used to defend the ILA leaders were that they were not mercenaries, (or terrorists) but rather “bona fide soldiers” that did not recognise the British Sovereign. Therefore they were to be treated as political prisoners. Surely a Sikh that carries out the hukam of the Khalsa is also saying he recognises the Khalsa Panth as his Guru and can point to the historical precedents which back up his actions. He too is not a lone mercenary lunatic, but a soldier and the Panth itself should be tried in his defence.
(6) No-one would put themselves up to be a SICC Judge –Khalsa jio, we respectfully state that IF, in our entire Panth, we can’t find 5 educated people able to serve judges, (plus prosecutors etc), then we should forget 1984 and go home. What’s the point of shouting slogans and thousands marching if we cant find five to actually do something. There is no more panth left saving then. We are no longer Nirale, or unique, we are the same as everyone else. It seems pertinent here to remember that the Khalsa needs to embrace death, forget about the consequences or dont bother taking amrit. Pehla maran kabool, jeevan ki chad aas. “First accept death and leave the desire to live!”This is the requirement of being a Sikh and especially being a Khalsa. We need to be fearless as long as we are doing the right and honourable thing. Look at Bhai Rajoana, he is not scared come what may. We are being harsh now, but only because we know that the Five do exist and will come out. But how many people reading this article will then join our facebook page and like this post? How many will then say out loud, I support the establishment of the SICC? That’s what those Five will need, the feeling that the Panth is calling for this and therefore they will step forward. Yes, we are anonymous right now, but also there is a good reason for that, as what we plan to bring to the table is much bigger than just this and requires us to stay unknown for now. If the SICC is something you like, then join us in this movement and say so.
(7) No one will carry out the Hukamnama of the SICC: This is impossible Guru Piarey jio, just look at the shaheeds who gave their live for the Panth. Their spirits have come back to the Panth. Again, they look to serve the Guru Khalsa Panth. From Bhai Mehtab Singh and Sukha Singh, to Sukha and Jinda to Bhai Dilawer Singh and Jathedar Balwant Singh Rajoana, they acted. But they acted in small groups without backing. Now the panth needs to unite and think big. And the Panth needs to believe that its own members will answer the call. Think of the thousands of ardaasa done every day for the chardikala of the panth. Think of the thousands and millions of chaupai sahibs that people do for the chardikala of the panth. After all this, do you think that the call of the Panth will go unanswered? No Khalsa jio, if the Guru Roop Khalsa in the SICC gave even 30 days for the order to be carried out, we have full faith that the Panth would deliver the justice we choose for ourselves. If it doesn’t then its because those people will go into hiding. Read below for other options too.
(8) But this is the job of the Akaal Takht: We agree, but we also know the state of the Akaal Takht right now, its been hijacked by the 1% who hate Sikhi. So, we bow to the Akaal Takht, but when the Khalsa of old was on the move, then the Panth made decisions on the move. Guru Gobind Singh ji themselves never went to Harimandar Sahib or the Akaal Takht, even though they founded the Khalsa Panth. In any case, IF the Jathedaar of the Akaal Takht was free from all outside influence, even then, we would still need a SICC to examine the evidence and give its recommendation. It would be the job of the Akaal Takht Jathedaar to endorse it. So why don’t we focus on getting the SICC established? Why not unite and call for this to happen? Allow people to put their names forward to be the prosecutors, the judges and let’s get on with delivering Justice. So no longer do we remain ‘Wanting Justice’.
Here are some other proposals to how we may need to change our approach and action plan regarding 1984.
(1) For those who do not wish to carry out the trial of certain people and believe them already guilty by the evidence seen, maybe we should open up a reward fund for anyone who kills or captures those responsible. Every year at the marches, people should openly pledge money into a fund and in doing so, openly violate the law and court arrest. A large fund would make it viable to hire a Private Military Company or Assassin to do this with minimum damage to other people. The US already have a reward for kill or capture on most people they want to catch or kill, and are avid users of para-military assassins for taking out their enemies, and we don’t mean for dinner.
(2) Kaurs, please get involved. Most men just seek to build their castle in their house, protect it and take responsibility for being the defender of their family. In doing this, first they look for the foundation stone, i.e. a woman. As Dhan Guru Nanak Dev ji writes, men are tied to women. It’s also the fact that Women have a role to play in the upcoming battle for the panth’s honour. Let’s spell it out. The Panth is dishonoured. Our women have been raped, our children killed and the perpetrators walk about free. What more dishonour could there be on a man, or on a Panth?
It’s the women who will need to get involved if the honour of the Panth is to get restored. Women need to give men both the impetus and the strength to sacrifice all. It should no longer be the case that a man feels he has to choose between his responsibility to his family and his responsibility to the Panth. It should be that the women tells the man, fulfil your responsibility to the Panth or you’re not welcome in this family. That’s how we used to roll.
Where are the Mai Bhagos who tell the men to go back into battle and not return without their Guru? Where are the mothers who tell their sons to avenge the Panth’s honour or to marry the daughter of a shaheed? Where are the mothers who tell daughters to trust only the man who is willing to give his life for Sikhi? Who tells their daughters to marry a son of a Shaheed. Who encourage encourage their man to be a shaheed? Don’t think that we should shy away from the word Shaheed just because of a recent fanatical Islamic suicide bomber trend. Our shaheeds are different, we celebrate them even if they die to save someone else’s religion. See Guru Tegh Bahadur, shaheedan de sirtaj Dhan Guru Arjan Dev ji, the four sons of Guru Gobind Singh, the Shaheedi jathas who held up cannons with their shoulders, each shot of the cannon burying one Singh into the ground only to have another willingly take his place. These are our shaheeds and we salute them, in every single Gurdwara, four to five times a day during our ardaas. Why do we salute shaheeds and let not encourage our family to become shaheed? What could be more beautiful to know that your child died in that glorious tradition and will come back to this earth even more blessed? Why do a nation of people who sing songs of “Purja Purja Kat marei, Kabhoon na chade khet”, “let me be cut into little little pieces but let me not leave the battleground”, why does this nation get scared of death? It’s because we have forgotten Guru’s promise, that death will not even touch one who is in his sanctuary. We fear death like the West fears death, as a great unknown. If we did Simran and Kirtan and experienced the divine one, felt ourselves dislocated from our body, we would realise that death is nothing and that Guru himself will come for those who die in his love. Wasn’t death what Guru Arjan and Guru Tegh Bahadur embraced? Isn’t Death what Guru Gobind Singh sent his sons towards? Isn’t death what we are asked to accept when stepping onto Guru’s path and playing this game of love? O Mothers, Daughters and Sisters of and in the Khalsa, teach us not to fear death but to feardishonour. Tell us how dishonoured you feel and then tell us to regain the honour of the Panth.
Where are the women who would refuse to share their husband’s beds until these monsters are killed? Why not set up a pledge website where Kaurs pledge that until and unless these criminals are brought to justice, they will not be sleeping with their husbands. Why does this scare the readers but not the fact that those men who raped our honour walk around another day scot-free. Make this a Kaurs’ solidarity issue. Look at the Colombian women who did exactly this just to get their men to fix a road. Just for a road! Here the honour of our beloved Panth is at stake. Why should men get their marital rights when the Panth doesn’t even have the men to hold its head up? You might wonder why this option has not being aired before, but guess which gender is doing most of the speeches at these rallies. This call cannot come from the men, it has to come from the united Kaurs.
The time has come for us to do things bigger, more globally and more connected. This is the Panthic way. For the Indian born Sikhs, let us give you the example of Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas. When she is dishonoured, what does she do? She swears not to wash her hair until she washes that hair with the blood of the one who dishonoured her, Dusshsana. Bhima vows to do this for her and he carries it out. Where are those Sikh women who have such morals now? Why are our mothers and sisters looking for an easy life and conform rather than being fiercely independent and honoured Sikh warrior princesses? We don’t need every women in the panth to do this, even a hundred or a thousand would be enough if they take this pledge, openly and on social media. It would shame the Singhs into doing something about this dishonour that hangs over our head.
Finally, a point regarding the SICC. Obviously the initial trust in a SICC will only come when its orders are carried out. However once that does happen, it is vital that the vision of the Court does not remain just Punjabi Sikh orientated. It should look at cases such as Narendra Modi (buther of Gujrat) and other Indian politicians. It should not shy away from prosecuting “Sikhs” either. And it should look outside India as well. Perhaps every Gurdwara could one day have a top twenty most wanted list, ten people wanted for crimes against the Sikhs and also ten people wanted for crimes against humanity. The Khalsa Panth’s hukamnama should be issued, to destroy each of these wanted individuals so we can show we care about other people and other atrocities. Put tyrants, despots, criminals on the list and say “We, the Sikhs, are going to get you!” Make a fund of money for this so we can put a reward next to each head. Once this SICC actually starts delivering the Justice that Sikhs are meant to, then perhaps we will once again have the situation as that existed in Guru Tegh Bahadurs time, when people approach the Sikhs and say, “O Khalsa of the house of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh, we ask you to give us Justice”. Then maybe our slogans will change to “Ask us for Justice” and we will be the strength of those who have no strength, the shelter for those who have no shelter and the honour of those who have no honour. We are not here to ask, we are here to give and the only thing we ask from our Guru is that he blesses us with both the right approach and the strength to carry out the right actions. In doing so, if we have to die a thousand deaths, we only ask that he sends us back a thousand times to carry on that mission that he was given. And that each time, our Guru blesses us with that inner connection to our Creator, by which we know his Word to be true and what the world tells us to be less true. That is faith and that is justice. Dhan Guru Dhan Vaheguru.
May 1, 2012 § 2 Comments
Ask yourself why the Gurudwaras keeping making buildings and getting us in debt…
And now assume its not because they are stupid. So there must be a reason.
Here’s an idea…
If you are in debt, then all your money goes to pay off interest. Now, if you’re not in debt then by default, you are likely to be in surplus and have money to spend. After some time, this will show up to a very big surplus. Why is this a problem. Why do the committee not want to have money to spend? Because if you’re not making buildings, then you’re going to have to spend it somewhere. It likely that people (sangat) just might start asking you to spend it on promoting Sikhi.
Why do the Gurudwaras not want to spend money on promoting Sikhi?
(1) Why create a rod for your own back? If you educate the people about what Sikhi is, then they will soon be applying those Sikhi principles to the Gurudwara and to the committee and will realise that they are being hoodwinked. The committee just want an easy life with a grand title by their name. Doing Sikhi properly would be hard work, working to uplift society, become a centre for service, thats not what they want. So why create that situation?
(2) Why create your own nemesis? Think about it, if you decide to spend money on teaching Sikhi, what will you need to do? You’ll have to find someone to teach a course. Now if the Gurudwara committee members are unable or unwilling to teach it themselves, which is very likely (you may as well ask why they haven’t done it already then), the next option is to get someone else to teach it. This person will either already have the knowledge or will have to go get educated and then teach. This person is either going to be teaching in a classroom (probably doesn’t exist) or more likely in the main divan hall. The problem is that this person is likely to become popular and then the committee have a double problem on their hand. An educated sangat and a popular potential “leader”.
So it all becomes a little clearer. This whole analysis took about five minutes and the crucial question to discover this was, “What are the intentions and incentives of the Gurudwara committee?”. These are to stay in power and therefore to keep the masses (aka the sangat) in the dark about true Sikhi and about what a poor job they are doing.
The sad part of this is that actually, a leader is not necessarily the one to do the teaching. If the Gurudwara committee were true Sikh leaders, they would actually welcome someone to come and do Sikhi Parchar. It is not necessary that this competition mentality needs to be there, an abundance mentality could also exist. Instead of the committee wallah spending their time trying to discredit, dishearten and dismiss any Sevadaar because of viewing that person as a potential thread to their kursi, ie position, the opposite could also work. The Sangat could be thanking and praising a committee that provided the kind of 21st century education and inspiration that is required. For that to exist and actually be realised, we’re going to need a complete overhaul and re-think of what kind of incentives do we put into place in the Gurudwara.
Are we encouraging the right kind of people and discouraging the wrong kind or are we actually discouraging the right type and encouraging the wrong. We’d argue the current system rewards people who think as politicians, from a place of ego and in terms of competing for finite resources and influence. Gursikhs tend to avoid that arena as the system will bring you down before you bring the system down. So the good guys watch the bad guys prosper. Even our young kids can understand that scenario. And as our kids would say, “Lets get those bad guys!”
So lets unite, as the sangat to free ourselves from the shackles we have placed around our Sikhi. First, let’s imagine the way things should be, then lets brainstorm what checks and balances we need to ensure this vision comes to fruition. Then lets do ardaas and lets kick some badguy @$$! Akaal!
Part 3 of Spring Cleaning coming up soon.
April 27, 2012 § 4 Comments
Guru Piarey jio,
We Sikhs fought bravely for our Gurus. The films depicting our bravery and courage have not yet been made, the gems not yet uncovered. They will be. Future generations will be watching our history and inside them too, the spark will be lit, ready to be fuelled by Gurbani and Sangat into a raging fire of Truth, ready to spread across the Earth and destroy those who insist upon taking from poor and downtrodden. This Army of Truth will spread food and charity to all nations and people, delivering Degh inside a shelter of steel, Tegh. Freedom will reign as the roars of “Tegh Tegh Fateh” become manifestly real.
Since the 1850’s however, we’ve been systematically maligned and thrown into confusion. Our warrior spirit, our culture stolen and misdirected. First, we were convinced to fight for the British and we did so bravely. We did not register that they had tried to auction off Harimandir Sahib, stolen Ranjit Singh’s throne and children, as well as tried hard to kill or expel all the independent thinking Sikhs. From 1920 onwards, for a while, the Indian Independence movement brought some of our focus back, but it was a limited vision, seeking only to remove the British but not yet brave enough to place ourselves in the driving seat. Following the sacrifices of WW1 and WW2, (which we in the West still hark too in our defence) we Sikhs were denied the freedom we had fought for by the same 1% Hindu leadership that controls India today. We were told that we could still be good loyal (dis-enfranchised) soldiers for Mother India. It should have been Sache Patshah Dhan Guru Gobind Singh ji that we bowed too and fought for and a place at Guru’s feet, our reward, but it became the security of a monthly salary and pension that Sikh soldiers took as their reward, and medals on their chests that we applaud.
Now, as the sleeping giant of the Khalsa Panth awakens, let’s examine what traps and bonds have been placed upon us by the 1% to prevent its success in delivering Vaheguru’s (Degh Tegh) Fateh to the 99%. In order to take forward the success of #IPledgeOrange, and also the global inspiration from the Arab spring, Russians protesting, Occupy movements, we’ll have to turn inwards. Why inwards and not just outwards? Because our own house and vision must be aligned. We do’nt need a carefully structured plan. The plan is the first casualty of battle. We need a vision of our goal and a vision of the principles which we unite behind.
The reality is that most of us on the frontlines can feel the tension just under the surface, the old divisive issues bubbling up and not breaking out just yet. It’s clear that at a fundamental level, we’ve ignored and covered up the divisive issues (the real traps and bonds upon us) without dealing with them. They are the elephant in the room.
In our analysis, we see two very disturbing trends in the last 10 years.
(1) The Panthic division:
Are you Panthic or not? It seems as if anyone who gets involved in Sikhism suddenly has to answer to this question. It’s clear that some people have appointed themselves the supreme authority of deciding this question. The problem is that they usually make snap judgements. Before you’re even finished your first sentence, they’ve decided if you fit into their box or not. It’s not the case that they will want to understand exactly what you meant or see if we all can agree to disagree about something so trivial. Nope. If you ever question anything that they do or strongly believe, there is no more room for debate. That’s it, they hate you…forever.
You are no longer a Sikh for them and you’ll be labelled as “anti-panthic”. The next term that’s likely to be bandied about is that you are an agent of the Indian govt. Now because there are actually a lot of agents of the Indian Government around, its very easy to fling this accusation around.
This whole division stems from 2 main things. Firstly that people have forgotten how to debate and discuss matters with a spirit of tolerance and calmness. Why is not possible to accept that people will always have differing opinions on things and that we should learn about open debate and acceptance of differences. The reality is that talking and opinions don’t actually mean much anyway, its actions that count. This leads to second point, namely that it is because these people and organisations are not doing anything apart from arguing their points by “organising protests” and “raising awareness” that makes them so argumentative. How long can we continue to do these things without getting touchy, burnt out and needlessly petty. Of course, all these people are busy doing things, but they are not achieving anything. As we have seen in the last 55 years since the British left India in the hands of the Indian 1% and the last 28 years since that same Indian 1% decided to openly destroy Sikhs and Sikhi, things are worse now in Punjab and the Gurudwaras in the west are even more confused.com.
When people are achieving something, they dont argue, they get on with it. All they want to know is, “Are you in (with money, mind and body)?” If not, then move along and let them get back on with their work. Nowadays people will argue with you for hours, but nothing apart from protests demanding apologies ever comes up.
Look at just the simple things, there is not one good documentary out about the Guru Granth Sahib yet there are thousands of hours spent arguing about hundreds of things, that are in no way more important than our Guru itself. There is not one movie about the life and travels of Dhan Guru Nanak Dev ji. Forget even that, there is not even one full time Raag Teacher employed by any Gurudwara in the whole of the UK, Europe, US or Canada. There is not one Sikh holocaust museum. Not one Sikh Reference Library in the UK worthy of the name. Not one bachelors degree in Sikh Studies, Not one bachelors degree in Punjabi. So whats the use of all our arguments?
The biggest panthic division is if you criticise the idea of Khalistan. You’ve seen our previous posts about this, we’d prefer to start with India as a whole rather than witha much reduced Punjab. The Indian people not only need us to free the 99%, they also owe a massive Karmic debt for what the Sikhs sacrificed from Guru Tegh Bahadur’s time. We can tell you one thing, if you look at the state of Punjab politics today, as well as the politics of the people who are arguing for Khalistan, most of us wouldn’t want to go live in a Punjab only Khalistan. The current thinking would mean it is likely to be a police state with rules upon rules, with no debate and freedom of expression.
In essence, the Panthic division consists of a lot of people who cannot take even a little criticism and are “defending the honour of the panth” and yet doing nothing to extend the honour of the panth. They cuss Sikh charities who are trying to do good and try to get them involved in their own political issues rather than coming together to support the m and others who want to serve the panth.
(2) The Amrit/ Maryada division:
Sure you’ll always get some people who are not so political, some more into Khalistan and others doing Bhagti but this is different, this is when the actual Amrit we are taking as initiation into the Khalsa Panth is being labelled. Some people are less interested in whether you have taken Amrit and more interested in where. If you’re part of their Maryada, then you’re great, they’ll overlook all your faults. However if you happen to be from another group, then no matter what you do, you’ll never be good enough. Some people wont even say Fateh to you, sit next to you in Gurudwara or eat langar with you, let alone think about marrying their sons or daughters to someone from another group! Are we really serious? We claim Caste is a big problem and people should not be hindered by caste. People say we should start using only Singh or Kaur, and then you get people unable to marry within the Khalsa Panth!! Just cause someone is a Nihung or a Taksali or an AKJ or a missionary or even a nobody free-agent? Their solution is to ask you, “please take Amrit from our group again”. Honestly! Just how many times can you give your head??! Surely if you made a mistake, you should ask for forgiveness, but take Amrit again to become part of a group within the Khalsa Panth when you’re already Amritdhari…something has to have gone wrong when this starts happening. I mean surely if we are going to tell other people about the Khalsa being a universal collective, we have to at least behave differently from the general Punjabi caste ridden society. It’s gotten to the point where some of the people out there doing parchaar etc are more interested in getting people to join their Jatha or Maryada then getting people into Sikhi.
It is really the case that these arguments very often turn people off taking Amrit or getting involved in Panthic work. Imagine this situation, someone gets inspired, sees all the Singhs and Singhnees and thinks, “How great it would be to join this big family of Khalsa. We;re all brothers and susters, one father, Guru Gobind Singh and all hail from Anandpur Sahib.” “Sun Galla Akaash Ki, Kitaa Aiee Rees” (When the insects hear talk about the heavens, even they wish to follow). Then this person starts talking to more of these Amritdharis and all of a sudden members from both groups start talking about how the person should take Amrit from their Jatha. An argument breaks out over Raagmala, or Dasam Granth, one person is saying, you know if you read xyz, you’ll go to hell, the other is saying, if you dont read it you’ll go to hell. Don’t even get started on meat, people can get really worked up about that one! Just imagine whats going to happen to that person who was initially interested in Amrit. She’ll think, “These people just hate each other, there’s no love or family here. Forget joining them”. Either she leaves Sikhi altogether or becomes independent, and then in effect, shunned by all the groups. The question that comes to mind is, “Are we preaching Sikhi or preaching our jatha/maryada?”. Whatever happened to “Aiee panthi sagal jamati – The highest sect is the whole creation”. There are a lot of (Non)Issues that seem to pre-occupy some people, the list is long but one thing we can all be certain of, none of them have a straightforward solution and none of them will conflict with the baseline tenets of Guru’s teachings, i.e. Kirtan, Paat, Simran, Seva and fighting your panj chor. Combining spiritual growth with moral conduct and service of humanity are our uniting forces and we should be all behind them.
In essence, we would like to propose some simple rules for Panthic Unity and share our vision. This unity needs to come at an individual level. Each of us will have to start to implement this into our own thinking, so that when we meet up with people in our own areas, then we start to unite in small groups. Be educated about Punjab but focus on unity in your community. Focus on solving the problems in our Gurudwaras and local area, be strong in our Sikhi and unite as small communities, then build upwards.
Suggested Rules for Panthic Unity!
(1) Have unity, not Uniformity. Make unity our foundation. If you say you’re a Sikh, then you’re a Sikh. Each of us should just focus on our own spiritual growth and education ourselves more and sharing the knowledge, then doing seva to uplift society.
We do not discriminate in any way on the basis of
- Caste or race
- Maryada or jathebandi
- Reading of dasam bani
- Reading of raag mala
- Cutting of hair, wearing turban
- Whether you choose to eat on tables or chairs.
- Whether you eat meat
- If someone is Amritdhari
- Bibeki langar or sarb loh utensils.
- View on the panj kakkars
- Sexual orientation
- Male or female
- Whether you support Khalistan or not
- Your pronounciation of paat.
- Length of your kachera
- Whether you wear bana or “pent-shirt”
These are all artificial issues, either created by enemies or well-intentioned people that have now ballooned and threaten to split us apart. We recognise these differences exist, but that they form only 1% of people’s actual lives. We also feel that when we broaden our horizons, broaden our vision and broaden our aims and responsibilities, then things that looked big become smaller in comparison to those bigger challenges. We also have faith in Guru’s word that the Khalsa will rule and have faith that when the Khalsa starts delivering on the goods it is supposed to, then people will be inspired and sign up. We won’t need to argue about these issues or demand justice. It’s that vision and the implementation that we need.
We dedicate ourselves, mind, body and soul to our Guru and will unite on the basis of the 99% that we share, i.e. Guru Granth Sahib ji, Kirtan, Paat, Simran and Seva. Once we have all achieved spiritual enlightenment, have memorised our nitnem and have a strong amrit vela routine, learnt Raag kirtan and tabla taals, become fit and healthy and can do sehaj paat of Guru Granth Sahib ji, and also live good honest lives and give dasvadh (10%) to charity. When we start becoming relevant to the community around us every day, by tacking drug addiction, lack of education and unemployment, depression and child neglect, when we have also simultaneously addressed the issues of poverty, homelessness, global economic injustices, widespread slavery, forced prostitution, famine, violent dictatorships killing people, when we’ve set up a UN army rapid response team able to stop massacres of innocents and despots stealing the wealth of the poor… When we’ve also dealt with the economic and political issues of Punjab, the farmer suicides, the water rights, language teachings, drug addiction, female foeticide, set up parchar centres, cleaned up SGPC politics, got diaspora representation into the Akaal Takht, when we’ve made the world aware of Guru’s message for humanity, achieved gender equality, prevented persecution of people on the basis of sex, race, creed, religion, background and sexual orientation, when all the people who can easily quote Jesus, Malcolm X, or Nelson Mandela or Gandhi can also quote Guru Nanak, Guru Arjan, Guru Tegh Bahadur and Guru Gobind Singh and understand what Sikhi is about…
At that time, dear Sadh Sangat ji, and only then, will we think about arguing on the basis of the (non) issues stated above. We understand these issues are important to some people, so we promise to address them at that time, and will everything in our efforts to bring about the world above as soon as possible so we can get to addressing them. Please do be patient and help us along this way. We do advise you that when we reach that point, its highly likely that you may no longer think it’s such a big issue.
One thing is for sure however, once that day comes, Dhan Guru Gobind Singh ji will be doing infinite kirpa upon the Khalsa Panth and the sounds of Degh Tegh Fateh and Panth Ki Jeet will resound across the globe. Every life shed for this vision will be fruitful, every shaheed for this cause will be bringing blessings upon his/her past and future generations and every single person who lets their inner demons stand in the way of this destiny, will themselves be destined to reap the poison which they have sown, until that day as which they accept the inevitability of the Age of Truth that the Khalsa is to bring.
Guru piarey jio, let us unite in the pursuing this mission. This is not a new mission, its an imperfect elucidation of Dhan Guru Gobind Singh ji’s own message for us. Is it not what we sing every day, when we say, Agya Bhei Akaal ki, Tabai Chalaayo Panth. Was it not Akaal Purakh’s own order that Guru Gobind Singh ji followed in creating the Khalsa Panth? This is how high the order came from and therefore, the vision must also be as high as that, as high as the Creator herself. We must think big and we must include and inspire every single person who wants to serve this vision. Our vision must be Sat Yug, for that must be the earthly realisation of Sach Khand itself, the heavenly realm wherein resides the Formless Lord.
In our next post, we’ll look at “The Gurudwara Experience”. May Dhan Guru Gobind Singh ji bless us with unity and friendship. May we share our virtues and help uplift each other and the whole planet. May the love of sadh sangat inspire us all to love our True Beloved and may we serve our Guru each day in thankfulness.
April 27, 2012 § Leave a comment
Guru Piarey Jio,
We’re looking to build a global movement. This movement needs early adopters to spread it to the masses. We kiss your feet and ask that you join us on this mission.
We’re recruiting for partners. We are You, we are your frustration of inaction, your compassion and inner dreams and ultimately we are your brothers and your sisters. We are You and You are Us.
– We pay nothing but the joy of Guru’s seva and to be a part of History being made.
– We promise only Sevadari and not Sardari. This movement is Yours not ours.
– We promise that if you’ve liked our posts so far, then you’ll love whats coming next.
Step 1 – Like our facebook page and encourage as many of your friends to do so too.
Step 2 – Share our posts on facebook and twitter. Copy your favourite quote from any post and link to the blog.
Step 3 – Find other Sikhs in your local area who like the posts and start meeting up. Build small pockets of consensus. Use Chatham House Rules.
Step 4 – Be prepared for Spring Cleaning 2 and 3.
Step 5 – Say and dream Vaheguru
April 23, 2012 § 2 Comments
Guru Piarey Jio,
In Asa di var, Guru teaches that Haumai is our most severe illness and yet its cure lies within it. Earning (practicing and experiencing) Guru ji’s teachings and Vaheguru’s grace, are the transformational tool to make our self-serving ‘ego’ into the ‘Gurmukh’, a Guru orientated ‘self’ that is attuned to the Name of our beloved. This analysis reinvigorates us to tackle Haumai, seeing it anew as a curable disease.
It is also our considered opinion that at a global level, the Gurudwaras and our internal squabbles are our most severe enemies and similarly, the cure is within their transformation. In our next three posts we’ll looking at problems and giving our suggestions for a more Guru-orientated approach. Spring Cleaning Part 1 focuses on the Gurudwara committee, Part 2 – The divisions in the Panth and finally Part 3 – The Gurudwara itself.
An advance warning , the gloves are coming off now and we’ll be doing our best to lay bare the disease and the causes of the disease before suggesting cures. Bear with us and keep reading, somewhere, something will resonate with each person, because this is based on a lot of sad stories we’ve heard over the years.
Before we start, may Guru Nanak bless us with clarity and strength. It’s Vaheguru’s grace upon the Sikhs to be blessed with Satguru Nanak. In the coming world, we will be seeds of a revolution to bring an age of enlightenment on this planet, with Guru’s Kirpa.
Gurudwara Management Committees
This phrase is a contradiction in terms. Firstly, most committees are useless at ‘managing’ Gurudwaras such that if they were companies, heads would be rolling and we’d be considering a fire sale. Secondly, the committee are actually not the ones who manage the Gurudwara. The paperwork of the Gurudwara is actually done by poorly paid administrators and accountants. The religious part of the Gurudwara is handed over to the Head Granthee and kirtanees. The langar is made and prepared by Sevadaars or are paid langarees who are probably not on the committee. In short, the committee, though ‘in charge’ manages Gurudwaras in such as way that they do none of the work in running the Gurudwara.
In essence, the rot starts at the top from the President and then spreads downwards.
- President – Either a puppet or else a power hungry would-be politician.
- Committee members– Some got there purely as they could bring votes, some are safe yes men, some are losers who didn’t make it in real world, some just out to aggrandise themselves and finally some are good guys trying to make a decent difference and lets face it, these guys won’t last long.
- The constitution – No one’s read it, the committee use it against you, you cant get a copy, they keep trying to change it to keep themselves in power for longer and with less scrutiny.
- Election system – Totally messed up. No open debate on issues, no one cares about manifesto, anyone who pays nominal fee can vote regardless of attendance or knowledge of issues/sikhi.
- Daily programme – consists only or religious prayers that people do at home anyway or Punjabi katha. Nothing new, nothing innovative. May as well watch Sangat TV.
- Paid Granthees from India: The cheap slave labour that keeps Gurudwaras working. Not empowered.
- Parchar is in Punjabi only – exclude all the youth/future sangat and preach to people who’ve heard it all before.
- Lack of classes on anything: The internet is where you go to learn Sikhi, not the Gurudwara.
- Money comes from selling bani, and money goes on building funds – Sell bani to build bigger buildings that you can stuff with more people (whom you don’t teach) to get more money to pay mortgage.
- Seva projects- Not helping anyone but feeding the fed. Barely relevant to society outside.
Basically, from what we see, the Sikh ‘sangat’ exist to serve the committee, plug golaks with cash, hold our Akhand Paats, Sukhmani sahibs and weddings at the Gurudwaras. The committee, at worst, steal the cash, or at best, they simply build massive structures, badly designed, get the Gurudwara into debt and then exhort us to give more “chadava” so they can get out of debt and then they do it again. The Committee does not exist to serve the Sangat. It doesn’t create the sangat, it works against them.
Who are these people in the committee? If you do a google search or even check out the Gurudwara, its unlikely that there is a list of names and photos of these committee members, let alone a biography and reasons as to why they are ‘serving’ on the committee. There is no list of tasks that they wish to do, projects they feel passionate about and more importantly, what pledges they presented to the sangat during the election campaign. Where and how can the sangat see what they promised to achieve in their term? How can we see where they failed? Maybe that’s precisely why this information is not there. Even the actual election of Gurudwara committee members shows us the failure of the voting system. The Gurudwaras won’t allow even basic election debates, where we can at least questions from these people about what they achieved from their election manifesto. Let us guess, they will claim that people might get violent and argue. Well, we’ve seen these very same people go on TV debates and talk reasonably). So why is the case that the community does not start a culture of debate and discussion (how about saying ardaas that no one will shout). Let us ask you this question, when the sarbat khalsa took Gurmattas back in the day, you’ve seen the photos, there are thousands upon thousands of Singhs…yet they’re all chilling there and talking about real things, like what do about an enemy invasion or if India doesn’t make a state of Punjab. Those guys knew that if the Panth decides to do something, they’re going to be doing it and very likely to get shot or beaten up. They accepted that and yet they never argued in this way. Why are Gurudwaras even unable to organise a discussion on priorities for the Gurudwara in next few years?
Another pertinent question is why are these people actually in the committee? Are they keen to do parchar and spread Sikhi? If so, then we’ve never heard them do kirtan and explain any shabads or give a lecture from the stage? Are they keen to teach singing of Kirtan or playing tabla to everyone? In which case, how come we’ve never heard them running a class? Do they want to do seva by cooking langar or washing dishes or cleaning the toilets? It would be great day indeed if you saw that happening? Permit us this question, if all that gurudwaras offer today is langar and paat/kirtan then what do we have a committee for? We only need an admin person and an accountant which most Gurudwars have anyway. So (WTF) do they actually do? And more importantly why in heavens sake are they trying to run a Gurudwara? Surely they could just run their own business, or run for local politics? We understand that the President is a grand title, but so is mayor or CEO. Maybe we should even ask whether the Gurudwara is a country that it needs a president? If they’re not going to be spreading Sikhi, go home or sit in the sangat and get uplifted. The reality is that the committees are a system where they have all the power and none of the responsibility of delivering.
On the point about Admin, it would be nice if the Gurudwara actually delivered on this end. However, most of the time the admin of the Gurudwara is in shambles. The accounts seem to be done by some Desi accountant who also manage millions of other dodgy desi accounts. You wont see regular updates. If you’re lucky, the website may even have the information for what happened two years ago, however you will be very lucky to know about the current financial situation. Ask yourself how could Gurudwaras survive without cheap granthee slave labour? We’re sure the Charities commission in the UK could tell us some horror stories about Gurudwaras. It seems that having crises seems to be de rigueur for the Gurudwara. The committee, having created a crisis situation by either their mismanagement or ignorance, will then gravely tell the Sangat the problem facing the Gurudwara so that we, the community, have to come together to solve it. What’s worse is that they will not ask people for help in actually solving the problem so we the Sangat can get truly involved, no, the help they will ask for will be just for ideas and money.
One big proof that the Gurudwara committee think that the Sangat is there to serve them is with regards to the paat and kirtan programmes. For example, if you book a Sukhmani sahib paat to be held at the Gurudwara, they will charge you as much as they can get away with, but then they will tell you that you have to also give the Granthees a certain amount for them reading the paat. However, let’s say you want to read the paat yourself, well that causes a problem. What, you want to do the paat yourself, so that your family can actually feel closer to Guru, that sounds too crazy! Surely you need to get a granthee to read it too you at one hundred miles an hour. Not that our community is very good either, you know when you go to these paats, most people just play on their phones or catch up over whispers. However, when someone actually wants to read the paat themselves, they say, “Well if you do that, this creates a problem, we have to keep our granthees earning the money due to them”. Now even if you say, no problem, I’ll pay the Granthees anyway, this is still too revolutionary. WHY? Good question. What they will inevitably tell you is that it sets a bad precedent you see. It will hurt the sentiments of the Granthees as you decided to do it yourself rather than use them. Excuse me, the granthee will feel hurt if you do the paat at your own function, with all your family present?? We doubt it! And nor should they feel hurt. This is just a form of emotional blackmail and what’s galling is that the Gurudwara committee are the ones who are most guilty of offending our granthees. They treat them as low paid servants. Guess who makes the tea for the committee? Granthees work way more than we’d expect of normal workers and at very extreme hours. They have very little idea of their schedule for the next week due to the committee disorganisation and worst of all they are accorded no respect! If you ever ask the Granthee whether he will mind if you do the paat yourself, most of these guys are happy that you’d like to do it. They’re tired of sitting and reading paat to an audience who doesn’t understand it. If someone comes along who can speak Punjabi, knows paat and actually talks to them as fellow humans, they wwould be welcomed. However, the reality is that if you did ask the Granthee, he will always say, please ask the committee. Basically Granthees have no power and the committee doesn’t understand the concept of delegation. The committee cares little what they think and even little less about what they feel. The problem actually is that the Gurudwaras pay these Granthees a pittance, and therefore you the sangat have to additionally supplement their salaries with compulsory fees on top of the “bheta” for the room, as well as they money earnt from kirtan chadava. At some of the bigger Gurudwaras they have Granthees pouring out of the ears, but can a single one of these speak English…hardly.
One thing that is guaranteed is that the Gurudwara committee will not listen to any ideas you give them. You’ll go up to them to offer a suggestion, “you know uncleji, it would be good to…..”.
(1) The first thing they will say, “Oh thats a good idea, I admire you trying to help. You know you are like our children, you are our future.” Then they will try to walk off by saying, let me put this to the committee”.
Children!! You must be kidding right. We’re now at the age that we’ve got kids of our own and run businesses! To put this in context, Guru Gobind Singh ji was 33 when he set up the Khalsa! How old do you think you need to be. More importantly, these committee members were around 30 each when they got into the committees but suddenly, we’re too young!
You might go one step further and say, “Well I can happily do this seva myself for the Gurudwara”. Hmm, now comes the harder part. The committee wallah will say,
(2) “Oh you know, I am really in favour of you youth getting more involved but please understand that there are others in the committee who are very backward minded, they will complain about using English, and will do their best to stop it. Let me try and build some consensus.”
In this scenario, the bad people are always the other, the good people are them, and we are always the children asking permission. Or they will say,
(3) “you know right now our focus is the building fund and our mortgage and we really cant afford to get our mind off that task”…The next thing they will start complaining about all the problems of debt on the gurudwara, how much they personally have done to give money, how we might risk the gurudwara getting re-possessed..basically they will distract you until you think, forget it.
In summary, either you get presented with the bogey man of the “committee hates change and is backward” or you get told that “we have to focus on the building fund”.
(4) If your matter will take some investment and you then offer to make things simpler and get some people together to pay for it yourself, you’re likely to come up against, well the committee must agree it first. More than likely they’ll invite you to give money to the building fund, and also do their best to give you a guilt trip about the importance of getting the Gurudwara out of debt so that the chadava is not going towards paying interest to the banks (they wont mention that they put the Gurudwara under debt in the first place)..
(5) If however the idea is cheap or actually very good, the other thing that is likely to happen is that they will try and placate you and a few weeks later, you’ll find that someone else (either a son or close friend of the committee) will be implementing your exact idea and telling everyone how their uncleji from the committee had a great idea and asked him to implement it. Why will this happen? Well the guy who will be carrying out this idea is likely to be a “ghar da banda” i.e. he will not be looking to replace the committee members, he’s more than happy just to do some seva and he feels good that way. A the same time, he also looks good in front of the community and his proud uncle from the committee shows him off to all his mates. The committee guys know that he is not politically smart enough to be running the committee until they themselves hand it over to him when their health fails.
(6) If however your idea is a little too troublesome and they don’t want even their own guy doing it, the next thing crafy tactic will be that they will try to annoy you so that you get angry. They might say that you are behaving like a fanatic, or you’re not a member or anything which they can claim is reasonable, but it is designed to get you angry and start shouting. Once you do this, its simply a case of labelling you a religious extremist and getting either the police involved or security and try to ban.
Whats the real reason behind this? We’ve pondered it enough and broken it down to two reasons.
(1) One is purely fear based and that fear is that if they start listening to your ideas, when will you stop. Surely you’ll come up with more ideas and soon want to either get on the committee or form a rival to it and replace them. It comes down to remaining in control of the power that they have. If the sangat gets behind your logical ideas, then they risk creating their own rival. Better to either stop it altogether or implement the idea using their own people.
(2) There is a second reason, one that is a little harder to prove and also likely only to apply to the bigger Gurudwaras. This will be that there are people who are actively trying to stop Sikh youth in the UK from getting too uppity and taking control of Gurudwaras. I.e. lets call these people, Indian Government/ BJP/ RSS guys or “IGBR” for short. Now these guys have a huge budget to basically keep Sikhs quiet abroad. Even if they dedicated just $1m (small change) to controlling the Sikhs in the UK, then they could afford to hire a few people full time to basically take steps to keep the Gurudwara tied up in politics. The people they hire as their agents will look like Sikhs, will speak fluent Punjabi but it’s likely that they will not themselves go into the committee. No, that would be too obvious. What the IGBR agent will do is become a knowledgeable and trusted sevadar and then purposely pick people who are pretty arrogant, self-serving and overly political and they will tell that guy, “you know, you’re a great Sikh, you’re exactly what we Sikhs need in power right now. Why don’t you stand for the committee” They’ll basically do their best to ensure the Gurudwara committee is full of unsuitable people. Then once this is done, they just hang around to create controversies. These are the “kingmakers”, they basically become trusted by committee members and then control the agenda of the Gurudwara. We’re pretty sure that the majority of the arguments and bad ideas, like going into more debt to build buildings, comes from these kingmakers. It could be from the committee members themselves too, but these guys would be really enthusiastic about them and work to get it done.
How do we know that these kingmakers exist?
- Well, its too obvious, just think what you would do if you were the Indian government and had seen the gurudwaras being taken over by “khalistanis” after 1984. You’d want to ensure that the Sikhs abroad didn’t suddenly get united and start speaking with one voice. The cheapest and simplest option is to use agents. Some of the RSS have already taken “amrit” and look like Sikhs. If you think we’re being overly paranoid, let us give you one example. The British govt paid for an undercover police officer to spend 6 years in “The clown army” a pretty harmless political group. Compare the threat that an educated and united western Sikh sangat could pose to the ruling classes of India Look at the credible theories of India actually instigating the Air India Flight 182 bombing in June 1985. We’ve all seen the undercover police in the Occupy movements, so of course the Indian Govt would infiltrate the Gurudwaras abroad. It’s too obvious for it not to be true.
- Look at those Gurudwaras that do not have a committee, but rather someone in charge, i.e. the Naamdhari, or baba gurudwaras. What do you see? No arguments and people getting on with projects. They are the ones likely to have kirtan/santhia classes and who probably won’t be wasting all their chadava on paying mortgage interest but doing things slowly but surely. Why are the big committee Gurudwaras not like this? Why do most people who love kirtan, paat or seva stay away form the committee? Someone is finding ways to keep us down and the committee facilitates this.
You might well defend the committee and say, “Well these committee wallahs are doing their bit by keeping the Gurudwara functioning. It’s not their fault they dont have a vision for what else to do.” This is not a great excuse. Let us give you a scenario, you’re in a park and you see a person drowning in the lake, you run over and are about to jump in the water but then a park warden grabs you and says leave it, its too dangerous. You say, I can swim and I have done a lifesaver’s and first-aiders course. This person says, well if you get stuck, I cant swim so cant rescue either of you! Now the person in the lake drowns and you feel miserable. Did the warden who stopped you, do a bad thing? Did he not prevent you from saving a life? If you think the warden did do something bad, what is the difference between a committee person who stops good things happening in the Gurudwara?
The reality of the rule of committee wallahs is that good people who want to make a difference are being stopped. We all know for a fact that due to committees, good people have been discouraged from putting good ideas into action, they feel sucked dry after working with them, disillusioned and think forget it. Some committed few think it’s just a matter of waiting, “The buddeh (old guys) will die out soon and then we’ll be able make some changes.” Well, there are 3 main reasons why we need to do something now other than this option of waiting.
- Firstly: These guys are not dying out anytime soon, don’t let the white beards fool you, mostly they are 60-70 odd years old and it will be at least another 20 years before they all die out! That means someone born now, will be 20 years old and already finishing off university by that time. A whole generation will be in work, tending to kids etc and majoritarily lost to kalyug.
- Secondly: These guys have their own replacements coming in from Punjab. The pendu uncle (no vision, just proud to say he’s on the committee) who has been here 30 years will just be replaced by a pendu (villager) who has been here for 10 years. We’ve seen that there is a never ending supply of these people, younger than them but older than you who will be planning to use the committee system to get in.
- Thirdly: Nearly every day we read shabads like “Deh Shiva”, asking Vaheguru to give us strength to do the right thing without fear. We talk about our shaheeds who stuck to their tasks and showed bravery. Can the reform of this system just be postponed 20 years?
One other argument we’ve heard recently is that if you raise too much of a fuss, the committee has goons that will try to intimidate you. We even heard of some people getting their windows smashed or cars burnt. This does sound extreme and I can see why some families might not want to face this. But hold on, we’re the Khalsa right, we do ardaas and remember the punj piarey (willing to be beheaded), the 4 sahibzadey (all shaheed), the 40 muktey (again died in battle), those people who were sawn in half, boiled alive, were scalped etc, and now you want us to be scared of a window being smashed! In Guru Tegh Bahadur ji’s time a Sikh in Delhi burnt his whole house down just so Guruji’s body could be cremated. Honestly, we’re not even sure there is a comparison. We’d happily take a beating for our guru, let alone clean up some glass and pay double glazing costs or buy another car. When we sing “purja Purja kat marei, kabho na chadoo khet,” i.e., “let me be chopped into little pieces but never leave the battlefield,” then we should take strength from that. You know, it’s almost a good sign when someone tries to smash your window, it means you actually managed to be a threat to the status quo. Take encouragement and do even more, and post it all online J
So allow us to offer our vision of what a Gurudwara management system might like.
Our suggestions for the Ideal Gurudwara Committee
We think the first criteria of the committee member should be that they heavily involved in either parchar, teaching or doing paat, kirtan, tabla or seva (larger or humanitarian). i.e., they should be sevadaars.
Secondly we should use the Guru’s criteria of Panj Piarey, i.e. Amritdhari, fully practicing and have memorised all the morning panj banees. They should be committed to Sikhi and living the Gursikh life.
Thirdly, we should change all the names, no longer a president, it should just panj piarey with specific duties of doing the amrit sanchaars and also titles like, “Sevadaar to complain about Parchar”, “Sevadaar to complain about Langar” and the “Mukh sevadaar to blame”. i.e., they are responsible for the fall in the standards that we the sangat should expect from them.
Finally, these panj piarey should have specific tasks, starting with the “Mukh Sevadaar to blame” (previously faultily identified as a president) who would have to clean the toilets every day (ideally between 5-6am). Their background, photos and phone number should be prominently displayed so whenever the sangat have a complaint, they know who to blame. Every 3-6 months they should have to give an account of what they have achieved, what failures and the plan for next few months, as well as accepting questions.
Basically make it as “unattractive” as possible to take away all the false allure and hopefully the person who puts themselves forward will genuinely feel the pleasure of doing the sangats seva and be prepared to take responsibility if it falls below the standard of what the “Guru Roop Sadh Sangat” expects. This tackles the basic problem that people come into Gurudwara politics looking for Sardari, not Sevadari.
If you remove the committee and the president etc..and only have the Punj Piare…the other main change that needs to come is that we need to have project based leadership. Basically we should not have leaders, we should have project managers (PMs). This removes the need to have committees, what we need is projects and the people who are running those projects, and then each person can choose what project they wish to get involved it. The PM can say okay, we need those jobs done, allot roles and ensure the project is delivered, then the project is over.
This avoids people arguing about the non-issues. You come together to do a project, not just together without a project. People who are busy getting on with projects rarely even bother to argue about each others rehat, they are more concerned about how to get the project done. The Gurudwara should be having courses in project management, (Prince2 or PMPO) to train the PMs in how to deliver the projects and obviously there will be some long term ongoing projects and other short term projects.
Then the best thing to do is publish everything, publish the constitution, the calendar of events, the goals for the next six month, next year, next five years, the current financial situation, the exact funds required and for which project, costs broken down for major bills, basically everything and then ask the sangat, what would you like us to achieve within our budget and what extra items would you like ot achieve for which we need to fundraise.
What this will result in, is efficient, transparency and that most important of things, Trust. It’s obvious to all people, even those in the committee that no one trusts the Gurudwara committee. No one gives their Dasvandh to the Gurudwara because they don’t trust the committee. They tolerate the committee, they suffer the committee but they don’t trust it. To build trust, we will have to build a system where the people who run the Gurudwaras have absolutely no normal incentive to be in charge, lots of responsibility, lots of sangat scrutiny but also, the chance to make a real difference, ie.e., do Guru’s seva. Then the sevadaars (who do exist) will start coming out of the woodwork. Now lets train these guys up and get them to deliver. Then we’ll get real trust of the sangat and then the ‘beant maaya’ that Guru Gobind Singh ji has blessed the Sikhs with, will start flowing into the golak. It doesn’t have to be a baba who motivates the aunties to give away their gold necklaces. A punj piarey led Gurudwara that delivers the goods of Sikhi was enough for the ancestors of these same women to hand over their children for slaughter and wear them as necklaces. That same power of Sikhi exists today and needs to be brought into the Gurudwaras.
To some readers this proposed system will sound extreme. I ask whether Guru Gobind Singh sahib picking up a sword and asking for a head or perhaps Guru Nanak asking Bhai Lehna to eat a corpse was also being extreme. In our opinion, the test for leading the panth needs to be extreme or else we’ll stay in the current situation. We’re actually toning it down, a more favourite option was to add that each Punj Piara also give one finger to the chopping block just to show their guts and committment.
Here is a good question though, where will these Sevadars come from? In Plato’s republic we see that in the end, its the people themselves who go and ask for a Philosopher to come and lead them. Plato’s philosophers were people who loved the truth and probably had forsake politics. This is exactly what the Sikhs need, strong leadership which is actually focused on manifesting the truth. However, be prepared that true sevadaars are not going to just sign up for this mission. They will need to be persuaded that this is a new type of Gurudwara management system. One that truly looks for Sevadars rather than attracts Sardari orientated people. They will need to be persuaded that the Sangat will not be placing them on some pedestal and robbing them of their inner peace and humbleness, but rather, the Sangat will be giving them the mandate of doing Guru’s seva and will have expectations that need fulfilling. It is truly a wonderful Seva to serve a sangat (in a leadership role) with their permission and with Guru sahibs blessings. Look at the example of Nawab Kapur Singh. When the panth unanimously elected him as Nawab, he immediately placed the Siropa gifted by the Mughals at the feet of the Punj Piarey. He fought numerous battles and was widely respected but always remained a true servant of the panth. But the Panth had to choose him and empower him. Similarly, if today we want to bring change into our Gurudwara committees, we’re going to have to get the right people at the front. However first we will have to change the system as its the system which corrupts and turns true Sikhs away. We need to reform our Gurudwaras and attract Sevadars. People who are willing to sacrifice for the panth, to bleed for the panth, these should be the ones who lead. This can and will happen. With Guru’s grace, more and more of the youth are getting into Sikhi and they are following the code of conduct properly. Their spiritual level is high and also they are willing to put their faith/their careers in Guru’s hand. It’s almost like all the Sikhs who died after 1984 are coming back as young Sikhs abroad, ready to do something new for the panth. They are our future and the future they bring will be Orange indeed.
Spring Cleaning Part 2 will focus on the Panth itself and reasons for disunity. May Dhan Guru Nanak Dev ji bless his Sikhs that their Gurudwaras are run by people who are imbued with his teachings and live to serve humanity. May the Sangat make this their expectation and work together to destroy the current deplorable system and build another that promotes Sevadari nor Sardari. Then truly will the Sikhs start delivering Sikhi for Sarbat da bhala and make the Khalsa worthy to be called the physical manifestation of Dhan Guru Gobind Singh ji, the true emperor.
April 19, 2012 § Leave a comment
Guru Pirarey Jio,
We enjoy poetry, so Guru gifted us with this taster on the work to come…entitled Cause n Vision. For those who read this for the first time, please do read the previous posts on our blog to get our perspective.
Blinded by a blurring of Vision,
the Panth stumbled and created divisions.
Rebellious lions roaring without a cause,
Ready to strike brothers with sharp claws,
We never stopped to pause,
Check if this deal was raw.
Is this the Real Sikhi Vision?
For which shaheeds died and others are in prison,
When we do ardaas, do we stop to listen?
Or do the words robotically flow like television,
Raj Karega Khalsa, isn’t that our mission?
Propelled by Vaheguru Fission,
Heavenly Bani that we listen,
Defeating tyrants with precision.
Bringing Heaven to earth, our Cause,
Singhs and Kaurs,
We’ll change gravity’s laws,
The lowly will stand tall,
“Great’ empires will fall,
Khalsa will rule all,
The world will applaud,
Freedom, Justice, Equality, and Peace Y’all
What we waiting for?