By Parminder Kaur, Smithsfield, NC
TWO articles in Punjabi section of the World Sikh News of January 8th, 1988 and January 22nd, 1988, on the subject of Gurdwara management have aroused my interest enough to research this subject and present my views.
Like most immigrants before us, we as Sikhs also felt the need to have our own religious institutions, and have done very well in erecting these beautiful buildings. However, most of us were not a part of Gurdwara management committee in India or any other country we may have immigrated from, hence totally unprepared for the jobs we have been entrusted with, While many of us may be excellent business managers and corporate executive, that skill is insufficient for us to run the religious organizations because of the lack of religious education. In the past forty years since the partition of India, practice of Sikh religion took a downward trend. We took our religion for granted. Preaching of our basic religious tenets was left to the people who could not do anything else to make a living. Affluence and prosperity brought further degradation of our moral values. Drinking, cutting and trimming of hair and so called modernization was given precedence over religious training. We were so busy getting ahead that even most parents did not stress the need for the practice of our religion. It was more fashionable to go to a convent school rather than a Khalsa school. This is where we are coming from; now let’s see where we are going.
Many of us are only Sunday Sikhs, and the Turban is tossed off to the back seat of the car as soon as the service and Langar are over, after all one is not used to the turban and it gives a headache! We talk of unity and talk of our common enemy, we also talk of our brothers suffering in India, while they are at war we have chosen to discard our uniforms in peacetime, after all we are living in a peaceful country here!
All our basic needs of food, shelter and clothing are now met; we have a good job, now let’s do something to get recognition, some self-actualization! What is the best place to do that? The Gurdwara of course! Let’s see if we really fit the job description and let us not forget even for a moment that it is the running of a religious institution we are talking about. Are we really prepared for that job?
All Sikhs are to be considered equal. There is no doubt about this and there should be none, however, equality comes amongst equals. First we have to be Sikhs; perhaps that is where the biggest problem arises. Who is a Sikh? Let’s see what the Guru says:
The word “Sikh” means “disciple”, one has to be some ones disciple. For a Sikh, he has to be Gurw’s disciple. To be a Guru’s disciple one has to adopt a Guru, only then we can be called Guru Ka Sikh.
It took two hundred years to complete the picture of a Sikh that Guru Nanak Dev Ji had started, all the Gurus gave different colors to that picture that Guru Gobind Singh Ji completed so that a Sikh could be looked upon as a Saint Soldier, not just a saintand not just so a soldier because the Guru knew that one without the other can create havoc. So to be a Saint Soldier he initiated his followers with “Khande Ki Pahul”. Just by saying we are Guru Ka Sikhs we do not become Guru Ka Sikh. As in the Gurwak:
S.G.P.C. has tried to define a Sikh as one who believes in One God, Ten Gurus, Guru Nanak Dev Ji to Guru Gobind Singh Ji, Guru Granth Sahib Ji’s Bani as Guru and Guru Gobind Singh Ji’’s method of Baptism, and does not have faith in any other religion.
Now let us all 1ook at ourselves, are we what our Guru wanted us to be according to the above shabads? Do we look like what Guru Gobind Singh Ji wanted us to look like, Are we saint soldiers? Are we ready to serve our Guru with Tan, Man and Dhan? If we can accept the Gurus’ wishes and follow them then we are equal, there is no discrimination amongst equals.
Gurdwara management can and should only be trusted to those who try to understand and obey His Hukum. Those who will follow the Gur Maryada and enforce it within the Gurdwaras.
Comments regarding living in the greatest democracy and not following this principle in Gurdwara Management elections are unfounded and misleading. Let us for a minute accept this process and adopt it. We then must understand that in the American democratic system, a major process of selection of the right candidate takes place through interviews, debates and primaries. The candidate has to conform to the basic requirement to run for any office, he has to be a citizen of the U.S.A. We all know that to be a citizen of the U.S. we have to renounce all other citizenships and pledge allegiance to the Flag of the U.S. Once two candidates have been selected then the people are asked to vote. Who can vote? Only legal citizens of the U.S.A., those who have taken an oath to follow and protect the constitution of the country. Are we talking of this democratic method? If we are, then let us apply this to the Gurdwaras, let all those who have pledged allegiance to the Guru, become Guru Ka Sikhs, have taken Khandi Di Pahul, and have renounce all other religious affiliations stand for elections, and all those who have also done the above vote in those elections. Very democratic, isn’t it.
MEMBERSHIP IN GURDWARAS
Now the question of membership. Membership in Gurdwaras is new concept by the Westernized Sikhs. Which Gurdwara in India requires its sangat to pay money to be members? Here we can buy membership for $510. It does not matter who this person is, he can become a member and being a member he can vote and also stand for office. Since membership is not restricted to Sikhs only in most places, a Hindu, Mussalman, Christian, or anyone who calls himself’ a Sikh can become a member. How would you like a Hindu or a Mussalman or a Christian to be a President or Secretary of a Gurde wara? This can certainly happen Even if he does not stand for office he can help elect an office holder, and what kind of influence is he then going to have on that office holder! Not long ago one office seeker made twenty Mussalmans as members of the gurdwara who voted for him and helped him win the election. I only hope that loophole in the bylaws of that Gurdwara has been looked. We cannot treat Gurdwaras worse than clubs; even clubs have some requirements and restrictions of. Their members, dress code, attendance, participation, etc.
Election process has inbred corrupt influence such as vote buying, only recently in Gurdwara in the West Coast was taken over by a moneyed influential individual who paid for the Trustee Fee for the majority of the Trustees and won the elections, why would someone who does not even follow the Guru’s Hukum want to get elected? Is it just for power and control or is he really looking to become a Sikh? I wonder, the only reason I see is to be able to justify what he or she wants to do in life and get it accepted through the so called sangat! These manatees not only disobey the Guru’s orders but also want their degenerative practices accepted by others, they have not made an effort to follow the path of Sikhs themselves but also encourage others to lose their path. They are here in majority now, hence democracy suits them. I have not heard of such demands in Punjab by such individuals, maybe because they are a minority there!
The Delhi Sikh gurdwaras act passed by the Parliament of India on 30th December 1971 defines the qualifications of the elector and of members: A person shall not be qualified to be chosen or cooped as a member of the committee if such person:
- Is not an Amritdhari Sikh,
- being an Amritdhari Sikh, trims or shaves his beard or keshas.
- Takes alcoholic drinks.
e, is a Patit
A Sikh is a person who believes only in one God, follows the teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Ten Sikh Gurus, and the Bani of Guru Gobind Singh Ji and takes Amrit (Khande di Pahul), and has no faith in any other religion whatsoever.
Sahajdhari Sikh is a person who;
- Professes the Sikh religion, believes in One God, and follows the teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji and the Ten Gurus only.
- Performs all ceremonies according to Sikh Rites.
- Does not smoke, or use tobacco, or take Kutha in any forms.
- Does not take alcoholic drinks in any form.
- Is not born in a Sikh family but not a patit.
(Copies of the above act of S.G.P.C. are available.
Gurdwara is Guru’s home where only Guru’s Hukum should be followed. Gurdwaras are open to all irrespective of caste, color or creed, irrespective of what stage of Sikhism one is at, after all we go to the Gurdwaras to learn, to become better, to become Sikhs, to do Sewa. Only after doing Sewa can we become better and then practice that Sewa in the world. No one needs a position in the management to do Sewa. Let us try to be sewadars and through that Sewa and simran beg for Guru’s Grace so that we may all be blessed with Nam. When we go with that attitude where is the need for hatred or fight or the desire to have a position, just for the sake of power and control. Only then will we be successful in learning the great virtues of the Sikh religion, only then will we be able to pass that. Great religion to our children, only then will our children want to follow that Great religion, and only then will our lives on this earth be worthwhile in the eyes of Waheguru.
So let us forget the lip service and follow:
Taking Amrit or Khande Ki Pahul is an initiation ceremony like taking admission in the kindergarten of the Sikh religion, it by no means transforms one into superhuman being, however, it does make one aware of his responsibilities as a Sikh and with Sewa, simran and association with sadh sangat the person has a chance to be blessed with Guru’s grace. So if we wish to graduate from this great school of Sikhi then let us first take admission in it. Let’s look within and not try to judge, let’s see how committed we are and only pray we become better through serving the Guru so that we may get full benefit of Nam.
Do we love our Guru enough to try to live in His Hukum? If we really want to serve the Guru and His home in any way then:
In most Gurdwaras members of the management committees are the last ones to come to the Gurdwara, if they ever show up at all, after all there is only one Sunday in the week and they have other things to do! Sewa is to be done by members of subcommittees like Langar, etc. I fail to understand why do such people want to be in executive positions if it is not for Power and control, what is it for?
Yes, it is very good if we can choose the management committees by agreeing unanimously. That would save use lot of problems. however, the responsibility of running any organization is great and if one is ready to serve with Tan, Man and Dhan is ready for all the criticism in the world then let that person come forward If there are more than one for the Sewa then let the Guru decide by drawing lots in His presence. Let him or her never forget that he or she is there for serving the Guru only.