Guru Pyari Sadh Sangat parts — ji,
Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa,
Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh!
The following is a list of suggestions offered by some of the members of the Sikh Youth Camp of 1985. The camp was held in Alpine, New Jersey from August 1125 under the auspices of the Sikh Youth Federation of North America. The youths who contributed were asked these questions: What are some ways to more effectively manage Gurudwaras in North America and what things can be done to maintain unity in Sikh Associations? They were also asked to tell which procedures seemed to work well in the Gurudwaras which each of them attended.
The list is by no means all inclusive, nor is it expected that every suggestion will be implemented in every Gurudwara. But we do feel a definite need for reform in the way that most of the Gurudwaras and Sikh Associations in North America are operated. This list is our contribution to the advancement of Sikhism.
Finally, I, Gurpreet Jawa, would like to add a note of personal opinion. The vast majority of children (except for myself) are still free from the 5 evils of lust, wrath, greed, false attachment, and egoism. Many times, the younger generation can see events from a clearer perspective than the elder generation which is often too preoccupied with its own self-interests. Just as in the story of the emperor’s clothes, sometimes only a child has enough innocence and courage to be straightforward and truthful. As you know, the Sikh youth of today are the Sikh leaders of tomorrow, the future of Sikhism rests in their hands. If the elder Sikhs do not create a favorable attitude in the minds of us younger Sikhs, by considering our suggestions for the preservation of “Sikhi” with the respect that they deserve, then the elders will have no right to be upset if Sikhism decays in the world. Unless you adults show us that our contributions for the betterment of the Panth are important, then there will be even more Zail Singhs and Buta Singhs (men whose personal status is more important to them than their religion) from among our generation when we grow up. The list is divided into 4
- The Duty of Adults towards Youth
- Politics and Gurudwara Elections
Ill. Social and Community Involvement
- Concluding Suggestions
- THE DUTY OF ADULTS TOWARDS YOUTH.
In general, there should be greater parental commitment towards all Gurudwara functions. Specifically, the children need to see more examples of adult participation in the playing of shabads and the performance of all types of sewa langar sewa, cleaning of the Gurudwara room, etc. Also, stricter adherence to the time schedule. The parents must come to the services on time. Unless the children see that the Gurudwara is important enough that people should not just drag in at any time, they will not place a high priority on coming to the Gurudwaras when they themselves have grown up.
- There should be a greater emphasis placed on shabads from the children and, accordingly, the adults should allot more time (during the function) for the kids to play them. Also, if not on every occasion, at least on most of them, a child should be allowed to do the Ardas, with a different child doing so every time.
- All children who would like to do sewa, should be immediately allowed to do so, without having to be put on a waiting list or having to obtain permission from an officeholder of the Gurudwara. Also, not many children are able to keep sitting for the duration of the religious function. Those that become fidgety should be allowed to go and perform some sewa (preparing plates or washing dishes, etc.) preferably within earshot of the kirtan. In that way, they will receive the double benefit of both the kirtan and the performance of sewa, an integral part of Sikhism.
- More time should be spent in translating the katha (sermon) of the Gyaniji into English. The main theme (chorus line) of each shabad should also be translated. And it is very important to explain the traditions in the Gurudwara, such as why we bow our heads before the Guru Granth Sahib or why the Parshad is cut into 5 parts before it is served. If these things are not explained, they will become empty and mechanical rituals, the same type of rituals which Sikhism was meant to free humanity from in the first place. Also, there should be Punjabi and Kirtan classes in the Gurudwara after the religious function and the langar are over. Hopefully, one day the children will not need translations into English and will instead understand the true meanings in the language and idioms of the Gurus. Every
Sikh child should know both Punjabi and Gurmukhi.
- A specific time should be set aside after the langar for kids to have discussion sessions. Any and all questions should be asked in them, from the troubles of growing up in the West, to the situation in India. Adults can meditate if the children want them to do so.
- Once or twice a year (more frequently if it becomes popular) there should be a kid’s day. On that day, the entire Gurudwara program, from the bringing in of the Guru Granth Sahib, to the cooking of the langar, should be carried out by the kids. Adults can assist with the cooking, etc. if their help is needed.
Il. POLITICS AND GURUDWARA ELECTIONS
- One of the most frequently voiced opinions from the youth was that the religious function should be kept separate from all politics. There is much merit in this suggestion, otherwise why would respected Guru Hargobind Ji himself create a separate building, the Akal Takht, for worldly and political affairs of the Panth? In view of the fact that many persons are turned away from coming to the Gurudwara, due to the holding of political discussions there, we suggest that a separate room should be used for such discussions and meetings. If no separate room is available, then all such meetings and speeches should be allowed only after the Guru Granth Sahib has left the room and langar is over.
- Elections are probably the single greatest cause of Gurudwara infighting. If any agents of the government of India are reading this, they will probably try even harder to take advantage of this fact. We have worked out a system which we hope will lessen, if not prevent, such infighting. The system is as follows Each Gurudwara should have some sort of constitution or charter with a specific, unchangeable date for elections to be held every year. The membership of the board of directors should be declared to be a closed membership and clearly spelled out as such in the constitution. That will prevent truckloads of new people from swamping the Gurudwara at election time with the hopes of taking it over. Along with that, the same persons should not be allowed to run for the same offices the next year (this should also be written in the constitution). This will prevent persons from beginning to think that the Gurudwara is their own personal property and from getting corrupted into believing that they have the right to close the doors of the Gurudwara. ELECTIONS when it is time for the elections to be held, each candidate who is up for an office must receive a certain percentage (say, 25%) of signatures from the sadh sangat present at that time. The names of the candidates who receive the required amount of signatures should be placed on separate pieces of paper in a box in front of the Guru Granth Sahib (there should be one box for each office, President, Vice-president, Secretary, and Treasurer). Then, each candidate must come forward, one at a time, and with their hands on the Guru Granth Sahib, must pledge before the sadh sangat that whether he/she wins or loses, he/she will be a pukha Sikh from then onwards. Our definition of pukka Sikh includes at least 3 things
- Must be a Keshadhari or become one right away.
- Must stop drinking alcohol.
- Must do the Nit Nem every day.
The above pledge will weed out all those persons who are not sincerely interested in serving the Panth and are instead just self-seeking kursi Sikhs. After the pledges, or rather oaths have been made, a Hukum must be read from the Guru Granth Sahib and then Ardas must be offered. After this, a young Keshadhari Sikh, age 4 to 5, should come forward after being instructed to pick up only one piece of paper from each of the boxes. After this has been done and the names of each new officeholder read out to the sadh sangat, a jaikara should be exclaimed and Kara Parshad distributed to all present. This system, with minor adjustments, can be adopted in all Gurudwaras, keeping in mind the 5 crucial elements
- Unchangeable election date.
- Closed membership.
- Must have different officers in each post at every election.
- Each candidate receiving the required number of signatures must pledge upon the Guru Granth Sahib before the sadh sangat.
- Sikh child picking up the names after Hukum and Ardas.
. II. SOCIAL AND COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT
- It is necessary to remind ourselves that sewa is one of the most important aspects of Sikhism. Sewa is selfless service to all humanity, regardless of caste, creed, religion, or nationality. Many persons are ready to serve other Sikhs within the Gurudwara, but how many Sikhs and Sikh Associations can be found that are actively involved in serving the larger North American community to which we all belong? To correct this falsesewa, we urge that all Sikh associations should start donating food to charitable organizations, set up soup kitchens so that we can directly feed the needy, organize cleanup movements and tree plantings, sponsor blood drives and offer free tutoring services to local students. That last suggestion should be easily accomplished since Sikhs are one of the most, if not the most, intellectual minorities in North America. These steps will have the double benefit of making us better Sikhs while at the same time elevating the image of Sikhs and Sikhism in the Western hemisphere, especially if the local media are informed of them. I don’t need to explain to you how badly that image has been blackened by the government of India’s vile propaganda.
- The Sikh associations should organize athletic contests and self-defense training such as BB gun shooting, Karate, and archery, sword fighting, and wrestling for the Sikh youth. How can we defend the weak and oppressed as our religion tells us to do, if we can’t even defend ourselves? Also, there should be more Sikh cultural entertainment provided for the youth, such as Bhangra dancing, the performance of Punjabi plays (or English plays about Sikhism), and even Punjabi religious films. It is very important that Sikh youth should not have to depend on Western culture alone for entertainment.
- All Sikh Associations should consider it as a duty to vigorously defend the rights of any Sikh being discriminated against, especially in North America. For example, if a Sikh recruit to the Armed forces is being asked to cut his hair or if a Sikh youth is being barred from entering a private school, all Sikh Associations should spread the news and immediately draft petitions and send them to the concerned parties. A few years back, a Sikh athlete who was training for a rifle shooting event in the Olympics sent out letters asking for financial assistance. Every Sikh association should have responded, because it would only serve to enhance the reputation of all Sikhs if that gentleman did well in the Olympics.
- CONCLUDING SUGGESTIONS
- If there is any dispute which cannot be settled by the members of the Sikh Association, a written copy of both sides of the argument should be sent to the Akal Takht and whatever decision is reached there should be considered final. It would be advantageous to have this (that all disputes will ultimately be settled by the Akal Takht) written into the constitution along with the 5 elements of Gurudwara elections.
- In any function at the Gurudwara, there should never be the mentioning of any persons’ names in the Ardas, either for credit or demerit. At the camp, a true story was told of a Bhaiji at one Gurudwara who used to pray for the deaths of two members of the sangat when he recited the Ardas.
- It must always be kept in mind that Sikhism is a brotherhood. Every Sikh in your association, unless he or she repeatedly does things offensive to Sikhism without asking ‘for forgiveness, must be treated as an equal.
4, finally, it has been noticed that even in Keshadhari organizations there is a terrible amount of gossiping and backbiting going on. All talk such as that must stop, for how can the entire Sikh Nation march forward if its members are not united? And how can we ever be united if we harbor ill will towards each other even in our local organizations? To indulge in gossip, etc., is to go against the very fundamentals of our religion, one of which is that KHALSA SOE JO NINDA TIAGE — Khalsa is he who doesn’t talk ill of others. We all know of the terrible trials through which Sikhism is now passing. If we would like to stop the persecution of Sikhs, if we would truly like to change the situation in the outside world, then we must first become better Sikhs and reform ourselves from within. Or, to use the words of a glorious soul who passed through even tougher times, MAN JEBTAI JAG JEET to conquer your mind is to conquer the world.
AMARDEEP SINGH CHAUHAN, GURPREET KAUR DHALL, KAMAL NEIL SINGH DASS, GURPREET SINGH JAWA, JAGMEET KAUR, JASJEET KAUR, RAJBIKRAM SINGH NAYAR, AMRITA KAUR SETHI, HARYUVRAJ SINGH, NAUNIHAL SINGH, TEJINDERPAL SINGH, AND THE REST OF ‘THE:SIKH YOUTH CAMP OF 1985.